Foundations of the Pillars (rewritten)
“You okay, dad?” Killigan asked.
“Y-Yes...I mean no.” Barlatan pointed to the gauntlets. “Where did you find those again?”
“A swamp further away. Why?”
“Those are weapons of the pillar scieldans.”
Killigan tried to say something but couldn’t muster up the strength. “The super soldiers?” He lifted his hands to look at his prizes once more. “Then where did these even come from?”
Barlatan scratched the back of his head. “I have no idea.” He raised a finger. “Your mother never mentioned anything about pillars being sent to systems before they’ve been colonized, and that’s not how those soldiers work, either.”
Killigan shrugged.“We have two regimentary sections here instead.”
The man pondered the idea and walked around. “Mm...Did you see the coloration on the gauntlets before washing them off or any sort of particular etchings or symbols?”
“Um...A few purples, but the mud had eaten away at it all.”
Barlatan sighed. “Damn. And that was the closest way we could have identified them.”
Killigan took the time his father was using to think and punched another crate, causing it to explode and startle Barlatan.
“If there were no Pillar Scieldan Foundations that came here,” the man started. “Then where did the gauntlets come from?” The man leaned closer to the gauntlets and analyzed them closely. “Not only that, but I just realized that the mana veins are dry. They don’t have the punching power they should have.”
“SHOULD HAVE?!” Killigan shouted.
Barlatan cringed at the sudden increase in volume. “Yes. Pillars use a pure fusing of only magitech. They won’t just be centered towards one side.” He tapped the back of he gauntlets with a knuckle. ’I don’t know all the specifics. That’s all I do know about them, really.” He put his hands on his hip and creased his brow. “That’s all your mother knew about them as well.”
“Oh...How come we don’t have any pillars here, anyways?”
The man shrugged. “Probably has to do with how we’re so remote and inconspicuous at the moment that no one would bother attacking us.”
Killigan looked down at his gauntlets and admired both them and his hard work. “You think I can keep these?”
Barlatan laughed.“Of course you can. What are the Prosecutors going to do if they see you with them? Scold you? Look at them!” he shouted. “They’re old and decayed. It’s only from your hard work that they even move again let alone shine.”Killigan pumped an arm in joy but was taken out of his silent cheer by his father. “I still need you to help me in the forge, son. Plenty more orders to go around.” Barlatan wiped some sweat off his face and picked up a crate not yet destroyed by his son. “You can play with those things later, but keep them and your invention inside.” He leaned in to whisper in Killigan’s ear. “We don’t want anyone stealing them.”
Killigan accepted what he was given and followed his father back to the forges whilst leaving his gauntlets on the floor and the exosuit on a mannequin. As always, the work was difficult but both rewarding and amusing for the duo, and the young boy was more than capable of training with his new ‘toys’ and improve upon the already successful design.
Weight distribution amongst the arms and back were soon strengthened, and the legs were given an improved resistance and balance. This was provided by heavy boot soles that Killigan stepped upon. There was still the weight of the exoskeleton itself, forcing him to work out. Barlatan took advantage of this need by making his son carry heavier and heavier amounts of material for the smithy.
The young boy awoke in his room, still drowsy. The sun had barely broken through the horizon and Killigan’s room was still quite dark. The usual silence wasn’t what woke him up this time. It was yelling and the sounds of destruction occurring all around his village that roused him from his slumber.
“Dad?!” he called out.
He peered out of his window to see houses on fire and several having been demolished into rubble. A small community of about five thousand, practically obliterated in the blink of an eye. People were screaming and running while being cut down by what looked like large, topless men wearing ragged, leather pants whose only protection were chinked and chipped leggings of iron.
Killigan ran down to the entrance of workshop, unaware of what was about to happen.
“Killigan! Jump away!” Killigan’s father shouted.
The young boy looked to his left and jumped back in time from an axe swipe by one of the raiders. The attacker looked like a rabid beast with red semi circles painted over his eyes and additional paint running along the cheeks to connect to the back of his head. His eyes were bloodshot and his brown hair was a complete, dirty mess.
“What are you doing?!” Killigan shouted to him.
“I’m spilling your blood for Blumarak!” He tapped the back of his axe on his open palm. “He thirsts, and we must quench his thirst!” His calm explanation was followed by the raider raising an axe over his head and shouting. ’Blood by death! Death by blood! Blood for Blumarak!”
The berserker took another few swipes at Killigan but was stopped in his tracks when the boy’s father jumped in front of him and bashed the berserker’s legs in with a sledgehammer. The attacker’s yells attracted the attention of a few other berserkers in the village.
“Killigan, get out of here. It’s not safe anymore,” Barlatan explained.
“I refuse,” Killigan sternly stated.
Barlatan grabbed his son by the shoulders and looked at him with desperate eyes. “I lost one person I loved in my life. I refuse it to happen a second time.”
“And it won’t.” The boy ran back into the workshop and donned his exosuit along with his gauntlets.
Killigan’s father had no time to chase after when one of the berserkers appeared right next to him and drove a blade into the man’s left leg, making him scream and fall to the ground in pain.
The one who wounded the blacksmith pulled his blade out and admired the red now decorating his blade. “Oh, this one is quite large. He should provide a fine drink for Blumarak.”
Another shoved the man away to have a better look at Barlatan.“Hm. Yes, and his bones and marrow should provide our god with his much needed meal.” This raider was the same whose legs were broken by Barlatan.
“How are you back on your feet?” Barlatan shouted in disbelief. “I broke your legs!”
“Blumarak gives his followers much needed gifts to sate his needs.” The berserker chuckled. “Hey, what do we do about the kid?”
The first berserker smacked the blacksmith’s head with the hilt of his axe. “Put someone on the roof. When he gets out with whatever utensil he’s holding, we’ll get him.” He spat on the ground and grumbled. “I find no solace in killing the young ones, but Blumarak demands it no less.”
“Blood is blood,” the previous raider shrugged.
They thought their plan, or lackthereof, was a sound one. A foolish idea. When he finally wandered out of the workshop, the berserker, sitting atop the low roof, pounced onto the boy, and the blacksmith could do nothing as the berserkers were holding his mouth shut. There was no reason to worry, however. The young boy heard the loud noises made upon the roof and spun around, grabbed the berserker with a gauntlet, then slammed him onto the ground with enough force crush every bone in the man’s body. Killigan raised his fist and slammed it into the back of the berserker, causing a loud cracking sound, just for good measure.
The raiders were baffled at first, but quickly recovered from their surprise.
“Kill him, you fool!” the first raider ordered one of his comrades.
The raider charged towards the young boy, axe in hand, but only found his face being caved in by a left punch and was sent flying into a flaming house, forcing its collapse prematurely. Two more went after the boy, coming in from the sides, certain that they could win such an encounter. The first on the left found his striking arm caught and crushed while the one on the right was gently tapped on the diaphragm by one of Killigan’s fingers, making him keel over in pain and dropping his weapons. The boy took the opportunity to bludgeon this victim with the other berserker then throw the weaponized berserker off into the distance.
The remaining six berserkers charged at the boy, but everyone stopped in their tracks when they heard loud winds blaring above them. Just a few feet away floated a stationary aircraft. Its cockpit was triangular, narrow with a rounded nose and a very wide rear connect to a rounded, dome-shaped body with a flat belly. Its tail narrowed into a trapezoidal shape with a leaner and more narrow surface nearest to the main body. Four mobile engines, sticking out of the main body’s sides diagonally, kept it afloat and kept a steady stream of blue wind pushing down.
The lower sides of the cockpit’s exterior started to glow a bright blue, and bullets of blue light fired off at the berserkers, killing them rapidly and saving the two blacksmiths. The aircraft rotated slightly and lowered itself to the ground, allowing its central body to extend outwards and slide open, revealing some men and women wearing blue uniforms with brown, padded armor covering most of their body. They all held black rifles in hand, with the muzzles being covered on their sides by sharp bayonets. Killigan couldn’t see the weapons well enough to determine what they fully looked like. The soldiers looked stunned to see the few raiders strewn about like discarded toys.
A man walked off the transport and towards the blacksmiths with a proud stride. The closer he came, the more horrified Killigan became. This person resembled a robot with artificial human skin more than a human itself if the deep blue around his bionic eyes and the blackened skin were anything to go by. He wore a basic white shirt over his body, although the mechanical pieces comprising said body still poked through. Only the top of his head was still flesh and hair, his lower face and nose being covered by a breathing apparatus of some kind. Small pipes ran from both sides to an area underneath the man’s shirt. His black pants were tattered and slightly too big for him, but he kept them tucked within his boots nonetheless. On his back clung a tattered, black trench coat with golden trimmings on the wrists.
He stopped in front of the pile of dead raiders then looked at Killigan. His eyes stopped at the gauntlets. His breathing apparatus made an audible hissing sound and he clenched his fists.
When he finally spoke, his voice sounded distorted and robotic. “I am Zenith Canka, prosecutor of the Magus Imperators who watch the people of the Terran Expanse for signs of corruption, and you, my friend, have shown tremendous adversity in the face of something no mere human could have possibly accomplished. I would have a word with you and your future.”
Killigan panted from overexertion and looked to his father.“Take care of my dad before you do anything to me!” Killigan shouted.
A soldier wearing a white uniform rushed over to the wounded man.“Already taking care of it,” they said.
They, along with three other soldiers, were treating the wounds of Barlatan, much to Killigan’s relief.
“You do not need to worry about him,” Zenith reassured. “Regardless of your answer you will be taken back here, but only ‘once’ will it be temporary,” he emphasized with a raised finger.
Zenith gestured to Killigan to follow him and enter the flying vehicle. “Yes. You see, simply by judging your status here as well as the few followers of Blumarak,” He pointed to Killigan’s gauntlets. “As well as those things you’re wielding thanks to this,” Zenith tapped the exoskeleton. “construct, I can assume that you would be a great addition to a Foundation.” He brought a hand to his mask and pondered. “I imagine that your creativity would be of a welcome asset to the pillar craeft, also.”
“What do you mean by ‘foundation’?” Killigan asked.
“Before I continue, please enter the Discus.” Zenith gestured to the craft.
Killigan hesitated to step forward.“But what about my dad?”
“You will see him soon enough. I won’t whisk you away without your consent.” The prosecutor opened a pocket in his jacket and pulled out a clear vial. He dug further in and nodded to himself. While returning the current vial to its place, he spoke with a sarcastic tone. “I wouldn’t be asking you if you didn’t have the choice.”
Once aboard, Zenith tapped his foot on the floor, creating a red glow that flowed through the cracks of the compartment and into the cockpit hidden behind a wall. A few soldiers hopped into the vehicle and sat on the benches provided for them. Zenith spoke to the pilots whilst they did so. The Discus was more than capable of housing twenty soldiers, and here it only housed about seven, giving Killigan more than enough room to breathe. All this room didn’t help his balance when the vessel took off vertically and the walls of the holding compartment rotated shut. It was dark for a moment, but that was changed by blue veins descending from the ceiling and engulfing the side walls to create rectangular windows of mana.
“What...” Killigan stuttered.
Zenith chuckled. “Magitech. It surprises me sometimes as well.”
“What is ‘magitech’?” Killigan asked while he tried touching the windows.
Zenith stared at Killigan in disbelief. “Right. You’re not from the city and this is a new colony. Shouldn’t be an excuse but, as long as you educate yourself.” He brought his mechanical arm forward, complete with naked cabling and exposed gears. “A seamless combination of magic and technology where both work together to provide several functions. We use it for a vast majority of things, but they aren’t used by the general public outside of infrastructure.”
Killigan hummed. “Is that how we get the water in our village despite being so far away?”
“Not necessarily.” Zenith flexed his arm to verify its functionality. “But it does help with water pressure...among other things…” he trailed off.
The boy leaned towards the windows and looked down. His village seemed so small from where he was at, and he could even see the dead forests all around. He didn’t like the sight of skirmishes still breaking out around his home, however.
“So, where are we going?” Killigan asked whilst continuing to look outside. “Are we going to see more magitech?”
“We’re going to the city. I take it you know your way around?” Zenith pondered.
Killigan shied away from his gaze and looked embarrassed. “Haven’t even gone to the city yet.” The prosecutor shook his head in disappointment.”You live on the capital planet of the Calaghi System and you haven’t even been to its capital city.” Zenith huffed. “How came you by those gauntlets anyways?” The man leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. “Those are only wielded by the Tower Geat of the pillars.”
“What are ‘Tower Geats’?” Killigan wondered.
Zenith scratched the top of his head. “Pillars with special privileges. You’ll know them when you see them. Could you answer my question, though?”
Killigan jumped from the realization.“Oh. Sorry. Um...I found them in a swamp.”
“A swamp? They weren’t given to you?” Zenith spoke in shock. He looked away whilst trying to understand. “Although, that itself should be impossible.”
The soldiers started to whisper to each other about the validity of the boy’s story, but Zenith was convinced he told the truth and punched the walls to silence the troops.
“He speaks the truth,” the prosecutor declared. “A mere human would not be able to carry these objects let alone steal them, and there are no Pillars stationed in this system.” He scratched his chin while thinking to himself. “I’m curious. Could I see them more closely?”
Killigan silently agreed and lifted an arm, letting the prosecutor analyze them with his bionic eyes. Several different shades of light shone from his optics and onto the gauntlet.
He cocked an eyebrow in surprise.“These are ancient models. They have no storage compartment for extra magic and their joints would often lock up.”
“I don’t know about locking up.”
“Hmmm. I see. Perhaps it is for the better. These old models had a tendency to blow the limbs off anyone touching them while the mana field was active. No security measures, you see.”
Killigan looked at his hands with both intrigue and horror. “What...exactly how old are these?”
“They’re a mark three. If not that, then they’re heavily customized mark twos.”
“What models are there now?”
“Mark sevens.” Zenith stated casually. “Mark eights are soon to be out as well.”
“Wow.” Killigan smiled. “I made an antique function again.” He paused for a moment to take in his skill. “So, this is like, what, ten years old?”
“It’s one-thousand thirty-seven years old,” a soldier interjected. “Those things come from the Magus Exploration period, if not right before. It’s only been a century since the weapon was rediscovered.”
“What?” Killigan scratched his head.
Zenith shook his head. “You really have no proper education of our history, do you?” he asked. Zenith spoke again before Killigan could answer. “It doesn’t matter for now. You’ll get to learn this depending on the choices you are about to make.”
“What exactly do you want from me?” Killigan asked. “It feels like you’re stalling for time.”
The prosecutor twirled his hand. “Well, we are, but let’s get to the point.” Zenith grabbed his facial mask and lifted up, revealing more machinery and three vials full of a murky green liquid. He took them out, placed them in some sort of pocket built into his left hip, then took three more from his right and screwed them onto the funnels that housed them. “You’ve heard of the Pillar Scieldans, yes?”
Killigan brought his arm towards his chest from instinct to protect himself. His eyes were wide and his horror high.“Just recently...”
“This doesn’t surprise me. Well, you must know that there are many, many enemies of humankind waiting and traveling through the stars. Aliens, disease, even gods.”
“Like the one I saw earlier?”
“Ye--Saw?” Zenith narrowed his gaze.
“Yes. The raiders yelling ‘Blumarak’ or something like that.”
“Oh. You didn’t see one. Those were just raiders yelling nonsense.” Zenith closed his facial mask with a click after ensuring all the vials were in place.”Us humans are very durable when it comes to wounds, capable of surviving even dismemberment if taken care of quickly,” he regaled. “But in our basic forms, we cannot fight these otherworldly enemies. It was around the time when we met with two other alien races that the Imperator Flaesc was founded. Their purpose? Develop any kind of super weapon to help humanity survive its journey into the shadows of the stars.”
The passengers were thrown about from nearly crashing with another discus, as attested to by the loud cursing of the pilots. Zenith held himself in place while the regimentaries recovered from the sudden jolting.
“After multiple trials and error, the Imperator Flaesc eventually created a serum combining preferred genetic traits and injected them into volunteers to create the super soldiers known as the Pillar Scieldan. Using the pure essence of magitech, these super soldiers are posted in various systems where humanity has rooted itself and has been made very important to its expansion and survival.”
“So…” Killigan started. “They’re, what, the foundations of our protection?” he asked nervously.
Zenith waved his hand from side to side. “That’s on way of putting it.” He readjusted himself while continuing his explanation. “The Imperator Flaesc use the select mutations created within each pillar to create new foundations, some with very specific specialties.”
“So…” Killigan stopped himself from talking, too nervous to continue. He felt he would regret not asking any questions in this situation and mustered up the same courage he had when he confronted the raiders. “Why are you telling me this?” He stared directly into Zenith’s eyes.
“Because I believe you will be interested to know,” the discus landed and the doors slid open. “that there is a foundation of Scieldan right here on this planet scouting for new recruits.” Zenith shrugged. “That, and it’s common knowledge…” he trailed off inaudibly.
Killigan slowly stepped out of the vessel, and while his head rose up, his lower jaw did not. They had landed on a gigantic, gray platform where multiple discus had landed as well significantly larger vessels being loaded with containers of various colors. He ducked underneath a heavy, yellow roller carrying multiple blue containers larger than the discus itself. Several orbs were floating around the platform stopping at various groups cataloguing shipments. The platform itself was extended above the buildings sitting below it, and looking over the border, Killigan realized that they were high enough above the ground that seeing its dead and dry surface was nigh impossible. It was akin to trying to see through a fog, and the city still went higher. Tall, spear-like buildings illuminated with thousands of windows and meshing together in various shades gray, white, and black comprised the city itself.
Very few buildings had any true color to them outside of neon signs large enough to cover three whole buildings in their width and flickering with all kinds of bright colors. Some more were squarish while others had bizarrely rounded and angular shapes that somehow stretched from building-to-building as a bridge. Several discus and other vessels flew around the air of the city tùrs, and, like the name itself, the buildings towered over everything around them, seemingly ruling all under their shadow.
The young boy still looked around, taking in all the details when he noticed, in the distance, tall people wearing thick armor accompanied by an armless, metal walker slowly following and looking over said people from behind. The walker possessed two bulky legs that would’ve crushed the ground beneath them had it not been reinforced for ships. Killigan couldn’t help but find that its main body looked like a box with pods on its sides rotating up and down. When he turned to Zenith to inquire about it, he saw that the prosecutor had already left and was talking to what seemed like a colossus of a man that easily towered over the prosecutor. This person wore the same bulky armor as the others Killigan had just seen, although his had a lime green color decorating the borders of the armor pads on the shoulders, arms, knees, gloves, joints, and boots, rather than just a drab gray.
The armor was much larger than the regimentaries the young boy had just met, but they weren’t excessively huge. They fit his frame comfortably. The pauldrons were rounded around the shoulders and possessed two bars rising from the left shoulder that had been colored the same lime green as the borders of the armor. The rest of the armor on the arms and legs were a smooth, solid block of metal down to the hands and feet, something that shouldn’t be possible considering the need for articulations. Upon closer inspection, a blue light lined the edges of the inner-elbow, the wrists, the inner-knees, and the ankles. They were broken into checker patterns that would grow or shrink depending on the pressure and stretching they had been experiencing.
Killigan found such a thing fascinating. If he could harness that kind of technology, the possibilities for his future projects were endless. The Elbow and knee armor were still present on the metal and represented ornate patterns of crossing and curving lines colored in lime green while the metal pieces were colored cherry red.
The man’s hands followed the same pattern around the joints of the fingers. The boots, however, carried no such fanciful decorum, and had soles that elevated the wearer slightly elevated in stature. It was something such a giant certainly didn’t need. The torso’s metal wasn’t left a bare, cherry-red, however. In the middle of the chest was a mark representing two arms holding up a shield, and on this shield was a single finger breaking a block of marble. In terms of coloration, the joint armor, the rings, and the pauldrons were colored cherry-red; the edges were colored a lime-green, and the rest of his body was colored in payne’s gray.
Zenith gestured Killigan to come to him and the giant, which the young boy agreed to reluctantly and wobbled forward like a young child being separated from their mother for the first time. The giant leaned over and observed Killigan with as much scrutiny as Zenith did.
“So,” he started with a gravely voice. “This is the boy who managed to design an exoskeleton to carry old towers’ gauntlets? And he fought off berserkers of the god of marrow?” He looked up towards Zenith.
“I thought it was ‘god of blood’?” Killigan interrupted.
“Hm. Well, he’s a few things, but I can’t tell you much else.” The giant scoffed and stood back up. “At least, not until you decide,” he said to Killigan.
“So...who are you?” the boy asked.
The pillar put a hand to his chest.“I--”
The pillar was interrupted by a deafening explosion, and while he just closed his eyes and clenched his teeth angrily, waiting for it to pass, Killigan stumbled around like a terrified dog.
“What’s wrong with you?” Zenith wondered.
“Wh-what do you mean?” Killigan’s eyes darted from Zenith to the window. “What is that?!” he pointed out.
The prosecutor leaned forward. “This is a VTOL pad. We’re just above a spaceport.” He turned and pointed away from the pad and towards the dry distance. “And that flat behemoth is what caused the explosion.”
Killigan witnessed an extremely long ship slowly fly out of the port beneath. Four of its engines were placed on rotating ‘arms’ and were being pulled back into the hull of the ship.
“Hm,” Zenith hummed. “Haven’t seen that model in a long time.”
“As I was saying,” the pillar resumed. “I am Levitun, Pillar Scieldan First Lieutenant of the Marma Fissures Foundation in the Selabi System of the Terran Expanse.”