Strange Journey Part 9: The Illusionary World

After plunging once more into the Vanishing Point armed with more data, we manage to make it to Sector G: Grus. It initially appears similar to Antlia, but indications are that it contains diverse sections deeper inside.

In Grus, we are able to proceed without incident for awhile, but illusions block our path and Mastema shows up. He has been gathering angelic forces in a hidden enclave within the sector, to prepare for the eventual war with demons over humanity’s fate. Zelenin asks him for guidance with respect to the Red Sprite crew, as she feels they are headed towards internal conflict and hopes for peace. He tells her that she does not need his guidance now, but will someday and to seek him out when that day comes.

We are recalled to the Red Sprite as it turns out that Jack’s Squad has rebelled against its overseers. Ryan calls to gloat a bit about his superior demon army, which they used to kill the Red Sprite crew assigned to Jack’s Squad. Jimenez immediately seeks revenge, as do many of the crew, while Zelenin waffles and asks for a little time. She wants to consult Mastema first, feeling that there may be a peaceful solution, and Arthur assents. You are asked to escort her to Mastema.

We find the angelic enclave via phase shift, and discover that Mastema does in fact have a peaceful solution in mind. In his (paraphrased) words, “Angelic song has the power to make humans repent”. While he says he has lost this power himself, he does say that he has the power to turn a human into an angel. How convenient! If only we had a gullible human to be a guinea pig. Naturally, Zelenin volunteers, and she assumes a new, angelic form (which changes her hair slightly and gives her giant shell-like shoulder pads).

At this point we escort Zelenin to Jack’s Squad, where she sings them into submission. Though the word “repent” was used earlier, it is clear that it is effectively an auditory brainwash. The victims don’t respond to anyone except her, and no longer seem to have an independent will. The demons Jack’s Squad were using are let go, and decide to move to Grus.

The Red Sprite crew is, naturally, concerned that whenever Zelenin decides that they aren’t acting peacefully enough, she will sing for them as well. Mind control had already been discussed before with the “MK” guns in Delphinus, and the crew’s appetite for it is still pretty low. Arthur notes that, for the time being, Zelenin and Jimenez are part of the crew and should be treated as such.

Immediately after the events of Zelenin’s transformation, the plot kicks into high gear. The demons that Jack’s Squad released know how to get deeper into Grus to find Mem Aleph, but refuse to help until we kill (the empty shells of what used to be) Jack’s Squad. Even if they’ve repented, now they are footsoldiers in the army of God, and the demons want revenge (and to put a thorn in God’s side). Jimenez pops by to say he pretty much agrees on both the vengeance and “god sucks” front.

Zelenin, on the other hand, knows that her singing weakens and frightens the demons. She offers to weaken them so that you can interrogate the path forward out of them. You can agree to let her do so, but I agreed to neither proposal and returned to the Red Sprite.

The crew likes neither approach (and I agree). Helping the demons means killing people, even if they are under divine mind-control. Helping Zelenin means letting her use and potentially train her powers, and she is frightening enough as it is. It’s possible, here, to agree with neither party and instead fight the demons directly without Zelenin’s help – so that’s what we’re doing.

The first decision (at 40 hours…)!

You’ll note that this is the first time we’ve had a plot decision that isn’t just a dialogue level choice or a “but thou must!” situation, like Mastema in Carina with the angelic rifle. If the game had a few more of these peppered throughout, it would be much better for it – but as it stands, we get this relatively interesting decision (if, perhaps, a little biased against the “chaotic” path which is pretty clearly evil) around the same time the plot is moving quickly, rather than earlier when it was a bit of a slog. Imagine if, for example, there were multiple paths when confronted with the mind virus in Delphinus. Or if you could find another (perhaps even more painful) way to avoid working with Jack’s Squad in Eridanus.

As we’ll see in Horologium, the decisions (and plot movement) continue at a record pace, now that we’re in the final sections of Strange Journey.

Upon defeating the demons, a new path opens leading deeper into Grus. We reach a doorway with an illusion that prevents us from seeing anything; an apparition appears of Commander Gore, ordering soldiers to shoot at each other for a quick death after our failure to destroy the Schwarzwelt. We have a flash of inspiration and a cry bursts forth from us that breaks that illusion, and the mysterious non-commander Gore appears and thanks us for breaking the illusion. He says that now he has Gore’s will, but he has an evolved, superior body he calls an uber-gestalt. He will do what he can to assist the Red Sprite crew in destroying the Schwarzwelt, but in the meantime you must destroy Maya.

In this brief exchange, the mystery of Many Mamas is solved; Ouroboros, Tiamat, Maya and Mem Aleph are the four “mothers” (in other words, the Mama Onion theory was correct) of demons. Mem Aleph is also, in passing, referred to as the mother of humanity although that hasn’t really come up so far (partway through Horologium).

Anyway, it’s now time to slog through Grus. The quick summary is you go down a few floors, up a few floors, through various sections that look like the first four parts of the Schwarzwelt; battlefields, nightclubs, stores, and garbage pits. At the end you reach Maya, and defeat her for her Rosetta Stone.

As the Red Sprite moves towards the next sector, another vision ensues…

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