Category Archives: Blacktron

A Plague of Locust

Blacktron BT221 Locust

It is, however, quite a large locust, and Blacktron to boot, so it should not be taken lightly.

Given the potential body stresses of a hopping form of locomotion on the pilot, a locust might seem a poor choice of creature on which to model a mech, but on low-gravity worlds like Titan and the Jovian moons, hopping is probably the most efficient means of motion there is. With the low gravity producing much lower stress on both pilot and vehicle, the Locust proceeds in what are effectively a series of low glides, mostly using the legs for altitude maintenance.

The BT221 Locust, then, fills the role of the BT086 Alienator on planets whose gravity is low enough to make a walking gait impractical. Armed with three small plasma pulse cannons and two lasers attached to the forward pilot’s position, the Locust is one of the least armed vehicles in the Blacktron arsenal, but makes an effective single-pilot scout/reconnaissance vehicle.

Obviously I’m in arthropod mode for my space builds, what with the Black Widow antiturtle and the Futuron Scarab, but arthropods make excellent base creatures to model mechs and space vehicles after. I’ve got an idea for a mech based on a pillbug design that can roll up into a ball for atmospheric re-entry drops, but I have no clue yet how I’m going to build it in LEGO.

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Counteracting the Weaponised Turtle

Even before the inclusion of a version in the LEGO Ideas 21109 Exo-Suit set, Peter Reid’s Neoclassic Space M350/M450 Turtle droid was well-known in the LEGO community.

It has the advantages of being a very cute robot in and of itself, and of being a very versatile design able to tote all manner of equipment on its carapace hardpoint. And LEGO builders being LEGO builders, naturally “all manner of equipment” turned inevitably to weapons.

The proliferation of heavily weaponised Turtles leaves the poor Blacktron Alliance at something of a disadvantage. The Turtle arms race cannot be allowed to continue unchecked without any countervailing Blacktron droid of equivalent capability.

Building a Blacktron-variant Turtle would perhaps be the obvious solution, but that just continues the Turtle arms race with a darker twist. Biologically speaking, when one type of creature exhibits a population explosion it destabilises the environment for all the other kinds of creature. We don’t need any more Turtle droids in the Neoclassic Space environment.

I’ve seen one Blacktron builder attempt to stem the flood of heavily weaponised Turtles with a very cool scorpionoid “Rectifier” droid, but whenever possible I like to create rather than copying. Besides, I wasn’t satisfied with the weaponry size limitation that underslung hardpoint location incorporated. When you’re going up against Turtles with monstrous weapons systems like these, the fact that you have a tail gun as well is not going to cut it. You need the capacity to mount equally heavy Blacktron weapons systems on your robot’s shell.

Enter the K19 Widow.

A K19 Widow armed with missile pods faces off against an M350 Turtle armed with a heavy laser cannon

A product of the Blacktron Alliance’s DarkTech Industries corporation, the K19 was designed as a deliberate counter to the Federation’s M350 Turtle built by Anodyne Systems (and its M450 Mark II upgrade). Thought by some Federation analysts (especially among those on the Anodyne payroll) to be based on a pirated copy of an M350, the K19 Widow incorporates a number of significant differences from its Federation rival, only really similar in the roughly hemispherical shell shape and top-of-carapace hardpoint.

Take that, proliferating robot!

Most notably, the Widow opts for a hexapedal configuration giving increased stability and climbing agility over the Federation’s M350, though at the penalty of a minor loss of efficiency over long-distance operation.

K19s’ Artificial Intelligence architecture also shows some marked differences over the M350. Turtles are designed for heavy service as a sort of robotic pack mule, and tend to have stolid, hardwearing personalities and a tendency towards just quietly getting on with their job. They tend to be male in personality, though not exclusively so. Widows are a more combat-oriented design and tend to be more expressive. Their basic AI archetypal substrate is female (as befitting their “Widow” name) and they range in personality from highly-strung prima donnas to determined femmes fatale via the sultry and the irascible.

Like the Anodyne Turtle droid, the DarkTech K19 has a roof-mounted hardpoint capable of engaging with a wide variety of weapons systems and other equipment. The base model comes with a pair of plasma pulse cannons, but DarkTech Industries offers a full range of upgrade packages, a sampling of which is detailed below.

Base Model The base K19 Widow comes with a pair of plasma pulse cannons. Versatile and cost-effective, they are useful for antipersonnel and limited antispacecraft use, though their armour-piercing capacity is limited. This is the cheapest price-point package in the DTi catalogue.

Directed EMP This options package includes a pair of directed electromagnetic pulse units. Effective at scrambling electronic equipment, DTi make use of the very latest in frequency enhancement techniques for their dEMPer units, in order to defeat Federation shielding.

Missile Pods A very popular upgrade package, missile pods give the Widow a non-line-of-sight strike capability which can be particularly useful against Federation frontal armour. Standard DTi missile pods contain five cells and are compatible with all standard Blacktron Alliance light tactical missiles.

Tactical Laser The K19 Widow TL variant incorporates a twin-barreled medium-charge laser cannon, such as can be found on smaller Blacktron surface vehicles such as skimmers and rovers. With light-speed line-of-sight firing and good armour penetration, lasers such as this are a good all-round weapon system.

Radar-Guided Coilgun Firing a nickel-iron-bound titanium penetrator round at hypervelocity speeds, the radar-guided coilgun can operate in both line-of-sight and non-line-of-sight modes. One of the most basic types of larger weapon, it retains its utility even on the modern energy-weapon battlefield.

Mobile Recovery The Mobile Recovery variant of the K19 Widow eschews weapons systems for a crane attachment suitable for effecting the recovery of downed small spacecraft and crashed rovers. Less common than armed variants due to most Widows’ dissatisfaction at losing their precious guns, Widow-MRs are usually prized by Blacktron expeditionary forces and colonial administrations.

Spinneret Designed specifically for the K19, the device nicknamed the “spinneret” is a portable tractor-pressor stasis field generator which can pin enemy vehicles and personnel in place, act as a tractor beam or a pressor beam. Its utility as a combat device belies the fact that it was invented as a rescue aid for stranded personnel.

Quad-Barreled Plasma Cannon Useful primarily for area attacks on slower-moving targets, the quad-barreled plasma cannon was originally one of the heaviest weapons option packages available, but now constitutes a medium weapons system. Of limited antispacecraft utility, it is normally employed in frontal-assault mode.

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Now I just need to build some kind of ludicrously massive Blacktron singularity gun or other insane weapon system, to counter some of the more extreme weaponised Turtles…

The Turtle Moves

Blacktron A’Tuin-class Heavy Dropship

Inspired by a model of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld I found recently on Pinterest, apparently not even the World Turtle himself (or herself; matters are unclear) can totally derail my Benny impulse to Build A Spaceship.

For the sake of current colour availability I’ve used Blacktron livery colours instead of Benny’s favourite Classic Space blue and grey, but apparently the idea of a spacegoing giant turtle doesn’t automatically mean a tie-in to popular comic fantasy. Though of course, I had to call it the A’Tuin-class.

After last time’s Classic Space scorpionship, this testudinoid dropship might be thought of as following a theme, but I really have no intention of building a series of animal ships. I just got inspired by the late Sir Terry’s famous World Turtle.

“Dropship”, like “destroyer”, is another piece of spaceship terminology I’ve studiously avoided prior to this point. For all it seems to have become the in-vogue term for what I’d usually call a “landing shuttle”, it’s not one I really favour myself. I believe we’ve got the Halo franchise to thank for its popularity, and I personally dislike Halo and get impatient with what seems an endless stream of associated MOCs from what feels like everyone else in the sci-fi AFOL community. Halo has too much emphasis on tacticool and too many drab colours in my opinion, but what else should I expect from a shoot-em-up videogame?

Nonetheless, somehow I found that “dropship” seemed the only possible name, so this is the A’Tuin-class heavy dropship of the Blacktron Alliance.

The hexagonal shell uses a couple of new (to me) techniques, and I’m rather proud of the domed effect I’ve achieved. Not only did I use 2-part 1×4 hinge bricks to create the base of the hexagon (which is a technique I’ve never tried before and results in a pleasingly nonstandard shape), but I also succeeded for the first time ever in making sloped plates at multiple angles come together in a way that actually looks good. Maybe the techniques for building star destroyers and Millennium Falcons aren’t quite as much of a stretch as I had thought…

The landing legs took a bit of work to make right. Initially I thought that the front legs weren’t going to be able to be angled right for flight mode, and built a pair of flippers.

Original form of the A’Tuin-class, with front flippers, horned head and no rotary stud shooters.

Of course, that looked weird in landing mode, but for several days I thought it was the best compromise I could build.

However, then I remembered the short Bionicle balljoint elements I have and decided that perhaps my original four-legged design would work after all. It just needed another joint in the front legs.

The big combination landing legs and drive clusters make the A’Tuin-class modeled much more closely on a tortoise than on its turtle namesake (unless you’re American in which case land-going tortoises, freshwater terrapins and marine turtles are all just called turtles), but that’s ok. There aren’t that many fictional or legendary anapsids out there to name a turtleship after, and I would be buggered if I’d call it the Donatello.

The head was originally modeled on that of the evil American terrapin known as the “alligator snapping turtle”, a vicious, nasty piece of work that makes lake-swimming here in Texas where I live something of a game of Russian Roulette with one’s toes. The head-mounted cannons rather disguise that origin, but that’s what I was initially going for.

The cannons got installed on the head after I didn’t like them mounted to the shell. It’s Blacktron. We do excessive cannons.

Speaking of which, after rebuilding the forelimbs I decided to make some more substantial weaponry for the carapace, so I’ve used a couple of rotary stud shooters to make what I suspect are missile pods.

I’m envisioning this turtleship as a sort of heavy landing craft, able to transport the heaviest Blacktron equipment between orbit and planetary surface. It’s probably big enough to transport most of an entire battalion of troops, or the very largest of Blacktron ultratanks or heavy walkers, and with those powerful engine clusters it’s probably a lot faster than what it’s modeled on, too. And it’s fairly decently armed. And it looks like a tortoise.

Not too shabby, though I say so myself. 🙂

Repainting the House Divided

What happens when a red astronaut from the LEGO Classic Space faction and a black-clad astronaut from the enemy Blacktron alliance fall in love?

Repainting the House Divided

This build went through several iterations as I toyed with the scene. It actually started out as a plain Blacktron base corridor scene, though I neglected to photograph it at that point.
The two astronauts already looked as though they might have been falling for one another, so I went with that and rebuilt one end of the corridor in Classic Space LEGO colours and made the astronaut a red one.

The heart followed, making the point clearer, and then, under the influence of a 13-years-married-and-still-gloriously-in-love relationship I decided to make it a bit more domestic.

I’d already thought about calling it “Across A House Divided” or something similar, and I started thinking, “what if that’s their actual house?”.

Ergo the paint rollers. And the icing on the cake is that she‘s getting ready to paint her half in his colours just as he‘s getting ready to paint his half in her colours. That’s what love is like.

Obviously there’s a message here, in our increasingly divided times. With seemingly everything becoming increasingly politically coloured in lurid reds and blues, maybe LEGO’s old smiley-faced, cooperative, friendly astronauts can teach us a thing or two.

I characterised the Blacktron faction as “enemy”, and that certainly seemed in the late ’80s to be the case, from their predatory, slightly sinister ship names (“Invader”, “Renegade”) to the fact that once the Space Police were introduced it was Blacktron astronauts in the jail cells. But even though they were enemies, the catalogues of the day still showed the two factions cooperating and working together in the vital project of colonising the galaxy.

Maybe our current “enemy” divisions into the Red Camp and the Blue Camp aren’t as terrible and world-ending as some people would like us to think. Most of my in-laws hold vastly different political views to my wife and I, but we’ve just managed to make it through a Thanksgiving without a single political argument. For which I am duly thankful, believe me.

But the point is that love transcends all of that. For all that I disagree with the political narrative most of my inlaws have chosen to accept, they are good people. And I’m not going to accept the contemporary myth that says you have to define yourself and everyone else purely in terms of political affiliations.

So slightly unintentionally I seem to have built that in LEGO bricks. Here’s a situation in which the political colours of their surroundings are unimportant beside the love they have for one another. Black or blue-and-grey, it doesn’t matter as long as we’re together.

This isn’t a blog I usually get political in, but the “message” is an important one right now. Thanksgiving has just come and gone, and Christmas is on its way. Maybe it’s time to step back from the brink of metaphysical total war with the opposing ideology and remember that those who hold it are human beings just like us.

Black Horus

Blacktron Black Horus-class heavy fighter

The Blacktron Alliance space fighter designated the Black Horus-class is a jump-capable heavy fighter designed for long-range combat operations without carrier support.

Quite a large vessel for a single pilot, the Black Horus‘ mass is considerably less than it appears from the ship’s dimensions, due to the open-framed, near-hollow design. The design is in part a reaction to Federation targeting software, which tends to target the visual centre of a detected spacecraft; in the case of the Black Horus this can result in the beam passing right through without impinging on the physical structure.

The class is well-armed, with twin heavy lasers forward and a pair of large antimatter accelerators at the wingtips. A small bomb bay containing fist-sized neutron detonators allows planetary strafing runs, sometimes earning the Black Horus a “space bomber” designation.

Much of the craft’s mass is concentrated aft between the four curved wings. This centre of mass includes the plasmatic realspace drives, a small jump engine and galactic coordinate calculator, as well as antimatter reactors and reaction mass. The antimatter accelerators at the wings contain their own self-contained antimatter sources for firing; they do not use general reaction mass.

The forward cockpit contains control systems and life support, as well as a set of small manoeuvring thrusters allowing a severed cockpit section to function as an emergency life pod.

The pilots of the Blacktron Alliance’s Space Flight Corps tend to view Black Horus flight crew as unimaginative plodders, and certainly the craft are not as agile or sexy as the lighter Nighthawk space superiority fighters. However, the Horuses‘ combination of strengths together with their individual jump drives give the craft something of a following in the Space Fight Corps, and Black Horus pilots tend to view their Nighthawk counterparts as hyperactive adrenalin-junkies.

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It seems like a while since I built a minifigure-scale Blacktron space fighter, but this blog’s post history shows that it was only a month or so back. Nonetheless, I got inspired for a space fighter. What’s the point of having Blacktron astronauts if I never build anything at minifig scale?

Obviously, there’s a lot of TNG-era Romulan Warbird in this ship’s design inspiration, but the D’deridex (stupid name)-class Warbird is one of the best-looking ships from the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe.

The general configuration seems to work just as well scaled down to space fighter size as it does in a massive (for Trek) war cruiser, and even though I initially intended a rounded cockpit shield I rather like the more sharklike, aggressive angular windscreen.

With that much Warbird in its ancestry, it needed an avian sort of name, but every raptorial name I tried on it didn’t seem to fit. It doesn’t look like an Eagle, a Goshawk, a Peregrine or a Kestrel. Vulture didn’t seem right, and neither did Osprey. Black Horus, though, seems to fit. Named after the hawk-headed Egyptian god of the morning sun, its solar, light-referencing background seems at odds with Blacktron darkness, but this is the Black Horus.

The ship has undercarriage which sort of retracts. The front undercarriage pads fold down sideways, while the single rear landing leg retracts into a recess in the hull. It’s not the best undercarriage in the world, and it makes the ship sit at a slightly odd sloped angle, but it technically has retractable undercarriage.

Likewise, the Blacktron insignia may be a little wonky-looking, but it’s sort of home-made. They are a couple of element 4297079 (the triangular sign with clip) that I’ve added black triangles to with a dry-erase marker. Which is about what I bought those for, and no permanent damage to the bricks.

Bolt from the Black

Thunderbolt-class cruiser of the Blacktron Alliance

The Thunderbolt-class Strike Cruiser is a Blacktron Alliance fleet battlecruiser based on the Fury-class Heavy Cruiser but armed with a supermassive hyperrelativistic railgun.

The Fury-class is considered by many observers to be one of the most versatile of Blacktron warships due to the several variants it has spawned, including not only the Thunderbolt-class but also a Marine assault variant (the Nemesis-class) and an extensively modified hospital ship (the Hippocrates-class).

The base Fury-class are armed with a pair of triple-mounted 50cm high X-ray laser turrets dorsally and three ventrally, plus six side-mounted sponsons with three 25cm lasers apiece, with frequencies in the low X-ray/high UV range.

For close assault, the baseline Fury utilises a trio of heavy 60cm plasma accelerators mounted forward, plus various lighter 10cm point defence laser clusters.

Bow end of the Thunderbolt, showing the supermassive railgun and twin dorsal plasma accelerators.

The Thunderbolt-class modifies the baseline Fury by dispensing with all three ventral 50cm X-ray laser turrets plus one of the plasma accelerators and rerouting power to the hyperrelativistic railgun. The 10cm laser point defence clusters are upgraded to 12cm mounts with a faster cooling cycle between shots, given how Thunderbolts draw enemy fire.

Triple quantum gravity drives

The three quantum-gravitic antimatter engines are unchanged from the baseline Fury-class. The Galactic Federation believe that quantum gravity engines are too dangerous and unstable for normal use, so they utilise the slower linear induction drives for normal-space manoeuvring and hyperspace jump engines for interstellar transit. Quantum gravity engines generate a wormhole-like gravitational singularity which at lower power settings acts to propel the ship forwards sliding down an inclined plane of spacetime, and at higher power settings creates a full-scale directed temporary wormhole allowing point-to-point space jumps. The technology releases a certain amount of dangerous cosmic radiation, however, especially at the high-power spatial jump settings.

The Federation considers the Thunderbolt-class to be a terror weapon because of the destructive power of its EL-3(T) railgun. Nicknamed the “Elephant Gun”, it fires a 12.5-tonne nickel-iron-banded titanium cylinder to velocities approaching 85% of lightspeed. At that velocity, the kinetic energy of the projectile is well into the dinosaur-kilker range, and unconfirmed rumours exist of 2000km diameter planetoids actually being broken apart by Elephant Gun strikes.

Central hull, showing dorsal heavy laser turrets and triple-mount side sponsons

The Blacktron Alliance consider the Thunderbolt-class a deterrent against ongoing Federation encroachment on its sphere of influence as agreed in the 2247 Treaty of Achernar. The politics of Federation-Blacktron interstellar relations are murky at best, and the Treaty of Achernar is only one of a string of “binding treaties” broken or abrogated by one side or the other.

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At 28 inches long (71cm, or 75 studs), this is my largest Blacktron construction to date.

I was actually shocked that it ended up so much longer than my spacewhale, but that’s what the tape measure says. It’s a smaller volume ship, obviously, but yes, it’s a full 11 studs longer than the Cetus.

It’s also a lot more conventional in construction, without the internal Technic framing, multidirectional structural (rather than decorative) SNOTwork and clever technique. I rather like it anyway, but it’s just a lot less clever.

Mechs and Violence

Deliberately tryimg to build better mechs and use more advanced building techniques than my endless balljoint limbs and fancified-box cockpits, I put together this little Blacktron mech.

In that pose, it looks rather gangsta-esque, so I’m calling it the Black Panther mech. It’s probably fitting if the Blacktron are the galaxy’s criminal element, and makes sense if they’re more like a hostile nation, too.

As far as scale goes, either this is an actual humanoid combat robot, in which case it ought to be roughly man-sized or no more than 8ft tall, or there’s a pilot sitting behind that trans yellow stud on the head, in which case it’s monstrously huge and wields a gun bigger than an ICBM. I’m personally not sure which it is.

With so many of my T-pieces in use on the spacewhale, I had to adapt some of the common advanced joint techniques, and it’s not quite as fully poseable as I’d like. But it works, even if it’s rather bland and meh alongside any really good LEGO mech.