Memory was a funny thing Abner 4c6173746e616d65 had long since concluded. The bytes that had once stored his last name, for instance, were corrupted beyond repair. Trying to access them resulted in little more than a string of gibberish no one could decipher. Gone too, was his memory of the Golden Age he was originally built for, though that seemed to be a common trait among Exos, the implications of which were troubling to ponder. He had lost so much, and yet, he could remember with perfect clarity each of the forty-three Ghost he’d seen over the past centuries. Ghost 2 had been the first one he’d seen revive a ‘Guardian’. Ghost 5 had been the one whose distant speech had brought the name for these chosen few to his audio inputs. Ghost 7 had been the one to take the briefest moment out of its search to confirm to him the rumors of The Traveler’s survival and of a last safe city. In reality, it had been Ghost 7 who had set him on his long, long journey. Certainly it had turned out to be a much longer journey than he had original planned.
The Earth was only forty thousand kilometers round. The City was somewhere to the east. Unfortunately, it had not been as simple as walking in that direction. While his joints and artificial muscles did not tire, his mind did with each setting of the sun. Why a mechanical being needed sleep still baffled him, though it was not the need for sleep that delayed his progress, it was the world in which he now existed. Or what was left of it. Tireless workers, whose bodies worked nearly as well sleeping every third day as a Human’s did getting a nightly rest, were a valuable resource… and commodity. To claim he had been bought and sold more times than he could count would be a lie, that part of his memory remained undamaged, but it was a number high enough that he rarely spoke of it. Even now.
It soon became a cycle. Decades of labor would be followed by weeks or months or years of bargaining, pleading, or coercing for his freedom… To say nothing of his not so occasional escapes. Freedom would allow for days or weeks of travel. It had been a joy when he finally boarded a ship sailing across the ocean, though that, regrettably, marked his longest continual period of travel. More often, he would only make it as far as the next horizon before being claimed by another town or ruler. Rarely, he’d be lucky enough to cross a long deserted shipping channel, or make it from one climate to another before having to once again surrender his freedom. Then, the cycle would repeat.
He’d had sections of his memory erased at least twice. How one remembered that their memory had been erased was another one of those questions that he sometimes pondered… that sometimes haunted him. The times before the collapse, his past life, his past purpose, they were all gone forever. But, despite it all, he never lost sight of his goal. Remembering the Ghosts helped, as did seeing the glints in the night sky always coming and going from some location far to the southeast. For some reason those memories had survived the centuries when so many others hadn’t.
The first time he had encountered Fallen had been the last time he’d been someone else’s property. He had been forced into construction in the city of Kodinsk, building fortifications in one warlord’s efforts to thwart another’s when the first Ketch had made it’s grand entrance. He’d fought for a short time, protecting those who needed it… who deserved it… but in the chaos that followed he’d been able to make his escape. From then on he’d made good, steady progress towards The City, making it as far as a town called Zima before again encountering the scavenging aliens. His second encounter with them should have been his last…
Some claimed his kind had been created as weapons of war, but if that had been true then why had his body been built so fragile? Why had it only taken a half-dozen shots, three of which had missed, for them send him to the crashing to the ground?
What had the last multiple hundreds of years really meant, he wondered as the last remnants of his vision fluctuated, if his biggest accomplishment was to die unknown and forgotten?
“Eyes up, Guardian!” his Ghost had instructed a mere three days later. Abner had laughed a long, joyous laugh before replying:
“I’ve been searching for you, for centuries!”