May 9, 2008

Terminal Visuals

> — Vociferous @ 6:36 pm

Wait, I thought you were done with the terminals? What’s this all about?

Well, to the point: Visuals.

Certain things could not be directly examined in the context of the previous three articles, so as an addendum of sorts, we wanted to show off some of the interesting pictures and symbols found in the terminals – possibly bridging some gaps and filling in cracks within the fiction along the way.

Thanks to urk of NeoGAF, we’ve acquired some amazing video captures of the terminal entries at high resolution. You can find those on Vuze at the following links:

Terminal 01 (Normal/Legendary)
Terminal 02 (Normal/Legendary)
Terminal 03 (Normal/Legendary)
Terminal 04 (Normal/Legendary)
Terminal 05 (Easy/Normal/Heroic/Legendary)
Terminal 06 (Normal/Legendary)
Terminal 07 (Normal/Legendary)

All-in-all there are 16 terminal instances relating to the Forerunners and their archive. We really appreciate the time and attention urk took in capturing these items and we’re using them in this very piece. Remember to use the pause button frequently to examine each entry closer, as we run through each panel rather quickly.

You can also check out HBO’s interesting terminal interface called Forerunner Terminal Network Archives for additional content and ways in which you can view the terminals.

But what about the visuals?

The Forerunner language has offered an amazing lexicon of symbols which some fans have deciphered or at the very least cataloged. One symbol, which stands out above all of them, is this one…

For those who have played Halo: Combat Evolved, you may remember it from ‘The Silent Cartographer’ (img) while others may remember seeing it on Halo 2’s multiplayer map called Ascension (img). This image is everywhere – plastered across all aspects of the Halo Array and even on the face of Halo 3’s Bestiarum – a Forerunner archive of several key sentient species (img). The monitors in Forge have this engraved in their encasement, even the Ark’s surface reveals the architecture was molding into the shape of the symbol (img). If you’re familiar with the Legendary ending of Halo 3, you’ll recognize the lower portion of the same exact symbol near the northern axis of the mysterious planetoid facility.

To the Forerunners, this symbol obviously meant something special. We doubt that it had to do with a functional or practical purpose because of the frequency in which it occurs and the diversity of its locations, but we do feel it may be acting as an emblem for all of those otherwise separate elements of the Halo Array, including what many have proposed is a shield world in the screenshot above.

Some have pointed out the visual connection between this image and an actual sword and shield, a metaphorical analog of the Halo ringworlds and the shield facilities operating in tandem. These “shields” were discussed extensively during Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, they were mentioned during the ‘Cortana message’ lead-up to the unveiling of the portal in Halo 3’s ‘The Storm,’ and interestingly, they’re also found in the Bestiarum as one of the confirmed sources for the information within. We know that the Array Installations acted as a sword, slaying the Flood, but we also know, thanks to the Onyx Project mentioned of in the terminals, that there were facilities made which could shield the firing of the Halo Array – perhaps this is the installation seen in the Legendary ending.

Whatever the symbol is, we know that it is directly related to the Forerunners and their story. We can be sure, if the end of Halo 3 is any indication, that the Forerunners and/or their properties will be heavily featured in a future Bungie title. If you still harbor doubt, take your Halo 3 manual out and flip it around so that you can examine the back cover. Hopefully this future Bungie project, whatever it is, will offer more explanation as to the meaning of symbol and possibly even deliver more information on the Forerunners themselves.

Of course, there were plenty of other symbols in the terminals – at least one symbol for each character represented in archive. Below are a composite of captures showing every symbol and each character they likely represent.

From left to right…

  • The first is, of course, respectively Didact and Librarian. Most of the terminals with their fragmented conversations have both symbols, but a few were one-sided messages. The Librarian is the only symbol which can be selected as part of a multiplayer armor permutation.
  • The next two images are of Mendicant Bias. We’ll detail why there are two images and three separate symbols representing him below.
  • The fourth image is of Mendicant Bias and a compound intelligence speaking on behalf of the Gravemind and, by proxy, the Flood.
  • The fifth may have been a point of confusion for some (including us). It actually represents the archive – the Librarian’s record, or at least the AI caretaker of that record on the Ark. You’ll notice that it is very similar to Librarian’s symbol, but with a few minor differences. This icon is present in the description of the events on G617g and when 343 Guilty Spark attempts to gain access to the terminals.
  • The sixth and final image is of Offensive Bias, clearly similar to Mendicant’s icon in a variety of ways, but also distinctively different.

When reviewing the symbols, one interesting subject which comes up is that of the relationship between Adjutant Reflex and Mendicant Bias. For those not in the know, Adjutant Reflex played a heavy role in the Iris ARG (alternate reality game) leading up to Halo 3’s release. The entity registered an account with’s forums and began posting mysteriously intriguing messages. It has never been fully disclosed as to what the true purpose of Adjutant Reflex was or the nature of the entity’s relationship to Mendicant Bias. Based on the information he provided in his posts, we believe that Adjutant Reflex may have been a facilitator of the Halo Array on the Ark – an AI construct specifically in charge of the Array and, in this case, in charge of the creation of Installation 04’s replacement.

We also believe that at some point he was directly assaulted by Mendicant Bias. The account on was hijacked by a third-party and the avatar was changed to the symbol seen frequently related to Mendicant’s entries in the terminal archive (img). Mendicant Bias, for reasons only speculated on, has several symbols associated to himself.


As Mendicant is better described as a network of separate parts, perhaps they are different elements of a whole which compose the construct in its entirety. The ARG may, in fact, be showing the reconstitution of Mendicant Bias from the perspective of Adjutant Reflex.

As Mendicant said in the terminals:

I have found the shard that was lost. They brought it back to me.

One part (the red circle and off-center dot) may have served as the Forerunner’s point of contact, funneling memorandums, reports and recommendations to the Forerunners, while the other could communicate with the Gravemind (the blue circle and strange symbol seen in the avatar). Both are even seen communicating with each other at one point (as the two symbols combine and both become red), when Mendicant discusses cutting fire breaks into infested systems – stating memorably that “half-measures will not suffice.” At some point, Mendicant began to forcibly seize control of the Ark in his efforts to make amends for his sins. Adjutant Reflex is the likely candidate who it was seized from, hence the hostility embedded in the situation.

Perhaps one day we’ll have a full account of the story of Adjutant Reflex, but till then we’re left to guesswork and errant speculation. Well, hopefully not too errant…

In the bottom-left portion of the terminal interface, a series of even more interesting images appear. While we’re not certain of the exact nature of each of these pictures, we’re going to offer a few possibilities based on the adjacent text and context of the entry:

The first image we have is in the very first terminal. Mendicant’s text talks about evacuating a planet before the Flood have taken it completely. Clearly, this planet has some sort of protective barrier and there’s apparently a Keyship to the left with circular icons, possibly representing the Flood, on the top-right. This could mean that as the Flood begins to take hold of the planet, their population should evacuate on the Keyships at the other side. The enhanced portion of the image appears to be the orbital bombardment of key locations also spoken of in the same text.

Here we see what appears to be 343 Guilty Spark accessing a terminal. The image is accompanied by the conversation between Guilty Spark and the archive’s facilitator about the core purpose of Installation 00 – the manufacturing of Array Installations. We originally thought he may be talking to Mendicant Bias during this discussion, but it’s now clear that this was some managing AI construct on the Ark (before Mendicant took control), as the symbol is related to the same database which discovered the Flood’s infestation on G617g.

The next image we see appears to be directly related to the Ark’s security system. When the remainder of Mendicant was retrieved from the Forerunner dreadnought, “the shard” was found. What part of his network he was referring isn’t mentioned, but it could be referencing the disparity between the two symbols that represent Mendicant in the terminals, as stated earlier. This image of the Ark and its towers seem to represent the region of the installation which Mendicant’s personality array was being held.

This image is easily the most enigmatic.

It appears during a recommendation of Forerunner armor from Mendicant, so one would assume that it is, in fact, armor worn by the Forerunners. At first, it seemed unlikely. It doesn’t appear to have the lean, angular design of a Forerunner ship, nor does it look like a suit functional for a bipedal sentient, presumably humanoid like we have assumed the Forerunners to be. Could the Forerunners be anatomically different than we suspected…or could the strange shapes in the image actually be something else entirely?

Well, if you look closely, you’ll notice the shape of a human inside this object (img). This may very well have been a suit, some very alien form of armor which completely encapsulated and regulated a Forerunner against the infection of the Flood. True, this estimation could be off the mark, but there’s little else to go by in what is clearly an intentionally enigmatic sketch of something extremely foreign to human eyes.

Another message from Mendicant Bias, this one referencing the possibility of using facilities similar to the Onyx Project – shield worlds – which Forerunner populations could be evacuated to. Is this an image of a shield world or is he referencing a planet already struck down by the Flood? We may eventually find out the answer to this question, but probably not until Bungie’s next Halo game.

And here is a shot of what appears to be G617g, presumably with the individual locations of where the two exploratory groups lost contact. Of course this is where it all started – ground zero for the emergence of the Flood in our galaxy.

And then the final image shows a series of icons, a Keyship and an interesting insignia. Although this accompanies the Forerunner letter from father to son, the image, like some of the others, remains incredibly enigmatic.

You’ll notice that we failed to include the character icon above, but this was not done by mistake. The image doesn’t appear to relate to a specific character or AI construct, but rather a program. Whatever it was, it relied heavily on the Forerunner Keyships and, in the end, Mendicant Bias, whose icons you can see near the top of the image.

The icon should be carefully examined, as it appears to be very similar to the Reclaimer symbol we’ve come to know in previous Bungie titles and novels. Perhaps this symbol deals with the Forerunner’s plan to protect humanity, a future civilization mentioned in the letter. If that is true, the image below must deal with the Conservation Measure, the Halo Array and the last ditch effort to destroy the Flood, the commissioning of Mendicant Bias.

All of these parts are essentially the tapestry of the Forerunner terminals in total; the last image appears to be a mosaic of the story they told. The Keyships, the Conservation Measure and Mendicant Bias – all elements of a rich story which we will hopefully see more on from Bungie in the future.


Edit: We’ve been fortunate to have some talented readers of the blog; one by the name of Vulcan Stark has successfully recreated the Forerunner symbols we discussed above. They’re of a high quality and we thought it would be wrong not to include them here for all of you to enjoy.

Thanks, Vulcan and keep up the good work!


  1. If the forerunners ONLY used glyphs to communicate, Cortana must’ve had a heck of the time at the terminals and with the Covenant AIs…

    Comment by Forwarduntodawn — December 2, 2009 @ 8:34 am

  2. Oh, and regarding the armour thing. Yes, I do see the human, but it seems largely off porportions. What could’ve been suggested was the composition of a Contender-class AI’s crystal. It was a compound mind and must’ve been comprised of many parts.
    Cortana was stored in a flat piece of crystal, probably because her code and mimicked sentience was linear. But Mendicant Bias, being far more capable, might’ve required a 3-dimensional crystal carved in a specific shape to store his codes.

    Comment by Forwarduntodawn — December 2, 2009 @ 8:51 am

  3. I guess it’s impossible to see how the Didact would have turned out to be such a murderous douchelord. You did good here. I remember reading this blog back in 2008. I had a flip phone with web browsing capabilities. It would take a minute or two to load each page because it was a 1X connection. Your blog entries helped pass so much time, as well as fill me in on things I missed. My main focus was the Arbiter’s story. For me, Thel Vadam remains one of the most important characters to the Halo story for me.

    Comment by MrJacinto — June 24, 2015 @ 10:12 pm

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