Grimoire:Guardian/Races

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"And my vanquisher will read that book, seeking the weapon, and they will come to understand me, where I have been and where I was going."
The following is a verbatim transcription of an official document for archival reasons. As the original content is transcribed word-for-word, any possible discrepancies and/or errors are included.
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The Races subsection of the Grimoire covers subjects related to Guardian races.

Awoken[edit]

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"The others sing this song of Light and Dark. We, together, have transcended such unimaginative limitations."
—Card blurb

It is said the Awoken were born in the Collapse, descended from those who tried to flee its wrath. Something happened to them out on the edge of the deep Black, and they were forever changed. Today many Awoken live in the distant reef aloof and mysterious, but others returned to Earth, where their descendants now fight for the City. Earthborn Awoken sometimes venture out to the Reef, hoping to learn its secrets - but find no special welcome from the reclusive Queen.

Ghost Fragment: Awoken[edit]

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Reports from a derelict vessel boarded in the first known voyage to the Reef

Eleven hundred meter length.
Active gravity generation.
Residual heat. Fast neutron scatter.
Designation code: CORRUPTED
Date of commissioning: Unknown
Origin point: Unknown

Presumed to have collided/merged with one-kilometer comet: assessment based on depth of hydrocarbon crust covering the hull, water content of soil, atmosphere of oxygen and carbon dioxide with isotopic ratios placing the comet in the Oort population.

Low-light foliage grown from terrestrial stocks, mirrors focusing starlight into growth chambers...resident fauna...five insect species, plus rats descended from uncertain ancestors.

Surface heavily wooded until recently, unknown event triggering firestorm...seventy percent of world forest consumed, atmosphere laced with smoke and particulates...free oxygen in short supply.

No distress calls noted. No evidence of crew or passengers on exterior.

Interior scans inconclusive.

Cleared to attempt approach.

Ghost Fragment: Awoken 2[edit]

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I was nothingness. If I existed before, I existed as possibility, as potential, stretched thin across the aether. And maybe there was a body that looked like my body, complete with a soul that could be confused for someone rather like me. What I am now was not yet real. And then I was born, and the universe was free to begin.

Others were present at my birth.

A great ceremony had just begun. Because newborns are selfish beasts, I assumed I was the object of attention.

I didn't notice the singing until the singers fell silent. And then She appeared.

She was above me. Ethereal and handsome and elegant. I assumed my face was like her face and that odd idea gave me strength enough to smile.

"Secrets," she said. "Creation is built on secrets and the encryptions that keep those secrets safe."

I made my first sound. It meant nothing but she understood it as a question.

"We are a beautiful creation," she said. "And we must keep ourselves very safe."

Ghost Fragment: Awoken 3[edit]

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Fear.

Fear. That’s the only vivid memory left in me. It’s the moment when my fear was so thick and urgent that I gave up breathing. I stopped pretending to think. How I remained on my feet was a mystery, because the terror was bearing down on me, like a mountain about to crush my soul.

But I have to ask, “What was terrifying me?”

Darkness ruled the sky. The world around us had shattered, and it seemed vanishingly unlikely that we would outlive this one awful day. Yet the fear didn’t come from the surrounding mayhem and despair. The source was inside my skin. I was utterly terrified of my own awful nature.

And which part scared me?

Inside me was an essence woven from beyond. Was I Awoken before this?

She was still in my head. I could hear her song growing fainter.

Gone?

Not yet.

A new crippling terror was taking over.

I was focused entirely on my fear. But I had to make an effort.

And it occurred to me then that nothing in the universe was more dangerous than human hubris.

I still had this Other within? But the human side was what mattered: Weak and foolhardy, sure to fail in the next moment.

That’s why I was afraid.

Then someone spoke.

Maybe it was me. I don’t remember.

I was trying to focus, and a new thought took me: My soul lay between those two entities. And that’s how I am still: The boundary, the seam.

The friction.

And that’s when the fear began to fade.

Exo[edit]

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"Ask yourself: what threatened your Golden Age ancestors so much that they constructed the Exos to defend themselves?"
—Card blurb

Built for a long forgotten struggle, the Exos are self-aware war machines so advanced that nothing short of a Ghost can understand their inner functions. They remain ciphers, even to themselves: their origins and purposes lost to time.

Whoever built the Exos fashioned them in humanity's image, gifting them with diversity of mind and body. Many of the City's Exo citizens live and work alongside their organic brethren. But others fight again, re-forged in the Light of the Traveler to serve as Guardians.

Ghost Fragment: Exo[edit]

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- which in the end is just a matter of substrate chauvinism. It doesn't matter if the system thinks with flesh or superconductor or topological braids in doped metallic hydrogen, as long as the logic is the same. And our logic is the same. Yours and mine.

If I am a machine then so are you. If you are not a machine then neither am I. Exo minds are human. It is incontrovertible.

You understand? I'm going to take that slack-jawed stare as understanding.

Now here's the real question. Why are Exo minds human? What's the design imperative? Why does a war machine - yes, absolutely, I am a war machine, built by human hands; and you are a survival machine built by the engine of evolution. Don't interrupt me.

Why does a war machine have emotions? Why should a war machine have awareness? These are not useful traits on the battlefield. Don't flatter yourself. They are not useful. So why should the Exo mind mimic the human architecture so closely?

You know what I smell on you? I smell the stink of anthropocentrism. I think you think that there's only one way to think. That's why the Exo mind is so human, you presume. Because all higher thought converges.

My friend, you should meet the Vex. There is nothing human in them.

Now. This is what I believe happened, back in the time before any Exo can remember. It explains everything.

I think someone wanted to live forever.

Ghost Fragment: Exo 2[edit]

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Hi. Thanks for your interest. I'm recording this for posterity.

Warlock thanatonauts die and come back with insight. I'm going to attempt the same process to get at buried memories. Specifically, I'm going to fire a charged particle beam into my head and see what comes out. We Exos have been around a very long time. I want to know what's in there.

My Ghost is standing by to repair me.

Okay. Three two one

STAG echo six SWORD sierra nine SERPENT

We are falling into the world. Everyone is on fire. There's a ship above us but it's coming apart just like a flower, alloy and fusion flash, pierced through and through -

The voice says Atmospheric interface. Trajectory nominal. Rabid two three you are outside the window. (I think I am the voice)

I can see the whole earth below me and the sky we are falling out of is black without stars.

Ghost, shoot me again.

RAPID four RAMPART four RATCHET tango eight zero

We are on the ice. This is elsewhere and elsewhen. There is a mighty aurora and it is reflected in the ice so I walk between two fires although the one below is cracked and full of corpses. I have and am a weapon.

Up in the sky there is a hole in Jupiter and it tears at me when I look at it. It tears at me. It is hungry. Maybe the hole is not in Jupiter but in me.

CROWN castle candor cobalt coral

Ghost bring me back.

serrate sulfur ANATHEMA amber actual aspen

Ghost bring me back now.

Ghost Fragment: Exo 3[edit]

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Shame

Shame. Did I ever suffer exhaustion? Someone asked the question. Or maybe I asked it of myself. Then it looked at me. This moment was real. I told it what every Exo knows: “What can’t touch you has no strength over you. And there’s no place for fatigue to latch onto me.”

But shame is a different affliction.

I’m a soldier. I was forged by other hands and forced into the role of warrior. According to my scars, I fought and fought. Besides bits and flashes, every battle has been forgotten. But I have this clear, awful sense that others died. In my unit, every soldier was killed except for me. Yet despite a thousand chances to be shredded and scrapped, here I stood, no weapon in my hands, making fists out of habit but with nothing to hit.

I’d fought to save the Earth. That was my sense of things. But our world was collapsing around us, and every soul was doomed. Even cockroaches and microbes would die. And being an expert in the art of losing battles, I saw no ending to this battle but another loss.

And I was ashamed.

The shame took hold of me. It shook me. Shame stole my mass and my resolve. Suddenly I felt like a feather, like a breath, like any small nothing ready to be lost in the first breeze.

But in the midst of that despair, a fresh thought took hold.

I was cursed.

And do you know what a curse is?

It is stubborn. A curse delivered by the gods will hold you when everything else has given up on you. And it was obvious that survival was my eternal curse. A thousand battles and how many were won? Judging by the evidence, none. And that’s why the shame was chewing at my ceramic guts. But despite the horrific losses, I had endured.

Closing my eyes, I forced my fists to open.

“This isn’t over,” I said. To this enemy, to myself. To the wind threatening to carry me away.

“This war isn’t done with me.”

Human[edit]

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"This was our world, our solar system. We were here first. And no matter what the darkness brings, we will be here at the dawn."
—Card blurb

Humans are survivors, tough and resilient, descended from those who built a Golden Age only to see it ripped away. Now, after an age of retreat and desperate struggle, they fight to take back their solar system and claim a new future. There are those who believe the Traveler chose Earth for a reason. Now it is humanity's obligation to prove itself worthy of the Traveler's faith.

Ghost Fragment: Human[edit]

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From the diaries of Commander Jacob Hardy, pilot, Ares One

The mission is a go. Crew of three: Mihaylova, Qiao, myself. Immediate departure at the next Hohmann window to Mars. The MREs and return ships will chase us out.

How do I feel? I said at the press conference I felt privileged. Historians will read this diary, but it won't take their insight to tell the world that I'm terrified. It's the human reaction.

What I wish I could convey is the - the exhilaration. That's the biggest thing. I'm not a spiritual man, but I've always believed there's something transcendent about spaceflight. Something pure. We go out there because we can. Because it's who we are.

Now we go because we have to. Because the unknown came to us. In fourteen months we'll be face to face with it, and by the time we arrive, it should be active again - just like it was active on Jupiter, and Mercury, and Venus.

I wonder what happens if it doesn't stop at Mars. I wonder if it'll leave us there in the sand, and come to Earth, and do here what it's done everywhere else.

I hate that we're carrying weapons. I understand the necessity. But I hold to my belief: there's something beautiful out there.

It's up to us to reach it.

Ghost Fragment: Human 2[edit]

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From the diaries of Commander Jacob Hardy, pilot, Ares One

Everybody asks about the words.

The truth is I'm not much of a poet. Ares One didn't leave us with bandwidth for anything except blunt competence. We came in perilously hot, trying to select a landing site through the chaos of thickening atmosphere and turbulence that bloomed off the target. A twenty minute round-trip lightspeed delay to Earth meant we could only count on ourselves.

When the number three engine went diagnostic during the second course correction, I thought we might go catastrophic.

But Qiao brought us in. Mihaylova brought us in. I just flew the ship.

The Ares One excursion vehicle was built for thin winds and icy dust. We came down into a storm: the breath of God, a ripple of change rolling down off the artifact. We aborted on three sites and finally I took us into powered hover and brought us down on reflexes and instinct.

Then we ran the checklists, suited up, and left the vehicle.

There was a script, and it's true, I botched it. I got my boots down and I made the most famous gaffe in human history. Said the first thing that came to mind: a warning to the others.

"We're walking into a rising wind."

I didn't mean to say anything immortal. I just thought it'd be useful to know.

Ghost Fragment: Human 3[edit]

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From the diaries of Commander Jacob Hardy, pilot, Ares One

The hike from Ares One.

You've watched it. Everything was recorded. I think you can get it in full immersion, now, and fly around like a hummingbird. I'll add what I can.

The route was planned. We all went together - the CEV and Ares One itself had enough automation to go home alone in the event of crew loss. Whatever we'd find at the artifact, it needed the human element.

We carried rifles. They made us heavier and slower and probably less safe. I think the argument about the rifles can be left for another time. What's important is -

It turned out well. Look at me. Look at us! You're talking to a ninety-year-old man. A ninety-year-old who's never been sharper. I'm miles ahead of every cognitive benchmark.

What's happened to me is good. What's happened to all of us is good. When we crested that rise and made visual contact with the artifact I don't think any one of us dared dream that it would end this well.

We went to Mars at the cutting edge of human civilization. And it wasn't our weapons that won the day.

It was our ship. Our training. Our camaraderie. Our belief that if we just reached out to the universe, not to grasp for profit or security but with an open hand, we would be elevated.

We were right. That makes me so happy. To this day.

Ghost Fragment: Human 4[edit]

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From the diaries of Commander Jacob Hardy, pilot, Ares One

Three human beings stood on a high ridge and saw the shape of the future. Saw rain strike a millennia-old desert. Felt the air sweeten with oxygen and warm water and the beginnings of life.

I am sometimes asked if I felt something die. The end of the era of human self-sufficiency.

I don't know how to answer that question. I do know that I was changed. Nobody could experience that kind of wonder and remain unchanged. The decades since have proven that to me.

I knew I'd never fly another mission like that. I recognized the need for a new love. That's why I threw my fresh cognitive skills into understanding the Traveler. How can one entity so quickly and utterly remake an entire world? Fifty years later, I'm conversant in high mathematics, particularly topological thoughts and the slippery irreality of Light. I'm involved in a project to study the Traveler's terraforming actions right now.

But I still enjoy the interviews. I like going back to that mission.

It makes me unspeakably happy to see how well it all turned out. And it makes me happy to remember I was there.

Ghost Fragment: Human 5[edit]

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Hope

Hope. And standing with strangers.

That’s what I remember. Hope churning beneath my skin, assuring me there was a place besides this place. A realm that would nurture us, not kill us. The Earth was ruin. Chaos and madness and death. We were standing on the Earth. Where I am now. But why am I still here? It was my turn to leave. I remember. I was waiting with others like me, and the ships would soon take us away.

But to where? Where was this hope?

I must have known. There had to be a name, coordinates. Except all of that is forgotten. Other than my absolute conviction in salvation, nothing remains.

The Traveler.

I remember that now.

Which was...

What?

I don’t know. Something has stolen my words, the imagery. But I still remember what it promised us...

The universe.

Yes.

Creation held in our hands.

But I was here for a reason.

And what would I surrender, just for the faint chance to remember what that good reason was.