We’re officially less than two weeks out from Halo 5’s imminent release, it’s actually surreal to look back on where we were 3 years ago when Halo 4 was coming out and just how much story 343 has given us in the time between then. Some of you may remember the old days where we’d be lucky to get a book per-year, this year we’ve got five along with two seasons of audio dramas, monthly issues of Escalation, weekly issues of Canon Fodder (<3 Grim), and we’re onto our third season of The Sprint.
Suffice to say, Halo 5’s marketing campaign has been unparalleled – it’s dialled the hype up to eleven and now all the game has to do is deliver. It’s a tall order after so much build-up, but two weeks from now I bet I’ll be sat here, maniacally laughing/crying/rolling on the floor…
In the meantime, I have a last-minute theory I’d like to put into writing, if only for the purpose of being able to look back at this when the game comes out and either be like “wow, I was so wrong!” or lauding it over everyone that I was right.
So, what are the Guardians?
Basically, I think the Guardians are ‘planet-breakers’.
I think that they were used by the Forerunners around the mid-point of the Forerunner-Flood war, the point where they started to realise that they had to take the Flood seriously as a threat and resorted to utilising ancient humanity’s ‘scorched earth’ tactics in obliterating whole worlds. Humanity did this by orbital bombardment, a presentiment of the Covenant’s method of glassing, which is a nice bit of irony (and by “nice bit”, I mean that’s really quite horrible!), and Forerunners are nothing if not inventive in the ways they go about killing things.
As a point of reference here, we have logs from Halo 3’s Terminals describing how the Forerunners went about wiping out their own civilian populations to deny the Flood ‘resources’.
Despite the fact that the naval garrison was aware of the likelihood of just such an attack, their ability to effectively defend against it proved insufficient.
This has always been the enemy’s [modus operandi]: [flood] your opponent’s ability to process information with so much noise that no meaningful resistance can be put into action.
[3 minutes] ago those same population centers began disappearing under brilliant flashes. This was not an ill conceived, poorly implemented counter attack; it was a deliberate denial of resources – those resources being the remainder of [CE-10-2165-d’s] population.
Is this the noble sacrifice my creators spoke of? Where is the nobility in these streets paved with greasy carbon and dun ash?
[Halo 3 – Terminal 1]
It escalated to the point where the Forerunners started detonating entire stars like stellar grenades in order to rid a system of the Flood’s presence.
Recommendations: It is my opinion that any system where there is evidence that the enemy has established a physical presence is lost and must be razed. This fleet currently retains the capacity to force premature stellar collapse; I advise that this be established as standard operating procedure for all compromised systems forthwith. We cannot fight this war by half measures if we intend to win.
[Halo 3 – Terminal 2]
Their capabilities appear to have been rather succinctly defined by Mshak Moradi from Hunt the Truth.
“Electromagnetic fluctuations, slipspacious disruptions, epidemic data corruption. All of it, ya’ know, what’s happening? It’s quiet, it’s slight, but it’s affecting… everything. Ripples on a gigantic scale. I’m talking whole star systems.” [Hunt the Truth, Season 1 Episode 4]
We know that they emit a powerful electromagnetic pulse which, as we see in the latest trailer, corroborated with what we learn in Hunt the Truth, shuts down technology across a whole planet.
This sounds like it would be an effective means of grounding the Flood, making sure that they can’t hijack any ships and spread out into space. Once the Flood is contained on a world, the Guardians would get to work breaking those planets down.
The Guardians are also responsible for “epidemic data corruption”, which, when I first heard about it in Hunt the Truth, I assumed to be the Logic Plague. Instead, this could be a means of preventing the spread of the Logic Plague – cutting off information, another source of ‘food’ for the Flood, and making sure they don’t reach a certain level of intelligence.
The atmosphere below was a swirling soup of smoke and fire. Warrior craft and automated weapon systems were mostly too small to be visible, but I saw their effects—darting beams of needle light, glowing arcs cutting across continents, gigantic, stamplike divots punched into the crust and then lifted up, spun about, overturned. I had never seen anything like this—but the Didact had.
[Halo: Cryptum, chapter 24]
It’s not exactly out of the Forerunners’ purview to do this either. Prior to the Master Builder firing Installation 07 to quell the San’Shyuum uprising, their response was to lift up whole chunks of Janjur Qom and smash them back down to the planet. The destructive environmental effects of the Guardians seem to be along similar lines, as we will likely see at Meridian and the battle of Sunaion.This leaves us with a number of questions, however:
> Why would the Forerunners leave the Guardians on those worlds?
> How is this connected to the resurgence of the Domain?
> When and why were the Guardians ‘retired’?
I’m afraid I can’t offer much in the way of answers to those questions, it’s something that’s likely intrinsically connected to the current story arc with the Absolute Record in Escalation and things we don’t yet know a thing about in Halo 5.
Regarding why the Forerunners left the Guardians on these worlds in-particular (we know of at least five), consider Meridian…
It had a Luminary which revealed the location of Installation 05 and the Lesser Ark that fell into the hands of the Prophet of Regret in 2551. This is quite undoubtedly information which the Forerunners would not want the Flood to get, so the Luminary must have been placed there after the firing of the rings for humanity to discover as part of the Reclamation.
I have brought it up many many times, but the Librarian wanted humanity to go to the Lesser Ark because something is there which is key to inheriting the Mantle.
“Who will use this portal? Who will live to return here? And what will they think of this machine that I’ve buried? Those I have fought for, for so long. Those who, it is clear to me now, ultimately will and must inherit the Mantle. I can only hope that they will survive and upon returning, that they will find this portal and use it to travel to the Ark—in order that they might discover their rightful place in this galaxy, and the great responsibility they have finally inherited.
They are the last of my children. They must reclaim their birthright.”
[Halo: Silentium, String 37]
More on this, I have discussed in-detail in this post about the Librarian’s ‘ideal’ plan.
Guardians would be incredibly effective at quelling the earlier stages of Flood infection when they return in the future, so it’s possible that they too were left for humanity. The consequences of this could be immense, imagine ONI with the power to destroy planets in mere moments…
Perhaps now that the Ur-Didact and his awakened Promethean army are back with the likes of the Warden Eternal, they may have other plans for the Guardians – using them to fulfil the Ur-Didact’s goal of upholding Forerunner supremacy by force.
We’ll have to wait and see, and the wait is almost over.