running system diagnostic...
ERROR: sever hardware damage:
secondary processor clusters 2-4 offline
secondary power cells offline
tactile sensors offline
olfactory sensors offline
visual sensor 2 offline
speech module offline
Welcome back, Isra.
Light. Light was around me. Light coursed through me. Light tore me apart and remade me whole. Light is apart of me. Light is my being.
"Guardian... Guardian? Eyes up, Guardian! It worked, you're alive!" Something was talking. What was that? I opened my eyes and tried to move, having to force my joints, the once perfect mechanisms rusted and slow... "I'm a Ghost. Actually, now, I'm your Ghost. And you... Well, you've been dead a long time. So you're going to see a lot of things you won't understand." I force my head up, driving myself to stand, the series of fans and motors inside my core whiring almost silently, but straining enough to be heard. There was a machine, floating just above me, the source of the voice. It was about the size of my hand, made of eight white pyramids around a little mechanical eye.
Something inhuman roared in the distance. It sounded angry. Very angry.
"This is Fallen territory. We aren't safe here! I have to get you to The City!" It floated away, the little pyramid rotating around it... Almost making it seem nervous. "Hold still," it muttered before bursting apart with a crackle of blue light, then all is silent for a moment... Before it started talking again, a digitised voice in my head, "Don't worry, I'm still with you. We need to move, fast! We won't survive for long out in the open like this, we need to get inside the wall.".
At this point, I was confused. Moving was hard, my right eye appeared to be damaged, and thinking was slow so one of my processors was likely bust. Closing my right eye to make things a bit clearer, I looked around me. I probably shouldn't have. It was nothing but barren, snow covered wastes for miles upon miles, the road I was on littered in hundreds of jammed up, ruined cars, each full of... Skeletons. Long dead.
Turning and trying to move, to make my body work, I started walking towards the only thing in sight. The "Wall" that... Ghost, did it call itself? That Ghost had mentioned. It was huge, stretching on far into the fog, long out of sight, and at least a hundred feet tall. That too was in ruins though, chunks of blown out brick and fallen panels. Everything here had been laid to waste.
I try to walk, staggering and stumbling a few steps more than anything, breaking the rust from my joints, grabbing a car to hold my balance before I start walking again. "I didn't bring you back just so you could die again, you have to move."
Would that damn thing just shit up already... I start walking again, making my way towards the wall, trying to hurry, everything getting easier as I start... Waking up? Yeah, waking up fully.
"Okay... I need to find you a weapon before the Fallen find us."
Eventually I got to the wall, stepping over a knocked down door and staring to climb a flight of stairs into the wall, everything getting quite dark quite quickly... Before the little Robot reappears, floating by my head, a bright light coming from it's eye, illuminating the path like a torch.
"Quiet... They're right above us." It whispers, and at a perfect time, just as... Something, quickly crawls up through the wall and out of sight, visible by a fallen panel. This guy better have a way out of here. Following the corridor, we come to a platform of some kind, over a huge chasm inside the wall, only just seeing the railing and the bottomless bit under the unstable grill beneath my feet before Ghost disappears, leaving me in darkness once more. "Hang tight. Fallen thrive in the dark. We won't. We need more light. I'll see what I can do." It floats away, the light it casts only serving to show how huge the wall is, barely touching both sides of the gap. "Another one of these hardened military systems... And a few centuries of entropy working against me." Then everything went quiet...
Until Ghost messed it up. The first thing was the sound of the generators spinning up, chugging out power with a dull roar as the lights flickered on, lighting the whole place up... And showing us the dozens of four armed monsters clinging to the far walls, all of them wearing white armour and breathing masks, armed with guns. "They're coming for us!" Ghost very, very quickly flew back towards me, disappearing again, his voice returning to my head. "Here! I found a rifle! Grab it!" he yelled from inside my skull as a shutter started to lift up, another corridor further through the wall... There was a box just behind it, with the skeleton of a soldier slumped against it, an ancient automatic rifle still in it's hands.
At this point, if I had lungs, I would have held my breath. Not for the smell, a environmentally sealed helmet keeps that away, but for the... The fact that you're ripping a gun from a dead man's hands. It's... Impolite.
But I do it anyway. I just reached over and grabbed the gun, pulling it from the corpse, shaking off the bones and dust. Flick through the safety, eject the clip, load new, lock, ready to fire. I know how to use it, I don't know where from though. Still walking down the new corridor, gun up, finger on the trigger, I glance at the inscription on the side, Khvostov 7G-02. It's an ancient gun, worn, it has a cracked sight, it's heavy and clunky, but simple and effective, well made, should have a few shots left.
I turn another corner, a fallen wall panel shifting under foot, the lights flickering for a moment before a bulb blows, leaving me to follow the light around the next corner. I turn the next corridor, just as something jumps through a hole in the wall. It's short, probably five foot something, wearing a dusty grey Environmental Suit and mask, it has a knife in one hand and a gun in the other, a tattered red scarf hanging from it's neck- Boom, boom- Two shots, quick trigger pulls and it goes down, thick, heavy white gas hissing from the holes in it's helmet.
Two more of them jump out from the walls, as well as something that's a bit bigger, closer to six feet tall, a second pair of arms lower down on it's chest where the little ones only had sealed stubs. I raise the rifle and pull the trigger, a spray of bullets making them duck for cover as I crouch behind a fallen barricade, one of the dregs, the little ones, trips and goes down, caught by a few rounds in the spray, while the others take cover and return rife. I wait until they stop to reload before hopping the barrier, firing quickly, single rounds, two into the Dreg's chest, three into the Vandal's head, more of that white gas leaking out from their suits.
Moving on, counting 12 rounds left in the clip, something flashes up in the top left corner of my helmet's visor, a pair of concentric circles, the outer ring separated into eight segments- a motion tracker, inbuilt to the armour. One of the outer sections lit up in a bold red, straight ahead. Turning the next corner into a larger room, a corner of the floor depressed where the supports broke, the red chunk on the tracker jumps to the middle circle, just as another Dreg drops from the wall above the doorway, sending my staggering.
It jumps at me, knife in hand, and I duck and step to the side, just missing it's encore, spinning and stamping on the back of it's leg, bringing up the rifle and putting two rounds into it's back. Turning another corner and carrying on, I hop through a hole in the wall to a loading bay of some sort, four more Dregs and two Vandals waiting for me.
I roll into cover behind a ruined crate, blind firing a couple of shots over the top before ejecting the clip, locking a new one in. A Dreg with a knife jumps over the crate and lands in front of me, I just empty three rounds into it. Standing and turning quickly, I drop the other two Dregs and shoot a Vandal in it's lower shoulder, making it duck for cover, using suppression fire to keep the other in check. I hop my create, storming to the far side of the barricade the Vandal's were using for cover, rolling past and letting off a spray of rounds, dropping them both. "There's more ahead, keep it up!"
He's not good for much apart from talking, is he? I take a moment to count through my rounds. Six left in this clip, one clip spare. Make them count. I start moving again, across a rusted, unstable bridge over the chasm, red banners with some kind of insignia emblazoned on them hanging everywhere.
At the end of the bridge, there was a small pile of boxes, a Fallen supply cache. I check through them quickly, finding a few Ammunition Synthesis Packs, as well as a little Godsend. A Shotgun, in perfect working order. I sling my rifle back and check the shotty over, loading five shells into it and pumping it, flipping off the safety. I start moving again, continuing down the corridors as per Ghost's instruct- "Trip mines! Don't touch them!" Ghost started yelling from inside my Helmet.
I holster the shotgun and level the rifle, firing quickly and precisely, one round for each of the mines littering the corridor, running and shooting as I go, dropping two Dregs as they turn the corner before the clip runs dry. Eject, reload, lock, continue. Running now, through the corridors, jumping over one of the mines, taking the shotgun in my off hand and blowing away a Dreg, turning another corner to confront three of them, taking out two with a single trigger pull on the shotgun, the third one jumping at me, only bringing him closer as the third Shotgun round sent it into the wall.
Carrying on I enter a large room, some kind of meeting area once, a hall of sorts, about half a Dozen dregs and Vandals loitering around, ready from the sound of gunfire. I sling back the shotty and raise my rifle, taking cover and returning fire when possible, one by one putting rounds through their heads until the room is cleared out and Ghost said it's safe. "The Fallen have a tighter hold on this place than I thought. Just a little bit further. Let's hope there's something left out there...".
Now that, that did not sound encouraging. I take a moment to check myself and to scavenge ammunition synths from the Fallen, to reload and prepare myself before starting again, heading through a hole in the wall to some kind of storm drain in the wall with a set of large, broken down fans. I ducked the rusted, immobile blades to the other end of the drain, through another hole in the wall, and... To the outside. To a large, open area surrounded by rusted and ruined buildings, everything overtaken by snow and thin grass, a couple of destroyed tanks resting, signs of the last fight this place saw, several un-launched colony ships sitting skyward in the distance.
"This use to be an old Cosmodrome. There's got to be something we can fly out of here." I started running, or, trying to at least, across the courtyard area, towards another open patch, before a bright like appeared in the sky, out over the wastes. It was a myriad of colour, energy rippling through the clouds as a massive ship jumped out from Hyperspace, a Fallen cruiser of some sort. "Fallen ships, this close to the surface?! Move!". At this point, Ghost sounded outright scared, but in all fairness, moving is what I was doing anyway, before the shockwave of the ship dropping from FTL hit me and sent me staggering over, but that was only a minor distraction before I started moving again, crossing over into another field like area, some kind of vehicle yard, three small ships dropping off about a dozen more Fallen, more gunfire ensuing.
Mixtures of cover and running, blind firing, suppression fire, picking off careful shots and, one or twice, blasting another couple of Dregs as they tried to jump me. It all becomes so monotonous, repetitive. At this point, it started to come back to me. War is a game, and I was a machine built to win.
Silence, the yard was clear, and I was the last player standing. I make another scavenging run, reload and prepare before moving on, into a building out from the yard, shotgun in hand for the tight corridors, approaching the door before a small robot, red, a couple of feet wide, a floating drone of some sort, just comes buzzing out, turning to me. It takes me half a moment to notice the automatic weapon attached to it's underside. I fired first.
As my shell hit the machine, and the machine hit the wall in pieces, four more of them came floating out, and I felt this... Power, flood through me. I saw light, I felt the power that brought me back once more. I felt the heat and energy course through my body as a small ball of purple energy, pure Void Light, formed in my hand and I threw it at the robots, making it explode into a swirling vortex of energy that rips the machines apart, destroying them.
What... What was that... What is this power that brought me back?
"Nice work Guardian! The longer you go on for, the more you will learn to control your light, and the more Light the Traveller will let you control, so keep at it... Now, I'm picking up signs of an old Jumpship. Could be our ticket out of here." So I kept moving. I felt the power, the Light, in a great surge before, but now I felt empty, hollow without it... But I could feel it returning, I could feel the Light recharging within me, gradually.
I keep walking, shotgun raised, moving through the old building, going slowly, both being careful and giving myself time to recharge whatever power I now possessed, though eventually of course I once more stumbled upon some more Dregs, scavenging an old console... So I charged, rolling towards them, blasting one with the shotgun, swinging up and hitting the other in the face with the stock, staggering it before shooting it.
Still moving, I find two more Dregs and a Vandal in the next room... So I draw up upon the power I felt before and form another ball of energy, lobbing it at them and watching as the resulting vortex rends them apart. Reloading again, I move on, out into a large room missing most of it's roof, and sitting there, is an old Jumpship.
"There's a ship! Clear them out!" Ghost yelled at me, as sitting around the room were a few more Fallen, and on the ship itself, there was another one, a big one, four arms, quite imposing in stature, a long red cloak billowing around him, as well as the faint, pale blue shimmer of a shield. More gunplay follows as I one by one pick them off, eventually working up the power to toss another vortex grenade that takes out the big one with the shield, some kind of Captain. Once he went down, the remainder either scattered and ran or went down easily. Lack of morale, I suppose. "Alright, let me see if I can get us out of here."
Ghost materialised as I approached the ship, whizzing off to inspect it, running scans. "It's been here a while. Hasn't made a jump in centuries. We're lucky the Fallen haven't completely picked it clean... I can make it work." It disappears again and moments later, the ships engines slowly start to spin up, the generator firing as it struggles to start, the thrusters firing, starting to roar with heat and wind as it rises up. "Okay... It's not going to break orbit, but it just might get us to The City... Now -- About that Transmat..."
I hear a low roar from behind me, barely audible over the sound of the old engines running, but I turn to see a dozen Fallen crawling form a large hole in the wall, followed by... Something massive, at least four times my height. Another Fallen seemingly, but a Giant amongst it's kin, and it seems angry. It stood up to it's full height, point it me with one arm, shaking the fist of another, and aiming a gun that's as big as I am with the other two.
"Bringing you in!" Ghost yells through my Helmet, just as he transmats me up into the cockpit of the little Jumpship, the engines erupting and boosting it out through the hole in the ceiling at high speeds, flying across the Cosmodrome and away, towards the City. "We can come back for them when you're ready. Let's get you home." Ghost said, reappearing besides me in the cockpit, watching with me as the ground and sky flew past us.
We carried on flying for what was probably hours, the broken little ship barely getting close the the speed of sound. Ghost was no where to be seen, likely hiding inside... Me? My armour? Somewhere. For a little while, he had tried to make conversation, but with my speech module non-functioning, it was rather one sided conversation, so he just left me to rest. I was an Exo. I didn't need rest. I was a machine. A damn smart one, yes... But a machine none the less.
Still, even if I was a machine, this ship was still terrible. It was incredibly noisy, both the engines and the sound from what I thought could be a crack somewhere in the hull, the air whipping through at subsonic speeds, the near empty fuel cells, the grime and the busted controls, the holes in the seat padding... If I had the rest of my sensory array working at the time I would have been worried even with the ship on the damn ground, but in the air it felt like a death trap. Probably was.
We kept chugging along in the flying death machine for a good few hours, eventually leaving the ruins of Russia, rolling high over the vast wastes. It's mad to believe, that once, the Human Race controlled the entire solar system. Faster than Light Travel, Programmable Matter, cybernetics, a 250 year lifespan... All reduced to this. Nothing.
For what good it did with no sense of touch, I tried to lean back, put my hands behind my head and put my feet up on the dead console. We've got a lot of work to do, Ghost.
After flying for... I don't even know how long, we got there, eventually. The City. The Last City. It was vast, hundreds of miles across easily, a rough circle surrounded by a wall of unbelievable size, protecting it, nestled away in what were once the Himalayan Mountains, Nepal... But above it all, was the Traveller. The origin of the Golden Age, our saviour. It was a great sphere, hundreds of miles in diameter, perfectly smooth, a dull white in colour, fragments and edges around the bottom broken off and destroyed, but it persists. Just floating there.
Ghost guides the ship well, piloting us towards a large building further off towards the edge of the city, a tower, dozens of stories high, and widening out at the top like a hammer. "This is The Tower, the home of the guardians. Your home, now. It's a safe place for you to rest and resupply." We approach The Tower, slowing down to a crawl as I hear the transmat charge up, bracing myself for the jump-
Just as it happens. In a blur of energy I'm outside, falling the half a foot safety buffer between the ground and I. It's not much, but the impact is enough, and it jars something in me out of place. Something clicks and I lose my sight, hearing myself clash to the ground before deactivating, my systems shutting down from the strain.