First seen by humankind during the attack on the UESC Marathon in 2794, the S'pht are a race of sentient cybernetic alien organisms with a heavy affinity for technology. They hail from the planet Lh'owon, though by the time they are encountered within the Marathon series, their people serve as slaves to the Pfhor, having long since been estranged from their homeworld. Most S'pht appear as hovering robed figures roughly equivalent in size to a human, though this is an illusion created through loose clothing and levitation technology, as they are significantly smaller in stature than their outward appearance belies. The entire biological makeup of a S'pht is in fact restricted to a small fleshy mass that is similar in form and function to a human brain, though with noticeably greater complexity. This mass is attached to a mechanized lower body of a comparable size; rather than being merely augmentative, autopsy reports suggest that S'pht are completely incapable of functioning without their inorganic components. A number of signs point to a significant likelihood that the S'pht descended from the non-sentient, non-cybernetic F'lickta species, though, if true, through what means the S'pht evolved from them is unclear.
According to their own lore, the S'pht were at one point in time servants of Yrro and Pthia, two powerful and mysterious entities thought by many to be Jjaro, who brought them forth onto the planet Lh'owon in order to escape the W'rkncacnter. Though Lh'owon was at this juncture a desert planet, the S'pht transformed it into something more idyllic at the behest their masters, creating upon its surface more desirable climes and features such as wooded lands and great bodies of water. While their transformative efforts bore fruit, the successes of Lh'owon's rebirth were overshadowed by the arrival of the very creature they had sought to evade. The arrival of the W'rkncacnter was quickly followed by the death of Pthia, and in a rage Yrro cast the beast into Lh'owon's sun, where it would remain until disturbed by the Pfhor several hundred of years later. Simultaneously infuriated and despondent over the loss of Pthia, Yrro separated the S'pht into eleven clans, dispersing them across the surface of Lh'owon and telling them that they were to live upon the planet they built, turning now to their own leaders for guidance.
Left to their own ends, the S'pht clans soon began to fight amongst one another, often allowing their altercations to escalate into full-scale warfare and bloodshed. The only clan seemingly exempt from this cycle of violence was the S'pht'Kr, who were known to be more isolated than their brethren. Eventually, the S'pht'Kr deemed it best to depart Lh'owon for K'lia, also called the "third sister of Lh'owon", leaving fragments of information behind with each of the ten clans. This they did so that only in the event that the S'pht laid aside their differences and united as one would it be possible to contact them. As the years progress, the S'pht'Kr became little more than a distant memory to the remaining clans.
Roughly one thousand years later, the S'pht were forced to reconcile as a result of an incursion by a hostile race not previously known to them: the Pfhor. The ensuing war between the ranks of the coordinated Pfhor fleet and the unprepared S'pht clans was predictably short, and the belated unification of the S'pht ultimately counted for little. The Olders of each clan combined the fragments of the S'pht'Kr message they had each been entrusted with years ago, but were unable to decipher it in time to contact the lost clan. The last remnants of the S'pht resistance were gathered at the Citadel of the Ancients, where they made their final stand, though by this time most realized that their loss was certain.
Attack on the Marathon (Marathon)
For a millennium following the collapse of Lh'owon, the S'pht were compelled through mental domination to obey the Pfhor. Over time the Pfhor came to rely on their unique technical skills quite heavily, and thus, when the Pfhor were manipulated into attacking the UESC Marathon by Durandal, one of the Marathon's own A.I.s, they brought the S'pht with them in large numbers. Among other things, the S'pht were responsible for much of the Pfhor's cyber warfare efforts, including disabling the Marathon's A.I.s. Over the course of the Pfhor offensive, Durandal maintained lines of communication with the S'pht, learning of their unwilling servitude and the means through which they were controlled. This information allowed him to devise a means of undermining the attack on the Marathon; with the assistance of the security officer, Durandal successfully destroyed the cybernetic organism responsible for keeping the S'pht in check. Faced with a sudden and widespread slave revolt, the Pfhor had little choice but to surrender. Taking the Pfhor ship Sfiera as his own, Durandal leaves the Tau Ceti system in the company of the S'pht he liberated.
Some seventeen years after the initial Marathon attack, the Sfiera and its crew arrive at their destination: the S'pht homeworld of Lh'owon. Convinced that the key to the Pfhor's undoing rests somewhere below, Durandal sends the abducted security officer to explore the planet's surface. In addition to maintaining and operating the Sfiera, the S'pht also assist in this effort by mass-producing weapons for Durandal's human forces to use. As the organized Pfhor resistance impedes the exploration of Lh'owon, it becomes clear that many S'pht still serve their conquerors, though Durandal observes that they deliberately fight in an ineffectual manner, betraying their mental struggle against their masters' constraints. Though heavy losses are sustained along the way, the human contingent of the Sfiera is eventually able to make contact with an ancient A.I. known as Thoth, who in turn contacts the lost S'pht'Kr clan. With hundreds of years' development behind them, the S'pht'Kr prove to be far more advanced than their enslaved brothers; this new faction is simply too much for the Pfhor to overcome, forcing them to abort their attacks on Lh'owon.
Though eleven distinct clans of S'pht are revealed in the Marathon fiction (namely, the S'pht'Lhar, S'pht'Hra, S'pht'Nma, S'pht'Kah, S'pht'Vir, S'pht'Yra, S'pht'Val, S'pht'Shr, S'pht'Mnr, S'pht'Yor, and S'pht'Kr), only two discernible varieties exist within the games themselves. By far the most prevalent type, seen copiously throughout all three games, is the Compiler, while the legendary S'pht'Kr makes appearances late within the second game and within Marathon Infinity.
S'pht CompilerBoth enemies and allies at certain points within the story, the Compiler attacks with energy projectiles that, depending on the type, can possess tracking capability. The standard Compiler is identifiable by its reddish-orange cloak, while a second stronger type known to wear purple robes appears somewhat less frequently. It is the latter variant that possesses homing attacks, and on occasion Compilers may also be cloaked, making them harder to visually identify. The design of the Compiler was significantly revised between Marathon and Marathon 2, with perhaps the most notable difference in the later version being a less pronounced, more dome-like "head" area.
S'pht'KrWith technology far in excess of what other S'pht clans possess, the S'pht'Kr represent a much greater threat to the foes of the eleven clans than do the comparatively modest Compilers. The unique vessel the S'pht'Kr pilot appears not only to be shielded, but also capable of firing on enemies in very rapid volleys. Physiologically speaking, there is no evidence to suggest that the S'pht'Kr are any more advanced than other types of S'pht; their years of uninterrupted development have simply allowed them to reach a higher technological realm than their brethren.
Role in the Series
The S'pht are a major narrative component in the Marathon series, particularly in the first two games. In both, the S'pht are instrumental in defeating the Pfhor, first by rebelling against their masters in Marathon, and then by reuniting with the S'pht'Kr in Marathon 2. In gameplay terms, the S'pht, specifically the Compiler, is a mid-level threat. It has a moderately damaging projectile, and a greater ability to pursue the player than most due to its ability to hover over the ground. Its hit point totals are not particularly high, however, especially when compared to later foes such as Hunters and Juggernauts. Due to their position in the overarching story, both Compilers and S'pht'Kr appear at times as friendly units.