By the mid-21st Century, the Earth has been overrun by demons. Governments and armies have collapsed, the survivors forced to hide in the rubble of a dead world. The lucky ones have banded together into large bastions, the final refuges of humanity.
So goes the plot of Mortal Steel (the sponsor of this article and the video), an audio drama by Steven Schrembeck, following the exploits of cybernetically-enhanced Pastor Ethan Cutter as he journeys through the remains of Los Angeles.
In this brave new world, new weapons are needed if this war is to be won. The David-class mobile combat suit (MCS) is but one of these new inventions. Multiplying the strength and firepower of a single soldier, they have the potential to hold the line against the demon hordes, and perhaps even begin to turn the tide.
A New Weapon for the End of the World
Despite its name, the original design for the ‘David’ originated not in the US, but rather Japan. The Fukuoka Bastion was in regular communication with the stronghold of Last Respite, one of the few safe zones in the former city of Los Angeles. Among the survivors at Fukuoka was Professor Jiro Saitama, perhaps the world’s foremost surviving expert in robotics and engineering. While much of Professor Saitama’s work was dedicated to Project Hail Mary, Last Respite’s own plan to enhance human soldiers with cybernetic implants, the Japanese team spent some time developing their own war-winning weapon: a combat suit operable by a single soldier which could multiply the combat capabilities of one man many times over. Plans and design schematics, as well as some artistic drawings, had been near-complete when the Fukuoka Bastion was overrun and destroyed by a demon attack. Professor Saitama and his team did not survive, but one of the Professor’s final acts was to send Last Respite all the information and projects they had worked on: not only work related to Project Hail Mary but designs, pet projects and concepts that might tip the scale in favor of humanity if they could be realized. In the interest of expediency, much of the information sent to Last Respite was identified as either of interest for use in Project Hail Mary, or surplus to requirements. Documents in the latter category were filed away and, for the most part, forgotten about.
It was only six months later, with the Hail Mary entering its first field deployment, that these old documents were re-examined. Sister Fran is credited with the rediscovery of these schematics, and it was she who brought them to the attention of Archbishop Gabriel Cline. Perhaps seeing the potential of such a weapon, or just humouring Sister Fran, the Archbishop granted permission for the design and construction of a prototype mechanical combat suit.
Although the Japanese design team had completed some schematics of the design, they had based the design upon what materials could be scavenged or manufactured in or around Fukuoka Bastion. This meant a great deal of time was spent in the first few months simply reconfiguring the design to make use of available materials.
Once the design had been revised and refined, the next step was the construction of the prototype. This task was entrusted to the best engineers in Last Respite, Sisters Ursula and Gretchen. This proved a difficult endeavor, as the material costs spiralled rapidly and more and more people began inquiring why so much material was being requisitioned and, more importantly, where it was going.
It is said that, with the veil of secrecy falling and the project seemingly destined for failure and disassembly, Archbishop Cline proceeded to the church and prayed for a miracle.
He was not expecting an answer but apparently, he got one.
Two days later, while out with a scavenger party, Sister Gretchen uncovered the remains of a major industrial site. Within the rubble, she uncovered a cache of industry-grade batteries, precisely the type Last Respite would need to power their prototype. Further within the ruins an even greater discovery was found: a dozen F4M “Foreman” heavy industry suits. Designed for the efficient movement of heavy materials and machines rather than combat, the Foreman was still a godsend, and possibly quite literally. It would provide a useful chassis for the initial vehicles and it would require fewer resources to repurpose these suits than to build them from the ground up.
The Foreman suits were recovered and conversion began. It took several months but, eventually, the first prototype was completed. Basic mobility and weapon tests were completed a few days later, and the Experimental Combat Suit was declared ready for field tests. Reports hold that it was here that Archbishop Cline bestowed the suit with the name David, for, like its Biblical namesake, it would stand against the giant, and it would win.
Standing 9 m (29 ft) tall, the David MCS is a bipedal combat suit built to enhance the combat capabilities of a single soldier. The suit is naturally humanoid in form, with two arms supporting the suit’s primary weapon systems, and two legs providing locomotion for the vehicle. The torso holds the command center and pilot, while upon its back rests the power pack, auxiliary systems and weapon magazines for the armaments. To keep weight at a minimum, the ‘skeleton’ of the suit is composed of titanium, while a ‘skin’ of aluminium protects against the elements.
The command center is the most important aspect of the combat suit. From here, the pilot is linked to the vehicle by a neural interface, allowing the pilot to move the suit with but a few thoughts. By reducing the amount of attention the pilot requires to coordinate movement, the pilot is able to focus upon more pressing concerns, such as searching and engaging targets. Holographic displays located around the cockpit keep the pilot informed of vital information about the suit, while a Virtual Intelligence (VI) assistant is on-hand to respond to verbal requests. Above the cockpit sits the Mark 12A gunner’s sight, providing the pilot with thermal and infrared views of the battlefield. Whatever the battlefield conditions, the gunner’s sight, coupled with an Erwin-Argus sensor suite, ensures that a suit pilot retains a near perfect overview of the terrain and enemy locations. The gunner’s sight provides vision in x1, x5 and x10 magnifications, allowing the pilot to track targets and deliver aimed fire at up to 2,000 m.
Two Mazani-series Solid State batteries provide enough power for the suit’s movement and weapon systems. These provide enough electrical power for up to 24 hours of continuous operation. These batteries are kept in a power pack mounted on the “back” of the suit, giving the suit an almost hunchbacked appearance. The limited combat time afforded by the power source has been a key criticism of the suit, and efforts are underway to refine the battery design to allow increased battery life. Another proposal put forward has been the design and implementation of a miniaturized fusion reactor, theoretically affording the suit a near infinite operating time. However, such a project would be as resource intensive as the project for David itself, although rumours abound that Archbishop Cline may have siphoned some materials destined for the mech project to other locations. His detractors cite corruption, but there are those who suspect greater plans at play.
Armor has been kept to a relative minimum in order to maximise the mobility of the suit. Vital components, such as the command center, joints and power pack are protected by up to 50 mm of composite armor, while the weakest sections may be protected by as little as 10 mm. This is typically enough to protect the suit and pilot from small arms fire at typical combat ranges. Against demonic weapons, conventional armor has proven near useless, and so a combat suit pilot must rely on his suit’s speed, and luck, to avoid such attacks.
Against dedicated anti-vehicle weapons, such as rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank guided missiles, the David relies upon the CZMK “Dart” Active Protection System to intercept and destroy these projectiles short of the suit. The suit’s shoulders provide an excellent mounting point for both radar and launcher, affording the David excellent defensive coverage against such weapon systems. Smoke launchers provide the suit with additional defensive options when faced with inopportune situations.
When it comes to weapon systems, modularity is the name of the game for the David MCS. With enemies ranging from human raiders and the possessed to demons comparable in size to the mech and possibly greater, the David chassis is able to mount a variety of weapon systems depending on the mission profile in question. In its ‘default’ weapons loadout, the David focuses primarily on short to mid-range combat, alongside special emphasis on fighting in urban environments.
The most common weapon seen mounted on the David is the 20 mm VN4 ‘Ares’ autocannon. This is mounted centrally upon the David’s shoulders and is the primary weapon for use against soft targets. Two types of ammunition are often carried; a High-Explosive, Fragmentation round for use against personnel, and a depleted uranium ‘silver bullet’ round for use against Class-A demons. These latter rounds are domestically manufactured within Last Respite, and thus only a handful are provided for use in the field. The Ares can maintain a steady 100 rounds per minute under default settings, but at the pilot’s whim, this can be increased to between 150-200 rounds per minute. Combat Suit pilots are advised against changing the rate of fire, as the increase in stress can lead to the weapon jamming and becoming non-functional. It is recommended that pilots only escalate the rate of fire of the Ares in extreme circumstances.
David Combat Suits may also carry the XM12 High-Pressure Flamethrower. Adapted from a handheld pre-Apocalypse flamethrower and scaled up, the XM12 quickly garnered the name ‘Infernus’ for the inferno-like effects it could inflict upon target areas. Firing a napalm-like substance, the Infernus can reach targets up to 200 m away and fire in bursts of up to 15 seconds at a time. This power comes at a cost, however. The fuel tank for the flamethrower is mounted at the rear of the suit and is theoretically vulnerable to fire aimed at the suit’s rear arc. To counteract this, a second, larger tank has been built around the fuel tank and filled with high-pressure antifreeze and water. The concept is similar to that used to protect ammunition on some tanks: if the external tank is penetrated, the antifreeze will quickly douse any flames and seal the breech. This is coupled with an emergency eject system, allowing the pilot to quickly release the tank and flamethrower from the suit in the event of an emergency. All told, the Infernus is quite possibly the most devastating weapon in the David’s arsenal, for both the targets and the pilot.
For use against larger, more heavily armored targets, the David can be equipped with a 75 mm GL10 cannon. The GL10 is another pre-Apocalypse design, originally intended for use with the US Army as the main armament of a new, air-mobile light tank not dissimilar to those trialed in the 1970s and 80s. Like the Ares, in the interest of ammunition conservation, the rate of fire has been toned down to a more moderate 60 rounds a minute, from an original rate of fire of 120 rounds. The GL10 is capable of firing a variety of ammunition, but is most commonly loaded with a mix of high-explosive (HE) and armor-piercing, fin-stabilized, discarding sabot (APFSDS) rounds. A typical ratio of these rounds is approximately 10 HE rounds per 1 APFSDS round, although this can be altered depending on mission parameters and expected resistance.
Should the situation require it, the arm-carried weapon systems can be holstered, freeing the hands of the David for use in close-quarter combat.
Alongside these weapon systems are several others still in development, including missiles both guided and not, and arrays of smaller-calibre machine guns. Research continues on more esoteric weaponry, such as kinetic weapons like coil and rail guns, alongside a directed-energy weapon system using lasers.
At top speed, the David is able to reach and maintain a modest 30 kilometers per hour, although it is expected that, within urban environments, practical speeds will be perhaps half to a third this, to ensure the environment is properly scanned for potential threats and so that supporting forces can keep up. Electric motors ensure that power is properly distributed throughout the suit, while an auxiliary generator provides a backup in case the primary batteries are drained or disabled.
Although cleared for field tests, at present, there are no confirmed sightings of the David in combat. This is expected to change in the near future.
From simulations and statistics, the David is poised to change the face of warfare in the post-Apocalyptic world. The David may be the first step forward in Humanity’s war for survival, the hunted becoming the hunter. It is hoped that this new wonder-weapon will buy time for newer, more refined combat suit designs, time for more powerful weapons to be built.
But as ever, only time will tell.