PART 1 – A DAY IN THE BORING LIFE
Despite my alarm being set for 6:00 AM, I would often wake up around 5:30 and usually look towards the window to see if the glow of sunrise was illuminating my curtains yet. But, living in the shadow of the Traveler meant that direct sunlight was a fleeting gift. I would continue to doze in and out of a “half-sleep” state until my alarm went off. […etty one, my pretty one. When you gonna give me some time, Sharona, Ooh you make my…] SLAM! Even with my back turned to my radio alarm, I had the precision of a perfectly calibrated sniper bot when it came to the “snooze” button. “Good morning, Tamien. How did you sleep?” was the first thing I heard each morning from my programmable AI device. “Well, looks like I’m still alive” I often mumbled as I sat up, immediately losing count of the pops and cracks in my joints.
My morning routine was just that. Routine.
Download the latest Cerecasts – check.
Use the bathroom – check.
Shower – check.
Brush teeth – check.
Get dressed…and daydream – check.
The daydreams were usually similar each morning as I got dressed because in my closet was a handgun in a box on a shelf that was at eye level. It was not a typical civilian weapon, though, it was a Vanguard weapon. I had unearthed the weapon years ago while working on a construction site boring lines into the ground for thermal conduction cables. As I pulled my shirt over my head I imagined myself wielding the weapon in slow motion as vehicles and enemy vessels exploded behind me. I had always dreamed about the glamorous life of a Guardian. I had never actually fired the gun, but not for lack of trying. It didn’t use bullets and didn’t have a trigger so I never understood how it worked. I knew that Guardians had special powers they called “light” and assumed these abilities were necessary to operate certain weapons.
I often handled the weapon for fun or out of curiosity but today I would handle it out of necessity. That necessity was paying rent. I removed the weapon from the tattered box and went back to sit on my bed. Holding the grip tight, I extended my arm aiming down the sites. “Phoo Phoo” I quietly whispered gunshots and slowly mimicked recoil. Pulling my arm back in, I ran my fingers across the barrel where there were 12 notches scratched into the side as well as the words ‘Daisy Maker.’ Along with some other electronics, I wrapped the gun in a towel, put it in my shoulder bag and left my loft to begin what would be my final day “still alive.”
PART 2 – BEST LAID PLANS
Living in the city had its perks. There was plenty of entertainment, every ethnicity had a plethora of culinary options and organized romance was never hard to find. Even the criminals had a certain honorable code of conduct they stuck to. Ever since the Traveler arrived, it was understood that we were protected but had to continuously earn that right. We knew that the Traveler could handle anything but even the tedious tasks that came up, we had the Vanguard and their army of Guardians. I would see them on patrol sometimes, usually in groups of three. They had a certain…majestic quality to them. You knew they meant business even though most of them were pulling pranks, telling tall tales or joining in on alley football games with some children. They never created a presence that made people nervous. They were usually noticed in a positive light, if they were noticed at all.
They city also had its own personality. Almost as if the Traveler would have good days and bad days and everyone below could tell how it felt. Today definitely felt…off. During my morning errands, I saw a Guardian fire team I often saw during my walk and they seemed taller than normal, almost as if they were actively at attention and on alert. This time, their presence was noticeable. I was already on edge knowing what was in my shoulder bag and what I was about to do with it. The paranoia of Guardians on alert is the last thing I want to think about.
Trying to get myself in the right mindset for what I was about to do, I continued my walk. Moments later I found myself across the street from a pawn shop I frequented. I had visited so often, the store looked more like my own personal museum. As I walked through the door I was greeted with multiple reminders of my own failure. But not this time. In my bag was my most important possession.
As I approached the counter, I heard a voice, “Mr. Tamien. What have you brought me today” he murmured with an exasperated tone. “I’m running out of shelf space. You could have purchased a rental unit for cheaper, my boy.” I could only roll my eyes as if his comments didn’t hurt my pride. “Garmin, I’ve got something you’ve never seen.” I said through a furrowed brow as I reached into my bag for the Daisy Maker. “Say hello to my small friend!”
PART 3 – WHAT USED TO BE A BIG DEAL
“It’s little” Garmin grunted as I stood in front of him with the Daisy Maker pointed at the bridge of his nose. “Who cares about the size! This is an authentic Vanguard firearm!” I quickly replied with defiance. Garmin backhanded the gun out of his face. “It’s ‘say hello to my LITTLE friend’ you idiot” he cackled, “You’re the worst at vintage cinema.”
Shaking my head, I continued my pitch. “You would know about vintage, wouldn’t you ‘Mr. Map’.” Garmin was told he was named after one of the first AI systems on Earth…which is technically true, I suppose. “I know you’ve never had a Vanguard weapon at your disposal…what’s it worth to you?”
“Does it work?” he asked as he grabbed it from my hands. “I don’t know if it works. I’ve never fired it and don’t even know how” I told him. He looked the weapon up and down, noticing the 12 notches and responded “well, it’s probably been fired at least 12 times if I had to guess.” He continued to inspect the weapon when he suddenly dropped it on the counter.
“That just got really hot!” he said to me as he held his hands to his side. I put my hand over the weapon and could feel heat radiating.
BOOM! The sound of a massive explosion shook the entire building. Items fell off the shelf and parts of the ceiling slowly settled to the ground.
BOOM! A second explosion echoed through the city bringing Garmin and myself to our knees, bracing ourselves out of instinct. Air raid sirens filled the air as panicked footsteps and screaming filled the streets. People were covering their heads and running one direction as I saw the Guardian fire team from earlier running the other direction. Garmin and I looked at each other in confusion then looked down at the Daisy Maker to see it on the counter illuminated with an internal orange glow and humming as if there was a generator inside spinning up.
Through all the commotion and noise, the sound of a jingling bell caught my attention. I turned around towards the entrance of the shop and saw a lone Guardian Hunter walk in. He was tall and ominous. His armor was orange, black and white, and made of bones that looked like dragons. Obviously in pain and badly wounded, he fell to his knees and called out “Ghost?”
PART 4 – A SHEEP IN WOLVE’S CLOTHING
Garmin and I quickly ran to the Hunter as if we knew how to help him. “Ghost, are you here?” he yelled out. I knew that Guardians had little AI drones that would follow them around so I made the assumption that this Guardian named his drone “Ghost.”
“I don’t think a ghost is here” I told him as I could see my reflection in his visor. I had never been this close to a Guardian. Even with everything that was going on, I had to bask in the awe of his presence.
“I’ve lost my Ghost but felt his light in here, where is he?” he sputtered as he grabbed my shirt. I could hear the electronics of his armor malfunctioning as he struggled to keep a grip of me. “We don’t know where your ghost is! I’m sorry!” I yelled with a sympathetic panic.
“I might know what light you felt.” Garmin muttered with a hesitant tone as he looked down at the Daisy Maker.
“I need my Ghost. I need to rez and get to the tower. I’m responsible for a power core to bring the walls defenses online.” The Hunter extended his hand as a white ball of energy formed in mid air.
It was one of those moments when time seemed to stand still around me. So many thoughts were going through my head simultaneously as I tried to grasp the scenario I was in. This was my chance. This was my opportunity to be a hero.
I stood up slowly over the Hunter and reassured him “I’ve got your back Guardian. I’ll get you to the tower.” I looked back at Garmin with a curled lip and ordered him to “hand me my weapon!” With concerned eyes, Garmin awkwardly tossed the gun to me…from across the store as he yelled “shit that’s hot!” I could see the gun coming towards me in slow motion, rolling barrel over grip. What might as well have been a compact chamber of lava was closing in fast. I reach out to catch the gun and it immediately burned the skin on my hands. I closed my eyes and flinched as I heard a thunderous “fwaPOOOM” come from the gun. I quickly dropped the gun and was snapped back into reality. I looked down and to my horror, saw a motionless Hunter with a gaping hole in his chest.
“Holy shit man, you shot him!” Garmin yelled out!
“What the hell, why did you throw a molten hot gun at me?” I shouted back at him.
“You told me to hand you your…”
I quickly interrupted him “Yeah…HAND my my weapon!”
“Well, what are we going to do now?” Garmin screamed.
I paused and looked down at this poor Guardian and did what I usually do. I made a terrible decision.
“Well, first we have to get him out of here. If his ghost shows up and sees this scene, who knows what he will do to us.” I said with a lump in my throat. Guilt and fear overflowed my mind. This Hunter had a task. What will happen when he doesn’t show up. I’m responsible for this. I felt I had to carry the burden of his responsibility.
I stopped and looked at Garmin, “I have to take his place.”
“Are you kidding me? You can’t do that, you’re just some nobody, you’re not a Guardian” he retorted.
“I know but, if he doesn’t deliver his power core, the Vanguard might not be able to fight off whatever is attacking the city. Help me get his armor off.” Garmin was at a loss for words at my request.
“Whatever he showed us is tied to his armor, I need his suit if I’m going to make it to the tower.” I explained. I had no idea if this was actually true but I had to try something.
It took about 30 minutes to remove the Hunter’s armor and put it on myself. As I stepped back into the front of the store there was a hovering drone inspecting the Daisy Maker on the floor. It quickly turned its focus on me and slowly floated in my direction. It orbited my head as it beeped and booped. It stopped in front of my face as an array of lights began to scan my body. “ManKitten?” the drone spoke with an oddly human voice. “Is that you?” I stayed quiet, not knowing what to do. I was also thinking ‘what the hell kind of name is ManKitten?’
The drone continued, “do you still have the core?” I raised my hand from my thigh and looked at my gloved open palm. Nothing happened. The drone floated down and scanned my arm. “You’ve taken quite a bit of damage. Maybe next time you wait for me before you charge head first into a battalion of Vandals.” It became obvious now that this was the Ghost that the Hunter was looking for. He finished scanning my arm and the same glowing orb formed in mid air above my hand. “There we go” the drone said with an upbeat inflection, “let’s get back at it.”
I had no idea what to think. Did this Ghost really not realize I wasn’t his Guardian? “I guess I could fix this for you” said Ghost as he looked at the huge hole in my chest armor. The little pyramids on his frame began to spin when he suddenly emitted an enormous eruption of energy that surrounded me. It was the most amazing sensation I’ve ever felt! My feet lifted from the ground as I was suspended in mid air. The ghost let go of me seconds later and I landed on my feet. Clinching my fists, I reached down and picked up Daisy Maker, which was still sizzling hot but it no longer burned my hand. “On your mark” said the ghost. I looked back at Garmin and shrugged my shoulders. He just stared at me with a blank face. I ran out of the shop with confidence and strength like I’ve never felt.
As soon as I left the shop, I ran face first into a massive creature. It had human features but was easily 12 feet tall, had four arms and smelled like death. It wielded a shoulder cannon that appeared to harness the sun itself that it promptly pointed at my head and pulled the trigger. It didn’t kill me but I wish it had. In mere seconds I went from the best I had ever felt, to the worst. I writhed on the ground screaming in agony as another Guardian Warlock dispatched of the creature. Ghost floated over my face and instantly healed me. “I don’t know who you are or what you’ve done with my Guardian but now I am endowed to you…ManKitten.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know what…”
Ghost quickly cut me off “stop talking! In fact, I never want to hear you say another word. From this point on, I’ll do the talking for both of us. Got it?”
Realizing I had become the most inept Guardian of all time, I slowly nodded yes and accepted my Destiny.