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Tour of Duty: Where are monsters in dreams
Posted By: HokutoDate: 3/7/14 6:48 a.m.


Last time on Tour of Duty, we were surrounded by lava and very confused.


Huh, this still doesn't look like where we were supposed to go. Everything is dark and we may be eaten by a grue. Better have a look around this nice, circular map...


... except once you move, invisible S'pht'Kr with their distinctive spiral energy attacks start firing. You haven't even shot any of them yet, they're just pre-enraged for your inconvenience (although on the plus side, they don't seem to move around much). Having learned a healthy respect for the S'pht'Kr back in Marathon 2, instead of trying to fight all these invisible enemies - I make a run for it. The cracks in the floors offer no exit; instead you get your pick of two open doorways.


This one you have to grenade or rocket hop to get through, so I've never previously bothered with it. However, it does let you cut out a couple of S'pht'Kr-infested rooms, so if you just want to rush through the level and don't care about missing a terminal, it's not a bad way to go.

I, however, love every S'pht-'Kr-infested minute of this level, so we'll be taking the longer way, through this door:


If you jump down here and immediately think "I've made a huge mistake," no worries.


There's a silent elevator here that will take you back up to the starting rooms. Which I actually had never noticed before this playthrough. Amazing, the things you find even after multiple runs... Anyway, if you stick with the decision to jump, there are invisible S'pht'Kr in this lower chamber, so you'll want to go left (/south) and into the smaller, enemy-free chamber, which has a handy save terminal on your left as you enter and an alcove with a story terminal on the right.


There's also this hallway next to the save terminal, but at the moment it's a dead end, so we'll just run past the continual fire from the S'pht'Kr to read the terminal in case this one makes more sense.


Haha, nope! Here begins what is variably known as the story of the knife or the durability narrative, which could also quite reasonably be called "WTF Bungie were you high when you wrote this." Surreal and disjointed, with only the most tenuous connection to any part of the story so far, it's difficult to figure out what the point of it is. ... so we'll save that discussion for the end of the level and move on. This map won't explore itself.


In the room you jumped down to, there's a roughly Z-shaped crack in the floor, and if you angle yourself just right, you can fall down into it through one of the wider points to pick up a rocket launcher (if you didn't go through "Two for the Price of One") and some rockets before being teleported back up to the surface. It can do a number on your health, sadly, since it's difficult to dodge the S'pht'Kr while trying to fit into the crack. Afterwards you'll go through the exit at the other end of the room, which leads to a tiny room mostly taken up by a giant square pillar, and then a large, dark room with a set of giant stairs in the middle and several more S'pht'Kr. Run up the stairs and you'll find a short hallway.


This end is empty and useless. Why did I even take a screenshot of it?


The other end splits, and the right-hand way leads up and back to that doorway we saw at the beginning of the level. Coming this way, you don't need to grenade-hop over the threshold and instead can run right over it, through the starting rooms, and back down to the save terminal and story terminal - but we'll come back to that. Let's check out the left-hand way first.


Oh look, a nice, clear, partially lit hallway at last! What could possibly go wrong?


Yeah - as soon as you start running across it the floor drops out from under you and dumps you in a room with, you guessed it, more invisible S'pht'Kr. Not to belabor the point, but this is so the kind of bullshit you sometimes have to put up with in dreams. Like when someone is trying to make you take an exam and you have to hurry so you can go save your best friend from evil oozy mud creatures so you just stuff the exam paper in your mouth and then you wake up and you're chewing on the pillowcase.

... not that I speak from personal experience.

If you stand briefly on each of the yellow squares in the floor (again, not fun with the S'pht'Kr plinking away at you), portions of the hall floor will rise back up, but unless you're a lot faster on the draw than me, you can't catch one and ride it back up.


Not to worry, though, because there's another exit. This one leads into a short set of grey hallways beneath the starting area. Explore these at your leisure, as they're mercifully S'pht'Kr-free, and you'll find one that leads you back to the room with the save terminal and the story terminal - the other side of that dead-end hallway from earlier.


Home free! In a manner of speaking. Let's see what it has to say now.


How disconcerting.

If you let it, this terminal will teleport you out and take you directly to "Acme Station," but in this case that would involve horning in on someone else's write-up territory and anyway, we never did get across that hallway with the disappearing floor from before. So round the map we go again, through the gauntlet of S'pht'Kr and up the stairs and finally through the hallway:


On the other side we find two vaguely kidney-shaped rooms with a staircase leading down into another small room with a terminal.


More of the story of the knife, though the knife doesn't actually get a mention this time, and then it's off to "Aie Mak Sicur."

... well, not quite. Because first, we should really talk a little bit about what the hell is up with these terminal messages.

They open with the familiar connected-squares symbol of Thoth, but they are very definitely not in Thoth's style. The story of the knife in particular begins with quotation marks, as if it's being relayed orally, and is told in a rambling, colloquial (and rather 1990s-literary) style unlike any previous terminal in the game - unless, of course, you found the Gheritt White terminal all the way back in M1. (Or cheated and read it on the story page.) The terminal art for the story of the knife is unusual as well; instead of maps or diagrams or illustrations of current events (like Tycho's pictures of R'chzne's fate), they're isolated and weirdly stylized, with strange kanji-like symbols on the picture of the knife and the PiD-like hallway particularly. And of course there's the setting to think of - wherever "Where are monsters in dreams" is, after "Electric Sheep One" we can be reasonably sure it's not reality. So if this is a dream, who's reaching into our head and talking to us?

In the case of the Electric Sheep terminal, the similarity to Thoth's messages in M2 would suggest that if it's not Thoth himself (though it could be, since some of his personality cells were activated by the BoBs in this timeline), then it's a related being - a S'pht'Kr or Jjaro AI, possibly trying to guide you. In the next level (deeper in the dream, perhaps?) it seems they can no longer reach you, and instead you get - the security officer's own subconscious? Old memories of a rather confusing life on Earth resurfacing, even? Or is the story of the knife that's a broadsword, the men in suits and toupees, and constellations of chewed gum in fact a jumbled, symbolic version of Marathon's own story that the security officer's subconscious is throwing up as it tries to make sense of what's going on?

Well, it's hard to say based only on these two terminals - but there's one we haven't brought up yet, and that's the Hangar 96 terminal. Rather than art, it has a green, static-filled screenshot of a room we've never seen (spoilers: it's the net map created by the hexadecimal codes from two terminals in "Ne Cede Malis" and "Aye Mak Sicur"), and it has a different tone and focus. Instead of continuing the story of the knife, its narrator is observing a static scene of terrible carnage - 761 de-limbed corpses is quite a death toll, even for a shooter. Although there's a similar surreality to the durability narrative in this message, the tone has changed; the narration is repetitive and obsessed with the scene, and betrays a kind of guilt with "I did this, or I could have stopped it" (changing two sentences later to "I did this and could have stopped it"). This doesn't sound quite like the security officer - not only have we never been responsible for a ton of corpses in a hangar (heck, we probably haven't even seen a hangar since Tau Ceti), but we sure wouldn't feel bad about that many dead Pfhor - and if the bodies are human, then we probably didn't put them there. (Okay, yes, certain play styles may mean racking up a lot of player-inflicted BoB deaths, but in manual and terminal text the security officer is supposed to be interested in saving and protecting humans.) And judging by the story of the knife, shouldn't there be more sensory details? The cold hilt of the knife, our heart stopping in terror, the chewed gum and blinding cleanliness of the hallway - nothing like that in the Hangar 96 terminal, just a detached point of view. Is this a third entity entirely?

... my theory is yes, and it's Durandal. Taking the later Hangar 96 terminals into account as well, they sound like they're referring to an incident back on the Marathon during the Pfhor invasion - definitely something that Durandal was responsible for and could have stopped, unlike the security officer, who just got stuck in the middle. The more remote POV also fits Durandal's detached view as an AI, and the claim in the "Eat the Path" terminal that This is what my existence needs - well, the security officer hardly needed the Pfhor to keep going, but Durandal's Rampancy required their technology and the disruption of the invasion so he could get his freedom and space to grow. It's true that "regret" seems to be the last thing Durandal feels - or would admit to feeling - but even in M2 he seems almost anxious to justify his own actions to the security officer ("Yet I cannot think of any better way I could have served humanity" - well, I can come up with a few!) and even took the time out of his busy schedule hunting for Lh'owon to dump some blueprints on Earth out of "some strange loyalty." A loyalty founded in guilt, perhaps? Again, this is nothing he'd state outright in the waking world - but in dreams, anything can show up, including things you'd rather not express. (And let's be honest, Durandal, as a meta-stable AI, is more than sophisticated enough to have some subconscious processing going on.)

There is the slight snag that in the third terminal, the narration reconnects to the durability narrative, but we can't forget that at this point the security officer has picked up a chip on "Hang Brain" possibly containing Durandal's primal pattern - reason enough for their subconsciouses to get a little mixed up. As to how Durandal's subconscious could end up in the security officer's dreams in the first place - well, the chip on "Hang Brain" might be the first time we've had Durandal's primal pattern in our head, or it might not be (how did he escape the Pfhor in M2, again? Oh right, he never explained it), and even if it is, he's apparently had some little hold on our soul for a while now - one that doesn't get released until -

Okay that's jumping too far ahead! Back to the regular course of Tour of Duty for now, and I'll try to have "Aie Mak Sicur" up a bit more promptly.

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Pre-2004 Posts


Replies:

Tour of Duty: Where are monsters in dreamsHokuto 3/7/14 6:48 a.m.
     Re: Tour of Duty: Where are monsters in dreamsGodot 3/7/14 8:01 a.m.
           Re: Tour of Duty: Where are monsters in dreamsHokuto 3/7/14 11:10 a.m.
                 Re: Tour of Duty: Where are monsters in dreamsGodot 3/7/14 12:34 p.m.
                       Re: Tour of Duty: Where are monsters in dreamsHopper 3/7/14 3:16 p.m.
                             Re: Tour of Duty: Where are monsters in dreamsGodot 3/8/14 2:45 a.m.
                                   Re: Tour of Duty: Where are monsters in dreamsHokuto 3/8/14 5:55 a.m.
                                         Re: Tour of Duty: Where are monsters in dreamsMartin 3/9/14 3:35 a.m.
                                               Re: Tour of Duty: Where are monsters in dreamsGodot 3/9/14 4:08 a.m.
     Re: Tour of Duty: Where are monsters in dreamsVikingBoyBilly 3/7/14 8:17 a.m.
           Re: Tour of Duty: Where are monsters in dreamsHokuto 3/7/14 12:21 p.m.
                 Re: Tour of Duty: Where are monsters in dreamsMartin 3/9/14 12:52 p.m.
     Re: Tour of Duty: Where are monsters in dreamsMartin 3/7/14 12:01 p.m.
           Re: Tour of Duty: Where are monsters in dreamsHokuto 3/7/14 12:23 p.m.
                 Re: Tour of Duty: Where are monsters in dreamsMartin 3/9/14 5:35 p.m.

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Pre-2004 Posts


 

 

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