Monthly Archives: June 2018

Komodo

Between single- and dual-crew space fighters and large frigate- and corvette-class vessels is a huge size range which in civilian vessels comprises the larger Courier- and smaller Trader-classes: small-to-medium vessels with between two and twelve crew. Military ships in this displacement bracket tend to have larger crews for their displacement, not having a lot of their tonnage allocated to cargo; the Gunship class bracket typically runs from around four to around twenty crew, which upper limit would typically be considered a small corvette.

The Komodo-class is a small example of the Gunship class, intended to accompany fighters and provide heavier fire support. This is typical of small Gunship design philosophy; larger Gunships act more like extremely light fleet screening elements, with heavy antifighter and antimissile armaments and maybe one or two larger-calibre guns.

The distinguishing feature of the Komodo-class is, of course, the jawlike frontal arrangement hiding the primary antiphoton beam cannon. The jaws are almost purely cosmetic, though the teeth are constructed of high-strength buckycarbon sheathed in titanium and honed to a monomolecular edge, and can be employed as an ultra-close-in weapon system to slice into or crush enemy ship hulls.

The cannon on either side of the “head” cockpit area are heavy plasma beam generators, providing the Komodo-class with its regular forward firepower.

Rear defensive cover is provided by a pair of laser cannon situated in the tail, but the Komodo-class’ primary defense is its manoeuvrability. Featuring a pair of dual-direction vectored thrust fusion drives, the class’ vessels can literaly turn on the spot or fly backwards or sideways at need, making the Komodos more manoeuvrable than many fighters. Indeed, some commands use squadrons of Komodo-class ships unsupported by lighter fightercraft in a fighterlike role; though the acceleration of smaller vessels is almost always greater.

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Okay, the chomping mouth makes no sense from a pure space combat perspective. It’s pure Rule of Cool and pretty in-your-face about it.

Still, it’s one of my favourite parts of this whole ship and provides a nice first use for all those recently-acquired Nexo shield elements.

This started out its life as a Classic Space-themed Komodo dragon mech, and while I was really pleased with the head, the more I looked at it the more I felt like the head was too big for the body and the body just wasn’t cool enough.

I could have reworked the body, but I was unconvinced I could do a good enough job to justify that head, and besides, even the clickstop universal joint hinge I used could barely support the weight.

I decided to take the head and rework it into a spaceship. The class name comes from there, but it was almost the Kronosaurus-class after the extinct marine reptile.

The engines are technically attached with an “illegal” connection: the Technic pin holes in the main hull are just a fraction out of line from the pins that go into them, meaning that the joints are stressed. But for once, I don’t care; the overall look is worth the minute amount of stress and I’ve stressed enough Technic axles with my usual design of “in-flight” model stand that I’m sort of getting inured to it.

Anyway, this is the Komodo. Enjoy.

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The Dark Underbelly of Classic Space

The System. Brightly coloured business tyranny of a half-dozen ruthless transcorporations who dominate and control human exploitation of the solar system.

Bound over to a Dark Side hypercapitalist creed of profit maximisation at the expense of individual lives and freedoms, the System owns everything, dividing up the worlds between the several megacorporate business interests and enforcing their will through both the theoretically independent Space Police organisation and internal transcorporate security forces.

Despite occasional turf wars and bloody takeover battles over the control of their various subsidiaries, the half-dozen major transcorporations collude as much as they compete, with the directorates of Bencom, TransOctan, Lagrange-Lunacorp and the others in full agreement over the basic tenets of their pseudocapitalistic corporate feudalism and its overall expression in the System.

A growing protest movement has emerged, using stark black as a unifying colour in reaction to the brightly-coloured transcorporate liveries used by the major economic players, and bearing a triple-triangle emblem representing the ancient French Revolutionary battle cry of “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité”. Dubbed “Blacktron” by the Bencom-controlled media outlets (who tried to pin the blame for the disturbances on the TransOctan Group’s takeover of Bencom’s financial subsidiary Atlas Solutions), the protesters are drawn from a cross-section of idealists and radicals across all the major transcorporations up and down the economic ladder.

Ruthlessly suppressed by transcorporate goon squads with the full support of the Space Police organisation whose mission is in theory to uphold the last vestiges of real law in the System, the movement spreads underground by word of mouth, liberated communications and graffiti scrawled on outpost walls, a David-and-Goliath alliance of motley rebels who may be the last best hope of humanity…

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Several of my recent builds have been tied into my dystopian Brightly Coloured Tyranny universe in their descriptions, but this is the first time I’ve specifically built anything that couldn’t be a more generic Neoclassic Space creation.

Since the System is a Brightly Coloured Tyranny, it’s a fairly certain bet that anywhere out of the direct eye of the directorate classes is going to be underfinanced and broken-down, and it’s actually been a lot of fun putting together a ramshackle, tumbledown version of the Classic Space theme. It’s also let me bring in colours that never usually belong in a Neoclassic Space build; most significantly dark grey, but I’m also making judicious use of flat silver and dark tan.

There are quite a few fun little details here. The guy riding the speeder bike looks absolutely terrified of the Space Police officer. The officer does look rather brutal – she’s actually Cyren from the Ninjago theme, and the only yellow head in the entire build.

There’s a security camera on the wall, casting a roving, Big Brother eye over that part of the build. Predictably, it seems in far better working order than the various lighting fixtures, half of which have missing or broken bulbs.

On the middle level are the armed transcorporate goon squads, behind their dehumanising black visors. If the traditional polarity of “Classic Space good, Blacktron bad” is reversed here, then it’s the Blacktron who need the humanising touch of being able to see their faces and the Classic astronauts who need the darkened visors. Or at least the transcorporate security forces.

Down below, it’s a lot more ratty and grim-looking, with dark grey (new greys throughout as usual) predominating and more dark tan. Here are the Blacktron protesters, one of whom is being gunned down by a blue-suited Bencom enforcer. The protesters have homemade signs, both because I’m a cheapskate and because I wanted the look of hand-drawn signs. With one protester down, I figured a little blood wouldn’t be out of place, even if it ups the classification rating somewhat. This is the first time I’ve built anything with bloodstains in it; normally I stay within the boundaries of a Universal/General rating.

The Futuron dude looks suitably horrified at the brutality of the transcorporate security forces; the Brightly Coloured Tyranny universe isn’t a simple case of Blacktron versus the world, but a more complex and nuanced world in which some of the brightly coloured astronauts might be sympathetic civilians, or System partisans, or apathetic, or anything in between.

I’m not sure “I hope you like it” is the right thing to say with a build like this, but you know what I mean. It’s a gritty and dystopian build, but I’m really satisfied with how it’s turned out.

Becoming a LUG nut

I managed to make my second DFWLUG meeting over the weekend.

Having been the only one to bring a model to my first meetup at the Rogue Brick Builder’s Lounge in Fort Worth, I chose not to bring anything to this meeting at the LEGO brand store in Frisco, TX. I didn’t have that much built:- the Sphinx transport, the Patrick Moore rocket and the Lunar Excursor together might have made a suitably impressive display, but I’d already figured the big dragonship was just too delicate to transport well and broken it up for parts. Stuff doesn’t stay built long in these parts.

In retrospect I wish I had brought it. It wouldn’t have been a contest-able build (more on that later) but it would have been impressive.

Most of the people who were there were also at January’s meeting at Rogue Brick, but apparently this brand store is the usual meetup hangout, and there were several more attendees as well. And according to sources (one of the regulars who actually runs the store) this was a small crowd. Maybe this DFWLUG crowd is more of a community than I had realised.

Judging from the models brought, the group certainly has a higher level of building skill than I had realised. I should have expected that any group of adults committed enough to LEGO building to show up in person to a group aren’t going to be slouches in the talent department, but the timed build contest at Rogue Brick in January had lulled me into a sense of puffed-up superiority that was utterly, utterly false. There’s all the difference in the world between hunting through a 60ft jumble of all kinds of bricks to build something in a defined timeline and building something over an extended period out of your own collection that you know exactly what’s there.

The contest was a “MOC the Set” contest: take a $20-$30 (US) set and build around it or with it or something. But of course, I wasn’t at last month’s meeting so I knew nothing about it.

For future reference it seemed like a fairly decent gauge of the collective talent of the group. And I have to say it’s high. Far higher than I’d got the impression from the timed build contest at Rogue Brick, that I won handily. I guess that sort of contest is one that favours my building style because I build relatively quickly in a fairly unplanned, fluid manner and I’m fairly used to (and good at) the element-hunting process due to the semi-sorted jumble that is the household brick inventory. And I picked a smaller set to build around, giving myself time to build something more impressive. Naturally I won.

Give the others their due here, though. I’m pleased to announce that they’re better than I am. All of them, I think. This is the group I wanted; one I can learn from and be inspired by.

In multiple ways I’m realising that the January meeting was unusual. In a new location at more of a distance from the cluster of builders in the North Dallas/Plano/Frisco area (but closer to me :P), building while we’re there rather than bringing something, informal-to-the-point-of-anarchy in the then-absence of the figure who appears to be a de facto leader.

Now that I have a job which doesn’t require me to work on Saturdays every week (yay!), I hope to be able to make the meetings on a more regular basis. Apparently this “MOC the Set” contest happens every June meeting; next month’s contest is a free-for-all build whatever you like. Next month’s meeting isn’t until July 14th because of BrickFiesta on Independence Day weekend (that I can’t go to because family coming in), but when I got home I was inspired enough to build something that I’d like to take to it already. A month and a half is an incredibly long time to keep all those bricks out of circulation, though. We’ll have to see how my discipline holds up.

Much of the meeting was taken up with logistical details for upcoming events as communicated to the already-in-the-loop; I felt completely out of it, but that was probably inevitable. I wish there had been some sort of more formal introductions for anyone new, but a lot of people find that sort of thing embarrassing and awkward. Unfortunately I’m sufficiently introverted that the process of just informally finding out the names and spheres of building interest of an entire 20+ member group is way more intimidating.

On the other hand, maybe I managed to exude sufficient cool and confidence as not to look like a noob in need of introductions.

Well, I’ll be back next month, anyway. Maybe I can make more progress in actually getting to know some of my fellow members a bit.  It was definitely worth going back to, even if only for the inspiration for what I built when I got home.

Drive Me To The Moon

LL28 Lunar Excursor

Though the System possesses the technology to make surface-repulsor vehicles – skimmers and speeders – practicable as a means of transport, older technologies such as mechs and rovers are still very common on most of the System’s worlds. Surface-bound vehicles are much slower than repulsor skimmers, but their energy usage (and thus operating expense) is a fraction of what a skimmer uses. The profit-conscious transcorporations of the System are congenitally opposed to spending unnecessary credits, and so most of them utilise ground vehicles whenever speed is not a priority.

The LL28 Lunar Excursor is an early-model fast rover built by the Lagrange-Lunacorp Group’s Jupiter Rover Company. Designed as an exploration vehicle for two astronauts in the days before the Blacktron separatist movement began to gain traction, it is usually employed in the post-Blacktron age as a scout/reconnaissance vehicle, as its low-energy power plant can be easily stealthed against Blacktron scanners.

This particular LL28 is an unstealthed example without the scanner-absorbent baffles surrounding the electric drive train and microfusion power plant.

The massive wheels are a feature of most rovers designed to operate away from the roads and paving of Earth and the large L4 and L5 space station colonies, but even on Earth itself, driving a vehicle with “Moon wheels” is something of a selling point.

In the post-Blacktron age, many Lunar Excursors are fitted with laser or plasma cannon as a defensive mechanism, but numbers of unarmed specimens still exist as well.

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I’m rather pleased with the Technic framing of the engine and rear section. Between the radiator vanes and the small spherical reaction mass tank, it actually looks like a semi-functional engine. This is a first for me, as I’m not one of those car geeks that fussily replicate all the intricate details of the Ford Model T’s engine compartment in bricks. I build spaceships. Nuclear rockets don’t have a lot of moving parts, and I can make my interstellar wormhole drives or hyperspace engines or foldspace traversers or whatever look however I like, seeing as how they’re merely theoretical at best.

I need to get hold of a modern yellow helmet to be in keeping with all my other Classic Spacemen of my miniature System astronaut corps, but that’s for the future. If you’re going to use the visors, and I am, the modern helmet design really does look better.