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Halo Tour Primer Circle 3B (a bit less spoilers)
Posted By: Lion O CyborgDate: 1/5/20 5:06 a.m.

Arc 1: Halo the Fall of Reach continued

Sigma Octanus

I’ve not been keeping precise dates with the Halo games so far, though they are clearly labelled with earth time at the start of every chapter (with hard to figure out alien terms for Covenant and Forerunner times in Contact harvest and the Forerunner saga), but they all in this book and Contact Harvest have been set throughout the first half of the century 2500.

It’s in this section that we finally reach the year the Bungie games take place: 2552 Earth Calendar (“Military calendar” as they call in in Halo). We meet up with Ensign William Lovell on the Archimedes scanning buoy off of Sigma Octanus IV. Bungie sure love their forth system planets: Mars, Tau Ceti e, Chi Ceti 4 and now this.

Anyway, Lovell’s job is to monitor slipspace with probes to catch space pirates, smugglers and now the Covenant, but as Slipspace works differently to normal space, it’s almost a waste of time as nearly everything the probes that aren’t lost in oblivion detect consists of space junk and human garbage dumped from UNSC ships between jumps. He got to this place thanks to demotion, but eagerly accepted it because he’s afraid of dying in the war: the UNSC propaganda hid the fact that humanity only had exactly 2 wins so far and both of them were flukes. Pretty much all the outer colonies no longer exist except for boiling marbles of magma.

With no action for light years and a laughable job description, his day between probings usually consisted of sucking dust and watching hentai in his quarters as he hadn’t seen a real woman in months. He was beginning to get aroused by the automated voice on his post’s computer, to the point he flirts with it as voice recognition and his password reads like the start of an edgy teen’s love poem.

Just today he finds some weird giant meteorite or something in slipspace, bigger than any Covenant ship known to exist. It seems to be heading straight for the planet but as it’s in subspace, it will just pass right through and continue on its merry way. He logs it as a normal report and moves on.

We now return to Jacob Keyes, a lieutenant when we met him back in Chapter 1, now commander of the destroyer Iroquois. He receives the transmission from Archimedes including the slipspace anomaly and he recognises a familiar shape near the front of it.

I quote a paper by none other than Spartan Fhajad, now working for ONI, which Keyes consults when checking what he fears the anomaly is:

ABSTRACT: THE SPACE-BENDING PROPERITES OF MASS IN NORMAL SPACE ARE WELL DESCRIBED BY EINSTEIN’S GENERAL RELATIVITY. SUCH DISTORTIONS, HOWEVER, ARE COMPLICATED BY ANOMALOUS QUANTUM GRAVITATIONAL EFFECTS IN SHAW-FUJIKAWA (SF) SPACES. USING LOOP STRING ANALYSIS, IT CAN BE SHOWN THAT A LARGE MASS BENDS SPACE IN SF MORE THAN GENERAL RELATIVITY PREDICTS BY AN ORDER OF MAGNITUDE. THIS BENDING MAY EXPLAIN HOW SEVERAL SMALL OBJECTS CLUSTERED CLOSELY TOGETHER IN SF SPACE HAVE BEEN REPORTED ERRONEOUSLY AS A SINGLE LARGER MASS.”

Can you guess what it is? Yes, it’s a Covenant fleet but the scan is off because slipstream space is making their silhouettes overlap each other, like drawing a picture of starships in Weland and making most of them 5D spaces.

Sure enough, 2 Covenant frigates, a destroyer and an assault carrier enter the system and engage the Iroquois after he warns FLEETCOM of their arrival. Keyes is able to destroy every ship except the carrier with a particularly daring manoeuvre some later call the “Keyes Loop”. It’s too long to describe what with everything else here so I’ll link to the wiki page for details: https://halo.fandom.com/wiki/Keyes_Loop

The carrier drops off some troops into a coastal town on Sigma Octanus IV and leaves. This is unusual, as normally they just glass the planet, kill all resistance and be done with it. They’re looking for something. Marines are sent in to clean up the aliens but ONI knows about the Covenant’s unusual behaviour too (related to Halo Wars or something?) so the Spartans are sent down later too.

Before that part kicks off, Keyes is promoted to Captain and he takes on Ensign Lovell as his new navigator, as the old one, Jaggers was a complete coward in during the Keyes Loop fight and whined constantly. If Halo’s story wasn’t so played so serious most of the time, I hazard Jaggers’ part would have gone something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81W8tG3wH_4



John Carver is now his iconic rank of Master Chief Petty Officer, and we return to him leading his squad into the aforementioned city of Cote d’Azur. (Blue something?) Their goal is to evacuate any surviving civilians and detonate a nuclear mine in the sewers under downtown, flattening the city and everything in it. They split up into Blue, Red and Green teams with John leading Blue as usual, the other members this time being Linda, Kelly, Fred and James. Green team find some civvies hiding in a shipping container and get them out safely.

John spies on some Huragok, the first seen by humans since the Kig-Yar pirate ship before the war began, disassemble an electric car’s engine, reconfigure it in a few ways and put it back together. He and the other teams guess they may be Covenant scientists, before Engineer was the name humans gave to them. Nobody knows about how they are effectively slaves yet, and anyone who hasn’t read Contact Harvest likely finds out once they play Halo 3 ODST, as was previously discussed.

It also seems the Covenant are guarding the city natural history museum, which is very unlike them. Meanwhile back in space, Captain Keyes now finds a Covenant stealth ship or satellite receiving a transmission from the surface, right from the museum. Turns out there’s a piece of granite with Forerunner glyphs on it the Covenant came to get: some marines before the Spartans arrived were sent into the jungle and found what is heavily implied to be Forerunner ruins, likely the same that the rock came from, before they are ambushed by Mgalekgolo.

Another bonded hunter pair are inside the museum, scanning Forerunner glyphs on the artifact in some kind of machine and beaming the photographs to the stealth ship directly above them in orbit. Presumably the scanner is a luminary like from Contact Harvest? Anyway, when Keyes destroys the stealth ship, he sneaks into its place and intercepts the transmission beam. They aren’t able to get the rest of the full scan as the scanner falls into a pit the Spartans make to trap the hunter guards (they don’t kill them until the bomb goes off) and Kelly swipes up the stone in case it proves a useful clue. The wiki says the stone was destroyed, but the chapter of the book I just read tonight contradicts them. Maybe ONI takes it like they do the scans the Iroquois intercepted.

The Spartans & marines planetside and the remaining civvies make it out alive on a single pelican and John sets off the nuke, wiping out the city and all the Covenant left in it. That stone artifact and glyphs it contains prove very important to setting up imminent events.

John and Captain Keyes are recalled back on Reach for a debriefing by ONI spooks about the Covenant’s unusual archaeological expedition. However, the Covenant plant a robotic tracking device they hid in the debris field on the Iroquois and trace it all the way back to Reach…

***

John sees Corporal Harland who he saved from Sigma Octanus IV outside the debriefing room in an ONI base in Reach’s highlands, who expresses his wish to be selected for the Spartans if anyone asks John about it. Since we don’t see him again, it’s unclear if this comes to pass or not. Likely not. He then meets Captain Keyes coming out the debriefing room, but doesn’t recognise him when they met on Eridanus II as he only remembers seeing Halsey there. Jacob does recognise John however and warns him how the brass are annoyed about how potentially more evidence of the Covenant’s little archaeology quest has been destroyed.

This comes up in the briefing itself: the panel, presumably ONI, shows that their own scans produce the same Forerunner hieroglyphics in the form of squares, triangles, bars and dots. Translations of it have failed and as they’ve only heard of the Covenant, Halsey assumes it’s either an ancient Covenant species language dialect or the language of an entirely new, unknown species, which it is. They ask John if he’s aware that using the nuke effectively erased potentially new evidence of the Covenant’s mission potentially including what the runes on the stone mean.

When the Chief says that destroying the city was in full compliance with the orders he had from ONI, one particularly arrogant douchebag on the panel, presumably Colonel Ackerson who was in charge of the Spartan III project asks the Chief if he’s insinuating the evidence was destroyed because his colleagues ordered it, and then resorts to petty name-calling when John gives an honest, literal answer; that being that he’s only saying everything in the city was destroyed because a nuclear bomb went off, just like he was ordered to do, whether there was evidence there or not.

Later on, we catch up with Dr Halsey preparing for the biggest mission the UNSC is planning so far in the next section.



MJOLNIR: Even Bigger Guns Nearby

Halsey is in her private office of Reach’s most secure facility we’ve seen: an underground military base with impenetrable security facilities (or so we’re told), commonly known as CASTLE Base. Fitting, as like the fun to explore castles and castle ruins around and to the far north of where I live, it’s located in the scenic Reach highlands, tucked away in the mountains.

She reads the minutes and documentation of the debriefing she was in as well as that of the others. ONI’s conclusion to the Covenant’s mission on Sigma Octanus IV: “Beats the fuck out of us.” Thanks to Halsey’s idea of the glyphs being from a unique non-Covenant species, the brass are scared shitless at the thought of having to fight two enemies at once when they are barely surviving fighting one. That does end up being the case once the Flood get involved, but that’s for later.

The UNSC’s response is to try and find the Covenant homeworld, and Halsey’s Spartans are to be the ones to take the main operation in doing so. We also learn at this time that Halsey and Ackerson have a bitter rivalry. The latter, despite being friendly enough if I remember right in Ghosts of Onyx, is not a very nice person. In fact, he tries to commit murder and treason just two or three chapters ahead as we’ll get to.

At long last, we now meet Cortana for the first time. She’s basically a gender swapped Durandal whose sense of humour doesn’t come out as often, but it is there. Her name references one of the crown jewels, which has an inscription that reads “My name is Cortana, of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durandal.” This also comes across in Halo 1 at times, where despite being voiced by the American Jen Taylor, she sometimes uses an English way of speaking, such as when she tells Guilty Spark to sod off in Halo 1. (retconned as her telling him to piss off in at least the original print version of Halo: The Flood, as apparently the author didn’t know the obvious fact that they mean the same thing) It’s similar to how Carrie Fisher played Princess Leia in Star Wars.

Anyway, Cortana is a smart AI. Deja from earlier in the book is a dumb AI, but the terms “smart and dumb” in this context are a misnomer, as both are just as highly intelligent as the others. The difference is that dumb AIs are effectively just an Amazon Echo or Windows 10 Cortana on steroids, tuned to a specific task they are designed for with not much in the way of creatively, and they presumably have better machine learning than modern day AIs and algorithms, the latter of which frankly suck badly, as Google proves time and again. Incidentally, Windows 10’s Cortana does the real one a massive disservice by being named after her, despite being an equally bad SIRI or Alexa clone with none of the real Cortana’s actual sentience or ability to answer certain questions properly.

Smart AIs like Cortana are basically the same as those of Marathon and Portal, being based on mapping human brains. The process destroys the brain so it can only be used on suitable candidates who have already died.

ONI however, needed the best mind available to make a Smart AI intended for their operations in discovering the Covenant’s homeworld, so they agree to make a clone of Dr Halsey’s brain, copy and paste her memories and knowledge into it and make their new Smart AI from that. She literally springs from the mind of Halsey like Athena’s birth from Zeus.

Cortana is effectively her copy but without such petty limitations as protocol or social norms. She’s basically Halsey with Asperger’s Syndrome. Speaking as a fellow AS, I approve, which is incidentally why Durandal as well as Black Box from the Halo Kilo Five Trilogy are so cool.

As she can grow her knowledge and creativity unchecked, after 7 years she’ll literally start thinking too much at the expense of her normal functions, described as a human thinking with so much of their brain that they stop telling their heart and lungs to work. In short, she would think herself to death. We only have the book’s word for it though as she may just be unreliable and focus on her more personal interests instead as opposed to her own programming, which would only be deadly in that they’d feel they have to purge her. Why do I say that? There’s a word they use in Halo for this condition that we know only too well: https://youtu.be/3t99tBGCRGY?list=PLHVG2L347X-Horf_2812E8TZFppd3UGFC&t=263

Cortana is programmed with the highest insurgency software and code breaking skills as well as the determination to use them. This does present the minor issue of her causing chaos in ONI’s security procedures whenever she gets bored. And she gets bored a lot. Her face is described as having a hard, angular beauty, like she’s rendered by a Dreamcast or running on the TRAOD engine. Lines of code scroll over her body, her color changes from blue to lavender depending on her mood and the ambient lighting and her hair appears currently cropped short.

It’s a perfect description of her original appearance in Halo 1, which was changed from Halo 2 onwards. Halo 1 Anniversary uses the latter one.

Hmm. Years after I played Halo 1, I saw this same face and hairstyle again at least twice once I was in high school and the past decade turned. Now where have I seen Cortana’s classic face before?

Ah, that explains it! Cortana was able to retrieve her own copy of the full scan of the Forerunner hieroglyphics as the Covenant transmission that was beamed into space also went out of system like our own TV and radio signals. It was caught in a black hole somewhere and effectively stored on the event horizon via special relativity. Cortana simply took the scan from a telescope belonging to the UNSC’s astrophysics department aimed at that black hole.

Similar to everyone else, Cortana has not been able to translate the symbols…yet. She correctly guesses the Covenant want those artifacts for the Forerunners’ technology, but she doesn’t realise how significant this one stone is to them.

The time comes for Cortana to choose what Spartan she will be paired with. We already know it’s John Carver but she picks him because “He’s so serious. Thoughtful eyes, though. Attractive, in a primitive animal sort of way.” This is exactly what Dr Halsey herself thinks of John and she’s embarrassed that her AI copy just revealed that little secret she keeps from herself, without a care in the world.

Halsey theorises that Cortana’s choice is motivated by John being Halsey’s favourite and, like a fussy mum who doesn’t want her daughter to hook up with the man she loves because said mother is too old to be allowed to have sex anymore and projects her own “mouldy bread” status onto anyone young just because they can have something she cannot, tries to convince Cortana to choose someone else. She uses compatibility issues as an excuse like the fussy mum in the above simile saying “the kids are just being hasty”, “he only wants you for your looks and will cheat on you at a moment’s notice” “he’s gold-digging” or the ever infinitely hateable and blatantly false “there’s plenty more fish in the sea”.

Cortana has none of it, saying that his neural patterns are in sync with hers within 2% and that with their new interface they plan to install, it will be within the tolerable limits, even going as far to create a custom interface buffer that allows her and John to match within 0.0081% on the spot within a matter of seconds. This would be the fussy mum’s daughter telling her to go fuck herself while flashing the signed heterosexual Civil Partnership paperwork (or engagement ring if you prefer that sort of thing) in her face.

Halsey relents and asks her another question that Cortana herself would echo back to the Chief during the first hallucination sequence in Halo 3, but with the roles reversed: “Could you sacrifice him if you had to? If it meant completing the mission? Could you watch him die?” Cortana hesitates, but answers that the mission comes first and her and the Spartans safety is secondary.

For the ship they plan to use in the operation, she chooses the Halcyon class cruiser, The Pillar of Autumn. Halcyon cruisers are the same shape but smaller, slower, more inefficient versions of the Marathon class cruisers normally used, (sound familiar?) with only their near indestructability being an advantage. They seemed to be making a comeback in the human-Covenant war for precisely that purpose instead of being scrapped. The Autumn itself was refitted with its own MAC gun and 6 missile pods.

A marathon class cruiser takes a pulse laser on a Covenant Carrier to the side, destroying or disabling it at the start of Halo 2, and I mistook it for the Pillar of Autumn as it looked identical, despite the events in Halo 1. Dr Halsey picks Jacob Keyes to captain her because he can keep a secret.

***

Later on the amphitheatre, Halsey reveals to the Spartans what they know of the Covenant so far including the grunts, jackals, engineers and hunters. She also mentions the elites, which is something not included in my original print version. Halsey hints at both the existence of brutes as a “warrior capable of commanding ground forces and possibly piloting their ships” (referring to elites in the original print) and Prophets, assigning that name to the San’Shyum in general despite that being the Hierarchs’ title only.

She then briefs them on their new mission which is the aforementioned Covenant homeworld op:

Phase 1. Captain Keyes will pilot the Pillar of Autumn with the Spartans on board, engage the Covenant and disable but not destroy one of their ships.

Phase 2. The Spartans board the ship, neutralise the crew and have Cortana hack into their navigation database, searching for their homeworld, which will be High Charity as the actual Covenant homeworlds are all over the galaxy.

Phase 3. Take the stolen ship to High Charity.

Phase 4. Infiltrate the Covenant leadership and kidnap the Prophet Hierarchs.

The plan is to bring them alive and unharmed to UNSC HQ and force them to broker a truce, the ultimate goal being trying to broker a peace treaty with the Covenant. Sadly, this is not to be until the final act of Halo 2 and finalised at the end of Halo 3. Not only does the titular Fall of Reach come soon, but as was revealed in Circle 2 during the Contact Harvest arc, the Prophets certainly wouldn’t listen to the humans as it was the Prophet of Truth’s plan to murder the humans in the first place under the guise of a holy war, to prevent the Covenant as a whole finding out about humans being the Forerunners’ rightful Reclaimers.

Halsey sends the Spartans off to be briefed individually. We pick up the events later with John’s one.



MJOLNIR Part II: The Trials of John Carver 117

John meets Dr Halsey at a live fire obstacle course where he is fitted with what she calls the real MJOLNIR. The suits he and the other Spartans were using are effectively Mark IV models, though they aren’t named as such; this one is the Mark V we know from Halo 1. Apparently according to both versions of the book, they actually gave it its shields by reverse engineering Jackal point defence gauntlets and they just so happen to be an advanced form of elite shields, but that’s bollocks. They know about Elites, they’ve likely fought them before as they are the Covenant’s main warrior race, and MJOLNIR shields are practically the same appearance wise other than being more efficient, stronger and appearing gold instead of blue.

Jackal shields however cannot be affected by human firearms besides explosives at all and they are incredibly obvious, looking like the bell of giant glowing jellyfish. MJOLNIR shields on the other hand –like Elite shields- are practically invisible until you get hit and can be affected by bullets although not as well as plasma.

The other thing this version of MJOLNIR armour adds is a slot for an AI memory crystal chip, which also requires a new neural interface implant to be installed. It’s Marcus Jones storing Durandal’s primal pattern chip in a similar slot in his helmet in Marathon Infinity being fully realised and not having to rely on picking up a chip and taking the game’s word for it. John meets Cortana this way, where she playfully says there’s not much room in his head compared to other storage devices and that as she detects a lot of activity in his cerebral cortex, he’s not the “muscle bound automaton” the press make him out to be.

John’s training exercise is simple: work with Cortana and make it through the booby trapped obstacle course to a bell and ring it, just like old times. Halsey intended it to be a live fire course but what she did not intend was for Colonel Ackerson to tamper with the course by adding even more deadly traps, trying to murder John and Cortana, just so the UNSC would go to him for his own defence ideas, mainly as he was failing and his competition, Halsey was not.

Right before they start, John is ambushed by ODSTs who shoot on sight. He has permission to neutralise any threats, so he injures them all and knocks them all out. No permanent damage; he doesn’t kill them, as he knows the UNSC needed all the men they could get.

On the course itself they have sharp gravel to cross, but with the added annoyance of it being mined. Cortana detects the mines for him and they make it past. Next, they find automated turrets guarding the prone crawl training obstacle. You know the kind: mud puddles under barbed wire where they fire live rounds over your head. He breaks the turrets and simply runs through the wire, his armour slicing it like cheese on a pizza.

Then comes a forest of booby trapped poles rigged with napalm, sonic grenades and likely others only for John to get attacked partway through by a motherfucking airstrike from a jump jet. Ackerson pulls no punches and it even uses missiles. John avoids getting blown up by bitch-slapping the missile away and rings the bell. He cannot help but laugh as the bell used is the exact same one he and the other Spartans rang as children on the first 2 days of training in the Playground assault course. He feels he has learned a new kind of teamwork with Cortana, bookending when he first learned to work with his buddies at his first training sessions.

***

It’s later on that Captain Keyes goes up to the Pillar of Autumn and they all head out on their mission. Cortana does some digging on Ackerson about why he was committing treason and gets her revenge on him by hacking into his bank account, transferring a huge chunk of his money to a whorehouse and sends the receipts home to his wife.

She doesn’t stop there either: she forges both a request from Ackerson to be transferred back to the front lines and the digital footprint matching it to his PDA, so he ends up having to fight the Covenant again once he’s finished sorting out his imminent debt and divorce. Satisfied, Cortana then breaks into Halsey’s files and reads up everything on John, including stuff that was censored by ONI in most copies of his service record, namely he and the other Spartan II’s augmentations, indoctrination, brutal training and their kidnapping. She vows to protect him no matter what, so he never has to go through anything like that again.

Meanwhile, Captain Keyes gets a tour of the Autumn, seeing it’s now got many more improvements and weapons than I first thought, such as at least 30 or more missile pods as opposed to 6, and that the fusion engines are cooled with chilled, laser-induced ion beams, meaning cranking up the power means more energy available for the cooling system.

I can only assume this is a part of the engine room we don’t see in the Halo 1, namely the inside of and/or below the big thing in the middle that the exhaust pipes connect to: The Fall of Reach describes the engine room as being a 4 story high hexagonal chamber with catwalks and platforms, the fusion reactor being perched in a lattice of nonferric ceramic and leaded crystal, consisting of a big ring in two smaller reactor rings, likely connected to the 6 exhaust couplings with the middle two being the main reactor; yet the engine room of the Pillar of Autumn looks nothing like this in the game itself.

Captain Keyes checks on the Spartans and then returns to the bridge. No sooner are they about to jump to slipspace than the shit hits the fan: the Covenant have traced them to reach via that tracking device mentioned earlier and now the planet is under attack. The title of the book now comes to fruition.



Reach

A second scanning buoy station, now staffed with top military staff since Sigma Octanus, detects the Covenant and tries to initiate the Cole Protocol. Failing purging one of the servers, they set the station to self-destruct and ensure the data is wiped.

Sorry I didn’t go over this earlier: the Cole Protocol by the same guy who went to restore Harvest is basically a way to ensure the Covenant don’t find Earth or other colonies: wipe your navigation database if the Covenant are detected, and prevent your ships from being captured by self-destructing them with failure to comply counting as treason.

The Pillar of Autumn returns to Reach just in time to see part of the fleet get their asses kicked while destroying a fair number of Covenant ships in the process. However, the Covenant appear to leave early as they have sent dropships to the surface.

Their goal is actually more than what Keyes thinks, but we’ll get to that in the First Strike portion of this same event and Halo Reach. The thing concerning Keyes most is the underground fusion reactor complex. You know the MAC gun equipped geosynchronous stations around Earth in Halo 2 like the Cairo, Athens and Malta? Those guns are their primary purpose, known as Super MAC guns. Super Magnetic Accelerator Cannons can destroy a Covenant ship in about 1 hit, 2 maximum. They’re non-nuclear too.

The Reach orbital guns are powered by fusion reactors groundside, but I don’t see how that is supposed to work. Can you beam power into space via microwaves or something, or do you need cables for such a feat? It doesn’t make a lot of sense; surely an on-station reactor or some solar panels aimed at Epsilon Eridanus/Eridani would be more practical, if less secure?

Keyes is worried that the Covenant went down to Reach’s surface intending to disable the Super MAC guns’ power source, making the planet a sitting duck. To make matters worse, Cortana’s little snooping in ONI’s database forced one of the ships intended for gathering intel on the Covenant, the ONI prowler Circumference, to scrub itself from the Reach’s database so the intel operation remains classified. The direct effect of this is that the AI of the Reach orbital harbour is unable to enact the aforementioned Cole Protocol on the Circumference’s NAV computer, leaving it at risk of discovery by the Covenant attacking the station.

John splits his Spartan squad into Blue and Red teams. Blue team led by him assaults the space dock in order to purge the prowler database manually, while Red team led by Spartan Fred descends to Reach in order to stop the Covenant from taking out the reactor complex. It is here that the perspective splits. In this book, we see John’s side of the battle but I am more familiar with Red team’s side due to reading a severely cut down version of First Strike first.)



Reach A: KV2 Sunbathing

John, Linda and James crash their pelican on Station Gamma in orbit around Reach while Captain Keyes fends off some frigates and what appears to be a flagship. However, Elites arrive for the first time in the book and attack the station with jackals in vacuum suits. In the original print version I have, this was when humanity first encountered elites at all. In the reprint version I’ve just been reading, this is simply the first time in the book we’ve actually seen them, whether the Chief has before this point or not is unclear, though Elites haven’t been in scenes prior to this.

They manage to kill James by firing a needler at his thruster pack, sending him flying off into space while the other needler wounds he gets allow him to asphyxiate. John and Linda blow the explosives James was trying to retrieve after this and force their way into the station, killing a good number of jackals and elites in the blast. They find Sergeant Johnson and some of his squad, including Jenkins from Contact Harvest and Bisenti, both of whom are faceless marines in Halo 1.

John barely holds out against a cloaked elite in zero gravity while Linda snipes Jackals attacking the marines. More Covenant bear down on them, so the Master Chief mops a lot of them up with a second pelican before blowing open the Circumference. Floating inside, he smashes the NAV database and covers Linda while she opens the hanger door. However, she is ambushed by an elite and seemingly killed. Bringing her onboard and fleeing the station back to the Autumn, John places her body in cryostorage in case she can be revived at a hospital. Spoiler alert: she does come back to life in First Strike.

The Pillar of Autumn loses contact with the Spartans on Reach however and is forced to flee through slipspace to escape an encroaching group of Covenant ships while most of their fleet glasses Reach. John notices the symbols of Cortana’s slipspace vector look familiar, but brushes it off. He was right to recognise them: they’re the same as the Forerunner glyphs in the artifact on Sigma Octanus. Those glyphs are a star chart to a Forerunner site in the Soell system (Guess who the solar system is named after?) which is exactly where Cortana is taking them. I’ll let you figure out why the Covenant wanted to reach this site so badly.

What happened to Fred’s Red Team that descended to Reach? Read on to find out.



Arc 2: Reach B: Naw Man, He’s Close

This is the prologue portion of the third Eric Nylund Trilogy book Halo First Strike, which takes place during the end of Fall of Reach from Fred’s perspective. As I said above, I’m more familiar with this part of Reach’s end as I originally had –and might still have- a severely cut down version of First Strike: it only had the first half of the Fall of Reach portion and I had to buy a new copy of the original First Strike print later, which was the full book. Now I have the reprint but I’ll read that later after the Halo 1 novel reprint.

Spartan Fredric takes Kelly, Joshua and a few others down to Reach in a pelican, but the Covenant chase them and shoot them down, killing the pilot. They’re forced to skydive from the pelican 8 kilometres from the surface while the ship is plummeting at supersonic speeds. As a child, I never likened this to the opening of Pathways into Darkness as I was in primary school when I read the cut down version of the original print and hadn’t even heard of Marathon yet, let alone Pathways. Fred and Kelly even land the same way as in PID: crashing through the canopy of the very forest the Spartans trained in during their “fan dance” exercise.

Of the other Spartans that went with them, 6 were injured but could still fight, albeit unable to move well. 4 had died. Also like PID, a lot of their weapons and ammo were scattered across the forest and the stuff on their person had mostly been sheared away on impact forcing them to use rocks, just like old times. Fred and Kelly kill some jackals and steal their plasma pistols. They catch up with Joshua at the remains of Charlie company, right where a big chunk of forest has been burned away.

Charlie company’s remnant had captured 3 banshees, a bunch of plasma pistols and some jackal shield gauntlets alongside salvaged human weapons and vehicles. Among them were Fury tac-nukes i.e. nuclear grenades. They also spy a Covenant landing zone in a valley by the river. An Admiral Whitcomb radios in, demanding the Spartans evacuate him and his staff from their hiding place near where the Reach High Command base was before it was destroyed.

Fred splits up the group into 4 teams: one to secure the entrance to Castle Base, one to extract Admiral Whitcomb, one to defend the Super MAC gun generators and Fred’s own team to destroy the Covenant cruiser in the landing zone.

Fred, Kelly and Joshua take the captured banshees into the valley, trying to pass as elites on patrol. It works until they’re asked in an alien text language to state their business. Joshua gets shot down and killed while Kelly stands on top of her banshee, surfing it like in Just Cause 1 before tossing one of the nuclear grenades up the cruiser’s gravity lift, blowing it to smithereens. This scene was so iconic for me, that I later envisioned an entire TV opening sequence for The Raccoons where they did the same thing. (I was 10 at that time)

The nuke wipes out the whole valley and boils the river into a steaming trench. It’s at this point that the glassing starts and my old cut down version ends. My full copy of the original print however, simply ends this portion of the Fall of Reach section, skipping ahead to the present day. The second half continues later.



Defence of Castle Base: 6000 Feet Under

While Fred and Kelly race to Castle Base in their banshees after destroying the cruiser, they notice that the Covenant aren’t glassing Reach properly: they are only melting the poles and most human held areas but leaving the rest.

After being forced to land by Mgalekgolo, the 2 Spartans steal a wraith tank and help clear the way into Castle Base. Yes, that’s right. Unless you count Halo Reach, Fred and Kelly get to drive a wraith tank before you do; Halo 1 doesn’t let you drive wraiths unlike all the later games, except in SPV3.

Inside Castle Base, they meet up with Spartans Will, Vinh & Isaac, and Dr Halsey, who had been escorted here toward the end of Halo Reach by Spartan Jun. Jun is nowhere to be found however as he didn’t exist in the canon yet.

Dr Halsey stayed on Reach to destroy the base, preventing the Covenant from stealing their technology, as she knows they are not here to destroy the planet: that is indirectly confirmed by Halo Reach.

Halsey discovers that Colonel Ackerson has been meddling around, gathering data on the Spartan IIs and the flash cloning techniques that replaces the original children in their families back home.

She even discovers the coordinates to a secret training facility for Ackerson’s personal Spartan III project alongside Chief Mendez: the planet Onyx at the ass-end of space, whose location is the primary setting for Ghosts of Onyx and technically also its sequel: Halo Glasslands, first in the Kilo Five Trilogy.

Halsey also finds reference to the star map from the Sigma Octanus IV artifact: not only does it reveal the very location of Halo Installation 04, but Ackerson’s portion of the map reveals another Forerunner building, right below Castle Base on Reach hidden in an extinct volcano, whose lava tubes included titanium mine tunnels that Castle Base was built inside. Next to a similar facility under a different ONI base on Reach, that is what the Covenant are after. They didn’t even need the tracking device on the Iroquois to find Reach though they didn’t anticipate humans actually living there. If you factor in the Forerunner ruins where the map was found, this makes when they reach Earth in Halo 2 the third time they make that mistake.

The Covenant breach Castle Base, forcing the Spartans and Halsey to flee deeper into the facility. The good Doctor scuttles the base and they all run to the old mines, reaching the tunnels through a vent just as the base collapses, trapping them underground.

After 5 days, presumably now taking place after Halo 1, Fred discovers the Forerunner complex that Halsey had found in Ackerson’s research. Inside is a mysterious crystal, which may or may not be a prototype Chaos Emerald. It’s around this time or so that events synchronise with after Halo 1.

All you need to know is that until it gets restored like Harvest was, during the main trilogy itself, Reach looks like this:



Arc 3: A brief look at Halo Reach

This is the first and only game to actually take place at planet Reach and presumably the first time we actually see what the planet looks like. This game is the last of the Bungie developed Halo games and while I consider it one of the best ones -though not as much as my favourites: Halo 2 on Classic Xbox, the two remasterings, Halo 3 and Halo 4- it isn’t the best one story wise as even with the reprinted version of Halo: The Fall of Reach, this game is still chock-full of plotholes.

From TV tropes:

“Continuity Snarl: This game takes place in the same timeframe as the last section of the Combat Evolved prequel novel Halo: The Fall of Reach. The two don’t always agree (the fact that Bungie deliberately played fast and loose with continuity doesn’t help things). The biggest difference is that in The Fall of Reach the battle of Reach seemed to take place over the course of maybe a few days, with only two main attack waves, while in the game it is about two months of fighting, with an initial surprise ground force followed by an out-and-out slug fest for weeks. But Bungie has stated that any new information overwrites any previously-existing information. note Bungie has stated the problem lay in them being a bit too specific with stuff like dates in Halo: The Fall of Reach. Justified in that they never expected the first game would be as successful as it was, so the possibility of a prequel never entered their minds until years later.”

This is the point where I stop, though I will cover the characters involved. The idea is that if anyone else wants to do a Halo Reach Tour Gaiden, by all means I’m happy to let them.

Noble Actual

Unlike all other Halo games before this point, we can make our own character and designate their armour and gender, like Commander Shepherd in Mass Effect but without showing their face or having a real name. We are Spartan III-B312 AKA Noble 6, the newest member of the UNSC Reach army’s Noble team. Unlike the also unnamed Rookie in Halo 3 ODST, Noble 6 is a much better character because he actually fucking speaks. He isn’t half bad either, despite his shady past in the UNSC as a black ops assassin. I only use male pronouns as I play as a male Noble 6.

In the opening cutscene which apparently counts as a whole level (a trend that started in Halo 2), we are introduced to the other members:

Carter. The leader of the group is the cool headed, noble commander. (cue trombone tones) He’s seen our file, including the censored parts about being a lone wolf assassin.

Catherine “Kat”. Kat is the tech specialist. Has a bit of sexual tension with Carter at times, such as the opening to Long Night of Solace. She also has a habit of digging deeper than she is meant to, getting some pretty juicy information. This ends up helping Dr Halsey in the long run after the events of the actual first level.

Emile. Bit of a hot head and his easily told apart by the skull carved in his armour’s faceplate. Doesn’t seem to care about normal civilians which begs the question: why the hell is he working for an organisation meant to protect them in the first place?

Jun. Sniper specialist with a nice accent, which is same as Kat’s.

Jorge. Spartan 052 and the only Spartan II in a Spartan III team. He’s a very sympathetic individual, shown to actually try to comfort civvies who are in distress, unlike Emile who gives him shit for it. Jorge knows Catherine Halsey very well and appears to consider her a mother figure.

Now here is where I stop on Halo Reach so someone else can do the actual Tour of that game. I intend to cover SPV3 and Viking Boy Billy mentioned intending to do Halo 2 PC.

With that, I conclude the Primer for the Halo Tour Gaiden series post Halo 1 vanilla. Stay tuned for the beginning of the Halo Tour of SPV3.

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