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Tour of Duty - Ne Cede Malis
Posted By: MartinDate: 1/5/14 4:58 p.m.

And now the saga continuums.

That’s how they started Red Dwarf series 3, and it seems to fit here. Welcome to Tour of Duty series 3, with a flash new header from Perseus, and plenty else new to boot.

To recap, the last we knew, Tycho had been destroyed, Durandal resurrected, Thoth awakened, the S’pht’Kr called, and the Pfhor advance on the Sol System repelled, at least for the time being. Our M2 final screen reported on future events, some more than 10,000 years out.

So, as we find ourselves in a dark room looking at a ship out the window, what are we doing here now? Where is here? When is now? And as the vacuum BoBs will come to ask us: Whose side are we on?

The Story page reports the most pertinent parts of the Infinity manual in quite a sensible order – as usual of most interest to us, a report that could have been sent through a terminal. This from Pfhor High Admiral Tfear, whom we probably didn’t catch a glimpse of in a terminal we probably didn’t see back on Bob’s Big Date. Simply because it was a tricky message to read; I’m not talking about time travel and such just yet ;).

Report to Lh’owon Command

< Transmission to Pfhor High Command >
< From Tfear – Lh’owon High Command >

The battle on Lh’owon had gone according to projections: that to trap Durandal and end the threat of Tau Ceti, we would, as we did with the Drinniol rebellion, be forced to use the “trih xeem”. Forcing a star into early nova has proved most satisfactory at destroying what we could not control.

To a commander, the presence of things beyond one’s control leads directly to the conclusion that they must be destroyed. In the countless encounters of the Pfhor Naval Arm, there has never been an ultimate defeat. We have, through our supreme power and tactics, always prevailed.

All of this explains why as our Great Admiral, and with my own destruction now completely assured, I give you, High Council of Pfhor, warning that we have met our demise. Yet it comes not from threat of Tau Ceti as we feared, but from a being of such destructive power that to control it would be to control the universe.

What follows is my briefing of the events here on Lh’owon leading up to the current situation:

The trap we set for Durandal went off as planned. We tricked him into believing that we were weeks away from Lh’owon while, in fact, we were hiding in the outer Lh’owon system. We waited quietly while Durandal dispatched the garrison fleet’s picket ships, and we used the data from this battle to discover some of the modifications that Durandal had made to our captured scoutship.

When we sprung our trap, it appeared at first that our quarry had expected it, but we adapted our positions, surrounded, and disabled his ship with acceptable losses. We caused his retreat to a heretofore undetected station located in an asteroid field on the fringe of the Lh’owon system. (Of course, according to protocol, the appropriate officers were notified and executed.)

Although he evaded destruction, he was nonetheless trapped. This contingency was taken into account in the overall battle strategy. The battle plan was proceeding according to acceptable parameters.

I ordered the deployment of the “trih xeem”.

Almost immediately, our enemy then began transmitting ridiculous warnings concerning some sort of ancient chaotic being trapped deep in the Lh’owon sun. Of course, at this point mercy was unacceptable. The time to end the collective dream of the S’pht had come.

I ordered the fleet to retreat to a safe distance, and waited for my moment of glory. What happened next is the reason for my warning at the beginning of this report and the destruction of the Western Arm of Pfhor Battle Group Seven.

The nova went off on time and for a moment our simple victory was assured. But then, in a pathetic failure of discipline, the fleet’s ranks broke in an all-out retreat. All quarters reported the same thing: half of the sun had gone nova, but the readings from the other half were impossible. It was as if the universe had forgotten its own rules.

I can’t tell you what’s going on now, I can only hope that this message reaches you through whatever is surrounding us. I gave the fleet general order “Attack at will” but none of our weapons seem to affect whatever we’re firing at. This battleship has only seconds of integrity left, and I have no more information except for Durandal’s warning:

“On the Marathon, I saw your stupidity through the lens of victory. And now I see it in defeat. Maybe it is fate that your ignorant pride would unleash this horror and destroy the galaxy.”

< End Transmission >
< Transmission Accepted >

Hmmm, that’s not quite how we remember things – we remember being victorious, helping to awaken Thoth and then helping him to call back the S’pht’Kr and pretty much wiping out the Pfhor both on a handy dandy refuelling ship for our human comrades and planetside including the Big Floaty Things What Kick Our Butts.

We did have that period where we thought Durandal was truly gone, and we don’t know where he was at during that time, but clearly he managed to escape. To escape. And if he visited an out of the way station and found out about nasty things to come, he failed to mention it on his return. We’re still of the assumption that he was involved in Tycho’s demise, and Durandal was rather cock of the walk in general, not freaked out as that transmission suggests.

At the very end of All Roads Lead To Sol… Durandal did mention the “trih xeem”, and implied that the Pfhor were about to use it in the Lh’owon System, but it was more in passing than as a sign of impending doom or anything. His main point was that we were leaving on another mission. But it seems that it was potentially a very salient aspect….

We did also have one mention of a being trapped deep in the Lh’owon sun, a long way back on Six Thousand Feet Under.

That name we have all come to know and love, though not to know how to pronounce, the W’rkn’cacnter. It was just another part of the S’pht mythology then … but to return to reality for just a minute, it was a part of the S’pht mythology that really captured the imagination of certain people, and for that we are ever thankful.

We start with this – and even before the story starts, things look bleak. Arms reach out of an unclear dark area into an unknown and messy light. The arms do not appear to be attached to anything … possibly the arms of the armless and legless corpses we soon meet in dreams?

We -appear- in a rather dark spot. Questions of where we were before we appeared here and under whose control this occurred are best left alone. There is a new ambient sound in town, which so brilliantly evokes the feeling of hopelessness, or despair, that goes along with what is to come – I think of it almost as the sound of nothing, emptiness – there is the subtle sound of computers/machinery whirring constantly, and then at intervals, the masterful [?howl]. If it weren’t for the theme, we might wonder if this was Durandal laughing. Every level on this dark Jjaro station uses this sound and, especially when there are no Pfhor around, it does add to the atmosphere of the large abandoned structure. The level name also hits the spot, roughly translated, as the Story page tells us, as do not give in to misfortunes, which is of utmost importance here – and just when we thought things were going so well.

Around from our starting spot we see a ship out in space through a window. There’s a new texture set, and there are two switches here :). There is also the sound of doors opening and closing in very quick succession. For now, the first switch briefly opens a window in the wall to its left, resulting in our being shot at by a Projectile Fighter. We might get a shot at him, but killing him is very unlikely, because the window only stays open a second or two, and as soon as it closes, he goes and jumps off his platform – it seems not only we would survive the fall. On the side between the two switches is a brightly-lit opening that leads to a locked door – actually two of them as we will soon learn – and on either side, a window to the room wherein lies the switch for one of the doors, so conveniently positioned just out of reach from here. The left window reveals the source of the sound of doors – what looks like a series of crushers reminiscent of Defend THIS … but I won’t go into the same reaction to them as then, and anyway, we won’t see them again for a while.

More exciting at the moment, going back to our starting area, is the second switch that we can access, which permanently opens the next wall, allowing us to carry on down a rather wide corridor, with panels of bright lights on the walls – like the floor panel lighting they always tell us will guide us in an aeroplane emergency. The level has a lot of interesting lighting effects – the overall outlook on things is dark, but there are also a lot of intense light sources, and there isn’t much in between – perhaps drawing on ideas of balance again *ahem* Thoth? There is also a new-look terminal visible at the end of this corridor. And on the way to it, a very narrow staircase going across the corridor at one point, and a switch on the right wall that is quite subtle behind a wall that juts out. The switch opens an equally narrow door in the left wall. The staircase is actually so narrow as to be annoying to get down onto, with always run turned on (sorry I make it so). For now it leads us to a 1x recharger, but we’ll find ourselves down there again a few times.

Back up in the main corridor, as we near the terminal, five Fighters wake up and head our way, some from the left, some from the right. That’s right, they’re at it
[?again] / [?already] / [?as if from an old dream]. In killing them, we notice a change: they now take 8 magnum shots to kill instead of 6 (TC of course) … someone has been messing with our history books!

The terminal gives Durandal’s perspective on the report from the manual … or something like it.

Awry indeed! Just while I’m thinking of it, I’m not a fan of the HD terminal graphic with the opening paragraph here printed on it … but anyway. So, first of all on our new the what now? list, we have Durandal saying he easily defeated the Western Arm of Pfhor Battle Group Seven, when Tfear’s report said that they disabled Durandal’s ship with acceptable losses and set off the “trih xeem”, and only then fell to the ensuing chaos. So either someone is stretching the truth a bit or, as has been proposed on the Story page, we already have two histories/timelines right here. Also pertinent is that this station is the focal point for
[?hope] / [?destiny] in the game, and the point where it seems that we can (once we know how) observe the convergence of the Infinity of timelines.

Reading for the first time, probably the bigger headscratcher is Durandal’s saying if only there were time to explore the ruins of Lh’owon … when we spent most of M2 doing just that. As the manual and Tfear’s report suggest, the universe has forgotten its own rules. Things are not as we thought, but what has always been unclear to me is what the Security Officer experiences, as compared to the player. Is he scratching his head with us or did whatever time stuff happened to get us here give him the memories of this timeline? Are we in fact now the SO from that [?failed] timeline? And the really big one: when did whatever happened happen, and how could it possibly have happened and the events of the M2 final screen have happened as well? For simplicity, I’m going to write as though the SO has the same experiences as the player – as though he’s standing in front of this terminal scratching his helmet with that damned magnum … but it makes you think, doesn’t it :)?

The concept of escape is back, in spades, and the closure of the universe that Durandal has always feared and been trying to cheat, suddenly seems much more immediate and relevant, and D actually suggests to -us- a path to escape, even though it seems he cannot – quite generous coming from him. Durandal also suggests that Tycho is [?back] and in charge of the ship we saw out the window at the start. Given some of the above, and I think it has been posited before, perhaps this is the ship we end up on for the next few levels, its presence here some kind of indicator of the closeness of the timeline it occupies?

Finally here, of course, we have the map/objective guide at left, but it is never mentioned in the text. Unless of course we play the Infinity Demo, then it’s all quite clear ;).

First of all we have a slightly different picture of [?the nova event] and a beautiful if short description of just what we’ve been discussing! We can see your fate countless times. The convergence of timelines? And all reported as failures (Death.) – Ne Cede Malis indeed! As far as [?fate] / [?destiny] is concerned, I guess the path we eventually eat was unforeseen here.

Next are our most quoted quotes, Thoth-like in their brevity and crypticity, Durandal-like in their humour / sarcastic quality. Like the eventual merger of the two, but somehow less useful, except that it does tell us about our objective in no uncertain terms, unlike the final text as discussed above. So the demo is perhaps yet another [?failed] timeline, in which Durandal and Thoth merged but still could not figure out a means of escape. Was this because we were not present in the timeline? They can see our fate countless times, but only from this point on – we have no idea what happened beforehand in these failures, and they make no mention of it. Interesting.

Finally at 2,500 words (including the report from Tfear though) we move on from this first terminal! To the right we see a fan on the wall, which opens when actioned to reveal a long curved duct too small for us to enter, and too curved for us to map fully. Past that we go through a wide door that has a new logo on it – one that we will become more familiar with later. Remembering back to the logon symbols of Durandal and Thoth, very round and very square respectively, this new one certainly looks to be somehow representative of a merging of the two. But this is on an abandoned Jjaro station, right? Was this part of what was foretold? That it should have appeared here all along? To jump ahead a bit, it appears on the terminals that guide us when we move between timelines, in a version with the map of Aye Mak Sicur superimposed to make it look almost dirty, and then it appears without that, right at the end, cleaned? There is one exception to this rule, on this level, and we’ll come to it shortly.

But back to that door. Inside we find two more doors – from whence those Fighters came. Through the left one we find some ammo – on TC it is useful to run past the Fighters to get it, as we otherwise run out. We also notice a small corner with a much higher ceiling, and the map shows that it comes from a corridor above – a secret corridor! The fact that we guess there is a secret from seeing the high corridor on the map reminds me of the We’re Everywhere secret. Anyway, through the right door, we find more ammo and also an oxygen charger and a pattern buffer, both with new looks. Finally in here (now that I have the map I can call it point "E"!) is a magic switch that opens both of the doors that we’re here to open – it was left over from debugging or some such, and is hidden in the wall somewhere, but I always forget exactly where and end up just tabbing the whole place. Let’s just forget about it for now :).

Now is a good time to have a look at the map – courtesy of PS and his shiny new computer. It reveals a lot of small areas and narrow corridors, and we know that this level was designed to bring to mind Arrival, all those years ago.

Back in the corridor there are stairs going down, stairs that lead to a switch that opens a door that I’m going to ignore - at point "A" on the map. Back up the stairs and on past the terminal there are openings left and right, and a locked door at the end, with needle-like narrow passages leading out left and right before it. The left opening leads us to a switch that opens a door about halfway … our first real gameplay déjà vu moment harking back to Arrival. There is also a switch through a window that we can action if on the right angle, but the room is still inaccessible. The right opening from the main corridor leads first to a compiler reading a terminal – more Arrival-like, and it even says spurious interrupt unauthorized access, even more so!

It also has the cleaned Jjaro / Durandal-Thoth logon image, the exception to the rule as I mentioned just earlier. Perhaps this is another one of those situations where if we had been allowed to read more, we might have been able to skip past some of our adventure? Another phew! If she’d gone that way she would have gone straight to that castle! moment? Maybe. Interestingly it also gives us a sneak preview of the new vacuum-enabled and Fusion-Pistol-wielding BoB, whom we don’t meet until Naw Man He’s Close. Unless of course we play the Infinity Demo, in which case they show up at the end of this level, but we’ll come to that. At left is a bit of a shout-out from the developers, and the all-important MARATHON RULES; ALL PLAYERS RULE; ON TO THE FUTURE closing. Well, it’s now 20 years since M1 came out, is that future enough for you? Is it?

Further on we find a staircase leading up to a narrow corridor that runs east-west over the top of most of the area we have already explored. There are three places where we can drop down from here. If we go straight ahead and drop, we find ourselves in a sprawling narrow corridor that is very similar indeed to one area of Arrival, with several places that drop down into it. If we didn’t hit the switch to open the door that I ignored earlier, we would be skipping ahead in the level a bit, so let’s not drop down straight ahead. If we drop down at the far end of the corridor to the right, we find ourselves on the other side of the halfway open door, and looking straight at the first of our objective switches. Hit it! There’s a corridor leading out opposite this – it leads to another switch, which drops down some stairs and we suddenly realise we’re perpendicular to that corridor where we found our 1x recharger, and the stairs have just joined the two. It’s only a shame we won’t need to come back here. But we can recharge if necessary and then head back into the terminal corridor – because we hit that switch near the start.

If we drop down at the far end of the corridor to the left, we find we’re actually on a lift, and to the right at its lowest point, we see the other end of the curving duct from near the terminal! Straight ahead is an odd room with a bunch of small polygons each at a different height. Sort of a staircase puzzle where you just have to keep looking for the next highest point and take a flying leap. It doesn’t look like it’s much use to anyone, but it hides the secret corridor we observed on our map earlier on. From the highest point we can jump to the northwestern polygon in the room and open a hidden door – then go up a lift and find a compiler reading a terminal. A terminal the contents of which seem rather incomprehensible, but have been found to be part of a network map file with binhex compression or some such. An homage to our very own godot in fact – see the Story page for more information than you could possibly imagine. The rest of the file can be found in a terminal on the very last level of the game. For now, for the record:

Lovely. Unless of course we play the Infinity demo – then the terminal gives some depressing verse on the sort of subject we’re expecting at this point: life, beginnings and ends, fear, time, fate. (I’m pretty sure I have these in the right order, but this could be the final terminal, I don’t have the demo handy, only the Story page, wherein the terminal numbering doesn’t match that for the level in the full game.)

Either way, heading on we find a single Napalm Canister before dropping down into that ammo room from the start. This also takes us back to Arrival where we found a secret room containing a Napalm Canister.

Now on with the level – we are heading for the sprawling narrow Arrival-like corridor, and just like then, we can get in there in various ways: from where we just dropped down, we can go out the door and down the stairs to where we hit a switch to open a door earlier; we can up out to the stairwell to the 1x recharger and drop down; or we can go up the other stairs from before and drop down straight ahead. Whatever. We follow the path around to find a compiler reading a pattern buffer … not sure how that worked out for him, but happily he doesn’t respawn when we kill him :).

Then up a round staircase we find ourselves overlooking another Arrival room – the one with the switch that opened the door to the final terminal on that level. It is very similar here, we can snipe at Fighters from our initial vantage point, or we can jump across to a ledge to the left, and find a secret door – the first time around this was where that napalm canister came from. This time it holds a shotgun and a little ammo for it. Handy. Back outside the secret room, we kill the Fighters, hit the switch (at point "C"), and jump through a small door that starts opening and closing at intervals. With that little detour out of the way, we head back up the round staircase but take an earlier turnoff, and find that we can jump across to a lift that was behind that compiler. Even that little puzzle is reminiscent of Arrival, where some of the early narrow corridor work was really a bit of a nasty introduction to exploring the Marathon.

The lift takes us up to a corridor that ends in a dropoff, into a small brightly-lit octagonal room, with a door leading out on one side. The next room is the crusher room we observed right at the start, and so we find the second objective switch here, though it is quite easy to miss the first time! Through the crushers we head towards a big dropoff. There is another raised spot we can jump to across and to the left, and we are just across from where we sniped the Projectile Fighter through the window right at the start. First of all here however, a compiler comes to meet us, and we kill him. Then we drop down to find that Projectile Fighter, and a little ammo to the left, at the end of what turns out to be a long narrow corridor with lifts going up and down at different heights – a puzzle reminiscent of Welcome to the Revolution…. Hey, actually in one of my writeup runthroughs just now, I didn’t open that window at the start, and then found the Projectile Fighter on the opposite raised platform! I always assumed he was on the near side – I guess that better explains why he jumps down when we look away!

Ascending to the top of the lift puzzle we find some ammo and a pattern buffer. This corridor also has those needle-like extremities we saw earlier on. We venture down the next corridor to yet another dropoff – and we start to hear the sound of running water, or sewage as it actually is on this level. Straight ahead is a 1x recharger, but I somehow hardly ever end up facing straight ahead, like I’m in a hurry or something.

The sewage is in a large circular room (at point "B"!) with different heights going on down the bottom, a few column-heater-like objects strewn about, and a compiler lying in wait – he wants to fight us up on the surface, but it is more fun to get him down under where he can’t fight back. Actually there are four of these rooms – you can see which way you need to head to advance from the map, but the doorways are at different depths as well. The one down on the ground between the third and fourth circular rooms is the best place to head, and to then take on all three of the compilers, as they will come down there trying to chase you. At least now we know why there was that oxygen charger back near the start!

In the fourth room there is a structure in the middle, and we swim to the surface to find a ledge around the back, and a switch. This calls down a lift inside the structure, and there is a simple door into it just to the right. The lift takes us up to the end of the corridor with the terminal from the start. The door still doesn’t want to stay open though, so it will always be a one-way thing.

Now of course we have our objective doors open and we rush to see what lies beyond! A staircase with some Fighters climbing out of the darkness towards us. Then a door, some ammo, another locked door and a lookout over the deathstar room as it has come to be known. High brightness, weird inaccessible alcoves, locked doors, a teleporter, and Fighters. There is one on a high alcove to the left, but we can barely see him and certainly can’t shoot him, and he hides around a corner soon after seeing us, but he keeps taunting us with that Pfhor cry, knowing we will never get the satisfaction of killing him. There are more Fighters down in the pit. Unless of course we play the Infinity demo, in which case there are a few Hunters and some vacuum BoBs – the only ones that are ever actually on our side (whose side?)

It is a long way down, but the only way is down. Additional to the Fighters down below, there are a couple on very high ledges – out of sight from our initial overview, but the room is long enough for us to aim up to their levels. There is the curious dip in the floor, with very low paths leading out on either side, forever mysteries. And then there is the teleporter (at point "D"). It leads us to another high alcove, straight opposite another Projectile Fighter, finally, on the staircase that leads us to the final terminal. He can really catch us off-guard, but nothing we can’t handle. There is also a ledge off to the right that has a few more locked doors, and some shotgun shells, accessible if we run straight across to the terminal staircase and then immediately on to the right, but as we are about to lose all our weapons and ammo, it’s not much use. Unless of course we play the Infinity demo, where that is not the case – and anyway, we don’t know it yet.

The terminal holds another of our quoted quotes. It is Thoth-like in its poetic quality and white text, but whatever this is communicating with us is more confident with English, at least in terms of not having question marks … it still doesn’t always make sense ;).

Unless of course we play the Infinity demo, in which case the terminal is very short, to the point, and as depressing as ever.

Not encouraging. But the show must go on. Or start again, as the case may be. I will hand off to Viking for a couple of levels at this point – after this I need the rest :)! It seems that at this point we are guided by whatever benevolent force is out there – we don’t know what is going on, but we know that there is nothing good here: things have gone terribly awry, and recent history is not as we remember it. But what if there were a way to change it? (Reminds me of the end of Looper.) Well, first up it seems that we are guided down a rather extreme path of change – I have detected one ship nearby, which I can only guess is being commanded by Tycho. So at this convergence of timelines, it seems there was at least one where we were on that ship … let’s play that back.

Again from the manual:
In Marathon Infinity, you find yourself caught in a web of ever-shifting allegiances. Durandal, Tycho, the Pfhor; each is a power, with its own agenda and its own uses for you. There are loose ends that need to be tied in the Lh’owon system, and you’ve got the reputation for getting things done.

You can’t be sure who the enemy is anymore. The only thing you can be sure of is a swift and bloody end if you let your guard down....

True enough. To get us started, I hand over to our local VikingBoyBilly, for Rise Robot Rise.

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Replies:

Tour of Duty - Ne Cede MalisMartin 1/5/14 4:58 p.m.
     Re: Tour of Duty - Ne Cede MalisGodot 1/5/14 6:33 p.m.
     Re: Tour of Duty - Ne Cede MalisPerseusSpartacus 1/5/14 7:47 p.m.
     Re: Tour of Duty - Ne Cede MalisVikingBoyBilly 1/6/14 11:07 a.m.
           Re: Tour of Duty - Ne Cede MalisPerseusSpartacus 1/6/14 11:49 a.m.
           Re: Tour of Duty - Ne Cede MalisGodot 1/6/14 12:15 p.m.
                 Re: Tour of Duty - Ne Cede MalisMartin 1/6/14 12:28 p.m.
           Re: Tour of Duty - Ne Cede MalisMartin 1/6/14 12:28 p.m.
                 Re: Tour of Duty - Ne Cede MalisMartin 1/7/14 2:25 p.m.
                       Re: Tour of Duty - Ne Cede MalisVikingBoyBilly 1/8/14 4:49 a.m.
     Re: Tour of Duty - Ne Cede MalisPerseusSpartacus 1/8/14 5:32 p.m.
           Re: Tour of Duty - Ne Cede MalisMartin 1/8/14 5:33 p.m.
                 Re: Tour of Duty - Ne Cede MalisPerseusSpartacus 1/8/14 9:07 p.m.

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