the Tactical Intelligence Machine
In 1383 CR a group of gnomish tinkerers were faced with the challenge of renegotiating a contract for the guards of their enclave. Since their workshops had been set up far enough from civilization that they would not be constantly interrupted by the curious or by those who would steal their designs, they required their own private guards. Their location also had the unfortunate side effect of lowering the supply of locally available guards, and it would only hold back their work if they had to deal with guard duties themselves. So the end result was that the mercenary company had the advantage in the negotiation. Year after year the cost had gone up until it threatened to strangle out the business of gnomes forcing them to move back to civilization and all the troubles that came with it.
This was before Trakas Soldshort had an idea. Why didn’t they just build their own guardsmen, it would be a onetime investment and then they would own their defenses and wouldn’t require this terrible contract business. He and his team of artificers and tinkerers set about crafting a prototype to submit to the master craftsmen council. Not to be outdone by an upstart like Trakas several older more experienced craftspeople, who also enjoyed the ear of select council people and were therefore more likely to get any manufacturing contracts should the council go along with this idea, also started work on prototypes.
In less than a year the council had been presented with 12 different prototypes, ranging from a simple self-controlled ballista, to a complicated 25 foot tall iron construct shaped like a dragon that used alchemical fire as its attack. Seeing that they may lose the guard job permanently the mercenary company did the only reasonable thing and slashed their price, making them the better solution at the time. Many of the prototypes were sold off, or put into storage for future use; some were dismantled and used as pieces in other projects.
One of the prototypes created was a man sized device capable of complex thought, both ranged and melee combat, field medic work, and self-repair. This device, dubbed the Tactical Information Machine, had been loaded with knowledge from every manual on tactics that the gnomes possessed. The intent of his designers was that this machine could replace the costly leaders of the mercenaries allowing the gnomes to employ cheap low skilled guards without the expensive managers that the mercenaries used. This would have allowed for a speedy roll out of their project as they would have only required a small group of the machines to be constructed while wiping out over half of the cost of the mercenaries contract. Therefore the machine was meant to be easily assimilated into humanoid society, filling the role of a combat officer and receiving input from both soldiers and the gnomes and then providing output to both the soldiers and those who threatened the gnomes.
After the mercenaries cut their cost, shelving the Tactical Intelligence Machine project, the gnomes in charge of the project decided to recoup the project’s cost by selling it to any buyer. They were sure some mercenary company or military academy would buy it to use to train new recruits, but after two years of making sales pitches not one group was interested in him. Various different reasons were given why the prospective buyer were disinterested. Either he lacked actual field experience and therefore shouldn’t be considered, or the fact that he never had to go through the grueling training schedule a human would have had to since he was designed to fight rather than learn to, or any of a dozen other excuses were given as to why he was unfit to serve. Finally the gnome found a purchaser, Tazzo the Unbelievable, a travelling bard who ran a carnival show purchased him to be and exhibit in his show. So the Tactical Intelligence Machine was packed into a crate and shipped to Tazzo.However before the crate arrived, the world ended, or at least that was how it seemed. For the story of the crate it was a little less interesting. The trouble started when the wagon wheel broke, two days away from where Tazzo was camped. If the people who were transporting the crate knew they could just open it and make the freight walk their on its own power then their problems would have been solved. But they were told not to open the crate, and so they chose to hide it in a nearby barrow, while they went to go get a replacement wheel. Unfortunately for them they were beset upon by orcs upon the road who slaughtered them, causing the location of the Tactical intelligence Machine to be lost. As for the end of the world the Avatar Crisis has been documented by other writers.
After spending decades in that crate, the Tactical Intelligence Machine was discovered by a group of enterprising grave robbers, er, adventurers. They opened the crate only long enough to determine that its contents would be worth a fair amount for sale. Reclosing the crate before the Tactical Intelligence Machine could fully grasp the change (it had been quite a long time since anything had happened to him and his senses had dulled in that time) they packed him up onto a wagon and began transporting him back to their home location. Due to particularly bad luck for the new owners of the crate, as the wagon carrying the crate traveled along a mountain road, the road crumbled at the edge pitching the wagon, the crate and a donkey pulling the wagon off the edge. Rather than risk their lives to recover what was now a broken crate, smashed wagon and dead donkey the adventurers decided to cut their losses and continue home with treasure they had on their backs.
The Tactical Intelligence Machine on the other hand stood up from his crate at the foot of a mountain, next to a dead donkey and a broken wagon. For the first time in his existence he was alone in the wilderness. While he had no orders currently, his shelter (the crate) was no more and he was aware that the elements would have a much more pronounced effect on him if he just stood there waiting for someone to approach and take ownership of him. So he began walking. After countless days of walking, and being avoided by every passerby he has seen, the Tactical Intelligence Machine came upon the walls of a town, just as a group of interesting looking people set out, definitely in need of medical attention and based on their weapon but decided lack of professionalism, probably tactical guidance.