ONI SECTION III SECURED TRANSMISSION
ENCRYPTION LEVEL: RED
TIMESTAMP: 11.14.3211.1742 UT
FROM: CODENAME CONDOR
TO: CODENAME LINEBACKER
SUBJECT: NOVA PLANETARY DENIAL DEVICE
At your request I have found information regarding the NOVA, and it wasn't easy seeing as how deeply this one was buried, but rest assured that the digging was done legally. This one scares me, because if the numbers are correct, this is probably the strongest right hook that we have in the fleet. Let me begin by saying that this thing is old in design. The header on the physical copies – that's right, a lot of this was written down on paper – states that the initial design of the NOVA was done perhaps around 2525 with an actual working device being produced in 2552. Only one prototype device was built, and was apparently slapped together as well.
We know that in September of 2552, the planet Reach located in the Epsilon Eridani system was stormed, sacked, and subsequently glassed by the original Covenant, though it was not common knowledge that a lot of the surface was indeed untouched by the initial salvos, much like how Harvest, located in the Epsilon Indi system, was not completely glassed either. Survivors from the initial attack primed their device for detonation within forty eight hours, and from there the prototype NOVA was never seen again, presumably detonated unless its timer or detonator was tampered with. We unfortunately do not have enough data to determine what's happened, or the effects of the detonation are kept even further under wraps than its technical specifications.
Around a hundred and twenty years later, there have been unconfirmed reports of what was claimed to be a new star being seen in the sky of [REDACTED]. An amateur astronomer from the planet claimed that the star was somewhere in the region of a neighboring star eleven light years from the planet. This would make the star in question [REDACTED]. This may be a long shot, but the distance between the observer world and the star in question is roughly eleven lightyears, and if my theory is correct, the UNSC, quite possibly NAVSPECWAR was conducting more tests for the purpose of creating new NOVA bombs, and this 'new star' was a second prototype, now properly field tested.
Unfortunately the star in question is under higher classification levels, specifically VOID, which I hadn't even heard of before this, specifically only allowing access only to approved persons by the President of the Unified Earth Government. Direct observation don't tell us much, the star itself has no planets, but it does have a debris field at roughly .45 Astronomical Units.
Technical specifications do exist, and this thing packs a punch. On paper this device packs the power of 1.2 billion megatons, or if you want something bite-sized, 1.2 petatons. Nothing in our regular bag of tricks has that much explosive force. However, that's just the on-paper energy dispersal in raw TNT. At the time of detonation, the cores compress. I'm not sure how it actually occurs, but the device increases in mass and density, boosting its sheer packed bulk to a neutron star, and at the time of detonation, that on-paper figure increases by factor of one hundred.
This thing is a planet killer.
Part of me is shocked that something like this exists, another part of me wondering how you could keep something like this under wraps. But the thing is it technically isn't. I found this information in the Library of Congress in Washington DC for God's sake, but these are the old fashioned ones. The real up to date specs are the ones that are off the record, and I can't even begin to guess on where those are being held if there are physical copies at all… if it's even in realspace. Since these are so old, about seven hundred years give or take, they're possibly so out of date that nobody cares if they get out.
But you wanted me to try to give you an actual depiction of their use. I have to say that it's rather odd since you could simply just ask for the information yourself considering your rank. However, if I were to guess, this device would be the ultimate in area denial, and at a last resort.
Scenario 1: Air or ground detonation in atmosphere.
-If the target body is at or above the radius of a planet such as Earth, I would estimate that the explosive force would effectively wrap the whole planet in a fireball, the sheer friction of the reaction igniting the very air to temperatures that could instantly kill a Human being. The effect of being in the fireball of a conventional nuke, but all over the planet. The mushroom cloud would reach well into orbit, where the particles will wrap around the planet, being propelled by supersonic, scalding hot winds. Second, the soundwave of such an explosion would be above reckoning. It's impossible to chart what such a device would rate as any measuring device would be destroyed by the blast in one way or another. Shockwaves in atmosphere should be able to level mountains, never mind cities. The explosive force from such a weapon would inflict massive damage on the planet itself, shunting away a large portion of the planet's mass into space (I estimate this percentage to be between 25-50 percent of the mass), and then the real damage begins – the loss of so much mass in so little time would make the planet itself unstable, causing what remains to shake itself apart, unable to keep itself under hydrostatic equilibrium, where a large enough planet would eventually re-attract the shards, and then mash what remains into a new planet, red hot from the collisions from untold billions of numbers of impacts. If anything had managed to survive the initial blast, and Ragnarok that follows, the entire planet would be irradiated, mind you, by something that just exploded with the density of a neutron star. The planet is for all intents and purposes, dead and never coming back.
-If the planet is seventy percent or less than the mass of Earth, forget it. Such a detonation would be enough to destroy the planet and propel the shards away with enough force to prevent reformation. I hypothesize that small moons would simply just… vanish in the blastwave.
Scenario 2: Detonation in Vacuum.
-This is arguably worse than simply detonating in an atmosphere. The reason why a fireball occurs in the atmospheric detonation is because the air in the way would impact the energy released by device. This is why a fireball emerges from a conventional nuke. In vacuum, no air exists to create a fireball, so a detonation of a NOVA bomb would resemble, at the first instant anyway, a nuclear device going off, appearing within milliseconds as a ball of light. However, this is where the true magic of a NOVA device shines, pun completely intended. The sheer mass of energy released would immediately compress that released energy into a point smaller than a coin, and from that point, the energy would instantly reach critical mass, and… well, go nova. Nuclear fusion would be achieved an instant after the device detonates, and without the gravity of a star to keep that fusion in, it instantly expands outwards in what I would believe would be a sphere of hyperheated energy moving at close to the speed of light. The target never sees the effect coming. Anything close to the device as it goes off would instantly be vaporized, and then, any planet close by would get an even worse surprise. At least with the surface detonation, it's quick enough that you would never understand what's happening. Because now we're looking at kinetic force. All of those particles moving at that speed would impact the atmosphere, stripping the ozone layer away and playing havoc with the magnetic field. The heat would light anything on the face of the planet on fire, causing the firestorm similar to the surface detonation, but it would actually move slow enough for inhabitants to see the effects before they hit. Geological effects are still likely to happen if the detonation is close enough as tidal effects will very briefly be visited on the target planet, briefly stretching it towards the point of detonation out of gravitational obligation. Because of sunlike temperatures in the moment of fusion, a body close to the bomb would quite literally melt away, the land becoming molten on the side facing the explosion. The only way to survive this would be to position a ship in the shadow of the body, and even then, the NOVA's energy creates a bow shock around the planet using whatever magnetic field is present, potentially destroying craft even in the shadow. A planetwide EMP effect would render any orbiting craft safe from the initial detonation inert and effectively dead.
Then the radiation comes in.
High concentrations of high decay gamma-rays would follow the shock of energy, irradiating the surrounding space. Any aformentioned disabled vessels that have their own radiation shielding disabled by the EMP would get the full force of this, meaning that the radiation may leak into the craft through numerous means, potentially killing the crew through sickness. I'm not even sure that this was an intended effect of the weapon, but in my research and speculation on what an actual device may yield, this ensures that nothing remains. Surviving structures on a planet hit by the wave will be irradiated within seconds without a protective ozone layer, and as was previously mentioned, the energy output however small equates to that of a small star for a moment, with more than enough gamma radiation to pierce the planet a significant distance to prevent surface plant life from surviving, and thus rendering the planet sterile.
Please note, these are all based from postulation and theorizing. As I have not seen a NOVA device, nor its detonation, and quite possibly nobody has within centuries, the actual effects may vary, but based on the original specs and how they mesh with the physical laws of the universe, I am fairly certain that they would operate like this in the modern day, unless the destruction method has been modified since then.
Before I close this off, I wanted to discuss delivery method. The prototype bombs were designed to simply be placed into position and would be placed on a delayed timer so that the arming crews would naturally have time to evacuate. In the case of the first prototype, the arming was done on the ground by naval personnel. The only other recorded instance that I was able to find was that a similar groundside arming was conducted, but nowhere does it say that the device could not be deployed via a launch vehicle.
Tactically, a ground arming would be difficult to pull off unless crucial secrecy was taken into consideration. In theory, a planet is a big place, and these bombs were only the size of a large truck. However, the arming sequence will create a radiation pulse from the detonators warming up, making the device visible to scanners be they orbital, aerial, or groundside, not to mention the means to transport such a weapon to a planet's surface which is presumably under heavy enemy occupation. The device can be destroyed by conventional means – the weapon needs to actually fuse to be able to do the damage that it does, which requires the internal reactors to work, otherwise, it will simply detonate with the force of a large nuke with its conventional explosive 'primer'.
The size of the NOVA means that it can be loaded onto an autonomous kill vehicle that can be launched by any orbiting craft. The device would be loaded into the fairing normally reserved for satellite payload. Once in an atmosphere, the device, already primed, would enter the sphere of influence, and depending on the desire, can be detonated in or out of the atmosphere. You could detonate this thing a thousand miles underground and create an asteroid belt in the time it takes to spell 'boom'. I would personally choose the latter, presuming I ever had the authority to use such a thing. I am unable to find any record of who ordered the use of the bombs in both instances of its use that I have found, but it would most certainly be a high ranking admiral of the Navy.
To close, this weapon worries me greatly, and not just because of the facts that I have presented beforehand. This worries me because it has made me aware that mankind has long been in possession of its own doomsday weapons – honest to god day-ruiners. Oppenheimer claimed that he had become the destroyer of worlds, but that was only on a surface level. We are the true heralds of the apocalypse I think, or at least the inheritors of it. This proves that mankind can, has, and probably will remove whole worlds to keep them from the hands of our enemies. A military tactician can declare that all is lost and sacrifice a rare and beautiful thing as a naturally life-giving world, or cause a gas giant to ignite, denying access to refueling not only for the forces attacking him or her, but any civilians in the future.
I don't even have the exact figures on how much of a system can be effected by this, or even if planetary orbits can be altered by the mass once the NOVA reaches the critical fusion point. The radiation could theoretically cover a whole system, but at the very least we are losing a planet forever. The time period of its invention was no doubt a critical moment in Human history where it was all or nothing. If we could not hold a planet, we could simply destroy it, quite literally now. Because of the war's completion in 2553, conventional wisdom would say that the devices were never used again, but that was said of nuclear missiles, and yet every single ship in the UNSC's fleet is armed with them. Proliferation is the way of things in an interstellar age. As the people increase, so do their weapons.
If I may be frank, sir, I wish you have never asked me to look into this, as I am now convinced that the NOVAs were never discontinued but in fact were actually actively manufactured after the end of the war and quite possibly improved, given that what I believed is a detonation of a device that occurred in 2672, Almost a century and a half since the initial design sketches were completed. Granted, I have no evidence of this being the case, but it seems highly probable that with the reverse-engineering of Forerunner technology, production of many things, most indicative being our capacity for Slipspace Travel over greater distance, became far easier. In 2552, the budgetary requirements were large with the projected price tag reaching that of three cruisers, but in the 33rd Century, those costs would seem insignificant in our economic mindset, equating to that of three frigates, not to mention Humanity's threats seem to grow as time marches on with the inevitable shadow of the Forerunners and perhaps the Flood on our doorstep for the rest of our existence. We could destroy a world on a whim. We can destroy a world on a whim. What sort of enemy would require such a thing?
This just came into my mind now and I feel compelled to put it down. These weapons were designed mainly for offensive strategies, denying an enemy world to its population, but what if Humanity was willing to use such a device in a 'defensive' capability, where we would deny a foe access to us, even if it meant sacrificing billions of lives in the process? If the Flood returned en masse, could we pull the trigger to damn a planet full of individuals? Are we already insured for such a decision? Does a device lie on our worlds of importance right now, at this very moment? Is there one on Maseron? Is there one on Constance? On Loomis? On Mars…? Is there one on Earth right now, and we have just yet to use it? To deny an implacable foe the birthplace of Humanity?
Twenty billion souls?
Could we do it?
Will we do it?
It's times like these I'm glad I'm not the one who will carry out these things, but these possibilities will haunt me to the end of my days. I wish I found nothing.
Attached are relevant documents, specs, schematics, and lab reports.
[ADDITIONAL NOTE: Follow-up PS Codename CONDOR - 4.19.3219.0010 UT]
CONDOR - Maleficent V has been destroyed. The planet was rendered obliterated at 1141 hours on April 18th. The official line is that massive geological instability shook the planet apart due to tidal stresses from the energetic star, but I don't think anybody with a brain believes that in the slightest. I think we both know what happened.
It is impossible to determine who set the device off, an AI army defector or one of our own troops, but given the effects of the blast, the actual detonation occurred deep within the planet's crust, possibly close to the mantle. Biological casualties are estimated to be 2.4 million. AI casualties are total - sixteen billion platforms. No UNSC ships destroyed in the escape.
So they are using them.
LINEBACKER - You'll get your funding. I want one of those devices and I want them now. Do whatever is necessary to secure and transport one to me immediately. If anybody gets in your way, you are authorised to deal with them. There will be no further communication on this subject until this has been accomplished. Section Zero be damned.
Get some geological scans going now. If any of the Inner Colonies are rigged to blow, I want to know about it, and if you find one on Earth, I'm taking it to the Senate myself.
[End Follow-up Report]