Analyzing the implied story of “By Committee” in Marathon Infinity

Where are the Pfhor?
Of course this level needed to be a little easier than most since you start with no weapons, but Double Aught came up with a narrative to explain why we encounter little resistance.

Where are the troopers and hunters?

On “By Committee” Tycho tells us, “The ground forces are hunting for the surviving humans…” The next level is “One Thousand Thousand Slimy Things” and you take part in the Pfhor assault on a human-S’pht base. Your Pfhor allies are Troopers and Hunters. These two points together suggests that why you see no Hunters or Troopers on “By Committee” is because they are busy hunting and routing the human resistance in other parts of Lh’owen.

What happened to the Enforcers?

The lack of enforcers in this level is odd. They are portrayed as the torturers, inquisitors, and quasi-police force of the Pfhor; they should be all over this level. Tycho even tells us that, “The Enforcers haven’t been able to squeeze [Durandal’s primal pattern] out of you yet, and are taking it out on some of the former crew of the Marathon as we speak. But they’re determined, if nothing else.” That makes it sound like the Enforcers are right here just around the corner, but they’re not in any part of the facility, at least not any part we can access. Their presence is so strong that the terminal pics focus on them and show us a new rank of enforcer with red lanyards that carries a strange staff.

Even in Marathon 2 when we were stuck in prison there were two enforcers standing guard outside our door.

Taking a swing at some guards in Marathon 2

Two rooms and two fists is all I need to kick ass.

Their absence from “By Committee” stands out even more vividly when it is juxtaposed by the single enforcer gun lying on that east balcony, “guarded” by two Fighters. The location where we find it even makes sense as an Enforcer guard location: an elevated area overlooking a prison courtyard. I think this one gun is Double Aught’s way of drawing our attention to the missing Enforcers.

The gun in question.

Also, there’s some meta-evidence that the lack of enforcers is important. Earlier I mentioned that there are two new types of Bobs in this level and they occupy the two Enforcer slots in the Physics file. Now Double Aught could have used any unit’s spot for the two extra Bob types: Hunters, Troopers, and especially S’pht’kr Defenders who aren’t even a part of the story yet. But Double Aught used the slot for Enforcers. What this suggests is either A) the lack of enforcers in this level was planned right from the beginning, or B) the enforcer spots were used by accident and then their absence had to be woven into the narrative afterwards. It’s most likely “A” but either way the lack of enforcers is not trivial.

Stored alien guns on “Pfhor Your Eyes Only”

We normally don’t see alien guns lying around. When we do it’s usually in a special location like the secret closet on M1’s “Pfhorophobia”, the armory on M1’s “Pfhor Your Eyes Only”, or the gun closet in the enforcer room on Infinity’s “Post Naval Trauma”.

Weapon locker on “Post Naval Trauma”.

Most importantly there’s the gun we find on “Come And Take Your Medicine” in M2. We find an enforcer’s gun just lying on the floor, in a corner, and seemingly at random. The Volunteers entry refers to it as “The new Alien Weapon, apparently left here by an absent-minded Enforcer…” Absent-minded Enforcer? Absurd! There is blood and guts ALL OVER the floor suggesting that a serious battle took place here.

Alien gun found among bloody remains on “Come And Take Your Medicine”

In fact, the Volunteers entry on “Medicine” fails to notice that in many places on the level there are puddles of blood, both human and Pfhor, which implies that a battle took place right before we got to this Pfhor facility. (Throughout Marathon 2 and Infinity there are set pieces, especially “blood” props, that help construct narratives but which probably go unnoticed by many players.) It would seem Durandal sent some humans here, they weren’t able to cut it, and so he sent you to finish the fight. The alien gun is lying where it does because the Enforcer was killed by Bobs who were then killed by Pfhor troops.

Interestingly the Volunteers entry for “By Committee” says something similar to “Medicine” about the alien gun: “The south teleporter takes you to a ledge overlooking the arena, where some careless Enforcer has left an Alien Weapon.” Careless Enforcers again? I don’t think so. If I had to pick one Pfhor caste that was the least likely to be absent-minded or careless it would be the Enforcers.

It’s worth pointing out that “Come And Take Your Medicine” was created by Greg Kirkpatrick, and that “By Committee” was collaborated on by Chris Geisel and Greg Kirkpatrick. It’s entirely possible that Greg chose to use the same storytelling technique with the enforcer gun on “By Committee” that he used on “Come And Take Your Medicine”.

So, based on all the evidence we’ve seen so far, the alien gun we see on “By Committee” is lying there because the Enforcer was killed. I think this one gun is our key to understanding what happened in pen13 garrison. It’s not a far leap to conclude that if this one Enforcer was killed then this is why we see no other Enforcers either, they were also killed. So, who killed them and why?

This level uses the Lava texture set which unfortunately doesn’t have any blood props to give us clues on who fought the Enforcers, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that it was the other Pfhor. It’s unlikely that it was the humans since they’re being hunted down and there is a precedence of Pfhor attacking each other due to the machinations of a particular someone who features prominently in this level.

Tycho’s Tricks:

Tycho has no problem manipulating the Pfhor into killing each other. On “Rise Robot Rise” we start weaponless and Tycho releases us from stasis. The Hunters and Fighters are on our side and are fighting the Enforcers. By posing as Admiral Tfear and forging authorization stamps Tycho is able to get the lower ranking castes to attack the Enforcers whose authorization stamps are harder for Tycho to forge.

Note the alien gun lying on the floor, in a corner, and if without the context of the battle it would seem to be lying there at random.

Considering this precedence, the most likely reason the Enforcers were killed on “By Committee” is because Tycho has tricked the Pfhor into attacking each other again.

Why did Tycho even bother risking his safety to start a coup in the first place? Probably it has something to do with Durandal’s primal pattern. In previous levels Tycho is single-mindedly obsessed with destroying Durandal, and the last scrap of Durandal is hiding inside your brain. My guess is that he staged the coup to destroy you.

It didn’t work though. Although pretending to be Tfear may have worked far from Naval High Command, as was the case on “Rise Robot”, this time Tycho is trying the same trick right under Admiral Tfear’s nose and right under the gaze of Tfear’s special, anti-AI Compilers. Tycho’s attempt finally reveals his treachery to the Pfhor and he’s imprisoned.

Are all the Enforcers dead? Did Tycho lie to us  about Bobs being tortured?
So Tycho tells us that, “The Enforcers haven’t been able to squeeze [Durandal’s primal pattern] out of you yet, and are taking it out on some of the former crew of the Marathon as we speak. But they’re determined, if nothing else.” But we don’t see any Enforcers on this level. I guess maybe they could be in another part of the facility, after all, Tycho is somewhere close but not accessible to us.

Then there’s this terminal message from Naval High Command, sent via the Enforcement Liaison: “All pen13 garrison units are ordered to scale back enforcement proceedings on human captives to maintain survival rate protocol (49-61%). Conditioning and duress experiments are ordered halted immediately.” Well, hell, “halted immediately” sounds like the opposite of “as we speak”.

Based on the above points I think Tycho is lying to us about the Enforcers torturing the Bobs. It’s tenuous logic, but I don’t think there are any Enforcers left and even if there were they aren’t torturing any humans right now. Tycho says, “I’m willing to put the past behind me, and as a show of good faith I’ll help you rescue your precious humans.” It seems Tycho is trying to use the other humans as leverage to get our help and he claims they are being tortured as an incentive for you to hurry.

This then adds a little more narrative to the bob-o-later, the pillar that lowers Bobs into lava and burns them alive. There are no Enforcers actually running it because they’re either dead or have been ordered to halt their experiments immediately. If they’re all dead then that explains why the humans were just left on the pillar. If the Enforcers just stopped because of orders, then it shows how little they care for their captives when they leave the humans to stand on the pillar for who knows how long. Interestingly, the only person performing duress experiments on humans is us when we activate the bob-o-later ourselves.

Every time we burn the humans new Bobs teleport in to restock the bob-o-later. I doubt Double Aught intended any narrative to this, but I can still see one even if it’s just my imagination. If conditioning has been halted immediately that explains why no one is lowering these Bobs into lava, but then why do they keep teleporting in new ones? I think this reflects the counter-productive nature of Pfhor bureaucracy. Conditioning on humans has been halted, but “relocation of captive combatant units for purposes of conditioning” has not been halted. Whoever is in charge of teleporting those Bobs is just doing what he was told to do and no one bothered to directly order him to stop.

What happened specifically?
So, in terms of the Pfhor coup, what were the sides? Who was Tycho able to manipulate and who did he attack?

Unfortunately there’s no way to know for sure. There are several lines of thought, but any conclusion would be conjecture.

It’s entirely possible at this point in time that Tycho can manipulate the Enforcers. On “Poor Yorrick” Tycho says, “The Enforcers are pinned down on the bridge, and they won’t cooperate until I can successfully forge their encrypted stamp. I’m working on it…” So, it seems like it’s possible for Tycho to control the Enforcers but it takes effort and time before he can do it. So, it’s possible that Tycho could have used the Enforcers to do his bidding in pen13.

Are any of the units that followed Tycho’s fake orders still alive or were they all killed off or executed? Executing individuals for mistakenly following forged orders is exactly the logic I’d expect from an empire that demotes its engineers for asking permission to make a footpath (Engineer 1st/3rd Class K’all on “Where Some Rarely Go”). It’s just an assumption, but it would make sense that the units we fight on “By Committee” were not part of the coup and are trusted soldiers who put down the “uprising”. If that’s the case then the cyborgs, fighters, and drones were loyal Pfhor, and the Enforcers, and possibly the S’pht, were fighting at Tycho’s command.

In the dungeons several Pfhor Fighters are being held. Are they just general miscreants who were incarcerated for trying to repair a vending machine? Or were they maybe imprisoned for participating in Tycho’s coup? If the latter is the case then that means we can’t know what factions were what. Each faction, Tycho’s and the loyal Pfhor, could have units of the same type.

All of those are interesting points, but none of them conclusively point us in the direction of what specifically went down in pen13. My best theory would be that it went down similarly to “Rise Robot Rise”. The Enforcers were torturing you so if Tycho was able to trick them into obeying him then it would have been quick and easy to destroy you. So, since you’re still alive and still imprisoned Tycho probably wasn’t able to trick the Enforcers. He probably tricked the Fighters, any Hunters that might have been around, and any S’pht that might have been around. Then Cyborgs and fresh Fighters were sent in to reclaim the facility from Tycho’s control. That’s my best guess.
The summary of the logic:
1) Enforcers missing when they shouldn’t be
2) Enforcer gun on ground because Enforcer was killed
3) All Enforcers missing because they were killed
4) They were killed by other Pfhor
5) Tycho has proven he will turn factions of Pfhor against each other
6) Tycho started a coup in pen13 garrison
7) Tycho wants Durandal destroyed and you have the last pieces of Durandal

Conlusion) Tycho forged authorization stamps and turned the units of pen13 garrison against each other in order to destroy you and thus destroy the last remnants of Durandal.
My suggested timeline for the two weeks that you were in prison:
1. “Hang Brain”, you destroy Durandal and copy his primal pattern into some part of your cybernetic memory.
2. You’re captured.
3. You are interrogated by enforcers.
4. Tycho believes you contain the Durandal’s pattern and tries to kill you by using forged authorization stamps to turn factions within pen13 garrsion against each other. Any S’pht in the area are driven to rampancy by Tycho. He does this right under the nose of Admiral Tfear.
5. Tfear’s special unit of compilers capture Tycho.
6. Tycho is interrogated and reveals his previous treachery involving the murder of Captain R’chzne. Tycho implicates you as a collaborator during the interrogation.
7. Tycho is held in a containment unit, probably under the watch of Containment Compilers.
8. Still, he is powerful and devious enough to slip past their defenses, possess a drone, use the drone to open every cell in prison, and then leave you a message on the local Pfhor network.
9. Tycho waits while you rampage through the prisons and disable the power substations.
10. Your actions must have clued Tfear to exactly what you’re doing because after the power is down Tfear is the one giving you orders. We can assume that Tycho is captured because in a later level Tycho is apparently taking orders from Tfear. Also, Admiral Tfear never bothers to mention Tycho, but his orders on “By Committee” come from terminals with the title pages and end pages “Tycho_005917” implying that Tfear is sending his orders through Tcyho as proxy.

Unsolved Mysteries and Miscellanea:

The Pfhor and the Facility:

The facility consists of one central structure which sits in the middle of five prison yards, overlooking them with balconies.

Every curved stairway in this level has at least one Fighter guarding it. Cyborgs are the only guards in the dungeons while Fighters guard the stairs leading down to the dungeons.

The region of the map where we access the dungeons is locked “from the inside”. There are several locked doors which can only be opened from inside the dungeon region. The only way for us to get into this area is by teleporter.

There are two courtyards, West and Northeast, both of which have interesting pillar structures and which teleport in several aliens. The West yard has one pillar structure and teleports in apologetic A-bobs. The Northeast yard has many pillar structures and teleports in cyborgs. The Volunteers sections refers to them as, “those strange lava pillars we saw on Eat the Path.” Although these pillars are very similar to the ones on “By Committee”, they are also different in architecture (Eat The Path pillars are more like long, hollow tubes. By Committee pillars are like solid boxes balanced on a single pillar.)

What I find interesting though is that both these prison yards feature large numbers of enemies teleporting in. Normally in this level when enemies teleport in there is only one or two of them. What is the purpose of those pillars? Are they related to the teleporting troops somehow? I don’t know.

In the Northeast yard, where the cyborgs teleport in, there is a unique section of wall. Based on its texturing and lighting it looks like it could be a door, teleporter, a platform that rises from the ground, or something else. I have no idea what it’s for and I can’t find any clues to its purpose, but it sure looks important.

Lava Pool Room:
Near the beginning of the map, near where there are two teleport pads, there is an interesting scene surrounding a kidney shaped pool of lava. On a raised area directly above the lava pool a Fighter stands guard. Surrounding the area are small raised areas, reach by stair, on each of which stands a Fighter. I don’t know what this all means but it feels reminiscent of the pic we see of Enforcers throwing Bobs into the lava pool. Possibly this is an execution chamber. Also, if you don’t trigger the enemies you can see that the lower Fighters area all facing the walls. One of them is looking at a pattern buffer as though he was using a computer, but why the other ones are facing the wall is unclear. Perhaps they were meant to be engineers using computer terminals but Double Aught never got around to putting the terminals in.

The hallway with red shafts:
There is an interesting U-shaped hallway on the Western-most part of the map. It connects the West and SW prison yards. Extending from the sides of this hallway are five pairs of glowing red shafts, one on each side of the hall.

There are two purple Fighters inside the hall. Neither will react to you, as though they were sleeping, because in Forge they are marked “Blind”. Down one of the red shafts there is a Pfhor skull. I don’t really know what, if anything, is going on with this. It’s interesting to note that there are five pairs of shafts which focus on five points in the hallway. The two purple Fighters are standing on two of these focal points leaving three focal points open. There are three purple Fighters who teleport into the green Bob pens, which is where we start and is below the red shaft hallway. Could the red shafts be some sort of teleporters, and units stand on the focal points waiting to be transported for emergencies? Why are the purple Fighters marked “blind”; are they asleep? What’s with the skull; is there a purpose to it or is it just decorational?

Hidden Teleporters:
Most outbound teleporters are very distinct on this level. They have white lights for walls and their floors and ceilings are textured a bright red. However, there are two hidden teleporters in the tower where one Melee Fighter is guarding a switch. Across from the switch there is a staircase under which there are two hidden teleport polygons. One polygon will transport you to a control room facing the dungeon entrance; this is one of the two ways you can get into the locked “dungeon region” of this level. The other polygon will transport you onto the lava-vator where the bobs are being executed, which is strange since you can jump into the lava and see that the back of the platform is textured inconsistently; it’s also strange because this is a dead end and the only way out is suicide.

The Dungeons:
The dungeons are weird. Each dungeon cell is open, but if anyone tries to escape, the doors shut and crush them. When you first get to the dungeons, after spiraling down the stairs, there are three ways you can go. Through the left doorway are the substations you need to smash. Straight ahead are the main dungeon cells. The right hand doorway leads down a lone dungeon hall where Pfhor Fighters are kept in cells. You don’t normally see those fighters because they all get crushed when you trigger them.

Same goes for the Bobs; you don’t see most of them because they get crushed before you ever get to them. I’m not sure what this is all about although I suspect this bizarre design is meant to be representative of the Pfhor’s ineffective and self-sabotaging bureaucracy. Only the Pfhor would design a prison that, instead of keeping prisoners from escaping, actually kills prisoners when they inevitably try to escape.

The Supply Ship:
Tycho tells us: “If I had access to the Pfhor network, it might be possible to reroute one of the ships to this area and make good our escape.” Since he was able to leave us this message and possess a drone Tycho must have access to the local facility network, but apparently nothing long distance.

In a different terminal, in a Pfhor broadcast from the Enforcement Liaison we find out: “Transport ship arriving in system 2 days for coldsleep packaging and shipment to Gd’nrl Prime for complete conditioning and evaluation.” So a transport ship was already on route; presumably since this terminal appears before we break the circuits in the dungeons it means that Tycho had nothing to do with this ship’s arrival. Or is this ship actually the work of Tycho and he was just lying to us about not having access to the Pfhor network just to get us to destroy those power stations?

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