Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gentlemen! I have built, THIS THING!: Phage Drone

 Yet another installment of GIHBTT and once again, we're looking at a robotic drone based off a real world animal (sort of), the Phage Drone!

I took less pictures of this one for some reason so I'll have to jump right into the description. This is the Phage Drone, an autonomous robotic unit designed primarily as a deep-space area of denial tactic similar to a remote mine, but with an insidious twist. The drone gets it's name from the real world bacteriophage, a virus type with a bulbous "head" and multiple radial arms attached to a stalk body. The real bacteriophage attaches itself to healthy bacterial cells and injects them with it's genome, turning the bacteria into miniature factories that create endless copies of the phage until they burst. The Phage Drone copies both the bacteriophage's appearance and method of attack, but is well equipped to defend itself in any situation. The drone is shown here in a neutral, "stand-by" stance. Deployed in large numbers from capital ships, the Phages will float in this position in a power conserving state with incredible patience, waiting for a ship to come within range. The orange wedges visible on the head module are it's primary optics, four in total. Since each "face" of the head module sports an eye, the Phage has excellent vision and is difficult to approach unawares. The light gray nozzles at each corner of the head are microthrusters that help keep the drone from drifting off it's assigned path while waiting for targets. Also visible are two of the Phage's four secondary weapons: The gray double-barreled device on the left face is a magnetic acceleration cannon modified to fire short ranged bursts of charged projectiles in a fashion similar to a shotgun. This weapon is primarily intended for use against organic enemies, but can easily punch a hole in starship armor at close ranges. The black harpoon gun protruding from the right face is a pneumatically powered projectile launcher that fires foot long metal spikes. As with the scatter MAC, this weapon is most effective against organic targets, but the Phage can electrify the bolts before firing to cause minor EMP black outs to sections of larger ships or completely overload smaller robotic targets and starfighters.

This shot shows the additional weapons present on the Phage's other faces. The orange and gray stacked discs on the left are a kinetic wave generator whose output can be greatly modulated by the Phage. At it's most powerful setting, the generator can produce waves of force strong enough to rattle a starfighter to pieces, but can be attuned to a setting light enough to merely disorient living targets or render them unconscious by rapidly altering the subject's inner ear pressure.The dark and light gray cannon on the right face is a powerful cutting laser that lets the Phage make it's own entrance into enemy ships, often hiding within the target's hull to avoid external detection.The Phage's head module also spins freely where it meets the body stalk so it can bring any of it's weapons to bear on a target in a split second. Visible in both of these pictures is the Phage's long range communications antennae, with which it can send and receive transmissions from capital ships several star systems away.

Though the Phage certainly has the means to bring the fight to nearly any unit on the battlefield, it rarely needs to use the weapon systems and relies instead on it's sinister primary programming of crippling and destroying enemy fleets. When a Phage Drone detects a hostile ship within it's vicinity, it quietly engages maneuvering jets and drifts forward until within range, sensor-baffling reflective plating preventing it's target from distinguishing the drone from other floating space detritus. Once the drone closes the distance, it extends grasping arms and positions itself above the target's hull (imagine the Phage in the picture without the black pole/gray hub cab base, I don't have any clear "hover" stands). At this point, the secondary optic sensors on the inner surfaces of the arms (the orange wedges) come online and begin scanning the target, looking for vital electrical systems close to the surface. Once such a system has been located, the drone deploys it's primary weapon, the Viral Missile.

The Phage fires the drill-tipped Viral Missile directly into the enemy ship's hull, boring until it strikes the targeted electrical relays. A high tensile, flexible cord packed with fiber optic cables links the drone to the missile and allows it to transmit a debilitating virus directly into the tethered ship's systems. This virus quickly guts the target's central computer and places the Phage in direct control, locking crew members out of the system, disabling life support and escape pods and hijacking the ship's weapons to turn them on allies. The virus prevents both direct and indirect attempts at limiting it's spread or control, even re-routing systems around infected consoles or hardware physically removed from the target. Experts have theorized that it may be possible to eventually undo the damage the virus inflicts and regain control of an infected ship, but the Phage is specifically (and somewhat sadistically) programmed to minimize the chances of such an operation succeeding.

Again, imagine the missile with no base...

Phages have the cruel tendency to open all hatches and air locks to the vacuum of space as soon as they gain control, negating a potential crew uprising almost immediately, often before any personnel realize what is happening or have time to send a distress call to other ships in their fleet. As a result, Phages are considered to be one of the most terrifying weapons in exo-naval warfare, able to lie dormant and nearly undetectable for long periods of time across space lanes before hijacking a ship with no warning and turning it against it's fellows. The drone's own intelligence and high level of independence make it even more dangerous, as multiple Phages will covertly communicate over encrypted short-wave bandwidths and work together to hijack strategically positioned ships within a flotilla secretly, only to reveal their deception once the enemy fleet encounters the Phage's allies, unleashing a surprise attack that can rip formations apart and leave the remnants easy prey for the home fleet. Some concern has been raised over the ethical use of Phages in space combat as the drones are often released in the hundreds of thousands and exact records are rarely kept of every unit deployed to a zone. This shoddy record keeping, coupled with the tendency of the drone's advanced CPU to become "bored" when left floating for long periods of time without directives, results in huge swaths of space within some systems that are incredibly hazardous to traverse to this day, decades after the conflicts that seeded the area with Phages in the first place has ended. Multiple instances of civilian ships being puppeted or outright destroyed by "malfunctioning" Phages that refuse to acknowledge command signals has led many governments to quietly retire the model from their naval forces, but they are still popular among pirates and smugglers as advanced defense systems for less than legal star bases and outposts.

And that's the Phage Drone. It started out from me just fiddling around with random pieces while trying to polish off an unrelated mech design (still unfinished mech design...) and then almost built itself once I thought "Hey, this kind of looks like the head of a bacteriophage..." Besides the bacteriophage itself, the Phage Drone is influenced by the Probe Droids of Star Wars, and to a lesser degree, by the "hovering" Imperial kill Droids of Star Wars in general. If I had the pieces, I would make all it's legs joints ratchets since the current friction joints just can't support it's weight. Also, I'd build it a clear display stand of some sort if I had the pieces because this baby's gotta float to look it's best!

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