The bonus content in this episode is pretty substantial. Everyone gets a detailed cutscene to conclude their personal chats. In this half, we learn the important lesson that science will always fail us so we should roll over and die, and also that creating a slave species is only bad because it’s playing God.
We begin with the Sarazon sisters. After that brief blip of personal motives being relevant to the plot, this vanished from the main scene to be concluded over here. It’s an acceptable fit with the established mechanics, I guess, especially since most players will see these concurrently with the main plot, but I imagine it would look pretty weird if the player never bothered talking to Marie.
Marie introduces Alicia again, and says they haven’t seen each other since the Breach. Alicia just acts as abrasive as possible and says she wants to leave.
Marie: “She talks big, but she’s mine. That’s all I really wanted. Ever since the Shine… maybe even before…”
Well, that went downhill fast. Here I was hoping Marie was going to be a responsible sibling and actually listen to Alicia, but she seems to be completely tuning her out. How is this creepy possessiveness supposed to endear me to her, exactly? She goes on to say she’s going to keep Alicia safe even after this is over, which makes Alicia snap that she got along fine on her own.
Yeah I’m siding with Alicia on this one. Marie needs to learn to respect Alicia’s autonomy if they’re ever going to get over this.
Marie: “Damn straight, I am. Like I said, I’m not letting this one get out of my sight a second time.”
Wait what. I was agreeing with Marie? But Alicia was the one who talked last! Agh! Curse you, vague pronouns! I go back in time and say “Then make it count.” instead, which seems the closest I can get to siding with Alicia. Unfortunately this is lost on Marie, and she just gives basically the same creepy response.
Alicia: “You’ll snap out of it sooner or later, Marisol. You’ll be done with me again before you know it. You’ll see.”
Oh huh, that’s interesting. It sounds like the sore spot is actually that Marie didn’t cling to Alicia tightly enough, and Alicia just thinks she’s insincere now. That makes Marie’s behavior make a lot more sense, but it still comes off as creepy to me.
Alicia: “It’s exactly like before! You’re just overcompensating this time! I… I can’t take it any more!” […] “How would you know anything about living or dying? Even before the breach… when you… you were all…!”
I ask what’s going on, but Marie just continues arguing vaguely with Alicia before declaring it’s her fault Alicia is so screwed up. Wow, she is she trying to set a new record low for emotional intelligence?
Alicia retorts that kidnapping people is also pretty screwed up. Marie just has a breakdown and says she worked too hard for this and she wants to apologize. Alicia rejects it and says she’s sick of Marie being an overbearing mother hen. Her solution is for Marie to come back to the hab so she can really understand what Alicia’s life is like.
Marie gets really emotional now that she’s finally willing to admit that yes, her little sis is in fact capable of taking care of herself.
Marie: “I thought she’s need me as much as I needed her. I didn’t want to believe I was wrong. But, now I’m ready to.”
Well, that was fast. Still, this makes her previous outbursts a lot more sympathetic, since it betrays a vulnerability she was trying to keep hidden. This is understandable – we know people are having a lot of trouble with emotions, so understanding that people think and feel differently than you is something that they probably wouldn’t have. She’s not used to being in this position, and she wasn’t able to comprehend that family meant something different to Alicia than it did to her.
Marie: “It’s thanks to you, Ros. You didn’t give up on me. Just having you there was all I needed.”
Even the game can no longer deny how ridiculously passive Ros is.
Marie: “I found family. Even if it’s just one sister who hates me, I found it. That’s all I really wanted.”
Yeesh, that’s an awfully depressing outlook. I guess what she really wanted was closure, and she’s willing to accept that’s what she got.
Ros finally asks what the deal is. Apparently, the process for deciding who got to escape Earth was very selective despite Earth being by all accounts a complete mess at that point – what authority was left to organize this? Marie was selected, but Alicia wasn’t. She managed to sneak aboard anyway, but the event left a rift between them.
Marie: “I mean, it was a weird time, right? And, it’s not like she wouldn’t get a chance to go later…”
Whaaat? The world was ending, the whole point of this was that there wouldn’t be another chance! We know that only the people who got on the initial ships survived! I can see why Alicia is so bitter if Marie’s so casually able to rationalize leaving her to die!
Marie muses some more about how she’s glad she at least managed to do what she set out to do. The other people leave, and Alicia comes over to say she doesn’t hate Marie. Aw, that’s sweet –
Alicia: “I don’t hate you. How could I? We’re sisters. We’re pretty much stuck with each other, Marisol. If the end of the universe and human civilization didn’t pull us apart, what else could do it?”
…Really? Really. That’s the emotionally fulfilling conclusion we get to this? The best reason she can come up with for why she has to be nice is that she doesn’t have a choice? What the heck. No, you are not obligated to like your family, especially if they won’t let you escape! This is the kind of twisted, toxic nonsense used to justify abuse situations and keep victims in line. I thought the whole point of this was that she wasn’t obligated to stay with Marie, given that she slipped the leash once and intends to do so again once this is over. The only emotionally fulfilling way for this plot to end is if Alicia willingly and voluntarily chooses to stay with Marie, not because she’s decided she has to succumb to Stockholm syndrome to be happy but because she still cares for Marie on her own merits and is willing to believe in her. And to do that, they actually have to talk it out and resolve their problems instead of Marie woodenly narrating everything while Alicia stands in a corner and somehow that magically resolves everything. I still don’t really get the root of their conflict – if Alicia is angry because she thinks Marie purposefully chose to let her die, that should have already resolved after Marie told her it wasn’t her choice. From the previous conversation it seems she’s angrier over the fact Marie seems to feel guilty about it, but it’s really weird for her to be this angry over that. How hard is it for her to say “yeah I know it’s not your fault, I forgive you” and move on with her life? It seems she’s most angry about Marie’s overprotectiveness, which… was resolved, but indirectly, which feels awkward.
We just end with Marie saying she’s proud of Alicia and she’s welcome to stay with them as long as she likes. Okay. This does a better job than the infinitesimal scenes in previous episodes, but it still feels rushed and insubstantial. Possibly it’s because we’re dealing with two characters, but only Marie gets the focus and they never interact properly. A conflict requires us to understand both parties to make emotional sense, but we only get to see one side in detail.
You know… I have to wonder if the developer is an only child. All the attempts at sibling drama so far have felt totally bizarre and alien — Yfus is so chill about his brother being a crazy evil dictator that it had to be spelled out in a supplemental blog post, and Tehgonan barely ever mentions his siblings even after learning they all died horribly. Ques comes the closest to having a realistic relationship, and his sister gets killed off pretty quick so the game doesn’t have to deal with it. And now it seems like he couldn’t come up with a better reason for why siblings might like each other than “well they’re stuck with each other so they have to get along, I guess?” It’s all very strange.
Moving on to Rami, who’s being a ray of sunshine.
Rami: “These augments… machines… they’re keepin’ me alive, Boss. I’m too busted up for emitters to fix me.”
So wait, emitters can heal wounds too? Yet another magic power to add to the list. Shouldn’t this interfere with augments, given that we’re told regeneration is the reason lacertians can’t be augmented? If lacertian regeneration gets boosted too, I’m surprised they’re good enough to reject cybernetics but not good enough to regrow limbs.
Rami: “So, like, in the grand scheme of things… I ought to be dead, right? I’m… not s’posda be here…”
Wow I do not have time for this crap. Since when are doctors fatalists? They spit in the face of God for a living. I tell Rami this is stupid, which he appreciates, but I think he misses my point:
Rami: “It is, ain’t it? ‘Cause, if I wasn’t here, I wouldn’t be able to question it, right? Hoo boy, my head…”
No it’s stupid because THERE IS NO GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS. FATE DOESN’T EXIST. Why is this a conversation we need to have in far future sci-fi?!
Rami finally says the reason he’s being so morbid is that he’s worried they won’t last much longer and the war will kill everyone. Unfortunately I can’t comfort him directly, he’s just happy I chose to spend my remaining time with him.
He’s supposed to help with augmentation, but remember how cyborgs are demonized because of author fiat? Rami is afraid his patient is going to be an ungrateful jerk who hates being an awesome cyborg.
Rami: “For me, it’s one thing. I had to get my augments because I messed up and got myself hurt.”
That sounds like something we should know more about. Unfortunately he just goes on to say that it’s not this guy’s fault and it’s so unfair he’s going to have to become a freak with superhuman abilities, so tragic. I have no sympathy and say that his patient better be grateful, which just makes Rami say I’m so mean.
Rami: “When you look at me, what’s the first thing you see? Is it the eye, or the arm?”
Yes, followed by thinking “where can I get one of those, they look awesome”.
Rami: “You see what I mean, now? This guy is a wreck. He’s gonna know what it’s like to be… pieces of a man.”
You know, come to think of it, this is pretty OOC for Rami. He just spent all of last episode becoming a weird cultist who thinks machines are people, with his stated motivation being that he’s a cyborg himself. He shouldn’t be so hand-wringy about this – if someone hates cybernetics, he should take that not only as an attack on himself but also on his precious people-machines. Especially since he turned out fine, he should think the prejudice is a load of crock and that this guy is an ungrateful idiot to reject it. He should probably be even more gung-ho about the superiority of cyborgs than I am! That could lead to a real discussion about the prejudices and the state of cybernetics, maybe even resulting in an explanation that makes a lick of sense.
Anyway, he wants me there for moral support when the guy wakes up.
Hm. It looks like most of his augments were on his face. To be fair, disfigurement is understandably very upsetting – but come on, people have been doing cosmetic surgery for ages, you can’t expect me to believe they can’t make him look perfectly normal with their super future technology.
Naturally, this guy is very angry that they saved his life by making him an awesome machine person.
Patient: “I’m one of you now! You shoulda just let me die!”
Yeah, they really should’ve. Just let the stupidity weed itself out of the gene pool. You know, why doesn’t anyone seem to have this worked out in advance? In the modern day there are plenty of options to tell doctors in advance what you do and do not want done to you in the event you’re rushed to the ER – organ donor cards, for instance. Accepting the absurd principle that this is a thing people care deeply about, surely it wouldn’t be so hard for people to carry around a “I’d rather die, thanks” card to inform the doctors they don’t have to waste their time? The conflict could then be that Rami thinks that’s stupid, perhaps because he had a similar view when he was a boring vanilla human but now he’s grateful that he survived, and overrides that wish to save this guy. Then suddenly this scene provides some unique insight on Rami and an examination of medical ethics! Wouldn’t that be interesting?
Rami has a breakdown midway through the briefing, but Ros is all I BELIEVE IN YOU and then he’s instantly super-confident because friendship is magic. His solution is to completely ignore the guy and go through with the canned speech, because that definitely won’t just make everything worse. Boring. This doesn’t feel very satisfying as Rami’s capstone scene, because it deals with a minor part of the setting that doesn’t make any sense and has been incredibly inconsistent, rather than something that’s actually meaningful to him. The solution being “SCREW YOU ALL I DO WHAT I WANT” also strikes me as really, really weird and not at all healthy, especially for a doctor.
Rami: “He’ll get over it, right? I mean, I did, right? Uh, well, mostly, anyway. […] We got so good at livin’ forever that we kinda forgot how to do it, huh? The good and the bad.”
I think I’m starting to see what’s been bothering me about these scenes, and why I remember them as being so much better. They plant the idea of there being something more to these characters, some dark and interesting history, but they never follow through with anything concrete. If we could see for ourselves how Rami adjusted to being a cyborg and how his views changed over time, then this scene would be meaningful because it would bring him, and us, full circle. But all we’re left with is some stuff that sounds important but lacks any substance or coherence.
Moving on to the next character. Unfortunately I can’t answer his question definitively even though there are obviously many things very, very wrong with him. The closest I can get is “Maybe once or twice…” which he appreciates anyway. He goes on to say that everyone seems to assume he’s hiding something and weaving an elaborate web of deceptions to cover it, and he’s getting tired of it.
Tezkhra: “I would never hide anything from you, Ouranos. Not intentionally. You know this, yes?”
Nope, I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you, Lizard Hitler.
Tezkhra: “I just feel that… there is something stirring beneath. Something I am not able to recall, to grasp… I feel The Black One was only complicating matters. It is his fault that I hate these feelings. Hmmm…”
Honestly this is just getting tiring at this point. It’s obvious at this point that he’s talking about Blue One stuff, but while the player has been progressing more and more on this topic, he still won’t take his head out of the sand. Our best source to learn real information about this dangles the answers just out of our reach but won’t tell us anything because of plot fiat. Like, seriously, this isn’t even abandoned databanks stuff, Ros is totally capable of confronting him on this within the confines of the main plot. Instead she just sits there passively because we will have to pry the resolution to this mystery out of the developer’s cold, dead hands.
Tezkhra: “Despite my inconsistencies, I can see that you still accept me for who I am, Ouranos.”
No I don’t. Why does the game keep insisting I’m A-okay with genocide?
He’s been talking to Rami about maybe finally revealing his secret. He then gets trapped in an infinite loop of “everyone says secrets are bad, but I think they’re good, but everyone else…” because he’s totally not a robot. He ends up needing more time to
reboot think things over, and tells me to come back later. When I do, he invites me to accompany him on one of his memory purging sessions.
Tezkhra: “I must confess, I did not fully understand the reasoning behind Ransend’s demands. He claims ‘secrets eat you up inside’. I do not believe that sort of brain activity is acidic in nature…? Perhaps it is some trait of human physiology not present in Lacertians?”
Okay, this actually is funny, but come on, he’s supposed to have risen above this stereotype by now.
Rami, Daszk, and Marie sneak up on him while he’s babbling. He freaks out and tries to justify this as routine data maintenance, but they see through him immediately. Rami reveals he has apparently been obsessively deleting every data packet that comes in with his ID. Wow, that’s pretty dedicated. How has no one else noticed? Or does everyone think this is totally fine and they should just let him destroy his psyche? Tezkhra desperately starts trying to say there are parts of his past best kept hidden, and reveals even he doesn’t remember everything. Eh, this seems like the kind of thing that would become a core memory, but maybe that’s why he’s having trouble forgetting it entirely. Fortunately, Rami was there too, and tells Tez to just view his memory and get it over with.
This looks to be post-Shine. Seems pretty recent to be featuring space suits when Kara describes them as ancient relics.
Rami smells blood. They walk over to the other size of the station, and…
AGH SO CLOSE. If he had moved over just a little we could see his chest and confirm if he has the orb. The dev is taunting us at this point. It looks like there is something on his chest, but according to that EROS zoo all Lessers cover their chests.
The suits say they’re picking up gamma radiation and “something I can’t pinpoint,” so probably latent energy. Could one of his past lives have been working here? Rami concludes that the Lesser’s suffered fatal radiation poisoning and should be mercy killed, but…
Yep, he even has the exact same portrait as Blacky.
The feed ends and we return to present day. Tez starts having a breakdown over being a Lesser while also revealing that his attempts at subterfuge were useless because he always ~just knew~.
Tezkhra: “And now you all know it too…”
Marie: “Well, duh. […] Hate to break it to you, but, we all know. The only one you were hiding from was you, smart guy.”
Lines like these are why Marie is the best character. Daszk also reveals he could smell it the instant they met, which pokes a hole in my theory that lacertians don’t smell – if having a scent at all was unusual for lacertians, more people probably would have picked up on it. This knowledge makes Tez freak out even more, but Marie says they don’t care.
Marie: “Because it’s not a big deal. You’ve already proven you’re your own guy. What else is there to worry about?”
We must be in the universe where Marie doesn’t want to kill Lessers on sight.
This is all horribly dissonant with how we see everyone actually treat Lessers. Rami, I will grant, has been oddly sympathetic towards them, which is good foreshadowing for this, but his behavior only sticks out because everyone else has been so unflinchingly horrible. Every single character, time and time again, has frothed at the mouth every time Lessers have come up and bayed for blood every time they’ve seen one in person. Like how we just saw half the crew advocate for mass murder of harmless baby Lessers solely on the basis they’re Lessers, with Marie at the helm. Even after Blacky was revealed to be not really a Lesser, they were still incredibly nasty to him for no reason. Their hatred and irrationality runs deep. Tez has every reason to believe that they will in fact turn on him for this. The fact that they don’t, and that they already knew, just ends up being OOC in the context of everything we’ve seen them do. It also makes them come off pretty awful when they still have a kill all Lessers mentality despite knowing one of their friends is one. How do they rationalize that? Does he just not count? The exception that proves the rule? What awful racist hoops are they jumping through here?
Come to think of it, this could have made a much better Very Special Episode than the Lesser habitation if it actually bothered to challenge the characters’ beliefs. The game dismisses Tezkhra’s paranoia as unfounded and part of his own neurosis, but if you look at the actual events you get a crew and society that unflinchingly hates Lessers and wants to wipe them off the face of the universe. Tezkhra is one of the worst offenders, either because he thinks he has to to divert suspicion or because he’s legitimately internalized it. Probably a mixture of both. That’s something that really messes people up. Tezkhra’s breakdown is a direct result of what the crew has been telling and showing him about Lessers. Especially with Daszk here, them learning about Tez could teach them that maybe they shouldn’t have done that and should start treating Lessers like people. We would then learn a very special lesson about accepting people for who they are – and how that includes accepting them for their race, not ignoring it. Secrets eat you up inside, after all, and secrets about who you do and do not think deserve to live eat up everyone around you too. The characters deserve a stern reexamination of their principles for this, not self-congratulatory back-patting.
Rami: “Tez, do you remember the first thing yous aid to me when you woke up? […] You said ‘make me like one of them.’ A lacertian. So, I, uh, did my best. Or tried to anyway. Cauterized your scent glands, trimmed your tail, straightened your spine, brushed your teeth…”
For once, science actually is allowed to solve someone’s problems. Keep this in mind when we go over Daszk.
Rami then jokingly threatens to broadcast the recording over the whole ship, which nearly gives Tez and aneurysm. Ha ha, it’s funny because he’s afraid he’ll be lynched and probably will be.
After that everyone leaves, but Tez stays behind to go over the very important lesson we learned about not
being racist keeping secrets. Unfortunately it seems they left too soon, because he reveals he’s still totally keeping secrets about being The Blue One.
Tezkhra: “I feel as if there is more than needs to be shared. Something deeper… Something… so hidden, even I do not realize it… I hope that you will still be at my side when I uncover those truths as well, Ouranos.”
Except, as we saw in the main plot, he still keeps secrets from her and hasn’t actually gotten over this at all. For the love of God just tell him what you know, Ros.
Still, this was one of the better scenes. It addresses a consistent thread throughout both his optional chats and his behavior in the main plot, and gives us a pretty vivid scene that actually shows his history instead of just telling it to us.
Once you complete a character’s personal events, you can romance them. This amuses me because when the game was first starting out, the developer stated very firmly that the personal trust mechanic was not going to turn the game into a dating sim. For a story about changing societies and the conflict between logic and emotion, love is a sensible element to include. I do have a very big objection, though: despite this being probably the only game where everyone being romanceable would make perfect sense, that is not the case. There is only one gay character (Mahk) and one bi character (Kara); everyone else is straight. If you’re gay and don’t like the one option the game provides you, you’re out of luck. I’m sure there is some argument to be made here that this is actually more respectful because it acknowledges the fact that romantic orientation is an inherent trait with variation… except that interspecies relationships are never an issue, even though I think that would be a much bigger barrier than gender. I find it pretty sketchy that the game will force incompatible orientation on you in the name of realism but will let love be free when it comes to the thing that has no bearing in reality.
I am a crotchety gremlin who hates love so this mechanic holds no interest to me personally… but maybe if Ros seduces Tez she can get close enough to rip his shirt off and see if he has that dang orb or not. INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW.
Tezkhra: “Ouranos, I… No, it cannot be this way. And not merely because I am a… you know… There is too much I do not know… too much I must not know… about myself. It would be ruinous.”
Unfortunately, Tez is one of three characters that turn you down if you try to romance them. I must say this is all kinds of dissonant after he just acknowledged he needed to stop keeping secrets from himself. What was the point of his capstone scene if he’s not going to learn anything from it? Honestly though, this is for the best. Tez is an emotionally and mentally unstable pathological liar; definitely not relationship material.
Tezkhra has turned down your expression of feelings, unsurprisingly. You can still offer them to someone else.
Also, this phrasing tickles me. It makes me imagine feelings as a physical object the characters are passing back and forth.
Mahk has entered his teenage rebellion phase and is blaming Ivoronus for all his problems. He’s convinced that Ivoronus sent him away because he wasn’t perfect like the other Sikohlon and Daddy never loved him. This thought continues into the next scene, where he reveals that Ivoronus has summoned him to a personal meeting. Mahk is suddenly afraid that Ivoronus is going to kill him for his impudence (he’s said some unflattering things in his past scenes), and reflects on how spineless he’s been in the past.
Mahk: “This must be fear. A true emotion. One that my suppressed self could only emulate before…”
??? But why would they have any reason to emulate emotions? Suppression makes less sense the more we learn about it.
He wants Ros to come with him for moral support.
Mahk: “I am ready, Ouranos. My father’s private office. Few ever enter, and even fewer leave again. Are you prepared?”
I’m going to assume he’s being overdramatic and Ivoronus does not actually kill guests on a regular basis.
Mahk comes out guns blazing but Ivoronus is super chill. Mahk flies off the handle over his conspiracy theory, but Ivoronus reveals that actually Mahk is his favorite special baby.
Ivoronus: “I sent you out in hopes that you would find others in need of your strength and your cunning. I would have been overjoyed to keep you here indefinitely, but you are a gift to be shared.”
Hello Mary Sue. I’m going to call bullcrap on this and choose to believe Ivoronus is exaggerating to tell the emotionally unstable kid what he wants to hear. He goes on to say that the internship was his way of nurturing Mahk’s individuality and letting him grow outside of the standard, predictable environment of the Sikohlon.
The real reason Mahk was summoned was simply because his contract with Sorenson that we never saw and which Mahk didn’t seem to be aware of has expired and he wanted to make sure Mahk wasn’t being held against his will. Cute, and a good trope, but it would have more poignancy if Mahk actually consented to the initial contract and Ivoronus hadn’t been a manipulative dick about it. Mahk asks if he wants him to come home, and Ivoronus (resisting the urge to roll his eyes, I assume) says it’s his decision. Mahk turns to Ros…
Mahk: “I want… to be with her. W-with the Inquiry project. No matter what happens to us…”
Oh my goodness he’s like a little puppy. Why in the world wasn’t he the biromantic one? Just look at this, he’s clearly head over heels for Ros despite her lack of a Y chromosome, and has been for a while.
Mahk: “Father! I hereby renounce all ties with Sikohlon Machinations and any responsibilities assumed therein!”
Ivoronus: “Don’t be so dramatic, Son. I wouldn’t ask you to choose. You can serve with whomever you wish.”
Mahk: “Oh. Well, in that case… resignation withdrawn.”
This is cute, but geez, I can see why Ivoronus wanted someone else to take care of him. Despite the insistence that the Inquiry internship was a learning experience for him, he still has the maturity of a 13-year-old. I find it more believable that Ivoronus removed Mahk to keep the Machinatorium running smoothly, and the flattery is just so Mahk doesn’t feel bad about it.
That’s all for Mahk, but one of his gift messages amuses me so I’ll post it:
Mahk: Oh, how do you do. Care to test a creation of mine? Of course you want to. It is a Contact shell. Make use of it. You may thank me by cleaving an unsuspected MOD unit in half with it. I am glad we know one another so well.”
He’s adorable. If I was at all inclined to set fictional characters up with each other he’d definitely be my choice for love interest. They get along so well!
On to Neff. Since the war has cut them off from Typelog, he’s been working on replicating its functions for the crew. In the process, he’s found a way to make artificial realities. He’s not sure about what to do with it, especially after seeing how Tez’s tech led to unforeseen consequences. He decides to talk it over with Ral (who’s fully recovered by now), who he trusts more than the other Typelog officials because [not found]. It’s true that they worked with her personally, but she doesn’t owe them anything and has worryingly Willis-esque whiffs of mad science. And if she was the one responsible for the Stardraw leak, discussing new tech with her seems pretty risky. Neff even brings up the fear that Typelog will have stolen it already, but is somehow convinced that Ral is too reasonable to do that even though she headed the project that did it last time.
Ral reveals that they already know everything. They either hacked the password or stole it from Neff’s memories, because they’ve already analyzed what he sent them. I still think this is ridiculous when we’re not given any justification for their omniscience. This is science fiction, not fantasy, everything has to have a concrete explanation behind it!
Then things get… weird.
Ral: “It is a very ambitious little data type, isn’t it? What did you intend to do with it? […] Use it as the basis for a neural-net alternate reality, perhaps?”
Neff: “Yeah! Wait, how’d you know?”
Ral: “Please, Doctor. You are not the first person to try. We have a dozen data types with similar aspects in storage. […] There is a reason they are not put to practical use, Neff. Even before the… neural link incident, we dabbled in the idea of an alternate reality subsystem. But, may I ask you, what would change? What would be so different from the reality we have now?”
Neff: “Are you kidding? It’d be great! We could really be a perfect society, forever! Even if it was in our heads.”
Ral: “You miss a greater conundrum. Who determines how it should run? There must be some administrators… If those in charge are human then there would be flaws. And there would be a difference in powers. That difference would lead to unrest, and division of interests, and well, you know the rest, I am sure.”
Neff: “Uh… it doesn’t have to be that way! Let machines run things! Let it be based on logic!”
Ral: “The words of a truly suppressed individual. Unfortunately, emotion and desire are a necessary missing piece. Just as we discovered with the Shine, any one unforeseen variable will disrupt any amount of controlled order. So you see, a ‘perfect’ reality is already a logical flaw. Any reality we make is doomed to repeated mistakes.”
Neff: “But… but anything is better than what we have now! Ros… tell her! About the fighting, and…!”
Ral: “I am all too familiar, but this too shall pass. It is the culmination of a squabble from an era past. It is also far out of the control of you or I. It is entirely a fight of our superiors now. And in this new, alternate reality, who would be the superior then? You? Ouranos, here? It is no different.”
Neff: “But… but we could make it different! We could get it right this time! We can make it happen!”
Ral: “No, we can’t, Doctor Crenshaw. Strife has always been in our nature. There are just some things that escape prediction, and quantification. The failure of the suppressed society showed that, and now all of society may just go up in flames. But from its remains, a new society will form, and try to learn from the mistakes of its previous self. That too, will eventually fail, and buckle under its own weight. And so forth…”
Ah. And here I was thinking that just this once a sci-fi story might not do the “technology is meaningless and nothing will ever get better” plot. Silly me.
An alternate reality is not just a copy of the real world that changes nothing. It is a true post-scarcity society. If everything is a simulation, you have no need for physical resources. Everyone can have whatever they want with a thought. There really isn’t a need for human administrators. There is no reason for the divisions and conflicts going on now to ever arise. You would probably need some maintenance to make sure the computers don’t break down, but that’s pretty simple and, again, could be done mostly by robots. Alternate reality is not just another iteration of society doomed to repeat the exact same mistakes, it’s a completely different ball game. Ral’s reasoning here totally misunderstands the premises just so she can wallow in defeatism.
And I find that defeatism personally offensive. I am not just a scientist, I am an engineer. My field is built on the fact that technology unequivocally improves quality of life, and that I can do something to help people with it. When you say that we’re just running in circles and technology can never really fix any of our problems, when you tell me it’s all so hopeless that I shouldn’t even try, you are spitting on me and the purpose I have chosen in life. I Miss the Sunrise tells me that, even if I find a way to magically solve all physiological problems forever such that people don’t even need to breathe, apparently that won’t solve any resource or ideological conflicts and we’ll still be just as miserable. I can’t actually improve anything or help anyone, so I’m just wasting my time. Let’s all wallow in our nihilism and die.
And that is just not true! People love the quote: “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I believe the truth of that principle is proved through technology more than anything else. All throughout history, we see the consistent thread that defeats tyranny and empowers justice is new technology. Agriculture allowed people to band together into cultures and protect themselves from others, because it increased resources and allowed people to settle down and share instead of fighting over scraps. Gunpowder knocked the knighthood off its high horse, because suddenly there were weapons anyone could use. Scientific inquiry demystified organized religion and broke its deathgrip on society. The printing press enabled sedition to spread faster than tyrants could snuff it out – and today we see an extension of that, where the proliferation of smartphone cameras and the open forum of the internet are allowing people to expose injustices that have been suppressed for decades. Meanwhile, disease workers have slain one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. There is a reason why tyrants throughout history have tried to either control scientific progress for themselves or stifle it entirely: science and technology democratizes power. It saves lives, it alters societies beyond recognition, and it laughs in the face of those who speak of impossibilities. To decree that this time it definitely won’t work and we shouldn’t even try is ridiculous, and demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of science and history.
I am an optimist. I believe that we can fix the problems in the world, and that I can be a part of that, however small. I refuse to believe that nothing matters. I refuse to give up. Yes, Ral, we can get it right this time. The only way we can’t is if we succumb to this self-fulfilling prophecy.
I get the feeling that this is rooted in the developer’s anti-authority stance. Ral speaks here as if any administration would automatically be evil and doomed to failure, without examining the fact that people act that way for specific reasons. She also echoes the main story’s portrayal of the war as an incomprehensible force of nature. Leaders and executives in this game are treated like boogeymen rather than actual people – they do terrible things for no reason and then the game nods sagely about how you just can’t understand why organizations do things. I think I’m starting to understand how the developer thinks, now – if you find your superiors’ actions so incomprehensible that they seem like forces of nature, it does make sense that you’d think trying to fight back would be pointless and it’s better to just keep your head down. What’s the point in trying to reason with a hurricane? But the fact remains that that’s not how it actually works. Our superiors are people just like us, and they operate on the exact same principles and biases. If you change the rules of the game, they will change too – they won’t continue being tyrants, because they’re not actually robots programmed to do scary evil political things regardless of context.
This is why we need to teach kids politics in school.
One last thing:
Ral: “I know EROS’ intentions were for the best, as well… If only the rest of my superiors could understand that as well.”
THEY TRIED TO KILL YOU. HOW WERE THOSE GOOD INTENTIONS.
Did the game forget it had Willis confess the precise reasons why they did it last episode? Does it think we’re so stupid we won’t notice such a glaring retcon? Gah.
And now, Daszk. You may recall from last time that he planned to learn how to get smarter. He’s made a list of all the Lesser traits that people hate about him, but it’s so long that he starts despairing that he’ll never get any better. He’s determined, though.
By the next scene he’s seriously discussed it with Rami, but he got nervous when he heard how gruesome the surgery would be. He’s terrified that something will go wrong and he’ll end up even worse, but since it’s his only chance to become normal, he feels he has no choice. As expected, he wants me there for moral support.
Daszk: “You’re my best friend… you’re my only friend. You saved me once, and I hate askin’ again, but…”
Again with this. Ros never lifted a finger to help him. She didn’t even give the order to investigate the facility, Marie did. The disconnect between reality and Daszk’s sycophancy reads an awful lot like Stockholm syndrome.
He asks why Tez is here.
Tezkhra: “I am assisting the good doctor with your transformation, Monene. Since I will be in control of the cauterizing laser, I suggest you not vex me.”
Wow, he’s a dick.
Ros asks why he isn’t sedated, and apparently Lesser brains are super-sensitive to anesthetics and they’d put him into a coma. Ehh, really? Why can’t people deal with Lessers by spraying anesthetics everywhere, then? Seems pretty quick to write him off, too – plenty of people have anesthesia sensitivity in real life, but anesthesiologists are still able to make it work. They’ve probably never done surgery on a Lesser before so there wouldn’t be precedent, but surely they have the time to study it with their future super science? Lesser brains are similar to lacertian brains so they should be able to come up with something. Rami also reveals that he’s going to have it even worse than Tez, because his hybrid physiology means some of his scent glands are buried deep and they’ll have to hack him open to get those. Daszk is still willing to go through with it if he only has to do it once, so of course it turns out that he’s going to get screwed by his regeneration and revert back to normal within a hundred spins, however long that is. Rami confesses that some of the changes Daszk wants are outside of his capabilities and none of it’s going to be permanent. This finally breaks Daszk’s resolve, which… come on, Rami didn’t tell him any of this beforehand? They supposedly discussed this extensively!
Daszk asks Ros what he should do.
Ros: “You gotta decide that on your own. Do you really hate who you are this much?”
Daszk: “But… everyone else hates me already. What’m I s’posda do?”
Tezkhra: “Who hates you?”
Rami: “I don’t hate you.”
I can’t help but notice that, while Rami unequivocally affirms this, Lizard Hitler is suspiciously evasive.
Daszk is all, but everyone avoids me! Rami says that’s because he’s really sad and emotional all the time and they’re afraid of hurting him. Because status quo is God it turns out that Daszk never actually hated his body, just how it made people treat him, even though the situation seemed a lot less clear-cut back in episode 2. He learns the very special lesson that he just has to be more confident in himself and not let other people bring him down.
Tezkhra: “Do not let your physical form dictate your self-confidence. You would never get anywhere.”
I’ll just let you stare at this for a while.
This whole scene clashes horribly with everything we know about Tezkhra’s backstory. Tez had the exact same desires as Daszk, but he got everything he wanted; but when Daszk tries to do the exact same thing, suddenly we have to be realistic and science can’t help him. Tez gets to lead a cushy life and blend in to proper society – and he apparently doesn’t need follow-up surgeries because [not found] – and what does he do with that privilege? He bays for the blood of everyone in his former position and when he comes across the one Lesser he can’t kill, he hypocritically sneers that doing what he did is stupid and won’t get you anywhere. It is utterly, mind-bogglingly dissonant for Daszk to get the Very Special Lesson of accepting who he is while Tezkhra the special snowflake cyborg stands next to him delivering it. Tez didn’t have to accept what he was; Tez was able to make the universe bend to his whims because he’s a special Mary Sue who gets everything he wants. You can’t have those two situations coexist, at least not without acknowledging how supremely messed up and unfair it is.
And finally, Kara. She’s been informed that Willis is performing another mad science project.
Kara: “He ignites a war that embroils all life as we know it, and then he brushes it off without a care. That man… I don’t understand him at all! He could be working to clean up his own mess, but no!”
Kara tells it like it is. I wonder if this was written before Willis was included in the main plot? It completely contradicts the game’s insistence that he totally does care and is in fact working to fix it.
Anyway, since Willis is a biologist Kara suspects he’s trying to create an entirely new lifeform, so of course it’s now time to have a lesson about how creating life is wrong.
Kara: “Cloning humans and lacertians for specimens or organs at least has a practical outcome… But trying to create a new life form entirely? Something about that seems… not unnecessary, but… Wrong for other reasons. Do we really need more diversity than we have? What happened to solidarity?”
Oh Kara, and you were doing so well. I find it hilarious that we’ve reached the point where a stance is so absurd that people can’t even formulate an argument for it. Why is creating life wrong? It just is, okay!!! At least it’s otherwise pro-cloning.
She got an update: they achieved a major breakthrough and the project is already complete. Not only that, but the new organism is sapient. She’s been invited to see it and, as you may expect, wants me there for moral support. She says it’s because “I need an objective, unbiased mind to judge the situation,” but she doesn’t ask my opinion before declaring that we need to kill it.
Kara: “It’s not meant to exist! We have to put a stop to it.”
Kara I thought you were a scientist not a Luddite. She also cites Colony 503b’s rebellion as a reason why we can’t let this thing get out of control, so apparently her objection to that was totally self-motivated even though it sure sounded moral in episode 3 because CHOO CHOO ALL ABOARD THE RETCON TRAIN.
Kara also provides another reason why I need to come along: she’s convinced that her fingerprints have been locked out of the scanners but Ros’ still work.
Kara: “Willis still trusts you, though. In fact, he’s probably still using you, and you don’t even know it.”
Citation needed. Game, you can’t just throw in vague threats out of the blue and not back them up with anything.
They head to the station.
For the first time I notice that the area marker lists this as the abandoned databanks. I really doubt that’s intentional, but maybe it’s meant to draw a parallel or hint at where Willis got his breakthroughs from.
Kara also gives me a level 20 keycard, because if we have to split up I’ll need it to get out. Sweet! Kinda weird, though, because some of her other events imply she has a lower rank than that. I guess she stole it?
Then she investigates the console.
Kara: “’Project PF-001′. Strange… no historical or observational records.”
And yep, that’s the exact same naming scheme we saw in the abandoned databanks. This one stands for “feline”, I would presume.
She manages to open the locks, and starts getting suspicious that this is too easy. They head closer to investigate.
Ros: “What am I looking for, again?”
Kara: “I do not know exactly. It could be an insect… an animal… although, it is supposedly sentient…”
INSECTS ARE ANIMALS. I know that’s a really petty thing to call out but if you’re writing science fiction you should at least do basic research!
Kara starts discussing how to kill it, and…
Holy jumpscare, Batman. Although they really deserve it for discussing their murder plans in front of a thing they know is sapient. And that silhouette looks rather feline, doesn’t it? In case you were wondering where the fih’jik came from, you now have your answer.
At this point Willis shows up for some exposition.
Kara: “Doctor Jameson… what in the hell was that?!”
Willis: “Do you like her? She is my latest achievement! A whole new lifeform. A thing of beauty!”
Willis: “That’s right. We called her ‘Dena.’ Short for ‘DNA’, I guess. Who says the project members do not have a sense of humor?”
And so we learn the name of God. Seems like this could also be the basis for the fih’jik’s “four letters, two syllables” naming scheme.
Willis goes on to say that Dena alerted him to Kara’s intrusion… somehow, because we didn’t see or hear anything. Maybe there’s some communication device in the room. Or sure, they have a telepathic link, because that makes as much sense as anything at this point.
Willis: “Very simple communications for now, but she learns quickly. She truly is a supreme being.”
Interesting phrasing, there. I wonder how much of the religion was Dena’s own delusions of grandeur? If she can understand what Willis is saying, she might take it too literally and believe she’s a superior, godlike being herself. Something Willis is about to say also raises the possibility that she projected the “Supreme One” image onto Willis, which could have gotten muddled as the story was passed down. We already saw him encouraging such a mentality with Fell, which could be an intentional parallel to this.
Kara: “Jameson… you’re creating intelligent life in a lab, now? How far until your madness is satiated?”
Willis: “It is called curiosity, Doctor Fatima, and it is a prerequisite of being in the EROS Project at all.”
Hmm. I can’t tell which side is supposed to be right or if this is supposed to be a fair and balanced thing. Kara’s side seems to be relying purely on “creating life is eeevil”, but that’s a distressingly compelling argument in a lot of circles. I can understand it to a degree; if you believe in intelligent design, then the creation of life is a sacred thing that makes us unique and special. Scientists showing that no, it’s a completely mechanical and logical process, why, we can even replicate it in the lab would therefore be terrifying and world-shattering and likely to lead to horrible consequences, because only God is good enough to do something so important and our feeble human minds would screw it up. But a lot of people still have an issue with this despite being okay with evolution, so there must be more to it I’m not seeing. An emotional holdover even when the actual logical justification no longer applies? There are logical arguments against creating sapient life, but Kara doesn’t provide any, simply acting like it’s inherently wrong and this is self-evident.
Kara goes on to say that he hasn’t learned anything and is continuing to act recklessly with no regard for the consequences.
Willis: “On the contrary; I know when to pick my battles, and where to devote my attention. Meanwhile, you and your hired guns lash out at anything that you think might be a problem.”
Okay but that does nothing to refute anything she said.
Willis: “You’ve lost all trust in humanity to advance on its breakthroughs, and learn from its mistakes.”
No, she’s just lost all trust in you. Using a single individual to represent an entire abstract concept or wing of society is rarely a good idea and it’s particularly awkward here. Willis and Ral were the only major scientist characters we have, and now Ral has dropped out of the running. He’s the face of the entire scientific community at this point, and that’s a pretty heavy burden to bear when he’s also supposed to be a character in his own right – and a villainous one, at that. It’s too hard to untangle Willis-the-character and Willis-the-author’s-soapbox-about-scientists at this point, which renders any attempt at insight pretty useless.
Kara: “So you think the war is just one giant lesson that humanity needed to learn? That’s really twisted.”
See what I mean? WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING HE SAID. What is with characters pulling conversation topics out of thin air in this episode?
Willis then explains why he’s doing this.
Willis: “I assure you both, it was not entirely an act of amusement. Think for a moment of what it means. Machinery breaks down, but living things are eternal due to emitter radiation.”
Again with this… You know, I think the story would work a lot better if emitters were some kind of magic alien black box technology they didn’t understand, because that’s basically how they’re being treated. They apparently never break down (though it is mentioned somewhere that they do require electricity), no one seems to know how they work, no one seems interested in improving them, and Willis is apparently the only person to think about structuring other technology around them. Then later the story could reveal they run on latent energy, thus neatly explaining all their magic capabilities as them literally being magic.
I’m sorry Willis, you were explaining why you’re definitely not a mad scientist?
Willis: “If I could make the perfect lifeform to serve us… fill our needs… fight our wars… Now, of course I am thinking ahead to a larger scope, but ideas always start small… singular…”
Kara: “Oh, sure, that’ll turn out great… until they turn on us, like the MODs did.”
Willis: “But there lies the difference! Unlike a mechanical construct, a living being is subject to emotion. Humanity is starting to realize it now that they are unsuppressed again, Doctor Fatima. Manipulate their feelings… make their losses ‘personal’… and they will do anything for you. Unless we find a target to force that sense of oppression upon, we will never be able to recover.”
So no, he did not in fact learn anything from the colony incident. He also demonstrates why they desperately need a psychology department. The entire point of emotions is that they’re volatile and unpredictable; you can direct them if you’re very good at manipulation, but banking on that to control an entire population that’s most likely stronger than you? Something is going to break sooner or later, especially if there is any flaw in the image and they find the lie… Like, for instance, hearing their creator explicitly lay it all out because he forgot that she’s standing five feet away and can understand speech. You moron.
But you know, I wonder… on some level, he must understand this. He must understand how risky his idea is, and how unlikely it is to produce useful results. He must understand that if this was at all a good idea, it would have already been done by now. Maybe this isn’t the intended reading, but I see this speech as an extension of the inertia I outlined in the episode 3 conclusion. He starts by claiming there’s a practical purpose for this, but almost instantly it devolves into a ramble about how clever this is and wouldn’t it just be SO COOL??? Like his PLSE plan, any veneer of practicality is a pretense – he only cares about his own cleverness and trying out his ideas because why not, without any concern for the consequences. He hasn’t thought things through at all. He is the apotheosis of the irresponsible scientist, more concerned with satiating his own curiosity than the effects on society, and leaving everyone else to clean up his mess. I think there’s a dark beauty to that – a twisted mirror to the worst excesses of academia, the reason why the public believes scientists are evil and don’t bother to see the full situation. It is not, however, representative of the scientific community in general, and I can’t be certain that it’s not supposed to be. If this is playing “scientists are evil!!!” straight, that’s just dull and disappointing.
Kara: “You talk a lot about emotions, but you seem to lack them yourself.”
HOW IS THAT WHAT YOU TOOK AWAY FROM THIS. The entire point is that he’s too emotional and letting that cloud his rational judgment! After exploring this theme the whole game and showing over and over again how unrestrained emotion leads to disaster, this is where it ends up? Just bog-standard emotions good logic bad? Ugh!
Kara: “Not to mention… a conscience.”
Oh like you’re one to talk, Ms. Let’s Blow Up The Definitely Sapient Person Instead Of The Evil Mad Scientist.
Kara: “We have the power to create life. Cloning humans and lacertians, that’s one thing. But this…”
And she goes out with this, again just trailing off instead of actually explaining why it’s wrong because it’s just so self-evident apparently.
Willis: “Lambast all you like, Fatima. But this is the next level of science… creating something from nothing. I have only the best of intentions for the good of humanity. You, however, are too afraid to try.”
This has gotten so convoluted I’m actually agreeing with Dr. Evil. What is the game even trying to do at this point?
Kara: “It’s probably good that I went my own way when I did, because I would’ve killed you myself.”
WHY DON’T YOU RIGHT NOW. YOU HAVE THE BOMB. JUST FREAKING KILL HIM. She’s willing to kill an innocent slave but not the person who’s actually evil? Everyone is horrible in this.
Willis: “Yes, yes. I know. Go on; run back to your little mercenary group. Fix society your way.”
THEY’RE NOT EVEN A MERCENARY GROUP. THEY ARE THEIR OWN FACTION. WHY DOES NOTHING MAKE SENSE. The only way I could see justification for this is if they’ve been playing both sides by alternatively helping and betraying Typelog and EROS, but we’ve seen no evidence for that; they seem to be constantly opposed to all sides. Does the game just not realize there are other ways to call people bloodthirsty than “mercenary”? Words have meaning, darn it.
Dr. Evil storms off, because he apparently forgot that Kara is here to blow up his lab and leaving her unattended is probably a bad idea. Fortunately for him, she decides to philosophize instead.
Kara: “I’m not crazy, am I? There are things we shouldn’t mess with…”
Ros: “He has his arguments; you’ve got yours. That’s what it means to be human, I guess.”
Oh sorry apparently it was supposed to be a ~teach the controversy~ thing, because apparently purposefully creating life just to enslave it isn’t objectively abhorrent!
Kara: “You know something… You’re absolutely right. We have the free will to do, or say, or make what we please.”
EXCEPT WHEN IT HURTS PEOPLE. THIS IS WHY WE HAVE LAWS.
Kara: “Now, let’s get back to the Inquiry before that thing can break out and claw us into pieces.”
THAT “THING” IS A PERSON. A PERSON THAT WILLIS JUST SAID HE WAS PLANNING TO ENSLAVE. WHY IS THAT NOT THE THING YOU ARE OBJECTING TO. WHY DOES NO ONE SEE ANYTHING WRONG WITH ANY OF THIS?!?!
This scene is a complete disaster. The game is acting like playing God is the only point of contention here, even though it just brought in emotional torture and slavery! I think that’s kind of a bigger deal??? That the game just completely ignores it just makes this whole discussion look morally bankrupt. Why is this series always so cavalier about slavery?!
Well, at least we now know why fih’jik are so isolationist. If Dena heard any of this she’d definitely decide to stay as far away from humanity as possible.
I’m also very disappointed that Kara’s defection to the good side requires her to become a Luddite. Your anti-science biases are showing, game.
One last thing for Kara, though: finishing this event pushed her over 200 personal trust, thus triggering her second gift. It’s a level 10 ID, but since she just gave me a L20 it’s obsolete. I actually did not know this led to a separate dialogue branch! I get a trust boost too, enough to max her out. That’s a nice touch, even if it is a little silly when it happens right after she gives you the better card. Now I wonder what happens if you have a L99 when you do her event.
No bounty hunts today, this is already long enough! Optional characters will be covered next post.