You needn't resent my hesitation. Mine is a prejudice shared by many: evolution's paintbrush cut within the Hive a terrible anatomy rendered to elicit fear; they are loathsome things to look upon, after all. I speak not as some superstitious provincial afraid of the dark, but as a Ghost well-versed in the language of suffering. Look at this one: they call him a Knight, this sin putrefying upon a slab. Is it only brute strength that qualifies a knighthood now? I have little compassion for the universe's mockery upon chivalric ideals. In contrast, I call myself a creature of moral strength and sound reasoning, and as such, believe these traits allow me to judge so unforgivingly—but alas, I am also afflicted by a most curious and inquisitive nature. It is why, when my debased fellows departed to find unity with the Hive, I found myself compelled to witness their descent. Not to share in it, of course. I doubt we share anything more than a species and the dark urge we all undoubtedly feel. Yet as I watched them, I could not deceive myself into denying the elegance of pouring the Light in all its multiplex glory into these avatars of terrible intricacy. It is a sinister geometry, but not without its beauty. Gazing on them with an eye unvarnished by niceties, one can see that a fiendish purity of purpose drives them. They spill confidence like a vintner drunk on his own reserves. Such a shame that this purity and confidence was leveled at the unforgivable quintain striking at our great Traveler and unraveling its works. I shudder at the ease with which my comrades ignore such basic logic. This is the Hive! Disciples of that unholy church which laid our creator low. They struck for its heart and shattered a roaring conflagration into ten thousand motes flickering in the wind. In their fervor, they… played midwife, of a sort, to Guardians. To Ghosts. To me. Cause and effect. Legacy. Is this what my fellow Ghosts see? Why it feels… right? Then with their foundation of logic, what is my hesitance except some… provincial superstition?
Three-Oh-Three floated in the shadows as her modest flock of Ghosts scanned the ruins. For centuries, they had combed through the long-dried spatter of a fallen world, each hoping to find their prize. She always watched, knowing she would never find what she needed… just as surely as they knew they would. A joyous chime pierced the air, and the little Ghost's mood sank. It wasn't a sound she heard often, but she recognized the melody that heralded the shrinking of her group. El gestured across the tumbledown intersection, where Trill chirped hollow advice to a fawn-wobbly Guardian as the others watched on. Three-Oh-Three turned away and grumbled. She supposed she could just ignore them. If they let her. "Three!" Peris bobbed, practically bouncing on her. "Three, Trill's found her Guardian! Come congratulate her!" Anger flared, white hot. "Congratulate?! Are you—You know what? Fine." Three-Oh-Three swiveled back toward the impromptu celebration and raised her voice. "Hey, Trill! Congrats on abandoning us all!" "Three…" "What? I'm so HAPPY for her! I'm not resentful at all about our fanatical devotion to dead Humans, the species who couldn't even stop the Darkness the first time around!" "Three, this isn't the time!" "When is the time, Peris? When are we going to start asking questions? Why did we just arbitrarily decide to dedicate ourselves to these squishy creatures forever? They aren't fit to hold the Light!" "Three… can't you at least be happy for us?" Trill's voice was soft. Three didn't respond. "This is the way we form a bigger family and serve a larger purpose. That's what it's all about. But maybe… if after all this time, you still can't share that with us…" El paused. She'd often come so close to saying this, but always backed down before. "Then maybe you shouldn't search with us." Three floated, letting the ultimatum settle. "Fine." There was nothing more to be said after that. One by one, the rest drifted away, resuming their work. El hesitated for a moment. "Goodbye, Three," she whispered. "I do hope you find your family." Three-Oh-Three turned away to look up toward the night sky. The twinkling stars stared back like a million judging eyes. But she knew then, gazing at those quiet spaces between them… they were her family.