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    The Atomic Punk

    Character Contest 70 – Leo

    A Sumerian “liontaur” and protector of temples. One of my favorites.




    The Atomic Punk

    Character Contest 70 – Leo

    Only thing Zodiac about this entry is the character’s name. I wanted to try my hand at a steampunk or Jules Vernesque character. Didn’t quite get the vibe. However, I enjoyed imaging her and writing her story.

    The King’s Mad Girl


    “Good morning, Your Majesty. Chief Engineer Leona Skeffington at your service. We had been expecting your review. If it pleases you, let me guide you through the workshop.

    “I’m not what you expected? No offense taken. Most don’t expect a woman to lead this project. This is no gasworks. This is a factory! Sure, we turn cannons, clanks, land-walkers… but your patronage makes it all possible.

    “Ah, here we are, Your Majesty. Now, what London sees on the outside is the Westminster clocktower. Down here, in the subterranean, is proof of our special project’s success. Your Royal Highness, please to meet Big Ben.

    “Oh, don’t worry. He’s an herbivore. He’s a little cock-eyed and none too bright. Give him a cart of watermelons, and he even wags his tail like a puppy.

    “We were able to bring him through the Time Door. Unfortunately, he was none too happy about the journey. He wound up smashing the machine.

    “Nor do we have the materiel to repair it, your Lordship. When the Prussians learnt of our experiment, they stopped supplying us with Äther. The Committee of Public Safety also declared an embargo on fer de nain.

    “Of course, your Majesty. We will begin re-tooling the factory immediately. What shall it be? Clanks to retrieve the Äther… or land-walkers to crush the French?”


    The Atomic Punk

    Going to switch gears from the Character Contests to Friday Night Fights! Our host, Jeff Hebert, keeps teasing us with a new FNF challenge. That, and I’m in a writing mood as of late. The theme for this FNF was “Robin Hood in Space.” I have a story that I’ve been kicking around for some time. It is the foundation of my mecha-verse. I simply adapted some of the characters to Robin Hood and His Band of Merry Men and the Sheriff of Nottingham. This was a lot of fun.

    Son of Friday Night Fights!

    Welcome to Sherwood Fortress!

    Some time in the future…

    Humanity has been established among the stars for centuries. Distances between the Known Systems are great. Wormholes are the most common form of interstellar travel. Various “gates” are posted throughout the galaxy. The gates enable passage through the wormholes. They also control interstellar commerce and politics.

    The Known Systems are an amalgam of competing governments. The situation is such that contemporary historians compare their days to those of earth during the Common Era of the mid-16th and 17th Centuries in society and attitude. The Kingdom and the French Empire are two rival superpowers.

    The stargates are known as “locks” in The Kingdom. The Kingdom controlled a solar system with a sizeable number of locks. So many, they named the host world “Loxlie.” It was a major hub of interstellar traffic. Now the French Empire’s L’Armée des étoiles occupies Loxlie.

    So are the times. His Majesty and his heir Prince John controlling The Kingdom and the Environs. The Sheriff controlling the Nottingham system, the Outlands, and the tributaries beyond the Pale, along with their untold wealth. The French Empire cutting access to Loxlie and its stargates to all of the Known Systems. Rumour has that L’Armée des étoiles is amassing its forces on Loxlie in preparation for open war against The Kingdom. Other powers are appealling for peace, if not only so the French will re-open the trade lanes.

    It is during these times, there lives a band of idealists and rogues who seek to overthrow the whole system. Robin Hood and his Merry Men are based in an underground complex somewhere within the Known Systems, possibly beyond the Pale. With interstellar war on the horizon, they fight on all fronts. Whether hacking computer systems, leading a protest in Trafalgar, duelling in aerospace, or slogging through the mud, they will fight.

    One weapon that the Merry Men have acquired is the mecha. The anthropomorphic tanks that were once reserved for the warrior nobles known as Knights. Their appearance has become more common with the invention of Lancer Rooms. There is no longer need for on-board pilots with this virtual simulator. It allows a single pilot to control every aspect of a mecha through cybernetic interface from a secure location.


    The Atomic Punk

    FNF2, Round 1: Friar Tuck

    My Friar Tuck is an anonymous computer hacker. For his design, I tried to create a first person view of the Sheriff of Nottingham trying to access the Royal Treasury – only to be thwarted by Friar Tuck.

    Frère Tuk

    Of all the Merry Men, Frère Tuk is the most enigmatic. Robin Hood “met” Tuk while attempting to hack into the Fontane Dale Financial Systems’ network. Robin intended to use the bank as a backdoor to the Sheriff of Nottingham’s tax records. FDF and Nottingham have a rather cozy relationship. Tuk was well aware of Nottingham’s financial tricks. Still, he had a job to do.

    Robin and Tuk fought a pitched battle in cyberspace. First, was a battle of wits, spamming floods, Spacebook flaming, and chat room insults. Robin grew impatient and launched an all out attack: denials of service, worms, even writing virus code on the fly. In all, their exchanges were fifty for fifty.

    Suddenly, Tuk relented. Robin took advantage and “blew the horn”: hacker jargon for a rapid code break. Tuk also blew the horn. Robin found himself on the defensive. Tuk had responded with his “packet dogs.” Code of his own design, the packet dogs had infiltrated Robin’s own network.

    Just as Robin thought he would lose his entire system in a flash, Tuk broke the attack. He sent a message to Robin: “Well played, good sir. I am most impressed.” Tuk then opened the Sheriff’s system to Robin for a brief glimpse.

    Robin and Tuk soon were chatting regularly in cyberspace. The two have never met, at least Robin does not believe that they ever have. No one knows whether Tuk is a real person. Some rumors say that Tuk is an artificial intelligence. Others, that he is a brain tape that made its way into cyberspace. Still others say Tuk might be a double agent working for Fontane Dale. To add to the riddle, Tuk now refers to himself as FrereTuk. He claims that Tuk stands for “Truth, Unity, and Knowledge.”

    Tuk is the merriest of the Merry Men. He is Robin’s Chief Intelligence Officer, despite never being physically present. Though he can be flaky and sometimes mischevious, he has never broken Robin’s trust. If he is human, he must imbibe quite frequently. Some of his chats tend to be rambling and incoherent.


    The Atomic Punk

    Friday Night Fights 2, Round 2: Little John

    Little John

    Background Story
    Robin Hood gave the name “Little John” to a Domestic Sentry Mark IX (DS-9) in memory of his academy bunkmate John Little. At first, neither cared for the other. During a training exercise, John threw a rock that hit Robin in the head, causing him to bleed.

    The Instructor broke the two apart. He decided that they should settle their differences right then with quarterstaffs. John was far taller than Robin. He used his height to great advantage. He frustrated Robin – who vainly attempted to guard, turn, parry, dodge, spin, and thrust.

    John knocked Robin into the river. The giant went to help Robin, but Robin pulled him into the water. The cadets cheered. Even John laughed. Robin’s “never give up” attitude not only won over his classmates, it served him for a time as he rose through the ranks of the Royal Expeditionary Forces.

    There is a fine line between tenacity and foolishness. Robin was the commander of the ill-fated Defence of Loxlie. L’Armée des étoiles had landed on the planet. Robin ordered his units to hold the line. Despite pleas from his Second-in-Command and first friend, Leftenant John Little, Robin refused to budge.

    Facing overwhelming odds, Robin’s men abandoned their post. During the retreat, Robin’s ship was shot from the sky. He lost his right arm and right eye. John paid a heavier price.

    Robin awoke in a cell. The French had taken him to the prison colony of Papillon. King Louis XXXIV wanted to exchange Robin for the Dauphin, who was in his enemy’s hands. His Majesty would have nothing of it. Though it pained him, His Majesty was convinced by the Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John that Robin was a traitor unworthy of rescue. Robin was able to escape execution with the help of Mech Marian and the Domestic Sentry Mark IX.

    Notes on the Domestic Sentry Mark IX (DS-9)
    The DS-9 is a semi-autonomous security robot. The one that Robin calls “Little John” is a maximum security model. It has heavy weapons and armor. Robin has modified this DS-9 with proto-sentience. Standard programming requires identification to separate authorized personnel from intruders. Proto-sentience allows Little John to exercise independent judgment and “learn”. He is able to differentiate between allies, hostiles, and non-combatants. He is also inquisitive.


    The Atomic Punk

    Friday Night Fights, Round 3!

    One of my favorite HM creations, Mech Marian is a main character in the original story that I was developing.

    Maid Marian Fitzrobert (Mech Marian)


    Background story
    Marian Fitzrobert, daughter of war industrialist Lord Robert Fitzwalter and his fourth wife… or was it his eighth? Lady Fontane… Lady Tolliver… Dame Sarah… that barwench from Crow’s Fish and Chips?

    Obviously, no one much paid attention to the lass in her formative years. She was a tomboy. Though born into nobility and unimagineable wealth, Marian was not accepted by the other royal children. She went through the motions of court etiquette and the role of a proper lady. When her tutors retired, she would sneak to the Squires’ Quarters.

    She would flirt with the lads but was quietly learning the ways of young mecha pilots. One night, she was caught by a Knight while she was trying some combat moves in the Lancer Room. Sir Wentley was impressed. Rather than taking her straight home, he decided to secretly teach her to be a Knight.

    The day of her 16th Birthday, May 1st, her father was arrested as a conspirator along with Kai Fox and a few other noblemen. Sir Wentley spirited Marian to the far outpost of Loxlie. He was arrested upon his return to The Kingdom. Prince John had him executed alongside Lord Fitzwalter.

    Marian was no safer on Loxlie. Within two years, the colony was under assault by L’Armée des étoiles. Marian volunteered to pilot one of the few mecha available. The King’s Men and the colonists laughed at her. During the siege, the French managed to destroy two of the mechs and assassinate five Knights.

    It was a brash, handsome Commander Hood who agreed to allow Marian to work the Lancer Room after she demonstrated considerable piloting skill. The Royals fought bravely, but Loxlie fell. The French ransomed Marian back to The Kingdom not realizing that she was the one responsible for single-handedly destroying four of the ten mechs that they used in the invasion. In fact, Marian was the cause of heavy French losses.

    Marian returned to The Kingdom, fully aware that Prince John had executed her father, and more importantly, her mentor Sir Wentley. His Majesty himself could not touch her. She was a heroine of the People. Her father’s vast fortune and immense mecha factories made her the object of every noble’s desire. Marian wanted none of it.

    Then she learned of Robin Hood’s fate and the Sheriff of Nottingham’s treachery. With the help of her father’s spies and a major credit transaction, Marian was able to have a Domestic Sentry Mark IX re-programmed on Papillon. That DS-9 unit was able to save Robin from execution in a daring escape.

    Marian now lives a double life. In The Kingdom, she is known as “Maid Marian Fitzrobert”, the fabulously rich heiress, populist reformer, and socialite. To Robin Hood and his Merry Men, she is “Mech Marian”, the financier of the Liberation. None of this keeps her from the front lines. She has Lancer Rooms and mechas hidden throughout The Kingdom and beyond the Pale. Marian has even disguised herself as a man just so she can get into tavern brawls.


    The Atomic Punk

    Friday Night Fights: I can’t find the link…

    There’s a new sheriff in town.

    The Sheriff of Nottingham


    Background story
    His Majesty originally entrusted the Sheriff to protect the mineral rich system of Nottingham and its trade routes. Though Nottingham has no habitable worlds, it is considered the Key to The Kingdom. Without its endless supplies of ores, gasses, and exotic materials, The Kingdom’s star would surely fall.

    By shrewdly manipulating finances and treaties, the Sheriff dominates several systems. In the Outlands, he speaks for His Majesty. Beyond the Pale, his word is Law. He keeps the Systems in line through political coalitions, heavy taxation, and brute force when necessary.

    Nottingham is a master manipulator who plays all sides against each other. Though he has many enemies, his chief rival is His Majesty’s son, Prince John. The two have been known to set aside their differences if only to fight King Louis XXXIV of the French Empire or that pesky rogue, Robin Hood.

    Sheriff Nottingham rules the Systems from a palatial Dreadnaught class starship christened The Nottingham. One of the greatest vessels of any age, The Nottingham is a battleship and invasion platform. The complement of Royal Marines on board is vastly outnumbered by the Sheriff’s own private army. The Sheriff’s most elite force is his wing of Gisbourne-class LAMs (Land-Air Mechas).


    The Atomic Punk

    Friday Night Fights 2 Finale!

    Concluding FNF with the main man. I didn’t make it past the first round but had a lot of fun imagining and designing these characters. That’s why I sought a program like HeroMachine in the first place.

    Robin Hood


    Background story
    Robin Hood, son of a mining company supervisor, was bored with middle-class life. His thirst for adventure landed him in trouble. He started computer hacking to escape the stale existence of the bio-complex he called home. He made public some sensitive information that the Sheriff of Nottingham did not want anyone to see.

    The Sheriff laid a trap. He offered a reward to design new security software. Robin could not resist the challenge. Being young and foolish, Robin exposed himself by using the same coding and subroutines he used to crack the Sheriff’s original system.

    Fortunately for Robin, his father had some influence with the nobility. Rather than prison, Robin was offered a scholarship in a Royal Military Academy. Nottingham had wanted death. So, the lad shipped to the Heart of The Kingdom to learn to be a Royal Marine.

    At the Academy, Robin met his future first friend John Little. The Academy Instructors found him to be lazy and inattentive. They realized his potential, but he was hard to motivate. He did excel in military strategy and theory. He also took to social sciences and politics. His instructors grew concerned over his democratic tendencies. Graduates of the Academy were to serve the Monarchy and the Kingdom not advocate voting and property rights.

    Robin eventually fell in line. He became a strong and decisive leader. So impressive, he became the youngest commander of a Royal Expedition in history. Or was he?

    The Sheriff of Nottingham had not forgotten about the young hacker. Nottingham worked a deal with the Academy. Promote Robin to Commander then send him to the remote colony of Loxlie. The Academy agreed so Robin would be out of sight, out of mind.

    Nottingham had an ulterior motive. He knew that the French Empire was preparing for war. He struck a secret deal with King Louis XXXIV. He would sue for peace after L’Armée des étoiles took the planet. The Loxlie System would serve as a buffer zone between The Kingdom and the Sheriff’s control over the Nottingham System, the Outlands, and beyond the Pale. As an added bonus, the snot-nosed brat who embarassed him would be dead.

    The Battle of Loxlie cost Robin dearly. He lost his right arm and right eye. More devastating, his stubborness cost the life of his most trusted friend John Little. Robin was taken prisoner by the French Empire. He would have been executed if not for a daring rescue financed by Maid Marian Fitzrobert.

    Robin now fights for the Liberation Movement in the Outlands. He has an ambitious agenda: liberate Loxlie from the French, liberate Nottingham from the Sheriff, liberate The Kingdom from His Majesty.

    Robin uses his computer hacking skills to spread the word of democracy and engage in sabotage. In this realm, he has found an ally in Frère Tuk. He uses his military training to lead his fellow Liberators, known as the Merry Men. To His Majesty and nobles throughout the known Systems, he is a terrorist. For now, they regard him as one of many “upstarts and rogues.”

    The People have mixed opinions of Robin Hood. Loyalists would turn him and his “Murderous Mercenaries” to the Royal Guard or kill them outright. The Peasantry admires him for his political message of civil rights and calls for representative government. His Majesty is wary. Deep in his heart, he sympathizes with Robin. His Majesty is tired of the wars, but he cannot be party to a civil war or the collapse of civilization itself.


    The Atomic Punk

    Character Contest 72: The Power COSMIC!

    The challenge was to create something related to outer space. Not feeling very inspired at the time, I patched together a couple of designs. Acid reflux contributed to my malaise. First time that I ever experienced it, I thought that I was having a heart attack. Went so far as to call my boss in the middle of the night to take me to the emergency room.

    Anyway, incredibly painful but mostly under control. This is not a self-portrait. Just a guy who is also feeling the excruciating burn, like he had just swallowed the sun!

    Solar Flare


    The Atomic Punk

    Character Contest 72: The Power COSMIC!

    My experience with acid reflux reminded me of other times that I have been in intense pain. How the sensation was, indeed, other worldly. I broke my left forearm in a motorcycle accident when I was 13 years-old. As my dad rushed me to the hospital, I was “white-blind.” That’s when you pretty much go into shock and you see nothing but white. Not blurs, not traces, just glowing white. You’ll know when it’s coming. The pain in your body shoots to your kidneys and they go into overdrive.

    As I was coming down from the pain and drugs, the white gave way. My brain and vision swirling back into reality. Remembering that experience, I imagined travelling through hyper-space.



    The Atomic Punk

    Character Contest 73: Virgo

    Some of my favorite designs are from this Zodiac challenge. Virgo, the Virgin, is the second largest constellation. The sun passes through Virgo around mid-September, announcing the harvest season.

    The Sumerians associated Virgo with their goddess Innana: Queen of Heaven. Rather than being a virgin or innocent, the sky deity represents love. She is aggressive and demanding. Woe to the man who spurns her charm.

    Innana, Queen of Heaven



    The Atomic Punk

    Character Contest 73: Virgo

    Though usage has diminished, “virgin” is synonymous with “maiden.” The German word “das Mädchen” is a cognate of the English “maiden.” I am ethnic German (Meine Großeltern waren aus Bayern). I blended all of this into a festive design.

    Die Mädchen


    The Atomic Punk

    Emptying my mom’s house and moving has been exhausting. By the end of today, I hope to be in the “new” place. Even then, that will be a temporary situation. I’m going to be off-line for a few days. Continuing the retrospect…

    Character Contest 73: Virgo

    Along with 1930’s and 1940’s matinees, I enjoy 1950’s pulp science fiction. The cardboard settings, the trash bag spacesuits, the invasion scenarios, and even the subdued sexuality. Compared to the prior eras, the 1950’s were rather prudish. The pendulum swung from pre-World War II “nothing to lose – imagine tomorrow” to post-war “build it to last – focus on the now.” It’s a cultural shift that is oft overlooked.

    This entry stars an earthling being abducted by an alien. The alien is a “Reptoid,” a temporary name that I used while drafting. It became permanent when I abandoned the story. In fact, this incarnation is nothing like the lizard race that I envisioned. Now, my Reptoids are recurrings character that appear exclusively in HeroMachine Character Challenges. They debuted in my Character Contest 70 entry “House of Horrors.”

    I incorporated Cold War themes into this design: the invasion, the All-American teenager, his dog, and the repulsive amazon alien with ravenous sexual appetite. The only thing missing is the spinning dinner plate.



    Drive-in Preview
    “The Matriarch invites you to join Her Royal Marines. Service is its own reward.”

    Our latest expedition is to a primitive world rich with natural resources. The Matriarch has authorized a bounty for volunteers: all the mammalian virgins that they can carry.


    The Atomic Punk

    Character Contest 73: Virgo

    My Reptoid inspired me to create another drive-in B-movie cult classic.

    Swamp Devil


    “Betty Lou, I don’t want you hangin’ ’round that Bobby McTaggert anymore.”


    “No, I done told you. That boy ain’t nuttin’ but trouble.”

    “He’s a good man, mama. He loves me.”

    “Child, a smooth-talker with a fast car wants only one thing. And you best save that for when you marry.”

    “Whatever, mama! He’s picking me up at seven for our date. He said he’s going to bring me flowers.”

    “Date? You best be puttin’ on some shoes. Be warned, girl, he’s gonna take you to the backwoods. Ya know what people done tell goes on there.”

    “Mama, please, he’s a gentleman.”

    “Gentleman? Ha! You watch yo’self or the Swamp Devil will get ya. He gets all those who go to backwoods lookin’ to sin. Daughter of mine, you come back here with your feet muddy, I know where you been.”



    You know what? I’m going to take a guess that sucyyuan may not be for real. Just something about him… Can’t put my finger on it.

    And as for a film with a tyrannosaurus living in some swamp in the Deep South…? YES.

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