“Everybody says they want answers. No, they don’t. Most people just want reassurance that the world is the way they already think it is. Genuine revelation – the knowledge that changes minds – upsets them. And they’ll hate you for doing it.”
- Richard Prescott (Coalition’s End, Chapter 13)
After Gears of War 2 there were quite a few questions left unanswered; where did the Locust come from? What were the Lambent? What causes Lambency in the first place? What was the purpose of the New Hope Research Facility? What were the Sires? Is the Locust Queen human? If so, why?
After Gears of War 3 was released, some of these questions were explicitly answered; Lambency is caused by imulsion. Imulsion is a parasite that affects multiple life-forms. Other answers, however, were not provided. The origins of the Locust still hadn’t been revealed, New Hope and the Sires had not been explored any further, and while we now knew Myrrah was human, it wasn’t explained why she was with the Locust.
When contacting members of EPIC for clarification on these questions, their response was that the answers were already littered piecemeal throughout the series, all we had to do was look.
So let’s look and see what can be found.
“Sera’s dying Marcus, the whole planet’s infected. It’s the imulsion that’s killing it. It was always the imulsion, you see, and I can stop it. I understand it all now.”
- Adam Fenix in his message (Gears of War 3 – Act 1, Chapter 1: Anchored)
“At the time of its discovery, there was no reason to believe that imulsion was a living organism. It exhibited no observable characteristics typical of life; no response to stimuli, no apparent method of reproduction, and no metabolic process. It has since become clear that this is not the case.
Though our examinations were sound, the assumptions upon which they were based-our narrow definitions of life-were not. It is very definitely alive, mutagenic, and highly invasive.
Viewed in this light, imulsion exhibits characteristics that resemble the structure and life cycle of many fungi. The bulk of the organism - in liquid form - is underground like a mycelium. The evidence of its existence that we have begun to observe on the surface in the form of stalks is the equivalent of fruiting bodies. Its periodic vapour-like emissions are perhaps best likened to spores. Its behaviour is parasitic yet simultaneously viral; It not only colonizes its host, it also reproduces in the host at the cellular level. Its life cycle appears to be a long period of dormancy followed by accelerated activity before maturation, but I cannot establish whether it has existed on Sera since the first origins of life or if it somehow developed or was introduced during human history.
A successful parasite does not kill its host, imulsion does. It may be inept, but I suspect the death of its host organisms - which appears to be every living thing on Sera, plant or animal - is part of its reproductive strategy, not an unfortunate side effect. Its high-energy content may be part of that.”
- Fenix Research collectible (Gears of War 3 – Act 5, Chapter 5: Ascension)
“Why’d they just drop off? They afraid of the imulsion fumes?”
“That… or somethin’ else. Keep your eyes open.”
“Hey, wait. What if we breathe in this ****?”
“Too late now.”
- Dom and Marcus (Gears of War 2 – Act 3, Chapter 5: Displacement)
In Gears of War 2 – Act 3, Chapter 5: Displacement, it could be seen that the Locust barges did not follow Delta’s commandeered barge through the imulsion vapours. In light of the above information it can be known that the Locust were aware that it was the vapours (imulsion spores) that caused Lambency as opposed to the imulsion itself. In Gears of War – Act 3, Chapter 5: Angry Titan, a Corpser is knocked into a lake of imulsion. Instead of turning Lambent, the Corpser simply burns and dies. In Gears of War 2 – Act 5, Chapter 5: Closure, a Brumak stands above many smaller lakes of imulsion and inhales large quantities of imulsion vapour. The Brumak is then seen to mutate quite rapidly and turn Lambent.
The Lambent, therefore, are the former members of other races that have become infected by the imulsion parasite and mutated into another life-form. The exploding nature of the Lambent allows imulsion to cover a larger area, and spores present within imulsion vapour are then released to infect other life-forms.
“Marcus, are we talking about imulsion? Is that it? God-damn imulsion?”
“Yeah, and how was it first discovered?”
“Oozing out of the ground. Pooling on the surface.”
- Dom and Marcus (Coalition’s End – Chapter 6)
“That luminous substance in the jars. Is all imulsion some form of Lambency, then?”
“I think so. It seems to have a long and complex life cycle.”
“So how much time do we have to beat this thing?”
“I only know that it’s spreading. So let’s assume we don’t have long.”
- Prescott and Adam Fenix (The Slab – Chapter 4)
“Marcus, I gave your father nearly twenty years to deal with the Lambent. He will deal with it, but not at my people’s expense.”
- Myrrah (Gears of War 3 – Act 5, Chapter 5: Ascension)
Now, the Lambent were never really the source of any of the community’s remaining questions, since their existence and nature was thoroughly explored in Gears of War 3. However, what we now know about imulsion and the Lambent is important when it comes to answering other questions. Imulsion causes Lambency, and Lambency has been affecting the Locust for at least twenty years. But did imulsion only begin to have mutagenic effects twenty years ago? Or can instances of Lambency be traced back further, back even as far as the early Pendulum Wars or Gold Rush one hundred years ago?
How old are the Locust?
“One thing I still don’t understand. Have the Locust been down here, like, forever or what?”
- Benjamin Carmine (Gears of War 2 – Act 2, Chapter 3: Disturbing Revelations)
“We can’t stop them. We don’t know where they come from. We don’t know what they want. They don’t even seem to want territory. All they do is kill. We can’t even begin to negotiate with them, or work out their objectives, because we just don’t know the first damn thing about them. That’s not an enemy, Mr. Chairman. That’s a monster.”
- Bardry Salaman (Jacinto’s Remnant – Chapter 3)
“We could have cooperated with the groundwalkers for our mutual salvation, but they are humans, and they only understand dominance and ownership. All that we have left is a war to the death. For all their so-called intelligence, humans are blind to the threat right before their eyes. We never stood a chance of enlisting their aid, so now we fight alone. And we will stand on their corpses to do so.”
- Myrrah, the Locust Queen (Aspho Fields - Epilogue)
Certain occurrences and events are known to have taken place regarding the Locust. First of all, the Locust were fighting against the Lambent before E-Day. Secondly, Adam Fenix was in contact with the Locust five years before E-Day, and for a while worked with them to find a way to combat Lambency. Thirdly, when imulsion evolution progressed at a rate faster than Adam’s ability to analyse it, Myrrah led the Locust to abandon the Hollow and colonise the surface of Sera instead.
But how long have they been in the Hollow? Twenty years, since just before E-Day? One hundred years or so, since imulsion was first discovered? Or longer still, thousands and thousands of years?
"Despite her mother’s warnings, and the calls of the friends, Romily left the safe company of her friends and walked deep into the perils of the forest. She thought they would admire her independence, and respect her brave willingness to break ranks with the others. But she did not walk alone. The six-legged demon that had waited patiently beneath her house since her birth followed her, unseen, and joined the rest of his kind who rose from the depths to embrace her."
- Ancient Tyran fairy tale, on the popular and improving theme of monsters lying in wait for disobedient children (Aspho Fields – Chapter 4)
“Didn’t you read Romily as a child? The monster under the bed? How’s the monster always shown? That story goes back centuries, and the monster always has the same features – long front fangs and six legs // All monsters come from some reality. The six legs are a folk memory. Something like that once existed on Sera, and we reduced it to a fairy tale in the end, but now – I think I’ve found its nearest living relative // I think these [rock] shrews may be the remains of a genus that once included much larger tunnel-dwelling creatures.”
- Elain Fenix (Anvil Gate – Chapter 5)
The concept of monsters living under the ground is not new, the story of Romily has been passed down for generations and is often used as a source to argue that the Locust have existed for centuries – or at least as long as the fairy tale has been around. But it is curious, the six-legged demon in the fairy tale does not resemble a Locust. The Drones, Kantus, Boomer and Wretches are all humanoid, and while Corpsers and Reavers have multiple limbs, neither fit the boundaries of the story.
But there is one creature that does – the Polyps.
The Polyps are six-legged, possess large fangs, and come from under the ground in large groups. Elain Fenix compares the creatures in the story to the rock shrew she has found, creatures that live within and around the Hollow. If the name “rock shrew” is any indication, it could be similar in nature or composition to the “rockworm”, another Hollow based creature used as a food source by the Locust.
“The mutated shrew was long dead, but the bioluminescent parasite within it was still biding its time, just as Myrrah had said // [Elain had] thought the six-legged shrew was the descendant of a much bigger and extinct animal that had lived on in folk memory as monster myths. She couldn’t have known then that it was a much more recent mutation. She simply recorded the cell changes. This is what Lambency does.”
- Adam Fenix’s thoughts (The Slab – Chapter 2)
Elain Fenix was mistaken in one aspect in regards to her discovery – the vestigial limbs on the rock shrews are not the remnant of an old genus, but rather the beginning of a new one. The Lambent are the mutated versions of Sera’s native lifeforms – just as a Drudge is the Lambent mutation of a Locust Drone, Polyps are the Lambent version of these rock shrews.
But if the Romily legend is indeed referring to the Lambent, or creatures that will once day become Lambent, where did the Locust come from? Were they an ancient race, living underground undisturbed and unknown by humanity until the spread of the Lambent forced them above ground? This might well be the case. But there is evidence that may point to another answer.
“Symptom: Ruth is clearly experiencing extreme swelling in her joints and frequently cries out in pain during the night. She also exhibits rather erratic and unpredictable behavior, though this is quite understandable considering her situation and symptoms. There is a strange discoloration in her eyes, and her breathing often sounds labored. Her nails grow at a faster rate than normal, though her hair grows at a markedly reduced rate. I'll keep trying to find some type of medication to alleviate her pain without adversely affecting our studies.
Dr. Niles Samson.”
- New Hope Medical File collectible (Gears of War 2 – Act 3, Chapter 2: Origins)
“Uh, what happens when you set off your glowie killer, Professor? Are we gonna feel anything?”
“That depends on how far the imulsion has colonized your cells, Damon. Do you have a fever? Intense muscle pain?”
“Then you’ll be fine”
- Damon Baird and Adam Fenix discussing the effects of imulsion contamination (Gears of War 3 – Act 5, Chapter 5: Ascension)
The symptoms Adam Fenix describes are the same as those experienced by Ruth at the New Hope facility countless years earlier. These symptoms are the result of imulsion colonising the cells and are the same as those experienced by sufferers of rustlung – an imulsion based illness that is caused by inhalation of large amounts of imulsion-vapour;
"Rustlung, imulsion sickness. Cases have been popping up all over since the Lightmass Bombing. Sure is a horrible way for a warrior to die."
"They say it's not, but I would keep my distance."
"No argument here."
- Tai and Dom (Gears of War 2 – Act 1, Chapter 2 - Desperation)
“Driver: Wayne Mitchell
Patient #1: 33 yr. old male
Symptoms: Coughing up blood & brown mucus, nausea, minor bleeding from
Patient #2: 21 yr. old male
Symptoms: Nausea, coughing up blood & reddish-brown mucus
Patient #3: 36 yr. old female
Symptoms: Unconscious, blood & reddish-brown mucus coming from nose &
Patient #4: 24 yr. old male
Symptoms: Coughing up blood & dark brown mucus, complaining of severe
chest pain & trouble breathing”
- Ambulance Driver’s Log collectible (Gears of War 2 – Act 1, Chapter 1: Welcome to Delta)
"Patient Name: Jonathan Harper
Occupation: Sergeant [Echo Nine], COG Army
Height: 1.9 m
Weight: 91 kg
Patient is a 9-year veteran who has recently experienced vertigo, persistent cough, and insomnia. Was stationed at Timgad area for 2 months after Lightmass offensive, when assigned to Jacinto perimeter patrol last 4 months. Symptoms began about 1 month ago. Physical and diagnostic evaluation showed no chronic illnesses and no signs of bacterial infection. Prescribed a medium-strength antihistamine, released patient, and gave clearance for further duty. Expect a full recovery with no side effects.
Dr. Vivian Merriweather."
- Jacinto Medical Center File collectible (Gears of War 2 – Act 1, Chapter 2: Desperation)
"Dr. Nicolette Shannon.
Dr. Merriweather mentioned that she's seen numerous patients exhibiting similar symptoms, even paranoia and aggression, but she appears to be less concerned than the rest of us. I'm starting to wonder whether her close ties to the COG administration could be affecting her judgment about the patients' welfare. Going to follow up on this with the director tomorrow... If we aren't taking care of our soldiers, who will?
Dr. Nicolette Shannon."
- Doctor's Journal collectible (Gears of War 2 – Act 1, Chapter 2: Desperation)
“Is this how it starts?”
“Yeah. You seen this before? ‘Cause this ain’t just rustlung.”
- Dom and a Stranded (Gears of War 3 – Act 3, Chapter 5 – Brothers to the End)
All the sufferers of rustlung present in Gears of War 2 were in the Timgad area during or after the Lightmass Bomb was used. The Formers in Gears of War 3 turn up in places with large amounts of imulsion – Mercy and Char are both imulsion processing townships. Rustlung, then, is the first step towards turning Lambent, and while knowledge of the disease may not have become widespread until after the Timgad bombing, patients with the same symptoms were being studied at New Hope.
But if rustlung is an indication of Lambency, other questions are raised. If rustlung is caused by exposure to imulsion why have there been no reported cases until now? And if rustlung is the first step to Lambency, why did sufferers such as Michael Barrick and Jonathan Harper not turn into Formers?
“There’d been classified matters that had sometimes woken him in the middle of the night and left him staring at the ceiling, gut churning and unable to get back to sleep again. There were things he’d quietly dreaded becoming public, background things like the real health risks of imulsion exposure.”
- Richard Prescott’s thoughts (The Slab – Chapter 2)
“And imulsion did cause mutations in humans. He knew that all too well now, as the COG had known for years. But the process by which it changed from an apparently biologically inactive fuel to a live pathogen remained unclear, as did finding parallels between imulsion’s teratogenic effects and its behaviour as a pathogen. Adam suspected they weren’t linear stages of the same thing but evidence that imulsion was evolving, diversifying just like the first life on Sera had done.”
- Adam Fenix’s thoughts (The Slab – Chapter 13)
The first answer is simple – as seen above, there have been reported cases, Lambency has been observed, and covered up, by the COG for almost a century. And the answer to the second is difficult due to the ever-evolving nature of imulsion. Barrick and Harper may well have turned Lambent given enough time, but the length of time it takes imulsion to colonize the cells and the form they would have taken cannot be known, as imulsion had not reached the stage in its life cycle that caused mutation into Formers.
For rustlung to have been the focus of the studies at New Hope it can mean only one thing – the patients had to have been exposed to enough imulsion to present themselves with the symptoms. Who could have been exposed to so much imulsion? Imulsion miners is the obvious choice, but anybody who worked in-depth with imulsion are candidates, including the families of the miners who would have moved to and grown up around the drill sites, as was common during our own coal mining here on Earth.