Friday, 22 July 2016

Weapons: Burundi Broiler

 I let my gaze wander around the apartment. A water jug was on the table near the window. As I glanced at it the water suddenly began to violently bubble. No sooner had I began to marvel at the strangeness of this when it again settled. I looked towards the chairman to see if he too had witnessed the phenomenon.
He was already quite dead. His head lolled to the side, his eyes milky like those of a fish from under a grill.

The Burundi broiler first appeared in 2094 in the African state of the same name. While majority of evidence suggests that it was a local invention there is some doubt about the veracity of this. Within a few months the TSA was producing copies of the Burundi broiler. It is currently recognized that many broilers in current circulation that appear to be of TSA manufacture have other origins. Identifying the source of a broiler is problematic since the components have assembly numbers but no serial numbers or other distinguishing features. Broilers are apparently assembled by unskilled labour using a V-tag system. Only when a commercially available component has been used to repair a broiler is there a hint of the weapon’s history.

The broiler is a maser weapon firing a pulse of coherent microwaves. It resembles a rifle with a short but broad cylindrical barrel. The broiler is a weapon of specialised application. The pulse from a broiler is blocked by metal. The weapon has very little effect on military cybershells or battlesuits. Radiation suits, many space suits and various other protective outfits also provide some protection. The broiler has a low rate of fire and a relatively short range compared to more conventional weapons.

Unlike a laser beam, the maser pulse is invisible. The weapon is also relatively quiet. Listeners within a few yards of the firer may notice a humming noise as the weapon fires. Many will not recognise this as a weapon discharge and attribute the noise to some other machine or appliance. The maser pulse is not affected by smoke and will pass through glass. The pulse may interact with fog, causing swirling patterns to appear near the pulse’s path. Interaction with fog has no effect on the performance of the weapon. The maser pulse cannot pass through large volumes of water. Heavy rainfall may reduce the range of the weapon.

The maser pulse is highly effective against unprotected living tissues. This, and the weapon’s low firing signature make it a useful assassination weapon. The Burundi broiler is an uncommon weapon and unlikely to be acquired without underworld or covert connections. A few have been used by American insurgents. Possession of a Burundi broiler is generally highly restricted or illegal.

The Burundi broiler can be an effective weapon against equipment designed to receive microwave transmissions. This includes communication relays and most cybershells. This capability has seen the broiler used by some Luddite and vandal organisations. The broiler will often destroy or badly damage the communications capability of a targeted machine or vehicle. Cybershells of SM-7 or smaller will often take physical damage from the resulting power surge.

In 2096 the murder of journalist Tiffany Chen with a broiler triggered a media frenzy about their use. It was during this time that the slang term “curdler” became popular. This particular media crusade lost steam when a number of investigating reporters met the same end. Crimes committed with broilers still attract a high level of media attention and this often pressures law enforcement to prioritize them.
Beam Weapons (Rifle) (DX-4, other Beam Weapons at -4, or Guns (Rifle)-4
 Damage  Acc   Range  Wt.  RoF  Shots
 Bulk  Rcl
Burundi Broiler   6d Spec   12  300/440  11/C

Armour protects normally. Metallic armour or other protection that blocks microwaves adds +8 to the active defence roll or saves on an 8 or less if no active defence roll is made.
Damage that penetrates armour causes triple damage to living tissues and electronic equipment. Non-living targets take half damage.
In addition to any physical damage a hit from a broiler also causes an EMP pulse that will disrupt electronics. This occurs on a roll of 14 or less, subtracting 1 for each 20 points of combined DR and HP the target has. Each point the roll succeeds by disables the system for 2 secs. A critical success or success by 10 permanently disables the system.

The stats above are for a basic Burundi Broiler. Usually accessories such as a bipod, telescopic sight and targeting computer will be fitted. A basic weapon costs upwards of $2,500. A takedown version that can be broken down into between four and six sub-assemblies costs $1,200 more.


Thursday, 21 July 2016

Shooting Transhuman Space Weapons.

In GURPS firing a gun is an Attack, All-Out Attack or Move and Attack action. This may or may not be preceded by one or more seconds of Aim action. In Transhuman Space we have the added complication that smart ammunition, including homing bullets are relatively commonplace. Any firing in non-homing mode will simply be called “Shooting” in the following passages. “Shooting” includes firing beam weapons, firing “dumb” ammunition and firing smart ammunition in a non-homing mode.

Shooting rules for GURPs are spread across several volumes. At the minimum you need both volumes of the Basic set and High-Tech. Changing Times and Tactical Shooting are also desirable and Gun-Fu and Ultra-Tech can be useful. Even with all of these how the rules are specifically applied to Transhuman Space may not be clear.

Many weapons in Transhuman Space cannot use smart ammunition. These range from zip guns and shoukwans to relatively sophisticated weapons like the Xuan Feng and laser weapons. The following three firing modes apply to these and to smart ammunition used in “dumb” mode.

Shooting without using the sights is a Move and Attack or Attack action, never an All-Out Attack. There can be no Aim action before. Since such shots do not require seeing the sights -1 in darkness penalties can be ignored at ranges up to Per in yards. A targeting laser provides a +1 modifier. Other targeting aids including HUD links give no bonus to unsighted shooting. Items such as goggles, dive masks, gasmasks etc give -1 modifier to unsighted shooting. Items such as VR/AR visors and spectacles give no modifiers since many TS-era citizens wear them daily so are very familiar with them.

Sighted shooting is an All-out attack so +1 to Guns, Gunner or Beam Weapon skill. Goggles, dive masks etc give -4 to sighted shooting. You need to be able to see the sights so darkness penalties apply. A HUD-link or Improved Visibility Sights negate -1 of darkness penalties. The GM may allow that a HUD-link acts as a micro-reflex sight so gives +1 to Guns up to 50 yards. Some HUD-links perform at even longer ranges.

Deliberately Aimed shooting is represented by an Aim followed by All-Out Attack. The bonus for Aim usually only applies to the next attack (p. B372). The GM may allow shooters to retain half their weapon’s base Acc (round down) on subsequent sighted shots against the same target after using aimed shooting. Shooters with braced weapons may add full base Acc when firing at RoF 1; mounted weapons on flexible or fixed mounts may add full base Acc even when firing at a higher RoF.

In addition to these modes some weapons in Transhuman Space have a fourth mode of shooting using their homing ammunition.

The basic rules [p.B413] tell us that to be used as a homer a projectile must be aimed first. During the Aim manoeuvre the shooter must successfully roll against Artillery (Guided Missile) skill. Transhuman Space: Changing Times [p.64] tells us to make this roll with the appropriate Guns or Gunner skill instead. For clarity I will call the Aim manoeuvre with a success roll an “Aim and Lock”. If the Aim and Lock is successful the projectile(s) are fired with a Ready action. The attack roll is made by the projectile(s) when they reach the target, which may be the same turn or in subsequent turns. Changing Times tells us that the projectile(s) Attack is Homing (Vision). Optionally a Critical Failure in the Aim and Lock roll negates any Aim bonuses (A5) for the following shot.

Homing (Vision) implies that projectiles have night vision no better than an average human. Technological device and bio-mods mean that shooters in TS will often see their targets much better than their bullets! The GM may allow that military or police issued ammunition have some level of Night Vision. This will be more common in calibres in widescale military use. 5.6mm, 6.6mm, 7.5mm and 10mm rounds may have Night Vision 4. The tiny 4mm rounds only have Night Vision 2. Larger calibre missiles may have even better Night Vision, depending on role and cost. Some will have multi-spectral capabilities. Budget homing ammunition or that from dubious sources may have no Night Vision.

What is not made clear in the sourcebooks is which, if any, modifiers apply to the Aim and Lock and the Homing Attack rolls. Logically locking onto a distant, fast target would be more difficult than on a larger, closer target. If you are on fire this may or may not distract you from carefully aiming. If you are a cybershell or wearing an armoured powersuit you might ignore a little bit of fire! Rather than giving rules for every possibility and variation of circumstance the GM should be logical and waive modifiers that do not apply.

Another question that arises is what happens if you fail an Aim and Lock? The original TS sourcebook and TS:Changing Times both make it clear that homing bullets and other projectiles may be fired without an Aim action before. If you still choose to fire the next action will be an Attack, All-Out Attack or Move and Attack. Another roll against Guns, Artillery or Gunner is made and the projectile(s) are treated as a non-homing “dumb” attack. Note that in Transhuman Space homing projectiles fired without an Aim and Lock still count as “stabilized” so treat ranges as 30% less than actual for purposes of determining range penalties. Gestalt ammo also counts as stabilized (TS:CT p.64 and TS p.157)

Many weapons mount targeting lasers. Beam weapons often have a targeting spot option. A targeting laser adds +1 to skill, even if an Aim action was not taken. This presumes that a shooter can see the spot. If the laser was set to infrared you will need vision sensitive in this range to see it. Targeting lasers are of limited use underwater. Green is hard to see, red does not travel far and water absorbs infrared.

Laser homing ammunition locks on to a target designated by a laser. This is usually the firing weapon’s targeting laser but can be another source.  If the laser is moved or deactivated after firing the rounds continue to home in on their target. Laser homing ammunition works with both visible and IR lasers. Cheap, knock-off or blackmarket ammunition may only work in the visible but the buyer may not be aware of this! Laser homing ammunition must be used with a designating laser. Without a laser it is dumb, stabilized ammunition, not homing. Smoke or other factors may prevent laser designation. The targeting laser gives a +1 to Aim and Lock and designation gives +1 to the Homing Attack roll.

Gestalt ammunition counts as stabilized so treat ranges as 30% less than actual for purposes of determining range penalties. Rapid fire bonus to hit (A7) is for 1.5x the number of rounds actually fired. Recoil is reduced by 1 for determining number of actual hits.

Below is a list of Ranged Attack Modifiers modified and annotated for use with Transhuman Space 4e.

When making a ranged attack, homing attack or Aim and Lock figure your effective skill by:

1. Taking your base skill with your ranged weapon. A Homing attack uses a base skill of 10.

2. Applying the target’s Size Modifier (SM).

3. Modifying for the target’s range and speed; see Size and Speed/Range Table (p. 550). Remember, add range in yards to speed in yards/sec and take modifier for the total. Use actual range for Aim and Lock or firing of “dumb” unstabilized rounds. Use 0.7 of actual range for stabilized and Gestalt ammo. Ignore range for Homing Attacks.

4. Applying the relevant conditional modifiers below. Modifiers are cumulative, but combined visibility penalties cannot exceed -10. If any modifier marked with an asterisk (*) applies, adjusted skill after all modifiers cannot exceed 9.

A roll of this number, or less, is a hit. If using rapid fire, you score one extra hit for every full multiple of Recoil by which you make your attack roll.

A1. Attacker’s Maneuver

A1 modifiers do not apply to Aim and Lock or Homing Attack.

All-Out Attack (Determined): +1

Move and Attack: -2 or -Bulk of weapon, whichever is worse

Ranged Rapid Attack: 2 shots at -6 each. Uses an Attack or All-out Attack and requires a weapon with RoF 2+.

A2. Attacker’s Situation

A2 modifiers affect Aim and Lock and Shooting. They have no effect on Homing attack roll.

Affliction (coughing, retching, etc.): see Afflictions (p. B428)

Afflictions that add a penalty to DX add an equal penalty to Guns, Gunner, Beam weapon or Artillery skill for Aim and Lock or Shooting.

Bad footing: -2 or more (GM’s option)

Close combat: a penalty equal to the weapon’s Bulk statistic (see Weapons for Close Combat, p. 391)

Aim and Lock cannot be attempted if in close combat. No effect on Homing attack roll of projectiles already in flight.

Damaged weapon: -HP of injury received last turn (maximum -4)

Major distraction (e.g., all clothes on fire): -3 or more (GM’s option)

Minor distraction (e.g., part of clothes on fire): -2

Shock: -HP of injury received last turn (maximum -4)

ST below that required for weapon: -1 per point of deficit.

A3. Attacking from Moving Vehicle or Mount

The increased relative motion between the firer and the target will affect the accuracy of homing projectiles. A3 modifiers are applied to Aim and Lock, Shooting and Homing Attack.

If weapon is not in a stabilized mount, the combined bonus for Accuracy, Aim, bracing, and targeting systems cannot exceed the vehicle’s SR.

Air vehicle: -1 if handheld weapon, 0 otherwise

Exposed rider hanging on side of vehicle/mount and shooting over/under it: -6

Ground vehicle, good road: -1 if handheld weapon, 0 otherwise

Ground vehicle, bad road: 0 if stabilized turret or stabilized open mount; -1 if fixed mount, hardpoint, or carriage; -2 if external open mount; -3 if handheld weapon

Ground vehicle, off-road: -1 if stabilized turret or stabilized open mount; -2 if fixed mount, hardpoint, or carriage; -3 if external open mount; -4 if handheld weapon

Space vehicle: 0

Turning in exposed saddle/seat of vehicle/ mount to fire at foe behind: -4

Vehicle/mount dodged last turn and you’re not operator/rider: -2, or -4 if flying

Vehicle/mount failed control roll: penalty equal to margin of failure

Water vehicle, calm water: 0 if stabilized turret or stabilized open mount; -1 if fixed mount, hardpoint, or carriage; -2 if external open mount; -3 if handheld weapon

Water vehicle, rough water: -1 if stabilized turret or stabilized open mount; -2 if fixed mount, hardpoint, or carriage; -3 if external open mount; -4 if handheld weapon

A4. Opportunity Fire

Aim and Lock can only be used with Opportunity fire if the area watched is only 1 hex (no modifier). The projectile is considered to have locked onto a geographical location rather than an individual. The homing round will hit anyone or anything that happens to be in that hex. This mode of using homing projectiles cannot be used with targeting specific body parts or areas.

Checking target before firing: -2

Hexes watched: 0 if 1 hex; -1 if 2 hexes; -2 if 3-4 hexes or a line; -3 if 5-6 hexes; -4 if 7-10 hexes; -5 if 11+ hexes watched

A5. Aiming and Targeting.

The A5 modifiers come into effect “after the trigger is pulled”. A5 modifiers are not applied to Aim and Lock. They are applied to Homing Attack and are applied to Shooting if an Aim action preceded it.

Aim for one turn: +Accuracy of weapon

Scope: +1 per second of Aim, to a maximum of the scope’s bonus

Extra Aim: +1 for 2 seconds, +2 for 3+ seconds. Bonus cannot exceed weapon Acc or scope bonus, whichever is lower.

Range known. +3 to Acc or Scope bonus. Requires a Ready action to adjust sights or switch aimpoint.

Laser sight: +1 (also gives this +1 bonus if no Aim action preceded the shot)

Match-Grade Ammunition: +1 to weapon Acc.

Braced weapon. Weapon rested on sandbag, car, wall or other object; pistol used two-handed; long arm used prone and with a bipod: +1 if stationary and took a turn to Aim.

Pistol used two-handed: +1 if took a turn to Aim. Multiply minimum ST by 0.8 and reduce Bulk by 1.

Bipod: Use of a bipod changes minimum ST for weapon to rds its value. Long arm used prone and with a bipod: +1 if stationary and took a turn to Aim.

Tripod or similar flexible mounting, arm mount etc: +2 Acc for bracing.

Fixed Mount such as hardpoint, turret etc: +4 Acc for bracing.

Shooting Long arm with sling: Treat as braced. Takes one Ready manoeuvre per -1 Bulk of the weapon to prepare; a successful Fast-Draw (Long Arm) roll halves this time (round down). Leaving the position takes two Ready manoeuvres – or one with Quick-Sheathe (Long Arm) and a successful Fast-Draw (Long Arm) roll.

Firing a long arm with the stock folded or removed improves Bulk by 1, but removes stability that resting it against the shoulder provides. Apply -1 to Acc and +1 to Rcl (unless Rcl is 1), and multiply ST by 1.2, rounding up. Using any sling or a shoulder rig on a stockless long arm avoids the Rcl and ST modifications, but not the Acc penalty. It does not count as braced.

Vehicular targeting system: +1 to +3 if shooter took a turn to Aim

Unfamiliar weapon or targeting system: -2

On a moving vehicle, the combined bonus for Accuracy, Aim, bracing, and targeting systems still can’t exceed the vehicle’s SR, unless stabilized (p. B548).

The combined bonus for sights, scopes, and/or targeting computers cannot exceed the value of the weapon’s base Accuracy.

A scope or similar device gives a +1 bonus to hit per full doubling of magnification if you take one or more Aim or Aim and Lock manoeuvres.

With a fixed-power scope, you must Aim for at least as many seconds as the scope bonus. With a variable-power scope, you may Aim for fewer seconds but this reduces the bonus by a like amount.

The Acc bonus and related bonuses are lost if any of the following occurs:

You lose sight of your target;

Switch targets;

Make an attack roll;

Move more than the step allowed by the aim manoeuvre;

Attempt a defense roll;

Fail the will roll after being injured;

Choose a different maneuver from aim (e.g., ready to reload);

Switch weapons or unbrace a braced weapon,

Switch between sights, or otherwise change your weapon’s mode of use.

A6. Other Actions by Attacker

Affect Aim and Lock, Shooting. Affect Homing Attack unless stated.

Unfamiliar aiming system, mounting, action etc: -2

Weapon in bad repair: -4 or more

Dual-Weapon Attack: -4/-8 with primary/ off hand (-4/-4 with Ambidexterity)

Off-hand attack: -4 (no penalty with Ambidexterity)

Reflex sight adds +1 Guns/ Gunner/ Beam weapon skill at 300yds or less.

One handed shooting of long arm: Multiply ST by 1.5 or 1.2 if sling used. Round up. Weapon becomes unready unless shooter has 2x weapon ST or 1.7x with sling.

One handed shooting for bullpup long arm or long arm with magazine in grip: Multiply ST by 1.2, rounding up or no modifier if sling used. Weapon becomes unready unless shooter has 1.7x weapon ST or 1.5x with sling.

Long arm fired one handed and held against heavy object. No ST multipliers but does not count as braced (A5).

Limp-wristed Gangsta-poseur shooting: -1 (must be unsighted shooting. Cannot be braced and no bonus for two-handed grip)

Pop-up attack: -2, and no Aim possible. (Cannot be used with Homing attack)

A7. Rapid fire or Multiple Projectiles:

A7 modifiers are “after the trigger is pulled” so are applied to Shooting and Homing Attack, not Aim and Lock.

Gestalt ammunition gets the bonus for 1.5x the number of rounds actually fired. A 10 round burst gets the +3 bonus for 15 rounds. 

 0 if 2-4 shots;

 +1 if 5-8 shots;

+2 if 9-12 shots;

+3 if 13-16 shots;

+4 if 17-24 shots;

+5 if 25-49 shots;

+6 if 50-99 shots;

+7 if 100-199 shots;

+8 if 200-399 shots;

+9 if 400-799 shots;

+10 if 800-1,599 shots;

+11 if 1,600-3,199 shots;

+12 if 3,200-6,399 shots;

Fast Firing (Pump or lever actions up to double tabled RoF, Semi-automatics, beam weapons and double action revolvers up to triple). Rcl increased by 1, Attack roll modifier equal to actual number of rounds fired.

A8. Target

A8 modifiers apply to Aim and Lock, Shooting and Homing Attack.

To attack hit locations or weapons, use the penalties under Melee Attack Modifiers (p. B547). If the target has cover, you can either choose to take no penalty and roll hit location randomly (shots that hit a covered location always strike full cover, and hit partial cover on 4-6 on 1d) or target an exposed hit location (add an extra -2 if only partly exposed).

Very light cover (solid cover exposing ¾ of body): -1

Shooting through light cover (solid cover exposing ½ target): -2

Medium cover (Solid cover exposing just ): -3

Heavy cover (solid cover ¼ or less exposed): -4

Targeting the face, hand(s) or weapon of an enemy firing from cover: no penalty for cover, usual penalty for body part (see below).

Target behind someone else: -4 per intervening figure

Target crouching, kneeling, sitting, or lying down: an extra -2 to hit torso, groin, or legs

Target only partly exposed: -2

Shooting at narrow apertures or object: Use SM of item.

Hit location for humans:

0 for torso,

-2 for arm or leg,

-3 for groin or pelvis,

-4 for hand or foot,

-5 for face,

-7 for skull; impaling and piercing attacks can target vitals at -3 or eyes at -9

Weapon, to damage: -5 to hit a reach “C” weapon (e.g., knife or pistol); -4 to hit a reach 1 weapon (e.g., broadsword, baton, bangstick); -3 to hit a reach 2+ weapon (e.g., spear or rifle)

A9. Visibility

A9 modifiers apply to Aim and Lock, Shooting and Homing Attack. Visual capabilities of the shooter and the homing round may differ!

Blind, target completely invisible, or in total darkness: -10*

Cannot see foe: -6, or -4 if you know his location to within 1 yard*

Partial darkness, fog, smoke, etc.: -1 to -9 (GM’s option)

Target has light concealment (e.g. bushes): -2

A Telescopic sight removes -1 of darkness penalties.

A Reflex sight removes -3 of darkness penalties. A micro reflex sight for a pistol removes -1.

Night Vision Goggles that limit depth perception: -3 (TS-era devices are likely to use holographic or AR technology that removes or reduces this penalty).

Wednesday, 13 July 2016


Around 400BC in Nemea the Greek fighters Creugas and Damoxenus fought until dusk. They resolved to permit each other a single final blow. Creugas struck Damoxenus on the head but the blow was weathered. Damoxenus had Creugas raise his arm and then struck him with his open hand, using his fingertips like a spear. Damoxenus penetrated his torso, killing Creugas.

Many other fighting styles include techniques for striking with the finger-tips.

Spear-hand is a thrusting strike executed with the tips of the stiffened fingers. Potentially the spear-hand is a very effective technique that can deliver a lot of force into a very small area. It is a good hand form for hitting small, hard to access but very vulnerable targets. In practice spear-hand is often neglected by martial artists since it cannot be used when wearing sparring gloves and many of its targets are not legal or too dangerous to attack in sporting competition. Another reason for its neglect is that developing a strong spear-hand requires more conditioning and training than most other anatomical weapons. Supposedly the way to condition your hand(s) for spear-hand is to thrust your hands into a bowl of powder or fine sand. Once used to this you work up to coarse sand, dried beans, gravel, ball bearings, and, if some movies or books are to be believed, hot rocks or coals. In GURPS Martial Arts (4e) rules for the result of this conditioning are on p.42 and p.50. Hands so conditioned have a DR1 [1] and are treated as blunt claws [3] (p.B42). Conditioning to achieve this takes 600 hours and comes with the disadvantage Bad Grip 1 [-5] (p.B123).

In Transhuman Space a similar effect can be gained by a relatively minor biomodification ($5,000 and 15 days recovery). Placing the thumb-tip on the second joint of the forefinger causes the fingers and wrist to automatically lock in the optimum configuration for powerful spear-hand strikes. Treat this as an equivalent to the blunt claws advantage (+1 damage per die) for thrusting attacks made with the hands. This bio-mod has no effect on the fighter’s grip or dexterity nor does it increase the DR of the hand. The hand appears unmodified. Actually having blunt claws has the same effect but alters the appearance of the hand. Having sharp claws or talons may increase damage and change it to impaling damage, as per p.B42.

Using a spear-hand strike itself requires the fighter to know the technique Exotic Hand Strike (MA 4e p.71) and/or Lethal Strike (MA 4e p.85). Exotic Hand Strike is Average and does thrust crushing damage plus Karate bonuses. Lethal Strike is Hard and gives thrust-2 piercing damage plus Karate bonuses. Iron-hand conditioning or the Spear-hand bio-mod add +1 for each damage die. Spear-hand requires the striking hand to be empty. Spear-hand techniques get no modifier for brass knuckles and cannot be used with boxing gloves etc.

Karatand gloves are made of a memory plastic that becomes rigid on impact (UT 4e p.163). They are described as having the same effect as brass knuckles which seems to suggest they add +1 to total damage, making a punch thr cr rather than thr-1 cr. It seems reasonable that the rigid fingers of a Karatand give +1 to spear-hand strikes. 

Fifth Wave Special Forces.

As I have described in previous articles, military operations in the Transhuman Space era often involve relatively small numbers of personnel, often tasked with operational or strategic level mission. In contemporary parlance these units would often be described as “Special Forces”. In the TS era, however, special forces have undergone a number of changes.

Missions such as special reconnaissance or direct action raiding are what might be termed “uniformed” Special Forces tasks. In the 20th and early 21st century these missions were trusted to highly trained soldiers. For Fifth wave nations such tasks are the province of selected and correctly programmed cybershells. A special reconnaissance force will often be a variety of small robots reporting to a comms crab. A raiding force might be a unit of jump-RATS inserted by a stealth glide bomb.

A consequence of this is that the responsibility for such missions has diversified. It is understandable that a marine brigade would want to invest in cybershells suited to underwater beach reconnaissance and other amphibious operations. Likewise, airborne brigades and other expeditionary forces have contingents of RATS suited to stealth. Once such establishments have the tools to conduct special operations it is not long before they begin to seek such assignments. In many Fifth wave nations special reconnaissance or small unit direct action has now become the province of more conventional forces such as the marines or airborne.

In the more conservative militaries this trend has been resisted and the special forces have tried to keep their monopoly on this responsibility. In the USA the Green Berets, SEALs, Delta and numerous other similar seeming but distinct special operations forces still exist. However, the USMC has always been keen to justify its independent existence by adopting new roles. A significant proportion of special operations have been conducted with USMC-RATS rather than those of traditional SOF units. Some observers expect this trend to extend to the 82nd Airborne and 75th Rangers.

A similar trend is seen in counter-terrorism, which some perceive as a special forces responsibility. Police departments and non-military organisations have been enthusiastic customers for cybershells capable of SWAT and hostage rescue operations. In the USA this trend has been stimulated by the Great American Insurgency.

The second trend that has reshaped Fifth wave special operations is that many more operations are covert or clandestine in nature. The result of this is that many offensive operations have been conducted under the aegis of intelligence agencies rather than that of the uniformed military. Some of these operations have been conducted by cybershells. Many nations or organisations have a stock of generic reconnaissance or combat cybershells devoid of distinctive markings. Such “sterile” cybershells are the ideal expendable asset. When the mission is over or the system is likely to be captured the controller simply severs the radio connection and activates thermite destruction charges.

Covert or clandestine operations often take place in populated areas where combat cybershells would be conspicuous. Some missions are better conducted by human/ parahuman/ bioroid operatives. The use of such operatives may take several forms.

Most intelligence agencies prefer to use “local assets” for their activities. The majority of these lack military training and/or cannot be relied on for covert military operations.  One solution is to use proxies such as mercenaries, criminals or dissident groups. The competence and reliability of such units is variable and many will have their own agendas. Consequently some intelligence or espionage agencies have formed and trained units for covert and clandestine military operations.  Such teams are known by a variety of often euphemistic terms. For simplicity I will call them Covert Action Teams and their members Covert Military Operatives (CMOs).

In some respects this trend can be seen as a full circle. Many 20th century Special Forces originated from the wartime activities of the British SOE. The American equivalent of the SOE, the OSS evolved into the CIA. The inspiration for the SOE was itself taken from the 1920s IRA.

Covert Action Teams vary considerably but some generalizations can be made.

CMOs that operate on their own are rare. CMOs are generally fielded as an established team of between three and nine members. Like similar sized formations in more conventional military forces the members of a team tend to be tight-knit and familiar to each other. For security purposes such teams are effectively “cells” and only have no contact with other agents unless necessary.

In many services the members of a team are selected for similar apparent ethnicity and language skills. For example, a team might all appear to be of latin ancestry and speak fluent Spanish. Such a team would often be deployed in South America. A team of orientals who spoke Mandarin would be likely to see missions in Asia or on Mars. For nations with a relatively homogenous population forming teams that do not look out of place can be a problem. Chinese intelligence has very few Caucasian operatives it can draw upon. To create non-asian covert teams it must rely upon recruited foreigners, cosmetic surgery or specially created bioroids.

CMOs often operate at close ranges. Operations in locations where the carrying of weapons is restricted are also likely. CMOs are well versed in the use of improvised weapons and know that any workshop, kitchen or hardware store can provide them with implements to club, cut and stab. Many items of clothing can serve as effective garottes. CMOs are also well trained in unarmed combat techniques and may have bio-mods to assist in this.

More advanced weapons can be produced by minifac, delivered by stealth glide bomb, captured or stolen.

It is in a CMO’s interest to blend in and not seem conspicuous. Visible bio-mods will be in tune with those common in the area of operations. A CMO in a polar area or on Mars may have fur just like many of the locals. In actuality a CMO may have many less obvious but more drastic biomodifications. Some of these will be combat or survival orientated or be designed to assist the user’s mission in other ways. An example of the latter is the “thief light”, a switchable patch of bioluminescent skin with a light output similar to a candle.

Many CMOs cultivate a distinctly unmilitary appearance. Some teams appear to be family groups, troupes of entertainers or various other inventive covers. At least one team has the cover of a fashion photographer and his models. The “children” in a family may in fact be highly capable combat bioroids.