For anybody who has read Halo: Cryptum, you probably know what I’m going to say.
The battle of the Forerunner Capital.
It is with difficulty that I describe the capital as it was then, so little like anything in your experience. Imagine a planet a hundred thousand kilometres in diameter, sliced latitudinally like one of Riser’s favourite fruits. Allow those slices to drop in parallel against a plate. The slices are then pierced through their aligned lower rims with a stick, the plate is removed, and the slices are fanned out in a half-circle. Now decorate each slice, like a round stair step, with an almost infinitely dense array of structures, and surround it with a golden swarm of transports and sentinels and a dozen other varieties of security patrols, thick as fog…
No other world like it in the Forerunner universe.
Here lay the centre of Forerunner power and the repository of the last twenty thousand years of our history, housing the wisdom and accumulated knowledge of trillions of ancillas serving a mere hundred thousand Forerunners — mostly Builders of the highest forms and ranks.
There were so many ancillas for so few physical leaders, most never actually interfaced with a Forerunner, and so never assumed a visible form. Instead, they performed their operations entirely within the ancilla metarchy, an unimaginably vast network coordinated by a metarch-level intelligence that answered ultimately to the chief councilor.
As we approached this magnificence, a thin silvery arc rose into view above and millions of kilometres beyond the southern axis. My blood cooled and my heart seemed to thud to a stop. Slowly looming in an orbit slightly downstar from the capital, staggered in perspective like the entrance to a tunnel, eleven great rings had been arranged in neat, precise parking orbits.
The combined might of the Master Builder’s weapons — all but one — had been moved to within a few million kilometres of the centre of Forerunner power, separated by a minimum of distance and looped together by the slenderest curves of hard light.
My other self expressed something beyond alarm — more akin to horror — and I had difficulty stifling an outburst. They should not be here! Halos should not be allowed anywhere near the seat of governance. Even the Master Builder forbade such a thing. Something has gone very wrong…
The capital functioned as the central hub for all politics and economics in the Forerunner Ecumene. Spiral-shaped, the Capital was made up of a series of circular platforms which decreased in size towards either end of a central rod. Each of these platforms was home to a massive city, with the largest being 100,000 kilometres in diameter. When under attack, the Capital was capable of rotating its sections to form a spherical shape, protecting them from outside.
Bornstellar, the main protagonist of Cryptum‘s narrative, saw the Capital first-hand in all of its splendour before Mendicant Bias’ vicious attack destroyed it.
This was an absolutely hair-raising segment of the book that had me completely on the edge of my seat while reading it. There’s this amazing bit where the escape craft that Bornstellar is piloting flies through a Halo ring as it splinters and gets torn apart while the Forerunners are pushed into an all-out fight against their own creations. Here’s some excerpts:
I flash on brief moments of breathtaking, awful splendour, sharpened by terror: the rapid approach of Halo’s inner landscape, our first close-up glimpse of thin layers of clouds, rivers, mountains, desert, vast stretches of green, then thousands of kilometres of engraved silver-blue, naked foundation material interrupted by towering, four-pronged power stations – all unadorned by hard-light decor.
Then – the unexpected. While the enormous yet ephemeral band of Halo slowly disappeared into the violet-black maw at the centre of the portal, something brilliant white pushed through from the other side.
The fortress’s commanders and ancillas must have known they were dooming themselves as well as the Halo. The installation began a spectacular disintegrative sequence. The visible half of the ring bent in opposite directions, then shattered into five great arcs. We passed near the largest of these segments, perhaps a hundred kilometres from the inner-surface. Released from the rotational integrity of the full ring, the segment moved outward, given an additional outward twist by the asymmetric breakup. One end swept towards us like a great swinging blade.
Kilometre-wide swaths of forest waved like flags in a slow wind, shivered off a dust of trees – and broke apart into chunks. In the increasing violence, the surface released a storm of boulders, followed by immense cross-sections of sedimentary layers, and finally, entire mountains still capped with snow. Our doom seemed inevitable. Either we would be struck by the nearest rim wall or by the great clods and silvers of material spilling over – or we would be caught up in flying volumes of ocean, now, in the shadow of the portal, freezing into spectacular ice sculptures, flying bergs and snow. I sat within the dust mote of our craft, incapable of speech. I had never witnessed anything so utterly awesome – not even the destruction of the San’Shyuum world.