Oni2:Truth Number Zero/Course Of Events
This is a detailed list of key elements in Oni's canon (and TNZ fanon), their approximate date/time and how they follow from one another.
- For a more compact presentation, see TNZ/Timeline. For a wishlist/roadmap of TNZ-oriented mods, see TNZ/Wishmap.
In line with the TNZ philosophy, new terminology and chronology is kept to a minimum -- keeping the amount of data close to Oni's, with just a few blanks filled in according to Occam's razor.
- 1 Divergence & Emergence
- 2 Power Up!
- 3 Pet Threats
- 4 Into The Zone
- 5 Daodan Genesis
- 6 To Stir Up Trouble
- 7 Hook, Line And Sinker
Divergence & Emergence
If we look for the "roots" of Oni's story, we will soon identify several key entities that make Oni's world different from ours and set it in an alternate history (with a "fork" somewhere in the late XX century).
World history from before the end of the XX century is never referenced in Oni, other than in a broad linguistic/cultural sense (two notable entities from the real world are the United States and the Mafia).
- Interestingly, the closest thing to a weapon of mass destruction -- at the time of Oni's events -- seems to be the "Xiox destruct mechanism", so:
- either the World Coalition Government made modern WMDs a thing of the past, or
- the "fork" between our world and Oni's happened sooner, in the early XX century.
- For what it's worth, the manual mentions biowarfare (and even nukes), as well as the United Nations, so it would appear that WMDs did exist at some point, but were dismantled.
The ingame-canon "History of the Syndicate" tells us of a "young and agile" organization -- "the faceless Network" -- that superseded the Mafia because it was better suited for the "techno-centric world of the twenty first century".
(We are also told that the Network established dominance "within twelve years", that it was in place by the time the WCG was instituted, and that it "survived the chaos of the world riots" by evolving into the paramilitary Syndicate.)
The emergence of the Network must have started in the late 90s, 2000 at the latest. By 2010 its unbalanced criminal power (and the booming development of Phase Tech) represented a huge risk that prompted the Great Uprising.
Along with "conservative" technology (vehicles, computers, architecture), Oni's world features multiple instances of what we'd call "sci-fi tech": weapons firing plasma balls or energy beams, force fields, invisibility cloaks, regeneration, teleportation and telekinesis - as well as "mysterious entities" that "seem to exist out of Earth phase". When interviewed, Oni's authors acknowledge the existence of a parallel world, from which at least some of these sci-fi entities and phenomena are said to originate.
- (Among other things, Bungie's writers admitted having considered a plot variant for Oni 2 that would have challenged mankind -- and Konoko? -- with an invasion of hostile/misunderstood Screaming Cells.)
There is no collective term for all the "alien magic" in Oni canon, but a recurrent word when describing various sci-fi items is "phase", therefore it would make sense to refer to the parallel world(s) as "The Phase", and to the technology as "Phase Tech".
The emergence of Phase science/technology is not detailed in Oni, but it would seem that it starts in the late XX century: phenomena that were previously considered "paranormal" become more and more reproducible until, by 2032, Phase Tech has become commonplace and rather well-studied (although heavily regulated by the WCG). In the 2000s, though -- before the regulations kicked in -- it was still a blooming/booming field, holding great opportunity and risk. The Network was about to seize control of Phase Tech (by hogging all the best scientists and laboratory equipment) when the Great Uprising happened.
- (The superpowers granted to Konoko by her Daodan Chrysalis are described as "unearthly" by the scientists and, towards the end of Oni, are increasingly perceived as a little-understood otherworldly threat. Even if we dismiss the noisy glow observed during Daodan overpower as "just" a form of St. Elmo's fire, the telekinetic power of Konoko's final ecstasy tends to classify the Daodan as an instance of "phase magic" -- man-studied, but not man-made -- even though this is never stated explicitly.)
Cyber- and bio-punk
Oni is heavily influenced by cyberpunk (first and foremost Ghost in the Shell). The Deadly Brain from CHAPTER 02 . ENGINES OF EVIL would have been quite at home in Stand Alone Complex, and Shinatama is wired to Damocles in a very GITS-like fashion, too. Many technologies referenced in Oni's data can be classified as cyberpunk: "micromechanical fabrication cells", "theta wave scans", "sub-dermal transponders", "neural links" etc.
All these technologies are fairly commonplace at the time of Oni's events (2032) -- even if some of them still need adjustment, or are still in a cautious development phase. However, we do not know how far back in time the development of cyber-tech goes, at which point it diverged from modern-world cybernetics, and to what extent it was helped/powered by the emergence of Phase Tech in Oni's world.
Apart from cybernetics and man-machine interfaces, some of the science in Oni qualifies as "alternative/radical biology". For example, Bertram Navarre's "retasking" of human cells is described as biological engineering -- the cells are 'told' to behave differently, which leads to a new "reshaped" physiology, apparently without cybernetic implants.
Konoko's Chrysalis is also presented as a free-running biological process (akin to cancer). Even though it is heavily monitored (including through sub-dermal cybernetic implants), and seems to be at least partly of transdimensional origin, the notion of a "hyperevolved clone" gradually "devouring" the host's organs is fundamentally biological. The key role of "Daodan symbiosis" in Oni's plot qualifies the story as bio-punk+sci-fi rather than the more typical cyber-punk.
Another special mention goes to the Simulated Life Doll concept, which is "an attempt to recreate human physiology with artificial materials" - i.e., synthetic tissue is grown into a human-like neural network, and memories/emotions are shaped through "brain engrams" coming from a human donor. Another staple of Oni's bio-punk orientation, the SLD technology was seemingly developed in the first two decades of the XXI century (Shinatama was apparently made in 2020 or so), and in 2032 new progress is still being made.
The aforementioned gradual emergence of new realities was precipitated in 2012 or so, when -- in response to the trends-so-far -- a radically new world order was established overnight, and the World Coalition Government was born.
Following the gradual emergence of Phase Tech and -- in parallel, but for unrelated reasons - that of the Network, the risks of revolutionary technology falling into the "wrong hands" were daunting. Phase Tech was still a little-understood field of "alien magic" at the time, and the Network was aggressively seizing control of the most promising developments. This precarious situation was one of the main motivations of the geopolitical coup that was staged in the early 2010s.
The manual (for what it's worth) cites other reasons for the institution of the World Coalition Government: from financial ones (mutual debt, saturated globalization trends) to environmental (pollution and disease requiring strong decision-making on a global scale) or military (never-ending skirmishes -- with or without WMD risk --, and the terrifying effects of biowarfare). All of those motives are legitimate, but work even better in combination with the Phase Tech threat.
WCG's Uprising & World Riots
a.k.a. "Great Uprising" or "Uprising War" (an even shorter moniker may have been "GrUp", hinting both at the notion of "(re)grouping" and at the speed with which the initiative was "grabbed").
The Uprising is described as a series of annexions (possibly backed up by pseudo-democratic self-determinations à la Crimea 2014), which took populations -- and the Network -- by surprise. The date may have been anywhere in the early 2010s (the manual infamously quotes it as "January 12th, 2032", possibly meaning 2012). The same manual (for what it's worth) implies that the annexions took place on a single day, grabbing 80% of the world countries, and that the "holdouts" (countries/regions which initially resisted the annexion) were resolved "in a matter of months". National armies were obviously involved in the operation, but the approach was a hybrid one, amply resorting to mercenaries as well as "corporate" forces.
Apart from a vast conspiracy between leaders and influencers in many countries, and "organized treason" at the highest military level, the Uprising required an unprecedented effort in logistics -- communication between the myriads of task forces in charge of the annexions needed to be flawless. Supplies and transportation also needed to be flexible, so as to adapt to any contingency during the "grab". This is when the modular ammo system was developed (along with other standardized tech).
Since one of the goals was to avert the Network's dominion in Phase Tech development, it was crucial to identify/locate all the major technological assets and secure/reclaim them from the Network. Griffin likely played a key role in pre-TCTF operations already at this time, perhaps as a semi-rookie SWAT helping to secure a major asset (or avert a major threat) in one of the "holdout" situations (e.g., cornered resistance fighters threatening to detonate some high-tech WMD). His "meteoric rise through the ranks" followed from that.
Following the de-facto annexions (political and military), the newborn WCG territory had to go through a de-jure institution, which involved propaganda and some kind of "social contract" between the new leaders and the population. People all over the world needed to get over the fact that decisions were being rushed upon them, and the WCG's "reasons" for establishing the new world order (security against tech threats, primarily) needed to outweigh the tight regulations that came with it.
Freedom Riots happened within the year, and were pacified with relatively little blood (non-lethal weapons such as Phase Stream Projectors were used for crowd control).
- We are never told who or what "Vansam" is -- it only appears once as part of Vansam Regional Airport in CHAPTER 04 . TIGER BY THE TAIL --, but it would make sense that this is either the name of the city/region where Oni's action takes place, or the name of a notable citizen after whom the airport (or city/region) was (re)named. Perhaps he/she was either an instigator or a collaborator of the region's (Japan's?) annexion.
One of the main motives for the WCG's institution per Oni canon was the regulation of illegal technology (including the emergent Phase Tech, but not limited to it). Although the Network managed to maintain a hold on the black market and in the illegal tech industry, the "blanket authority" of the newborn Tech Crime Task Force allowed it to seize scientists and facilities all over the world, and put them under strict WCG regulation.
The most valuable scientists (renegade or not) and the most promising/dangerous projects ended up confined in Science Prisons. More or less arbitrary standards were defined and enforced, first as a way to counter actual technological threats, then as part of a neo-totalitarian drift. Urban planning, transportation, communication - everything was heavily state-regulated if not monopolized by the state.
Predictably enough, one of the first standards ushered by the WCG was the Big-Brother-like "WorldNet" (manual-mentioned only, for what it's worth). Initially advertised as free access to information for everyone -- justified by an "optimization" of infrastructure in the unified WCG territories --, it turned out to be an ideal tool for "soft propaganda" and censorship.
With global control over communication channels, and unlimited authority granted to TCTF forces, rebellious factions were detected and crushed (the manual -- for what it's worth -- implies that, if there still was a rebellion at the time of Oni's events, its HQ was recently raided, its data captured and decoded, its leaders arrested, etc). Harmless forms of protest were tolerated, at least in the early WCG years, as is implied by Jamie Hasegawa's activism.
Mercenaries and assassins were used by the WCG in combination with the official TCTF apparatus, whenever a conflict needed to be resolved but was outside TCTF jurisdiction. Capital punishment is not mentioned anywhere in Oni, but it may have been used at least in the early WCG years as a way to instill obedience, as well as to minimize corruption (other than the inherent corruption of the system itself).
Martial law is also not explicitly mentioned, but the TCTF is practically at war with Muro's Strikers at the time of Oni's events, and was probably engaged in similarly violent operations against the Network-turned-Syndicate in earlier WCG history. Perhaps this permanent state of emergency was not planned by the masterminds of the Great Uprising, and was an ill side effect of the uncompromising crackdown on tech crime: what didn't kill the Network made it stronger and more radical. This trend was accepted by the new leaders, however -- both because it was convenient in a neo-totalitarian perspective, and because it was still considered a "lesser evil" as compared to unregulated Phase Tech, cyber tech, etc.
Standardized technology is how the WCG asserted its authority, even in those regions where it wasn't welcome. Even more pervasive than WorldNet propaganda, or the strict regulation of people's activities, was the forced standardization (and state monopolization) of basic infrastructure and commodities. Thus one of the main sources of WCG's power was, aptly enough, power itself.
- Governments and markets welcomed the emergence of the World Coalition Government, or were crushed beneath it. As hostilities subsided the WCG began to standardize "fundamental technical elements" across all market regions. The ubiquitous Energy Cell has replaced all other portable power sources.
The obsolete power sources (as well as other "fundamental technical elements") were supposedly collected by the WCG and "recycled" (or disposed of? in Wilderness Preserves?), which -- if sufficiently careless or unlucky -- may have resulted in severe environmental damage.
Massive Power Generators
Under the excuse of cleaner energy (whether powered by revolutionary Phase Tech or not, Oni does not say) huge power plants were built in major cities and "regions". (Oni speaks of 417 regional facilities, which roughly corresponds to the number of modern cities with populations above 1 million.) Later, as the BioCrisis progressed, the power plants were augmented with "atmospheric conversion" tiers, making use of the excess supply of electricity available on-site.
- In CHAPTER 14 . DAWN OF THE CHRYSALIS, it is the "generators" at the base of each ACC that were targeted by the Sturmaderung pulse. Initially the pulse was meant (apparently) to trigger an "inversion of the primary charge couplers", disabling the filtering of Class 3 toxins and even transforming them into Class 4 ones, causing "catastrophic and irreversible" environmental damage. Konoko's initiative was to "overload the generators" instead, leading to explosions that disrupted the ACCs (and possibly caused some spillage) but averted the "inversion process".
While not canon in the strictest sense, the "power plant theory" draws from the fact that Bungie West initially designed the ACC levels as massive power plants, and later "repurposed" them as air-cleaning facilities after the "toxic theme" emerged (Jamie's fate in the Zone, Hasegawa's Chrysalis project, and Muro's twisted Sturmanderung plan all revolve about the increasing toxicity of the environment).
As a further non-canon addition, it makes sense that the power grid was also standardized, so that only WCG-certified tech would be able to connect to it. Unauthorized equipment would be detected through the power grid itself and reported to the TCTF, so that the offending appliances could be taxed or confiscated -- all in the name of operational safety. This fits in well with the massive power plants, the "ubiquitous Energy Cell", and the general tendency of the WCG to hook its citizens onto state-regulated technology.
Social unrest manifested itself only briefly, following the Great Uprising and World Riots. Jamie's activism was part of that movement, but as we see it didn't achieve much besides getting Jamie killed.
- (Indirectly, Jamie's "sacrifice" did provide the motivation for Hasegawa's Daodan research, but that's another story.)
Apart from standardization and regulation per se, WCG's authority rests on two other pillars: pollution and crime. Whether deliberately or not, the WCG is constantly fighting back those two "pet threats", without ever achieving victory.
The Network radicalized itself in order to retain control of the black market and in order to fight back the TCTF's raids. In the neo-totalitarian landscape illegal facilities either needed to stay completely "off the radar" or had to be relocated in non-WCG countries where the TCTF couldn't easily reach them. "Bulk smuggling" to and from the WCG countries became key, as well as paramilitary enforcement of illegal operations.
Cyborg enforcers from the game Syndicate Wars (no relation).
Council a.k.a. Hydra
The structure of the pre-Muro Syndicate is never described in Oni canon, except for allusions to a bunch of "old bosses" in the manual (for what it's worth). TNZ fanon posits the existence of a Council a.k.a. Hydra, where said bosses collectively decided on the course of action. Something similar to a corporate board of directors, it was a legacy of the pre-WCG Network, and kept the Syndicate from being overrun by military types.
Having learned their lesson from the Great Uprising, the Council was multiply redundant and "revolution-proof". Group loyalty was permanently tested, counter-intelligence prevented external influence (i.e., infiltration by the TCTF), and internal sources of instability were quickly identified and eliminated, before they could possibly pose a threat to the multiply redundant and well-protected Council members -- hence the Hydra analogy. (Ultimately, of course, Muro revealed himself as the Hydra's Hercules.)
Assassins & Mukade
Assassins were as important within the Syndicate as they were for the WCG. Oni does not explicitly say anything about pre-Muro assassins (Mukade and the Ninja are described only in Oni's immediate context), but it would make sense if "Muro's master ninja", Mukade, was already around in pre-Muro times, although perhaps not ranking as high as "the Syndicate master assassin" yet. Perhaps he belonged to the "old school" of assassins and had been around several years before the Uprising, too.
Likewise, the multiple possibilities regarding Mukade's origins and his relation to Muro -- Muro's trainer or training partner, mentor, rival -- are not stated in any way. Maybe he's "one of Muro's thugs" as Konoko suggests, and maybe he is more of a "Muro's ninja master" (trainer and mentor) than "Muro's master ninja" (high-ranking subordinate). Without new data, we may never know.
If both the WCG and the Syndicate relied on "freelancers" (like Mukade?) for their dirty business, it is possible that some assassins (including Mukade?) were occasionally working for both sides. The more an assassin knew about both sides of the system, the more of a liability he became, so it took extraordinary skills and guts to survive in that field for long (flawless performance as a killing machine and/or data thief, and a legendary ability to elude/deter fellow assassins).
Even if the situation with toxins is deteriorating, the WCG's propaganda is presenting it as a precarious-yet-stable status quo. To the WCG's defense, at the time of Oni's events, many years have passed since Jamie's death, and Hasegawa's doomsday scenario is nowhere to be seen. So, for better or worse, "it's all under control", apparently.
The dual monuments to global pollution -- Atmospheric Conversion Centers (a.k.a. Atmospheric Processors) and Wilderness Preserves -- are detailed below.
Oni makes it clear that, at the time of Oni's events, life in the cities is made possible by huge air-cleaning facilities (the ACCs). Oni does not disambiguate the initial source of the pollution (the manual -- for what it's worth -- simply says that "the air has gone bad"). Preexistent pollution (modern-day-like) may have been complemented by biological warfare before or during the Uprising, then by careless or unlucky "recycling" of obsolete technology during the WCG-imposed standardization, and finally by ill side effects of ACCs themselves.
The air cleaning process results not only in clean air, but in large quantities of extracted pollutants (toxins etc) that must be somehow contained and eventually disposed of. Somewhat disturbingly, toxic waste disposal is never detailed in Oni. Just because it is never stated that waste is simply carried away and dumped somewhere, doesn't mean that it isn't (carried away and dumped). Perhaps some advanced technology (Phase-based or not) is used to neutralize the toxicity (before dumping?) or the WCG has made attempts to teleport the waste to another dimension (and failed?) -- we do not know.
In line with the standardization of (electric) power and the construction of large power plants (Phase-powered?) shortly after the Uprising, the Atmospheric Conversion Centers were apparently built on top of pre-existing power generators.
Wilderness Preserves are the only rural areas mentioned in Oni, and the manual (for what it's worth) refers to them as "massive tracts of quarantined land". Apparently the Wilderness Preserves are the epicenters of pollution, and -- at the time of Oni's events -- the air above them is so bad that civilian fly-overs are forbidden. It's not just that people flying over "one of the Contaminated Zones" would witness one of the "dirty secrets that the government made it easy to ignore" -- apparently flying over a Zone taints your aircraft with "biological contamination" (hopefully superficial).
The source of the pollution in the "afflicted areas" is never mentioned in Oni, and perhaps it is classified. The initial pollution (when the WCG took charge) may have been blamed on reckless biowarfare and experimentation (secret labs far away from the cities? Phase Tech, or generally risky tech?) -- but then new sources of pollution appeared, first when the WCG went ahead with standardization and the "recycling" of old tech, and later when the WCG's ACCs started to produce large (unmanageably large?) quantities of toxic waste.
Likely the Contaminated Zones are a testament to WCG's poor management of the BioCrisis, but we do not know how much of it is the WCG's fault. We do not know what pictures the Hasegawas would have brought back from their trip, if only Jamie had worn thicker/longer pants on her way in:
- a huge dump of used batteries of every size imaginable?
- decaying biomatter from failed Marionette experiments?
- drums upon drums of condensed toxic waste from the ACCs?
- artifacts that "make your bones melt and your eyes explode"?
- phase portals through which aliens are throwing their trash at us?
(possibly as a "thank you" for toxic waste being fed into the Phase by the WCG)
We Do Not Know. All we know is that "the world outside [the cleaning range of] the Atmospheric Processors is poisonous" -- virulent enough to kill a person who has barely set foot in a Zone (pun intended... because Jamie had barely walked into the Zone... bare-legged, geddit?).
- For what it's worth, we are never told that all the Wilderness Preserves (a.k.a. Contaminated Zones) are identically polluted. Some of them can be dumps of old tech, others may be home to toxic waste, others yet may be "Ground Zeros" of experiments gone wrong. The Hasegawas simply happened to pick a really nasty Zone (although it's always possible that other Zones were even nastier).
Into The Zone
At some point in the early WCG years -- some time after the Uprising but late enough for both the BioCrisis and the Syndicate to have emerged -- another key event occurred that would change the face of Oni's world forever: Jamie Cut Her Leg.
- Let's say it happened in 2014 and Mai was born in 2013 (and Muro in 2009, i.e., three years before the Uprising).
The only visual account of the Hasegawas' fateful trespassing is a bunch of improbable polaroids flying by in Konoko's dream sequence. While it's possible that the couple took selfies or action footage to document their expedition, it is unlikely that they captured the perfect shot of Jamie being cut, or the even more perfect shot of Hasegawa bawling over the dying Jamie. So it would seem that the polaroids are the fruit of Konoko's imagination, and that the only actual evidence of what happened is Hasegawa's narrative.
Is Hasegawa's tale 100% genuine, or may it have been tampered with? by Griffin and the WCG? by Mukade when creating the CD? Or may Hasegawa have thrown in some wild exaggeration himself?
- (If you did something dramatically stupid, would you not try to rationalize it afterwards, so as to make it look, if not less stupid, at least a bit more dramatic than it actually was?)
We Do Not Know.
We Were Prepared - BUT
- "We both knew it was dangerous but we were young and thought we were indestructible."
- "We never should have left the city. But we wanted proof of what was being allowed to happen."
- "We knew that traveling there would brand us as enemies of the state. [(BUT)] We thought we were prepared to deal with the consequences of our choice..."
... and then of course "what happened was more horrible than anything we could have ever imagined".
Children? What Children?
Hasegawa's narrative includes an admirable argumentation about how there were obvious risks -- certainties , even (like becoming enemies of the state after unveiling whatever they thought they'd unveil) -- but still the young couple went ahead with it all. It's peculiar how the couple's children are never mentioned at this point. While it's true that young parents are sometimes tempted to make the most of their lives (leaving it to their relatives to care for the children), the Hasegawas are kind of going to extremes here.
Not Afraid To Use It
Also interesting how Hasegawa brought a gun on the trip, and how awkwardly "convenient" it turned out to be. Possibly it was "just" to defend against wild beasts (mutant hamsters?). But, if the Hasegawas admittedly "knew that traveling there would brand [them] as enemies of the state", then who's to say that the gun wasn't meant to be used as a last resort if running into "zone-guards", or for committing ritual suicide? The two young people may already feel like they have "nothing to lose" at this point (ahem... children?), but the gun is what makes all the difference between clueless and reckless.
What About Kerr?
Knowing Kerr's general character (and attitude towards risk), and assuming he knew about the Hasegawas' activism and about the destination of their field trip, it's hard to imagine how he reacted when:
- he was left in charge of 1-year-old Mai and 5-year-old Muro;
- Hasegawa came back alone. "Where's Jamie?"... "You what??!"
It kind of defies imagination, and raises the question of whether Kerr was "prepared to deal with the consequences", too. It also implies a very strained relationship between Kerr and Hasegawa later on.
Once you accept the narrated fact that the Hasegawas traveled into a Contaminated Zone leaving ol' Kerr in charge of both Mai and Muro, it is only half surprising that Jamie went in bare-legged.
From there, given the over-the-top drama and cheesiness of Hasegawa's story, multiple conspiracy theories can be put forward, such as:
- Jamie didn't really become infected, Hasegawa just shot her, because she knew too much (about something), muahahaha;
- Jamie didn't really become infected by scratching her leg on a "flowering shrub", instead she was scratched by a well-placed needle shot from Mukade, because the WCG wanted her dead (muahahaha);
- Jamie didn't really die, Hasegawa merely helped her "disappear" (and later turn into Mukade, muahahaha).
Compelling as those theories might be, it makes sense to play along with the official tale, and assume that stupid Jamie stupidly went in bare-legged, stupidly scratched her leg, stupidly infected her stupid a$$ and was stupidly shot by (stupid) Hasegawa.
Murder Or Mercy
The minutes of Hasegawa's trial would be just as interesting to look at as Kerr's conversations with Hasegawa following Jamie's loss. ("He misses her as much as I do" -- except I'm the one who shot his sister, and he was the one who reluctantly let us go and stayed home with both our kids.)
A deal with the WCG?
Given the strict rules of the WCG, it is not clear how Hasegawa -- both an enemy of the state and a self-confessed murderer -- avoided prosecution and prison. The incident received a lot of media attention in the first days, so it would have been hard for Hasegawa to publicly deny the toxicity he and Jamie encountered in the Zone, and even harder to back out of murder charges and blame Jamie's death on the activists somehow -- if anything, it would have been a betrayal of Jamie's ideals. So it's not clear what kind of deal he could have made with the WCG, if any.
An alternative possibility is that Hasegawa somehow escaped custody and hid away under the Syndicate's wing, convincing Kerr to do the same (and taking the kids along). Perhaps Hasegawa's involvement with the activists already caught the Network/Syndicate's attention and tagged him as a potential renegade scientist. Then during the trial (or while on parole) he may have been contacted/approached by Syndicate headhunters. He and Kerr were offered the prospect to continue their work as scientists in a relatively liberal environment, as opposed to remaining in WCG territory and standing trial.
The future of Mai and Muro was also at stake. Without much of a hesitation, and still a bit overwhelmed by the events, Hasegawa and Kerr took the offer and disappeared. At this point Hasegawa did not yet have a clear idea of how he'd ever be able to amend for Jamie's death. Kerr was still in awe at Hasegawa's deed and at the loss of his sister, but realized that this was the only way left to go.
- Your father and I were criminals, funded by the Syndicate.
...and still nowhere close to working on the Daodan Chrysalis as we know it.
- Jamie's death won't be in vain. I'm going to do something about the nightmare that killed her.
Easier said than done. And vague as hell, too. But better than nothing.
The Elusive Pathogen
We do not know what Hasegawa's (or Kerr's) field of research was before Jamie's death, but the first idea was to try and identify the pathogen that killed Jamie (and then design a cure). Initial investigations by the CDC ("Grad student dies" printout, for what it's worth) talk of a "new fatal virus infection that caused complete cellular breakdown". Somewhat alarmingly, "investigators fail to identify the DNA trace of the virus" -- which may mean that there is no trace at all, or that there is a DNA, but one that is unknown to science. English speakers please help: is it the latter?
Research on this mysterious pathogen would have made total sense, the only problem is that Jamie's body stayed with the WCG. The only way to get at the data (or at Jamie's body) would have been to infiltrate secure WCG facilities -- a job for a super-infiltrator such as Mukade, perhaps? It is indeed possible that renegade scientists working for the Syndicate had access to a pool of hackers/infiltrators that would help them steal valuable data or equipment from WCG labs.
This -- Hasegawa hiring Mukade to get at Jamie's data/body -- may have been the first contact between the two, and how Mukade got acquainted with Jamie's fate and Hasegawa's cause. Depending on the location that needed to be infiltrated, and on the medical manipulations that may have been required on-site, Mukade may even have allowed Hasegawa to tag along, allowing a bond to form.
It is not clear if Hasegawa managed to find the data about the virus(?) that killed Jamie and, if he did, whether the data was of much use to him. Perhaps all he did was get another look at Jamie. Perhaps he realized -- with Mukade's help? -- that "the nightmare that killed her" was just a fraction of the atrocities that the Contaminated Zones had in store, and that the cure -- if any -- would need to be totipotent rather than targeted at a specific pathogen.
The Quest For Resilience
Hasegawa began to experiment with genetics, looking for ways to boost a human cell's general resilience. At this point the research was still fairly generic, a long shot from a working Chrysalis, and with no concern for a human host's integrity. Probably just batches of cancer cells subjected to various pathogens from the Zones -- with some results, but unfortunately no universal resilience.
At some point Hasegawa started to use Screaming Cells as a universal "life force drain" and a "common denominator" to any pathogen that he could subject his samples to. The idea was to create cells (or organelles -- think mitochondria or midichlorians) that could withstand a controlled energy drain from a Screamer, and to use those super-cells (or super-organelles) as a basis for human resilience -- still nowhere close to the Daodan, but a step towards redemption nonetheless.
Possibly Hasegawa even had some success in designing some synthetic organelles that allowed tumorous clusters to resist a Screamer for a bit longer than usual -- although it wasn't quite clear where to go from there, because the problem of universal response to "any" threat remained unsolved, as well as the even more crucial problem of a human host's integrity. Man-made super-cancer was shaping up as a ghastly bioweapon rather than a cure.
In his experiments with Screamer-proof tumorous clusters, Hasegawa was pulling ("fishing") Screamers from the Phase using a standard "phase hook" (a device that may have looked like the otherwise unused "RF_electrode" mesh from level0_Tools). One day, the parameters for the hook were messed up (or maybe the hook was getting old and rusty, and ended up malfunctioning). Either way, instead of a Screamer, a completely different entity came through from the Phase, "bit" at Hasegawa's tissue sample, and seemingly disappeared.
The amazing properties of this new entity became clear immediately: the sample didsn't die from energy draining (or died a lot slower than usual); in fact the cells looked healthy and started dividing/mutating, even without a growth medium (!); the mutant cells were able to infiltrate/assimilate other cells from the same organism; they resisted surgery; if extended to larger samples, they inexplicably enhanced the original while preserving its integrity.
Of course it's a very sensitive process and a lot of things can go wrong, but the discovery of the new entity was a breakthrough nonetheless. At the core of the phenomenon, cell-sized "phase hooks" (transdimensional portals) allow a direct inflow of energy from the Phase into every affected cell. More importantly, the (sentient?) aura of energy somehow coordinates the growth and retasking of tumorous cells so that, instead of being devoured, healthy/unaffected tissue is "adopted, adapted and improved".
It is unclear how the entity can have such a deep "understanding" of the host organism, being able to react to any threat (energy drain, physical damage, pathogens) without compromising the host's integrity. The term "hyperevolution" is coined, "as if" the entity was able to able to project the instantaneous threat into a lifetime of evolutionary experimentation/experience, identify/compute the "fittest" response and (somehow) immediately implement and apply it. Something like an ageless "phase god" (or demon) that knows life (and death) inside and out, and doesn't mind answering support calls.
"Latency" is introduced as a measure of the mysterious entity "lying low" and "acting normal". The term "Chrysalis" is also coined at this point. Assuming that the mysterious entity not only "reinforces and replaces" the host's damaged systems, but also works towards the expression of the host's "true nature", it is conceptually clear that the "true nature" of the host is gradually redefined and shifted towards a different level of humanity. A host's bodily envelope, visually unchanged, is like a chrysalis or cocoon inside which deep transformations occur.
Once the process is complete, a new creature may emerge (metaphorically?) from the Chrysalis: an Imago (Butterfly? We Do Not Know). A fully upgraded (exalted?) human being could also be termed "numan" or "newman" (portmanteau or "new/nu" and "human"), although it is not clear how much humanity a "symbiote" would retain eventually -- whenever that "eventually" would take place (is there really an "end" to the process?).
- "...final evolutionary stage: what form that might take, and what the presence of such a creature might portend for humanity we cannot know."
To Stir Up Trouble
With the Chrysalis's "hyperevolutionary" properties more or less clarified, it would look like Hasegawa has finally found a miraculous solution to "the nightmare that killed Jamie".
Dream come true? Not so fast.
Reactive or pro-active?
If the mysterious entity powering the Chrysalis (Hasegawa's Demon) was such a godsend -- allowing humanity to coexist with any pathogens, past, present and future --, then Hasegawa could/should/would have called it "HAPéCURE" or "Hello Heaven", or maybe "Laliosar" ("Let's All Live In Our Shit And Rejoice").
However, the process does not merely adapt to the threats and "heal" its host -- it aggressively "improves" the host as it sees fit and, as a side effect, ends up shaping the host's environment as well. Therefore a much more cryptic and ambiguous term was coined instead: Daodan.
"Daodan" (or rather dǎo dàn 捣蛋) is Chinese for "to make trouble" or "to stir up trouble". (The Chinese for "troublemaker" is dǎo dàn guǐ 捣蛋鬼, where guǐ, meaning "ghost/spirit" or "person/guy" depending on the context, uses the same kanji 鬼 as the Japanese "oni", i.e., demon/ogre.)
Possibly Dǎo Dàn Guǐ is a reference to Hasegawa's troubled youth (as a student) or to his and Jamie's common past as rebels/activists/lovers. Perhaps "Dǎo Dàn Guǐ" is what he or Jamie was called in some memorable episode (such as a minor argument/fight with the police, but perceived as great injustice). In any case, the "Daodan" designation acknowledges the disruptive potential (or "rebel nature" if you like) of the Chrysalis process and the entity behind it. It is also a monument to Jamie's "rebel spirit" (literally, "trouble-making ghost", especially now that she's dead) and how "she was determined to set things straight no matter what the cost".
For Hasegawa the poet, Hasegawa the idealist and Hasegawa the grieving lover (as opposed to Hasegawa the scientist), the Daodan entity is like an incarnation of Jamie's strong will to change the world.
Dead Air And Foul Water
One of the most troubling aspects of Oni is Muro's final tirade and how it seems in total conflict with Hasegawa's and Jamie's altruistic ideals
- "Join me or die like all the others, choking on dead air and foul water. I have accomplished everything our father dreamed of doing."
Clearly Hasegawa didn't dream of people choking to death -- or turning into mutants --, and he didn't feel like Jamie would have wanted him to think that way. So what exactly happened here?
If Hasegawa was indeed a (perverted) role model for Muro, it would seem that Muro is under the impression that:
- Hasegawa wanted to avenge Jamie's death by letting people (rulers and populace alike) suffer like she did;
- only a few "worthy" people who empathized with Hasegawa would have been granted the privilege of a cure.
This fits in well with Muro's doomsday plan, but clashes with Hasegawa's tale, and this is aptly summed up by Mai's reply: "He dreamed of life. All you know is death."
So, really, what happened here? Somewhere along the way, either Hasegawa changed his actual beliefs and ideals, or his story (as told to Muro) got twisted around.
We Do Not Know (although we can guess). At this point all we can say is that Muro's incarnation of the Daodan has turned out to be a perfect "troublemaker".
Mukade's Two Cents
With the Chrysalis process discovered, Hasegawa had more work for Mukade. Snatching valuable equipment from WCG labs (kind of like Muro's raid on Vago in CHAPTER 03 . PUZZLE PIECES), gathering samples of various pathogens (from labs as well as from Contaminated Zones)... and brainstorming on possible applications/implications of what had just been discovered. The two bonded even more at this point.
Syndicate As Host
From Hasegawa's point of view, the Daodan is raw chaos -- he loves the beauty of it, and how it echoes Jamie's activism, but he has no idea how it could help making the world into a better place (mutants roaming a poisonous wasteland? really?). But Mukade is wiser and more knowledgeable about both the WCG and the Syndicate, aware of all their strengths and weaknesses... and he quickly comes up with a daring scheme (part plan, part contingency) in which the Daodan is used to infiltrate the Syndicate, redefine its purpose, and turn it into a tool of radical change at the global scale (sturmänderung?).
Ready Or Not
We do not know if Hasegawa and Mukade agreed on the plan at this point, or if they were 100% ready to set it into motion -- perhaps the Syndicate's raid came first, and forced everyone's hand. Maybe Hasegawa was against the plan (at least initially), but Mukade "insisted" by having the raid happen (and later convinced Hasegawa, or replaced him at Muro's side as his new mentor and father figure). Maybe the two had reached an agreement, elaborated a plan and executed it, with barely any surprises. We Do Not Know.
Mukade The Mentor
It wasn't all about insight. Mukade's increasing closeness with Hasegawa and Muro (Hasegawa's confident and Muro's mentor) played an important role in the plan, too. As a potential combat trainer of young Muro, Mukade was in a great position to influence the young man and to nudge him towards rebellion at just the right time. As a typical "grey cardinal", Mukade would also make sure that the alienated Syndicate would stay on track and bring about the radical world changes that he and Hasegawa envisioned.
Hook, Line And Sinker
We know practically as fact that the Syndicate was tempted by the Chrysalis's potential as a human weapon ("universal soldier"), and realized only too late how unpredictable and uncontrollable he was becoming.
Muro's Trainers : The New Elite
Muro's charisma as a "superboy" granted him authority over many of his trainers and sparring partners, as well as many low-level Syndicate members, who saw him as a symbol of "social justice" (pawns being able to strike back at management, after years of rigid subordination).
Later, this ideology became the backbone of Muro's Striker forces: be it Furies, Strikers, Elites or Mad Bombers. There was a cult of raw physical power (the ability to stand for oneself), a taste for destruction and gratuitous violence, and fanatical devotion to Muro.
It was probably very graphic (well, PG-13 at least). All the "caged" violence that Muro had been put through in training instantly found an outlet, when it was finally time to revolt.
The Council was slaughtered and the survivors were hunted down. No quarter was given. The new elite eagerly assumed authority -- just Muro and his generals running the whole show.
Mukade and Hasegawa were probably both around when Muro rose to power (with Mukade as the most probable advisor), but the moment of truth was approaching quickly: What Next?
Mukade VS Hasegawa
- At the time of Oni's events, Mukade is "Muro's master ninja" and Hasegawa is nowhere to be seen (and is referenced by Muro in the past tense). What well-informed guesses can we put forward?
Daddy Must Die
Hasegawa understood, somewhat reluctantly, that he couldn't possibly remain a role model for Muro throughout the alienation process, therefore he (Hasegawa) had to "disappear" at least as an altruist. One possibility is that he "died" at some point (or exiled himself), leaving Mukade in charge of Muro and of the "alienated Syndicate". Another possibility is that Hasegawa willingly submitted to a violent alienation of self, essentially becoming a "new Mukade" (upon which it's the true/old Mukade who may have left).
We Do Not Know. What we do know (sort of) is that the Mukade we see in Oni talks in creepy riddles hinting at advanced Daodan symbiosis (another hint is that he teleports and throws ball lightning), and is a bit of a tormented soul (schizophrenia?). Assuming that he is indeed a Daodan symbiote, and that he isn't one of many "thugs", but has some special status (like a mentor?), it can be that his Chrysalis was implanted early on (e.g. while he was running errands for Hasegawa in the Contaminated Zones), and that -- at a later stage -- the Daodan allowed him to inherit/usurp parts of Hasegawa's scientific genius and personality (through brain engrams, not unlike for an SLD).
One Way Or The Other
When that personality merge happened, whether it happened at all, and whether Hasegawa is still alive somewhere -- we do not know. Mukade is faceless and voiceless, so for all we know the "merge" (if any) may have gone the other way around: Hasegawa implanting a Chrysalis to himself, receiving engrams from a tired and jaded Mukade, and turning into an alienated/conflicted acolyte of Muro (but actually a "grey cardinal" supervising the "true Sturmänderung", whatever it is). In this case, it is the true Mukade who disappeared, while Hasegawa took his place (and seemingly "dissolved" himself). Likewise, we do not know how it happened, when it happened, or whether it happened at all.