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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.

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