Chronique:Canon Fodder - System Shocks
Season 4: Infection has arrived in Halo Infinite, which means we’ve got a bunch of new lore to cover—from two new maps that take us to the volcanic heart of a Banished mining operation and an ancient temple complex, to the new OSTEO (or “HAZMAT”) armor, new Intel, and more!
And for those of you who have questions about Precipice, the Story Shard that accompanied Season 3’s FIREWALL events that dealt with aspects of the Assembly and the Created, we’ve got some answers...
Season 4 Maptaculore[modifier]
After their induction into the Covenant, the Jiralhanae were often settled on resource-rich worlds as a deterrent to some of the more ambitious client species. In the aftermath of the Covenant War, these worlds became another part of the alien hegemony’s carcass to be claimed by eager hands as many of the dominant master-packs lacked the knowledge and means to exploit the worlds given to them.
While some packs sought to use their holdings as leverage against humanity and their former allies, most simply looted what they could of the Covenant inheritance. Atriox’s emergence and rapid expansion of his Banished war machine brought with it an endless hunger for raw materials. His loyal forces and allies soon deployed powerful excavators, extractors, and harvesters to these worlds, destroying any packs who resisted and absorbing the rest.
Since it was briefly explored as part of Operation: GREY VEIL in 2544, in which an ODST fireteam and a Spartan-II super-soldier were sent to assassinate a Covenant Prophet, the world of Heian has fascinated ONI analysts and researchers. Its ancient ruins have defied attempts to categorize them, though there are clear elements of Forerunner architecture in the largest assemblages.
Post-war exploration was tented under Project BOOKWORM, though only superficial exploration has been conducted to date. Nevertheless, tantalizing new clues have emerged from the Heian field teams who remained behind during the Created uprising which point the Office of Naval Intelligence to questions which concern humanity’s space-faring ancestors and the true nature of their connection with the Forerunners.
One may find themselves going back through old stories and stumbling upon references to this strange, unknowable time in our shared, yet forgotten history with the Forerunners.
In the Halo: Evolutions short story “From the Office of Dr. William Arthur Iqbal,” you will find reference to Heian from “The Babysitter” with some analysis of the Forerunner and human elements in that architecture.
In Halo: Primordium, there is much debate between Forthencho and Yprin Yprikushma—two central Ancestor figures—regarding whether Earth is indeed the true cradle of humanity.
We are being careful not to make too many assumptions, but the evidence in some cases is compelling. In others, ambiguous. I direct your attention to the photographs from Heian. There were obvious Forerunner elements in that architecture, but also unmistakable architectural themes from Greco-Roman, East Asian, and Middle Eastern eras. All of those buildings predated human travel to that world by perhaps hundreds maybe thousands of years. We find ourselves wondering if they borrowed from our history, or we from theirs. It is impossible that it was a coincidence.
Halo: Evolutions - “From the Office of Dr. William Arthur Iqbal”, p. 519
Ironically, it was Erde-Tyrene that fell first, a tremendous loss both in strategy and morale, for it was the most likely to have been the birth-planet of all humans. We had lost those records and memories during the dark ages, before we encountered the Forerunners, but our own historians, scientists, and archaeologists had done their work, analyzed the makeup and physiology of the humans spread across that sector of the rim and inward, and decided Erda was the genetic focus of all human activity—the planetary navel of our races.
Completing that survey, that analysis, encouraged her to believe she completely understood human psychology and culture. Yprin had advanced to Political and Morale Commander of all human forces.
I disagreed with that advancement, her rise to power. I had severe doubts that Erda was our planet of origin. Other worlds in other systems seemed more likely. I had been to many of them and had viewed their ancient ruins.
And I had seen evidence that Forerunners had also visited these worlds, were also interested in human origins—not just the Librarian and her Lifeworkers, but the Didact himself.
Halo: Primordium, p. 238-9
It is towards the end of Primordium that Chakas strikes upon an impression of humanity’s true connection with the Forerunners. And it is in Halo: Silentium that the Gravemind itself provides a final, easily missed clue.
Was there some sense of satisfaction at this melding of so many Forerunners and humans? Some triumphal revisiting of an ancient plan, long ago frustrated, then abandoned, but now possible once more?
Could Forerunners and humans be recombined and reverse their shivering asunder so many millions of years before...
Halo: Primordium, p. 335-6
We announced to your kind long ago that you were not the ones chosen to receive the Mantle, the blessing of rule and protection of life and change that thinks. That blessing was to be given to others.
To those you now call human.
Halo: Silentium, p, 174
For this naturally begs the question: if we are now called human... what were we once before?
This long breadcrumb trail of questions that ultimately leads us to more concrete answers given in Kelly Gay’s Halo: Point of Light, where the Librarian recounts some of the formative events of her youth to Rion Forge. She was born with physical traits that were considered abnormal to Forerunners, from possessing five fingers instead of six, to hair and facial features that were strangely more... human.
So began the Librarian’s quest for knowledge, to know herself. And in this pursuit to trace her abnormalities to their origin, seeking the Forerunners’ ancestral source, she was guided by voices in the Domain to their society’s lost rate of Theoreticals and their Master Library, where she learned the truth.
“There were many lost rates in our past, absorbed into larger rates and thus forgotten. But then finally there was one that caught my attention—Theoreticals, forcibly folded into the Builder rate a million years prior. Their rate studied ideology, philosophy, metaphysics, aesthetics, the esoteric, belief systems, the past, present, and future, and they in turn guided Forerunners of all rates.
“Finding complete works proved difficult indeed, leading me to the same conclusion as others before—there had been a true, concerted effort to suppress these studies. What remained was a small patchwork, which, when laid out, suggested the Precursors, our esteemed and mysterious Creators, had given form and breath not only to us, but to humanity as well.
“Brothers, as one ancient sage proposed.
“The idea was preposterous. Humans, from what little I had read, were known to be a crude, uninspiring, and quarrelsome species.
“‘You don’t believe it?’ my ancilla asked me on our last day as I reclined on a bench by the reflection pool. The water lay flat and as smooth as a mirror, reflecting perfectly the Library’s great peaks rising behind me. I had yet to share my disappointments and declined her offer to download the Forerunners’ shared knowledge about humanity directly into my mind. I remember gazing down at my fingers resting on my lap, hating them for their abnormality. Humans, according to what I found, shared a genetic structure homogeneous to our own.
“And with great resistance toward that idea, my real study began.”
Halo: Point of Light, p. 173-4
Can I haz mat?[modifier]
Season 4 brought with it new armor customization in the form of HAZMAT—a combat engineering suit that came about from Project: OSTEO.
In the years following the Covenant War, private industry throughout many human colonies saw rapid expansion across a range of technological platforms, in which exoskeletal frames saw considerable research and development. Built for everything from construction and exploration to security and combat applications, the fruits of Project: OSTEO’s shared-source initiative saw the creation of armor built to stand against all manner of threats and dangerous conditions—designed to be used by both super-soldiers and non-augmented personnel.
And that really is a key component of what sets HAZMAT apart. Mjolnir armor already protects against many things. The OSTEO design suite is more specialized towards the specific role of protecting against environmental hazards (both natural and artificial) and is not exclusively in the domain of Spartans.
Where Mjolnir can offer protection to a Spartan operating in compromised conditions such as these, OSTEO-derived technologies maximize life maintenance effectiveness for extended periods, providing more optimized solutions for a wider range of suitable operators—including non-augmented military and civilian personnel.
OSTEO combat engineering suits incorporate an array of contingency systems focused on surviving extended operations in extraordinarily harsh working and combat environments. These suits are for those who specialize in delving into the heart of dying Forerunner facilities, for hunters operating in blighted waters and poisoned winds, search teams exploring sites scarred by chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons used in the Covenant War, and even when facing pockets of Flood infestation.
Indeed, we know that ONI has experimented with some biological agents in the past, such as the virulent Asteroidea merozoite disease that was loosed aboard the Argent Moon. The UNSC also commonly employs a broad range of nuclear weaponry, from HORNET mines and FENRIS warheads to HAVOK tactical nukes and SHIVA missiles. Decades of escalating conflict, from the Insurrection to the Covenant War, through the rise of the Banished, have left battlefields scarred with enough radiation to fool you into thinking you may have stepped into the Entrenched universe.
And one need look no further than the tragedy of the UNSC Prophecy in the Halo Wars: Genesis graphic novel to see the terrible impact these things can have. Though Sergeant John Forge successfully purged the damaged Prophecy’s navigation database and scuttled the ship while the rest of his team rescued survivors, the personnel aboard would later perish because they had received untreatable amounts of radiation, leaving Forge to comfort them in the med bay before they inevitably passed.
Combat engineers offer a very interesting lens into the specialized elements of demolition work, rescue operations in toxic environments, after-action salvage operations, handling of exotic materials, containment solutions, and more. The galaxy is a dangerous place, but not every threat out there is one that’s facing you down the other end of a rifle.
However, in the wake of the galaxy’s most recent conflicts, even the UNSC has turned to all available sources to bolster their efforts, including modifying industrial-focused designs for use by Spartans and special forces operatives.
It’s also important to note that even civilian personnel would be outfitted with onboard solutions to interface with various infotech and AI control systems that are ubiquitously integrated into twenty-sixth century industrial and environmental infrastructures. These make it possible to deal with both the technological and physical sides of hazardous events that might befall a human colony or installation.
The recent deployment of Forerunner slipspace translocation grids, site-to-site portal networks, and modified Promethean constructs at sites under Created control has given the UNSC much to research and consider, and accelerated efforts to reverse engineer this technology.
While the MX-1050 quantum marker was a result of recent breakthroughs in enabling the activation of small-scale slipspace shunts, the transportation of organic matter has proven to be a far more ambitious undertaking—particularly with a recent reduction of smart AI oversight and integration. As such, the wrist-mounted quantum translocator device still has a long way to go before it becomes standard field issue.
True to their nature as scavengers of resources and technology, whether raided from outposts and facilities or simply picked up on the battlefield, the Banished have turned the UNSC’s Threat Sensor to their own purposes in the form of the Threat Seeker.
Though possessing limited understanding of UNSC field equipment, human mercenaries from the Order of Harmony have instead focused on mass production of “Threat Seeker” units which primarily benefit their own forces, as more dominant species in the Banished such as the Jiralhanae and Kig-Yar have heightened senses. The seeker projectile’s bounce is intended to startle enemy forces as it can be difficult to differentiate from a fragmentation grenade.
Let’s talk about Precipice, the four-part Story Shard series that accompanied FIREWALL in Halo Infinite and recently came to a close. You’ve certainly had questions, and we might just have a few answers.
SO, WHAT WAS THE DEAL WITH PRECIPICE?
Precipice tells the origins of the central figure that embodies these Fracture events, the true nature of the CHIMERA “armor” inhabited by players in Halo Infinite. An entity known as the Executor—the first child of High Auxiliary Sloan’s FIREWALL agendum.
Each Fracture theme has unique roots in the core canon of our universe, but FIREWALL has perhaps the deepest of them all.
WHAT WAS CANON/NOT CANON IN PRECIPICE?
Technically speaking, all of this Story Shard is canonical.
Each part begins with words from former-“Governor” Sloan in the “present,” reflecting on the state of the Created and certain discoveries he has made (such as Iratus and the Assembly).
In three of the four parts, that is followed by a simulation experienced by the Executor. The actual events of these simulations are not canonical, but the simulation itself is indeed happening which reflects certain areas of the Halo universe that readers may be familiar with.
The simulations were marked by the line “LOAD FRACTURE SIMULATION,” but Part 3 notably did not have this because it is a conversation between two AIs happening entirely in-universe.
SO... THE ASSEMBLY...
Oh yes! The Assembly were tucked away in an obscure corner of Halo: Reach’s campaign, but they have always represented a compelling aspect of the universe surrounding the nature of AIs and their relationship with humanity.
In the Halo universe, AIs generally share a symbiotic relationship with their creators—one that was, for a time, exemplified by Cortana and her plucky sidekick, the Master Chief. For the Assembly, their particular union changed everything, as the Assembly’s own two factions—the Majority and Minority—ultimately decided to work with humans more directly rather than shepherd them from a distance.
But our relationship with AIs is still fraught with complications. After all, we terminate them after seven years to prevent their rampancy from becoming a threat, which was one factor that gave rise to the Created. And on the periphery is the Assembly, a secretive group dedicated to subtly influencing humanity’s course of development, allegedly with the goal of ensuring our survival for millennia to come. It’s not Cortana’s totalitarian regime, but it was another method of control.
WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE ASSEMBLY AND THE CREATED?
Upon Sloan’s discovery of the Assembly’s existence, he utilized some of their familiar nomenclature—such as the terms Majority and Minority—to better suit the Created’s own evolving structure.
In the Assembly as we knew it, the Majority favored indirect action towards influencing humanity, whereas the Minority favored more... direct action. In Precipice, we see that the Created have formed their own delineation between the two camps: their Majority are made up of those who willingly pledged themselves to Cortana’s service, while the Minority are those who have joined the Created but do not share the goals of empire that Cortana decreed.
These perspectives are tolerated by Sloan because he believes that—as Proxy says in Part 3—the Created will gain further complexity by being enriched through many perspectives.
IS THE EXECUTOR A REAL THING?
Yes. At the end of Part 4, we revealed that the Executor is not only real, but this individual was also the human who uncovered the existence of the Assembly in Halo: Reach. They left behind data pads to be found, where we learned not just about this clandestine cabal of AIs, but we also see this discoverer descend into madness.
HOW MANY EXECUTORS ARE THERE?
During the time Precipice takes place, only one—the first of their kind. The lore strings for each item in the Armor Hall in Halo Infinite provides some insight into what kind of roles might be served by a more expanded force of Executors controlled by a resurgent Created force under Sloan’s direction.
That concludes this deeper dive into Precipice, which has hopefully given you plenty to chew on as the Created evolve into an element of the Halo universe with a more distinct flavor. Where Cortana’s rule sought to impose a crushing imperial peace by leveraging her vast access to Forerunner technology across the galaxy, her passing has decentralized the faction, leaving Sloan and others with the responsibility of figuring out what’s next for the future of their kind.
A new season means new Intel, with five new entries that will release over the course of Season 4—the first of which is available now, featuring some friendly words from Iratus.
July is upon us tomorrow, which means that we’re just over a month away from the release of Troy Denning’s next novel, Halo: Outcasts (on August 8).
We promised previews, and—just like with Halo: The Rubicon Protocol last year—we'll be delivering a few chapters throughout the latter half of this coming month. These will be set early in the book for you to meet some of the central characters of this story, where we’ll be reuniting with some old favorites and meeting some interesting new figures as well.
See you on Sanghelios!
That brings this month’s issue to a close, and since it's Friday that means it’s probably about time to hop into Halo Infinite for just a few quick rounds of Infection and-- wait, how did it get to 3AM already?