|Do we have a deal? by grundalug|
Those Who Fell
The Fallen are those who have fallen from all possible graces. They have betrayed their fellow humans to the Colser, and yet the Colser rejects them as crude and uncultured creatures. And so they sit at the edge of Colseran space, shunned by all. The Fallen live their lives as puppets dancing on the strings of greater powers; pawns to be traded and sacrificed for the slightest advantage Yet, they fight on, regardless. What drives these men and women forward, despite this rejection? What has brought them to this place? In truth, there is no one answer; the Fallen's reasons for siding with the Colser are as diverse as the Fallen themselves. Some were ostracized by the Colser for failing to properly adjust to their new lives of nigh-unlimited wealth, while others were never given the chance to integrate into Colser Society at all, but were merely pulled along in the wakes of their treacherous leaders.
The Colser's promise of unlimited wealth and freedom seduces humans across all walks of life, but surprisingly few of these converts manage to make their way to Colseran space. The journey is long and expensive, and many of the teeming masses simply have no way to make the crossing. And yet those who do manage it have their lives changed forever. Few handle this transition with the grace expected of them by their new peers. Most are swallowed in a vortex of over-indulgence--a chaotic swirl of mind-altering substances, ostentatious displays of wealth, and a general lack of appreciations for the truly fine things in life. The Colser cannot exile these disgraceful neophytes, but they can ostracize them. And so these ex-humans find themselves slowly but surely pushed to the fringes of Colser society. In the end, few return their social calls other than Enders and other Fallen.
In this world--in any world--there are those who would give anything for power. There are far more who, once they have power, would give anything to keep it. When the Way of the Prophet began its meteoric rise, there were rulers who looked at its growing hold over the hearts and minds of their people and despaired. When the Church of the Way began pulling together the disparate human nations together to form the Imperial Republic of Centaurus, they decided to act to preserve their power. But to fight the Imperial Republic, they would need a powerful backer. And so they turned to the Colser. In the time since their betrayal of humanity, these rulers have become immortal god-kings, their lifespans bolstered on into infinity by the gifts of the Colser. And yet, for their subjects life goes on much as it did before their lords' change of allegiance.
Life on the Front Lines
The Fallen's location at the border between human and Colseran space puts them at the heart of their cosmic war. And so, pushed on by the subtle manipulations of the Genii, they march to war. The Fallen war machine is perhaps the strangest in the galaxy, blending as it does Colseran mega-technology with simple, human-made engines of war. Great hulks, shaped into demonic forms by Colseran nanotechnology, stand alongside mere mortals armed with little more than a rifle. The masters of the armies stride through them like gods, sending their mere mortal minions to their deaths or transforming them into a twisted mass of fangs and rage with but a flick of their wrist and a muttered word of command.
For both Humanity and the Colser, the Fallen are the face of the 'enemy'. Few will ever see a citizen of the other power in person, and so the relative proximity of the Fallen makes them into the focus of each side's ire. When an Imperial citizen imagines the twisted decadence of the Colser, he sees not the artist who carves the surface of planets into sculptures of glass but the Fallen warlord who spends his every waking moment drowning in drink and gold. When the Colser imagine the tyranny of the Imperial Republic, they see not the Church councils whose deliberations shape the lives of billions but the Fallen monarch who grinds their people underfoot for wealth and power.
As I think about the Fallen, in relation to current hellholes like Ukraine or Syria, I think the essence of the Fallen is that they are a heterogeneous collection of nations that are all essentially pawns between the 2 major powers of the Colser and the Republic. They cannot be accepted by either side, yet both sides are constantly meddling with them for political and military purposes.
Fallen group A has cool new Colser toys, and are sent off to use them. While Fallen group B seeks repentance, and will sacrifice themselves like lemmings to try and earn the salvation half-heartedly offered by the local Prophet. They end up fighting and killing each other as mere proxies.
The other thing to think about is that for most Colser or Republic citizens, the Fallen are what they know as 'the enemy'. Most Republic citizens will never meet an actual Colseran, and most Colserans will never wander around a Republic orbital. So both see the other in the Fallen, without really knowing each other at all.