Few entities in Halo live quite as miserably as the Huragok do.
Shunned by their creators, enslaved by the Covenant, tortured and experimented on by the Banished… they just can’t seem to catch a break.
However, in recent years, you may not be aware that these seemingly unassuming victims had an unexpected plan they hoped to fulfil as the Human-Covenant war drew to its inevitable conclusion.
BEST OF THE BESTIARY
The Huragok (also referred to simply as ‘Engineers’) have a fascinating history, both within the lore of the Halo universe and behind-the-scenes.
It is well-documented that they were planned to appear in Halo 1. Unfortunately, due to having neither the time nor the tech, they ended up on the cutting room floor. There, they lay dormant until their character models were coaxed out of seemingly unreachable depths on the disc.
Even before that, the concept of the ‘Engineer’ was drawn up by Bungie artist Shi Kai Wang in 1999.
We wanted a set of creatures that could decipher the Forerunner tech easily, and allow a glimpse into what made the Forerunner technology so special. As far as gameplay, the designers wanted a race that were less aggressive to populate the world in a more passive way, making Halo feel more alive. [Shi Kai Wang, ‘Post Mortem: Engineer Evolved’ (19/11/2009)]
Over the years, there have been many plans to have more ambient life in the series to make these worlds feel more alive, and they’ve rarely ever made the cut.
Let us never forget Requiem’s flying squid, the space jellyfish, the doberman gator, and Porky – those who journeyed into the howling dark and did not return, forever in our hearts…In 2004, prior to the release of Halo 2, Frank O’Connor wrote a primer article on the Covenant in which the Huragok were referenced.
These creatures are not encountered in Halo, but they play a vital role in the Covenant hierarchy. While the Prophets guide, direct and manage Forerunner research, it is the Engineer caste who must excavate, unlock and transport Forerunner artifacts. These remarkable aliens are patient, almost completely silent and utterly focused on their task and its religious implications.
Their concentration has been described as “a trance-like reverie” by the few who have witnessed it. They communicate only with Prophets – a fact that may contribute to the balance of power between Elites and Prophets – and in fact will usually ignore anything that is neither a Prophet nor a Forerunner artifact. One observed exception to this fact is a high-pitched, keening wail that Engineers will emit should Forerunner objects or structures be threatened. [Frank O’Connor, ‘The Covenant Primer’ (29/4/2004)]
It’s fascinating to see that so much of what went on to define this species when they did eventually appear (first – in prose – in Halo: The Fall of Reach, before their debut in the games) was so thoroughly detailed in these few paragraphs…
And I’m sure we all remember playing through Halo 3: ODST with the goal of getting the Good Samaritan achievement where you go through the entire game without killing a single one – as well you should, you monsters!Over the years, the Huragok have proliferated their presence throughout the Halo universe to the point where they’re now a common, instantly recognisable fixture of the series.
This may also come as a side-effect of so many of you discovering their immense utility in Halo Wars when you build an entire army of them to constantly heal a single, nigh-unstoppable Scarab.
(You know who you are!)
DOESN’T EVEN LIFT
We are familiar with the Huragok as Forerunner creations. These biomechanical supercomputers were made to maintain and repair their technology, something which makes them a hot commodity for those to whom Forerunner technology seems like magic.
Over the last few years, we have learned that some of the different rates of Forerunner society actually have unique Huragok.
The most common types hitherto seen in the fiction are the Builder variety, but – as of Halo: Last Light – we have also been introduced to Lifeworker Huragok too, who do not work with machinery, but medicine.
It is, in fact, this Huragok – named Roams Alone – that is treated with respectful reverence by the Jiralhanae known as Castor at the end of the book.
“This is a Huragok that heals injuries. Consider how rare this is, how valuable. We cannot leave it to the infidels.”
Castor looked at the Huragok, which had – most likely – just saved his life. But, clearly, it did not intend to accompany the Jiralhanae. Its only wish now was to return to the jungle.
“Let it go,” Castor commanded. Orsun frowned.
“Are you mad? Surely, this Huragok is a gift from the Oracle!”
“No. The gift is what it just did.” Castor reached over and pulled his friend’s hand from the Huragok’s neck. “Let it go, Orsun. It is not for us to decide the fate of angels.” [Halo: Last Light, p. 389]
It remains to be seen as to whether other types also served specialised roles for the likes of the Warrior-Servants, or the Miners…
Given the systematic dismantling of their rates by the Builders’ political dominance during the time in which the Forerunner Saga takes place, such Huragok are likely to be extremely rare.In their infinite wisdom, the Forerunners also decided that these entities would be given sentience.
Despite being programmed with the single-minded pursuit of maintenance and repair, the Huragok demonstrate a strong range of self-awareness and emotion.
Friendship with these lovable gasbags has been a constant source of emotional agony for Halo fans, going back to Joseph Staten’s Contact Harvest where the first human casualty at the hands from the Covenant came from a Huragok known as Lighter Than Some defending his Unggoy friend Dadab with a hunting rock.
The back of the alien’s skull was caved in – punctured with a ragged hole. Gingerly Dadab slipped two fingers inside the mortal wound. He pinched something hard in the center of the thing’s brains, and pulled it out for all to see: Lighter Than Some’s hunting rock. [Halo: Contact Harvest, p. 48]
These beings were crafted with truly vast depths of compassion, yet received none from their creators.
Yes, the Huragok were shunned by the Forerunners. Not only were they not afforded recognition of personhood – despite having been created with sentience, made to be intelligent beings – but the Forerunners also found them to be repulsive.
Huragok are more tools than organisms, and are rarely accorded personhood among Forerunners. […] I found them boring, whenever I encountered them, which was never in polite society. Their anaerobic metabolism, and those gas bladders… [Halo: Cryptum, p. 144]
Suddenly, one feels a lot less sympathy for the Forerunners…
This same kind of perspective was likewise applied to their artificial intelligence, which they dubbed ‘ancilla.’ The clue is in the name, as this is a Latin word which typically refers to a maid, or ‘slave-woman.’
From the beginning, the Huragok were treated abominably, and yet this would almost seem to be kindness compared to the horrors that awaited them 100,000 years later.
GONE WITH THE WIND
Due to their mechanical nature, the Huragok were not among the countless trillions that were killed by the Halo array when it was fired to end the war with the Flood. As such, the millennia that followed were spent largely in solitude…
That is, until the San’Shyuum Reformists discovered them at some point prior to 938 BCE, and “tamed” them to serve.
From that point, the Huragok were the key to the San’Shyuum accessing Forerunner systems, as they – unlike humanity – did not find this to come easily due to their lack of Reclaimer status. As O’Connor mentions in the Covenant Primer, the Huragok were charged with the excavation, unlocking, and transport of Forerunner artefacts (which is to say, they had to do all the actual work).
While they were rarely seen in the field by UNSC personnel, that would change towards the very end of the Human-Covenant war. Their role… ‘expanded’ during the onset of the Great Schism, as they were turned into suicide bombers under the pretense of ensuring that humanity couldn’t use them to destroy Forerunner artefacts.
As we see in Halo 3: ODST, the Huragok are forcibly held down and implanted with a device that causes their harness to self-destruct – be it upon death, or the elimination of all allied Covenant forces in the area – in order to deny them to the enemy.
<They tell me that my brothers were assured it was for their own good. They were told that the humans would force them to destroy Forerunner creations if they captured them alive.> Prone paused. <They now know that was untrue.>
Jul wondered if he detected a little vengeance in there somewhere. [Halo: The Thursday War, p. 202]
As you can see in the artwork above, the harness has some notable gaps on it; exposed sacs have strange control yokes ‘attached’ to them, for reasons which are explained in the game’s Phoenix Logs.
“Born” with an obsession to maintain and protect Forerunner artifacts, Engineers in the service of the Banished exist in constant agony due to the control yokes bonded to their flesh forcing them to ignore endless requests for maintenance from the Ark as a result of Atriox’s extraction and excavation efforts. [Halo Wars 2, Phoenix Log – Engineer]
It gets worse…
Halo Wars 2 received an expansion called ‘Awakening The Nightmare,’ which one would naturally associate with the Flood when, in truth, the Huragok might have very different ideas as to what the nightmare is here.
A new Jiralhanae character named Voridus was introduced in this expansion. Referred to as ‘the corruptor,’ and characterised as “glory-seeking, vicious, curious, and spontaneous,” with an intuitive knack for understanding Forerunner systems, Voridus has harnessed the power of infusion gel.
Infusion gel is the perfected form of the incendiary gel that is used in the Covenant’s fuel rod-based weaponry. This material is pumped across the rivers on the Ark, they play a vital role in keeping the vast installation functional.This technology, however, is something of a ‘work in-progress.’ Voridus is keen to experiment with it in whatever ways he can to bolster the Banished’s military power, regardless of the negative effects it may have.
One such victim of these cruel and destructive experiments is (you guessed it) the Huragok…
Extended exposure to the toxic residue of Voridus’ experiments with infusion gel has altered his Huragok assistants, causing some to simply fall apart while the rest have been changed in other-more subtle-ways. These “damaged” Engineers are shunned by their healthy companions and display distinctly non-Huragok behaviors, such as a lack of interest in repairing Forerunner machinery and sabotaging equipment of Banished who have annoyed them in the past.
As long as the Infused Engineers continue to perform their duties for him, however, Voridus has little interest in their long-term health or new behaviors. [Halo Wars 2, Phoenix Log – Infused Engineer]
These poor jelly boys really just can’t catch a break.
THE HURAGLOCK POINTED AT THE HEAD OF THE UNIVERSE
At the end of Halo 3: ODST, you may recall the Epilogue – taking place a month after the primary events of the game – where Sergeant Johnson appears alongside Veronica Dare and the rest of Alpha-Nine to interrogate ‘Vergil.’
This Huragok, known as Quick to Adjust, was one of seven sent by the Covenant into the tunnels of New Mombasa. Whatever objective was given to them by the Covenant, it went unfulfilled.
Six of the Huragok instead chose to sacrifice themselves by removing the explosive harness on Quick.
We may never know what made these creatures trade six lives for one, whether it was an emotional choice or planned as part of a larger goal…
One way or another it paid off.Quick located the Superintendent’s data centre and eventually ‘absorbed’ the AI’s subroutine known as Vergil, created to look after a young girl named Sadie after the death of her mother.
The Covenant eventually became aware of this rogue element and a Chieftain was dispatched to deal with the situation, which is where we come in – entering the ‘data hive’ with Veronica Dare to fulfil her mission, and (with the help of a stolen Phantom and a garbage truck) help Vergil escape.
Back to the interrogation: Johnson tosses his lighter to the alien and lays out the situation, that the Brutes – the ones who put bombs on his kind and killed millions of Johnson’s own people – are digging something up.
Stating that Quick is going to tell him what they’re looking for and will help the UNSC stop them, the Huragok lights Johnson’s cigar and a deal is struck.While Halo 3: ODST chooses to conclude with that final note of hope with amusing poignancy, it’s not the end of the conversation…
The things that were said next did not come to light until the first ‘series’ of the Halo Legendary Crate in 2016. This series brought with it some truly fascinating data drops, one of which included a transcript of the interrogation.
For those who wish to read the full transcript, Halopedia has (naturally) done a great job of archiving all the data drops to be read at your leisure.
Johnson asks whether the Covenant are aware that Quick has merged with a human AI, whether their sensors can pick it up, to which he almost ominously responds:
“Huragok made sensors. They see what we want them to see.”
Quick to Adjust remains quite tight-lipped (so to speak) about what the Huragok know… until Johnson mentions the Ark, at which point he becomes distressed.
Fearing that the humans will divulge all they know to the Sangheili, who will find him and take him away – just like the Jiralhanae – it becomes clear that there is no trust a Huragok can easily place in anyone. Even humanity.
The Huragok wanted the Halos to be fired.
For them, this seemed like it was the only conceivable way out.
(Oh, and also there’s yet further confirmation of the Forerunners’ survival… don’t worry, I’ve already covered that!)
The Covenant have existed since 852 BCE, the depth of their suffering as slaves for almost three-and-a-half thousand years is quite unfathomable – and their treatment only got worse at the hands of the Banished.
Also unfathomable is the scale of the crime that is the cosmically devastating act of wiping out all sentient life in the galaxy, but what judgement can truly be rendered on the Huragok when this is – certainly from their perspective – the only option?
Tell me, if this was your choice, after all you would have seen and survived as a Huragok… would you fire the rings?