The Chase

I missed the “District 18” contest hosted by Flickr’s LEGO Speeder Bikes group. I was busy with FebRovery and didn’t really realise it was happening until the month was half gone. And then I was like “District 18? What the smeg is that? Some kind of Halo crap? Nothing for me here then…”

Three days from deadline and with no time to actually build anything, let alone photograph it in daylight, I finally worked out that “District 18” meant whatever you wanted it to mean; it wasn’t a tie-in to some popular game I don’t know.

So this isn’t a District 18 contest build.

It’s similar, though. District 17.5. Area 52. Platform 12 2/3. Whatever.

This started out with the speeder that’s being chased. I wanted to try incorporating a minor trilateral symmetry at the front, though with the rest of the speeder the way it is it gives it a vaguely cobbled-together look.

Having built that speeder I decided to make a whole scene, and it got larger and more complex from there.

The police speeder bike followed after I pulled out TLNM’s Officer Toque in my search for a suitable pilot. Okay, police speeder bike, then. A bit more finished-looking and sleek, with a similar pilot mount.

Neither speeder is really all that and a box of chocolates. It’s the background that makes this. I’m really developing a liking for building ramshackle, tumbledown future-industrial wastelands, and I think this is one of my better ones. Complete with large grey rat, because wasteland.

I’m not certain what the precise story is here. The guy being chased doesn’t have a particularly villainous or criminal look, but neither does the officer look especially like an instrument of state oppression. Maybe the dude did something minor like running a red light or operating a speeder bike with an expired inspection sticker, I don’t know.

At any rate, here they are. A police officer and another speeder bike pilot (possibly a criminal, perhaps an innocent biker in the wrong place at the wrong time) locked in relentless pursuit.

Like last year’s “The Ninja and the Dragon” build, I think the ambiguity helps to sell this. Make up your own backstory and enjoy.


Sarlacc Reimagined

“You will be taken to the Dune Sea, where you will be thrown into the Pit of Carkoon, resting place of the all-powerful Sarlacc. In his belly you will find a new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a thousand years.”

I remember the original Sarlacc. The one before they started messing around with their digital remastering. Before that weird three-way snapping jaw got added in the centre of the Pit of Carkoon.

I’ll grant you that it’s a fairly cool piece of CGI. There’s no doubt but that the modern Sarlacc is a much more actively threatening beast, better suited to engage the fear circuits of modern filmwatchers.

However, there was something subtly ominous about that original yawning pit ringed about with inward-facing teeth, at the bottom of a conical sandtrap over which those unexpected tentacles roved. It didn’t need to snap at you. It was just there, ready to swallow up anyone and anything that stumbled within range. Huge. Deadly. Implacable. Mysterious.

Sarlacc, my version

If other people can reimagine iconic Star Wars vehicles in LEGO bricks, then I surely feel free to do the same with the Sarlacc.

My version locates itself in a rockier area, presumably bedded down in a fissure in the ground. Its tentacles are more cephalopoid than the flattened, elongated meat sacks of the original, equipped with rows of suckers that may well parallel those of the Colossal Squid, bearing rings of razor-sharp shearing teeth, or maybe even their own miniature mouths.

Watch out for the horrible pointy teeth

Like the original, I’ve kept the inward-facing teeth, but I’ve removed the extraneous protruding snapping mouth within. Sarlacc is the ultimate sessile ambush predator; a cross between a sea anemone, an ant lion and a carnivorous plant. Poking its head out to snap at potential prey when something comes by is a sure way to alert them to their danger and make them flee out of range.

My version’s ring of teeth will actually bite down, though. That’s reasonable.

How the Sarlacc attracts prey is an open question. On a desert planet like Tatooine, I’d suggest that extruding just enough moisture to be carried on the wind would be a suitable lure. Everything’s going to be attracted to the smell of water. And along comes a herd of wild banthas, down to the “water”, and into the mouth of the beast. Or maybe just the smell of dying beasts does it, attracting Tatooine’s scavengers the way the La Brea tar pits attracted direwolves.

Anyway, here’s the Sarlacc, as reimagined by me.

O For A Muse Of Fire…

My son wanted to rebuild his prized Green NRG Dragon set, and he made the request that I build a similar-sized dragon for Kai, the Red Ninja of fire.

Kai’s Elemental Fire Dragon

It’s been a while since I built a dragon, and Kai’s my favourite of the Ninja (unless it’s his sister Nya), so I thought I’d have a go.

The Green NRG Dragon has a rather nice scaly belly look on the lower frontal section, and part of my thinking was to see if I could make an extended version of that which would cover basically the entire underbelly. That’s where this model started, and I built it up from there.

Note the scaly belly. Try to ignore the unfinished-looking underwings.

The head is large and impressive, but quite heavy for those poor balljoints and tends to sag if not posed very carefully. Clickstop universal joints would have alleviated this tendency, but they make for a longer and less flexible joint that would have detracted from the look of the build and made posing more of a challenge anyway. I posed its head very carefully.

I liked the “unusualness factor” of the wyvern bodyplan on the Green NRG Dragon, but I prefer my dragons to have four legs, so that’s how I built this one. The front feet look less than fully stellar when he’s posed rearing up on his back legs to expose that snakelike belly, but maybe I could build a set of alternate front feet that are more handlike, and swap them out like the extra stud shooter hand of the Clayface Splat Attack set (replacing that hammer hand).

The head has ended up with rather a Smauglike look, which wasn’t planned but I liked the way it was shaping up so I went with it. A bit nasty-looking for our heroic Ninja, perhaps, but it does work well for a big red dragon.

The last time Kai had an official dragon he had to share it with his sister, so it’s been a while since he’s had his own dragon. And I don’t think Nya’s had a full-on Elemental Dragon of Water of her very own (unshared with her pyrotechnic brother, I mean) yet. We don’t have a lot of Nya’s lighter blue, though, so building her a dragon on this scale would be challenging.


A Solar Bird

Sunhawk-class War Frigate of the Solarian Empire

ISS Royal Falcon is a Sunhawk-class heavy war frigate of the Solarian Empire’s Imperial Space Navy.

In the Imperial age of Human expansion, “war frigate” has come to mean a heavy warship of capital ship class whose design emphasises manoeuvrability (compare “battleglobe”: a heavy capital warship whose design emphasises armament and defence over manoeuvre).

The Sunhawks are armed with six powerful antimatter beams – Imperial capital ship beam weapons akin to grasers but using antiphotons – with enough destructive potential to crack the crustal plate of a smaller Earthlike world. Backing this up are a pair of dorsally-mounted graser turrets and the usual anti-small craft defensive lasers.

Missiles have largely been superseded in the imperial age: even the Solarian Empire’s finest minds have not thus far been able to cram a supraluminal-velocity drive and the power plant to run it into a hull even remotely missile-sized. However, the Sunhawk-class carry a bank of ten of what would once have been classified as missiles that employ standard reactionless sublight drives and antimatter warheads. Doctrinally, however, these are “mines”; their sublight speed makes them ineffective as direct weapons but they can be dropped in prepared positions as a defensive measure.

ISS Royal Falcon is the third ship of its class, following her sister ship ISS Condorine and ISS Sunhawk herself. Imperial tradition is for Naval vessels to be painted predominantly white; at the distances and stellar irradiation levels at which spatial combat takes place colour is largely irrelevant, and white has been the Imperial colour since the ascension of the Averon dynasty.

The Imperial Space Navy is not simply a war-fighting body, however. As one of the most visible arms of the Imperial state, they are often called upon to fly the Emperor’s banner in internal diplomatic functions, and for that a certain amount of visual impressiveness is called for.

Like all Imperial Space Navy vessels, ISS Royal Falcon is ornamented with sections of ornate gold paneling and other highlights in the ancient precious metal. Since the advent of asteroidal smelting and the fusion torch which can literally remodel the nuclei of atoms, gold is commoner than its precious metal status would imply, but Humans continue to associate it with wealth and kingship. Besides, it is more attractive than truly rare metals such as the Palladium group.


I wanted to try my hand at building an ornately decorated spaceship.

Scrollwork and semi-baroque styling are not something you see every day on a space cruiser (unless it’s a steampunk aethergoing dreadnought). It’s a waste of time and resources. Most future-human societies follow the mass-production-derived aesthetic of clean lines and heavy functionalism.

However, given the stylistic changes that have come about in the last couple of centuries, who knows what the aesthetics of the 23rd-27th Centuries are going to look like? A return to ornate decoration isn’t out of the question, especially if it has a psychological role to play in inspiring awe of the central government.

I’d rather have liked to build a larger vessel than this, but I found myself using more white than I initially anticipated in the forward section and then running low as I built the back. That explains the slightly more blockily-shaped rear section and the fact that it’s a mere 60 studs’ length rather than being the SHIP I suspected I wouldn’t manage. SHIPbuilding is hard work.

Ornately decorated space cruisers just seem to say “empire”; Star Wars’ Imperial fleet may have grooved to brutalist minimalism, but I just can’t imagine a basically democratic state like a Federation ending up with semi-baroque ornamented battleships. Therefore the Solarian Empire, with its white-painted war frigates and its golden decorative elements.


LSS Heliotrope

LSS Heliotrope

LSS Heliotrope is a Flower-class space corvette operated by the Earth League as a convoy escort.

Problems with space piracy as the League spread between the stars led to the readoption of the ancient wet navy convoy system, and it quickly became clear that tying up full-scale space cruisers and battleships on escort duty was a waste of resources. Most pirates in any case were only well-armed enough to threaten unarmed merchantmen, and the “privateers” registered with the ragtag “militaries” of various secessionist groups tended to have very limited defensive capabilities for all their formidable offensive punch.

The space corvette was posited as the solution. Smaller even than the frigates serving as fleet escorts and scout ships, space corvettes had small hulls, sturdy high-endurance drives, relatively small but effective armaments and highly effective counterbattery capacity. The Flowers were some of the larger corvettes of the Earth League, massing in with a displacement only a little smaller than a typical frigate. Their maximum velocity was faster than most corvettes, though their jump engines followed typical merchantman pattern: smaller and with a shorter range.

The Flower-class’ armament consists of four dorsally-mounted graser turrets, with a cluster of four light defence lasers forward. The class’ defensive shield generators are configurable to project not only the standard ellipsoidal single-ship field, but also a planar force wall behind which weaker merchant vessels may hide. Though not overlarge, the planar nature of the force wall allows an on-point field strength similar to the ellipsoidal shield at nominal 4x-ship-length diameter.

LSS Heliotrope was the sixth hull laid down of the first flight, joining her sisters Aconite, Sunflower, Hellebore, Snapdragon and Gladiolus. She mostly served on the lucrative Taurean Loop route between 104 Tauri, Xi Orionis and Tau Ceti, being one of the ships deemed responsible for driving out the infamous Blood Clan pirate fleet of Xi Orionis. Heliotrope herself is credited with killing the pirate “cruisers” Jeweled Dagger, Ragnarok and Void Hunter, as well as numerous smaller pirates.


Built predominantly with studs-forward SNOT construction and on a 45° angle placing one corner uppermost, Heliotrope‘s slender, needle-like construction was initially going to belong to a freighter, before I changed my mind and started to add weapons. By that point I’d done different things with several of the obvious weapons-mount locations, and I liked what I’d built enough to keep it.

With few obvious weapons mount locations, something small like a frigate or escort seemed logical, and having played around with a few names I settled on Heliotrope.


BT322 Wraithgnat

The BT322 Wraithgnat is a compact bike-style antigrav skimmer used by the Blacktron military as a scout vehicle.

Bt322 Wraithgnat speeder bike

Named after a near-invisible biting insect analogue from the Blacktron capital world, the Wraithgnat’s small size means a harder target to hit, but less room for power plant and weapons systems and the like than larger Blacktron speeder bikes. The result is a small antigrav power plant designed more for forward speed than gravitic repulsion, and the Wraithgnat’s flight is incredibly ground-hugging compared to something like the Shadow-Wasp.

In terms of weaponry the Blacktron High Command were less skimping, and the Wraithgnat carries a pair of powerful plasma lances mounted spinally. Shorter-ranged than lasers, they are considerably more powerful, especially in their area effect. Even a near miss from a plasma lance can often knock a small skimmer out of the sky.


Note the pilot’s legs straddling the machine

I’ve finally used the technique I came up with to make it look like the rider is straddling the speeder bike, and because it’s Blacktron I, therefore black minifigure against black vehicle, it’s difficult to see and almost looks like the rider has no legs.

It’s probably not an original technique; I’ve seen other models with a straddling-figure effect and this was my best guess at how it was achieved.

I rather like the compact look of this speeder bike, and its distant family resemblance to the Shadow-Wasp. That family-cousin resemblance was how it got its name: Shadow -> Wraith, Wasp -> Gnat. The wraithgnat being a creature from the Blacktron homeworld came later.


Space Cats?

“So what in the name of Johnny Thunder shall I build next for FebRovery 2018?” thought I to myself.

I’ve built a Blacktron space jeep, and an NCS rover, and a couple of Q-Tron rovers, and a Suntron crawler, and a steampunk lunar rover, and even a zany possessed-toilet-on-wheels rover that ought really to have been left in one place rather than being made mobile. I’m kind of running out of ideas.

Pawing through the minifigures drawer for inspiration, I came across Catwoman, and was struck with the idea that a Batrover might be an idea. Or better yet, a lunar motorbike for Batman’s favourite femme fatale. I haven’t done a spacebike yet.

Catwoman’s Lunarcycle

Catwoman’s TLBM incarnation doesn’t have a fully spacesuitable mask (either spacesuit-able or space-suitable), so I’m going to have to enclose her within a capsulelike cockpit, but that seems like it’d be an interesting challenge.

And here’s the result.

Technically there’s a few small holes between the windscreen and the cockpit sidewalls, but this is as close to an enclosed-cockpit spacebike as I think I’m going to get right now.

This isn’t especially space-like, with only the enclosed cockpit and the radar dish really saying “space bike”, but it has to bridge the gap between the earthbound Catwoman and the galactic LEGO Space milieu. Making it more spacey would have meant making it less smooth and feline, and Catwoman would have probably objected.

Anyhow, I think my favourite part of this is the trapezoidal cross-section of the cockpit. And it uses element #41883. I’ve had two of these puppies ever since I started building again as an AFOL and made my first Bricklink order, and I’ve never found a use for either of them until now.

Anyway, here’s my Catwoman spacebike. Meow.