Destiny 2: The Hidden Truth of Lakshmi

Destiny-2-Lakshmi-2-Cover

As the Season of the Splicer progresses, the narrative of the Eliksni refugees is clashing into the Last City society, making an old plot emerge. What ties the Future War Cult, Lakshmi-2, the Ishtar Collective, ancient myths, and the lurking forces of the Hive Ascendants and the Vex?

Lakshmi, Maya, and the Future War Cult

“While the origins of the Future War Cult are greatly debated, their mark has been found on ancient chambers and encampments throughout the system, dating them back to the late Golden Age. Though their secrets are vast, they have proven indispensable in our struggle against the Darkness, earning them power and respect in the City Consensus and among Guardians.”

Grimoire, “Future War Cult”.

The Cult is one of the most ancient factions in Destiny. Its story starts at the end of the Golden Age. Its founder is none other than Dr. Maya Sundaresh, from the Ishtar Collective fame. We discussed in depth what the Collective is in this article – we strongly recommend using it as a reference henceforth.

The cult foundation is tied to mysterious circumstances. In a secret lab located in Lhasa, Maya and her team were experimenting with Vex technology. Forty years have passed since the unsettling experience of being simulated by the Vex in the Ishtar Collective. She never forgot that traumatic yet enlightening experience and her path brought her to cross the Vex again.

Destiny 2 - Future War Cult
Credit: Bungie

Specifically, the project in Lhasa involved a particular instrument, or as we will come to know simply as “The Device”. This piece of technology allowed those who delved into it to experience the mindforking – a state of mind we really know little about, connected to the simulation of different timelines in Vex procedures. The process proved to be fatal for some functions of the human brain, causing the subjects to develop different issues.

To cope with these problems, the researchers tried to use drugs and meditation techniques, but nothing worked. Maya experimented with the mindforking a few times, even out of nostalgia of her wife, Chioma Esi, who she cannot contact due to the secrecy of this endeavor.

Through the Device, she could be in contact with the other, simulated Chioma Esi that forty years prior the Collective released in the Vex network as infiltrators. One by one, the subjects emerged changed by the experience in the Device, included Maya.

“We speak of nothing but the device. We talk about it like a demigod. When I get out of here I know the whole world will look like a fraying veil.
I think it’s clear that part of the problem is substrate. We need more than flesh and drug to survive this.”

Grimoire, “Ghost Fragment: Vex 5”.

As the influence of the mindforking is causing more and more issues, Maya reaches a point in which she can no longer sustain the abstinence of the human touch from his wife, nor the growing dissociation effect the whole team is experiencing.

“I’m resigning, my love. I’m done with this work and I’m done with being apart from you. I’ll see you again soon. I can’t take this journal out with me, so I’ve left it for the others, and asked them to continue the log.
Maybe it’ll become a tradition. The gospel of our little cult.”

Grimoire, “Ghost Fragment: Vex 5”.
Destiny 2 - Piotr Jablonski - Lakshmi at the Consensus
Credit: Bungie

It is reasonable that with these last words, Maya is stating that the Future War Cult is born, from the ashes of the experiment in Lhasa, with the idea of creating a new Device with more reliable outcomes and effects. But then, the Collapse happened, and all the records went dark.

It is important to notice that the Cult is basically the only Faction that has a backstory at all; Furthermore, this backstory is intertwined with one of the most important lore in the history of the franchise (the Ishtar Collective). When Bungie goes to these lengths to write a foundation of something in Destiny, it means it has deeper importance, out of the gameplay mechanics of the Factions.

Let us not forget that the Cult was an outsider too, brought inside the Consensus just because an attempted coup to the Consensus had been vanquished, and the Concordat Faction was wiped out. Interesting enough, Lakshmi is the only Faction character who has been brought back after Bungie stated that the Faction will be not part of Destiny 2 gameplay anymore – underlining the importance of the Cult’s arc in the current lore developments.

Credit: Bungie

The True Identity of Lakshmi?

After “Beyond Light” DLC, many questions emerged about the true identity of some of the most notable Exo personalities around. Following the revelations about the Stranger and Banshee-44, many similar and recurrent characters were investigated.

In a similar manner, questions and theories were raised about Lakshmi’s identity. As some Reddit posts pointed out, along with many interesting elements that in the years just added up.

Lakshmi’s name is coming from the eponymous Hindu goddess, which in turn is deeply connected to one of the Buddhist’s Mental Factors: the Maya.

We can then connect Lakshmi’s real pre-Exo identity to the founder of the Cult herself, Maya Sundaresh. Two possible confirming elements are coming from the lore. Maya stated that no drugs or “flesh” can stand the power of dissociation coming from the mindforking while surfing into the Device.

Destiny 2: Goddess Lakshmi
Credit: Common License

This could have led the brilliant scientist to opt for a radical yet efficient solution: to be transferred into an Exo body. This could have covered the gap between the human physiology and the Vex one, making her a biological mind into a mechanical body, and thus more easily accepted by the Device system.

Lakshmi showed interest in the theory of the Exo self-rebooting, seeking recordings of these events in time. Self-rebooting seems to have sparsely but consistently happened to Exo in history – a spontaneous resetting, caused by diverse triggers.

[…]
These were Exos that had seemingly rebooted themselves; they had wiped away their own identities and taken a new number. Or had someone else somehow done it for them? Could there be records of some of them outside the archive? Could one or two still be alive?
Lakshmi-2 closed her eyes, slowed her breathing, and focused on the dichotomy of her emotions. What she’d discovered felt momentous, but she knew her colleagues would treat it as a curiosity. People often discounted Exos. It was if there were a line between frame and flesh and blood. The idea offended Lakshmi-2, but at the same time, she knew Exos were different enough from normal Humans. The existence of Exos who reset themselves—for whatever reason—proved that.
Or did they?
A quick search of the medical archives turned up ailments and causes considered quackery by the Golden Age: psychogenic amnesia, dissociative fugue, retrograde memory loss, personal obliteration, betrayal theory…
What did it all mean?
Lakshmi-2 felt uncertain, and that always boded ill.

“Legacy’s Oath Grips”, armor.

The possibility that Maya has been transferred into an Exo and then self-rebooting into Lakshmi-2 personality is plausible at this point.

READ MORE: Destiny 2: Eliksni – from Desperation to Inclusion

The Time Divergences

“We built the device in mimicry of the Vex gateway systems from Ishtar. An observatory, yes, but I think of it as a mind-ship. Capable of displacing its payload across space and time.

Grimoire, “Ghost Fragment: Vex 5”.

Using the Device is not a fail-proof way to get data from the future. As Chioma put it and Maya replied:

“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. […] Or go forward and learn something vital. If you knew how to control it, how to navigate across space and time.”

Grimoire, “Ghost Fragment: Vex 5”.

The description of mind-forking is incomplete, but we know that the futures envisioned are not completely reliable and we need to delve into the quantum theories by deeming these continuities as altered. When the observer intrudes himself into these futures, he alters it and several possible timelines are then created, with small and infinite variables.

We have a glimpse of what Lakshmi has seen inside the Device from the lore tab of the “Stochastic Variable”: It starts with her as the head of a politic faction and ends with her as the leader of the human civilization and a messiah.

Lakshmi-2 : faction head : Exo : politician

1 : the Eliksni Quarter : screaming : a crackling portal : treachery : Fallen attack : we’re being overrun : where are the Guardians—
2 : the Last City : the Tower in ruins : Fallen scavengers sift the rubble—
3 : the Last City : radioactive dust : Dark growths in the ruins: where is the Traveler : mutated Ghosts—
4 : the Eliksni Quarter : a crackling portal : Asher speaks : Fallen being attacked : Dead Orbit overhead : Saint-14 besieged : FWC surrenders—
5 : the Eliksni Quarter : the Endless Night : a crackling portal : Mithrax firing wildly : the Cult flees : Ikora triumphant—
6 : the Eliksni Quarter : a crackling portal : snipers fire down : blood runs in the gutter : an Ether tank explodes : the Endless Night : Asher speaks : those FWC traitors—
7 : the Botza District : a crackling portal : Fallen flee : FWC banners : Zavala is gone : Mithrax on trial : Lakshmi-2 looks over the crowd—

Lakshmi-2 : head of state : Exo : prophet : savior

“Stochastic Variable”, weapon.

The tale Chioma is referring to in the Ghost Fragment is “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate”, a novelette written by Ted Chiang about time travel. The themes explore the idea of the limitation of free will inside our limited comprehension of time-space – a concept that is intrinsic to many paradoxes tied to time travel. When trying to change things while traveling in the past, everything stays the same, as those changes were always part of that past. This is what is called a Casual Loop.

Destiny 2 - Stochastic Variable
Credit: Bungie

“However certain we are of our simulations, they always contain an element of unpredictability.” —Lakshmi-2

“Stochastic Variable”, weapon.

Putting all of this together, we can conclude that the timelines explored with the Device are then fallible and must be processed and interpreted, in some way, much like a religious prophecy. The apotropaic elements are clearly part of this process, as the use of the Device goes.

As Osiris once understood, scanning the future with our limited comprehension of how time works and unfamiliarity with the Vex process of communication, parsing, and processing information, we will be left with very few answers and many more doubts. He himself has given up in trying to keep up with the information overload of this process.

“I am beginning to wonder if we were wrong about the merchant and the alchemist. Or if that explanation of time was incomplete.”

Grimoire, “Ghost Fragment: Vex 5”.

The elusiveness of our understanding of time is coming from us being linear creatures, who evolved to follow time in a specific direction, as we discussed in this article before. Our vision of a timeline will always be partial and, from a quantum perspective, we actually don’t know if observing or being present in that timeline will change its outcome and forking it to a billion different resolutions.

READ MORE: Destiny 2: A Descent into the Vault of Glass

A Viral Infection

Aside from all the problems inherently tied to the mindforking and the alternate timelines readings, the Device, now the focal part of the Future War Cult, has become part of a greater plan.

Savathûn, through the means of Quria, the Blade Transform, has infiltrated the Vex domain, integrating the Hive magic science, her altered Sword Logic, and technology. Her scopes are vast and diverse. She already attempted a closer observation routine of her foes, through the Savathûn’s Eyes we destroyed in the Season of the Arrivals.

Gathering intel and twisting reality through perception and false information is what makes Savathûn strong, at the point that she gains paracausal power through this process, feeding her worm. While a greater discussion is needed in order to explain better her strategy, this is enough to introduce the connection to what is happening in the Season of the Splicer.

Destiny 2- Lakshmi-2
Credit: Bungie

Through a viral element, the Savathûn’s Song, the Hive Queen has infiltrated the subconscious mind of the people of the City and the Guardians too. While this is slowly and constantly spreading, another front is giving better results: the network of the Future War Cult.

Ikora, thought you’d want to see this. It presents as binary in our systems, but something is splicing hashes in. I pulled it from the Tower’s Nexus Iso-feed. It’s all over FWC networks… and elsewhere.

| 01100011.# 01000101 01000110.# 01000100.# 01000010 01000100.# 01000101 01000001.# ||

“The Deicide”, weapon.

The string of binary code found by an Ikora Rey’s Hidden operative has proven to be Savathûn’s Song. Hence, through the ideal connection between the Cult’s network and the Vex technolgy, by the mean of Quria, the Witch Queen has now a foothold into million of a cult followers minds.

READ MORE: Destiny 2: The Dark Future of Praedyth

Smoke and Mirrors

A viral medium is a weapon of choice for a trickster deity such as Savathûn. In the case of a viral medium, we are willing to accept an infection and, in some cases, we are welcoming it. Savathûn is taking advantage of something that can invade our perception of reality, leaving a backdoor for something else to come. It is the base mechanic behind the propaganda tool as well.

The principle of virality in communication is not solely based on randomness, as many tend to believe. There is a precise understanding of the demography behind and what is its background identity. Fake news can be spread fast among certain communities. Religion and cults are working on the same principles.

We are all growing superstitious. The behavior of the device is inconsistent. Impossible to replicate. We turn to ritual behavior to appease it.”

Grimoire, “Ghost Fragment: Vex 5”.

For some seasons, the virality of Savathûn’s Song has been growing, but it was not until infecting the correct community that it has now unleashed its full potential. Invading the Future War Cult’s network made the viral message from Savathûn bloom.

Lakshmi herself is wondering about that song which everyone is singing in the City, with lyrics that are ironically speaking of positivity… none other than the same melody of Savathûn’s one. Given the Cult’s tendency to have worshipping practices and apotropaic fundaments, this kind of propaganda has a really strong grip on its ranks.

“Have you heard the song of the people echoing through the City? ‘Rise up as one, march toward the sun…”.
Hmm. The words of people reaching for dawn in this Endless Night. People who have still not given up hope. Neither have I.”

Lakshmi-2, in-game cutscene.

Savathûn‘s Endgame

Far from being a justifying reason to Lakshmi’s hate toward the Eliksni, the influence of Savathûn is nonetheless fueling what is happening in the Last City. Her position is now immensely strong inside the walls of the City, and its political and social mechanism.

The use of Lakshmi in Savathun’s plot is a perfect example of the multi-layered narrative in Destiny, where each side of the lore is backed by a diverse interpretation tool. Symbology, for example. We have seen that the Lakshmi deity principle in Hinduism and Buddhism is tied with Maya, which is, in turn, the state of reality bound with illusion.

Savathûn’s endgame is a long-term strategy that will be fully revealed at “The Witch Queen” DLC release, and what we are seeing now is just the laying of its foundation. In the next future, we will discuss another pivotal part of this plan and what possibly will be the real and surprising nature of the outcome.

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