The Ghost quivered midair, barely containing his excitement, as he parsed the results of the last scan. Human, male. Blonde, tall, broad-shouldered, strong jawline. Like a gallant knight, or a paladin from an Old Earth pen-and-paper game. Like a Titan! Oh, the Light hummed in just the right way for it, too!
The scan results also returned less-uplifting data. Died in the early Dark Age, a time of newly-broken scavengers and empty cities that still gleamed in the sunlight. Hunger. Dehydration. Stress. Hypothermia. The sorry scrap of cloth beside the skeleton took on a new significance with that last discovery. Maybe he really was lonely, at the end of it all. The thought tempered the Ghost’s enthusiasm, but only momentarily.
Try as he might to give the moment the gravity it deserved, there was a pull on his thoughts and on his Light. It wasn’t a hungry malice, though, not like the horror stories he’d heard of Light-eating monstrosities. It was more like desperate, fumbling fingers. Cold, in the same way that drives someone to a fire’s side in the dead of winter. New, yet oddly familiar, like some part of him already knew the man, knew he was reaching out, knew he wanted to be ignited.
The Light began to flow.
Pick up the bones, stand them upright. Wrap them in meat and muscle, thick and scrappy, as befitting a Titan. Cloak them in skin, to keep them safe. Perforate them with nerves. Let the brain tissue bloom within the skull. Restore the hair, the blue eyes, the blunted fingernails, the calloused hands and feet.
The old scars won’t be missed. They don’t need to be reproduced. Malnourishment has no place here; erase that, too–and look, now he stands even taller! But this work is not finished, not yet.
Reach into the surrounding matter. Soak up the dust and debris. Twist the atoms, reforge the molecular bonds. Suffuse it all with Light. Carefully fit the Lightmail to the new frame.
And now, the hardest part: to give him space, and let him breathe–
The bright blue glow that had engulfed the room faded as the Ghost pulled his nodes back in. It felt so long and profound, but it took only seconds.
But there he was. There he was, standing upright, back turned, looking down at his hands as if seeing himself for the first time. In a very real sense, he was.
What to say? How to introduce himself? Despite having practiced his introduction for hundreds of years, the Ghost found himself drawing a blank. Was this real? Did he do everything right? What did they do now? What would his Guardian think? Right, he had a Guardian now! What would he be like? A paladin, right? Or was he just projecting?
Seconds dragged by before the Ghost finally resolved to say something. He straightened his nodes, transmatted away some lingering dust, and forced out the first words that came to him: “You’re here!”
“Gaaaah!” His Guardian jolted, surprised. Operating on instinct, he pivoted around on the ball of his foot, sending his right hand sailing toward–
The Ghost recoiled back, blinking a few times. Something had impacted his front. Damage was negligible, but what happened?
His Guardian was in a stance resembling a cornered animal, fists raised and wide eyes locked on him.
“…Did you just punch me?” He couldn’t keep the pain out of his voice.
“Why would you punch me?” He understood the French easily (his Guardian speaks French?), but he was too stunned to reply in kind. “Why…?”
His Guardian answered, even more confused than he was: “Qu–what? What ARE you?”
“I’m a Ghost,” he offered lamely. “Your Ghost. I’m…here to help you. I thought you wanted to be here, and….”
The new Guardian’s eyebrows furrowed as he tilted his head to the side. “Ghost,” he echoed, as if trying the word. After mulling it over a moment, he relaxed his stance. “Alright. Ghost, where are we?”
“This is the EDZ…the European Dead Zone, that is,” the Ghost replied, fumbling as he tried to recover from the abrupt change in subject. “We’re near the western edge, on the eighth floor of an old hotel. This is where I found you.”
“Found me? What was I doing?”
The Ghost blinked. “…You were dead.”
“Were?” The Guardian paused to parse the word. “…Was. So now I’m not?”
“Right! You were brought back to help the Traveler…well, it’s really hurt right now, and it needs all the help it can get! I thought you might help, since you wanted to come back…if you did want to come back….”
The Guardian’s eyebrows shot straight up. “I don’t know what that is, but okay.”
“You don’t kn–?!” The Ghost’s rear nodes did a full rotation, but he forced himself to calm down before speaking again. “…We really need to get you to the City. There are people there who can explain everything.”
“How do we get there?”
“It’s a long walk, and there are probably a lot of Fallen between there and here. We might be better off finding a way to contact them and ask for extraction.”
“A ride.” The Ghost looked toward the lone window in the room. It had been caked in dust previously, but the dust–and the glass underneath–had been sucked up during the Lightmail crafting process, leaving nothing but empty panes. “Once we’re there, we can get you a room, some food, training, and answers. It’s a good thing you know some English; that makes things easier.”
The new Guardian folded his arms and pouted. “My English is fine. You just startled me, that’s all.”
The Ghost swiveled around in the air to face him. “I….” He was about to apologize, but something about the way his Guardian’s mouth twisted off to the side struck him as less of a real pout and more of a cartoonish approximation of one. “…Eheh.” Oh no, now he’d chuckled. He wasn’t supposed to find that funny!
Except, he was, if his Guardian’s reaction was any indication. The comical pout gave way to a genuine, easy smile. “Sorry for hitting you. I didn’t know you were a friend.”
Friend. He felt so much lighter at that. “It’s okay. I understand.” A pause. “…It’s nice to meet you.”
The easy smile widened into a grin.