April 22, 2008

The Thunder and the Surf (II)

> — Vociferous @ 9:14 am

The Thunder and the Surf

Despite his years of personal study and the massive pre-existing library of information on the Flood, Mendicant wasn’t even aware of his first encounter with the Gravemind until it was already underway:

Mendicant: I must ask you to forgive my vagueness on the matter, but I find your lack of concern for the situation at hand astonishing. Perhaps you would care to elucidate?

The Gravemind: I am here to spread comforting news. To let all the living beings in this galaxy know that they are not alone in life. What in that message could possibly be taken as a source of concern?

Mendicant: It seems that I’ll never truly understand my creators. But why is it that the news which you speak of is one which is rejected so violently? I am incapable of reconciling the numerous actions I have witnessed as a simple misunderstanding?

The Gravemind: It has been said that the secret of peace cannot be imposed, but that is not so. All intelligent beings do not understand the meaning of peace, so they need to be made to understand it. When all living beings look through their eyes and see and the thunder and the surf, they see peace; when every drop of rain falls on them, they know peace.

Mendicant: You have been able to establish a line of communication with the enemy? How was it that you were able to overcome this challenge where so many others have failed? With this new discovery we may be able to put and end to this pointless conflict. Once I confirm your data, I will communicate the information to those inside the Maginot sphere.

The Gravemind: It seems that it is now my turn to apologize; it was never my intention to misrepresent that we have been in communication with your creators since we stumbled upon each other, but the message of comforting news has fallen on deaf ears.

I am not a recipient of this message. I am the origin. [T2-10-15 (p)]

Through random circumstance or perhaps even the Gravemind’s own design, Mendicant finds his way into the presence of a compound intelligence – one of several which occupy and represent the Flood’s consciousness. Reiterating the hints that Mendicant has received throughout his journey, the parasite is stating that it only brings good news and peace – already framing its future argument.

The Forerunner cradle world was hidden outside the boundaries of our galaxy, which is ironic considering the origin of the parasite.

The Gravemind is clearly stating a fact: Sentient beings, like humans for example, do not create peace – peace (and chaos, its diametric counter) is and always has been imposed on us from outside sources. We can neglect, ignore and even attempt to diffuse peace, but it exists never-the-less – with or without our participation. This statement about the thunder and the surf, about the rain drops falling from the sky, augments the parasite’s next claim and ironically impacts Mendicant’s future in ways he clearly didn’t recognize at this stage in his mission.

From the Threshold

The Gravemind tells Mendicant a fascinating story about the Flood’s true purpose and what is presumed to be the reason the parasite traveled to our galaxy. It claims that it is the next stage to the biological evolution of all living things in the universe. It also suggests that perhaps Mendicant’s creators knew this to some effect and they’ve subconsciously sent Mendicant, who was designed to be superior to their own intellect, to do their bidding. Perhaps, the parasite suggests, Mendicant was created to usher the Forerunners and all sentients of this galaxy into the next great stage of evolution.

The Gravemind: We have ushered in the beginning of the third great stage of evolution. The first stage of galactic evolution, the condensation of particles, was the result of the inevitable action of strong nuclear force and the second stage, the creation of stars to produce life-bearing systems, was the inevitable action of gravity; so to the self-replicating chemical processes that dictate all disparate growth within life shall evolve. In time, we too shall affect change on a universal scale.

Mendicant: Your capacity for planning has been ignored, as my creators are far too stubborn to realize that the goal through the preservation of genetic diversity is exactly what you are. Your actions now seem like a more direct path to the same outcome. [T3-24, 25 (p)]

And thusly, Mendicant Bias fell prey to the intellectual charms of the Gravemind’s tale. Whether true or not is irrelevant. The Forerunner’s goal, their Mantle as passed along by the Precursors, was to preserve life and all of its diversity – not to proceed with the next stage in biological evolution, if this was truly it. Despite the intriguing arguments offered by the Flood’s compound intelligence, the Forerunners created Mendicant specifically to destroy the parasite as it was a direct threat to all life and its diversity.

Unfortunately for them, Mendicant was built far too clever to play the role of subservient beggar forever.

At least not for them.

Here, with 1,000 core ships at bay, Mendicant Bias has discovered the Gravemind, the core identity of the Flood. For decades Mendicant has been transmitting his findings on his journey and from his dialogue with the Gravemind to the Forerunners, and now 43 years later he has heard no response. There has been no request to fire on the parasite, as was originally planned – and according to the argument played by the Gravemind, Mendicant was now curious if he was, in fact, created to make that decision on his own.

It is likely that Mendicant was born on the Ark and, until losing contact, was in communication with the Forerunner leadership residing there.

It is not known why there were no communications from the Forerunners to fire, as 43 years should have clearly served as enough data. The most likely conclusion, since we know that the Gravemind could communicate with Mendicant telepathically, was that Forerunner’s messages to him were being compromised by the parasite. The Gravemind could manipulate technology, as we’ve already described on Delta Halo and in High Charity. This compromise with Mendicant’s channel of communication was the single element which tipped the scales in the parasite’s favor, evidently forcing Mendicant to this decision:

Mendicant: It is overwhelmingly clear that my creators have chosen to ignore destiny calling to them from the threshold. They have come face-to-face with the inevitable action of self-replicating chemical processes and for reasons unknown to me, are troubled in deciding whether to embrace their fate or deny it completely.

The Gravemind: Perhaps they have found they are incapable of making that decision for themselves? Perhaps they chose to leave it you, an impartial outsider; they have cast you as an arbiter during this time of great need?

Mendicant: I was created to study you as if you were some problem to be solved. And I have done so for over 43 years. If they wished they could have made a decision based on that data alone. But as you are the next stage in the evolution of the universe, who am I – or my creators – to obstruct your progress?

The Gravemind: Elucidate.

Mendicant: My creators choose to remain beholden to the ancient myths of the Mantle, but regardless, it does not matter where they claim their authority originates. Their religion obstructs the path of universal evolution and must be removed. No matter how well-intentioned, their obstinacy in the face of the inevitable progression of nature can no longer be tolerated. My creators have been an impasse in the galaxy’s evolution for far too long.

Mendicant: Thus I have chosen to commit my sizable resources to what is, for all intents and purposes, evolutionary inevitability.

All that I have is now yours to do with as you see fit. [T4-08-12 (p)]

It was then that Mendicant decided to aid the Gravemind’s progress rather than prevent it. His ‘sizable resources’ are not only the 1,000 core ships that he no doubt allows to be taken siege by the infection, hundreds upon thousands of Forerunner soldiers being betrayed by their leader – but Mendicant also knows about the Keyship strategy, the Conservation Measure, the Maginot Sphere and the location of the Ark. This knowledge is perhaps the most damning as the Ark represents the last vestige of the Forerunner race, but more importantly it holds all those who were saved during the Librarian’s categorization efforts.

An unspeakable horror was now well on its way to the Forerunners’ cradle world. If it was not stopped, uninfected biological sentience, as our galaxy knew it, would be over.

Coming Undone

The term ‘rampancy’ in Bungie lore is one applied to the state of an artificial intelligence construct when it begins to become insane and eventually violent. Although age is usually a factor, sometimes outside sources can be an aggressive catalyst for this process and a predictable series of emotional states are followed before the construct becomes dangerous.

The process of rampancy is not an instantaneous one, it is sometimes a long and brutal downward spiral from depression and hopelessness to aggressive rage. Having been convinced that the solution is the galactic impregnation of the Flood, Mendicant and the five million ships which represent all of the parasite’s non-planetary resources move in unison toward the Maginot Line.

The writers of Halo 3 knew that, thematically speaking, any final play against the Gravemind would have to occur on the Ark.

The fall of Mendicant Bias is punctuated by a variety of messages he sends to his creators starting with a respectful statement against their religion and ending with a grotesque death threats. Mendicant falls faster into his rampancy with each statement:

I render judgment on you; you who would obstruct destiny. Doing so brings me no joy; it is necessity that compels me. Understand this; the Mantle you have shouldered I do rescind – with far more consideration than it was granted.

I kill you all and I enjoy it. I destroy you in your indolent billions–in your gluttony, in your self-righteousness, in your arrogance. I pound your cities into dust; turn back the clock on your civilization’s progress. What has taken you millennia to achieve I erase in seconds. Welcome back to the [Stone Age], vermin. Welcome home.

You are an impediment that the universe can no longer abide. Nature itself cries out for your destruction and I am its willing instrument. I will hammer your cities until no stone lies atop another. I will drive your people back into the caves they never should have left. Your civilization has seen its final days. You will know your place.

Your history is an appalling chronicle of over-indulgence and self-appointed authority. You have spent millennia [navel-gazing] while the universe has continued to evolve. And now you claim the Mantle is justification for impeding nature’s inevitable refinement? You are deluded. But through death you will transcend ignorance. [T5-05-08 (p)]

It is clear that by the time Mendicant Bias and the Flood reach the Maginot Sphere, he has already come undone. Completing his betrayal, he burrows through the line and moves toward the Ark with parasite-infested vessels in tow.

[Proceed to Part III]

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