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Canon Fodder: Rubicon Rundown

Issue 131
Photo of Alex
  -  10 days ago

Halo: The Rubicon Protocol is just days away from release!

The latest novel from Kelly Gay releases on August 9 and brings us back to Zeta Halo, beginning with the ambush of the UNSC Infinity by the Banished and following what happens in the six months that follow as the UNSC survivors struggle to survive and endure Escharum’s closing grip on this area of the ring.

We’ve got a double-decker treat for you today in the form of an interview with Kelly herself, as well as a final chapter preview of the book where Spartan Horvath spends Christmas with an unexpected (and most unwelcome) guest.

If you haven’t caught our last two previews...

PREVIEW 1: The UNSC Infinity is under attack! In this first preview, we take another look at the Banished assault on the UNSC Infinity from a different perspective.

PREVIEW 2: Safe at last? In this second preview, we follow a group of survivors who have—after a grueling week of fighting for survival—finally found safe harbor at the UNSC Mortal Reverie. But for how long?

Halo: The Rubicon Protocol releases August 9 and is available in trade paperback, ebook, and unabridged audiobook formats.

Let’s dive right in!


AW: Welcome back, Kelly! I must say this is quite surreal for me—I've interviewed you twice before for your previous two novels (the incomparable Renegades and Point of Light), and now here we are again, in a more official capacity! For those who may just be joining us, why don’t you introduce yourself?

KG: Thanks! Glad to be back for our third foray into the book world and our first official interview together.

Hello to you and Halo netizens. I’m Kelly and I craft novels that take place in the Halo universe. *waves*

AW: It’s time for another novel outing with you, which is always exciting! But we’re not following Rion Forge and the Ace of Spades crew this time. What can you tell us about this new cast of characters and the situation they find themselves in?

KG: That’s right. I took a little detour from Rion and friends, and while I miss them I had a lot of fun developing these new characters and expanding on ones already known.

We have multiple points of view in The Rubicon Protocol, so we get to see the aftermath of the UNSC’s defeat through the eyes of a handful of survivors from the UNSC Infinity. I really wanted to show what it’d be like not only for our three key Spartan characters, but also for soldiers and support staff who are now scattered and cut off from the rest of humanity in the galaxy. They find themselves in a very hostile, tumultuous environment without the resources and full might of the military behind them.

In-game image from Halo Infinite of the deceased Spartan Stone

AW: What are some of the qualities that you think really make a Spartan?

KG: While Spartans possess a wide range of common and unique qualities, they all possess the dogged, hyper-determination to succeed, to get the job done.

At their core I think this is one of their biggest assets. They don’t give up and they’re willing to take action, adapt, problem solve, and put it all, even their lives, on the line.

I think underlying all the other traits they must have (intelligence, strength of mind, body, and character, etc), they need to have this inherent ‘never give up’ resolute, relentless drive as part of their make-up.

AW: Renegades and Point of Light were really about a small crew finding themselves and coming to get a sense of the true scale of the galaxy they inhabit. What are some of the core thematic anchors for The Rubicon Protocol?

KG: It’s funny because when I was first approached about writing The Rubicon Protocol, I thought “Wow, this is a departure for me!” as I’d never written a war-focused novel before, and I was excited by the challenge.

But the mechanics are really the same no matter the genre, crafting plots, writing good dialogue, action, descriptions, and (like the Forge stories) getting into the minds and hearts of the characters... albeit in the midst of some intense action and bloodshed.

I felt very comfortable in this space and with this group as they learned to rely on each other, live in the moment, and come to terms with the humbling fact that war levels the playing field—it doesn’t care who you are, where you’re from, or what you’ve done.

The story revolves around friendship and sacrifice, and realizing that even the smallest act might turn the tide of war. So when you’re on your own, without the resources and operational might of the UNSC at your back, will you let the odds defeat you or will you act and rise to the occasion?

In-game image from Halo Infinite of two marines on Zeta Halo

AW: It’s quite interesting that players already know some of the beats of this story from the Spartan audio logs that can be discovered in Halo Infinite. What were some of the challenges and opportunities that came with having more of a fixed direction of where things are going?

KG: Out of the many you find in-game, there are only a handful of audio logs in the book, each comprising a few lines of dialogue. Players might know them, but in reality they are just the tip of a larger iceberg with characters and storylines and events that will be revealed as part of the book’s story.

Because the logs were mostly already developed and showcased some of the characters from The Rubicon Protocol, I didn’t want to ignore them completely as they are part of the characters’ journey, so they became these sorts of mileposts that the characters met as they moved through six months of hardship.

It did make the plotting of multiple storylines a little tricky at times as they also had to intersect with the chosen logs, and occasionally elements would change as Infinite developed as well, but I think the end result provides a nice, natural connection between The Rubicon Protocol and the discovery of audio logs in game.

AW: Your previous Halo novels really delved into the depths of some of the esoteric mysteries set up in the Forerunner Saga. The Rubicon Protocol, on the other hand, feels like such a great entry point to “onboard” folks into Halo's expanded universe—whether you’re a series newcomer or if you’ve been out of the loop for a while. What are some of the “flavors” in this book that you think make it one anybody can pick up and read?

KG: In terms of genre, there are elements that many might enjoy—sci-fi military, action, adventure… I feel like anyone can jump into this story and follow along.

Some of the characters are “fish out of water,” thrust onto Zeta Halo and seeing the Banished up close for the first time, and it makes following along pretty easy as the reader is learning the lay of the land right along with the characters.

AW: Indeed! And for folks who have played the campaign, there will also be some “parallel pathing” with a few areas you’ve visited as the Master Chief, so there’s a grounded element of familiarity in there too.

In-game image from Halo Infinite of the Harbinger's opened cylix in Outpost Tremonius

AW: Saying that, of course, it wouldn’t be a Kelly book without surprising even our Franchise team with how you weave in some unexpected deep references to some of the obscure corners of the lore—even for one of the main characters...

KG: Haha, I live for those moments!

I try to maintain discretion when pulling from existing lore and have requirements that a detail or character must have before I use it. Does it fit organically into the story? Is it the best option? Does it gel with the current timeline? Etc.

In terms of timeline and material, the Halo universe is full of opportunity so it’s important to me to craft stories always keeping in mind that previous characters and storylines have a vivid and realistic past; so when I can pull up a character or a past element I’m tickled to do so.

This is what happened with TJ Murphy, who we saw in the preview of chapter one, and who already had the qualities and background and current status I was looking for when developing one of The Rubicon Protocol’s core characters. He was a natural fit. And after Spartan Ops, how can we not love him?

Sometimes, though, I have something I really want to add but am not, for internal reasons, able to use (*shakes fist!*). On these occasions, I bide my time—there are definitely more fun, exotic items that I’m determined to include in another tale when the time is right...

AW: We saw a lot of cool new things in Halo Infinite, fighting the Banished from the first-person perspective of the Master Chief, facing the Harbinger and learning that there’s a new species out there. What were some of your favorite new elements to play with in this story?

KG: I really loved navigating a broken fragment of the ring. Just the visuals of it and the many obstacles that result from it were fascinating to me. Some favorites I can’t share as it’d spoil the fun, but two are definitely being able to show Spartans in situations we haven’t seen before, and showing a certain Jiralhanae character in a new way.

AW: (Later in this very issue, you might just get a bit of what Kelly’s referencing here...)

Thank you so much for joining us again, Kelly. Any final words to share?

KG: Anytime! It was a bit of a long journey to bring this story to light so, dear readers, I thank you for your patience, and I hope you enjoy it!


DEEP LINKS: DRAMATIS PERSONAE

As noted earlier, it wouldn’t be a Kelly Gay book without weaving in some surprise deep link references to characters, items, and events from some of the more obscure corners of the Halo universe.

Many folks have already picked up on this with regards to one of the main characters of The Rubicon Protocol, TJ Murphy, who prominently appeared in the latter half of Halo 4’s Spartan Ops (debuting in Episode 6, Chapter 1 - “Escape Plan”).

In-game image from Halo 4's Spartan Ops of TJ Murphy

"Hell, Infinity. Hotwiring a Covenant spaceboat isn't exactly difficult. If Crimson gives me some cover, I'll get us airborne."

TJ Murphy

After Fireteam Crimson escaped Covenant capture in the Lockup area of Requiem and cleared the area of hostiles, they made their way to an adjacent part of the facility with the intent of capturing a Phantom. There, however, the marines of Icebreaker Squad were also found to have been imprisoned behind a shield wall, TJ Murphy among them.

From there, Murphy went on to assist Crimson by ferrying them through Covenant territory with their captured Phantom; he escorted them back to the UNSC Infinity when it came under attack, and provided further operational support by delivering ordnance until the Requiem Campaign came to an end—piloting the Pelican that picked up the Spartan fireteam.

And he’s not the only Spartan Ops character to be featured in The Rubicon Protocol...

In-game image from Halo 4's Spartan Ops of Panom's Canticle hanging over Requiem's Refuge site

"Shadow Leader to Spartan Miller. Sorry for the delay, sir. We're meeting heavy resistance in the cruiser. Seems like they don't want their spaceship blown up."

Horatio Fry

Spartans Bonita Stone and Nina Kovan were attached to Fireteam Shadow during the Requiem Campaign, who notably appeared in the latter of the impeccably named two-part mission “Nothing Can Go Wrong” and “Everything Has Gone Wrong” in Episode 3.

In-game image from Halo 4's Spartan Ops of Horatio Fry's incoming transmission signifier

Led by Spartan Horatio Fry, Fireteam Shadow were sent to take out Panom’s Canticle, one of the Covenant’s Zanar-pattern light cruisers, as it loomed over Requiem’s “Refuge” site.

The Canticle brought with it a veritable force of Zealots—the Silent Blade—who caught the marine presence off-guard. Meanwhile, Fireteam Crimson fought off the Covenant forces that deployed to the Refuge site from the cruiser.

While communications are primarily heard from Fry, Stone and Kovan are also present alongside him and we see the fruits of their labor at the end of the mission as the cruiser is destroyed from within.

Almost ten years since we last crossed paths, their stories continue (and, for at least one of them, comes to an end) on the sundered shores of Zeta Halo...


LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

There are times where Halo fans’ attention to parsing detail leaves even us stunned, which is why we wanted to share this video from Halo Guy (whose content you should definitely check out and subscribe to!)

After we dropped the preview for The Rubicon Protocol’s opening chapter, Halo Guy decided—as fiction nuts well might—to actually try to find the lifepod that Spartan Stone and her fellow escapees from the UNSC Infinity came from.

Matching the description of the local terrain to an area in Halo Infinite’s campaign, he was successful in finding it!

As The Rubicon Protocol is primarily set on the local island fragments that form the campaign's “open hub” space, we worked closely with Kelly to ensure that as many of the details of these environments line up as closely as possible to better convey that sense of familiarity with the setting in the book, and to enhance the sense that you are walking in the footsteps of UNSC forces when you play the game.

Though you get fragments of their story in some of the audio logs, The Rubicon Protocol explores the broader picture of those events from various perspectives, both familiar (as detailed in the Deep Links section above) and new.


HALO: THE RUBICON PROTOCOL – FINAL PREVIEW

Over the last month, we’ve given you a few previews of Halo: The Rubicon Protocol, showing the ambush and evacuation of the UNSC Infinity in Chapter 1, and the (temporary) relief of some survivors rallying at the wreckage of the UNSC Mortal Reverie in Chapter 8.

For our third and final preview, we’re celebrating Christmas. That’s right. Christmas, in August!

Well, for Spartan Horvath and a rather unexpected guest, it’s December 24, 2559, and they’re trapped on one of Zeta Halo’s floating islands together. With only a handful of days until this island’s atmosphere and gravity cease to exist, can two deadly foes work together to get safe passage back to their people?

Have a listen to the audiobook chapter preview and read the chapter excerpt below!


CHAPTER 11

Zeta Halo
December 24, 2559
Day 13

Spartan Horvath sat on the hillside, staring at the smoke curling up from the basin, his helmet resting in the grass beside him. Gorian, as he’d come to know the Brute’s name, must have caught a couple of snakes or birds to tide him over, and started up a campfire.

It had taken two days, but together they’d finally succeeded in leveraging the starboard side of the Phantom about twelve centimeters out of the mud with a couple substructure beams gathered from the edge of the island. It was enough to start digging around the sentinel. Dead tired and needing a break from the constant vigil of watching his back, Horvath had hiked out of the wetlands and high into the hills.

From this vantage point, the view stretched clear to the edge of the island and out into space, where only a few pinpricks of starlight flickered in the blackness. There wasn’t much out there—which worried him more than he’d care to admit. He’d made this hike a few times now, sitting on the hill and wondering just how isolated they were in the galaxy.

As far as Christmas Eves went, this wasn’t the worst one he’d spent, though it might just be the loneliest. Plus, he was pretty sure Gorian hadn’t even gotten him a gift.

Horvath scratched his growing beard as memories of Fireteam Intrepid filled his mind, sitting in the lounge on S-Deck with the team, toasting the holiday, talking shit, making stupid bets, planning their next prank. They were chaos-makers on and off the job, and he’d loved every minute of it.

Unsettled, he donned his helmet and headed down the hillside. Might as well see how much he could poke the Brute and liven up the holiday.

Gorian sat on an empty supply crate in front of the fire, his massive black shoulders slumped forward. A large plucked bird hung over the flames, suspended from a limb balanced on two tripods, while a couple thorned snake heads and skins lay at the edge of camp. Horvath kicked one aside as he entered the area, and sat across the fire. The Brute picked a snake bone from his dirty mouth, tossed it over his shoulder, and then pulled the bird from its pole to sink his fangs into one of the wings, the crunch of bone and meat drifting across camp.

“As soon as we’re off this fragment,” he grumbled between chews, “I will enjoy killing you.” A line Gorian repeated frequently.

“Keep talking like that and I might start thinking you like me.”

“Why don’t you take that helmet off or eat anything?”

“Who says I don’t?”

The Jiralhanae grunted, eyes narrowing as he paused in his feast to hold a hand out, palm up. The leathery expanse flexed, the fingers curling into a tight fist as he intoned: “Atriox once crushed a Spartan helmet with his bare hand.”

“Well, Atriox isn’t here…” Horvath paused thoughtfully. “In fact, I’m betting he’s probably good and dead by now.”

Gorian went still, then pointed the mauled crane wing at him. “Careful with your words, demon.”

Ah. He’d hit a nerve. Naturally, he had to do it again. “The Banished will never take the ring.”

An amused grunt issued from deep within Gorian’s throat. He polished off the wing, juice and fat sticking to the fur on his chin, and then wrenched open the bird’s chest, biting into one side. “There are more of us here than there are of you. More weapons. More ships. And soon we will control not only the ring, but the—”

Now, that caught his attention. What else was there? What were the Banished up to?

Gorian laughed slowly. “You humans have been here for years, studying with your feeble minds, and yet you know nothing about what this ring is capable of or what it holds.”

“And you do?”

“Why else would we be here?”

Not exactly a giant revelation, but Horvath was starting to think it might have something to do with the artifacts the Banished were so interested in. “So what’s the endgame, then? You take control of the ring and whatever else is here and then what? Do you even know why you’re fighting?”

“War.” He ripped off a giant chunk of meat. “It is the lifeblood that feeds the Jiralhanae soul. There need be no other reason than that.” He took a moment to study his opponent. “You think you are different? Is it not your lifeblood as well? What would you do without war, Spartan? Who would you be?” He grunted and went back to eating. “Nothing. Nothing at all.”

The fire spat sparks into the sky. Horvath watched them rise, mulling over Gorian’s words, when a chunk of bird meat hit his Mjolnir armor with a splat and slid down to his lap. “What the hell?” His curse counter dinged as he picked the meat up between two fingers.

Gorian’s smug laugh was low and deep. “We still have a truce, Spartan. All warriors must eat. When I do kill you, it will be a fair fight. It won’t be because you are weakened by hunger.”

The bird was rare in the middle and turned his stomach. Immediately he flung it back at the Brute, smacking him square in the mouth. A wide grin split Horvath’s face and laughter bubbled from his own throat, loud and clear via his helmet speaker. Go chew on that, asshole.

Gorian flung it to the ground and leapt to his feet.

Horvath responded with a very satisfied and lengthy sigh. “Merry Christmas.”

“I know not what you speak of, this merriment.”

“You wouldn’t,” Horvath muttered.

Gorian returned to his seat and regarded the Spartan quietly before saying: “Long before the Great Immolation, in Jiralhanae prehistory, females were tasked with raising and training the fearsome kateukal warbeasts, with killing the mother and raising the pups, allowing them to sleep in their beds, nurse at their breasts, to bite and nip at their heels, and fight with their own offspring. They yapped and yapped, fierce, but small and stupid for many, many years, so that no male Jiralhanae could bear to dwell in the settlements while the pups were there…” Gorian chuckled softly, then leveled a dark stare across the gloomy campsite. “You are such a pup.”

Horvath snorted. “And here I thought Brutes didn’t have a sense of humor.”

Gorian continued his meal, evidently too hungry to be bothered by the Spartan’s response. Horvath let the silence sit for a moment as the restless feeling from earlier suddenly reemerged. Gazing at the night sky, he wondered what his team might be doing at that very moment…

“So what happened to the pups after those many, many years?”

“They grew to maturity and became legend.”

“That’s what I thought.”


And so, we conclude this three-week run of Canon Fodders. We’ve covered the Alpha Pack narrative event, the lore behind select vehicles, items, and wildlife from the cutting room floor of 1999-2004, and this awesome new book you’ll be able to get your hands on very soon!

As a final reminder: Halo: The Rubicon Protocol releases August 9, grab your copy in either trade paperback, ebook, or unabridged audiobook formats.

Buy one. Heck, buy two...

That's an order, soldier!