I’m sure most of you remember that one time I did a massive, 50-part retrospective / critique of the Mass Effect series. As part of that critique, I had an entire entry dedicated to tearing apart the notion that a terrorist organization could recruit, train, equip, and deploy a fully mechanized military force capable of waging war on a galactic scale, and furthermore that doing so in secret wasn’t just implausible, but laughable.
Imagine my surprise when I ran into this video, detailing how the US Government did exactly what I said was impossible. From 1942 to 1945 they hid an entire city of 75,000 people – the fifth largest city in Tennessee – and used it to build a superweapon in complete secrecy.
To be fair:
- This was done by a world superpower, not a terrorist organization.
- The city wasn’t COMPLETELY secret. I mean, people knew it existed and knew how to get there, it’s just that the goings-on inside the city were secret.
- This secret city was only secret for 3 years, not a generation.
- They only needed to build 2 weapons, not fleets of tanks, ships, or supplies for tens of thousands of space marines.
- The people signing up were serving a country they loved and fighting against a regime they hated, and not joining a sketchy mass-murdering megolomaniac with no coherent goal that would appeal to the masses.
- While the US government did many things that would be considered sketchy or “renegade” by today’s standards, they didn’t casually kill their own people by the hundreds for trivial reasons.
So while this doesn’t exactly excuse the limitless power of Cerberus, but it does make it very slightly less comically implausible.
But now I’m wishing we could have gotten more details on Cerberus. Previously I’ve said they should be excised from the Mass Effect series. Now I’m thinking you could tell a really cool story about some sort of alternate version of Cerberus that was like a scaled-up version of Oak Ridge: The government deliberately makes a secret project and then looks the other way, leaving the (sigh) Illusive Man free to tackle some sort of galactic-level Manhattan Project without much in the way of supervision. Nothing could justify the way Cerberus stole so much of the limelight from the Reapers, but you could tell a really cool story about a secret city with a doomsday weapon and an “Ends Justify the Means” mindset.
Still, interesting bit of history. I can’t believe I’ve lived my whole life without hearing this story.
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