The Pfhor Ship

"You wouldn't believe this ship, the technology, the data..."


One puzzling thing about the Pfhor ship is how its description seems to vary as the story progresses.
Throughout the Manual text the ship is described as a fighter:

...a space fighter materializes right in front of your eyes. Since you don't recognize the model, it must be an Alien ship.

(Manual Page 3)

...the fighter begins to spin around and yaw down on you and your defenseless Mirata.

(Manual Page 3)

...a missile appears from under the Alien Fighter and speeds towards the Mirata.

(Manual Page 3)

Throughout the Terminal text the ship is referred to as the "Alien ship", "Pfhor ship", or "Pfhor mother ship".

In the Final Screen it is referred to as a scoutship:

For seventeen years the renegade Pfhor scoutship jumped between the closely packed stars of the galactic core...

(Final Screen)

In the Marathon 2: Durandal (Preview) it is also referred to as a scoutship

Seventeen years have passed since the human colony on Tau Ceti was attacked and you helped me capture the Pfhor scoutship.

<Waterloo Waterpark (Terminal 1: 2nd message)>

Why the variation? One explanation is that this how its description would logically develop as more information becomes available. You describe the ship as a "space fighter" because this is how you initially perceive it. An unidentified ship materializing without forewarning would natually be treated as hostile by a security officer.
While on board the Marathon Leela describes the Pfhor ship as a mother ship and this is quite logical given the context of passage in which it appears.
They maintain that the Aliens were loading as many humans as possible onto shuttle craft and flying them to the Pfhor mother ship.

<Smells Like Napalm, Tastes Like Chicken! (Terminal 4: 'Success' message)>

It is only after Durandal leaves on the Pfhor ship that he describes it as a scoutship, presumably because it is then that he learns of the fact
Ah! but what a scoutship... nearly two kilometers long, supporting 1000+ Pfhor troops and other client races, carrying dropships, shuttles, and nuclear weapons, facilities for housing prisoners, and powered by a faster-than-light drive. No wonder Durandal was awed by the Pfhor ship
You wouldn't believe this ship, the technology, the data...

<Ingue Ferroque (Terminal 1)>

If this is a mere scoutship what does a Pfhor battlecruiser look like? What weapons would it carry? A Wave Motion Cannon perhaps? ;-)




Dennis Keeler <dskeeler@umich.edu> provides evidence to suggest that the "space fighter" that materializes at the beginning of the story is not in fact the Pfhor scoutship. Yep this guy is sharp. His argument relates to the description of Tuncer Mirage Effect. The manual describes the effect as follows:

Through the degenerating clouds of the airlock passageway, instead of looking upon the Tau Ceti starscape, you see the Tuncer Mirage Effect: space blurring and focusing in diminishing cycles. The TME is commonplace to you, humanity has used teleporters for almost five hundred years, and you yourself have been teleporting since before you were born. But you've never seen the TME cover an area so big before, and never at all without a landing pad. And yet another first: a space fighter materializes right in front of your eyes. Since you don't recognize the model, it must be an Alien ship.

(Manual page 3)

Dennis maintains that this description could be interpreted as "the scout ship teleporting a fighter into that position, just like Durandal can later teleport you with no jump pad or landing pad." Dennis further writes "I always pictured this to be a small fighter dispatched to take care of the Mirata, not the huge scout ship. It's probably hiding on the other side of the Marathon and you were too close to the Marathon to see it "warp in" from FTL speed."

Dennis's interpretation is indeed very plausible how could a nearly two kilometers long space ship:

...spin around and yaw down on you and your defenseless Mirata...

(Manual page3)

in a matter of seconds? Given that the Pfhor scoutship carries dropships and shuttles is it not possible that it also carries space fighters? Durandal also tells us in Habe Quiddam that the S'pht (and thus presumably the Pfhor) had the technology to teleport without the need for destination apparatuses.

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.

Habe Quiddam (Terminal 2: 'Success' message)

Dennis's interpretation however has more subtle implications. He points out that the attack on the Marathon may now have occurred before the fighter materializes. The magnetic pulse attack which disabled the Marathon's automated defenses could also have freed Durandal from Bernard Strauss' control thus allowing him to enter the second of stage of Rampancy. Thus as you approach the Marathon in the Mirata Durandal's rampancy is now no longer controlled, he is in the Angry stage, and it shows.




Adam Freidin <bob@clarity.Princeton.EDU> writes:

I've noticed something about PICT 10016 in the shapes file of M1 (the one with the Pfhor ship shooting the shuttle).

One of four things (I think) can be possible:

  1. The fighter that destroys the Mirata in the story looks exactly the same (except size) as the mother ship.
  2. It was the two kilometer mother ship that destroyed the Mirata.
  3. We never see the mother ship!
  4. The picture is inaccurate or misleading.

Adam raises one of those puzzling things that we still can't seem to pin down. Was the Mirata destroyed by the Pfhor scoutship (mothership) or a fighter teleported in by the mothership? The answer to this question is important in relation to events prior this. As we approach the Marathon Durandal is visably rampant suggesting that he has broken free from Strauss' control. How did he break free from this control? One theory is that the Pfhor's magnetic pulse attack was responsible. But this assumes that the attack on the Marathon occurred before we approach the Marathon. Yet if the space fighter that materialises in front of the Mirata is the Pfhor scoutship (mothership) how did the attack take place? We might suggest that the Pfhor scoutship simply folded from the opposite side of the Marathon in order to deal with the Mirata. However would the Pfhor scoutship be capable of this? Much of the scoutship's close quarter folding ability seen in Marathon 2 appears to have been implemented by Durandal and S'pht after the capture of the ship. Also would a nearly two kilometer ship be able "to spin around and yaw down on you and your defenseless Mirata" within in a matter of seconds even in the vacuum of space? Yet PICT 10016 clearly shows a Pfhor ship destroying the Mirata. Is this the Pfhor scoutship or a fighter?

Did we ever see the mothership? Interesting to note that the characteristic curved exterior of the ship in PICT 10016 is not displayed in the picture of Boomer presented in Marathon 2.




Interesting to note that in the Read Me document that accompanies the Marathon Demo it states:

You are a security officer aboard the interstellar colony ship Marathon. You are returning from the colony when the aliens simultaneously attack your shuttle and the Marathon. You manage to get into an escape pod, and arrive at the Marathon about a half an hour after the Alien attack has begun.
So the aliens simultaneously attack your shuttle and the Marathon. Of course you might argue that this text is from the demo and may not bear any relation to the story in the full game. But just think for one moment what bearing this would have on our interpretation of events prior to the Pfhor attack.

But before you contemplate too much, read further.

Back in the mysts of time Bungie had a short-lived web site at

http://www.netweb.com/mall/marathon/Marathon.html.
The link is still active and transports you back to the golden month of December 1994. OK I lie! In fact it takes you to the Home Page of Group Cortex, the people who were responsible for Bungie's original web site. They now do Campbell Soups :-)

Actually not only does the link not take you back to Bungie first web page but it doesn't take you back to Group Cortex's page now. All gone I'm afraid. Check the Blast from the Past section for some info on Bungie's first web page - "The Official Marathon World Wide Web Site".

Part of the introductory text at Bungie's old site read:

STATUS REPORT

At 0820 hours the UESC Marathon Space Station came under surprise attack by unknown alien forces. You were returning from the colony in a shuttle that was also attacked. Your escape pod reached the Marathon 30 minutes after the attack started. There have been numerous security breaches all over the station. The spaceport on the planet below was destroyed by low yield nuclear weapons minutes after the attack on the Marathon began, but the aliens seem to be more interested in the station. Most communications with the colonists have been interrupted because the medium range radio antenna has been disabled.

So your escape pod reaches the Marathon 30 minutes after the Pfhor attack. But the manual indicates that following the destruction on the shuttle you float for 22 minutes towards the docking bay section's port side before thrusting over to one of the empty MP docking bays. You always were a daydreamer so maybe you got the time wrong or else eight minutes is unaccounted. Actually this is seven minutes since in the eighth minute you are franatically trying to get into your Battle Armor. If these eight minutes preceded the destruction of the Mirata then it would be time enough for the Pfhor to have made their surpise attack on the Marathon. So the timing (to the nearest minute) of events might be as follows.

<Date 2794.7.25.08.20> Pfhor attack Marathon.
<Date 2794.7.25.08.27> Durandal orders the Mirata's cabin decompression.
<Date 2794.7.25.08.28> Pfhor "spacefighter" destroys the Mirata.
<Date 2794.7.25.08.30> Pfhor troops board the Marathon.
<Date 2794.7.25.08.39> Leela makes her Emergency Systems Broadcast.
<Date 2794.7.25.08.50> You reach the Marathon in the Mirata's Maneuvering Pod.

Seven minutes. Enough time for Durandal to use the Pfhor attack to break free of Strauss' control.

Seven minutes. Enough time for Durandal to watch as you approach the Marathon and plan his escape.

Seven minutes. Enough time to lose yourself in a daydream.

Seven minutes in the seventh month of the year 2794 that changed your life.




llkka Arnkil <ilkka.arnkil@pp.inet.fi> writes:

In M1 and at the beginning of M2, the Pfhor ship is referred to as "Pfhor Scoutship". However, in M2 (at the end of "Bob's Big Date") Durandal informs that "The Pfhor battle group consists of seven corvettes similar to my ship".

So, how did the Boomer change from a scoutship to a corvette during our stay at Lh'owon ? I know that the Pfhor are quite alien but general sf mythology terms "scoutships" and "corvettes" as different classes of vessels. In my opinion, "Corvette" would be more likely since it's more a warship...

Interesting point. The name 'corvette' for a class of ship goes back to small French warships of the 18th century. The resurrection of the name in modern times is often attributed to Winston Churchill. The modern day corvette is a small but fast ship. It is not unknown for corvettes to be engaged in long range scouting/patrol missions. Thus the terms scoutship and corvette may not be too dissimilar. However as discussed above for a scoutship (or corvette) the Pfhor ship seemed to carry a large number of Pfhor troops, along with client races, dropships, shuttles, and had the capacity to manufacture Simulacrums and house prisoners. Was this really a mere scoutship?

But then again one could argue that this is the Pfhor navy and they do things in style!

Concerning spaceship size let me quote you something from the Nar Chronicles related to me by the grandest Nar of them all Rob McLees (Bungie Software):

There is only one group of Nar that have come to the realization that they are, in fact, immortal (or at least extremely long lived). These are the scientific crews on the ships 'devourer of worlds on a leash' and 'immense lusterless comet hiding in shadows' (manufactured from the sum total of the natural resouces of the planet 'lifeless air-soaked rock' and its moon, respectively). These ships and their crews embarked on the 'Grand Endeavor' just over 2 billion years ago from the system neighboring the Nar system. The 'Grand Endeavor' was an undertaking of the greatest importance to the Nar -- to measure the diameter of the universe to the nearest whole inch. This was to be achieved by tethering the smaller of the two craft to the larger with a sturdy chain and once they reached one edge of the universe, the smaller craft would then travel to the other side. The larger of the two craft would house several mining craft and a massive manufacturing plant dedicated to the creation of the chain.

(a note about Nar spacecraft: describing a Nar spacecraft as mind-numbingly huge would be a monumental understatement. Their smallest craft, a two-man scout, is roughly four times the size of the Hindenburg, while their largest craft, the world ships, are exactly what it sounds like; spacecraft the size of planets constructed out of the sum total of a planet's natural resources. They are powered by hyper-efficient coal burning engines that are capable of propeling the massive crafts at nearly one-tenth the speed of light. About half of a Nar ship's hull is given over to a giant coal-hopper situated on top of a small warp generator that transports the fuel directly into the coal-burning engine, as the warp generator can only transport things within the confines of the ship's gravity well.)

© 1997 Bungie Software Products Corporation, Rob McLees




Joshua Jansen <jejansen@yahoo.com> writes:

As an avid follower of cutting edge (that is, theoretical) physics, it has come to my attention that you are still wondering about how an alien ship two kilometers long can "spin and yaw" on a defenseless shuttle. I have heard of something called a "Zero-point Mass Field." Essentailly, any matter within the confines of this field will, with respect to the matter outside of the field, have no or negative mass, allowing some high-tech pranks to be pulled on old man Physics. Perhaps the Pfhor have created (or recovered from the Jjaro) something like a "Near-point Mass Field" whereby the ultra-massive contents of the field will weigh as much as a Mini-van or a shuttlecraft.




Matt "Yossarian" Francis <crispyed@yahoo.com> posted an interesting tidbit about Durandal's renaming of the Pfhor scoutship "Sfiera" as "Boomer" on the Story Forum:

In submarine terms, a "Boomer" is a boat that holds sea launched ballistic missiles. And we all know how much of a sucker Durandal was for orbital bombardment...


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Last updated May 25, 2001