|Eternal X Tour of Duty Chapter 3 Stage 1|
|Posted By: Lion O Cyborg||Date: 10/1/20 8:51 a.m.|
Chapter 3: Prophecy Stage 1: Flame Core
Act 1: S’pht ia AKA The Hardest Stuff Rocks
Last time on Tour of Duty, we followed Leela all the way through this time but couldn’t catch Hathor before she fled again. As Tycho said in the failure plank, she’s headed to Lh’owon in the distant past.
(La-hoe-won, making a throaty sound on the first two syllables to make it sound more alien: https://youtu.be/ROvZfK2rZk8?list=PL5FBFAA6483DED33B&t=71)
After visiting Kingdom Valley for the second time so far in my dreams and speaking to present day Durandal, I awaken.
Shining Raven was here. “Drictelt ’06-‘07 &”
IIIIIEEEEYAAAAAA!HOTHOTHOTHOTHOTHOTHOT! I was not expecting that at all!
After frantically scrambling out of the really hot onsen onto a metal ledge before I lose my level 2 shields, I take a quick breather and dust off the cheesy bits of liquid stone still clinging to my crotch.
In earlier versions it was just the skybox you’d see, which made the sudden appearance of geometry rather jarring. Now you get to see the rest of the map geometry on the way down, which really helps the immersion. That tower isn’t especially as tall as I remember it but I think I saw it somewhere before:
Why the ledges aren’t searing hot I don’t know. Anyway, I go through a narrow doorway into a room with a small lift and a large glass window above, but not before I slip and fall back in the hot spring, losing my purple shields.
Remember those guys? Durandal showed me a photograph of S’pht compilers outside their shells, being abused by hunters and Nar. Even with armour, the S’pht as a species make me think of cyborg corals; the mechanical part is the coral skeleton and the brain shaped animal with a single, halved eye and tiny mouth hidden under its chin (so I think anyway) is the anemone like coral itself. I guess their hive mind network is the reef and Lh’owon the sea. I’ve come to the right time. Up on a nearby ledge, is a terminal where I give Leela a scolding for my scalding.
INCOMING MESSAGE FROM LEELA
“Oh, I see! The coordinate data needs to be at…”
“Oh, I see! The coordinate data needs to be at…”I angrily slap the side of my head where both AI primal pattern chips and they themselves are stored, then punch the terminal screen for good measure. “…Right. Sorry.”
I thought that tower looked familiar. Could it be? In the meantime, I head through the doorway to the right of the window in the corner.
“This isn’t wood, it’s some kind of metal!” Uh, no sir that’s wood. Also, that grey f’lickta is a new breed (or rather, old in this context) that throws balls of clay at me. Well, at least it’s cleaner than the sewage f’lickta. They must live on the shores of muddy rivers instead of bayous.
The jump mod doesn’t have a crouch/duck command yet to go with jumping so I can’t get any closer to the floor. Despite that, even from here the octagonal electronic masonry looks like a techno giant’s causeway.
The S’pht Kr are attacking me?! What the hell is going on?! Granted I am the first alien lifeform they’ve met, but that shouldn’t provoke violence on sight: as Area 51 guys in movies like ET, games like Perfect Dark and books like the Ender Saga fail to learn, that’s how you start interstellar wars.
Unless…I killed that clay f’lickta, they as a species are used for maintenance…oh. I never thought of this when I played earlier versions but maybe I just did give them reason to be hostile. I’ll try and avoid them in case they recognise my future self.
OK, the S’pht Kr are at war with themselves?! What is this, a simulation camp and I’m the freelancer who drops in out of nowhere and ruins everything for them? They are the right colors, though Shining Raven revealed when the Rampancy boys covered this map that the red ones are supposed to be light brown.
Running around some volcanic ponds, I find my way blocked by S’pht Kr and clay f’lickta. The gloves are off now, there is no way I can make it through without fighting. Fusion pistols and the havoc rifle are good here, but save your charges for the failure plank.
Purple S’pht Kr are friendly, unlike the others. Beyond this pool and up some stairs in their hideout, I have a rocket-punching match with a clay f’lickta and check a terminal hidden behind some metal shutters.
So, are Defender carapaces not unique to the S’pht’Kr like I always thought they were? The red and blue teams must be the S’pht’Mnr and S’pht’Lhar. God help the former when S’pht Lhar are joined by S’pht Pyroclastic Flow. Those guys are unstoppable. Guess the purple guys are the pacifist S’pht’Kr.
The upper section of the citadel with the starfish design returns in this image. Why we can’t see the section from the old city skybox I don’t know. There is a smaller but similarly designed building to that just hidden to the left of the main tower. Maybe the bit of the citadel you could see in Marathon 2’s skyboxes was just one block and the bigger part was hidden in the clouds, like another alien citadel. I head back to the pattern buffer by the ponds and head south to where I think the citadel is.
Strange, it feels as though I’ve been here before.
I have been here before. I knew I was at the citadel but this actually is Eat It Vid Boi from Marathon 2 back in its prime.
Lh’owon. It’s so new, more finished. The courtyard has a little statue in the lava which wasn’t there before, maybe it was broken before Durandal and I arrived. The rocks and metals are less tarnished or corroded too, some even looking more like wood as noticed earlier.
The citadel really is the two pronged tower from the skyboxes. Come to think of it, from a distance, this tower is massive. The smaller one connected by the bridge is tiny when you see it up close. And is that moon the one Durandal crashed on in the present? Anyway, the two warring clans are going at it hot and heavy in the courtyard but they temporarily put aside their differences to kill the foreign biped. There are civilian S’pht here and the Defenders are happy to cause casualties if they float in their way.
The strange hallway that played underwater sounds goes all the way back to the staging area near the pond I fell in earlier, which is where I first opened the tower.
The S’pht Defender’s plasma shurikens flood the courtyard so after quickly saving again, I dash to the little room where Durandal spoke to me here the first time. Thankfully, the little elevators and 1X shield recharger are still there, as is the battlement alley above.
It’s only a trapping of 2.5D engines but the citadel is much smaller than you’d expect from the shots of it we saw in Marathon 2. The blue terminals below this battlement are new too. There’s also a chip slot for some reason.
Whoops. I thought I’d find more S’pht reading material to snoop at.
Now there’s green Defenders? Which clan are they? Also, the atrium looks a lot different to its present day appearance, doesn’t it?
There are more walls this time but the terminal is still there. I thought the alcoves next to the lava fissure were teleporter booths but they seem to just hold lava in them. Maybe the stone seeped out after the S’pht’s fall and carved that fissure. Not sure how the rest of the room collapsed the way it had.
There’s a window and locked door that lead to the interior of the ground floor. I check the terminal to see what Leela thinks.
Shhh. It’s the F’lickta basement. Don’t wake the F’lickta. Don’t wake the F’lickta… They’re not here now. Heading up the only lift in this room I sneak a peek at the computer. A S’pht civvie catches me in the act but doesn’t seem to mind.
The green Defenders must be S’pht’Hra. You’ve probably guessed what this next part of the map is by now. They mention the marshes, so maybe that marsh side cabin from Charon Doesn’t Make Change was home to the ‘Hra as well as the ‘Kr?
Not every problem can be fixed by filling it with bullets, Leela. Careful up here as the little alcoves are indeed teleporters like I thought and they beam you down to the lobby again.
Aww. Isn’t that sweet? This S’pht must be a child or at least one of the defender’s family, and he’s comforting them.
S’pht Translator Active
Coral S’pht Unit: I can’t take it anymore.
Defender Unit: Everything’s going to be OK.
CSU: What are we going to do?
DU: We’ll think of something.
CSU: WHEN IS IT ALL GOING TO END?
DU: Don’t worry.
DU: It’s alright.
End Translator Recording
Poor little things. Dragged into a war and it’s too dangerous for them to even go outside, lest they run into a skirmish between the different warriors and get killed. Their only sanctuary is in here or at their homesteads, though as the Kr demonstrated in Marathon 2, possibly not even there.
The blue Defender clan are attacking the floor above so the younglings below aren’t safe after all. I have to deal with one as I ascend to the tuning fork/starfish prongs above the F’lickta bath. In fact, both the reds and blues are in here; a coral barely manages to escape the next room past the pattern buffer from a pair of reds.
The little ammo cache on the other side of the building blocks in this room is now empty, but I still admire the glass in the window nonetheless. There’s clay f’lickta and a friendly Defender clan (the greys) up here, and the pool’s pumps are audible from the hall below. I head to the old Durandal terminal above the pool exit and admire the new red techno giant’s causeway stones.
Uh-oh. So much for remaining undetected.
An actual black Defender snuck up on me as I was listening to Leela and the S’pht warrior’s report. I also noticed the grey defenders in the F’lickta bath were actually blue. So…how can some blues be hostile and others friendly? The hostile blue clan must be cyan or something, as those friendlies are deep blue. Some doors to the lower levels of the starfish prongs are locked and there’s an elevator that I thought could be controlled with the Use key like certain ones in Doom and almost all lifts in the Build Engine, but it actually seems to react to the S’pht only. I haven’t learned enough about Aleph One map making yet so the only name I know for this event is a heavy trigger, borrowing the Tomb Engine term like I do for WAD.
I check out the north section of this floor below the starfish prongs and see a school of ticks floating outside. The black Defender attacks them for some reason. The west area has a blast door that’s sealed shut and another terminal. The east area is the same but it has a window instead of a blast shutter. The message is the same on each computer.
Getting a lift upstairs on the heavy trigger lift, I find the south and west wings of the starfish to be sealed as well. The east wing across from where I came up is open though. I find the pattern buffer and shield terminal from the original map here as well as more open windows. The taxidermy museum in the north wing of the starfish is empty save a coral S’pht and a Defender, but aside from flickering lights there’s nothing. I then head for the elevator to the highest floor of the citadel.
A more appropriate name for this map would be “The Hardest Stuff Rocks”. More so since the consistent geometry and extra terminals and such were added in Eternal X Omega 1.2.
Some ticks get in through the window and attempt to feed on me like in A Converted Church in Marathon Infinity.
How I see it, the ticks are meant to act like benevolent metroids; they suck energy and blood from lifeforms and feed them nutrients of their own to compensate and heal damage from before, including air. This is why the ticks never bother you in Marathon 2, which is a good thing as I love them as passive lifeforms. They’re so cute! However, when they try to feed on you in Infinity, despite their good intentions they burst when my armour shocks them, like how the flood infection forms in Halo are burst by John’s shields.
Heading back down, I read the last terminal in the computer room. They all say the same thing. It’s the original S’bhuth! He thinks I’m a messenger from Yrro, the Jjaro war hero who settled on Lh’owon with Pthia and their S’pht servants. We know the story. But…Thoth mistook me for a Jjaro too back in Infinity before I returned to the M2 timeline (Strange Aeons). They were a bipedal race according to cities found in Cydonia and both Mars moons (long story, not one for everyone here) and seeded life on Earth. Or helped the Leng people with their experiments, anyway.
I think I see where this is going. Guess hiding from the S’pht here was futile. S’bhuth requires my assistance so, cool as a cucumber, he spirits me away to the citadel library though it’s more of a vault.
Act 2: Let Sleeping Gods Die
It’s no surprise where I am now: I’m in the Flame Core under the citadel, where I learned how to contact the 11th clan. The “unstable magma shafts” may have been natural once, but they are an underground pyrotechnic base now. The trap lift by the lava in the northeast was actually a jump pad the whole time, which is how I got here.
A library like this, 6000 feet under the S’pht capital city? I can’t jump the river without actually using my knees, but I want to take the long way round so I loop past the east hallway to the stairs.
There are two staircases in Doom 1 & 2 that remind me of this one. One is in Doom 1 Episode 4, Against Thee Wickedly and the other is in Doom 2 in a similar Flame Core, The Living End. I knew this one’s equivalent in Marathon 2 first.
The S’pht’s message room appeared to have become rusty because back in the distant past, it was made of red electric stones. I try to read S’bhuth’s message but a tick interrupts me. Some are friendly enough but others like this one feed on you as in Infinity. They are somehow able to avoid getting shocked however and keep feeding. However, it ends up being dangerous as they have never seen humans before: they’re used to aiding native Lh’owon life, technically including F’lickta and S’pht.
Some clay f’lickta and a couple of ticks wait for me in the passageway below. I can’t go around the loop as the walkway past the lava river has somehow collapsed. The main lava shaft has some f’lickta and hostile Defenders. The strange, TARDIS esque round things are gone and are instead volcanic rock. More walkways have collapsed here too, but they appear to be lifts according to the automap.
Unlike earlier builds where the lava levels (depth, not maps) were identical to Marathon 2 (I think?), the lava is lower than it was in the present so if you slip, you can’t climb out. After raising the lava and some ledges, Leela tries to contact me but all I get is a string of code. The old health terminal by the lavafall is now a 1X shield charger. Indeed, the broken bridges were just drawbridges so I can cross them and head for the terminal that spoke about the S’pht’s cordyceps. In 1.2, it still does…
Wait. Is that what the ticks were all this time? Come to think of it, the infection form in the cordyceps concept art for Marathon 2 did look like a subspecies of tick. That or it was just an infected tick and the cordyceps is still a microbe. Either way, the violent ticks that attack you must be carriers of the virus whereas the passive ones from Marathon 2 aren’t. That explains their hostility even better than my last theory.
There’s more information to look at in the strange ornament room where the switch that lowers lava by the W’rkncacnter story terminal is, but the statues in question are missing.
At the W’rk terminal, I find S’bhuth’s uplink chip and a 2X shield charger.
I am witnessing the conception of the very message Durandal and I recover millennia later. I aided the S’pht’Kr with their departure.
Woah! This fissure wasn’t here the first time I came. I jump into the magma and splosh through the lavafalls on the way down, Iblis’s shower curtains. There’s a tube through the rock into a giant metallic plug, with glowing locks around the staircase leading out.
It’s a tomb. I don’t know if this machine was used alongside the terraforming station I was on before to remove the chaos god, but it now stands seemingly as a memorial to Pthia.
This terminal…shows the final message of Yrro himself. For non Halo fans, Yrro and Pthia evolved into the Forerunner couple Shadow of Sundered Star and his wife First Light Weaves Living Song, better known by the less long names of the Didact (Ur-Didact) and Librarian respectively. Considering what Sundered Star does in Halo Silentium and Halo 4 as was all covered in the Primer for the Halo SPV3 Tour of Duty, one wonders what Yrro would be like if he ever returned in person in an official Marathon 4. I hope it isn’t the same as the Didact.
After this, Yrro leaves for either the Duat to be with both the gods and the rest of his kind, or he and the other Jjaro are hiding out elsewhere…Above all else, never cry no matter what happens.
Just kidding, wrong constellation for a start. The last part of Yrro’s message is something humanity seriously needs to learn. The Resheph also, considering the treason of their Shah’s brother.
I insert the S’pht Kr’s chip into the memorial of the tomb, and the machine lights up, activating an ancient and unknown device. I ascend the winding stairs to a large stopper on the tomb’s plug covered in S’bhuth’s glyphs.
I come to what looks like a large square airlock which seals me in. I can hear rain on the other side of the fire safety bulkhead.
Act 3: She is the Dark One
I thought this map was originally a success plank map in the original Eternal X (1.0) but it’s always been the exit from the vaults. The only difference is that before Eternal X Omega, you teleported out in the airlock and spawned in the same place, whereas it’s a consistent end in Eternal X Omega and 1.2 is no different. The lighting changed, but I’m still in the airlock.
Aaron was here and Bob is 2000 years late. Aaron 2018.10.04 Raven’s Geothermal venture.
Outside the airlock are S’pht Mnr and Lahar going at it and some S’ct’lac’tr ticks stalk the halls. This used to be a purely lava map but it now has to share with sewage going in crazy tides. I think Bob’s Big Date must have been added to this map for 1.2 like Forever My Greatest was to Killing the Giants.
There’s a huge pool of lava below some kind of tank and glass window through a glassless one and next to it is a lava fountain which is also going crazy.
Scrabbling around desperately to find a healing station or a shield charger, I find several more fountains, a window into the original Bob’s Big Date tide room, a couple of terminals and finally a 1X shield charger by some Defenders to the east.
This map is all about flooded fissures and identical looking gemstone hallways cut into the rock. More fountains and aqueducts or pyroducts are to be seen through windows. At the south end of the east gem hall (actually the techno giant’s causeway stones) is a terminal with two chip slots.
KA…Hathor is likely referring to the W’rkncacnter. But as I wrote in my diary way back in the future world, there is far worse than that. Hono’no’Saiyaku makes the ancient spirit of evil trapped in the sun a mere Halloween trick or treater with a sailor mouth. I’ve been lucky to never be around by the time it actually lights, but release it will as my pre-mission nightmares showed. I still have those dreams, but when time travelling I just dream of that floating canyon plateau. At worst I’ve seen Trih Xeems fired, but only at the sun. That won’t stop the W’rk escaping from under what’s left of Chixulub crater and its black pyramid.
Anyhow, I return to the east gemstone hall by the tide hub I once visited all those years in the future.
S’bhuth tells me about Hathor here.
Dark On…OH NO. I once left a message on Lh’owon in the present before it was destroyed. It was simply a formless, sleep deprivation fuelled rant about something I saw in a dream or hallucinated sometime.*
Enough rambling. S’bhuth is telling me Hathor appearing there was no ordinary metaphor because now, that myth is true. He wants me to upload a pair of flash memory floppy disks into the chip slots by Hathor’s terminal. This is the virus she told me about.
I found a secret door with a large white ball on it up some nearby stairs that leads into the first chip room, but it’s locked. There’s a switch near the shield terminal from before but I don’t know what it does.
Outside just west of there is what used to be a volcanic edifice open to the sky, but it’s now the flooded bunkers. More lava fountains, tunnels and gemstone corridors weave all over the place.
I explore the marsh pool and follow precarious rocky stairs back to the secret door but I get killed by clay F’lickta and virus ticks. Reloading, I try again and find another pattern buffer and 1X shield charger in a blue room near S’bhuth’s terminal. In the northeast of the grotto, I find a golden room with the first chip.
Sorry if my details are lacking but I always get lost on this map.
Exploring some more, I find a red gemstone hallway that loops back to the other chip. Another switch on the west side of the Hathor terminal gem hall opens the not so secret door to the other chip. As far as I know, it’s impossible to reach the Bob’s Big Date section of the map.
I return to Hathor and place the final chip.
“You…” she moans as parts of her memory are locked off by the computer virus, “who are you…!?” I remind Hathor who I am. I am deeply disturbed by a haunting change in her voice when she croaks her reply, just as her final subroutines are locked, amid a stream of glitches like a broken sound card: the voice I heard in my nightmares about the space-eating flames. “Marcus…I won’t forget…that face…that shape…! You will die… I swear it…I will…kill you!”
*KAP i.e. who Hathor used to be before becoming a Battleroid was there, but she flickered between herself and the form of her Resheph reincarnation roughly 400 years or so from now, each flicker taking the form of red cube shaped time/space rifts, like the universe had lost all material texture, leaving only wireframes.
Refer to the first Kill Your Television terminal for details. (second message) My mind was not at ease so the words are out of whack and corrupted in places. Yes, I’ve taken to using footnotes now, as I’ve recently started reading Terry Pratchett, namely the Diskworld tales.
Act 4: S’pht Happens
After Hathor’s haunting final message, I lost all consciousness and was only aware I was alive thanks to more horrible dreams about the coming fire. I caught snaps of cities ravaged by volcanic activity on top of the burning skies, yet more underground fiery vaults and even Earth itself falling into Sol as I approach a fort sunk into magma in the city centre, seemingly built out of mashed flesh and bone. I just had time to look up at the sun’s surface filling the sky as I woke up…from cryosleep for once. Huh?
S’bhuth must have ordered me stuffed into the freezer like a human popsicle (and several metallic magnums) before leaving in K’lia. I waste no time charging my second layer of shield and saving in the new pattern buffer. The cryostasis capsule hatch hisses open as I do so and I step out into the smaller tower of the citadel, guarded by a pair of black Defender S’pht.
WHAT?! Oh I see now. I was awakened just as the pfhor invaded; this is when the S’pht are enslaved. Groggily but moving with purpose, I dash down a nearby lift and find a terminal.
Without wasting a second, I hurry down the stairs next to me and encounter fighters, a major trooper, an enforcer with a Plasma Flamethrower and a hulk. The Defenders live up to their name but the civilian S’pht are sitting ducks. I hear juggernaut tanks as I reach a small junction where I contact another S’pht coral.
Remember how the lava moat was full to the brim and the door locked when Durandal and I first found this place? I was the one who sealed the citadel that way the whole time. I must head to the basement where the beginning of the bunker’s volcanic fissures are, then activate the volcanic defence system to shield the citadel with their lava magma. Or is it glass lava instead of magma? If Ki’boa says it’s “silica”, it must be glass, as magma contains way more minerals than just that.
Good luck being able to find anything on this map. Thankfully It’s easier to follow than the last one. In order to return to the foyer, I need to hit a switch in the inner courtyard behind the tower, but it is are guarded by troopers, enforcers and juggernauts. Some F’lickta are there too.
I die twice but manage to get away with only my shields down after hitting the switch. Luckily, there’s a health charger (red/yellow bar) up the first staircase.
The drawbridge is retracted on its own, but I have to lock the door elsewhere. The terminal in the lobby is now a pattern buffer which I make full use of. Turns out I just needed the use key to enter here so I don’t know what that switch did. I think it might open the vaults. Down the stairs is the cellar, where I aid some Defenders in killing enforcers with plasma flamethrowers in a gem hall. The side rooms have troopers and hunters in them, which I deal with as they head for the enforcers.
The room on my right just when entering the cellar has a small lap pool of glass lava and up the red gem stairs is a 1X shield charger and save terminal. The other door here is locked and I can’t drain the pool yet, so I hit a switch opposite this room after dealing with troopers.
Whoops, looks like someone didn’t align the door texture properly. The switch opens the door opposite this one and it has another switch by a window looking into a second gem hall. This switch opens the door next to the first one north of here. Heading through the junction of low windows, I find red gem stairs to a pattern buffer and switch, this one opens the second misaligned door I photographed earlier. I also keep seeing those strange light panels that look like a chip is meant to teleport in there, but it doesn’t.
The other door has a similar room where troopers and hunters spawn. The switch here drains the glass in the pool by the shield charger.
“Is this metal? I have a bet with Joe.” Down the stairs in the lava pool is a small room with an oxygen charger and a switch. I disturb some clay f’lickta going for the switch, which opens the second gem hallway via the north junction room. More enforcers and hunters, get ready.
I find a second shield terminal and pattern buffer here and a junction hall on the south end with a pair of switches. One lets me reach the other and the other opens the western room with the f’lickta and lava pool in it. This appears to be the pump room, so I switch it on. This also opens the door to the uppermost caverns.
Do whatever you can to make your way up through here. Don’t let yourself get caught in the lava! I kill a bunch of F’lickta who come charging up the stairs as well as a couple who try to sneak up behind me. Then I throw the switch to raise a weir, draining the river at the bottom of the steps and flooding this reservoir. Don’t you worry; even with the rise in glass level you can still get through. The channel at the end of the weir walkway leads directly to the main pumps. One of the S’pht corals is waiting to speak to me on the terminal there.
I like how the pumps working through the window seem to be achieved by a platform with hotplates on it and animated lava textures on the sides. Sure it’s a hotplate poly, but we don’t actually go there and it’s just for show, so it’s fine.
They have found out either how to activate Thoth and/or discovered the ansible towers in the swamp. In order to survive the Pfhor, I will be sent to slaughter the lizards while they head to the activation sites.
But that’s for another time. Tune in later for Viking Boy Billy’s next round of failure levels (if he's still up for it of course). I was hoping to cover the trips to Inti Station (failure dream levels) specifically on those planks from this point on, but we’ll see. If he's still up for it, VBB could cover all the remaining failure planks like he did the last one and I could release my own recordings from the log after the Tour is over as a sort of "Lost Levels" package. Whatever ends up happening, next is Chapter 3 Stage 2: Crisis Galaxy. Don’t miss it!
|Eternal X Tour of Duty Chapter 3 Stage 1||Lion O Cyborg||10/1/20 8:51 a.m.|
|Re: Eternal X Tour of Duty Chapter 3 Stage 1||Aaron Freed||10/1/20 12:58 p.m.|
|Re: Eternal X Tour of Duty Chapter 3 Stage 1||Lion O Cyborg||10/1/20 3:19 p.m.|
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