The Guardian sits in the warm, blank room. They close their eyes, seemingly lost in thought. The Dreg is asking for the Guardian to essentially disobey Vanguard orders… Could this be a trap? They’ve heard of Guardians near Saturn working amiably with a Fallen Captain, but never have they considered that maybe the Fallen as a whole wants to stop fighting.
“Let’s say I agreed to stop fighting against the Fallen,” the Guardian says after another moment. “I have no guarantee that the Fallen would stop trying to fight me, or other Guardians. I have my fireteam’s lives to consider.”
The Dreg’s frustration returns. “Ah yes, your lives. What is life for a Guardian? You have already cheated death once, and against everything but the most powerful eldritch horror, death for you is never permanent. Your Light protects you from harm to the point that you willingly participate in a suicidal bloodsport with your compatriots.”
The Guardian snaps back. “We’re not impossible to kill. I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost friends to Fallen.”
“AND WE HAVE LOST WHOLE POPULATIONS TO YOU,” the Dreg screams. “For every Guardian an Eliksni has killed, Guardians have slaughtered us in the hundreds of thousands. The power of the Great Machine in your species’ hands has resulted in multiple genocides across the solar system, vastly disproportionate to any attacks we have perpetrated against you. I came here with the intent of peace, and I will not abandon this goal, but do not mistake my willingness to find mutual understanding with you for ignorance. We are fighting from a position of resistance, you fight us from a position of hegemony.”
The Guardian is tired of this… place, is tired of this argument. They feel an intense anger as well as – is that shame? Embarrassment?
“Do you think I wanted this?” The Guardian screams back. “Do you think I want to be here right now? I was dead, and then I wasn’t! And when I came back, everything was a nightmare around me, and I have this little flying orb telling me that I serve a much bigger flying orb, and that Humanity is on the brink of annihilation and I’m the only one who can defend it! I can’t remember my past life! I don’t know who I was in the life before my first death! I certainly didn’t have a choice here!”
The Dreg sneers under its respirator. “You didn’t have a choice to be reborn, that much may be true. But what you do with this second chance at life is completely in your control! I know of many of you Lightbearers who do not fight, do not kill! You are historians, cryptoarchaeologists, artists, writers, scientists, engineers… those who truly help your kind, not just hunters and brawlers and weapons of war!”
“If I and other Guardians like me didn’t defend the Last City, Humanity would be doomed,” the Guardian says. “Art, science, history… all wiped out by time, decay and all the enemies of the Traveler! The Fallen would slaughter us and scavenge our remains. The Cabal would strip-mine what’s left of our planet for resources before moving on. The Hive would hollow out the crust and use our mantle for an incubator! The Vex would assimilate what is left into its collective! All before the Darkness snuffs everything out once and for all, finishes what it started! And all of a sudden you want us to turn our swords into plowshares? Not fucking likely.”
The Dreg has suddenly grown very silent. It is looking intently down at the table, like it’s trying to remember something important. The Guardian’s ears are ringing and their heart is pounding in their chest. If they had even a knife… it would be over for this thing. Fists will do in a pinch.
“Guardian.” The Dreg slowly looks up. “I have spent much of my short life reading. It’s how I’ve managed to stay alive this long. My aptitude for knowledge has given me a… we’ll call it a competitive edge in the Spider’s gang, whom I now serve. The Spider, as I’m sure you know, has an affinity for Humanity’s trinkets. He wants to know about them. It is my job to know for him. I told you I have read about Earth’s history, yes?”
The Guardian nods.
“I have also read about the world before your Collapse. I read about the giant corporate syndicates that controlled every aspect of daily life. I read about the wealthy families that could afford to sink money into new, untested, experimental technologies.” The Dreg takes a deep breath in its respirator. “I read about the ones who were not wealthy. The ones who had to sell themselves to work on colony ships or enlist in a military simply to leave the planet and make a better life. The Great Machine brought with it many of the gifts it gave us Eliksni, but it did not give you a greater understanding of yourselves or each other or your relationship to the worlds you thought you conquered.”
“What’s your point?” The Guardian asks.
“Guardian, you should read your species’ history sometime. It’s full of slavery, colonization, invasion, resource depletion, petty conflict, and genocide.” The Dreg laughs, a bitter and harsh laugh. “All things you are afraid of happening to you now are things your species did to each other and to every home you have ever lived in, and you did it gleefully.”
“That’s because those things are horrible! Of course we want to prevent them now.”
“Except you are not.”
“You are not preventing genocide, colonization, petty conflict, or any of it,” the Dreg says. “You welcome it like an old friend. You rounded up the non-Lightbearers, lured them to the settlement underneath the Great Machine, then built great big walls to – what, keep your enemies out? Maybe that was your reasoning at first, but now the mortal ones want to leave, and they’re being beaten back by your guards.”
“We all make sacrifices.” The Guardian says. They were quickly becoming aware that this little Dreg seemed to know way more about their society than it should. They needed an exit strategy. Or an escape plan.
“Ah, we’ll talk about sacrifices,” the Dreg replies. “We’ll get to how much your kind sacrifices, compared to those you rule over.”