Where were we?
In order to write about the future of a story, one must understand the story’s past. Here are some very short recaps of each Halo game’s plot that do not by any means do the stories justice:
Halo: Reach is logically the first step in the Halo chronology; however, for the sake of this recap, I am going to exclude it on the grounds that it acts more to establish backstory than to present a coherent series of standalone events. Reach is the event from which the Pillar of Autumn and its cargo fled, resulting in the discovery of Halo. The story of Reach, while incredibly rich and relevant to avid junkies, is not required knowledge even for a very thorough understanding of the following events in the Halo timeline.
Halo: Combat Evolved
The Covenant, a group of extreme religious aliens, are trying to wipe out humanity. Halo, believed to be of huge religious significance to the Covenant, is accidentally discovered by the randomly slipspace-jumping Pillar of Autumn and its crew. After landing on it, Keyes, Master Chief and Cortana learn that it is a weapon. They find the Control room where Cortana learns something startling and urgent, sending Master Chief after Keyes while she stays behind. Turns out that the Covenant unearthed something terrible, and Keyes has stumbled into it in a swampy facility where his signature was last observed. Inside, after opening a creepy door, a dead marine falls romantically into the Chief’s arms. He plays the records on a helmet cam in what is one of the creepiest and coolest horror reveals ever, and we learn about the Flood, a terrible space parasite that zombifies sentient life in a relentless onslaught. Enter the Flood.
Escaping the facility, a tiny AI basketball named 343 Guilty Spark – who calls himself the Monitor of Installation 04 – abducts the Chief ( whom he refers to as “Reclaimer”) via Halo’s teleportation grid and brings him to a literally endless facility called the Library. This is where the key to activating Halo – the Index – is stored. The plan is to activate Halo, which is supposedly a weapon specifically used to defeat the Flood. After several thousand hours of Flood slaying the Chief obtains the index, which is greedily removed from him by Guilty Spark for safe-keeping until it can be used. Spark and the Chief teleport back to the control room. Master Chief is given the Index and instructed to insert it in the console. Nothing happens – nothing, that is, until a huge angry avatar of Cortana appears to scold the Chief for all of his hard work. Cortana’s presence in the core is ruled “absolutely unacceptable” by Spark. The Chief tries to calm the squabbling AIs. Cortana reveals that Guilty Spark hadn’t been fully informative as to Halo’s purpose, and that it won’t kill the Flood itself but rather Flood hosts – all sentient life in the galaxy- thereby starving the Flood out.
The Monitor’s motivation to activate Halo in the light of this reveal is undiminished. The scene turns hostile, and suddenly Spark and his army of flying robot Sentinels and their deadly, deadly lasers become foes. Paradigm shift. Halo is now obviously a bigger threat than the Covenant or even the Flood, and the plan is to destroy it. By detonating the Pillar of Autumn’s fusion reactor, the ring should be destroyed. Cortana needs Captain Keyes’ neural implants to activate the self destruct sequence.
After delaying the Monitor’s ability to activate Halo with some reckless vandalism, Master Chief and Cortana go to find Keyes, who – after an agonizing fight with the flood infection – sits in the middle of the bridge of the Covenant ship, the Truth and Reconciliation, grotesque and mutated. The Chief sinks a big right fist into Keyes’ skull, retrieving his implants in the most tactful and respectful bare-hand brain excavation ever seen in video games, and they set off to blow up the Pillar of Autumn. The Chief and Cortana arrive and slug their way to the bridge to activate the ship’s self destruct sequence. Spark disables the countdown, and all is lost . That is, until the Chief suggests a manual detonation of the reactors. The Flood and Sentinels don’t make it easy but boom, boom, boom, and boom later, the reactors begin destabilization and, in a jeep-like warthog, they make a mad dash to Foehammer, the friendly dropship pilot who, seconds before their arrival meets an untimely demise. Okay, plan B: a last Longsword fighter docked in the flight bay. Zoom, and then boom. The ring and all of the twisted, shambling Flood forms and unsuspecting Covenant troops obliterated. Survivors? Just dust and echoes.
But Halo, it’s finished.
Master Chief thinks it’s just getting started.