Content of the article: "Soulfire is a byproduct of Forced Evolution through Nuclear Transmutation and Decay [Theory]"
- 1 It's Hive, so I'm sure it's going to be strange. But at its core, their "magic" is still just science. – Ana Bray
- 2 To be as the sword: Keen, hungry, cyclical, ontological —
- 3 The Light lives in all places, in all things.
- 4 "A spark can give life…or take it." – Arc
- 5 "The Hive had rituals for forced evolution. And what we'd found hinted at transmutation through corruption, degradation, and rebirth—the Weapons of Sorrow were real." —IX: Embrace
- 6 Sunless Cells and Murder Batteries
- 7 "To gain power, you must sacrifice."— Necrotic Grip
- 8 "A concentrated transmutation catalyst that reacts to both the Light and the Darkness." —Wormspore
- 9 Electron Capture, known also as Inverse Beta Decay
- 10 Green fire.
- 11 Worm-food and Worm Metabolism
- 12 Arcane Alchemy
- 13 Alkane Dust and Alkane Spores.
- 14 "I have to say, the process is so elegant; the science involved almost seems poetic. It may be reproducible."— Necrotic Grip
- 15 Similar Guides
Originally posted in /r/DestinyLore
It's Hive, so I'm sure it's going to be strange. But at its core, their "magic" is still just science. – Ana Bray
I’ve wanted to make this post for some time now and have been considering the science of Hive Magic since Stasis was revealed as a Darkness subclass. A while ago I read the post “Hive soulfire as a product of sword logic, & necromancy as a means to feed a worm god”. This post would go on to inform my understanding of soulfire as essentially a byproduct of Hive magic in the same way that Perfect Crystals are a byproduct of Stasis.
The points we can take from it is that the Hive are not able to wield the Darkness through conventional means but rather have entered into permanent symbiosis with a Worm. This worm essentially grants Hive biological immortality as well as the ability to wield Paracausal powers but at a cost. They must continually kill in order to feed their worm.
If they don’t kill enough to satiate their worm then the worm will literally feast upon the soul of their host. We can see evidence of this with Worm Spore in the Dreadnaught where dead thralls have their ribcages burst open revealing glowing green spores of the worms that have consumed their host.
To complicate this there is a complex “tithe” system that the Hive have where this “tangible” product of killing becomes a kind of tax that must be tributed up the chain.
You Thrall, each of you will claw and scream, and kill what you can. Take enough killing to feed your worm, and a little more to grow. Tithe the rest to the Acolyte who commands you. You Acolytes, lead your Thrall in battle. Take enough killing to feed your worm, and a little more to grow, and take the tithe of the Thrall you lead. Then tithe the remainder to the Knight or Wizard who commands you. Thus you pay tribute. You Knights and Wizards, lead your followers in battle. Take enough devastation to feed your worm, and a little more to grow, and take the tithe of your followers.
Then take another portion, as much as you dare, and use it for your own purposes. But if it is too much, your peers will kill you and take it. Then tithe the remainder to the Ascendant you serve. An Ascendant will be those among the Hive who gather enough tribute to enter the netherworld. They will pay a tithe to those above them. And thus the tribute will flow, up the chain, so that Savathûn and Xivu Arath and myself will be fed by a great river of tribute, and we will use that excess to feed our gods, and to study the Deep. Thus all worms will be fed — as long as we continue our crusade.
The main thing to glean from this is that there is a tangible substance being transferred up the chain. The Hive feed their worms with the Light of their victims. As Savathun said “drink of the poisons of the worm, so that you might feed on death, and we did feed.” This right here is how we should understand soulfire – it is the tangible product of killing. The Worms feed on death. But more than that it is the tangible byproduct of the Sword Logic.
To be as the sword: Keen, hungry, cyclical, ontological —
We actually get a good description of how the darkness power of the Sword Logic works:
Let me give you a gift, Eris. Let me tell you about the power in the logic of the sword:
A Shredder or a Boomer is a powerful weapon, but it kills acyclically. You see? It sends out harm and it takes nothing back. The bolt passes away into nothing. A sword, though, a sword is like a bridge, a crossing-point. The sword binds wielder to victim. It binds life to death. And when the binding is done—the sword remembers. When the Boomer's fire has burnt away into axion and neutrino scatter, the sword goes on, hungrier and sharper.
So essentially the Ascendant Sword – unlike conventional Hive weapons operates cyclically and ontologically. It sends out harm and it takes something back. It binds the wielder to the victim and there is a transfer of life force. Essentially the Hive are draining the Light from their victims and this essentially becomes a source of power.
Ir Anûk pulled a sword star out of the sky. Together the wizards charged it with killing power and made an annihilator totem, which they used to smash the Vex.
This notion of charging with power will come up later but essentially the Light of the souls of those killed using the Sword Logic is the killing power Ir Anûk wields here and it's only by sacrificing our own paracausal Light that we are able to stop the totems from discharging.
The Light lives in all places, in all things.
As I have mentioned before, everyone in the Destiny universe has Light within them in the form of a soul. Even non-guardians. As Dredgen Yor said before shooting his victim with Thorn "You have no Light beyond the spark of your pathetic life. But a spark is something.
As I have mentioned previously in my article Light is not the Fundamental Forces, the soul or life-force in Destiny is essentially based on the Light and has its own life cycle. It can be thought of as the body (binding of cells), spirit (animated force or vigor) and the immortal soul or being of a person that continues to persist in the void after death.
For those who have read my post on Stasis you will understand that Stasis operates as a kind of reverse Solar, both of which affect the bosonic fields of matter. Bosons are force particles that carry quanta of energy as light and heat. So we can understand that both manipulate systems thermodynamically with Solar increasing entropy and Stasis decreasing entropy.
"A spark can give life…or take it." – Arc
I also explained Arc energy as dealing with fermionic fields whose quanta are fermions (electrons, quarks, neutrinos). Arc energy excites fermions such as electrons so much that energy exceeds the binding energy of the atom and thus the atom or molecule becomes ionized. As I stated this forms the basis of electricity and is also the process that binds molecules in chemical process and is thus important in creating complex matter such as cells, DNA and the building block of life.
When we wield Arc energy we are taking this to the extreme, charging our soul with Arc energy until the electrons sing and then channeling that chaos at our enemies through an electrical arc. While arc has enormously destructive powers, it is also seen as force for life.
So I began to reason, if Arc operated as a force of life that binds matter together and allowed the basis of chemistry to produce complex matter such as cells and DNA – surely there must exist and equal but opposite force of Darkness that had the power to deconstruct the bonds of matter and tend towards simplicity rather than complexity.
"The Hive had rituals for forced evolution. And what we'd found hinted at transmutation through corruption, degradation, and rebirth—the Weapons of Sorrow were real." —IX: Embrace
As many had pointed out Hive magic seems to operate in this manner. Hive magic is said to corrupt it’s victims and cause decay. Nokris had held Xol’s remains for so long that it had eaten grooves into the bone plating on his hand. Hive corruption in Xol’s lair had even begun to change the physical properties of the rock as Hive corruption spread.
In the latest season the Wrathborn Savek began to become emaciated after coming into contact with the Cryptolith.
She tore her eyes away from the obelisk and surveyed her body in the thin morning light. Her dry skin flaked. Connective tissue wasted at her joints, and a sickly crust had developed around her mandibles. She was emaciated from lack of sleep and Ether. Her hunger was a void, slowly filling with green vapor.
Savek herself had even begun hearing whispers from the Book of Unmaking or the “7th Book of Sorrow” that Dredgen Yor's followers discovered was in his possession. This book essentially describes “unmaking” yourself in order to free the formless part of the soul or consciousness from the body. A slow and painful process.
Sunless Cells and Murder Batteries
It was at this point that I couldn't help but see a similarity between the way Hive magic operated and a certain real world technology. It was clear that there was some kind of transfer of energy happening, a kind of inverse Arc that drained it's victims of Light rather than charging them. This same phenomenon can be observed in an electrochemical battery cell.
A conventional battery contains two electrodes of differing metals (zinc and copper) immersed in an electrolyte (usually sulfuric acid). The anode is the electrode where oxidation causes the metal to be stripped of its electrons and the cathode is the electrode that gains the electrons.
The electrolyte is the catalyst for the electrochemical reaction and the anode undergoes galvanic corrosion. As the electrons are stripped from the sacrificial metal they are absorbed by the cathode and an electrical current begins to flow.
"To gain power, you must sacrifice."— Necrotic Grip
Evidence for this may have come from the Sunless Cell strike where we follow Alak-Hul's energy marker from Founts to the Hanging crypts. Eris says "I can sense a powerful incantation. Hive runes hold the far door shut." and then Ghost says "My scan says the runes draw energy from those towers. If you get me over there I can hack them and open the door. The spell is getting weaker. Let's get to the other battery!"
Once we reach the crypt that holds Alak-Hul, Eris says "'Prison' is the wrong term. He holds his victims, tortures them, then renders them down into chitin for his ships." While the connection may be loose, it does beg the question – were the prisoners held in the Hanging Crypts being slowly drained of their life-force to power the Dreadnaught until all that was left was Chitin?
Whatever the case, a connection between Hive magic and the operation of a battery was apparent. But while the Hive victims may have been the anodes of a twisted murder battery, slowly decaying and relinquishing their Light, it was also apparent that the Hive's victims were not being dipped in vats of sulfuric acid. It was clear that something else served as the catalyst for their decay.
"A concentrated transmutation catalyst that reacts to both the Light and the Darkness." —Wormspore
Here is where things get real interesting. Essentially we can understand Hive magic as transmutation through corruption, degradation, and rebirth. Transmutation was the key word that would eventually reveal the truth of Hive magic and soul fire. The spore of the Worms was clearly vital in this dark magic and would serve as the catalyst.
We could start to see a life cycle of how Hive Magic operates.
- Rituals, signs and incantations are used to invoke Dark powers
- The victims of this Hive magic either slowly become corrupted or are killed quickly.
- Death by hive magic is followed by green flames
- A tangible power source is retrieved that can later be synthesized to feed the worm, power weaponry or fuel one's own growth.
It was also apparent that this power operated in the opposite manner to Arc. Rather than putting energy into an atom until its particles were excited above the binding energy and freed, Hive magic would do the opposite and reduce the orbit of particles in the fermionic field causing particles like electrons to lose energy.
I believe I found a scientific phenomenon that satisfies all the above conditions.
Electron Capture, known also as Inverse Beta Decay
Electron capture is a process in which the nucleus of an electrically neutral atom absorbs an inner atomic electron. During this process the atom transmutates to an element of a lower atomic number and releases energy in the form of an electron neutrino. This single emitted neutrino carries the entire decay energy and thus has this single characteristic energy.
This process happens naturally in radioactive decay but what would happen if we “forced” living matter to undergo this process?
Well carbon is a primary component of all known life on Earth representing about half of all dry biomass. This is why we are known as Carbon-based lifeforms. While some of the carbon that makes up our bodies is radioactive (Carbon-14 used in carbon dating), the majority of it (98.93%) is made up of the stable isotope Carbon-12.
Carbon-12 has 6 protons and 6 neutrons. What happens if we subject the stable Carbon of our bodies to forced electron capture? The carbon transmutates into an unstable isotope of Boron-12 (atomic number 5) and releases an electron neutrino as a form of beta radiation. This unstable isotope has a short half-life and will quickly decay into stable helium-4 gas. You can see a diagram of the isotope decay chain here.
If the decay energy released is high enough it will cause an exothermic reaction of the Boron molecules. What does Boron look like when it burns?
So essentially, what we witness as soul-fire is the visible exothermic reaction caused by the nuclear transmutation of carbon-based life matter as its bonds are weakened and stronger bonds are forms. Just as combustion produces a red fire that burns carbon based matter releasing heat and energy and reducing it to ash (a simpler form of pure carbon), Hive magic quickly decays organic matter through nuclear transmutation producing a green fire as organic carbon is transmutated into boron.
This then releases electron radiation and helium (beta radiation and alpha radiation) which is then captured by the hive and used as both a power source or synthesised into soulfire crystals to be used later or fed to the worm.
This is all of course just theory. But if you glean anything from this it is that soulfire is essentially a paracausal fire resulting from the forced transmutation and decay of the victims body and soul.
Worm-food and Worm Metabolism
We can also compare this phenomenon to another well known to us in our everyday lives. The Hive and the Worms as well as their technology is often biological in nature so it would make sense that the Darkness was being used to fuel a form of biological metabolism for the Worms.
Metabolic reactions may be categorized as catabolic – the breaking down of compounds or anabolic – the building up (synthesis) of compounds (such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids). Usually, catabolism releases energy, and anabolism consumes energy.
So essentially the Hive drain their victims of light through transmutation, but they are then able to use the Light in order to synthesize it into a simpler, tangible and more useful forms like a crystal. Just like when we eat food, our stomach acid breaks down the food into simpler chemicals – some of it becomes carbohydrates for energy; Some of it is resynthesised as proteins to build muscles and the rest is stored as fat to be used at a later date.
The very similar thing is happening with the symbiosis between the Hive and the Worms!
So essentially this dark alchemy is the transmutation and decay caused by the Darkness and channeled through the Worms responding to Hive rituals. The victims slowly decay and their bodies composition transmutates into simpler elements and sharper shapes. Light is released during this process and energy and matter that is harvested by the Hive. This is why we observe this “killing power” being used to charge Hive technology and feed worms.
We observe it in Necrochasm as “a weapon that would feed on its owner’s aggression—reaching further when angry eyes drew focus, its hunger rising as it tore through bone and flesh.” The weapon burns with green soulfire as it feeds on our light and releases a stream of arc energy bullets.
We observe it when we wield Thorn and devour the soul remnants left by our transmutated victims. We observe it in the "necrotic properties" of Necrotic Grip ( Necrotic, or cytotoxic venoms, are those which cause cell and tissue damage after envenomation. This can lead to the appearance of inflammation, lesions, and blisters).
But even more curiously, we observe it on something very simple on Titan.
Alkane Dust and Alkane Spores.
We are all familiar with this planetary resource but have we ever considered how it works or where it comes from?
Alkane Dust – Arcology flora and crystallized methane, synthesized with Hive materials.
Alkane Spores – An Arcology hydroponics experiment, fused with seeds coveted for research into Hive origins.
Defeat enemies on Nessus to collect organosynthetic construction residue – Collect Alkane Spores from Titan to catalyze it into a new form
Seed in Greek is spora, so I instantly connected the “seeds” with worm-spore. But what’s interesting is when we understand what an “Alkane” is. An alkane is a hydrocarbon consisting of a hydrogen and carbon atoms arranged in a simple tree structure in which all the carbon–carbon bonds are single.
Methane is the simplest Alkane.
If you didn’t know, Titan has literal oceans of methane and its virtually impossible for any kind of earth-based flora to thrive on Titan (see Life on Titan). This is because plants are largely made up of complex carbohydrates that require oxygen and are therefore reliant on water (H2O).
Essentially what I believe Alkane spores to be is Arcology flora that has come into contact with Hive rituals and the darkness powers of the Worm. This has essentially caused a forced evolution by simplifying its chemistry from a life-form dependent on complex carbohydrates to a reduced form dependent on simple hydrocarbons.
Essentially the sword logic has reduced the flora into a simpler, final shape that is able to survive the harsh methane rich environments of Titan.
Thankyou for reading. As always this is my own theory but I would love to hear your thoughts.
"I have to say, the process is so elegant; the science involved almost seems poetic. It may be reproducible."— Necrotic Grip
TL;DR: Soulfire is a byproduct of Hive Magic and the Sword Logic which uses the Darkness to paracausally force nuclear transmutation of stable organic chemistry. The mechanism by which it achieves this is through inverse beta decay, also known as Electron Capture. This mechanism rather than charging electrons beyond the binding energy like Arc instead reduces the energy of an electron until the proton captures it and turns into a neutron. In doing so the element transmutates into a simpler element and releases energy, alpha particles and electron radiation which is later captured by the Hive and synthesized for the Worms to metabolize. Since all life and organic chemistry is based on Carbon, Carbon transmutates to unstable Boron releasing decay energy. An exothermic reaction intense enough during the transmutation will combust the Boron producing a green flame and this is potentially an explanation for why soulfire burns green. In any case this is the Sword Logic in action that reduces the chemical and elemental complexity of life and allows the wielder to draw from the Light that is released during the process of rapid transmutation and decay.
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