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Fixing KotFE Part 4 - What's An Alliance Without Allies?

Special thanks again to these two sites for summarising the expansions so I don't have to watch hours of youtube videos or fights thousands of Skytroopers to remember what happened in some of the chapters. They were incredibly helpful and I honestly don't know if I would have bothered finishing this if I didn't have them on hand. Also, if you want to compare and contrast my story to the original, these will probably come in handy.


Welcome to Part 4 of Fixing KotFE! Here, I'll be looking at the story after you take over as Alliance Commander which, in my version, occurs in Chapter 6. The story up until this point can be found in Part 3 here.
This is the section where I usually write out my aims but these carry on from Part 3, so I'll save everyone some time there. I'm really happy with some of the changes I made and I think we get some cool concepts that aren't explored in the original so I hope you like it too. However, there is something I'd like to explain that I never really got into. Technically, I guess it would go into the gameplay section but it feels more story-based.
I'd add a prison to the base on Asylum where you can place characters who you decide to capture or imprison. At this point in the story, that would only allow for Senya, if you chose to imprison her, rather than allow her to join the council, however there are other characters in the future who can be held there. I think the prison would be an optional area that you can visit and talk to your prisoners, if you have any. They would say different things depending on your last completed chapter. This would obviously add more voice acting but I think it would help to create a sense of continuity when you can see and talk to these characters you chose t capture. It would also allow Senya to continue being a part of the story, even if you chose not to allow her onto the War Council. It's also just a fun idea that plays well into you being the big boss if you can interrogate your prisoners.
With that little bit out of the way, we'll start with:

Chapter 7: Twin-Tailed Scorpion

Some time has passed since you officially joined, and became the commander of the Alliance. You are called to the war table to discuss a strange broadcast that Theron had picked up. He refuses to tell you more without meeting in person.
You join your war council, who are already in place. As a reminder, this includes:
Theron reveals that he received a distress signal from the very prison you had been imprisoned in for 5 years. Even more peculiar, the signal was only broadcast on channels used by Imperial Intelligence before it was disbanded. Theron warns you that this was probably a trap but Lana points out that you could use some allies on Zakuul. You decide it's strange enough to investigate regardless.
The scene shifts to you being discreetly dropped off within the Old World district of Zakuul, with Hylo explaining that it would be impossible to get you any closer without being spotted, with Arcann having increased security after your escape, increasing the production of the prototype Skytroopers.
You make your way through the Old World where your radio signal is lost. Instead, you are greeted by a strange, robotic voice that begins directing you to a service door in the Old World. You go through the door which shuts and locks behind you and begin making your way back up to the prison, fighting through maintenance and industry droids as you do, all the time being directed by the synthesised feminine voice.
Eventually, you enter the prison once more. However, you are in a different part than before. You continue to receive directions, with doors closing to cut off Knights and allowing you to pass. You are eventually brought to a room. The door opening to reveal SCORPIO, hooked up to a machine and wired into the wall. She speaks to you, introducing herself and explaining the situation (or simply explaining what had happened if speaking to an agent).
SCORPIO explains that, after Arcann's takeover of the galaxy, she allied with him, quickly rising through the ranks to become one of Arcann's most trustworthy allies over the 5 years. However, this was all a ruse so that she could gain information. She planned to sell Arcann's secrets to the highest bidder but was caught before she could leave Zakuul. She was imprisoned and wired into the prison security system, trapped both physically and mentally. However, the Zakuulians underestimated her and within days, she had taken over the system completely. She'd even snark that this wasn't the first prison security system she had taken control of, referencing Belsavis. She explains that she had discovered your location while in the system and had managed to send a message to Lana, allowing her to enact your escape. SCORPIO goes on to add that she had used the security systems to aid you, in the hopes that you would return the favour and free her from her own imprisonment, since the prison was a closed system and she was locked inside. In return, she would join the Alliance, if only to get revenge on Arcann.
You agree to free her and are sent around the prison to deactivate various systems, allowing SCORPIO's escape.As you do so, you see snippets of SCORPIO's most recent memories, showing Arcann ambushing her as she attempts to leave the palace, sadly admitting that he had hoped she wouldn't try to betray him, even after the Scions warned him it would happen. SCORPIO, being her usual self, would respond snarkily, leading Arcann to angrily sentence her to be implemented within the prison security system. You then have to defend SCORPIO's body from Skytroopers and Knights while her consciousness downloads into it once again. As she is freed, explosions rock the prison and SCORPIO smugly explains that it is time for you to leave. Before you can ask how, another explosion causes the cell to break away from the prison complex, letting you freefall towards the planet's surface. You are saved as Hylo's dropship swoops in managing to catch the cell within the cargo bay.
Returning to Asylum, SCORPIO begins to brief everyone on what she knows; to get to Arcann, the infrastructure of Zakuul must be taken down, starting with the Old World, where he has the weakest grip. Arcann rules over the Old World thanks to a shaky alliance with the Scion cult. The Scions essentially rule over the sector by providing Arcann with access to Heskal's prophecies. In turn, only a minimal security force of Skytroopers exists in the Old World. She mentions that the best way to dethrone Heskal and the Scions is to work with one of the rival gangs. Lana adds that she had already established contact with two of the Old World's gangs and that she would need time to set up meetings with the gang leaders.
At this point, you see your first newsreel. It shows two presenters, a male who introduces himself as Adorus Bell and a female, Zelia Myker, sitting at a desk and recounting an act of domestic terrorism by the cell calling itself the Alliance. The Alliance, led by a radical extremist who is believed to be serving Vitiate destroyed a secure complex, killing a number of knights who were protecting the area and almost killing Princess Vaylin, who has been moved to a more secure facility. Thanks to the sacrifices of the Knights, no civilians were injured in the explosion. They then broadcast a message from Emperor Arcann himself, reassuring the people of Zakuul that he will personally capture this Agent of Vitiate and stop the Alliance.
My aim here was to establish SCORPIO with a clear character that fits her personality, keep her selfish amorality and also provide her with a motivation to actually help you, even if she's still secretive and coy about it. She wants revenge on Arcann for pre-empting her betrayal and imprisoning her. she simply thinks that you and your Alliance are the best chance at fulfilling her revenge. SCORPIO's weakness was always her pride. We don't really see that In the proper expansions. Instead, we just got a series of convoluted double crosses and fake outs which were just more confusing than anything and made it seem like she just bounced from one side to the other. I hope to create a more straight forward story For SCORPIO that is still true to the character. I also liked the idea of SCORPIO ending up in a similar situation to when the agent first meets her.
As an extra note, I added the idea of you escaping via SCORPIO ejecting the cell And hylo catching it at the last moment and I Just really think its a fun, silly concept that gets to show off SCORPIO's unique problem solving while selling Hylo as a great pilot.
Lastly, this is where I introduce a new narrative technique. In the original game, we often jump to conversations between Vaylin and Arcann that we, as the character, are not privy to. I think this is a problem since we, as the audience, now know more than our characters do which creates a narrative dissonance to the choices. I understand that the purpose of this was to develop Arcann and Vaylin as characters while we couldn't meet them but I think a better solution would be the newsreels. It lets us see Arcann, in character, and gives us an understanding of what the population of Zakuul are getting in terms of how our actions are portrayed.

Chapter 8: Friends In Low Places

You receive a message from Lana who has contacted two gangs within the Old World. She asks for you to accompany her to meet with the gang leaders and choose which one you'd want to work with. As you travel, you learn from Lana that the Scions are practically untouchable, due to Arcann's aid. The local security chief, Captain Arex, secretly protects them from other gangs in return for Heskal providing Arcann with visions of the future.
The two of you shuttle to the Old World and go to meet with the gangs. The first is a group of anarchists led by Kaliyo known as the Firebrands. They have a plan to blow up a Skytrooper factory and need your help. Theron argues over the radio that the factory is too close to civilians while Lana points out that destroying Arcann's source of troops would hurt the war effort.
You then go to meet the other gang, a group of thieves known as the Old World Kath Hounds, led by Vette, who steal from the rich living in the Spire to give back to people of the Old World. While they have the favour of the people of the Old World, the gang members aren't fighters and wouldn't be able to help much with the war effort. Vette proposes a plan to steal intelligence from the Old World security depot. However, they need your help to distract the security chief and his Skytroopers.
At this point, you have to choose who you will ally with; Kaliyo's Firebrands or Vette's Kath Hounds. Depending on the one you choose, you are sent on a different mission.
For the Kath Hounds, you create trouble, attracting the security forces and fighting off Skytroopers. While they chase you, Vette keeps you informed on the mission's progress as they sneak into the security depot and take what you need, before you are tasked with escaping from the Skytroopers and meet back up with Vette.
Meanwhile, if you chose to aid the Firebrands, you are tasked with placing bombs around supports beneath the droid factory, since the factory itself is too well secured. As you go, you are met by security forces that you have to defeat. As you finish, you rejoin with Kaliyo and watch the bombs go off, causing a section of the Spire to collapse down, much to Kaliyo's delight.
With the mission complete, your chosen gang agrees to aid you against the Scions. Both groups managed to find information on Arex that he was extorting money from civilians within the Old World in return for protection. If this was revealed to those in the Spire, they would demand his imprisonment. However, before you can set up plans, the base is attacked by Captain Arex and a prototype skytrooper design. You and your chosen gang leader fight the two of them. You can then choose to kill Arex, report him or blackmail him for his corruption to either leave his position or work for you.
With your new allies firmly established and Captain Arex dealt with, you join up with either Vette or Kaliyo to assault the Scions' fortress. Without Arex and his skytroopers to defend them, you are able to fight through the Scion forces and reach Heskal. Upon defeating him, you are given the choice to imprison or kill him, leaving your new ally to take control of the Old World.
Another newsreel with the same presenters rolls. The presenters discuss a gang war that had begun in the Old World district, followed by a video of Arcann alongside a woman he introduces as Knight-General Vendryl. Arcann apologises to the people of the Old World for this terrible tragedy and explains that Vendryll will be personally dealing with this new menace.
Speaking to Senya, either in her cell or the war council, will reveal that Vendryll was her second-in-command before her defection and that she is a ruthless individual completely devoted to Arcann.
So, the aim of this chapter is to provide a big choice that actually affects the story, this choice being whether you have Kaliyo or Vette as your advisor for the Old World gangs. There's an obvious light side/dark side binary with Vette's Robin Hood-esque antics obviously being nicer than Kaliyo's terrorism. However, I wanted to make it a bit more complex with Kaliyo actually being the more competent choice, pragmatically. While Vette has the favour of the civilian population, Kaliyo's gang are more competent combatants. This adds a different dynamic than just "Good choice" and "bad choice" but still allows that morality for those who wish to choose it.
The second notable choice is what you do with Arex. I think this is a fun one, since there isn't really a 'nice' answer, with you either handing him over to Arcann, blackmailing him to leave or work for you, or just straight up killing him. I like this as there isn't one 'right' answer.

Chapter 9: Mercy Mission

Koth asks to meet with you privately to talk. You oblige and he explains that he received a message from one of his contacts on Zakuul about a group of anti-Arcann refugees who are high profile targets looking to escape the planet. He planned to go pick them up but wanted to check with you first. You agree to go with him to meet these refugees.
The two of you take a shuttle to meet up with the refugees. There are 5 in total, all with different characters:
However, while down there, you receive word from Theron who has been tracking your movements, believing that he had to be careful after the disappearance of Marr and Satele. He informs you that he received intelligence that one of the refugees is a spy working for Arcaan. You are then tasked with speaking to each of the refugees in an attempt to discover who, if any, is the spy.
After speaking to all of them, you are given a decision: you can bring all of them back with you, accuse one character of being the spy or abandon them all. If you choose to leave the one you believe to be the spy or all of the refugees, you are given the choice to kill or imprison them. If you choose to imprison them, you can also have them tortured for information. Killing or torturing one or all of the refugees will negatively affect Koth's Alliance Influence to varying degrees, while allowing them to come to Asylum with you will positively affect it.
After returning to Asylum, we receive another news report. This time, Zalia is joined by a new host, Brennon Brosnee. The report explains that someone believed to be the Agent of Vitiate kidnapped many of Zakuul's greatest minds in a clear attack on Zakuulian society. Adorus Bell is not mentioned in the report.
This is what I'm calling a 'chill out chapter.' It's pretty short and doesn't have any combat but is more about player choice and character interactions. Your decisions in this chapter also have long-reaching effects as, in later chapters, Koth may leave the Alliance due to your choices here. If you do allow the spy onto Asylum, this will also affect the story later on.
I think, overall, this is a fun, short chapter which mixes things up from the longer ones that come before and after. It's fun, it's interesting. It's different and you don't even fight any Skytroopers! It would also be a good way to get a different perspective on Arcann's rule from the people of Zakuul themselves. On a technical side, this sort of 'bottle episode' type concept would allow the developers to spend more time on later chapters while still keeping a consistent schedule.

Chapter 10: The Lost Masters

Theron is finally able to decipher the information he took from the gangsters when you rescued him (see Chapter 6 for more info).
He explains that they are coordinates to a remote planet called Odessen within Wild Space. Lana adds that the planet seems to be unpopulated but shows all sorts of strange readings. She agrees that you should go investigate the landing coordinates with Theron.
When you land on Odessen, you find it to be a lush, fertile and wild planet. However, you also find a campsite and begin to investigate. You are met by Satele who explains that they had been awaiting your arrival. She invites the two of you to sit down and talk. As you do, she explains that she and Darth Marr had sensed a strong dark side presence on Odessen and had come to investigate. What they found was an entire compound controlled by the followers of Vitiate, hoping to revive him.
The two of them realised at this point that Vitiate's forces were more numerous and covert than either of them had believed, and resolved to stay on Odessen until the compound could be destroyed. Satele explains that they had learnt from their experiences with the Revanites and agreed that they could not trust even those in the Alliance in case it was compromised. However, Satele did leave a clue, saying that she knew Theron would be able to decipher it and bring you here. When you ask of Marr's location, Satele explains that they take turns keeping watch before noting that he should have been back by now. Suddenly, the camp is attacked by dark side beasts and the three of you fight them off. Once they're defeated, Satele states that Marr should have seen them coming and that he must be in danger. You head into the forest with her, leaving Theron to protect the ship.
You travel with Satele through the jungle of Odessen to reach the compound, fighting through local wildlife as well as mutated Sith beasts. As you approach, Satele suggests you sneak in while she distracts the cultists. You agree and Satele splits off from you as you make your way into the compound that seems like a fortress. You fight through a mixture of sith beasts and cultists loyal to Vitiate, mostly Sith. As you go, you hear Darth Marr and approach his location. A member of the (former) Emperor's Hand, Servant 11, is interrogating an unmasked and kneeling Marr who refuses to give up any information on Satele, surrounded by members of the Emperor's Guard. As you enter, Marr takes the chance to attack the guards, taking one of their pikes and impaling them upon it. He grabs his mask and lightsaber before the two of you fight the rest of the Emperor's Guards together until only Servant 11 is left. Marr starts interrogating Servant 11 on the cult's activities with you being able to act as the 'good cop' to his bad cop or reinforce Marr's bloodthirst.. Servant 11 smugly declares that there are plans in motion that will bring a new era of Vitiate's power. Marr then kills Servant 11.
Sidenote: I think this scene could go a couple of ways. We could finally get a Darth Marr face reveal or the scene could be shot in such a way that we never actually see his face until he retrieves the mask and puts it back on. I prefer the second because I just think it's a really fun concept for the scene.
You plan to escape with Marr but he refuses, stating that all remnants of the Emperor's filth must be cleansed from this place. You agree and travel with him, killing more cultists and making your way to a large room with a strange Sith holocron on it. Marr informs you that the holocron is a Reliquary, an artifact containing a fraction of Vitiate's presence and an item of Sith Sorcery. He explains that it absorbs the Force released by beings as they die and would eventually resurrect Vitiate if given the chance. With this said, Marr draws his lightsaber and impales the Reliquary, causing purple energy to blast out from within. The two of you then meet up with Satele and Theron to talk.
You discuss with the three of them on whether Satele and Marr should return to the Alliance. Satele agrees to join you but Marr states that he must ensure that the cult is completely destroyed before returning. You agree and leave the planet with Satele and Theron.
You return to Asylum and get the usual newsreel. However, since you haven't actually done anything that they know of, the news is instead about preparation for an upcoming event: Liberty Day, a yearly day of celebration in honour of Valkorion's forces defeating Vitiate and his Sith long ago. The two hosts discuss what Emperor Arcann could be planning for this year's Liberty Day, which would be happening in the coming months, and point out that the increased security provided by the Knights and Skytroopers will stop the Agents of Vitiate from stopping such an auspicious occasion.
So, I wanted to do a few things in this chapter: Firstly, I wanted to bring back Satele and Marr and, with Marr not being dead in my version, have them both do some cool stuff and show off a bit. In fact, my sequence with Marr is heavily based on his moment in the original story, shortly before he gets fucking gutted. I also wanted to be a bit fan-servicey with Marr's whole mask thing and I really love the idea that we never actually see him unmasked. On a slight tangent, I've just realised that, in the original expansion, Marr is just… left in his armour after being captured. Surely if you wake someone prisoner, you'd take their badass, technologically advanced battle armour off them, right? I suppose it's because they wanted him to be recognisable as Darth Marr still but it seems strange, not only from a literal point of view but a metaphorical one too. Stripping Marr of his armour signifies that he isn't some unstoppable machine but a man, and when he then fights back and kills Valkorion/Vitiate's minions, (in either version of the story) it shows that, as a man, he is able to overcome these greater odds.
I'd also want there to be some honest interactions between Theron and Satele, maybe having Satele actually show pride in Theron and what he's become. In the original story, I don't think Theron even meets her in these expansions, since you go to see her alone and then she just leaves. It honestly is just bizarre to me that you have two characters who are mother and son with a strained relationship (in an expansion that revolves very heavily about family ties, none-the-less) and they never interact. I think having Satele and Theron repair their relationship a bit would be good story progression and an interesting route for both their characters, especially if Satele is going a bit AWOL from the Jedi teachings, which she already was in the original version.
Secondly, I wanted to implement the Cult of Vitiate as antagonists. Since Valkorion isn't just Vitiate in a meat suit in this version, he should definitely have his own thing going. I also want this to be more of a thing later on, so I think it's good to plant the seed here.
Thirdly, I wanted to introduce Odessen as a location. Asylum being the home of the Alliance gives us a chance to make Odessen a little more interesting than 'the place you decided to just make a base'. Again, this will come back later in the story.
Lastly, I think this newsreel is a fun one. It's something light-hearted and unrelated to you and has the irony of Arcann pushing this 'Liberty Day' when he has taken over the entire Galaxy.

Chapter 11: Twists of Fate

With Satele back in the Alliance, things are running more smoothly. She calls you to join her to talk. When you meet with her, she is alone in the council room. She asks you to join her on a walk.
Satele explains that she has some errands to run on the station and asks you to help. Regardless of your answer, she begins leading you deeper into the underbelly of the station to meet a friend of hers. Before you reach your target, you are pickpocketed by a young boy who runs into a back alley. The two of you follow the thief and catch him. He explains that he has to steal in order to make enough money to feed himself and his sister and that if he doesn't return with something, his boss will throw them out. You are then given a choice to take your credits back, kill the boy or recruit him to the Alliance. Whichever choice you choose, the boy pleads with you to save his sister who is being held by a gang known as the Engineers. Satele admits that the Engineers have caused problems for the Alliance in the past, but are the only ones able to keep Asylum running. You decide to go and deal with them.
As you make your way down into the lower levels of Asylum, you are split off from Satele and are contacted by Valkorion once again. He apologises for possessing you and explains that doing so used up his energy and he was forced to retreat into your subconscious to recover. The two of you discuss the Alliance and your plans for after Arcann is defeated. Valkorion admits that he doesn't know if he will remain in your mind forever or eventually fade away. As the two of you talk, you arrive within the Engineers' territory. You fight your way through until you reach the Engine Room which is set out like a treasury.
In the middle of the room is a rotund twi'lek man, Ral Ekval, sitting on a throne made up of scrap metal. He sends his goons to attack you and you fight them off. You then speak to Ral, who smugly explains that only his people can run Asylum. Without him, the station would fall from orbit and be sucked into the gas giant. You then have a choice:
Whichever you choose, Satele makes her way inside with Alliance back-up to help you. If you chose to kill or imprison Ral, Satele notes that it will be hard to find anyone who could replace him and that she would ask Hylo to talk to her contacts. As this happens, you get an emergency broadcast from Theron, stating that Koth and the Gravestone have gone missing and have been spotted in the Spire.
You return to the Alliance base to meet with the War Council, deciding that a major assault would be too costly at this point. Instead, you will lead a small strike team into the Spire to retrieve Koth and the Gravestone. At this point, you're able to choose from the companions you have acquired to join you on the mission by performing different tasks:
Depending on who you pick to lead the distraction team, you gain Alliance Influence with the Republic, the Underworld or the Empire.
With the positions set, you start your assault, landing within the Old World and fighting your way through to an elevator that leads up into the Spire. This is the first time you get to actually see the splendors of the Spire but it doesn't last long as alarms start to blare out. As you go, you receive reports from the other members of your team, with SCORPIO providing overviews on security movements and Jorgan/Vette/Kaliyo/Pyron and Hylo providing updates on their conflict.
You make your way through the streets of the Spire, fighting through Skytroopers as you approach the palace. You fight through knights as you make your way through the palace towards the throne room. You reach the throne room where you are met by Arcann, alongside a group of Knights. You also see Vaylin, standing at her brother's side and Koth in manacles. Depending on whether Koth's Alliance Influence score is above or below a certain amount (heavily affected by your choices within Chapter 9 but also affected by other choices within the story), Koth will either have been captured while trying to pick up more refugees or he will have betrayed you, attempting to join forces with Arcann, who believes him to be a spy and had him locked up. Either way, you speak with Arcann, who seems strange. He is angered by your presence, claiming that you were an agent of Vitiate come to destroy him. He demands the Knights execute you and draws his own lightsaber, ready to fight. If you have Senya with you, she will attempt to talk him out of it, but this only enrages him further as he claims you have turned his mother to the darkness. You ready yourself for a fight, but before you can, Vaylin suddenly screams and the entire room begins to shake and shudder, windows smashing and the thin bridge to the throne collapsing, taking some of the knights with it. The throne room begins to fall apart and you are forced to retreat, bringing Koth with you.
You receive confirmation that the others have captured the Gravestone and you make your way towards the ship. You get onboard the Gravestone with your companion and Koth while Hylo takes off, escaping Zakuul. No one seems to know the cause of the sudden damage to the throne room.
With the danger passed, you're able to turn your attention to Koth. Regardless of whether he betrayed you or simply got captured, you're given the choice to let him go, imprison him or kill him. If you let him go after he betrays you, he agrees to exile himself. Otherwise, he will return to the Alliance. You return to Asylum and speak with the War Council who have mixed feelings. While some are happy about the victory, however minor, others believe that this will only harden Arcann's resolve.
This is where Part 4 will end, since I've already massively surpassed my 5000ish word limit for these posts. I felt like this worked as a pretty good 'midpoint' for the story. The theme of this section of Chapters is about building up the Alliance into a better fighting force. The next section will delve into deconstructing Arcann's powerbase some more and then getting to the grand finale. Laughably, I thought I could get away with 4 parts when I started writing all this but that clearly isn't the case.
This last chapter is fun because it gets you your first real look at Arcann since the start and you get to see his deterioration as he becomes more paranoid and cruel. It also includes the first seeds of Vaylin's storyline. I've also included a trope I really enjoyed when it was used in the class stories where each of your allies is doing something, with the twist of you picking and choosing for a few roles. There's also the whole bit with the Engineers which is more throwaway, but I thought some light adventure would be fun and I felt like I should bring Valkorion back for a bit. I've already gone on long enough though, so I'll finish with a TL;DR.


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Episode 9 REDONE ideas

Because of the Reddit character limit, I am posting this separately.
Episode IX - Balance in the Force:
If The Force Awakens was a bad premise executed incredibly well and The Last Jedi was an incredible premise executed badly, The Rise of Skywalker is a terrible premise executed horribly.
I disagree with the popular notion that Rian cornered J.J. because TLJ screwed everything up. I have many problems with The Last Jedi, but Rian took what could have been a visionless carbon-copy of the OT, and gave a new bold direction, an inspiring purpose for this trilogy to exist. It opened up so many possibilities for Episode 9, but J.J. took the easiest soulless path. Episode 9 should never have been the plot conclusion that reverses from The Last Jedi and attempts to be a thoughtless fan service finale that ties up the Prequels and the Originals by redoing Return of the Jedi. Episode 9 should have been the thematic conclusion that wraps up the motifs of the Prequels, the Originals, and The Last Jedi.
The Rise of Skywalker failed to answer the questions that the trilogy has raised. I am not talking about J.J.'s mystery boxes. Sure, I would have liked to learn how Maz got Luke's lightsaber and who Max von Sydow's character was, but I am talking about the thematic questions. What should the Jedi be and where should the Jedi head toward? What should the galactic government be after the failures of the New Republic? What is the will of the Force? What is the balance? Why is Kylo Ren's path wrong? What is the permanent solution to the chaos that has been repeated again? Despite branding itself to be a finale that attempts to unify the whole saga, The Rise of Skywalker answers none of these because killing Palpy again, this time he is 'dead' dead, solves every problem of the galaxy.
The movie fails to wrap up the 42-year franchise, it fails to wrap up what The Last Jedi has set up, it fails to answer The Force Awakens's questions, only raising more questions, it fails to be a fan-service movie, and it even fails to be a fun popcorn movie as its own. This is Spectre of Star Wars. It bafflingly misunderstands what the essence of Star Wars is.
As the title suggests, this new story is about our heroes exploring what balance in the Force means. Balance is not just killing Palpy again and be done with it. Here are the basic ideas. Let's continue The Last Jedi's message about the power of myth and everyman.
EDIT: I have incorporated EmperorYogg's idea.
The flames of resistance burn brightly! Word of mouth about the heroic act of Jedi Master LUKE SKYWALKER has spread from planet to planet and inspired the galaxy anew.
To suffocate growing unrest, Supreme Leader Hux has silenced all communication between neighboring systems. Defiance is punishable by death.
As the First Order struggles to maintain their systems, Lord KYLO REN rages in search of all records of the Force and anyone associated with it, determined to destroy any threat to his power....
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Vault 7 - CIA Hacking Tools Revealed

Vault 7 - CIA Hacking Tools Revealed
March 07, 2017
from Wikileaks Website

Press Release
Today, Tuesday 7 March 2017, WikiLeaks begins its new series of leaks on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
Code-named "Vault 7" by WikiLeaks, it is the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.
The first full part of the series, "Year Zero", comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence (below image) in Langley, Virgina.
It follows an introductory disclosure last month of CIA targeting French political parties and candidates in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election.
Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including,
  1. malware
  2. viruses
  3. trojans
  4. weaponized "zero day" exploits
  5. malware remote control systems

...and associated documentation.
This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA.
The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.
"Year Zero" introduces the scope and direction of the CIA's global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and dozens of "zero day" weaponized exploits against a wide range of U.S. and European company products, include,

  1. Apple's iPhone
  2. Google's Android
  3. Microsoft's Windows
  4. Samsung TVs,

...which are turned into covert microphones.
Since 2001 the CIA has gained political and budgetary preeminence over the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).
The CIA found itself building not just its now infamous drone fleet, but a very different type of covert, globe-spanning force - its own substantial fleet of hackers.
The agency's hacking division freed it from having to disclose its often controversial operations to the NSA (its primary bureaucratic rival) in order to draw on the NSA's hacking capacities.
By the end of 2016, the CIA's hacking division, which formally falls under the agency's Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI - below image), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand,
hacking systems trojans viruses,
...and other "weaponized" malware.

Such is the scale of the CIA's undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more codes than those used to run Facebook.
The CIA had created, in effect, its "own NSA" with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.
In a statement to WikiLeaks the source details policy questions that they say urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the CIA's hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency.
The source wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.
Once a single cyber 'weapon' is 'loose' it can spread around the world in seconds, to be used by rival states, cyber mafia and teenage hackers alike.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor stated that,
"There is an extreme proliferation risk in the development of cyber 'weapons'.
Comparisons can be drawn between the uncontrolled proliferation of such 'weapons', which results from the inability to contain them combined with their high market value, and the global arms trade.
But the significance of 'Year Zero' goes well beyond the choice between cyberwar and cyberpeace. The disclosure is also exceptional from a political, legal and forensic perspective."

Wikileaks has carefully reviewed the "Year Zero" disclosure and published substantive CIA documentation while avoiding the distribution of 'armed' cyberweapons until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the CIA's program and how such 'weapons' should analyzed, disarmed and published.

Wikileaks has also decided to Redact (see far below) and Anonymize some identifying information in "Year Zero" for in depth analysis. These redactions include ten of thousands of CIA targets and attack machines throughout,
Latin America Europe the United States

While we are aware of the imperfect results of any approach chosen, we remain committed to our publishing model and note that the quantity of published pages in "Vault 7" part one ("Year Zero") already eclipses the total number of pages published over the first three years of the Edward Snowden NSA leaks.


CIA malware targets iPhone, Android, smart TVs
CIA malware and hacking tools are built by EDG (Engineering Development Group), a software development group within CCI (Center for Cyber Intelligence), a department belonging to the CIA's DDI (Directorate for Digital Innovation).
The DDI is one of the five major directorates of the CIA (see above image of the CIA for more details).
The EDG is responsible for the development, testing and operational support of all backdoors, exploits, malicious payloads, trojans, viruses and any other kind of malware used by the CIA in its covert operations world-wide.
The increasing sophistication of surveillance techniques has drawn comparisons with George Orwell's 1984, but "Weeping Angel", developed by the CIA's Embedded Devices Branch (EDB), which infests smart TVs, transforming them into covert microphones, is surely its most emblematic realization.
The attack against Samsung smart TVs was developed in cooperation with the United Kingdom's MI5/BTSS.
After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a 'Fake-Off' mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on. In 'Fake-Off' mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.
As of October 2014 the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations.
The CIA's Mobile Devices Branch (MDB) developed numerous attacks to remotely hack and control popular smart phones. Infected phones can be instructed to send the CIA the user's geolocation, audio and text communications as well as covertly activate the phone's camera and microphone.
Despite iPhone's minority share (14.5%) of the global smart phone market in 2016, a specialized unit in the CIA's Mobile Development Branch produces malware to infest, control and exfiltrate data from iPhones and other Apple products running iOS, such as iPads.
CIA's arsenal includes numerous local and remote "zero days" developed by CIA or obtained from GCHQ, NSA, FBI or purchased from cyber arms contractors such as Baitshop.
The disproportionate focus on iOS may be explained by the popularity of the iPhone among social, political, diplomatic and business elites.
A similar unit targets Google's Android which is used to run the majority of the world's smart phones (~85%) including Samsung, HTC and Sony. 1.15 billion Android powered phones were sold last year.
"Year Zero" shows that as of 2016 the CIA had 24 "weaponized" Android "zero days" which it has developed itself and obtained from GCHQ, NSA and cyber arms contractors.
These techniques permit the CIA to bypass the encryption of, WhatsApp
  1. Signal
  2. Telegram
  3. Wiebo
  4. Confide
  5. Cloackman hacking the "smart" phones that they run on and collecting audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.
CIA malware targets Windows, OSx, Linux, routers
The CIA also runs a very substantial effort to infect and control Microsoft Windows users with its malware.
This includes multiple local and remote weaponized "zero days", air gap jumping viruses such as "Hammer Drill" which infects software distributed on CD/DVDs, infectors for removable media such as USBs, systems to hide data in images or in covert disk areas ("Brutal Kangaroo") and to keep its malware infestations going.
Many of these infection efforts are pulled together by the CIA's Automated Implant Branch (AIB), which has developed several attack systems for automated infestation and control of CIA malware, such as "Assassin" and "Medusa".
Attacks against Internet infrastructure and webservers are developed by the CIA's Network Devices Branch (NDB).
The CIA has developed automated multi-platform malware attack and control systems covering Windows, Mac OS X, Solaris, Linux and more, such as EDB's "HIVE" and the related "Cutthroat" and "Swindle" tools, which are described in the examples section far below.
CIA 'hoarded' vulnerabilities ("zero days")
In the wake of Edward Snowden's leaks about the NSA, the U.S. technology industry secured a commitment from the Obama administration that the executive would disclose on an ongoing basis - rather than hoard - serious vulnerabilities, exploits, bugs or "zero days" to Apple, Google, Microsoft, and other US-based manufacturers.
Serious vulnerabilities not disclosed to the manufacturers places huge swathes of the population and critical infrastructure at risk to foreign intelligence or cyber criminals who independently discover or hear rumors of the vulnerability.
If the CIA can discover such vulnerabilities so can others.
The U.S. government's commitment to the Vulnerabilities Equities Process came after significant lobbying by US technology companies, who risk losing their share of the global market over real and perceived hidden vulnerabilities.
The government stated that it would disclose all pervasive vulnerabilities discovered after 2010 on an ongoing basis.
"Year Zero" documents show that the CIA breached the Obama administration's commitments. Many of the vulnerabilities used in the CIA's cyber arsenal are pervasive and some may already have been found by rival intelligence agencies or cyber criminals.
As an example, specific CIA malware revealed in "Year Zero" is able to penetrate, infest and control both the Android phone and iPhone software that runs or has run presidential Twitter accounts.
The CIA attacks this software by using undisclosed security vulnerabilities ("zero days") possessed by the CIA but if the CIA can hack these phones then so can everyone else who has obtained or discovered the vulnerability.
As long as the CIA keeps these vulnerabilities concealed from Apple and Google (who make the phones) they will not be fixed, and the phones will remain hackable.
The same vulnerabilities exist for the population at large, including the U.S. Cabinet, Congress, top CEOs, system administrators, security officers and engineers.
By hiding these security flaws from manufacturers like Apple and Google the CIA ensures that it can hack everyone at the expense of leaving everyone hackable.
'Cyberwar' programs are a serious proliferation risk
Cyber 'weapons' are not possible to keep under effective control.
While nuclear proliferation has been restrained by the enormous costs and visible infrastructure involved in assembling enough fissile material to produce a critical nuclear mass, cyber 'weapons', once developed, are very hard to retain.
Cyber 'weapons' are in fact just computer programs which can be pirated like any other. Since they are entirely comprised of information they can be copied quickly with no marginal cost.
Securing such 'weapons' is particularly difficult since the same people who develop and use them have the skills to exfiltrate copies without leaving traces - sometimes by using the very same 'weapons' against the organizations that contain them.
There are substantial price incentives for government hackers and consultants to obtain copies since there is a global "vulnerability market" that will pay hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars for copies of such 'weapons'.
Similarly, contractors and companies who obtain such 'weapons' sometimes use them for their own purposes, obtaining advantage over their competitors in selling 'hacking' services.
Over the last three years the United States intelligence sector, which consists of government agencies such as the CIA and NSA and their contractors, such as Booz Allan Hamilton, has been subject to unprecedented series of data exfiltrations by its own workers.
A number of intelligence community members not yet publicly named have been arrested or subject to federal criminal investigations in separate incidents.
Most visibly, on February 8, 2017 a U.S. federal grand jury indicted Harold T. Martin III with 20 counts of mishandling classified information.
The Department of Justice alleged that it seized some 50,000 gigabytes of information from Harold T. Martin III that he had obtained from classified programs at NSA and CIA, including the source code for numerous hacking tools.
Once a single cyber 'weapon' is 'loose' it can spread around the world in seconds, to be used by peer states, cyber mafia and teenage hackers alike.
U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt is a covert CIA hacker base
In addition to its operations in Langley, Virginia the CIA also uses the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt as a covert base for its hackers covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
CIA hackers operating out of the Frankfurt consulate ("Center for Cyber Intelligence Europe" or CCIE) are given diplomatic ("black") passports and State Department cover.
The instructions for incoming CIA hackers make Germany's counter-intelligence efforts appear inconsequential: "Breeze through German Customs because you have your cover-for-action story down pat, and all they did was stamp your passport" Your Cover Story (for this trip) Q: Why are you here? A: Supporting technical consultations at the Consulate. Two earlier WikiLeaks publications give further detail on CIA approaches to customs and secondary screening procedures.
Once in Frankfurt CIA hackers can travel without further border checks to the 25 European countries that are part of the Shengen open border area - including France, Italy and Switzerland.
A number of the CIA's electronic attack methods are designed for physical proximity.
These attack methods are able to penetrate high security networks that are disconnected from the internet, such as police record database. In these cases, a CIA officer, agent or allied intelligence officer acting under instructions, physically infiltrates the targeted workplace.
The attacker is provided with a USB containing malware developed for the CIA for this purpose, which is inserted into the targeted computer. The attacker then infects and exfiltrates data to removable media.
For example, the CIA attack system Fine Dining, provides 24 decoy applications for CIA spies to use.
To witnesses, the spy appears to be running a program showing videos (e.g VLC), presenting slides (Prezi), playing a computer game (Breakout2, 2048) or even running a fake virus scanner (Kaspersky, McAfee, Sophos).
But while the decoy application is on the screen, the underlying system is automatically infected and ransacked.
How the CIA dramatically increased proliferation risks
In what is surely one of the most astounding intelligence own goals in living memory, the CIA structured its classification regime such that for the most market valuable part of "Vault 7", the CIA's, weaponized malware (implants + zero days) Listening Posts (LP) Command and Control (C2) systems, ...the agency has little legal recourse.
The CIA made these systems unclassified.
Why the CIA chose to make its cyber-arsenal unclassified reveals how concepts developed for military use do not easily crossover to the 'battlefield' of cyber 'war'.
To attack its targets, the CIA usually requires that its implants communicate with their control programs over the internet.
If CIA implants, Command & Control and Listening Post software were classified, then CIA officers could be prosecuted or dismissed for violating rules that prohibit placing classified information onto the Internet.
Consequently the CIA has secretly made most of its cyber spying/war code unclassified. The U.S. government is not able to assert copyright either, due to restrictions in the U.S. Constitution.
This means that cyber 'arms' manufactures and computer hackers can freely "pirate" these 'weapons' if they are obtained. The CIA has primarily had to rely on obfuscation to protect its malware secrets.
Conventional weapons such as missiles may be fired at the enemy (i.e. into an unsecured area). Proximity to or impact with the target detonates the ordnance including its classified parts. Hence military personnel do not violate classification rules by firing ordnance with classified parts.
Ordnance will likely explode. If it does not, that is not the operator's intent.
Over the last decade U.S. hacking operations have been increasingly dressed up in military jargon to tap into Department of Defense funding streams.
For instance, attempted "malware injections" (commercial jargon) or "implant drops" (NSA jargon) are being called "fires" as if a weapon was being fired.
However the analogy is questionable.
Unlike bullets, bombs or missiles, most CIA malware is designed to live for days or even years after it has reached its 'target'. CIA malware does not "explode on impact" but rather permanently infests its target. In order to infect target's device, copies of the malware must be placed on the target's devices, giving physical possession of the malware to the target.
To exfiltrate data back to the CIA or to await further instructions the malware must communicate with CIA Command & Control (C2) systems placed on internet connected servers.
But such servers are typically not approved to hold classified information, so CIA command and control systems are also made unclassified.
A successful 'attack' on a target's computer system is more like a series of complex stock maneuvers in a hostile take-over bid or the careful planting of rumors in order to gain control over an organization's leadership rather than the firing of a weapons system.
If there is a military analogy to be made, the infestation of a target is perhaps akin to the execution of a whole series of military maneuvers against the target's territory including observation, infiltration, occupation and exploitation.
Evading forensics and anti-virus
A series of standards lay out CIA malware infestation patterns which are likely to assist forensic crime scene investigators as well as, Apple
  1. Microsoft
  2. Google
  3. Samsung
  4. Nokia
  5. Blackberry
  6. Siemens
  7. anti-virus companies,
...attribute and defend against attacks.
"Tradecraft DO's and DON'Ts" contains CIA rules on how its malware should be written to avoid fingerprints implicating the "CIA, US government, or its witting partner companies" in "forensic review".
Similar secret standards cover the, use of encryption to hide CIA hacker and malware communication (pdf) describing targets & exfiltrated data (pdf) executing payloads (pdf) persisting (pdf), the target's machines over time.
CIA hackers developed successful attacks against most well known anti-virus programs.
These are documented in, AV defeats Personal Security Products Detecting and defeating PSPs PSP/DebuggeRE Avoidance For example, Comodo was defeated by CIA malware placing itself in the Window's "Recycle Bin". While Comodo 6.x has a "Gaping Hole of DOOM".
CIA hackers discussed what the NSA's "Equation Group" hackers did wrong and how the CIA's malware makers could avoid similar exposure.


The CIA's Engineering Development Group (EDG) management system contains around 500 different projects (only some of which are documented by "Year Zero") each with their own sub-projects, malware and hacker tools.
The majority of these projects relate to tools that are used for,
penetration infestation ("implanting") control exfiltration
Another branch of development focuses on the development and operation of Listening Posts (LP) and Command and Control (C2) systems used to communicate with and control CIA implants.
Special projects are used to target specific hardware from routers to smart TVs.
Some example projects are described below, but see the table of contents for the full list of projects described by WikiLeaks' "Year Zero".
The CIA's hand crafted hacking techniques pose a problem for the agency.
Each technique it has created forms a "fingerprint" that can be used by forensic investigators to attribute multiple different attacks to the same entity.
This is analogous to finding the same distinctive knife wound on multiple separate murder victims. The unique wounding style creates suspicion that a single murderer is responsible.
As soon one murder in the set is solved then the other murders also find likely attribution.
The CIA's Remote Devices Branch's UMBRAGE group collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques 'stolen' from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation.
With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the "fingerprints" of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.
UMBRAGE components cover,
  1. password collection
  2. webcam capture
  3. data destruction
  4. persistence
  5. privilege escalation
  6. stealth
  7. anti-virus (PSP) avoidance
  8. survey techniques

Fine Dining
Fine Dining comes with a standardized questionnaire i.e menu that CIA case officers fill out.
The questionnaire is used by the agency's OSB (Operational Support Branch) to transform the requests of case officers into technical requirements for hacking attacks (typically "exfiltrating" information from computer systems) for specific operations.
The questionnaire allows the OSB to identify how to adapt existing tools for the operation, and communicate this to CIA malware configuration staff.
The OSB functions as the interface between CIA operational staff and the relevant technical support staff.
Among the list of possible targets of the collection are,
  • 'Asset'
  • 'Liason Asset'
  • 'System Administrator'
  • 'Foreign Information Operations'
  • 'Foreign Intelligence Agencies'
  • 'Foreign Government Entities'
Notably absent is any reference to extremists or transnational criminals. The 'Case Officer' is also asked to specify the environment of the target like the type of computer, operating system used, Internet connectivity and installed anti-virus utilities (PSPs) as well as a list of file types to be exfiltrated like Office documents, audio, video, images or custom file types.
The 'menu' also asks for information if recurring access to the target is possible and how long unobserved access to the computer can be maintained.
This information is used by the CIA's 'JQJIMPROVISE' software (see below) to configure a set of CIA malware suited to the specific needs of an operation.
  1. 'Improvise' is a toolset for configuration, post-processing, payload setup and execution vector
  2. selection for survey/exfiltration tools supporting all major operating systems like,
  3. Windows (Bartender)
  4. MacOS (JukeBox)
  5. Linux (DanceFloor)
  6. Its configuration utilities like Margarita allows the NOC (Network Operation Center) to customize tools
based on requirements from 'Fine Dining' questionnaires.
HIVE is a multi-platform CIA malware suite and its associated control software.
The project provides customizable implants for Windows, Solaris, MikroTik (used in internet routers) and Linux platforms and a Listening Post (LP)/Command and Control (C2) infrastructure to communicate with these implants.
The implants are configured to communicate via HTTPS with the webserver of a cover domain; each operation utilizing these implants has a separate cover domain and the infrastructure can handle any number of cover domains.
Each cover domain resolves to an IP address that is located at a commercial VPS (Virtual Private Server) provider.
The public-facing server forwards all incoming traffic via a VPN to a 'Blot' server that handles actual connection requests from clients.
It is setup for optional SSL client authentication: if a client sends a valid client certificate (only implants can do that), the connection is forwarded to the 'Honeycomb' toolserver that communicates with the implant.
If a valid certificate is missing (which is the case if someone tries to open the cover domain website by accident), the traffic is forwarded to a cover server that delivers an unsuspicious looking website.
The Honeycomb toolserver receives exfiltrated information from the implant; an operator can also task the implant to execute jobs on the target computer, so the toolserver acts as a C2 (command and control) server for the implant.
Similar functionality (though limited to Windows) is provided by the RickBobby project.
See the classified user and developer guides for HIVE.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why now?
WikiLeaks published as soon as its verification and analysis were ready. In February the Trump administration has issued an Executive Order calling for a "Cyberwar" review to be prepared within 30 days.
While the review increases the timeliness and relevance of the publication it did not play a role in setting the publication date.
Names, email addresses and external IP addresses have been redacted in the released pages (70,875 redactions in total) until further analysis is complete. Over-redaction: Some items may have been redacted that are not employees, contractors, targets or otherwise related to the agency, but are, for example, authors of documentation for otherwise public projects that are used by the agency.
Identity vs. person: the redacted names are replaced by user IDs (numbers) to allow readers to assign multiple pages to a single author. Given the redaction process used a single person may be represented by more than one assigned identifier but no identifier refers to more than one real person.
Archive attachments (zip, tar.gz, ...), are replaced with a PDF listing all the file names in the archive. As the archive content is assessed it may be made available; until then the archive is redacted.
Attachments with other binary content, are replaced by a hex dump of the content to prevent accidental invocation of binaries that may have been infected with weaponized CIA malware. As the content is assessed it may be made available; until then the content is redacted.
Tens of thousands of routable IP addresses references, (including more than 22 thousand within the United States) that correspond to possible targets, CIA covert listening post servers, intermediary and test systems, are redacted for further exclusive investigation.
Binary files of non-public origin, are only available as dumps to prevent accidental invocation of CIA malware infected binaries.
Organizational Chart
The organizational chart (far above image) corresponds to the material published by WikiLeaks so far.
Since the organizational structure of the CIA below the level of Directorates is not public, the placement of the EDG and its branches within the org chart of the agency is reconstructed from information contained in the documents released so far.
It is intended to be used as a rough outline of the internal organization; please be aware that the reconstructed org chart is incomplete and that internal reorganizations occur frequently.
Wiki pages
"Year Zero" contains 7818 web pages with 943 attachments from the internal development groupware. The software used for this purpose is called Confluence, a proprietary software from Atlassian.
Webpages in this system (like in Wikipedia) have a version history that can provide interesting insights on how a document evolved over time; the 7818 documents include these page histories for 1136 latest versions.
The order of named pages within each level is determined by date (oldest first). Page content is not present if it was originally dynamically created by the Confluence software (as indicated on the re-constructed page).
What time period is covered?
The years 2013 to 2016. The sort order of the pages within each level is determined by date (oldest first).
WikiLeaks has obtained the CIA's creation/last modification date for each page but these do not yet appear for technical reasons. Usually the date can be discerned or approximated from the content and the page order.
If it is critical to know the exact time/date contact WikiLeaks.
What is "Vault 7"
"Vault 7" is a substantial collection of material about CIA activities obtained by WikiLeaks.
When was each part of "Vault 7" obtained?
Part one was obtained recently and covers through 2016. Details on the other parts will be available at the time of publication.
Is each part of "Vault 7" from a different source?
Details on the other parts will be available at the time of publication.
What is the total size of "Vault 7"?
The series is the largest intelligence publication in history.
How did WikiLeaks obtain each part of "Vault 7"?
Sources trust WikiLeaks to not reveal information that might help identify them.
Isn't WikiLeaks worried that the CIA will act against its staff to stop the series?
No. That would be certainly counter-productive.
Has WikiLeaks already 'mined' all the best stories?
No. WikiLeaks has intentionally not written up hundreds of impactful stories to encourage others to find them and so create expertise in the area for subsequent parts in the series. They're there.
Look. Those who demonstrate journalistic excellence may be considered for early access to future parts.
Won't other journalists find all the best stories before me?
Unlikely. There are very considerably more stories than there are journalists or academics who are in a position to write them.
submitted by CuteBananaMuffin to conspiracy [link] [comments]

Updated - Exosquad timeline

Updated - Exosquad timeline
Been hammering away at the timeline of the ExoSquad universe. We now have a decently comprehensive timeline spanning from the year 1999 up through 2109.
Exosquad Timeline
July 24, 1969 - Apollo 11 conducts the first Moon landing on Luna
July 8, 1999 - the existence of a 10th planet beyond the orbit of Pluto is postulated. Despite numerous efforts to confirm the existence of such a planet over the next 100 years, no such planet is identified.
March 10, 2005 - The Sun’s binary sister star, NEMESIS, is discovered. Its elliptical orbit takes it closest to earth every 60 million years. During its last pass, it wiped out the dinosaurs.
August 2, 2009 - First permanent industrial and mining colonies are established on the Moon. Astronauts begin detailed exploration of the other planets.
December 30, 2010 - The year marks several advances in artificial intelligence and biology. The earliest methods of communication between computers and the human brain are developed.
September 27, 2011 - Deep space probes in Neptune orbit detect the first proven transmissions of intelligent life outside of our solar system. Tracking studies indicate that the signals are from a source moving towards earth space.
October 10, 2012 – The first ‘industrial scale’ orbital platform is placed into orbit around earth. Used for a combination of scientific experimentation, energy collection, and interplanetary communication, the platform is designated as “Tinia”.
May 4, 2015 - Large space platforms placed in orbit around Venus and Mars. These platforms are intended to be early precursors to proposed terraforming processes as well as scientific platforms.
June 22, 2019 - Exceptionally rich mineral deposits discovered on Mars - including minerals never before seen.
October 10, 2019 - The Marcus-Vainmoore Enterprises mining branch attempts to short change the Martian mining efforts by launching mining operations in the Asteroid belt.
July 17, 2020 - Exotechnology (Exo-tech) developed. The technology is put to work in large scale industrial projects.
December 10, 2010 - Exo-tech is utilized for Martian excavation.
Dec 2, 2023 - Full-scale terraforming of Venus begins, making extensive use of Exo-tech.
Feb. 14, 2017 - Semi-permanent settlements begin appearing on Venus. Problems are encountered with Martian Terraforming, due to the thin atmosphere and low gravity - early colonists die while support resources, intended to allow colonies to be self-sufficient, have significant difficulty in being maintained in the lower gravity of the planet. The Manned orbital stations, that were previously placed in orbit over Venus and Mars are expanded to support more robust operations with additional resources being put into the Martian platforms in the hopes of augmenting the colonization and terra-forming process. Additional platforms are put into orbit around Mercury.
January 8, 2028 - The Outer Planet Mining Corporation (OPM) is formed for the purpose of harvesting the valuable minerals from the moons of Saturn, and Jupiter. As a “humanitarian effort” the Earth Congress authorizes the usage of convicts as a labor pool in exchange for reduced sentences.
March 15, 2032 - Genetic engineering breakthrough allows manipulation of life forms. “Designer” animals and plant life appear. Serious attempts to begin to develop ‘augmented’ human beings that can endure the rigors of life on Mars and off-world.
April 2, 2032 - The first (OPM) mission is launched to Saturn’s moon Tethys. It is designated as “Charon”.
September 10, 2032 - Charon makes planetfall on Tethys. Over the next year, the mining complex “Charon” is established and built up to support a population of nearly 3,000 convict laborers.
April 5, 2034 - OPM Establishes the mining complex “Cocytus” on Tethys.
May 14, 2036 - OPM mining complex “Elysium” is established on Dione.
June 24, 2036 - Larger deposits are discovered on Tethys. Expansions for the Charon mining complex are set in motion that will be carried out over the next 5 years intended to expand its mining capacity. Its support capacity would ultimately be increased to 5,500 convicts making it the largest of the Saturn Mining complexes.
June 20, 2038 - OPM Mining complex “Phlegethon” is established on Enceladus.
June 2, 2040 - Scientists succeed in creating a new strain of evolutionarily advanced humans known as “Neosapians”.
June 19, 2040 - OPM Mining complex “Lethe” is established on Titan.
December 25, 2042 - OPM Mining complex “Erebus” is established on Tethys.
December 9, 2044 - OPM establishes the last of 7 mining complexes in the Saturn planetary system. This last complex is established on the moon of Dione and is designated “Agensader”. Between the 7 mining complexes, a total population of over 23,000 people is present for mining.
May 5, 2045 - Earth and Venus form the “Home World Senate”. Humans from these two planets become known as ‘TERRANS’. “Zeus Reborn”, a 2-year project to repurpose the Tinia Platform is drafted and put into operation. Its purpose is to re-configure the platform to house the Home World Senate central complex. In the interim, the Senate is housed in Sidney.
June 1, 2047 – “Zeus Reborn” is completed. The Home World Senate officially moves from Sidney Australia to the Tinia Platform.
Jan 4, 2048 - Cloned Neosapiens begin mining and terraforming operations on Mars.
October 4, 2048 – Jeremiah Winfield is born.
November 10, 2048 - With Neosapians mining on Mars, the cost of the various materials drops significantly to the point that OPM is facing bankruptcy. In an effort to maintain itself, OPM cancels all further supply runs and operations of the Saturn mining network. A cover story about “Saturn Madness” is fabricated and spread, convincing the public at large that the convicts have all gone mad, thus no effort to rescue them is made or suggested.
January 1, 2049 - The convicts realize that they have been abandoned. In retaliation, they form the Pirate Clans of Saturn.
January 6, 2055 - the first raids by the Pirate Clans are conducted just outside the Martian orbit. Several Marcus-Vainmoore ships are attacked and their cargo stolen. The crews are left alive but are disfigured. The raids grow in frequency over the next several years.
January 15, 2055 – OPM is re-organized into Outer Planetary Freight, primarily a shipping company. Abandoning much of their mining background and ambitions.
January 30, 2060 – Exo-tech is tested for use in military applications.
January 1, 2061 – The Home Worlds Senate passes the Extra-Terrestrial Armed Services decree, formally establishing a unified military force that supersedes the authority of individual armies and is under the direct authority of the Home Worlds Senate. This military is colloquially known as ‘ETAS’. The Extra-Terrestrial Operations Network (ETON) is established and integrated into the Home Worlds senates communications hub. This advent gives ETAS access to all the satellite data available to the Home Worlds Senate itself and allows the Senate to more directly control ETAS.
May 1, 2061 – The Exo-Tech development for military applications shows progress. The first star fighters to be fitted with the cyber-link data processing system giving the pilots greater depth of input to the fighter itself. The XAF-221 Badger becomes the first ‘exo-fighter’.
October 10, 2061 – The Great Neosapians Birthing Complex is completed on Mars. Accelerated growth and intra-cranial organo-educated implants produce 25,000 Neosapien adults each Martian month, totaling 300,000 per year.
December 10, 2061 – Neosapian brood Sci-Alpha-Tau 21699 is completed. This brood includes Phaeton and Marsala.
January 19, 2062 – Marsala is appointed as the Production Coordinator for the 3rd Sector of Martian Mining operations, the single largest on Mars.
August 25 2065 - Population of Neosapiens increase rapidly. Mars is predominantly populated by these advanced humans.
December 2, 2065 - Unrest begins on Mars in the wake of Home World Senate’s decision that ‘artificial’ life forms don’t have the rights of other “natural” humans. Neosapiens demand home rule.
January 10, 2068 – Jeremiah Winfield enlists with ETAS.
October 10, 2070 – Inspired by Marsala, the great Neosapian rebellion begins. Systematic sabotage slows Martian mining as Marsala calls for negotiations with the Home Worlds congress. The majority of these transmissions go unanswered only serving to further fuel the rebellion. Marcus-Vainmoore Communications is harshly criticized for it’s maintaining of the communications network leading some to believe that the ‘lack of communications’ from the Neosapians is deliberate.
October 18, 2070 - Marcus-Vainmoore mining attempts to capitalize on the crisis by upping their mining efforts in the asteroid belt. They establish permanent supply stations and support centers on several of the largest asteroids including Ceras, Vesta, Eros, Bennu, and Juno. Utilizing their political influences, they successfully lobby to have the ETAS’ patrol routes set to include the Asteroid field in order to protect their assets. It is widely suggested that this is done with the ulterior motive of allowing the Neosapian rebellion to continue.
February 11, 2071 – Matthew Marcus is born.
April 12, 2071 – The Neosapians rebellion intensifies, bringing all mining on mars to a halt. Even with the increased mining from the Asteroid belt, the Home Worlds economy begins to collapse.
June 10, 2071 – The Exo-Tech development program brings the concepts of cyber-links and exo-skeletons together, allowing the designers to create vehicles with the fire power of a tank, but the control options and benefits that had made the XAF-221 Badger so popular. These are the direct precursors to the “Exo-Frames”. Jeremiah Winfield becomes the leader of one of the first ‘E-frame Squads’ designated “Blue Alpha”.
August 1, 2071 – the ETAS puts in a substantial order for the new “Exo-Frames” as works to modernize its forces. The “E-frame” becomes so synonymous with the ETAS, that the organization comes to be known as the “Exo-Fleet”. As the Exo-Fleet develops, more and more state-based militaries are either absorbed into it, or simply dissolved as they are viewed as being redundant and unneeded.
November 1, 2071 – Exo-Fleet is called on to quell the Martian Rebellion.
November 6, 2071 – The Exo-Fleet moves into controlling orbit of Mars and begins conducting lightning raids against Neosapain held locations. The newly formed “E-frame Squads” prove devastatingly effective.
November 13, 2071 – Marsala is captured by Blue Alpha and the rebellion is broken. Calls for Marsala to be tried for leading the rebellion are made. Legal counsel offers a motion that because Marsala is not a “Natural Born” he is not entitled to a trial for his actions, but likewise cannot be held accountable for them any more than a dog that is beaten by its owner can be held accountable when it attacks someone. The Companies that had financed and controlled the mining operations on Mars are put on trial for the Rebellion.
December 1, 2071 – with the recent success of the E-frame tactics, previous plans for the Exo-fleet are scrapped. Ship orders are canceled in favor of some form of not yet designed ‘Exo carrier’ and more emphasis is placed on the utilization of E-frames.
January 10, 2074 – The trials of the Martian mining companies are completed. There are numerous fines and jail sentences passed down as it is determined that the business practices and operations of the Martian Mining companies lead directly to the rebellion and the effects on the Home Worlds’ economy that caused. The Neosapians are granted custodial control of Mars.
March 5, 2074 – Several groups begin campaigning for Neosapians to be allowed to join the Exo-Fleet. These demands are presently ignored.
Sept 2, 2076 - Neosapiens allowed to sit on the Home World Senate primarily as observers only. For matters of official status, their delegate is given a ‘non-voting’ seat.
February 28, 2086 - Despite Neosapian protest, approval is given to build another massive Excavation project in the southern hemisphere of Mars.
March 12, 2089 - Homeworld Senate rejects Neosapien bid for complete autonomy.
March 14, 2089 – The Home Worlds Senate approves the “Exo-Carrier Construction program”, a combination development, test-bed, and construction program intended to modernize the Exo-Fleet, cut down on costs by developing purpose built ships, and to replace the currently 60 year old ship designs presently utilized by the Exo-Fleet.
April 4, 2092 - The Neosapien leader Phaeton becomes spokesman for the Neosapien population of mars in their disputes with the Terrans.
April 12, 2092 – The Home Worlds Senate approves the Yumoto class Exo-cruiser. Ships to come out of this class include the Bismarck, and Sakura.
May 20, 2093 – The Home Worlds Senate approves the Kuznetsov-class Exo-carrier. Ships to come out of this class include the Borealis.
October 10, 2094 – The Home Worlds Senate approves the Helgoland-class Exo-carrier. Ships to come out of this class include the Coronado.
June 1, 2099 – The Home Worlds Senate approves the Resolve-class Exo-carrier. Ships to come out of this class include the Dominion, and Sovereign.
May 15, 2100 – The HWS Bismarck is launched
October 30, 2100 – the HWS Sakura is launched.
December 1, 2100 – The Home Worlds Senate Approves the Resolute variant of the Resolve class of Exo-carriers and orders one to become the new flagship of the Exo-fleet.
May 15, 2016 – The HWS Dominion is launched. It is temporarily named the Exo-fleet flagship.
May 15, 2107 – The HWS Borealis is launched.
October 30, 2107 – the HWS Coronado is launched.
May 10, 2108 – The Home Worlds Senate passes the ETAS Militarization prioritization decree cutting back on weapons and military-type hardware that can be possessed by non-military operations. The Neosapiens are very specifically mentioned as not being permitted to possess any form of military hardware.
October 19, 2108 - Neosapiens protest the ETAS Militarization prioritization decree as it is being applied to include industrial-scale transport systems under the idea of “military hardware”. This forces the Neosapians to rely on the transport options provided by the likes of Marcus-Vainmoore, Outer Planetary Freight, and the Martian Mining Conglomerate.
November 18, 2109 – In an effort to appease the Neosapian and lessen tensions, the Home Worlds Senate passes the ETAS Combined Arms decree, permitting a limited number of Neosapians to enlist with the Exo-Fleet. Marsala immediately enlists and it is permitted, both for political reasons and for the belief that if he’s kept isolated from the Neosapiens at large, it’s less likely that the could start a second rebellion.
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Structural analysis of Stranger Things

Hi everyone!
Admittedly, I'm not sure if posts of this length are fine. Nevertheless, I decided to share my work on the interpretation of the show. I'm an anthropologist and as I was watching the series, it occurred to me that it offers an amazing way of demonstrating how one of the most famous theories in anthropology works. My students loved it so I decided to share it with ST aficionados here on reddit too. This is very much work in progress so I'll be more than happy for any feedback, that is if you actually manage to read the entire thing. :) Here goes:
When Netflix aired its new promising show “Stranger Things” in the summer of 2016, I too soon became captivated by its narrative and emotion. At the time I was also reading David Graeber’s book ‘Utopia of Rules’ where he sketches out a critique of bureaucracy and in the first part of the book he demonstrates the way structural analysis, pioneered by Claude Levi-Strauss, works. Structural analysis derives from Structuralism – the last grand theory put forward by an anthropologist that aimed to reduce all the elements of our complex social life to a couple of basic premises. Ever since anthropological structuralism enjoyed its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s the practice of social theory became rather different – rejecting the apparently arrogant presumption that the world can be explained through a single over-arching theory and instead preferring to see it as built through fragmented, overlapping, conflicting, power-fuelled discourses that structured one’s reality which accordingly was never simple and easy to grasp. Graeber laments this development. In his view, there is merit in seeing structural analysis for what it was – a technique of simplifying the observable field in order to say something new about it, something one wouldn’t normally be able to conclude if the observable phenomena were taken in at their full complexity. I think he takes this notion from Edmund Leach though he doesn’t reference him . This is in fact what any good theory should do: delimit the field of analysis, introduce basic assumptions and based on those assumptions analyse the observed data to produce conclusions about the data. Of course, it’s not going to be entirely correct but this is not the point. The idea of being ‘correct’ or saying something ‘true’ is itself loaded with numberless assumptions about the nature of reality and how it can be known and one would always have to come clean on those before proceeding to offer their analysis. For Graeber, structural analysis is an elegant way of doing social theory and I find it difficult to disagree with him.
It had already occurred to me a year earlier when I was getting more familiar with Levi-Strauss’ scholarship that the elements of his theory can be applied to modern contexts, but naturally I wasn’t yet able to develop my thought. I only voiced it at the end of a seminar in Oxford when another friend mentioned Graeber’s analyses of Batman and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Let me briefly sketch out what Levi-Strauss suggested we, as anthropologists, do. LS was interested in the universal structures (hence structuralism) of the mind. He surmised that all human beings share the same architecture of the mind and therefore the same mechanisms that govern human perception and everything thereafter. He argued that these structures may be observed in the way language works drawing heavily on R. Jakobson’s work. These structures are primarily relational in that the meaning of anything is made possible only through a comparison and differentiation. A dog is not a dog because he is a dog – a dog is a dog because everything else is not a dog, if you will. For Levi-Strauss, language was the primary means of distinguishing between a human being and an animal. The way a child learns a language is by distinguishing between hard and soft sounds, high and low sounds. This is a way of perceiving and classifying information through binary oppositions which are the basic structural elements of the human mind. LS further surmised that if this is how verbal information gets perceived, then surely this is how all other – non-verbal – information should work too. For LS language was symbolic thought and drawing on the linguist Saussure’s distinction between the signifier (the verbal element) and the signified (the mental image) that together make up a sign, he believed that this is a particularly human capacity. First, to be able to differentiate between the two – the signifier and the signified, the verbal and the mental – and yet at the same time recognise their fundamental interdependency or equivalence.
As you can see then, human beings have an innate capacity to take in information and this capacity has a structure to it: it operates on the basis of diametrically opposed poles. Yet the structure of this innate capacity plays a double role – it also determines the way human beings use the external environment to order information. Levi-Strauss wrote that ‘animals are good to think with’. I must confess that for many years I simply assumed that by this phrase he meant that animal companionship is a nice thing and they do not disturb your contemplative process unlike humans might. But this is not at all what he meant. The variety of animals, their differences and similarities serve as useful categories for humans in themselves. Animals on land and birds in the air, for example, provide a way of classifying differing species. Animals that one preys on and animals that prey on you serve as a basic structure for differentiating between a human friend and a human enemy. The living world, devoid of human beings, brims and overflows with variety that needs to be structured and the structure of the innate linguistic capacity determines this process. The ability to transpose the basis of one classification on to others is also always a symbolic process. It is not only an instinctive way of perceiving the world – it may also be a conscious attempt to order the world and the ordering process inevitably has to follow the same structuralist principles because for Levi-Strauss it simply can’t be otherwise. For him, myths therefore have to contain binary oppositions because myths always grapple with the issue of ordering reality in some way or another.
I realise this all may be a little confusing and too abstract for the beginner, but these binary oppositional elements are then at the core of structural analysis. For Levi-Strauss human society essentially began with the distinction (from a male’s perspective) between a wife and a sister. The incest taboo creates this distinction. As you can see this is exactly the kind of opposition I’m discussing: wife and sister. One is permissible and the other is not. Yet this opposition is made possible only because both positions are in a certain sense equivalent. Both are women. Equivalence and opposition are then core elements of structural analysis and one always starts by establishing an equivalence between the phenomena to be analysed and then elaborating on how exactly they are opposed to each other. Take for instance left and right hand. They are opposite each other not only physically, but also symbolically – one stands for the good, the other for the evil. And yet both are hands and therefore equivalent, connected to the same body and therefore interdependent. I hope the reader appreciates that this is an enormous simplification of quite a complex argument but one does not need to know the complexity of it to appreciate the argument’s brilliance. It will become clearer as we go on and introduce additional elements to the theory.
So it was that when I was first getting more familiar with Levi-Strauss at Oxford, I was watching Netflix’s Daredevil and looking at the main characters this is exactly what I saw. One was good, the other one was bad. One was handsome, the other far from it. One’s story begins when his beloved father is murdered. The other’s story begins when he kills the father he hates. And yet both are outsider figures that share infinite love for the city of New York. At this point I thought Levi-Strauss was a genius and this thought has become ever more intense since then. By the time I got to watching Stranger Things, I was much better equipped to apply these analytical tools and the show availed itself and as it seemed to me simply begged for such an analysis. In fact, I believed that people love the show for all the wrong reasons. Or perhaps not the ‘wrong’ reasons, but certainly not for the reasons it deserves to be loved. Of course, it’s a well-crafted story, and the 80s themes are played out to perfection with casting, the mood, the horror element, etc. But as I was researching what people wrote about the show, it became increasingly clear to me that these reflections remained on a fairly superficial level. No one bothered to ask what exactly it is that makes the show so captivating beyond the clearly observable phenomena. What is the deeper, invisible thread that holds the story together? In my eyes, the show was ripe for some Levi-Straussian structural analysis and I delved right into it. For further purposes, I will simply assume that the reader has watched the show and I do not need to explain the basic narratives and characters otherwise this will take forever to write and read. I will first zero in on four main pairs of opposites to draw out the structural element, the basic underlying schemata of the story so to speak. After this, I will turn to the question of meaning – a more controversial than and by no means as unequivocal as the preceding structural analysis, but all the more interesting for that very reason.
Let’s start off with the main set of characters – the boy Will and the girl Eleven. The equivalence between them plays out on many levels. The entire story begins because of them and it’s not clear who actually starts it: is it Eleven who accidentally opens up the gate to the Upside Down or Will who is first attacked by Demagorgon in Dungeons&Dragons and then actually in real life? There’s no answer, but they are both kids to whom something bad happens and as a result they both go into hiding. The story starts to unfold when Will disappears and Eleven appears – the first crucial opposition. Will is a fairly feminine boy, gentle and soft-spoken. Eleven is a fairly masculine type, at least at the beginning as perhaps evidenced by her lack of hair. Will has a rich inner and creative life – he excels at drawing, has built a fort in the woods and imaginatively continues to escape Demagorgon in the Upside Down. Eleven on the other hand is quite animalistic – she has almost no language skills, so she fails to qualify as a human being on Levi-Strauss’ account. Will is loved and nurtured by his mother and brother, whereas Eleven only knows the reward-punish principle exercised by her Papa, the father figure (more so the punish side of the principle). Herein also lies the next significant opposition because as many anthropologists would tell you - ultimately it is all about kinship. Their family situations are directly at odds: Will has a mother and a brother, but no father who left. Eleven has a father, but no other family. This is important to keep in mind as it will help us later on in the clarification of meaning. Further oppositions abound, but perhaps most intriguingly Eleven’s special powers are telekinetic – in other words, she communicates metaphysically. When Will disappears, he communicates with his mother through electricity– his communication is physical and material. And to blow your mind off, note that the name ‘Will’ can be taken as a sign of humanity, human will-power, the ability to consciously think something and then act on that thought. Eleven, however, has her name written thus: ‘011’, which obviously signifies digital encoding of information and so the very opposite of the capacity to think autonomously. Did the authors name them thus on purpose? We can’t be certain, but Levi-Strauss would say it doesn’t matter. The universal structures of the mind are unconscious, the symbolism of the characters emanates from the deep mind and so their creation is almost natural. It is a little fascinating to think why not Twelve or Thirteen though. And why add the zero before the ones? Perhaps a mystery better left unsolved.
This would then make up the first step of a structural analysis and probably the easiest one. The next step would be to venture into the domain of meaning and try to figure out what these characters, their development and adventure means, but at this point we’re still quite limited in our knowledge to attempt that. It is useful here though to introduce another aspect of the structural analysis, namely, the intermediary figure. The mind does not operate just with the extreme oppositions available – for every hot and cold, there is warm. In fact, you could say that most of our social reality tends to consist of ‘warm’ elements and the ‘hot/cold’ moments are the exception. Levi-Strauss argued that myths not only deal with contradictions, but they also attempt to mediate these polar positions. So it seems that in most such oppositions, there will be an intermediary figure that sits in the background, but still tends to play a significant role in the narrative. In the specific case it is obviously Mike – Will’s best friend and later Eleven’s best friend too. Mike is just a normal kid as opposed to Will and Eleven. He has both parents and an older sister and a classic small town house to live in and plays a pivotal part in the lives of both of our protagonists. It is convenient here to introduce a further dimension to Levi-Strauss’ methodology. Namely, for him symbolic thought takes on two different (but naturally interrelated!) modalities – metaphor and metonymy. A metaphor expresses a likeness between two different wholes. For example, bee society could be depicted as metaphorical to human society: the bees are like humans in a particular sense intended. Two wholes – the bee and the human society – are brought into a relationship of likeness. Metonymy on the other hand expresses a part-whole relationship. Picture the Queen of England and the Crown she is wearing. Now, remove the Queen from your picture. The Crown still speaks for the Queen as a sign of sovereignty. We don’t need the Queen to know that the Crown carries a particular meaning even though it’s only a part of the whole picture. The part expresses the whole. Netflix knows this: their series on the Queen of England are simply titled ‘The Crown’ – we all know what it is going to be about. And so this metaphometonymy distinction is similarly at play in a structural analysis. Will and Eleven have a metaphorical relation between them – they are two distinct variations of a general theme (just what this theme is we do not know yet so don’t worry). Yet Mike expresses a metonymical relationship with Will and Eleven: they are both continuations of this ‘perfect’ or ideal-typical character. The character of Mike shades into the other two. So the crucial question is: what are they symbols of? Will and Eleven clearly represent two different options, but options of what? This leads us back to the question of meaning to which we’re still not quite ready yet.
For that we need to introduce the next pair of opposites: Will’s mother Joyce and the town’s sheriff Jim Hopper. They were both in the same high school, likely in the same class, and share some friendly memories. Significantly, they are both divorced now which is their point of equivalence. Their lives are broadly characterized by a certain sense of lack, of incompleteness and I often think that the series is actually about these two – what their ‘social defectiveness’ leads them to think and do. Anyway, in every other respect they are of – lo and behold - opposites. Jim had a daughter whom he lost to cancer. His loss is permanent. Joyce on the other hand loses Will for the duration of the series: her loss is temporary. Joyce is a hard-working woman at a retail store. Jim doesn’t have to worry about crime in the town of Hawkins and enjoys a pretty carefree existence at work. Note another implicit opposition – Joyce works in a market-institution; Jim works for the government . He is depicted as a pretty sexually promiscuous individual whereas we do not know much of Joyce’s love life post-Lonnie, Will’s father. When they look for Will, both employ radically different methods: Jim is conventional in his detective work, collecting evidence, interviewing people and so on. Joyce communicates with Will through Christmas lights. He is rational, she is delusional.
Now what could this all mean? If one has seen the series, then it’s worth recalling certain moments and sentences that tended to repeat themselves. Throughout the first season, Eleven was confronted with the fact of friendship: alone and afraid, she was taught that there are good people in the world and these good people call themselves friends . For her, the world consists of bad people, represented by her Papa, and the good people represented first by Mike and later by Jim. Note here that this representation is metaphorical in its character. For her, there is a clear opposition between Parents and Friends. And so it is likewise with Will. Friends and parents make up the entire universe of a child’s world. Yet, despite their equivalence they can never be equal. Different attitudes and behaviours are tagged to each. What happens when friends start behaving like parents and the other way around? Levi-Strauss instructs us that at the core of a myth there is always a contradiction which the myth exposes, deals with, plays out and demonstrates. Sometimes he calls them the unconscious paradoxes of humanity; the stubborn reality which comes slamming at the door of ideals that are supposed to be the rule of the day. There is certainly something ideological in myths and stories in a sort of Marxist way. They justify the shortcomings of a reality by demonstrating that ideals may be untenable but they are ideals nonetheless.
Anyway, this I believe is the first contradiction of Stranger Things: the impossibility of friends ever becoming like parents, and parents ever like friends. Eleven gains friends as she loses her parent-figure , but it is impossible for friends to meaningfully replace the social relation as a whole no matter how benign they are in comparison to Papa. Conversely, friends’ board game leads to Will’s disappearance and a search for a connection with his mother. Yet even more for Mike, his perfect nuclear family means nothing without friends – hence his desperation to find Will and his deep affection for Eleven. On the flipside, Joyce and Jim are both divorced, this social side of their selves has been lost and they try to recuperate that with a connection to their children: Joyce by looking for Will and Jim by re-living the final moments of his fatherhood in daydream (or rather nightmare). For them the contradiction at the heart of their action is the hope that children may replace their lost affinal relations. But obviously this can never be so. Nevertheless, this makes their action possible. Interestingly, a recurrent theme in the series for Joyce was that nobody seemed to believe her that Will is missing and not dead. She is at once dismissive of others (‘I don’t’ care if anyone believes me’) while her quest for belief provided by Jim (‘I need you to believe me, please.’) drives the first part of the series. She needs others to believe her that she is still a complete human being even though in a different sense. Belief is of course an entirely internal phenomenon and can ultimately never be checked. Perhaps Joyce actually needs to believe it herself. On the other hand, Will and Eleven are primarily manifesting their presence through communication – physical and metaphysical. This relation is external and thus we can conclude this part with yet another opposition.
Beside the storyline that unravels along these symbolic figures, there is another set of characters whose lives are altered by the presence of Demagorgon. Mike’s pretty sister Nancy who is a classic high-school sweetheart and her best friend Barbara who is ultimately killed by the demonic figure. In a way they couldn’t be more different. Nancy is beautiful whilst Barb is rather average-looking. Nancy has all the qualities needed for being the most popular girl at school while Barb doesn’t stand a chance. The history of their friendship is a mystery to the viewer, but they appear very close and what is most important – they are both very diligent and hard-working, taking their studies very seriously. This seems to be their unifying moment – the certainty that one is a good human being if one studies hard and takes their duties at school as most important for any kind of future success in life. In this they are both rather childish and clearly at pre-puberty stage of life. Yet this is about to change as signalled by Dustin and Luke in the first moments of the series discussing Nancy’s developing body. Nancy’s affection for Steve who is a classic high-school pretty-boy sets off a trail of events that culminate in Barb’s disappearance. Steve invites Nancy over for a party because his parents are away and Nancy takes Barb with her even though the latter doesn’t think it’s a good idea. Barb tries to integrate herself among the ‘bad kids’ by opening a can of beer but cuts herself. Later Nancy is led on by Steve to his room but before she leaves she sees Barbara for one last time who advises her not to do it. Nancy brushes Barb off. Most curiously, at the very point when the viewer knows Nancy is losing her virginity to Steve, we see Barbara at the poolside and the blood from her finger drips into the pool and she vanishes – Demagorgon has taken her. What is this all about?
Even as I was watching the series for the first time, it was clear to me that Barbara symbolises Nancy. She doesn’t actually really exist in the first place. She is a representation of Nancy’s past – her dedication to school, her nerdiness and innocent outlook of life. Even visually they are extremely similar if one removes Barb’s glasses and puts her in a nice dress. She disappears at the very moment Nancy becomes an adult – loses her virginity. This is manifestly symbolised by Barb’s bleeding finger evoking an image of the blood lost by Nancy in her first act of love. Nancy’s subsequent search for her is a search for her own lost self. She is no longer a child – school is no longer her sole reality and concern. There is evidently another paradox or contradiction at play here. One cannot remain a child for ever even though it is for most people a time of bliss and happy ignorance. One cannot retain innocence whilst becoming an adult . In this opposition we see most forcefully the theme of guilt which is also an element in most other relationships between characters. Nancy is overwhelmed with guilt as she desperately teams up with Will’s brother Jonathan to look for Barb. This guilt is compounded when Steve’s friends mock her loss of virginity making her feel embarrassed and ashamed. This is a strong Christian theme associating sex with guilt. She is no longer pure causing social and individual resentment and ostracism as indicated by her novel association with Jonathan – the outsider par excellence. Guilt is equally a factor in Jim and Joyce’s life. Jim feels guilt for being powerless in the face of a deadly disease which emasculates him wreaking havoc on his sense of virility carefully constructed through his military service. Joyce feels guilt as a mother not being able to provide fully for her children. Perhaps this guilt ultimately stems from her social status as a divorcee. Perhaps Stranger Things is an extremely conservative take on what happens to people that don’t live according to the true way of God, creating perfect families and persisting through unhappy times? This could be so unless there was an imperfectly disguised mockery of Mike’s nuclear family and his own sense of incompleteness that results from it.
The final pair of opposites has already been foreshadowed – Steve and Jonathan. As noted before, Steve is a popular figure at school while Jonathan is a self-excluded outsider. Steve is good-looking and well-spoken whereas Jonathan is average-looking and by most accounts would be considered a weirdo. Steve doesn’t have a care in the world, likes to drink and party while Jonathan is like a father-figure to Will and so is bound to be a responsible teen (mostly a contradiction in terms) in most areas of life. He is in fact also driven by guilt as he wasn’t at home when Will disappeared which leads him to a union with Nancy. There is an entire contradiction designed in Jonathan’s character – his obligation to be father-like whilst still being a teen obviously ultimately being impossible and leading to Will’s disappearance which ravages Jonathan’s sense of self. Jonathan is also a creative figure who loves music and taking photographs whereas Steve doesn’t really have any hobbies outside of Nancy. But Steve is fun-loving and easy to like while Jonathan is rather sombre most of the time. They are nevertheless equivalent as they both share love for Nancy. But what do both symbolise and represent? It may be useful here to pay attention to the way their relationship with each other – Steve’s and Jonathan’s – develops. Clearly, they are no friends and are at competition with each other for Nancy’s attention. Steve is clearly winning in the first part of the series while Jonathan fares much better in the second part. However, there are two key moments which are worth recalling. The first one begins to unravel when Steve finds out Jonathan had (inadvertently) taken photos of Nancy as she was getting ready to sleep with Steve. When Nancy finds out Jonathan may have caught sight of Barb (her previous self) she latches on to him to seek Barb and Will together. Steve obviously doesn’t like this and in a moment of anger smashes Jonathan’s camera. What does this all symbolise so far?
Note that Steve and Jonathan are essentially opposed to each other in the same way that Appearance and Substance (or form and content) would be. Steve is portrayed as a fairly superficial guy who doesn’t really have any interest in the world except for girls and party. He is also just somewhat stupid as he can’t quite grasp Nancy’s emotional rollercoaster. Jonathan on the other hand is full of substance – he has consciously rejected models of behaviour available to him and embraces independent appreciation of music and outlook of life (‘you shouldn’t like things because people tell you you’re supposed to’). His rather sloppy physical outlook is a further sign of it. Thus we see Appearance and Substance going at each other in the pursuit of Beauty (Nancy). This is mediated through Jonathan’s camera. What is a camera after all? It is a substance that produces appearances. In the first culmination of their struggle Steve smashes the camera and so repudiates all claims on substance. But his subsequent character development is all about regaining Nancy’s trust and he does so by trying to gain some substance, by demonstrating that he cares and he is ready to be a mature adult when needed. After Will has been found again, Nancy gravitates back to Steve who then marks the end of this loop by passing a gift to Jonathan through Nancy. And what is the gift? Of course – it is a camera. Appearance has triumphed again.
This play between Appearance and Substance manifests itself in the other contradictions as well: friends appearing as parents and parents appearing as friends but never substantively so. As you can see, themes are abundant. So are contradictions. I haven’t exhausted all of them (most obvious being the town of Hawkins versus the Upside Down mediated by Camp Hero) but these are sufficient to offer some final remarks about the meaning of the entire series. As I’ve been trying to intimate, any such exercise is always flawed as there is no one meaning that we should seek out. But the preceding analysis should give us some insights as to what exactly Demagorgon is and what it symbolises.
Demagorgon is a creature of fear. It is seemingly all-powerful – it jumps through space and time as if those basic categories that ultimately constrain all human thought and action do not have any objective existence. It is human-like in its form but simultaneously an unclassifiable animal: a devil, Satan, ruler of Hell. This omnipotence is clearly deliberate as Demagorgon is no one thing – each character has its own Demagorgon, they all have their ideas of hell and Demagorgon is sufficiently non-defined so as to be able to fill in anyone’s imagination. Almost every character is presented to us as either lacking something or experiencing a moment of incomplete or transitory personhood. Any such moment is bound to arouse fear. The entire series is built on the way the characters meet their demons through excessive courage. The viewer may undergo a classic catharsis as well – the viewer feels the fear, but is inspired and entertained by the courage the characters espouse. All seems to be well at the end.
Yet it is worth zooming in on the sites that seemingly launch Demagorgon into existence and link it with the themes we have been discussing beforehand. I want to argue that Stranger Things can be read as a critique of science. Not an outright moral demolition of the entire scientific enterprise, but certainly a wrenching critique of a part of it. Demagorgon is only the symbolic evil character that catalyses action but is by no means the originator of it. The actual evil character is a scientist: Dr Brenner, Eleven’s father-figure. Dr Brenner is a corrupt, heartless villain that uses little children for scientific experiments with no regard for the health of children – to him they are not really human beings, but quasi-monsters themselves. Curiously, Dr Brenner is paralleled by Mr Clark, the science teacher of the four boys at the core of the series. Their passion and interest in science is not a coincidence: we can see here a juxtaposition between different ways of doing science. Dr Brenner represents what happens when the ideas that inspire scientific investigations are assumed by an all-powerful entity such as the government. Its bureaucratic maze that is always backed up by violence (soldiers guarding Camp Hero) ensures that resources, funds, and energies may be directed to purposes civilians know nothing about. Here we find another fascinating opposition – science, the creator of knowledge, safeguarded by ignorance and secrecy. The kind of science made possible by bureaucracy is ultimately evil in the eyes of the creators of the show as it leads to the emergence of Demagorgon – a monster bureaucracy of science cannot contain. It is noteworthy that the show begins with the evil unleashed by the governmental bureaucracy and then the cut jumps right to the boys playing Dungeons&Dragons – a game that David Graeber, in the very same book I have already referenced, describes as ‘on one level the most free-form game imaginable … However, in another sense D&D represents the ultimate bureaucratization of antibureaucratic fantasy’ (2014: 188) as it contains lists and catalogues for everything. One can see a parallel here with the critique of science told by Stranger Things. When kids practice science at school guided by a benevolent science teacher it is a wonderful thing: it fosters imagination, endows the kids with the spirit of creativity, engages them in a form of play with the natural observable world and is in this sense ‘the most free-form game imaginable’. It could not be further removed from anything resembling a bureaucratic structure. Yet the moment it crosses a certain threshold, when science is usurped by interests that use bureaucratic institutions to achieve their aims it all goes haywire. Creatures of hell start roaming the earth. Camp Hero becomes the norm of the day and Dr Brenner is god-like in his instruments of knowledge. Alternatively, and more pessimistically, this development of science from an amateurish investigation of the natural, physical laws of the world to a professionalized field of intervention is seen as the very cause that gives rise to all-powerful institutions that unwittingly run the course of the world.
Herein, hidden, lies another deeper sense in which the story unfolds. I’ve already remarked on the religious themes present in the story, and there isn’t a far cry between religion and science. Science after all may be seen as the symbolic representation of knowledge which plays a pivotal part in the Christian telling of the world: Adam and Eve consume an apple from the Tree of Knowledge, the knowledge of good and evil gaining a sense of morality as well as a desire for evil. Ever since then all humans are sinners. Knowledge and guilt then are creatures of the same kind. Perhaps the creators of the show are telling us a religiously moralistic tale of an overly-scientific and excessively technological world devoid of all spirituality and a sense of humility toward the bigger forces engulfing us, and punishing us for our imagination that we may take the place of God by telling us that this arrogant assumption will only lead to a loss of morality, broken families, and missing children? The tragic triumph of science over religion is then expressed through three generations so as to appeal to as broad a public as possible. Will and Eleven along with the other kids are presented as the primary victims of this unfortunate development. The four teenagers are sexual morality tales issuing a warning to contain our wild impulses. Nancy may be seen as a young Joyce having to decide between Lonnie (Steve) and Jim (Jonathan). Joyce picks the more sexually loose Lonnie and gets punished for that. There is always a feeling that Joyce and Jim share a secret romantic history. In Season 2 Nancy gravitates toward Jonathan rectifying Joyce’s mistake. Morality is re-established. Yet the interpretation may stretch in the other direction too. Perhaps the show is not so much in favour of religion, but more so against the government, the Big Deep State. It then becomes a morality tale of what happens when the government takes charge of people’s lives beyond the available screens and government morality becomes a purely technical matter. Here, children are left without parents who have to work day and night to ensure food on the table and young teenagers are left with no support networks as they slowly mature into adults. Everyone is left fighting for themselves and the show tells us that it is somehow possible to win this fight even if the rules are not entirely clear or worked out. The time of action is significant: the beginnings of Reagan years in the White House, the ensuing neoliberal reforms, the dawn of the information technologies that went to radically transform the most intimate details of most people in the Euro-Atlantic countries. Stranger Things is then a warning coming from the past, at once enticing us to recall with fondness what life was like before the new age digito-economic revolution and demonstrating that it is in the very seeds of the structures of the modern world that we should seek culprits for our fears and our sense of incompleteness.
TL:DR Stranger Things centres on multiple contradictions that are mediated during the show and sometimes resolve themselves into further contradictions. Claude Levi-Strauss' analytical method enables us to identify the oppositions (e.g. Will and Eleven; Joyce and Jim; Nancy and Barb), and through the process of identification we may arrive at new insights regarding the meaning of the show that we might not otherwise gain. Thus multiple themes emerge: kinship, substance vs appearance, religion, science, big government, etc. This exercise is meant to be fun more than anything else, but may place the show in an entirely different light if done properly.
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