Money and Barter
- put something about new economy and social networks/reputation-based requisition system here*
With a toppled/toppling megacorp no doubt taking a big chunk of virtual currency and oversight out of the system, what are folks using to exchange goods and services in the years ACE?
paper/coin currency seems risky, since I am fairly sure that a meagerly skilled Hiver could pump out plenty of either. Without a huge overarching government/corp entity in the background, securing value seems difficult.
One option would be that most Settlements do a grudging business with notes or coinage or markers from one of the largely intact Unincorporated States. Remember that with the existence of the info-sphere things like the current exchange rates should be easy for everyone to keep track of.
The Nu-Dollar <-> BancBuc <-> Motorpool Cred exchanges would end up fairly visible though we would probably see a certain shred of profit-taking from the money changers involved, just as today. Expect to see someone expressing a preference in their pay, picking Motorpool Creds because they want to do some business out that way, or demanding a few more percentage points worth of Nu-Dollars because "damn gougers cut you more and more every year with their fees and I got 'nuff bills to pay already"
A heavier, literally, medium of exchange would be raw materials. Sure, with enough time and juice and spares, you can tickle a cloud of nanites into separating that pile of rusty scrap into ingots of component elements.. but a five-kilo block of pure, really pure copper from the mines up in highlands (they finally got them open again, its amazing.. heard something about badgers, believe it or not) would represent a reliable time and energy saving factor that would go beyond mere material worth. Could be the same thing with many products:
- Refined-Carbon rods, pure and ready to drop into the Forge of your choice. Salvage from a Corp' building site, perhaps.
- Gold. the Original shiny-thing. Some people still horde the stuff like it was going out of style, everyone else values it for its chemical/electrical properties.. and shininess. Everything from the meager ingots produced in massive automated pit mining arrays to ancient coins 'liberated' from the vaults of Corporate Officers after they, um, didn't need them anymore.
- Radioactive Materials. Sure, exotic materials have a lingering bad name from some of the.. ah.. Unfortunate events of the War, but there is still a need. The would be a large and somewhat dangerous category, ranging from the molded uranium or plutonium from weapons captured still in their cradles to tiny amounts of the vast category of transoceanic elements for exotic applications. As a whole these are one of the hardest to handle, able to burn out half the tech in your bloodstream if you look at it funny.
Just before the fall the preferred energy source of the corporations was solar power, orbital solar operations to be precise. Before the corporations exhausted just about every source of fossil fuels and radioactives on earth, Orbital solar power amounted for about 2% of the global energy production, but when the supplies began to dwindle due to massive rise of energy consumption due the introduction of makers.
The biggest problem that the orbital solar power plant had was the maintenance, an traditional array had an endurance of about 5 year before needing an expensive repair space flight, the maker technology changed that. An solar panel array with an maintenance maker had an lifespan of an century before needing to resupplied with raw materials. Just before the fall the orbital solar power amounted for 73% of the global energy production, However during the fall many arrays were either damaged, destroyed or de-orbited by including but not limited to: hit by frenzied anti-ICBM defenses, not evading a piece of debris, evading a piece of debris too hard or even de-orbited on purpose to be used as a projectile.
After the fall the Free States were quite desperate to get the power plants back on line as most of the more traditional manufacturing infrastructure was destroyed during the fall forcing them to rely on the makers. Even by 25 ACE there are still many power plants that have no place to beam their power and therefore the Free States are constantly sending delvers to uncover access codes to the powers plants so they could be moved to either to orphaned receiving dishes or newly constructed ones.
There are two broad categories of nanites in the world of Nutopia: foglets and universal (dis)assemblers.
The foglets are lighter-than-air nanomachines that form an cloud around the hiver. The cloud allows the hiver to send his assemblers through the foglets to anywhere within the cloud, however an average hiver can produce an cloud that is only about 10 meters of spherical volume at maximum even dispersion. Most settlements and any functional high tech manufacturing facility, on the other hand, probably have their air full of utility fog. The foglets purpose is to act as an bridge, communication- and an powerline for assemblers going from their hive to their target. The foglets aren't terribly smart and cannot distinguish between commands from friendly or hostile source, and as such anyone or thing capable projecting nanomachines is capable of doing so within the utility fog.
The universal (dis)assemblers can manipulate individual atoms and chemical bonds around their immediate surroundings, according to the instructions from their hive. Compared to foglets the assemblers are considerably more intelligent because by micromanaging every single nanite would require an supercomputer to build even the most homogeneous and simple objects, therefore the assemblers have an limited group intelligence and an onboard database that allows them to identify materials and assemble even the most complex chemical compounds by themselves with little instructions from the hive. The assemblers also have several different kinds of sensors that when using them as an group the assemblers can give very detailed information of their surroundings.
The "universal" in The "universal (dis)assemblers" is no joke, if it can be accomplished by manipulating matter it can be done. An average hive can assemble an delicious meal from dirt, clean firearms without disassembling them, heal wounds, and turn an bandit accosting him into an puddle of protein, but this comes at a price: all action by nanites require energy, and while the assemblers can utilize ambient energy in their immediate surroundings to an extent, most of the energy is provided by their hive. This is problematic for hivers even as all of their cells are modified (either genetically or nanotechnologicaly) into organic self-recharging batteries, an average hiver would find himself quickly exhausted if he devoted all his energy to simple brute force disintegration. A hiver's flexibility in terms of tasks they can do simultaneously at any one time is limited both by their own capabilities for multitasking control and the simple volume of nanites they can contain at any one time. Some of these problems can be alleviated by portable bio-electricity batteries and special hiver exoskeletons that store extra energy and nanites. In addition the special cerebral implants for nanite control common to all hivers can be loaded with low level VI software routines that can execute specific functions (i.e. "liquefy", "stabilize that guy") with little input from the hiver.
In a world with such adept computer wizards the possibility of nanite swarms being simply taken over and turned to malicious uses is well understood. To counteract this several simple security measures are in place. The communication between a Hiver and their swarms is omnidirectional (figuring out functional tightbeam communication to a swarm is something of an engineering holy grail that remains unattained), and thus easily picked up, it is conversely heavily encrypted. A diligent cracker could of course, given time, break said encryption, but would find that in order to prevent mutations or corruption in the nanites, all their programming is stored in ROM (Read Only Memory) and have an tiny bit of RAM to process commands. The programming is intentionally brittle, any changes to such simply resulting in the nanite becoming nonfunctional. More nanites can only be constructed within the Hiver's own stacks, and these operate on a closed, hardwired circuit within the Hiver's own body. To hijack these systems wirelessly would require a full body/mind takeover well outside the capability of most crackers.
The nanites are an exceptionally efficient in their design: every atom in their bodies pull an double-duty, this however leaves them with very little in the way of redundancy or backup systems. This means that an individual nanites are rather easy to disable, for example even an weak EMP in the vicinity of the nanites can erase their command buffer, as the nanites become inert if they aren't ordered to do something as an security measure. Ionizing radiation also does an number on the nanites, even small amount alpha particles slowly corrupts the programming of nanites and also the particles interfere with assembly of new nanites and other things the hiver or the maker is creating. Beta particles, gamma and x-rays are even worse, causing nanites to breakdown completely from far smaller amount of radiation that would pose an lethal threat to even unaugmented humans.
A Word On Firepower
The arms trade was, as ever, extremely lucrative to the corporations. Most communities have Maker Templates for simple conventional firearms (one of the biggest finds in recent memory was a template for a Romanian AK-47 and 7.62x39mm ammunition). In the delves, however, things get much more interesting. The big corporate Makers allowed for the synthesizing of room temperature super conductors in large amounts, and rail/coilgun tech became much more feasible as a man portable option. Rail arms vary in size from handguns to large bore cannon. What wasn't Rail used caseless ammunition and exotic electronic ignition methods, sometimes even guided munitions to make up for the lack of straight line firepower compared to a railgun.
Towards the end of the Corps some companies began to look into more creative was of killing a man than simply putting bits of metal into him at high speed. Sonic rifles for riot dispersal, highly concentrated particle beams that could punch through armor and melt flesh, and jacketed plasma launchers were all in development just before year 0.
All that firepower is further augmented by further advances. Autosensing weapons link wirelessly to nanomodded eyeballs, projecting all manner of targeting data into the operators field of view. Steadying rigs and power armor hard points allow for the usage of truly epic firepower.
Power armors vary in size from close fitting exosuits that serve to mildly augment the wearer's strength, speed and endurance to 10 foot tall Nephilim 2B Breaching Armor equipped with nanite clouds, reactive panels, ceramic plates, rolled steel sheets, shock absorbing gels and Kevlar all wrapped around big servos and internal ammunition bays.
Larger still varieties exist, but few are willing to undergo the one way bonding process needed to pilot something as massive as one of the Merc Tanks. Still, Digitized Delvers are hardly unheard of, and if they are willing to sacrifice human contact and can afford the upkeep they can elect to inhabit what amounts to a cross between a bus, a MBT and a very angry tarantula.
The common families of weaponry available, if expanded beyond "Electromagnetic", "Conventional" and "Other" look like this:
Railguns- These use pairs of rails (go figure) made from room temperature superconducting magnets to fling small darts at incredible speeds. They have superior armor penetration characteristics but can be loaded to deal with soft targets.
Pistols, Rifles, Long Rifles, Railcannons
Coilguns- Uses a series of electromagnetic coils (go figure, again) to heft large projectiles that would normally require a much longer barrel.
Coil Launchers (Grenade), Coil Launchers (Artillery)
Superposed Load Weapons- Uses ammunition blocks stacked nose to tail inside a barrel (See the Metal Storm family of weapons). Firing is electronic, allowing the user to decide the number of rounds fired and even from which barrels. Characterized by a potentially incredible rate of fire. Ammunition Cassestes are bulky, being comprised of multiple disposable barrels and the blocks inside of them. Effective use limited to anti-missile systems and delivery of large bore munitions, although experiments with the design in shotguns and holdout pistols exist as well.
Pistols, Shotguns, Grenade Launchers
Caseless Weapons- Uses a simple improvement on modern cased ammunition, each round is made from a penetrator of some description encase in solid propellant (See the Heckler and Koch G11 Rifle). Since there is no need to eject spent casings the rate of fire is commensurately higher than a cased weapon, though still no where near as great as that of a Superposed load gun. The firing mechanism is also somewhat more complex than most other weapons. The rate of fire allows multiple round bursts to be used before the recoil impulse is felt, allowing the weapon to be accurate even with controlled automatic fire. This, in combination with the lack of clean up, makes them a favorite for covert operations.
Pistols, SMGs, Assault Rifles, Machine Guns, Shotguns
Cased Weapons- More or less any conventional modern firearm. A firing pin strikes a percussion cap in a metal cartridge, igniting the encased powder and propelling a bullet out of the barrel. Even though this is the closest there is to modern firearms in terms of function the cased ammunition is still comparatively exotic, often using telescoping or polymer cases rather than the conventional brass.
(In addition to most actual modern weapons) Rotary Shotguns, Rotary Cannons, Auto Cannons, Shotgun Pistols
Other Stuff- Anything that doesn't fit above.
Flamethrowers (compressed gas & jellied fuel), Sound Based Riot Guns, Automatic Hypo-Dart Gun, LoSAT/LoSAA Missiles (Line of Sight Anti-Tank/Air Missiles)
Eclipse Phase, as a system, is fairly fluff and crunch light with regards to its various weapons. Ultimately there's nothing wrong with that, both it and Nutopia exist in a framework that allows a grand and amazing adventure to unfold with minimal combat. Indeed, these are worlds in which the deadliest threats cannot be navigated with force of arms, but rather must be conquered with an agile mind and force of will.
On the other hand, for those of us who like a more granular experience with their gear, and those like myself with a general technolust for the tools of destruction devised by mankind, this system can be found wanting. The section below is devoted to defining some of the specific technologies and upgrades available to a beweaponed Delver 25 ACE, and providing a few specific examples of equipment they might come across in their journeys.
Weapons designers realized as early as the late twentieth century that conventional chemical propellant firearms were reaching the apex of their development. Outside of various small improvements in cartridge design, niche calibers and novel ignition methods the firearm as we know it had essentially begun to reach the edges of what the concept was capable of. The advent of railgun technology allowed for by room temp super conductors and superdense batteries proved to be the next great leap in design, but the technology was expensive to produce, and while offering more power than any traditional weapon, was wanting in a few other key areas.
This lead to a focus on the development, both for rail and conventional platforms, of more exotic varieties of ammunition capable of filling a variety of roles.
For Railguns there are three primary varieties of ammunition: Standard darts or flechettes made of some dense material delivered singly or in bundles, the dual purpose SLAM round and TGR "Tiger" guided munitions.
SLAMs (Solenoid Launched Attack Munitions) can be used against both armored and soft targets, and were designed with the intent of allowing operators to seamlessly engage a variety of threats without the need for changing magazines or internal feeds. While the exact method and mechanism varies somewhat depending on the scale of the weapon, the basic idea is that a small charge within the projectile can, with the press of a button, turn an armor piercing projectile into an anti-personnel one. In large diameter weapons this is done with an airbust, the round exploding in front of or above the target and creating deadly high velocity fragmentation effect. Smaller bore railguns typically use the charge to either split open flanges on the round just before impact, causing the dart to bloom like a flower just prior to striking the target, greatly increasing surface area and by extension the damage caused, or simply use it to blow up the round on its way through the target. A round is told which terminal effect to use at the gun, although the method by which detonation is triggered varies.
TGRs (Terminal Guidance Rounds) are the most expensive variety of railgun ammunition. Typically only fired from the largest guns, these rounds use fins and micro thrusters to allow a round to do limited course correction as it nears a marked target. This really only comes into play when a railgun is being used to fire rounds on a ballistic trajectory, and even then the extreme velocity of its projectiles makes such corrections difficult.
Conventional firearms have a great deal more variety. Old classics like jacketed hollow points and armor piercing rounds are still the order of the day, with incendiary and explosive effects becoming quite common as well. Compressed tungsten frangibles are the most common anti-personnel round for those who can afford the cost and don't like to risk collateral damage associated with explosive options, and the absence of legal strictures has allowed the bundled flechette concept to make a comeback, allowing a mixture of accuracy, ability to defeat armor and gruesome terminal ballistics.
An interesting development in conventional rounds are bullets coated with a liquid "metallic glass". Originally designed for high wear tool manufacturing, the material is capable of storing immense elastic energy. A bullet coated with it, if it penetrates a target or strikes any hard surface, will immediately ricochet. The erratic nature of the round and the fact that for maximum effect the projectile must be spherical greatly limit its utility, but it has found a home as an enhancement to traditional pellet loads for shotguns and can be used to augment fragmentation weapons of all kinds as well.
Coilguns, a technology related in concept to Railguns, have found a niche as an excellent way of "soft launching" large loads from relatively short barrels. Pioneered first as mortars and artillery pieces, coilgun technology can be found now in man portable anti-tank missiles and even some advanced grenade launchers. They can heft everything from simple explosive projectiles to canisters of ball bearings or flechettes. Due to the comparatively lower velocity compared to railguns, coilguns get a much greater effect from TGRs, and outright missiles are quite common as well.
Point the Loud End at the Bad Man and Squeeze the Go Away Switch
A selection of some of the weapons one might find while wandering the wastes. These are simply some of the most common or notable; feel free to fill in a weapon that more befits your tastes.
AR2 Modular Assault Rifle Armacor's update to the venerable AR platform, this design incorporates many of the cutting edge advancements in firearms technology that were pioneered in the years leading to the Fall. Common the world over, the rifle benefits from its modular nature and the plethora of after-market modifications available to tweak it further; a cornucopia of scopes, suppressors, underbarrel attachments and various methods of personalization exist. As such, the rifle can be configured to fit almost any mission profile given the proper parts, ranging from submachine guns and assault rifles to carbines and battle rifles. In its most basic configuration (AR2-A) the rifle is a bullpup pattern weapon, feeding from a magazine of forty intermediate calibre caseless rounds. This great versatility has its drawbacks however; the rifle performs admirably within a close range of its intended purpose, making an excellent carbine or assault rifle - but the further the platform is pushed, the greater the gap in capability compared to dedicated systems. While strictly speaking an AR2 might become a Designated Marksman Rifle or even a Light Machine Gun in a pinch given time and a conversion kit, savvy operators are advised to look elsewhere if alternatives are available. Variants include: AR2-A Assault Rifle, AR2-B Battle Rifle, AR2-C Carbine, AR2-CS Carbine with Integral Suppressor, AR2-D Designated Marksman Rifle, AR2-L Light Machine Gun, AR2-S Submachine Gun
40 rounds. 6.8mm Caseless
PAAW General Purpose Machine Gun The PAAW, standing for Power Armor Automatic Weapon, was an early collaboration in design between Weimuller and Armacor that produced one of those weapons that simply "got it right". This hugely dependable system is at its core a belt fed, closed bolt, short recoil operated air cooled machine gun in the style of the legendary Browning M2. While the weapon can be found on tripods or pintle mounts, its true home and intended purpose is in the hands of a power armored soldier. The advent of weight distributing stability rigs and the sheer carrying capacity afforded by combat power armor made arming such troops with standard assault rifles seem like a waste to commanders. A new weapon was needed, and the PAAW was tailored to fit this exact niche. It fires high powered telescoping cased rounds from either left or right feed cans. Unlike many weapons of its class it fires not only in automatic, but in single and three round burst as well, owing to its intended use as a primary weapon for PA troops. It is commonly fitted with a stacked munition under barrel grenade launcher when used in this role, further multiplying the truly epic amount of fire a PA squad can produce. Dependable, relatively common and hitting like an angry bull, the PAAW is a favorite of Delver crews able to keep it fed and happy. Variants Include: PAAW M1 GPMG, PAAW M1 DMV Accurized Marksman Variant, PAAW M1A2 Shortened Paratrooper Variant
100 round box or 200 round twin-belt. 8mm Telescoping Case.
Mavor Shotgun Semi-automatic shotgun that loads from 3 magazine tubes. It incorporates a vectored recoil system and muzzle brake. 24 rounds. 10 gauge Shotshell.
Sturmbock Breaching Pistol Large frame caseless submachine gun with an under barrel magazine fed shotgun, meant as a specialist weapon combining a primary firearm and an entry device. Typically used with a shoulder stock and vertical foregrip, but can actually be used as the name implies, although at penalties if the user is not of sufficient strength. Variants include: SBPk Carbine Variant, SBPs Suppressed Variant
30 rounds. 10mm Caseless. 3 rounds. 10 gauge Shotshell.
LSG-9 "Nadel-Gewehr" Long Gun Highly customizable conventional sniper’s weapon with everything one might expect from a top of the line marksman’s instrument. Free floating precision forged barrel, drop in bolt assemblies in a modular receiver, fully adjustable stock and bipod/monopod and a locking optic rail. Entire weapon can be broken down and stored in a large briefcase. Can be configured for anti-personnel or anti-materiel roles. Anti-personnel variant uses an integral suppressor and fires miniaturized SLAM darts from a detachable box. Anti-materiel version fires hypersonic saboted flechettes that create a distinctive “ripple-bang” as they pass, uses a muzzle brake and a hydraulic recoil dampener.
APvar: 10 rounds. 6mm SLAM darts. AMvar: 3 rounds. 12.5mm saboted flechettes (13mm bore diameter).
Arm50 Machine Pistol Extremely compact machine pistol intended as a vehicle crewman’s weapon or for discrete deployment amongst personal security details or plainclothes operations. Primarily polymer construction, telescoping bolt design that feeds from a top mounted magazine. Substitutes accuracy and stopping power for immediate high volume of fire and compact size. Uses compensator and delayed recoil impulse for manageable recoil impulse during burst fire even with such a short overall length. Silencers can be fitted over compensation vents if sound and flash are a concern.
50 rounds. 5.6mm Caseless.
Vehicles and Travel
Land travel ACE takes many forms. Much of the transportation a Delver team might be able to lay hands on is similar to what can be found in earlier ages. Solar powered trucks and off road jeeps are a favorite of some teams, both for their terrain handling and reliability. In some urban areas automated cabs are still in operation, sitting on the curb waiting for passengers that never come. Big aggressive motorcycles and sports cars are of course still present, although the more utilitarian settlers sneer at them. For the stealthy types, ultra light collapsible bicycles equipped with piezoelectric cells allow for powered cruising or silent pedaling along the streets. A recent invention is the so called Signal Truck, a semi truck is armored up and filled with communications equipment and whatever other handy gear is available, allowing a Delver Team with the resources to maintain it a forward command and control center.
More exotic forms of locomotion do exist. Along the east coast of the United States, much of Europe and in Japan city wide lev roads were created, allowing anyone with a properly equipped vehicle a swift and bump free ride. The extension of this technology is the enormous resource hauling lev train lines that crisscross Incorporated Territories. The hustle and bustle of Oasis in South Africa or the dead silent train yards of Novaya Sibir are two hubs for such travel, although the former is understandably more popular than the latter.
The most iconic way to move ACE is via legged transport. In the early years of corporate reign a German engineering firm joined forces with an American military concern and a Japanese synthetic materials and robotics lab. The powerhouse conglomerate became known as Armacor, and the invention that catapulted them to the forefront of defense contracting was the legged tank. Advances in fine control robotics and the ability to synthesize near frictionless materials allowed for the production of very quick and immensely powerful servos. Biological engineering allowed the growth of a combination of Kevlar and muscle fiber that could be molded and woven into a variety of useful shapes. Combining their own advances with new technologies involving uploaded consciousness and man/machine interfaces Armacor created a way to make large armored vehicles useful in urban warfare. Their legged tanks could scale rubble and change direction with incredible speed for something their size. Soon other corps got hold of the technology and whole families of legged vehicles came into being.
While Armacor’s first efforts were hugely powerful tanks that could easily go toe to toe with modern MBTs and come out on top, other companies filled various niches with the new vehicles. Personnel carriers that could navigate any terrain, smaller attack vehicles equipped with nanotube pitons for assaulting mountains and skyscrapers with equal ease. The powerful servos and synthetic musculature were combined with new types of ceramic armors and solar cells to create prolonged operation power armors. Infantry scale protection advanced by leaps and bounds.
Like land transit the traditional methods of air travel are still around, acquiring everything from a Cessna to an old milsurp Mi-24 Hind to even a 747 can be accomplished if one looks hard enough. In terms of new technology, however, air travel has evolved in several major sectors. The most obvious to anyone living ACE is the prevalence of nimble, high speed VTOL aircraft as a means of transportation. The advances in materials sciences and production that were made due to the introduction of nanofabriction allowed the creation of lighter, more powerful and all together much more efficient aircraft of all stripes. VTOLs benefited from strong, but lightweight airframes, and advances like the shrouded rotor that turned via the use of linear motors rather than a traditional turbojet engine, lowering heat and noise signatures to negligible levels. Coupled with advanced computers and some of the same servo/synthetic muscle architecture that made legged vehicles possible it became much easier for these vehicles to safely switch between vertical and horizontal flight configurations rapidly and remain stable. This allowed for the creation of cargo and troop transports larger than anything that could pull into a hover in previous eras of engineering. Additionally, Close Air Support aircraft became a terror to behold. Quick, almost unnaturally agile, heavily armored and armed to the teeth, these craft could sit on station for hours, gliding on collapsible wings made from memory material and thin carbon tube spines. They could descend without warning, gliding in on an attack vector, retracting their wings and pulling out of a dive into a hover in moments, the only announcement of their arrival being rotor wash, rocket exhaust plumes and cannon fire.
While VTOL craft gained prevalence as the chief means of transport and aerial combat, more "traditional" airframes maintained a niche in the areas of heavy transport, high speed travel and air superiority. Heavy fixed wing transports served to lift goods that needed speed or flexibility that sea or rail transport could not provide. Private supersonic aircraft gained some ground, along with novelties like low orbit "puddle jumpers" that could provide around the world service in a couple of hours. Both cargo and personal transport were typically handled by drones; the most radical advancements took place in the military sector. The invention of CSC technology meant that the capabilities of an aircraft were no longer restricted by the physical limits of the pilot. Only the airframes intrinsic ability to survive high speed maneuvering held them back. Soon craft capable of cruising at hypersonic speeds became the norm, streaking across the sky using scramjets and aerospike boosters. The difficulty of maneuvering at such extreme speeds using current control surfaces was countered by a comeback of variable geometry technology, aided by the same advances that had made improved VTOL flight possible. Vectored thrust and large numbers of articulated control surfaces allowed craft the size of a school bus to dance through the sky like a mach 5 humming bird. Individually these craft represented a great investment of resources, and their defensive measures reflected that. radar deflection was of course a must, as was a refractive coating that made the craft difficult to lase properly. Decoy drones and nanochaff designed to play hell with nearly any tracking method imaginable were also common features. With armament ranging from cruise missiles and small diameter bombs to scramjet AA missiles and railcannons the most powerful attack aircraft of the end days of the Common era were by many metrics the most powerful military machines in existence.
The final and most radical permutations were individual flight capability and the reemergence of such novelties as the Vacuum Envelope. Short range individual flight could be attained by a number of means. While such ostentatious methods as biomodding for massive bird or bat wings were not unheard of those lay more in the realm of fashion statement than practical method of mobility. Far more common were collapsible ultralight craft that could be broken down and folded into something the size of an overlarge golf caddy, allowing leisurely touring or covert egress at a moments notice. The most advanced form of that technology was actually developed after the Fall, originating from the heights of South Africa's Spire settlement. A combination of a dedicated VI, a very small monotask maker and a few muscle/servo motors allowed for the creation of a set of the same glider wings used by some VTOL craft, but in a package the size of a small hardened backpack. On their own these flight packs allowed up to 300 pounds to drift gracefully through the air, coupled with miniaturized LMR nacels a person with such a rig could attain actual flight. The Vacuum Envelope, on the other hand, is with one notable exception very much a novelty. Maintaining a vacuum within a large envelope was a technology only made possible through the use of carbon nanotube construction, and then at no small cost. The blimps and zeppelins that could be created with this technology exhibited buoyancy greater than that which any normal lighter than air craft could provide, but they were simply not cost effective as anything more than a toy of the idle rich. Such things as aerial yachts or zeppelin cruises did exist, but in limited numbers. The greatest achievement of the technology would only become widely known after the Fall. Armacor had experimented extensively with the idea, and the penultimate result of their research was a prototype airborne aircraft carrier known as "The Hive". Comprised of a massive network of vacuum envelopes and huge LMR nacels The Hive is powered by solar surfaces as well as its own miniature fission reactor. Its intended purpose was to allow VTOL craft to have a roost that allowed them to refuel, rearm and repair, and could move along with them in an evolving battlefront. Shortly before the base commanding the flying structure disappeared in a flash of nuclear flame it was given a default patrol order, and now it floats lazily over northern Europe on a constant circuit. A number of mercenary VTOLs have taken up residence in its hangars, using it as a raiding base. Assaulting it directly has proved extremely difficult, not only due to the mercs residing upon it, but the automated point defense turrets and missiles, including a network of chemical lasers the can actually vaporize and disperse railgun projectiles with a projected 87% success rate. In light of that and the tendency of the resident mercs to pillage most anything in the immediate area surrounding the slow moving station the standard policy has simply become one of avoidance. The station moves in predictable patterns, and just moving away from it is the easiest method of preventing danger. However, after 25 years of nomadic lifestyle many are beginning to favor some sort of attack, tired of picking up stakes as soon as the Hive comes to call.