Sunday, November 21, 2010

How I spent my early teens

While shuffling crap around yesterday, I found a folder full of undated papers. On one side are designs for a light strike cruiser and dreadnought done by hand in pencil, on the other side some edition of my Tallgeese manual done in MS Word and printed by the old Lexmark. I know from memory that the latter must've been done around the time frame of 2001-2003, so I must've been in the 13-15 range at the time. Majorly geeky years!

Basically, I had created my own "What if" story line, a place where my creativity could explore the possibilities without being tied down to anything existing, or having to start Totally From Scratch. I based it on a simple concept: what could happen if you fused parts of the Macross era of Robotech with the Universal Century and After Colony segments of Mobile Suit Gundam. It focused on adopting the character of Rick Hunter from an ace in the first robotect war, into a Lt. Col. leading a combined arms regiment from Earth Sphere United Nations during a massive conflict set in an "Alternate" version of life after Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz, one where the weapons of war had not been totally destroyed and world peace, still a hell of a lot further to go! That sentence is my definition of a run on, or at least a mouth full.

Part of that backdrop was focused on the details of one of my all time favourite mecha designs:  Hajime Katokis Tallgeese. Some 15 years later it might look more like a Charger in a land of concept Camaros but I love this 'mech. In much the same vain that Treize Khushrenadas Tallgeese II was modelled after the original Tallgeese I, my theorical "Tallgeese IV" was modelled after the Tallgeese III seen in Endless Waltz.

Intro text on these papers state the Tallgeese IV was a custom made unit done in December of AC 196 (just before the Tallgeese III went into battle) and first deployed the following year. Gundam Wings original Tallgeese design is cannonically recorded as being done in the year AC 175, either on the show or in associated media. So obviously big changes were in order lol.

My design for the "OZ-00MS-IV Tallgeese IV" was drafted as weighing in at 8,200kg empty and reaching up to a gross weight of 27 metric tons fully loaded for a space battle, including a very variable arsenal of weapons. I've been known to make things exceptionally weapon laden, so is it any wonder that the original earh-side version of Heavyarms is of my favourite Gundam? (Heavyarms mounted about 7 (later 8) machine guns, four missile racks, and a heat knife.)

My Tallgeese IV was to have a hull made out of an enhanced (neo) titanium alloy, encasing a layer of ceramic polymer composites, then covered over with a layer of insulating materials on the inner side: a Beryllium based materal for shielding against radiation and a silicon covered network of titanium rods for some extra structural reinforcement. Even have a drawing in the printout (done in paint lol) showing the sandwiching of it all; cermaic between titanium and some insul' on the guts side. To do it all over again, I would probably research how useful a silicon or boron carbide in a titanium matrix (in laymen's terms that means it would costs mega bucks but could  be fucking hard) might work out for that usage scenario, and likely rethink the whole Beryllium thing. All in all, it was basically made to be a 'mech with a very tough hide and library books didn't make the study of tank armour and advanced metal stuffs a trivial thing in the early A.D. 2000s.

Basically, super strong armour for protection, wrapped around a ceramic plate for stopping kinetic energy rounds, an armour backdrop and insulation between the armour and the guts.

For the cockpit, the design was to have a "Pod" like module mounted in the chest cavity behind the hatch.  The idea being you would have an adaptive chair in the centre, yokes/joysticks on the flanks and a swivelled keyboard in front for details; I would add foot pedals to that, retrospectively. Encircling the pilot would be, basically an industrial strength LCD screen: displaying a 360' panorama of the 'mechs environment, using sensors built into the 'mechs body. Thus allowing the pilot to see anything he could hope to see (except straight up or down), and swivel the chair as needed to focus their peepers at any given point. How is that for eyes in the back of your head!? Note that 'mechs in Gundam Wing proper, only had a single front view screen. In case of critical failure, the pod was meant to be both ejectable and replacable: punching out with a few hours life support and enough thrusters to move to safety. Not to mention a hardware level to fry all the installed computer systems, in order to prevent an enemy from harvesting any data, or learning about the systems design in the event of capture.

The sections on computer systems is mostly useless from a technical specification but conceptually works well. Big picture wise, the idea was to use a subspace field to push the processing bottlenecks out of theoretical hardware and into the arena pure science fiction, ala converting the warp drive concept into a big ass CPU. Simple as that. At the time it seemed plausible enough that a Faster Than Light (FTL) processing speed might be necessary to keep pace with a combat mechs movements; this coming from someone who had just upgraded from a 233Mhz Pentium II to a 2,000Mhz Pentium 4 a a year or two before hand lololololol. To do things over again, I would use a mega load more of memory and see just how seriously parallel things could get between the hardware and software.

What is pertinent about computer systems described in it: is the concept of how it would be used as part of the overall machine. Conceptually things were meant to use a 'mech wide network of fibre optical cables to pass data from module to module, running this big distributed/multiplry redundant sort of internal computer network for keeping the 'mech working like a well oiled German sports car cruising down the Autobahn.  These FO cables would be routed through several trunk locations at logical intervals, jacking the bandwidth as it were. These trunks would be placed at various points, like the legs, arms, etc, where important sensors could all link to conveniently and pass on their data. So many data trunks would be primaries and so many would be backups in order to cope with phsyical damage and the possibility of hardware failures, plus an extra set of three trunks for the cockpit: one emergency and two mains containing the heart of the 'mechs software environment, i.e. the master authority on all things computer related inside the mech.

Swap out the cockpit pod, and bingo: you would be able to overhaul the entire 'mechs computer systems. Anything that would have to be transferred (cached) at another trunk node, could be transferred from the mains in the cockpit pilot, much like a BIOS flash or an FTP install of Linux. Combining the FO cables with the link aggregation stuff, that should be pretty damn fast enough for anybodies conceivable needs, let along a battle field mechanic of the future >_>. At least that was the idea.

When I was writing this thing, the typical PC would likely still be using a 56K modem with a telephone line. Fiber Optic Internet, wasn't even talked about in these parts.

I also envisioned that for "Oh crap, everything has broken!" kind of situation, the a single data trunk would be *just* good enough to keep the Tallgeese IVs critical systems functioning, enough to walk/drift back to base for repairs, assuming the necessary cables were intact but the other computer modules offline. In order to make servicing internal components easier, a network of maintenance hatches, and corresponding "Jefferies tubes", so dubbed for lack of a better name, would run throughout the 'mechs body. What good is an extremely expensive, ultra advanced piece of war machine, if you can't fix the thing after it gets banged up, seriously, what's the point? On top of that would be fire suppression systems to suffocate an internal fires and a way to vent stuff over external fires for an emergency skin cooling.

Like wise, mirroring the networks for data transfer cables, would be systems for cooling and power distribution: including air ducting on the torso with filters, effectively allowing the pilot to breath regular air when earth side and not worry about tear gas, etc. For safety of course, being several sets (redundant) of ducting and putting a computer in place that could switch things around in case a duct got smashed up or severed, by dropping it and inserting a fresh segment, in order to avoid having to place the pilot on internal (space/underwater mode) life support.

As a safe guard against falling into enemy hands, a self destruct system was obviously called for. Both a near instant blow the sucker to kingdom come method, for use in case of being captured, that would be triggered via a hidden kill switch under the pilots seat, or by way of using keyboard and/or a voice activation mechanism to start a count down, for use in kamikaze style suicide. I'm crazy, right? A.) Don't let the enemy get your most advanced kit; B.) If all else fails, take them with you. Yep.

Since information is power, the Tallgeese IV would have a ton of sensor modules installed. Several arrays planted in the shoulder amour , feet, and head would provide targeting, radar, sensors for magnetic fields, seismic anomalies, infrared, sonar, and conventional radar. The idea being that if its a big hunk of hot metal stomping around, you ought to be able to figure out where it is ^_^.

Since it was set it was set in a story based on the Gundamverse, Minovsky particle based jamming technologies would make radar useless. Thus making most sensor applications limited to visual line of sight, and extras like being able to for example, using thermals and acoustics. I actually got the idea for using an infra system based on the FLIR pods used by the military; and the idea, "Well gee, if it can be forward looking, why not swivel it around!" Looking at that link, seems that kind of technology has existed since the 1960s. Good.

The 'mechs sensors would gather all that sensory input, route it through the trunks, processing as you go and create something fitting for the pilots view screens to display automagically.  For extra benefit, an Initial Navigation System like mapping computer would "Remember" where you've walked/flown, and generate a form of spacial awareness. Today I would throw in a GPS too. It gives me a mental hard on just thinking about what programming something like all that might take... lol.

As a gimic, an experimental "Pilot to Mobile Suit Interface (P-MSI)" system was also planned for. Basically, scan the pilots brain in order to increase the response time. This could be thought of as an analogue to Gundams psycommu systems, adapted for regular humans, or a SLDF era Battle Mech helmet.

In terms of communications, several conventional and subspace radio systems would be mounted in the head module, along side a laser based LOS communication system for squad level use. The idea being, radio = fine until the Minovsky particles thicken up and jam it. One of the nifty but occasionally irksome parts of the UC segment of the gundamverse. So in essence, communication is limited to line of sight crap.

For getting around, obviously the Tallgeese design calls for a set of big ass engines. Basically the papers envision a type of nuclear thermal rocket, powered by taps into the 'mechs reactor: plus the ability to jettison them (and go ground pounding), frying the data trunks in the process. Leaving the secondary thrusters on the hips and rear skirt armour, just enough to perform manoeuvring in space or short rocket leaps in a terrestrial environment. Augmenting that, a set of computer controlled vernier thrusters for precision movements when operating in space. I always had trouble trying to calculate things like the theoretical acceleration rate and such, but I never had that big a grounding in math.

In terms of weapons, the Tallgeese IV was simply an augmented Tallgeese III, modified to suit my tastes. The Big Freaking Mega Cannon mounted on the right shoulder armour was replaced with something more practical yet still highly , that essentially combines a Variable Speed Beam Rifle with a Vayeate style Mega Particle Cannon. Conceptually, it would allow the pilot to dynamically adjust the beam width, pulse length (constant or pulse fired), and power rating. More powerful shots draining energy faster but being able to seriously maintain the DooM title of BFG! A way to self destruct the gun by over charging it, of course being in the concept, hehe.

Backing that up being external weapons. Power linkages inthe hands would allow the use of any Standard beam rifle or conventional autocannon (105mm/40rnd box magazine fed being the standard issue), including a heavy beam cannon designed to serve as a bazooka type shock weapon. It could also mount a 140mm cannon in place of the Mega Cannon.

The real emphasis was on melee weapons: a retractable 25 metre long "Heat" rod was built into a shield mounted on the left shoulder armour, containing a pair of beam sabers and 2-tube missile launchers. Increasing the thick plates defensive ability, the shield was to have a 20mm ablative coating for protection against directed energy weapons, and a low power I-field generator to reflect shots from low powered beam rifles. Tallgeese IV was also designed to have three beam sabers: two stored in recharge racks in the shield, and another hidden within the forearm for use as a backup. Since the Gundamverses beam sabers are essentially a power cell that spews plasma into an I-field, it would obviously be able to melt many conventional bullets on impact, the main sabers would be upgraded to use a denser I-field, in order to reflect shots from low powered beam rifles. Actually making that a useful weapon (Jedi style) however, is rather beyond the capability of a human pilot, without seriously jacking up the computing power.

A pair of head mounted 60mm Vulcan cannons with about 5 seconds of ammo rounded out a rather, comprehensive armament package.

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