arbiter

Analysis of Halo: Fracture’s “Oasis,” the Prequel to Halo: Envoy

Analysis of Halo: Fracture’s “Oasis,” the Prequel to Halo: Envoy

Author’s note: this essay was written before Halo: Envoy’s release and published before I read it, which is why the section discussing “Oasis” as a groundwork for the novel is so very short.


Jat’s was the worst death in all of Halo. It was a coldly cynical death. Empty and brutal.

And it was narratively perfect.

On three separate levels.

To begin with, I must accentuate the fact that Jat’s death is consistent within the confines of the short story “Oasis” itself. While the manner in which this simple act both follows up on threads and lays groundwork for future fiction is impressive, those are both secondary. As discussed in my last article, moments in stories need to work first in their own context before operating on a different layer, such as a reference, callback, cameo, etc. (Smoke and Shadow). Oasis” was not marketed as the opening chapter to Envoy or as part of a series. It was released in Halo: Fractures as a standalone short story. Therefore, Jat’s death needs to make sense without referring to outside media. And it does.

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The Arbiter and Spartan Locke

The Arbiter and Spartan Locke

Halo 5 Guardians feels like the game that has been building up in the Halo Universe for the last 5 years; with all of the deep lore aspects of novels, comics and more all centralizing into one game. With all of these additions and intertwining story lines coming together, it also brings both old and new characters into the fold as well – most notably, Thel Vadamee and Jameson Locke (The Arbiter and Spartan Locke).

Since the very teaser of Halo 5 during E3 2013, we saw the Master Chief in maybe a familiar place (The Ark) searching for his long lost companion: Cortana.


arbiter and spartan lockeSpartan Locke

As time went on, we were introduced to the following image below of a mysterious Spartan character standing on the top of a reflection of our hero, savior and protagonist of the Halo franchise, the Master Chief. When this was released, the community went insane trying to figure out what this meant for our hero and just who this new character is. Since then, much has been built up and we eventually were told this Spartan is Agent Locke of ONI. We were even introduced to him in the Halo: Nightfall series.

arbiter and spartan lockeWe learned a few key things about Spartan Locke throughout this time period. For one, we know he was an Acquisitions Specialist for the Office of Naval Intelligence, with duties that included tracking and assassinating enemy threats. We also know from the Nightfall series he values the military structure and the duty that is at the center of it, with an importance on obeying orders and not getting distracted from the main task.

 


Both of these are important when we consider his main objective as of now: Hunting the so-called “awol” Master Chief.

We know from Hunt the Truth that the Master Chief is being framed for assassinating members of a peace consulate with seemingly no reason or objective. However we later find out he was targeting the extremist group, Sapien Sunrise, who were reported to be plotting assassination attempts on the peace activists. What is more interesting is when we consider the fact that this “secret” extremist group could very well be ONI or at least encouraged by them, since we know ONI is wanting to essentially commit genocide on the Sangheili species. Why does all this matter? Simple –

Spartan Locke is apart of ONI, and ONI is becoming a direct antagonist to the Master Chief.


The Arbiter

So where does the Arbiter come into play in all of this? We know that Thel is dealing with his own problems as there is essentially a civil war going on between the Sangheili and the remains of the Covenant. Well at E3 2014 we received our first view of the Arbiter and Spartan Locke conversing, while Locke looked onto projected holograms of the Master Chief’s life events. *This was more for the trailer and E3 presentation, but still a metaphor*



The Arbiter is seen standing near a window showing what looks to be Sanghelios, the Elite homeworld, speaking to Spartan Locke about the Master Chief. He says:

To find him, you have to forget the stories, forget the legends. You have to do more than walk in his footsteps, for he is more than the sum of his actions. I tell you this, not because I trust you Agent Locke, but because all our lives are at stake. Because the seeds of our future, are sewn in his past.

So most of this quote we can chalk up to marketing. However, there is one very important statement that Thel makes to Locke: “I tell you this, not because I trust you Agent Locke, but because all our lives are at stake.

Thel makes it very clear he does not trust Spartan Locke. This is the relationship I want to dive into further because not only do I think it is very interesting, but it could lead us to know more about the Arbiter’s thoughts on not just this specific human, but Humanity in general. Does he not trust Locke because he is hunting his friend? Or is it because he is working for ONI, an organization that has been quietly pulling strings on both sides of the Sangheili civil war? Thel may know more about ONI than he leads on and that could very well be the root issue here.

We then see another instance in which a Sangheili soldier and the Arbiter showcase further distrust of Spartan Locke and his true intentions:



I do not trust you, he may, but I do NOT.  – Sangheili Soldier

My friend’s trust is not the issue today, Spartan Locke. It is my trust you must earn. You are a hunter, yes? A seeker of things…And now you hunt other Spartans? You seek (Locke: 117). I was not told the identity of your prey. – Thel Vadamee

We see the Arbiter speaking very on edge to Agent Locke, even at one point being surprised as to who Locke is hunting. He definitely seems to question Locke’s intentions and is not sure about working with him, but it appears something is going on that requires him to push aside this trust issue and move on with the objective…as we see in the cutscene below:



Right in the beginning we hear a voice over the speaker say, “Arbiter, we are nearing the the target.” We then hear the Arbiter question Locke as to what he calls the Master Chief and if he is a foe.

Prepare for action. What do you call him Spartan Locke? 117, the Master Chief. He is not your friend, is he your foe? – Thel Vadamee

He’s gone awol and the UNSC want him back, I’m going to bring him home. – Spartan Locke

I admire your sense of duty Spartan, but if he has left the fold, he has his reasons. – Thel Vadamee

At the end of the cutscene, the door opens up and both the Arbiter and Spartan Locke assume a defensive position, with Thel taking out his energy sword…so we know whatever they are approaching is a hostile environment and they are fighting together.

We are seeing the Arbiter *begrudgingly* aid Spartan Locke, while watching and noticing his every move/word. One last cutscene with both the Arbiter and Spartan Locke was seen in this year’s E3 2015 trailer for Halo 5 Guardians. Watch below at 2:15:



I’m a Spartan now sir. – Jameson Locke

I know who you are, yet now you hunt another Spartan, the greatest of your clan. – Thel Vadamee

If you watch that portion at 2:15, you will hear the Arbiter respond with the above quote, seemingly annoyed by Locke telling him he is a Spartan. He also waves him off as if he is sick of hearing him speak, and reminds Locke he is hunting the greatest of his kind. This statement shows the respect that Thel has for John and seems to be reminding Locke he is not impressed with him.

Throughout all of the scenes where we see these two characters together, we can deduce that the Arbiter does not trust Locke, and is more or less annoyed by his presence, albeit understands they need to work together for the good of the galaxy. Why they need to work together remains to be seen.

Overall I think this is a very important theme that has gone somewhat unnoticed. These two characters are major players in not just Halo 5 Guardians, but the entire Halo Universe in general. Knowing that one of them is hunting Master Chief and essentially working for his enemy, while the other is a close friend of John’s, will produce a very intriguing storyline and one to watch for as we roll closer to the release of the game.

If Locke does not want to believe the atrocities that ONI has committed and is committing, assuming somewhere along the line he finds out, then it could be a terrible situation for all three characters involved and force a confrontation. To be quite frank, I would say that situation ends up with Locke on the losing end.


Either way, the story between the Arbiter and Spartan Locke promises to be exciting and interesting for all new and old Halo fans. Discuss more in depth the relationship between these two icons here and thanks for reading!



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The Arbiter’s Role in Halo 5: Guardians – A Symbol of the Galaxy’s Potential

The Arbiter’s Role in Halo 5: Guardians – A Symbol of the Galaxy’s Potential

It has been clear from E3 2014 when we first heard Keith David’s voice coming over our speakers and headphones, that Arbiter Thel ‘Vadam would be making his return in Halo 5: Guardians. Of course there was speculation everywhere about how large of a role he would have in the game and as we get closer and closer to the release date, the answer seems to be “very large indeed.”

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Halo’s Place in Science Fiction – First Strike

Halo’s Place in Science Fiction – First Strike

Reading Journal Synopsis


First Strike (The Definitive Edition) by Eric Nylund

Alpha Halo was not the end of the war. The Covenant continue their genocidal campaign, the Master Chief, Cortana, and a team of survivors must race to Earth and stop the Covenant’s advance. This novel follows up on the events and characters of both Fall of Reach and The Flood and sets the stage for Halo 2.

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What’s In a Name

What’s In a Name


halo-2-anniversary-launch-trailer

What exactly is a name? 

A form of specificity and identity, of course. It’s what others recognise you by, and it undoubtedly carries connotations associated with your personality and what to expect of you. There is a clear distinction, however, between a name and a title. At what point does the former become the latter?

The assumption and upholding of responsibility. Let’s look at the importance of identity in one of the most pivotal characters in Halo…

Master Chief Petty Officer Spartan -117

One of the principal rites of passage for every SPARTAN-II (and SPARTAN-III) upon their induction was the loss of their family name, and the ‘gift’ of a new name: SPARTAN-XXX. Whilst ‘XXX’ resembles a numerical tag for individual identification, the adoption of the title ‘SPARTAN’ was an adoption of responsibility by every candidate, right from their very indoctrination as children. John, like his peers, was given a title; a name which was both a badge and a burden. Even in the Halo 2: Anniversary prologue cinematic, Agent Jameson Locke states that he is “not so much hunting aSpartan, but the Spartan”. This is undoubtedly a testament to the fact that John, in the eyes of many, embodies all the characteristics and upholds the duties expected of a Spartan; the definitive specimen. He defines the title of ‘Spartan’ as much as it defines him. But the expectations John must live up to are even more numerous.

Officially, Master Chief Petty Officer is a rank within the UNSC Navy. A rank does demand responsibilities from its bearer – but undoubtedly nothing close to the responsibilities expected of the Master Chief. The fact that he is identified as such is a clear indication of how a name (or in this case, a rank) was transformed through his actions into an honorific – a mantle in its own right. To humanity, the Master Chief is a name which symbolises hope when all seems lost, for his actions during the closing months of the Human-Covenant war were undoubtedly key to humanity’s survival at a time when humans were on the brink of defeat, and total extinction seemed inevitable.

Josh Holmes (of 343 Industries) once described Master Chief as being like Atlas, with the weight of the world upon his shoulders. It’s not difficult to see why this analogy is so fitting. John’s title, more of an identity than his first name ever will be, carries such an immense amount of responsibility that it’s easy to understand why a man in his position could eventually begin to fragment – as we see in Halo 4’s epilogue/The Next 72 Hours. The most devastating event in SPARTAN-117’s life – the death of Cortana – is likely to have affected him so deeply because of their responsibility to each other. She was his guardian, as he was hers. John clearly blames himself for failing to adequately protect her from an enemy he couldn’t defeat (rampancy). Perhaps most heartbreaking is Cortana’s farewell (“Welcome home, John“), in which she says her affectionate final goodbye to a boy, an individual, rather than to a rank or a title.

With this failure to uphold responsibility as her guardian, the Master Chief is losing his sense of identity; as a man stripped of any chance of a normal life, John’s desertion in Halo 5 is clearly a crisis of determining Who or What he is. Without the responsibilities of a clear enemy to fight or an AI companion to protect, John resorts to his indoctrinated soldier instincts; neutralize threats, Win. And that’s precisely what the end of TN72H demonstrates.

On the subject of failure of responsibility, there is one other character that must obviously be addressed…

The Arbiter, Thel ‘Vadam


TMCC-Halo-2-Anniversary-Cinematic-Revelations


After his inability to prevent the destruction of Installation 04, Thel was stripped of his former title Supreme Commander and a new, dishonourable title was bestowed upon him: the Arbiter.

Long before the Sangheili ever began to voyage through the depths of space, Arbiter was a title which demanded unparalleled respect, bestowed upon a great warrior to rule over all clans. Even after the Writ of Union and formation of the Covenant, the San ‘Shyuum ensured that Arbiters would lead the entire Covenant military. The combat and leadership prowess of Arbiters was expected to be so great that one would hold such power and responsibility with ease. This tradition continued until circa 2100 A.D, the time in which Fal ‘Chavamee held the position of Arbiter. It would be his questioning and rejection of the core Covenant religion which spurred the San ‘Shyuum leaders to shatter millennia of tradition; the title of Arbiter was transformed into one of utter shame, of dishonour – a title of failed responsibility.

Arbiters became martyrs to be looked down upon, forced to die in the name of the Covenant beliefs to reclaim their coveted honour.

In truth, altering the ancient title of Arbiter like this was in fact a method of repression. The San ‘Shyuum held absolute power in the Covenant, with the Sangheili (an entire warrior race) serving at their will. Powerful, well-known Sangheili individuals could not be permitted to openly question or cast doubts about the fragile beliefs of the Covenant – for fear that this ancient, multi-species union would fracture. Such a catastrophe would leave the San ‘Shyuum defenceless and alone in a potentially hostile galaxy. Thus, their redefining of the Arbiter was practically a necessity; a well-timed, strategic manipulation which ensured the continued safety of their species.

And so, at the time of Thel ‘Vadamee’s demotion, ‘Arbiter’ is both a degrading title of heresy and, in hindsight at least, a symbol of humiliating repression at the hands of the Prophet hierarchs. It is akin to John-117’s title of ‘Demon’; insulting, if only with a sliver of respect implied. Whilst this can be seen as a similarity between the two protagonists, it is simultaneously an element of contrast; Master Chief is almost universally acclaimed/revered by his race because of his astonishing upholding of responsibility (protection of humanity/actions on Alpha Halo), whilst the Arbiter is subject to widespread loathing from the Covenant, due to his inability to uphold a ‘religious mantle’ as it were (protection of a holy Forerunner artefact: Installation 04).

Halo 2 can therefore be interpreted as the story of two individuals with great expectations placed upon them because of their unique identities, both trying to live up to the responsibilities demanded of them. Except in the Arbiter’s case, he comes to the revelation that the responsibilities expected of not only himself but his entire race were based on deception.

Thel himself alludes to the Sangheili identity and its immense importance in Halo 2’s ‘Uncomfortable Silence’ cinematic.

We have always been your protectors.”

Thel attempts to highlight the importance of this millenia-old role to the Prophet of Truth; Truth, however, dismisses the changing of the guard as an ‘exchange of hats’. What Truth fails to acknowledge however, is that this stripping of responsibility is by extension a stripping of identity.

The Sangheili as a collective were expected to fight and die for their San ‘Shyuum leaders, holding the mantle of defending the San ‘Shyuum, unaware that they had shed blood for thousands of years in the name of lies. In a matter of days, they found their very identity stolen from them by the San ‘Shyuum, who had placed this mantle in the Sangheili’s hands initially – and it is this which is truly the source of dishonour in the Great Schism.

Titles become your identity – and they are not reserved just for individuals, clearly.

The Forerunners are an excellent example of an identity crisis. At their peak they were the most technologically advanced race in the galaxy, having cast out any competition by crushing Precursors and Humans in great wars. Having assumed the Mantle of Responsibility from the Precursors and safeguarded it from any attempts by humanity to steal it, the Forerunners allowed their hubris to assure themselves that they were the ‘guardians of the galaxy’. Such a title requires the bearer to uphold the Mantle of Responsibility by co-existing with all life – not by arrogantly dominating over it, as the Forerunners would. One only needs to consider the Halo Array to see why the Forerunner approach to upholding the Mantle was ineffective. And by failing to efficiently carry out their responsibility, the Forerunners were stripped of that identity they tried to inherit: Guardians.

What does any of this mean in regards to the future of the Halo franchise, however? How can we expect identity and responsibility to be relevant going forward? The title of the next main Halo game should spell it out…

Halo 5: Guardians

 


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In the ‘current-era’ Halo universe (c.2558), we can see history repeating itself, the same mistakes coming around again. Humanity is rising up in arrogance and defiance, just as the Primordial predicted. ONI’s careless meddling with galactic diplomacy and their aggressive foreign policy is solid proof of this. In order to truly reclaim the Mantle of Responsibility and inherit the title of ‘guardians of the galaxy’, an honourable identity, Humanity must take steps to ensure they carry out the associated responsibilities and act as guardians, not dominators – by fostering co-existance, not manipulation and deception as ONI would have it.

Thel ‘Vadam must restore the title of ‘Arbiter’, living up to the responsibilities it carried: to be a great leader of his people, far more than just the great warrior the Prophet hierarchs had him serve as throughout the Human-Covenant war. The Arbiter must carry a Mantle of Responsibility of his own to hold on to his title, his identity; he must unite and safeguard his whole race.

Meanwhile, our upcoming protagonists – Agent Jameson Locke and John-117 – have a tremendous journey of identity of their own to fulfil. They must decide either to be just soldiers, or to become Guardians – and to truly understand what the responsibilities of being the latter entail.

–Typhoon