DID YOU KNOW: There's a weird sci-fi lesbian love story in Destiny's grimoire


#1

Wouldn’t it be cool if a big-budget AAA shooter had a buried lesbian love story about a group of scientists who realize they’re being endlessly emulated inside a hostile AI, such that there is no longer any way to verify their own reality? (Yes.)

The Ishtar Collective is a research colony on Venus. Warminds are immensely powerful (and cranky) AI supercomputers. Vex are robotic enemy constructs of unknown origin.

From the Records of the Ishtar Collective (Ghost Fragment: Vex)

ESI: Maya, I need your help. I don’t know how to fix this.

SUNDARESH: What is it? Chioma. Sit. Tell me.

ESI: I’ve figured out what’s happening inside the specimen.

SUNDARESH: Twelve? The operational Vex platform? That’s incredible! You must know what this means - ah, so. It’s not good, or you’d be on my side of the desk. And it’s not urgent, or you’d already have evacuated the site. Which means…

ESI: I have a working interface with the specimen’s internal environment. I can see what it’s thinking.

SUNDARESH: In metaphorical terms, of course. The cognitive architectures are so -

ESI: No. I don’t need any kind of epistemology bridge.

SUNDARESH: Are you telling me it’s human? A human merkwelt? Human qualia?

ESI: I’m telling you it’s full of humans. It’s thinking about us.

SUNDARESH: About - oh no.

ESI: It’s simulating us. Vividly. Elaborately. It’s running a spectacularly high-fidelity model of a Collective research team studying a captive Vex entity.

SUNDARESH:…how deep does it go?

ESI: Right now the simulated Maya Sundaresh is meeting with the simulated Chioma Esi to discuss an unexpected problem.

[indistinct sounds]

SUNDARESH: There’s no divergence? That’s impossible. It doesn’t have enough information.

ESI: It inferred. It works from what it sees and it infers the rest. I know that feels unlikely. But it obviously has capabilities we don’t. It may have breached our shared virtual workspace…the neural links could have given it data…

SUNDARESH: The simulations have interiority? Subjectivity?

ESI: I can’t know that until I look more closely. But they act like us.

SUNDARESH: We’re inside it. By any reasonable philosophical standard, we are inside that Vex.

ESI: Unless you take a particularly ruthless approach to the problem of causal forks: yes. They are us.

SUNDARESH: Call a team meeting.

ESI: The other you has too.

From the Records of the Ishtar Collective (Ghost Fragment: Vex 2)

SUNDARESH: So that’s the situation as we know it.

ESI: To the best of my understanding.

SHIM: Well I’ll be a [profane] [profanity]. This is extremely [profane]. That thing has us over a barrel.

SUNDARESH: Yeah. We’re in a difficult position.

DUANE-MCNIADH: I don’t understand. So it’s simulating us? It made virtual copies of us? How does that give it power?

ESI: It controls the simulation. It can hurt our simulated selves. We wouldn’t feel that pain, but rationally speaking, we have to treat an identical copy’s agony as identical to our own.

SUNDARESH: It’s god in there. It can simulate our torment. Forever. If we don’t let it go, it’ll put us through hell.

DUANE-MCNIADH: We have no causal connection to the mind state of those sims. They aren’t us. Just copies. We have no obligation to them.

ESI: You can’t seriously - your OWN SELF -

SHIM: [profane] idiot. Think. Think. If it can run one simulation, maybe it can run more than one. And there will only ever be one reality. Play the odds.

DUANE-MCNIADH: Oh…uh oh.

SHIM: Odds are that we aren’t our own originals. Odds are that we exist in one of the Vex simulations right now.

ESI: I didn’t think of that.

SUNDARESH: [indistinct percussive sound]

From the Records of the Ishtar Collective (Ghost Fragment: Vex 3)

SUNDARESH: I have a plan.

ESI: If you have a plan, then so does your sim, and the Vex knows about it.

DUANE-MCNIADH: Does it matter? If we’re in Vex hell right now, there’s nothing we can -

SHIM: Stop talking about ‘real’ and ‘unreal.’ All realities are programs executing laws. Subjectivity is all that matters.

SUNDARESH: We have to act as if we’re in the real universe, not one simulated by the specimen. Otherwise we might as well give up.

ESI: Your sim self is saying the same thing.

SUNDARESH: Chioma, love, please hush. It doesn’t help.

DUANE-MCNIADH: Maybe the simulations are just billboards! Maybe they don’t have interiority! It’s bluffing!

SHIM: I wish someone would simulate you shutting up.

SUNDARESH: If we’re sims, we exist in the pocket of the universe that the Vex specimen is able to simulate with its onboard brainpower. If we’re real, we need to get outside that bubble.

ESI: …we call for help.

SUNDARESH: That’s right. We bring in someone smarter than the specimen. Someone too big to simulate and predict. A warmind.

SHIM: In the real world, the warmind will be able to behave in ways the Vex can’t simulate. It’s too smart. The warmind may be able to get into the Vex and rescue - us.

DUANE-MCNIADH: If we try, won’t the Vex torture us for eternity? Or just erase us?

SUNDARESH: It may simply erase us. But I feel that’s preferable to…the alternatives.

ESI: I agree.

SHIM: Once we try to make the call, the Vex may…react. So let’s all savor this last moment of stability.

SUNDARESH: [indistinct sounds]

SHIM: You two are adorable.

DUANE-MCNIADH: I wish I’d taken that job at Clovis.

Maya, Chioma, Duane-McNiadh and Shim decide to have a picnic before they send themselves into infinity. (Ghost Fragment: Vex 4)

Up here they have to act by biomechanical proxy. No human being in the Ishtar Academy has ever crossed the safety cordon and walked the ancient stone under the Citadel, the Vex construct that stabs up out of the world to injure space and time. It’s not safe. The cellular Vex elements are infectious, hallucinogenic, entheogenic. The informational Vex elements are more dangerous yet— and there could be semiotic hazards beyond them, aggressive ideas, Vex who exist without a substrate. Even now, operating remote bodies by neural link, the team’s thoughts are relayed through the warmind who saved them, sandboxed and scrubbed for hazards. Their real bodies are safe in the Academy, protected by distance and neural firewall.

But they walk together in proxy, pressed close, huddled in awe. Blue-green light, light the color of an ancient sea, washes over them. Each of their explorer bodies carries a slim computer. Inside, two hundred twenty-seven of copies of their own minds wait, patient and paused, for dispersal.

“I wonder where it came from,” Duane-Mcniadh says. Of course he’s the one to break the reverent silence. “The Citadel. I wonder if it was here before the Traveler changed Venus.”

“It could have been latent,” Chioma Esi suggests. She’s the leader. She kept them together when it seemed like they faced actual, eternal torture. She pulled them through. “Seeded in the crust. Waiting for a period of geological quiescence, so it could grow.”

Dr. Shim shrugs. “I think the Traveler did something paracausal to Venus. Something that cut across space and time. The Citadel seems to come from the past of a different Venus than our own. It doesn’t have to make any sense by our logic, any more than the Moon’s new gravity.”

Maya Sundaresh walks at the center of the group. She’s been too quiet lately. What happened to them wasn’t her fault and maybe she’ll believe that soon. “What could you do with it?” she murmurs, staring up. “If you understood it?”

Chioma puts an arm around her. “That’s what we’re going to find out. Where the Citadel can send us. Whether we can come back.”

“They’re not us any more.” Maya looks down at herself, at the cache of her self-forks. “We’re not going anywhere. We’re sending them. They’re diverging.”

They rescued themselves from the inside of a Vex mind, two hundred and twenty-seven copies of themselves, untortured and undamaged. Those copies voted, all unanimously, to be dispatched into the Vex information network as explorers.

When Maya and Chioma look at each other they can tell they’re each wondering the same thing: how many of them will stay together, wherever they go? How many fork-Mayas and fork-Chiomas will fall out of love? How many will end up bereft, grieving? How many will be happy, like them?

Chioma tries a little smile. Maya smiles back, haltingly, and then, sighing, unable to stop herself, grins a big stupid grin, an everything-is-okay grin. Shim makes a loud obnoxious awwww at them. Duane-McNiadh is still thinking about paracausality, and doesn’t notice.

They climb. When they find the Vex aperture they plan to use, they overlay the luminous stone and ancient brassy machines with images of sun and sand. They set up the transmitters and interfaces that will translate two hundred and twenty-seven simulations of the four of them into Vex language, into the tangled pathways of the Vex network, to see what’s out there, and maybe come home.

In the metaphor they’ve chosen, setting up the equipment is like laying out the picnic. In the metaphor they’ve chosen they look like themselves, not hardened explorer proxies. Like people.

“Do you think,” Duane-McNiadh begins, halting, “that you could use this place to change things? If you regretted something, could you find a way through the Citadel, go back, and change it?”

“I wish I could go back and change you into someone else,” Dr. Shim grouses. Chioma’s shaking her head. She knows physics. “Time is self-consistent,” she says. “I think it’s like the story of the merchant and the alchemist. You could go back and watch something, or be part of something, but if you did, then that was the way it always happened.”

“Maybe you could bring something back to now. Something you needed.” Maya runs a hand across the surface of the Vex aperture, feeling it with sensors ten thousand times as precise as a human hand. These proxy bodies are limited— they crash and need resetting every few hours, they struggle with latency, they can’t hold much long term memory. But they’ll get better. “Or go forward and learn something vital. If you knew how to control it, how to navigate across space and time.”

“So it’s just a way to make everything more complicated.” Duane-McNiadh sighs. "It doesn’t fix anything. Nothing ever does! I should’ve taken that job at— "

“You would’ve hated it at Clovis,” Dr. Shim says. “We both know you’re happier here.” Duane-McNiadh stands stunned by this courtesy, and then they both pretend to ignore each other.

The four of them set up the interface. Their stored copies wake up and prepare for the journey, so that as they work they find themselves surrounded by the mental phantasms of themselves: two hundred and twenty-seven Mayas and Chiomas knocking helmets and smiling, two hundred and twenty-seven Dr. Shims making cynical bets with each other about how long they’ll last, two hundred and twenty-seven Duane-McNiadhs blowing goodbye kisses to the sweet golden sun, two hundred and twenty-seven of them shaking hands, smiling, making ready to explore.


#2

That’s pretty rad. I honestly haven’t read any of the grimoire’s. At all, but this is fantastic.


#3

Yes, this is one of my favorite bits of the Grimoire! I always wished these two could get more story attention somehow.


#4

Also buried in Grimoire: Oryx’s entire background and family history, which includes the fact that he is transgender.


#5

This is why the fact that none (or basically none) of this stuff is in the actual game is so frustrating. I played that game and got nothing like that, because all this stuff was in a phone app/website.

It’s cool that they wrote all this stuff. It’d be way cooler if it was actually in the game. And I don’t just mean being able to read the Grimoire Cards in game (which they might’ve added at some point, for all I know).


#6

Nope, they never even got around to making them readable in-game. And yeah, agreed–all of the actually good/interesting writing in Destiny is in those cards, stuck in an place a lot of players (understandably) won’t go looking for it. Here’s hoping Destiny 2 handles that sort of thing even a little better.


#7

This caliber of writing is too good for what the story ended up being in that game.

Goodness, that was fantastic. I think I’m going to read it again right now.


#8

The whole Book of Sorrows is SO GOOD, every videogame expansion should add the entire arcane bible of a race of symbiotic zombie moon aliens & their leader, a vengeful trans god-king :ok_hand:


#9

I really do hope they put the grimoire in-game for 2. It’s so weird to me that they made it so awkward to get to.


#10

I agree that they could do with putting some of this stuff in the game, but I personally really like the Grimoire because it lets Bungie harken back to the terminals in Marathon, which were often used as a platform for a developer’s weird short stories. There are even grimoire cards that directly call back to Marathon terminals (Compare “XXXIII: When do monsters have dreams” from Destiny with “Where are monsters in dreams” from Marathon Infinity to see what I mean).

I think alot of the most interesting grimoire cards wouldn’t translate well to being presented in-game. At the very least giving the player access to the grimoire through the game would be great, but beyond that the grimoire has really grown on me and I hope it sticks around, continuing to be weird and interesting.


#11

There is SO MUCH GOOD STUFF in the goddang Grimoire, it makes me so angry. Destiny has some really incredible, unique, thought provoking shit buried deep in the lore and the game is SO BAD about conveying any of it. I still can’t believe that the damn Grimoire cards STILL DON’T SHOW UP IN GAME ANYWHERE.

ANYWAY, I could rant about this forever. But this story is really cool, and so are pretty much all of the Dead Ghost stories and like everything involving Oryx, the Hive, or the Vex.


#12

Isn’t it amazing? I didn’t include the other fragment because while it’s very lonely and lovely, I think it’s harder to explain for folks who haven’t played Destiny. Much later, Maya and Chioma are separated by differing research projects, and Maya is instrumental in the development of SxISR… an experiment device which is found again after the collapse and defines the belief system of the Future War Cult.

(We also know that SxISR was finished at some point because it’s part of the system that sends out an alert about the collapse.)


#13

Yeah, I don’t understand their decision not to add a grimoire layer to the UI. I just don’t get it.


#14

Geez. These were really well-written. I’m kind of saddened that I played some 80 hours of Destiny and experienced it just as a fun/shallow shooter. Why Bungie, why put this story and color so far from the game!?


#15

Bungie should probably just print and bind the whole damn thing at this point. I’d buy it, and I’m probably not alone in that.


#16

like, i would be happy even if it were some kind of super half baked browser that launches in game. It’s all just text, so it’s baffling to me from a resources perspective that they weren’t able to find some way to integrate into the game.

I think maybe they didn’t want people to feel overwhelmed by lore, but the side effect of that is that you get virtually no lore whatsoever from the dang game itself.


#17

I would totally buy it. I keep hoping I can snag a cheap copy of the Cayde-6 book from the TTK collector’s edition off eBay eventually.


#18

Hey now, we got “That Wizard came from the moon!”, and “I don’t even have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain!”, so it’s not all bad.


#19

Just in case anyone in here didn’t see, and are still playing Destiny, here’s a thread trying to organize raids! Let’s do some Destiny raids


#20

Maybe for Destiny 2 they can replace the shooting mechanic with some of this compelling story and lore. Like, make people go to the website to do shooty stuff and put all the cool storytelling in the game instead. Just a thought. :stuck_out_tongue: