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June 10, 2008

There's been few emails of late. I wonder why. The forum's been quiet too, but a post recently reminded me of this thread on the nature of the compound mind.

Cthulhu117 writes:

We don't know the purpose of the Gravemind. The Art of Halo tells us something on the order of "a cross between the ultimate stage in the Flood's evolution and a queen bee." But I don't think this is really an answer. What does a queen bee do? It sits in the nest and produces eggs. Nonstop. This is, I am decently sure, not what Gravemind does. And what is the ultimate stage in the Flood's evolution that the book speaks of? Well, it's GM itself, actually. This isn't a definition in the usual sense; it doesn't carry any non-obvious information.

So, when do we see Graveminds? Only twice.

1. In the pre-Array Flood. A Gravemind converses with Mendicant Bias. It spirals him into willful rampancy and attempted genocide in order to restore peace to the universe. The Flood, already massively powerful and slowly exterminating galactic civilization, become unstoppable, except by the kamikaze of the Halo Array.

2. In the 100-millennia-post-Array Flood. A Gravemind converses with Cortana. It attempts to either assimilate her or catapult her into a forced rampancy, possibly with the goal of gaining her knowledge and unique adaptability. The Flood, currently a token force by their own standards, are all but annihilated when the Gravemind's physical manifestation is destroyed and their last refuge scoured of life.

It's mostly the second manifestation I'll talk about, since we observe it directly. In the level "Cortana," we blow GM the hell up. We blow up the High Charity to do this. We are left with no doubt that he dies. He dies hard. And yet, in the very next level, "Halo," he's back somehow. Like the proverbial cat, GM came back; you thought GM was a goner, but he just couldn't stay away, oh no no, oh no no, oh no no. And yet, we know he's dead. We saw the ship he was on explode in a nuclear firestorm. Cortana even says GM has been destroyed. "It's trying to rebuild itself! On this ring!" That is tantamount to saying that Gravemind has been destroyed—so badly destroyed that it needs to "rebuild" itself. Presumably, this means it builds a new form from corpses, as seen in The Art of Halo. But how the hell can there be anything to rebuild? None of him can possibly have survived...unless, of course, there's more to Gravemind than the physical. If Gravemind's body is a mouthpiece for its guiding consciousness, rather than a shell.

The Compound Mind that commands the Flood isn't contained in the vast, tentacular corpse-conglomerate we call a gravemind. It's contained in the Flood itself. As long as there is a single infection form to contain the collective, malevolent intelligence of the Flood, there will be a Compound Mind, and the single, many-headed organism called the Flood will survive.

Now we see why the Forerunners couldn't meet the Flood in battle. We see why they didn't simply strike surgically at the Gravemind. We see why they realized the only way to stop the spread of the Flood was to remove all possible sources of food until the Infection Forms hopefully starved to death. They knew. They knew the Flood was a many-aspected, divisible mind manifest in many bodies. And they realized that ultimately, unless contained, the Flood is unstoppable.

Now, this theory doesn't pretend to account for the apparent telepathy of the Flood, or any of the other weird and paranormal phenomena that occur around them. But all the same, I am quite convinced that the Flood is as I have described it: a single, Borg-like organism in many bodies and many minds.

The whole thread is good for reading, but that theory itself is so obvious that, really, you guys should have told me about it sooner. You all dropped the ball on this one. I'm very disappointed.

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