Mass Effect: Independence OOC|Group|Interest|Signups This Roleplay is set in the Mass Effect Universe, roughly one hundred and fifty years after the events of Mass Effect 3. If you are new to Mass Effect, I strongly recomend giving the Mass Effect Wiki a good perusal. In the intervening years, the Galaxy has kinda gone to shit. The Council has become even more oppressive, elitist and controlling than before. Conditions on the poorer worlds following the war are abysmal, compounded by the Council and Species Governments apparent unwillingness to aid anyone but the wealthy Inner Colonies. In the wake of the discontent caused by overzealous taxation, neglect, starvation and racial discrimination, the poor and underrepresented have begun to flock to a new ideology: Unionism, a political and social creed that advocates unity, freedom, democracy and the abandonment of racial discrimination and prejudice, calling on the inhabitants of the Galaxy to stand as one and cast aside their differences for the greater good. Ultimately, Unionists hope to establish a new government, a Union of Sapient Peoples, which will offer everyone an equal chance, and equal representation, regardless of species, wealth or social status. Unknown to most of the Galaxy, this Union does exist, established in secret by the leaders of 45 worlds on the edge of Council Space, and led by the enigmatic Provisional Governer Xander O'Tarin. For the last decade the Union has been growing, hiding behind the aegis of Black Star Trans-Galactic, O'Tarin's massive industrial and transportation giant, and front for the Union. Soon, the time will come for the Union to reveal itself, and present its declaration of independence to the Council. While Union leaders hope to avoid war, they know it is inevitable. The Council would never part with so many worlds, and the Turian Hierarchy would most certainly never tolerate it. So, the Union has been preparing for war, producing weapons, developing technology, forging alliances, training and recruiting officers, weaponizing the Black Star fleet, and biding its time until it can step out of the shadows. Your characters are members of the elite Special Operations Directorate, the special forces and espionage unit of the secretly formed Union. Assigned to the brand new Blade-class stealth recon frigate Freedom's Blade, you are the newborn Union's elite, the best of the best, recruited from every species and every world to fight on the front lines of the Galactic Civil War that will inevitably come when the Union comes out of hiding and claims its territory. Serving under the newly recruited Commander John Marshall, and armed with the latest in Black Star technology, your unit will serve as the Union's most delicate scalpel, completing the missions no one else can be trusted with, from the trenches of the front line to the strongholds of the Council, deep in enemy territory. Whether true believers in the Union cause, or mercenaries simply in it for the money, your characters will shape the future of the Galaxy itself. We are looking for a number of general roles, however the way you chose to play those roles is up to you, and if you have an alternate idea, I'm happy to entertain it. The following are suggestions, and should provide a general idea of what we're looking for. If we still have spaces lacking, players are welcome to create additional characters, or I can fill them with NPCs if need be. By taking full advantage of the group system, I will be mapping out the entire ship with forums, so don't be afraid to create characters who are primarily ship-bound: there will be plenty of goings on in the away team's absence. Sentinel/Combat Specialist: [Taken] - Kyrinne Tarchus/Screwface Romeo Close Quarters Heavy: [Available] Heavy Support Gunner: [Available] Biotic Specialist/Adept: [Available] Biotic Specialist/Vanguard: [Available] Sentinel/Biotic Specialist: [Available] Tech Specialist: [Available] Infiltrator: [Available] Soldier(s): [Available] Soldier/Sniper: [Available] Combat Engineer: [Available] Ship's Engineer: [Available] Shuttle Pilot: [Available] Ship's Pilot: [Taken] - Flight Lieutenant Kai'Saaya vas Fairstarr/Screwface Romeo Fighter Pilot: [Available] Medic/Ship's Doctor: [Available] General Rules: I reserve the right to approve or deny character applications as I see fit Your characters may NOT be related to Shepard, or any member of the Normandy Crew. No Exceptions. Your characters may NOT be hybrids, or "original" races. You pick a canon race, and you stick to it. All applications must use the character template below Standard good manners apply: no godmodding, no taking control of someone's character without permission, no Sues This RP is to be clean, understand? No explicit sex, and don't go overboard on the gore either. Character Template: If you're stuck on names for your non-human characters, this tool is quite useful. As of yet it doesn't cover Hanar, Volus, Batarian or Elcor, but it's highly doubtful those will be needed anyway. Code: [center][size=7][b]Special Operations Directorate Official Profile[/b][/size][/center] [size=6][b]Core Profile[/b][/size] [size=2][hr][/hr] [b]Species:[/b] [i]x[/i] [hr][/hr] [b]Gender:[/b] [i]x[/i] [hr][/hr] [b]Height:[/b] [i]x'x"[/i] [hr][/hr] [b]Age:[/b] [i]xx ESY[/i] [hr][/hr] [b]Skin Hue/Racial Morph:[/b] [i]x[/i] [hr][/hr] [b]Hair Color:[/b] [i]x[/i] [hr][/hr] [b]Eye Color:[/b] [i]x[/i] [hr][/hr] [b]Class:[/b] [i]x[/i] [hr][/hr][/size] [size=6][b]Known Equipment & Gear[/b][/size] [hr][/hr] [size=6][b]Physical Profile[/b][/size] [hr][/hr] [size=6][b]Psychological Profile[/b][/size] [hr][/hr] [size=6][b]Historical Profile[/b][/size] [hr][/hr] [size=5][b]Misc. Notes[/b][/size] [hr][/hr] Historical Overview The Reaper War: Mass Effect 1-3 So, let's get this out of the way: Canon Shep. Why? Because the storyline of Independence requires that certain decisions have been made. And because I can. Kekekek. That said, our Shep is purposely vague on aspects such as gender and love interest, as I have little interest in dictating Shepard past the specific choices required to make the plot work. I'm going to list the prominent decisions below. If you have a question about a decision I haven't listed which might affect your character, feel free to ask it, though you can assume a generally Paragon path. Shepard's Tale ME1 Rachni Queen was spared. Wrex was saved Council was saved ME2 All squadmates survived All squadmates were loyal The Collector Base was destroyed ME3 The Genophage was cured Urdnot Bakara (Eve) survived The Rachni Queen was spared again The Quarians and Geth joined forces Changes to Canon Prior to the Ending As I had written most of this prior to the Omega DLC being released, in this timeline Omega is not retaken by Aria's forces until 2273, up to which point it served in the same role it had always served, just with Neo-Cerberus gangsters in control instead of Aria, and a bit more brutality towards its alien inhabitants than normal. When the showdown on Rannoch occurs, Legion's sacrifice does not convey individuality to all Geth. Why? Because that's retarded, and completely defeats the point of what made the Geth so cool in the first place. The Geth of 2335 remain a Consensus. The End of a Cycle Given how incredibly shitty the ending to Three was, I've modified it a bit, starting immediately after Anderson's death: After facing Reapers in the streets of London, the horrors of the Citadel catacombs, and a final confrontation with the Illusive Man, Shepard emerged in a control room. A few keystrokes completed the integration of the Crucible, sending torrents of power flooding through the station's conduits. With all systems reading green, Shepard pressed the final command, firing the Crucible. In the vastness of space outside, men shielded their eyes as a massive pulse of white light emerged from the Citadel, engulfing everything in sight. When it faded, the Reapers lay drifting, dead in space, fires crackling across their massive hulls. On the ground, Reaper troops collapsed before the pulse, toppling over and burning as their circuitry fried. Across the rubble-strewn battlefields of Earth, soldier and civilian alike raised their voices in triumph. As the pulse spread through the relay network, sending Reapers toppling and burning from the skies, so did the cry. Over the next few weeks, as the signal made its way through the Galaxy, reports began to return. The Reapers had fallen. The Galaxy was saved. They'd won. But it was a bittersweet victory. The Council fleets had been gutted, the Galaxy ravaged, and trillions killed. And, as was soon discovered, the Relay Network had not escaped unscathed. Overloaded and shorted out by the enormous power of the Crucible Pulse, the Relays had become unstable, unable to safely transmit anything bigger than a large Frigate. Those warships which had not been destroyed in the battle found themselves trapped in the vicinity of the Sol Relay, unable to leave for fear of being torn apart upon entering a Relay. The sapient races of the Milky Way had defeated their greatest enemy, only to find themselves teetering on the brink. A leader was needed, to reassure people, and to co-ordinate the recovery process. But despite a thorough search of the Citadel, Shepard was nowhere to be found. When even the most exhaustive searches failed to recover a body, it was assumed that the Hero of the Citadel had been vaporized in one of the conduit overloads which had ravaged the station when the Crucible fired. Human and Turian, Geth and Quarian, Krogan and Salarian, the Galaxy united in mourning. But this unison would not last long. In the new cycle, there was no place for trust and unity. After the Reaper War: a Century of Darkness Over the hundred years following the Reaper War, the Galaxy struggled. With the Relays damaged, it would seem, beyond repair, the mighty military and civilian transport ships that would have been invaluable in rebuilding found themselves rusting away in drydock, while pirates, mercenaries and other criminals were free to roam the Galaxy, their smaller ships being more than capable of navigating the Relay Network. With the militaries of the Species Governments crippled, gangs, pirates and crime syndicates poured out of the Terminus, conquering wide swathes of the Galaxy with almost no resistance. Only the Homeworlds, and their inner colonies, remained relatively unscathed, shielded by their defense fleets. As the inner worlds slowly recovered, the Species Governments began to build up their fleets, as a defense against pirates, while the Council tightened its grip, claiming more and more power. After 50 years, it had quickly become apparent that they had no plans to help the Outer Colonies, and were content to cut their former citizens adrift in a sea of crime and poverty. Promises made during the war were ignored, and the alliances Shepard had worked so hard to build fell apart like a house of cards. The Krogan, freed from the Genophage, were treated like second-class citizens now that their help was no longer needed. Confined to the Aralakh system, and treated with hostility and callousness by the Council, it was all Urdnot Wrex and Bakara could do to prevent them from descending into chaos again. Geth and other Synthetics were barred from Council Space, and Quarians continued to be treated with disdain and contempt. Ironically, the Quarians and Geth were one of the few groups who did not fall apart after Shepard's death. Indeed, they became stronger than ever, solidifying their power in the Rannoch system, and keeping the pirates and criminals at bay with a newly-constructed defense fleet. But the Galaxy-wide depression, combined with resentment and fear from the other races, did not leave them in a very favorable position, and even they found themselves stagnated, along with the rest of the Milky Way. A Light in the Distance: the Shrine Expedition After over a hundred years of this, a glimpse of light finally emerged. There had always been rumors of The Shrine, a Prothean data haven which contained records of all their most advanced science. Prospectors, scavengers, pirates and merchantmen had spoken of it since even before the Reaper War. But when an Asari scientific expedition uncovered a memory shard listing its coordinates during an archaeological dig on an ice planet, The Shrine suddenly leaped from the depths of obscure myth into reality, as the Galaxy's only hope of recovery. A hope which appear dashed when, mere days after the discovery, the expedition was attacked. Asari commandos sent to investigate the site's radio silence found a gruesome scene: the entire expedition staff had been slaughtered, their equipment wiped and smashed, and the shard dashed into a million pieces by a lone scientist who had put a bullet through it rather than allow it to fall into the hands of her attackers. Commandos who had been unable to keep their oath of silence spoke in hushed tones of the incident, describing a contorted body, shattered shard gripped tightly in one hand, a pistol in the other, with eyes of solid black. The whole incident was hushed up, and it seemed the matter would be forgotten. But it was not to be, as a few months later a ship named Iwo Jima departed from Ilium, carrying a crew hired by Aria T'loak to recover the Shrine. And supposedly, one of their number knew the coordinates. Fighting across the Galaxy, dodging mercenaries, pirates, and a rival crew led by an enigmatic Ardat Yakshi known as the Demon Captain, the Iwo Jima arrived at last on the world which held the Shrine. Following an intense battle in orbit which left their foe in smoldering ruins on the planet's surface, the surviving members of the expedition finally achieved that which many had sought for centuries. But as they set course for Omega with the Shrine data in hand, to give Aria her prize, one man began to have second thoughts. He was the expedition's chief of security, a mercenary, and by all accounts, a scumbag to the core. His name was Xander O'Tarin. A New Dawn: Rise of Black Star Trans-Galactic Xander O'Tarin found himself in a unique position. With the ship's captain dead, he was effectively in control of the Iwo Jima, and her invaluable cargo. He had a choice. The Shrine data held immense power. With it, one could rule the Galaxy. And he had to decide whether turn it over to Aria, as agreed, or keep it for himself. In the end, he chose a third option. Betraying his mistress, he took his ship to the Citadel, where he negotiated a deal with the Council: he would restore the Mass Relays for them, and allow them to return to their former place as the leading government in the Milky Way, in exchange for the rights to any data discovered, and an exclusive contract for Relay repair to be handed to his new corporation: Black Star Trans-Galactic. Before he could begin to rebuild the Galaxy, O'Tarin needed ships. Fortunately, that was one item which was in ready supply. Securing loans from the Council and other sources on the strength of his data, he bought up the Galaxy's large transports at rock bottom prices. Freighters, liners and even warships, anything too big to be flown through a Mass Relay and too old to be of proper military use today was his for the taking. With his fleet assembled, he set his plan in motion, repairing relays throughout the Galaxy, and allowing his ships to travel freely, taking on cargo bound for the Outer Colonies. In a matter of years, the entire relay network had been repaired, trade had resumed, Black Star Trans-Galactic was the most powerful shipping magnate in the Galaxy, and Xander O'Tarin was the richest man in Human history. With the Relays now open, Citadel Fleet and Black Star Security forces descended on the Pirates with a vengeance. Named after prominent members of Shepard’s squad, BSTG’s naval Taskforce Zorah and infantry Taskforce Vakarian were ruthlessly efficient in eradicating the criminal menace. Made up primarily of volunteers from Outer Colonies, they pursued the pirates with a fanatical dedication born from years of suffering under them. Taskforce Zorah alone shot down more pirate ships than the entire Turian Navy, while Taskforce Vakarian took back worlds from the crime syndicates at a rate of roughly a planet per month. While Council Forces focused primarily on the inner colonies belonging to their respective specieses, BSTG made no such distinction, taking the fight directly to the Traverse and the Outer Rim. Black Star quickly came under massive criticism for its vigilantism and brutal tactics during the crackdown, even to the point of an official Council inquiry to determine the legality of their actions. But the inquiry quickly floundered and died, for reasons that remain unclear (but most likely involved BSTG threatening to cancel vital contracts with the Turian and Asari governments). Although they remained mistrusted and disliked in the inner colonies, in the outer colonies they were heroes, and the jobs that Black Star created pumped new life into their economies, bringing hope and and a chance for prosperity that many had never dreamed of. In the span of nearly thirty years, BSTG had built an economic empire which spanned the entire Galaxy, with factories and distribution hubs from Council Space to the Perseus Veil, where the famous Rannoch Orbital Shipyards churned out hundreds of new starships every year. A Galaxy in Turmoil: Recovery, the Council, and Unionism But Black Star, for all its power and influence, was fighting a battle that could not be won. Despite their efforts and successes, most of the outer colonies still languished in extreme poverty, with hunger, disease and crime running rampant across the Skyllian Verge, the Attican Traverse and the Outer Rim. And the Council, fearful of Black Star’s power and corrupted by the wealthy elite of the member species, was striking back, instituting a tax on the outer colonies which came down hardest on the poor and disadvantaged species. Furious at this new wave of oppression and discrimination, and seeing their tax credits flowing back into the inner colonies to fund Council military buildup and inner colony corporations aimed at challenging Black Star, civilians in the outer colonies began to protest against the Council, demanding change. These sparks quickly grew into bonfires with the publishing of The Unionist Manifesto, an anonymous document which urged the overthrow of the Council and the creation of a Union of Sapient Peoples, which would establish a Galactic Federal Republic, giving all races the right to vote for elected officials, a stark contrast to the Council’s highly exclusive, racially-based and self-chosen membership. Unionists and Preservationists, the pro-Council reactionary movement that rose to oppose them, clashed regularly at rallies, protests, and occasionally street fights between Unionist and Preservationist paramilitaries. As the divide between Unionist and Preservationist increased, so did their antagonism, with protests regularly turning into riots and even all-out gang wars between groups. By 2335, just one year short of the 150th anniversary of the Reaper War, matters had reached a head, and one flash was all it would take to plunge the Galaxy into civil war. The Boiling Point: the Black Tuesday Massacre, riots, and rebellion That flash would come on Tuesday, April 23rd, 2335. Swarming the barricades and checkpoints, Unionist protesters stormed the Presidium, carrying handmade signs and banners. Gathering in any open space, and refusing to move, they began the largest mass protest in history. Chanting, singing and waving their banners, the Unionists shouted their demands at the Council Tower. As protesters began to swarm the tower square, C-Sec finally arrived on the scene. Lines of Turians in full combat armor stood in formation, forming a line of riot shields and rifles between the mob and the Tower. Nobody exactly knows what happened next. It was all too quick. Prehaps a nervous officer tightened his trigger finger a micron too far. Perhaps a protester threw a brick. But regardless, the result was the same: the C-Sec troops opened fire on the crowd. Once the first rounds were fired, it was chaos. Protesters charged the police, hurling themselves down the barrels of waiting assault rifles in a desperate attempt to overwhelm their attackers. But as more and more died before even reaching the line, their momentum collapsed, and they began to flee. But even as the charge broke and scattered, C-Sec continued to fire, marching forward and emptying magazine after magazine into the panicked crowd as they tried desperately to escape. Of the 216 people who died on the Presidium that day, 182 were shot in the back. This atrocity was all the excuse the Council needed. Fearing reprisal, they claimed the Unionists were terrorists who had attacked them, and sent the Turian Military into the wards to restore order. The Turian hierarchy, hardly Unionism's biggest fan, decided to take a rather... liberal interpretation of their orders. Marching into the slums of the Wards, they began detaining anyone suspected of Unionist affiliation, and shooting people wearing Unionist colors or badges on sight. The people fought back, and for weeks, a bloody battle raged across the Citadel, leaving thousands of innocents dead, while the Turians suffered almost no casualties. By the time the smoke cleared, the damage had been done. Enraged at their treatment, Unionists across the Galaxy rose up in revolt, attacking the facilities of Species Governments on their worlds, hurling Molotov cocktails at Council Embassies, and dragging Preservationist government officials, especially the dreaded Council tax collectors, into the streets to be savaged by angry mobs. War is unavoidable now. All that remains is for the Unionists to rally under a common banner. A banner which Black Star has been working for 30 years to provide. This is the stage which has been set. What happens next is up to you. On the workings of the Union Black Star Trans-Galactic and the Union Originally created for the purpose of restoring transportation and trade to the Galaxy, when it became clear that the Council had no plans to help the outer worlds Black Star Trans-Galactic became the primary front organization for the leaders of the Unionist movement. The largest shipping and travel corporation in the Galaxy, BSTG was in a unique position to further the Union's goal. Black Star's network was used for transporting war materials manufactured by themselves and other Union-affiliated companies, hosting meetings in space, far from prying eyes, and structuring what would become the backbone of the Union's army and navy through Black Star Security and their formidable fleet. Not all Black Star personnel are aware of their role in the conspiracy, but those with key positions in Black Star leadership or security forces usually hold equivalent positions in the Union government and military. The sheer size of Black Star's operations, both those directly under the company itself, or through subsidies and shell corporations, are a major advantage, allowing the Union to effectively hide behind the massive bulk of Black Star. The majority of BSTG military equipment production facilities are located within what will become Union Space, and almost all of Black Star Security's recruitment is done on Union-friendly worlds. Black Star's position as a shipping company also provides a handy excuse for the large fleet of starships being assembled over Rannoch and other Union worlds. After Independance Day, most of Black Star's assets will be folded into the Union, with armories becoming State arsenals, Black Star Security becoming the Union Spaceborne Infantry, and the vast majority of the Black Star Fleet forming the Union Navy. The Special Operations Directorate Created as an answer and counter to the Council's Spectre initiative and the Salarian STGs, the Special Operations Directorate, or S.O.D., is the Union's frontline special forces, black ops and intelligence agency. Unlike the Spectres, the S.O.D.'s Operators are bound by law, and operate under far more constraints than their Council counterparts. While they are still given considerable latitude, as is necessary to do their job, Operators and the S.O.D. as a whole accept and understand their restrictions: most Union Loyalists despise the Spectres for their ability to act without oversight, and their Council-endorsed freedom to kill, torture or disappear people on a whim. While the S.O.D.'s limitations do put them at a disadvantage sometimes, the necessity of preventing Operators from becoming like Spectres is seen as more than sufficient justification. And what they lack in flexibility, they make up in numbers. S.O.D. Operators are the best of the best, hand picked by the agency's Directors for their skills in a wide variety of areas, from electronic surveillance to assassination and demolitions. You don't choose to join the S.O.D., you are chosen. Inductees are notified of their selection, and given 24 hours to either refuse or accept the offer. They come from every world of the Milky Way, from every branch of service and walk of life. Depending on how and from where they were recruited, inductees may undergo a period of intense training, or commissioned and sent directly into the field. The Special Operations Directorate is not quite as exclusive as the Spectres, but the wider range and greater numbers of specialized personnel available to them generally serves to compensate for this. S.O.D. Operators have no formal rank. They are all registered at the same Union Armed Forces pay grade, and may be given badges of rank at will, as needed for undercover operations within the Union’s regular military structure. In addition to black ops and intelligence gathering, the S.O.D. is also responsible for command of the Union’s Shadow Fleet, the fleet of Blade-class stealth-reconnaissance frigates which provide both the insertion method for their troops behind enemy lines, and a formidable weapon in naval battles. Shadow Division, the section of the Directorate responsible for the Shadow Fleet, is an elite corps of sailors, entrusted with one of the most dangerous jobs in the Union Navy. Union Military Structure [Under Construction] Tactics and Warfare [Under Construction] Technology and Science Union Weapons and Armor Black Star researchers, in the push to develop new weapons, discovered that a detachable box magazine containing preformed projectiles was actually just as fast to reload as the until-then-standard thermal clips. And with new superconducting materials developed by Black Star, the overheating problem inherent in railguns could be drastically mitigated, to the point where it was barely more noticeable than in the chemical propulsion firearms of Humanity's 20th and 21st centuries. These developments allowed the production of weapons which fired large-caliber projectiles from a detachable magazine, without worrying about overheating. In addition, this eliminated the need for an element zero core, as the hyper-sonic speeds necessary to cause tissue damage with microcaliber pellets where no longer required. By eliminating the shaver block mechanism, the thermal clip mechanism, and the eezo core, Black Star was able to produce firearms which were drastically simpler, cheaper, more reliable and quicker to produce with limited resources. Other, unintended side-benefits included: A more powerful weapon, as the larger-caliber, lower-velocity munitions, rather than icepicking through flesh without causing much damage, careened through tissue, producing gaping wounds which even Krogan were hard-pressed to heal. They also retained and transferred energy better due to their larger mass, rather than reflecting off shields, armor and raindrops*. A larger number of shots-per-reload, as this was dependent on magazine size rather than heat production Cheaper, easier to produce ammunition, as bullets required far less delicate machining than thermal clips. These improvements have become essential, as advances in armor and shield technology have effectively rendered the old generation of weapons useless. Your starter weapons, as in the games, are as follows. You are welcome to deviate, if you have an idea, but I do request that you clear it with me first. Since I imagine most people are not quite my level of pathetic gun geek, and are more interested in the other parts of their character, I've provided this list, and will be updating it as new weapons are found over the course of the RP. Assault Rifle: L95 "Liberator" an L95 Liberator, pictured with three spare 100 round magazines and a standard issue omni-bayonet A sturdy, reliable and lightweight assault rifle, the 7x40mm L95 is the weapon of choice for both Union forces, and others across the Milky Way, including the human Systems Alliance's military. Developed by Black Star to provide a flexible, reliable and easily mass-produced weapon for the Union's military forces, what the Liberator lacks in power and accuracy, it makes up for in dependability, magazine capacity, and sheer numbers. Easily modified, the Liberator is composed of an upper and lower receiver assembly, which can be swapped out at will to adapt the weapon to any given mission. Common modifications include replacing the upper receiver with particle beam emitter and swapping the standard 100 round magazine for a particle cartridge/expanded battery pack for space combat, applying a shorter upper assembly to create a compact Personal Defense Weapon for pilots and vehicle crews, swapping magazine and barrel to allow for the firing of 18.5mm (12g) disintegrating shot-cups to create an automatic shotgun, and switching the lower receiver for one with an integrated 25mm semi-automatic smart grenade launcher. Submachinegun L494 "Shrike" Developed to provide a compact weapon for shipboard security officers, vehicle crews, and other personnel who do not require the additional power and range of an assault rifle, the Shrike is a slim, lightweight submachinegun firing the same 7x40mm ferrous projectiles as the L95 Liberator. In order to maintain it's smaller profile, the Shrike uses a 50rnds double-stack simplex magazine, rather than the Liberator's quad-stack duplex. The Shrike boasts a higher rate of fire than the Liberator, but at the cost of power and accuracy. Like it's larger cousin, the Shrike is also capable of significant modification, the most common mod being the replacement of the barrel group and magazine with particle beam emitter and battery for zero-gravity combat, where its lack of recoil is a significant advantage. The Shrike is less flexible than the Liberator, but it's compact size and low recoil make it a favorite both for rear-echelon troops, close-quarters combatants, and troops who do not rely on a firearm as their primary weapon, such as biotics and tech specialists. Pistol L2311 "Stalwart" A tough, powerful and reliable sidearm, the Stalwart pistol is the weapon of choice for Union Officers, machine-gunners, biotics and snipers who need a dependable backup weapon. Firing 10x35mm ferrous slugs from a 18-round magazine, the Stalwart may not have the most powerful shots, or the largest magazine, but it strikes a compromise between the extremes which has made it extremely popular. With an enlarged, single-finger trigger guard and its magazine stored in the grip, the Stalwart, while by no means a small pistol, is far more compact than the previous generation of weapons, while still maintaining the edge in both power and magazine capacity. A modified version with fully-automatic capability and expanded magazines is also available to members of the Special Operations Directorate on request. Shotgun L803 "Boltru" Favorite of civilians, police and combat engineers across the frontier, the Boltru shotgun is a rugged and powerful pump-action shotgun firing 18.5x40mm disintegrating shot-cups from an internal 12-round tube magazine. Like all shotguns, the Boltru's true advantages lie in its close-quarters performance and the flexibility as regards ammunition. Capable of firing anything from plain-jane buckshot to exotic rounds like warp slugs, smart grenades or plasma toroids, the Bultru is a favorite among engineers, who have come up with any number of wacky loads for it. A specialist weapon, the Boltru is rarely seen in the hands of Union front-line troops, as it lacks the range to keep up with combat where the typical engagement distance is in excess of 300 meters, but the squat, blocky-looking shotgun with it's over-folding stock and distinctive pump-grip remains both iconic and beloved by those troops who do make use of it. And woe betide he who finds himself on the wrong end of it. Sniper Rifle L338 "Lance" Intended for relatively close (by sniper standards) engagements, the L338 Lance marksman's rifle is a semi-automatic precision rifle firing 8.53x62mm precision-tooled projectiles from a 10-round detachable magazine. A favorite of special forces and infantry marksmen alike, the Lance's large projectiles exhibit excellent subsonic performance as well as supersonic, allowing the velocity of the weapon to be adjusted in the field to permit silent shooting. While it is not as powerful or as accurate at long range as other, larger sniper's weapons, its light weight and handy size when fitted with a folding stock, combined with silent shooting capability make it exceptionally popular in situations where extreme range and tack-driving accuracy are less of a concern. Finally, we have a class of weapons unique to Independence: Support Machine Gun L76 "Ripsaw" A lightweight, easy to handle general purpose machinegun designed during the Terminus War, the L76 is a venerable weapon that, alongside the L95 Liberator, has served Black Star forces for nearly 30 years. Feeding from a disintegrating-link polymer belt, the L76 fires the same 7x40mm rounds as the L95, but with belts of up to 500 rounds in various sizes of belt box. With it's top cover-actuated feeding mechanism and quick-change barrel and rail assembly, when operated by a crew of two (gunner and loader), the L76 can maintain a prodigious rate of fire which has proved baffling to anyone trying to assault a position where troops are armed with Ripsaws. The Ripsaw has attained an almost legendary status among those who faced it in the Terminus War. Dubbed "O'Tarin's Ripsaw", "The Ilium Streetsweeper" and "The Reaper's Scythe", the L76 has proven incredibly effective against armor and shields alike, ripping foes apart through sheer rate of fire. However, it does have certain disadvantages: it may be light by machinegun standards, but it is still a heavy weapon, and simply not practical for biotics or other power focused troops, or physically weaker species. It also chews through ammo at a ridiculous rate, both a blessing and a curse when one considers that a L76 team has to hump all that ammo with them. Union Warships Union Ground Vehicles and Support *That isn't a joke, by the way. US Army tests of microcaliber flechettes in the '50s under the SPIW program, and later in the '80s under the ACR program showed that such projectiles had a tendency to ricochet off leaves, raindrops and branches, due to their extremely high velocity and low mass. Needless to say, this was a significant factor in the abandonment of said programs.