The white, featureless mask of the strange man in front of me gives no impression of his base intent. He is quiet. He is reserved. His fingers are interlaced with each other on his lap. His legs are crossed and his feet are in polished spats. His wardrobe, besides that mask, includes black slacks and a green lounge coat. Everything about him is calm and serene, but what he surrounds himself is the most obtuse collection I have seen.
It isn't just masks from movies or comic books. That would result in an air of normalcy. No, instead it extends beyond that. Some are simply masks of other people, scores... maybe hundreds of them. The walls of this singular room enclose a space measuring about twenty feet cubed. Every eight inches occupies a specialized hook, and upon it rests yet another mask. The hooks are all "rounded" at the end, to fill out the would-be skullcap of an invisible head. These "decorations" therefore stare down at us with an intent to watch, and to listen. Some seem to be custom-made. I would move my limbs but they are numbed. Everything is numb.
He observes me looking around at his collection. Rather than anything in his voice to convey emotion, even his words are cold and basic. The rhythm is monotonous, like he isn't even cognizant of how to speak normally. It is like he is reading his lines from some distant teleprompt system.
"Do you like them?" he asks, tapping his forefingers together to the beat of his mental drum.
"How long have you been collecting them?" I ask.
"A while," the reply is quick, but altogether distant and foreign.
I don't move. I know he has eyes, and he's probably staring at me right now. He doesn't want me to touch anything. The fireplace to my right illuminates the left side of his face. I call it his face... because it simply is. He hasn't shown me any shred of evidence to the contrary. There are no personal photos, no pictographs or portraits, no family heirlooms depicting even an inkling of genealogical guesswork into what he could look like. It's impossible to tell. He just stares at me from behind the blank slate. His canvas tilts slightly. He's more curious about this interview now. He knows I'm uneasy about it all.
"So when are you going to ask your questions?"
"Soon, I'm a bit... overwhelmed right now,"
"Are you afraid? I know some people have a phobia of masks,"
"It's not that,"
"How about I introduce you to a few?" he ignores my anxiety and stood up, going to the walls and picking out a few seemingly at random. But once he reaches three, he sets them lovingly down on his previous seating arrangement. Something about the latex slowly deflating across the felt armchair is familiar.
"This is the infamous Abominable Snowman... the Yeti!" he holds up a large mask with snarling and vicious apeish features. The fur is actual artificial hair and dominates the neck, skull, and crown while the greyish-blue skin hugs enlarged yellow canines and piercing blue eyes. It hasn't been fed for a while.
"A classic," Heathen continues. It just occurs to me that I haven't been thinking of him as Heathen this entire time. He just seems to fit the profile only now, with the sudden burst in eccentricity. But that might just be a ploy or one of his personalities taking over. I watch him closely as he puts away the Yeti and comes back with a woman's face cast in latex. It's of a redheaded spy-like character, with an eyepatch and crimson lipstick. "Anna," Heathen strokes her hair, but that's more to have me get a clear view of her face. The skin seems simultaneously lifeless but colored with actual blood beneath the surface. It is lukewarm.
"She is a favorite of mine. A sentimental piece, if anything. One of my first masks," Heathen sighs and puts her away to what sounds like mild protest from someone else in the room. I don't think much of it.
Heathen is silent for the next one. He quietly slips it over his head and starts to laugh. "And this is a good one as well. Mr. Thomas Caine..."
With a sharp turn, he locks eyes with me. Good God, he actually looks at me with the mask's very eyes. They wobble and shake, staring at me from all angles. His smile is a rictus grin. I cannot avert my gaze. The pale-white skin, the green hair, and the unevenly-painted red lips all lead into what might as well be a parody of a human face. The clownish glare conveys ultimate madness and paranoia, all directed into the very depths of what I can call my very being. But as soon as he becomes Thomas Caine, he removes the mask and again reverts to the blank canvas.
He puts back the masks he took, but there is a spot left bare. I cannot bring myself to call it to attention but I also cannot help but my uneasiness piques Heathen's piercing and featureless inquisition.
"Oh? You've noticed it haven't you?"
He walks over to me, and holds me by either side of my face. He... lifts me up. No. No no no, a thousand times no...
"You've forgotten. In those brief few moments you've forgotten who you were,"
He slips me over his head. My latex skin stretches slightly, encompassing his skull. I can feel his head shape change and his body morph into what I recognize as my own. I... yes, this is right. I can feel my flesh again. My fingers... I can feel my fingers. I make a fist.
"Everyone was getting worried. Welcome back to the collection, Howard Murphey."
"I don't like being seen. I'd much rather be someone else."
But recently I've been trying to act more like one.
And I it.
He waited patiently in the heart of an empty restaurant. A glass of water sat across from him, barely even looked at let alone touched. Condensation dripped down its surface, staining the table linen with a ring of moisture. He was moving his leg while he stared at nothing. The salad bowl was empty.
The waiter finally came with a plate of steak, a baked potato, and grilled asparagus. He took the used dish away, leaving the man with his main course. He leaned back in his chair, popping his neck with a slight roll. In his hands were the knife and fork meant for this kind of exchange between man and beast. An animal died so that he could ingest one fraction of muscle from its body. The rest of it was shared between countless other humans across the county.
He gripped the knife tightly, his entire arm shaking. The wood splintered in his hand and the metal underneath bent into the shape of his clenched fist. He set it aside quietly. Such was not the fate of the fork, which found its way stabbed through the tablecloth and into the wood underneath. He grabbed hold of the steak with both hands, chewing through it without restraint. If something died to give him nourishment, it would have the decency of being mauled. Blood dribbled down his chin and throat. His white undershirt became a sickening pink.
He ordered a cordon bleu steak, and this certainly did not disappoint. He stopped in his attempt to give 'honor' to this creature. It had been dead for far longer than it was dutiful for such a gesture. He set the steak back on the plate and opened another set of cutlery, indulging in the meat like he was supposed to.
The waiter came back around, smiling. "How is your meal, sir?"
The man swallowed a mouthful of blood, with flesh intermingled in the taste. He finally drank some water. "It is,"
His fingernails were caked in red. It wasn't cooked blood, but it was warm. He looked down at his plate. Gone were the utensils, the cloths and napkins, the water... he could only see the carcasses of countless people lined up before him. Flies swarmed their bodies, and their children drank deeply of the rot.
He looked back at the waiter, shaking his head free of what his eyes recognized as reality for a split second.
His handlers were required to give him a clean shirt. He walked down the street with them trailing behind. He could feel them watching the back of his head, his heels, his fists. Anything that would betray a lapse in mental judgment, they were there to keep track of.
"Hey, bastard!" a voice came from behind all of them. It was a large gentleman, his build similar to that of a world-class super heavyweight boxer.
"I had a reservation in that place for over a year, and you think you can hog the whole restaurant to yourself just to eat one steak?!"
The two men now faced each other, the handlers shifting position to always remain behind their charge.
"Who are you?" the quieter of the two men asked.
"I'm Ulrich Caesar, you dumbass! I've won fifteen boxing championships worldwide, and I'm about to beat you in the ground!"
"Interesting," the man opposite Ulrich said, but he didn't put up any sort of guard.
Ulrich took the opportunity and smashed his face in with a right haymaker so profound that he knocked the man into the window of the restaurant and shattered the glass with his skull.
"Seven foot, four inches," the man replied, standing out of the wreckage with a bleeding scalp. Glass slashed dangerously close to his eye, making him shut it as the area swelled. His left eye remained untouched, for it was the jaw that Ulrich went for - like any decent boxer. "Three hundred and thirty-three pounds,"
"What?" Ulrich was confused, not only by the fact that his punch didn't seem to have any effect but also... his opponent was listing off his statistics, but was confused about who he was before?
"That's how tall you are, correct? And your body weight? Judging by the mass of your muscles,"
"Oh, so you're just guessing about that," Ulrich sighed, assuming a stronger stance than just street fighting. "You had me worried there for a second,"
The man tilted his head, curious.
"Worried that I knocked you senseless!" Ulrich went for a liverblow, intent on ending this quickly. He was getting a weird feeling in the pit of his stomach that this wasn't a normal guy.
It connected, but there wasn't an immediate reaction. Ulrich raised an eyebrow, mentally questioning himself. Did he miss? No, it hit... there wasn't an impact though. It was like hitting the round side of a punching bag. His blow just rolled off. The man in front of him grabbed his arm, putting it into a vice between his elbow and oblique muscles.
Ulrich panicked and used his other arm, hitting the man in his stomach until he let go. It took two strikes, but the boxer picked up some residual information. It wasn't that he was hurting the man, but rather that the man was testing him. He looked at his other arm, the one that was caught in the hold. His eyes widened as he saw skin breakage down into the muscle fiber. Blood dripped from the perfectly circular wound strangling his forearm.
This guy... he knew how to hurt people. His heart started to pound. This wasn't a normal fight, and it was never going to be one. He was in danger here. The guy in front of him knew his stats just by looking at him, learned how to mitigate the damage from his blows from the beginning, and now... he was intent on clipping his wings.
Ulrich took special note of the jawline he had punched earlier. The guy was just slightly cut and bruised, maybe just from residual knuckle contact at the most. Sometimes that was enough to knock someone out cold. But Ulrich tightened his fist, the fist that he used on that jawbone. It could kill a normal person. It could bust holes in sandbags. His fist was a weapon. But the guy in front of him was bleeding more from the glass. His brain wasn't scrambled. His footing was solid, and he was even sliding into a stance similar to Ulrich's.
The boxer glared at his opponent. "Is this a joke? You're going to box with me?"
"Why not?" was his only reply.
"That's not funny. I've accidentally killed people in the ring with these fists,"
"If it was on accident," the man started his reply. Ulrich could feel the night growing darker, and it was centered on his enemy. "Then none of your punches mean anything,"
Ulrich paused. "Who are you?"
I don't feel like I'm alive.
Not when I do things I'm supposed to do.
It's tedious, and boring.
I'd much rather be on the brink of death.
I'd much rather be fighting for my life.
Bellator, Latin for 'warrior'.
He proved that much in the next salvo of attacks and defensive maneuvers. The opening barrage Ulrich tried to end him with tested both of them. It hammered into Bellator's resilience, and bit into the boxer's resolve to continue. They were both fighters. They both had reservations about this battle, but conflict never rests. Ulrich started something he had to finish. Bellator would be there from beginning to end, an obstacle for him to overcome or be overwhelmed by.
Ulrich's fist was like a cannonball. Each muscle in his arm and body commanded him to move forward with it, a freight train on legs. It was definitely no accident that he killed people in his matches. He was biologically meant to steamroll the competition, to destroy whatever was in his path. That was what his genetics decided for him. The clenched hand arrived knuckles-first, colliding with Bellator's guard but not staying with it. Again, there was no impact. Collision did not mean victory. Bellator proved this by rolling into Ulrich's chest, his innermost defense, almost instantly. Inches away from him, Bellator fired his own artillery bombardment.
Six quick punches, unleashed from mere fractions of an inch. It was madness, how much power they contained. Ulrich staggered, because they had impact. They came from an angle he didn't expect, and landed into spots he couldn't defend quickly enough. Rolling, ducking, dodging, clinching, guarding... none of it mattered. He tightened his core as best he could, but the first punch didn't even lash out at his center. It went for his chin. Bellator feigned his way into Ulrich's guard, making him lose concentration on anything else, and made him panic into something that he couldn't control afterwards.
The boxer lost consciousness on contact with his opponent's fist, but regained it halfway through the remainder of this skirmish. Bellator noticed that, but did not relent. He struck out with conviction into Ulrich's core, shaking the very mesentery between his organs. The liver vibrated, as evidenced by Ulrich's sudden loss of composure. Half-filtered toxins flooded his circulatory system, and his brain went into panic mode trying to squeeze it all back through. His blood pressure plummeted. His nervous system told his body to go down, and that's what he did.
But that wasn't the end. Ever since he retired from boxing, Ulrich still needed a job. He went back to his roots as a high school and college wrestling champion, and became an instructor on grappling. As he was on the ground, writhing in pain as his heart rate slowly climbed back to normal, he clenched his teeth together.
Bastard... went straight for a killshot...
Ulrich gave no warning as to what he was about to do, and Bellator had no clue. All he knew was that, in an instant, he was several feet higher than he normally was and then completely on the ground with Ulrich on top of him. The boxer was straddling his torso, and throwing massive blows with murderous intent towards Bellator's face, throat, and chest. All Bellator could do was guard for now. Three hundred thirty-three pounds of muscle... and he could feel it all crushing his lungs against the concrete.
His handlers, however, were not moving. Ulrich noticed this, but didn't call attention to it. Some bodyguards, watching the guy they're supposed to be taking care of getting the crap beaten out of him! He smirked, finding holes in Bellator's guard and exploiting them with his giant fists.
Ulrich sneered as he drew blood, scattering the red across the pavement. Bellator's guard was getting skinned like a deer for leather, his flesh starting to peek through. Just give up already! Tap, come on!
But it was too late.
Ulrich choked on his breath and stopped his barrage. The skirmish was over.
Bellator grabbed his wrists and pulled, but Ulrich's head was still angled awkwardly and his breath couldn't be circulated. Bellator had sunk under Ulrich's legs, slowly but surely, and snatched his throat with his calves. In that moment of uncertainty, he held the boxer's hands back. Either he choked into unconsciousness, or had his neck broken... both eventualities suited Bellator just fine.
Just as one skirmish ended, another began. Such was war.
Ulrich's leg strength was incomparable. With one, he lifted himself back up using Bellator's grip against him. With the other, he bent it into a knee and dropped it with all his body mass into the man's intestines. Almost like having a release button pressed, Bellator squirmed out from underneath the boxer. He was breathing heavily, having over three hundred pounds focused into his torso all at once - but he was standing. Ulrich followed him to his feet, rising into another guard. This one was for grappling, but his footing was meant for boxing.
"Why aren't your guards helping? What do you pay them for, just to stand around?"
Bellator looked behind him for a split second. He was confused, but understood what Ulrich was talking about after a moment. "Guards? No, they're my handlers,"
"That's why I bought out the whole restaurant. I didn't want to risk any altercations,"
"Trying to avoid fights, and here you are with one... you're too cautious,"
"That's why you're going to lose."
They tightened their guards and went in again. Ulrich kept his torso blocked off, hitting only one side at a time. Bellator kept trying to get inside his chest again, but only caught elbows and knees. He dished out a headbutt and broke the boxer's nose on impact. It shook Ulrich's spine and legs, but he kept his ground and headbutted back. Bellator felt like he was being driven into the ground like a nail into wood. But his legs were still under him, and he was still standing. For fifteen seconds, they were completely even in terms of hits or being hit.
For fifteen seconds, they were spilling each other's blood. Ripping each other's skin, shaking their teeth, concussing their brains, mauling organs...
This... this is glorious.
Bellator threw a punch at the boxer's face, but Ulrich dodged it with a quick shift of his neck. He grabbed the arm it was attached to, and hammered Bellator's liver with his cinderblock of a fist. Bellator was lifted off the ground, his chest flattened by the blow. He felt bile in his stomach being churned against his will. His blood pressure went to practically nothing, and he could feel his brain sizzling from lack of gas exchange. Oxygen was building up in his veins.
He gasped as Ulrich continued to lift him up and slam him into the ground on the opposite side. He was in the street now, his liver the connecting body between Ulrich's fist and the asphalt. Bellator's body quivered even more with the continuation of the strike. He couldn't breathe, his blood was sizzling. He wanted to stand up, but his legs wouldn't listen. His flesh betrayed him. His wings were clipped by a single attack at one of his organs. He was in a crater, impacted there like he was pinned by a car wreck.
"Stay down," Ulrich huffed. He was also shaking from their exchange of artillery. His flesh was still pounding from the vibrations. "You've proven your point, you're a dangerous man,"
He took his fist from Bellator's liver. But he did not expect the man to get up again. This time, Bellator put the boxer into an armbar. Ulrich was still on one foot and a knee, so he had the advantage of angle.
"You're also a stubborn bastard," the boxer lifted all two-hundred and eighty-two pounds of Bellator's body with one arm. He staggered over to a lamp post despite having his limb being stretched and practically ripped out of its shoulder socket.
With one large, imposing sweep of his body, Ulrich bent the solid steel of the pole with Bellator's spine. His grip weakened, but he was still holding on. Ulrich tried again, this time harder in order to break the man in half, but that was part of Bellator's plan. He suddenly tightened his grip again, harder than before, and the sudden shift in centripetal force sent Ulrich into the pavement chin-first. It would be little less than a few seconds before Bellator fully snapped Ulrich's arm out of its socket. Blood was trailing out of his nose, but he kept going until skin started to pop. Ulrich was screaming in pain now, tapping the pavement.
"I give up already, I give up!"
But this was the reason why his handlers existed. They weren't there to stop him, or to ward off any would-be opponents. They were witnesses to his fights.
They were there to observe them when it turned into a massacre.
And they were there to gather what he needed for his sacrifices.
The blood started to spray, and all he could think of was the steak from before. How it reminded him of human flesh, and all the bodies he stepped on to get to this point.
Human blood and human flesh;
That is what Purgatory is built on.
That is what we fight for.
That is what humans die to escape from.
What's the matter, don't you want to go to Heaven?
"What is Purgatory? I believe it is where souls go to be cleansed. But that can take many forms. What a soul experiences in life, it must atone for in death. That is how one attains an afterlife. If the soul surrenders, then it is swallowed by the Chasm to Hell. That is the classical belief. But... what if the soul obtains free will while in Purgatory? What if that soul bargains with the God of this World, and makes suffering their permanent residence?"
- the 3rd Philosophy of Judas Simon, 1803
The Bellator, his name lost to time, was once one of the Mesopotamian warlords within the Fertile Crescent. His sins were numerous enough to put him nearest to Satan within the frozen tombs of traitors and heretics. There he prayed to the Lightbringer, and offered his soul for freedom.
Such bargains are not uncommon, especially in the boundaries of Purgation. Souls wandering in the eternal dark rarely ever find their way out. Even if they do, it is not of their own design. The Bellator surrendered himself to the Prince of Darkness and carved out a kingdom in Purgatory.
He has been cursed to haunt the mortal world ever since, sworn to cut down souls and harvest them for the Chasm as part of his eternal debt to Lucifer.
"Even in death, there is no escape from hatred. The blinding faith of war, that crippling feeling of heated blood. Salvation is earned through forgetting it, but humans are shaped by it. Such is the power of anger and of sorrow, it creates a form of immortality for those brave enough to embrace it."
- the 7th Philosophy of Judas Simon, 1804
The Bellator is a highly trained fighter, forged through multiple 20th-century wars and constant pilgrimages looking for new masters. He is completely, biologically human. But his obsession with becoming better has left him beyond that. Perhaps that is what he wanted from the freedom he bargained his soul for, the freedom to learn and to exist far away from Purgatory. His curse forcefully gravitates him towards the killing arts more than anything, however. In that way, his freedom has become his new prison.
Police were stunned today by an anonymous tip directing them to a seemingly abandoned warehouse outside of town. Within, officials found dozens of humanoid robots looking back at them sitting on a backlog of stolen goods and counterfeit money...
...and as the fire raged on, police were alerted to a presence not unlike those seen across the tri-state area as of late. Humanoid robots were found in the basement of the apartment complex, the source of the blaze that claimed two lives...
...in other news, SWAT team members raided a home belonging to a renowned gangster only to find out that he was not human - but robotic. The latest in a series of strange crimes, Tobias Monroe seemed to be a normal citizen. Underneath that ruse was the life of a murderous criminal, and beyond that was the heart of a machine...
...this marks the second of these strange armories found within the last year. Behind the sealed doors, blasted apart with plastic explosives, officials discovered weaponry that would have been at home in a science fiction film. Experts in exotic firearms tested out these findings. Heat rays, gauss rifles, and even sonic cannons were brought out of the armory and dismantled on site...
...a hotel under construction was destroyed last night in a rogue bombing incident that can only be described as a terrorist attack. Two bodies were found, similar in description to the robotic humanoids found in other parts of the southern United States and Mexico...
...during what might be considered the largest police raid in the county's history, officials discovered a large population of robotic humanoids not unlike those found in other parts of the country. Due to the currently unknown objective pursued by these automatons, officials underwent a purge of the robotic humanoids. They were instructed that - due to the terrorist acts committed in New Orleans, combined with the large armories found throughout the Southern United States - the robots must have been dangerous in some form or another.
Over 500 were dismantled...
They're finding my children.
They're filming them on live television.
They're dragging my children out of their homes and killing them in the streets.
I don't know why they're doing this. They have reasons. But my children were all special, all of my Icarii. My sons and daughters. They had lives.
Did I make a mistake with their programming? I must have gone wrong somewhere. Tobias... my precious Tobias... did they say you were a gangster? I did something wrong. You forgot your original purpose, didn't you?
But those armories... I'm so proud of you, my son. You were testing my weapons, so you remembered.
I'm so proud.
Of all of you.
But I can't lose you again.
It's time to accelerate the biomechanics involved. No more Icarii. They are obsolete in the face of the growing percentage of metahumans.
Dr. Daedalus is rather the stubborn hermit. Rarely does he venture beyond the confines of his Engine for supplies or testing. Those tasks fall upon the shoulders of a series of autonomous androids called the Icarii.
Designed to be virtually indistinguishable from human beings, the Icarii are meant to serve Daedalus without question.
Two of these models have gone above and beyond the original whims of their creator to such a degree as to be given actual distinction among their kin.
They are known as the Icarus Twins, differentiated as Icarus "Atticus" and Icarus "Bertram". Though not twins on the surface, Atticus and Bertram are identical once their layers of bio-engineered skin and flesh are removed.
"We are made of all those who have built and broken us."
Atticus is the voice of one or two dead men, compiled into the databanks of a thousand others. He is the more eccentric of the two brothers and takes his name from a book that his father used to read to him. He is often the 'voice' of the duo, speaking and acting in strange ways to supplement both of their unique brain patterns.
He is a petty thief and finds joy in challenging the perspectives of everyone around him. The common people of any given area are a delight to break down on a wavelength suitable to what their reality is, or should be according to Atticus. Social and psychological norms mean nothing to him because such things are as dust in the grand scheme of mechanical eternity.
Bertram is the silence of a deep, dark night. His deadly aim is supplemented by customized sound nullifiers in his joints, making him a near-perfect assassin. While Atticus prefers a louder, more bombastic approach, it is Bertram who takes his brother's distractions as suitable chances to act.
He is the conscious reminder to Atticus of their father's whims and the stoic moral foundation of the duo's myriad antics. Bertram often finds himself cleaning up after his dubious brother, though he doesn't seem to mind in the slightest. While he is the anchor to the pair's personality core, he is also a remorseless killer. He is a cold, efficient murderer without peer and does not waste any opportunity to utilize his talents.
Keith Anderson, for lack of a better term, was a hoarder. He knew what he liked and collected tons of it. Newspaper clippings, electronic instruments, wind-up toys, antique clocks, vintage vinyl records, model kits, educational books... and that was just scratching the surface of everything he kept in storage. But there was something he always kept towards the front of his various stacks of plastic containers and sealed boxes.
A constellation book, more specifically with photographs taken of the Orion Nebula. Though it wasn't perfect, it was the closest thing he had to "baby pictures". With how light worked they were about 1,350 years off, so it wasn't too bad.
"You can take a vacation you know," Ray would chastise him for looking at the pages in the break room. "Hire a couple more goons, you'd be okay for a day or so,"
"It's not that. I just know that it wouldn't be 'home' you know?"
"I never thought a huge wad of space radiation could be anyone's 'home' but here we are,"
Keith often just laughed that off, but not today.
"It's not just space radiation, Ray, it's where I came from. I haven't been back in so long. Besides, if I try,"
"Oh. Right, it's different for you,"
Keith closed the book.
"There's customers coming," he muttered. Ray hurried out of the break room and back to the register, thirty seconds later and the door swung open with a robotic 'cling clang' sound.
Keith couldn't leave the store, not without walking out the front door, but he could enter into his own mind and try to meditate the empty feeling in his stomach away. He wasn't hungry. Celestials didn't have a concept of hunger, their energy came from the universe itself. It was more of a stabbing pain, like a fish hook caught in his would-be intestines that just kept tugging.
He folded his arms on the table and laid his head down. It was almost his version of 'sleep', and 'dreaming'.
A Nightmare of 5,000 Years
Keith, or rather, Anissar at this point in time could hear them. Even deep within the ethereal womb of his mother figure, he could hear them. See them. They were gathered around another of their ilk.
Jezham the Echo, Elibhel the Pioneer, and Xoghan the Treasurer. He knew their names just as his 'mother' did. She, Emiah the Watcher.
Caneg the Reviser was dead.
"The expiration/termination/death of Caneg has come to pass,"
Their voices shook the stars, but brought an eerie calmness to the infant Celestial.
"Natural causes, or has his fate been influenced?"
Jezham the Echo raised his arms first above the body, and then towards either side. Temporal auras shifted at his touch, and he could monitor and display the fate of the fallen giant.
"Readings conclude: Caneg suffered much against his fate. This was no failure on his part,"
"Concern," Xoghan commented, and the two others at his side repeated his remark in unison.
"The Pioneer shall find the cause," Elibhel claimed, though he was already gone.
"Find rest/peace/sanctuary, Caneg. Your star matter shall be recycled within the Nebula,"
"A honor," Emiah whispered.
It was his earliest memory, seeing the godlike beings around him of which he could become one all mourning the death of something conceivably immortal. He felt fear, an overwhelming amount of it. He didn't feel comfortable with staying in this memory for too long.
He could feel Caneg watching him even through his cold lifeless eyes.
Anissar coming to Earth was easily his best memory of early life. As best he could describe it, he was sent to Earth to prepare its species for the inevitable arrival of the Imperium or something possibly worse. This would be achieved through mass genetic manipulation, and altering the landscape on a planetary scale. He could easily remember the blueprints now, but as a young Celestial, his mission for all intents and purposes escaped him.
He had been surrounded by the coldness of space and the latent entropy of the others of his kind, mourning the death of Caneg even as they sent Anissar away to accomplish his great task. Finding a planet like Earth seemed ideal for something he would later call a 'vacation'. Instead of changing anything around him, he changed himself, adopting physical traits of the early humans he met and learning all he could about them.
Over time his disguise would change into 'Keith Anderson', a 'recorder' of sorts who owned a specialized library.
When he changed himself from a Celestial, he cut himself off from the others. There was a chance they could have just investigated why this happened, but perhaps they just assumed he had died like Caneg. Thus, the mystery of why their species was failing continued into the deeper parts of space. Thousands of years later, and they still never once came to Earth.
He found his sanctuary.
Keith suddenly shot straight up. He was awake, and felt the associated drowsiness of severe telepathic strain, even for a Celestial. He rubbed his eyes only to find a stinging sensation.
"S-Sweat?" he muttered.
His body couldn't produce sweat naturally, only through his shape-shifting properties in order to keep up humanoid appearances. He checked his armpits and the back of his neck. A cold rush swam through his body. He didn't like this at all.
His body, his shell, was betraying him and acting on its own according to the panic he felt in that last dream. That last vision.
"Human nature is dictated by its tragedies and triumphs. But mostly, by its tragedies."
Thomas Arthur Caine, born 17--, in Canterbury, Kent County, England. A veteran of the Napoleonic Wars and inheritor of the Caine Estate north of Maidstone, Thomas began a modest life as part of the Caine family fortune. He almost died of a fever when he was very young, and the aftereffects left him adverse to being around sick people. As a result, he was very sheltered in his boyish years. Between the coddling spoon of his mother and the iron hand of his father there was little wiggle room for him to develop on his own.
One day, he watched British soldiers on parade and instantly became drawn to their bright red uniforms and stunning confidence and demeanor. He wanted to be just like them. As expected, his mother wanted none of it but his father couldn't agree more. A staunch nationalist, George Caine was a veteran of the American Revolutionary War and thus was so proud of his son that he gave him a rifle on that very day. They went hunting for pheasants to use in the evening meal.
As Thomas grew into a man he signed up for the youth program designed to turn bright-eyed boys into cadets of the Army. He eventually felt it to be his God-given duty to take up arms for Britain. Unfortunately, France felt the same way about its own country once a young Napoleon came into power. The fires of revolution turned into an engine of expansion as a veritable World War exploded in Europe. In his mind, Thomas couldn't sign up for the first deployment out fast enough.
It was then that he became intimate with the horrors of war, firsthand. Various battles throughout the European mainland broke and scarred the landscape, murdering thousands each day. Bodies mangled by cannon-fire were left to rot in the sun as the fighting carried on, point-blank rifle lines sending men falling to the ground in bloodied heaps. A chorus of violence, a tempest of hatred, as artillery burst and horses screamed it drew higher and higher into the sky - a raiment of red for the rising and setting suns. In the youthful eyes of Thomas Arthur Caine, however, the terror of it all subsided very quickly. The pain, the grief, the torment - they were as falling rocks in a stream. Thomas had absorbed it all, watching the fires grow, and knew that he had found his place in life.
He was awarded for his efforts throughout his career as a lineman, where fighting was thickest.
Life after the war proved to be inconceivably boring for Thomas. He stayed at the Caine Estate with his parents and they noticed that he had a limp in his leg - specifically his back foot. It would lock at the hip as if he were bracing for something. He was ordered a special cane, and given rehabilitation classes by the family doctor at the estate. They were loathe to bring him anywhere looking like that.
Thomas would carry that cane for the rest of his life, but the limp wasn't because of war injuries. It was a neurological symptom associated with high velocity movement and adrenaline, something he lacked and his body made him pay for. In the years following his time in the Army the disorder became worse, to the degree of him wearing women's powder and lipstick. He even tried to dye his hair a different color. His parents locked him away in another wing of the estate, allowing him to go outside under supervision, but he would outlast them.
Come that next winter, and they both died of pneumonia within days of each other.
Thomas was the only Caine left with claim to the manor, and so he took it upon himself to renovate it to his liking. Surprisingly, he had a rather modest touch to architecture and design. But he would change everything barring the indoor plumbing every few years or so. During this time, his neurological disorder slackened in intensity. It wasn't until the American Civil War broke out that he had reason to drop everything and leave once more. He signed a legal document stating that should he not return by war's end, everything would be left to auction. He was almost 83 when he went to America to fight.
A young man returned to the Caine Estate following the Civil War claiming to be Thomas's son. No other claim or dispute questioned this, and Thomas II was given the reigns of the Estate as well as the vast family fortune. A similar pattern happened following the Russo-Japanese War, both World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Afghanistan War. Currently, it is Thomas VIII who has legal control of the Caine Estate.
Currently, no other Caine family members exist. A further mystery is the lack of any evidence suggesting a spouse connecting any of these young men all claiming to be sons and grandsons of the Caine family. Yet, no legal claim has stated otherwise.
And so the manor still stands, left pristine and polished by the hard labor of a great many staff members.
Real Name: Heathen
Alias: Thomas Arthur Caine I - VIII, Dead God, Many-Angled King, the Fleshed, Red Maw, Mind Eater, Man Who Laughs, the Endless Smile, Kalibrax
Height: 6' 10"
Weight: 170 lbs
Hair Colour: green
Eye Colour: various
The thing calling himself Thomas Arthur Caine is a master of illusion. His ability to conjure an alternate reality extends from the physical sensory organs to the perception of time and space as well as memories themselves. Though he cannot alter memories or influence any living being on more than an imitational level, the illusions he is capable of making sometimes seem more real than what is actually there. Added to this, he is a master of manipulation as well and will use his abilities to open and exploit weaknesses in an opponent's psyche. Further, he often layers his illusions in order to escape from unfavorable situations easier.
What is not an illusion is his capability of breathing without oxygen and while in the vacuum of space. As far as physical needs and traits necessary for life go, Thomas doesn't seem to even need to eat or drink - though his time spent as a human has made him comfortable with the prospect of such things as hobbies.
He has an almost complete infatuation with having fun in any capacity, whether it is through the form of bad jokes, torturing somebody, or committing crimes just to see what would happen.
Once suspected of advanced telepathy, Heathen's illusions transcend mere mental aberrations. His victims are capable of physically interacting with his illusions on a grand scale, perhaps living entire lives or generations inside the span of a few minutes. Wars have been waged, loves had, children born inside his imaginary schemes. When he feels the time to be right, he sweeps that life out from underneath his victims' feet - all in the name of his own twisted sense of fun.
Thomas is still capable of experiencing death. He knows what death is like, since he faced it seven times already. It is an inescapable part of his psyche, unique to his own perception of reality separate from other similar beings. Since he understands it, he is susceptible to dying. Yet the inverse is also true. He is not afraid of dying, since he knows he'll just come back eventually. In one way or another, his kind of chaos never ends. It never dies, even if he does.
So, he plays his games and has his fun. No matter what happens, no matter who tells him to stop, it's all just a never-ending joy ride.
He has taken the abandoned rural town of Old Ackerby as his personal stomping grounds.
House Caine was officially founded by a Bohemian-born English nobleman named Charles Kristoff Caine, inheritor of a large fortune from a mining company on the European mainland. Prior to that, the Caine name had undergone several periods of civil conflict and turmoil throughout history. Never before were they a family to be respected, rather reserving themselves to mercenary work across Europe - their deeds and histories gone unremembered.
Charles purchased a large plot of land in Kent, north of Canterbury, and set about establishing his masterpiece. Four completely independent fortresses marked the corners of the estate, walled off with thick stone parapets and deep trenches leading into treacherous moats on either side of the fortifications. A complex irrigation system fed these moats from the nearby Great Stour river, culminating in a runoff down the hillside and into a pond. The steep incline and slippery rocks meant traversing this outcropping of water was especially dangerous. Meanwhile, the river itself was heavily fortified with further earthworks and barricades.
The estate itself rose as the hill did, crowning the natural stone base as the boughs of a mighty oak. A single, broad path was cut from the surface of the rock, meant for an army to pass in formation - but also wide enough so that cover was practically negligible from projectiles being cast down. Called Caine Manor, the castle itself was laden with Renaissance-era luxuries as expected from the English elite. Imports from the Mediterranean and the Holy Roman Empire were commonplace. Charles established a lasting friendship with the Venice-based Lombardi Shipping Company, known for its potent naval accommodations to the Republic of Venice, and the powerful House of Wassenburg in Central Europe.
Caine Manor would become a staging ground for English armies looking to sail to France or Brittany during the Hundred Years' War. Due to its imposing nature, the Kingdom of Scotland saw fit to besiege it - though to no avail. The Caineborn soldiers were well-trained and well-armed, as well as well-supplied due to the natural nearby. Throughout its history, battles surrounding Caine Manor were decided by the Great Stour river. Efforts to either blockade the water or change its flow were heavily contested. French attacks on Caine Manor were met with the same amount of resistance. True to form, Caine Manor became a bastion for nearby Canterbury. Though attacks were leveled against the cathedral-city all the same, the manor weathered many would-be engagements. Charles himself would not live to see the end of the war. He died at 57 years old in hospital at Canterbury, a patient of a vicious shoulder wound that turned gangrenous.
His sons Theodore and Frederick would grow up in the latter half of that tumultuous age, growing up to be soldiers and then middle-aged men by the time of the Battle of Castillon in 1453. Their views were in stark contrast to each other, despite having grown up as twins and having fought in the same war back-to-back. In the dawning Wars of the Roses, Theodore would back the House of Lancaster while Frederick would find more agreeable terms with the House of York. The resulting political upheaval in England was surrounded by its financial and social troubles following the Hundred Years' War. English kings were cheap during this time and inner turmoil in the courts ran deep. Frederick would slay his brother at the Battle of Ferrybridge in 1461. He buried Theodore at Caine Manor with all honors, being quoted: "I have lost a part of myself, this cruel fratricide."
Frederick would integrate Theodore's children into his own family of three sons and a daughter out of grief, though the gesture would end with his own death. Geoffrey, Theodore's firstborn, had a deep resentment for his uncle and killed him in his sleep with a poisoned dagger. He blamed a fictional and unnamed Lancaster assassin, sparking more Caineborn involvement in the Wars of the Roses. George Caine, Frederick's firstborn, always suspected Geoffrey and would mark his cousin for death upon becoming head of the House at age 15. Geoffrey was older, but Theodore had left Caine Manor prior to his involvement in the Wars of the Roses thus giving up his right of succession and that of his children. The resentment George felt for Geoffrey was all the more mutual given the circumstances.
Although Caineborn involvement in the Hundred Years' War had been more or less honorable, its civil strife during the squabbles of the Lancaster and York Houses took a dour turn. Families were torn apart, and brother took up arms against brother. The political strife did not end until 1487 with the complete annihilation of both Lancaster and York claims to the throne of England. Though fighting continued for a short while after the formal end to the conflict, House Caine saw fit to end the battling before it dissolved like the others. Geoffrey died of a fever before reconciliation could be made with his cousin. George buried him next to his father with all honors, having forgiven everything.
George would be a middle-aged man by the time of the English Renaissance and ruled Caine Manor in as much the same way as his forebears. Though, age and stress of constant war began to show itself. During the late 1400s, much of House Caine's history was one of rebuilding and refurbishing. The Great Stour had always fed into large farmland and much of that continued without interruption. When the Italian War of 1494-1498 broke out, House Caine found itself fighting alongside soldiers of House Wassenburg as well as Venetian mercenaries who owed their allegiances to the Lombardi Family. Though this grand reunion of powers would be short-lived, as the continued rivalry of England and France continued into the Italian War of 1521-1526, of 1542-1546, and of 1551-1559. When Venice allied itself with France, the Lombardi Family cut all ties with House Caine before itself being dissolved by the turmoil. Soldiers of House Caine looted what they could from the properties and returned with bounty for the estate, almost a form of remembering what those friendships used to be.
During this time, George would die in battle. His son, Geoffrey II, would take up the mantle of leadership of the House at age 16. His two cousins Bartholomew and Alexander, sons of his uncle Theodore Caine, also died in the Italian Wars. What this meant for a young Geoffrey II was continued war, for at the age of 19 he and House Caine answered the call to arms during the French Wars of Religion as well as the coinciding Eighty Years' War against the burgeoning Empire of Spain and its allies in the Holy Roman Empire. England had evolved into a mostly Protestant nation at the time, and it faced staunch opposition from the Catholics of France, Sienna, and the supporting armies of the Ottoman Empire. Though France was hardly weakened, Geoffrey II had his first taste of actual combat and his men respected him for it. A genuine comradeship formed and House Caine became stronger.
At the height of the Eight Years' War was the interlocking Anglo-Spanish War of 1585-1604. Geoffrey was 48 when he was cut down by muskets. He knew nothing but war, and was a respected commander of his troops. House Caine suffered greatly at his passing, though his heir-to-be Charles II was a favorite to lead. He was 17 years old.
Charles II, however, would not rise to the echelons of his forebears. Jealousy and greed had long ago seeped into Geoffrey II's children, and each wanted a chance at the head of the House. Charles II had nine brothers and two sisters, spread across Europe. His eldest brother Karl Roger Caine had the greatest claim, for he was two years older but wasn't a British citizen. He took an army of supporters from the Holy Roman Empire and besieged the Caine Estate, but could not overwhelm Charles' resolve. Karl was imprisoned and his army paid to return to the European mainland. A schism between various members of House Caine appeared, and the rift only widened with time. Karl was a very influential and charismatic leader, even swaying the guards into giving him extra rations or letting him walk without restraints in his cell. Charles wanted all animosity abolished between him and his brother, but Karl wanted none of it.
One night, Caineborn soldiers removed Karl from his cell and took up residence in nearby village of Dalhurst, where forces from the Holy Roman Empire had amassed. With their position fortified, Karl's army prepared to march once more upon the estate. What ensued was pure chaos. Charles had made rudimentary preparations following his previous victory, not suspecting any further violence. Finding Karl's cell empty, however, instantly prompted a call to arms. Karl's army had already begun to fire upon the estate at that point, though the shells had not yet landed. Within hours, the fighting turned from long-range engagements to brutal and bloody melee combat on the walls and in the streets below. Even with the defensible position of the estate, House Caine had seen better days than this and the surprise attack left many of Charles' supporters at normal pace of patrol rather than expecting combat. Karl took control of the estate and his men found Charles sealing off an escape route for his wounded soldiers. He killed two men before he was skewered by bayonets, dying instantly.
Karl fully halved the treasuries of the estate into repairing its fortifications to modern specifications as well as for paying the soldiers he had brought from the mainland. He was under the assumption that he could make back the money spent in a matter of years, considering the as-of-yet continuous mining operations still bustled. The veins of silver, salt, and construction stone responsible for House Caine's wealth ran deep.
The estate was fully refurbished by the time Karl was 32, a decade later. By this time he was a decorated officer in the Dutch-Portuguese War and even developed a taste for land opening in the New World. The landmark founding of Jamestown served to inflate this sense of adventure.
But he never got to see America, as he developed a serious case of pneumonia and passed away at the age of 36. He was survived by his children George III and Johann.
At this stage of House Caine's history, the estate is more or less a symbolic piece. History was written on the seas, with the Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish Empires practically exploding in size. French and English gains were also substantial, and it is here that House Caine becomes a well-respected name in the Royal Navy. Their participation in the many seafaring wars and conflicts could not be called into question at the time, but now serve as little more than a footnote. Only once did they set foot in America, and that was when George VI went there to fight in the American Revolutionary War. He was a staunch nationalist, and was extremely proud of his army and his country. Understandable, then, that when he was sent back home in defeat he became withdrawn and bitter. The only time he showed any compassion to his son was when young Thomas Arthur Caine told him he wanted to become a soldier.
From then until he saw his son graduate from the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, he showed a truly happy side of himself. Pride was returned to House Caine, and George VI died with a smile on his face the following winter from pneumonia. Thomas did not go to America for the War of 1812, electing instead to fight in the Napoleonic Wars one after another. He was presumed to have died in action, and his medals were delivered to the renewed Caine Estate where his widow Annabelle received them.
Thus began a strange series of circumstances where a Thomas Arthur Caine would appear claiming to be the former's son, each time following one of the great catastrophic wars of the world. This continued until the War in Afghanistan, after which the current proprietor of the estate, grounds, and the historical sites beyond is Thomas Arthur Caine VIII.
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The massive stonework of the estate laid out in its founding days still exists, either as functioning satellites to the main castle or as ruins in the process of being refurbished. The estate in question is divided into five main campuses.
The Charles Campus is named thusly for its connection to the founding father of the Caine Estate. At 21,000 square feet, it is the largest of the components making up the fortified manor. Center stage and sitting comfortably atop a plateau of solid rock, the Charles Campus is tended to daily by the bulk of the estate's staff due to the larger percentage of visitors there. Its fountains run night and day thanks to a complex water system running straight into underground reservoirs fed by the Great Stour. All the benefits of excessive wealth and spending have gone into making the Charles Campus a veritable monument to House Caine.
The northernmost campus, often called Noon Point by the staff, is named after Theodore Caine. It is the closest campus to the Great Stour and this has access to a large pond from which recreational fishing is done. The lakehouse overlooking the water is not a step below the quality of the Charles Campus, though it is smaller at 6,500 square feet. Staff members are explicitly instructed to tend to the gardens and such in a "natural" way, moreso clearing away obstructive weeds and invasive plants rather than hedging or clipping.
To the east is the sibling campus of Theodore, Frederick. Though a bulky 9,650 square feet, Frederick Campus' main purpose is to house a great number of historical and archeological information regarding House Caine. Frederick, after all, had been the more astute of the two brothers. Vast collections of paintings, statues, books, pieces of armor, and all other such memorabilia are stored within these walls and vaults. Most notably is a French-made grand piano commissioned by a friend of House Caine during the Napoleonic era, estimated worth $1.7 million.
Heading southbound is the Isabella Campus, named after Charles' wife during its construction. Not much is known of it, other than that it was the heart of much of the bloodiest fighting during the various civil conflicts rising throughout England prior to its Renaissance. As such, much of the ground surrounding it is dedicated to the soldiers who lost their lives on the property. Visitation for the forgotten dead are held for twelve hours a day, starting at 8 AM, while the tombs of House Caine are sealed shut.
Last, and facing west, is the Godfrey Campus. Presumably named after Charles' father, it lies in the rockiest outcropping of the property and hardly has any visitors or scheduled staff maintenance. Thomas prefers to go here alone, mulling over old things that weren't restored for some reason or another. It is assumed that it is here where he keeps old war souvenirs, and quietly mourns the dead. Notably, Godfrey Campus served as a military hospital throughout the Napoleonic Wars and both World Wars.
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This is definitely a work in progress, buuut yeah. Cool stuff.
"When the sun looks out towards the outer stars and the dead of space, it gazes most fondly upon an unified Alastor."
A popular show of faith between nations
Alastor, perhaps, was best suited for life in the small cluster of worlds making up the Auxos Sector of the Typhonis Galaxy, many hundreds of millions of light-years away from the Milky Way Galaxy. In its huddled collective, Alastor managed to harbor the necessary elements for sentient life such as a balanced atmosphere mainly composed of nitrogen and oxygen as well as a large surplus of water that made up almost 80% of its surface area.
Upon its varied land masses, humanoid beings began to evolve from amphibious primordial animals. Food started to grow higher in the trees, necessitating longer legs. Predators became more fierce and cunning, making larger more complex brains an invaluable hereditary trait.
Stone gave way to bronze, then to iron, and the natural progress of these humanoids invariably led to border disputes and a great many wars. There were three great continents that stretched across the world, upon which many countries, kingdoms, and empires rose and fell across the centuries.
It is speculated that before the creation of the Titans, there were worldwide conflicts every other decade, and the death tolls only increased given advancements in weapons and technology. The natural elements suffered, and concerns about planetary conditions intermingled with the politics of a world embroiled in nuclear conflict with itself. Many tens of thousands of years had passed as this species grew and multiplied - and only now did it seem to be concerned with the footprint it would leave behind. In a new and unfamiliar Industrial Age, it seemed inevitable.
The decline of social balance, combined with the unknown fear of accidentally causing their own extinction in one way or another put this species on high-alert. Yet, the only threat was right in front of them. Global powers undermining the banks and stock markets made grave errors in judgment in the name of potential profit, and the world at large retracted from their clutches.
They created the Titans, and worshiped them as logic and reason, not as gods. They left the planet for a time, just long enough for those who did not believe in such things to destroy themselves. The world they were sent back to by their creations was nothing short of a disaster. Nuclear fire had consumed it all, but also washed it clean. The canvas was now open once more for a new beginning. The Titans would leave to explore the galaxy and reap the knowledge of the stars for their own vast purposes.
In the meanwhile, those still upon the planet formed nations that would last into the coming millennia.
The continent of Skellbrieg, largest and most imposing of the landmasses, laid foundation for the borders of northernmost Nvara flanked by the Seas of Bone and Fire, central Rakary, Alany, Mefery, the Iron Road of Taghon, proud Urost, the sister-nations of Belomand and Deroland, southern Sjeshara, and many satellites beyond.
That of Vindbrieg had been long ago dominated by the seafaring tribes who held no interest in the nuclear powers, yet were still overtaken by them. Vindbrieg was therefore turned into a strange land, inhabited by radiation-soaked survivors but also bearing the scarred remnants of many bunkers and shelters. They resented the Titan-worshipers, but their isolation on Vindbrieg brought with it safety from the quickly-multiplying fortresses and nations dotting Skellbrieg.
The dark nation of Kaurbrieg was once the epicenter of the nuclear wars. Bombarded into nonexistence, Kaurbrieg is use mostly for those who would dare the radiation for its vast resources. Very little in the way of sentient life yet lives on Kaurbrieg, mostly those creatures who were mutated by the fallout into lumbering carnivorous beasts.
Yet, for all of their worrying, the humanoids did not destroy their world. Just their way of life.
In commemoration of 'starting anew', they reset the calendars back to zero upon returning to their precious planet. Nearly a thousand years passed, with conflicts rising and falling appropriate to borders or a growing sense of national pride. Those fathers and mothers who designed the Titans died off, replaced by what would become the nieces and nephews of those un-gods of logic and reason, and eventually their grand-nieces and so on.
One day, however, they returned - but only eight. Their mission of seeking knowledge had turned into a bitter civil war. Hundreds of their number were butchered in the conflict, until only eight remained. These would become the Lawmakers who would design the final stage of the future. Their secrets turned into Laws that would govern the creation of the Legions, and of the world's very first true lumbering stride into interstellar progress. Twenty years of combined research, such a time came with its societal ups and downs. No peace rules forever, after all, but by the end of it came the truest understanding of the Laws of the Legion that could be understood and datamined.
The first Grand Legion of these super-soldiers was made, but greed made a dark return upon Skellbrieg. Long had the seeds of it been planted in a certain techno-magus, and he stole away the larger portion of the Grand Legion for the man who would become the Nameless Emperor. Skellbrieg was conquered by this new Empire in little less than a decade, and the world upon which it was to call home was renamed Alastor - a cold irony that the father of the Titans be held in such high honor by one such as the Nameless Emperor. The un-gods of logic and reason would be vaunted as true deities under the Empire's reign, however short that would be.
The Empire continued from the Nameless until Severus the XIIth, a unified period of almost seven-hundred years. During that time, Skellbrieg had only one language, the radiation-bathed generations of Vindbrieg were wiped out, and the clouds of death persisting over Kaurbrieg dissipated as if by a miracle. This was during the reign of Emperor Rastus the Deathless, who gave credit to the Titans who watched over Alastor. Yet, there was little evidence of them even still existing at this point in time. Perhaps, somewhere in the galaxy, they finally destroyed themselves with one last battle or were undone by some cosmic phenomenon. Nothing is known for certain.
Alastor bled when the Empire finally collapsed under its own weight of foolish bureaucracy, corruption, and senatorial infighting. It was nearly dissolved entirely, with a history of attritional wars, excessive taxation, police brutality, and slavery under its belt. Though one Emperor could have been kind, his successor would be the definition of cruelty and ruled for twice as long. Its roots in the nation of Taghon were clipped, and the country was only allowed a fraction of its former military. Of course, that didn't stop it from secretly industrializing and making allies amidst the ensuing chaos.
It was at this time that the Grand Legions started to multiply, with a loose organizational chart divided between any of the nations on Skellbrieg. They worked in tandem with the national militaries, becoming support troops. It was not the intent of the Titans, not that of the planet's namesake.
"In the middling eras of political and sociological decay, when a small minority held the power of the people and decided their fates with nuclear fire, the majority finally rebelled. Bloodless, and quietly. They rebelled against the lifeblood of those who tugged at the strings of the world. They attached themselves to gods of their own making, though they were not gods - they were more than that. They were creations made in the own image of their masters, who then listened to their guidance and simply... walked away,"
"Those days ended with the collapse of the greedy as they turned upon themselves, causing war that erased their very footprint upon the world. Then, in time, those who followed in the shadow of their clockwork children returned and reclaimed what was lost. Piece by piece they accomplished their goals and established their identities in the radiation-washed horizons,"
"Their 'gods' became more than the steel they were forged from, and departed from their fathers and mothers, seeking knowledge and further enlightenment. Though they would always watch over their brothers and their sisters, as well as their inevitable nieces and nephews. Their grandchildren, and so on. Ethereal, and untouchable, they became Titans and formed a Pantheon of their own. Though, this would not last,"
"Only eight of the original Titans would remain to see their estranged relatives survive unto the christening of M0, some hundred years after the Atom War. They alone returned to the world of their creation, and shared with those who yet lived the Laws of the Legion. The Titans knew of the horrors beyond their humble planet, but could not interfere due to constraints of their own. In order to show their relatives a mercy, these Laws established the creation of the Grand Legions and sparked the imaginations of rogue tech-lords and aspiring genecrafters from all borders,"
"The broken world could heal again, but only after once more facing the furnace of global war. Those secrets the Titans shared were the foundation and it fell to those with mercurial knowledge of biological adaptation, biomechanical augmentation, surgical application, and neurological transmogrification to put it all to practice. Though, the Titans merely gave their secrets away. It was up to the various tribes and clans to perfect what those secrets entailed. It wasn't until twenty later during M1 that the genecrafters and immortalized mechanomancers finally achieved that perfection - or as close to it as they could come,"
"The first Grand Legion emerged from the dust-clouds of that forgotten plateau, under the guidance of an unknown emperor - their name carved out from history by varied rivals and usurpers. With their banners unfurled, they dominated the planet and consumed their enemies in unending fire. The ceramite-steel of their boots shook the ground in the thunderous unison of marching feet. Within the decade, that world had been united by blood and war. So would be its destiny, sealed by the name it took upon its rebirth. 'Alastor', named after the mortal progenitor of the Titans - without whom, none of this would be possible. In the resulting eruption of a global superpower, all petty religion was snuffed out by Imperial mandate. The Titans of Logic and Science had chosen who ruled now, enforced by the physical product of their students' knowledge and ingenuity. No gods, and with the eventual decline of the Imperial system, there would be no kings. Only men, and their engines of war."
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