In Halo 2, we experienced firsthand many of the events that took place on October 20, 2552. But the Covenant attack that we thought we fended off was only a small ribbon in what we know now to be a delicate tapestry of events; a tapestry that winds its way through the entirety of the day. Somewhere on this canvas, the events of Halo 3: ODST take place – maybe all of them, or perhaps only a portion. Let’s take a look at what we currently know about the day, and see how ODST fits into the grand scheme.
THE NO SPIN ZONE
Early on the morning of October 20th, an unnamed photographer is browsing the bazaars of Old Mombasa. A self-professed “P.R. man,” his job is to “edit and manipulate the raw news feeds from remote news cameras” with the end result being the production of propaganda material that will bolster the spirits of Earth’s private citizens, and keep them from learning the truth: that the Covenant are unstoppable – and the UNSC is losing.
This man’s story is told in “Second Sunrise Over New Mombasa” in the Halo Graphic Novel…
He works for a P.R. company whose primary client is none other than the Office of Naval Intelligence, otherwise known as ONI. Section Two is his employer’s likely point of contact, seeing as how they are regarded as the propaganda department of ONI. Section Two’s area of influence is far-reaching; S2 ONI spooks are responsible for the protocol that requires all Spartans who have died in battle to be listed not as KIA, but rather MIA. We’ve all heard Marines’ reactions to encountering the Chief in-game: “Whoa, is that a Spartan?” “No way!” While Spartans certainly demand this respect, ONI’s Section Two has gone to great lengths to further it, portraying Spartans as immortal and unbeatable.
When we first encounter the ONI photographer, he has stopped at one particular shop and is holding a photograph or drawing.
This sketch is referenced, but never spoken of, multiple times throughout the day, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out a possible connection.
We know from a comic on Halo3.com that hundreds of thousands of years ago, when the Ark was being constructed on Earth, a prehistoric tribesman stood witness to the event.
Is it possible that this ONI-employed photographer was investigating tribal folk legends of that 100,000-year-old event? In Nylund’s Ghosts of Onyx, we were made privy to a series of ONI communiques regarding a Forerunner installation that was buried underneath Onyx’s surface; so, we know that ONI was aware of Forerunner installations sometimes being buried underground. Unfortunately, we don’t have any further information on this possible connection.
And unfortunately for our photographer friend, he doesn’t have much time to comtemplate the photo – whatever its meaning to him may be.
REGRET, REGRET, REGRET
Regret’s fleet of fifteen Covenant capital ships has arrived at Earth. This fleet, at one time, was unimaginably massive – close to five hundred vessels strong. But the Chief, along with the rest of the Spartans of Blue Team, hi-jacked the Covenant flagship Ascendant Justice, and used it to execute a daring space operation that resulted in the near-total destruction of this Covenant fleet, leaving behind only fifteen ships – the ones which have now arrived at Earth.
As Cortana states in Halo 2, the Covenant weren’t expecting to find humanity’s homeworld. Regret had likely assembled this fleet – presumably one of the more massive in Covenant history – because he had finally discovered the location of the Ark, and he believed the Great Journey was imminent.
However, even fifteen capital ships are a force to be reckoned with, and after the destruction of the Malta, one of Earth’s three hundred geosync platforms constructed to provide a secure perimeter around the planet’s atmosphere, a single Covenant carrier – Regret’s carrier – manages to slip through and take up position above New Mombasa. It uses its location to unleash destruction upon the city, deploying a great number of troops – mostly Elites – as well as a Scarab tank.
Let’s return, for a moment, to our photographer friend. As Regret is attemtping to gain control of the city, the man uncovers a piece of information that will surely be of great importance to his employers.
Despite not being able to leave the city himself, he hands to a young girl a laptop containing a recording (and translation) of this dialogue he’d heard. Presumably, he gave her instructions to deliver it to a UNSC officer once she was safely out of the city. And from this short story, we are able to draw one very important conclusion – that ONI may have known, at the very least, of the existence of something alien and hidden on Earth – the focus of the Covenant’s invasion.
DARE TO PREPARE
On September 22, 2008, at 7:07 p.m., the following transcript was made available on Bungie.net:
<\\> UNSC OFFICE OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE
<\\> TAC-OPS LOGISTICS DATABASE [ONI.SEC.PRTCL-1A]
<\ * PRIORITY! * RESOURCE RE-ALLOCATION REQUEST
>> SENT: [DARE.V.500341(S1)]
>> RECEIVED: HEAVY CRUISER “SAY MY NAME” [SMN.ACTUAL]
\ PARTIAL VTT TRANSCRIPT AS FOLLOWS…
[SMN.ACTUAL]: “The situation on the ground isn’t my concern.”
[DARE.V.500341(S1)]: “I understand, Admiral. But I need –”
[SMN.UNKNOWN]:[UNINTELLIGIBLE > PANIC(?)]
[SMN.ACTUAL]: “Empty archer pods six through twelve!”
[SMN.ACTUAL]: “Ready the MAC, and come about!”
[SMN.UNKNOWN]:[UNINTELLIGIBLE > INSUBORDINATION(?)]
[SMN.ACTUAL]: “It may have passed us, Lieutenant, but it’s still in range.”
[SMN.ACTUAL]: “Come about. And shoot it in the ass.”
[SMN.UNKNOWN]:[UNINTELLIGIBLE > COMPLIANCE(?)]
[DARE.V.500341(S1)]: “Admiral, about my squad?”
[DARE.V.500341(S1)]: “I’ve forwarded their NCO’s name to your –”
[SMN.ACTUAL]: “Enough, Captain!”
[SMN.ACTUAL]: “If I survive this attack…”
[SMN.ACTUAL]: “I will deploy per my orders from Fleet HQ!”
[DARE.V.500341(S1)]: “Sir. I don’t report to Fleet.”
[DARE.V.500341(S1)]: “And the men I want? Now they don’t either.”
[DARE.V.500341(S1)]: “Please. Read my request.”
[SMN.ACTUAL]: “Didn’t think you S1 types ever left your cave.”
[DARE.V.500341(S1)]: “Desperate times…”
[SMN.ACTUAL]: “Alright, Captain. You’ve got your squad.”
[SMN.ACTUAL]: “If I survive the attack.”
[SMN.ACTUAL]: “And right now? That’ll take a genuine act of God.”
[DARE.V.500341(S1)]: “I’ll see what I can do.”
\ ~ REQUEST COMPLETE
\ DATABASE CLOSED \>
We’ve known almost since its release that the transcript detailed a conversation between a Section One ONI agent and an Admiral engaged in battle with the Covenant in orbit above Earth. The ONI Captain was obviously requesting command – or, taking note of the Captain’s language, perhaps simply the transport to him – of several troops serving under the Admiral.
Now, thanks to a brief bit of fiction found in the December 2008 issue of Game Informer, we have a bit more information on this ONI Captain:
“What the hell kind of armor was she wearing?” asks an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper in regards to a new female soldier who recently arrived on the ship.
“I don’t know,” says another. “Wasn’t looking at her gear.”
Mickey, Dutch, Romeo and Buck are doing their best to distract themselves before the big drop. After some chiding, the squad gets their straight-laced commanding officer to give up the woman’s name. “Ms. Naval Intelligence, our new boss,” he scolds. So check your mouths, find your chairs, and get set for a combat drop.” [Game Informer, December 2008]
It’s obvious from this passage that the Captain was successful in extracting the ODST squad and their commanding officer, from whatever skirmish they had priorly been engaged in. I wonder if she actually did pull off some “act of God” that allowed the Admiral of Say My Name to deliver the team to her?
While the ODST squad prepares to drop, the Chief is busy down on the surface. He has taken out the Scarab roaming the city streets, and Regret apparently isn’t too thrilled. His forces begin drawing back:
“Latest intel reports Covenant forces are amassing beneath the carrier,” says the female naval captain over the radio.
“They’re pulling back? Why?” asks a soldier.
“We’re not going to find out waiting up here,” she replies. [Game Informer, December 2008]
FEET FIRST INTO HELL
The ODST announcement trailer clearly showed at least sixteen drop pods breaking away from the pack, and turning sharply down toward the city. We now have text to accompany this scene:
With a violent rumble, the rookie’s pod rockets away from the dropship. Through the thin, vertical window, it’s possible to see a swarm of other ODST pods raining down. The glistening city of New Mombasa materializes below, as does the objective, a large Covenant ship transporting the Prophet of Regret…
“Stand by to adjust trajectory on my mark,” the captain shouts.
“What’d she just say?” an ODST asks.
“We’re way off course!”
“We’re headed exactly where I need to go.”
“We’re going to miss the carrier!”
“Radiation reading? Did the Covenant just set off a nuke?” another ODST chimes in.
“No, the carrier’s going to jump,” replies the captain. “It’s a slipspace rupture.”
“Stabilize and pop your chute,” shouts the squad leader. “We’re going in hard.” [Game Informer, December 2008]
It would appear as though the ODST squad has been fooled – they thought that they were part of a larger strike team whose objective was to board the Prophet’s carrier; the ONI Captain, however, has had another plan all along.
From Halo 2 to Halo 3, we’ve been led to believe that New Mombasa was “flattened,” “destroyed,” and that only charred “remains” of what was once a city are now left. The truth, as it turns out, is quite different:
Mombasa has not been annihilated; in fact, all that has really happened is that some rubble has been knocked into the street and trash now litters the ground. And some windows were busted out. Not bad at all, considering a Covenant cruiser just transitioned into slipspace less than a mile above the city. Of course, it’s entirely likely that the destruction of Mombasa occurs at some later date, and due to some other force.
And this is actually good news for us; I think a still-intact Mombasa will be a lot more fun to explore than a completely-flattened, building-less pile of knee-high rubble would be.
One last item of interest: it can be presumed that it was at this point that the majority of Regret’s Elites left, probably alongside Regret in his carrier, and that Truth’s Brute forces, probably having been preparing for battle in the carriers above, took over the occupation of Mombasa.
And it is these actions that lead us into the primary gameplay segments of Halo 3:ODST…