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Gaia's;Hand [closed. Gaia]

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It wasn’t raining, but it had rained heavily the day before. Fat, pregnant clouds spilled rain on other domiciles to the southwest. In the east, the rising sun splashed heat across the Imperium that caused last night’s rain to permeate the nostrils with its wet, grassy scent and evaporate in rolling clouds of fog across the landscape.

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One of the figures in the distant fog loped toward them, and Michael saw that some things that had appeared small in the distance were in fact much larger. The horses had whinnied softly at the figures in the distance, but as Moshra approached they stamped their feet. At first, his horse could be calmed by tightening his grip on the reins; but as the runic wolf grew nearer and towered ever higher, Michael dismounted his horse and stood before them. A gossamer pool of fog expanded at his feet, gathering the latent energies in the earth around them; but he stood with one hand held out peacefully before him,  the other on his horse’s head, and a smile on his face. Despite the preparation nailed into his bones from the very day he appeared on Valucre, he attempted to instill as much calm into the situation as possible.

"Strong you lot are, cautious that makes me. What is your business here?"

“We just want to talk with Marigold! We mean no harm—”

That was when the glint of approaching crystals attuned Michael to the man himself. His smile grew brighter at first, before realization washed over him. All at once, not just what he saw with his eyes but all the data his crystals could render from schematics and analysis of the approaching Marigold’s condition came crashing down on him.

The Peacekeeper’s smile dissolved into a small frown. He didn’t move as Marigold spoke, neither did the fogged silhouettes of the now calm horses behind him. Marigold told them a tale of false gods and what trifling with them had cost him. He told them of a failure in the endeavor of false worship. He gave to them the very reason they had come.

At the sight of the impossible tear though, the Saint didn’t express sorrow. His brow crinkled in anger, another seemingly impossible for Marigold’s brushed steel composure. His frown grew deeper, the lines etching like canyons into his face the more Marigold spoke. The anger aged him, made him an eldritch force utterly incompatible with the idea uttering from Marigold’s lips. It would be the most forward thing done by the man in white robes since embarking on this journey.

“..Perhaps I'll once again...see her...—" 

Stealing forward, slicing through the space between them, Michael was upon Marigold faster than the giant Moshra could hope to lunge in any sort of defense. Marigold’s shirt was suddenly twisted in the ball of Michael’s fist. This clenched wad was pressed against his pallorous chest while simultaneously pulling him close to the Peacekeeper.

The two were so close it would take only a gesture for Michael to kill him, and Moshra would know not to approach on that premise. Michael could have slapped him, punched him— or as Marigold said, just unplug him, but he just held him there. His other hand was closed like stone around Marigold’s shoulder, holding him fast and affirming the other side of the scales Michael held. His expression ended up being not so much that of anger, but indignance that Marigold would think so little of fate that it would hand someone like him into the abyss. His eyes bore deeply into those of the Soul Surgeon with blazing, searing, endless conviction in what he was about to say.

“You are not lost, Doctor. I’m not here to unplug you.” 

In that moment, the Peacekeeper Saint was gilded in light. A soft warmth filled Marigold’s scant sensors with, at the very least, a sensation of sudden peace. His grasp on Ravenspire loosened as soon as the man regained his bearings. Then he let go of the man entirely, extending a flat hand with his palm down toward Moshra to signify that he wasn’t looking for trouble, as he walked around to the back of Marigold. 

He wrapped his hand around the place right where the cord connected to Marigold’s body. Instead of exerting any force, a washing current of white magic rushed through every tiny crevice in the device that now inhabited— now became Marigold. Two things would happen to Marigold simultaneously. Whatever series of machinations he had filed himself into, he would feel a very real sensation of cool air rushing through every crack and joint in his body. These were the works of Gaia.

“I’m here to save you,” he said, releasing his hand from the cord. Here he skipped right to the chase. “Do you have anywhere we can stay for a few nights? If not, I believe I can work out a camp somewhere nearby. I’ve come to create a new means for your life. I’d also like to create a new reason. Gaia.”

Secondly, after a moment of the red crystal floating beside Michael's head blinking red, his warmind AI initialized a connection with Marigold’s and began analyzing the aspects of its ability to redevelop with any sort of connection with biology. There would always be an irrefutable mechanical aspect to his mind, but the more of him that could be restored the better.  This would be the work of Michael.
 

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He had grown up with cynical views of gods, their religious power, and the supernatural sway they held over most of humanity. His father telling him of the countless horrors that exist despite these supposed lords over their domain having the power to end such suffering with but a snap of their fingers. The use of magic, just the carrot on a stick the 'magickers' use to fill us with false arrogance and hope. It had been hammered in his head so thoroughly as a child that he had been terrified the first time he saw magic. It was strange, and defied every law of nature his father had schooled him on. He wondered how different things would have turned out if he had seen what could it could have actually done. If he hadn't seen the extremes of absolute power in vile, diabolical hands first he might of had more of a chance to lead a normal life. If his father had seen his family as the broken mess it was...leaving him an empty estate with only his mother's grave to keep him company. His old man choosing The Mad God and losing himself forever to that madness. He hadn't felt such a loneliness in his home, such a terrible chaoseum that had been the tipping point into his unfortunate future. 

The present all too familiar now as he was once again left in that similar state; taken of his lab, his body, and family. Moshra and the villagers of Hyde were the closest he had...but the lack of sensory stimulation toward their presence only made him shrink into that pitiful boy crying over a solitary grave. The concept of redemption was a concept never afforded to him, and even with his perspectives drastically shifted...he felt as though any of his deeds were a drop in a bottomless bucket. A sorrow he felt all too comfortable in, wondering if gods were just as clueless as they were. Marigold's coat being crumpled under a great stress as Mike confronted him with mere inches between them. He was caught off guard, and Moshra could already been seen bristling at the contact. Marigold still raising a hand for her to stand down. Whatever happened. Marigold would accept it as fate. 

“You are not lost, Doctor. I’m not here to unplug you.”

Words were the most valuable commodity any man, woman, or child had as they had the capacity to shift wars, change minds, and rally hearts. His mother writing many letters and showing him all the ways words could be expressed. 'Never take for granted encouragement Mari, it is how we show love, gratitude, and respect...cherish them' He wondered if she somehow knew how far her lessons would carry. Surprise framing his features now as Mike; other hand gripped his shoulder and anchoring him. If this were a trap or some sort of ruse, Marigold was indeed vulnerable. Their eyes now locked with eachother; Marigold's a lost void searing from the sheer light Mike brought into his life as though he were a prophet. The frayed edges of his psyche were nourished by the warmth his aura brought and it was the closest to feeling alive he had experienced since the event took place. Marigold being let go now as he made his way around back, no intentions to resist whatever he had planned. He had felt the sting of betrayal many times...but this felt different. It was as though he were believing in something unseen; A faith he hadn't expected. 

Marigold feeling something akin to a blush ignite across his face as sensitive chords were suddenly being gripped by Mike's firm hands. The sudden magic immediately detected in his systems, and strangely accepting of it's nature almost immediately. The doctor already beginning to feel an immediate change as the spaces between his joint plates started to emit a white glow. His features becoming more profound as his irises started emit the same light. Marigold looking over himself curiously as he started to run diagnostics and figure out what Mike had just done. The rush of cool air feeling as though he were rising into the sky; the sun cresting his features...and it was as though he could feel the rays upon his skin once more. The doctor then feeling Mike's own technology merging with his own as his A.I ran diagnostics of his own condition. The A.I unit itself being located somehwere within the imperium; projecting his influence onto a facsimile that looked just as he did before his physical form was lost. His memories seeming to be intact for the most part but his psyche was critical due to suddenly becoming artificial overnight, combining poorly with his melancholic mindset. 

"Here to save...me?

He felt as though he didn't deserve saving. There was no amount of good he could do that would take back the pain and suffering he had caused. Mike was a pillar here and many of thousands looked upon him for guidance and leadership. He was wasting his much needed time trying to save a dysfunctional fool caught in his own metal cage. The light that now coursed through him felt as though it was lifting his head from the mote he continually drowned his psyche in. Marigold's scattered thoughts being focused now as Mike asked for a place to take refuge. The doctor taking note of the other two followers, curious if they too were souls Mike had done the same for. Marigold doing his best to look presentable once more as he gave a nod "A camp won't be necessary. The Imperium' command center is still intact and unscathed. There is adequate lodgings, the villagers will take care of your horses" He said, still wrestling with the implications that were at foot. What reason could Gaia give him? Her wandering eye never falling upon his life up until this moment. It was all quite confusing, but he supposed Mike would be a wealth of information soon enough. Moshra watching as Marigold lead the three through the various construction sites of the up and coming Hyde village. The imperium would act as it's center, once it was rebuild that is. 

Their trip being relatively short as they weaved into the facility itself where most of the rubble and debris had been cleaned up as droids and automatons continued the reconstruction. The imperiuk being a complex consisting of four buildings, a comms tower, and a command station at it's center. Every other building aside from the command center had been nearly reduced to rubble with only a few walls and tertiary mainframes still intact on a few as though they were walking through skeletons of once living machine beasts. Their wayward journey through the bloated corpse of The Imperium took them to what he called TripSec. The command center of The Imperium, and the only building physically intact.  The doors sliding open with a slow creak, Marigold giving one of the doors a solid kick before it opened completely. The interior white lit and chilled as a vast atrium opened up before her with a multitude of androids moving about on pneumatic feet and treads alike as they worked on repairs.

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Marigold would feel the increasing and decreasing pressure of the air flowing through his joints to the ebb and flow of Gaia’s light channeling through Commager. Michael walked around to the front of Marigold and beheld his expression of— if even slight— surprise. Even without much of its biological life, Marigold’s face and his assimilation with Michael’s specialized Victory AI betold eons of desire and affliction both positive and negative contained and trapped within Marigold.

Michael saw the cage that Marigold had been placed within by a series of interactions between him and the Mad God. It was a veritable steel cage of madness.

“You’re not lost, man.” Clasping his shoulder again, Michael locked eyes with Marigold for the second time too. “We have so much to do together. Michael raised his other fist. Opening it, he showed Marigold a small white stone that pulsed with a bright light. The pulse matched up with Marigold’s heartbeat.

“We have much to do together.”

As the horses were escorted away, the Peacekeeper Saint gave to the villagers strict instructions on their keeping. Nobody was to stand directly behind the horse, or it would kick them. Nobody should put their hand near their mouths, but place their food on the ground before them. The horses would graze of their own accord, but have nothing risen to their own mouths without biting the hand that feeds. They were particular, peculiar, utterly ginormous animals.

Within TripSec, the three found their own quarters and then converged for their second meal in the second afternoon of their gathering. While Michael’s meals were scant, they were gratuitous. While the others prepared, Michael had left the Imperium grounds and hunted. While he hunted, he asked the village to provide drink.  It seemed like no time at all before he returned with one cart containing massive braised chunks of meat and another bearing great laurels of edible greenery. There was enough for both the Imperium’s biological components and the villagers of Hyde.

That night, as the lights of the Imperium cast fireflies into the night sky, the largest gathering of Disciples thus far sat together eating a fantastic meal. In their respective homes away from TripSec, so too did the villagers.

As soon as they’d slowed their eating and drinking, ingesting their sustenance in whatever form it took, Michael leaned back in his seat.

“It’s good to have something to toast to,” he said, raising his drink. “And now I toast to all the great biddings our lives have received.”

He took a drink, then set his glass upon the table so gently it didn’t make a sound.

“What that means, what this means, is that as of today you have all been taken under the wing of Gaia. If you’ve ever heard of the ‘boom or bust’ method, this is a great example of that. I have gathered you on the goddess Gaia’s sake, to bring good tidings to her supporters and crash down with great prejudice upon those who oppose her. Alongside me, you will either flourish in the light or it will drown you.”

He made specific eye contact with each of them at that moment.

“Tell me your vices now. Tell me what, if anything, holds you back from Gaia. If you have any objections to the light of this forgiveness, if with me sitting here before you, you think you’re not worthy, tell me now.”

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A tale as old as time.

Every time men deigned to meddle in the affairs of the divine, tragedy inevitably followed. Such beings were cruel, capricious, and most dangerous of all, possessed by the kind of hard-won wisdom ageless beings often had. Some were indeed benign, but even they were nothing less than lethal when angered. Bottom line; when man and god met, it rarely ended well for the man. Some might say that Gaia was the exception. 003 thought that it was too soon to pass judgement one wan or the other.

Marigold had clearly come out the worse for wear in his encounter with divinity; though Michael still seemed to think he could be saved. As the doors opened onto the Imperium, he reflected that the Peacekeeper was probably the most likely to be up to the task. 003 was looking for a place to rest when something caught his eye. Amidst a pile of scrapped androids he found an idea for a permanent replacement for his bandages. Gathering what he needed, he resolved to look for a place to work later.

Dinner was once again miles better than prison fare, and he ate it gladly. When Michael raised his glass he went along with it; feeling it would be ungrateful of him not to. Once the question of his vices and what held him back from Gaia were raised, he looked straight at the Peacekeeper.

"My vice is Wrath. I have killed, and I have enjoyed it. The blood on my hands, and the rage in my heart form the chains that bind me."

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Vices? 

His benector's inquiry made Shethid pause. All his life, he had indulged in as many vices as possible. As mush as he hate to admit it but the cartel had a very hedonistic approach to the world. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. Life was so simple back then. Do what pleases you as long you don't get caught.

Looking back, he could now see how sad it was. However, that was fate. There was no longer any semblance of the normalcy the moment he took that woman's devillish hand. Now that he was free from that sad fate, should he bare it all?

"I...live a hedonist life. Drugs. Sex. Alcohol. And many more. Any pleasure I can indulge myself in. I've tried it all."

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The villagers listened to Michael' instructions over the horses, The hydelings a proud people that had a history of uprooting when the lands became too hostile. Ex-Bandits, warriors, beggars, and bilge rats all coming together under the banner their mayor had made long ago, lost and hated races finding new purpose putting their roots down around the mysterious lab. Moshra giving the horses a healthy dose of motivation as she took charge of finishing up the day's watch and chores. Her eyes never leaving the strangers until they vanished deeper into The Imperium. The sun beginning to dip behind the tree line casting elongated shadows of sturdy trees and baleful bushes. A multitude of torches being lit and placed in sconces at the front of each growing settlement; lighting up the perimeter of the darkened lab, the central building having only emergency lights to light it's exterior. 

The reactor had been his primary source of power for The Imperium, and with it gone he couldn't power the entire facility alone. Tripsec the only building he managed to reroute power for and actually ran pretty smoothly for the time being. The fluorescent lights overhead their dinner flickering momentarily before they continued their low thrum. The time Michael had used to go hunting, A momentary power outage had occurred that caused Marigold himself to freeze in place. A few moments passing before the lights once again flicked on, and so did Marigold. He waved off any questions and simply wanted this dinner Michael was making to go off without a hitch. The food soon being finished and being unable to smell how good it was only proved to Marigold just what he had sacrificed. He had always taken for granted the necessity of meals. His father hadn't ever cared and his mother had died too young so the concept of meals were simply sustenance that was required to survive. He sat at the table graciously, appreciating the effort regardless of if he was able to partake. 

Marigold watching everyone curiously as they ate, seated at his own side of the table. He had refused any food or drink since he didn't want it to dry out and simply go to waste. The illumination of Gaia' light rolling through his finger joints and illuminating the empty table space as Michael finally spoke after their initial feast was over. Something to toast to? Indeed that this was an unexpected turn of events. He should be surprised, yet such emotions dulled against the cold of metal. The doctor not wanting to be rude and so he raised an empty glass and clattered it against Mike's own. Marigold felt disingenuous as The Peacekeeper spoke of good biddings; as if any god could offer such an ephemeral concept. His bitterness left to himself as he listened. 

Michael beginning to explain his reasoning for coming here, and gathering their attention in unison. It was strange to hear of his plan, knowing it somehow had to do with Marigold. It both baffled and afeared the A.I. He had been in service of only one god before and had watched as his entire life had been carved out from under him. He couldn't deny that immediately serving another wouldn't prove much better. The light's flickering once more as Marigold's nerves were getting to him. Marigold unable to meet Michael's gaze and only continued to stare at the table frantically. His vices? When the question of their impurities and crimes was brought up. Antigone, his home, was nothing but misery. He had aired out his story once and for all to a woman he thought he could trust, but she had boiled his entire tale into a compendium of all the horrendous actions he had taken. He knew now that the Mad God had influence over him even then, but he had been in control and did such things that never allowed him peace of mind again. 

His mechanical face betraying a lip quiver as the other two answered. He didn't know their names and yet still they answered without restraint. He was never one of hedonism due to his workaholic mentality, but the apostate' answer brought their gazes together for only a moment. Marigold understanding much of what he was saying. He had made it all out to be for 'humanity' and 'science' but it was just his demons following in his father's footsteps. He had once thought it was just how the world worked, but he knew that to be a lie when Lilly graced his life. He couldn't handle the loss and rolled his pain across those as haunted as he. How could that be forgiven? 

"I helped The Black Queen give birth to her child only a few floors below from where we're sitting...it was the beginning of this entire disaster. I had some of the most powerful beings I had seen surrounding me, and in my foolish desire for sudden change...I had made enemies out of all of them, except the one in my arms. It was a beautiful baby boy, inhuman and powerful. I had forgotten the carmine emperor was there...lost in the momentary bliss of unmarred innocence. Raphael's sword at my throat had terrified me indeed...but I was happy knowing such purity, even in a fragment of time, had graced me...It was the same day Laughing Stock took advantage of the chaos and though I survived I often wondered...how many pure, unadulterated  souls did I deny a father? A mother? A sister or a brother? How many children in Antigone are wondering, hopelessly where that missing piece of them is? How could I be worthy when I have created generations of tragedy that will never heal? What god could ever forgive what I have done?"
The sudden stress peaking as the power shorted out and caused Marigold, alongside the lights, to suddenly switch off. His face frozen in the crestfallen torture of a broken man, cast into a metal body.

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"My vice is Wrath. I have killed, and I have enjoyed it. The blood on my hands, and the rage in my heart form the chains that bind me."

Michael drank to the Apostle’s words. He didn’t speak though as one might think, but wait for the next to trade in their vices. That was when Shethid spoke. Michael had never met him face to face, but he knew both of them were present on the cloudy day in Last Chance when the Legion of Doom was routed off the coast and their allies scattered to the wind. Commager watched the released prisoner contemplate his answer before his lips began moving, no judgment visible on his face.

"I...live a hedonist life. Drugs. Sex. Alcohol. And many more. Any pleasure I can indulge myself in. I've tried it all."

Michael drank again before shifting his gaze to Marigold wearing an expression of calm ready to weather whatever storm came from a tongue still smote by the pernicion of doubt still visible on his face, no matter how many mechanical components composed it.

“This is some good wine,” he complimented the cyborg’s alcoholic confections before tilting his chin forward expectantly. He wasn’t disappointed when the man-become-A.I. finally responded. 

"I helped The Black Queen give birth to her child only a few floors below from where we're sitting...it was the beginning of this entire disaster. I had some of the most powerful beings I had seen surrounding me, and in my foolish desire for sudden change...I had made enemies out of all of them, except the one in my arms. It was a beautiful baby boy, inhuman and powerful. I had forgotten the carmine emperor was there...lost in the momentary bliss of unmarred innocence. Raphael's sword at my throat had terrified me indeed...but I was happy knowing such purity, even in a fragment of time, had graced me...It was the same day Laughing Stock took advantage of the chaos and though I survived I often wondered...how many pure, unadulterated  souls did I deny a father? A mother? A sister or a brother? How many children in Antigone are wondering, hopelessly where that missing piece of them is? How could I be worthy when I have created generations of tragedy that will never heal? What god could ever forgive what I have done?"

Michael finished the glass as the lights around them flickered away to the blackness. Only emergency lights gilding the entrances and some of the corners left them in a dim dark. In that darkness, without any of Gaia’s light flickering through the technically dead Marigold, Commager’s blue eyes seemed like their own light source; they gleamed on Marigold as he put the glass down and took the same hand that had bled with light only moments earlier.

Using schematics generated by his warmind AI, Michael was able to configure a type of light energy that would power the same machinery that ran Marigold’s body and the series of circuitous chips piled together like the winnings of a broke gambler to create his mind. Although the warmind had proposed this frequency of light magic almost immediately upon contact with Marigold’s AI, it was an experiment Michael thought he’d at least save for after dinner; but would rather try now considering the circumstance

With the brushed steel of Marigold’s hand resting coldly, lifelessly in his, Michael pushed a current of energy into Marigold that would spark all the way back to the core of the Imperium and jumpstart it to life, if only momentarily. If it had been the shock and sadness, the desolation of his deeds that drove Marigold to shut down, Michael’s magic and the warm hope with which it filled his joints would sustain him here. Blipping into existence, Michael's voice would be the first thing that greeted the cyborg revived.

“Listen, I can’t forgive the people who put you in chains any more than I can forgive you on behalf of the families of those you’ve killed. The ones you’ve cheated, stolen from, hurt or killed with your actions. Forgiveness from others for those sins is nothing to concern yourself with. Gaia’s love for you surpasses those sins. It is because you are already capable of carrying her singular will that you are here today.

It’s the ability to forgive yourself and others that still needs fostering. I will carry your burdens with you from now on, we’ll carry them together. But your pasts are no longer yours alone to manage.” Michael’s eyes had never left Marigold’s, a light registering in his as Marigold's came back to life.

“With me by your side, at your back, you will create machines and entirely new concepts that bring joy to generations to come.” 

Then he turned his eyes to Shethid.

“You will usher others away from the same weakness you once suffered from. Together, we will uproot those who bring unhealthy drugs and crime into our cities.”

Then he turned to the Apostle.

“Gaia is not done with you.” He filled his glass with more wine at the words. “You were mistreated by man, but you’ve been freed by Gaia. She is the All-Mother, the creator of the entire earth from which all has sprung around us. You and I will be the protectors of those on whom man wishes to do disservice. We will be those protectors on Gaia’s behalf.”

“You may not find yourselves worthy right now,” said Michael, addressing all of them. “But it is through your actions from today forward that you will come to see that it is so.”

“We start now, as soon as you’re finished eating!” Michael said, leaping up as he brushed crumbs from his fingers and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. “The first thing we will do is resurrect this land to the greatest of our ability over the next three days. Surely you have a list of the things that could use improvement here, Marigold?"

“Now, Marigold.” said Michael as soon as they were all working, pending the effectiveness of his charge of magic used to revive Marigold and the blacked out parts of the Imperium. They walked through the red fog tinged with sunset. “I believe I have found a power source that will adequately let you travel away from here. Have you ever heard of calquartz?”

From a satchel at his waist the Peacekeeper Saint withdrew a white crystal. Immediately, like magnetism, Marigold would feel drawn to touch it. Although in reality it was cool to the touch and a matte yellowish color, it would appear as if it were gleaming and warm like sunlight to the touch. 

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003 sipped from a refilled glass of wine, contemplating Commager's words.

If anyone else had told him the things this Peacekeeper was saying he would have dismissed them out of hand; another mouthpiece of the church spouting the same insipid bits of scripture they repeated dozens of times a day. One-size-fits all moralizing to reassure the faithful of their piety no matter what their sins. Yet he didn't feel like the other man was preaching to him. Michael spoke to him with the same certainty one might use to state the color of the sky. Did he know something that 003 did not? Or was his faith simply that unshakable; the kind of bone deep certainty he had only seen in a few other believers.

Like his father.

As Michael turned his attention to Marigold, 003 picked up the parts he had picked up, and silently excused himself from the meal. Finding a work bench, he went to work; stripping away what he didn't need. Once the base was made, he attached the other parts to it, and made sure the pieces could move how he needed them to. Happy with the design, he donned the new equipment and walked back towards the group. 

Sitting down, he says nothing. There is something forming in his mind; something that he had locked away years ago. It wasn't quite here yet... but it was coming.

 

ArtStation - Helmet Sketch 01, Tyler Smith

art by Tyler Smith

Spoiler

The mask is closed with the teeth together.

 

Edited by danzilla3

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Seeing that the Peacekeeper had turned all his attention to Marigold, Shethid too excused himself from the meal. The Peacekeeper's pep talk gave him a lot to think about. Shethid needed some alone time to process all these recent developments in the new chapter of his life.

As he strolled away from the group, his mind strayed to what he had learned of the Gaian faith. That was when he realized that he was quite the offender. His existence alone was against the ideals of the Gaian faith. One can say that he is an Unnatural being. One removed from the process of death. It was a good thing that he was freed from that curse the moment he left the organization at the climax of the battle at Last Chance.

It took him a while to find a rather secluded area. Sitting down on the floor, he finally focused on the lump of unknown object that he had discovered inside his coat's pocket. Pulling it out of its hiding hole, he could see that it was some kind of black metal. It was lighter than he had expected. No soon had he started inspecting it when it moved of its own accord and looped itself to his wrist like a bracelet.  Shrugging, Shethid decided to let it stay there for now. He does have his suspicions regarding the object's origins. It would most a farewell gift from his previous boss. In time, he would learn more about this queer gift.

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He loathed the space where his conscience traveled when the power would shut off; A negative space where ley lines traced on without end. It was the facility's A.I storage; deep within the heart of the facility. A virtual storage plane made for the very machination he tried to perfect. His mortal sensibilities felt betrayed existing within a space devoid of life. An endless tapestry where an artificial mind could build schematics and project layouts in real time. It was now dim and lifeless. A white light illuminated the dulled grid lines and spread the warmth of light throughout the storage device like puritan fire as Michael stood across from his colorless form. Michael a well of light that poured fourth his heart verily. Was this just A glitch in the storage unit? artificing memories of Mike only moments ago? The light continued to spread through the ley line network until it felt as though the light were consuming him; Michael reached out and the light swayed with his movements as though they were reflecting from his very soul. His hand grabbing Marigold, and it felt tangible. 

It would take some time and grooming to become a viable power source, but a spark was all that needed. Michael's own power jump starting the scientist and the facility he had become tethered to. Lights blinking on one after another as both holographic screens and terminals alike winked back on one after another. Robots, machine droids, and camera drones resumed their duties and it even managed to give the hyde villagers some power to work with, used to living without power. The reactor was in shambles with an immense crater that exposed it's deep cavernous location beneath the facility itself. The vacuous space that once harnessed the maddening energy of Laughing Stock now flickered with a white light. Marigold eyes lighting up once more and blinking back the distressed man who had left them only moments ago. Michael's words were indeed the first thing he heard as he took time to come out of his sleep state. 

His words were like scripture, yet he did not read them from a book. They weren't scripted like the halfwit preachers he'd often see pilfering weak willed souls. Something had changed within him, whether it was the new source of power, or a new source of faith he couldn't be sure. Who was this man who brought forth faith where there was none and a sense of purpose when it mattered not? A purpose brewing...something human that a machine pure knew not. He wanted to know what faith would bring. He knew science couldn't explain such vast concepts. They couldn't explain what he had felt in that sleep state. The light he felt now, coursing through him. 

Marigold meeting Michael's own gaze, and there was so much he wanted to say, so much he wanted to convey. 

With me by your side, at your back, you will create machines and entirely new concepts that bring joy to generations to come.

"Bring...Joy" Was all Marigold repeated as Michael spoke to the others directly.

Droids were a titter around the command center as they took plates and tidied up the dining area afterwards. Their sources of power all glowing a faint white instead of their original blue. Marigold listening to what Michael told them curiously. He had been betrayed much in his life, but that was before he had felt faith for the first time. A drink of requiem. Marigold pulling up diagnostic screens distractedly as he absorbed everything Michael had told them. The worth they must earn for themselves. The Acoloyte and Shethid soon after excusing themselves as they ventured off on their own affairs. Michael addressing marigold directly again, marigold looking up from his readings and nodding eagerly "Aside from the villagers and their work, the facility itself is in utter disrepair since the explosion and it is quite the uphill battle" He said as they strolled back outside after dinner. The sunset bathing the plains with tree split rays of orange light. The hundred or so villagers dotting the plains with houses and foundations ranging from just started to nearly finished. A great shadow casting from the mighty wolf guard captain as she used a nearby tree as a bark covered recliner. A pair of humanoids, wolf and feline alike were training just underneath her watchful eye as many called it a night and huddled around bonfires where they celebrated a good start to a long journey. A faint song heard as one of grey skinned tiefling among one of the bonfires started to drift a melody into the air that soon many of the woman joined in on with instruments and additions voices. A tradition among their people. Moshra in a strange change of pace from her barbaric intensity, sang too. A harsh baratone from a robust figure. They were a strange and musical people that Marigold wanted to understand more...but he felt a strange connection to the music...the words. 
 

Spoiler

 


“Now, Marigold-I believe I have found a power source that will adequately let you travel away from here. Have you ever heard of calquartz?"

"I'm afraid the knowledge of that particular element escapes me!"

Marigold eyes fixated upon the crystals and it was as though that mysterious Hyde song emanated from it. His fingers probing the stone without thought before his eyes sparked in surprise "It's cold! I can feel it? I can feel it? How is that possible?" He chattered, rubbing his fingertips together curiously before pinching his cheek and actually wincing, laughing in surprise before pinching himself again. 

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After eating, the others absconded while Michael drank wine and looked at the defunct Marigold. When he and Marigold were alone, that was when he’d taken the cold hand. This private experimental moment was theirs, energy rushing through every crevice of Marigold and his Imperium; within that light, analysis and understanding. Michael washed the doubt from Marigold’s mind like boiling water does the detritus stuck to a drain. 

When he opened his eyes again, the metallic skin of Marigold’s hand was almost hot with the energy blazing through it. Even still, Michael’s flesh remained untarnished by the heat. Instead it was Marigold’s sensors that were ablaze with a steroid-type energy, as if his cache and history and viruses had all been cleared with the riverflow of light emanating from Michael’s hand.

Commager’s light flowed like a river feeding a lake into the main reactor that had been destroyed. Tangible light coated the broken machinery, analyzing and rendering digestible data for Michael in order for him to direct a proper percentage of energy to that specific reactor while continually powering the rest of the Imperium. More than the simple deeds done by this one transaction of energy, Michael would spend his time here creating a new crystal that would power the Imperium. It would draw from solar energy and his own, both impenetrable, defensible, and continuous sources.

As Michael and Marigold walked together through his continuously rejuvenating Imperium, Marigold would feel that the calquartz crystal was able to interact with his mechanical body on a much greater dimension than human flesh or human sustenance. This particular crystal had sat with Michael for the day prior, soaking in his latent energies. Holding it was something Marigold felt in his circuits as if they were his very bones channeling the energy. It was a hyperdrive source of power for him; at the very least a means for returning to normalcy with a little refining.

When Shethid and the Apostate had returned, all three of the new Gaia’s Disciples had undergone changes. All three of them had resolved to do the same good deeds as Michael, with him overseeing.

“Now,” he asked of each of them when they all sat.  “I’ve freed all of you from your shackles. I’ve described what type of life I can offer you. All I need now is your acquiescence to a life under Gaia."

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