Halo 5 turns three years old today.
Having written a novel-length level-by-level analysis of the campaign, along with countless other articles on the story, I feel like my well of criticism has run pretty dry.
As a result, I find myself turning to something a little different. Where I have responded to Halo 5 critically, I now want to do so creatively.
To celebrate Halo 5‘s successes and critique some of its failures, to expand on some of its half-formed ideas and moments of genius, I have written five short stories that will be going up every Saturday over the next few weeks. These will come in different formats: some will be scripts, some will be prose.
All, I hope, will be enjoyable reading material for you.
It takes place at the start of the third mission’s opening (Glassed), as Fireteam Osiris approaches Meridian’s space elevator.
Something that has never sat well with me is how each member of Fireteam Osiris has a scene with Locke, except Holly Tanaka.
Buck has a nonversation about the mission to bring the Chief and Blue Team in; Vale has a discussion with Locke about his past with Thel ‘Vadam, how he signed up to assassinate him during the war…
Tanaka did not get a one-to-one scene with Locke.
One of my favourite live action Halo trailers (The Hunt Begins) features a tender moment of camaraderie between them, as he bumps his helmet against hers when they approach Meridian.
It’s strange to see that not reflected in the game, which I felt the need to remedy.
And so, the first scene I have chosen to write was inspired by that – giving Locke and Tanaka a ‘getting to know you’ moment that covers some of her emotionally-loaded backstory.
INT. PELICAN TROOP BAY
Black screen. The date, time, and location fade in (similar to the beginning of each mission in HALO 3: ODST).
1100 Hours, October 25, 2558
En Route to Meridian
Dissolve to a wide shot of FIRETEAM OSIRIS inside the troop bay of their Pelican.
We see LOCKE actively preparing for the mission. He examines his weapons and gear, his helmet rests on the seat next to him. BUCK and VALE are in the cockpit, chatting idly.
TANAKA sits with her helmet on. She is motionless. The sound of the scene gradually fades out as the camera closes in on her, subtly emphasising her breathing as she tries to keep herself under control.
Tanaka? You okay?
LOCKE gently places a hand on TANAKA’s shoulder, the sound returns to normal. She responds stiffly.
Fine thanks, Locke.
The tension of uncertainty is written all over her. Though their team has been together for a few missions, they have not emotionally opened up to one-another.
It’s just, you seem…
TANAKA takes a deep breath. The camera is framed behind her as LOCKE takes the seat opposite, leaning forwards.
She does not lift her gaze to meet his.
Bit of everyone died the day the Covenant came and glassed their homes. Even if you survived, you never really escaped.
It takes years to come to terms with everything you lose. Friends, family, childhood…
TANAKA looks up a little.
LOCKE has decided it is time to begin forming this team into a family, given the nature of their mission and BUCK’s earlier statement that they will be hated when word gets out about what they’ve been tasked to do.
At the very least, they need to have each others’ backs.
For LOCKE, this requires the courage to open up to his team – to grow love them, as he loved his team in HALO: NIGHTFALL.
First six years of my life, I was raised on Jericho VII. I grew up in a state orphanage after the Covenant attack.
Then you joined the UNSC? ONI?
No. I was angry. Alone. I blamed them.
Blamed ’em too.
How’d you deal with that?
Good at fixin’ things. Engines and equipment, mostly. Figured it’d be worth trying to help fix people too – as a Spartan.
The scene dissolves to a Terminal-style flashback.
We see a glassed world from orbit. This is CLEYELL, from the HALO: ESCALATION arc THE GLASS HORIZON.
Went to a world called Cleyell, glassed in ’56 by some Covenant remnant. War just wasn’t over for some folks…
Mutliple CCS-class battlecruisers begin glassing the planet.
Fade to the aftermath. Complex FORERUNNER glyphs appear as deep, black scars on the surface.
TANAKA (cont’d) (V.O.)
Survivors set up a distress beacon. Crew of the ship I served on didn’t believe anyone had survived, most don’t more than a month.
A glimpse at the glasslands, ruined buildings submerged with barely any light breaking through thick clouds of ash.
But you convinced them otherwise?
Made it three years on Minab. Might not have mattered to the UNSC, but the captain was convinced the right thing to do was to follow that signal.
A dark cave. Men, women, and children are huddled together. They look up to see TANAKA, flanked by two ODSTs.
TANAKA holds out her hand. A young, dark-skinned girl with frizzy black hair takes it – she looks just like TANAKA did as a child.
Jackal pirates planned to sell ’em off.
Fade back to the present.
But, just this once, everybody made it out.
There is a brief pause as TANAKA realises something.
But you knew all that. File must’ve told you everything.
A warm smile appears on LOCKE’s face.
I did. But I wanted to hear you tell the story.
TANAKA finds the hint of a smile tugging at her own mouth behind her helmet. She finds herself more at-ease with her leader than she was and feels better for talking.
The camera cuts to a wide shot, briefly lingering on the moment.
VALE enters the troop bay.
We’re coming up on the space elevator. Thirty seconds.
The atmosphere immediately changes.
Affirmative. Game faces on, Osiris.
LOCKE and VALE put on their helmets.
LOCKE stands and approaches TANAKA, knowing what going to MERIDIAN means for her. He bumps his helmet against hers (as seen in HALO 5’s THE HUNT BEGINS trailer).
Rear shot, we see the figures of LOCKE, VALE, TANAKA, and BUCK silhouetted against the back door of the PELICAN.
Cut to the PELICAN approaching the orbital tether. this is the opening cutscene for GLASSED – the third mission in HALO 5.