5 meters underground, Old Shoreline, Northern Seattle
The small machine drifted through the ruined tunnel. Centuries ago, it was filled with commuters trying to get to work or the next city over; now all that lived here were the ferns and moss that clung to life where the ground had given way and the light shown through.
There were plenty of bodies to choose from, but none of the bones contained the Light it needed. Something clattered to the ground somewhere behind it. The Ghost spun, it had already escaped death once already at the cost of one of its fins. It cannot afford to get that close again. It had never returned to Venus after that.
The machine zoomed off through another flooded tunnel. There was barely enough space to fly between the surface and the ceiling. Whatever disturbed it at the last station would be unable to follow it now.
The Ghost came back up into another metro station, and most of the ceiling had crumbled over the tracks. Its eye lit up, scanning the bones hidden beneath the moss. When suddenly, it picked up a trace of Light.
Was this it? Had the Ghost finally found its Guardian? It quickly followed the signal to the source.
The bones were old, and partially hidden beneath a holed flak plate. An ancient ballistic helmet had rolled off the skull ages ago, a cluster of dandelions now grew out of it. The Ghost turned and broadly scanned the rest of the room to be sure that there was nothing here to disturb the process.
The small machine exploded outwards, a bright blue light emanating from the various fins. The bullet damage was quite evident in this state.
The dormant Light in the bones awakened, and the centuries of decay began to reverse. Bathed in a layer of energy, the plate and moss slid off the forming muscle and tissue. Blood and skin grew over the body, the restoration was almost complete.
The Ghost dipped into its own storage and used the small amount of glimmer it had in reserve for this exact moment. The metal and fabric were woven together over the forming body, covering it in a firm armored shell. The body rose in the air and convulsed as the Ghost attempted to bring the body back to life.
She gasped, air returning to her lungs for the first time in ages. Something was covering her face; it felt like it was smothering her. She clawed at it, trying to get it off, fingers found a clasp and she tore it loose. Quickly ripping the thing over her head off, she desperately took in more air. Her lungs burned, as if they had never been used.
What happened? Where was she? Why couldn’t she remember anything?
She looked up, there was a small thing hovering before her. Its central ‘eye’ stared at her, and it spoke. “Welcome back, Guardian. You probably have a lot of questions… questions I do not have answers for.”
She attempted to take a step back, but stumbled and fell onto her rear. “What..?”
“Don’t freak out… Don’t freak out… easy. You have been dead… for a very long time. Let’s just take it slow. I am a Ghost, I brought you back.”
She looked up at the machine. Its eye blinked at her in anticipation. Nothing made any sense right now. Her hands found the grip of a sidearm in the moss, and pulled it free. The weapon was dirty and coated in a green substance, but the small lights lit up on the side as her palm pressed against it. “Stay back- whatever you are!”
“Don’t! I am your Ghost. I am here to help,” the machine said. “Just relax; we are safe where we are for the moment.”
She lowered the gun. “…Where are we? Who am I?”
“Well, for starters, we’re in the ruins of Seattle, a city that was once part of the American Empire during the Golden Age. As for who you are…” The Ghost moved, some sort of light was projected from its eye, scanning the area. “This might help.”
She inched forward and picked the heavy metal plate from the ground. Her eyes looked it over, stopping once on the hole through the middle of it. Hanging off to the side was a faded piece of plastic, attached to a clasp built into the plate. It was an identification badge, it was very difficult to read. She pulled it off and held it up to her face to get a better look, dropping the plate back to the ground.
“This plate was over your body. If there is any relevant information, it pertains to you and you only.” Her Ghost said, moving behind her to shine its light on the card.
The ID card was barely legible, but with the Ghost’s help, she was able to see her first name.
The name brought no surge of memory, nothing that gave any hint to her past. Just a slight feeling of familiarity. The rest of the text on the card seemed to indicate that she use to be a security contractor for something called Umic Industrial. Still nothing.
“Well, Nicole, looking at that card won’t help, sorry. Your memories are lost when you’ve been dead for centuries.” The Ghost blinked at her.
With a sigh, she slipped the card into her back pocket. “Well… Ghost… what do I do now?”
The Ghost clicked. “First of all, you should put your helmet back on. Then we can work on getting out of these tunnels.”
Nicole reached down and picked her discarded helmet from the ground. As she slipped it on, status indicators and readings flashed across her visor. She looked down at her sidearm in her right hand and an ammunition counter appeared the side.
“You do know how to use that, right?” Her Ghost asked.
“I think so…” Nicole snatched an ancient piece of stone off the floor and tossed it into the air. Raising her arm, she pulled the trigger six times. All six bullets connected with the chunk of concrete, knocking it further away before splashing into the water. “I guess I do.”
“Good work, Guardian.” The Ghost said. “Now let’s go.” A small navigation marker appeared on a door nearby.
Nicole placed her pistol onto her thigh and the magnets on the armor took hold. The marker led to a maintenance door, the door itself had fallen away long ago allowing her access. The passageway beyond was mostly clear, aside from a few pipes which had collapsed with part of the wall. Lights flickered and illuminated the path.
“So what happened?” She asked.
“I do not know much, I was not created until after it happened. And most of what I learned…” The Ghost turned to her and wiggled one of its fins, showing damage from some kind of energy ballistic weapon. Her mind had provided that answer on its own, but she was unsure of how she had reached it. The fin was mangled and part of his core was dented. “…was deleted, by bullets.” He spun around again. “All I know now is that; long ago, something attacked and destroyed humanity. Ghosts like me go around and bring people back from the dead to protect what is left of the human race from the aliens that remained.”
Nicole immediately pulled her sidearm back up from her side. “Is there anything here I need to be worried about?”
“Well this is Fallen territory. They’re alien scavengers, though they seem to stay on the surface in this area. We should be fine as long as we stay in the tunnels for now.”
“Okay…” Nicole kept the gun at the ready, just in case.
“These tunnels should lead us out of the city. Hopefully there is a jumpship at the old airport.” The Ghost went on, something about getting somewhere called the Last City. Nicole had sort of stopped paying attention, she needed to focus on where she was stepping; some of the ground had collapsed into something below, and the Ghost’s light was little more than a flashlight. The maintenance passage dropped her out at a stairwell that led up to an unflooded tunnel. A train car had slid from its position on the maglev track, blocking her path.
Thankfully, the windscreen gave way to a couple of bullets. She crawled through the glass and walked through the subway car. This ruined world she inhabited now was probably nothing compared to the place she was from. As Nicole walked passed what looked like a broken screen, an advertisement flashed on.
“Ghost… how long ago did the world come to an end again?” Nicole asked.
The Ghost clicked again. “I am not sure exactly, but it was many centuries ago.”
“We sure made things to last…” She muttered.
“Oh yes, indeed. Many Golden Age systems are still functional. In fact they seemed to have developed an infinite light bulb!”
“Huh…” Nicole shrugged and continued through the car. The tunnel beyond was collapsed, and the afternoon sunlight streamed in. “Up to the surface then?”
“I suppose, though be careful. I am detecting lots of movement.” The Ghost noted. She nodded and started to scale the pile of rubble. Using the overgrown debris to her advantage; Nicole climbed out of the subway tunnel and took two steps out onto the surface, when she froze.
Her Ghost beeped. “Oh no,” and then vanished in a puff of light and particles.
Nicole was surrounded by four armed creatures. Their eyes glowed as they all turned to face the newcomer in the middle of what looked like a market. As the creatures realized what she was, they suddenly panicked and fled for cover. She had no idea what just happened. Glancing around, there were gun barrels pointed at her, but nothing fired. “What…”
A small icon appeared on her visor. “That was the Fallen… I have never seen them react this way…” Her Ghost came through her helmet’s internal speakers.
She held still, completely unsure of what to do. The other creatures, the Fallen, must have sensed her hesitation. One by one, heads with four glowing eyes began to appear from behind crates or the small market stalls. There was a hushed conversation somewhere, she was not sure. Nicole readjusted her grip on her sidearm, but kept it pointed low. She did not have the ammunition to fight this out.
Suddenly one of them started yelling. Nicole turned to see a large Fallen pick a smaller one up and toss it into the open area she stood in. She raised her sidearm a bit more, but still not aiming it directly at the armored creature.
Her eyes studied the Fallen before her; there was no way that was their real name for themselves. The creature’s top arms were fumbling together, like it was figuring out what to say. However, it was its lower arms she needed to be worried about; they were fidgeting over the grip of a weapon of its own, still attached to its hip.
“We should get out of here, fast.” The Ghost whispered through her helmet.
“Well, if these are acting different to how you know, then maybe we should find out why, hmm?” Nicole said. She was not sure if her voice carried outside of her helmet, but the Fallen did not react.
“No, the records are very clear on Fallen.”
“Shush, let’s just give it a try. We don’t really have any other options,” she told the Ghost.
“Running, there is always running.”
Nicole looked down at her sidearm, and then reattached it to her thigh. She moved her hands away, keeping them in the air a bit. The Fallen moved its lower hands away from its gun as well. “Guardian will not kill?” Its voice was strange, like there was another layer to its vocal chords. Honestly, Nicole was just surprised that it spoke English.
“…I will not.” She was serious about giving them a chance. “Unless I am given a reason to.”
The Fallen chittered to itself, in its own language for a moment. “What does Guardian want?”
Nicole spoke privately to her Ghost. “Is there anything specific?”
“No, this situation is very unusual. This is your show now,” he said.
“Well, alright. She looked back to the creature. “I do not know much, I am just looking for a place to stay.”
“Really?” The small icon flashed on, then off again.
The Fallen turned to face the larger one that had thrown him out there. “I will inform my Captain of your wishes.” Nicole nodded and the Fallen went to address the others in their language.
“Any idea if he’s actually telling them the right stuff?” She asked her Ghost.
“No, I do not possess an understanding of the Fallen language.”
“Okay then, going in blind.” Nicole shifted.
The Fallen began to gather and the larger one came from behind a crate. They were having a discussion, which direction it was going, Nicole could not tell. The first one she had met turned back to her. “The Captain says that the decision is up to the Kell. Follow.” He turned and led a path through the others; they parted ways, talking to one another with hushed tones.
“Go ahead,” the Ghost said. “You don’t want to offend them.” It was almost sarcastic.
Nicole followed the small Fallen, while the one he called a Captain fell in behind her. She was taken through the market and out to a street. Well, it was a street at one time. The asphalt had long given way to flowing water and trees had sprouted through cracks. Thy passed through a building that had been gutted, all that was left were the four walls and the elevator shaft down the middle.
The next structure was rather short compared to the ruins around it. A sign was barely legible on the side; roya Hall. There were long tarps and various kinds of alien machinery scattered about, and some hanging from the building.
The small one stopped at the door, two more of the same armored Fallen barred their entry. He turned to her, one hand outstretched. “They will not let you enter with your weapon. If you wish to continue, please give.”
“There is still time to run.” The Ghost piped up.
Nicole smirked from behind her visor, and handed the Fallen her side arm. “Best to start out with some trust.”
The Fallen placed her pistol into the hands of one of the other two and they walked inside, pushing through the fabric acting as a door. Sunlight streamed through the windows of the ancient structure. There was more Fallen machinery and miscellaneous decorative pieces in seemingly random areas inside. She was walked inside the concert hall, though the old theater looked more like a throne room.
Sitting in the throne on the stage was a huge Fallen. If she thought the Captain was big, this one blew that out of the water. It was easily three times as large. Black and white banners hung from the ceiling around what she assumed was the Kell.
Upon her entry, and subsequent arrival to the base of the stage, all the fallen in the room began to converse. Arms were waved and gestures made in her direction. The small Fallen seemed to be talking on her points, unless the higher ranks were for her and he was against. The Kell waved his hands and all went silent. He seemed to address her directly in their language, and the small Fallen relayed the question in English. “The Kell wishes to know why you want to stay among the House of Mist.”
“Well… I am a new Guardian, I do not know much. In fact, I was brought back less than four hours ago.” Nicole talked and the Fallen relayed it in part. “I do not have anywhere to go, and you seem to be more reasonable than my Ghost implied. I am interested in why.”
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