Interlude Chapter Finale

As they exited the remains of Garrick’s apartment building, they emerged onto a street that he didn’t recognize: bodies lay wherever they had fallen in their flight for their lives, pockmarked holes littered the streets where rounds from the weapons had impacted, cars were either scorched or turned over for cover and filled with small holes where the aliens’ guns had shot through them. There was a thick smoke that filled the air with the pungent smell of burning plastic and flesh. Julia took the lead and wound them through the obstacle course of destruction that Garrick’s neighbourhood had become. They met up with the other people Julia had been scouting with, a young Latina woman named Mariana came over to Garrick and examined him, she told him she had been the one to find him on the floor before running to get Julia to try and help. Mariana was paired with an older man who Garrick found out was her father Joseph, Garrick thanked both of them for their help and they introduced him to the rest of the party: There was John, a mechanic who had owned his own shop before it was destroyed in a battle between the army and the aliens; Natalie, a school teacher who had worked just three blocks from Garrick’s apartment; Thomas, a former criminal who had been paroled not two days before the invasion had happened and Marie a cardiologist from the hospital in his town. They all huddled behind an overturned truck and ran through everything they had found on their scouting raid. Canned goods, batteries, medical supplies, and ammunition were the main focuses, but some of them also found luxuries like alcohol and cigarettes. “Alright, we have as much as we can carry and we even found an extra man, let’s head back to the camp and drop what we have, the Colonel will want to meet Garrick” Mariana said to the party.

“The Colonel?” Garrick asked Mariana, sounding a little scared, “Who’s the colonel?”

“You’ll met them when we get back to camp. Don’t worry, she’s not overly mean” Mariana replied with a smirk as the rest of the party stifled a small giggle. The walked between two completely burned out houses down a small alleyway that Garrick guessed children used to get to the school Natalie worked at. They emerged onto a street in a small cul-de-sac and hurried over to a large van that was parked in one of the driveways on the street. It, along with every other vehicle they had passed on their way there, was riddled with holes from either bullets or those alien weapons. They loaded up the gear and climbed in on top of it, Garrick sat with his back to the driver’s seat facing the back of the van. Julia started the van, but Garrick couldn’t hear anything.

“Did she even star….” he began to ask before Joseph shot him a warning glare and held a finger up to his mouth indicating for silence. Garrick nodded his agreement and they drove in silence to the camp. He kept his eyes down the whole time they drove. As he drifted in and out of consciousness, he realized how exhausted he was but sleep, true restful sleep, not exhaustion, wouldn’t come. He tried to sleep but he kept seeing the faces of his neighbours in the stairwell every time he closed his eyes. He resolved the try and count the turns and time the trip to approximate how far they had gone and in which direction, his attempt was futile. With Julia having to weave around battlegrounds and debris it was impossible to tell when they were actually turning or just maneuvering around an obstacle. After what felt like an eternity the van stopped and everyone began moving towards the door in silence. They all exited the van grabbing the supplies they acquired in silence and moved around the far side of the van. As far as Garrick could tell it was just a mall, one he didn’t even recognize which meant they were in a completely different neighbourhood from his own. They walked past several abandoned cars and through doors missing several panes of glass. They entered the mall and it, like the streets they had traveled down, looked like a battlefield.

Crater’s covered the floor accompanied by scorch marks and, what Garrick could only surmise, was dried blood. The party veered right down a maintenance hallway between a sporting goods store and a photography shop. They pushed the door open hard and ventured through. As they went into the maintenance hallway Garrick looked behind the door and noticed a lot of bedding and sleeping bags that had been placed behind the door to stop it from making noise. The door slid shut but was stopped by several small bean bags on the ground at the side of the door frame, again to stop it’s sound. Julia took the lead and walked briskly down the hallway while the rest followed in silence, down the hall, right turn, left at the next intersection then another left and another right. Finally, they came to a steel door with a keypad, Julia keyed in a code and the light above the panel switched from red to green. The door opened to reveal two heavily armoured marines with their weapons pointed at the door. Julia walked right by them as did the rest of the party. Garrick was followed by Joseph as they moved past the marines and down the stairs they were guarding. They went down what felt like 4 stories and came to another door, Julia entered another code and this door, rather than opening outward as with the previous door guarded by the Marines, slid to the side to reveal a small room. They all squeezed into the room with their gear and the door slid shut behind them. It closed with a faint hiss and then there was the sound of air escaping from a cylinder. The massive light above the door on the opposite side from the one they entered switched from red to green and the door beneath slid open to reveal an underground bunker.

The bunker looked like a cross between a large corporate facility and a military installation. There was a long hallway that led to a large atrium with doors and various hallways on its sides. along the floor were multi coloured lines mapping the way to various crucial areas like the mess and hospital wing. There were several desks lining the hallway staffed by a hodge podge of different people. some military some obviously not. The lighting gave off the weird yellow glow to simulate sunlight even though everyone in the bunker knew it wasn’t.

As they moved into the bunker they were met by a group of kids who ran up to Natalie and started gushing about their school projects they were working on. Natalie stopped and bent down to look the kids in the eye, she smiled and told them to give her a minute to unload the supplies and then she would have something to show them. The kids let out a chorus of cheers as Natalie stood upright and began walking again.

As Natalie went by their attention was turned on to Joseph, “Papa Joseph! Do you have any candy?” they asked him as they surrounded him like a pack of small wolves. Joseph chuckled to himself as he reached into his pocket and pulled out some caramel candies. He gave one to each of the kids and told them to run along, which they did. As the party continued to move down the hallway towards a door to the right side of the large atrium, people started to notice Garrick. There were whispers and stares as Garrick moved with Julia helping her to carry the supplies. They arrived at the door with a small sign that marked ‘Briefing Room’ and Julia turned the knob, opening the door. They all filed into the room and put their supplies on the tables that were set up on the far side of the room. Once they had unloaded their stuff, they took seats along the side of the room, some on the chairs provided and some opting to sit on the floor. They waited for maybe 30 seconds before the door opened and a young woman wearing a camouflage military uniform entered the room.

“Welcome back” she said as she entered the room. She closed the door quickly and managed a fast glance at the supplies on the table, She smirked and then turned back to the group of them; “Excellent work guys, this stuff will really help. Who’s this?” she asked as her gaze came to rest on Garrick.

“Hi, I’m Garrick,” he said as he stood up and shook the young woman’s hand, “your party found me in my apartment and patched me up.”

“Well, welcome to the Resistance, Garrick” She added as she shook his hand. “If you don’t mind me asking, what did you do before the attack?”

“I was a lawyer” Garrick replied, “I worked in Corporate mostly” he added.

“A Corporate lawyer? We got ourselves a big wig here!” she said as she looked around the room and was met with a couple of snickers from the rest of the party. “ah, I’m sorry for the bad joke Garrick, but someone has to try and keep the morale up. I am Lieutenant Banks, Earth Air Force”.

“No she’s not, she’s the colonel!” Mariana said from the back of the room. The group all began laughing, including Lt. Banks. Garrick stared around awkwardly as the laughing died down waiting for someone to explain the joke, nobody did.

“Well Garrick, this is the resistance. It’s not much, but somebody has to make sure that the Drift don’t end humanity, and that’s us. We don’t care about your past or what you may have done, we care about skills and what you can bring to help us because frankly, there aren’t many of us left and we can’t afford to be picky.” Banks said as she gestured for the party to follow her out of the room. She opened the door and proceeded into the atrium, clipboard in hand. “This bunker was built in 2029 as a secret VIP bunker during the second Cold War, we re-purposed it as soon as the first attack came. It’s been a rough 12 hours, people have been coming in all night. Some areas were hit harder than others, your neighbourhood was the middle of the pack, several survivors but not many. I know you just got here and it looks like you got hit a bit”, she gestured to his bandage on his shoulder, “but Recon team #2 is down a man so we could move you there, or if you would rather stay with these folks we can arrange that too. I am curious as to what happened though.” By this time they had walked across the atrium to a small security table where Banks had handed in the clipboard.

“I woke up to the sounds of my neighbours dying in the street and I got attacked by two of them, what did you call them? The Drift?” the security staff, also dressed in air force camouflage, began listening intently. “I didn’t do much, they mostly did it to themselves.” Garrick admitted. “They shot my faucet so water was spraying everywhere, I used a water jug I had frozen in my freezer as a club and a kitchen knife. One of them fell into the water and basically dissolved. The other didn’t go down as easy, ended up tackling it to the ground and stabbing it, a lot, then it dissolved too.”

“Wait, they dissolved?” Banks asked.

“Ya, in the water. They writhed and smoked up, it smelled like rotten eggs a bit and then they just dissolved.” Garrick added. Banks looked the security workers and they nodded as they both picked up a headset and began relaying the information to someone on the other end.

“That’s great Garrick, we had our suspicions but we weren’t sure. Julia will show you to your bunk area, where you can catch some rest. It’s not much, but it’s better than the surface. I’ll just go ahead and add you to her team, and move Dustin from facilities to team #2. Get some rest, you’re going out again in 6 hours.” Banks said as she turned her back to the party, signalling for their dismissal. Garrick turned away from the Lieutenant to see only Julia standing there, the rest had disappeared rather quickly. Julia took him to a small room that Garrick suspected had been a janitor’s closet but somehow had a cot with a pillow and blanket shoved into it along with a small barrack box.

“Get some rest Garrick, I don’t want that wound opening up on our next run. I saved your ass once, I don’t want to have to do it again so soon!” Julia said as she left him in his small room.

The next few days were a blur.

They saved people. They saved a lot of people. They lost some too. Joseph died saving a family from a crumbling building. He got the last of the children out but the supports couldn’t handle the weight of the rubble. The whole building collapsed on him before he could get out himself. Mariana was a wreck, she was trying to dig the debris away herself. She had stripped her fingers raw and bloody before John convinced her to stop. A small service was held for Joseph, a candle was lit and his photo was added to a wall of the known deceased. The world spun on.

They raided a small military outpost for ammunition and supplies. They made off with a lot of gear and supplies but when they went back the next day there was a large crater where the outpost had been.

The next week when they went out, they were ambushed. The aliens were waiting for them. They barely made it out, but the other crew that had come with them was decimated. Banks suspended all operations until further notice. They mourned their dead, but didn’t have the luxury of stopping, the people needed them.

Banks lifted the ban on the raids when a bout of the common cold spread through the bunker, every team was tasked with finding medication and other supplies. They found the supplies, but began finding fewer and fewer survivors.

The ambushes became more and more frequent. But the need for supplies outweighed the potential risks, until it didn’t. The ambushes were moving closer and closer to their base, Banks theorized that the aliens were trying to locate their base to root them out. Garrick thought she was right, but when some of the children who had the cold began getting really sick, he and the other members of the raiding party didn’t care. They left in a torrential downpour to get more medication, thinking the rain would give them protection. They got maybe three blocks from the mall, and they were ambushed. The vehicle was destroyed and the run back to base while firing blindly behind them hoping to hit something was nerve wracking.

As they sat in the small room, Banks entered looking very shaken. “The other teams didn’t make it. You’re the only raiding party we have left. “

BOOM!

Dust fell from the ceiling and landed on Garrick’s pack and rifle he had adopted as his own since joining the Resistance. His head shot up, he knew that sound all too well. It would appear that the Drift had found their location at last.

“Forward Security, report in!” Banks called into the headset that she wore everywhere, Nothing came through. Another resounding boom could be heard. Screams from the rest of the people, the young and old fearing for their lives. Banks left the room and they could hear her yelling for calm. The screaming stopped and angry shouting was being made at the Lieutenant. Garrick couldn’t make out what was being said, but it didn’t sound nice. She came back into the room, her face a bright red, Garrick couldn’t tell if it was anger or embarrassment. She took three quick breaths and looked at them, “Alright soldiers, it’s time to defend the bunker. I need you to get out there and help divide up the citizens into defense teams. They’re coming in and we don’t have time to argue. They need us.” She held up a drawing done by one of the kids in Natalie’s class, it showed them all as heroes, complete with the capes and tights. “These people need heroes and right now, you’re it.”

“We are not soldiers! And we’re definitely not heroes…” Garrick said, his voice quiet.

“I know! But right now, with everything going on, those people out there, they need someone… something to believe in, right now..they need heroes. Now, you can sit here and pity yourselves, or you can stand with me and be the heroes those people need. That’s the choice I leave to you.” She turned and left the small meeting room closing the door behind her.

“Let’s go” Julia said as she stood up, picking up her pack, medical bag and her rifle she always carried on their raids out onto the surface. “Those things are coming in here, and I will not be caught cowering in a room hoping they pass us by while the others outside fight and die for us. I wanted to help people, that’s why I became a paramedic. I will fight to protect these people because that’s what I can do. I couldn’t help Joseph, I couldn’t help those kids we lost, but I can help defend these people. So I’m going out there and I’m going to fight. The rest of you can hide here, but that’s not me.” She strode over to the door and opened it. Without even thinking, Garrick and the rest followed her out into the atrium, their defacto leader.

As they strode out and took positions behind Banks, the people gathered in the atrium silenced their objections. Banks moved fast, dividing up the people and assigning them to a member of Julia’s party. Each party member was responsible for a group of people to arrange and set up however they saw fit to defend the door. The defenses were set up in silence, not because they needed to be quiet now, because everyone knew this was it. There was no way out of this bunker except through the Drift, and that was a fight they probably wouldn’t win.

BOOM!

They took their positions, weapons trained on the door, waiting.

BOOM!

More dust falls making a slight cloud that hangs in the air, the lasers from the rifles visible as they shine against the dust. “You were a lawyer right? Before all this happened?” one of the recruits that was assigned to Garrick asked him as they watched the door.

“Uh, ya. But that was a long time ago” he replied.

“So you must be good at giving speeches? Care to give us a rousing speech?” He asked as his eyes slid over to focus on Garrick while his head remained facing the door.

“You want a speech?” Garrick asked as he looked at the young man.

“Ya, let’s see what you’ve got.”

“I’m not giving a speech.” Garrick replied.

BOOM!

There was a crackle over the PA system and Banks voice came through echoing throughout the bunker, “This is it. This is our final stand. I would like to thank you all for everything you’ve done in the past few weeks to help turn this old dust filled bunker into our home..” She trailed off before coming back stronger, “.. this our line in the sand. We can’t go back so we are going forward. We will push them back and we will get these people out of this bunker. We are their only hope! Through Blood and Sand!”

“Through Blood and Sand!” they all echoed back. As their voices died, there was an eerie silence that filled the bunker, broken only by the coughing of one of the children hiding in a room off the atrium.

BANG!

The door burst open and the first two teams, headed by Julia and Mariana, opened up. When they emptied their magazines, they ducked to reload and the next two teams emptied their mags. They leapfrogged like that all the way back until everyone had emptied one magazine and reloaded. The only thing was, they weren’t being shot at. “Cease Fire!” Banks called out. The silence came back with deafening force. Then he heard it, the faint metallic clink, like a dime on a stone floor. There was a loud “Whoosh”, and all the electronics in the bunker died; the lights, lasers and ammo readouts on the rifles disappeared. Then it started. The screams.

Julia’s team went down first, then Mariana’s. Back and back the screams came, until John’s group in front of Garrick’s went down. Through the smoke he could barely make out a large hulking shape cutting through the resistance members.

He looked up and fired at the exposed sprinkler head that was part of the fire suppression system in the bunker. The sprinkler head broke and water began raining down. There was a sizzling sound coming from in front of Garrick’s group and they began firing. Small bursts at first and then turning into fully automatic. The young man that had asked for the speech was grabbed by a long tendril that looked like a demon of saome sort from the depths of an abyss. He was pulled into the darkness in front of Garrick and his scream echoed through the bunker. “Keep firing!” Garrick shouted without realizing he was the only one left from his group. The tendril came back for him. It grabbed his shoulder that had barely healed. Garrick let out a scream of pain as he was lifted off his feet by his newly healed shoulder and into the darkness.

The one that held him was bigger, much bigger than the ones that had come into his apartment. While it had large tendrils for gripping, there were many more extending out of it’s back with several of the weapons he had seen attached to them. It pulled him close to it’s body and just stared at him as its tendrils streaked out towards the remaining defenders. Screams of pain and fear accompanied every dash of the tendril and eventually Garrick heard Banks shout to fall back. A red flare was ignited behind him which provided some light as the red glow illuminated the creature holding Garrick. The weapons all pointed towards the defenders and began firing. there were no screams this time, just the sounds of bodies falling and rifles clattering on the ground.

The alien’s weapons stopped firing and it held Garrick for a moment. It let out a deafening shriek, the sizzling could still be heard from the water falling onto the creature. One of the weapons on a tendril began glowing white pulsing in a strange succession, then the rest began glowing white in the same pattern. Garrick was dropped roughly to the ground. As he scrambled for a rifle, the creature just stood there, the weapons glowed brighter and brighter. As Garrick grasped the handle of a rifle, he hefted it and pointed at the target. There was a blinding white light.

….

Far away on a Drift ship orbiting the planet, a view screen showed hundreds of bright lights all over the world. The drift operating the console reached forward and swiped through the display, the picture of the Earth vanished to show several smaller ships entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

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Story – One Thing You Should Never Skimp On

For this week I decided to take all of my interests and try and condense it into a topic that covers everything, Story. A good story obviously has a lot of elements to engage the consumer and maintain their interest no matter the cost. I’m going to look at examples of my favourite entertainment mediums and highlight when stories have worked and when they’ve flopped. There are obviously exceptions to every rule but as a general stance, story is something you should never ever compromise. I’m going to highlight one failure and one major success for each category, let’s dive in…

GAMING

Oh gaming… I could write a full post about games that were supposed to be great and dropped the ball *cough* Anthem *cough*, but I’m going to focus on two games that I’ve played extensively, Witcher 3 and Destiny. First let’s look at the one that botched the story, Destiny.

DESTINY

The inaugural piece and focal point of Bungie’s deal with Activision/Blizzard (a deal that has since fallen through), really shit the bed on the whole story telling front. While you would play missions through the game, unless you were paying attention to the barely audible dialogue of your ghost (your companion), you missed everything. I know some players who played over 40 hours in the game and still can’t tell you what the main focus of the story was. It appeared that you were fighting the Fallen (aliens), only to switch and fight the Cabal (more aliens), then switch to the Hive (even more aliens) and finally end up killing a Vex God (another race of aliens). What made it worse was that the majority of the story and the background lore was only accessible through Grimoire Cards. You earned these cards by playing the game but had to go to the Destiny website to actually read them. Ya, you had to do homework to understand the story of the game… Not only did they botch the story, but the best part of it, the fact your Ghost was voiced by Peter Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame), was removed in their first update! They took out Dinklage, due to scheduling conflicts with Game of Thrones, and brought in Nolan North! I mean, respect to Nolan North, he does some great work, but you don’t replace Dinklage with him. They also replaced Nathan Fillion with him as well! Fillion voiced Cayde-6 (one of the Vanguard Guardians, and my favourite character) and provided most of the humour for the game. In Destiny 2 he was replaced by North and then they just straight up killed him! I am not a happy camper about that…

Ghost from Destiny

WITCHER

It’s no big secret that I love the Witcher games. They’re expansive, lore filled, and actually follow a comprehensible story. From the first game that was released on the PC way back in 2007 to the Wild Hunt which was released in 2015 (now holding the most awards for any single game at 251) the story has continued to captivate audiences since its release. The main protagonist is Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher (Monster Hunter) and focuses on his various adventures detailing his exploits and his training and protection of Ciri, the daughter of the Emperor. Each game delivers a new and exciting story to the Witcher mythos and entices consumers to expand their knowledge on the subject by buying the graphic novels and original works by Andrzej Sapkowski. I remember seeing the trailer for Witcher II: Assassins of Kings, in a Gamestop with couple of friends during a trip to Kingston. As the TVs show a rotation of current and upcoming trailers, the trailer for Assassins of Kings came on and everyone stopped to watch. I do mean everyone. Myself and my friends, the employees, and the other patrons all stood stock still watching this trailer. I have never seen anything like that until the explosion of the MCU and their genius marketing campaigns. Here’s the trailer for your enjoyment:

FILM

Films are actually notorious for skimping on story for some big blockbuster action sequences. Films like the Michael Bay Transformers franchise beat this practice to death… Not all film franchises do this, but there are quite a few that fall into this practice.

JUSTICE LEAGUE

Justice League… oh what could’ve been if not for studio interference… I know I have praised this film before on this blog, but the nostalgia glasses were pulled off my eyes long ago and I have seen the light of truth… it’s a bad movie. Do I still like it? Yes, because liking something and it being considered “good” are not mutually exclusive. I LOVE the Marvel Ghost Rider films, are they bad? Obviously! But because of my love for the character I can look past it, the same thing can be said in the most part for Justice League. Here’s the problem with Justice League, the story makes no sense! Literally none. When WB got wind of Zack Snyder’s plan and his vision they got scared because of the lackluster performance of Batman V. Superman, and frankly, can you blame them? Zack was eventually removed from the project, whether by his own volition or the studio and him parting ways and Joss Whedon was brought in to revitalize the movie. People give Whedon a lot of flack for the film, and some of it is rightly placed, but he didn’t really alter the story at all. He added pretty much ALL the humour in the movie and added some more character interactions to make the League appear as more than just wooden and emotionless demi-gods. I have long said that WB and DC comics make movies for comic fans whereas Marvel makes comic movies for everyone. The main issue with not only Justice league, but Suicide Squad and Batman V. Superman is that DC assumed everybody knew the characters. Which a lot of people didn’t. The core characters obviously, but not the secondary and background ones that influence the plot. They assumed you knew the motivations and back story of all the characters and only chose to highlight the ones they deemed important. These large assumptions meant that the story was gutted and replaced with more action which is one of the MANY reasons the movie failed.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS

This is Peter Jackson’s crown jewel. The theatrical cut makes perfect sense and the extended cuts for the purists deliver all the extra content in spades. This is the ONE book to movie adaptation that nobody has any complaints about.

Perfection.

Enough said.

COMICS

CIVIL WAR II

Civil War II Issue #1 cover

I’ve already done an entire post on this run so I’m not going to dive to far into it. To be frank, it was really ridiculous and unnecessary. Marvel Comics and DC Comics seem to have this idea that there needs to be some sort of “event” or “crisis” every year to keep readers interested. I understand their thinking, but when you have so many events that you have to start putting “II” after it because you ran out of original ideas, it’s time to just take a bit of a break. The story line involves an Inhuman named Ulysses that can see the future. Nobody is sure how reliable his visions are but Captain Marvel and her side think that Ulysses’ visions are enough to warrant arrests and pre-emptive attacks; whereas Iron Man and his team want to test the reliability of the visions first and think the crime needs to be committed before the punishment can be dealt out. Captain America said it best in Captain America: Winter Soldier “I thought the punishment came after the crime?”Not only was it ridiculous, but the story line seemed to be there just to remove certain characters from continuity to make room for a more diverse line up. The original Civil War was probably Marvel’s best event and its ramifications can still be felt in the comics. This second one though, it was just a cheap sequel to try and cash in on the success of the first massive hit.

BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN

This masterpiece by comic legend, Jeph Leob, was released in 1996-1997 and still remains as one of the best Batman stories ever written. It starts on Halloween night and continues through all the major holidays as Batman races to solve the mystery before more people die. It introduces us to great characters like Calendar Man, and long time favourites like Catwoman, Joker, Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon. The iconic art style really helps to complete the story as told by Leob and immerse the reader in the tale. The story is not predictable and throws you for twists and turns as the victim pool grows. We are shown some iconic images from the Batman mythos and the descent of certain characters into madness. All in all it’s a gripping story that grabs your attention right away and refuses to let go. I found myself unable to put it down. I read the entire thing, all 13 issues, in a matter of hours and was floored by the ending. First and foremost, this is a mob story. The main characters are those of the Gotham crime families with Batman, the GCPD and other masked individuals scrambling to either pick up the pieces or get out of the way of the inevitable gang war. Leob weaves an intricate tale of deception and double crossing to deliver one of the most commercially and critically successful Batman stories of all time.

Batman: The Long Halloween massive print Paperback

Story is THE most integral part of any type of media. Movies, games, comics, even music; all tell a story and when you sacrifice that for some more flashy elements, your creation suffers. I wish some companies would realize this and stop putting out garbage products which serve no purpose other than to try and make them money. They can’t be proud of what they produce and as a fan I can probably say, the fans really aren’t either.

Until next week!

Office of Naval Intelligence – Halo’s CIA

This morning as I was drinking my piping hot cup of “Canadian As F*ck, eh?” courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company, I stumbled across a video by the Youtuber, HiddenXperia, on his coverage of ONI’s betrayal of the Master Chief. As an avid fan of the entire Halo series, like bought Xbox over Playstation specifically for Halo, this is something that I had never heard of. I always knew that ONI were a shady bunch of people, but this ranks up there with Umbrella Corporation and their experiments on workers without their consent. This week is going to be devoted to some of the more “shady shit” ONI has done within the Halo universe and how they’re basically the CIA with a whole universe to play with.

OFFICE BREAKDOWN

The Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) is broken down in various sections which each handle different matters.

Section Zero – Internal Affairs and Investigations (private police force within the UNSC)
Section One – Military Intelligence
Section Two – Propaganda and Information (Spin doctors to keep/distort public perception)
Section Three – Special Projects (SPARTAN Programs, Blacklist Prisons, Experimentations)

This article will primarily be focused on ONI Section Three and some of its nefarious dealings.

SPARTAN PROGRAMS

It’s no secret that the Spartan II project, is the first foray of ONI’s begin into shady practices (technically it was first Project ORION but we’ll stick with the SPARTAN II). I’ll give a brief rundown of their involvement in the Spartan II initiative.

Master Chief after he crash lands on Alpha Halo

As Dr. Halsey built on the Carver Findings and proposed her own potential outcome to the scenario, she petitioned ONI section three to allow her funding and free reign to create the next wave of super soldiers. ONI had conducted it’s own analysis of the Carver Findings (hypotheses presented by Dr. Elias Carver on the breakout of Insurrection) and come to roughly the same conclusion that Dr. Halsey had. They therefore agreed to fund her program and to maintain the secrecy, they utilized all four branches of ONI to mask the project. As the project began it’s earliest stages, Dr. Halsey declared that child recruits are easiest to indoctrinate and to undergo the radical surgeries required. ONI attached Lieutenant Keyes to Dr. Halsey as she moved around human controlled space selecting recruits. When the project finally began, ONI operatives abducted each of the children and replaced them with a rapid grown flash clone. All of these clones would die within the year making the recruits to the program effectively ghosts.

Not only did ONI directly create the Spartan IIs, but they also “acquired” several of them for specific purposes. One of these purposes was the formation of Black Team. This was a small squad of Spartan IIs outfitted with modified armour that carried out black ops missions directly for ONI high command. They carried out assassination missions and asset acquirement missions for ONI against humans/covenant/flood/ and prometheans. On their final mission to obtain a Forerunner artifact, all contact with Black Team was lost. Black Team was found by Blue team and noted as “Missing in Action” on Installation 03. All Spartans are noted as “Missing in Action” instead of “Killed in Action” to keep up the appearance that Spartans never die (this was a practice implemented by ONI).

Spartan Black Team

In addition to Black Team, ONI also acquired 3 other Spartan IIs which they formed into Gray Team. Gray Team was meant for one purpose, to infiltrate far behind enemy lines and cause whatever havoc they could without support from any friendly units. This led to extensively long missions in small quarters which is why the team was limited to the three “most independent and individualistic” of the Spartan II recruits.

ONI also “acquired” Spartan 051 Kurt when he was recovered from deep space following a malfunction by his EVA pack. He was officially listed as MIA but was recovered by Colonel Ackerson of ONI. He was given the surname of Ambrose promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander and was tasked with training the Spartan III recruits on the planet Onyx. Kurt sacrificed himself to hold back the covenant invasion force and allow Blue Team and Team Katana to escape into the Forerunner Shield World at the core of Onyx. He detonated 2 Fenris nuclear Warheads which vaporized the covenant invading force and the rest of the planet that was not guarded by the shield world.

KILO FIVE

Kilo Five is one of the more secretive things that ONI has done. Kilo Five is a secret Blacks Ops team that is run by a former Spartan II and serves a guerilla hit and run squad. It’s field commander is a Spartan II and the rest of the squad is made up of 3 ODST Troops, Professor Evan Phillips and a Smart AI known as Black Box. The main purpose of Kilo Five was the start an insurrection amongst the various Sangheili (Elite) factions following the Schism (when the Elites and various other Covenant allied with Humanity against the brutes and their forces). Kilo Five answered directly to Margaret Parangosky, the Commander in Chief of ONI. They operated with complete impunity using whatever means necessary to accomplish their missions.

Kilo Five

Now that we’ve covered most of the stuff the people know about ONI let’s talk about the things they don’t know…

NIGHTFALL

In Halo: Nightfall, Jameson Locke and his ONI Remote Tactical Strike Team stopped a Sangheili bio weapon attack on the colony of Sedra, with minimal casualties. As they completed this mission, they noticed a rare element which was the base of the bio weapon. The element was completely unique to a single shard of the Alpha Halo which was destroyed by the Master Chief at the end of Halo: Combat Evolved. Locke and the remaining uninfected members of his team, partnered with Sedran Colonial command and their leader Colonel Randall Aiken to venture to the shard and obtain a sample of the element to manufacture a cure. The expedition was attacked by a large colony of Lekgolo worms (drone organisms that make up the Hunters in the Halo game series) which are attracted to electrical signals. As the expedition forces dwindle, Locke and private Macer managed to make it to a small 2 seater craft called a “tug” and managed to escape the shard. The rest of the team were killed either by infighting or by the worm colony with colonel Aiken sacrificing himself using a HAVOK nuclear warhead to destroy the Alpha Shard and the Lekgolo colony. When Locke and Macer return to Sedra and manufactured the cure, ONI whisked them away “for immediate debriefing”. Nothing is known about what happened to Macer, however following the mission,Locke left ONI and enlisted in the now declassified Spartan program.

Nightfall release poster

Nightfall wasn’t that bad of a covert mission, except that ONI completely covered up the bio weapon attack, citing Boren’s syndrome as the cause of the sicknesses, disavowed those who died on the shard and whisked Macer away to Black Site facility to never be heard from again.

BENJAMIN GIRAUD

Benjamin Giraud was a civilian contractor working with ONI and their section two office. He was a field reporter that worked with the UNSC to provide front line news about the war effort to the folks back home. After he witnessed the Master Chief “Save Humanity” during the battle of Mombassa in 2552 (Halo 2 campaign), he decided to discover the truth behind the Chief so that people would be able to know their hero. He worked tirelessly to arrange interviews with various individuals to get the story on the Chief in the year of 2558. As he went through the list of contacts provided by ONI and the ones he found himself, he discovered that all of the ONI contacts were plants meant to muddle up the information and hide the truth. As he discovered the cover up, ONI threatened that they would ruin him if he pursued this story. Deciding that the people needed to know the truth about their saviour, he went against ONI and continued the investigation on his own. He discovered that the Master Chief and the other Spartans were nothing more than children who had been abducted by ONI retrieval teams and indoctrinated by the UNSC. Appalled at what he discovered, he decided to expose the cover up and show the people of Earth Space what ONI had done. He arranged an interview on a talkshow on the ECB News channel hosted by Charles Kesler where he would reveal the entire story to humanity so that ONI would lose it’s support. Unknown to Giraud, ONI (through their Section two office) controlled the news channel. Prior to Giraud’s interview, ONI arranged for witnesses to be aired refuting every single point and fact of proof that Giraud had. When he came on the air and delivered his evidence, he was seen as a crack pot conspiracy theorist and completely discredited. Following the interview, he was apprehended by an ONI security team from section zero, and taken to their Midnight facility (a top secret high security black site prison hidden in the Asteroid belt). Giraud was sentenced to solitary confinement in Cube B-349 (cell B-349) where his mind slowly began to unravel due to the isolation and not having any human contact for weeks on end. He would punch the walls of his cell until his hands were bloody, rub his head along the wall until it bled and smear it around the walls. The last mention of Giraud states that he is still in his cell at the Midnight facility and the use of knockout gas is frequently required to stop his self harm.

ONI FLOOD EXPERIMENTS

This is the crème of the low for ONI. They condoned experiments with the Flood on human prisoners and covenant prisoners of war. ONI backed a crazy scientist, Major John Smith, who deliberately infected several human prisoners and infected Elite prisoners. He was infecting the prisoners to attempt to find a cure for the disease and to try and weaponize the Flood virus for use in a theater of war. The containment was broken and the entire ship, The Mona Lisa, became infected with the exception of Smith and the elite, that had been nicknamed by the Marine retrieval team, Henry. As the team enacts the “Cole Protocol” (scrub all Navigational data and if possible either make a blind slipspace jump away from Earth or scuttle the ship) they are notified they have 20 minutes before a nearby UNSC ship, the Foulcault, will deliberately destroy the ship to prevent the spread of the infection. Smith hijacks the pelican the retrieval team arrived on and leaves the ship to save himself. Seargent Lopez, her remaining crew and Henry destroy the NAV data and damage the engines to stop the ship from going anywhere. As they attempt to evac they are attacked by the flood infected prisoners. the rest of the team fall to the infection with the exception of Lopez, Henry and MacGraw. MacGraw takes one of the two escape pods and flees the ship leaving Lopez and Henry to fight over the last one as their time runs out and the UNSC Foulcault scuttles the ship. It is later revealed that the Foulcault was operating under direct orders from ONI high command to scuttle the ship and leave no trace of their experiments.

Lopez v. Henry

These are just a few examples of the “shady shit” that ONI pulled throughout it’s tenure. They are also responsible for the creation of the MJOLNIR power armour and several advanced weapons utilized by the UNSC. Mostly though, it’s obvious that for every thing they admit to doing or being involved with, there is probably another 100 that they swept under the rug and eliminated all trace of.

That’s it for this week’s post! it’s pretty short compared to some of the other ones I’ve posted but there isn’t much info on ONI and their nefarious dealings… I wonder why… See you next week!

Abeloth – The Terror Of The Star Wars Universe

I was going to write a post about the Oscars on Sunday night and how Black Panther didn’t actually get snubbed like most of the twitter-verse thinks; but, I figure enough people are covering that so I don’t need to. Instead, this this week I’m going to write about something I recently became aware of in the Star Wars universe from a YouTube video I watched by EckhartsLadder titled 5 Scariest Things in Star Wars Legends. If you’re a fan of Star Wars, Halo and other related Sci-Fi material, I recommend you check their channel out.

The topic I’ve chosen for today is Abeloth, an ancient evil Force creature that is uber powerful and has a penchant for consuming Force sensitive beings. It should be noted that while this was considered canon until 2012 when the House of Mouse purchased Lucasfilms, once the deal went through, Disney disavowed all the Expanded Universe material. They provided it a new title of “Legends” and concentrated on the core films, Clone Wars TV series, and the films and shows released since the acquisition went through. They have started slowly including some of the old Expanded Universe content into their canon universe, but it seems unlikely that Abeloth will make it there anytime soon.

WHO IS ABELOTH?

Abeloth was also known in the Expanded Universe as The Bringer of Chaos and Beloved Queen of the Stars, despite what she may have turned into, she actually started out as a benevolent being.

The Ones, Son with Mortis Dagger, Father & Daughter

Over a hundred thousand years before the battle of Yavin (100,000 + BBY) Abeloth was created as a servant to the Ones. The Ones are the physical manifestations of the Force, there’s the Son who represents the Dark Side, the Daughter who represents the Light Side and the Father who represents the Balance between the two. Abeloth was created as a mortal woman known as the Servant and helped to keep the peace between the Son and Daughter. As her life continued she aged and became known as The Mother, a new addition to the family. As she continued to age and her family remained ageless, she began to worry about losing them and what she could do to grant herself immortality. In a desperate attempt to remain with her family she drank from the Font of Power (A Nexus of Dark Force Energy) and bathed in the Pool of Knowledge (A Force Nexus), her actions caused her to become insane and transformed her into the Dark Side entity known as Abeloth.

Mad with her power and not wanting her family to leave, she demanded they bow before her. Horrified at what had happened, the Father stepped in and took his Children from Abeloth. They abandoned her on their unknown jungle planet and resettled on Mortis (the planet Anakin, Obi Wan and Ahsoka were stranded on for days during the Clone Wars TV series). Fearing the power she now had, the Son and Daughter offered their knowledge to an ancient race that helped to build Centerpoint Station and Sinkhole Station.

Centerpoint Station was a massive space station with a powerful enough tractor beam to move planets and other celestial bodies like Black Holes through space.

Sinkhole Station was smaller than Centerpoint Station but still massive in scale and was used to hold the Black holes in place.

“The Maw” A prison of Black Holes in the Kessel Sector
Map showing Location of Maw and Kessel Sector

The Son and Daughter used the stations to manufacture a spherical prison of black holes surrounding Abeloth’s planet to keep her contained and to stop outside people from discovering her. They named this area of space “The Maw”. The Maw is located in the Kessel sector of the Star Wars universe and played a large part in Han Solo’s reputation.

*It is very likely ‘The Maelstrom’ from Solo: A Star Wars Story is actually the outer edge of the Maw. The Creature they encountered is called a Summa-Verminoth, which are large space faring entities with numerous tentacles and eyes that consume all material they can get their hands on *

WHY IS ABELOTH SO SCARY?

A Massive Dark Force entity that is so powerful she has to be contained on her own planet in a prison made of black holes? Still not enough? Okay… How about every time Abeloth broke free of her prison, she brought untold destruction onto the galaxy until the Daughter and Son returned from their exile to force her back into her prison. How was she able to break free? When the “Current of the Force” (the flow of time) was altered, it provided enough of a break in the universal energies for her to escape and bring chaos and destruction down on the galaxy. This cycle of breakout, destroy, imprisonment and waiting until breaking out again went on for thousands of years until the death of the Ones in 21BBY. It wasn’t until the years following the Galactic Civil War that Jedi Grandmaster, Luke Skywalker, discovered Abeloth and the threat she possessed.

Not only is Abeloth a living breathing uber powerful entity that likes to cause widespread destruction and havoc, but she also is able to inhabit the “Beyond Shadows”. This is a realm that powerful force users are able to access by separating their minds from their bodies (like Dr. Stange with Astral Projection). She would instill in the Force user a “need of companionship” which would compel the user to enter the Maw and find Sinkhole Station. Once there, they would enter the Realm Beyond Shadows and Abeloth would consume their life essence, killing them. There was a time when Luke Skywalker and his son Ben Skywalker discovered Sinkhole Station and entered the Realm Beyond Shadows. During his first trip into the Realm Beyond Shadows, Luke saw Abeloth, but when she beckoned him to come closer he refused and left the realm with his son unharmed.

Abeloth in the Realm Beyond Shadows

IS SHE STILL AROUND?

So, after Luke and Ben were tempted by Abeloth they left Sinkhole Station and the Maw entirely. As her powers grew, she began to cause a sort of “psychosis” among Force users in an attempt to draw more to the Maw so she could feed off their life essence. Sinkhole Station was beginning to fail because it’s counter point, Centerpoint Station, had been destroyed in the Yuuzhan Vong War. This failure allowed for Abeloth’s influence to felt by Force users across the galaxy instead of just within the Maw itself. To combat this threat, Luke Skywalker and some members of the new Jedi Order allied with the reborn Sith to end Abeloth’s threat once and for all.

The attack force confronted her on her planet at the center of the Maw and pursued her into a cave system. As they fought she continued to use Force projections to try and convince them to lay down their arms, to no avail. Eventually, the Sith warriors present tried to betray the Jedi and imprison Abeloth under a control web. Abeloth broke free and fled through the cave system with the strike force pursuing. She was confronted again by Luke and attempted to use illusions to trick him into seeing his long dead love Ming and his close friend Dyon Staad. Luke saw through the illusion and stabbed Abeloth masquerading his friend in the chest. As she died, Abeloth tried to use one last massive force wave to kill Luke and the strike team, but it failed. All the Force sensitive individuals under her control were released and her presence disappeared. In the aftermath, it was discovered that Luke had indeed killed his friend and Abeloth had fled her prison and the Maw using Staad’s likeness as her own.

Abeloth vs. the Strike Force

She continued to terrorize the galaxy and plague Luke for many years. One of the Sith strike team members even tried to use the Pool of Knowledge to find out where she was. When he submerged himself in the pool, he succumbed to the raw power of the Force and began to turn into a being similar to Abeloth.

She eventually used her powers to get herself elected as Chief of State, under the disguise of an individual called Kem. She had allied with the Sith and used her influence to subject the people of Coruscant to her rule. Luke and a Sith named Darth Krayt confronted her in the Realm Beyond Shadows and dueled her there. As her illusionary bodies were being destroyed across the galaxy she grew weaker and eventually Luke and Krayt defeated her.

Luke knew she could never be defeated by conventional means due to her immense power and resolved to find an ancient Force artifact called the “Mortis Dagger”. The Mortis Dagger is an ancient artifact created by the Father which is capable of killing the Ones and any other living beings, Abeloth included, it was last wielded by the Son on Mortis before his death in 21BBY.

Abeloth continued to plague the original Expanded Universe for several years until Disney’s purchase in 2012. Since then, her status has dropped into a legend but she still remains as one of the greatest terrors in the Star Wars universe. Hyperspace Madness, The Yuuzhan Vong, and Malachor V have nothing on her or her abilities. She is so powerful that only a singular artifact crafted by the physical embodiments of the Force itself can kill her, that makes her seriously OP. Not only is she crazy powerful but she looks creepy too. She resembles a very pale woman with white hair, a mouth stretching from ear to ear with razor sharp teeth and tentacles for fingers.

Abeloth’s true form

I’m not going to lie, a small part of me wants Kylo Ren and the First order to find her in Episode 9 and just get slapped by her to show that they’re nothing compared to the power of the Force itself.

That’s it for this week’s post. I’m hoping to get my YouTube channel up and running soon and turn some of the more popular posts into videos, so we’ll see how that goes. See you next week!

Interlude Chapter – Part 5

“No thanks, I’m allergic”.

“More for me then” he said as he slurped back the rest of the can of peaches. The syrup overflowed from his mouth and ran down the right side of his cheek to his earlobe. He reached his uninjured hand up, tugging on the IV line and wiped the syrup away with the back of his hand.

“Stop tugging on that or it’s going to come out, and I don’t have the supplies to fix it.” Julia said, as he finished wiping the side of his face.

“Sorry”, he said sheepishly.

“What’s your name lawyer man?” She asked.

“How did you know I’m a lawyer?” he asked. She pointed to the ground between the kitchen and the living room, right near the door where his smashed BAR certification lay amongst his shoes.

“Oh… ya, that kind of gives it away” he said as he laid back down on the cool floor.

“Not going to tell me your name?” She asked again.

“Oh, right. sorry. My name’s Garrick.”

“Garrick…Garrick, what?”

“Garrick Whyte” he replied, as Julia stood up from her crouched position and began looking around the pantry.

“What kind of a name is Garrick, especially nowadays?” Julia asked with a small laugh as she checked some of the contents of the pantry.

“My parents liked old fashioned names. You should see my sister, her name is Katelina, but she goes by Kaylie…” he trailed off as he suddenly realized that he had no idea if anything had happened to her in this attack. Did they only hit his City? Had she seen it coming? Did she get away somehow? What about his parents? He had no idea what happened to anyone in his family, his dad, his mom, or his sister, and it made him worry.

“I’d probably go by Kaylie as well if my name sounded like an 1800’s Russian ballerina” Julia remarked as she began grabbing some of the undamaged canned goods and putting them in her bag.

“I haven’t spoken to her in weeks…” Garrick said as he sat up off the floor for the first time in a while. He could feel the throbbing in his head of his body not liking the sudden change of position, but he ignored it as he rested his back against one of the shelving units that lined the walls of his pantry. “I have to get a hold of them” he finally said after a few moments of uneasy silence as Julia picked her way through the canned goods.

“Ya, that’s not going to happen bud” Julia said as she continued to grab cans of all kinds, adding them to her bag which was beginning to bulge from the contents. She turned to him and looked him in the eyes for the first time since meeting him. Garrick turned his head upwards to look her in the eyes, locking her gaze as she started speaking. “There’s no communication. Internet, Cell phones, radios, hell…even the landlines are dead”

“Fuck” he said as he lowered his head again defeated.

“Ya, right now, we gotta grab what we can and move. Yours wasn’t the last building on this block and there might be some more people who need my help.”

“Okay, I understand. Give me five minutes to get some stuff together. Can I take this IV out now?” Garrick asked as he stood up using the shelving unit for support. Julia moved over and checked his pulse and blood pressure quickly before cutting off the IV and removing it from his arm.

“You should be okay for now, I can save the rest of this for someone else. If you start feeling feint or anything you need to tell me immediately though, okay?” She said as she cut the used end of the IV that had been in his arm and packed the rest of the bag away safely in her paramedic bag that had been holding the canned food. Garrick moved down the hall past his bathroom and into his fairly untouched bedroom. There was a fine layer of drywall dust that had fallen over everything from the explosions that had rocked the building. Had the world not been ending he probably would’ve cared but it didn’t matter now. He moved towards his closet on the far side of the room adjacent to his window. As he opened the closet door, he looked out the window and couldn’t believe what he saw.

It wasn’t the City or neighbourhood he remembered, it more or less resembled a war zone. Debris and craters littered the street. Chunks of his building were strewn about the front of the property completely covering the small bit of grass on an otherwise barren landscape. Cars were covered in concrete dust, chunks of buildings, or they were overturned in the street. Some of the street lights were ripped down and lay across the road while others were just missing with small craters where they used to be. Water was spilling into the street from a burst fire hydrant and there was a city bus missing then entire top half of the frame on fire in the middle of the street. Mostly though, he noticed the bodies. Not just a few here and there, dozens of people strewn about in various locations. Some had obviously attempted to flee and were shot down, some were blown to pieces and some looked like they had been burned. He saw a couple of dead police officers behind their cruiser which was parked diagonally in the middle of the road in front of his building. It looked like they had tried to defend the people around them and paid the ultimate price. He tore his eyes from the street and continued grabbing some clothing out of his closet and packing himself a large backpack. As he finished packing his bag and changing into a more acceptable, attire of dark jeans, hiking boots, and his favourite retro t-shirt of a concert put on by Iron Maiden nearly 80 years before, his eyes lingered on the long case at the back of his closet. Resolving he might need it, he grabbed it and left his room to meet up with Julia in the kitchen. She had found his hockey bag and upturned the contents on the floor. She had taken all of the canned goods she could find along with the extra jug of water from the pantry and stuffed them in the bag.

“What’s in the case?” she asked as she bent down and hefted the large bag of supplies while her paramedic pack was strapped firmly to her back.

“It’s my compound bow and hunting arrows. I haven’t used it in a long time, but it’s the only thing I have besides my kitchen knife.”

“It’s better than nothing” she said as she moved to the door of his apartment. She set the bag down and crept out into the hallway. Garrick set down his bow case and followed her, making sure to make as little noise as possible. She leaned against the wall opposite his door and held her breath listening for a few seconds. Not hearing anything she put her fingers to her mouth and let out a long, frighteningly loud whistle.

“What the fuck are you doing?!” Garrick whispered at Julia as he started backing into his apartment. There was a response whistle and Julia looked at him with a smile on her face.

“What’s the matter? I had to see if anyone was left in the building. Let’s go” she said as she moved into his apartment and picked up the bag of supplies again.

“How did you know that there weren’t more of them?” he asked as they made their way down the dark hallway towards the staircase past other blown open apartments while the bodies of his friends and neighbours littered the ground.

“I listened and didn’t hear anything. So I took the chance that they were gone or that the only two sent to clear the building were dead in your apartment.”

“That’s a pretty fucking big chance to take” Garrick growled under his breath.

“Zip it! I saved your ass! Don’t you forget that..”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s all good. Now help me carry this down the stairs and out to our truck. I’m strong but bot that strong”. Garrick placed his bow case on top of the supply bag and grabbed the one end with his good arm. Down the stairs they went, stepping over chunks of concrete, unknown bodies and missing chunks of stairs. They didn’t find any familiar bodies until they got near the bottom of the stair case. As they rounded the last small flight of stairs to the exit door,Garrick noticed the stairs were covered in bodies not just the nameless people on the street or farther up the stairwell, Garrick knew these people.

The entire Gonzalez family, that Garrick had dinner with on occasion, was at the base of the stairs by the door, Janet and David Thomas who hosted the building’s wine nights were between Jason and Tyler who lived the floor above Garrick, all of whom were halfway up the stairs their survival bags still clutched in their hands. The thing that hit Garrick the most was James Victor and his daughter Stacey who had been killed at the top of the final staircase as they tried to run back up to safety.

Garrick sank to his knees on the landing as he looked down at Stacey’s face. There was no pain in her motionless visage. If anything, she looked like she had been sleeping when she had passed. No pain, just a peaceful passing. The drying blood clotting in her auburn air, and the red stains on the back of her tanned neck and between her should blades showed it had been anything but a peaceful death.

“Is this your sister?” Julia asked as she moved over behind Garrick lowering herself to her knees and putting her hand on his right shoulder in an attempt to provide some comfort to him.

“No, this isn’t Kaylie, this is Stacey Victor. She lived with her dad James two apartments down from me. She was accepted to Stanford Medical School in the fall. I helped her study for the SATs… She was so excited to go…” Garrick whispered as he reached down to move a strand of Stacey’s hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ear. As he brought his hand back he noticed it was covered in blood and wiped it on his shirt, leaving large crimson streaks down his front. ” I knew all of these people” he said as he looked about the massacre in the stairwell. ” What purpose does gunning down innocent people have?” he asked the anger rising in his voice.

“I don’t know what they are or why they did this. But I do know that you can’t help these people anymore, they’re gone. There are people waiting outside who do need our help and who are in very real danger right now, so we need to go” Julia said as she stood up removing her hand from his shoulder.

“How can you be so callous?” he snapped, tears welling up in his eyes.

“You can’t save everyone Garrick. sometimes you can do everything right and it doesn’t matter, you lose someone. That’s just how it is. So you concentrate on the people you can save, the people you can help, and you mourn those you lost.” Garrick sat unmoving staring down at Stacey’s body and slowly panning his vision to look at the rest of his neighbours and friends who lay dead around him. He took mental snapshots of each person so he would be able to remember them and the times they shared; the new tenant mixer that Janet Thomas had thrown when he had moved in, helping Stacey with the SATs, Cinqo de Mayo with the Gonzalezes and Tyler’s 22nd birthday, all great memories that he could recall to bring a smile to his face. A lasting memory for these people he had grown to regard as a surrogate family. He stood up, taking his pack off and started his work. He began moving their bodies very carefully to the sides of the staircase, taking care not to cause any further harm to them. Eventually there was a small path he and Julia could walk down to get to the door.

Wordlessly, he walked up the path and grabbed his pack, he adjusted his bow case on top of the supply bag, moving it to the center of the bag, that he had discarded so he could move his fallen friends. Julia moved beside the supply bag and together they lifted the bag and made their way down through the veritable honour guard of Garrick’s fallen neighbours. Julia put her shoulder to the door and pushed with all her might. There was a loud scraping sound as the door swung open and blinding light filled the small space.

Interlude Chapter – Part 4

It wasn’t harsh, it wasn’t cold, it was… peaceful. The darkness welcomed him like a long lost love and brought him into its warm embrace. There was something wrong though, it wasn’t how he had imagined it. Growing up in the Catholic belt of the Northern Regions, he had been spoon fed the same bullshit over and over; paradise, unending and eternal. This was a far cry from that.

It was warm sure, but there was no paradise. It was a darkness, a darkness that he had never fully believed in. It wasn’t the cold release of death, it was the darkness of the mind. The emptiness we feel when we are about to finally drift off to sleep. He spun around and sitting a few meters away was a small wooden table with a photo which was turned away from him. He moved over to the table, his limbs feeling very heavy, he reached out with his left hand and felt a sharp blinding pain, he looked down and saw the blood running down his arm. He gasped as he watched the blood leave his body falling to the ground, or more accurately the darkness he was standing on. He could hear some low clicking, and it caused the hair on the back of his neck to stand on end. He looked up from his bleeding arm and the table with the photo had moved farther away. He began moving towards it but for every step he took it moved farther away. He started moving faster and the clicking he had been hearing was replaced with the light pattering of rain on a roof. He moved faster. The table moved. He broke into a run ignoring the pain in his arm and reached out for the photo, the pattering was louder now like it was hitting a metal roof directly above him, he could hear the sounds of screaming and tires screeching but he still couldn’t see anything in the darkness but this table and the photo that was turned away. He stopped briefly listening to try and discern the sounds he was hearing.

He started running again, finally gaining some ground on the elusive table. The screaming and tires screeching became deafening and he couldn’t help but think that the voices screaming sounded familiar. He kept running, he was getting closer and closer, the voices becoming clearer and sharper. He reached out and grabbed a hold of the table. Instantly everything stopped. He kept his hand on the table not wanting it to take off again, he could hear the clear voice of a woman whimpering and calling out but he couldn’t make out the name she was saying. He reached with his injured hand and grasped the photo frame as his blood continued to drain off his elbow. The woman’s voice became clearer and he could make out what she was saying, it was one word, a name, “Shane”. He turned the photo over to find the last photo he had of him and Shane. He had his arm in a cast and Shane was signing his name in massive letters right across the top of it. He lifted the photo and looked at it closely, something was off… He remembered this photo being taken, it had been day time, but the photo showed it happening at night. He continued to examine the photo and the woman’s voice started again, “Shane? Shane? Shane?” just repeating the name over and over again. The voice was cut off by the sound of tires screeching as it got closer and closer. The woman’s voice said “I love you Shane” as a resounding crash cut off the last of her voice.

“NOOOOOOO!!!!” he shouted staring up into the darkness. “SOP THIS! WHAT IS GOING ON?”

The photograph in his hand began to shake and he looked down to see the night sky was oozing out of the photograph on his fingers that clutched the frame. The cold started at the tips of his fingers, as the ooze moved up his arm, the cold spread. It felt like he was standing outside in one of the terrible northern winters without any clothing trying to battle the sub zero temperatures. He dropped the photo and the frame shattered on the black of the floor. The entire space started to move, like a wave of black ooze. He tried to move but his legs were stuck fast in the black. He swung his free, injured arm, ignoring the pain for it to be grabbed by a tendril of the darkness so that it would be held fast. The ooze continued to move up his extremities to his core where the cold pierced his very soul. “WHAT IS THIS?!” He shouted as the darkness moved up his neck.

“We are the Drift…” a metallic voice answered, “..we are legion and we will not be stopped!”

The ooze was moving up the sides and back of his head, he tried to scream but he couldn’t make any noise. It enveloped his entire body and then went in his mouth and down through his entire body. He screamed silently as the darkness took over. There was a blinding pain in his leg and he awoke.

He wasn’t in the dark, he wasn’t covered in black ooze, he was in his pantry, soaked with a mixture of water and blood. He remembered fighting the aliens and he remembered barely winning, but he didn’t remember collapsing in his pantry. He tried to sit up but there was a sharp intense pain coming from his left shoulder which caused him to collapse back down.

“Don’t try to sit up, I have to patch your arm and give you some blood. What’s your blood type?”

” O- Negative… Wait who are you?!” he asked the woman who was crouched over him.

“Oh right, my name’s Julia and I’m the paramedic that just saved your ass. I’m with a group of survivors moving through the buildings looking for anyone alive. One of them found you and ran to get me. You flatlined, so I had to hit you with a shot of Adrenaline. I was worried it was going to be a waste on you but you perked right up. Lay down and don’t move, I need to patch this wound.” She replied as she set to work on him. She was wearing bright orange of the Critical Care paramedics designation and had jet black hair with a very fair complexion. Her movements were methodical and exact, like someone who had done this for years and was confident in their skills.

He laid back down and stared at the ceiling of his pantry as she set to work opening up an IV line and setting up a bag of blood to replenish what he lost in the fight with the aliens. “Well…”, he said out loud, “… this is definitely not how I planned on starting my day.” Julia looked at him with an expression that was equal ‘you don’t say?’ and ‘No shit Sherlock’ before cleaning up the supplies she had used reviving him. As he watched her clean up his eyes lingered on the larger needle that was attached to a syringe labeled Epinephrine. Julia noticed his gaze and smirked while saying “Ya, this is what I stabbed you in the leg with, so don’t fuck with me” she let out a small laugh and set back to work.

He looked around the small space and finally realized how much destruction his fight with the two aliens had caused. There were canned goods everywhere and coffee grinds scattered about the floor mixing with the leaking water and the bodies of the aliens. As he continued to look around the space he spied a small can underneath one of his shelving units. It was small and green, with a picture of a sunrise. He reached out with his good arm and tugged the IV in Julia’s hand.

“And just what do you think you’re doing?” she asked.

“Getting breakfast” he replied as he reached the can and pulled it out popping the easy open lid. He tipped the can back and let the delicious taste of peaches in syrup fill his dry mouth. After a long slurp where he downed half the can, he looked up at Julia gave the can a shake and asked “Want some?”

The Flood – Halo’s Unstoppable Infection

Picture this…

You enlisted in the United Nations Space Command. You wanted to do your part and help to protect humanity against enemies both foreign and domestic. You went through boot camp with hundreds of other aspiring young marines like yourself and formed some good friendships along the way. 

Near the end of your stint in training, it came over the comms, humanity was not alone in the universe. Harvest, one of the outermost colonies Earth had established in the Milky Way, was under attack. Not from insurgents or splinter factions, from an unknown alien enemy calling themselves “The Covenant”. What followed was something you hadn’t in your wildest dreams ever thought would come to pass.

A war spanning nearly 27 years in length against an enemy that was vastly technologically superior and resolute in their beliefs. There was a glimmer of hope, The SPARTAN-IIs. They helped to stem the tide, but there were too few of them to make a real impact. Finally the Covenant found Reach, the Human military stronghold housing nearly the entirety of the UNSC armed forces. They attacked without mercy and with overwhelming force. The ship you were assigned to, The Pillar of Autumn, fled the battle carrying, what was believed to be, the last SPARTAN-II and made a blind jump through hyperspace. When the ship emerged out of hyperspace the Covenant were not far behind, but there was an object positioned in geosynchronous orbit around a gas giant, the Halo ring. Having escaped certain death at Reach and not wanting to die in the cold vacuum of space, your Captain decides to abandon the ship and land on the ring. 

It’s a rich lush world full of plants, running, water and unknown ancient alien tech. 

One day, a comms tech overhears the Covenant talking about a weapon they discovered buried in the ring; something that could wipe them out. Not wanting this weapon to fall into the Covenant’s hands, your captain hand picks a squad to storm the bunker, retrieve the weapon and bring it back. As they storm the bunker they find a mass of dead Covenant and a single locked door. The squad brute forces their way through the door and unknowingly unleashes The Flood on the galaxy.

The Flood sweep across the Halo ring killing everything in their path, Human and Covenant alike. You watch as your friends are lost underneath a swarm of infection forms and slowly begin mutating into flood themselves.  This isn’t what you signed up for… even with the Master Chief, there is no escaping this. 

Your magazine runs dry and you draw your sidearm. There’s only a few of you left, your backs against the wall waiting for Echo 419 to brave the airspace to evac your squad. There is no end to the Flood. For every single one you kill, a hundred more take their place. You watch as your squad are overrun, you fire your pistol until it runs dry as well, you load your last mag and begin counting the shots squeezing off rounds until there’s only one left in the chamber. Your squad’s bodies begin to move and thrash around as they mutate and begin reanimating as part of the Flood’s endless wave. You turn the sidearm and place the end of the barrel against your temple, this isn’t what you signed up for… you never signed up for this nightmare…

Anyone who has played any of the main trilogy of Halo games knows full well who the Flood are and what they can do. But not everyone knows their origin and how they nearly conquered the galaxy long ago during the time of the Forerunners.

HISTORY

Despite what the Halo games have led us to believe, the Forerunners were not the most technologically advanced species in the Milky Way galaxy, The Precursors actually held that title for millions of years. The Precursors actually created the Forerunners and assisted them in their advancement to space faring species. When the Forerunners attempted to take the ‘Mantle’ from the Precursors, the Forerunners were deemed unworthy. This caused a great war between the Precursors and Ancient Forerunners that resulted in the Precursors being expelled from the Milky Way galaxy all together.

‘The Mantle’, or as it is referred to in the games, “The Mantle of Responsibility”, refers to the belief that the most technologically advanced species was charged with the protection of all other life in the galaxy. With the Precursors having been expelled by the Forerunners  from the galaxy, the Forerunners assumed the mantle and set to work, work which lasted thousands of years. 

Outside of the Milky Way, some of the remaining Precursors entered stasis while others decided that dying was a better end. Those that died eventually dissolved into a dust that was stored in cylinders. Ancient space faring Humanity found these cylinders and opened them. The dust entered the humans’ bodies and began to mutate them from the inside out, eventually giving birth to the first Flood forms and proto-Gravemind. Initially the Flood attacked Humanity but the collective memories of the Precursors deemed Humanity worthy of the mantle and thus, the Flood ceased their attacks, instead moving to attack the Forerunners in the Milky Way. Humanity still fleeing the Flood’s advance, entered the Milky Way ahead of them and began attacking the Forerunners in hopes of breaking through and putting more distance between themselves and the Flood. 

Unbeknownst to the Human fleet, a large portion of them had been infected with the Precursor dust. 

Around roughly 98,379 BCE, The Flood arrived in the Milky Way.  Utilizing captured non military vessels, the Flood managed to bypass the Forerunner defense fleets and land on Forerunner worlds. As the infection took hold on the Forerunner planets, the collective intelligence of all biomass the infection assimilated was provided to the Proto-Gravemind.

After over 300 years of war, the Forerunners began to realize that their extinction was a real possibility. While the Forerunners would win every engagement against the Flood, they were unable to halt the spread of the infection. Eventually resorting to detonating the stars of entire systems to stop large infestations.

The Forerunners began saving and cataloging species to make sure the Flood would not destroy them. One such example was ancient humans. The Forerunners took specimens from ancient space faring humans and after some light modifications, seeded the planet we know as Earth with a new wave of humanity. Some specimens were kept and stored alongside various alien species, such as Elites and even some flood samples in their vaults on the Shield Worlds. After the initial contact, the Forerunner-Flood War entered into a stalemate for several hundred years.

During the stalemate, the Forerunners constructed many different AI to assist in the construction of solutions and deployment of their navy to combat the infection. One of the AIs that was created by the Forerunners was known as 05-032 Mendicant Bias. Mendicant was tasked with interrogation of the captured Proto-Gravemind to determine if the Flood could be reasoned with. The Proto-Gravemind identified itself as the last Precursor when it was interrogated by Mendicant, stating that the Flood was the last salvo in the Precursor-Forerunner war and that they would end the Forerunner race. As the interrogations continued, the Proto-Gravemind began to question Mendicant’s masters until it ultimately swayed Mendicant into believing that the time of the Forerunners was over. This came to be known as ‘The Logic Plague’ which affected not just AI but some of the Forerunner race as well. Mendicant allied with the Flood against the Forerunners sparking the beginning of the end of the war.

As the Forerunners scrambled to fight not just the Flood but now their rampant AI as well, a meeting was called to discuss how to proceed. The Diadect advocated for militaristic action against the Flood. To do this, he would need to compose some of the newly settled humans and turn them into his Knights (of Halo 4 & 5 fame); meanwhile, the master builder proposed the construction of more Shield Worlds and the Halo array. The assembly approved of the master builder’s plan and the Diadect was turned down; though, he would attempt to go behind the assembly’s back and make more knights, he was ultimately stopped and imprisoned in the Cryptum you find him in at the beginning of Halo 4.

As the Flood continued through the galaxy, the Forerunners ran out of options and the Librarian was unable to determine a cure for the infection. Ultimately, the Forerunners activated the Halo Array. The array functioned as it was meant to, killing all living beings with a sufficient biomass for infection. This in turn stopped the Flood and killed off all but the samples the Forerunners had kept in vaults on each Halo ring and on the Ark.

The activation of the array destroyed all Precursor and Forerunner tech that was not protected by either a shield world or a Halo ring. The Flood was starved out with the Proto-Gravemind dying as well. Eventually automated Key ships began ferrying the samples the Forerunners had stored in their vaults to new planets so life could once again foster in the Milky Way without the problem of the Flood.

This is where we start the Halo series. Thousands of years have passed and the Flood have laid dormant in their vaults on Halo.

Precursor

BIOLOGY

The Flood is a parasitic species of extragalagtic origin which is very virulent in its natural state, its Latin name is Inferi Redivivus which translates to “The Dead Reincarnated”. It can only be classified as an anomaly as it does not follow any known structure of function or organization. It represents the unstoppable force of nature and cannot be contained by conventional means.  As the infection takes hold, the parasite forces the host biomass through several stages of “evolution” until it achieves a massive biological breakdown in the host. Once this breakdown occurs then the infection can really take hold and work its magic. While the Flood infection is able to reproduce A-sexually without the use of a host, this is normally seen as a last ditch effort and is only really possible for “Pure Flood Forms”. The Flood has survived for as long as it has by the use of Lysogenic Replication. This is a process wherein the viral cells infiltrate and corrupt the healthy cells infecting them with their own genetic code. This allows the viral cells to mutate the healthy cells into new viral cells to infect other healthy cells. This process occurs until all healthy cells have been turned. 

The infection absorbs all biomass indiscriminately with only a very few species proving to be immune from the infection, Hunters and Drones have been shown to be immune to the infection for various reasons. One of the Forerunner’s plans, before the activation of the Halo array, was to utilize the Lekgolo worms that make up hunter colonies to consume the Flood biomass. While it proved effective in isolated cases, it was unable to be deployed on a large scale and the Forerunners were forced abandoned this plan. 

Flood infected Brute

The Flood are able to infect any organism with a biomass that is sufficient to house their infection, though, they do tend to prefer organisms with large brain capacity. This helps to accelerate the formation of the Gravemind to control the infection. Since the Flood’s Gravemind intelligence is only as smart as the organisms consumed by the infection, the more intelligent a species is, the more dangerous the infection can be. Having developed in severe conditions, the Flood infection is very resistant. It can survive on all known habitable worlds, temperatures ranging from 75 – +53 degrees Celsius, and can even survive underwater for a short time. 

As the Flood assume control of an area, they begin to alter their environment to promote further growth and incubation. They will begin attaching themselves to walls to create pods for breeding the infected virus as well an expelling spores into the air. If left alone for a long enough time and with enough raw biomass to work with, the Flood is able to completely turn a location into a Hive which can house a Gravemind or an entire army of forms (as seen with High Charity following Halo 2). The Flood infection tends to thrive in humid & lush environments which is why during the campaign of Halo 2, the “Quarantine Zone” used to contain the Flood infection is desolate, cold and snow covered.

NEUROLOGY/PHYSIOLOGY

Infection Form

The small bulbous squid looking “infection forms” are the Flood’s basic infectious hosts. They move across the ground looking for dead or wounded biomass with a sufficient sentience that they can add to the collective. Possessing several long tendrils they attack and overwhelm the host before using the tendrils to enter the host and find it’s spinal cord. The infection form then syncs it’s own nerve signal to that of the host and kills the host. From there it assumes control of the host and infects its brain wiping all personal memories. Some information such as combat techniques and technical intelligence is kept by the Flood and added to the Gravemind intelligence.  This process is so complete that despite a few small lingering memories, the host is now completely subservient to the Gravemind. It’s only purpose to infect new hosts and protect the Gravemind.  

There is another tactic used by the Flood to obtain specific information from a new host. This is the tactic that was used on Captain Jacob Keyes during the campaign of Halo: Combat Evolved. Rather than brute forcing their way into a hosts mind, they ‘burrow’ and slowly take over their memories and thoughts until they obtain the specific information that’s sought. In Captain Keye’s case, the Flood were looking for a starship to take them away from the Halo ring (Installation 04) or to show them the location of the ‘new and rich feeding ground’ (Earth). While Keyes fought them for as long as he could, eventually he was taken by the infection and the Flood gained the information they were after. 

A Gravemind is able to override the primal/basic instincts of the Flood and coordinate them into an effective force once enough biomass and intelligence has been obtained through infection.  A Gravemind is also able to control the actions of each individual infected host and even use their vocal chords to communicate with other species.

Gravemind concept art

While the neurological infection and assimilation is the same regardless of species, the physiological mutations are species specific. “Higher evolution hosts” such as humans, elites, and forerunners are used as a means of combat and thus their mutations generally result in “combat forms”. These forms retain the basic profile of the host species while still being significantly mutated. Most common mutations are: corrupted organ systems, decayed body cavities, internal organs displaced and decaying outer skin. The nature of these mutations render high powered ammunition, such as sniper rifles, largely ineffective and allows a combat form to remain functional even after being decapitated or maimed. Combat forms also generate large tentacles from their extremities and central core. These tentacles are used as melee weapons and can sometimes contain bony protrusions for added damage. 

COUNTERMEASURES 

As it stands in the Halo universe, there are no known countermeasures to the Flood infection. Once an infection takes hold of a host there is no way to stop the infection from spreading and there is no known method to reverse the effects of an infection. Flamethrowers are effective in destroying the infection before it attaches to a host, but the most effective form of controlling the Flood is isolating the infection and starving it out. 

Certain neurological disorders that affect the neural frequencies of the hosts have proven to render individuals immune to Flood infection. One such disorder is Boren’s Syndrome. This condition which is caused by radiological exposure creates electrical anomalies in the nervous system which the Flood cannot mimic. Sergeant Avery Johnson is the only known individual with Boren’s Syndrome to have come into contact with a flood infection. While he was attacked and was attempted to be assimilated into the Flood, he survived. He does have some Flood DNA in his system but it is unable to mutate him; however, it did gift him with some advanced healing capabilities.

All known Flood forms

There you have it, the unstoppable infection that is the Flood. It’s rather reassuring that this is a fictional virus and not something we’re dealing with right now.  I have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours playing various Halo games and can say that I am terrified of the Flood. It’s something that I hope we would never have to deal with… ever.

Until next time!