It was unlikely I had any one specific film or book or franchise in mind when this idea came to me. I think it was a general malaise of guns and bullets being ‘pathetic mortal weapons’ that can’t stop or even slow down anything remotely supernatural whereas swords, punching and bombs (sometimes) work a treat.
Guns a dangerous, guy. Captain America punching you in the face is bad. A 5.56 round to the face is also bad. I find this especially egreious when guns are useless in the hands of the poor redshirt but dangerous when given to the hero. Yeah, they might be a better shot but it’s still a gun, damnit!
Sigh. None of that has anything to do with this. This is just dumb.
Nigel Redman was nervous, but only a little. The founder and lead project designer of Redman Ballistic Solutions understood that it was only natural to be a touch anxious before pitching a new product. His heart and soul had gone into founding his company and to put its future into the hands of people who were such unknown quantities made him nervous.
That this was also such a big deal did much to make this nervousness hard to dismiss. The Department for Extra-Normal Resolution was a notoriously prolific purchaser of arms and armaments. Unsurprising given the typical modus operandi for dealing with issues that were puzzling or confusing – which is to say blasting it out of existence. Redman knew of their issues though, so was hoping he might be able to find a (very profitable, obviously) niche.
It looked about time to begin. All members of the board were sitting down – all men, he noticed, in varying states of age and whiteness – and most were looking up to him to start. Gripping his pointer, putting on his best salesman smile he shimmied a little closer to his flipchart and cleared his throat.
“Gentlemen,” he started, flipping the first page to show a pie graph. It was some pablum about outbreaks and the notable success factors in them. It meant nothing to anyone, but made him look like he knew what he was talking about.
“We all know how irritating and unpleasant a supranatural outbreak can be. So disorganised! So messy. It would be so much easier if you could simply shoot the problem into submission but as is well known, a good sixty-five percent of supranatural, monster-level creatures have been proven to be bullet resistant at best and flat-out immune at worst.”
He turned over a page on the flipchart to show another pie graph. This one illustrated his last point, albeit rather too late. At least it showed he wasn’t lying.
“However,” he continued, smile unwavering “studies have shown that ninety-five percent of monster-level threats have some pronounced vulnerability to bladed weapons. How should this be if they shrug off bullets? Isn’t kinetic energy all much of a muchness? Isn’t there not a fundamental similarity to the splitting of flesh on a knife edge and on the tip of a bullet? Yes, but there isn’t a semantic similarity, and herein lies the problem.”
He was moving up to his big reveal, and the excitement was almost too much to bear. It bubbled up inside him and threatened to burst out.
“We all know of the Bladesingers and they do fine work, but the time and effort involved in the training and honing of a Bladesinger is enormous – as you know. Conversely, the time needed to train a standard-level, firearms-cleared security operative is barely a fraction of this. Every Bladesinger lost is a massive investment wasted!”
More pie graphs explaining and showing these disparities. Bladesingers were very, very expensive to train. Effective, little bit up themselves, but undeniably good at what they did. Redman knew he had their attention.
“What is wanted – needed! – is a weapon with the semantic lethality of a blade, but the safety, practicality and ease of use we’ve come to demand from modern firearms. We believe we have found just such a weapon.”
Trying not to shake, he opened up the slim black box on the conference table, put the lid to one side and held it up. Within, nestling within its padded display nook, was a bullet. Albeit a rather sinister looking one.
“I present to you the Blade Laden Amputating Defensive Equipment round, or BLADE round.”
“Why are you pronouncing it like that?” Asked a voice from the back of the room. He frowned, a little upset to have his drama so deflated, but he recovered well.
“Blah-day. Shouldn’t it be ‘blade round’?”
“Well you can call it whatever makes you happiest, Sir! Its effectiveness remains unchanged.”
With that rather awkward episode deftly navigated around he handed the case off to be passed around and examined. The board members looked at the bullet with blank incomprehension. Many of them had been unaware guns even fired bullets. Those weren’t the sort of decisions they were in charge of.
“Thanks to advances in miniaturization we have been able to fit into this round a proximity-detonated microcharge, on top of which sits a payload of fractal-edged nano-shrapnel.”
He’d wanted it to be called ‘microshrapnel’ but with the microcharge also being in the description it didn’t pay to repeat ‘micro’. If he’d repeated ‘micro’ the customer might have found it awkward and thus have been turned off by the repeated used of the word ‘mirco’ because repetition is inherently unattractive because when things repeat it’s noticeable. So they’d gone with ‘nano’, even if it was misleading. That’s business.
One of the board members turned the box around, tapping it with a finger.
“Is this the only size you make them in?” They asked.
He began to have a feeling he wasn’t dealing with experts.
“We produce them in several calibres, all conforming to NATO standards,” he said, his smile continuing to be fixed in place.
“That’s good. Is that good?” The board member asked, looking to his cohorts for confirmation. They nodded, but only after seeing if anyone else was. It was painful to watch and he had to look away. Thankfully though, he had a perfect distraction.
Given the often unusual and exotic nature of pitches given to the board of the Department for Extra-Normal Resolution, they had a perfect setup for him. At this signal, the various technical and support persons he had been liaising with for his demonstration set to work, large double-doors towards the rear of the conference room opening up to admit the entrance of a large, armoured, mobile cell. Within the cell something humanoid was strapped up securely. It was angry looking.
This brought the low-level hubbub of the board to a screeching halt, as almost all of those present had never seen the sort of thing their organisation dealt with. Most had made a point to avoid it. The uncanny-valley aspect of the humanoid didn’t help either, as while it looked like a man in his mid-twenties it obviously, clearly, blatantly wasn’t.
Glad to have their attention, Redman walked up to the cell and slapped a hand against the triple-reinforced, warded, shielded glass. He then reached up and popped open a tiny window in the front, pointing inwards.
“This is Arthirix, minor demonic lord of suffering and related nastiness. He’s been a persistent low-level threat and while contained – as he obviously is – he has proven resilient,” he said.
“I’ll devour your soul!” Arthirix snarled, struggling against his bonds. He would not get far. His cell had been designed with far greater inhabitants than him in mind. Redman was well aware of this and smirked.
“Of course you will Arthirix. Now then, Arthirix here is our lucky volunteer, given he’s been graded as level five weapon resistant and also rated as expendable by the Department. So…”
Redman gestured for a small trolley to be wheeled over and it was. On the trolley was his demonstration pistol of choice and two boxes of ammunition. Arthiric continued to snarl and snap and rave as Redman picked up his Contender, smiled, and then turned back to the board member.
“Cover your ears, everyone.”
With that he loaded up one of the mundane rounds, closed the breach and took aim through the cell’s tiny open window. In the room the bang of the gun being fired was deafening and a significant proportion of the board members yelped in surprise. All of them jumped. Arthirix, who had just been shot in the head, probably had the least pronounced reaction of anyone.
“Your mortal weapons cannot harm me!”
“Evidently. Observe that, despite receiving a speeding, pointed piece of metal to to forehead Arthirix here remains positively chatty. Clearly this won’t do. Now, we load a BLADE round…”
Redman made a show of ejecting the spent case and inserting the fresh one, ensuring that all could see it make the journey from the flashy BLADE ammunition box all the way to the weapon. The board members continued to look blank and Redman did his best to bite down on a rising feeling of despair.
“Your suffering shall be measured in eons!” Arthirix said. Redman rolled his eyes. He’d heard that one before.
The hole in the forehead of the minor lord had already halfway sealed up by this point, which sort of underlined the effectiveness of standard rounds. That was pretty useful for a good demonstration, Redman felt.
“You may wish to cover your ears again,” Redman said, taking aim once more.
Another shot reverberated around the boardroom, making the windows shake. This one had a much more pronounced effect on Arthirix, who was obviously and instantly killed. Once Redman was fairly confident that ringing had cleared from ears he asked:
“Anything pithy to say, Arthirix?”
There was no response. Already the physical form of the minor demonic lord was beginning to decay, the way they always did upon expiring – having at best a tenuous link to the tangible world, and not really belonging there in the first place. Redman smirked. If anything, he’d done Arthirix a favour.
“You’ll notice the far greater effect compared to the normal, mundane round. Apparently a puncturing wound inflicted by a speeding piece of metal is less effective than a quasi-bladed wound – for reasons science has yet to adequately explain, but which Hope I have sufficiently demonstrated to you.”
He moved up to the cell so he could better point, laying the Contender down as he did so.
“The rounds are designed in such a way as to disperse their payload in a single, lateral direction. The nanoshrapnel forms one coherent edge. A blade, if you will. One made up of many, many parts. We’ve found this configuration to be the most effective,” Redman said, indicating the blood splatter behind Arthirix and showing how it was one solid line. That had taken some doing, getting the rounds to do that. But it has definitely been worth it.
What remained of Arthirix finally decayed to a point where it collapsed from the restraints into a rather grim little heap on the floor of the cell, which was then withdrawn from the room, doors closing behind it. Redman could not read the mood of the room. The faces of all those presents were worryingly blank. Maybe they were just very good at hiding their excitement, he reasoned. He hoped. Redman felt it best to plough onwards.
“And this is just one example. Arthirix here represents a whole sub-division of threat that is vulnerable to bladed weapons, there are many more just like him. We have every reason to expect our BLADE rounds to function just as well against them as well, pending full field trials – with your blessing and support.”
That was the end of that. Redman stood, bobbing on his heels, hoping he didn’t look how he felt. There was one person who started clapping, abruptly stopping when he noticed the odd looks he was getting. Someone else coughed. Redman thought he might sweat his clothes off his body.
“We’ll authorise a limited field trial, pending a full contract. You’ll receive a call,” the man closest Redman said. Redman nearly fell over.
“Thank you Sirs! You will be impressed, I assure you,” he said. He made a clumsy effort at finding someone to shake hands with, but no-one was forthcoming. He tried to roll with it and failed, clearing his throat and straightening out his suit before shuffling awkwardly out of the room. The moment the doors closed behind him, he slumped, shivering.
Things could be have gone much worse.