Even crouching, Ellie had a little trouble squeezing in through the opening to Chirp’s room this time. She’d grown in the past five years, and the opening hadn’t. Chirp greeted her with a series of clicks and she smiled.
“What are we going to do today, Sir Chirp?” He chirped and pointed out the window in a direction they hadn’t explored much, “Well we’d better get started then.” She helped Chirp up; he was still taller than her, but no longer towered over her head. They made their way out of the ruins and heading roughly northeast. Clouds loomed in the sky above them and blocked the sun partially.
Ellie stopped for lunch when the sun broke free of the clouds overhead and Chirp busied himself looking for pretty rocks. He found a shiny black one and showed it to her; she swallowed and looked it over. “This is definitely going in our treasury, Chirp.” He chirped excitedly and went to find more. She was packed up by the time he returned with a rock streaked with vibrant blue. She put it in her backpack with the black one, and they carried on. There were a lot of ruins to climb over now; they were headed deeper into one of the ancient cities. She’d learned about them at school. The teachers talked fondly about how the cities were full of people and technology, and more things like chirp. There were stories about how great technology was, and how people had relied on it so much that they hadn’t seen the uprising coming. Humanity had been nearly wiped out before six scientists in an underground bunker had made a decision that had doomed millions but saved mankind in the end. She looked at chirp thoughtfully; the lost ones were the ones that had survived a massive electrical weapon that had destroyed all the advanced technology of the world. The world governments had decided they were too dangerous and ordered them destroyed, banning most technology in the process. She hadn’t understood the details about the weapon, but the aftermath had upset her in class. People who were sick had died when the technology helping them live failed suddenly, or when the machines that were transporting them lost control. More had died from illness, as medicine ran out and they couldn’t make more, and there were books filled with stories of riots and horrible crimes. All of this because things like Chirp had fought mankind for some reason. Chirp stopped and picked up a small purple thing from the ground and handed it to her. It was a flower, one she’d never seen before. She put it in her hair and Chirp made a happy click, heading forward again. As the sun went down Ellie felt glad it was the weekend, her folks wouldn’t be expecting her home for another day. They had gotten used to her adventuring, and since they didn’t know about Chirp they wouldn’t worry. They stopped in front of a particularly monolithic ruin and looked at each other. “Are you ready for this, Sir Chirp?” Chirp nodded and made as much of a game face as he could (considering his face didn’t move), picking up a stick to wield. Ellie smiled and followed him inside; the entrance had lost its doors but was otherwise intact.
The interior was dark, and smelled like mold. She wrinkled her nose and they searched for stairs. The dim light from outside showed a staircase in one corner that seemed to go all the way up. Chirp managed to get to the third floor before they stopped to explore more. His leg had loosened up a bit with some work, and he could bend it better, but it still froze up sometimes. They entered a room that seemed cooler somehow than the rest of the building and Chirp froze. Ellie looked from him to the inside of the room. Inside were rows upon rows of metal boxes, all covered in moss and vines. She pulled out her lantern, lit it, and inspected the nearest one. There were buttons that did nothing, and a lot of what looked like colored vines on the inside. A clanking noise made her look back at Chirp, who sat near the entrance, staring at the boxes. He made some odd clicking noises and she looked back at the boxes. They had been technology, like him; these ones hadn’t survived. It took her a moment to realize what this must seem like to Chirp and she shuddered. This was a graveyard full of his kind, sitting in the forest, decaying away. “Oh Chirp…” She sat down next to him, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize.” Chirp shook his head and stood up, offering her his three fingered hand with a solemn chirp. “Do you still want to explore this one?” He nodded and they went up another floor to explore. This one had dozens of little bits and pieces from the past. There was a metal bar that shot out smaller metal bars when Ellie squeezed it, and ceramic cups in one room. She stuck them all in her bag, careful to move her food to the top. It was getting hard to carry now and Chirp put it on his shoulders instead. They carried on into the next room and were surprised to find some furniture that was relatively intact. There was a sofa that was covered in soft, if moldy, cushions. If she used her blanket to cover it, that would be good to sleep on. Maybe she could take the cushions home too. Chirp sat down in the corner and she set up her bed for the night. She put out the lantern carefully and tried to sleep.
Ellie woke up to a gentle humming and fumbled for the lantern. This room was too far inside the building for natural light to invade and it took several tries to get the lantern lit. Chirp wasn’t in his corner and she felt her heart sink. What if someone had come in the night and taken him away? She shook her head, that was a useless way to think. The humming caught her attention again and she went back out into the stairwell. It was coming from the floor below, where the dead technology had been. She swallowed and went down the steps cautiously, peering through the doorway into the room. Chirp was standing near one of the machines, with his hands resting on it. The box hummed with life and she could see sparks flickering between him and the box. “Chirp, what are you doing?!” She sounded more alarmed than she’d intended and he pulled away from the box suddenly, looking at her. The humming stopped abruptly and he shook his head with a sad click. Ellie stared at him in silence for a moment, uncertain of how to react. “Were you… were you trying to bring it back?” He nodded once and chirped. Ellie frowned as she thought about it. This was why everyone feared the lost ones. If something brought back technology, the war could happen again. Chirp looked at her and clicked, tilting his head curiously. Ellie took a deep breath and sighed. “You can’t bring them back, Chirp. That would be wrong.” He clicked again, looking from her to the box. “Because, Chirp, people are afraid of you and things like that… If they found out you brought them back, they would destroy you.” She paused when he still seemed to be thinking about it, “And the dead should be left to rest.” He backed away and chirped in agreement, nodding sadly. They left the building in silence and went out into a light spring rain.