The Encounter Suit is built around a single revolutionary patented, copyrighted and trademarked material. The fabric is a non-Newtonian electrokinetic material that when struck with sufficient force becomes extremely rigid for a short time. The suits made from this material proved to be exceptional at limiting or completely negating injury sustained in hostile encounters.
In Metagame Terms the Encounter Suit has a high armor rating against soft/bashing/non-lethal modes of damage, such as the damage inflicted by hand to hand combat, punching and kicking, falling and so forth. It's ability to resist high velocity projectiles is limited, as is it's ability to deal with energy weapons and other forms of damage. While it can negate a punch or kick, it would provide minimal, or no protection from a bullet. Against armor piercing rounds it will offer enough resistance to activate special rounds while offering no protection against them.
The Encounter Suit is a common purchase in the Cosmic Era among professionals who work in security, law enforcement and other intense physical occupations, or occupations where there is a chance of personal injury, such as mining and other heavy industries. As the suit has limited value in stopping weapons, combined with the relative difficulty in obtaining said weapons in the setting, encounter suits are not restricted, nor are they registered. The models sold to civilian users tend to be brightly colored, making wearing one rather obvious, and even if it is covered with other clothing, there are parts that will stick out, typically around the neck, or the wrists. Corp and military models are more muted colors, or are color coded to the outfit's uniform.
The inspiration for the Encounter Suit comes principally from the suits worn by the Power Rangers, but this extends to the spandex body suits seemingly favored by so many comic book heroes, superheroes and antiheroes. A good encounter suit (sans helmet, because facial recognition is needed for most characters) would explain how so many non-superheroes are able to walk through whirling fistfights, clouds of rubble of shrapnel and at most have a bloody lip.
Mk. I Encounter Suit
The Mk.I encounter suit was created as an under suit to be worn in conjunction with traditional ballistic plate body armor. The suit resembles a diver's wetsuit or 'morphsuit' used in theatrics and comedy. The material is a hyper-reactive material that becomes rigid at the point of impact but remains flexible otherwise. The suit proved excellent to dispersing the kinetic energy from incoming bullets. A ballistic plate, and other armors will stop a bullet, but the energy is still transferred and can lead to significant bruising to ruptured organs. Adding the kinetic energy absorbing encounter suit reduced this potential damage to almost zero.
The Mk.I has a belt and small power pack in the buckle assembly and a helmet.
William Kane Hemingford was during the day an unassuming businessman, and at night he was a vigilante. he wore an all black Mk. I and was well versed in martial arts (not related to the Nipponism fad). Given the low presence of firearms conventional or otherwise in Great Britain he was seldom faced with more than improvised weapons and fisticuffs. Hemingford was considered a borderline nuisance as several of the criminals he beat up were local kids who were involved in the lowest level of misdemeanors. He was arrested himself several times for public assault, disorderly conduct and public drunkeness.
Mk. II Encounter Suit
The Mk. II was a marginal improvement over the Mk. I. It integrated boots and 'gauntlets' into the suit, which combined with the helmet could make a temporary bio/chem barrier. The Mk. II also had the option of adding a backpack to carry a rebreather and had a larger power life.
Mk. III Encounter Suit - Muscle Tracer
The Mk. III was an actual serious upgrade to the suit, rather than accessorizing. The suit gained a specific grid pattern which was dual purpose. The primary purpose was for 'muscle tracing' which was a concept that allowed for the suit to augment the wearer's endurance and agility. The second purpose was the creation of superior 'tense zones' that would better resist impact damage. The Mk. III was the first encounter suit that could offer a degree of protection from piercing attacks and armor piercing weaponry. This protection was, however, minimal.
Logan Romita Jr. is the sort of veteran that the government doesn't like people seeing, he's bad for the War Effort. Romita was selected for stage one genetic enhancement (enhanced metabolism, enhanced strength, enhanced agility, combat aggression, heightened senses) and he was an excellent commando. He was fearless, relentless, and remorseless in his pursuit of killing the enemy. He wore a desert camo Mk. III suit and eventually discarded his rifle and sidearms in favor of using a set of commando 'Lightning Claws' and picking up discarded enemy weapons. After his term was up, Romita was discharged from the military but retained all of his biomods and took up work as a PTSD afflicted mercenary/bounty hunter.
Mk. IV Encounter Suit
Dropping the muscle tracer technology, as it had become obsolete in the light of genetic augmentation and myomer 'muscle suits' the Mk. IV is closer to the Mk. II than the Mk. III. It has improved protection abilities, but adds in thermoablative and reflective materials to the suit to give protection from laser, thermal, and other energy weapons. The material of the suit has a shiny appearance, looking slick and wet, and was considered ugly. The helmet added an interior heads up display, short range sensors and scanning (biometrics, motion sensor, thermographic and low light)
Mk. V Encounter Suit
The slick often oily appearance of the thermo-ablative coating was corrected in the Mk. V suit. The Mk. V was enhanced with supporting materials and added protection from radiation and the majority of the Mk. Vs that were made were sent into space. Space military forces would commonly wear the Mk. V under lunar power armor, hard suits or other gear, because in case of a breach, the encounter suit would keep them alive long enough to find hard cover, like an airlock, a ship, or a pressurized vehicle. The Mk.V was also popular among space miners for it's durability and radiation resistance. The suit was quickly associated with independent asteroid miners and prospectors.
Mk. VI Encounter Suit
The Mk. VI encounter suit was a basic improvement over the Mk. V. It broke no new ground, nor did it radically improve on the Mk. V. It was commonly derided as the Mk.Five and a half, or Five-two. It was slightly cheaper than the Mk. V which hurt the series more since it was deemed that this effectively made it not as good as the historically solid Mk. V.
Mk. VII Encounter Suit
The Mk. VII Encounter suit was redesigned from the boots up, as the manufacturers had learned some painful lessons from the overall failure of the Mk. VI and the legacy of the Mk. V. The aesthetic of the Mk. VII hailed back to the simple and rugged original Mk. I, but drew on the utilitarian pragmatism of the Mk. V. The Mk. VII had improved protection, simplified use, and lowered unified production cost. The Mk. VII enjoyed widespread production and use by a variety of law enforcement and private security companies.
The Mark 7 as it became known, rather than Mk. VII, was the first encounter suit to enjoy widespread cultural level knowledge. Prior to the Mark 7, the encounter suit was a hallmark of professionals, specialists, and mercenaries.
Jillian Strand was a mech jock and was given a great deal of grief by her fellow pilots for her overtly feminine nature and preference for the color pink. Mech jocks were given a larger degree of personal freedom of expression than other military personnel, and Strand used hers to wear a pink Mk. I encounter suit as part of her pilot's gear. At that point, the encounter suit was called a 'sissy suit' as it was seen unfavorably compared to manly stoic thick body armor or advanced sexy power armor. Strand was an excellent pilot and eventually left the Mech Corps to work as a singer and model while many of the other pilots went on to deal with chronic pain and injuries sustained in mech falls and cockpit explosions.
Mark VIII Encounter Suit
One common element the Encounter suit often struggled with was heat, moisture, and humidity, especially inside the suit. The Mk. VIII was designed as a specific use encounter suit to be used in tropical environments. The suit has heat sinks and water shedding systems. The Mk. VIII was later refit with a system to collect the fluids being wicked from the body, and recycling them and storing them. The Mk. VIII Desert encounter suit was popular with African combat forces.
Mark IX Encounter Suit
One of the common complaints about the encounter suit was that it simply didn't offer enough protection. The Mark IX was designed as a two layer suit. The outer layer is the standard suit, but it is supported by a second, internal layer of composite non-reactive woven armor. This semi-flexible material is proof against piercing attacks, especially knives and magnetic crossbows. The Mk. IX was slightly more bulky than the regular suit, but it was also dramatically more expensive.
Mark X Encounter Suit
The Mk. X encounter suit was an outgrowth of the Mark IX's design philosophy. The suit was heavy, triple layered, and came not just with boots, gauntlets and a helmet but also a cuirasse, or brestplate. The Mk. X was successful in it's design, but was not a commercial success. Many existing encounter suit users, typically Mk. VII or Mk. IX were used to their modified and enhanced suits, with their own aftermarket parts. The Mk. X had fixed points and couldn't change parts like the breastplate or the helmet.
Mark XI/11 Encounter Suit
The Mark 11 combined the best elements of VII, IX, and X series encounter suits. The 11 had a double layer design with significantly improved protection from shrapnel and piercing attacks and rather than bulky hard points, the 11 had sections, such as the torso and neck reinforced with a third layer of protective material. The gauntlets and helmet were redesigned for a sleeker and more sophisticated appearance. The Mark 11 was amazingly popular, and harkened back to the solid success of the now venerable Mk.V.
Republic of Texas Ranger Judge Hornady is a legend in law enforcement and excessive use of force. Hornady wasa veteran of several border wars between the Republic and the D.F. Mexico as well as fighting the scum of Amerikka Command. He later became a ranger where he adopted a blue Mk. 11 encounter suit and heavy ballistic plate armor. The armor he wore was on par with power armor plating (Hornady had muscle enhancement) and he became iconic for refusing to take cover in firefights. Hornady would walk towards the enemy, gunning them down with a Wagner 10mm automatic magnetic pistol, all the while bullets and shrapnel glancing off of his armor.
Mark 12 Heavy Encounter Suit
The Mark 12 was the spiritual successor to the Mark X. The entire suit was made of three layers, an internal layer of composite armor pieces sandwiched between two layers of reactive material. The bulky armor was technically successful, but came up short as it offered neither the protection of standard power armor, or the flexibility and usability of standard encounter suits and other personal light armors. Mark 12 Armor became popular among androids and mechanoids who didn't find the heavy suit encumbering but enjoyed how it worked better for them. Eventually the Mark 12 was redesigned to the 12/R which had denser and heavier plating, enlarged power packs, and lacked many of the climate control functions required by organic users.
Mark 13 Encounter Suit
The Mark 13 was an updated version of the Mark 11, and due to effective marketing and PR there was an almost seamless integration between the successful 11 and the 13. The Mark 13 added an armor sheet 'skirt' to protect the groin area. Previous suits were often upgraded with armor codpieces and other adornments, and the designers smartly made the skirt modular. Most users replaced the skirt with armor pieces, but a few, especially high profile female users kept the skirt and were great for propaganda streams. The Mark 13 enjoyed widespread use in the space naval forces.
Mark 14 Encounter Suit
After 13 iterations, the successful encounter suit was starting to have a dated feel to it. The aesthetic for the majority of models was a minimalist one, usually a monochrome color pattern with a few detailings. The design, instead of feeling sophisticated had become dated. The Mark 14 was systematically little different from the Mark 13 encounter suit, but on a design level it was radically different. The surface was superficially divided into panels and there were surface 'circuit tracer' markings and patterns on the suit. These typically accentuated muscle groups of the wearer, or were intricate geometric patterns. The helmet was given an aggressive styling to match. One actual modification was the inclusion of SmartWire technology for integrating use of SmartGun systems with the helmet. This was a common aftermarket modification that had been used since the time of the Mk. VII but the prior expense of the SmartWire gear had made in unfeasible for mass production and use. The Mark 14 was popular among special forces, as they were able to enhance the SmartWire system and liked the improved appearance of the suit.
Mark 15 Encounter Suit
The Mark 15 was a slightly heavier version of the Mark 14, and retained many of it's features, and it had an improved thermoablative resistant material bringing it's laser and energy weapon resistance up to match improvements in laser and energy weapons. The Helmet, gauntlets, and boots were reinforced, and a utility belt/harness were added. The Mark 15 was commonly used by marines and other infantry not equipped with power armor suits, as the harness could be easily swapped out with heavier military equipment, and the SmartWire system and helmet targeting system worked with anything from civilian light pistols to infantry squad support weapons. The Mark 15 saw greater use on the Moon, Mars, and other non-terrestrial locations.
Mark 16 Light Encounter Suit
The progression of the encounter suit saw the cost of the suit steadily rising with not just basic improvements but the addition of gadgets, accessories and other equipment. The Mark 16 was designed with an eye back towards the original Mk. I encounter suit. It was cheap, it was made of a single layer or reactive material, with some double layer reinforcement over vital areas and the boots and gauntlets were basic armored but non-reactive material, and the helmet supported minimal function beyond imaging, short range communication, and air filtration. The Mark 16 cost a fraction of what the Mark 14/15 cost and was an instant success among lower end operations. Professional security companies, corporate security companies, and other emergency responder organizations bough the suit in large numbers. They liked the protection, but didn't need the fancy gadgets or highfalutin styling. Street cops wore 16s, and it became synonymous with law enforcement, or the One-Six as referred to by officers.
Officer Jason Scott was a New Nuyork police officer who came into possession of a Mk. I encounter suit, and commonly wore it, sans helmet, under his uniform. The suit absorbed punishment from the frequent melee encounters he faced on the street. Under the surge of Nipponism, many gangs resorted to martial arts and melee weapons like clubs and swords and the encounter suit allowed Scott to walk through these sorts of fighting engagements to execute impressive take-downs and arrests.
Mark 17 Encounter Suit
Still in the product development cycle, the Mark 17 is the intended replacement for the Mark 14, and 15 suits still in use. It is a top of the line product and design details are still being worked out. It has an eye towards 'elite' and has metallic cording and surface 'circuit tracers' and the helmet has been given a crown like redesign. The current feedback has this redesign looking towards a scrap and do-over which will again delay the release of the Mark 17.