“What could have melted every single circuit?” Lalia asked no one, her small voice echoing slightly as she opened her fifth power junction on this level. Whatever had hit this facility, had hit it hard, and getting the lights back on was key to her ability to fully explore it. The nearby metal wall and floor flickered with blue-white light as she used her cutting tool to clear a congealed blob of precious metals and melted plastics that had oozed down over the area she was most interested in. When finished, she drew upon her Light and reassembled the now revealed logic controller, trusting her instinct to guide her. With that complete, Lalia started quickly mending the first of the ten relays. What would have been a slow tedious process for an engineer or maintenance tech was child’s play for her.
Perhaps she didn’t exactly love resoldering circuits and rebuilding complex, Golden Age cpu cores from the ground up, but she was very good at it. And she’d been doing it for so long that it wasn’t so much a chore or hardship as it was her way in life. At least for the foreseeable future. She hummed a little song as she worked, only pausing now and again during the really tricky parts. Even she had to slow down and concentrate when reconstituting a high voltage regulator buried behind a dozen delicate logic circuits!
When she finally finished, she rose up away from the wall then rolled her pearlescent pink-white shell sharply side to side in an attempt to throw off some of the fine dust that her movements in close proximity to the floor had kicked up around her. She gave the junction one last check then zipped back down the long corridor and turned into a small nearby room whose far wall was filled with dark displays and unmoving readouts surrounded by rows of buttons and switches.
The room was lit up just a touch brighter than it had been a few hours before as now a single orange light glowed dimly at the bottom edge of one of the panels. Lalia applied a few beams of gentle force to operate the controls in the right sequence, and…
Lights clicked on overhead. Out in the corridor another series of clicks followed in sequence.
“Teeeheeee!” Lalia exclaimed as she darted back and glanced left down the hallway. Sure, only the way back to the elevator behind her and the first fifty meters of the near side of the corridor to her left were lit. Another hundred meters beyond in either direction remained dark, but success was success. She expanded her shell gleefully outward and spun its separate facets around her spherical core in a cheerful little dance that saw them mimicking electrons in rapid orbit around a nucleus. So what if she was just a tiny bit of a nerd?!
Having worked the excitement out of her system, Lalia pulled herself back together then spun in place to take one last look at her night’s work before zipping back to the empty elevator shaft and up to the long abandoned facility’s ground floor. The lights were on here, thanks to her. Another minute’s flight through the business-like twists and turns brought her back to the small collapsed section of wall that had first given her a way into the strange facility several months before. With a soft sigh, Lalia set herself down on an eastward facing outcropping and rested for the few brief minutes it took for the sun to rise above the hills in the distance. It was a nice end to a long, successful night, and a nice beginning to what would prove to be the day she had been built for.
Things were proceeding much more quickly now that Lalia had a foothold on the first sublevel. With every new junction she repaired, another short section of the windowless facility lit up. Hour by hour she progressed farther in, and soon she turned a corner and spotted a large, ominous door a few meters farther down. Ominous doors were great! They meant there was something actually interesting nearby! Lalia quickened her pace as a result, and just two hours later she had power flowing to where it was needed. That done, it was simple to convince the door’s security subprocessor that everything was in order. For such a strong barrier, it slid open so gracefully, hardly making any noise at all!
Inside, Lalia gave a long, slow whistle. Stretched out before her was row after row of extremely advanced equipment. And, placed here or there, some reclined back on operating tables, others held upright in the grip of special machines surrounded by multiple articulated robot arms, were more than a dozen exos in various states of assembly!
As Lalia flitted around in the darkened room, its purpose quickly became clear. Though not an assembly line, as such, this area of the facility was clearly tasked with the delicate, sometimes hands-on fabrication of exos. The pair of long decayed skeletons in clean room suits at opposite ends of the large room spoke a little to just how hands-on the process must have been.
Lalia took another lap around the room and headed her way back out intending to continue her work when she crossed above an exo she hadn’t spotted. It was laying on the floor as if it had fallen sideways out of one of the assembly stations. As she moved past, a sudden, sharp, bright thrill passed through her circuits. She’d never felt anything like it, and almost involuntarily whipped her body around to stare down at the humanoid machine. There were significant burn marks surrounding contacts on its head and back, but… could it have just been activated… and been alive… when disaster struck the facility?!
The closer Lalia sunk toward the exo, the more powerful that crisp, energetic feeling grew in her core! “Could this be…? Have I found…? I did. At last. It is. It’s… you.” She spoke excitedly to the empty room.
“O…. Ok…” she said, shaking with excitement. She willed herself to be calm, quiet, still, then, trusting her deepest instincts, Lalia reached out with her Light and for the first time felt another’s Light reaching back!
“Eyes up! Guardian!!” She said to the one thing… person… she’d truly been searching for since the beginning of her existence.
The whole room lit up with Light, and then, an instant later, the burnt-out shell of the fallen exo was replaced by the living, Light-filled body of the Traveler’s newest Guardian.
“Hel… Hello there! My name is Lalia! I’m called a Ghost. From now on I’m to be your helper and companion. And you? A lot of people will refer to you as a Guardian. A protector and warrior for those that follow the Light. I’ve heard that most Guardians know their name when they are first brought back. So… what should I call you?”
Lalia had spent decades practicing what she’d first say when she met her Guardian. She’d even gotten most of it right! She’d expected her Guardian would be nervous and she’d even expected her Guardian’s initial look of confusion at being brought back into a pitch black room. But what Lalia didn’t expect was to see the eyes of the synthetic woman kneeling before her to take in her first few words with an intelligent expression only to go wide with panic as she attempted to answer what other Ghosts had assured Lalia would be an easy first question.
Her Guardian reached a hand to her throat and then looked up to her with fear now blazing in her bright teal eyes.
“I don’t understand!” Lalia said in reply. “I brought you back as best I know how. I’m sure I did it right. Ghost and their Guardians share a connection… a bond through the Light, and I felt it and I brought you back…”
‘Back?’ Her Guardian asked with her expression and the small, silent motion of her lips.
“Yes… back. You… you died a long time ago here in this room when this facility was attacked. But the Traveler, the thing that created me and linked me to you, gave me the power to bring you back. So you… we… so together we can protect what remains of humanity.”
Her Guardian stood and turned to look around the room and Lalia instinctively took a position hovering just above her Guardian’s shoulder so as to illuminate her field of view. It felt so right! Her Guardian thought so too, as she moved about the room looking at the equipment and other exos with purpose, while trusting Lalia to be where she needed her.
Soon, her Guardian was inspecting the head and throat of one of the exos laid out on one of the tables. She poked and prodded at it with expert hands and Lalia moved in close to provide her more focused light. Her Guardian moved on to tracing the long antennas jutting back away from the inert exo’s head with her fingers then pulled her hand back with a sudden jerk.
“What is it?” Lalia asked as her Guardian remained still for a long moment.
Then, a radio channel suddenly popped and cleared as a strong, smooth silence forced out the naturally occurring background noise.
“No voice boxes or speakers in any of us. I don’t think they wanted us to talk. Not out loud, anyway. I suspect you may have to do my talking for me. Clearly we were a new design, not mass produced. Lean and mobile, but strong and precise, too. Not workers or front line fighters. Special forces maybe? Or assassins?” asked a new voice on the newly opened channel. The voice was female and low pitched, and there was clearly a thoughtful intelligence behind it. One that had seen and understood a good deal with only a few minutes of study.
“You can hear and understand me, correct? I selected the clearest channel I could find,” The voice said.
Lalia very nearly swooned. She’d always been sure that she would feel a bond with her Guardian, but there had always been that fear that he or she might be reckless or overly adventuresome or… a Titan. But this Guardian, she seemed a perfect fit!
“Oh, yes! Of course, I can!”
“Very well. It is a pleasure to meet you Lalia,” her Guardian said. She looked around a moment and then, not finding what she was looking for, took up a relaxed kneeling position on the ground and said, “Now, I do not understand why I am here, or what you are, or what kind of situation we are in. Are you able to explain?”
“I am,” Lalia replied, “but first…”
Her Guardian smiled a knowing smile, lit only by the light coming in front the hallway.
“My name is Tacy. Please, tell me everything.”