They're random, baby

The Halo Story

Joe Staten Interview - August 2006

When, in the course of an otherwise unremarkable email exchange, Joe Staten, in response to a comment about being prodded once again for Story tidbits, said, and I quote, "Prod away!", we were more than glad to accomodate him. Here once more is Joe, joined by Frankie and Robert McLees, on various and diverse aspects of the Halo Story.

HSP: First off, I'd like to know if there are any elements of the story that haven't been touched on, or maybe touched on obliquely, that you'd like to see get some added attention? Any little back-story tidbit that might not make it to a book, film, or game, but could stand alone as a (short) short story, in the same vein as the Conversations booklet perhaps?

JS: I'd love to see the conversation between Shaw and Fujikawa about how - exactly - a Slipspace drive works. Frankie imagines it would happen at poolside with Tom Baker and George Takei playing the lead roles. McLees tends to think the conversation would have to happen in some place as absurd as Slipspace itself. Like the place where Spartans go when they "never die."

Fortunately, as penance for his cynicism, McLees was obliged to summarize the prevailing, Bungie Slipspace wisdom:

If we look at the mechanics of a Slipstreamspace jump in its most basic form, the exit and re-entry points into real-space could be represented as two panes of Plexiglas® suspended parallel to one another. The pane representing the exit has a hole drilled in it - say, big enough to accommodate a ping-pong ball - and a sheet of latex attached to it opposite the re-entry pane. A "rupture" is created when the ping pong ball gets pushed through the hole, stretching the latex until it touches the re-entry pane. The mechanics of how the ball passes through the pane are much less interesting than what happens to the stretched latex after the ball is removed. Basically, it snaps back. And this is why traveling through Slipspace is so dangerous: if you do it haphazardly - if you don't have good math - there's a good chance somebody is gonna get smacked (see the citizens of New Mombasa in Halo2).

This is, of course, fundamentally different that the standard "two dots drawn on a piece of paper subsequently folded so the dots meet" depiction of FTL travel. But McLees says that model's "for sissies" and Frank concurs that, at the end of the day, it's all about the latex (don't ask).

HSP: One of the HBO forumgoers noted an interesting description of the Jackals on the Joyride site:

"The Jackals are unique among Covenant species. Rather than faithful followers of the Prophets' religion, they are mercenaries working for the Covenant and pay only the barest lip service to 'the cause.' Human encounters with Jackals have been brief and poorly documented. Rumors and fragmentary evidence point to incidents of Jackal piracy against civilian human vessels. It is assumed Jackals' Covenant masters tolerate or condone this privateering."

But for one Prophet of Regret sound clip in Halo 2, there has previously been no mention of any financial incentive for a race to ally themselves with the Covenant, or even that any race had the choice. Could you comment further on this?

JS: Unlike races such as the Unggoy, the Kig-Yar were space-faring long before joining the Covenant. While it would be more accurate to call Covenant Kig-Yar ship captains "privateers" (with commissions granted by the Ministry of Tranquility), yes: they have been know to engage in acts of piracy on human ships. But these events haven't always helped the Covenant cause...

HSP: Could you tell us a bit about the origin and history of the Flood? There was a quote from Jason that the Covenant had a previous history with the Flood; perhaps you'd shed some light on what happened, where it might have been, and when this "previous history" happened?

JS: McLees assures me that, in this case, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words:

HSP: Imagine you are an aging ONI operative, sitting with an old friend on the porch one fine summer night, the cares and intrigues of battle and politics a hazy memory. Let's hear a story!

JS: Does it have to be an ONI operative? Because Frankie insists this see the light of day:

Shaw sat on the end of the sun lounger, his robe open to the soft trade wind, his eyes narrowed to meet the glare from the whitewashed poolside. He huffed. His brown, almost orange skin wrinkled and rolled over a seventy-year old belly.

"Fuji, you old queer," he announced, his English-accented baritone startling a preening Macaw. "Fuji, I've come to a decision!"

"How thrilling," responded Fujikawa, not bothering to move the tented paperback from his face. His voice, muffled by the book, betrayed a kind of languid irritation.

Shaw, his once-Adonis like figure now bent and pruned by the Caribbean sun, glared at his reclining partner. In their youth they had looked astonishingly similar, but now Fujikawa's mop of curly white hair betrayed the illusion that they were elderly brothers.

"I'm going to make a bloody time machine, you wizened poof," stated Shaw, with the haughty sneer he'd so perfectly mastered.

"Utter buggery," yawned Fujikawa, drifting in and out of a pleasant doze. "Why not make something useful, Shavian? A daiquiri, for example."

Shaw closed his robe. "Vicious queen," he muttered to the cooling breeze, "I'll make it. And I'll make it entirely out of metal."*

(*Ed. Note: See?! I told you not to ask!)

In all seriousness, the ONI operative might start to tell the story of first contact between humanity and the Covenant. Then stop, realizing the hour was late, his audience was old, and the story was long enough to fill an entire novel.

HSP: The dialogue from the Halo 3 trailer bears obvious similarity to the Cortana Letters from the early Halo days. Given that they have been discouraged as canon over the years, are they now to be afforded greater consideration? Additionally, the Letters themselves were strongly reminiscent of the messages from Durandal, the rampant AI from Marathon. What are your thoughts on "rampancy," AIs in the Halo universe, and Cortana specifically?

JS: Canon is tricky (see my controversial statement about "I Love Bees" - believe it or not, we're actually working to answer the "is it, or isn't it?" question right now!). The Halo story has as many loose threads as influences. And we do our best to sew the former into canon as we find them - are reminded of their potential. The Cortana Letters are an excellent example of this phenomenon. For all sorts of reasons, they lingered in canonical purgatory for years. But when we needed some compelling dialog to remind folks what's at stake in Halo3: Bam! Newfound utility! Alas, I'd have to say that, as of now, the only canonized parts of the letters are the fragments we pulled for use in the announcement trailer.

HSP: Humans (SPARTANS, specifically) have been shown in both the games and the novels to have an innate understanding of Forerunner glyphs, symbols, and controls. Is this something that will be elaborated on in Halo 3? Is there a Forerunner alphabet or language that can be at least partially deciphered from currently available sources? What would those sources be, specifically?

JS: I mentioned the Ministry of Tranquility earlier, and it just so happens to have an extensive library of Forerunner glyphs - though Ministry Prophets (even with the help of their Huragok librarians) have nothing approaching a full understanding of the Forerunner language. At least, they've never told anyone if they do...

Yes, some humans (Doctor Halsey, for one) have an almost preternatural ability to discern the glyphs' meanings. Given what we've revealed so far about Halo3 - that there's a very large object buried in the Kenyan savannah with distinctly Forerunner architecture - it's safe to say we'll elaborate on all things Forerunner in Halo3. Although some would say we've already made things perfectly clear.

HSP: When did the Forerunner die off - in human years?

JS: Inscrutable alien beings with problematic ethics never die... they just fade away. But if what you're asking is: when did the Forerunner take their "Great Journey," that would be about 100,000 years ago - around the time our Homo Sapien ancestors decided to migrate out of Africa. Mind you, that's a hotly debated paleontological theory.

Once again, we'd like to thank Joe, and also Frank and Robert, for their invaluable contribution to our obsess... er, speculations. Thanks, guys!