Category Archives: Mechs

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.

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Horned Mech

Cernunnos-class mech in its service gantry

The Cernunnos-class mech is a versatile combat walker used by the Blacktron Alliance.

Named after the horned god of Celtic mythology, the Cernunnos derives its name from the antlerlike combination weapons mountings attached to the head area; the possession of antlers being one of the distinguishing marks of both Cernunnos and his later form Herne the Hunter.

The Cernunnos mech’s versatility means that it is often found performing planetary exploration duties for the Alliance, as the Blacktron tend to have fewer dedicated exploration and science mechs. The chest-mounted quad plasma pulse cannon mounting can easily be exchanged for additional sensors to facilitate this role.

The stafflike device often carried by Cernunnos mechs is a combination of targeting array and a high-powered broad-spectrum energy beam; the device’s supporting pole is also robust enough to serve as a close-in physical weapon in its own right.

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Apparently I’m still in Blacktron mode, this time with a mech. Originally this was actually going to be a Blacktron-variant space minotaur mech, which is why I reprised the foot design of the steampunk Mechnotaur. I do like the combination of those large beast foot elements with the reversed clip claws to make a cloven hoof.

However, I couldn’t find a (technically) shoulder-mounted weapon design that looked sufficiently like bull’s horns. The gold prong elements I used for the steam Mechnotaur obviously weren’t going to work with Blacktron I colours, and I didn’t like any of the alternatives I came up with.

Repositioning the final one of these aborted designs one last time in an attempt to see if it looked any better at a different angle, I was suddenly struck with the thought that it looked a bit like antlers.

“Maybe not a space minotaur then, but a Cernunnos, perhaps,” I mused, and made some additions to the horn design in order to make it look even more antlery.

I’m not sure whether cloven hooves are an attribute of the Celtic horned god, but it does work. Deer have cloven hooves as well as bulls, and I like the way the legs are way too much to mess with.

So having settled on a Celtic mythology-themed Blacktron mech, it somehow seemed like it needed a Druidic staff. A mech with a staff seems a bit strange on one level, but I like the look of it so it’s staying. So I have an antlered mech with a ginormous staff weapon.

And I decided to build a sort of servicing gantry to display the model, because I’m finally tumbling to the importance of scenery in displaying a cool model to best effect.

Ice Vigilator

Having built a Classic Space Turtle robot, some Blacktron hardware and a Futuron turtle variant, obviously I needed to build something Ice Planet to round out the set of early Space themes. (And maybe something M:Tron, but I’m only just beginning to develop the glimmerings of an interest in that theme and don’t have any figures or logos or trans neon green parts).

An Ice Vigilator mech picks up a crystal

An Ice Planet mech seemed like a good idea, and I have enough in the way of trans neon orange to give several design options.

I went with a four-legged, pleasingly War of the Worlds-esque design using the old-style helicopter windscreen element from the Ice-Sat V. The cockpit section rotates allowing the mech to be walked in any direction, and the multi-jointed legs allow some interesting posing options, though less than you might think because I had to use clickstop hinges for most of them for the sake of stability and weight issues.

The mech doesn’t have a lot of prominent weaponry apart from that big claw. I’m really satisfied with my decision to remodel the cockpit and replace the twin arms on its sides with a single claw arm underneath. The result is so much more Martian Fighting Machine-like and just seems to work better.

The short antennas on either side of the cockpit would probably work as last-ditch weapons, but I’ve decided that they’re actually “thermal lances”: short-range heat blasters for melting a path through the Krystovian ice.

The giant neon orange spindle is supposed to be some sort of crystal deposit. The original Ice Planet people appear to have been doing some kind of rocketry research, based on their proliferation of rocket launchers and satellites, but they also had a number of mining and ice-cutting vehicles, so probably the rocket research was only part of what they were doing.

I’m calling my new Ice Planet mech the “Ice Vigilator”, a slightly meaningless name mostly stemming from the tall, looming aspect of it that made me think it would be a good guardian or sentinel-type vehicle.

The pilot isn’t Generic Ice Planet Guy, who’s my only official Ice Planet minifigure thus far. I’m using the minifigure head with the red goatee (which I’m rather attached to as he looks a bit like me), as perhaps a son or scion of the original “Ice Babe” minifigure. Maybe in any post-Christmas Bricklinking I do I might see if I can acquire the other Ice Planet minifigures, or at least a Commander Bear…

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.

All Terrain Elf Transport

Forward the AT-ET!

In a rather different vein from my previous Christmas build with the candle and the angel, this one is pure fun and silliness.

As a Santa minifigure is still on my list of “stuff to get at some point”, my options are almost as limited for the other kind of Christmas build as they are for building some any sort of Biblical scene.

We’ve got some elves, though.

Okay, they’re the Emily Jones variety, not the Santa’s Workshop variety, but up to a point an elf is an elf is an elf. It’d be rather amusing to have Santa Claus leading a whole clan of Legolas’ kin into battle on dragons, but that’s another build. And I don’t have a Santa yet to do it with.

The words “Christmas elf mech” bounced through my mind like a rogue superball…

I’ve built an elf mech once before, but not a Christmas one (though it was posted on the old LEGO.com Galleries not here), and I thought about several options for making it Christmassy. I initially contemplated a steampunk Father Christmas mech (somehow a steampunk Santa has to go by his British name), but if I was going to use an elf for a pilot that didn’t seem quite right.

“Maybe I could make it shaped like a reindeer or something”, I thought, and the idea of a sort of chibi AT-AT popped into my head.

Of course, the All Terrain Elf Transport has antlers and a red nose, and somehow Santa Claus red seemed the only possible choice for a main colour. It’s not really in keeping with the colours of the various LEGO Elves, but that’s okay. They’re not necessarily in that world right now, and Santa’s colours overrule here anyway.

Farran’s green outfit made him the best choice to actually drive the AT-ET, but Azari wanted in as well. As hers was the only cold-weather mantle fabric element I could find I let her.

Anyway, have a rather reindeeroid AT-AT derivative, and enjoy!

Q-Mech

Everything’s cooler in space.

This could just about be my LEGO building motto, but it’s nonetheless true. Astronauts are cooler than regular pilots. Star Wars is cooler than Earth wars. Space aliens are cooler than illegal aliens. You get the point.

Anyway, the various classic LEGO Space themes gave us a world where humans are in space, big time. The original Classic prototheme was a sort of semirealistic basic exploration theme; Blacktron gave us a criminal or rebel element; Space Police introduced us to law enforcement in space. M-Tron showed us the world of space haulage, or possibly mining or manufacturing of some form, and Ice Planet gave us arctic research in space. The year-to-year subthematic overlap placed all these incarnations of LEGO Space in the same universe, so it’s quite evident: in the LEGO future, humans are living and working in space.

LEGO City is the modern “real life” theme, giving us brick-built versions of everything from waste trucks to pizza parlors. However, there are plenty of other adjuncts to the modern City and earlier Town themes, such as the jungle subtheme, the airport subtheme and the construction subtheme. Ice Planet’s obviously a prequel of the Arctic subtheme, Police and Space Police go together, and I’ve played with the idea of space construction (witness this spacedozer). The idea of a Jungle Planet or a Modular Space City or a Volcano World space-based subtheme is a pretty good one, but that’s not what I’m doing here.

No, this build takes its cues from a variety of older City and Town subthemes; most notably the Coast Guard and Res-Q subthemes, but with a bit of the LEGO Fire Service thrown in.

I’ve seen excellent models of space ambulances built by other people, and the airport subtheme is cosmicised every time someone builds a starliner or personnel shuttle, but to my knowledge I don’t think I’ve ever seen a space rescue build.

Taking my nomenclative cues (no pun intended) from the old Res-Q line (1998-99) as well as the various classic Space themes, I’m calling my LEGO Space Rescue Service “Q-Tron”.

This, then, is the Q-Mech.

Selecting red and white with trans blue transparent elements and grey structural highlights as a colour palette both high-visibility and distinct from the various early Space themes, I thought about building a large emergency recovery vehicle-type rover with towing hooks and winches and so on, but I really wanted 6-8 large Technic-type wheels and the only colour I’ve got in sufficient quantity is gold. And that doesn’t work with my chosen colour scheme.

So, more or less done with spaceships for the moment, I decided to build a mech instead.

The Q-Tron rescue service mech is a large (ish) humanoid mech able to navigate rough terrain and provide heavy backup for the Q-Tron emergency response teams. Relatively generic and adaptible, the Q-Mech is used in a variety of space rescue roles wherever large amounts of extra strength are required, including moving debris in the wake of planetary quakes or landslides, crash recovery and cavern bracing.

The mech’s clawed hands are capable of considerable delicacy despite their size, and are frequently employed Jaws of Life-style in crash recovery situations.

The Q-Mech contains a powerful onboard atmospheric scrubber and liquid oxygen tank which can be plugged in externally to those of a vehicle or space habitat in the event of an environmental systems failure. The twin nozzles on either side of the cockpit can handle external hoses, though they are multipurpose in design and also function as part of the mech’s fire suppression system.

The vacuum of space serves as an effective fire suppressor for most types of fires, but there are still various chemical agents in use which contain enough stored oxygen to combust even in vacuum.

These deadly “vacuum fires” cannot be controlled with traditional methods of fire suppression, but the Q-Mech uses powerful “dry-foaming” flame-retardant chemicals to encase and absorb the energy of a vacuum combustion event.

I think my favourite part of this mech is the sloping windscreen interface. A little finicky to put together (it more or less exploded a couple of times during construction when I squeezed too hard), it’s one of my better approaches to a mech cockpit. And the nozzles hide the way it’s done quite well.

I think this may be one of my better mechs yet, even though I’m not really using advanced joint techniques on it. I’m not convinced I could scale up the joint techniques I’ve seen to something this stocky and robust. Still, I’m satisfied with the way I’ve disguised the nature of most of the joints.

Because I wanted to show it in action and still had the Black Horus built, I ended up with a situation in which I have a downed enemy Blacktron pilot being rescued by the Q-Tron mech. A little weird, but emergency services people don’t ask you whose side you’re on before they get to work. They just get on with it.

So this is my space rescue mech. I have an idea for a Q-Tron rescue hovercraft (ie antigrav) as well, and I may well build that next. Stay posted…

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.