Skip To Main Content»
Fiction

Canon Fodder: In-Zane in the Membrane

Issue 153
Halo: The Third Life image depicting Ilsa Zane surrounded by fire and Banished banners
Photo of Alex
  -  6 days ago

It’s not a Cypress Hill song, it’s a new issue of Canon Fodder!

By now, you’ll no doubt have made headway through the latest Operation in Halo Infinite—titled “Banished Honor”—which was accompanied by a new Waypoint Chronicle based around a simple question: “What would the story of a Spartan who joined the Banished be?”

We had the perfect character lined up to tell that story, one who hasn’t been seen since the end of Hunt the Truth’s second season all the way back in 2015.

Welcome back, Ilsa Zane.


THE THIRD LIFE

Our ninth Waypoint Chronicle has arrived, which follows on from the concluding events of Hunt the Truth where a Guardian awakens on the colony world Laika III. Broadly, these events are concurrent with the story that unfolds in Halo 5 as Cortana lays claim to the Mantle, rallies AIs to her cause, and sets about imposing an imperial peace upon the galaxy.

Where Hunt the Truth saw the mantle of narrator pass from journalist Benjamin Giraud to undercover ONI agent Maya “FERO” Sankar in its second season, that torch is once again passed on to a character who made her presence felt in this story... the rogue Spartan known as Ilsa Zane.

Halo: The Third Life is available here on Halo Waypoint, as a free PDF, and in audiobook format on YouTube.


“October 2558. After being taken prisoner by the Banished as chaos erupts across the galaxy, Ilsa Zane’s hunt for the truth leads her to a new stage of life she never expected...”


EMPTY THRONE

Last issue, we gave you a totally legitimate look at the cover art of Halo: Empty Throne. Art is in the eye of the beholder, and unfortunately the powers that be decided that we could do better than a screenshot made in Halo 3’s Forge mode in ten minutes with some crudely edited-in elements... it was a close call, really, but we ultimately pivoted towards something with the vibe of it having come from an incredibly talented and brilliant artist—namely, Will Staehle, whose other work you can check out here.

So, here you go. Here’s the official cover art for Halo: Empty Throne, coming later this year.

Cover art of Halo: Empty Throne illustrated by Will Staehle depicting a young girl and a Spartan emerging from a blue explosion coming from a Forerunner structure

“2559. It has been a year since the rogue artificial intelligence Cortana seized control of the Domain, an otherworldly dimension housing a vast information network. With an array of Forerunner weapons at her disposal, Cortana set out to enforce an authoritarian peace on the civilizations of the galaxy. But as the United Nations Space Command flagship Infinity prepares to strike against Cortana at Zeta Halo, another plan has also been set in motion.

An ancient access point hidden on a seemingly insignificant human colony has become the focus of a parallel effort to claim the Domain and its immeasurable capabilities. The UNSC, however, needs a key: a living, forsaken product of an old war. As a new generation of heroes rise to meet this challenge and Cortana's pursuit of control reaches a desperate and sudden crescendo, a cunning, ruthless warrior emerges from the shadows of the Banished, who has vowed to fill the new power vacuum by any means necessary....”


THE BANISHED SPARTAN

ILSA ZANE

Cropped profile image depicting Ilsa Zane surrounded by fire and Banished banners

RANK: Bloodstar
BIRTH WORLD: Kholo
DATE OF BIRTH: June 11, 2528
APPEARED IN: Halo: Initiation, Hunt the Truth, Halo: The Third Life

Born on the Outer Colony world Kholo, Ilsa Zane was just eleven years old when she lost her parents and everyone she had ever known as the Covenant descended upon her home and reduced its surface to glass. Taken to the remote colony Asphodel as a ward of the state, Zane remained largely silent and solitary until coming of age in 2547, where she was conscripted into UNSC military service.

In 2550, Zane was selected as a candidate for the prototype phase of the SPARTAN-IV program. Though she survived the augmentation process, additional experimental cocktails caused severe neurological damage to Zane. After escaping the facility, she was recovered by Admiral Mattius Drake and integrated into the rebel group known as the New Colonial Alliance.

In the immediate aftermath of the Covenant War, Zane led a group of operatives who attempted to commandeer the UNSC Infinity—securing it as the flagship of the New Colonial Alliance and to prevent the UNSC from deploying it to police independent colonies. This plan was thwarted by Spartan Sarah Palmer, who ejected Zane into space where the rogue Spartan was once more rescued by Drake, who was on standby in a nearby Prowler.

Following this, Zane served as an acquisitions specialist for weapons and materiel, as well as a ruthless instructor for mercenary and rebel groups that joined the New Colonial Alliance, forging them into a veritable fighting force in preparation for a large-scale strike against the UNSC. However, the awakening of the Guardians in 2558 waylaid these plans, leaving Zane as a prisoner of the Banished—with whom she ultimately came to find both common cause and brotherhood.


BANISH THY HONOR

What does it mean to be Banished?

To be Banished is to seek to liberate oneself, to pledge loyalty not to false promises of divine ascension but to the fearsome might and will exemplified by Atriox.

Service is welcome from any species, of any previous affiliation or loyalty—from the lowliest Unggoy thrall to the mightiest Sangheili warrior, and all between and beyond.

Power is its own end. In the wake of the Covenant War, opportunity is rife to carve up the remnants of the fallen empire’s vast resources and obtain technology that furthers the prime directive of the Banished: to never bow again, a “reclamation” all their own of freedom.

Following decades of calamitous conflict that has left even the most capable commanders war-weary, it is the Banished that are energized and fortified in purpose and will. Payment for those who share common cause with Atriox comes in blood and sport and spoils.

But those who would choose this path must unshackle themselves from ties to the past—unbind themselves from old masters, cast off their piety, and banish their sentimental devotion to honor.

Only then can one become a true vessel for victory.

Only then is one truly Banished.


THIEVING MITTENS

Halo: Escalation Issue #3 page depicting a showdown between Spartan Scruggs, who has taken Admiral Hood hostage, and Spartan Palmer, Chieftain Lydus, and Arbiter Thel 'Vadam

Why would a Spartan go rogue?

It’s an apt question. After all, Spartans are meant to represent paragons of humanity in both strength and spirit. But across the generations of Spartans, there have been traitors, rebels, or those who simply wanted to leave the UNSC behind to live on their own terms.

For the Spartan-IIs, these examples came as a result of their training—of recognizing and rebelling against the horrific context of their situation.

In the “Homecoming” episode of Halo Legends, Daisy-023 and several of her fellow candidates sought to escape the program following the augmentation procedures that killed or maimed many of their brothers and sisters, but were ultimately brought back into the fold.

Likewise, in the Halo: Evolutions short story “Pariah,” Soren-066 was left disfigured by the augmentations and was gradually radicalized by a technician named Partch, eventually attempting to escape Reach and join the Insurrection. Indeed, the Spartan who sought to apprehend Soren was Randall-037, who later appeared in Halo: Nightfall where we learned that he had evaded the UNSC after the Battle of Vodin in 2532, even starting a family before ONI eventually caught up to him over a decade later, "reversing" many of his augmentations in exchange for release from UNSC service.

Looking to the Spartan Field Manual, originally released back in 2018, we can gain further insight into the risk of rogue Spartans as it applies to the SPARTAN-IV program:


STOLEN GAUNTLET

Nevertheless, the SPARTAN-IV selection process is not foolproof. Spartan-IVs are soldiers with preexisting philosophies and loyalties, and even the most carefully screened candidate can react to their augmentation and training in unexpected ways. Individual Spartans represent a strategically significant level of combat power and pose a major security threat if their loyalty is compromised.

The STOLEN GAUNTLET fail-safe protocol has been created to provide training and permissive rules of engagement for special agents tasked with tracking down and swiftly neutralizing rogue Spartans.

~ Halo: Official Spartan Field Manual, p. 86


Ilsa Zane represents the earliest example of this manifesting as a critical issue for the Spartan-IV program, and she is far from a singular example.

In Halo: Escalation, we see Spartan Vladimir Scruggs—another New Colonial Alliance defector—attempt to sabotage the peace talks between Arbiter Thel ‘Vadam and Chieftain Lydus.

Another prominent example is Michael Crespo in Halo: New Blood, who became disillusioned with being sent to kill other humans in the wake of the Covenant War and defected to the United Rebel Front with fellow Spartan Rudolf Schein.

Of course, defecting is one thing, but what is it about the Banished that would be attractive to a rogue Spartan? That is something wholly contingent upon the individual, and at present there is a specific example we can examine: Ilsa Zane.

Having been discarded by the UNSC after falling victim to experimental augmentation cocktails that ravaged her body and mind, she was eventually left for dead by Admiral Drake as well—she was herself “banished” from the places she had sought to belong. This, in combination with her proclivity for violence and a ruthless mindset, led her to discover a certain kinship with the Jiralhanae on Laika III, leading her to willingly pledge herself and the New Colonial Alliance to the Banished.

In the words of Spartan Scruggs: "I am a Spartan. But what you fight for isn't always the same as who you fight for."


ARMORY INFINITUM

The Ravager was a new weapon introduced to the sandbox in Halo Infinite, though it made its fictional debut in Halo: Shadows of Reach.


“The cacophony of gunfire was replaced by the sizzle of shock rifles and the thump-hiss of ravagers.”

~ Halo: Shadows of Reach, Chapter 21


Featuring a semi-automatic, three-round burst and a charge ability that can create a burning pool for area-of-effect damage, the Ravager quickly became a favorite tool of Jiralhanae warlords for its capacity to flush out garrisoned infantry.

A unique version of the weapon, the Rebound Ravager, can be found in the possession of Captain Arthoc—a high value target the Master Chief encountered on Zeta Halo. Rounds fired by this weapon have the ability to bounce, to which the words of Agent Washington from Red vs. Blue may come to mind: “It bounces? Who designs a gun that bounces?!”

Halo Infinite screenshot of Arthoc

ARMORY OF RECKONING | CAPT ARTHOC
FWD: RAVAGER

The Armory of Reckoning—it is a fitting name for the tools of conquest and destruction birthed from its forges.

When we advanced on the human remnants that had sought shelter within their crashed ship, I requested of Commander Bannix an augmented version of the plasma tossers produced by the Forge of Torograd.

Where we have mastered both spike and spear in our weaponry since before the Immolation, infusion matter remains an object of study for our alchemists. I was informed by the Screecleaver that there is a great savant stationed on Oth Liqattu who has sought to unlock further secrets of this fetid power, applying it to our own troops and many of our vehicles.

It is said that prolonged exposure to this corrosive bile can addle the mind and rot the body... that is good, for there are many small spaces in human ships. The capacity for this weapon to launch projectiles that bounce before erupting into toxic piles was of great use in flushing our foes from cover. How they flailed and danced to our battle song!

It is my understanding that pure infusion matter is pumped throughout Forerunner facilities, so we must dedicate resources to finding these wellsprings within the substructures of this ring. I shall bring this to Tremonius once he has returned from investigating a disturbance at his outpost.


MERIDIAN SLOANCOMING

Last month saw the arrival of Halo: Battle Born’s rerelease, featuring two new short story “adjuncts” which we took a closer look at in our previous issue.

On April 30, the rerelease of Halo: Meridian Divide hit the shelves and—as folks have noticed—there's another adjunct in this one as well!

MERIDIAN HOMECOMING

Halo 5 screenshot of a Promethean Knight on Meridian

Completing the trifecta of new adjuncts in these rereleases is “Meridian Homecoming,” which is set in the immediate aftermath of Cortana’s final sacrifice on Zeta Halo in December 2559.

With the leader of the Created dead, the future of this fledgling faction has been thrown into doubt. High Auxiliary Sloan has returned to Meridian where he occupies a Promethean Knight’s carapace and wanders the vast glasslands of his home to find his own fate.

Of course, fans who followed the Precipice short story series last year (which accompanied Halo Infinite’s recurring FIREWALL events) know that Sloan has emerged as a new leader within the Created and set into motion the creation of the Executors. “Meridian Homecoming” gives us a small moment in time with Sloan as he contemplates what the concept of home means to him, Cortana’s unfulfilled promise of salvation, his regrets over how he departed from Meridian, and the memories held within a Promethean Knight that set him on a new path.


COMMUNITY LORE CORNER

For this month’s Community Lore Corner, we kick things off with GammaCompanyMark who has put together a media order for the Halo series if you really, really want to experience it in some form of “timeline order.”

The fine folks at JumperScape have been adapting some of the lore and stories we’ve put out for Halo Infinite, beginning with the Intel drops we did for Season 2: Lone Wolves. (If you can believe it, it’s just passed the two-year mark for when this season launched!)

We recently discovered Lore VoidCat while checking out the latest Halo lore content on YouTube, and he has put together a fantastic series of videos about various expanded universe aspects—from every blade of the Covenant, to recounting the stories of various games and books, and more. Here’s one of his latest!

Would it be surprising if you learned that Covenant Canon has put out a new video featuring some... you guessed it, Covenant canon? In his latest release, we take a look at every known Arbiter throughout the Halo universe’s history.

Every now and then, the nostalgic longing for those halcyon days of 2007 return, which is exactly what you will feel when watching Meaning In-Between and Frogarchist's exploration of how mystery was a core thematic pillar of Halo 3.

And finally, David and Ian of Podcast Evolved have done a new “book club” episode on one of our previous Waypoint Chronicles: Saturn Devouring His Son.


With that, it’s time to sign off for this month’s issue.

If you haven’t already checked out Halo: The Third Life, be sure to do so—and if you have, well, go and read or listen to it again! Let the gears of speculation turn for what is depicted on the cover art for Halo: Empty Throne (don’t forget to secure your pre-order), and you can get your in-game Ilsa Zane cosplay sorted by completing the Banished Honor Operation Pass!

We depart with our favorite Ilsa Zane comic panel for your entertainment.

Halo: Initiation panel of Ilsa Zane shutting of the UNSC Infinity's original AI, Aine, saying "Quiet you."