Were the underground ruins that Orta travels through in episode 6 one of the Ancient Towers serving as one of the few gateways to Sestren? Read this theory and weigh up the evidence for yourself.
Deep beneath the area that, before the Great Fall, used to be home to the state-nation of Li Vis, there are a series of deep underground passages. We are first introduced to this maze-like cavern when Orta follows Abadd through the mountains beyond the Forbidden Sea. There is a forest here, and somewhere in its midst a ruin pokes up from a split in the ground and reveals the entrance to a vertical passageway. Abadd silently enters, and Orta, drawn on through sheer curiosity, follows, only to be chased by a large churook that fires all kinds of missiles and weaponry at her and the dragon whom she rides. This is the start of Panzer Dragoon Orta’s sixth episode. The question is, were these ancient passageways merely another set of ruins left behind by the Ancients, or something more? Within the heart of the ruins there is a gateway to Sestren. Panzer Dragoon Saga’s Tower Report 3 confirms that in each of the Towers were gateways to Sestren. The question is, were Orta and Abadd actually flying through one of the Towers themselves?
Let’s look at what evidence we have, and we’ll start by going back to the Saturn Panzer games, which talk and show us what the Towers look like and how they function. For starters, not all Towers were the same. Between Lagi’s “heretic” birth in Panzer Dragoon Zwei and the Heresy Dragon’s final confrontation with the Sestren AI at the end of Panzer Dragoon Saga, the Heresy Dragon and his various riders came across three separate Towers, all distinctly different from one another. In the original Panzer Dragoon game, the Tower that the Empire discovered was short and stubby, in comparison to the island Tower that stood tall over the lake of Uru. Shelcoof, the flying Tower that destroyed Lundi’s village in Panzer Dragoon Zwei, isn’t even shaped in the form of a traditional tower at all; in fact it is longer than it is higher, making it more of a horizontal “tower” than anything else.
The point is, there is no pre-defined shape of what a Tower in the Panzer Dragoon series has to be in order to be classed as a Tower. The Ancients were clearly a creative people, having constructed a wide range of ruins, weapons, and even biological creatures, and it seems likely that they wanted each of the Towers, their finest creations, to have its own look and feel. With that in mind, why couldn’t the ruins in episode 6 of Panzer Dragoon Orta be a Tower as well?
Just to play devil’s advocate, supposing that Shelcoof, the Tower of the Sky, was a one-off construction, and the Ancients had made all the other Towers traditional tall buildings that started from ground level and ascended high into the sky, wouldn’t that rule out these ruins as a Tower? Not necessarily. During the Great Fall, much of the Continent underwent radical changes. Throughout the land, the landscapes changed; mountains fell, and canyons appeared deep in the ground. Over time, the world transformed as the planet shook from the deactivation of the Towers and new landforms were born. If these ruins were once a Tower, perhaps it was buried deep beneath the planet as the destruction caused by the Great Fall remolded the Continent. The ruins are located in quite a rough, mountainous area, which could have been above sea level prior to the conclusion of Panzer Dragoon Saga.
Regardless of the ruins’ height above ground level, the entrance appears to be an opening in the “roof” of the ruins, rather than a side door, since Abadd and Orta flew in from above. The passage down into the heart of the ruins is also a straight vertical passageway, much like the central section of the Tower of Uru that Edge and Azel flew through to get to the ground floor of the structure. Although Orta’s journey through the ruins wasn’t a completely downward flight, there were several points in the journey when the dragon took a dive and the pair plummeted straight down into the depths of the ruins. As far as I am aware, at no point does the dragon actually travel upwards, although they do travel horizontally for a reasonable distance on their journey through the ruins.
You may be thinking, “weren’t all of the Towers destroyed at the end of Panzer Dragoon Saga?” According to Panzer Dragoon Orta’s encyclopaedia, this assumption may not be entirely accurate. The entry about the Great Fall states, “by destroying a great portion of them, the world’s delicate balance was skewed, and chaos ensued” referring to the Ancient ruins that were destroyed in the Great Fall. Although this could mean that all of the Towers were destroyed and the other Ancient ruins were the only ones to survive, it’s also possible that some of the Towers managed to escape the wrath of the Great Fall as well. However, even if all the Towers were destroyed physically on the outside, there may have still been parts inside the ruins that were able to function, such as the structure’s defense systems.
The ruins in episode 6 of Panzer Dragoon Orta contain a portal that transports Orta “into the circuits of Sestren”. In Panzer Dragoon Saga, Zadoc tells us, “for one to make contact with Sestren, one must open the gate to cross the gap in time and space. Sestren can be reached from any Tower, but no methods of opening the gate have ever been discovered.” We learn in the game that Azel, the drone who was built to interface with the Tower, was designed to open the gateway into the Sestren network. Zadoc tells us that Sestren can be entered from any Tower, but he doesn’t say anything about other Ancient ruins. My belief is that the reason why he only mentions Towers as gateways to Sestren, and not other Ancient ruins, is because only Towers could be used to enter the network. Let’s take into consideration the importance of Sestren for a moment. The deactivation of the Tower network due to a direct assault on Sestren caused the disaster that was the Great Fall to happen. Something tells me this wasn’t marked on the Ancients’ year planner. The Ancients posted one dragon, the most powerful of their pure-type creations, at each Tower (with at least one exception, the Tower of Uru, which had a massive warship instead). It would be logical for the Towers to be the only entrances to Sestren because they are so heavily defended. If any of the other ruins also housed entrances to Sestren, they would surely contain guardian dragons too, yet in none of the Panzer Dragoon games have we encountered any such guardians. In Panzer Dragoon Orta, the Tower network had been deactivated, so the guardian dragons of the Towers had presumably gone into hibernation, deactivated, or died. This would explain the lack of a guardian dragon, if the ruins in Panzer Dragoon Orta were indeed a Tower.
But how would the dragon enter the astral passages in Panzer Dragoon Orta? After all, the Heresy Dragon spent three entire games trying to find a way into the domain of Sestren, and only succeeded because he found Azel, the key element in the struggle between Craymen, the Empire, and the Seekers over the Tower. If the Heresy Dragon had so much trouble entering Sestren the first time, how could he enter again so easily? There are several theories. The first is that Azel possibly wasn’t the only drone who could enter Sestren. There may have been other drones who could open the gate, in which case Abadd or Orta’s presence in the ruins could have done that. The second theory is that Azel could have been the only drone with the ability to open the gate. Since Orta is Azel’s daughter, she may have inherited her mother’s ability to interface with the Ancient technology genetically. One last theory is also possible. When the Heresy Dragon defeated Sestren at the end of Panzer Dragoon Saga he tells us, “the will of the ancients is now with me.” Such a claim could be interpreted as the Heresy Dragon gaining control over the Sestren network, or in other words, taking Sestren’s ‘job’ into his own hands. When the dragon nears the portal leading to Sestren at the end of episode 6, a mysterious female voice says, “Gene base code 12 confirmed. Welcome home, master.” For a start, calling Orta a master rather than a mistress would be slightly odd (although could make sense in certain contexts), but mentioning gene base code 12 suggests a reference to the twelve D-Units that were merged into the Heresy Dragon’s DNA in Panzer Dragoon Saga. At any rate, there are enough options here to prove that there was a reason why the Heresy Dragon and Orta were able to enter Sestren through this ‘sunken Tower’.
There are enough reasons to believe that the Towers were the only methods of entering Sestren, but how is Orta able to leave Sestren without exiting through a Tower? For a start, nowhere within the series does it state that the way out of Sestren must be through an active Tower, so even if there is only one way to enter Sestren, there could be more than one way of leaving from it. Also, one must question how Sestren itself works. Is it real, or a virtual reality? When Orta exits Sestren at the end of episode 7, the dragon roars and the “system” transports the pair to block 2-8-9. If Sestren is a virtual reality, or at least behaves in a manner that functions like a computer network, then this would almost be like a computer protocol looking up an IP address and forwarding a packet of information (in this case, Orta and her dragon) to another location in, or outside of, the network. As with a computer firewall, packets coming into a network need to be authenticated first (by a Tower interfacing with Sestren), while to send the packet back out of the network any security could be done from inside of the network that the packet was currently in. If what I just explained is over your head, you could also look at it as a one door lock. A building that requires a key to enter doesn’t necessarily require a key to leave.
Overall, we can’t confirm that the ruins in Panzer Dragoon Orta were really a Tower, but if only for tradition’s sake, wouldn’t it be cool if the ruins were a Tower? It would almost be funny if this really were the case. Many Panzer Dragoon fans were disappointed that there was no Tower in Panzer Dragoon Orta, and yet it’s quite possible that we all flew right through one… without realising what it truly was! Perhaps a future game (if there is one) will reveal the true nature of these underground ruins, but more likely it will remain another mystery for players to ponder over until the end of time.