Roaring, deafening sounds echoed around the ruined city. A massive figure crashed it’s armoured fist against it’s chest in defiance of the tiny figure approaching through the swirling red dust.
The small figure was quick in comparison it’s opponent but did not have the advantage of heavy armour and musculature that dwarfed even that of an Old Earth silverback gorilla.
Those huge muscles moved to heft weaponry, spinning up a minigun that was twice the size of a person before loosing a torrent of lethal firepower at the still distant figure.
Harsh metallic noise came from all around him as he dodged left and right, using the ancient ground vehicle wrecks as cover. The bullets from that minigun readily punched through the metal and fibre of the old cars but it couldn’t track him fast enough to pin him down as he worked his way forwards.
“It might be an idea to rethink this you know,” the voice spoke almost inside his head, eerie in a way but he was growing used to it.
“Hush up Paperclip! Busy here not getting made dead. Would put a serious crimp on my dancing if that thing puts a round through my chest, yeah?”
“I understand that, I just thought that you may not be weighing up risk versus reward properly…”
The man cut the voice off with a sudden gesture as he dashed across the street, vaulting a dilapidated vending machine and throwing himself into the somewhat more resilient cover of a doorway.
“What’s in there is worth everything Paperclip, and I aim to get it,”
“I still don’t understand why you keep calling me that, I can only assume it’s some form of ancient reference?”
The man grinned inside his helmet, “You could say that,”
An endless torrent of rounds impacted with the doorframe now, tearing chunks of the construction material off as it slowly sawed sideways through the wall.
“Guess we better move, give me some oomph in my legs when I say, ok Paperclip?”
“You got it,” the voice promised with a faint hint of an exasperated sigh.
Throwing himself horizontally over the line of fire that ate at his cover, the man rolled between two vehicles and into the street. The massive creature was only twenty meters away now and struggled to reorientate it’s weapon so quickly, sweeping it across sideways and strafing an arc of deadly bullets through the dust filled street. The last remenants of windows shattered and fell in the distance as the small man sprinted forwards but the glowing muzzle of the minigun came towards him like the finger of some vengeful diety, spitting lightning bolts.
“NOW!” He shouted and bunched his legs hard before throwing everything he had into a jump. As his feet left the floor, a ripple of light pushed him further upwards, sending him in a high arc over both the deadly flow of bullets and the massive creatures head.
As he flew, he slipped one hand from behind his back where he had been clasping a pistol which seemed too big for such a small man to carry.
Upside down over the roaring beast he swung the muzzle of the pistol till the metal nearly touched it’s armoured helmet, before squeezing the trigger and discharging a single shot into that thick plating.
The man skidded to a stop on his knees, thick red dust in a cloud all around him as the behemoth toppled backwards to lie still in the sands.
“Uhuh…thankyouve’ymuch!” he mumbled in a peculiar accent.
“Ah…I hate to disturb you, but I think you killed their friend…” came the sourceless voice again.
The man looked up to see a group of similar armoured figured clambering to their feet with growls of anger, hands reaching for weapons as they did so.
“…and there’s a lot more of them this time,”
Inside the helmet a smile stretched the man’s face again.
“Never tell me the odds!”
Tattered and exhausted the figure strode into the small building that the alien figures had been sheltering next to. A flicker of light manifested itself at his shoulder, illuminating the interior and sending scan pulses all around.
“Are you sure they’ll be here?” Asked the voice, now emanating from the lightsource.
“They’ve got to be, I’ve tried all the other places they could have been. If they’re gone from here, I don’t know what I’ll do Paperclip.” the man sounded almost bereft of hope as he sifted through the debris and detritus of centuries.
After a time he fell to his knees in the drifts of dirt and rubbish that had accumulated over time. Clutching broken shards of unrecognisable material in his hands.
“There’s nothing left, not one left intact.” His voice had an odd tone of ache and loss.
“I think there’s still something back behind the wall over there, my scans are picking up a hidden compartment of some sort,”
The man sprang to his feet, suddenly reenergised with hope. Pulling and levering he finally opened up the cavity in the wall, markings on the inside of the panel still bright even after all this time. His fingers brushed the bright images there for a moment before eagerly scooping up the treasures within.
“Can we do it? Can we use these Paperclip?” he asked, a note of painful hope in his voice.
A long pause ensued as the lightsource waved its scanning beams across everything they’d found.
“I can do it, processing schematics and replicating them to the others, though it’s going to cost you a lot of resources you realise?”
With a slight pop and hiss of escaping air the man slipped his helmet off. He seemed young in feature, but his eyes had the strength and intensity of an older man.
“It’s worth it, use everything we’ve got if you have to.”
The sky was full of a steady glow as the ragged figure walked into the quiet rooms of the tower.
A spark of light leapt from his shoulder and manifested itself in the air.
“He’s waiting upstairs for you, I think he’s puzzled by your request to see him,” came the Paperclip’s voice.
The man fumbled at his belt, carefully taking something small and holding it in his hand as he walked up the stairs.
At the top of the stairs a small platform was surrounded by books and artifacts. A single figure stood there also, his face literally an impassive mask of white metal.
When he spoke the voice was full of depth, a skilled ear would hear the faint notes of a strange sadness within it.
“I was told you brought something back for me, but no-one would say what it is. The Key of the Stars perhaps? Or one of the Fallen One’s artifacts?”
With the red dust of the old city still clinging to him the beaming smile that came from the young fellow seemed startlingly white as he reached forwards and pressed something into the other’s hands.
Without a word the tattered figure walked back down the steps and out of the tower, leaving the white masked figure to examine the object in his hands.
Long moments passed as he stood there in apparent deep thought before the silence was disrupted by a woman running into the chamber below.
“Have you heard!” She shouts up at the platform where the figure still stands in rapt attention at this strange object.
“Heard what?” The voice is still deep and resonant behind the white metal, but the note of sadness, of old sorrow is….lighter somehow.
“In the city! The Ghosts! They’re all descending into the city and making….things….strange things,”
The figure on the platform opens his hand and gently places something on the shelf behind him, a small yellow and brown plastic figurine of an animal. It’s long neck and legs look peculiar to an eye that has never seen the original animal it represents, even more so with the strange smile etched into it’s face.
“They’re for the children, tell them all…they are for the children,”
And in the city below, bright lights brought toy animals and trains, dolls and teddybears, knights and horses to the children.