He had been Altered. He no longer remembered where or when, if indeed he had ever known. The work was of extraordinarily high quality, even beautifulâ€”certainly not the kind done, quick and dirty, by cutters in back-alley chop-shops. It seldom caused him any physical discomfort, and never any actual pain…at least not any more. For that he was thankful.
The most visible outward sign was the metal wings that unfurled from his back. These were graceful and delicate constructions, yet strong and somehow functional. The few medical clerics that had managed to make more than a casual inspection had professed astonishment and could not comprehend their manner of working. He no longer allowed anyone, medical or no, to look that closely. It seemed somehow like a desecration, like questioning a gift, or doubting a miracle. It also felt dangerous.
There were also of course numerous inner modifications, not visible to the naked eye. Men throughout the regions of Babbage could give testimony of his great strength and physical prowess, his almost supernatural speed, his agility that boggled the mind. Unfortunatelyâ€”and this fact often left his spirit desolateâ€”there were also men, thankfully few, who could give no such testimony after their encounters with him. Some, because they could no longer speak. Others, because they could no longer breathe. Sometimes, it was necessary for violence to serve the Truth.
Although the memories of his Alteration were lost to him, he did remember, and very well, the reason for it: he had been modified to better serve the Builder. He remembered this so clearly and well because it had always been a part of his life. His parents had committed him at birthâ€”and for lifelong affiliationâ€”to the Brotherhood of the Builder. At some point in his transformation from gangly youth to sturdy young man he learned that he had been chosen to join the ranks of the Altered. It was an honor to be so chosen, for both individual and family, and as everyone knew, it was an honor that could not be declined.
The brothers of the order were friendly enough, but it seemed that his presence was to them more troubling than anything elseâ€”a necessary evil, even. His occasional interactions with them were characterized by mumbled conversation, furtive glances, and averted eyes. Not one of them had ever been able to bear his direct gaze for more than a moment. He wondered if the brothers feared him physically, or if there were some other cause for the slight but noticeable distance at which they held themselves. He knew that they tolerated and even welcomed his presence, but counted not one among them as a friend. The thought that they might fear him caused him some sadness, but he could bear it. However, if for some reason they revered him, he would find that more troubling. He did not believe himself worthy of reverence. He, too, was only a servant, and no more worthy than they.
Each of the Altered was different. Although everyone knew this simple truth, no one spoke publicly of it, or claimed to know the reason behind the truth. However, rumors were whispered that the modifications done to their physical bodies were in some manner dictated by their minds, driven by the hopes and dreams of their spirits. Somehow, the soul actually drove the machine. This thought, even though it remained unconfirmed, gave him some small comfort. He always wondered just what in his own soul had given him wings.
He knew that his Alteration was neither magic nor supernatural gift; it was merely technology. Rather, it was a compound of technology and training. His own indoctrination into the Brotherhood had included training in several methods of physical attack and defense. Some of these methods were artistic and spiritual, others more utilitarian. All had their uses. He was also the possessor of a solid double handful of weapons of varying natures, and so well trained was he in their use that each was essentially an extension of his body, mind and soul. It was understandable, perhaps even inescapable, that he thought of himself as an angelâ€”a living angel, physical, not yet divine, but angel all the same. Although we know better, surely we can forgive him this small vanity.
After all, Truth cannot stand without a defender; Virtue will always have need of protectors. For these reasons and others, the Altered would always and forever stand in the service of the Builder. The Builder would always need them.
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You may remember my previous post that featured designs from Arcavim, by Drack Diesel. His focus then was steampunk, and with his creations he put a unique twist on a familiar style genre. His clothing designs were executed with remarkable technical proficiency. They were also quite beautiful.
But all things do change, and that isnâ€™t necessarily a bad thing. I recently had the opportunity for an impromptu chat with Drack, and we briefly discussed his new design approach, new designs and their vibe, and the new shop where he sells them.
Drack Diesel: Ya, [the new shop] is only about 2-3 weeks old now, so [itâ€™s] all new stuff [and Iâ€™m] slowly getting more stuff made.
Ryan Darragh: I loved your steampunk style, and even though that’s changed, your design work is still so impressive. And I always think it’s interesting when someone goes off in a new direction.
Drack: Well, there will still be a little left-over taste of steampunk. In one of the [new] styles of girlsâ€™ boots here [youâ€™ll see some] steampunk. I got kind of bored with steampunk, and I guess I was in the tail end of it in SL, because it was like the community died quickly. I saw a bunch of steampunk sims close and was like, â€œAwww damn!â€
Iâ€™ve been going nuts with the options the new alpha layers and tattoo layers offer. I hated invisiprims. I donâ€™t even offer them in the shoes here because I want to help promote people updating their viewers so we can get rid of them completely. Invisiprims ruin design, IMO. Â It makes the guysâ€™ boots nicer now though, too, because I can lock the foot the same as is done on girlsâ€™ [boots], and with no invisiprim [it] looks nicer.
I design in Zbrush and 3Ds Max now as I’m in school for this kind of stuff. I go to Digipen IT in Redmond, WA. Itâ€™s rated as the top school in the U.S. for production animation by Princeton Review. But [Iâ€™m] only in my sophomore year, so I expect the quality of my designs to continue to increase significantly. On my boots for instance I take them up to about 1.5 million polygons, design and texture, then bring them down to the limitations of SL.
I also developed a method for making virtually seamless tattoos going over areas that are often avoided by most tattoo artists in SL. But [Iâ€™m] keeping that method a secret.
Ryan: I saw your tattoos were bravely going where almost no man has gone before.
Drack: Ya, haha, I’m hoping to draw attention that way, because as far as I am aware no one [else] I know of can do it. Even skin makers I know here are stumped how I am doing it. I want to have some of the highest quality tattoos in SL, and they arenâ€™t [just] clip art or art taken off the net as I’ve seen on a lot of tattoos. I [also] design the brushes [that] I use to create them.
Ryan: You can tell it’s more than just a hobby for you.
Drack: Well, that’s good as I hope to work for Bioware or Ubisoft once I’m done with school.
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Drackâ€™s newÂ Alpha Boots look and feel like a completely natural evolution of his earlier Sky Sailor Boots, albeit along a different branch of the family tree. Individual elements of fine leather texture, realistically placedÂ seams and stitching, and bright metal zipper, buckles and decorative elements come together in a beautiful, coherent whole. Avatar-layer, alpha-channel â€œinvisible socksâ€ hide your feet completely and eliminate the need for invisiprims. In fact, no invisiprim version is included, so you do need to use Viewer 2.x or another compatible viewer in order to conceal your feet properly. Resize scripting makes for easy fitting; after adjusting the size, you may also need to tweak the vertical placement to make sure your feet are still touching the ground naturally. I found it helpful to fit the boots while not yet wearing the invisible socks, so I could more clearly see just where my avatarâ€™s feet were. Shown here in Sand; also available in seven other colors. L$485 a pair.
I myself donâ€™t wear tattoos all that often. If you do, then you probably know even better than I that tattoo creators tend to avoid certain problematic seam/join areas for the sake of beauty and fluidity in their designs. The less than completely desirable alternative is to live with a certain amount of discontinuity in these areas. Drack is justifiably proud of his own technique for dealing with this particular bugaboo without compromising his original artwork.
Here Iâ€™m wearing my personal favorite of his new tattoo releases, â€œTribal Feather.â€ The artwork isÂ detailed yetÂ delicate, with graceful curves that flow naturally and organically over the body. Â Thanks to the tattoo layer, the artwork can include ink on the face and designs shaved into the hair. You do need to use Viewer 2.x or another compatible viewer in order to wear the tattoo-layer items, but never fearâ€”artwork is also provided on various clothing layers, although of course these cannot include the face and scalp artwork. The tattoo artwork is also provided in several different combinations, such as face-only and body-only, as well as varying intensities for the scalp designs, so you can achieve a number of different looks. L$595.
Look also for a collection of individual â€œhair tats,â€ head tattoos that depict designs shaved into closely cropped hair. These of course are provided on the new tattoo layer only, and Viewer 2.x or another compatible viewer is required. Three designs for your consideration: Seprify, Stinger and Tribal; eight different designs are available, plus one more as a group freebie. Â These are no modify, but provided in three different intensities (50, 75 and 100%). L$250 each.
Tattoo demos are available in the shop, so you can try before you buy.
Drack Dieselâ€™s designs are available at Arcavim (Clareon Isle 188, 131, 24).