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Halo Infinite

Halo: The Rubicon Protocol – Preview 2

Safe at last?
Cover art of Halo: The Rubicon Protocol
Photo of Alex
  -  4 months ago

After the devastating ambush the Banished unleashed upon the UNSC Infinity (which we showed in our first preview), many members of the crew evacuated the ship and made their way to the surface of Zeta Halo.

With Cortana sacrificing herself to destroy a portion of the ring and send it through slipspace, the Banished have moved in to occupy this deadly and mysterious installation while the UNSC survivors attempt to regroup. It is on the eighth day that sanctuary is found in the wreckage of the downed UNSC Mortal Reverie. But for how long?

Halo: The Rubicon Protocol, the latest novel from acclaimed author Kelly Gay, releases August 9, 2022, and further explores some of the events in the six months before the Master Chief is reawakened, and the game’s campaign begins.

December 2559. Humanity has its back against the wall after the United Nations Space Command flagship Infinity drops out of slipspace into a devastating ambush launched by the Banished. As this fierce enemy alliance seeks to claim a mysterious object hidden within the ancient Forerunner construct known as Zeta Halo, the surviving UNSC corps now find itself compromised and its leadership out of reach—with remaining personnel forced to abandon ship and take their chances on the fractured, unpredictable surface of the Halo ring.

Now survival in this strange, alien environment—whether for Spartan super-soldiers or those who never thought they would see the battle up close—is measured day to day against a relentless and brutal adversary that always has the upper hand. Desperation grows, but the will to keep on fighting and enduring no matter the odds is never in doubt… even as the Banished seek to unleash a frightening new enemy that could doom them all....

In this second of three previews, 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.

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

Our third and final preview will be featured in a special Canon Fodder issue next week, alongside an interview with author Kelly Gay herself!


Image of the crashed UNSC Mortal Reverie with Zeta Halo in the background

UNSC Mortal Reverie
Zeta Halo
December 19, 2559
Day 8

The first glimpse of the Mortal Reverie struck Lucas with awe. He paused along the mountainous ridgeline with the rest of the team. He was no expert, but it seemed like a good location, dominating the end of a pass littered with a few sparse grass patches and thin alpine trees clinging to loose soil, rocky outcroppings, and strange hexagonal stacks of Forerunner alloy that rose from the ground in groups and seemed to slowly shift and adjust. They were still several klicks away, according to Murphy, but from their higher position on the ridge, their view was unobstructed.

The frigate lay at the edge of an unnatural cliff where a fracture had split part of the mountainous area in two, her bow hanging over the open chasm. Her center was buckled and part of her belly had lodged deep into the landscape, as though she’d hit the ground hard and fast, plowing her way through to the very precipice.

The overwhelming relief at seeing her weakened his legs and actually hurt his chest; after what had happened in the woods, Lucas was surprised he could feel anything at all. Despite his cuts and bruises and exhaustion, the entire journey he’d been feeling numb and dumbfounded that their small crew had actually made it out alive while others more trained and able had not.

Survivor’s guilt settled firmly into place as he remembered each loss from the moment Infinity had been attacked.

Spartan Horvath followed on the heels of those memories, and Lucas wondered if the lifeboat’s would-be rescuer had survived the ring’s destruction, if he continued to search for them, if he’d found the empty shuttle, or had met a terrible fate at the hands of Banished patrols and scavengers.

Jo stopped next to him, interrupting the direction of his maudlin thoughts. The petty officer was extremely pale and gaunt. Everything about him shouted that he was done, mentally and physically. Some of the intense shock of the brutal forest attack had worn off, and they’d washed away as much Jackal blood as they could without wasting too much water, but traces of purple still clung dark and crusty in the crevices of Jo’s skin and stayed dried on his clothes. His dark eyes were lost, dazed, consistently red-rimmed.

“Surprised we made it,” he remarked in a flat tone.

Lucas plastered a hopeful expression on his face even though he too wasn’t feeling especially bright. “It’s going to be good,” he said as they continued walking, Bender and Dimik ahead of them, Murphy and Cam behind. Spartan Stone was keeping pace at the head of the pack and Spartan Kovan was more visible this time, following Murphy but keeping to the higher rocks. “We’ll regroup, you know? Clean up, shave, finally sleep without looking over our shoulders all the time, eat warm food . . . things will turn around.”

Jo snorted. “It’ll be a miracle if we survive. We’re scattered and outnumbered . . . and we don’t even know when or if help is coming.”

Lucas didn’t know how to respond to that, mostly because deep down, he couldn’t argue with Jo’s logic.

They went a few more steps before Jo said, “I’m sorry. I’m just being realistic—to a fault, I know. And trust me, I’ve heard it my entire life. No one likes to hear the truth or look at the world through unfiltered lenses. I don’t like it either,” he said hoarsely, “I hate it—I hate . . . this. But—”

“It’s not in your nature to sugarcoat things. That’s why you’re good at what you do. Just the facts, right?”

Jo glanced over and Lucas was surprised to see that his eyes had grown glassy and his mouth was spread into a thin, grief-stricken line. He dipped his head, grateful to be understood. “Right.” An errant tear slipped down his cheek, carving a clean trail through days of dirt, smoke, sweat, and blood. “So, what’s left to hold on to for a person like me?” He laughed and wiped it away. “I hate this goddamn place.”

The true weight of what Jo was going through hit Lucas hard. Jo didn’t want to feel the way he did—who would? But if you lived in the land of raw facts and unbiased odds—if that was just part of your DNA—then it sure was going to be a struggle to find hope amid the chaos and grief and the constant stresses of war.

Lucas’s training had included PTSD, of course. But seeing it firsthand over the past few days had made him realize how unprepared he was to be the effective medical figure everyone needed him to be. At twenty-five, he was the youngest one on the crew and at times felt like he had no business helping anyone at all.

He hadn’t realized he’d stopped walking again while Jo continued without him.

A tight sensation squeezed Lucas’s chest. He was familiar with this feeling—the anxiety that came from questioning his worth, whether he was good enough to make a difference, to survive. Imposter syndrome, they called it. All he’d ever wanted to do was save people, and right now he certainly didn’t think he had what it took.

And also right now, just like Jo, he wasn’t sure if that was even possible in the end.

The air was thinner up here and cooler, grayer. Lucas drew it deeply into his lungs and released it slowly, attempting to push out the doubts. No matter the outcome, he’d do what he could, ease pain and suffering, offer a shoulder to cry on. A little attention and comfort could go a long way—he’d seen it up close, knew it to be true after growing up in a house full of nurses and caregivers. He’d focus on those things and take it one step at a time. And leave the big-picture worries for the ones in charge.

“You all right?” Murphy asked, catching up to him. “You’ve stopped twice.”

Murphy was just as dirty and beaten and exhausted as the rest of them, yet through the busted lip and scruff, the nasty bruise under his left eye, the deep claw marks on the side of his neck that continued to ooze blood, and the weight of the pack he carried, he still managed to project an aura of ease. And always that slight quirk to his mouth or humorous glint in his eyes.

It struck Lucas how much the lieutenant reminded him of his father—probably the worst realization to have when he was already swimming in emotions. He swallowed that line of thought down real quick. “Nothing’s wrong. Just . . . I don’t know, thinking, I guess.”

Murphy eyed him for a long second. “Take my advice and save the thinking for later after you’ve had some time to rest, okay?” He clapped him on the shoulder and gave a small squeeze.

Lucas responded with a nod of appreciation, then turned his attention to Cam as he approached. “How’s the knee today?”

“It’s looking forward to getting into Reverie’s med bay.” Cam actually cracked a smile and continued walking, more positive than he’d been in days.

“Come on, Doc,” Murphy said. “Chin up. The Reverie is waiting.”

The Reverie is waiting.

And that was the best damn thing he’d heard in a very long time.