Friday, January 22, 2016

A terrible Recolletion

Memory is the Key.

The Recollection-Series contains seasons 6-8 of Red vs Blue,taking place chronologically after the Blood Gulch Chronicles.
The Reds and Blues got reassigned to new platoons and mostly left Blood Gulch, and we get introduced to a couple of new characters. 
Former freelancer Agent Washington works now as recovery soldier,since somebody systematically hunts down freelancers. The problem is that  most freelancers had an AI -GAMMA and OMEGA weren't the only ones- and some experimental special equipment,two things that better don't fall into enemy hands. Since it's more cost efficient to get them back and put them in a warehouse than it is to destroy them, Washington is now Recovery One.
During the Mini-series Recovery One,which precedes the Recollection-Series, we already saw him recovering the AI DELTA from Agent York,who was killed assisting Tex in a firefight with Wyoming. DELTA is different from the AI we've met so far,always calm and calculating. However,he instantly receives another recovery beacon, since his former comrade Agent North Dakota was killed. When he arrives the scene, he finds Norths body,but his AI and equipment are gone. 
Instead, Washington find Norths twin sister South Dakota,who teams up with him to find the entity known as the Meta,who killed North.
However,once they encounter it, South betrays Washington,shoots him in the back,steals DELTA and flees the scene. Since Washington neither has an AI nor any equipment, the Meta just leaves him.
Washington recovers,but due to the betrayal by his former teammate, he has deep trust-issues, and the fact that he and Recovery Command can assume that South also sacrificed her twin brother to safe her own hide, doesn't make it any better.
But Washington isn't the only one having a hard time; Church and Sarge are bound to question their whole existence before this story-arc is over.
At one point,Washington gathers the Reds and Blues to break into a Freelancer-outpost in order to do take the necessary steps to get ALPHA.
Earlier he saw Church in his disembodied form and learned that DELTA, whom they recovered from South,after she attempted to leave him behind,so the Meta would leave her alone, left a message for him in Caboose's mind while the latter was unconscious , so basically only Church could find it. The message said ' Memory is the key', so Washington managed to figure out,they had to unlock the ALPHA and what they needed to do for it. In the Base,they discover a storage-unit, which sends imayes flashing through Church's mind,when he gets close to it. Contrary to Church's initial assumption, this isn't ALPHA, but EPSILON.
EPSILON was Washington's former AI and the source from where Wash learned,how Project Freelancer got all their AI. During Reconstruction (season 6), we already learned that something wasn't right about this whole freelancer AI-business,but until this moment we were left in the dark about it. During the whole season,we gain a little insight via brief transmission from a correspondence between Malcom Hargrove, Chairman of the UNSC and the director of Project Freelancer, in which Hargrove questions the mission data recorded by the Freelancers, because it shows multiple agents using AI at the same time,while the UNSC granted only access to a single AI, aquestion the Director constantly dodges.
The Reds and Blues asking themselves the same question,when Simmons quickly dismisses the idea they may have copied it,since 'you can't copy an AI'. In a conversation with Church, Wash states that the director tried the next best thing, splitting it. 
What's the big deal about splitting an artifical intelligence imto multiple pieces,you ask?
Remember what I mentioned when we looked at the Blood Gulch Chronicles about how AI are made? In a way,they are patterned like a human mind,so The Director was basically aiming to create a split personality. While some things happening at Project Freelancer might have able to be considered a moral grey area,we now reached the point of purposely damaging a psyche enough to create a personality disorder. (If you think we hit rock-bottom, wait till we get to Project Freelancer and take a look at the methods to achieve that goal).ALPHA was tortured mentally time and time again to the point where he shut off and ejected parts of his mind to protect his own sanity. He discarded his logic,creating DELTA while losing the part of his mind able to analyze and understand what's happening to him. When his rage grew bigger and bigger until it threatend to take him over, he split that off too,creating OMEGA in the process. He gave up his trust, which turned into THETA, his deceit became GAMMA and his ambition teamed up with manipulation to form SIGMA. When he let go of his memories,unable to cope with them, EPSILON was created.
Now Wash wants use EPSILON to unlock ALPHA, who is also wanted by the Meta. But where is the misterious ALPHA-AI? Apparently, it's been Church all along. Naturally, the self-proclaimed leader of blue team dismisses the idea as a steaming pile of crap,because he's a ghost, but Wash insists on it and makes a pretty good case by pointing out,that nobody who died besides Tex and Church became a ghost. Also,Church and DELTA semed to always agree quickly on anything, which wouldn't be a surprise if Church was the ALPHA, considering how DELTA was originally a part of him, same goes for not feeling any difference when OMEGA got into him, or how Church could possess people just like OMEGA. Church still considers himself being a ghost to make much more sense and claims this to be a fact up until the end when he he joins the Meta to stop him and buy Washinton enough time to activate an EMP to destroy all the AI the Meta had collected, including Alpha/Church. We never actually learn if Church was in denial or if he actually got enough memory-flashes from EPSILON to accept it and decided to commit suicide via the EMP,because he found his newly regained memories unbearable.
During the final entries of RvB Recreation, we also see the correspondence between the UNSC-chairman and  the Freelancer-director getting more and more heated, with the Chairman dissatisfied with the dodgy replies he keeps recieving,while the Director grows annoyed by the continued inquiries towards his work. When the Chairman threatens with severe consequences for the Director, he also seems to have figured out what happened to ALPHA, since he mockingly congratulates the Director that in the Next UNSC-charta for dealing with AI a whole chapter of the ethics-section might be named after him. The Director, who originally refered to the war with the aliens and to importance of his work for ensuring the survival of the human race, points oit that all A.I. come from somewhere and that ALPHA was no exception before finishing his statement by mentioning'while the law has many penalties for the atrocities we inflict on others, there are no punishments for the terrors that we inflict on ourselves.'....  and -after a few more words of resignation- signing out with 'The former director of Project Freelancer, Dr. Leonard Church'.

It's time to move on, since we only talked about the first season of the Recollection-Series, there are two more.
After a timeskip, we see Caboose and the Reds in a new Location,but the familiar setting of two bases.
While the Red soldiers are trying to figure out,if they should attack and kill him to win or if they should try to fix their tampering with the Command-files where they erased thee blue army - and defeating a non-existing enemy wouldn't be a victory - Caboose is busy trying to fix Tex' old body for EPSILON, which he kept despite the agreement to hand everything over to the UNSC in exchange for the new bases, probably due to his very rudimentary understanding of the relation between ALPHA and EPSILON (he seems to understand,that EPSILON sort of is his big idol Church but not really, so he spends much time narrating his recollection their adventures to the storage unit while working). In order to deal with some other problems, he calls Washington for advice,who has been taken in custody by the UNSC and in turn offers the authorities a deal: EPSILON for his freedom. He is then tasked to teammup with the Meta and recover EPSILON in exchange for a full pardon.
The former allies reunite once more,track down the left behind Reds and shot Donut, while Caboose is on a mission with the other half of Red Ream to find Tucker. There, Caboose manages to transfer EPSILON into a monitor (a floating robot device) and tell him further about the teams, leading to EPSILON-Church sort of recognizing them. When he tries to reactivate his long term memory,he has some flashbacks leading him to an abandoned Freelancer facility, where F.I.L.L.S mistakes EPSILON for the director and shows him and Caboose around. When they discover a spare Body for EPSILON, he also finds something else and sends Caboose out to wait,while he works on something. When the Reds appear -after a run-in with Wash and Meta- ,they find Caboose guarding a sealed steel door,which is under heavy attack from the other side and begins to crumble,so Caboose walks away. While the Reds argue,if they still can prepare an ambush,the door gets smashed out of its hinges and the terrified Reds face once more an opponent they thought to be dead:Tex.
After Tex gives the Reds and Tucker a severe beating, we actually learn form EPSILON that this isn't the original Tex, but a copy he managed to create from his memories of her.
Simmons gains accesses to some records stored in the facility's computer system and finds out that the Red vs. Blue-civil war is a complete hoax: all battlefields are just training simulations for Freelancer agents,  the stationed Red and Blue soldiers are just the worst of the worst, and by that expendable. 
When Sarge learns his whole military career was nothing but a lie,he has a minor breakdown and builds bases out of trash in the facility's hangar.
After reviewing some files, EPSILON-Tex is obsessed with hunting down the Director, and she believes Wash to be the key.
She tricks EPSILON into leaving with her, then shoots him,so his recovery beacon gets activated. Wash,Meta and Doc (who they took hostage) turn up and run into Tex's ambush;she has actually turned the whole glacier into a trap,planting lots of explosives and hidden weapons to give her an advantage against the two former Freelancers. Despite her being able to hold her own pretty well, she ultimate gets hit by Washington's assault rifle while running to escape the floor collapsing beneath them.This in return gives the Meta an advantage and allows him,to capture her with a rigged storage unit,trapping her. The Meta instantly turns on Washington,using EPSILON-Tex to run his equipment, but Wash gets saved by the arrival of the Reds and Blues. In the ensuing fight,Tucker manages to stab the Meta with his sword,puncturing his armor and disrupting it's integrity,so the Meta ultimately drowns,after Grif and Simmons manage to drop him of a cliff,following Sarge's plan.
EPSILON  enters the storage-unit to find Tex,while the Blue's take in Wash and disguise him as Church,in order to safe him from prison.

The Recollection-Series was a huge step up on The Blood Gulch-Chronicles. The plot thickened, the themes got more serious -yet the humor didn't get lost-, the official description for the show added 'Drama' to the genre-column and we met new characters like Meta and Wash. While Freelancers were originally were portrayed as mere mercenaries, by now we learned that there was a whole special program sanctioned by the UNSC to train them.
But we also got a few more darker aspects. Agent Washington for example is a very interesting and apparently troubled character. He changes his affiliation multiple times, starting out as a former Freelancer and Recovery Soldier, he teams up with the Reds and Blues to break into a Freelancer facility, then we see him again as antagonist working with the Meta,then he goes back to allying with the Red and Blues,before 'officially' joining Blue Team. But what makes him so opportunistic and willing to switch back and forth between working with someone and shooting them?
We find an answer to that,when we look at the end of Season 7,where we get a flashback of the UNSC chairman questioning,what makes Wash believe the Blue's will hand over the Epsilon-Unit when he asks them for it.
Here is Washington's reply:"For as long as I can remember, I've been lied to, taken advantage of, shot in the back, and left for dead. And now, I have a way out of all of this. What in the hell makes you think that I'm going to ask for it?"

While this might not actually justify his behavior, it at least explains it. He and his former team have been lied to and taken advantage of all the time during Project Freelancer -we'll get to that next time-, and when he was working with South Dakota as Recovery One and Two,she shot him in the back and left him for dead in order to escape the Meta. While being active as Recovery One, he also was running around,recovering the dead,salvaged bodies of his former friends,which can't be too healthy,either. When he was working with the Reds and Blues,he even had to fight against one of his former friends in form of the Meta, and later was working with the Meta again,against the Reds and Blues,who he was previously working with and finally fighting EPSILON-Tex; he basically ended up in a situation,where -in a certain light- a former friend was trying to kill him and his only support was another former friend,of whom's inevitable betrayal he already knew at that point. Wash might have his flaws,but as someone with a Kakashi-mentality (Those who leave their friends behind are worse than trash!),I can't help it but pitying the poor lad.
We don't know much about the Meta yet,except he's a scary brute,who doesn't talk and apparently had more AI than his mind could handle,which basically tells us,that the voices in his head turned him insane.
 We'll learn more about those two on Project Freelancer.
The Director comes off a bit mysterious,too,considering how we never meet him in person.We only hear his correspondence with the Chairman and a he has a short conversation with Wash and ALPHA-Church,without actually appearing in Person.
But with his last transmission to the chairman he  tells us two things: 
1.we learn that the ALPHA-AI was based on the Director himself,showing that either in RvB the regulations for AI-creation are less strict than in Halo (where it is forbidden to base an AI on a living person) or the Director just didn't care for regulations.
2. Director Church is perfectly fine with torturing and breaking the mind of a sentient being and using the fact that it's based on him as an excuse for why it's not supposed to be a crime. We can only imagine how he would have dealt with a clone of himself. Also, strictly speaking children are on a genetic level based on their parents and greatly influenced by them,so while they are not their parents, they can be pretty similar,and I'd rather not put too much thought into what his twisted sense of morale would make of that (well speak about that,when we check out Carolina in Project Freelancer).
But it also makes me wonder... Even if he considers ALPHA to be not to differentiated from himself, what would drive a man so far to create a copy of himself and torture it relentlessly? What was he trying to accomplish? Well... time for a cliffhanger,since this -again- is a question we get answered in Project Freelancer.
And what is up with South Dakota? Can someone really be so selfish, to not only leave their sworn comrades for dead and shooting their own brother in the back,just to save their own hide? What is wrong with that woman? Answers: Yes,there really are people like that-I even know someone myself-, and we'll learn more about her soon.

And Finally, we have Sarge and Church,who both have to realize,that their whole lives are based on lies; Sarge was basically living for his military career,but was nothing more than a guinea pig for actual soldiers,which shook him deeply, but also allowed him to go against his principles and set out to save blue soldiers,proving his tactical thinking and courage by focusing the Meta's attention on himself and giving Grif a hidden signal,nobody else would have understood to finally take the monster down.
Church on the other hand...
Church had not only to deal with the discovery, that he never was an actual person,all his memories from his life before Bloodgulch Outpost Alpha were purely residual memories he got by accident, the very man who had created him repeatedly tortured him in order to break him into bits, the woman he loves is about as real as himself -and also dead-, and when he gets in contact with the EPSILON-Unit, he finally gets back his memory, which leads to him either being delusional or suicidal(we never really learn,if he really  believed until the very end that he was a ghost,who wouldn't be affected by the EMP).
But even then it's not over for him,since he has to sort out his actual memories from Caboose's falsely told stories, finally get Tex out of his head by recreating her,just to lose her again shortly after.
Poor guy just can't catch a break.
But since he entered the rigged memory-unit himself, who knows if he might find Tex in there? Okay, I do. I saw the show,so I know it. But -and I'm saying this for the final time- that's events to explore during Project Freelancer.

Director Church, do you have any closing words for us before we finish this entry?
'I feel I must remind you that it is an undeniable, and may I say a fundamental quality of man, that when faced with extinction, every alternative is preferable.'

Sir,that's still not justifying...that's... no, just no.

~Kirby out