Thursday, June 20, 2013

Me and Aldaris (p11): The First Protoss Missions

It wasn't all that long when I next heard from Aldaris, actually.  It felt pretty long, because of stupidity.  It turns out that I couldn't go to school this summer, which really stinks because I wanted to avoid a teacher that a friend of mine said was far too ready for retirement.  I hadn't gone to school in the fall, so I thought it would transfer my grant money to summer automatically.  Turns out that you have to fill out this tiny little form, which I found out about on the last day of summer registration.  Communication in the age of the internet really sucks.  How in the world was I supposed to know that?

On the plus side, the pool at my parent's apartment opened up, so that was a bonus.  Except for today, when it was cloudy out, and chances were it would rain.  Of course, not that weather in my city ever made sense, so maybe I was reading too much into the foreboding clouds.  Either way, I didn't feel like swimming. I didn't really feel like doing anything, other than going to the store to buy some ice cream, only I need the money more than the food (my posterior would thank me later).  So I just lay there on my living/dining/conspiracy room and stared up at the ceiling.  I'm so dang efficient with my time.

"Suyong-haeyo..." I said, trying to remember all the korean associated with swimming that I just learned.  "Suyong jang.  I want to go swimming.  Na-nun suyonggo ship'o.  Well, actually an suyonggo ship'o, but whatever."

Yeah, I probably should have been studying.  There's just so much to do, and I had no desire to get to work on any of it.  I could work on my korean, or study my accounting textbook to make up for the scatterbrained teacher I'm apparently headed for, or go take a walk and pretending I'm actually going somewhere.  Meh.

"Aldaaaaris!" I called out.  "I'm booooo-ooored...."

I don't know what I expected, and my bored hand fell over my bored face.  Huh.  Going out for ice cream was starting to sound like a really good idea.  Maybe I could go to the park and study my korean there.  Of course, if I went to the grocery store instead of the gas station, I could sit in the coffeeshop and write, as well as spend less money and get more ice cream.  Besides the cost of whatever coffee I got over at the shop.

"Well, what is it you expect me to do about it?"

"Yes!" My alien BFF was there!  I hopped up from the floor.  "Nah, you don't have to do anything but be your cheerful self."

"....I can see I must deal with you at your most shiftlessly frenetic today."

"No, not quite true.  I only had one cup of coffee so far."

"Then if you are capable of collecting yourself, do so.  I will have you aboard shortly."

I snatched up my laptop, this time deciding that maybe I didn't need my survival bag.  After all, the teleporter hadn't zapped me to the Sahara desert the past two times I was on the ship, so it probably wouldn't this time either.  I always keep the Starcraft discs next to the computer now, so even though it didn't take long for him to recall me, I had to wait a little bit.

Back to the storage room!  Yay.  I wonder how big this ship is.  Maybe it's not all that big, for a Protoss vessel.  After all, Aldaris seems to be able to handle it without any crewmembers.  So how did it come about that he was on a ship by himself when he gets zapped to Earth?  He didn't look at any point that he was grieving the loss of any friends, though it's questionable whether or not he would have shown that kind of thing in front of me.  On the other hand, he hasn't exactly been put together all the time in front of me, so I might have caught it if he was upset that whatever sent him here killed a friend.

His actions today spoke against that.  He entered the room, very calm and in control.  And also looking at me funny, but what else is new?  Other than that, he seemed unperturbed, ready to deal with whatever antics the crazy human might cause.  And if I do cause any, it's his fault for letting me on the ship.

"Hey, you're in a much better mood today."

"It would appear that I am not going to suddenly wake to find myself in places more familiar." Aldaris retorted.  "Thus I must resolve myself to tolerating these circumstances as best as is possible."

"I know the feeling, sort of." I got my computer up and running.  "Maybe you can't compare working in a fast food place to traveling to another universe, but it's really bad in its own way.  Working in a used bookstore is so much better; people who want books are so much less cranky than people who want food."

"I shall take your word for it." Aldaris patiently relaxed in his chair.  "Has the color glitch been repaired?"

"Yep.  I just copied some code into notepad and saved it as a .bat file." I typed starcraft.bat into the search function of the start menu.  "I have to use that file to open Starcraft from now on, but that's no biggie."

"Hm."  Aldaris paused a second.  "Whatever is your obsession with such creatures?"

"Huh?"  I looked up at the screen, and the projector was showing my computer's new background, a black and white picture of a broadnose sevengill shark.  "Oh, that's just my latest craze.  The broadnose sevengill is first shark I've ever seen that I don't get creeped out looking at." I grinned.  "I should probably thank you for the opportunity to go swimming with them the other day."

"Toby expressed, in rather trepidatious terms, that you were in significant danger."

"Not particularly.  Sevengills aren't that dangerous.  Not as long as I don't do something stupid like try to touch it, I'dve been fine.  Except I wasn't supposed to swim upwards like that in front of a shark.  Sevengills are probably fine, but other sharks might think I was a seal or something." Starcraft activated, and I clicked on single player.   "Alright, so Protoss missions today."

"You said before that the Protoss missions would confirm the accuracy of this game?"

"Yeah.  You're in most all of the Protoss missions.  Not as a playable character, though."

"I am so enthralled to see how I am defined by a Terran entertainment corporation." Aldaris said, heavily bored (or pretending to be) as he rested his chin in his hand.  "Well, perhaps it is best done quickly.  Get it over with."

"Mm'kay." I can't help grinning as I click on the zealot icon.  "Let's just say that nothing I've seen from you so far is exactly contrary with anything I saw in the game."

You know how you can tell when people are staring at you even when you're not looking at them?  I let Aldaris bask in my gleeful grin and clicked on the first Protoss mission.

"En Taro Adun, Executor." said the in-game Aldaris.  "I am Judicator Aldaris, and I have been sent by the Conclave to serve and counsel you. The former Executor, Tassadar, was commanded to halt the Zerg progress in the Terran sector by burning the infested human worlds. Unfortunately, he disregarded his orders and attempted to destroy the Zerg while sparing the Terrans from the flame. Clearly, Tassadar has failed us. You must not. The Conclave has dictated that our first priority is to strengthen our defenses. You must reinforce our outpost in Antioch and make certain that the province does not fall to the Zerg. Your old comrade, Praetor Fenix, will meet you there and assist you in this endeavor."

I had to look at Aldaris after that.  It was so freaking hilarious to see him staring at the screen.  I'd gone through and watched the missions earlier, but only now could I hear how absolutely similar Aldaris and his voice-acting counterpart sounded.

"In case you're wondering." I giggled.  "That's Paul Eiding who did your voice.  Pretty big voice actor.  Did a lot of stuff."

"That..." he said slowly.  "That is...actually very similar..."  Here he paused and glanced at me briefly before facing the projection again, his eyes crinkling with annoyance.  "What are you waiting for?  Continue."

I let his reaction pass.  "Oh hey, I think I can skip this mission.  It isn't much more than a 'this is how you play Protoss' introduction."

"No, play it through.  I wish to see if the landscape in any way corresponds to Aiur." Aldaris frowned.  "What are those miserable noises?  Is that supposed to be what our warriors sound like?"

"Uh, well, from what I can tell Blizzard used a lot of stock sounds when making Starcraft, because it was just a side from Warcraft." I guided the little zealots to Fenix's position.  "It's possible they just picked something that sounded weird just to be different."

"Stock sounds?"

"Yeah, sounds that aren't copyrighted and can be used without being paid for.  There's a lot of that sort of thing.  You'd be surprised how many questions can be answered with 'Blizzard is lazy'."

We went through the next couple of missions, where Tassadar and Aldaris are going back and forth about cerebrates and their control over the broods.  All the while the reptile sitting beside me grew more and more pale.  He stared dumbfounded at the words on the screen, and though doubtlessly his real conversations with Tassadar wouldn't have been in english, what he heard before him was clearly having an affect.  He didn't say a word or show an emotion other than utter shock until just after the conversation on Char with Tassadar and Raynor.  And that was only because I asked.  He was starting to get creepy just sitting there, his glowy eyes popping out of his face.

"I take it there's at least a little accuracy in the game so far."

Aldaris blinked, waking himself from his stunned stupor.  "Er...somewhat.  The landscape of these missions is entirely incorrect, to my knowledge."

"And the dialogue?"

"You may remove that expression from your face." he growled.  "The lines are....vaguely representative for being in foreign words. Raynor's dialogue was slightly inaccurate."

"But not yours, I take it."

"There were a few changes." Aldaris insisted, quick to change the subject.  As he did, he was better able to control his tone.  "For example, certain words such as 'pray', 'heresy', and 'faith' all have religious connotations.  That is inaccurate to the context of what I truly said.  Why did Blizzard choose such a translation?"

"Oh, everything bad happens because of  'religious' people, of course.  And they call believers judgemental." I snorted.  "Such is the current wave of culture.  Don't worry about it.  It's not you they're trying to offend, but people like me."

"And my character is the tool with which they do so?"

"You and...pfft, I don't know how many others in movies and such right now.  Though honestly, in the context of the game it makes sense.  Isn't the Khala a religion?"

Aldaris winced, clearly not happy I could talk about the Khala.  "Not by human classification.  The Khala is a link between the Protoss.  While it is vaguely spiritual in application, it has no god attached to it."

"That could still be a religion.  Buddhism doesn't have a god, I think.  I guess the Khala could sort of be like that, because Buddhism doesn't have a god, but a lot of Buddhist Asians have their own local gods."

"I assure you, nothing about Protoss culture can be compared to that of humans."

"It's a vague reference.  Anything can be compared to anything, if you try hard enough."

"Then stop trying."

Lol.  Well, I could continue annoying Aldaris, but showing him the Protoss missions was more funny.  I clicked on the next one.  It's the one where you have to bring two zealots and Tassadar to the Zerg base entrance.

"I do not understand." Aldaris said.  "If Tassadar learned upon Char that it was the Dark Templar energies that the cerebrates found so repulsive, why did he not say so at the first?  This action alone caused much animosity in the Conclave against him."

"I don't know.  It's entirely possible that the Dark Templar didn't even know that it was their energies that destroyed the cerebrates.  They were at square one with the Zerg, just like everybody else.  Maybe they were just killing the cerebrates, and it never occurred to them that cerebrates could come back to life, maybe not until Tassadar's force's tried to destroy one and it didn't work."

"Much trouble could have been nonetheless avoided." Aldaris muttered.

"Tass does come off as pretty rash.  Actually, there's a little bit here that I totally don't get." I started building carriers, rushing the process with operation cwal.  "Maybe you can explain it."

I led one of my carriers toward the north part of the map, provoking some additional dialogue.

"Protoss Commander, this is General Edmund Duke of the Terran Dominion Armada. You are in violation of our air-space and have endangered human lives in your reckless attack against the Zerg. I order you to withdraw your ships immediately. If you fail to comply, I will not hesitate to open fire upon your vessels."

"General Duke," answered the Protoss commander.  "I am Tassadar, and you are well known to me. Whatever leniency I extended to you and your comrades before, may have been in error. If you persist in halting our course, we will burn your pathetic fleet down to the last man."

"I'm going to have to assume that was a hostile response..."

"Do you know what that's about?"  I asked.  "I mean, presumably Raynor told Tassadar about Mengsk and Duke and all, but did Duke do something to the Protoss?  Sure it's really presumptuous of Duke to order him around, but Tassadar's reaction seems really irrational.  He doesn't gain anything by provoking a new enemy.  Clearly Duke doesn't even know who he is."

"I know little of Edmund Duke." Aldaris answered.  "From what I have heard, he spends most of his time fighting his own kind in the name of his emperor.  As for Tassadar, those words do not surprise me.  Tassadar had unlearned all lessons of diplomacy in his rebellion against the Conclave, and was never at any time a close companion of patience.  Considering how disturbingly close this game has been in translating what was actually said, I would not at all be surprised should this prove a direct quotation of Tassadar's, particularly as it had to have been said in english."

"Does that mean the things you said were accurate?" I grinned.  "I always liked that line where you go 'I find your choice in companions ever more inexplicable'.  Was that in english too?"

"You are insane." Aldaris retorted.  "Is it merely to torment me that you smile as you say this?  Surely you are offended by such things."

"I actually think it's really funny, for some reason."  I entered in the end mission cheat code.  There wasn't anything left to see in that mission.  "Besides, I don't have time to worry about what some alien thinks of us.  I'm much more concerned about the humans who hate humanity."

Aldaris rolled his eyes.  "More of your internal wars, I assume."

"Not even that.  There's this strange philosophical movement that's been going on recently that humans are all horrible and we're going to end up killing ourselves.  This is really bad, because if you hate what you are, your only logical choice is suicide.  And yet there's all this literature out there about how humans are all stupid, ignorant rednecks polluting the earth, starting wars, and hating everyone that's different.  When you talk crap about humans, it's just racism and not worth giving a flying rat crap about.  When we hate ourselves...well, depression is a killer.  Dude, don't you give me that look."

It was Aldaris' turn to grin spitefully, and yes, people with no mouths can smile, sort of.  "It is amusing to see that there are those on Earth who come to the same conclusion as those of us outside it.  Perhaps such people are merely logical."

"Or perhaps you're a racist." 

I clicked "ok" on the post-mission information to make the next mission start and Aldaris shut up.  It didn't take long for me to grin.  I love the mission where Tassadar has to rescue Zeratul.

"This mission is so much fun." I say as soon as the mission dialogue is over.  "It's really hard, and the only two times I beat it without cheating, only Tassadar was alive at the end.  Oh, except one of those times a ghost lived because he could cloak.  The other time a zealot would have lived, except that this infested terran from the beginning of the map -- oh look, that one right there that I'm not going to fight -- got activated at the end and made his way to the end and killed the guy."

"A maze map." Aldaris groaned.  "Is it truly necessary to play through this?"

"Yeah, there's some good dialogue at the end.  Don't worry, I know the shortest route through this place."  I brought Tass and the zealots to the first group of marines. "In this mission you really learn how much stronger zealots are than marines.  I always save a lot to make sure I have lots of marines at the end, when I play normally."

"And these marines were willing to fight alongside the Protoss?"

"Why not?  From the looks of it, these guys have been holed up in this facility with a bunch of Zerg outside for a while.  A 'Toss would be a nice change from that."

"And Zeratul was here as well?"

"Yeah, he's in the back.  Somehow behind a giant wave of Zerg, but that's probably something the game designers came up with rather than something that was really there."

"If this is a Terran facility, then why do those autocannons fire at the marines?"  Aldaris pointed to the projection.

"Uh....many infested Terrans only show up when marines walk by, so the autocannons are probably only activated when Protoss walk by.  Gameplay mechanic more than anything real, probably."

I knew that particular mission pretty well, so I was able to send a zealot to unlock the doors for the later pathway without losing a lot of time.  It wasn't too long before Zeratul was rescued, and the end dialogue was activated.  Aldaris narrowed his eyes at the mention of Tassadar learning Dark Templar ways, and even further at Zeratul's final line.

"Since our banishment long ago, we have never failed in our responsibility to Aiur. Though it shall cause us great pain to see our homeland once more, we shall return with you, Tassadar. We will do what we can."

"Never failed." Aldaris muttered.  "Says the one responsible for the Aiur invasion..."

"It's entirely possible," I say slowly, keeping Aldaris' guarantee of safety in mind.  I wish he would stop talking about Zeratul informing the Overmind of Aiur's location.  Cranky 'Toss are scary.  "That Zeratul didn't even know he did that."

"Oh what, that one's mind should be touched by that of another, and the Overmind would not indeed look for that one piece of information above all else?" Aldaris snapped.  "Whatever Zeratul claimed for his 'responsibility to Aiur', it is clear his efforts have proven to be an utter failure!"

"Dude, Starcraft isn't going to get any prettier.  If you don't think you can handle it, then you shouldn't watch anymore."

We stared at each other for a minute, Aldaris clearly insulted.  I wasn't going to back down, not if he was going to be such a jerk.  Everyone needs to be aware of their own limitations, even emotional ones.

"I am perfectly capable," Aldaris said, forcing himself into the sort of calm that politicians have when reporters ask annoying questions.  "Of 'handling' anything your silly game can now reveal.  Is there anything there that could possibly prove more horrifying than what Zeratul has done?"

"I guess that depends on your interpretation." I thought about it a sec.  "But I'll go out on a limb and say no."

"Then by all means continue."

We went on, but it didn't take but one mission for Aldaris to open his mouth again -- metaphorically speaking.  The very next mission was the one where Tassadar wanted everyone to attack the Conclave.  The aura of tension around Aldaris was palpable, and I braced myself for another angry diatribe.  Only it wasn't quite what I expected.

"That did not happen!" Aldaris exclaimed, leaning forward in his chair as if to accuse the projection.  "At no point did Tassadar attack the Conclave!  And certainly not Raynor.  For what reason would even an impudent human involve himself in an attack against the Conclave at such an hour?  Only the dark ones would have a motive for doing so, but even they are not so foolish as to choose the Conclave over the Zerg!"

"" I tried to think of something.  "Well, it's points like this where you have to remember that Starcraft is a game.  The single player campaign is basically a preparation for playing against other people on, and so that means every race has to fight all the others.  So that means there has to be a Protoss versus Protoss mission at some point."

"That is clearly not the idea." Aldaris said, scornfully eyeing me.  "For there was no Protoss versus Terran mission, unless General Duke's apparently optional wave of air power was seen to fulfill such an obligation."

I thought about it a second.  Aldaris was right.  Most of the Protoss missions in Starcraft were against the Zerg.  There wasn't one genuine PvT until Brood War.  Aldaris heard these thoughts and nodded.

"If Blizzard meant to alter the truth, perhaps they could have created some foolish mission where a band of Dominion forces attempted to destroy the Conclave in order to destroy Protoss authority." Aldaris folded his arms.  "That would have made more sense than Tassadar himself attacking the Conclave.  At no point would he have done so during Aiur's darkest days."

"Then what really happened?"

Aldaris watched me suspiciously for a moment, I'm not really sure why.  Really though, what did he have to lose by telling me?  I wasn't going to click the start mission button until he went on, in any case.  My little pouty posture said so.

"Tassadar returned to Aiur, as the game has shown." Aldaris continued.  "But his arrival was discovered quickly.  Rather than cause his followers to suffer, he surrendered himself to the Conclave's judgement.  Most of the factions following him scattered, though the Dark Templar were never far from him.  They contacted the Conclave and mentioned that a great wave of Zerg intended to attack, and they would not intervene on our behalf without the release of Tassadar."

"And you didn't?"

"No, the Conclave did not." Aldaris said, with a rather nice dodge of personal responsibility.  I managed a straight face.  "As it happened, the Dark Templar were not lying.  The Zerg attacked the Conclave very shortly thereafter.  There was apparently a miscommunication, as the first person to come to our aid was none other than Commander Raynor."

"Raynor?  Why?"

"I know not, though it can be presumed he did not wish Tassadar to die in this battle.  I was told that the Dark Templar could not bear to watch as their own kind were slaughtered by the Zerg, but the fact remains that it was Raynor's men who first appeared to aid us.  The dark ones joined the fray shortly thereafter."

"And where were you during all of this?"

"Elsewhere, overseeing our defenses in the west.  My rank was one of more direct authority than the members of the Conclave, and I learned most of what happened afterwards.  I arrived only to witness the last of the battle, when those in my authority covered the Conclave's retreat.  Tassadar was released from his cell once the battle was over, to find that his wish had apparently come true: that the Protoss were no longer divided.  Hmph.  Tassadar was so young and quick to reach is perhaps for the best he never learned that his dream was a falsehood, and would not stand the test of time."  He blinked, returning to the present, and glanced down at me.  "Continue playing.  Perhaps there is at least a little worth learning from this mission, though it is grossly inaccurate."

After that, Aldaris didn't say very much.  He was caught up in his own thoughts, and the stuff that was going on before him could only bring back memories Aldaris really didn't want to think about.  Other than admitting that some of the dialogue at the end of the "attack the Conclave" mission actually took place when Tassadar first returned to Aiur, Charlie had nothing to say, not even as we watched the cinematic where Tassadar destroys the Overmind (though I did get the impression he wasn't all that pleased by the low-res graphics).  Pretty soon Starcraft was over.

"Want to go ahead and go to Brood War?" I asked.

Aldaris only nodded.  

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