For those first two furtive days, Ghost and Guardian picked through the shell of the city. It was a study in contrasts, vibrant with chipped paint and rampant vines outside, drab and dusty inside. The Fallen were conspicuously absent. At first, it was a blessing; the Guardian hadn’t been able to find any weapon other than a sturdy length of rusted pipe. But no Fallen meant no supplies to scavenge.
It was the third day, and they had found an old, dilapidated music radio setup on the top floor of a skyscraper. The Ghost was hard at work doing his best to get it up and running again while his Guardian slumped against the wall and watched.
His Guardian looked so powerful and heroic when he was first revived. Now he was tired and disheveled, with parched lips and an empty stomach. It reminded the Ghost a little too much of the scan results from the old bones that held his Guardian’s spark. Hunger. Dehydration. Stress. Hypothermia.
Their situation was far from hopeless; the Ghost knew that whenever food and water were scarce, some Guardians would just end it quickly and stand by for resurrection. Still, his Guardian was new, and both suicide and starvation seemed unreasonably cruel. He hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
“…Light?” his Guardian asked out of nowhere. His voice was hoarse with thirst.
The Ghost ascended out of a bed of wires. “What about the Light?”
The Guardian frowned to himself as he thought. “No…Torch?”
The Ghost blinked, not sure what to make of the question.
“Sorry, what are you again?” His Guardian looked up at him, embarrassed.
“I’m your Ghost,” he replied gently. Then, after a pause, he added, “You can call me Torch if you want.”
“If I keep forgetting the word ‘Ghost’, I might.” His Guardian mustered a smile. “How is the work? Coming along, I mean. How is the work coming along?”
“Pretty well. I think I might be able to make a call to the Tower with this.”
The Guardian hauled himself up off the floor to get a closer look as the Ghost made a few final adjustments. There was the distinct sound of electrical sparks, before the radio erupted into static, causing him to jolt with surprise. “Hey, it works! You got it working! …What now?” He looked to the Ghost helplessly.
“Uh…hang on.” The Ghost drifted closer to the remnants of a connected mic setup that hissed with static. “Come in, Tower. This is a Ghost. I have a newly-raised Guardian with me, only a few days old. We need extraction. Tower, do you read?”
There was only a hiss of static in reply. The Guardian leaned in toward the old mic to try his luck. “Hello?” he asked, voice laced with anxiety. “Is anyone there? Tower?”
“Let me try….” The Ghost dove back into the wires and out of sight. The Guardian could only see a few flickers of blue light, the static changing in volume and pitch for several nerve-wracking moments.
Then, without warning, the static abruptly gave way to a clear voice: “–breaking up. Who is this?”
“H-hello!” The Guardian bent over the mic again, wide-eyed with a sudden surge of hope. “Hello? Is this the Tower? I’m…new.”
“New?” The voice on the other end sounded intrigued. “What is your name?”
“I….” The Guardian trailed off a moment. “My…Torch? No, my…Ghost. He said I was a Guardian. I’m new. Am…am I supposed to have a name? Because I don’t know it.”
When the voice replied, it was reassuring. “We can worry about that later. Where are you, Guardian?”
“City ruins. My Ghost called it the western EDZ. He says there used to be a lot of Fallen here, but they’re all gone now. We’re pretty high up, in a room with lots of old radio equipment, if that helps.”
“Is your Ghost with you? Have him send me your coordinates.”
The Guardian waved his Ghost over, who proceeded to recite a long string of numbers and letters that made utterly no sense to him.
“Good. I need you to stay there. I’m sending another Guardian to bring you home safe.”
Wide-eyed, the Guardian pulled back from the mic long enough to look at his Ghost with a mix of nerves and hope, before leaning in to speak again. “Thank you! I’ll stay right here! Thank you!”
“We’ll meet soon. Zavala out.” The static returned.
The Guardian looked to his Ghost, confused. “What’s a Zavala and how do I have it out?”
The Ghost paused, caught off-guard. “…That was his name. You were talking to Commander Zavala. He was just signing off of the radio.”
“Oh. Ohhhhhhh.” The Guardian nodded as he absorbed this new knowledge. “He seemed nice.”
“Zavala is the Titan Vanguard representative. Since you’re a Titan yourself, you’re going to be seeing a lot of him.”
“Just how much of him is ‘a lot’?”
“I meant, you….” The Ghost trailed off, noticing his Guardian’s smile. “…Oh. You were trying to make a joke.”
“We’ll get our senses of humor lined up at some point, Torch. Ghost. That.”
The Ghost’s front nodes moved a little farther apart, as if he was peering curiously. “Where did ‘Torch’ come from, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“You make it easier to see in dark places,” said the Guardian. “And it sounds better than ‘Flashlight’.”
The Ghost couldn’t help but laugh at that. “It does sound better. Am I ‘Torch’, then?”
“Do you want to be Torch?”
Did he want to be Torch? What kind of question was that? It was short, snappy, and his Guardian had come up with the name. Of course he wanted it! He moved upwards in the air about half a foot, gleeful. “You know what? Sure! From now on, my name is Torch!”
The Guardian grinned, though it soon faltered. “Now I just need a name for myself.”
“You have time. There’s no rush.” The Ghost–now Torch–dipped back down to just below his Guardian’s eye level.
“It feels like I should get one, though.” The Guardian backed up into the wall and slumped against it again.
“If you want, once we get to the City, we can look through a bunch of name databases.”
“Can we?” He looked up, once again hopeful. “And you’ll help, right? I did get to name you, after all.”
“I would be honored, Guardian.”
They talked for hours, though as thirst took its toll on the Guardian, the conversation became increasingly one-sided. Torch was beginning to feel the pangs of worry again when their conversation was interrupted by the low whoosh of a ship overhead.
“That might be our ride,” he explained when his Guardian gave him a worried look. The worry was banished almost immediately. “Come on. We should go meet them.”
Their ride was a female Titan in thick, polished armor that Torch’s Guardian was immediately enamored with. Despite his thirst, he managed to croak out question after question, even as he was herded onto her ship. On the flight to the Tower, she humored him, and even offered him a drink from a field canteen. While she was disciplined and patient, Torch couldn’t shake the feeling that she was bummed about the absence of Fallen to shoot at, and really just wanted this errand to be over.
When the Guardian was ushered out of the ship, it was into an unfamiliar mess of metal platforms. He passed more ships, and more people than he ever expected to be in one place, most of them in armor. He still had plenty of questions, but their escort’s patience had nearly run out, so it fell to Torch to answer them. Titan, Hunter, and Warlock. Human, Awoken, and Exo. Guardians and civilians. The frames that maintained the Tower. Yes, this was the Tower’s hangar. A hangar is somewhere ships are stored.
They exited the hangar through a short corridor into an outdoor plaza. The sun was setting, painting the sky in fiery hues. The air was heady with the scent of foliage and, not too far away, hot food. The young Guardian saw a new person in combat gear every direction he turned his head. His questions abruptly stopped when he saw the great white sphere hanging in the sky, however; instead, he just stared at it, transfixed.
Torch noted their escort heading down a staircase in the middle of the plaza, in the direction of the Vanguard’s command room, leaving them behind. He was debating whether to say anything when he noticed his Guardian was on the move.
The unnamed Guardian walked toward the great white object floating above the City. His eyes were wide and shining, his steps slow and trancelike. He only stopped when he bumped into the railing at the very edge of the Plaza. When he could go no further, he reached a hand up toward it….
“There you are.” Torch spun to see someone else had come up the steps, a blue-skinned man in red and white armor, speaking with the same voice that had answered the radio earlier. His bearing was stern, yet approachable, and his attention was fixed on the new Guardian. “Welcome to the–” He abruptly cut himself off, his expression morphing into one of moderate surprise.
Torch turned just in time to see his Guardian reach too far and topple over the railing with a startled cry.
He immediately darted out over the edge, but his Guardian fell so fast, and what could he possibly do? Two agonizing seconds later, there was nothing but a bloody spat on the ground.
And there were eyes on him. “What was that?”
Torch spun around. “He…he was staring at the Traveler, Commander. I think he was trying to reach for it?”
Commander Zavala looked up at the Traveler meditatively. “…Bring him back, Ghost. We have a lot of work to do.”