The Let's Play Archive


by Pythonicus

Part 7: Humans, Awoken, and Exos

Hey, everyone! It's been a long time since we've delved deeply into the grimoire cards, so we've got a lot of information to get through. This being said, I'm going to dedicate some updates specifically to the Grimoire. As I said, the original cards on the website are gone now, and I've been able to track them down elsewhere, but that also means that I can't do the side-by-sides I was doing before.

Anyway, Let's start with learning some more about the friendly races we've seen across the game.

Grimoire Card: Human posted:

"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."

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.

Grimoire Card: Ghost Fragment - Human 1-4 posted:

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 - is 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.


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.


The hike from Ares One.

You've watched it. Everything was recorded. I think you can get it in full immersionm, 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 out 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.


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-sufficency.

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? Fiftyy 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.

So that's a lot of interesting insight into where we begin the game. If you remember the intro to the game, we actually see what Commander Hardy talks about in the latter two cards; the trek from their craft toward where the Traveler parked itself over Mars.

But that's enough about us boring Humans. Let's take a peek at the space elves Awoken.

Grimoire Card: Awoken posted:

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

It is said the 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 who venture out to the Reef, hoping to learn its secrets, find no special welcome from the reclusive Queen.

Grimoire Card: Ghost Fragment - Awoken 1 posted:

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 oxygen in short supply.

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

Interior scans inconclusive.

Cleared to attempt approach.

Grimoire Card: Ghost Fragment - Awoken 2 posted:

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."

From the first Ghost fragment card, we can assume that some sort of great calamity happened to one of the escaping ships fleeing from the Collapse, wherein it collided with some sort of free-floating comet that somehow had life-sustaining characteristics and atmosphere enough to breathe. I suppose this is why when we're in the Reef, our Guardian's helmet is off.

That second card leads to some more questions, though. I'm guessing here that the mysterious "She" is actually the Queen herself, and that she personally oversaw the birth of a new child into their society. It isn't clear whether or not she oversees every birth or if this one in particular was special in some way. Open to speculation, I s'pose.

Moving on, let's check out the Exo.

Grimoire Card: Exo posted:

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

Built for a long-forgotten struggle, 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 purpose 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, reforged in the Light of the Traveler to serve as Guardians.

This one seems a little bit to me. "Yeah, they're robots. They can't remember shit, so hey, you can be this robot".

Grimoire Card: Ghost Fragment - Exo 1 posted:

-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 presum. 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.

This gives the Exo more personality; trying to understand why they are the way they are. It's also incredibly human in nature. After all, we're never satisfied with the thought of 'well I guess it's just the way it was meant to be'. We yearn to understand, to learn, to think. Apparently those wants were transferred to the Exo when they were created, as well.

Grimoire Card: Ghost Fragment - Exo 2 posted:

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.