• Published 27th Nov 2016
  • 3,850 Views, 157 Comments

The Brightest Spark - Arad



Many Guardians have been blessed with the Light. A single one wasn't native to Earth.

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01 -- The Ghost, The Guardian

In the smallest spaces dwells the greatest power.

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“Guardian…”

A long ragged breath was followed by a hacking cough as her lungs burned for air. The move was reflexive to her body as conscious thought was slow to follow, like waking from a long sleep.

“Guardian, I don’t mean to rush you since you’ve just come back, but there’s a small matter of urgency that needs to be addressed.”

The voice came from nearby, the tone of the voice containing a strange quality to it that she couldn’t quite place her hoof on. Her eyes slowly cracked open, resisting the temptation to clamp shut again as the blinding light of day was revealed. What was also revealed was the source of the voice.

It first appeared as a floating blue light to her eyes but became sharper as her eyes focused on it. The glow came from an electronic eye set in the center of the thing’s core, and a hoofful of metal shapes clung around the core and moved about as it looked down on her. She opened her mouth to speak but stopped and raised one hoof to the side of her head. Rather than the expected contact with her coat, the hoof was stopped by what she now realised was a helmet that wrapped around her head completely. A glance down and she saw that her leg was wrapped in a dark purple fabric while the hoof was protected by an armored shoe.

What… where am I? She thought as her eyes drifted away from her hoof and to her surroundings. A completely alien landscape surrounded her as far as she could see, with hulks of twisted and rusted metal grouped together like some sort of corroded cobblestone path. What was more disconcerting was the shapes of what appeared to be skeletons of unknown creatures in most of the hulks--

“Guardian, I hate to rush you,” the floating machine said, it’s voice taking on a greater sense of urgency. “We really should head towards the Cosmodrome and find some cover. I’m afraid that when I first sensed you I may have thrown caution to the wind and rushed over. It seems that my hasty actions have attracted the Fallen.”

“Wait one minute… who are you? And who are the Fallen?” the questions tumbled out of her as she finally found her voice. All of her questions grinded to a halt when one in particular surfaced. “Wait wait wait… who am I?” The exploding train of questions was interrupted by a guttural snarl that echoed towards her. Several bellows answered the call, and signs of movement could be seen between the twisted wrecks over the hill.

“Guardian, we have to go now!” the floating machine insisted as it floated towards a truly massive metal wall that stretched to the horizon in both direction. It was equally as corroded as the metal wreckage that surrounded her and was even falling to pieces in places, but the floating machine was clearly heading toward the opening at the base of the wall before it turned back.

Another blood-curdling howl was enough of a motivation to start galloping after the machine. “Why are they chasing us? I don’t remember doing anything wrong to them or anypony else!” she protested as she wove between the debris in her way. Her muscles ached with the sudden effort before she realised that she had access to a much simpler way to travel. “Wait, I can take a shortcut!” She spread the wings she had forgotten she even had and rose above all of the obstructions--

--only to yelp in surprise as a blue-white projectile whizzed past her at blinding speed and struck the towering wall before them. The attack struck the rusted plating and caused a minor avalanche of debris to cascade downward as she ducked back to ground level and dove through the doorway to the wall’s interior. Sounds not unlike an accident at a bell factory chased her into the darkened hallway as more and more of the decaying structure collapsed behind her.

The darkness of the hallway vanished in a flash as the floating machine appeared beside her and projected a beam of light. “That was too close, and whatever fell out there isn’t going to hold the Fallen back for long. We have to keep running or they’ll catch us,” it explained as she stopped at the top of a flight of stairs to catch her breath.

“No, I need answers first!” she insisted, stamping a hoof for emphasis when the machine continued down the hall. “Who or what are you, and why are we running from those things back there?!”

The oddly shaped machine turned about to stare at her. “I’m a Ghost; your Ghost. I was sent by the Traveller to find and bring you back,” the Ghost explained quickly, the metal shapes surrounding its core moving about in some sort of facsimile of expression. “The Fallen are scavengers picking at the bones of the Golden Age, and they’re the enemies of the Traveller.”

Her brow furrowed in consternation. Traveller? Golden Age? This ‘ghost’ brings up more questions than answers! “Okay, fine. When we’re not being chased by whatever those are, I want you to explain everything to me,” she finally managed with a huff before posing another question. “Can you at least tell me who I am and where we are? I...I don’t remember anything.”

“You’re my Guardian,” the Ghost supplied, as though that would answer the question sufficiently. “We’re currently in the Cosmodrome wall in Old Russia, but I’m hoping we can--” The metal shapes surrounding the Ghost’s eye spread out wide, making an imitation of surprise. “Guardian, behind you!”

The Guardian (as the Ghost had dubbed her, though a title was not nearly as sufficient as the name she wanted) whirled about as heavy footfalls echoed up the staircase. Figures in the shadows could be seen at the bottom of the stairs, and another bestial howl followed next. The footfalls increased in tempo as the creatures charged up the stairs.

No further motivation was needed for the Guardian to resume her sprint along the catwalk and into the myriad of darkened hallways ahead of her. After what felt like a lifetime of running, it abruptly ended as quickly as the path itself. The hallway opened up into a vast chasm and a sheer drop into the gloom. A small amount of panic set in as the echoing shouts reached her, but the Ghost’s appearance held her attention.

“Behind and to your right there’s a gate and a weapon on the other side! I’m going to try and get it open just long enough for you get get through,” the floating machine instructed before zipping off into the darkness. “Be ready when it opens!”

The Guardian bounced from hoof to hoof as she spotted the gate in question, dividing her attention from the alleged escape route and the hallway she had just passed through. “Hurry, they’re coming!” she shouted as glowing eyes appeared in the shadows. She was rewarded with a vibrating hum that shook the entire building. The gate began to rattle as it was pulled upwards, and the cavern behind her was slowly flooded with light as the ancient structure woke. She didn’t dare look back until she had squeezed through the tiny gap between the gate and the floor, and when she did it brought no comfort.

The interior of the structure was just as decayed as the exterior, but she glossed over those details as the far more pressing concern was the dozens of creatures she saw moving from the open areas to the cover of shadows. All of them were converging on her position. A thunk from behind the Guardian was enough to draw her attention away from the gate, and a new jolt of adrenaline rushed through her.

The source of the noise was a bipedal creature dropping from some unknown space in the ceiling, more than likely one of the Guardian’s pursuers based on the growl that rumbled from it. Any details of its body were obscured by a helmet and ramshackle armor along with a tattered rag wrapped around its neck. The inspection of its equipment became a distant priority when it drew a knife wreathed in electricity, and a second creature dropped down into the corridor beside the first. Both of them let out a throaty snarl and charged.

The Ghost said there was a weapon here, right? RIGHT? the Guardian tried to recall as her eyes swept her surroundings for something to defend herself with. The attackers had halved the distance to her by the time she spotted some kind of tool resting beside the wall. Lavender light enveloped it and brought it close to the Guardian, who was now frantically sweeping her gaze between the weapon and the approaching enemies. “Ghost! How do I make this thing work!? They’re getting close!”

No response came from the Ghost, and the two attackers had closed to within two body lengths. With no other options available, the Guardian lashed out with the apparently useless weapon she had chosen. It shot towards the first attacker with blinding speed and connected with the side of its helmet with enough force to twist its head a full ninety degrees to the side and sent it flying into the corridor wall. The lavender-glowing weapon continued its wild spin and slammed squarely onto the crown of the second creature, driving it face first into the floor. Neither of the pair moved for a long moment and the only sound in the hallway was the Guardian’s labored breathing.

“Sorry! Sorry! I got delayed by a pack of Shanks and--” the Ghost apologized furiously as it appeared in the hallway seemingly out of thin air. The metal devices ringing its eye widened into something approximating surprise at the scene it now saw. “How did you do this? And how are you doing that?” it asked as it floated over to the Guardian’s improvised weapon as it also hovered in the air.

The simple question snapped the Guardian out of her defensive stance, and the lavender light flickered and went out. The weapon clattered to the ground, leaving her struggling for an explanation as the Ghost’s eye locked onto her. “I don’t know. Everything happened so fast…”

Howls from further down the hallway reiterated the urgency of the situation, and the Ghost bobbed in place in what might have been considered a nod. “Right, we’ll worry about that later! We still have to run!” tt exclaimed before hovering low over the now inert weapon. Threads of light from the Ghost laced the weapon and it vanished in a flash. “Banshee will murder us both when he hears what happened to a Khvostov of all things… But we can worry about that later! While I was reactivating power for the area, I think I found a location of a jumpship nearby! If we can find that, then we can get to safety!”

Jumpship? the Guardian thought, and she added the term to her growing list of things that she had to interrogate the Ghost about. “Then let’s go!” she agreed, and immediately galloped past the two Fallen to follow her guide. The tunnel opened up to a series of catwalks over the chasm, then another series of hallways, then a broken drainage pipe filled with stagnant water before the pair emerged on the other side of the Cosmodrome wall.

The Guardian’s eyes opened wide as she spotted towering shapes far off in the distance. Her gallop slowed to a trot as she drank in every detail. Judging by the surrounding features, most of the structures were far in the distance but did little to diminish the scope of them. A trio of spheres (which, for some odd reason, reminded the Guardian of hot air balloons) crowned the top of each, and just below were a set of blocky metal wings with a half dozen upside down cups mounted on each. Any further inspection was blocked by the rubble and buildings that littered the new area. “What are those?” she asked, unable to keep the wonder from her voice.

The Ghost continued its forward trajectory but flipped around to give the Guardian a look. “The colony ships, but we can talk about those later! We need to get to the Jumpship before they summon more--”

A boom of thunder shook the ground, and what could best be described as a flying scrapheap appeared overhead. It immediately wheeled about and lumbered towards the fugitive pair, threatening to blast them from on high or crash upon them unceremoniously in equal measure. The Guardian needed no more prompting as she spotted Fallen leaping from the flying junk pile to the ground ahead of them. She ran.

The first of the Fallen didn’t have a chance to react as the Guardian galloped past. The next few made wild grabs or attempted tackles to little effect, while the rest began to open fire with the handheld weapons they were carrying. Sizzling blue bolts cut through the night air as the Guardian cut a weaving path across the barren dirt to an open doorway on the far side of the clearing.

The Ghost’s light illuminated the hallway as it pulled ahead. “I passed by here a week ago and saw something we can use! If the Fallen haven’t picked it to pieces, there should be a Jumpship-- Ah! There it is!” The darkened hallway opened up into a larger chamber illuminated by the massive hole that had been punched in the ceiling. The source of that damage was suspended above the ground, tangled in the supports and wreckage of its violent entry. Two stocky wings flanked a central hull, and a long pylon sprouted from the nose of the Ghost’s alleged Jumpship.

“What a piece of junk!” the Guardian exclaimed, unable to keep her initial reaction in check. “Are you absolutely sure that flying deathtrap is safer than staying here with the murderous scavengers?”

“Absolutely sure!” the Ghost said as it floated up to the snared debris that held their salvation in check. “Well… mostly sure. This thing gives us a chance of making it to the Last City safely, but if we stay here then the Fallen will get us eventually.”

“The ‘Last City’? Ghost, you’re doing that thing again!” the Guardian protested with a stamp of her hoof. “You’re talking about stuff like I know about it already!”

The winking light of the Ghost’s eye appeared in the shadows near the Jumpship. “Sorry! Sorry! We’ll have plenty of time to go over your questions once we get in the air. I’m going to need a minute to get the systems up and running… but that might be difficult since more Fallen are approaching.” No sooner had the Ghost said this that the now familiar howls could be heard from the hallway that the Guardian had just emerged from.

“There aren’t any weapons around to use!” the Guardian shouted as she raked her gaze across the room desperately. “What am I supposed to do?”

The Ghost’s tone was equally exasperated. “You’re the Guardian, not me! Improvise!”

Improvise? Oh, well that solves everything! Why didn’t I think of that? she thought with more than a little annoyance as she stared into the tunnel. Flickers of light from the Fallen’s electrified knives briefly highlighted the silhouettes charging towards the Guardian, as well as illuminating the shape of a much larger creature in the middle of the pack. The Guardian gritted her teeth and summoned her determination. I have to stop them. Stop them. STOP THEM!

Just as when the Ghost had told her to use the weapon earlier, a well of power within the Guardian was tapped and gave form to her intent. A wave of lavender energy coalesced in front of her and filled the corridor in a flash. The first of the Fallen crashed headlong into it and bounced off as surely as if they had struck a concrete wall. The scavengers were back up on their feet and pushing futilely against the conjured barrier as a significantly larger Fallen approached. Unlike the others, this one’s armor was in significantly better condition and it cradled a weapon as large as the Guardian herself in its four arms. Rather than flail or push against the barrier as the others attempted, the larger Fallen stood as still as a statue and stared.

The rumble of ancient engines coming to life broke the Guardian’s concentration and the barrier flickered. In that moment, the larger Fallen rushed forward with a deep-throated snarl. The weakened defense shattered under the precise assault, and the Guardian scrambled backward to avoid the reaching arms--

--only for the ruined hangar to be replaced by the cramped interior of the Jumpship in a flash of light. A moment later the Guardian was thrown back into her seat as they accelerated away from the Cosmodrome.

The Ghost appeared a moment later, bobbing happily in the space beside the Guardian’s seat. “You see? I told you it would work! There’s nothing to worry about!” it declared.

Several moments passed as the Guardian caught her breath and surveyed her new surroundings. After her eyes made a complete circuit of the cockpit they settled on the Ghost. “If we’re in flight, that means it’s time for my questions,” she stated.

The Ghost’s bobbing slowed to a stop and it pulled back a small bit. “Well, I suppose it is that time then. What do you wish to know?”

Everything.”

------

Unknown to the new Guardian or her Ghost, the Jumpship’s departure from the Cosmodrome was witnessed by more than just the Fallen. A cloaked figure watched the ship vanish across the horizon, glowing eyes visible from beneath its hood.

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