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Halo timeline: Discovery of Alpha Halo, and its destruction

Halo: Combat Evolved
Halo: Combat Evolved (Image credit: 343 Industries)

In the last article, we went over the UNSC's crippling loss at Reach, as well as how the Pillar of Autumn was able to flee.

Complete Halo timeline series

In this one, we'll cover the events of the first Halo game (opens in new tab): how the crew discovered Alpha Halo, and ultimately caused its destruction.

September 19, 2552 CE (Current Era): The Pillar of Autumn arrives

Halo: Combat Evolved

Source: 343 Industries (Image credit: Source: 343 Industries)

Following their slipspace jump away from Reach, the crew of the Pillar of Autumn found themselves near a Halo ring. Shortly after, Covenant pursuers began to assault the Autumn. While the artificial intelligence Cortana made use of the Autumn's weapons, Captain Jacob Keyes made the decision to crash land it. John-117, the Master Chief, was woken out of cryosleep and given Cortana. He then assisted in defending the ship from boarders before joining the Marines in an escape pod.

As the Autumn careened into Alpha Halo, Master Chief and other UNSC forces launched escape pods and landed onto the gigantic alien ring. As Cortana hacked into the Covenant's battle network, Chief assisted survivors in setting up a resistance force against Covenant hunting parties. Cortana then revealed disturbing news: Captain Keyes had been captured.

The resistance frees the captain

Halo: Combat Evolved

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Led by Chief, several sniper and assault team attacked the CCS-battlecruiser Truth and Reconciliation, where Captain Keyes was being held. After dispatching of ground defenses, the teams used the vessel's anti-gravity lift to enter its cargo hold. With the help of Chief, the UNSC was ultimately able to free Keyes, who flew all of them to safety by hijacking a Covenant drop ship.

September 20, 2552: The Cartographer and the Flood

Halo: Combat Evolved

Source: 343 Industries (Image credit: Source: 343 Industries)

The following day, Cortana learned of a location called the Cartographer. This place contained a map of the entirety of Alpha Halo, and as such the UNSC made it top priority. Unfortunately, the Covenant did the same, and both sides fought. The result saw the UNSC win, largely due to the efforts of Master Chief. Using the Cartographer to chart the Halo ring, Cortana discovers another place of interest: the Control Room.

Meanwhile, Captain Keyes and a small detachment of soldiers headed towards what was assumed to be a Covenant weapons cache. However, once reaching it, they discovered that it was a Flood containment facility that the Covenant had barricaded. With it open, the Flood infected Keyes and began to spread throughout the ring, attacking both human and Covenant alike.

Master Chief tries to save Keyes

Master Chief

Source: 343 Industries (Image credit: Source: 343 Industries)

Following the discovery of the Control Room, Chief leads a heavy assault force on its location. After breaching the Covenant's defenses and going inside, Cortana interfaces with the terminal there and then becomes aware of the situation with the Flood, quickly urging Chief to try and save Keyes' life while she stays behind to learn about Halo.

Chief heads to the "weapons cache" but finds only Flood. Captain Keyes was then labelled missing-in-action and Chief planned to continue the search for him. However, Alpha Halo's robotic overseer, 343 Guilty Spark, teleported him to a place called the Library, which contained the key (called the Index) in order to activate Halo.

September 21, 2552: Halo's true purpose is revealed

Halo: Combat Evolved

Source: 343 Industries (Image credit: Source: 343 Industries)

After getting the Index, Chief and Guilty Spark went to the Control Room. When they arrived, Cortana revealed what she had learned: Alpha Halo, and all the other rings, were super weapons meant to cleanse the galaxy of life. Once aware of this, Chief ends up refusing to go with Guilty Spark's plan of activating the ring and becomes his enemy. They managed to escape Guilty Spark, however.

Cortana came up with a plan to detonate the engines of the Pillar of Autumn to destroy Alpha Halo, but they needed the approval of Keyes. Cortana used the ring's teleportation system to bring Chief back to the Truth and Reconciliation, where the Covenant and Flood were engaged in heavy fighting. Ultimately, Chief found Keyes' corpse among a large mass of bodies; they were being used by the Flood to try and make a monstrous intelligence called a Proto-Gravemind. With no other option, he "retrieved" Keyes' neural brain chip with his bare hands.

Alpha Halo is destroyed

Alpha Halo

Source: 343 Industries (Image credit: Source: 343 Industries)

As Chief retreats to the Autumn in order to destroy Alpha Halo, both the Covenant and the Flood try to stop him. The Covenant do it because they worship the Forerunners and don't want their creation to be obliterated; the Flood would all be killed, and need the ring intact in order to eventually spread through the galaxy. However, the biggest threat is Guilty Spark. Wanting to both use and protect the ring, Spark halted the self-destruct that Cortana set in motion.

Just when it seemed like all hope was lost, Cortana had the idea of launching explosives into the engine containment fields. Once Chief did this, the engines began to overload and Spark could do nothing to stop them. Using a Warthog, Chief and Cortana managed to reach a Longsword fighter craft in one of the Pillar of Autumn's hangars and fly away, narrowly escaping Alpha Halo's destruction and the subsequent death of all the humans, Covenant, and Flood on it.

There was one survivor, though: Guilty Spark. Now left with no installation to protect, he made his way to the gas mine on the nearby planet of Threshold. There, he would cause the birth of an uprising...

Your thoughts

What did you think of Alpha Halo and the way it was destroyed? Let me know.

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.

13 Comments
  • I must say, I love reading these. Please keep them coming!
  • Love these Halo articles! Keep it up!
  • you know it!
  • I guess I never thought of it, but the destruction of the Halo killed all the humans from the Pillar of Autumn? Was there no evacuation?
  • There was a few, but you can count the survivors on one hand. The book Halo: First Strike explains how Chief and these survivors manage to escape the system, but in short: they flew into space on a Pelican dropship, Chief linked up with them and then they managed to quietly infiltrate a Covenant ship and steal it.
  • Sargent Johnson escaped, there's a nod to it in Halo 2 where someone asks him how he escaped, and he just replies "that's classified". Which is especially weird as when you complete Halo on Legendary, it shows him hugging an elite as the pillar of autumn explodes.
  • That ending was confirmed non-canon, lol.
  • Yeah I would have guessed. Lol. There was something somewhere about him though, with a group of marines escaped and held up on a moon somewhere before being rescued. Can't remember if it was a novel, I remember seeing it somewhere.
  • "Cortana had the idea of launching explosives into the engine containment fields" A clarification on that: It was Master Chief idea. Cortana says that she don't know what to do when 343 stop the count down and Chief show her a grenade.
  • These are my favorite part of WC lately
  • <3 Thank you for the kind words!
  • Would be great if Windows Central released these combined into a free ebook for easy reading.
  • Nice summary. Love the Halo universe, and almost all the books (except for the Kilo-5 trilogy, which was pretty weak). Other than the change in cannon by Bungie when they made the game Reach (which I personally will not accept as part of the expanded universe, because it contradicted quiet a lot), the story telling has been great. The main thing I dislike about the current timeline is the whole Spartan IV program. It reduces the significance of the Spartan II's and the physical and emotional abuse those children had to endure, but at the end made them the ultimate fighting machines that they are. Taking a bunch of ODST's, augmenting them and giving them Mjolinr is just not the same as taking 5 year olds and doing what was done to them. Hopefully Halo Infinite concentrates on the surviving Spartan II's and we see crossovers with Grey team and Red team because that will make for great story telling.