Long ago, in the Golden Age, the Exo were created, war machines built for battle. So why is it that today they are so far from machine and so close to human?

As seen in Ghost Fragment: Exo:

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.

And also

My friend, you should meet the Vex. There is nothing human in them.

And there’s really only two accounts of Exo in their original state, the first being Mystery: Vault of Glass 2.

  • A landscape, from a position a few feet off the ground, moving laterally to the point of view. The Ghost appears to be clipped to the Exo’s belt. The image is of a battlefield, and over two dozen Exo soldiers can be seen marshalling for battle.
  • A chaotic scene of Vex and Exos fighting a titanic battle. The backdrop is a pitted and scarred landscape, a planet unidentifiable from present context. Vex energy bolts hang in midair as the frames click by, teeming masses of constructs surging towards an entrenched line of Exo soldiers.

But there was an issue, Exo would receive mind-wipes, and they weren’t working.

We got issues

The reboots, they don’t wipe it all away. Not everything. And the new life—plus the Light—does something to what’s left. Amplifies it, scrambles it, reshuffles the fragments like a dealer rifling a deck of cards, putting the hands we’ve already won and lost back into play.

Most of us do what we can on our own to forget. Let the itch go unscratched.

Me? I learned long ago you gotta play the hand you’re dealt.

That comes from the pages of Cayde’s Journal and shows the inside of what an Exo Guardian goes through. He mentions “reboots” which is what the mind-wipes were, and how now, thanks to the Light, it’s not working. Memories are being shuffled back into their mind. Memories that seem to haunt other Exo, as they try to forget them. This shows us Cayde in the current time, as a Guardian, but in the past, in the Golden Age, he was different.

No She doesn’t know me at all, doesn’t even recognize my face even though I’ve been standing over her shoulder for months. I’m nothing more than a fixture, a required imposition. An unwanted necessity.

I’m no egghead. Never was. Just like now, back then I was on a need to know basis, and the only thing I need to know is that nothing and nobody gets through that door and past me without at least three layers of security clearance and a whole lot of muscle.

Still. I think about saying something. Saying anything. In a second my mind rifles through a trillion possibilities.

But she’s already turned back to her work. I shuffle my feet, straighten my back, and return to mine.

Exo weren’t Human back then, they were fixtures, objects, unwanted necessities. But how could that be? Obviously there’s sentience beneath the surface of them, obviously they live and think and feel. How can they just be a fixture? In my opinion that is the process of the reboot, of the mind-wipe, a robotic lobotomy to keep them unthinking, but the human in them grows back.

So what then do the Exo wish to forget? Their times used as war-machines? Or is there another reason? The answer isn’t very clear, but there are more unanswered questions when it comes to the Exo than answered ones. One such being the number associated with them. Cayde-6, Lakshmi-2, Eriana-3, etc etc. what do these numbers mean?

I know I began weak, the same as you. I don’t care if you’re an Exo, staring at that number and wondering where you’ve come from.

The above is from Lord Saladin, which is a bit of a tease because a comrade of his had wondered where he came from, what his number meant, and he went looking.

“You seem far too obsessed with these ‘Warminds’.” Timur stops and stares into the horizon as if smelling something; not danger, discovery. He draws his fellow Iron Lord close. “Tell me, Felwinter,” he whispers, “what does the word Seraph mean to you?”

Felwinter leans in to whisper back. “Old Earth theology? I know its power well; one can make great use of the traps of faith and its myths.”

“Damn you, Exos!” The whisper game abandoned. “Do you even ponder the before? Or that number etched into your ‘flesh’? Do you see yourself in your dreams? Th—”

Lord Timur

Lord Timur led Lord Felwinter to a Clovis Bray facility to search for the origins of Exo, but more importantly it shows how this number is portrayed. It’s actually etched into their “flesh” into their body somewhere.

Now, from Cayde’s journal we know when he was still Human he sold himself to Clovis, this is widely agreed as the point where he became an Exo, so this brings us to the point of it all. What is the number?

Banshee dialogue has leads people to believe that the number directly corresponds to the number of memory-wipes an Exo has received. But to have your number etched into the body post wipe? In my opinion that disagrees with it. How could you etch and re-etch the number, in Banshee’s case 44 times? Of course the Exo “flesh” could just be removed and replaced, but I think that his dialogue was a misdirect.

We’re also shown in a newer card that Exos might actually go through another “dehumanizing” process, a name change.

Ghost Fragment: Cayde-6

  • “banshie real name” “banshie-44 real name” “scout rifle locker default password” “traveler giant eyeball” “giant eyeball planet” “giant eyeball aliens” “giant alien eyeballs” “delete image history” “how do i delete images” “accidentally set giant alien eyeball as terminal background” “how much do new terminals cost” “vanguard discount for new ter~XXX

So from this card we see recent searches in a Vanguard terminal by Cayde,and two of them reference Banshee not actually being named Banshee. Of course this could be false, it could just as easily be Cayde is being Cayde, leading us down a dead end because he’s quirky. But it does open up another possibility for what that number means.

So what could the number mean? Some possibilities:

  • Maybe the number is the ‘batch’ in which the individual was converted, so Lakshmi was part of the second batch and Eriana part of the third. (I did once think they were the order in which converted, but there’s an Anahera-3 and also Tinasha-3)
  • Perhaps the number really is the number of times the individual was reset, but these resets all happened at once, as part of the conversion process. So for Cayde he was successfully converted with only 6 resets required, whereas Banshee required 44.
  • It may be that the number is the number of memory wipes the Exo has received, however whether these wipes happened in a quick succession or after a certain amount of time had passed is not confirmed.
  • It seems absolutely crazy to think, but it’s still technically possible, maybe “Cayde” And “Banshee” are batch labels, and the number the order they were converted within that batch.
  • There’s also a possibility that upon conversion there was a need of more than one mind wipe, that number being etched into the skin of an Exo to signify the “quality” of the utility being bought. Lakshmi is a 2, so she’s high quality. Banshee is 44, so he’s not.