Apologies for taking so long to get this chapter out. Finishing the first Reach Chapter was a longer prospect than I would've liked. Various things go in the way. Parties, events... I recently had a damn stomach problem, but I finished it today and now can post the last bit of Tali's descent into maddness. Hopefully, it was worth the wait. Now then, time for some notes on this.
The thing about the Lovecraft Mythos that many forget is that it's not really just a bunch of tentacles and creepy fishfolks. It's not some tangible monster threat here. These are basically God-like beings, creatures of creation that birthed the universe largely by the accident of indifference. The whole thing is about how gods are really, but they are neither loving nor hateful. We're nothing to them, neglected children that are the byproduct of an other's nihilism and loathsomeness. Lovecraft suffered from a great deal of issues in his life, the main one being his utter fear, contempt and paranoid loathing of the outside world. A world he felt was indifferent to his woes, his pain and his confusion.
The mythos basically creates a mythology turned on its head. Gods that embody the fractured, broken nature of society itself because it was spawned from them. Imperfect beings with absolute power and utter contempt for what they create. The ultimate other, the ultimate unknown, showing how truly insignificant we as people are that we are so beneath them, we're not even worth being seen as worshippers. Even Cthulhu, the most famous of Lovecraft's creations, he's not even a God! He's a priest from an ancient civilization that is so beyond us he might as well be a God. That's how insignificant we are, when he wakes up and destroys us, we're basically getting wrecked by the Old Ones' pope, not them.
In a lot of ways the Precurssors embody a lot of spirit of the Mythos, an ancient, all powerful race that creates life through its cynical indifference and nihilism. I've heard them described as the Greek Gods of old turned up to eleven on the dickish scale, but that's not doing them justice. Everything I've heard about them suggests they were cruel civilization that used the galaxy as their personal sandbox for eons. The created and destroyed races on a whim for no other reason than because no one was able to tell them no. Absolute power and absolute corruption. Only when the Forerunners rose up against them did it all come apart.
Refusing to accept this end, to change or come to terms with what had led them down this road, the Precurssors instead looked upon a corruption of their own technology, the dust that allowed them to enter hibernation and survive, as an opportunity. They saw something that turned them into monsters and were perfectly fine with that if it meant revenge. That's how horrible they are, how defeated they were, that they decided to inflict a neverending, ceaseless destruction of life across time, long after they were dead, against people who had done nothing to them. And why? Because they could. A suicide pact that just kills more and more people after the deed is done.
Zeus may have been a dirty old bastard, but he has NOTHING on these assholes! Like the Old Ones from Lovecraft's lore, they are indifferent to suffering and represent the cold calculating unknown universe in all it's horrible glory. The Flood are just them without the ability to create, only kill.
In many of those same stories, the protagonist is constantly confronted with these cold hard facts. That life is fleeting, his existence is an accident, his sense of place and his accumulated knowledge mean nothing. He is alone, he is unloved, he is worthless. And in the end, he is driven insane by knowledge that he is not what he once was and that he can never return to blissful ignorance. Or he finds out he's a fishman hybrid and decides to return to the sea because screw everything else right.
Shadow Over Innsmouth is a weird one.
For Tali I knew I wasn't going to destroy her mind, but I knew I could bring her to the same place. At the heart of all of this is the character story of Tali after all. Throughout the games we get to see a lot of her doubts, fears and insecurities. And she's got a lot, maybe more than she even acknowledges. The idea of something getting into her head and screwing with her sense of self and personal security would do the most damage to her specifically in my mind. It's not just her putting all this weight on her shoulders, it's how much she feels she has failed and will fail again and again. It's how much guilt she feels for being split between doing what's best for her people and trying to face up to the mistakes of the past.
You throw in an entity with a past it twists and contorts somewhat in order to make connect the quarians to the precursors, well you have an existential crisis going on there. These chapters have all been about Tali confronting that possibility. That her people are as far gone and corrupted as the precursors are, and so is she. That it doesn't matter how much good she tries to do, she will fail because she has already failed before she even tried. It's the primary fear behind Cortana and what she did to her on Halsey's request. She wonders if she built a real frienship or created a lie, if her reasons for doing it were pure or selfish. And that indecision feeds into her fears.
Is she fixing things or making them worse? Is she as bad as her ancestors or can she be redeemed? Should she tell Cortana and risk her friendship or keep lying to her? How does she come back from this? Can she? Her rationalization through it all seems to be it will be worth sacrificing herself if it means saving everyone she cares about. She's willing to be a pariah, if it means everyone else gets to be safe. It's a flaw of Tali's, that she gives up more and more of herself out of a belief it's better for everyone. She can suffer, others can't. It's admirable she's so empathetic, so compassionate, but no one can be that self-sacrificing without hurting themselves along the way.
The old addage is, if you can't help yourself, you can't help anyone.
So to confront all of this, Tali had to face up to one of her greatest tangible fears. The one gnawing at her the most currently is of course what she did to Cortana. She placed a fragment of an AI based on herself into her by attaching it to Cortana's own fragment. She had to fess up to that in order to finally sever the control and fear the relic had over her.
And Cortana reveals she knew all along. This was not an easy decision. Originally I had planned for this to be a big revelation, Cortana learning it only now. But the problems with it kept leaking back in. Cortana can't really just forgive Tali easily for this, for lying to her, for this long. It just doesn't work and it's a bit odd that she wouldn't have figured it out at some point on her own. The fragment is in her after all. It's part of her code. And if Cortana is mad at Tali for this, how does that help her overcome the Voice? That would just make it worse, wouldn't it?
It made more sense ultimately that Cortana would know and her knowing and coming to terms with it would help Tali in realizing that she's not a terrible person. That she doesn't need to seek forgiveness or approval or redemption from her father, or Legion or Cortana or Shepard or anyone. She's not a monster, her actions or past or her people's history do not make her villain. There's no need to be a martyr here, you're better than that.
Following up on that thread, Miranda's scene with Tali. This is partially foreshadowing Tali's drunken admission in ME3 where she admits, while she never liked Miranda, she respects her and in a way always has. I felt the need, especially after I knew what was going to go down between these two in the second part of the arc, that Miranda needed to sit down with Tali talk this whole thing out. Otherwise they would always be at each other's throats one way or another. They can't continue like that, so Miranda decided to lay it all out. Probably got as personal as she can get really with anyone. And here, I justified that by having Miranda explain it's because she doesn't hate or mistrust Tali enough, nor like her enough, to really concern herself with how this makes her look to the quarian. All she wants is for Tali to stop worrying about her intentions, and to know that even if they aren't friends, Miranda still values her work aboard the Normandy and counts her as an important addition to the crew. Plus it gave me a chance to actually have Miranda get a nice non-bitchy scene for once. So that was also good.
The Voice, or Historian as he's called. He was an interesting idea. I didn't want him to be an AI and I didn't want him to be a Ghost or a Flood creature. I wanted something unique. So, taking into account what we learn of the composer from Halo 4, and the Precurssor's own special way of hibernating, I devised the idea that one of them didn't want to go so easily. He wanted to preserve what they once were and chose to download his memories into the Relic, the Amplifier as I call it.
He later became a Flood creature like all Precursors, but his essence, who he was, remained, survived. It was preserved within the confines of the Amplifier. Deep in its processing storage. Because of what the relic does though, amplify technology and its purposes, the digital memory more or less became... him. And since his people are the Flood, it made sense to me at least that he could reach out and talk to them if he could. Or contact victims of them if they were left with psychic scars from the attacks of say... a bunch of spores that were having a difficult time infecting someone's mind and used hallucinations in an attempt to weaken that person enough to take them over? Yeah, you get my point.
I was careful to not make it look like a Flood creature, because it wasn't Flood before it changed. It knows what they look like, yes, but it doesn't see itself as true Flood. It's still a Precursor. So it looks like one of them, but rotten and decayed. Than again, that could be just how Tali sees it because to her there's really no difference between either. Precursor, Flood, they're both monsters, one is just an undead version of the other.
And you may have noticed a slight cameo too. The final thoughts so to speak. Usually reserved for the ending of a book in this series. This is different. I knew I couldn't get away from this without addressing it somewhat. If you're wondering, yes, the Gravemind was trying to bring them to Delta Halo where the current Gravemind is lying in wait. The Memory of the Historian was able to reach out to the Gravemind across the void of space through Amplifier via Tali's mental defense's connection to it. It knew where it was and could hear it, but they couldn't really talk to each other. Clearly Gravemind sensed it, but they were so far away it didn't matter. Neither could really affect the other's actions or offer strategy and direction. But the Gravemind aware that something happened at the very least.
Now, as to the songs, I'll be brief.
Starblind is a very cosmic song, concerning the universe and references God a number of times. All resonating around the idea that the universe itself is some vast unknowable, untapped space. Something we can't fathom. The line "God knows you better than you believe" spoke to me of Tali's own predicament. Her fears that the Voice is telling her the truth that she is as bad as it and when she attacks Legion to preserve her mission, it seems to confirm it. Prompting another visit from fake mommy. By the way, I borrowed a bit of inspiration from the Evil Dead remake for when Tali's "Mom" starts to tell her how worthless she is. Because I'm cruel to my favorite characters, you see.
Trooper was just... it's "Trooper!" Come on! Give me a break, it's one of my favorites, and the excuse to use it with the army of Chiktikka's was more or less something to give Kowalski's squad something to do. Besides, it was fun. And, come on... an army of Chiktikkas! Don't tell me you didn't find that fun. Tali probably won't do that again though, since it requires more processing power and yeah... Legion is probably not interested in doing that. Before you ask, no, each Chiktikka wasn't Legion program acting on its own. Simply Chiktikka's subroutine exponentially copied through Legion's hardware with assistance from the holographic armor upgrade Tali stole to up the ammount of them. There's nothing really more to add here I guess except I love "Trooper" and I wanted to get it in here somehow in a fun way.
If Eternity Should Fail is another song that denotes Dead Old Gods and creation myths. I just felt lyrics matched up exceedingly well with Tali's actions, as the opening chant to a ritual she is undertaking. Sure, she doesn't view it like that, but it's more or less like one as it's entirely based on her faith that she is going to destroy a monster through a sacrifice. Mainly her own at this point. It's just a good song for this point in the story.
Hallowed be thy Name comes at a point when Tali has more or less condemned herself to be ostracized or even die saving her loved ones from certain doom. She thinks she's about to lose her mind, her will, to the voice, and all she can really accomplish at this point is giving them all a chance to kill it by sending it to where it is. Basically the lyrics, a man stating how he's come to terms with his own execution while still fearing it, is Tali coming to terms with her own sacrifice for what she believes is the greater good. The song also carries a creeping tone of doom along with it. Which is again, appropriate, as we're approaching the climax.
I liked doing this, but I don't think I'll be setting multiple songs to a chapter for a good while now. I've more or less accomplished my desire to give Iron Maiden songs a cinematic appeal. Even if only through literature. Hopefully in the future, someone will shell out the money needed to have at least one Maiden song in a big budget movie. Aces High for Captain Marvel, one can dream.
That's all for now, next time, Reach... at last.