Fifty-three to two hundred and twelve, depending on which member of Gizmo you ask.
On the outside, all one sees of Gizmo is a many-plated carapace, which, when completely retracted, is spherical, and shows only twenty-three of its forty-four plates. The armour plates are made of a top-secret, super-strong alloy, the ingredients of which are only known to its makers. They have been covered on the outside with cleverly woven masses of dyed-blue fur, which effectively cover any trace of mechanics, and make Gizmo seem like a great, big, anthropomorphic, bright blue beast.
There are forty-four plates in total, grouped off in three symmetrically built, movable sections of eleven, with eleven plates spanning in between these sections to hold them together. Each movable section of eleven shows only four plates when Gizmo is in spherical state. Within Gizmo’s core, each section is built around a gyroscopic, gravitationally centered platform, which boasts an array of gears, levers, buttons, pulleys, doodads and knobs. Each of these controls will make the eleven plates shift in different ways, causing the section to expand, retract, move around in different ways, open up a wee bit, transfer high voltage through its outer surface, flash whirring, six-foot-long scythes, or heat up intensely.
And upon these three platforms sit three gnomes, known to their few associates only as Grandpa Gnome, Pappa Gnome, and Junior. It is these three Gnomes that built Gizmo, and operate it from the inside. Alas, as with most Gnomish inventions, there is one serious design flaw: When they were done building it from the inside, they realized that they were rather stuck. Each section could barely open up enough, between any given three plates, to allow the passage of one of the Gnomes’ heads. Since this unfortunate development, the trio have worked to improve their collective ability to think ahead, and they try to keep Gizmo well stocked with food, water, mechanical supplies, weapons of war, and a good collection of novels.
They have lived within the bowels of Gizmo for two years now, and have betrayed their existence only to a select few, preferring that most folk believe Gizmo to be some form of cranky leviathan. For this purpose, Grandpa Gnome has rigged a very effective megaphone/voice modulator to his platform, and can use it either to communicate in a deep growl, or to make various beastly and downright frightening sounds.
Gizmo's maximum rolling speed, when in sphere shape, is about twenty-five miles per hour, after which safety brakes will activate. Should Gizmo be rolling down a long hill, constant pressure on the brakes could destroy them, or even cause a fire. Therefore, a bypass option has been installed. However, at any speeds exceeding twenty miles per hour, the gnomes cannot keep up with their engine controls, and have essentially lost control of their craft. They would only allow a slope to guide them in an extreme escape situation.
It has been necessary for their survival to allow some folk into their circle of trust: As such, they have befriended a human farmer by the name of Took, who keeps his home on the eastern outskirts of Shim. They also rely on the discretion and aid of Pappa Gnome’s ever-faithful wife to obtain other supplies. They meet with the two once a month, at a location agreed upon during the previous month’s meeting. In exchange for the two's continued services, the odd trio hand over their monthly earnings. These meetings are always eager and friendly, and the three often resort to mild violence when contesting ownership of Grandpa Gnome's megaphone.
The inside of Gizmo is open and spacious, built like a combination living room/gyroscope, complete with whizzing circles and gears, a wide, gravitationally centered floor area lining the equator of Gizmo, and one big, red, comfortable leather armchair. Grandpa has been lobbying for the installation of a fireplace, but this suggestion has been vetoed upon many occasions, for reasons too numerous and basic to bother listing here. The three platforms are placed equidistant from each other in a triangle around the inner surface of Gizmo, and each Gnome has outfitted and decorated his little domain to his liking. The platforms are attached to their respective sections, and will orbit in step with Gizmo’s inner wall, but will remain face up, so that the gnomes might stand upon them. The "Living Room" retains its fixed position on the equator, regardless of Gizmo’s movement.
Often, the gnomes will battle each other when they are about to power down and stop movement for a time, each attempting to manoeuvre Gizmo so that he will not end up below the Living Room, and therefore be at a distinct disadvantage in racing for the armchair. Below Gizmo’s equator, on the underside of the Living Room, the powerhouse works to turn the kinetic energy generated by the gyroscopic core into electricity, which they use for lighting, heating, and running dangerous voltages through the outer face. Beneath the Living Room there is also a decent amount of storage space, and a makeshift shower.
I think it is now in order to briefly run through each Gnome’s defining characteristics:
Grandpa Gnome, whose real name is Regibald Pockbert, is a typical grumpy grandfather figure, cranky and sarcastic. The fact that he was appointed as the group’s mediator to the outside world is a testament to the flaws of democracy, but it has brought them no serious trouble thus far. There are not many people out there who would drop their gloves to Gizmo for its rudeness. Grandpa Gnome is two hundred and twelve years old, and, apart from mild arthritis in his fingers, is as strong and healthy as an ox. He is also an accomplished navigator, and can chart, graph, measure, work a sextant, and generally lead the way better than any other gnome he has met in his lifetime.
Pappa Gnome is, as you might have guessed, Grandpa Gnome’s son: Quasar Pockbert. He suffered the most heartbreak of the three as a result of their self-imposed captivity, and misses his poor wife dearly. He is a mathematical and structural genius, and is responsible for laying out the blueprints for Gizmo. He has a brilliant mind, and is a calm and quick thinker. He therefore tends to take the lead in most stressful situations, shouting commands while Junior ignores him and Grandpa grumbles to himself.
Junior is Pappa Gnome’s son, now fifty-five years old. Though he is almost always called Junior, his real name is Flipswitch Pockbert. He is an accomplished marksman, and is also the most skilled of the three at managing his platform of controls. He has attached to his platform a ballista with eight fixed aiming positions, so that he may fire through any one of the eight possible openings in his section, switching quickly between them without fear of hitting the inner wall of Gizmo. He is quite adept at reloading and firing while the other two maintain a steady lateral course of movement with Gizmo.
He misses his mother dearly, and wishes to break free from his mechanical prison at the first opportunity. He is always thinking up ridiculous schemes, which are always patiently explained into silly notions by Pappa.
The three have with them a large stack of over six hundred novels, (which greatly add to the weight of Gizmo,) a messy pile of periscopes, stethoscopes, telescopes, and various other mechanical oddities bearing the “scope” suffix, one to two month’s stockpile of food and water, zero to four hundred bishan, depending on whether they have yet delivered Gizmo’s wages to Took and Quasar's wife, Mamma Gnome, a large tool kit, some buckets of dirty water, oil, grease, odd pastes, and other liquids vital to the maintenance of their prison, and finally, a large quiver of bolts for Junior’s ballista contraption.
Powers or Strengths:
Extreme Armour: Gizmo’s armour is the hardest and toughest armour ever created without the help of magic. The alloy used by the Gnomish trio is a secret that they have not shared with a single soul.
Multifarious Weapons of Destruction: Gizmo boasts the following goodies:
A ballista (Junior’s Section).
Heated plates (up to four hundred degrees Celsius, gas-fuelled).
High-voltage current through plates (enough to severely stun a grown man, but with no option to weaken or strengthen the current.)
Six foot long scythe blades attached to a jointed iron protrusion, opening up like an umbrella once thrust out of Gizmo. May be spun mechanically on both a horizontal and vertical axis, so that they may be used effectively as close-range precision weapons.
Its Achilles' Heel is simply that it is made up of so many moving parts, and near constant maintenance is necessary to keep it in smooth, working order. It is not rare that, during the sectional manouevres so necessary to the use of offensive weapons, two plates will collide or meet at odd angles, thereby limiting the movement of other plates, or leaving openings in Gizmo's defense. Though able to hold back most melee attacks with its voltage and burning plates, it is too slow in turning to really chase down enemies and turn this into an offensive weapon, so it will get very little done without moving some plates and risking technical failure. Should anything substantial, such as a spear, a sword, or a fireball come through an opening, it is likely to damage some mechanical devices, or, if one is lucky, it might wound or kill one of the three gnomes. Any such occurrence would handicap Gizmo's performance.
Grandpa Gnome is not as quick with his hands as he used to be, so the section over which he has command is not generally called upon for acts of speed or difficult manoeuvrings.
When in its retracted, spherical state, Gizmo can roll at terrifying speeds, and barrel through walls, but has no vision whatsoever, and the three gnomes, having their platforms whipped around wildly across the inner face of Gizmo, lose control of it at any speed greater than twenty miles per hour. It therefore risks ending up in an awkward ditch or, worse, at the bottom of a lake.
Even when all three sections are in various states of expansion/retraction/movement, vision is limited to the use of periscopes and telescopes, which must protrude from openings in Gizmo’s armour. Though the trio have become quite adept at the quick deployment and retreat of these visual aids, and have even started to develop a feel for fighting blind, it is a huge drawback.
There is nothing whatsoever magical about Gizmo itself, or about any of the three gnomes. All three of them have a great fear of all things supernatural. In fact, even a rumour of magic in the vicinity is likely to send them into a panic. They have tried, therefore, to avoid the usual Gnomish means of invention and creation as much as possible, but found themselves, in the end, surrounded by the enhanced mechanics typical to, and necessary for, Gnomish contraptions. Being locked in with all manner of magical devices can make them downright paranoid at times, and they are liable to screw things up or generally make fools of themselves when the fear creeps in.
Perhaps Gizmo's greatest weakness is that it is downright slow. It can deploy its weapons at a reasonable (though not impressive) speed, and once it gets going in one direction, it can pick up speed rather nicely, but its ability to accelerate, react quickly to sudden attack, or change directions, is abysmal.
Gizmo is a paid soldier of the Marn City Guard, (and paid rather decently, in accordance with its capabilities). The Marn City Guard first laid mark to the furry blue ball when a high-ranking official was riding by Took’s farm on an out-of-town errand. There was Gizmo, scythes working viciously, ploughing Took’s fields with incredible efficiency. The scythes could not be seen for the dust, and at first, the sergeant feared some kind of monstrous attack. When he realised that the incredulous blue beast was, in fact, performing farm duties, he immediately halted his company, and inquired at the door of Took what manner of beast Gizmo was, and whether or not it would be interested in a job with the Guard. Grandpa Gnome spoke a gruff word of agreement after a unanimous vote. Since then, the gnome collective of Gizmo has spent most of its time patrolling the outskirts of Marn, casually reading stories, and generally making the best of its imprisonment. Gizmo’s employers do not know of its diminutive contents, nor do they have any inkling that Gizmo is anything but some kind of huge, bionic, blue warrior.
Storage of characters that are dead or unused.
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