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The New York Times bestselling series based on the blockbuster video game for Xbox!
It is 2555, more than two years after the Master Chief went missing-in-action following a decisive conflict on Installation 00—the massive, extragalactic Forerunner construct known as the Ark—as part of the final chapter in humanity’s bloody thirty-year struggle against the overwhelming forces of the Covenant. Now, as a tenuous peace exists between the humans and the Elites, a startling scientific discovery is made...and the riddle behind its Forerunner origins could very well seal the fate of the entire galaxy within a matter of weeks. In order to unravel these dangerous secrets, a heroic, hastily formed coalition of humans and Elites must attempt to overcome their differences as they embark on a covert mission back to the Ark—an astonishing, enigmatic place beyond comprehension from which few have returned and where mortal danger awaits them all...
About the Author
Peter David is a prolific writer whose career, and continued popularity, spans more than twenty-five years. He has worked in every conceivable media—television, film, books (fiction, nonfiction, and audio), short stories, and comic books—and acquired followings in all of them.
Read an Excerpt
Hunters in the Dark
Luther Mann’s dreams were entrenched in that time when he had been a child, fleeing for his life from the only world he had known. He remembered his mother shouting at him and hurting him. His eventual reconciliation with his mother would run through his mind, only to be annihilated by her suicide.
It wasn’t your fault that she did that went through his head, but even as a grown-up, he didn’t entirely believe that. To this day, so many years after her lifeless body had been discovered, he still told himself that he was somehow, in some way, responsible. That maybe if he had done more, been cleverer, a better son, a better man . . .
. . . maybe she would have found something to live for.
When he awoke, his body was shaking and covered in sweat. He sat up, rubbing his face and moaning softly. It had been a long while since he had dreamt of her, and he certainly hadn’t missed it.
Luther could not recall the last time he slept in a normal room.
It wasn’t as if he didn’t own one. He had perfectly vivid memories of his own rather sedate apartment. Actually, in retrospect, sedate might not have been the proper word to describe his facilities. His apartment back on Earth, situated on the third floor of an unremarkable building in an equally unremarkable section of Seattle, had the bare minimum of accoutrements that one would expect for a place that someone was actually living in. That was because Luther spent, at most, a grand total of eight weeks there during any given year.
The rest of the time was spent out in the place where he was right now: the field. Luther Mann was a lifelong explorer. Throughout the galaxy was where he went, studying all manner of archaeology. The civilizations that he researched were hardly limited—every era in the history of man had been subjected to his scrutiny at one time or another.
And yet it wasn’t the limits of humanity that engaged him. Because no matter where he was or what he was in the midst of exploring, Luther’s imagination always tended to turn toward the same direction: one that took him as far from the study of humankind as archaeology could go.
Sooner or later, it always came back to the Forerunners.
And there was no greater expert on their culture and their history than Luther Mann. None. Anything there was to know about them, that is, anything which could be known from the relatively little information available, was rattling around in his head. He had read every study and done quite a few of his own. When it came to the Forerunners, Luther was a walking database, and any major dig that related to them sooner or later requested his presence. Nor was anyone ever disappointed with the results.
He was also noted for his command of alien languages—Luther had spent years of his life studying nearly every dialect that was spoken by the various races in the Covenant, with translation skills that were also second to none. And still, it was always returning to the Forerunners.
“Doctor?” There was something akin to a knock at the front flap of his tent. “Doctor, are you up and around?”
He certainly was, and had been for the past two hours. As was typical for him during this particular expedition, Luther once again found himself unable to sleep beyond minimal required hours to rest, and that kept shrinking. Other places, he needed seven, eight hours for his brain to be fully back up to snuff. But out here, in the field? Four, and he was ready to go. The only reason he was still in his tent was out of deference to the others on his team who might require something approaching a normal amount of slumber.
“Yes, yes, hang on a moment, Henry,” he called out. Luther was also dressed, shaven, and wired for work. He was meticulous about keeping his beard stubble neat, especially since he had noticed the first shades of premature gray starting to seep in; he wanted to do everything he could to keep that away from observation. It reminded him too much of his father.
He clambered to the front of the tent and threw open the flap. The day was exactly what he expected; not surprising, really. In this wonderful, glorious location, one day was identical to the next. In the curved distance, he could see a series of puffy white clouds hanging against the bluest sky he had ever witnessed, and once again he had to do as he did every morning: shake himself, to believe that what he was staring at was completely artificial.
He would never have guessed it if he’d been dropped into the middle of this environment with no hint of where he was. He even remembered clearly the first time he set foot upon one of these strange things about two years ago. He hadn’t been sure what to expect. Heaven knew he had seen the holo-vids before, of various military operations during the war with the Covenant. But simply watching a location vid, even for hours at a time, didn’t compare to the experience of actually walking around on it.
Yet that was exactly what Luther was doing and precisely where he was.
He was on a Halo. One that he himself had discovered.
It wasn’t as if he had been looking for it. He had been exploring the Forerunner shield world of Onyx, which itself was an astounding place by any measure. After all, how many were there that were the size of an entire solar system? It wasn’t even called Onyx anymore; it had been rebranded into the human research outpost referred to as Trevelyan and currently played host to a number of research facilities. But he still tended to think of it with its original name, and while there, he had discovered records that were hidden deep within its vast information pathways . . . records that up until then had remained unfound and untranslated. Once Luther had come upon them, he’d labored over them for a year after the end of the Covenant War before realizing the existence—and location—of Zeta Halo. It had been quite the way to usher in the new year of 2555.
Discovering the Zeta Halo had catapulted Luther’s academic career. Before that, he had been a respected scientist, yes, and one of the top minds in his field, but his field included hundreds of men and women, many of whom were far more vocal and aggressive in achieving publicity than he was. But finding a Halo had put him front and center with many scientific publications and organizations, though even the existence of Halo was something of an urban myth on most human worlds. He had received invitations from numerous universities to come lecture and had also been summoned to the headquarters of the United Nations Space Command to provide them with a detailed report of the methods he had used to discover this Halo.
Considering what they represented, finding another Halo was a big deal no matter when it was found. Yes, the Halo ringworlds were what many of the Covenant once believed was the final step on the Path, a culminating event they called the “Great Journey.” It was a central tenet of their religious beliefs. But this belied their true nature, which was revealed during the final days of the war. The Halo installations were designed, at their core, for various purposes, ranging from a nature preserve for life-forms found throughout the Milky Way to defensive outposts against the alien parasite called the Flood.
Ultimately, though, it was also understood that the ancient installations possessed the capability of wiping out every sentient being in the entirety of the galaxy, and that was naturally of concern to pretty much every human being who breathed. That’s where the UNSC stepped in, specifically the Office of Naval Intelligence. The known installations needed to be quarantined and secured to alleviate risk.
It was only recently that ONI had begun research on the vast interior world that composed the inner workings of the Zeta Halo. And Luther’s participation had naturally been not only welcomed, but insisted upon by top individuals at ONI, primarily due to his extensive history with both Delta Halo and Gamma Halo.
He pushed his way out of his tent and Henry Lamb was waiting for him. Henry was an equivalent to Luther in another respect. Luther’s knowledge of the Forerunners’ background was unparalleled when it came to understanding their language, their culture, their entire way of life; Henry, on the other hand, was fascinated with them from a different perspective, having spent the entirety of his life studying Covenant and Forerunner engineering. He was part of ONI’s xeno-materials exploitation group and specialized in the recovery and reverse engineering of the incredible technology these advanced civilizations had taken for granted. Short of a Huragok, one of the creatures that the Forerunners had created to tend to their machinery, there was simply no human who was more conversant with or qualified to study and fix, if such a thing were possible, Forerunner technology. Luther and Henry made a rather formidable team, and Henry’s enthusiasm for the tasks that Luther handed him on any given day was relentless. “You had breakfast?” Luther asked.
“Yup,” said Henry, who was lying, of course. Henry rarely, if ever, worried about taking care of himself—he could easily pass an entire day without eating anything of substance, which was probably why he was so insanely thin. Luther had once seen him shirtless and had actually been able to count his ribs. But Henry was a grown man, if one counted twenty-nine as that, and was fully capable of making his own decisions, for better or worse.
Henry was busy scratching the head of a very familiar creature. “Hello, Vanessa!” Luther said with great cheer.
Vanessa was the name he’d given to the small, deer-like animal that showed up every morning like clockwork and stared at him expectantly. Luther was ready for her, unslinging his knapsack and pulling out a handful of lettuce from a small bag. He extended it to her (he wasn’t sure it was a her; it was just what he imagined it to be) and she immediately snapped it off his palm and chowed down. Once satisfied, Vanessa took several steps forward and Luther obediently rubbed her under her chin. She made a noise that sounded vaguely like the equivalent of a purr and then headed off into the brush.
“It’s nice to have a friend,” said Henry.
“I look for them wherever I can.” Both of them knew well enough that, while there was certainly a multitude of harmless creatures on the Halo installations, not all of the pet species the Forerunners had accumulated were as friendly as Vanessa.
“So what’s up for today?”
“I was figuring we’d take another stab at finding the control room.”
“I think it’s insanely frustrating that it’s taking us this long,” said Henry. “With the previous installations, the control room has always been in pretty much the same place. It’s the largest uniform structure near the ring’s phase pulse generators.”
“Absolutely true,” said Luther. “But it’s not just our inability to find it that’s puzzling me.”
“It’s the lack of a monitor,” said Henry, referring to the artificial intelligence often attached to a Forerunner installation as a caretaker, ensuring the facility was being efficiently maintained through long epochs of time.
Henry nodded. “Every Halo has had a monitor, right? Like 343 Guilty Spark on Alpha Halo, for instance. So why can’t we find one here? As much as we’ve searched this place, we’ve consistently come up empty. And it hasn’t found us, which is even more surprising, given the time we’ve spent here. It leaves me wondering whether there simply isn’t one here, or if it’s hiding for some reason.”
“For some reason?” Luther actually allowed a small chuckle over that. “I would think the reason would be obvious, at least one of them. Human and Covenant interactions on these installations have not always been the best. If the monitor of this Halo is aware of that, it might be inclined to steer clear of us. I know I would.”
It was an understatement, for sure. After the discovery of Alpha Halo in September of 2552, humans had been forced to destroy the ring to prevent its activation by the monitor. When Delta Halo was found several weeks later, rebel Elites glassed its surface to prevent the Flood parasite from escaping containment. And then, in December of that same year, the replacement for Alpha Halo was destroyed when humans prematurely fired it above an extragalactic superstructure the Forerunners referred to as the Ark. In Luther’s mind, there were plenty of reasons for the Forerunners’ artificial intelligences to doubt the beneficence of either human or Covenant activity.
“That doesn’t sound consistent with how we’ve understood monitors historically,” said Henry.
“There’s no reason to think consistency is mandatory.”
“It’s possible that the Forerunners made this Halo differently for some reason.”
“Any idea what that reason is?”
Luther shook his head. There were clear differences between Zeta Halo, also known as Installation 07, and the other ringworlds that humanity had previously discovered. Some of the differences existed on a meta level, dealing with the installation’s physical infrastructure and material composition. Others were far subtler, involving things like the architectural aesthetics of its various building structures and machinery, or the machine language of the ring’s distributed systems. Zeta was not the kind of Halo that they or anyone else were familiar with.
“There are two possible theories, when you get down to it. Either this place was constructed after all the others, with the Forerunners having learned things from the previous architecture. Or else it was made before all the others, serving as a sort of prototype. Whatever the truth,” and Luther clapped his hands together briskly, “one of these days, we need to find both the control room and also the Library, because that’s where we’ll find the activation key . . . the Index.”
“Exactly. Isolate and contain,” said Henry. “And avert certain disaster. If the Index were to fall into the wrong hands, they could hypothetically activate the ring.”
“See, now you’re thinking like an engineer again,” said Luther with good humor. “Always contemplating how machinery could be used for the worst possible purposes.”
“That’s because, in my experience, it always has.”
Luther was about to toss a casual response, but then he realized that Henry was right, so he allowed the comment to pass. This had been the protocol on the former rings, and so Zeta Halo, in that respect, wasn’t being treated any differently. Ideally, they would be able to quickly locate and secure all of the important facilities on this Halo, but ultimately the control center could provide them with all of the information they needed, including some of the critical functions they sought.
They set off, Luther still having difficulty wrapping his head around the concept that the area through which they were walking had been artificially constructed. If he hadn’t known better, he would have thought he was traveling through campgrounds in Wyoming or some similar, perfectly pleasant, naturally existing region. Green plants stretched around him in all directions, while the dirt path they strode was indistinguishable from anything that they would see back on Earth. At one point he stopped, picked up a clod of dirt, and sniffed it. Yes, absolutely identical to back home. The sky above looked utterly normal and the hanging clouds likewise appeared natural. The only difference, which was certainly noteworthy, was the upward sloping horizon as the ring stretched out on two sides, in either direction rising to a nearly indistinguishable height thousands of kilometers directly above them.
He would have given anything to have been alive back then, or perhaps to be transported somehow through time and space, so he could return to the era of the Forerunners. He wouldn’t ask a ton of questions or get in the way—he would simply stand to one side and observe how they did everything. The Forerunners had been an astounding civilization, and he could readily understand why the Covenant had regarded them as gods.
The Sangheili, of course, no longer did. Their species—once the most important members of the Covenant as the protectors of the weaker yet, in theory, more powerful San’Shyuum—had come to realize that the Sacred Rings, as they called them, were not keys to divine transcendence, but instead weapons of mass destruction on a galactic scale. But to those who still worshipped the Forerunners as gods or godlike beings, it seemed that there was no bit of knowledge that was beyond the wisdom of this ancient race. He wondered if humanity would live long enough to see it ever reach a point in its development where it could possibly achieve Forerunner status.
Somehow he doubted it. Humanity was far too obsessed with numerous piddling things of no interest.
In a way, he missed the Human-Covenant conflict. He knew it was unpatriotic—indeed, almost sacrilegious—to have that attitude. But at least humanity had been united during that seemingly endless incursion. Sure, there might have been internal squabbles and battles, but ultimately humankind was unified in its fight for survival against the alien invaders. Part of Luther was worried—now that the war had ended and a truce had been settled between all sides, humans might go back to their favorite pastime of blowing each other up.
Try not to be that way. Try to hope for the best, instead of anticipating everything going wrong.
Luther and Henry passed other explorers and archaeological parties as they moved through their sector of Zeta Halo. That wasn’t surprising. Throughout the vast structure, there had to be something like three hundred people exploring different areas, each looking for something else. Some were specialists in planetary engineering, studying biomes that had been seeded here from other worlds long ago. Others explored flora, still others fauna. Some, such as Luther, had particular interest in the language of the Forerunners, which was indispensable in the effort to unlock Halo’s many secrets. In addition to the people, there were hundreds of automated probes scanning every canyon, riverbed, and facility. No expense had been spared, and indeed, it only made sense. The entire place was 10,000 kilometers in diameter, with its band 318 kilometers wide. That was a lot of territory to cover, and there was a lot to risk if something was missed.
Luther had found one corridor of particular interest near an immense but inexplicable drop-off in this part of the ring’s terrain, and that was where he and Henry were heading today. It was vast and expansive, and the alloyed walls were lined with all manner of machinery, the purpose of which he could not even begin to guess. That was Henry’s department, and he had been very methodical in determining the function of every single object in there. This was in sharp contrast to Luther’s buried urge to simply turn everything on. Henry wouldn’t hear of it, and Luther understood his concerns. No matter their expertise in what they were dealing with, this remained alien technology and had to be approached with great care.
The careful study that Henry was devoting to the machinery likewise enabled Luther to spend time translating the extensive, cartouche-like notes that were carved upon the wall. Not carved, actually—decorated, almost holographically inscribed there in ways that Luther could only wonder about. But he was, for the most part, able to discern their meanings. This was no small accomplishment. He was positive, in this instance, that the room was designed specifically to monitor and control the Halo’s vast spectrum of preconditioned environmental behaviors, generating everything from the shifting of tectonic plates to dark and intimidating thunderheads. He had not discerned the exact means by which this was accomplished—no one really had—but he was nevertheless certain that the machinery surrounding them was designed to that end.
Luther was carefully going over yet another mystery control board, studying the symbols that would have been indecipherable to a layperson. He had come to believe that it had something to do with atmosphere control. But he couldn’t manipulate any of them, of course—in addition to standard protocols for all of the Halo installations, there was an additional mandate from ONI against doing so, due to the peculiarity of this ring, and not a single individual on the Zeta Halo was inclined to disobey. No one wanted to take a chance that by flipping a switch somewhere they might accidentally wipe out a portion of the galaxy.
Besides, it was clear that whatever was causing Zeta Halo to operate was doing a perfectly good job, because after all these eons, the atmosphere remained fresh, the clouds unthreatening in most parts, the various flora and fauna in perfectly good condition. Luther was concerned that if he tried manipulating anything, he could possibly throw the entire installation out of whack. It gave him a brief but nightmarish mental image of the entirety of Zeta Halo malfunctioning. Perhaps it might begin spinning out of control, causing the artificial gravity to completely fail. Three hundred innocents would be scattered sky high or smeared all over the walls or have some other horrific thing happen to them, courtesy of physics run amuck. And it would naturally be all Luther’s fault, his legacy.
Luther was perfectly content to study the material around him without actually touching it or interfering with it in any way. And he knew that Henry felt exactly the same.
Which was why he was mildly surprised when he heard a gentle clicking from next to him.
He turned and saw that Henry was very carefully, very precisely, taking video records of the materials in front of them. The clicking was a leftover from, amazingly enough, centuries ago, when cameras actually had movable shutter switches and made noise whenever they took images. Those interior devices were long gone; the clicking was simply reproduced as a cue for the picture taker to know that the shot had been recorded. One of humanity’s own artifacts, though with notably less splendor than those of the Forerunners.
“What are you doing?” Luther asked.
Henry blinked in surprise, not a difficult thing for him, given that his eyes were so huge. His thick black hair hung in front of them, so that he always seemed to be peering out from behind it, making him look even more quizzical. He brushed his hair out from in front of his face and said, “I already told you.”
“Told me what?”
“Told you this yesterday. About Cynthia Diggs.”
The name meant absolutely nothing to Luther, but that wasn’t surprising. Henry Lamb had a habit of engaging in constant conversation, oblivious to the fact that Luther was the exact opposite of a conversationalist. Luther preferred quiet contemplation. Henry had not yet figured that out, however, and Luther hadn’t come up with any way to politely explain it. So he had settled on allowing Henry to natter on at length about whatever was going through his mind and then simply shutting him out. Luther would smile and nod and say “good” or “interesting” at random times, and that provided the illusion that he was actually paying attention to what Henry was talking about.
This, however, seemed to be one of the times when Luther’s technique had utterly failed him.
“Please remind me,” he said.
Henry was perfectly happy to do so. Apparently the idea that Luther had been ignoring him in the previous day’s discussion never occurred to him. “Cynthia Diggs. The woman I met before coming out here? At a university bar. I told her I was heading here and she was very—”
Luther’s jaw dropped. “You what?”
“I told her I was—”
“I heard you! I just can’t believe—” Luther paused, taking a moment to recover what was left of his rapidly dwindling patience, and then he dropped his voice to a sudden whisper, as if worried that an ONI operative might be listening in. “Do you have any idea how confidential the material that we are working on is?”
“Luther, there are at least three hundred people here.”
“People who have received security clearances at the highest levels. Henry, you are familiar with ONI, right? They could technically, and probably legally, kill you for this. . . .”
Henry put up his hands as if he expected Luther to take a swing at him . . . an action to which Luther was seriously putting some thought. “Luther, can you take for granted, just for a moment, that I am not an idiot?”
“Right now, I’m honestly having real difficulty with that,” he said tightly.
“She’s the wife of—”
“The wife?” You were hitting on—”
“I wasn’t hitting on anyone. I went to the same university as her. She’s the wife of the manager of the entire Zeta Halo project. Bob Casper’s wife.”
“Oh.” Luther immediately started to feel a bit abashed. He had broken bread with Casper, and Casper had of course mentioned Cynthia, who worked on reverse engineering Covenant technology recovered during the war. Cynthia was also a scientist, and although she was involved in a different field, she was certainly under the security umbrella for research on this installation. “Oh,” he said again. “Well, that’s . . . that’s very different.”
“Yes, I know. She asked that if I saw something that I thought might interest her I should send her video of it. She has a friend she wants to show it to,” Henry said, and then before Luther could protest, Henry put his hands up once more defensively. “She’s on ONI’s payroll as well; she’s a postwar political liaison and has the proper clearance. Cynthia felt that she should keep her friend apprised of this stuff.”
“Why?” Luther asked suspiciously.
“Because Cynthia was concerned that we might encounter something that would involve the participation of the Sangheili. That certainly wouldn’t be unprecedented. And her friend works as a translator and negotiator with the Elites, representing the UNSC. And she just wanted me to keep her informed about whatever we found.”
“Can’t her husband do that?”
“Since he got this assignment, her husband barely ever looks up from his work anymore to keep her apprised. Far too many things to manage from where he’s at to be involved in details. She’s simply endeavoring to do whatever she can to keep one step ahead. With you and me on the ground, it makes sense for me to handle this.”
“I don’t know. I still don’t like it,” said Luther. “I don’t want you sending her anything else. And I certainly wouldn’t want her to send it on to . . . who?”
“Her friend’s name is Olympia Vale.”
“Fine. From now on Cynthia and this Olympia Vale are on the outside looking in, unless we get written, authorized approval from Casper or his superior. I do not need you doing anything that might get ONI fired up. We do not want to screw with those people.”
“That I know,” said Henry. “They can make you disappear so fast that you’ll forget you were even born.”
“Exactly. So let’s be smarter about this moving forward—we need to keep this material to ourselves and never mention it to anyone not directly involved in what we’re working on here. Last thing we need is this Vale woman slipping up and giving this info to the wrong Sangheili. God knows that could go bad really quick—it’s only been two years since the end of the war.”
The day went briskly, and Luther wasn’t even aware of the passage of time. Instead, even though he remained irritated with his partner, he was by Henry’s side, meticulously studying the paths of the energy fields that pulsed steadily through the unknown Forerunner machinery. He spent hours following the glyph interpolation of one particular pulse, just trying to determine where it was going and what it was doing. His hope was that the frequency and cadence of the pulse might reveal a source that they could backtrack to the ring’s primary systems. From there, they might be able to thread their own way to the phase pulse generators, a series of critical machines that required enormous amounts of energy to function and had, thus far, remained hidden. Were the ring ever to be activated, these machines would launch the installation’s destructive power deep into space in every direction, so they had historically been located near the control center on other installations. If they found the generators, they’d likely also find the room they were looking for, but so far this approach had yielded no luck. At the end of the work cycle, Luther wasn’t especially satisfied with the lack of answers that his investigation had failed to reveal. But that wasn’t so bad—most of his daily tasks tended to result in dead ends. That was simply part of the game.
“This was good,” Luther finally said. “I think we accomplished a lot.” In point of fact, they really hadn’t, but that was how he always ended the work shift, and Henry knew it.
Henry naturally agreed, or at least he started to agree. But then he frowned, looking over Luther’s shoulder. Luther saw the confusion in his face. “What is it?” he asked, and turned to follow Henry’s gaze. “What is it?” he said again.
Then Luther spotted it.
In the middle of one of the Forerunner control boards, a light was pulsing . . . one that had not been blinking before. It was large and blue and had been, as far as Luther could tell, inactive the entire day and, for that matter, as long as Luther had been investigating this particular area.
But now, for no discernible reason, the blue light was steadily blinking.
Henry leaned forward, studying it. “Not sure what this is connected to,” he said. “I’d have to—”
And then came a steady noise, like a beeping. Luther couldn’t determine the location of the speaker emitting the sound. It was faint and yet somehow managed to fill up the entirety of the chamber.
It took Luther a few moments to perceive it. Not a beeping—words. Speech.
There was a pause between each word. Each intonation was one or, at most, two syllables, then a pause, then speech, then a pause, on and on. It was a very unnerving, synthetic voice as well, which made it even more bizarre.
“What the hell?” said Henry softly. As he did so, he brought his recording device up and activated it.
“Did you touch anything?” said Luther.
“What? No! Of course not.”
“Then what set this off?”
“We don’t even know what ‘this’ is.”
“Are you getting this?”
Henry nodded. “Not that I have the slightest idea what it is that I’m getting.”
“Yes, I know.” Luther didn’t know why, but he very much disliked the entire situation. Having spent a full minute attempting to ascertain the source, but to no avail, Luther shifted mental gears to try to determine the content of the speech.
Dammit. The words sounded so familiar. It was as if . . . they were a combination of several other languages, but he couldn’t discern exactly what they—
Luther felt his eyes go wide and the blood drain from his face. Henry immediately noticed, and it was all he could do to keep his voice flat and not panic at seeing Luther’s reaction. “Luther . . . what is . . .”
“It’s numbers. It’s Forerunner numbers.”
“What numbers? You mean in sequence?”
“Yes, but it’s very high in the sequence. It’s counting very slowly, but I think it translates equivalently to about . . . three million?”
“Three million?” This was making no sense to Henry at all. “Why would it be counting down from three million? What is it counting down to?”
“We don’t know for certain,” said Luther, “but I have a hunch.”
“How about, it’s counting down to activation.”
At first Henry didn’t understand, but then he did. “Wait. You mean . . . activating the Halo? Causing it to . . .”
“To generate a pulse of energy that would annihilate every sentient creature within range.”
“On what the hell do you base that theory?”
This was partly true, but there was more to it. Much more.
Back in November of 2552, shortly after the UNSC stumbled upon Delta Halo, local Covenant forces managed to activate that particular ring. Installation 05, for a matter of minutes, was preparing to fire; if unhindered it would, by design, bring the other remaining Halo rings online and bring an end to all sentient life across the galaxy. But UNSC forces had managed to stop the activation, sending the entire Array into stand-by mode.
Around the same time as this, however, a number of human ships were conducting scans of Delta Halo’s surface. One of them, the Redoubtable, had picked up a unique sequence emanating from the ring’s internal systems. In all of the time since then, analysts and AI ciphers couldn’t crack it, but when everyone had finally compared notes, they all knew it was somehow linked to the ring’s activation. By now, Luther knew this sequence very well, and in fact, had gleaned much of his understanding of Forerunner numbering from this data.
What he now heard was eerily similar, almost identical in tone and pacing to the Redoubtable’s findings. But it was slightly different. These numbers were much higher, it seemed.
“I refuse to accept it,” Henry said immediately. “We cannot simply assume the worst-case scenario based on the fact that we don’t have any other information.”
Luther turned and gripped Henry by the shoulders. “Can you determine if I’m right? If it is going to activate?”
“Yes, okay? Yes.” Henry started looking around the room and thinking out loud about what he’d have to check over. To see if there was any sort of an onboard energy matrix that was starting to escalate. “If this is an actual firing sequence, similar to the ones producible by the other rings, I should be able to confirm it from any systems terminal. But it might take a day, maybe two,” he said thoughtfully, and then abruptly turned to Luther. “How long?”
“How long what?”
“How long until—and I’m only saying this out of scientific curiosity, not out of expectation—how long until it gets from three million to zero?”
Luther was already running calculations. “If it maintains its current rate of countdown? Approximately five weeks.”
“Okay, well . . . better get started, then.”
“Yes. And Henry . . . a bright side, at least . . .”
“ONI may not have to kill you. If this Halo does activate, it’ll take care of that just fine by itself.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've read most of the halo books and this one just felt rushed and not very well written. The Kilo 5 books are leaps and bounds better and their stories made sense. Most of the characters are just shallow and the plot had potential but just ended up being rushed. I really wouldn't bother with this books unless you've got money to blow.
But a little confusing. Various underdeveloped characters and a rather overly dramatic plot with some confusing bits of info.
Some swerves were predictable, if not silly, especially the one at the end. More details concerning the climactic battle at Earth would have improved the story. The ending seemed rushed.
This was such a fun book.
Best video game series evar