The First Encounter (rewritten)
“Killigan Ghor. I know,” Levitum interrupted. Killigan looked disappointed.
Zenith laughed heartily. “Looks like the boy wanted to do the same introduction as you.”
“The prosecutor told me.” Levitum leaned next to the boy’s ear. “Although I would be wary of that one.”
Killigan looked at Zenith giving instructions to some of the soldiers from the discus, then back to Levitum. “How so?”
“He refuses to adhere to the rules set by the Expanse back on Earth,” Levitum explained in a low and serious tone.
Zenith interrupted them. “We’re losing time here.” He stepped in front of the young boy and looked up at Levitum and jabbed him in the chestplate with a finger “My business and my methodologies are my own. If you’re too much of a coward to make the greatest efforts in the aid of humanity’s future, then I’m afraid you were never deserving of the genetic modifications you received to become a Pillar Scieldan,” he stated condescendingly.
Levitum clenched his fists, the creasing of metal grating the ears of all those around. “How DARE you?!” He slammed an open hand on his chest in defiance then pointed his fist at the prosecutor. “I sacrificed my present and my future to ensure humanity has even a past to speak of! But you wouldn’t know that.” Levitus crossed his arms and looked down on the prosecutor. “You’re too busy trying everything you can to make alliances with the alien races and trying to save those that have already fallen to those without a pantheon.” He chuckled. “Perhaps their ‘influence’ has reached you as well, ‘Night Spirit’.”
The prosecutor would have smirked if he still had a properly functioning face. Alas, he had to only rely on his eyebrows and varied openings for his eyes to relay any sort of physical expression of an emotion. He emotified himself with a raised lower eyelid on his left eye and a raised brow for his right.
“While I would be remiss not to continue our verbal war,” he started “This encounter is not for petty squabbling but for a potential new member of the Marma Fissures,” he stated calmly.
There was a long moment where they glared at each other and Killigan felt like he was being crushed by the pressure being emitted. The two looked over towards the boy who was keeping to himself and didn’t want to talk to them.
“Well...Would the Marma Fissures protect my home?” Killigan asked with a high-pitched voice.
“You mean this system?” Levitum wondered.
“We’ll send a contingent to this sector, yes. It is an agreement we’ve made with the Magus Imperators and the Magus Mearc on our recruiting borders.” He raised a finger and spoke with a louder tone. “If, and only if, we can recruit in this system,” The pillar straightened himself out “then we must send a detachment here until a new foundation is made for this system or until we take possession of it.”
“You can do what?” Killigan’s eyes widened, relaying a mixture of fear and anger.
Levitum straightened himself and placed his hands downwards as though they rested upon a sword hilt. “Yes, but it rarely happens that a foundation has more than one system under its control.”
“But you’ll definitely protect my home?” he insisted.
“Yes,” Levitum responded.
“Then I’ll come with you.”
Levitum turned his head to the side. “Are you sure about this? Once you join us there is no going back.”
When the boy nodded, Levitum shook Killigan’s hand. “Great to hear it. I’ll be more than happy to have you in our foundation, but you will have to follow the initiate’s steps first, and we have just the task for you and those gauntlets.”
“Since you’re joining us, explanations shall come from the pillar flaesc and other members.” Levitum stood still and looked off into the void. “First, is there anyone you want to bid farewell to? This is something we rarely ever allow, but considering your advancements in technology and contributions against warriors fueled by deific powers, I will grant you this opportunity.”
Killigan nodded. “Yes. I want to say goodbye to my father.”
“Alright then. Follow me. I will accompany you to a Pillar Scieldan transport.”
Killigan noticed that Zenith was not following and remained behind. He waved the young blacksmith away and returned to his own duties. Killigan felt a strange pressure in his gut. He did not know this man, yet he felt as though it was flotsam keeping him afloat in an ocean of the unknown.
“The prosecutor was only here to speak of you to me,” Levitum explained. “He will not be joining us. He has other matters to attend to.”
Killigan stopped in front of what appeared to be a massive container and waited on the pillar to say something, but Levitum simply opened a door made into the ‘container’ and invited the boy into it.
“We’re going in a container?”
Levitum chuckled.“It’s not a container. It’s a Vyrde. A pillar’s main form of transportation to and from the battlefield.”
Killigan ran backwards to get a wider view of the craft and realized that it was much larger than he had anticipated. All along the main body were extensions of metal creating visible ridges. Levitum, as a pillar, was about two-meters-five rounded up. Obviously too big for something like the Discus, but this ship gave too much headroom. The main body of the vessel was shaped like a hexagon with heightened sides and shrunk tops. The cockpit up front was broken into two parts; with the lowest glass canopy jutting out the furthest into an oval shape while the second was above, situated on the top-right, and adjacent to the lowest. Built into the hull and placed just left of the highest canopy was an antenna pointing forward, and next to the lowest canopy was a currently rotating, metal bar glowing with a blue shine.
The Vyrde rested on five feet: Two on each side and a very large, vertically placed foot parallel to the vessel itself. Its rear side was inclined diagonally outwards where several other pillars and two more of the armless, metal walkers were entering the vessel. The walkers were colossal, easily three times as tall as a pillar, yet they only reached two-thirds of the vyrde’s height. As expected, the vessel was colored like the other Marma Fissures, with cherry-red on the main body and lime-green on the ridges and the spots not occupied by canopies.
“Why is it so flashy?” Killigan wondered. “Wouldn’t you prefer camoflauge?”
“No. Our pillars are the ones who run to the front lines and slam directly into the enemy. We strike FEAR into their hearts!” Levitum emphasized with a sudden blast in voice volume. “We don’t sneak up and assassinate them.” He checked his armor paint. “The brighter we are, the more attention we drag towards us and lessen the weight on the regular soldiers.”
Once inside, Killigan observed the interior of the vessel. It was much larger than it seemed on the outside and filled with many more pillar scieldans than he was hoping for. He felt puny and out-of-place, yet the pillars did not care for him. They sat on large, black seats of black cushioning huggin the walls while the mechs were installed in a compartment behind the passenger’s and hidden by a giant, retractable wall. Opposite both sides of seats were wide screens currently turned off, creating a long, black rectangle built into the downwards-angle of the ship. The pillars wore helmets that possessed only a thin yellow visor for the eyes. The metal pushed out around the ‘nose’ and upper jaw bones into a sharp, protruding ridge that then returned to a rounded surface around the rest of the skull, with the helmet squeezing slightly around the lower jaw bones. At least three of the pillars were wearing cloth over their armor, befuddling the young boy as to the purpose of the strange attire.
After strapping himeself in place, with two large belts hooking themselves over Killigan’s shoulders and locking into the lower seat, the vyrde took off. Blue streams flowed down from the area between the cockpit and the main body. Two others came from the furthest area to the rear, the engines having been melded into the hull to conceal them, although they still created a prominent outwards bulge in the metal. The engines stretched out from the body of the vyrde, connected only by metal beams that stretched, twisted, and shrunk comparative to the needed positioning. The foremost engine could not be seen, but its flame -far larger than the two in the rear- started to angle backwards, pushing the vessel higher and further into the sky.
The vyrde spun around nearly instantly, a move which would have torn any other vessel into separate pieces.. Levitum’s armor, like the armor of the other pillars, glowed a gentle blue during this maneuver, keeping them in place. Killigan was not given such a luxury and flew across the empty space and slammed into some seated pillars who looked at him curiously.
“You okay there, boy?” one of them asked. “That looked like a painful throw.”
Another of them bellowed in laughter. “I would have expected those gauntlets to have held him down.”
Killigan quickly scampered to his feet and backed away, smiling nervously. While the pillars were more amused by the boy’s attempts to be a vyrde himself, Killigan felt that it was only a cover. That they were going to hurt him if he did that again. What took the discus around fifteen minutes to reach the city took the vyrde a full minute to return to the small village of the young blacksmith. It settled down on its outskirts, prompting the curiosity of many villagers and the wounded. The villagers were surprised to see Killigan jump out of the massive vehicle and hurry to his home, but he wouldn’t respond when he tried to call to them. Two Pillars and Levitum stepped out of the vessel, awaiting the child patiently, gathering even more stares and confusion. Barlatan was still being treated, but much like the other victims, he was strong enough to be able to sit up without issue.
“Dad, you’re okay!” Killigan cheered.
“Of course I am,” Barlatan stated matter-of-factly. “Why would you think otherwise?” The boy pointed to his father’s leg, prompting Barlatan to dismiss it with a wave of his hand. “Bah. That’s just a nick. I’ll be better in no time.” The blacksmith’s gaze soon followed a figure standing behind Killigan and went up and up until he was looking into the eyes of Levitum. “A...a...a...” he stuttered. The other villagers felt the same way.
“Your son has decided to join the Marma Fissures,” Levitum explained. “In exchange, we will send a contingent of our troops here to help protect the Calaghi System until another element intervenes.”
Levitum’s height, followed by his tough and proud demeanor, left him as an icon of awe to Barlatan. He had almost forgotten what the pillar had said and stared his son in the eyes.“Are you sure about this, Killigan?” he asked with a trembling voice.
“Yes,” Killigan nodded. “I’m doing this not just for you, but to protect everyone else here.” He looked down, his eyes darting left and right. “I don’t know why, but I feel that this was just the smallest of things we might encounter, and I want to be ready to destroy any threat.”
Barlatan gave pause. “Are you absolutely certain? This is your decision to make, and I’m conflicted in many ways about this...sudden decision…” He took a slow, deep breath. “I don’t want you to…” he looked away. “Like your mother.”
Killigan hugged his father, being careful not to crush him with the exoskeleton he was still wearing.
“I won’t. I have the pillars that will protect me until I’m strong enough to come back.” Killigan walked away from Barlatan, every step feeling stiff and raw. “I’ll make you and mom proud. You’ll see…”
Barlatan chuckled. “Don’t forget to keep training in your smithing. Can’t lose that to just smashing in heads.”
With one final goodbye, the father watched his son leave the planet Calagh, something he never had the opportunity to do himself. An old man content with his life but happy to see others explore new ones. Both the blacksmith and the son hoped to see each other again once Killigan became a fully fledged pillar scieldan.
Hopefully, it might happen one day, but until then, there was much training, learning, and working that both sides needed to do first before such a thought could become reality. Killigan would become one of the greatest pillars of the Marma Fissures that he could, and his father would become one of the greatest blacksmiths in the Calaghi System.
The vyrde was more than capable of accelerating at a great enough speed to break through the atmosphere and enter the dark embrace of space. Killigan was forced to sit on the lap of one of the pillars who held him in place with their sheer strength. It made him look like a doll, causing him to turn a scarlet shade of red despite the other pillars being apathetic to his situation. Of course, the amount of Gs the boy suffered during takeoff did not prevent him from nearly passing out. It was a strange thing for Kiligan; These giants who are touted as some of humanity’s strongest warriors of flesh weren’t actually considering themselves as superior or even forcing their will upon the smaller denizens of the Expanse, but he still couldn’t help but feel intimidated under their gaze.
The walls lit up just like the discus’ had, showing Calagh from above, and Killigan was in awe.
“Wow,” he lengthened. “So that’s what my home looks like? A giant ball of brown and white?”
One of the pillars stood up and stretched during her walk to the window. “Yes. It’s quite ugly. The desert areas are still in the process of being terraformed. It IS almost a desert planet,” she added. “There are several patches of woodland and swamps, but, I believe that’s about all we’ve seen from orbit.” The pillar leaned against the wall with a single hand. “I still don’t understand why it’s in such a state. It’s in the perfect zone to have Earth-like qualities to it.” She shrugged. “A mystery through-and-through, but that aspect doesn’t concern us.”
Killigan put a hand on the window and smiled. “It might be ugly, but it’s still my home, and I’ll eventually return and protect it.”
The woman bellowed in laughter. “I like this child. He’s quite positive.”
“Where are we going, anyways?” Killigan said. “Your home system?”
“Yes, but first we must reach the fleet. We didn’t come here in this tiny vessel.”
“Keep looking through the window,” Levitum pointed to the wall. “The pilot is adjusting his course, so you’ll see the ships eventually,” he added.
Around the ellipse of the planet were several ships flying to-and-from other systems in the galaxy, but the ships that stood out was a gigantic vessel surrounded by three smaller ships. The closer they got to it, the easier to see the big one’s details became. It was shaped just like the vyrde in that it was like a container. However, there were wing-like extensions near its three main engines in the back. They were curved inward and the edges glowed a bright white, like a blade. All along the sides of the main body were several tri-barreled turrets of tremendous size. So big, in-fact, that they could only fit about seven of them for each side. The transport flew around the sides of the vessel, putting them into Killigan’s full view and terrifying him. Just one barrel easily dwarfed the transport. Above and around the turrets were smaller turrets with a single cannon, although these ones were barely notable and could have been easily manned by a regular person.
Near the prow of the ship was a large, yellow colored viewport that allowed its captain and various other crew to see outside. Pointing straight outwards from the hull and underneath the bridge was a gigantic cannon whose circular, flat end floated in front of it while crystals and lenses floated around both of them. Everything was connected via a single thread of mana, bearing the appearance of lightning. The end lens was fit with sharp spikes on its sides protruding far in front of it, perfect for ramming.
The stern was more elevated than the rest of the ship and stretched back over the three, large engines. The top and bottom of the ship possessed missile turrets that could retract back into the safety of the hull, although some of them were taken out for maintenance. This was attested to by large holes in the body and small lights produced by engineering craft which the young blacksmith could barely see. What Killigan noticed that was more peculiar to him than the rest, was the middle barrel of every tri-barreled turret colored purple as well as strange, crystalline extensions located in seemingly random areas on the hull of the vessel, and a blue pad on top of the ship, crackling with energy.
“It’s a Cross-Class Heavy Cruiser. About two-kilometers long, and thirty-five meters wide,” Levitum said.
Killigan turned to face Levitum. “That’s only a heavy cruiser?!” he shouted in surprise.
“Yes,” Levitum answered casually. “It’s a support vessel for other cruisers and to transport vyrdes and our other, smaller vessels.”
“You should see our titan,” another pillar laughed.
Killigan’s eye twitched. “You have a titan? A real titan-class vessel?”
Levitum nodded. “Yes. All pillars are assigned the right to own one, although we only ever use it if we lose our home system, as a mobile HQ.”
Another pillar leaned forward on his seat, grabbing Killigan’s attention.“We rarely ever use them because of just HOW MUCH resources are needed to maintain it.” The pillar liked to accentuate his speech with wild hand movements. “Plus, it takes the work of both the pillar craeft to maintain its systems and the pillar magus to maintain the spells on its systems. During activation, it can take several days straight of work by both sides JUST to make it work.”
“And every foundation has their own design for a titan,” Levitum added.
Killigan looked straight into the void, his brows furrowed and his mind perplexed. “Wait, really? I thought it--”
“Was a standardized model?” Levitum shook his head. “No. Foundations and a few home fleets are the only ones to be allowed the possession of a titan, and the foundations have to design and build their own.“ Levitum clicked his tongue several times in boredom. “In a way, it forces us to help the Magus Mearc in the discovery of new sectors simply so we can acquire enough resources for construction.”
The vyrde vibrated, causing Killigan to almost topple over, but the pillar he was sitting on held him firmly in place. When the boy looked out the window again, he witnessed an emerald-green barrier around the cruiser dissipate for a moment while the vyrde docked into its hangar.
“What was that thing?” Killigan asked Levitum.
“What was what?”
“That green thing around the ship.”
“The arcane barrier?” Levitum asked. “Oh.” He scratched the back of his head. “That’s just what we use to shield our ships,” he stated casually.
“It’s a magus who watches the barriers and controls them,” another pillar commented.
“Yes. They apply a shielding spell onto the vessel, and, if you saw them, the various antenna around the vessel keeps the barrier active and strengthens it as well,” Levitum explained.
“So it’s just that one person who takes care of the shield?” Killigan wondered.
“No. Just one is needed to make it, but several maintain it, including the technicians. Now let’s get you out and ready for your integration into our ranks!” Levitum and the other pillars cheered for the new member.
Instead of going through the small door present on the sides of the vyrde, the pillars went into the rear compartment of the Vyrde where the two walkers awaited disembarking. Now that he was closer to them, Killigan noticed several dozen closed hatches on both ‘pods’ of the walkers. If he knew his smithing - and he did - then that would mean these seemingly innocuous constructs held in a massive amount of firepower. Although Killigan was uncertain of what, exactly.
When the vyrde’s back doors slid open into the interior, and ramp dropped down, Killigan was quite surprised, yet again. So many people were in this small space of a hangar. Catwalks lined the walls and hung above the pillars’ heads; Strange machines with two claws would slid along the underside of the catwalks to lower themselves, grab a container, then move anywhere else in the area. One such claw lowered itself to the newly opened vyrde and stared Killigan directly in the face. It had a face of its own, although its was rectangular with rounded top edges and a single, glowing optic in the left slit. Its head jittered from side to side while the red laser scanned the boy. It seemed to try and grab Killigan multiple times but eventually left to continue its transportation tasks.
“What was that?!” Killigan screamed.
“A lifter drone. They have a name, but we don’t really care about them that much,” Levitum casually commented.
“What was it doing?”
“Scanning you and determining whether you were a threat or not.”
“Oh.” The boy gulped nervously. “What if I was?”
“It would have retreated and sounded the alarms.”
Killigan glared at Levitum. “You sure are casual about the possibility of me being killed by your own things.”
Killigan sighed. At least the drone did not crush him in its claws, but his moment of relief made way for a fierce-yet-brief panic when he heard the whirring of gears and loud, heavy thumping behind him. The walkers were moving over everyone, and they didn’t seem to care about anything around, but the terror wasn’t finished there. The boy walked out of the vyrde to see much more activity in the hangar, but his eyes were attracted to a person wearing cloth and holding a staff.
They were controlling several small containers in the air with their bare hands and rearranging them. The cloths bore symbols akin to runes in their angling and disposition, and the colors matched those of the other Marma Fissures, follow the pillar armor patterns precisely. When Killigan tried to move forward, something smashed into the side of the vyrde and threw him forward onto the hard, metal ground.
It was yet another machine, although this one was slightly taller and larger than a pillar. Its main body was rounded like a bullet but the lower portion on which it pivoted was far more angular in appearance and stuck out like thigh-bones. Its legs were wrapped in thick armor that did not hide the blue glow underneath the plating. On its shoulders and back rested a tattered cape that split around the back of its neck area and unfolded into a wing pattern narrowing to its end point. It possessed two long arms with the right being a form glassy, blue cylinder with tubes connecting to the main body along the arm and coursing with blue energy. Its left ended in a black, metallic pyramid, and its left shoulder container an in-built missile pod.
As for what served as its face, well, two red lights near the top of the upper-body glared directly at the boy, and they terrified him.
“Who is this?” it asked with an ghostly and hollow voice. “Why does it hold gauntlets of the towers?” Its voice was very hard to make out behind the static created by its voice box and whatever other elements were at play.
Levitum stepped next to the boy and put his arm in front of him.“He is a new addition who we have decided to recruit precisely for those gauntlets,” he said in a calm and collected manner. Levitum was wary of the machine in front of him and kept his other hand at his hip to grab his weapon at a moment’s notice.
The machine looked back and forth between the two/“He is but a mere human child, yet he can hold tower gauntlets...this would explain the metal beams around your body.” The machine stood upright and its gears screeched loudly in Killigan’s ears. “I must apologize. I am...rather sensitive about the well-being of my...brothers and sisters.”
Its body twitched and partially powered down before reactivating properly. It didn’t stay to continue conversing and sluggishly moved away.
Levitum waited for it to move far enough away then pulled in a fellow pillar towards him by the neck.“Go get a Magus Craeft,” he urged. “Our sister is losing her connection to the Sawol Vice. She’s becoming unstable.”
The pillar nodded and hurried away. Levitum looked at Killigan from the corner of his eyes. “You’ll know what a Sawol is in due time, but…” he looked forward. “That is not something that you should trouble yourself with. They’re not…of sound mind.” He readjusted himself and regained his serious and straight composure. “For now, follow me.”
Killigan was in unknown territory and felt uncomfortable there as he did on the vyrde. It didn’t help that the walls were barren and just made of a black metal sometimes accentuated by a few warning lights or markings. The hallways were a bit more quaint and quiet, with very few pillars walking around. The regular humans were a more common sight, and the boy noticed a few pushing carts filled with damaged weapons and armor pieces into a door just before the hangar entrance. In the top corners of the halls were white lights protected by translucent screens, creating a blurry illumination on the metal. Signs were placed above doors and at crossways to facilitate orientation, and one of the signs had ‘Flaesc’ written on it. It was the destination of the new recruit.
The hallway they took opened up to a much larger, rounder hallway with glass walls. There was fish and plant life swimming around and growing behind them. They waved their fins around much of the floating greenery, attempting to hide away from the boy’s prying eyes. Their presence somehow calmed Killigan down, and he was more than thankful for this brief reprieve.
“You like them?” Levitum asked. He waved an arm to the entirety of the artificial ecosystem. “All from Earth. Kelp, algae, and fish. Some mollusks are in there as well.” He looked down at the boy and started tapping his head. “Helps calm down the mind, to see things from your home world when you’re wounded.”
Killigan nodded and continued forward. He felt like a little boy holding hands with his father. The two stopped at a set of round doors that spun on a central axis, gradually fusing into the walls. The room he was now in was dimly lit with several large metal tables placed about. Most had been folded and placed in rows along the walls, making for some much needed room. Several green cabinets lined the walls and were, like the walls, covered in splatters of red. Several x-rays of pillar bodies and ‘wavy lines’ ornated the walls in such a number that they overlapped each other on several layers. The air was filled with a nauseating odor of moss and rot, prompting Killigan to clench his nose and wonder how Levitum was immune to it. There were two more sets of large doors as well; One opposite the entrance and another to the left of it.
“Flaesc!” Levitum shouted. “We have a new member today,” He pushed Killigan to grab his attention. “Remove the gauntlets and place them there next to the cabinets.” He pointed to the intended resting spot. “They won’t go anywhere,” he explained in a softer tone.
“How so?” a voice wondered. “We weren’t slated to have any new arrivals from the regimentaries in this system.”
The voice came from a man who was crouched behind a cabinet. He was large and bulky, like the other pillars, although his eyes seemed to have become permanent green lenses and his black hair was gone on the left side of his head, replaced with a patchwork of skin. This person wore a tight, white suit, covering all but his head.
“I have several questions...” Killigan lamented.
“And those would be?” the man wondered curiously.
“Why are the cabinets made of wood? Shouldn’t there be ‘high tech’ equipment in here, why aren’t you wearing armor like the others, what do those doors lead to, and is that blood from what I’m going to go through?”
The medic walked around around the cabinet, wiping his hands clean. He looked up pensively whilst doing so, forming proper answer.. “They’re just shells I put over the actual machinery because I like old-fashioned accessories. The real equipment is underneath them.”
The man punched a wall with the side of his fist, causing the wooden orbs seemingly placed there for decoration to retract, showing several, very round objects calmly. Green veins slowly dimmed then brightened along their surface, and from them came rectangular shapes projected against a desk the suited man pushed forward. A large object was displayed by the lights. It was attached to a railway system on the ceiling akin to the machinery in the hangar. It bore the appearance of a fat cone with a flat top but its parts were disconnected from each other, the pieces only kept close to each other by way of green energy beams humming every time they glowed brighter.
The medic pointed to the item. “That’s one of the things we use to solve the more ‘alien’ ailments,” he chuckled. “Just trying to find a way to upgrade it is.” HE trailed his hands along the walls. “If I wore the heavy and huge armor they wore, I wouldn’t be able to accurately perform my duties without an excessive amount of tech helping me out.” He walked over to an immense cabinet filled with containers of various size and colors. He took a small white bottle and poured the contents onto his hands.While he wiped the substance all over his hands, he continued to speak. “It’s useful on the battlefield, but that’s it. A flaesc needs full flexibility at all times.” He pointed to the doors around him. “Those doors lead to something you don’t need to concern yourself with, and no. The blood comes from some drastic procedures we just took care of earlier. We fight often. We simply came here right after.” He cleaned his hands of the remaining substance in a pillar of water that was installed in a wall. “So, he’s to get the injection?” he asked Levitum.
“Then let’s get started,” the flaesc said with a sinister undertone.