The Untold Tales of Halo 5 continue with Axios.
In further celebration of Halo 5’s third birthday, this project is my endeavour to respond to it creatively where I have already done so critically.
For this week’s story, which is also in the form of a script and is coming to you a little bit early (because I have a trip to Seattle where I may or may not be visiting 343 – more on that later down the line!), we have an emotional appointment with Thomas Lasky.
As the eleventh human colony falls, we find our captain caught in a storm well beyond his control. In times such as these, with the scale of change and loss so great it can only drive one mad, it is the brief comfort of family that reminds us of our responsibility.Where my critique with the previous instalment was that Holly Tanaka didn’t get a one-to-one scene with Locke like the rest of Osiris, Lasky is unfortunately little more than the bus driver in Halo 5.
That naturally comes as a symptom of a story that was already juggling eight main characters, on top of its secondary and tertiary characters and shall we say ‘loaded’ plot…
…but it was a shame to see one of 343’s best characters, who was such a strong focus of the Halo 4 ‘era’ of fiction – the seed of his character having been planted by Chris Schlerf in the Petra adjunct at the end of the 2010 reissue of Halo: First Strike, then appearing in The Thursday War, followed by his debut in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, and then in the game proper – reduced to a bit-part role.
My goal with this scene (slotting into the game just before – and leading up to – the opening cutscene of Reunion, where Lasky, Locke, Palmer, Halsey, and Roland plan to go to Sanghelios) was to give Lasky a moment of reflection on the immense responsibility he has as the captain of the UNSC Infinity and explore how that responsibility has echoed down the generations with his family, who we last saw in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn.
What are the emotional burdens of a captain – a guardian, not just of the people on his ship but of humanity? What’s going on in his head beyond the way he has to appear when he’s on the bridge?
How have some of the losses from his past influenced him in the present?
And who is the person he can talk to about all of this?
Those are some of the questions I have endeavoured to tackle in this story, the second of five, and I hope you’ll all enjoy my go at connecting Halo 5 a bit more to Halo 4 and its peripheral fiction while also trying to punch you in the gut!
INT. UNSC INFINITY, CAPTAIN THOMAS LASKY’S QUARTERS
Open with a still shot of a wooden table, the background is visible but out of focus.
On the table, a dusty chess board with an open ammo crate – the different shell casings laid out as figures on the board, clearly in the middle of a game that hasn’t been played in a while.
We see a silhouetted figure walk past the camera in the background. Hold focus on the chess board.
After a few bleeps off-screen, a recording from CADMON LASKY begins playing. It has degraded over the last few decades, the dialogue is chopped up by bouts of static.
Hey bro. I’m […] a jump away from home. […] day four-nine-six. I’m sorry I didn’t comm yesterday. Couldn’t.
Cut to a still shot of a desk.
The desk is plain, and, like the table, also wooden. On it are a couple of keepsakes: a chain with a number of dog tags on it (two visible names in particular are CHYLER SILVA and CADMON LASKY), and a small shard of MGALEKGOLO armour.
[…] pinned in a firefight for seven hours. […] dozen Innies […] mom would be proud. We’re doing real good work here.
Cut to a rear-shot of THOMAS LASKY.
He is framed in the centre, from his head to his lower-back, silhouetted against the light orange glow of the video screen in front of him.
Ridge didn’t make it. You remember Ridge […] back home? He was right there next to me […] sent him flying in four different directions […] had to shave it all off for Ridge. He said it made me look tough.
An up-close still shot of LASKY’s eyes. Tired, yet transfixed, the screen reflected in them – a glimpse at the young CADMON.
THOMAS is older now than his older brother ever got to be.
Anyways […] gotta go, bro. I can’t wait to get home. […] Cadmon, out.
Hold up-close still shot as the video ends and the screen goes dark. CADMON fades from the reflection in LASKY’s eyes.
Cut to a wide shot of the room.
LASKY remains still. The framing makes him look small, cold and isolated – like the room is bearing down upon him.
Sorry to interrupt, Captain, but you’ve got an incoming private transmission. It’s from Circinius IV.
Thank you, Roland. Put her through.
LASKY visibly straightens, quickly adjusting his uniform.
The screen comes to life again and AUDREY LASKY, his mother, appears. She is dressed in CORBULO MILITARY ACADEMY uniform.
AUDREY is well into her seventies now, but carries all the power and authority of a former-ODST who has fought her way through the Insurrection and the Human-Covenant war, and shows no sign that a third war will slow her down.
Queen to A8.
LASKY relaxes a little. Her greeting tells him this is not a formal call.
Hey mom. How’s everything going?
You’ll come to learn when you’re my age that nothing ever seems to happen fast enough.
In that case, maybe you should be running my ship.
I do like the sound of that. Being on a warship again sounds a lot more exciting than sitting through deglassing a planet, we’re just lucky that the Covenant decided something here was valuable enough to keep most of it intact. With luck, the Academy will be open again in a few short years. We’re doing good work here.
I’d visit – I mean, I would have, if I could – but… y’know.
AUDREY’s expression is solemn. She nods.
Too many ghosts.
I found Ken’s office.
Her mouth twitches, pain long-buried threatens to rise to the surface once more and break through that steely edifice.
My third day here. Almost walked out on this job right there until I reminded myself I’m doing this for her – to honour her.
LASKY leans back against a chair, his arms folded, looking down.
We had the perfect retirement plan worked out…
AUDREY stiffens, not letting herself slide into sentiment and reminding herself that she has a point to make.
But no plan survives contact with the enemy, Thomas. You remember that. You stay sharp out there and give whatever’s coming all the hell a Lasky can raise.
AUDREY waves her hand, as if batting the question away.
Eleven colonies, Thomas. I may be out in the middle of nowhere, with industrial-grade tech they didn’t even see fit to give us an AI to run, but we do still get news here – and Venezian miners love to talk.
Queen to A8, did you move it?
LASKY heads over to the chess board. His rook is lost and now he’s in–
Check, I believe.
Don’t move now.
Because you’re going to need a long time to figure yourself out of this one.
A sad smile appears on her face.
But you’re going to. And when you do, you’re going to tell me all about how you did it.
A moment passes between them. LASKY grasps her meaning.
That’s a promise.
I have to go now, son. Be safe out there.
Thanks, mom. Give my best to Spartan Orenski, won’t you?
Assuming I can get her to stop barking orders to keep things running around here, I’ll tell her.
LASKY returns the salute.
The screen goes blank.
LASKY nods, sighs, and pulls himself together. He quietly repeats the word to himself, as if hearing it for the first time.
This word has followed him for as long as he could remember – from his brother’s time at CORBULO MILITARY ACADEMY, through his own, and now…
It wasn’t a mantra. It wasn’t even an order. It was a promise – the promise of a soldier, one that this family has taken as their responsibility to live and die fulfilling.
Cap. Commander Palmer, Spartan Locke, and Doctor Halsey are ready and waiting for you on the bridge. Doc says she’s got a plan.
Thanks, Roland. I’ll be right there.
Cut to the scene’s opening shot of the chess board in its new configuration.
The silhouette of LASKY walks across the camera, the opposite way we saw at the start.