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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bionicle MOC: Milethi

The latest post from Zeyek is up and features a new character named Milethi, my first female Bionicle creation.

Milethi is as much of a lone ranger in her field as Zeyek is in his. Needing to give her some special equipment to match her unique status on the universe-wide playing field, I realized I had finally found a perfect recipient for my purple-hued sun-damaged copper Huna. Literally everything was built out & down from the mask, focusing on decent height (about 9 1/2"), confidence, and femininity (even got heels in there). Most of the structure is completely custom, with a Mistika Onua front piece giving just the triangular shape I wanted for the middle of the torso (doesn't show up so well in this photo). I'm not entirely sure what she has in her hand. Let's just call it a ceremonial scepter, shall we?

Friday, August 28, 2009

A personal quest

In a much more recent development in my research, I've managed to finally make contact with a most peculiarly evasive individual. Her name is Milethi and she is a scientist of very advanced age and intellect. Unfortunately she makes herself very scarse due to the severe criticism and harsh rejection she has received among many communities. The problem, for many, is the particular branch of science that she studies -- Bionicle evolution.

Milethi has studied countless species of rahi plus a handful of higher-order creatures and mastered a process of determining what she calls "evolutionary momentum." With this momentum calculated, she can predict the future form of a species. Even more intriguing to me, she can actually determine the evolutionary origin of a Bionicle being if its physical form has altered over time. The process requires significant and accurate data about the subject, and can take many weeks of work to complete, even with the help of an impressive array of electronic computational devices. The results always have a margin of error, but that margin can itself be reasonably calculated.

It has taken me many years and quite a significant pool of resources to track Milethi down. Now that I have finally made her acquaintance, though, I have managed to convince her to conduct some research on my behalf, in exchange for some... let us say, errands. I have always had a keen interest in the story of the Vorox (and, by affiliation, the Zesk). Genetic experiments by the Great Beings, the Shattering, regression, yes, yes, I've heard it a thousand times but there are holes in those stories the size of a Kleetha whale's eyes. There is a bigger picture, a deeper story, and I must discover it.

My first request to Milethi is to calculate the earliest possible evolutionary form of the Vorox. I will report back when she has results. It may take... awhile.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I love (Bionicle) Goooooooold!

This week I received a beautiful set of the '02 gold Bionicle Mata Kanohi masks.

Well, one thing led to another, and soon I found myself photographing a whole bunch of gold Bionicle stuff side by side.

As I kept digging, I found even more.

Then things got completely out of hand.

After taking this shot I realized that I had forgotten to raid one of my bins, and I missed all of the Takanuva armor & shoulder pieces. Why do I have so much gold? Basically I needed a lot for another original "species" I've invented for my next upcoming epic. However, I certainly didn't need this many. The bling just got to me -- it corrupted me! Now I can't get enough! Somebody help, make it stoooooppppppp....

Friday, August 21, 2009

Posing & photographing LEGO Bionicles

For me, Bionicle MOCs are used as creative decorations where I sit at work. No matter where you keep your Bionicles or how you use them, if they're out where they can be seen, don't leave them in boring standing poses like they're suspects in a police lineup. Sometimes half of the personality of a Bionicle creation is in the pose itself! Check out the difference between these two shots of the Agori Metus.

In the first, he's a little swashbuckler pumping his fists "Rah! Rah!" during a pep rally before a big battle. In the second, he's a seasoned, calculating warrior stalking his opponent, carefully protecting himself while waiting for the perfect moment to strike. It's the exact same guy; not a single part was changed. All I did was alter the pose! Try it with your favorites! Don't look at the canister or box art. Instead, just look at the figure itself and experiment. See if you can find its personality, and come up with a pose that really brings that personality to light.

Here are a few more of my Agori representatives (before I stopped following instructions and tore these guys all apart). First is Atakus, ready to parry any attack and strike a devastating blow no matter what move you make against him.

Next up is a gorilla-inspired Tarduk, sitting proudly, wondering why you are bothering him.

Here's a very amped-up and ferocious Solek. You can almost hear him taunting, "Come on! Bring it!"

One more angle for effect.

I close with a Zesk in an exceedingly dramatic pose, one shoulder dropped way down, the other propped up, one claw slowly rising off the ground as he inches up on something (or someone) that he reeeeally doesn't like. Ever get the feeling pain is just a few steps away?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bionicle MOC: Toa Inika Jaller - Chibi!

Just having a little fun with this one. I really didn't like the Inika series a lot, but after playing Bionicle: Heroes on the XBOX 360 I decided to try a few of them out. I had a couple sets of the masks from my eBay raids and figured to help break my visceral dislike of the blank-eyed rubber blobs I'd make fun of one with a chibi (mini) attempt. Here's the result, Jaller in under four inches!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Rilovians, Chapter 7: Out of thin air

The morning was young; the skies, barely beginning to brighten. Most inhabitants of Rilovi were yet at rest. The rahi, though... the rahi stirred across the land, rustling leaves and rippling pools. The air grew unsteady with the faintest chorus of shreiking sounds.

The chorus grew louder.

It drew nearer.

The rahi cried out in unison in their countless voices. They scattered, they ran, they froze in fear. They seeked to escape, but no direction offered a safe route.

The Rilovians awakened.

Across the territories of the Rallo, the Novi, the Foran, the Tiallo, and the Mikau, small groups of vessels of The Unknown flew, descending directly towards their scouts' earlier landing sites. Thedon, now jogging beside his personal rahi transport, his body utterly exhausted from a frantic, but successful night of seeking out and summoning Gelaeus's staff, saw one of the Unknown formations pass directly above him, proceeding in the exact direction he was headed, back to his city of residence and work. Realizing that the fate of the planet could rest in the hands of five gigantic, sleeping robots, Thedon summoned the strength to climb upon his rahi and charge forward at a galoping pace. All he could do was try to aid in the defense of his people and hope the Maxxa could be activated before all hope was lost.

At the landing site in Foran territory, a dozen Unknown established a perimeter around a circular area the size of a small city block. Most citizens of the area stayed back and took shelter, but a handful of police & local government members gathered and prepared to do what they could to push the intruders back. Their numbers doubled when former warriors from the area joined the scene and distributed old spare swords and bludgeoning weapons. They quickly agreed upon a divide & conquer strategy to charge together, but then split into two groups, each attacking one side of the perimeter and to disable as many lone Unknown as possible before the conflict converged. The warriors were ready & anxious for a fight, the others, not to the same extent. Yet, they all realized equally the gravity of the task before them, and agreed to a single countdown.





The Rilovians bravely charged towards a gap in the invaders' perimeter, then split apart before crossing it, each half of them turning the opposite way and attacking a lone Unknown sentinel. The first two enemies were quickly overwhelmed and easily overcome, but the others took notice. The Rilovians continued to plan and charged towards their next targets. This time, there was resistance. The Unknown readied their handheld energy weapons and began to fire, striking down several Foran before being overrun themselves. Four were defeated. Eight remained -- eight who were by now fully alerted, fully aware, and fully prepared, weapons charged. The brave Rilovians weren't able to advance even twenty more paces before being overcome. Their hand-to-hand weapons and metallic shields were completely useless against the invaders' blasters.

The remaining Unknown redistributed themselves equally around the same perimeter they had originally occupied, keeping their weapons fully charged. Shreiks could be heard from the sky once more, though lower in tone this time, and louder as they drew close. A large transport arrived with an escort of 5 more Unknown scouts, landing in the center of the defended area. The vessel was roughly saucer-shaped, but hollow in the middle and deeply textured with symmetrical spire-like protrusions around its circumference and on its upper surface. Four of the newly-arrived individuals took the places of their fallen comrades around the perimeter, while the fifth approached the large vessel and activated a panel, apparently to input some commands. Quickly, the vessel began to transform. Its outer ring turned downward. The inner spires spread apart and to extended twice their height into the sky like an ominous, blossoming flower.

After a brief pause, something began to power up in the mysterious machine. Winds picked up and began to swirl about violently. Arcing electricity surged through the upright structures of the machine, growing in intensity until a beam of unrecognizable energy shot straight up into the sky. The beam was barely visible in the fully lit sky, but a rising cloud of dust made it discernible. Directly above, the sky began to slightly darken, and soon a completely black spot could be seen at the precise point where the beam was pointed. As the wind continued to tear through the immediate area, it was soon apparent that air was not being expelled from the machine, it was actually being drawn into the beam.

As Thedon arrived at his own home town, Tiallo citizens were under attack after a massive, concerted attempt to repel the invaders failed even more miserably than the smaller attempt by the Forans. The Unknown were in counter-attack mode and were brutally assaulting locals in all directions, broadening their perimeter with the help of two squads of reinforcements. Thedon abandoned his ride and deftly snuck past the invaders by staying low and hiding behind structures. He made it to his house and quickly pulled out his proud old set of armor and his weapon and shield. He cautiously peered out the corners of several windows to be sure that the area was clear, then rushed out the front door. There, directly in front of him, standing in wait with its weapon draw and charged, was one of the Unknown. Thedon barely started to swing his double-sided sword when he was struck down. As the under-manned and under-armed resistance around each of the five landing sites across Rilovi systematically fell, the remainder of the beam devices landed and were activated.

At Gelaeus's facility, the last of the workers arrived to a frantic scene. The first Maxxa had been powered up and was undergoing automatic diagnostics to ensure that it was fully prepared for battle. Three of the others were still being readied, and one hadn't yet been touched; there just weren't enough available workers to keep up with the numerous preparatory tasks. Gelaeus, himself, worked on updating the shared intelligence databank that would be distributed to each Maxxa before it was released. Information about changes in city landscapes, deployed civilian technologies, and expanses of population centers all had to be updated from the years the Maxxa had been completely offline. If kept in a fully ready state, the Maxxa update themselves. Upon being activated after a long rest, they are capable of reacquiring all needed information on their on as well, but this requires that they emerge and travel about the land to survey all changes. Rilovi didn't have time for this, plus Gelaeus strongly felt that the element of surprise was critical given the unknown capabilities and numbers of the invading force.

At the landing sites, the Unknown sentinels stood their ground, not moving an inch. The winds were slowed, as the air was growing thin. Though it was still daytime, all things had picked up a strange shading, as if... as if lit by darkness, if such a thing was possible. Directly above, the dark spot in the sky had grown immensely. At the Foran site, nearly half of the sky was darkened and in the center of this frightening occurence, stars of the night sky could be seen with the naked eye.

The Unknown, you see, had befallen troubles quite similar to those of the Rilovians. After millenia of expanding their population, they had run out of inhabitable space on their planet. Rather than fighting over what was left, though, they decided very quickly to simply go find a second planet to expand to. Rilovi was merely the first planet they happened upon that fit enough of their criteria (sun exposure, relative flatness of terrain, mineral makeup, and level of gravity). In fact, Rilovi only had two problems for the Unknown -- it was already populated, and it had a full, thick atmosphere. The Unknown do not breathe and are adopted to live in a very low-pressure environment. Because some of their industrial efforts produce copious amounts of gasseous residue, they developed machines that could remove these gasses from their planet by ionizing the molecules and shooting them straight out into space. These were the machines the Unknown had brought to Rilovi. The dark patches they were creating in the Rilovian sky were actually holes in the atmosphere. If the process was not stopped, Rilovi would soon enough be completely devoid of air, and all of the lifeforms that depended upon this irreplacable element... would die.

Over the course of two more restless days & nights of continuous work, Gelaeus and his crew had finished preparing the Maxxa fleet. The five proud, glorious machines were lined up and ready to take to action on the surface of Rilovi for the very first time. With all personnel waiting in the adjacent lab, one final command was issued and the Maxxas went into fully autonomous mode. Immediately, #2 and #4 stepped forward, readied their weapons, and blasted out nearly the entire ceiling above the room. A large mass of air was sucked out of the facility due to the effect of the Unknown machines, propelling a mushroom-like cloud of dirt and paperwork straight up into the sky. One after another, the Maxxa lept up to the normal ground level above, then each rushed off towards one of the invaders' landing sites, using the medium-duty repulsor units in their shoulders and upper legs to help them glide incredible distances through the air between strides.

The first site was neutralized within 20 minutes of the departure of the Maxxa from their home base. The second, just over 30 minutes later still. The remaining sites were increasingly distant and took significantly longer to reach. Groups of Unknown reinforcements began to descend upon all five sites in waves, but the Maxxa were able to dispatch them, no matter how many approached. The fighting intensified for four days, but the Maxxa held their ground. Casualties among the Unknown were enormous, and mounting.

And then, it all stopped.

The Unknown evidently concluded that this planet was more trouble than it was worth, and gave up.

The Maxxa each froze in place, still alert & ready in case more trouble surfaced. Silence captured the land. Only the wind could be heard, fading ever so slowly after the destruction of the invaders' atmosphere-expelling machines. Night fell and the Maxxa stood watch while the Rilovians remained sheltered.

When the morning came, citizens slowly started to appear again on the streets, cautiously surveying the damage to their towns, reeling at the site of endless piles of fallen Unknown fighters, and shuddering upon noticing that above them, instead of a familiar light sky color, they saw a shade of dark violet-blue, textured by a speckling of stars.

Though the battle was deciseively won and the invaders had been repelled, the damage to the atmosphere was irreparable. Had Gelaeus's warnings been heeded decades before, the Maxxa would have been on standby alert when the Unknown arrived, and when the first of those five ionizing machines touched the ground, it would have been in a smoldering mass of twisted metal and ashes. Instead, the entire planet was left hopelessly crippled, doomed to die a long and painful death.

The thinned atmosphere let in damaging cosmic radiation that damaged or killed many smaller forms of life, starting a devastating breakdown of the planet's food chain. Even worse, the planet began to rapidly cool. A year-round ice cap developed at the northern pole and began to spread southward, freezing away valuable inhabitable land. The variety of usable crops diminished as only the heartiest plants could survive the colder temperatures, especially through the night. Species of rahi were going extinct faster than could be documented.

Within one hundred years, the Rilovian population diminished to less than three thousand. Ten years later, this number had plummeted to less than 500. Only three years after that, the very last Rilovian, a Foran, passed away overnight in a lonely burrow.

So, tragically, ends this Bionicle epic. I am, very sorry, if you were expecting a... "happy ending" to the story. Unfortunately not all civilizations can survive infinitely, and in fact, quite many do not. Even in some of the best of scenarios, there's a character flaw among the people, or an important decision that is made wrongly (or not at all), or an unforseen and devastating consequence to the smallest & simplest oversight. Myself, I can only share the learnings and hope that as a result, some of the great mistakes of history, will not be repeated.

Today, Rilovi is a barren ice planet, still under the protection if the five proud Maxxa.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fun facts about the Rilovian storyline

  1. The name "Thedon" came from a line in the trailer for the movie "District 9." A lady said "They don't belong here," but with her accent (Scottish I think?), it sounded to me like "Thedon belon-giya." So, from that I extracted three names for future Bionicle story use, Thedon, Belo, & Giya. Good Bionicle names are hard to come up with, so I'll take inspiration from anywhere I can get it.
  2. The 15 main Rilovian MOCs (Giants not included) were built simply because I was getting bothered by how many parts I had collected. Even with four, 3- and 4-drawer storage cabinets of decent size, I was still running out of space. Some of the drawers wouldn't even close without careful shaking and pushing the parts down. Sadly, even after building all 15 of these MOCs, my (separate) drawers for full legs, small legs, torsos, feet, masks, and common weapons all remained full to look at, but at least they could close without a hassle.
  3. The root of the name of the sun-worshipping group "Rallo" is actually "Ra," the ancient Egyptian sun deity.
  4. Rilovia's Syanic Sea is phonetically named after the color cyan. The water of the Syanic is a bright, almost fluorescent greenish-blue due to dissolved copper compounds and tiny plankton-like creatures with hemocyanin in their blood. Also, what color do you add to blue (light) to get cyan? Green, the regional color of the sea-worshiping Nofi.

Bionicle MOCs: The Rilovians

The inhabitants of Rilovi were the second complete race that I conjured up from scratch. You'll see the first uneviled later down the line, after I take a break from this epic storyline to do some smaller reveals.

It was important to me that the Rilovian race have both depth and breadth of variance, so I created both a class system and regional distinctions. Regional affiliations would be indicated by color, like in the Matoran universe, but I took care to not use the traditional, Earth-inspired Matoran/Toa elemental colors. (I also went with 5 regions instead of the original Matoran 6, just to be different, but later realized that Lego & Greg Farshtey had beaten me to the punch with the five main tribes of Bara Magna.) Rilovian class membership would primarily show up in size.

All Rilovians would share high, wide shoulders and a neck position that's forward of and below the typical humanoid anatomical detail. I also took care to minimize sharing of mask types between characters, just to make them seem that much more varied.

In each of the photos below, the representative individuals are lined up by region -- left to right, the Tiallo (air), Foran (rusty earth), Nofi (bright green inland sea), Rallo (sun), and Mikau (forests/wood).


After Gelaeus, these guys were first Rilovians to be designed, and coincidentally, the order I built them is the same order they're arranged below, from left to right. I tried to make them as distinct as possible. Only the blue & red individuals have similar weapons (swords). The yellow guy has a counter-balanced spear which you can't see here, but shows up clearly in The Lunacy of War. The blue and yellow individuals share the same basic construction, but the rest are unique. The silver-streaked masks represent double-forging, something afforded to the best warriors after a certain number of victories in battle. Behind each mask is a Metru head. Yes, the Telluris mask is mounted to a Metru head too.

Regular citizens

I think I spent more time coming up with the design for these guys than any of the other classes. They're all constructed basically the same, with the exception of the Rallo & Mikau legs. I spent most of the design effort figuring out the right amount of color and the appropriate mix of light vs. dark.


These guys were easy; they practically designed themselves. I'm guessing this torso design has been arrived at by quite a few people before me, as it's really straightforward, based around an upward-pointed Bohrok foot. The fun thing with the construction of the elders was coming up with their ceremonial staves. Most use Bionicle minifig parts, and my favorite are the Mikau and Tiallo ones. Character-wise, I went contrarian with the Rilovian elders by making them "simple-minded" rather than incredibly intelligent, reversing the Matoran theme. In doing so, though, I was able to expose an unexpected form of wisdom, better explained in Colors of Life.

Ah, the big guns. I didn't want to make a lot of Giants since they're rare on Rilovi, and to be honest, I also feared that I'd have trouble finding enough invertable masks to form different heads. I could have just used Gelaeus, but I wanted to wait to introduce him, so I used this Mikau example in the beginning of the storyline. Again going against the grain of typical Western fantasy, I made these big hulks gentle giants of exceptional intellectual capacity. Rather than being menacing warriors, they're the super-geeks of Rilovi!

Bionicle MOC: The Unknown

The whole time I was writing the first half of the Rilovian story, I hadn't thought for a second of what extra-terrestrial enemy Gelaeus's creations would battle against. After completing Chapter 5, I actually got stuck with a bit of creative block while trying to figure this out. To break free of that block, I opened up a bunch of my parts storage bins and just started grabbing at random items with both hands. Eventually I ended up with a Mantax head in one hand and his shoulder armor in the other, and the build began.

I again wanted to stay distinctly non-Matoran with the design, so I again went with reversed leg joints and made the arms and wrists fold up when at rest like a praying mantis.

I knew I wanted to use one of the masks with a mechanical eye since the first Unknown contacts would be with surveying scouts, and luckily I had a black Akaku that fit the bill perfectly. I also figured that for this species, the general soldiers would all be identical (perhaps cloned), but leader units would have a different color of mask, possibly even a different specific type, but always including that mechanical eye feature.

Bionicle MOCs: Gelaeus's robots

Quadriped walker
When I did this build back in April, I was just starting to explore what very different, non-Matoran/Toa creations could be assembled with Bionicle parts. I actually started out approaching it as a sentient creature, perhaps centaur-like, but for some reason I changed directions after the legs & arms were all fitted and made it into a ride-on mech. This has actually ended up being one of my favorite creations to date. The rider is intended to be a robot, himself, and he was built separately and can be removed.

Mini mech
For this build I started by courageously picking up the Metus torso and convincing myself to do something with it. The light blue color was difficult for me to find a color counterpart for other than white, and that had left me worrying that I would come up with something that looked like it whould be related to the Bara Magna Ice Tribe. Fortunately silver was far enough away from white, while still not contrasting too heavily against the light blue. I first did the head, then the legs, and by that time it was obvious that this was going to look like a mech, so I skipped doing hands and went straight for guns. Argh, yet another robot that didn't fit anywhere in the Bionicle universe. Thank goodness Gelaeus came along.

Mini Maxxa
This was the last Gelaeus-bot I built, to support an unveiling & final confrontation with the Rilovian elders in chapter 5, without revealing the (soon to be) existance of the potentially highly controversial full-sized version.

Micro mech
This little guy was one of my earliest builds, but the last to be revealed in the Rilovian storyline. It launched a real-life quest for me to see how small of a humanoid Bionicle I could create while still allowing articulation at every joint. More on that quest later!

Bionicle MOC: Gelaeus

When I started building this guy, all I knew was that I hadn't done anything with exceptionally broad shoulders, and I needed to fix that. So, the Vakhi head-based shoulders came first and the rest built in from there. When I got the head figured out, but didn't have the legs done yet, I realized that the placement of the neck was unique enough to treat this creation as something from outside of the Matoran universe. When I started building the legs, I was hoping to make everything fit together, continuing the non-Matoran theme with reversed joints. However, what I made looked rather robotic, so I rolled with that and decided that this would be a creature who had lost his legs and gotten robotic replacements.

With the legs being robotic and their design thus not being at all limited by biologically-based ideas, I figured I'd go crazy and make them more useful than normal. Oh, and they'd transform too. With wheels. Why not, right?

The end product was a scientist/engineer character who had modified his own prosthetic legs basically because he could. I didn't come up with his name until I actually started writing his opening post in the Rilovian storyline.

Bionicle MOC: The Maxxa

Well, now you've seen it, the 16" tall Maxxa. I'll be the first person to admit that it's not the most impressive Bionicle around, but this MOC does have quite a lot of significance to me, as it was my first! Why did I choose to start with a big build rather than something simple? I don't know. Honestly, it would have made a lot more sense to start small and work my way up, but I wanted to really dive in and attack a challenge.

Interestingly, the way this MOC ended up is nothing like what I planned. I started out with the upper thighs, which I wanted to use to represent some shoulders for a sort of robotic lion, shades of the old Voltron cats. As I added more height, it became a biped. As I learned more about the world of Bionicle, I realized that this thing couldn't fit in with any of the storylines, so I decided to call it a robot. Not until I had done a couple more robotic creations did I build Gelaeus, and only then was I able to make a the connection and give the Maxxa a home, so to speak, with the development of the Rilovian storyline.

The one thing I do particularly like about this guy is his head, obviously using a Nuva chestplate for the face and Mantax shoulder armor around the back. Who knows, maybe some day I'll redo the rest. In the meantime, here are a few more photos.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Rilovians, Chapter 6: The Unknown

Twenty-two more years passed on the crowded, but peaceful planet of Rilovi, and little changed. Crime was non-existant, but for the most petty of offenses. The air and sea remained healthy. Leaders were praised by common citizens. Customs, ethics, regular events, industries, technologies... everything about life seemed comfortable and settled. Then came The Unknown.

Witnesses first spotted this unidentifiable individual streaking across the sky on his personal air vehicle on a quiet afternoon. He never landed, but apparently covered a significant amount of terrain before disappearing, as he was seen above the lands of the Rallo, Nofi, Tiallo, and Mikau. The Forans weren't known to look to the sky very often; if they did, I would assume they'd have seen the visitor as well. Ten days later The Unknown returned, this time landing first in a busy Tiallo town square, surveying the area quickly, and mysteriously travelling to 4 other locations spread far around the planet, repeating the same behavior with apparently no delay between each stop. All attempts to greet & communicate with it failed, and it again disappeared as quickly as it had first appeared.

The elder council quickly convened with most of its members plus a handful of advisors and local officials to discuss these odd events. Among the gathered was a commerce administrator named Thedon who handled various affairs in the Tiallo district The Unknown had visited. A retired battlefield commander from the old warring days, Thedon approached the investigation of the incidents methodically. He did his best to pinpoint all five landing locations by correlating witness accounts, and then plotted them onto a world map. As he began looking for some sort of pattern indicative of a premeditated effort, he noticed that many pairs of points were identical distances apart. As he started following them in an arcing motion around the Syanic Sea, he also noticed that the angles between sets of three points were identical. Then, suddenly, it all became crystal clear. Stepping some distance back from the map, he saw that the points in fact formed a perfect pentagon around the land. As more witness accounts streamed in, something even more disturbing became apparent. At least three of the contacts with The Unknown had occurred at the exact same time, and the remaining two overlapped. The Unknown was not an individual, it was a race, of which five members had been sent to size up Rilovi after first discovering the planet.

The room went silent. If one of The Unknown had come the first time, and five the second, how many would arrive next? Immediately an order was given to warn all police forces to be on full alert. The elders, for the first time since the beginning of the global civil war, were terrified, and speechless. Thedon excused himself from the meeting and hastily sped off on his rahi mount. He had always firmly believed in the elders' assertion that Rilovi would be forever in peace. And yet, what he had just seen challenged that notion. It appeared that The Unknown could be scouting in preparation for an invasion. Thedon sincerely hoped he was wrong, but he was not about to wait & see. He had to find Gelaeus.

Ah, Gelaeus. Visibly aging with each passing day, the giant had retired years before and now spent alternating days tinkering with theatrical robots in his small home workshop and taking them out to "play" on his plot of wild land. When Thedon approached on his steed, panicked, but exhausted, Gelaeus was conflicted. Half of him was offended that someone would tresspass on his protected land, while the other half was delighted to be receiving a visitor -- something that had become increasingly rare over time. The second half won out and he prepared to warmly greet his dismounting visitor, only to be immediately interrupted.

Thedon: "Gelaeus! The Unknown are coming. You must prepare your robots."

Gelaeus: "The Unknown?"

Thedon: "Surely you haven't become such a hermit that you've not heard of their visits.

Gelaeus: "Their visits?"

Thedon: "Just one the first time, but five at once the second. They were scouts. Their landing sites where at equal distances apart and formed a circle around the entire land. It's no coincidence. They're preparing something. Now, where are those robots?"

Gelaeus, pointing to his miniature performers on the field: "Robots, do you mean these?"

Thedon: "This is not the time for modesty, brother. I cannot believe I could even think this, but today may be the day you've always warned of. I've heard of your secret lab, and I've heard that you built quite a wide assortment of war machines years ago. You're too smart, and too passionate about your work, to have destroyed them. Now, let's go get them out. I fear Rilovi is going to need all of the help it can get, and soon."

Seeing the ruse was up, Gelaeus punched a button on a small remote transmitter in his right hand, deactivating the playful little machines he had been enjoyably observing just a minute before. He began to walk towards a nearby rocky cliff.

Gelaeus: "My 'wide assortment of war machines' has long since been dismantled, brother. Come this way, and I will show you if you don't believe me."

Thedon: "Surely you jest! It is not like a Giant to abandon his dreams, his conviction!"

Gelaeus: "No, it is not. My dreams were simply... upgraded."

The two entered the unassuming cave just above the base of the cliff, rode the cleverly hidden elevator, and walked through the half-barren underground factory floor to the lab, both very dimly lit. Gelaeus opened the wide, sliding doors to the testing chamber, but did not enter. He reached just inside the door to activate a switch on the wall, then walked back to a drafting table and calmly began writing something down. In the next room, the sound of electrical devices powering up drew Thedon's attention, and he slowly and cautiously approached the doorway. In a timed and deliberate sequence, all of the celing lights came on, revealing the first Maxxa, then the second, on to the fifth.

Thedon: "I... I..."

Gelaeus, handing off a piece of paper: "Names and locations. These were my closest colleagues. Find them, tell them they're needed in the shop. I'll start dusting things off."

Thedon, caught in what seemed like a gasp that would never end, couldn't muster a single word, but forced himself to take the list from Gelaeus and hastily depart.

The two would never meet again.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Rilovians, Chapter 5: The Maxxa

Gelaeus pushed himself to develop a range of robots that would fully cover the varying situations that could be encountered in defense of Rilovi. He developed concepts & prototypes for more 2-legged and 4-legged walkers, heavily armored tank-like vehicles, light & agile hovercraft, and aircraft similar to what I believe you would call "helicopters." The options for each individual 'bot were incredibly varied, and the possibilities for combinations was practically endless. Galeaus even reduced his normal work schedule to give himself more daytime hours to conduct his research, but with every variable of development he figured out, another surfaced.

At the yearly Syanic Sea Festival, the ultimate Nofi cultural celebration, Gelaeus was present in body, but not in spirit. He avoided the gathered masses and watched from a distance, all the while dwelling in his mind on the grave importance of his secret activities. As he watched a lively parade snake through the crowds, he worried that if he could not achieve success, one year the festival might no longer occur. Oddly, this is when a new wave of inspiration struck. Among the parade, you see, were large groups of commoners & former warriors together carrying tall, hollow effigies honoring historical Nofi figures. Gelaeus looked directly at the festive statues, but his eyes saw giant mechanized fighters. He realized that all of his plans had focused on a strategy of multiple, distinct, specialized robots of modest size. Never had he considered a defensive army of large, immensely powerful machines, produced and deployed in small numbers. He immediately excused himself to return to his lab alone and begin sketching designs for this new concept of a super-robot, a fearsome megalithic sentinel that could single-handedly defend an entire region. As the concept blossomed, it would gain a name: Maxxa.

A Maxxa-class defense robot would embody a number of important characteristics:
  • Size. The chassis would need to be durable enough to withstand damage without being disabled, and sturdy enough to cary any needed equipment & large weapons. Extraordinary height would also give a Maxxa the ability to see and strike at great distances, and had the potential to demoralize an enemy with its presence alone.

  • Firepower. The Maxxa's battle strategy would be to strike first and suppress multiple targets with devastating force.

  • Agility. This was something of great personal interest to Gelaeus, as I earlier spoke of in relation to his modifications to his own form. A slow-moving hulk of a machine would be too easy of a target and could not defend a large area. To keep the number of needed Maxxa to a minimum, they would each need to move about quickly and easily.

  • Familiarity. An enormous robot of completely unfamiliar form would never be accepted by regular citizens -- they would fear it and it would never be accepted. The Maxxa would take the form of a 2-legged, walking warrior, the ultimate hero fighting on behalf of the general population.

Gelaeus spent just four months designing Maxxa version 1. In the meantime, he had already started making preparations for its construction. The factory area of his underground facility was sufficiently well-fitted to handle production of parts, but the ceiling wasn't nearly high enough to assemble the giant machine. One of his supporters who worked in the facility made the excellent suggestion of digging the testing chamber significantly deeper for the task. Completed components could be easily shuttled from the factory floor to specially-built assembly rigs in the testing chamber.

Once all design was complete, Gelaeus tasked all of his supporters on production of the very first Maxxa while he, himself, worked on a small-scale portable, but working demonstration model. Coming up very soon was an elder council meeting, open to the public, and this would be the occasion he would use to make his final, triumphant pitch to both the elder community and the general populus.

The finished mini-Maxxa included low-power blasters and an autonomous artificial intelligence that allowed it to function without any controlling input. Upping the ante, Gelaeus repurposed a selection of his earlier robot models as a mock "enemy" force to demonstrate a realistic invasion & defense scenario in miniature size.

On morning day of the elder council meeting, Gelaeus and his supporters loaded up their robot fleet onto beast-drawn, covered carriages and headed out on foot. When they arrived at the auditorium 3 hours later, they were delighted to behold an excellent turnout. All pre-arranged topics had been covered in early sessions and public comments & questions were now being entertained. Items of conversation ranged from a proposal for a new floating entertainment facility to be built at the southwest edge of the Syanic, to the ever-moving & morphing line of separation between religion and science. The waiting line to speak at the floor podium was short, and Gelaeus took his place.

When it was the giant's turn to speak, the crowd cheered and the council welcomed him warmly. Gelaeus gave praise to all five Rilovi affiliations for achieving ultimate peace years before, and more importantly, for committing to maintaining it for all of eternity. The crowd applauded wildly yet again, then respectfully returned to silence. "Now," Gelaeus proceeded, "picture this very arena, during this very event, one year from today." On cue, two of his colleagues carried a crude wooden model of the auditorium out to the middle of the floor and then retreated. "Imagine you, the elders, are giving an address," Gelaeus continued, "and these fine, peaceful citizens of Rilovi are sitting, happily, attentively, safe, comfortable, when..." On this cue, the robotic miniature "invasion force" appeared from scattered locations around the auditorium and beared down on the model of the structure, drawing surprised gasps from many observers. The robots opened fire with real (though small) weapons, utterly obliterating the wooden miniature. Only smoldering splinters remained.

After a dramatic pause, Gelaeus went on to explain with increasing passion in his voice the perils that could exist far beyond Rilovi's field of gravity and how devastating their arrival could be. He repeated his warnings about the weakness of Rilovi's protective force, an argument many in attendance had heard before, either from him directly or through word-of-mouth. He reiterated the need for a reserve force, an emergency defensive backup to protect against the unknown. Just then, heavy footsteps were heard approaching behind him. He struggled to hide a smile of confidence as the small Maxxa approached, stopping directly by his side. Continuing the brilliantly planned theatrics, Gelaeus and the mini-Maxxa looked at eachother, then at the "enemy" bots, which reacted by turning to attention and preparing to defend their space.

The hero of the performance charged its weapons and lept into the field of battle, firing its energy dual pulse weapons with great precision and deftly avoiding all counter-attacks. Within seconds, all but one of the "invasion" robots was disabled. The remainder fired directly at the Maxxa, which took no damage and merely walked directly towards it. Approaching a point-blank stance, the Maxxa kicked the miniature enemy onto its back and delivered a single disabling shot. The auditorium burst into thunderous applause.

The performance complete, Gelaeus resumed his speech, detailing the size, design, capabilities, and deployment strategy of the real Maxxa he wished to build (never revealing that the first was already under construction). Mid-sentence, he was interrupted by a member of the council.

"Gelaeus, young brother, Great Engineer, you have brought great entertainment. Thank you. But Rilovi is safe. Forever it will be. Does any disagree?"

The elder motioned to the crowd, and no-one responded.

"Then leave peace at peace."

Devastated inside, Gelaeus maintained a calm demeanor and respectfully replied, "I understand, and I thank you all." His accompanyment slowly re-emerged from the crowd with looks of despondency on their faces. They lackadaisically collected the debris off the floor and followed Gelaeus and the expressionless miniature Maxxa out of the arena.

Even with the realization that his efforts might never be officially sanctioned in his lifetime, Gelaeus changed nothing in his plans. The Maxxa program would continue on, full speed ahead. Soon enough, Rilovi would gain the defense it sorely needed.

Seven years later, not only was Maxxa #1 (nicknamed "Rett") fully built and operational, but four others were as well, completing the fleet. Significant data had been gathered from simulations and small-scale tests with "Rett" in the underground facility and the later models incoproprated a host of enhancements and upgrades.

Gelaeus had achieved his goal. The planet had a formidible defense system, laying in wait in an underground lair, ready for a more cautious leadership regime to activate them. Gelaeus's age was beginning to wear on him, and he did not know if he would live to see the day that the elders would recognize & accept the need for the Maxxas. No worry, he had younger supporters who would keep the dream alive and ensure that it would be carried forward through the generations if needed. Powered off and safely sealed away, the Maxxas would be able to last for thousands of years.