Bite-sized Backstory 46: Per Audacia Ad Astra (Destiny)
In the years after Uldren’s victory over Sjur, the Awoken have returned to working on their ambitious dream of space flight. And this time, instead of living on a distant mountain top or remaining hidden in the woods, Mara Sov is out in the open, at the forefront of it all. And Sjur and Uldren are there with her.
In Uldren, Mara had an enforcer who could win battles and put down opposition with his skill, his determination, and even with his good looks.
In Sjur, Mara gained two things:
- First, New political legitimacy. She is now welcomed openly in the courts of Queen Nguya Pin and has the support of the legendary Paladin Sjur Eido. We readers know that Mara helped create and guide Eccaleism. With Sjur, one of the most famous Eccaleist, at her side, Mara is now the de facto, unquestionable head of Eccaleism. In practice, this would make Mara Sov one of the most powerful leaders on the Distributary. Her power probably rivals or even exceeds that of Nguya Pin.
- Second, Complete political dominance over the Gensym Scribes. Remember, after Alis Li resigned, the political office of Queen waned and for a long time and the Gensym Scribes ran things. Nguya Pin did a lot to restore the office of Queen to power, but even then, the Scribes were major players in her courts. (Probably because of the technological knowledge and influence they wielded.) But also remember, it was the Gensym Scribes who gave Sjur all their knowledge of Mara’s whereabouts and gave her permission to kill Mara. They had wanted to avoid another Awoken civil war. But now, with Sjur and Mara on the same side, they can do nothing to oppose Mara’s plans, because if they try, she would share with all the Awoken that the Gensym Scribes had conspired to allow her murder.
For the next several decades, the Awoken work together as closely as they ever have until they do indeed achieve spaceflight. Throughout it all, Mara has been pulling strings, influencing corporate mergers and buyouts, and probably causing unwanted deals and lines of thinking to collapse. With her leadership, the Awoken deploy satellites and space elevators and orbital habitats and build advanced detection facilities on the ground all for the purpose of learning more about their place in the universe. We next catch up with Mara as she and Queen Nguya Pin are watching the launch of a final observatory satellite that Mara designed.
As Mara watches the launch she has a curious thought as she considers the beauty and powerful of the rocket soaring into the sky:
The Awoken could have been angels. Instead, they are flesh.
That’s pretty interesting considering Mara now leads the political movement that believes the Awoken could have never been gods.
Once the launch concludes, something else interesting happens. Queen Nguya Pin abdicates the throne. She’s not stupid. She knows Mara has been the real leader of the Awoken for many many years. She went along with Mara for the sake of the Awoken people and the sake of the monarchy, but now she has had enough of Mara’s manipulations. She basically tells Mara off and ends her little tirade with… not a threat exactly, but with the intention of getting to the bottom of why Mara has done all the things she has done.
I am going to find Alis Li, wherever she's gone, and ask her all my questions about you. I'm very interested to know the answers.
Mara, who can easily afford to be gracious, tells Nguya that she has been a wonderful queen, and that no one could replace her. At the same time, of course, Mara is already considering influencing things so that someone named Devna Tel will become the next queen. Devna Tel apparently is at odds with the Gensym Scribes, something that Mara still finds very useful.
Later, Mara meets up with Sjur and they fly off to some new destination to continue Mara’s work. Here we learn that Mara is exceedingly lonely despite the fact that she is approaching the completion of another one of her long term goals. For instance, Mara can’t help but think back to her mother who she probably has not seen in decades. Sjur notices Mara’s forlorn expression, and at first attempts to console Mara, but she quickly changes the subject, knowing Mara well enough now to know that she will not talk about her feelings.
But this time, Mara does something unexpected. Instead of stewing alone in silence, she moves over and, with a glance, she makes room for Sjur to sit beside her.
”Don't say anything," Mara warns her. "Not a word." And so they pass the flight in silence, but not alone.
For the next thirty years, Mara and her followers listen to all the instruments Mara has had built on the ground and record massive amounts of data from all the satellites she has placed in the sky. The Awoken people know this. They know that Mara is studying and cataloging. Maybe there’s even an announcement or discovery made every few years from the companies and scientists that Mara ultimately has control over, but for the most part, nothing is said, and the Awoken of the Distributary are left to wait and wonder until one day Mara schedules herself for a worldwide televised broadcast to detail her findings.
What Mara has found, really what she has always known but has now used science to prove, has drastic implications for the Awoken. It may, will, also have some major implications going forward past the main story of Forsaken. This is one of those pivotal moments in Destiny’s lore that changes things forever, so instead of summarizing Mara’s broadcast or commenting on it line by line, I’d like to present it to you all here in its entirety:
Mara looks into the camera and lets the fire in her eyes speak.
They are waiting on her, the Distributary's millions, her Awoken people. She has stoked their curiosity with thirty years of painstaking analysis. When they look up at the night sky, they see the stars of her observatories among the crowded bands of habitats, the spindly orbital factories, towering elevator counterweights, the burning roads of matter streams.
"Let me tell you of our world," she says.
There are the facts of tectonics and atmosphere, of water and climate: the parameters of the sun that feeds them. "No infants died last year. No child went unfed. No youth came of age illiterate, no one suffered illness who might have been treated. We have long surpassed the eutech gathered from Shipspire; yet we have grown carefully and cleanly. We have eluded pollution, eradicated plague, and chosen peace. No maltech weapon has been discharged in centuries. Our atomic weapons were dismantled before they could ever be used. We are our own triumph."
She has elected not to use graphics or theater. She would rather they remember her face.
"You know yourselves," she says. "Let me tell you of your cosmos. We live in a spatially infinite, isotropic universe 12.1 billion years old. Its metallicity is ideal for life and for the spread of technological civilizations. In time, the distance between all points in the universe will contract to zero, and the cosmos will collapse into a singularity, to be reborn in fire. There will be no end to eternity here."
She pauses. She waits. The whole world is out there, begging for the answer to the question.
"Our world is a gift. And we must refuse it."
They are Awoken. They love secrets. They will wait for her to explain.
"We have detected a pattern that was imprinted into our universe by its ancestor: a fingerprint of the initial conditions into which existence was born. From this information, we have confirmed the most primordial of Awoken myths. Our universe is a subset of another. We live within a singularity, a knot in space-time, that orbits a star in another world.
"Conventional relativity would suggest that time outside an event horizon passes quickly compared to a clock within, but our universe has a peculiar relationship with its mother. Thousands of years have passed for us on the Distributary. Outside? Centuries, at most. We are a swift eddy in a slow river.
"These ideas may not surprise you after centuries of theorizing and philosophy. But we have decrypted new data from the cosmic microwave and neutrino background signals. We have discovered voices… the voices of distress calls. They tell a story of bravery, of war, and of desperate loss.
"We were not always immortal. We did not earn this utopia by covenant with any cosmic power, or by attaining an enlightened moral condition. We are refugees. We fled from an apocalyptic clash between our ancestors' civilization and an invading power." She lowers her eyes. "The signals we have retrieved tell us that our ancestors were on the edge of defeat. Perhaps extinction."
"It is time that we accept our debt. The Distributary is a refuge, not a birthright; a base to rebuild our strength, not a garden to tend. I ask you, Awoken, to join me in the hardest and most worthy task a people has ever faced. We must leave our heaven, return to the world of our ancestors, and take up the works they abandoned. If some of them survive, we must offer aid. If they have enemies, we must share our strength. We must go back to the war we fled and face our enemies there."
She lets them dangle a moment before she drives it home. "We have also determined that our birthright, our immortality, is tied to the fundamental traits of this universe. Once we leave, we will begin to age again. In time, we will all die.
"Will you join me, Awoken? Will you answer my call? All I offer you is hardship and death. All I ask is everything you can offer. But you will see an older starlight. You will walk in a deeper dark than this world has ever known.”
Out of all the Destiny lore there is, I think this piece come the closest to hitting on that latin phrase Bungie used back before and during Destiny 1. Per Audacia Ad Astra means, roughly, “Through Boldness To The Stars”. Wow.
There are a couple of key things to consider here:
- First, this is the culmination of Mara’s grand plan. She has been working all along to prove to the Awoken that they must go back and help humanity. She has lied, and manipulated, and she even sparked a devastating civil war all to fulfill a duty that not many others really believed in. But, in her plea for the Awoken to follower her back even though it will mean all of their deaths, she has also shown herself to be one of the most noble Destiny characters we know of.
- Second, because of the way time works in this pocket universe that the Awoken exist in, only a few hundred years has passed for humanity while a few thousand have passed for the Awoken. We have at least some reason to believe that the Iron Lords first began protecting Earth about 500 years after the Traveler sacrificed itself to defeat the Darkness. That would place Awoken like Mara at somewhere around 5,000 years old. Or maybe more, given that not even Mara can tell exactly how much slower time is passing for the Awoken.
This accelerated passage of time also has serious implications for the what’s left of Humanity and the Awoken post-Forsaken. Perhaps we’ll get to it in more detail someday, but the basics of it are that Savathûn, the craftiest of the Hive’s top level leadership, is possibly the one keeping the Dreaming City in its three week loop as she searches for a way to invade and conquer the Distributary. With the faster flow of time she would be able to advance and grow her armies ten times faster than anywhere within our universe and would become completely unstoppable!
That’s all for now. We’re almost at the end of this part of the Awoken’s history, but there’s still a little more to go. Next time, Mara will have a long chat with Alis Li where she reveals to the former queen that one all important secret that she has been hiding.
- Bite-sized Backstory 46: Per Audacia Ad Astra -
- Literal chills - ZackDark, 2019-01-22, 20:51
- Chills indeed. Thanks, Raga! - Oholiab, 2019-01-23, 11:58
- This is actually the best part. - cheapLEY, 2019-01-23, 12:25