March 11th 2014
“Connecting You!” — Flashfire’s corporate slogan reads more like a dating portal than the tagline of a company wholly devoted to precision instruments of death. But make no mistake: the tools of the trade crafted by Flashfire’s weapons engineers are absolutely essential to modern space combat. You may not know Flashfire by name, but if you fly a private (or corporate, or military!) spacecraft today, then you make use of their revolutionary technology.
Before 2904, every private spacecraft had to have its own line of weapons and upgrade modules. The laser cannons built for a Roberts Space Industries ship could never mount on an MISC transport, the missiles designed for an Anvil dogfighter could never load on an Aegis bomber, and so on. The result was expense and confusion for all parties. Military organizations suffered through ever-expanding supply chains as they attempted to field increasingly advanced spacecraft, while the civilian market was heavily balkanized. Warehouses overflowed with specific-to-ship parts that each sold to only a small sector of the market.
This also meant that manufacturers had nearly complete control over their upgrade options. MISC and their suppliers could charge ten times the ostensible market value, knowing that transport pilots would have no other option save to purchase another designer’s spacecraft and start anew. Occasionally, particularly successful spacecraft like the 2822 Nova gave rise to third-party designers who manufactured ‘clone’ technology, but even then the result was generally an influx of shoddy, unsupported mounts and munitions that largely argued in favor of paying the premium for manufacture-specific pieces.
Flashfire changed all of that. A classic rags-to-riches corporate success story, businessman Garvin Snarm saw an opening and created a product so seemingly simple that it revolutionized the ship upgrade market overnight: an adapter that allowed almost any weapon to mount to any spacecraft. Suddenly, the power was in the hands of the consumers. Starship captains and freighter pilots could, with Flashfire’s inexpensive upgrade option, now pick the best of a wide range of mounts instead of the single choice their manufacturer intended. Competing weapons manufacturers quickly appeared and the resulting “gun rush” gave rise to incredible advancements in laser and ballistics technologies.
As its name implies, Flashfire actually began life as a clone weapons company. The original Flashfire, Inc. actually had nothing to do with Snarm or his innovation: they were one of any number of failing laser corporations unable to find market share in the heavily segmented ship component industry. Flashfire Inc.’s weapons lineup was unremarkable: a variety of standard lasers rebadged with more exciting names (“Flashfire Fusion Cannon,” “Flashfire Atom Gun” and the like).
Despite the whimsical nomenclature (and similar packaging for their guns) the Flashfire lineup failed to stand out in any way. What they did have, in addition to crippling debt, were manufacturing facilities. Armed with venture capital for his inspiration, Snarm purchased Flashfire in its entirety, cancelled all weapons developments and devoted both of his new factories to manufacturing the attachment device. Within six months, those two factories had become four, and today nearly every sufficiently industrialized world has at least one facility building mounts. Flashfire mounts were initially sold as aftermarket upgrades, but by the mid 2930s first-party manufacturers had seen the writing on the wall and begun including them standard with weapon and ship designs.
Nicknamed “The Puck” by spacecraft engineers, Flashfire’s innovation is a silicon-brickrete molded disc that lock-seals on both sides. The addition of extremely motile brickrete means that both attach points are fully malleable. Almost clay-like to the touch when not in use, the puck adapts to the weapon shape and then atomically locks itself into place when energized.
Physically locking the gun to the ship was only half of the equation, however. The true difficulty (and in turn the true innovation of the Flashfire system) came from the ability to transfer the highly variable amounts of data, energy and other materials through from the hull to the weapon. The solution is a network of organically generated nano-tubules capable of transferring everything from onboard battery energy to trigger-fire commands from the mother ship. Heavily patented by Flashfire, no other corporation has been able to match the flexibility or the durability of the FWM system.
Flashfire mounts are limited by size only. The company manufactures 85 different varieties of mounts, used for everything from the smallest mining laser attachment to the massive batteries of UEE capital ships. Flashfire pucks are constructed for every class of weapons mount. Additionally, Flashfire maintenance is a non-issue: the discs are both strong enough to be considered nigh-invulnerable and cheap enough that replacement is always favored over repair in the extreme cases that they suffer crippling damage. In all likelihood, however, a ship will lose its hull integrity or the external weapon itself well before it ever suffers damage to a Flashfire Weapons Mount.
After forty years in business, Flashfire has never attempted to bring another technology to market. Rumors persist, however, that this is not for lack of trying: the company maintains three internal R&D labs and invests heavily in private science concerns. They also have connections to the military research juggernaut, with declassified budgets revealing that Flashfire has multi-billion UEC ties to an unspecified black research base. The claim most likely to be true is that the government is using Flashfire’s technology in the study of alien spacecraft. Licensed Xi’An ship designs are already able to adapt to existing Flashfire mounts, and the technology is likely very useful in the study of the wildly different Vanduul charging systems.
Rumors in the civilian world persist that the aging Snarm is preparing to reveal his second great idea, supposedly an evolution of the puck concept which covers other types of ship upgrades or, even more wildly, subverts the very upgrade system and allows pilots to mount anything, anywhere. While a future where ship captains can mount thrusters to their gun hardpoints or powerplants on their missile pods is unlikely, it is entirely possible that Flashfire has a second game-changer in the works.