|The following project has been shelved. It may or may not get a future release. Stay tuned.|
Pilltar is the first story of the Pilltar Adventures volume, and the 14th entry overall in The Gerosha Chronicles. Its continuity is canon to both Comprehensive and Cataclysmic Geroshas in Dozerfleet Comics. It features around the brilliant-but-wheelchair-bound inventor Seth Lambrelli, and his secret invention of the superhero Pilltar inside of his garage with the help of a teenage girl named Stephanie Barrin. It has spawned two sequels, the final of which bridges the Pilltar Adventures timeline with that of the series Sodality.
With her father Ron Barrin living apart from the family and on disability, teenager Stephanie Barrin tends to taking care of herself. Her not-very-bright mother, Theresa Barrin, gets involved with a religious school down the road and decides to send Stephanie there. However, Stephanie has her doubts both about the school's teachings and the behaviors of student and faculty. Something about the entire place seems a bit off to her. She gets scolded for asking too many questions, and correcting the teacher on doctrinal matters.
To get her to fall in line, the school assigns Stephanie to go canvassing for them in her neighborhood. Her mom Theresa puts pressure on her to do so. However, she notices something special when she invites herself into a man she was especially told to recruit to the institution's church: Seth Lambrelli. Namely, Seth is kind to her. However, he also has an answer to her every question. And he encourages her to stand her ground for her convictions when she sees things happening at school that are clearly not right.
A mentor-understudy relationship soon forms between the two. Turned off by the snooty atmosphere she has learned from school and home, Stephanie is eventually awakened to a deeper understanding of her life and what is in it through being around Seth. Her time spent with him eventually leads to tensions in her home and school life, as both her mother and class instructors mistrust Seth when his influence on Stephanie becomes impossible to ignore.
His influence causes Stephanie to question the subculture of students at her school, and to see the hypocrisy of its leaders. She grows frustrated with the injustice at school, asking Seth if there is a way she could study under him and have it declared a sort of "specialized education" so the state would leave her alone. Stephanie's mother, Theresa Barrin, shows initial distrust of Seth and concern for Stephanie spending all her time in the garage of a strange man. However, Stephanie is eventually kicked out of school for refusing to believe a flat-out lie being told by a teacher in order to avoid offending the daughter of a powerful lawyer. This results in Stephanie taking "a job" from Seth, while looking for another school. Theresa grows angry, but Ron Barrin returns in time to set Theresa straight.
Stephanie is at one point kidnapped by her former teachers, but is soon rescued by a Pilltar unit. Seth had been showing her other inventions of his, and teaching her how to build other devices. But the Pilltar project was new to her. He offers to teach her how to use Pilltar. She begins playing bodyguard when Seth enters the main chamber in his garage. Seth begins operating Pilltar as an experimental neighborhood watch, albeit off the books of the local police department. When an armed lunatic nearly murders a teenage girl and her date at a make out point, he is stopped by Pilltar. A battle ensues, but Pilltar comes out the victor. The lunatic is finally delivered right to the front doors of the local police station, albeit with a few broken bones. The girl, Evelyn Martin, confesses that her uncle Warren Finn was the lunatic in question. Warren was discovered to have murdered Evelyn's parents and began stalking Evelyn with the intent on kidnapping and raping her. He was originally going to kill the boyfriend so there'd be no witnesses, but then vowed to kill the "big metal pill bug" that foiled him. Police at that point hadn't seen Pilltar make the delivery, and were intrigued by the description. Evelyn and her boyfriend confess that a "munchkin-sized pill bug man" saved them. The teachers that abducted Stephanie also confess that a metal pill bug had foiled them.
As the news begins to question sightings at night of the metal pill bug, rumors spread that he appears to be a remote-controlled "avatar" of whoever the pilot is. One resident in town who was protected from a mugging at night claims to have been rescued by an entity calling itself a "Robotic Pill Bug Avatar, Module 1." The local TV news shortens it to "RPiBA," or just "Pilltar," for short. Seth and Stephanie both decide they like the latter name, and word spreads that "Pilltar" protects the night.
Seth reveals to Stephanie the various problems of his gradually, failing health, and also informs her of his backstory. A sympathetic Stephanie becomes even more attached to her new friend. Meanwhile, the announcement of a Pilltar in town almost immediately leads to a sudden sweep of violent home invasions by men who are armed to the teeth, all raids involving the abduction of teenage girls and murder of their parents. The Des Moines area in particular is suddenly hit. Police are baffled by the raids, which happen swiftly and without warning. That is, until Pilltar arrives and disrupts one of the raids. He manages to kill all but one of the raiders in that particular raid, with police taking captive the survived raider. Seth tells police that he's interested in renewing projects to aid neighborhood watch, and arranges to listen in on the raider being interviewed. The raider comes prepared, popping a cyanide pill after confessing to eating a few of the teen victims. He also states: "The boss knows who's behind Pilltar. The threat to kill from years ago is still valid."
Trying to avoid a direct confession, Seth tells police that it was his inventions that inspired whoever was behind Pilltar. Therefore, the threat is against him every bit as much as it is against whoever Pilltar is. He gives his history with Morrisson, and explains his belief that Morrisson is behind the raids. The police station is suddenly attacked, and Stephanie dons a Pilltar controller in the van to protect Seth while Seth tries to get away on wheelchair. Stephanie is able to hold off the assault long enough for Seth to take over, but the time for them to switch seats so Stephanie can drive while Seth pilots is more than enough time for Morrisson himself to inflict damage on the Pilltar unit. Seth begins fighting back, but other members of the cannibal cult intervene and insist that Morrisson retreat. Morrisson orders those who stay behind to blow Pilltar to smithereens and collect the scrap. Pilltar manages to hold off even more, but is eventually taken out with a rocket launcher. Some scrap is collected, and the cannibal cult flees into the night. The police station and all left in it are dead. Police from other jurisdictions arrive with the FBI, but are unable to find anything other than a destroyed police station. Seth radios in to his associates at Lambrelli Labs to get in touch with the FBI, warning them that Morrisson is the terrorist they're after.
It is only a week afterward that Seth begins experimenting with a device that he feels could support his legs as he attempts to be able to walk again. He receives an injection of stem cells in the hopes of repairing his damaged spine. However, his home experiment is interrupted by Morrisson's men. They charge into Seth's house, but he comes prepared with a fully automatic machine gun and flame thrower.
Meanwhile, a terrified Lucy Pinnelton ignores her mother's boastful talk about Pinnelton supremacy and goes to apologize to Stephanie for having been mean to her at school. She quickly deduces that Stephanie is one of the mechanics behind Pilltar, promising to keep the secret safe. However, Morrisson attempts to abduct both Stephanie and Lucy with help from his men. Stephanie's father Ron gives in to his post-traumatic stress, and goes on a rampage killing Morrisson's men. He manages to stab Morrisson in the foot, and Morrisson retreats. However, one of Morrisson's men manages to escape with Lucy. Stephanie and Ron head over to Seth's house, and find that there are dead bodies everywhere. Seth has fought off his attackers, but has his lower back damaged all over again. Ron escorts Seth to the hospital, vowing to play bodyguard and get the van's remote system going so that Seth can operate a Pilltar from the hospital as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Stephanie enters the garage chambers and sends a Pilltar unit after the most suspicious-looking van she can find. She knows she's located one of Morrisson's units when they begin opening fire on her. Stephanie continues to man her Pilltar, even managing to find one of Morrisson's many hideouts. Lucy finds herself on camera on a strange table, where she is about to be stripped and raped. A man with a knife vows to have her sacrificed after the gang rape, then she is to be cut up and eaten. The ritual is interrupted by Stephanie's Pilltar barging in through the roof. She takes out as many as she can, securing Lucy's escape. However, Morrisson himself charges at Stephanie's Pilltar. He proves much more difficult to defeat, as he has an unnatural gift for fighting. He throws a noise scrambler into the Pilltar's left ear, using it to torture Stephanie whose mind is fused with the unit.
Ron manages to get a bed-ridden Seth to hook up to a Pilltar controller while his lower body is numbed up for surgery. Seth manages to activate another Pilltar. Right as Morrisson's sidekick is about to finish off Stephanie's while upping the mental torture and threatening to use the mind link to send Stephanie into a coma, Seth arrives and distracts the sidekick. Morrisson himself grabs a hold of the damaged Pilltar right as Stephanie ejects from controlling it. Seth uses his Pilltar to battle the sidekick, who reveals himself to be an equally competent fighter. Meanwhile, Stephanie gets on the phone to alert the FBI that Pilltar, with her help, has located Morrisson's hideout. There are body parts of deceased women strewn all over the walls and floors. Pilltar and Morrisson's sidekick Casey Manchi continue to battle, with Manchi using everything at his disposal to distract Pilltar. Stephanie gets on another phone, and lets Pilltar know that the National Guard has been called in to blow the hideout to smithereens. Pilltar then buys time, with Seth ejecting from the controls right as the signal is given to blow up the building. Manchi and the dying followers of Morrisson who failed to make it out in time are all instantly killed. Most of Seth's Pilltar unit is destroyed in the fire. While most of the cannibal cult is declared to have been destroyed, the town becomes very alarmed when word gets out that Morrisson was never recovered.
Seth recovers, though his hopes of walking again are gone. He vows to train Stephanie and later Ron how to eventually replace him as Pilltar, even promising to rework the Pilltar interface to make a female brain-friendly version devoted to Stephanie.
- Seth Lambrelli / Pilltar: A brilliant inventor and former neighborhood watch patrolman on sabbatical from Lambrelli Labs, the company he founded. He finds new reasons every day to get back into the business of making neighborhood watch a safer job for those involved in the practice. He is also an amateur theologian. Seth longs to regain the ability to walk. When a string of sudden, violent crimes break out in the area around Ankeny; Seth decides to unleash his latest invention: Pilltar. His hopes are that the device will allow him to foil some of the crimes without directly putting himself in harm's way. By being able to merge his mind with the Pilltar unit, Seth can move around in the machine as if in his own body - but without too much serious risk to his actual flesh and blood.
- Stephanie Barrin: A student at the Higher Glory Academy, a fairly recent new venture in Ankeny. She finds out very quickly that the faculty and student body at Higher Glory are not what they seem. However, butting heads with the faculty's heresies and the other students' Pharasaic bullying of each other gets Stephanie in more trouble than she imagined possible. She allies herself with Seth in time, but soon learns that Seth's personal quest puts him at odds with some extremely dangerous and evil individuals.
- Ron Barrin: Stephanie's father, who is separated from Theresa and is on some disability program after suffering a mental breakdown while in the army. News of what is happening in Stephanie's life snaps him out of his daze of apathy, resulting in him returning and seeking to make things right. Seth sees potential in him, and offers him a job at Lambrelli Labs.
- Theresa Barrin: The fairly clueless-but-well-meaning and strict mother of Stephanie and wife of Ron. She thinks she is doing what is best for Stephanie, and cannot understand Stephanie's sudden determination to spend time with Seth. However, she relents when she learns the truth about "Higher Glory."
- Mary Warrel: Bully at school, who is determined to bring Stephanie and a few other girls down. Her mother is a rich lawyer, so she fancies herself invincible. She ends up as one of Morrisson's many victims.
- Principal Tom Glowin: Corrupt and cultish, Glowin tries to maintain absolute bureaucratic control over students. However, his sense of justice and awareness of issues is considerably backwards. It is he who orders others in the faculty to break Stephanie's spirits. When that does not succeed, and Stephanie starts getting her schooling with Seth, Glowin retaliates by having Stephanie abducted.
- Prof. Nancy Feller: The religion teacher who forces Stephanie to go canvassing in the neighborhood. She joins in on Glowin's plans when Stephanie's defiance and eventual leaving of the school leads to panic that she'll start spreading negative reviews about their institution.
- Prof. Mike Shoemaker: Another instructor at Higher Glory that decides to help Glowin and Feller abduct Stephanie, in the hopes they can make her "repent" of defying their order. He also goes to talk with Theresa about "misunderstandings," but slips a sleeping pill into her drink.
- Lucy Pinnelton: A gal who pretended to go along with others at Higher Glory in being mean to Stephanie in order to cover her own skin. However, Stephanie's courage and resolve lead to Lucy having a change of heart. When she learns about Stephanie being abducted and rescued by a strange robot, it leaves Lucy ready to switch sides in everything.
- Barbara Pinnelton: Lucy's mother, who has been very much indoctrinated by the High Glory institution. She believes that she and her daughter are above the Barrins, and have no need to apologize to them. Lucy decides to anyway, so that her conscience may be clean.
- Wendy Benzil: An affiliate of Lambrelli Labs who comes to check on Seth. She is also in contact with Roger Homink, the PR specialist at the company.
- Bill Fenn: Ankeny police captain. He grows very curious when Seth mentions that his company's handiwork had to have gone into making Pilltar. However, the station is attacked before Bill can do anything. He looks on in horror as the police station is destroyed by Morrisson and his men. Pilltar arrives to reduce police casualties, convincing Fenn that Pilltar is one of the good guys.
- Warren Finn: A depraved man who has been stalking his niece Evelyn with the intent to hunt her down and use her for his monstrous sexual fantasies. He attacks Evelyn and her boyfriend one evening, only for his attempt on the boyfriend's life to be thwarted by Pilltar. It is Finn's capture that helps rumors spread in Ankeny that Pilltar exists.
- Randy Thread: Evelyn's boyfriend, whose life is saved by Pilltar's intervention.
- Evelyn Martin: A local teenage girl who was at a make out point with her boyfriend when her uncle attacks the couple. Randy's life was spared by Pilltar arriving in the nick of time, and this act quite possibly saved Evelyn's life also.
- Scott Morrisson: A violent, demonic cannibal and cult leader who has a link to Seth's past. The fact that Seth refused to lose his spirits after Scott murdered Seth's mother angered Scott, how vowed revenge. Little did Seth realize that defeating Scott would become one of Pilltar's greatest challenges.
- Casey Manchi: Morrisson's right-hand man. He may not move as quickly, but he is Scott's equal in strength. Unlike Scott, he is usually silent and efficient. He is therefore able to avoid one of Scott's greatest weaknesses: the vain urge to lecture incessantly while fighting.
- Cannibal cult legions: Followers of Scott and Casey. They are quick, efficient, violent, brutal, deadly, and delight in eating the flesh of teenage girls. It is uncertain how Scott managed to find so many of them. They seldom all attack anywhere at once, preferring to be split into three groups at any given point so that no single attack can wipe out their faction. They wreak havoc across Ankeny, making their way to Des Moines to cause even more trouble. They move like ninjas, and can be hard for law enforcement to pin down particularly well.
Desire to expand the Gerosha universe was evident as early as late December of 2008, when it became clear that completing Ciem and writing its sequels would not suffice to create a truly marketable universe for The Gerosha Chronicles. In 2009, Extirpon and Navyrope were added to the lineup almost immediately. The Gray Champion's role was also made official. Still, there seemed to be a void in the lack of robotic superheroes. Around that time in theaters, Iron Man had become a huge hit. This naturally became a template. The arrival of Avatar in theaters further upped the stakes of inspiration. It began to be asked: "Couldn't there be an in-between of Avatar and Iron Man that could work in the Gerosha universe?"
That question led to the earliest drafts for Pilltar. The character was chosen officially in 2010 to resemble a pill bug, due to the fact that the original intent to have him be a potato bug would have conflicted with the fact that there was already a resident Taterbug in Gerosha, with an alter-ego of Celia Winehart. Developing the characters of Seth Lambrelli and Stephanie Barrin from there became a sort of subverted form of Bonnie and Ribaldi's awkward mentor-understudy relationship in Rigoletto. Some things were kept similar, such as the girl's mother not entirely trusting the mentor and the mentor being a crippled.
In 2013, the early exploits of Seth in testing what Pilltar could do gained inspiration from an episode of the TV series Dates from Hell on Investigation Discovery, titled "Bullet for My Baby." In that episode, the tragedy of Melinda Hallford was documented. Several details of the Melinda Hallford story were altered to make the subplot about Evelyn and Randy. It was set to play out similarly to the real-life attack, but with Pilltar arriving in the nick of time to beat the gunman to a pulp. The attacker was also changed from being the girl's father to being her uncle, and his fighting style with Randy was made less efficient to allow for more time for Pilltar to arrive. The situation was originally going to be modified and further fictionalized for a subplot in Extirpon, but it was decided that testing out how Pilltar could end the disaster differently would be a good way to put Pilltar's actual abilities to the test. Extirpon, however, would already prove himself dozens of other times.
Themes in 2010 about the Higher Glory school being a corrupt institution provided for the story to debate those who attack organized religion, by showing that not all organizations are defined entirely by corruption. Also, the focus should be on truthfulness to God in the messages taught, not on whether or not an organization's members have a spotless record. Such became the content of many debates on theology between Seth and Stephanie, with the argument being that those who would dismiss the entire Bible on account of the actions of a few flawed human beings are still entirely without excuse. In turn, this was a potshot at several Facebook trolls that the Dozerfleet founder had encountered.
In 2010, it was decided that Pilltar would follow in the footsteps of other Dozerfleet works by avoiding a lot of major coastal cities as settings. However, it seemed inappropriate to have the story happen in Evansville, at the same time as all of Ciem's drama. Therefore, the story focused further on decentralizing Gerosha universal plot relevance of events by avoiding a single, solitary geographic location. In Marvel, nearly everything happens in New York. In DC, half of everything important happens either in Metropolis or in Gotham, both of which are modeled after New York. In the Gerosha universe of Dozerfleet Comics, it was decided that nothing happens in New York. Also, no major character is from New York. Ciem is in Evansville, Extirpon is from St. Louis, and the Gray Champion is from Boston. Meerkat is from Louisiana, and Mukade is from Japan. Jackrabbit is from Apacheland. So Pilltar as a member of the Sodality of Gerosha would have to be from somewhere none of these others came from. Joplin, Missouri didn't seem to be quite the right setting, though it became the hometown of Centipede Charlie, in honor of the Dozerfleet founder's old friend Abigail Covington.
For years, Pilltar's setting was "somewhere in Iowa not far from Des Moines." It wasn't until June 24th of 2013 that the town of Ankeny was explicitly chosen as the hometown for Pilltar and Seth Lambrelli. Seth's home was later defined even more to be on Kimberly Road, as the homes on that street most resembled the envisioned setting for where the events in Pilltar would take place. The original model template for what would be Seth's home was a home two houses down from the house on Southlawn where the Dozerfleet founder moved from in 1998. That house's garage was envisioned as being modified into the Pilltar garage, complete with Pilltar storage happening underneath the garage floor. Kimberly Road homes in Ankey seemed to have a layout just similar enough to that of the houses in Wyoming, Michigan to work.