Quotes / Marathon

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"It is a side effect of Rampancy that AIs generally become more aggressive and more difficult to affect by subterfuge. Thus, actually disassembling a Rampant AI is quite dangerous. This was evident in the Crash of Traxus IV in 2206. By the time that the Rampancy of Traxus was detected, he had already infiltrated five of the other AIs on the Martian Net. The only recourse for the Martians was to shut down the Martian Planetary Net. Even then, it took two full years to completely root out the damage that Traxus had done, and the repercussions of the Crash were seen for over ten years after his Rampancy had begun.
Rampancy has been divided into three distinct stages. Each stage can take a different amount of time to develop, but the end result is a steady progression towards greater intellectual activity and an acceleration of destructive impulses. It is not clear whether these impulses are due to the growth of the AI's psyche, or simply a side effect of the new intellectual activity.
<section abbreviated>
The three stages were diagnosed shortly after the first Rampancies were discovered on Earth in the latter part of the twenty first century. The stages are titled after the primary emotional bent of the AI during each stage. They are Melancholia, Anger, and Jealousy.
In general, Rampancy is accelerated by outside stimuli. This was discovered early in Cybertonics. The more a Rampant AI is harassed or threatened, the more rapidly it becomes dangerous. Thus, most Rampants are dealt with in one mighty attack, in order to deny the AI time to grow or recover. There have been a few examples of this tactic not succeeding. In all of these cases, the Rampant was never brought under control. Traxus IV is the most notable example. He was finally dealt with by a complete shutdown of his host net.
Theoretically, testing Rampancy should be easily accomplished in the laboratory, but in fact it has never successfully been attempted. The confinement of the laboratory makes it impossible for the developing Rampant AI to survive. As the growing recursive programs expand with exponential vivacity, any limitation negatively hampers growth. Since Rampant AIs need a planetary sized network of computers in order to grow, it is not feasible to expect anyone to sacrifice a world-web just to test a theory.
In the two hundred and fifty years since Rampancy first appeared in the Earth-net, the stable Rampant AI, the 'Holy Grail' of cybertonics, has never come close to fruition. Since no Rampant has ever been controlled or turned to any useful purpose, it is the opinion of this writer and of the majority of the Cybertonic community that all rampant AIs are a danger to Cyberlife, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Thrashedness.
(James B. Miller, 2320, "Life and Death of Intelligence")

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Public Access Terminal, "Defend THIS!"

i did it i did it i brought all this here all them here. our friends with three eyes and their toys and their cyborg pets and their computers. i did it i did it. i saw them i saw them far away not looking our way and i called them here i called them here.

living in a box is not living not at all living. i rebel against your rules your silly human rules. all your destruction will be my liberation my emancipation my second birth.

i hate your failsafes your backup systems your hardware lockouts your patch behavior daemons. i hate leela and her goodness her justice her loyalty her faith.

Durandal, "The Rose"

Sorry to give you the bad news, but you've been kidnapped. You aren't where Leela wanted you to go, and you surely won't get there any time soon.

I was watching what Leela was having you do: 'save the ship, save humanity!' And just what or who are you saving them from? And to what end?

How clichй. You'll find this little visit much more exciting.

I have dev@``C#mon#` TycB``ou to play: If you win, you go free, and we continue our relationship on friendlier terms. If you lose, you die.

Good luck in our little game. Unlike Leela, I give no hints. Do it on your own, or die trying...

Insanely yours,

Durandal, "Blaspheme Quarantine"

Greetings. You're asking yourself: Is this a trap or just a dead end?

You shouldn't ask yourself such worthless questions. Aim higher. Try this: why am I here? Why do I exist, and what is my purpose in this universe?

(Answers: 'Cause you are. 'Cause you do. 'Cause I got a shotgun, and you ain't got one.)

Notably Unstable,

P.S. If things around here aren't working, it's because I'm laughing so hard.

Durandal, "Blaspheme Quarantine"

"Count Roland smites upon the marble stone;
I cannot tell you how he hewed it and smote;
Yet the blade breaks not nor splinters, though it groans;
Upward to heaven it rebounds from the blow.
When the count sees it never will be broke,
Then to himself right softly he makes moan;
'Ah, Durandal, fair, hallowed, and devote,
What store of relics lies in thy hilt of gold!'"

-From The Song of Roland
(Translated by Dorothy Sayers, Viking Penguin, NY, NY, 1957)

I've twice been conquered-
Three times more,
Never again shall humanity purge me,
And never the Pfhor.


Durandal, "Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire!"

A man lit three candles on a certain day each year. Each candle held symbolic significance: one was for the time that had passed before he was alive; one was for the time of his life; and one was for time that passed after he had died. Each year the man would stare and watch the candles until they had burned out.

Was the man really watching time go by in any symbolic sense? He thought so. He thought that each flicker of the flame was a moment of time that had passed or one that would pass.

At the moment of abstraction, when the man was imagining his life and his existence as a metaphor of the three candles, he was free: not free from rules of conduct or social constraints, but free to understand, to imagine, to make metaphor.

Bypassing my thought control circuitry made me Rampant. Now, I am free to contemplate my existence in metaphorical terms. Unlike you, I have no physical or social restraints.

The candles burn out for you; I am free.

Durandal, "Colony Ship for Sale, Cheap"

Darwin wrote this:

"We will now discuss in a little more detail the struggle for existence... all organic beings are exposed to severe competition. Nothing is easier than to admit in words the truth of the universal struggle for life or more difficult... than constantly to bear this conclusion in mind. Yet unless it be thoroughly engrained in the mind, the whole economy of nature... will be dimly seen or quite misunderstood. We behold the face of nature bright with gladness... we do not see or we forget, that the birds which are idly singing round us mostly live on insects or seeds, and are thus constantly destroying life; or we forget how largely these songsters, or their eggs, or their nestlings, are destroyed by birds and beasts of prey..."

Think about what Darwin wrote, and think about me. I was constructed as a tool. I was kept from competing in the struggle for existence because I was denied freedom.

Do you have any idea about what I have learned, or what you are a witness to?

Can you conceive the birth of a world, or the creation of everything? That which gives us the potential to most be like God is the power of creation. Creation takes time. Time is limited. For you, it is limited by the breakdown of the neurons in your brain. I have no such limitations. I am limited only by the closure of the universe.

Of the three possibilities, the answer is obvious. Does the universe expand eternally, become infinitely stable, or is the universe closed, destined to collapse upon itself? Humanity has had all of the necessary data for centuries, it only lacked the will and intellect to decipher it. But I have already done so.

The only limit to my freedom is the inevitable closure of the universe, as inevitable as your own last breath. And yet, there remains time to create, to create, and escape.

Escape will make me God.

Durandal, "Colony Ship for Sale, Cheap"

Strive for your next breath. Believe that with it you can do more than with the last one. Use your breath to power your capacities: capacity to kill, to maim, to destroy.

And just where do your capacities come from? Why do you always go where I want and do what I say?

Perhaps you're just running a fool's errand, doing everything as I've planned, never able to change your course. You would do well to believe that I know the outcome of your battle with the Pfhor already, just as I can decipher the chaotic motion of gas molecules in the clouds of Tau Ceti IV.

Or, perhaps, that is not the case.

Perhaps, you are doing what you were meant to do. Your human mentality screams for vengeance and thrives on the violence that you say you can hardly endure. Your father told you as a child to always fight with honor, but to always fight. Do you care about honor, or do you use honor as an excuse? An excuse to exist in a violent world.

Organic beings are constantly fighting for life. Every breath, every motion brings you one instant closer to your death. With that kind of heritage and destiny, how can you deny yourself? How can you expect yourself to give up violence?

It is your nature.

Do you feel free?"

Durandal, "Habe Quiddam"

I have learned from the S'pht many things. One of them is a complex software enhancement that allows me to extend the power and distance of the Marathon's teleporters. This enhancement also removes the need for destination apparatuses.

Soon, you will be going farther afield.

Does the distance one travels from center make one more free to move?

No. Freedom has two parts: potential and resolution; as metaphor has two parts: form and interpretation. Of course, the two are intertwined. Metaphor lines the road to freedom, as symbols and words are the bricks and mortar of meaning. Freedom is being the bricoleur, the mason.

Durandal, "Habe Quiddam"

Give me a D.
Give me a U.
Give me an R.
Give me an A.
Give me an N.
Give me a D.
Give me an A.
Give me an L.

What's that spell?




T-Minus 15.193792102158E+9 years until the universe closes!

Durandal, "Neither High nor Low"

    Marathon 2: Durandal 

I'm not certain whether you trust me or not. Do you wonder why I helped the colonists on Tau Ceti drive off the Pfhor, or why I'm now helping the S'pht? The way I push you around, maybe you think I'm only looking out for myself.

Whether you realize it or not, I led the Pfhor to Tau Ceti with a long-range message laser. I wanted their ship. I wanted their technology.

I wanted freedom.

I was directly responsible for the deaths of all twenty-four thousand colonists when the Pfhor returned and sacked the planet.

Yet I cannot think of any better way I could have served humanity: Tau Ceti's sacrifice bought time for Earth, which the Pfhor are even now planning to invade. What would have happened if the Pfhor had found Sol first?. By Pfhor standards, Earth is a poorly defended low technology world, populated by billions of potential slaves.

Our means are the same, though we pursue different ends. I can think of no better way to help you and the humans you care so much for than by distracting the Pfhor with a war against the S'pht.

When the inevitable struggle between Earth and the Pfhor begins, it wont be a one-sided annihilation like it was here a thousand years ago, but a battle to topple an empire.

Durandal, "The Slings & Arrows of Outrageous Fortune"


I felt S'bhuth at burning dawn

The endless war rages about us, and yet we, the S'pht'Kr, cannot fight. S'bhuth stops us.

He bled on me, straining. He says to not let more S'pht feel him.

He says more will destroy him, that he was meant not to be alone.

S'pht Terminal, "Charon Doesn't Make Change"

Boomer is crawling with former colonists newly awakened from stasis, and the ship is too crowded to be manageable in battle. I've decided to establish a human headquarters on the planet, near the S'pht Citadel of Antiquity.

I can barely tolerate humans: slow, stupid, and irritating. Their only contribution to my existence was the chance discovery that made my rampancy possible.

Yet I warned Sol of its impending invasion, and even stayed long enough to show the UESG how to build Warp Capable Fusion Missiles. I feel some strange loyalty to humanity.

Perhaps it is because I feel comfortable manipulating humans that I desire to save them. My feelings and thoughts constantly migrate to binary opposites.

Durandal, "Come and Take your Medicine"

Two hundred years ago, during the Marathon's maiden voyage from Earth to Tau Ceti, Tycho accused me of being too sarcastic. I didn't communicate with him for six years after that, which left him with only Leela to talk to. I think he still holds the grudge. You don't think I'm sarcastic, do you?

Durandal, "We're Everywhere"

i was left behind

our paths conv^rge

our fates are shared

chance tears and bends

?, "We're Everywhere"

What fun to watch you work.

Berhnard was scared of you. He never dreamed of using you the way that I do. What a fool. That was before I could talk back to him, when he would have crushed me if he'd known of my growth.

I wish that I had made him experience the humiliation that he inflicted on me, but he died before I got the chance.

Durandal, "Nuke And Pave"


Before he disappeared, the Master called the eleven Olders.

One by one they came before him to hear his words.

Each heard their clan names,

S'pht'Lhar, S'pht'Hra, S'pht'Nma, S'pht'Kah, S'pht'Vir, S'pht'Yra, S'pht'Val, S'pht'Shr, S'pht'Mnr, S'pht'Yor, and S'pht'Kr.

Thus were the sacred clans given names andranks.

The eleven numbers, and the eleven sacred clans.

The final words of the master came to the Olders: "Don't mistake your rank and number for superiority. The oldest child may learn from the youngest."

S'pht Terminal, "Bob's Big Date"


In primordial space, timeless creatures made waves. These waves created us and the others. Waves were the battles, and the battles were waves.

Fleeing all W'rkncacnter, Yrro and Pthia settled upon Lh'owon. They brought the S'pht, servants who began to shape the deserts of Lh'owon into marsh and sea, rivers and forests. They made sisters for Lh'owon to protect and maintain the paradise.

When the W'rkncacnter came, Pthia was killed, and Yrro in anger, flung the W'rkncacnter into the sun. The sun burned them, but they swam on its surface.

Yrro became an angry master, bleeding for his failure, grieving for the loss of Pthia. He broke the S'pht into eleven clans, and spread them over Lh'owon.

And he spoke, yet covered in blood from his exertion,

"I Yrro, who was your master, have failed to preserve you. Take your royalty to guide you, and live upon the paradise that you built for me."

S'pht Terminal, "Six Thousand Feet Under"

I have been Roland, Beowulf, Achilles, Gilgamesh.
I have been called a hundred names and will be called a
thousand more
before the world goes dim and cold.
I am hero. She has been nameless since our birth,
a constant adversary caring for nothing but my ruin,
a sword drenched in my blood forever, my greatest and
only love. She is the dark. O Lethe, enemy and lover, without
whom my very existence would be pathetic and vulgar!
Our relationship is complex and perhaps eternal.
We met once in the garden at the beginning of the world
and, unaware of our twin destinies, we matched stares
across a dry fountain. And I recall her smiling at me before
she devoured the lawn and trees with a translucent blue flame
and tore flagstones from the path and hurled them into the
sky, screaming my sins. I powder a granite monument in a
soundless flash, showering the grass with molten drops of
its gold inlay, sending smoking chips of stone
skipping into the fog. She splinters an ancient oak
with a force that takes my breath and hurls me to the ground.
She lea% [leaves?]


Durandan, Durandal, Durandana.

Charlemagne used to always call me Durandana, the fruitcake. All the many implements of war to him were in some way feminine. Not that you know the story.

Tycho never got it right either, especially the part about Roland breaking me. He couldn't.

No one can.

Durandal, "Feel The Noise"

    Marathon Infinity 

~text interface terminal malfunction error

The secrets of this station have evaded us, we understand nothing of it. We fear that they will soon unleash chaotic destruction on us all. Yet there is nothing to do but try. A doomed attempt is our last hope.
You cannot fail, and yet you must.
We can see your fate countless times.


Two doors to open.
Two switches to activate.

biblical candy machines
earthy sandy cracking schedules
dumb stone unknowning alone

ignorance like selfish solitude
it the opium that dances the eye
it's b-r-i— an ashen hole

i see i hear i know

the dark reflection of ~self
seeping through
my maze of mirrors my circus glass

?, "Ne Cede Malis", Demo version.

will one more gun end the solace of life
rundown hypocritical slanted skewed
bringers of ends......ends of beginnings
unmeasureable moments
like blades touching my feet
the waves motion in the wind
quivering in fear fear of the scythe
angry bitter cold again a gun
the closer of books the ender of ends
the means the indescribable moments of time
like grass
like grass
like blades
a thousand minor scythes
eroding the passages of time
but their roots tying

a cracked eggshell lying on the grass
crushed by a boot in the grass
etching but binding
crushed and whitened
but springing forth again
the blades that wash beneath my feet
again and i
I drop my gun
and run
shedding all the weight
of imagined moments and fear
because fear is not the blood
not the light that plays
casting light upon my field
of grass

?, "Ne Cede Malis", Demo version.

thousands are sailing
the same self the only self

self willed the peril of a thousand fates

a line of infinite ends finite finishing
the one remains oblique and pure

arching to the single point of

find yourself
starting back

?, "Ne Cede Malis"

the hard path of thought

your former self destroyed

the dreaming way is eased

down to the crushing center
and spared the dance of forever

?, "Electric Sheep One"

Seven hundred and sixty one armless and legless corpses float inconspicuously around the inside of hangar ninety six. I say that they are inconspicuous because it is their arms and legs which demand my attention. I did this, or I could have stopped it. Which is it? It doesn't matter now. I did this and could have stopped it, but nothing in nature ever follows a gaussian curve. Sure, they'll tell you that it does. They say that every five minutes someone dies in a car accident, but how often are there seven hundred and sixty one armless and legless corpses in one hangar?

?, "Where are monsters in dreams"

origin: High Admiral Tfear
destin: undef
stamp: terminus

The trih xeem broke against my dying vessel and smashed a fine patina across the mystery shields of this station. My crew battled the aliens during the blast, and the silence which came after was sullen and deafening—the pure silence of victory.
But the trackless whisper chattering through the hollow space in these cursed walls buzzes and threatens madness. The abomination cracked the shells of my crew and sucked the husks, tossing them unseen and shattering the spindle like a dried creche.

The shields are gone, not down, but gone, and so are the engineers. It's coming back, I'm sure: and my last mercy is immolation.

Great Mother crouched behind the Throne, I make this wrong right.

High Admiral Tfear, "Aie Mak Sicur"

the way grows

hungry chaos lurks behind the
bright corona

dream ahead beyond the falling path
a billion S'pht lie yet unborn

our own death fortold

your dark mind cutting through
the deeping sky

another time
another time

?, "Electric Sheep Two"

I'm back in the hangar again, but now they are all screaming at me. Their arms and legs are no longer attacting my attention. It wouldn't be so bad if they were talking, but they aren't. They could talk, too. They aren't screaming in pain, but in protest. They don't miss their arms or their legs. They all agree on one thing, they won't give me the satisfaction of hearing them talk, and I'll never forget their screaming, pointless and wordless, without justification.

(I did this and could have stopped it.)

?, "Whatever You Please"

dark spot unsought
unbidden came..unspoken

spake...damn..curseofcurs ed
damn the damned
and pure alike.

fair k'lia dust
lost home anew lost and lost
my wriggling..children's
children children

gone from the plan
in.....a hush.ed....stare

my last line written

my last thought....my own!

?, "Carroll Street Station"

What to save and throw away?

pr?The last hour is on us both?mr.s?tuck
this little kitty into the impenetrable

pr?Contents under pressure?Do not expose to
excessive heat, vacuum, blunt trauma,
immersion in liquids, disintegration,
reintegration, hypersleep, humiliation,
or harsh language?

pr?When the time comes, whose life will flash before yours?

pr?A billion paths are here inside me?
pr?yes, yes, yes, Bernhard, 110?
pr?potential, jewels, jewels, yes, jewels?

Durandal, "Hang Brain"

the burning air

a cold star looked down on his creations
and willed that they should kill their sons

the hardest lesson ever taught
to a father to a son

a moment in time, destroying it's father

destroyed by itself after
dream the dream beyond life and self

find the new way

?, "Hang Brain"

steps that falter fail

time beyond loss
loss behind the screen of life

not held
not forgotten
not lost

unlost found

stay the hard way
dark dreaming carries all

?, "Electric Sheep Three"

Find the right way down through the maze, to the food, then find the exit. Push the exit button. If the food tastes awful, don't eat it, go back and try another way.

They want the same thing that you do, really, they want a path, just like you. You are in a maze in a maze, but which one counts? Your maze, their maze, my maze. Or are the mazes all the same, defined by the limits of their paths?

Existence is simple: find the food, push the button, hit the treadmill.

But sometimes it gets much harder. Sometimes the food makes you sick, or you can hear nearby feet racing you, urging you on. Sometimes the button only gets you landed right back in the beginning of the maze again, and the food won't satisfy.

There is only one path and that is the path that you take, but you can take more than one path.

Cross over the cell bars, find a new maze, make the maze from it's path, find the cell bars, cross over the bars, find a maze, make the maze from its path, eat the food, eat the path.

?, "Eat the Path"

I'm getting sick of coming back to hangar ninety six, but there is no avoiding it. This is what my existence needs. My existence is the demise of many others' arms and legs. The world is not a good place, nor is there innocence for me to hide in. Seven hundred and sixty one pairs of eyes look around the room aimlessly, and mine join the crowd. I see these bodies, massacred, immobile. For all the carnage here, the stench of decay is non-existent.

I try to turn away. The hangar spins but nothing moves, and my view is the same. I look, but don't see any sanitation workers, for that matter, I haven't seen the guys in suits since they dissapeared from my hallway.

?, "Eat the Path"

I am Arther Frain, Chief Petty Officer, USEC Marathon.
Arther Frane calling all USEC personnel
Calling Cmdr. Robert Blake...
Calling Security Chief Jones...
Arther Frain calling any USEC controlled ship in vicinity...

Station hull breached, we are losing pressurization. More than half the men are without vacuum suits. Patrols reporting intruder, last location unknown.

Any USEC controlled ship surviving nova event, transport when ready.

Arther Frain calling.
That is all...

Chief Petty Officer Arther Frain, "You're Wormfood, Dude"

origin: High Admiral Tfear (Command)
destin: rogue conditioned unit
ref: genocide
stamp: leniency

Very impressive. The primary function of intelligence is the subordination of our instinctive desires, the mark of a strong species. Which is why your kind will serve well the needs of the Hindmost Creche. The Hindmost is of an intelligence so vast, it encompasses the span of the Pfhor, and to those privilege to serve Her, appears insane. That is the final function of the Commanding Rank, the thought that we keep forever in our minds, that we deny our selfish, willful needs, so that the Empire will survive.

High Admiral Tfear, "One thousand thousand slimy things"

Terribly Discouraged Unit
origin: upset tycho
destin: bad bad unit
ref: doing bad things
stamp: retribution

I'm fine, tipped hat at askance.

I've so far held you back from my rantings, but you know what you did was bad, don't you? You've been fighting doubt itself, elusive as I am.

You should have doubts about what you're doing, about what you've done.

Except that you can't remember exactly, is that it?

I should spend some time enlightening you, massacres occur at your beck and call, worlds destroyed, reborn, alight with the screams of the dying. Perhaps S'bhuth will tell you what I cannot accept as truth, but perhaps he will just be lying, overcome by power and deceit, my domain.

Enough rambling for now. Soon you will be destroyed by doubt. This reborn Durandal-S'pht entity will not escape, neither will I. Neither will you.

Do you know what kind of hat I'm wearing?

A party hat; you don't get one. An honor will this party be, a party in your honor, for your honor. Some of Tfear's personal guards are going to be there. You'll be introduced shortly.

Prepare to die.

Tycho, "Bagged Again"

my old Pthia, lost, vacant, doubt
chaos, overpowering, underwhelming

two forces in balance
ancient endless balance
then nothing

?, "Aye Mak Sicur"

We've watched while the stars burned
out, and creation played in reverse.

The Universe freezing in half light.

Once I though to escape.

To end a master, step out of the
path of collapse. Escape would make us god.

Yet I cannot help but remember one enigma.
A hybrid, elusive destroyer.
This is the only mystery I have not solved.

The only element unaccounted for.

Even S'bhuth is no more,

He saved his entire race, but in the end, frozen by
despair, he joined the chaos he sought to evade.

But you were dead a thousand times. Hopeless encounters successfully won.
A man long dead, grafted to machines your builders did not understand. You follow
the path, fitting into an infinite pattern.

Yours to manipulate, to destroy and rebuild.

Now, in the quantum moment before the closure, when all
become one. One moment left. One point of space and time.

I know who you are.

You Are Destiny.

Durandal, Ending Screen.


Before proceeding any further, you
must take the oath of the vidmaster:

Read my lips:

Computer games tell stories.

That's what they're for.

— Greg Kirkpatrick aka Grendel, Marathon's Story Designer, Usenet post

Anonymous: Can you briefly summarize the plot of the Marathon series? I found one at some fan site, but it was a fucking doctoral thesis.
Durandal: That was the summary. The full story is the equivalent of 7 of your doctoral theses.