While Apex Legends exists in the same universe as Respawn’s Titanfall series, the free-to-play Battle Royale initially seemed firmly separated from its predecessor, with Kuben Blisk – Titanfall 2’s main antagonist and the man in charge of the Apex Games – being the only real tie between the two games. But after being retrieved and reassembled in Season 5, Ash made her grand entrance as the mastermind behind the Arenas games, and now it seems that the “new Legends only” trend is coming to an end, as another former Titanfall 2 villain has joined the Legends in the Apex universe – this time as a competitor.
Ash’s story is a fascinating one, but because she’s been around longer than most of the other characters, her past is far more detailed than the other Legends’ histories, which can unfortunately make it easy to overlook important details (especially given the often-confusing manner in which Respawn presents the plot). While Ash is a familiar faceplate to Titanfall 2 players, many Apex fans are confused about her backstory, even with the answers revealed in her recent episode of Stories from the Outlands. So if you haven’t played Titanfall 2 (or just need a refresher), read on to decode the Outlands’ most mysterious Legend.
Ash’s Past: Dr. Ashleigh Reid
Until her episode of Stories from the Outlands was released, little was known about Ash’s past as a human. In Titanfall 2, Ash was described as a former science pilot who was grievously injured in the line of duty and had her consciousness uploaded into a robotic shell, losing the majority of her memories in the process. While the ending of the Apex lore book, Pathfinder’s Quest, linked readers to a video that cleared up some of the circumstances surrounding Ash’s death, the focus was mostly on Pathfinder.
But even after Ash’s gripping episode of Stories from the Outlands debuted, players were still left with some questions – though for the first time, fans finally got some answers regarding Ash’s past as a human, the history of Hammond Robotics, and the finer points of Simulacrum creation.
Once working as Horizon’s lab assistant, the skinsuit formerly known as Dr. Ashleigh Reid left her gravity-defying mentor to die in a black hole, preventing the astronaut from seeing her son, Newton, grow up. Later, Ash was mortally wounded when Wattson’s grandmother impaled her (on her own sword, no less) after Ashleigh had infiltrated the facility housing research on the Outlands’ most valuable resource: Branthium, a naturally-occuring super-fuel.
For reasons unknown, Ash was attempting to re-route the delivery of the Branthium that would save the Outlands from an imminent energy crisis. When her plan – and her body – failed, she refused to lay down and die, demanding that she be transferred to a Simulacrum shell. After being destroyed and rebuilt several times, then spending a few months watching the Games from afar while running the Arenas, Ash has finally stepped into the spotlight.
But all the light in the world can’t free her of the dark secret lurking beneath her metal shell: another consciousness trapped within her has ignited a vicious internal tug-of-war which this cruel, foreign entity appears to be winning.
Ash, Pathfinder & Valkyrie
After being reassembled by the Legends in Season 5 and later found in a dumpster by Pathfinder, Ash could only remember her name, and that Hammond had removed several codes from her memory banks before disposing of her. Pathfinder took her back to his home and introduced her to Mirage and Rampart, but the visit was cut short when Rampart uttered a phrase (“Maybe we were just in time?”) that sent Ash into a full-on meltdown.
Seemingly flooded with memories of her past, Ash began hearing voices in a manner somewhat similar to Wraith.
As Pathfinder nervously ushered their guests back out the door, Blisk covertly contacted Ash via radio. Despite the amnesia, she’d managed to retain some memories from her past lives, including one of Blisk “trying to kill” her. It seems it was Blisk who made the decision to launch Ash’s head into the Shadow dimension, and though the in-game comic didn’t explain his motivations or methods in detail, it’s clear that this was part of some sort of deal Blisk and Ash had made.
With Pathfinder home, Ash and Blisk decided to hash things out later on, alone and in person.
“You good with that?” Blisk asked, referring to their plans to meet.
“I’m better than good,” Ash replied as the gold light in her retinal array abruptly red-ringed. “I’m five by five.”
“Five by five” is a phrase frequently repeated by Viper, another Titanfall 2 baddie who also happens to be Valkyrie’s dad.
Viper has been dead for years, so the scene gave players the sense that Ash may not be alone in her head. When Valkyrie landed on the scene in Season 9 (coincidentally the same season Ash showed up and started running the Arenas games), Ash’s voiceover in the gameplay trailer introduced the new Legend in an interesting manner, fondly declaring, “This little one and I share a common legacy. Pilot blood runs through her veins. This is Valkyrie. She is as fearless as she is reckless.”
Ash herself was a Pilot during the war, so she may have simply been referring to the fact that she and Valkyrie can both operate Titans, but the “common legacy” comment combined with the sudden eye-color and demeanor change while quoting Viper certainly gave off the impression that there’s more going on inside that hollow metal skull than meets the eye.
The Strange Case of Dr. Somers and Ashleigh Reid
Season 7 introduced players to Dr. Mary Somers (AKA ‘Horizon’) and her nefarious lab assistant, Dr. Ashleigh Reid. The pair were tasked with saving the Outlands from an impending energy crisis that occurred decades prior to the present day. For reasons that are still unknown, Reid betrayed her mentor, leaving Horizon to die in the black hole from which they were harvesting the Branthium that would ultimately save the Frontier from total collapse.
The previously-mentioned lore book, Pathfinder’s Quest, revealed that after heartlessly abandoning Horizon in deep space, Dr. Reid (and Horizon’s now-adult son, Newton) became part of a group of scientists who were working to ensure that the Branthium discovered by Reid and Horizon was spread equally across the Outlands.
But it seems Ashleigh Reid has a habit of being a back-stabber. Despite being involved in a noble scientific endeavor to save the Outlands (and being the mastermind behind Pathfinder’s Legendary emoticon screen – yep, that was her), Reid once again betrayed her colleagues, storming the facility and attempting to reroute the delivery of the Branthium that would save Outlands from the impending energy crisis. Dr. Reid was ultimately responsible for the death of all of Pathfinder’s creators (herself included), except Horizon’s son, Newton, who she sent home early before storming the lab.
After meeting her end at the hands (er, the hand) of Wattson’s grandmother, Reid dropped dead, and that was the last we saw of her until October 18th, when Ash’s episode of Stories from the Outlands confirmed that Ash and Dr. Reid are indeed the same person.
The episode depicts Dr. Reid lying on a bloodstained gurney, still impaled on her own sword as she listens to Hammond employees debate whether or not she can be saved. The doctors and scientists warn Ash that her injuries are so grievous that the process of transferring her mind will be downright torture. In the end, Ash’s consciousness is transferred to a Simulacrum with her full consent, though the process certainly has some negative side effects. Up until recently, however, those side effects mostly consisted of memory loss. But ever since the night Horizon attempted to reawaken her friend Lillian Peck, a second consciousness has made itself known.
Who is Lillian Peck? I’m so glad you asked.
Lilian Peck, Ash & Leigh
First and foremost, Lillian Peck is dead.
Philanthropist, billionaire, and the creator of the floating city of Olympus, Lillian Peck is from Horizon’s time, 87 years in the past. It was Lillian who contacted Horizon and asked her to bring her assistant, Ash, and the rest of her family to Olympus to work on solving the energy crisis. Lillian and Horizon were very close friends, and Lillian funded much of Horizon’s research. But because she didn’t follow Horizon through the black hole, Lillian stayed in Horizon’s time, meaning that, like Newton, she’s been dead for decades.
It’s awfully strange, then, that the manifest for the Arcadia – the enormous non-military research vessel Hammond landed on Olympus in Season 7 – was signed by one Lillian Peck, a woman who, like Newton and the rest of the humans that lived nearly nine decades ago, should be dead. Yet somehow, she managed to sign off on the manifest of a ship that exists 87 years in the future.
Ash’s official bio claims that the trauma of the Simulacrum transfer caused her personality to split in half, leaving her in a constant battle between the ruthless, coldhearted “Ash”, and the terrified human, “Leigh”. But up until recently, Ash has been perfectly stable (well, as far as science-obsessed murder robots go). The trouble started when Horizon used a series of codes to “wake up” her dear friend Lillian, whose consciousness had apparently been lying dormant in Ash’s body for decades.
After awakening her kindhearted friend (an endeavor that Revenant unsuccessfully attempted to stop, as depicted in a three–partcomic), Horizon is met with a coldhearted, vicious individual, and she immediately decides that this person cannot possibly be Lillian. The codes she used to “wake up” Lillian unlocked memories and the knowledge that Ash is a Simulacrum, but they also unlocked the monster within.
Interestingly, Ash’s human side, “Leigh”, seems almost relieved that Horizon survived her trip through the black hole, but unfortunately, before Leigh can warn the time-hopping scientist not to trust the other entity currently occupying her body, that entity takes over, dropping Leigh into a dark void similar to The Sunken Place in Get Out. With Leigh fully silenced, Ash takes the helm, threatening Horizon and taunting her about the day she was left in a black hole. Naturally, Horizon is unaware of Ash’s internal struggle, and assumes she’s talking to Dr. Ashleigh Reid, not the monster that’s taken over her body and vowed to destroy what’s left of the human within it.
Several instances support the theory that Ash’s verbally abusive dark side may actually be Lillian’s consciousness. In the past, Lillian specifically recommended that Horizon bring Ash to Olympus with her to work on Project: Iris. Ash and Lillian met on multiple occasions and seemed somewhat well-acquainted. When Blisk visits Ash for the first time since her reassembly, he sarcastically tells her that an “old friend” of hers is back. While this could be a reference to Horizon, Ash later goes on to refer to Lillian as “our friend” on at least two occasions, while speaking to Horizon and relaying information about Lillian’s feelings that Ash could not possibly infer without having spoken directly to her. Horizon herself even notices this, which is what prompts her to awaken Lillian.
The codes themselves are perhaps the most damning evidence of all. Despite the mental trauma of becoming a Simulacrum, Ash’s personality only split apart when Horizon tried to unlock Lillian. A lore tidbit Respawn tweeted during Season 5 depicts Cheryl Amacci, head of Hammond Industries’ legal department, telling a coworker that Revenant is the only Simulacrum to ever have a psychotic break, confirming that Ash is (or was) of sound mind right up until Lillian re-entered the picture.
Occasionally, the “real” Ash will momentarily surface. During the week leading up to Season 11’s launch, Ash’s holographic portrait in Arenas mode would flicker and momentarily replace Ash’s robotic face with her human one, then switch back. Now that she’s entered the Games, “Leigh” can sometimes be heard in some of Ash’s quips. These lines usually end with Ash’s dark side regaining control, though Leigh frequently surfaces during matches when Ash is injured, urging herself to hurry while healing. Additionally, Ashleigh was shown to be fond of lab rats in her human days, and decades later, she still keeps a pet rat that makes its home in her hood when it’s not eating cheese off the end of her sword.
At the end of the day, all the recent reveals regarding Ash’s past have left fans with many burning questions: Why did Ash agree to steal the Branthium? Did Lillian Peck’s codes really awaken Ash’s “dark side”, or is it possible that this dark side is actually Lillian (who, frankly, has seemed too good to be true from day one)? Could Ash’s two personalities learn to cooperate if presented with a shared goal? What happened to Newton?
Then, of course, comes the biggest mystery of them all: what’s the rat’s name?
There’s only one way to find out: Focus. Fight. Win.
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