In vanilla Destiny, one character in particular embodied the Frankenstein’s monster-style story Bungie had patched together after tearing up the plot during development: the Stranger.
The Stranger, an exo character who teleported in and out of the world like a robotic Doctor Who, was a character who led the player during the campaign, uttering nonsensical riddle-like phrases throughout. At one point, the player desperate for some exposition, the Stranger says: “I don’t even have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain.”
The phrase became something of a joke, an inadvertent embodiment of Destiny’s development troubles and the resultant mess that was its campaign.
Now, nearly four years later, it may finally be time to explain.
With the recent launch of Destiny 2 expansion Warmind, the series’ secret hunters have found – and solved – an elaborate ARG that ended up with a group of players finding a real-life replica of an in-game spear called the Valkyrie hidden in upstate New York.
This ARG kicked off when players found a symbol within the bunker of Destiny AI Rasputin. The raidsecrets subreddit, delighted to have found something interesting to sink its teeth into, set to work. Symbols led to codewords which eventually led to a secret message, discovered by redditor Randomiser. This message contained a set of coordinates that pointed to a mountain in New York state.
This is the message:
“thank you for taking the time to piece together this message, friend. the time of our final conflict is drawing closer and you and ana have an important role to play in the events to come. so watch over her, guardian. i would have no life without ana or the exoprogram. i regret that we have become strangers, but we each have a path that we must walk. and, ironically, there never seems to be enough time. tell her, rasputin’s first attempt was in the right location, but the wrong moment. look here: 43.549573, -73.544868 – e”
The Ana referenced in the message is Ana Bray, the character who plays a major role in Warmind’s story. The “e” refers to her sister, Elsie Bray and, according to Destiny’s greatest loremasters, the Stranger.
Let’s go over that message again. “I regret that we have become strangers.” There’s your first nod. “…, ironically, there never seems to be enough time.” There’s your very clear second.
There is more evidence: as redditor Quintero_J noticed, the Exo Stranger and Ana Bray wear the same symbol.
It turns out, Elsie was in contact with the Vex research group known as the Ishtar Collective, which vanilla Destiny will know well, and ended up messing about with Vex tech in order to divorce herself from space and time and “diverge”.
The collective feeling is Elsie survived this process (became an exo) via the “exoprogram”. And it’s through using this Vex tech that the Stranger is able to visit the player in Destiny’s campaign, seemingly with knowledge of the past, present and future, as well as alternative timelines and realities.
Further evidence comes from the release of two new sparrows with the Warmind DLC: the Eon Drive and the Anseris Overdrive. The Eon Drive looks like a future version of the Anseris Overdrive, which Elsie built.
“I’ve always used science to create art, whereas Ana applied art to science,” reads the Anseris Overdrive text.
“I couldn’t have finished that Sparrow without my sister’s help. The original prototype is long gone, but I’ve held on to one of the final models. It won’t be of much use to me where I’m going, so I leave it to you.”
And here’s the Eon Drive text:
“I’d forgotten what this place looks like. It feels like only yesterday I had a badge and a desk. Not a lot survived, but somehow this old thing is still around. If you’ve come this far, we have a lot in common. You feel that same drive to see something through to the end, don’t you?
“I’ve never been the sentimental type, but at this point I’m a stranger to my own nature. It just feels right that I’m back, for now. By the time you read this, we’ll have just missed each other. I’ve run the simulations, and I can’t stay. Not yet.
“Take care of her for me.”
That sounds like the Stranger talking. And another nod: “at this point I’m a stranger to my own nature.”
And finally, the Worldline Zero exotic sword, which carries the description: “A single strike can alter the course of history”. The lore text for the sword contains an email exchange between Dr. Willa Bray (another Bray) and Elsie:
“El, congrats on your success! I saw the latest readings. This will be huge! I did have some thoughts on potential applications of your research. Let’s have a chat, dinner will be on me. :-)”
Elsie proceeds to delete this email and all other files.
The only reference to Elsie in vanilla Destiny comes in the form of the in-game description of the rare spaceship Eon Trespass (space and time trespasser?).
“Born from the mind of Elsie Bray, three years before she disappeared.”
So, it looks very much like Elsie Bray, sister of Ana Bray, is in fact the Stranger from Destiny. But there’s no guarantee she’ll return in-game in a future expansion or even a theoretical Destiny 3, so this theory may go unconfirmed. And questions remain. Why did the Stranger help the player out in Destiny’s campaign? What’s her objective? Who’s the person she speaks with over comms? What does she know about The Darkness – Destiny’s long-in-the-tooth menace players hope will finally unveil itself properly via those pyramid ships glimpsed awakening in Destiny 2’s post-credits scene?
Meanwhile, this latest revelation is a cool payoff Destiny lore nerds have waited nearly four years for, and while we’re still waiting for the Stranger to show up in-game again, it seems she’s finally ready to explain why she doesn’t have time to explain.