When you see a tell-tale shimmer hanging in the air, an eerie glow emanating from an outstretched palm, or a lightning-wrapped transparent dome hovering over a fortress you know you are witnessing the workhorse of the evil supervillain’s arsenal: a repulsive force field. These are simply the result of maintaining an energetic plasma to a region of space and constraining its natural tendency to wander off if left to its own dynamics. They are the distant cousins to the force fields of an attractive sort (tractor beams and the like), which are instead generally based on gravitons and the manipulation of the local curvature of spacetime. These days, a force field is not beyond reach of the majority of insane monomaniacs, thanks to some excellent commercial units which are available in a number of capacities along with the potential to obtain those of alien origin.
- Selection. Force fields come in a wide variety of sizes, from tiny ones that enclose an area no larger than a tabletop, to those which span a room or corridor, up to large area effects that can enclose a ship or compound. In addition, one can distinguish between those which have a limited duration versus permanent self-renewing fields, between differing degrees of impenetrability by normal material, and between different effects upon living tissue. There are even portable force fields which an individual can use in personal combat. Your pocketbook and the amount of space you have to work with will have a great deal to do with the exact type of field you will be able to set up in the context of whatever evil scheme you have in mind.
- Power. Keeping a superhot plasma (often full of exotic and dangerous particle species) is an energy-hungry activity, especially over a large region of space, so you will need to size the power plant carefully keeping in mind the maximum power draw that one might envision. On the one hand, a large reactor or alien drive can sometimes become a point of vulnerability itself when adversaries come seeking to disable the field, while a small one is usually less efficient and less tolerant of feedstock disruptions.
- Maiden run. When first bringing a homegrown force field on-line, it is good to start small, with something like a gentle blanket able to support a small leaf, say. Plasma instabilities and explosive tendencies should become apparent long before they become a truly crippling set of liabilities. Once you have these licked, you can scale up the power level to a practical level so that you may observe your field during an initial burn-in period.
- Long-term operation. If you are planning to run your force field over an extended period, it is almost always a good idea to institute a set of records relating to the basic parameters of your device, so you can monitor it over time. Train a team of minions to operate the apparatus, including periodic drills where they learn to recover from excursions away from the normal range of settings. A certain amount of this can be automated, but do be wary of coupling advanced artificial intelligences with powerful force fields or unplanned results may occur.
Strokes of genius
- Thievery. Rather than creating a force field from scratch, you might consider stealing one from an advanced civilization. This is easiest if the civilization in question is no longer around to defend its property, but you run the risk of ending up with a force field on its last legs, one which no one around is able to repair should it malfunction or be damaged. Taking a scientist captive who possesses the knowledge of how to create and run a field is in many cases a safer bet.
- Shopping. While many evil supervillains are loathe to obtain their baubles through the legitimate route, there are several attractive advantages attached to this option. A bit of searching will reveal a number of outfits who will deal with those on the shady side of the law, who stand behind their products with warranties and support lines. If you have access to the galactic marketplace, you can find even more high-quality field generators which are suitable for terrestrial installation as well. Some in the mastermind community favor building their units from kits so that they have a better understanding of their operation.
- Levitation. A vertically-directed force field can be used for lifting objects as small as a pack of cards ranging up to heavy armored vehicles. This has the advantage over material supports that the space underneath the object is relatively unobstructed for easy access, and is unequalled when it comes to presentation before a large crowd. To avoid bouncing and sudden undesired changes in altitude, the power output of such installations must be finely calibrated and regulated.
- Energy beams. If there is a way to focus and collimate the energy discharge somehow, a repulsive force field can be fashioned into a sort of beam weapon potentially devastating in effect. Usually, however, this is a more complicated matter than just focussing a couple of lenses.
- Mobile operation. Repulsive force fields are commonly used to deflect interstellar dust and debris away from vessels traveling at relativistic speeds. In some cases, very powerful units can be used as shields to absorb the impact of hostile fire (though many prefer to invest in superior maneuverability and speed and avoid the field of conflict altogether). Here is where the art of miniaturizing all components of the device, particularly the power plant, is at a premium, and costs rise proportionally. A force field generator which is essential to the mission of a craft should be protected to the utmost degree, including stocking a good assortment of replacement parts should any component fail due to stress or misadventure.
Traps for mere fools
- Pacemakers. Other medical devices may be incompatible in the environment of a strong force field.
- Gaps in containment along the edges. These are particularly troublesome when used as prison cell doors. Best practices dictates a non-energy-based backup containment mechanism where there is likely to be a degree of leakage.
- Invisibility-related mishaps. These include things like having your people walk into the area of your field by mistake. Yellow caution tape can sometimes be used as an effective barrier.
- Meddling kids. Repulsive force fields are precision instruments and should not be used as playthings by youngsters or untrustworthy captives.
- Extradimensional energy leeches.
Precious and needful
- Power plant. Incorporate the highest degree of redundancy to avoid interruption of the force field.
- Antimatter. Observe the usual safety precautions as to storage and handling of this feedstock.
- Magic staff.
- Energy pod refills.
- Focussing crystals.
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- Image credit Ascension by Cameron Boulton
- Image credit DSC_0109 by Putneypics
- Image credit Road Forcefield by ryaninc
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