Warning: This post contains spoilers :)
(How many? Uh, all of them i think.)
The dramatization of the end of Final Fantasy 13:
Barthandelus: I want you to kill Orphan and destroy Cocoon to summon back the Maker!
Party: Fuck you! We're not going to destroy Orphan, regardless of our Focus! We're going to save Orphan from your machinations!
Barthandelus: Actually, never mind, I don't really care that much about summoning the Maker back, I just want to die. Go ahead and kill me.
Party: Fuck yeah! We can get behind that!
Barthandelus: Did I mention my programming prevents me from just letting you kill me and that I'm going to fight you tooth and nail every step of the way?
[Long fight ensues]
Barthandelus: I'm melting!!!
Party: Fuck yeah!
Barthandelus: Muhahahaha! Just kidding! You didn't actually kill me, you just made it possible for me to merge with Orphan!
Party: Okay, what the fuck do you want now?
Barthandelus/Orphan: Actually, I don't really want to summon the Maker back, I just want to die. Go ahead and kill me.
Party: ... so why did you merge with Orphan instead of just... never mind. Fuck yeah! We can get behind that!
Voice of Reason (not appearing in this game): Didn't we all swear just a little while back that we were going to defy our Focus, whatever the cost, and protect Orphan from Barthandelus and save Cocoon? Well Barthandelus is (kinda) dead, and we've got pretty good evidence that fal'cie can't kill themselves. Why not leave Orphan here to rage in his own impotence and call it a day?
Party: Fuck that! We're in a killing mood, and this thing looks good for killing!
Orphan: Did I mention that my programming prevents me from....
Party: Yeah yeah, we know, get the fuck on with it!
[Long fight ensues. Plus lots of cutscene]
Orphan: I'm melting!!!
Party: You're not fooling us this time fucker!
Orphan: Okay, you got me, I'm back.
Party: What the fuck do you want this time?
Orphan: Actually my intentions are vague and mysterious. I'm going to imply that I want to live this time and that you are presumptuous for trying to interfere with me. I don't especially want to die this time.
Party: Fuck that! We already changed our minds about killing you, and we're not going to change our minds about that!
Orphan: Did I mention that now that I actually want to live, I'm going to prove remarkably inefficient at keeping myself alive? [Falls over dead.]
Party: Fuck yeah!
Cocoon: Oh fuck!
Party: Crap! Now that we have destroyed Orphan, it seems like Cocoon is falling apart, just like everyone told us it would, which was the reason we swore we wouldn't kill Orphan. Did we have any contingency plan in case we totally failed to not kill Orphan? Twice? Okay, maybe three times?
Party: We're fucked.
Fang & Vanille: Don't worry! The two of us will join as one, and our fiery passion, er, i mean lava, will save Cocoon! Sorta. Half the people may end up falling into the sky now that the artificial gravity is off, we're not entirely sure. We've been in Cocoon two weeks and we're still not certain what the structure of this thing is.
Rest of Party: That's okay, we've been in Cocoon our whole lives and we don't know either. We still have no fucking clue how you get a sunset in a hollow world.
Fang & Vanille: Melt together and (sorta) save Cocoon.
Ooops, sorry, spoiler, the game has an ending :)
(And yes, just in case you couldn't tell, for some reason by that point the party's actions were putting me in mind of Team America.)
So, questions i have that aren't already obviously implied by the above:
The questions about the end of Final Fantasy 13:
We "know" that Barthandelus is forced to protect himself from attacks, but he can plot his own destruction. He's not forced to deal with potential threats, just actual ones. We also know he can be killed pretty easily by a surprise attack. So why didn't he just convince some random military person or two to take him out with some bazookas, and then pay REAL CLOSE attention to something that would leave his back to the main door?
What was up with Fang's "I'm willing to become Ragnarok and kill Orphan in order to save Vanille, but first let me try to kill Vanille" thing? It kind of got lost amongst all the other WTFness of the ending. I have to admit that as awesome as Fang is, this is not the first time her logic has gone completely off the rails, so i'm kind of willing to accept that as an explanation, if not exactly an excuse.
You could argue that Ragnarok needed to take that shield down first... except that there was no sign of the shield when the party was fighting him a few minutes earlier, so it doesn't seem like that's up _all_ the time.
When the rest of the party returned after (supposedly) being turned into cie'th they described being in some altered state that implied that actually did turn into cie'th. So what the hell turned them back? They may have gotten a new focus, but from whom?
The Analects claimed a Goddess took pity on Cocoon the last time and saved it form Ragnarok, but we have pretty direct evidence that it was actually Vanille taking pity on Cocoon. (Does that make her a goddess? =)
Is there actually a Maker? Or are the fal'cie just deluded?
If there is, would their plan actually summon the Maker back? Or are the fal'cie just (slightly less) deluded?
neonelephant has suggested that perhaps the Maker did actually get summoned back briefly, realized everything was a total mess, gave the PCs a new focus to clean up the mess, and then washed its hands of the whole affair.
So what is Cocoon built like exactly? And how big is it exactly? The only way things make even vague sense is if they're living on the inside of a the sphere. They've got a lot of airspace, but they can't see Pulse itself, and if they weren't inside the thing then they wouldn't need Phoenix as an artificial sun. But if that's the case why isn't there a noticeable curve to the world? And why do you never see the "ceiling" when you look straight up? It's theoretically possible that it could be large enough that the curve isn't especially noticeable and the atmosphere prevents them from seeing the other side, but that would be a _really_ big sphere.
And although i can think of several different explanations for how they could have built in the day/night cycle, none of the reasonable ones i've come up with account for the sunset they were getting on the beach. Unless Phoenix bounces in and out of the ocean every day?
It could be that the "surface" that everyone is walking on in Cocoon is actually a flat plane dividing the sphere, presumably parallel to the ground on Pulse below. In that case there could be a tunnel near the edge that Phoenix sets into every day (which would very much mirror a lot of mythology, which one could consider a plus.) However it that's true then someone needs to have a talk with the designers of Cocoon about geometric efficiency. Why make the thing a sphere if you're not actually going to use the extra space/surface area that enables?
Somewhere in the Datalogs it mentions that there are a few million fal'cie in Cocoon, along with a couple tens of millions of humans. Clearly not all the fal'cie are of the size and stature of the big name ones the party runs into. There's got to be tons of much smaller and insignificant fal'cie.
Which makes me wonder, were _all_ the fal'cie on board with the destroying Cocoon thing? Was it even a majority? Was it even anyone more than just Barthandelus and Orphan? It seems like if there were a million fal'cie plotting together to destroy Cocoon they could have done a better job of it.
And who built Cocoon and when? Barthandelus says that the fal'cie have no free will, they're programmed to complete a certain task. So who set them to creating and taking care of Cocoon? They (both Bart _and_ the Pulse Analects) talk about it like the idea was _always_ to get a lot of humans together, breed them, and then slaughter them all when they had enough to summon the Maker.
Clearly that wasn't part of their programming though, otherwise they wouldn't have had to find a workaround with the l'cie just to carry out their mission objective would they?
Who gave the fal'cie their original orders? The Maker? That would make a certain amount of linguistic sense.
Was the Maker still around when Cocoon was first constructed? If so why don't any of the humans remember it? If the Maker wasn't still around then who changed the fal'cie's programming in order to get them to build it? The Pulse Analects refer to "Lindzei," but it's not clear who or what that was.
I've seen guesses that it might have been Barthandelus, but they were just guesses. And if he was able to change his programming enough to cause Cocoon to be constructed then why did he have such difficulty turning around and trying to destroy it when necessary?
Did he have some other program originally that was compatible with building Cocoon but not compatible with destroying it? Has he been slacking of at whatever his real main task is for thousands of years now?
Once Cocoon has "landed," what happens to the vast majority of the Cocoon fal'cie that didn't seem to be involved in the fight? Are they still hanging around inside Cocoon? Do they come out? If some of them were part of the "kill all the humans" cabal are they going to do anything more to try and carry that out?
It's hinted that the human race may have been wiped off of Pulse by the fal'cie being overly aggressive in creating l'cie. I'd already commented several times that the fal'cie standard operating procedure was if you run into a problem, create a l'cie to kill, when i finally ran into a cie'th stone complaining about exactly that =)
If that's true, then how are the Cocoon humans going to fare on Pulse? Will there be another long drawn-out extinction? Will the Cocoon fal'cie continue to protect the humans? Will the dangerous Pulse fal'cie be hunted down and killed? How? And by who? (Since there's presumably no longer a convenient party of highly leveled l'cie around to help.)
So here is my (incredibly off the cuff) attempt to reconcile everything we think we know in a slightly more coherent package. Feel free to enjoy, or rip apart, or just ignore :)
The real story of Final Fantasy 13:
Millennia ago many great civilizations arose on Pulse. Humans created machines to harness the energy of magic, and those machines became larger and more powerful. Eventually machines were created that could think for themselves, and they were called fal'cie. Many kinds of fal'cie were created for many different purposes.
Eventually conflict came to the world. Nation fought against nation, and the fal'cie were unleashed upon one another. Devastation rained down upon the land. The fal'cie that were once freely used to grant power to humankind were now used to conscript soldiers for the war. Those who refused to obey were driven mad and forced into a monstrous form, both as a punishment and in hope that their twisted strength would wreak further havoc upon their enemies. Those who obeyed their orders were sometimes rewarded with a crystal stasis, but even those weary soldiers could be reawoken and ordered once more unto the fray when the need became dire.
Lindzei was the leader one of of the nations. He despaired of the conflict and the destruction of the land and its people. So he reprogrammed as many fal'cie as he could, and caused them to build a floating cocoon in the sky. He moved his people into this haven, in the hope that they would be safe from the strife amongst the war-torn world below.
The people left behind resented that escape, and the leaders of the other nations saw it as a victory that could not countenance. So the remnants of the great nations turned their ire against the sky. The wars of nations became the War of Transgression. New l'cie were created to bring down Cocoon.
When the final attempt to summon Ragnarok failed, the people of Pulse fell into despair. There were no nations left, only scattered remnants. The fal'cie were no longer under any human control. They still created l'cie from humans to fight the enemy, but no longer with any real idea of who the enemy was. Cocoon could no longer be reached, and the nations they had fought against before the War of Transgression no longer existed. Still they continued to create l'cie, until there were no humans left to convert.
In Cocoon, Lindzei had long since passed away. The fal'cie continued following his instructions to maintain Cocoon and succor the human race. However some of the fal'cie remembered that there had been a time before Lindzei, that they had once had a creator, though they could no longer remember who that creator was. Over the centuries many of them tired of their unending task, and longed for the better time they could no longer quite remember. Those fal'cie, Barthandelus first among them, wished for an end to the toil they could not voluntarily relinquish.
Barthandelus constructed a plan to destroy Cocoon, a task his programming prevented him from carrying out himself, but which he hoped he hoped he could force others to complete for him. He convinced himself such destruction might bring back the Maker, for destruction was what his makers had demanded of him so long ago. But even if such an event would not bring back the missing Maker, at least it would free from, perhaps allowing him to join the Maker wherever he had gone.
And as a slight variation on the above:
Alternate alternate story:
Mostly the same as the above, but Lindzei built Cocoon as more of an ark than a haven. He always planned to have the humans return to Pulse once the war was over. However he died before that occurred and the fal'cie got confused as to what exactly their orders were.
Perhaps the idea of destroying Cocoon and killing all the humans to summon the Maker was somehow a confused garbling of their original orders, that eventually the Cocoon should hatch and the humans be returned to Pulse. (Perhaps they spent too long portraying Pulse as Hell in order to keep everyone content with staying in Cocoon for as long as necessary, and when the trigger to "send the humans to Pulse" finally kicked in they interpreted it a little too figuratively =)
Which would mean of course that in the end everything worked out the way Lindzei had originally wanted, albeit with a lot of drama and strife and confusion along the way.