Heveka Cargo Loader
|Heveka Cargo Loader|
Four legs and a strong arm
|Hiver invented but widely used|
The Heveka Cargo Loader is an aid for starports and anywhere else that might need to move many tons of cargo quickly, especially if the cargo is occasionally suspicious, hazardous, or has to be moved in a hazardous environment. It also sees use in emergency response, where moving heavy objects may be useful.
"Heveka" is a corruption of "Hivecha", which is short for "Hiver Mecha". The vehicle looks somewhat like a giant mechanical stylized Hiver, with four legs ending in six toes each, and a giant superheavy crane that looks like a front and rear arm joined together, ending in a twelve-fingered grip. However, the association is only there if one is aware of Hivers, and even then only if one is looking for it, otherwise it is just a four-legged machine with a giant arm and many-fingered hand.
As a Heveka is designed for use in potentially hazardous conditions (hostile worlds, handling high explosives or radioactives, or just moving loads across unstable terrain), it has no crew compartment inside (thus risking no crew), instead requiring remote control to operate. As such, it comes with sufficient security to thwart most would-be hijackers.
A Heveka is slightly more expensive than a simple wheeled crane of similar strength, so it shows up where its capabilities are likely to see more than occasional use. For instance, any starport or spaceport on a hostile world where ships land outside (due to sufficient hangar space not yet having been constructed), or one that routinely sees dangerous cargo (such as a radioactives mining port) - or merely wishes to routinely scan for contraband, as a Heveka comes with a high-end sensor suite that can thoroughly examine whatever it picks up. The legs can telescope out to balance as it laterally shifts cargo; there are iconic images of two of a Heveka's legs "hugging" a ship as its arm reaches up the ramp and deep inside. The on-board computer is designed to offer real-time administrative and/or legal advice (with software that can examine databases of local regulations - able to recognize most known formats across Charted Space - for items specific to cargo and passengers) to operators who might encounter tricky situations, such as having to tell a Count exactly why they can not unload that crate of dustspice on this world, or the exact legal reporting requirements should they encounter a cargo of slaves.
Reports that this has sparked one or more slave rebellions, wherein a Heveka operator was thus prodded into following the law and liberating the slaves even through the sophont's bosses all turned a blind eye to the law, then the slaves went on to overthrow the planetary government, are not well documented. There are confirmed reports of Heveka operators freeing cargoes of slaves, being fired for doing so, and the local courts awarding damages since the operator was in fact following the law. This has discouraged use of Hevekas at ports with loose adherence to local laws.
For most groundside emergencies, a Heveka is overkill - which is exactly what many emergency responders want. It is able to climb sheer vertical surfaces and even the underside of overhangs, so long as it can find a grip. Its sensors can penetrate kilometers of rock and rubble to search for life signs, radioactive sources (that may need containment before they contaminate the area), or fires (such as ones that may be spreading toward stores of fuel and oxidizers). A single Heveka is able to lift an entire 100 ton starship; some starports simply use teams of Hevekas to move heavier ships when necessary (such as when engines fail, so a ship suddenly needs to be moved from docking hangar to shipyard). It needs transport to and from disaster sites, as its internal batteries do not give a long range and it is not as fast as most grav vehicles.
There is some evidence to suggest the computer was overengineered, to allow people with enough skill (or enough money to hire enough skill) to detune the security software and upgrade the skill software. This, plus a good robot brain, would roughly double a Heveka's cost and allow it to act nearly autonomously. The only known cases of this are where labor was particularly limited, such as certain ultra-high-security projects whose managers trusted machines more than sophonts.
The Heveka Cargo Loader was originally designed by the Hive Federation. Although there are questions about its exact date of origin, the design was among the gifts presented to the Third Imperium in 588 for peacefully incorporating the Old Earth Union, and it was apparently first constructed less than a decade prior to that. It has since been declared that this was a manipulation to put people in the Third Imperium more at ease with Hivers, although that may have been simple diplomacy.
Its use spread from there, reaching all across Charted Space (though rarely a common design) save in the Two Thousand Worlds (which uses similar designs, but specifically rejects this design out of fear of "Hiver influence" - which usually boils down to "fear that our people might get comfortable with those we have declared to be enemies") well before 1105. A Heveka is included as standard equipment on a Dee Six class Downport. The design is cheaper and more agile than an equivalent grav vehicle (which might otherwise be expected at TL-13); a grav vehicle would have more speed and more range, neither of which are very helpful in this vehicle's designated role.
While a number of Virus-infested Hevekas have inflicted their usual carnage, anecdotal evidence suggests that such infestations are more likely than usual to evolve into a strain compatible with biological sophont life, if it was not already such a strain. It is suspected - though with little enough concrete data that this is essentially a wish - that the computer architecture and sophont-assistive software may encourage Virus to rethink its destructive imperatives.
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