Friday 'Nite is a weekly Fortnite column in which GameSpot editor Mark Delaney takes a closer look at current events in the wide world of Fortnite, with a special emphasis on the game's plot, characters, and lore.
Like a lot of the world's most popular stories, Fortnite's saga essentially boils down to "good guys" versus "bad guys." For years, we've come to understand that the island's shadowy militia, the Imagined Order (IO), acts as the latter. An aggressive, even ruthless group, the IO has never been shown in a positive light, but if you've read my Friday 'Nite column before, you may already know where I'm going with this: I'm not so sure the IO, or at the very least Doctor Slone, is as bad as they seem to be.
I've written before about how I don't think we can trust The Foundation, and how the Imagined Order may derive its power from its own misplaced sense of entitlement. Those theories play into one I want to share today: Slone isn't the bad guy. She's just misunderstood.
Now, I should admit my bias upfront: Slone is my favorite character in the game. She's tough, stylish, cunning, and voiced superbly by Mara Junot. What's not to love? (Okay, there was that betrayal during Operation: Sky Fire.) But that's not to say my bias relies on her being proven right or even good-natured in the end. I'll love Slone as a character even if she winds up the Big Bad of the omniverse. Still, I think she will eventually be seen as, at worst, the tragic villain and not an inherently wicked character.
For evidence, I call attention to her all-important loading screen, which was rewarded as part of the Chapter 2, Season 7 battle pass, the same season in which we finally met Slone. Epic loves to drip-feed lore via battle pass cosmetics, and Slone's loading screen may be the most revealing cosmetic to date.
On it, we see Slone's life story. While we can only make inferences in most cases, the collage seems rather simple to piece together. At an early age, Slone showed promise as a brilliant mind, seeming to solve math problems well beyond her years--just look at her height next to that chalkboard in the top left image. Across from there, we can see Slone being either recruited, likely to the IO, or perhaps presented with some sort of medallion for having completed training.
This says either she was plucked out of her life by the IO at an early age or perhaps born into some sort of Halo Spartan-like assembly line of incredibly talented soldiers. I tend to think she was recruited and removed from a previously normal life, as evidenced by the bottom middle image where we see Slone reading a book with headphones in, lazying on the grass. That doesn't seem like the rigid schedule of an IO operative-to-be.
In the bottom left, we can see her also honing her physical skills, not just her mental ones, perhaps just after recruitment. Slone is a skilled fighter and one of the toughest bosses to take down in Fortnite. That's owed in part to her unique cloning ability, which may be what we see hints of in the right inside image. Is her strange wrist gadget the item responsible for Slone's cloning ability? I'd wager it is, and that she's hailing her very own "snapshots," a Fortnite word for alternate versions of one's self who are created by the island's infinite timeloop.
The only image no one seems to have an answer for is the bottom right one, in which Slone is seen looking at--and maybe talking to--an apparent entity we've never seen in Fortnite. Its purple and pink hues are reminiscent of the mysterious dark matter that more than once drowned the island in chaos, but I'm actually not so comfy speculating right now as to what it may be.
Something strange I noticed during yesterday's downtime: If you take a closer look at the "Slone's Mission" loading screen, you can see a mysterious shape in one of the images...— Shiina (@ShiinaBR) June 9, 2021
Maybe we will learn more about this shape in the future? 👀 pic.twitter.com/90lh2sUBhx
Still, I think this single screenshot tells a empathetic story for Slone. Whether she was basically kidnapped, recruited, or born into her life as an IO trainee, I feel sure saying she was never given much control over her own trajectory. A child as young as she appears in those images should be given more freedom than a strict diet of quantum physics and martial arts. Her loading screen is titled "Slone's Mission," but was it ever a mission she could choose to decline? I think not.
If Slone is so ruthless, it's only because she was made that way by her environment. And isn't that the sort of villain origin story we can get behind? I admit I do keep hoping for Slone to turn the corner and lay down her arms to reveal a softer side, but maybe I shouldn't. Maybe I, and all Fortnite fans, need to accept her for who she is, but not without some empathetic understanding of how she got that way. After all, we are each just the temporary outcomes of all of our previous experiences.
Fortnite's story is Marvel-esque in that it's mainly concerned with bombastic fights and jokey dialogue, but I do think, like the best of the MCU, there's an underlying heart to it all. Doctor Slone, as ice-hearted and unforgiving as she may truly be, represents the subtle nuances of the Fortnite story I love so much, and I'll be rooting for her always--no matter if she finds a winding road to heroism or is forever the once broken, twice shy bad guy at the core of the Fortnite saga.
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