Laser grids are nigh-ubiquitous spaceship equipment that have been in use since the early days of the interplanetary era. Much like most personal laser equipment such as the stylus, they are first and foremost utilitarian tools that also double as weapons.
Civilian laser grids take the shape of small
clusters of laser emitters installed at the prow, stern, starboard and
port sides of the ship so that they provide all-aspect coverage at all
times. Their main purpose is to protect their ship from micrometeorites
and space debris by emitting in short bursts capable of vaporizing
impactors that have been deemed a threat by on-board sensors. Though a
ship threatened by large (>5 meters) debris will often use evasive
action, civilian laser grids can also fire in longer bursts to partially
melt impactors and force them to change course. On modern vessel, laser
emitters can be furthered clustered to provide a single, maximum
intensity burst that is used for surface mining or wreck reclamation.
The wavelengths of civilian laser grids are fine-tuned to provide the
best balance between potential health hazards and power conservation,
with most of them including software safeties preventing the bursts from
being maintained for too long. Under common spacefaring regulations, a
spaceship using its laser grid is legally obliged to broadcast a
specific warning signal. Virtual reality interfaces for helmets and open
cockpits always display the area within which laser grids are being
used in bright coloured circles. When a ship with active laser grids
travels through a thick dust cloud or debris ring, the constant bursts
from its emitters accompanied by melting debris create a striking visual
effect, as if the vessel was equipped with some kind of energy field.
Civilian grids can be mounted on very small frames, the tiniest of which are laser-djinns, small drones that roam around civilian installations and remove debris or stray asteroid fragments on their own.
Military laser grids are greatly upscaled versions
of civilian ones, with all software safeties removed and much stronger
lenses. Installed on gimballed turrets, they can be used in a defensive
or offensive role. As a defensive tool, they are geared towards firing
rate and gimballing speed. Against a single missile, laser grids will
try to melt through its outer armour to make its engines detonate.
Against a saturation attack, however, each emitter will focus on a
single missile, aiming not for destruction but for disruption, blinding
sensors, melting RCS thrusters and communication arrays. When the laser
grid goes on the offensive, it switches to long, high-intensity and
focalized bursts in order to ravage external ship structures --
radiators in particular are a prime target for laser grids. The smallest
emitters can also be used as sensor blinders in very close range
engagements. Military grids operate at much higher intensities and
wavelengths than civilian ones, and can be outright deadly for drones or
EVA personnel if used in a debris protection role. In Eloran and Terran
space, military vessels are legally obliged to either carry a secondary
civilian grid, or be accompanied by a support vessel when entering
planetary orbit or high-traffic areas.
Laser grids are all but useless when going against Sequence vessels, as they do not use missiles and have thick organic hulls that regenerate faster than a laser grid can melt them. Anti-Sequence vessels will typically remove their grids before combat, either to focus on FTL performance or make room for a UREB mount.
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