The Tomb Guardian is the replacement of the older Death’s Ward engineering vehicle. The Tomb Guardian is built on the hull of the older Fleshburner Main Battle Tank.
The Fleshburner was at best a mediocre vehicle. The initial concept was sound enough – take of one the powerful Coldbeam Point-Defence turrets in use by the Aotrs navy at the time and emplace it on an anti-grav chassis, to create a high-track weapons platform. In some ways, it achieved that. The Flashburner’s main Coldbeam cannon was the most powerful AFV-based weapon at the time of its inception, and considerably more powerful than the Black Lance MBT it replaced. It shared over 90% of the components with its naval PD equivalent, which reduced the drain on maintenance requirements and tooling. The addition of a missile pod on the rear of the turret further added to this firepower. The Fleshburner was one of the first Aotrs ground vehicles to have full shields, and was bleeding-edge technology at the time.
However, in practise, it was plagued by small problems that prevented it from living up to expectations. The Fleshburner was never popular with its crews, who found it uncomfortable and sometimes-counter-intuitive to operate. The first problem was that, to accommodate the high-track turret’s full rotation, the turret had to be mounted quite high above the hull and thus was overly tall. To compensate, the hull had been made flatter. The turret was itself difficult to access, since the gunner and commander had to essentially scramble inside and there was no quick escape hatch. The fact that not an insignificant number of Fleshburner crews used Gate or teleportation spells to enter their own vehicle was indicative. The 10% of parts the turret did not share with the PD emplacements were the ones which turned out to be the parts that wore out the fastest, and the Fleshburner had a higher-than average maintenance cycle. In truth, this was as much due to the new technology’s early teething problems, but the general perception of those issues did not help the already unpopular vehicle. On top of everything else, the Fleshburner was considered an unlovely vehicle to look at; at once seeming both too flat and too wide, with the skull-turret perched ungracefully above the hull. The twin scythe-blade electroblaster arrays placed at the front did not help it at all. The most widely-quoted description was that it looked like a fat scorpion.
Despite this negative press, the Fleshburner was not a terrible vehicle. Actual performance in the field was adequate, if uninspired. While it required more than its share of maintenance, the new technology worked well.
It was with not a little relief from the crews, however, when the Fleshburner was finally retired.
As the ground forces received upgrade and enhancement, the Death’s Ward engineering vehicle was examined. It was determined that, rather than implement more upgrades, the aging tracked vehicle would be retired and replaced with a more robust and mobile grav vehicle. As it often the case with older MBTs, the numerous Fleshburner hulls were converted to create the Tomb Guardian.
The Fleshburner’s turret – the primary source of its ills – was removed. A new, dual-layer turret was added.
The lower portion of the turret holds an array of sixteen coldbeam support cannons in two rows. The Death’s Ward’s side sponson coldbeam turrets had very rarely seen use in practise, and they were not truly mobile enough to serve engineering purposes. The Tomb Guardian’s array, by comparison, has far greater mobility, being both in a full turret and being high-track mount. Further, each barrel is independently mobile. The coldbeams emplaced are essentially the core of a Mark 19 Coldbeam Support cannon, configured to low-output, continuous fire. The array is thus optimised for liquid-freezing engineering operations (such as river crossing) or mist-dispersion. Acting in concert and concentrated to a point, the weapons are still able to provide a not-insignificant amount of firepower.
An improved version of the Death’s Ward’s demolitions gun was placed on the side of the turret. While it has an elevation of only 10º, if required, the Tomb Guardian can tilt its hull to provide another degree or two.
The left side of the turret mounts the biggest change from the Death’s Ward – a large engineering arm. This can rotate separately from the main turret, and extend. At the tip is an extensible and independently rotational tractor beam array, vastly improving on the array the Death’s Ward carried. Underslung on arm is an excavator head. This can be removed and replaced in the field in under a minute. In the Tomb Guardian’s various engineering supplies is a crane attachment (as a back-up for the tractor beam) which can be mounted on the same fitting.
For the instances when the arm is in place and the extra stability of a ground-mount is needed (to avoid the potential danger of the grav drive “slipping”), four extensible legs were placed on the hull.
The engineering arm has some limitations in that it cannot rotate 360º at lower elevations separate from the lower turret because of the demolitions gun, but this was considered to a minor issue, since the instances when the main turret would be required to be keeping either of guns on target at the exact same time as the arm was in use (in particular with excavations) was small. The mobility of the tractor array from the arm itself also reduces this problem. However, the demolitions gun can be dismounted with a few minutes even in the field if this mobility is a problem in some situations.
The Fleshburner’s two electroblaster scythes were removed. Instead, a mine-plough with variable geometry was emplaced. This had a further new innovation. The sides and top of the blade have a secondary shield-grid, which functions separately to the Tomb Guardian’s own shields. The plough-shield projects a screen about five metres from the edge of the blades in either configuration. This not only provides additional protection from weapons fire from the frontal direction, or against mine-shrapnel, but provides a shelter for the engineers for tasks that require them to dismount.
The Fleshburner’s internal systems and placing were completely re-worked for the Tomb Guardian. The pilot seat was drastically improved for a much more comfortable position. At the rear, a new crew module was added with hatches for the other crew. While still a little cramped due to the necessity of keeping the compartment below the Coldbeam turret’s arc, they are far and away superior to the Fleshburner.
While it still has the older, more rounded hull of the Fleshburner and its generation of Aotrs-made vehicles, and with the addition of the “legs” has not perhaps helped the Tomb Guardian in giving the impression of an overweight insect, the Tomb Guardian is generally held to be “not quite as ugly” as the Fleshburner. And unlike the older MBT, the Tomb Guardian has much more practicality to back-up its slightly ungainly appearance.
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