Reading Between The Lines

Normally the very entertaining Halo Story Page is rather like the equivalent of the Bungie fan community putting on funny costumes, lounging in easy chairs and sipping snifters of brandy while contemplating the treachery of Cortana, the inscrutableness of Gravemind and the machismo of Keyes family officers of both genders.

Wait, it's not the equivalent of that, it's exactly that.

However, today they've got something a bit better than that. Yes, hard to believe, but they do.

Joe Staten, along with Frankie and Robert McLees, at the request of mnemesis and Finn, granted the HSP an interview that contains some silliness, some pretty solid information, and some heavy hints about the Halo Story.

Let's sift through some particularly salacious morsels and read between the lines, shall we?

Click "read more" from the front page for the entire article.

JS: Unlike races such as the Unggoy, the Kig-Yar were space-faring long before joining the Covenant. While it would be more accurate to call Covenant Kig-Yar ship captains "privateers" (with commissions granted by the Ministry of Tranquility), yes: they have been know to engage in acts of piracy on human ships. But these events haven't always helped the Covenant cause...

So Staten confirms that the teaser texts on the Joyride site indeed are accurate. Jackals do operate as pirates, and here we see the specifics of the operation; that Covenant bureaucratic structures even approve of this. While interesting, though, it's probably not going to have much impact on the way the major storylines develop, or indeed on gameplay.

Robert McLees, answering a question about the previous Covenant-Flood relations, points only to this image.

A few things of note about it: bipedal body structure, the single eye, and the lines radiating from the head.

[image:10288 left hspace=5 vspace=5 border=0] It's worth noting that like humans, all the major Covenant species seem to be bipeds. Elites, Grunts, and Jackals clearly are. Hunters, while colonies of worms, are organized into bipedal forms with two arms and two legs. Drones, while presumably insectoid and possessing of more than two limbs and wings, do walk upright as if they were bipeds. Plus, we've yet to see Flood-infested Drones, so perhaps they are excepted from this warning, as Hunters seem to be. Prophets also appear to be bipedal. If the image represents a Flood-infected form of some sort, the fact that it is bipedal may indicate either that the Flood can only infect bipedal forms, or that all known forms of life that have so far been infected are bipedal, and so that all the resulting combat forms have been bipedal. Certainly it is the case so far in the Halo games.

The single eye is interesting because we already know that the sensory organs of Flood combat forms are redundant, replaced by the sensory ganglia that usually protrude from the chest. That's why a human combat form with his neck broken and hanging slack at its side can still, apparently, see and shoot you. As such, the image of the eye is probably not meant to be taken literally, and not meant to signify anything in particular about any individual Flood infected unit. It may be more an indication of the nature of the Flood as a whole; for instance, the body may represent all the Flood infected units: combat forms, infection forms, carriers, etc-- while the single eye represents the hive mind, controlling and directing all the others. However, as Gravemind appears to be neither bipedal nor even ambulatory, this may also not hold up.

The lines radiating from the head might signify many things. It may signify some sort of mental power-- perhaps Gravemind is telepathic? Or perhaps telepathy is what links all the individual Flood units to Gravemind. It might also graphically represent the risk of infection, as the Flood spreads from unit to unit through the infection forms.

The HSP asked about the Cortana Letters, Durandal, and Rampancy in Halo and essentially got an answer only on the first of those subjects, as well as some interesting info about I Love Bees:

JS: Canon is tricky (see my controversial statement about "I Love Bees" - believe it or not, we're actually working to answer the "is it, or isn't it?" question right now!). The Halo story has as many loose threads as influences. And we do our best to sew the former into canon as we find them - are reminded of their potential. The Cortana Letters are an excellent example of this phenomenon. For all sorts of reasons, they lingered in canonical purgatory for years. But when we needed some compelling dialog to remind folks what's at stake in Halo3: Bam! Newfound utility! Alas, I'd have to say that, as of now, the only canonized parts of the letters are the fragments we pulled for use in the announcement trailer.

So there's a solid answer there: the Cortana Letters (if indeed they ever were canon) are no longer canon, except for the bits taken for the announcement trailer; which essentially says that the trailer itself is canon. Which we already knew.

Staten nicely dodged the question about Rampancy, but did seem to offer a bit of clarification on whether or not I Love Bees is canon. Staten earlier said that if they had to draw a line, that ILB would not make the cut. The quote above seems to indicate that they are now making that cut.

While it is not unequivocally stated here, I think the change in title of the latest Halo novel is the best indication of how Bungie is addressing this question. Initially to be called Ghosts of Coral-- a human colony world mentioned in the I Love Bees radio drama-- it is now called Ghosts of Onyx, a world that is not mentioned in ILB at all. To my way of thinking, this is a clear indication that Bungie did not want the novels to make any clear link to ILB at all, lest that be seen as an indication that other elements of ILB are canon, which might potentially conflict with what is to come in future novels or in Halo 3.

Asked a straight question about when the Forerunner disappeared, Staten gives us-- surprise, surprise-- a straight answer:

JS: Inscrutable alien beings with problematic ethics never die... they just fade away. But if what you're asking is: when did the Forerunner take their "Great Journey," that would be about 100,000 years ago - around the time our Homo Sapien ancestors decided to migrate out of Africa. Mind you, that's a hotly debated paleontological theory.

Like the Jjaro before them, the fate of the Forerunners seems destined to remain shrouded in mystery. The monitors say they died; the Covenant seem to say they sublimed into paradise, and Staten says they faded away.

Regardless, what we do get here is a few things. We get a date that jibes with other dates. For one, the 100,000 year war (whether that means between the Elites and the Prophets or between the Covenant and the Flood) seems to be contemporaneous with the period since the Forerunner disappeared.

Since that is the date the Halo system was last used, we must assume that the Ark, which we now know the be located on Earth, was functional at that time, and I think we may safely assume it was located in the same place. That homo sapiens might choose to migrate away from Africa around the time that thing last opened up and shot beams of light into the sky seems logical to me, at least.

Of course, there's still the question of why humanity survived. Staten seems to confirm here when the installation was used-- that it was at a time where, at least in the physical sense, humanity existed in its current form. Humanity on Earth today-- referred to by the Monitors as Reclaimers-- are homo sapiens, as were the beings who migrated away from the continent where the Ark is around the last time the Ark was fired.

That, to my way of thinking, lends a significant boost to the idea that in addition to whatever role the Ark plays in firing the Halo system, that it is also somehow privileged-- perhaps protected-- from its effects.

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Comments

How do we know the Ark is on Earth? I just thought it was very likely.

I didn't know we knew that the Ark is on Earth. When did we, speaking of the Halo community, find this out?

Or, Narc, are you taking the assumptions made by most of us as fact?

[quote=Funkmon]I didn't know we knew that the Ark is on Earth. When did we, speaking of the Halo community, find this out?

Or, Narc, are you taking the assumptions made by most of us as fact?[/quote]

Well, the entire article (as usual) is my opinion and not fact, so if anyone's assumptions are being used, they're mine.

From the moment I finished Halo 2 I believed the Ark was on Earth. Now that we've seen a huge and obviously important Forerunner structure on Earth in the H3 teaser trailer, I suppose it could be some OTHER thing, and not the Ark... but I seriously doubt it.

Not only have we seen a huge and obviously important Forerunner structure on Earth - but it matches pretty closely a sketch in the Limited Edition DVD that's labeled 'Ark'.

I suppose it could be considered an assumption... but to me, it's on par with the assumption that the sun's gonna rise again today. :) (Geez - in a few minutes, even. Gettin' light out there.)

An interesting and entertaining read, as usual. However, I was a little surprised at your assumption that the one-eyed character in the red sign was bipedal. My first thought, upon seeing it, was that it was an engineer .... Perhaps it was the wiggly legs and big head. Whatever the reason, maybe it's something to consider?

[quote=drummand]An interesting and entertaining read, as usual. However, I was a little surprised at your assumption that the one-eyed character in the red sign was bipedal. My first thought, upon seeing it, was that it was an engineer .... Perhaps it was the wiggly legs and big head. Whatever the reason, maybe it's something to consider?[/quote]

I think engineers have more limbs than that-- but since engineers don't actually appear in any of the games to date, there would be little reason for McLees to trot out that symbol. We've never seen Flood infected engineers, so we don't even know if they're vulnerable to infection. Plus, engineers have more than one eye.

I think the distorted nature of the bipedal figure is not meant to indicate that the four limbs pictured are not arms and legs, but to further indicate Flood infection.

He looks more like an octopus.

I think that the one eye suggests that gravemind is a single, controlling, will (like Sauron's eye). No matter how many gravemind bodies there are, there is only one gravemind.

Gravemind has tentacles, they run all through Delta Halo, and now through High Charity. I think that the other Flood forms are also his tentacles, they perform his will, just as our limbs do.

The squiggly lines denote menace but could also suggest his telepathic influence radiating out.

These are all symbolic interpretations and shouldn't be analysed using reason or logic, those are the wrong tools for interpreting smbolic concepts.

I think that its more the feel of the picture that matters.

That image is also on the frontpage of Bungie.Net. It's name is gravemind.gif. ;)

I agree: even the name of the ark ("the Ark") seems to imply that it succesfully weathers the storm of the Halos. You mentioned that the the humans might have migrated away from it when it last fired 100,000 years ago? Here's my question - do we know that it fired then? Does the Ark fire to stop the Halos, or to start them (perhaps the alternate starting method).

I don't know if we know that it fired 100,000 years ago - maybe that's when it landed, and the people migrated away from it simply because that's when they arrived and started colonizing the earth.

Thoughts? :)

[quote=Stonesand]I agree: even the name of the ark ("the Ark") seems to imply that it succesfully weathers the storm of the Halos. You mentioned that the the humans might have migrated away from it when it last fired 100,000 years ago? Here's my question - do we know that it fired then? Does the Ark fire to stop the Halos, or to start them (perhaps the alternate starting method).

I don't know if we know that it fired 100,000 years ago - maybe that's when it landed, and the people migrated away from it simply because that's when they arrived and started colonizing the earth.

Thoughts? :)[/quote]

Actually, we DO know that's when it fired. We don't know that the Ark fired the Halos, but 100,000 years ago is when the Forerunners disappeared, and we know from what 343 tells the Arbiter that it was the halo installations firing that killed them.

Given what we've seen, graphically, of Delta preparing to fire and then sending the superluminal signal, it seems logical to me that what we are witnessing in the trailer is (I assume) the structure called the Ark, either firing or preparing to fire the Halo system from standby mode-- mostly because (I assume) this standby mode would not have been mentioned in the conclusion of Halo 2 were it not to be important to the story in some way. :)

In all seriousness, the ONI operative might start to tell the story of first contact between humanity and the Covenant. Then stop, realizing the hour was late, his audience was old, and the story was long enough to fill an entire novel.

I admit I haven't been paying attention so this may only be news to me, but It looks like we will get this novel at some stage and it might be Ghosts of Onyx.

[quote=scarab]In all seriousness, the ONI operative might start to tell the story of first contact between humanity and the Covenant. Then stop, realizing the hour was late, his audience was old, and the story was long enough to fill an entire novel.

I admit I haven't been paying attention so this may only be news to me, but It looks like we will get this novel at some stage and it might be Ghosts of Onyx.[/quote]

I think that was a joke. You may have missed it.


Rampant for over se7en years.