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Halo Tour Primer Circle 2B (CAUTION: SPOILERS)
Posted By: Lion O CyborgDate: 1/5/20 3:55 a.m.

CIRCLE 2: FORMATION OF THE COVENANT AND BEGINNING OF THE HUMAN-COVENANT WAR

Arc 2: Halo: Contact Harvest

While this isn’t the first Halo novel, it is the first time humans encountered the covenant at the planet Harvest in the outer colonies. Unlike Marathon, faster than light travel is now a reality thanks to Slipstream Space/Slipspace from Conflict: Freespace: The Great War and Freespace 2. Unlike Freespace, Halo slipspace doesn’t require the green wireframe balls known as jump nodes. (Freespace only didn’t use jump nodes if warping back to base)

Slipspace drives are referred to officially as “Shaw-Fujikawa Translight engines” which is a bit of a mouthful.

A keystone of the humanity’s colonisation efforts is the planet Reach in the Epsilon Eridanus system; an interstellar shipyard that builds warships for the UNSC (United Nations Space Command) navy, and colony ships, cruise ships and other star-barges for civilians. I think Tau Ceti is still a colony site, but it holds no importance in this universe anymore, with Harvest and Reach both taking its place.

It’s not all peachy keen as we also have Halo’s version of MIDA, simply called the Insurrection. Innies for short, by the marines among other, more colorful names.

I don’t know exactly how or when this game ties into the first novel, Halo: The Fall of Reach (not to be confused with Halo Reach) but parts of it do take place around the same time as the early portion of that book.

Contact Harvest follows Sgt Major Avery Jr Johnson, memetic badass and cool black solider extraordinaire. An attempt to catch a suspected Insurrectionist cell leader fails miserably and Johnson gets shore leave on Earth for 2 weeks. What happened is that an innie terrorist took a child hostage when she was caught during an explosives handoff in a diner and the father unknowingly blocked Avery’s shot at her so he couldn’t fire. Then marines stormed in to save the day, but the innie’s bomb went off as she pressed the detonator upon getting shot by the marines.

He returns to his home in Chicago at which point he finds out his beloved aunt has been dead for 3 days in her now freezing apartment. Distraught and stuck with PTSD from his failed op, Avery goes AWOL and slumps around town after his leave is up, drinking away his sorrows and passing out in an alley. He gets a break as he’s granted a transfer to the farming colony of Harvest in order to train a local militia. His old squadmate Byrne from TREBUCHET (the failed op) is also a drill sergeant there and he still has a bone to pick with Johnson for his presumed mistake. They reconcile after they meet the Covenant though.



Meanwhile, a fruit freighter called Horn of Plenty gets stuck in deep space after a slipspace jump failure and is subsequently raided by Kig-Yar privateers on the missionary/pirate ship Minor Transgression, working for the Covenant Ministry of Tranquillity. They were supposed to be exploring the edges of Covenant space to find new relics but decided to raid the alien ship and steal its food cargo.

They just so happened to have a grunt Deacon on board named Dadab, whose job for the Ministry included both supervising the search for Forerunner artifacts or offering a blessing, especially if it included alien items belonging to potential new Covenant member species. Such as Horn of Plenty’s NAV computer, which was removed from its housing to stop the SOS message it sent.

Their Huragok, Lighter-than-Some inspects the NAV computer and traces its origin back to Harvest. The Kig-Yar shipmistress come pirate captain welcomes the idea of more easy plunder for themselves.

The Covenant scan for Forerunner relics using planetary scanner devices called luminaries, and running a scan of the Epsilon Indi system where Harvest is leads them to find thousands upon thousands of relics on the planet. The captain decides to hide this discovery from the Ministry so she could pocket some for herself and her crew, planning to sell them on the Covenant black market.

They target the ship This End Up next as it appears to have one such relic, but were not expecting this ship to be manned. This End Up was one of the few freighters that still had a human crew, namely the pilot. He tries defending the new combine harvester design he was transporting from the invaders but Lighter-than-Some kills him to prevent him from harming Dadab. As for the relic, they find nothing.

The UNSC -especially their black ops spy agency, the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI)- take notice and use the Harvest militia as a front for defending from what they think is the insurrection, starting by setting a trap for the space pirates. They were indeed surprised to find the Kig-Yar and succeed in driving the pirate captain back to her ship before she destroys it in order to kill the aliens. She fails as both Johnson and Byrne who were the soldiers used for this op survive.

Dadab and Lighter than Some had already exposed the Kig-Yar pirate captain’s heresy before they escaped and are eventually picked up by brute Chieftain Maccabeus’s ship Rapid Conversion, who is in league with the scheming Vice Minister of Tranquillity. During the travel, Dadab runs dangerously low on methane as he did not have enough time to properly fill all his tanks and get spares before the Kig-Yar captain lit the methane to send her ship up in smoke.

Lighter-than-Some protects his friend by eating spare rations in order to produce more methane himself, which nearly kills him as all the food makes him heavier and producing the gas distends one of his gas sacks. He would have actually died too if there was gravity in the escape pod. Dadab takes all the methane he can but increasingly feels bad about it because he doesn’t want his engineer friend to go through his pain. He tries breathing as little as possible and using up the rest of his tanks when forced just so he doesn’t overburden the engineer. He even breaks one of the spirit dropships in Rapid Conversion’s hanger by accident when he turns on a stasis field to stop the Huragok from asphyxiating on the floor once the brute ship’s artificial gravity takes hold. It’s a heart-warming little scene between 2 alien friends.

This scene does however, become less heart-warming and a lot more unintentionally funny when after re-reading the book for the 3rd or 4th time, you realise that Lighter-than-Some is keeping Dadab alive by making him smell his farts, and the effort of farting for so long turns his anus inside out.

Back in High Charity, the Minister of Fortitude is contacted by the aforementioned Vice Minister about the Forerunner relic motherlode Minor Transgression found. Tranquillity Vice is discontent with their current Prophets and intends to usurp them, and then become a Prophet himself. He offers Fortitude to join him as a fellow Hierarch.

Now, Fortitude’s ministry deals with Forerunner relics and devices they can use. The member species still have mortal desires for wealth and power, which the right Forerunner tech could provide. The Ministry of Fortitude simply was responsible for deciding who got what.

I can understand if all this talk of alien politics and economics is boring you, though I personally don’t think so given how richly detailed Marathon’s terminals are. This doesn’t have the Pfhor terminals’ dark humour about bureaucratic executives though. No logs of faking deaths to pursue studying a foreign language story about people complaining about their interrogation for us.

So now we come to a more interesting bit: the glyph on every single relic in the luminary scan the privateers found was all the most sanctified, holy glyph in all of the Covenant: the symbol for the age of Reclamation.

It looks like a laughable edit of the Marathon symbol but that’s no accident. In fact, it’s quite a severe in-universe mistranslation as we find out later.

Humanity tries a peace offering for the Kig-Yar in one of Harvest’s parks but the Jiralhanae come instead, which not only were the humans at Harvest not expecting but were entirely unprepared for as they’d never seen brutes before. Maccabeus tries to communicate past the language barrier that they want the Forerunner relics they found in the capital city, such as the clusters they found around the bottom of the 7 space elevators but the humans think they mean “give us your planet”.

The meeting ends up a failure partly because they were expecting Kig-Yar, partly because they are unnerved by what they misread when shown the map of the relic scan and also because the brutes send a second ship around back in secret to search for the relics on their own, and one of the grunts decides against orders to attack the militia recruits standing guard there, leading the humans to retaliate. This does not lead to or cause the holy war. That part is yet to come and it’s much, much worse than this encounter.






Fortitude and Tranquillity Vice are able to blackmail the Prophet of Restraint into giving up his seat; if he doesn’t, the 2 ministers will reveal Restraint knocked up Tranquillity Vice’s wife despite being abstinent from having children (Which the San’Shyuum do to prevent inbreeding), forcing him out. https://halo.fandom.com/wiki/Prophet_of_Restraint

Know how I said the part where the Human-Covenant war began was worse? This is that part:

Now, in order to be allowed to use the reclamation relic scan as evidence for election as High Prophets in a High Council meeting, they need the blessing of the scan results from the Oracle i.e. Forerunner ancilla aboard the Dreadnaught, as well as spiritual advice from its caretaker and high priest of the abbey on the ship, the elderly San’Shyuum Philologist. No sooner has Fortitude input the scan results into AI then it awakes for the first time in potentially millennia.



This is where the BIG twist comes in: it’s not revealed in this book and only comes to light if you read between the lines in the Halo 3 terminals, but the “Oracle” on the keyship is none other than the Contender class AI Mendicant Bias, cured of the logic plague and wanting to atone for his betrayal of the Forerunners.

This next excerpt gets pretty long. When Mendicant reads the results, he wakes up and is FUCKING PISSED at the aliens:

“"FOR EONS I HAVE WATCHED" The Oracle’s deep voice reverberated inside its casing. Its eye-beam flickered with the cadence of the words as it pronounced in the San’Shyuum tongue "LISTENED TO YOU MISINTERPRET." Hearing the Oracle speak was, for many faithful members of the Covenant, like listening to the Forerunners’ own voice. Fortitude was appropriately humbled, but not just because the Oracle had finally spoken after eons of silence. In truth, he was just as surprised to learn that the Philologist was not (as he had always suspected) an utter fraud.

Fortitude had made this appointment for formality’s sake. Luminations presented as evidence before the High Council required the Oracle’s blessing, which for Ages had meant convincing the current Philologist to affirm on its behalf. But these holy hermits were just as political as any other powerful San’Shyuum-equally susceptible to bribes and blackmail. Fortitude had expected he would have to make some sort of “donation” to the Philologist (a small share of the reliquary perhaps) in order to get the blessing he desired.

But if the old charlatan is putting me on, Fortitude watched as the Philologist stepped from his chair and dropped feebly to his knees before the Oracle, he’s certainly giving it his all.

“Blessed Herald of the Journey!” the Philologist wailed, neck low and arms spread wide. “Tell us the error of our ways!” The Oracle’s eye dimmed. For a moment, it looked as though it would resume its long silence. But then it blazed anew, projecting a hologram of the reclamation glyph recorded by Rapid Conversion’s luminary.

"THIS IS NOT RECLAMATION!" The Oracle boomed. "THIS IS RECLAIMER!" Slowly, the glyph turned upside down, and its central shapes –the concentric circles, one low inside the other, connected by a thin line- took on a different aspect. The shapes’ previous arrangement had resembled the pendulum of a clock. Inverted, the glyph now looked like a creature with two curved arms locked above its head. The glyph shrunk in size as the hologram zoomed out to show the entire alien world, covered with thousands of these newly oriented Luminations.

"AND THOSE IT REPRESENTS ARE MY MAKERS!" Now it was Fortitude’s turn to feel weak in the knees. He grasped the arms of his throne and tried to come to terms with an impossible revelation: each glyph represented a Reclaimer, not a relic, and each Reclaimer was one of the planet’s aliens-which could only mean one thing.

“The Forerunners,” The Minister whispered. “Some were left behind.””

A short argument among the 3 San’Shyuum later, Mendicant Bias engages the keyship’s engines to full power and attempts to tear it free from High Charity in an attempt to return to humanity; the Forerunners’ and Precursors’ rightful heirs.

""I WILL REJECT MY BIAS AND MAKE AMENDS.”"

Tranquillity Vice holds the old priest at gunpoint, demanding he disable the ancilla, but Mendicant blinds him by glowing with an even brighter, angry light.

""MY MAKERS ARE MY MASTERS." The Oracle’s teardrop casing rattled inside its armature as if it was trying to take flight with its ship. "I WILL BRING THEM TO SAFETY ON THE ARK!"”

It’s at this point the ship temporarily shuts down and Mendicant goes quiet again: the Lekgolo worms exploring the computational pathway vents in the walls had caught fire when the circuits activated, both short circuiting and overheating the machinery, forcing it to shut down.

The San’Shyuum are all shocked by this revelation.

"“What should we believe?” Tranquillity asked, his voice quiet in the dark.

But the Minister was at a loss for words.

He could honestly say he had spent his entire life without experiencing a single moment of spiritual crisis. He had accepted the Forerunners’ existence because their relics were there to find. He believed in the Forerunners’ divination because in all their Ages of searching, the San’Shyuum had found no bones or other remains. He knew the Covenant’s Core promise that all would walk The Path and follow in the Forerunners’ footsteps was critical to the Union’s stability.

And he was certain that if anyone learned that they might be left behind, the Covenant was doomed.

***

“We must take no chances with these…Reclaimers.” Fortitude could not bring himself to say “Forerunners.” He grabbed his wattle and gave it a steady tug. “They must be expunged. Before anyone else knows of their existence.”

The Vice Minister’s lower lip quavered. “Are you serious?”

“Quite.”

Exterminate them? But what if…”

“If the Oracle speaks the truth, then all we believe is a lie.” Fortitude’s voice filled with sudden strength. “If the masses knew this, they would revolt. And I will not let that come to pass.”

The Vice Minister slowly nodded his assent. “What about him?” Tranquillity whispered, glancing at the philologist. The aged hermit was now staring up at the Oracle. The device was slacked in its armature, thin smoke twirling from the gap around its lens. “Can we trust him to keep this secret?”

“I hope so.” Fortitude released his wattle. “Or he will make a very poor third Hierarch.””

So there you are. The whole point of the human-Covenant war in Halo is a massive political cover-up by scheming dictators. There’s another method to Fortitude’s plan: since they think humans actually are Forerunners like they were once planned to be, he would be in very deep trouble if the other Covenant knew people under his and the Vice Minister’s payroll killed humans on Harvest during the botched peace meeting. Since they thought they were Forerunners who had regressed after their ancestors ascended, Fortitude and Tranquillity would have been executed for heresy of the highest magnitude, assuming the Covenant as a whole didn’t erupt into civil war after finding out only their God’s descendants were the only ones allowed their former glory. Too bad for them, the Covenant splintered into civil war and collapsed anyway during Halo 2, and it was all Fortitude’s fault.

With this, Rapid Conversion is made to attack Harvest and begin the corrupt Minister’s genocidal cover-up.






The Brutes are told to destroy the planet but Maccabeus refuses to do so without salvaging what he still thinks are the relics, which leads to one of his pack getting killed by Johnson and Byrne and Maccabeus himself getting injured.

The buggers were jealous of Lighter-than-Some taking over their job as maintenance men when he was brought onto the ship, and they only get angered further when they are made to replace grunts in combat after the cock-up when meeting the humans. The drones then decide they want to go back to their old job and figure the best way to do so is remove Lighter-than-Some, so they try to murder him, only stopping when both Maccabeus and his nephew Tartarus kill most of their swarm before they have a chance to get close.

The engineer reveals he did not repair the broken spirit dropship from before as ordered, in favour of making prototype Covenant style versions of the combine harvester design he found on This End Up, intending to give them to the humans as a peace offering. Dadab hides this particular fact from the brute chieftain after Tartarus mistakes the combines as war machines, claiming that’s exactly what they are, and that Lighter-than-Some would be happy to -or happy to let the drones- fix whatever weapons Maccabeus wanted to the harvesters.

And thus, the Covenant motorbikes come threshing machines; the Brute Choppers from Halo 3 onward were born.


The Harvest militia ferries the survivors of the attack on Harvest to the capital city where they huddle in the shopping mall and from there the next morning, to evacuation freighters on the Tiara station at the top of the space elevators of which is under attack by grunts. Lighter-than-Some contacts the station’s AI Sif as well as Loki, the evil Harvest colony ship AI and brother of the agricultural AI Mack. Disgusted with all the killing, Lighter-than-Some helps Sif lure Rapid Conversion into a trap where either Mack or Loki can obliterate it with the colony’s ceremonial mass driver. Sounds like this scene inspired the “final boss fight” of Halo Reach.

Now, we were introduced to Maccabeus’s nephew Tartarus earlier in the book. I, along with many others know old Tartare Sauce as the chieftain of the Jiralhanae and final boss of Halo 2. He becomes Chieftain about now, by killing his uncle on the now crashed and burning Rapid Conversion after he refused to simply glass the planet.

Back on the Tiara, the remaining grunts are joined by buggers and Tartarus. 3 of the insects made good on their plans to murder Lighter-than-Some, tearing him into purple giblets. A horrified Dadab slaughters them all in revenge, and then he wounds Tartarus with his plasma pistol’s final shot before dying himself when the brute crushes him with Maccabeus’s stolen gravity hammer.

The hammer in question being the Fist Of Rukt he uses in his boss fight and also the very same weapon used by Grune in Thundercats 2011 i.e. the good version. Maybe in Thundercats it was stolen from the brutes by Mumm-Ra, Grune himself, or the pfhor or something.

Either way, Dadab’s death and Lighter-than-Some’s murder leads the remaining Unngoy to attack the buggers, making Johnson’s squad’s cleanup of the aliens easier.

Sif allows Loki to then fire the mass driver at the space station after the remaining humans escape, destroying it with her effectively committing suicide, to prevent her data from falling into the Covenant’s hands. The Jiralhanae then glass the planet, which means firing “ventral cleansing beams” from their ships at the crust, burning away the atmosphere, boiling all its water and melting the entire surface into an angry red soup of lava, both glass and magma hence the name of the attack.

Back on High Charity at the end, the corrupt San’Shyuum’s plan comes to a head. They are anointed as Prophets.

“It helped that there had been some good news from the reliquary system. The Jiralhanae cruiser the Vice Minister had dispatched had begun reducing the world to cinders. Some of the aliens-some of the evidence-had apparently escaped. But as long as the Oracle remained silent, Fortitude believed it would be easy to rally the Sangheli for a quick pursuit.

All he had to do was claim that the aliens had set their own world ablaze rather than give the relics up. He wasn’t worried that there hadn’t actually been any relics, nor was he concerned that every Covenant ship’s luminary would continue to misidentify the aliens as relics every time they came in contact. In fact, he thought, his smile suddenly and deviously sincere, this would only make it easier to track the offending creatures down and wipe them out.

Wars of extermination were best waged short and sharp, the Minister knew; the less time a butcher had to debate his cuts, the better. But in case the conflict dragged on and some began to lose their will-to doubt the necessity of the slaughter-he had conceived another, much more elegant ruse.

Some Lekgolo had survived the Dreadnaught’s aborted lift-off, and these had managed to interpret amazing data from the Oracle’s lunatic surge. The machine claimed that Halo-the mythical means of Forerunner divination-was real. And more important, the Oracle seemed to have some knowledge of the Rings’ location-or at least an idea where to look for relics that would help narrow the Covenant’s search.

All Fortitude had to do was make the suggestion that these aliens who were willing to destroy a planet’s worth of relics would surely do the same to the Holy rings, and he knew the Covenant’s billions would crush these “Reclaimers” without question…so long as they believed.

***

As the acolytes’ chorus faded, and Fortitude cleared his throat to speak, it seemed that every creature in the Covenant held its breath in anticipation of his words.

“We are, all three of us, humbled by your approval-your faith in our appointment.” Fortitude could hear his voice reverberate around the towers, rattling stones that were the literal foundation of the Covenant. He raised a hand to the Vice Minister and the Philologist, identifying each in turn. “This is the Prophet of Regret, and this is the Prophet of Mercy.” Then, sweeping his hands up beneath his wattle: “And I, the least worthy of us all, am the Prophet of Truth”

Before he straightened in his throne, the Prophet of Truth took a moment to consider the irony of his announcement. According to tradition, he could have picked any name he wished from a long list of former Hierarchs’. Most of the names would have been quite flattering. But ultimately, the name he chose was the one that carried the greatest burden-the one that would always remind him of the lies he must tell for the good of the Covenant and the truths he must never speak.”

Those three corrupt Prophets would go on not only to enforce their cover-up of humans being the Forerunners’ heirs under the guise of a holy war against blasphemers, but Truth himself would eventually cause the fall of the Covenant as a whole during Halo 2, leading to its full collapse in the penultimate stages of Halo 3.



We end the novel with Sgt Johnson giving a hopeful pep talk to his new marine squad made from Harvest’s former militia before porking with the female ONI officer he worked with during the book in his escape ship’s cockpit.

And on that bombshell, it’s time to end this Circle. Stay tuned for Circle 3, where we cover the closest Halo stories to the first game: the Fall of Reach.

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