Ship Focus: Firebase-class
Type: Space superiority platform.
Original manufacturer: USRE Shipyards.
Current pattern status: Diplomatic License.
Propulsion: Fusion drive (inertial laser-ignited fusion).
FTL capable: Yes.
Armament: Military laser grid, long-range laser artillery, 50x to 75x missile hardpoints.
Length: 650 meters.
Payload : Upwards of 10,000 tons.
Crew: up to 150, usually between 50 to 60.
Also known as Broken Arrow.
What makes humanity different from the myriads of empires that now litter the galaxy with their ruins? We learned to let go. The lesson humans took from the collapse of their industrial civilisation and their six centuries long Low Age is one of humility. Humankind abandoned its imperial dreams, its drive for control and for expansion. We will never be as powerful or as numerous as the alien empires of old -- and that is by choice. We are wide-eyed wanderers and pioneers, not conquerors or colonizers. Our ships reflect this ethos. They are cargo vessels and exploration ships first and foremost. Combat vessels are rare. The brunt of military fleets is made of Luciole derivatives -- a century-old design, a tactically nimble ship designed for skirmishes and ambushes. For small, largely inconsequential wars.
There is one exception. The ship class known as Firebase. A class and not a model, for Firebases number in the dozen and are practically hand-assembled, like the Saturn V rockets of the old Apollo program. If Lucioles are made to win battles, Firebases are built to win wars. When the venerable Luciole Interceptor is 150 meters long, a Firebase is 650 meters long, making it the third largest ship class in existence. Contrary to most combat ships, improvised or not, a Firebase is not meant to merely engage in space, but to control it. Though it contains a large complement of FTL point to point ship-to-ship missiles, its main weapons are immaterial. The primary armament of a Firebase are long-range laser emitters, used both defensively and offensively.
Extremely dense laser grids allow the Firebase to create a nigh-impenetrable point defence halo, extending all the way into its one thousand kilometers large FTL exclusion bubbles. When a missile swarm hits the defensive perimeter, the sudden influx of light as laser point defence engages the threats and disintegrates them creates the brief illusion of an energy shield, like in the mythological tales of imagined futures. A single Firebase can protect an entire flotilla, providing a defensive anchor point in space, and two Firebases with overlapping laser grids are invulnerable to saturation attacks, except when carried out with immense swarms of stand-off ammunition such as Casaba Howitzers.
What elevates a Firebase from a merely dangerous opponent to a formidable one, however, is its laser artillery. While all human combat ships, be they legit or improvised, use lasers in some capacity, Firebases are the only real "laserstars" -- a warship meant to engage with laser beams at very long ranges. The fusion drive of a Firebase powers several arrays of pulsed lasers capable of disintegrating several meters of armor per second at ranges in excess of fifty thousand kilometers. With nigh-instant time to target at these ranges, Firebases are almost guaranteed to damage enemy vessels before they can perform FTL translations. Contrary to point-to-point FTL missiles, laser artillery cannot be evaded nor intercepted: in that regard, Firebases are the only ships that can provide a "flat" no-fly zone in the image of ground or station-based weaponry. When used aggressively, a lone Firebase can effectively interdict an entire area of space; two of them, positioned above both hemispheres of a planet, can blockade it completely. Their cone-shaped laser armor and point defence also allows them, should the need arise, to make extremely aggressive passes at an enemy fleet as they can afford to stay in kill zones for minutes instead of seconds as is the rule for smaller warships. Should human fleets engage in large-scale battles, squadrons of Firebases would surely lead the assaults, carving paths of molten debris in their wakes.
All of this is theoretical, however.
Even the largest Terran superpowers control only a handful of Firebases and would be hard-pressed to actually deploy one in battle -- in no small part because it would require large wars to be feasible under the current ideological and ethical paradigm of interstellar humankind. But it is besides the point. Firebases are not truly meant to fight. They are kept in cold storage, on empty orbits, daggers facing the stars, silent but pristinely maintained. For their promise is both strange and blasphemous in the interstellar age. Firebases are control, in its purest form: the elimination of the other, geopolitics through the threat of simple, definitive destruction. This is not a language the world can hear any longer; yet the aspiration remains, hidden but ever-present.
[Addendum: Firebases currently in service]
There are currently 8 Firebases in service in human space.
USRE: In Your Heart Shall Burn, People's Parliament, Embers of the Revolution (under construction).
Laniakea: Object 001, Object 002, Object 003 (under construction).
Moon Communes: Ancient Heart Of the Machine.
Eloran Ekumen: Harmonium Over Matter (under construction).
Algorab: There Lies The Abyss (repurposed for anti-Sequence operations).
Illustration made by Lilly Harper for Starmoth. She writes most excellent sci-fi prose on the Beacons in the Dark blog and also takes on ship commissions.
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