“There is a gap in the time line. This is… unheard of. It simply should not exist. An entire event has been erased.”
Kelly Gay’s latest (and greatest) novel, Halo: Point of Light, is a masterpiece of franchise literature that sets its sights on opening doors for future stories – for Halo Infinite and beyond.
Early in the book, Spark and the Ace of Spades crew stop off at Installation 07 (Zeta Halo), where we’re heading to with the Master Chief. Let’s explore everything this return to the most nightmarish of the Forerunners’ wheels sets up for Halo Infinite…Last time, we looked at everything Troy Denning’s Halo: Shadows of Reach sets up for Halo Infinite.
Shadows of Reach establishes a lot of details around the state of the galaxy a year after the events of Halo 5. It follows the Master Chief’s journey with Blue Team back to their ‘home’ on a mission for Halsey, while exploring the politics of the Banished, along with some of the new weaponry and equipment we’ll see in Halo Infinite.
Point of Light, however, is very different…
Here’s the thing about Point of Light: the stuff it sets up for Halo Infinite is essentially confined to the first-third of the book…
Installation 07, or Zeta Halo, is just the first major stop in the cosmic odyssey the Ace of Spades crew undergo. And when we do go to the ring, it’s primarily focused on Spark’s character journey as he returns to the place where he lost his humanity.
The upcoming game is only of peripheral concern to Kelly Gay’s latest book, as it sets its sights firmly on the future of the franchise beyond the games.
What we learn about Zeta Halo is more within the realms of general backstory, as opposed to something like Shadows of Reach with the core set-up being focused around recovering Halsey’s cryogenically frozen brains (to seemingly create a new AI to counter Cortana).
But there are still many interesting things to dive into, and one particular story beat that will undoubtedly see a huge payoff in the game…
For instance, we know that Zeta Halo was part of the original twelve rings (the ‘Senescent Array’) and had its diameter shed from 30,000km to 10,000km to bring it in-line with the rings that make up the final seven (the ‘Neoteric Array’).
On that front, we learn that Zeta Halo was originally designated ‘Gyre 11’ of the Senescent Array. And it is also noted that much of the ring still bears elements of its old design – the remnants of ancient cities remain, the substructure has been strangely neglected and thus retains a lot of the damage it took one hundred thousand years ago…
We also learn of the UNSC presence at the ring as of late-2558, just prior to the events of Halo 5. There are 3416 humans on Zeta Halo (406 scientists, 3010 military personnel), along with two Halberd-class destroyers, a large freighter, and various comm towers and satellites.
Of course, those ships will likely be nothing more than skeletons littering the surface of the ring in Halo Infinite.
And those aren’t the only ruins present…
Below, a wide river flows around the curvature of the base and disappears. A short distance away, a blue lake glistens beyond its pebbled beach and an abandoned campsite overlooks the view. Farther, beyond the human eye, lie the spectacular ruins of a once-great human city, ancient even before my time on the ring. [Halo: Point of Light, p. 94]
Our very first glimpse at Halo Infinite back during E3 2018 showed a cave with old writing engraved into the wall. The secrets and stories of ancient humanity may well be one of the mysteries we can find off the beaten track while traversing Zeta Halo.Something that Point of Light draws attention to regarding the unique nature of Zeta Halo is the planet the ring is ‘anchored’ to.
Each Halo ring has what’s called an ‘anchor planet,’ which is typically a gas giant in order to avoid a situation where life evolves on a world that is within the proximity of this galaxy-killing weapon.
There have been two exceptions to this rule: Installation 03 (seen in Halo 4) was anchored to a planet that had been shattered for reasons unknown, and Installation 07 is anchored to an uninhabited world in the Ephsu system with water and atmosphere.
Spark raises the possibility that the Forerunners may not have been able to find a gas giant in a suitable location for Installation 07, relative to where it had to be in order to amplify the Halos’ firing effect across the galaxy.
This was because, during the Forerunner-Flood war, the Halos were constantly moved throughout the galaxy in order to prevent the Flood from capturing them, before Bornstellar dispersed them to their final locations to be fired.
“That rock is Zeta Halo’s anchor,” Spark informed them. “The planet is an unexpected selection, to be sure.”
“How so?” Rion asked.
“Most anchors are gas giants to avoid the possibility of life arising in the shadow of a ring or luring in potential settlers. Not only is this planet solid, but it contains water and atmosphere. The choice is quite extraordinary, though perhaps a choice of necessity.”
Spark had mentioned before that this particular Halo had a long history of being different, and apparently this anchor was no exception. It was an odd choice given what he said, but then Rion also remembered the Halos had been dispersed rather quickly and during a war, no less. The Forerunners could have run out of time to find a suitable gas giant anchor in the proper firing location – or maybe there simply hadn’t been one in the sector to begin with. [Point of Light, p. 53-4]
But there is always the possibility with the Forerunners that this was a deliberate choice they made, for reasons that may be explored at some point in Halo Infinite…
The substructures themselves are portrayed by Kelly Gay as a kind of parallel to the Underworld – a quite literal land of the dead.
As with all the rings, Flood specimens are held in containment facilities within these substructures. At the end of Primordium, there were around a dozen Proto-Graveminds held in stasis, all attended to by individual Monitor constructs.
Spark states that he does not believe them to pose any threat at this time, but Flood ‘containment’ facilities are always a powder keg which could go off at any time in the future.
Another major difference with Zeta Halo is that, while it is run primarily by a single Monitor (117649 Despondent Pyre), there were many other constructs present as well with a variety of maintenance duties.
The Ace of Spades crew encounter Sub-monitor Adjutant Veridity, who tends to something called ‘The Monument’ – the living record of what happened in Primordium, housed within the city-sized ‘heart’ of Mendicant Bias’s old core.
However, Despondent Pyre doesn’t show up in Point of Light. When Veridity is asked where he is, she wistfully says that the Monitor is “Everywhere and nowhere.”
You may recall a similar conversation occurred in the first chapter of Peter David’s Halo: Hunters in the Dark:
“I was figuring we’d take another stab at finding the control room.”
“I think it’s insanely frustrating that it’s taking 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 caretake, ensuring the facility was being effectively maintained through long epochs of time.
[…] “Every Halo has 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.” [Halo: Hunters in the Dark, p. 22-3]
While Despondent Pyre is missing, we know that he hasn’t been alone for the last 100,000 years – very much unlike the other known Monitors, who have endured that time in total solitude.
The search for Despondent Pyre, who would be a key asset in utilising Zeta Halo’s systems to combat the Banished, could well be an objective the Master Chief will pursue in Halo Infinite.
ANCIENT RINGWORLDS HAVE BAD RECORDS
While Spark speaks with Adjutant Veridity, we learn that there is a record missing from Zeta Halo’s history. Something was deliberately erased a very long time ago.
(Note, too, that this seed is sown on page 117.)
There is a gap in the time line. This is… unheard of. It simply should not exist. An entire event has been erased. “A record is missing,” I tell the monitor.
“Yes. A singular event, I assure you,” she says, affronted, though not by my statement, but by the act itself.
“Who erased it?”
“Unknown. It is a deep record, very old, and a black smudge on our perfect log.”
Perplexing, indeed. Certainly not an accident, which makes it even more intriguing, as does the necessary level of knowledge and clearance needed to commit an act of erasure. What would require such a drastic measure? What could be so important, dangerous, or secret that the Forerunners needed to erase it from Zeta Halo’s history?
This intrigue, however captivating, must be put aside for later analysis. [Point of Light, p. 117]
The key thing to understand here is that Installation 07 continues to hold the records of some of the biggest revelations in the Halo universe. The Flood, ancient humanity, the Primordial and Mendicant Bias…
All these things and more are still known. They are all still part of that record.
So what else could have happened in the history of this ring that’s potentially bigger than all that?This feels like very deliberate set-up for Halo Infinite because it’s not addressed any further in the book.
By the end of Point of Light, Spark is effectively moved off the board – he’s ‘out’ of the story for now, having found renewed purpose as the caretaker of the Shield World known as Bastion.
The scope and scale of whatever story Kelly Gay tells in her next book is undoubtedly going to funnel down in focus to the goings-on in the lives of the Ace of Spades crew.
So this missing record is planted here for us to wonder about, and then deliberately left hanging.
We must ask why 343 Industries chose Zeta Halo as the setting for Halo Infinite.
We know it’s the ring that has the most loaded history of what we already learned in the Forerunner Saga, but the key thing that makes it different from the others is that it’s thousands of years older than every other ring.
To paraphrase Cortana in Halo 4: a lot can happen in a few thousand years.
At some point after the final defeat of ancient humanity, but long before the Flood’s return to the galaxy to bring an end to the Forerunners, something happened on Zeta Halo…
You may recall something said in the February edition of ‘Inside Infinite’:
We have had two main goals with bringing Zeta to life: First, to visually show what is happening in current times with the violent occupation of the Banished forces and how it has shaped the landscape of the ring. And second, to create mystery and intrigue around Zeta’s past and ultimate purpose. [Justin Dinges, Halo Waypoint – Inside Infinite (25/2/2021)]
Installation 07 has a purpose beyond its function as a Halo ring.
Our answer to that, it seems, lies in the Auditorium…
And that, I think, is everything.
It’s a lot less than Shadows of Reach because Point of Light takes place before Halo 5 and has its sights set on building things up for the broader universe instead of just the game.
That means, in terms of direct relevance, we’ve got two major story beats (Despondent Pyre’s whereabouts and the mysteriously erased record) set up for Halo Infinite to deal with.
With confirmation that we’ll be getting another look at the game during the summer, it won’t be long until we start to get some answers!
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