The namesake machines of the universe setting are the Heavy Gears. They are 12- to 18-foot-tall (3.7 to 5.5 m) machines usually weighing between 5 to 12 tons, that resemble robotic humanoids. They seat a single pilot inside the chest and head unit. They provide a flexibility to the battlefield of Heavy Gear setting that make them more useful than most other units, though they do not dominate. They can traverse more difficult terrain faster, and change direction swifter than tanks, which is important to a setting that emphasizes mobility, and not just firepower, to succeed in combat.
They are powered by a unique piston engine called a V-engine mounted as a backpack. This is different than most science fiction settings that use some form of nuclear power or even more obscure or invented power source. Confusingly, this V-engine is not the same design as a modern V-engine, but an alternative working design invented by students at the University of Colorado. The engine works by having two rotating cylindrical engine blocks with multiple chambers in each block. The blocks somewhat resemble large scale cylinders from a revolver handgun. The two rotating cylinders are set approximately 90 degrees from each other, and shared between each rotating block are several solid V-shaped rods that serve as pistons. As the blocks rotate inside their static housings openings in the sides of the rotating and static portions of the engine will line up and act as intake and exhaust ports, and also electrical contact connections trigger the spark plugs. The rotation of the cylinder blocks can then be tapped for electrical power generation or directly for hydraulic pressure.
The computer system that enables the machines to move and operate fluidly are called Optical Neural Networks, or ONNets for short. They are learning computers that work, in many ways, similarly to an organic brain and are trained to perform advanced tasks instead of being programmed with software. They operate using light instead of electricity, and use microscopic crystals to form logic circuits for the light to pass through. New connections are made over time by the computer and allow it to learn new instructions. This factor leads the ONNet computer to develop traits, instincts, and habits over time based on the pilots that operate with them. Some functions become automatic as the computer tries to predict what the pilot wants and has used in the past in similar situations. This allows faster reactions in most situations, but can sometimes also cause indecision on the ONNet's part if tactics or patterns change in an unusual situation. Heavy Gear pilots tend to form a bond with their Gears' ONNets, or at least recognize the efficiency that an experienced ONNet provides; pilots forced to abandon a damaged or disabled Gear often take with them the ONNet unit from beneath their seats.
The weaponry of the Heavy Gear is usually lighter and less powerful than a main battle tank, as Gears themselves typically weigh only a fifth (or less) the weight of a tank. They typically have one automatic cannon carried as a Gear sized hand held assault rifle. They also typically have a shoulder mounted multiple-launch missile launcher rack, as well as a small anti-personnel fragmentation grenade launcher for use against infantry. However, variants of many machines, especially heavier models, can carry or mount a wide variety of weapons, such as heavy mortars, bazookas, guided missiles, larger hand-held grenade launchers, field guns or cannons, and even advanced directed energy weapons.
Heavy Gears can walk, run, crawl, and generally mimic most of the mobility of the human form, on which they are patterned. This flexibility affords the Heavy Gear many of the advantages of an infantryman, such as the ability to traverse difficult terrain and make effective use of cover, while at the same time having the resilience and firepower of a light armored vehicle. Most Gears also have a secondary movement system consisting of wheels (or tracks for heavier gears) fitted to the soles of their feet, powered either by efficient electric motors or a drive train connected to the V-Engine. The use of the alternate movement systems afford a higher speed and increased fuel efficiency on roads or flat terrain, and reduce wear on leg joints when traveling long distances. However, the wheels sacrifice maneuverability and cannot be used in heavy terrain due to their relatively small size, requiring the Gear to switch back to walker mode which excels at the task.
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