Halo timeline: Beginning of the Human-Covenant War and the downfall of Harvest

In the last article, we covered the rise of humanity in the galaxy, the outbreak of the Insurrection in the Outer Colonies, and the origins of the Spartan-IIs who were created to fight them.

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In this article, we're going to take a look at humanity's first contact with the mighty Covenant, what caused the beginning of the war to come, and how the colony world of Harvest became the Covenant's first planetary victim.

February 3, 2525 CE (Current Era): Human and Covenant ships meet for the first time

The Minor Transgression was the first Covenant vessel encountered by humanity.

On February 3 of 2525, the Covenant ship Minor Transgression encountered a human vessel as it was transitioning out of slipspace. Minor Transgression, crewed by Kig-Yar pirates, raided the human ship. Shortly after, the same pirates raided another ship — a UNSC shipping freighter dubbed This End Up.

This did not go unnoticed by a logistical AI known as Sif on the world of Harvest. Reporting the situation to an undercover ONI agent present, Sif effectively alerted the UNSC and Colonial Military Administration (CMA) to the threat's presence.

Expecting that Insurrectionists were the culprits, the ONI agent laid a trap for the pirates; two UNSC marines, Avery Johnson and Nolan Byrne, were to hide on a freighter that was going to be used to bait the pirates into boarding it. Then, the two would surprise and kill the Insurrectionists. The plan worked, although the humans were shocked by the fact that the aliens, not the Insurrectionists, were behind the raids. After killing the Kig-Yar aboard Minor Transgression, Johnson and Byrne returned to Harvest.

Middle of February, 2525 CE: The Rapid Conversion arrives at Harvest

The Rapid Conversion arrived at Harvest in response to the loss of the Minor Transgression.

At some point later in February, the Covenant cruiser Rapid Conversion arrived at Harvest in order to investigate what happened to the Minor Transgression. Hoping to achieve peace and prevent further hostilities, the UNSC attempted to communicate with the Covenant forces via pictogram. The crew of the Rapid Conversion (10 Brutes, 60 Grunts and 100 Drones) opened talks with the humans, but made it clear that their only interest was finding the Forerunner relics that they had detected were there.

Unfortunately, a small firefight between the two sides occurred when a nervous Grunt opened fire on a CMA soldier named Osmo. This immediately caused all negotiation to cease, and the Rapid Conversion's crew withdrew to their ship and returned to orbit.

The Prophets, the Covenant's religious leaders, realized that the relics the Rapid Conversion was detecting on the planet were in fact the humans themselves when a long-dormant fragment of Mendicant Bias that had been aboard the Forerunner Dreadnought awakened and pointed out their misinterpretations to them. Humans were in fact called Reclaimers, or those who were deemed worthy to inherit the Mantle of Responsibility.

The San'Shyuum Prophets were shocked by this revelation, and falsely concluded that the humans were descendants of the Forerunners themselves. Worrying that the Covenant's great empire would turn against the Prophets if they learned this special connection between humanity and the Forerunners, they ordered the species to be exterminated, citing the will of the gods as reasoning.

The Rapid Conversion began to attack the colonial population of Harvest. Though the Covenant ground force was weak, the firepower of the Rapid Conversion brought the majority of the planet to heel. A trap set by the small contingent of human forces there ended up disabling the ship temporarily to allow most of the planet to escape death via freighters, but the ship's crew managed to repair it shortly after. The Rapid Conversion then began to partially glass the planet.

April 20, 2525 CE: CMA Argo investigates lost contact with Harvest

The CMA scout ship Argo was sent in order to figure out the reasoning behind the sudden lack of communication from Harvest.

After all contact from Harvest was lost in February, the CMA sent a small scout ship, the Argo, to investigate.

Upon arriving on April 20, the ship noticed the Rapid Conversion conducting its glassing task. On the planet's surface, a surviving human artificial intelligence attempted to send a message to the Argo to warn it to stay away, but it was too late; the Argo had strayed too close to the Rapid Conversion and attracted its attention. The Covenant ship destroyed the Argo in a matter of seconds.

October 7, 2525 CE: CMA Battle Group 4 engages the Rapid Conversion

When Battle Group 4 arrived at Harvest, they found a planet burnt to a crisp by plasma.

Once contact with the Argo was lost, the CMA went on full alert. Afraid that the planet had been taken over by Insurrectionists and that it was now serving as a major base of operations for them, the CMA at Reach formed a battle group of three ships: the destroyer Heracles, and two light frigates, the Arabia and Vostok. This small force, dubbed Battle Group 4, was sent to Harvest expecting a combat situation.

When Battle Group 4 arrived at Harvest on October 7, they encountered a Covenant super-destroyer, a ship that was seemingly larger and more threatening than the Rapid Conversion. As the battle group attempted to make contact, the Covenant ship abruptly opened fire with laser turrets and plasma torpedoes. Within a terrifying 14 seconds, both the Arabia and Vostok were completely destroyed. Additionally, the Heracles was heavily damaged. By the skin of their teeth, the Heracles managed to re-enter slipspace back to planet Reach — but not before a transmission from the Covenant ship was received:

Your destruction is the will of the gods. And we are their instrument.

November 1, 2525 CE: Heracles returns to planet Reach

The Heracles, barely operational, survives its journey to Reach in order to warn humanity of the Covenant.

Several weeks after the engagement at Harvest, the Heracles arrived at Reach to warn the UNSC and CMA of the Covenant threat.

Immediately, the UNSC went to red alert. The UNSC Navy began to assemble a fleet that consisted of 40 entire ships in order to retake Harvest, the training of future Spartan-IIs was accelerated significantly, and the military forces of the CMA were merged into the UNSC. Determined to show this new foe that they would not go down without a fight, humanity officially began their preparations for a war that, unbeknownst to them, would ravage the galaxy for decades to come.

Your thoughts

What are your opinions on the way the Human-Covenant War began? Let us know what you think in the comments below, and remember to read our previous timeline articles if you haven't already.

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Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.