Introduction to the Heavy Gear Universe
This article provides a brief introduction to the Heavy Gear universe and Gear-based arena sports. The article is by no means comprehensive, but should give you some quick starting points to investigate further. For additional sources of information, please visit the Heavy Gear book list.
For starters, the date is sometime in the 62nd century Anno Domini.
Earth went through a multi-century Ice Age which caused a huge upheaval in society. Medical technology was unparalleled for a period of time that also included a great deal of genetic engineering. Throughout much of this period of time, human beings were locked closely together in large dome-cities which helped to keep them alive through the turmoil of the ice age, as well as the wars that constantly wracked society.
While the planet started to thaw out, scientists were able to uncover some anomalies close to the outer edge of the Earth’s solar system. Using an antimatter generator, they were able to create a wormhole - a portal forming a "shortcut" through space - called a Tannhauser Gate, allowing them access to a planet known as Caprice. On this planet, there was very little room for sustainable life, with the atmosphere so thin that the only place that could be truly colonized being a large tectonic gash within the surface of the planet, which later came to be called the Cat’s Eye Trench, as more and more lighting from within the planet gave it the distinct look of a cat’s eye from space stations and ships in orbit over the planet.
From Caprice, the ‘web’ of Tannhauser Gates spread out to over a dozen other planets, some of which were able to be terraformed into livable worlds. One turned into a sort of maximum-security prison world, and a couple found already holding life forms of their own, including Atlantis... and Terra Nova.
Terra Nova is roughly the same size as Earth, but it is slightly closer to its star, Helios, than the cradle of humanity is to Sol. Much of Terra Nova's water is located underground, in massive caves known as the MacAllen Tunnel System. This area is largely unexplored, even into the present day.
The entire planet is largely covered by land. Terra Nova was once very active in tectonic movement, as evidenced by its mountain ranges, but this tectonic movement has largely dissipated. The most prominent regions are the North, the South, and the Badlands.
The North can be likened in some ways with North America: vast forests of deciduous and coniferous trees, deep mountains and hills, wide open plains, and its Arctic tip is the only place that is regularly covered in snow.
The South is akin to regions like Brazil, Vietnam, or Louisiana: deep, vast jungles, marshlands, but it does have its own plains and other less-unwelcoming areas.
The Badlands stretch the entirety of the equatorial range of the planet. Just as no desert can be expected to be the same in any one area, so it is with the Badlands. Vast sand dunes, rocky outcroppings, stretching north and south to savannah bordering both poles. Even here, the MacAllen Tunnel System has collapses, allowing verdant oases to occasionally spring-up in the middle of nowhere.
Terra Nova’s day/night cycle is different from Earth’s; the planet rotates on its axis every 37.2 Earth hours, while its orbit around Helios is 168.2 local days (260.7 Earth days). To keep humans on a reasonable rhythm when explorers first arrived, each Terranovan hour was made to be 62 minutes long (where Terranovan minutes and seconds are equal to their Earth counterparts), a Terranovan day was made to be 36 hours long, and a Terranovan week is seven days long (where the days are named identically to those in an Earth week). The Terranovan "cycle" - the equivalent of an Earth year - was made to be 168 Terranovan days long (with a leap day known as the Interannum being added every five cycles) and was divided into four seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn) of six weeks apiece. Terranovan calendars have no equivalent of the Earth "month". Terranovan dates follow a "day, season, and cycle" format, where Day 1 of cycle 1 (like the Earth calendar, there is no "year zero") in the Terranovan calendar coincides with April 3, 4752 AD on Earth's calendar & the first local winter solstice after Terra Nova's discovery & colonization; a Terranovan would write this date as "1 Winter TN 1" (or, if using the Earth date, as "3 April AD 4752").
Heavy Gears were developed roughly 200 cycles prior to the present day. Construction exoskeletons had been in use for thousands of years, but were largely ineffective as combat machines. On Terra Nova, engineers in the North were able to create the optical neural net ("ONNet"), a synthetically-grown crystalline computer structurally similar to a living brain, that could be trained and ‘learn’ to match movements similar to the human body. This was the key in unlocking what has become the prolific humanoid walker known as the Heavy Gear.
While the North and South have their disagreements between their own leagues, they also have a feud going back to the days when the Southern Republic, the de facto ruler of the Allied Southern Territories ("AST"), stole a Hunter from the Northern military and used it to create their own version, naming it the ‘Jäger’ as a tongue-in-cheek reminder that it was not a homegrown design. It was the Jäger that allowed the Southern Republic to take over much of the South and present the massive threat that caused the Northern leagues to band together and establish the Confederated Northern City-States ("CNCS") to stand against their Southern adversaries.
During this time, the humanoid nature of Gears captured the imaginations of many, and with the population density of Terra Nova being so low (the total planet’s population runs roughly about the same as the 20th century United States), war has been generally limited to skirmishes and raids conducted by small units. The widespread use of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons is largely prohibited via interleague agreements like the Rothchilde Accords, as a result of the tragic St. Vincent's War and the deaths of roughly 10% of Terranovan children at the time. The role of air power is largely limited to close-range support, as violent tempests can blow in from out of nowhere in the Badlands and present great difficulty to even the best of pilots. For these reasons, Gears became the combat vehicle of choice for both sides.
More generally, technology - while more advanced - is also kept simple; there’s very little reason in most Terranovans’ minds to build a very high-tech crop duster that could break down in a heavy tempest of dust and sand, when they can employ a barnaby or other beast-of-burden that costs much less to house, feed, and care for.
With the recent invasion from the New Earth Commonwealth's Colonial Expeditionary Force ("CEF"), a network of communication satellites, known as the Hermes 72 Network, was put in place around Terra Nova to serve as a communication system for the CEF. With the War of the Alliance resulting in the repulsion of the Terran forces, the Hermes 72 Network has since been co-opted by the Terranovans, and allows entertainment to be broadcast across the planet on a wide variety of channels. Among these, Gear duels and races have become extraordinarily popular, not least of which for the fact that the Gears and their pilots were used extensively in saving Terra Nova’s populace from being overrun by the CEF's genetically-engineered legionnaires (commonly known as GRELs) and their massive, powerful hovertanks.
The pilots who man the machines in these arenas are typically referred to as Duelists.
Not all Duelists are professional entertainers, however. The first Duelists were military personnel who would enter into bouts with other regiments in order to settle matters of honor, and to provide a way of keeping bloodshed to a minimum between the two leagues when opposing regiments laid claim to a disputed territory. Although these regiments do not officially engage in professional Dueling, it is widely accepted that regiments and brigades do supply certain well-regarded pilots with the backing necessary to settle old grudges between commanders or personnel.
Duelists also run the gamut from grizzled guns-for-hire, to black-hearted cartel thugs, to hot-shot test pilots, to local talents who have fought and scratched their way up from their small towns and city-states to get into the big leagues, to military deserters who seek to keep themselves out from under oppressive leaders and away from bounty hunters.
A wide variety of Gears that have surfaced as a result of 200 cycles of military evolution since the Hunter's baptism by fire, with multiple different chassis that fulfill a wide variety of roles. Each pilot may have a special machine that they call their own. Given the modular nature of Gears, these machines can be upgraded and outfitted with vast arrays of weaponry and equipment (some more exotic than others), and tweaked and tuned to perform far above their initial design specifications. Duelists are the pilots most accustomed to these machines, capable of delivering swift and brutal attacks that many other pilots hold in awe. These are the creme de la creme, the aces of their trade, and they show it.