March 26, 2008

She Died in Eden (IV)

> — Vociferous @ 9:27 am

In a frantic tone, Librarian sends another harrowing message:

I’ve remotely destroyed our Keyships. A security measure. Without them I cannot reach the Ark. But neither then can the thing. I’m trapped. On a beautiful, empty world. Its inhabitants have been safely indexed, every single one of them.

They’re special–well worth the effort it took to build one final gateway even at this late hour.

This may be our last communication. I’m begging you.

Fire the Array.

Light the weapon, and let it be done.

When the parasite had begun to coalesce and move toward the Ark, her Keyships became a risk. As stated before, they hold the activation system for the gateway, a portal that acts as the direct line through slipspace and to the Ark’s hidden location. Discerning this, Librarian destroys the remaining Keyships left under her service, stranding her on this final world.

For a brief moment here (an extensively later), she praises this last find – the inhabitants and the planet itself, stating that the gateway built there was worth more than the effort.

Then she asks him to murder her.

He feigns ignorance:

We’ve confirmed your observations. Infected supraluminal ships are arrowing inward from several clusters. No more spiral growth. The thing is counterattacking. Suppression, Security and Emergency Circumstance fleets are all being recalled. Systems are evacuating.

Mendicant Bias is no longer communicating with us.

But now I can guess where you are.

Didact confirms Mendicant’s betrayal. He states that all of the fleets are being recalled back to the Ark to assist against the attack and that the nearby systems are evacuating. It is not known what he meant by this evacuation, although it has been theorized that he could be referring to the Onyx Project, the movement of beings to shield facilities to stave off the Array [T5-03].

His last words lay claim to where she is, a planet which is highly-regarded, but when they fall from his mouth, rather than immediately speed off to her in these final hours, he remains still and unmoved. His inaction here is never understood, but can really be examined here as an individualized analogy for the entire Forerunner race’s inaction over 300 years. In a lot of ways, the story of Didact and Librarian is really the story of the Forerunner civilization and those it pledged to protect – how they chose their own devastating fate by standing still rather than taking action.

This was the ultimate undoing of their kind and likewise, the ultimate betrayal by Didact.

My work is done. The portal is inactive, and I’ve begun the burial measures. Soon there’ll be nothing but sand and rock and normal ferrite signatures.

You should see the mountain that watches over it. A beautiful thing–a snowcapped sentinel. That’s where I will spend what time is left to me.

Did I tell you? I built a garden. The earth is so rich. A seed falls and a tree sprouts or a flower blooms. There’s so much…potential. We knew this was a special place because of them, but unless you’ve been here, you can’t know.

It’s [Eden].

I have to stop transmitting. The thing is listening. Its [thinking dead] are babbling–laughing through every channel they can find.

Be proud. The Mind claims victory, yet it still doesn’t suspect. You’ve outwitted it, my love. And now you can destroy it.

But you cannot save me.

Librarian’s final message is an emotionally riveting one.

At this point, her work is complete. The portal which at one time was jettisoning Keyships directly to the Ark is inactive and she is beginning to hide it from those who would come after. All modes of transportation are gone. She is stranded.

Not only did she build the final gateway there, but she has chosen to live out the rest of her days (though short) on this world – a planet which she describes as paradise or Eden. By now, you may have already guessed that this is Earth and that its inhabitants, which she has already sent to the Ark, are humanity.

After visiting the amazing environments of the Halo installations and the Ark, some fans might wonder why Librarian considered the Earth to be a paradise like Eden. Why was it so beautiful and important, when the vistas on some of those artificial installations are incredibly breathtaking on their own? Furthermore, why were humans considered so significant? This seems to be a consistent theme throughout Forerunner literature and text: Humanity is special.

The Iris ARG text shines a bit of light on the matter. Whether written by Librarian or Didact is unknown, but at least one of the two seem likely to be its author:

The anomalous world is in a perilous location beyond the line. The secrets it holds must be preserved, plans within plans within plans. The inhabitants; these unique denizens, must be researched. They may hold answers to our own mysteries. What irony that we discovered this treasure, only at the end of things. But what fortune that we still had time to save them. The thing we built on that world will vouchsafe their lives, but perhaps one day it will be used for its intended purpose. If the plan succeeds, and they are saved, it will be a good world. If the plan fails, and the adversary succeeds, it will remain an enigma forever with no one left to reclaim it.

Earth is an anomaly to the Forerunners, but why? Humanity is unique, but how so? Whatever that answer is, it must be relative to the line: They may hold answers to our own mysteries. What could that mean? The only thing which is clear is that humans are connected to the Forerunners through some independent means.

Were they also different and unique? Was their first world similar to our own? Were naturally-occurring worlds like Earth uncommon or unprecedented? Did they share the same genome, the same social structure? Did the Forerunners evolve similarly to humanity or perhaps even identically?

It should be said that the amount of evidence, although inferred, support that the Precursors offered the Mantle to the Forerunners, and later, the Forerunners, in turn, have offered humankind the mantle of Reclaimer. But what became of the Precursors? What part did they play in the Forerunners and these ‘mysteries’ that they speak of?

Is it possible that humanity is somehow connected to the Precursors and taking that thought further, is it possible that humanity might be what is left of the Precursors? Consider this: The only mystery of the Forerunners we currently know is that they have developed a belief system on the Mantle and that this system was given to them by a previous race, the Precursors. And just as humanity stumbled upon the Forerunner technology during their battle with the Covenant and Flood, perhaps the Forerunners found humanity, their own forefathers, during their own war with the parasite?

Halo 3 is clear that the Forerunners considered humanity their heirs, but why? With the available information, we have little to go by, but it would seem that this connection is either synonymous or directly related to the Forerunner’s connection to the Precursors and the passing on of their system of morality – the Mantle. This relationship will hopefully be established more clearly in the Halo fiction as time goes.

The writer of the Iris text goes on to talk about the plans within plans within plans. So what are those plans?

Obviously the extraction of humankind from Earth through the gateway was part of this, as was their return after the Array had cleansed the galaxy of the parasite. But was there more? Some would say that the role of the Master Chief during the Halo trilogy was also part of the plan as well. That humanity would find and claim the rings for their own, using them against the parasite if it ever returned.

In this last message from Librarian, she welcomes her fate and nestles into the womb of our own planet awaiting the firing of the Array. Her lover did not come to get her as he promised; although he had not yet launched the last resort, she knew that when the parasite came knocking on the door of the Maginot Sphere, Didact would do what was required of him.

She has accepted her fate and the message she offered above has the quiet and unstrained air of acquiescence. She no longer feels peril or concern – she is at peace in her beautiful garden. Her job is complete and she will perish on this world.

Didact, however, will have no peace…

Proud? When I have failed you utterly, how can I feel anything but sorrow?

Bias has come undone. He crossed the line this morning–brought the abomination with him–and destroyed your waiting rescue party.

It’s over. We’re activating the [destruction arrayed matrix], our shameful last resort.

I can picture you in your garden, surveying all you have created–surveying all you have preserved. And I curse the circumstance that keeps my finger on the trigger.

Of all the fates to befall us, this is the cruelest of all. My inaction and hesitation kept me here, on the wrong side of the line. And [300 years[?]] of our society’s failure and miscalculation makes me your executioner.

It’s too much to bear.

Upon sending the message, Didact receives this response:

//ERROR–NO CARRIER OR RECEIPT AVAILABLE {DEAD END TRANSMISSION} //INFORMATION DESTROYED IN TRANSIT

Undeterred, he sends one final message, even though he knows she will never see it:

Mendicant Bias is trying to prevent us from firing the Array. He speeds back to the Ark, but he won’t succeed. Offensive Bias will stop him, and I will burn this stinking menace in your name.

And then? I will begin our Great Journey without you, carrying this bitter record. Those who come after will know what we bought with this [false transcendence]–what you bought, and the price you paid.

Presumably, by the time the message reached her communication site, the Array had already fired or she had disabled the site on Earth in response to the increasing chatter of the parasite. She never heard his apology.

Now, only at the end, is Didact struck by the abject horror of his reality. She was alone in her garden on that new world and that is where she was when the rings were finally lit. In this moment, he accepts his duty and deals with not only his own inaction which cost him what he longed for most, but also the inaction of 300 years of underestimating the enemy committed by the Forerunner race.

As Mendicant breaches the Line with its five million ships, intent on halting the Array’s activation, one can imagine the harsh reality that poured into Didact’s mind. His heart was shattered, his hands shaking as he keyed in the activation sequence – even the tone as he sent the last message, watching the parasite’s legions of ships swallow the Forerunners’ frontlines in distant space.

He had failed and he knew it.

His last message is interesting because for the first time, outside of the Covenant religion, we hear a Forerunner being mention the Great Journey. For the Covenant, this has been described as a spiritual transcendence – the transformation of a physical mortal to an eternal god, entrance into the afterlife. And the Covenant devoutly believed this to be true.

We know, however, that what Didact is mentioning here appears to be wholly physical rather than the transformation into a deity. He states that he will be carrying this record and that others will know the error in the Forerunners’ ways – presumably the ‘false transcendence’ refers to the Mantle and the atrocity it led to. Whatever the Great Journey really is, it sounds nothing like the passageway to paradise or becoming a god.

It sounds as though the Forerunners were definitely leaving their place on the Ark, but rather than an ascending to glory, they’re descending into shame and personal disgust. Perhaps they fled to hide from their betrayal of the galaxy through the Array, not wanting to live in the same place as the very worlds they abandoned hope on upon the Flood’s arrival.

The Iris text seems to indicate that Didact will not only be alive but also alone [ITL-05]:

It’s done. By my hands. The pyrrhic solution is ignited. All I have left is the quiet of space to lull me to sleep.

I will dream of you.

This text is believed to be the log Didact entered immediately after firing the Array. It hints strongly that when taking part in the Forerunners’ Great Journey, he would exist somewhere in space, possibly in a state of suspended animation, but clearly alone now that he has lost Librarian.

Where or when Didact could be traveling is something we’ll discuss at another time, but as far as the Great Journey is concerned: the Librarian never made it. She, along with his peace, died in Eden.

In the end, however, we do know that Didact learned from his and his race’s inaction. He paid a heavy cost for this knowledge and that cost compelled him to warn all future worlds of not only the parasite, but about the peril of hesitation – about recognizing absolute evil and not staying your hand when it threatens the innocent. The petition is to live in the future, not the past.

This, I believe, is the heart of their personal story and on a far greater level, the story of the Forerunner race. It is their message to humanity – their epitaph:

This is my final entry, and I am left with one hope. That one day, someone, anyone is around to witness this warning.

If you are that witness, and it seems we pinned all our hopes on this single suicidal plan – know that a thousand other plans were tried and failed.

Millions of brave and honored souls died trying to avert this terrible, desperate situation.

Know that energetic and tenacious as life is, it has an antithesis just as powerful.

It is that thing which we must obliterate.

/ vociferous

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