Wow, it’s been awhile

September 17, 2012

Time sure flies when you’re shooting digital monsters to avoid thinking about the real life ones doesn’t it? But, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, my words shall once again arise from the rapidly firing synapses of my brain to delight and amaze you.

What could bring me to dust this blog off and start anew? Why Halo of course! The upcoming release of Halo 4 got me thinking about the datapads from Halo: Reach, or more specifically, how I never found them all. So I began searching the web for them so as not to leave any stone unturned for story bits that might become relevant in the upcoming campaign.

Before I get started I’d like to thank www.forwarduntodawn.com and their contributor ‘Slightly Live’ for his collection and incredibly insightful breakdowns of said datapads. He successfully shed light on a dark corner of the Halo Universe that even I had not discovered. Sure there are other sites that have collected these texts, but I learned much more through Slightly Live’s breakdowns than I did on any of those other sites. What follows is a list of things that Slightly Live pointed out that I didn’t know.

For starters, it seems that our AIs banded together into some kind of consortium called “The Committee of Minds for Security” to help humanity prepare for the potential of aggressive aliens, and  through deceit and deception, slowly guided our advancements to increase our odds of survival. What really blows me away is that this congress of AI had discovered the existence of forerunner tech back in 2491. And the war with the Covenant didn’t even start until 2525. The AI decided to hide it from us; misplace the satellite/probe info as it were; because they were afraid we would use this alien technology to destroy ourselves. They compared it to giving a monkey a hand grenade.

There’s also a revelation about the Orion Project which, as you may or may not know, was the progenitor of the Spartan-II project. The Spartan-II program was responsible for the creation of our beloved Master Chief, Spartan 117. The Orion project apparently had TWO runs, both of which were a response to internal human conflicts during the colony wars, when our colony worlds rose up against their Earth centric governance, who they felt were out of touch and ill equipped to make laws governing life on the worlds they inhabited many light years away.

For me this begs the question, which iteration of the Orion project was Sgt. Avery Johnson a part of? The only reason that man survived the Flood in Halo 1 was due to the fact that, basically, the Flood didn’t like the way his blood tasted because of the tweaks he received through Project Orion. While that question goes unanswered, what IS clear is that these projects are deemed failures by the AI Minority Assembly due to the compassion of the humans in charge of the projects. Conversely, they praise Dr. Katherine Halsey’s "ruthlessness" (and possible chemical imbalance, as they put it) for the success of what then became the Spartan-II project. Halsey has always prescribed to the “can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” school of thought. She was willing to sacrifice a few, breaking several laws and ethical codes in the process, for the greater good of all humanity.

Datapads 8 and 9 are time stamped 2525, the year of first contact with the Covenant on the planet Harvest; as chronicled in the excellent novel Contact: Harvest by Joseph Staten, longtime employee of Bungie and contributor to a large portion of the Halo games’ stories. 8 relays a tribunal meeting in which the Committee of Minds are trying a rebel AI who went against the Council’s decision to steer humanity away from any alien contact. This supposes that this rebel is somehow responsible for a Kig-Yar (Jackal) trading vessel finding and raiding two human transport ships. The sacrificing of human lives so that humanity as a whole might become aware of the Covenant threat.

That harsh fact, combined with a reference in datapad 9 which refers to the AI Assembly as “Gods and Demons” leads me to believe that Cortana was the rebel AI responsible. Remember her quote from Halo3? “I have defied Gods and Demons. I am your shield; I am your sword. I know you; your past, your future. This is the way the world ends.” Consider that Cortana was created from a flash clone of Dr. Halsey’s brain, someone the Council themselves praised for her ruthless nature. Her willingness to sacrifice the few for the greater good of all by going through with the crazy biological experiments on children that produced the Spartan II’s did not succeed 100%. There were casualties. Casualties which Halsey herself deemed tragic but acceptable. Also consider that Cortana is one of the most free thinking and unshackled AI’s by design and necessity. She is willing to sacrifice lives if need be, but is fiercely protective of the Spartans, Master Chief in particular. The rebel almost HAS to be Cortana.

Yet another fact that I’ve never heard mentioned in ANY OTHER Halo fiction (and I’ve read it ALL) is the Committee of Minds for Security’s assessment of the actual threat of "glassing" a world. They mathematically determine that, assuming that the covenant have a fleet of equal size to the UNSC fleet, it would take their full fleet 30+ years of continuous plasma bombardment to COMPLETELY glass an Earth-like world. The Committee then agree to hide this fact from us in order to better galvanize our resolve and determination through fear. I find this information incredibly interesting, even though they consent that this calculation is the result of insufficient data.

The last third of the datapads haven’t been analyzed and posted by Slightly Live yet, so I don’t know if he has any interesting takes on them, but I didn’t discover anything new or mind blowing in the datapad content itself. If he brings up any interesting points I may comment on them later, but for now all I can do is twiddle my thumbs frantically till Karen Traviss’ new book “Halo: The Thursday War” comes out on October 2nd.

~Penguin

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