A Little Rampant Speculation, Part III

Civil War Makes Odd Bedfellows

I think it possible that, assuming such an alliance will exist at all in Halo 3, it may only be evident during a portion of it.

From the closing sequences of Halo 2, it seems that there is still some fighting going on at Earth; meaning that some of the fifteen ships that Regret brought with him remained there while he fled to Delta Halo.

Truth is now arriving aboard the Forerunner ship. His ship may or may not still have Elites and Brutes aboard, fighting amongst themselves. In either case, the Master Chief is not actually aware of the potential for this alliance. During the only contact he had with the Arbiter, the Arbiter did not seem willing to admit that Halo was a weapon. While he is aware of the fighting between the Covenant because he observed it during High Charity and Cortana informed him of fighting amongst the Covenant Fleet, this by itself does not necessarily mean that hostilities against humans would lessen.

Likewise, any Elites on board the Covenant ships at Earth may not be aware of the infighting. So it is possible that, early in Halo 3, playing as the Chief, that the primary enemies will still be the usual mix of units, regardless of the civil strife among the Covenant as a whole.

The small force that Regret brought with him was insufficient to subdue the Earth because he was not expecting to find humanity there. As it was, he was lucky to be able to find what he needed and get to Delta Halo, assuming that he obtained the location of Delta Halo from some artifact or information on Earth. It is difficult to imagine why he would go to Earth first and then to Delta Halo if he already knew where it was. Additionally, Truth and Mercy only show the Delta Halo to the Arbiter after Regret has left Earth-- further circumstantial evidence that they were not aware of its location until then.

That force, if it still exists, must be hard put to resist all of the human defenses at Earth. Even were it to be reinforced by the Covenant fleet from High Charity, that fleet itself is in a state of conflict and disarray, so assuming that the struggle is roughly equal on both sides, at most Truth could hope to get support from half of it. If half the fleet left High Charity to assist Truth, it seems likely the rest would follow them there to continue the fight; especially as it seems the fight is mostly motivated by a perception that the Brutes have usurped the Elites' place in the Covenant and thus perhaps jeopardized the latter's chance for a place in the Great Journey.

So this would mean a stalemate, with the addition of Truth's ship plus 15 cruisers to the Brute's side, and all of humanity on the other. It may be that this is the scenario Bungie is trying to create-- a situation in which it is reasonable that the Covenant can be successfully resisted in a space battle. Up until now, the only situations in which humanity was able to achieve such a victory was with overwhelming force or trickery (such as the Keyes Loop).

So, is there going to be a Human-Elite alliance?

I think if there is, it will be quite limited. Bungie showed in Halo 2 that they were willing to make cosmetic alterations to existing units in order to make battles between like units possible when they created the "Heretic" outfits for Elites and Grunts used in Halo 2.

I think it likely that there may be situations in Halo 3 where the Chief and/or the Arbiter fights with the support of both human and Covenant elements against other Covenant units and/or possibly Flood. But I do not think it will be a monolithic conflic where all Elites are on the side of the humans. They all might be willing to rebel against the Brutes because of the betrayal of the Elites on the council, but it seems a stretch to me to think that all the Elites will ally with the humans because of this.

The most likely scenario for that happening involves the Elites being rallied to the cause of the humans, either by the Arbiter, or Half-Jaw-- most likely by the efforts of both combined. Yet when Halo 2 ends, Half-Jaw has taken his cruiser back into the space battle around High Charity to fight against the Brutes, and the Arbiter is stranded in Halo's control room, seemingly without transportation. Keyes and Johnson are with him, so it seems that at least the seed of an Elite-Human alliance is in that room with them.

However, it seems that at least for the moment they may be stranded without transportation. The condition of In Amber Clad is not known, but at any rate, it's crashed on High Charity, which is infested with Flood; so that is probably unvailable to them. If they do decide to use the IAC to escape, look forward to an early Maw-like level where you have to clear the Flood out.

Truth is at the Earth with the Chief, but as far as we know, only Keyes, Johnson, the Arbiter and 343 Guilty Spark are aware of the fact that the system of Halo rings is now in standby mode and can be activated from the Ark; so unless they can communicate this to Earth the necessary sense of dramatic urgency might be missing. The Chief doesn't even know this, and although we might hazard a guess that Cortana becomes aware of it, it hadn't happened yet when the Chief stowed aboard Truth's ship, so she can't have told him.

It is a widespread assumption that the Ark is located on or near Earth. Regardless of where it is, it isn't at Delta Halo. So if our three heroes of Delta Halo are keen to stop the installations from being fired, they have to find transportation to go to the Ark. If that means to Earth, then so much the better for those characters to continue interacting with the Chief-- either directly or indirectly. If those characters aren't involved in that effort, then it's likely they'll be involved along some other story axis-- perhaps the Covenant civil war exclusively.

Then there's the question of Cortana. The Chief says he'll try to come back and get her, but if the Arbiter, Keyes and Johnson are leaving the Delta Halo's system it makes more sense for them to fetch her, assuming that's possible. But while she's aware of their positions and movements because of their neural implants, it doesn't seem as if she can communicate with them through those. So Johnson and Keyes seem unaware of Cortana's present whereabouts or situation, and are likely also not aware of the Chief's unscheduled return to Earth.

Besides, with High Charity apparently under the control of Gravemind and teeming with Flood-- not to mention whatever remnants of the Covenant presence from both factions still surviving that haven't yet succumbed-- a rescue operation to retrieve Cortana might not be possible. Or perhaps that will be the Arbiter's first mission. Hope you liked the level "High Charity" because Halo 3 might very well open with a repeat of that. Given the backlash against Halo 2's early departure from Earth, if the entirety of Halo 3 does not take place there, one can bet that Bungie won't front load all the Earth-based levels early in the game the way they did with Halo 2.

Too Shocked For Words... Almost

You can't imagine how exciting this is! To have a record of all of our lost time! Human history, is it? Fascinating.

Along with Guilty Spark's constant referral to the Master Chief as "reclaimer", this line about "human history" is one of the most-oft cited evidence for the theory that Humans are Forerunners. I've always felt the alternative explanation is much better: that the "lost time" is the time since the last detonation of the Halo system. Given that this detonation should have destroyed all sentient life in the galaxy, any civilization that arose in the meantime would have a history that covered exactly that period, the period since Guilty Spark and the other monitors would have had no contact with their creators, the Forerunners. So the monitors "lost time" matches up quite nicely with the history of human civilization, even if there is no other more explicit connection between the two at all.

Less attention is usually paid to something I think is far more salient, which is Guilty Spark's bemoaning the Chief's willingness to destroy the historical record, and presumably Cortana, along with the ship.

What the line does, though, is forge a possible connection between Halo and some of its early source material. In this case, I don't mean Larry Niven's Ringworld, but rather the Culture stories of Ian M. Banks, among them Consider Phlebas, part of which takes place on an Orbital that resembles Halo far more than Niven's titular structure, and focuses in part on a conflict between the culture and a species of physically imposing, near-immortal religious zealot warriors called the Idirans. Despite not being exactly humanoid in shape as Elites are, there are a lot of similarities between Idirans and Elites.

One of the defining differences between the Idirans and the Culture is their attitudes towards artificial intelligences. The Culture are nominally ruled by their AI constructs, as a nomadic civilization that lives on countless orbitals and ships, each of which is run by a Mind or group of Minds that are exceedingly advanced artificial intelligences. This is something of an offense to the Idirans, who believe they have a manifest destiny given to them by their beliefs; a belief in which sentient artificial intelligences have no place in the universe, let alone the exalted place the Culture put them in.

That Guilty Spark should accord so much important to the PoA's computer records has always seemed strange. Certainly, the PoA's systems themselves would not seem at all impressive to the Monitor, and thus from his perspective having multiple copies of such records should not seem at all strange. Certainly there is nothing to suggest that the PoA's computer files would be at all unusual, so we can easily imagine that any other UNSC ship would have at least as much historical information.

Indeed, given the PoA's special mission, which was originally to be involved in a mission to hijack a Covenant ship en route to the Covenant homeworld and thus kidnap a Prophet to ransom him back to the Covenant in return for a parlay, one might assume the PoA would have less information about humanity and Earth on board, for fear that such information would fall into Covenant hands if the mission failed. Certainly this is foremost on Captain Keyes' mind at the start of the game, as the information about Earth possessed by Cortana must be removed from danger of capture by the Covenant.

These two points I've always found to be in direct opposition to one another, and form one of the worst plot holes in the Halo series. As a counterintelligence AI, it is Cortana's job to break into enemy systems to gain information from them and give the Master Chief an advantage in combat by manipulating those systems.

She does this throughout the course of the game, accessing both Forerunner and Covenant systems.

However, if Cortana herself is in possession of such sensitive information about Earth's location and defenses that she cannot be allowed to fall into enemy hands, how can such information possibly be risked so much as to deliberately place her within the enemy's own systems?

Bungie attempts to cut us off at the pass with this objection, putting our words right into the mouth of 343 Guilty Spark:

Ridiculous! That you would imbue a warship's AI with such a wealth of knowledge! Weren't you worried it might be captured? Or destroyed?

We probably should be. Especially if that AI's job brings her into direct contact with alien systems, thereby increasing the risk of that information being captured. That the Monitor is worried about it being destroyed is curious. One wonders if the Forerunners were really an intergalactic RIAA, willing to prosecute even those making backups of their own data. Why the Monitor assumes that any data Cortana has access to isn't backed up somewhere else is curious.

With regards to risk of Cortana's data being intercepted, some of these questions are addressed more in Eric Nylund's First Strike, as we see more of Cortana doing her job, part of which consists of making copies of herself, and these copies can contain less of her own personality and memories than the original does. In this way, one might imagine that the Cortana we interact with through those foreign systems is not the "complete" Cortana.

But if not, where is she? In the first level, Cortana is physically removed from the PoA's systems and inserted into the Master Chief's suit. We're led to believe that this is a real, physical move that constitutes the entirety of Cortana's functions, memories and personality, including the sensitive information that Keyes was so eager to get off the ship in order to comply with the Cole Protocol. This same physical process is repeated when the Chief brings Cortana to the Control Room and inserts her into the panel there. From then on until we return at the start of Two Betrayals, there is seemingly no residue of Cortana in the Chief's suit. She doesn't speak to you at all through the next two levels; that role falls to 343 Guilty Spark, starting from the end of his namesake level and throughout The Library.

The narrative duties are carried in 343 Guilty Spark by the recording played by dropship victor 933's pilot, and the mid-level cutscene where we see the gruesome fate of Private Jenkins, who always goes for the needler. The absence of Cortana's constant running commentary, along with the level's sinister soundtrack, is one of the things that makes that level so memorable.

So we presume that the entirety of Cortana, as rescued from the Autumn, is now in Halo's Core. Whether that's safe or not, we still don't know. That Cortana is able to use that position to get the drop on 343 Guilty Spark is still a bit surprising, as he is not only a construct himself, but also, presumably, of superior Forerunner design.

Throughout Truth and Reconciliation, Cortana did interact with Covenant systems, but apparently remotely from the Chief's suit, as we still hear her dialogue throughout. This is in marked contrast to what happens during Gravemind and High Charity. At the beginning of Gravemind, we repeat the gesture of removing Cortana from the suit and inserting her into the Covenant system; again, presumably, whole. From then on she only speaks when present in holographic form, and mentions a force "fighting back" in the Covenant systems. When you attempt to take Cortana back she refuses, saying she has to remain so as not to risk a "remote detonation" of the IAC's engines, her contingency plan for stopping the Flood from escaping from Delta Halo and for stopping the activation of the installation if Tartarus should succeed in his mission.

Why the connection from High Charity to In Amber Clad is any more "remote" than the connection from the Chief's suit to the ship is puzzling. While some have perhaps rightfully pointed out that being in the Covenant system might afford her abilities and opportunities denied her within the contstraints of the suit, one also assumes that there is more risk, particularly from the force "fighting back". This excuse doesn't really hold up. It's obvious that at this point, Bungie wants the dramatic effect of separation between the Chief and Cortana, just as they did for the 343 Guilty Spark and Library levels in Halo 1. This separation may be of continuing importance for the story, as Cortana remains on High Charity with Gravemind and does not, apparently, detonate the engines, despite the apparent risk of Flood escaping the ring.

Next Time: Feed me, Seymour...



In the fourth paragraph, that should be 'Halo 3', not 'Halo 2', no?

And what happened further down the page, with the totally random google link for imagemagick giu front end? ;)

You're definitely doing a lot of the 'what if' work for Bungie, in case they HAVEN'T nailed down the story details. Good stuff!

Yup.. fixed that, thanks for the heads-up :)

And if the story isn't nailed down by now, they better hurry up and go catch it :)

Rampant for over six years.

Rampant for over se7en years.

She is fully operational when the Master Chief is unconscious (at the beginning of "Halo" and "Outskirts", she talks to him while he regains consciousness). "Sacred Icon" and "Quarantine Zone" take place chronologically AFTER "Regret" (references are made at the beginning of "Sacred Icon" to Regret's murder), which means that the Master Chief was being held by Gravemind the whole time and did not regain consciousness until the begining of "Gravemind". Cortana could have been fully operational that whole time and having a dialogue with it. Her comment of "what is that?" could have easily been an act, and any such discusssion they had would explain how she knows it's name at the start of "High Charity". It's possible the plan of sending the Chief and Arbiter on separate missions may have been Cortana's idea, making a deal with Gravemind and using his "omniscience" of events on the Ring. (You don't want the Halos activated, I don't want the Halos activated, let's make a deal). The game's epilogue may be Gravemind taking charge of a situation that may have been, up until that point, arranged by Cortana.

Well, there's no novelization of the events of Halo 2 as yet, so we've only the game to go on. As for "fully functional" early in Outskirts, I don't think we can say that. Certainly she is conscious when the Chief is not, but that may be all we can say. I'd venture to guess she is dependent on him for a lot of her sensory input that doesn't come from computer networks; so she may have been conscious, able to think, and perhaps even able to communicate by radio, but she may not have been able to see or hear anything around her any better than the Chief could. We just don't know.

As for Gravemind, I think the same applies. We never see, in the game, Cortana conversing with anyone other than the Chief without the means of a holographic projector. I think it's simpler to assume the question "what is that?" is rhetorical-- she's looking to prompt a response from the Chief.

As for its name-- she's the only one who ever calls it that, so I doubt it's a name in any official sense. I think she concocted the name herself by describing what she saw-- a grave for minds.

I don't think it would make any sense for Cortana to come up with the idea of sending the Arbiter and the Chief to retrieve the Index, but then allow Gravemind to deliver that instruction. It would have made far more sense for him to suggest it to Cortana, and then to have her deliver the message to the Chief. It would have been more believable and less suspicious. So the fact that we have Gravemind delivering that suggestion I think is proof enough that he is the source of it.

I do think that a "I don't want the Halo activated, you don't want it activated, let's make a deal" conversation is what we are seeing the start of in the post-credits cutscene in Halo 2.

The kicker, though, is that presumably Cortana doesn't want to see the human race (or indeed all of sentient life, even the Covenant included) consumed by the Flood, either.

My question all along has been what can Gravemind offer to humanity as a preferable alternative to activating the Halo installations as a last-ditch effort to stop the Flood, as the Forerunners did before?

What are the Flood willing to do now that they were not willing to do before, or what would humanity be willing to accept that the Forerunners were not?

Rampant for over six years.

Rampant for over se7en years.

Hmmm perhpas the ultimate evil would be making a deal with devil. You know what they say: "the devil you know, or the devil you don't know". If Humanity (in the form of Cortana) were to broker a deal with Gravemind, a so-called Flood "leader" what could the terms possibly be? Perhaps agreeing to let the Flood have access to sentient life that could fill it's need to exist. It would be as if, the flood would only attack the Brutes, Jackals, and other species not alligned with the humans.

But one thing has always been bugging me, was Gravemind aware of the events on Installation 04, and was he in control of the Flood the entire time?


Very nicely done, Narc. You really do amazing work. I guess you have to to have your own emblem in Halo 2..... Until next time!

I can't really claim any credit for that-- the Rampancy logo was created by Bungie's own Tyson "Ferrex" Green, one of Rampancy's founders, and its presence in Halo 2 is due completely to him :)

Rampant for over six years.

Rampant for over se7en years.

"we see the gruesome fate of Private Jenkins, who always goes for the needler."

Heh, you play #trivia too much.

I will try to cover a few things that I had some ideas on, as for the condition of IAC Cortana last said it was infested with flood, and she also said the flood were taking flight all over the place, meaning they were starting to leave Halo (of course If they were on High Charity) but maybe starting to spread all over that region of space, maybe they will start heading towards earth if they can get IAC or other covenant ships slipspace engines going, High Charity still stands for now but if Cortana does detonate IAC like she said, she will be lost, a lot of the covenant fleet will be destroyed and that may destroy or rekindle a possible human elite alliance. As for the force fighting back I don’t know, maybe it has something to do with gravemind, or possibly an AI construct of High Charity being infected with the forerunner ship coming so close to a Halo. Just a weak thought really.

I don’t have many ideas about gravemind yet, I don’t know how he got from Delta Halo to High Charity or how he posses the power to transport people around and such.

For the sake of argument, lets just say the Ark is one that of the same quality of one from Titan AE, where the forerunners built a contingency plan for their genes (or life) to survive. Of course people are thinking more Noah and not a failsafe for survival. Think of earth (assumption) of the same quality of Titan AE’s ark.

I do agree that the Arbiter Johnson and Keyes will need to gain help from someone, maybe 343 will set/transport them up somewhere, another Halo? Maybe Halfjaw will take them to High charity to gain access to another ship to retreat to earth for help, (to find the ark.) And while on High Charity, they will rescue Cortana and fight Gravemind, or maybe Gravemind will offer up more assistance.

Maybe we will play Cortana in some sort of Tron-esque fight against the fighting force she mentioned. Yeah ok so I had to bring up Tron so sue me, if not Tron-esque maybe something like Ghost in the Shell style. But I do agree if Cortana is to be saved, assuming she is an original not a copy we will have to replay High Charity in some way. Unless she can get into IAC and drive it and fix it herself, then maybe the fighting force will tag along in IAC. Another crazy idea.

Maybe the covenant elite alliance will only rest with the Arbiter, Johnson, Keyes and Halfjaw’s men. There is a lot of potential in any direction, I am sure Bungie will pull something out to surprise us, of course we haven’t seen everything yet, I am sure there is a lot more to still develop.

Hmmm, if Cortana didn’t want to risk a remote detonation of IAC wouldn’t she need to be on that ship vs. being on High Charity? I guess its still remote, just a close remote. Maybe the fighting force mentioned had taken hold or she found something she had to stay and observe or protect even. Things could get funky there after all. Another thought is that maybe she will fire up High Charity and slipspace it to earth (or a sun) assuming it has the power to after the forerunner ship has left of course.

I need to rethink a lot of this and replay both games but that is what I am thinking as for now. My ideas may change. I would love to hear more of your ideas; your thoughts have made me rethink some of this. I am very intrigued.

I think that those -300- orbital defense guns did a fine job with those 15 ships...Remember Sgt. Johnson saying "We reget that the corps just blew up our raggity ass fleet"

From what I could tell, the only surviving ship of those 15 that attacked was the ship that slipped past the defenses and landed planetside, where the UNSC would of been reluctant to use extreme measures to destroy it (Nukes, MAC guns, ect)

Likely the fighting over earth was some other convenant fleet...or the victors of the battle outside High Chairity. I doubt those 15 ships could of held out that long against a huge UNSC fleet and orbital defense grid...I think the UNSC ships needed 3 to 1 odds to win, and they had that and more.

in the great journey, wat about the other elites that helped out the arbiter? If some survived, then they to were fighting alongside Johnson and knows about the alliance.

[quote=]in the great journey, wat about the other elites that helped out the arbiter? If some survived, then they to were fighting alongside Johnson and knows about the alliance.[/quote]

Yes, they would, but at the moment they'd have the same problem that Keyes and Johnson have-- they're stuck on Delta Halo, and the main fighting there is intercovenant. We know now, from the H3 trailer, that there are Covenant forces fighting (or more likely just winning) against humanity on Earth. Whether the civil war among the covenant spilled out there or not, we don't know.

Half-Jaw mentions "the cruiser" he intends to take back from the surface to the space around High Charity in order to fight. Whether the rebelling forces have more than one cruiser, we don't know-- nor do we know its status after that battle.

But sure, it's possible that Keyes, Johnson, Half-Jaw and the Arbiter could show up on a Covenant cruiser with a crewful of Elites to fight alongside humans in Halo 3. We just don't know.

Rampant for over se7en years.

While it's true that the Elites on Earth may not immediately get word of the murder of the Councillers, how long would it really take to change that? Remember, both the UNSC and the Covenant can transport ships at superluminal speed through slipspace at 2.1 lightyears/day and 8 lightyears/day, respectively.

So it might not take very long for the newsfeeds to travel from, say, High Charity to Earth. Think about how fast word goes around in our day and age.

I don't believe, however, that this will make every Elite friendly to us. The Prophet of Truth, I can imagine, is a master of rhetoric; he might be able to spin the events in his favor. I couldn't name every possibility, but here's one example. The Arbiter, whom Truth has milked for all he's worth, may be portrayed as responsible for the murder of the Council, along with inciting heresy within the Covenant and aiding the humans.

What I'm trying to say is that spin, not ignorance, might be what keeps some Elites in the Covenant.

There may be three factions of Elites: those friendly to us, the "loyalists," and an extremely ethnocentric group that sides with neither us nor the Covenant.

I would have preferred to play Halo 2 as the Heretic Leader.