Halo: Escalation Issue 22
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On September 18, 2558 at 0032 MST, Song of Retribution is held by an energy shield and the Absolute Record's Contender-class AI tells Jul 'Mdama that his forces were disposed and "confined" because their presence was an unwelcome distraction. Jul, who has climbed to the platform, tells the AI that he brought his forces to merely honor their gods, not fight them, and it was the Contender who provoked them to attack the Sentinels. In response, the Contender AI says its suspicious about the Sangheili's disruptive tendencies were confirmed by their reaction. Jul angrily asks how were they to supposed to react. Meanwhile, Palmer, Tanaka, and Glassman ask themselves if the Contender is their ally or just merely hates the Covenant. The ancilla says its only intention is to maintain the integrity of the Absolute Record and choose its proper custodian. Although Doctor Catherine Halsey claims she must be the custodian of the Absolute Record the ancilla is speaking of, because her possession of the Janus Key and being chosen by the Librarian, the Contender AI says her possession of the Janus Key proves nothing, because the Key could have been obtained by any variety of ways, even brute force. When Dr. Halsey tries to tell the ancilla her reasons, the AI says it had enough and translocates them.
Onboard Breath of Annihilation at 0058 MST, a mutiny has been carried out by those who believe that the Didact's Hand lied to them about the presence of Spartans aboard the ship. A Zealot brutally beats a Sangheili Storm, demanding the answer of why their Supreme Commander lied to them, but the Sangheili Storm claims 'Mdama knew nothing about the attack and he gains nothing from the deception. The Storm then says the traitors are the only ones who would be benefited about the truth of those rumors. Office of Naval Intelligence operative Ayit 'Sevi, pretending to be a member of the rebellion, kills the Storm. The Zealot then orders him to join several other Covenant forces near the main gravity lift to hunt for Spartan Gabriel Thorne. Ayit warns Thorne that he is about to be surrounded by the Covenant, only for the Spartan to come under fire from three Type-26 Wraiths operating by Kig-Yar. Thorne escapes Breath of Annihilation through a breach in the carrier's hull and dives into a swamp on the moon, where the ship is undergoing repairs. Type-26 Banshees and Kig-Yar soldiers search for Thorne in the swamps. The Spartan manages to kill two of the Kig-Yar with his combat knife, but one of the Kig-Yar is able to wound him with a Type-33 Needler. Meanwhile, Ayit travels to the carrier's holding cells, where he kills the guards and releases ex-rebellion leader Sali 'Nyon to create more chaos on the ship. Though Sali is doubtful of his ability to lead Covenant rebels after he failed to do so the first time, Ayit manipulates him into doing so by using his zeal to inspire him.
At the Absolute Record, the Contender AI presents the humans and Jul with a theoretical scenario in which a peaceful species is revealed to possess Flood-resistant biological material that can be used as a vaccine against the Flood. When this material is harvested from a living member of the species, there is a thirty-five percent chance of a successful yield. However, the species is willing to provide the corpses of their kind that passed away naturally, though the deceased bodies only have a thirty-three percent chance of a successful yielding. The Contender then asks them if they would allow the species to live autonomously in exchange for the bodies of the deceased, or extract the biological matter from all living members of the species to create vaccines at a higher speed. Jul believes that the correct answer to the scenario is to peacefully cooperate with the species, but Halsey decides that the species' freedom should be sacrificed for the greater good of the galaxy. Glassman and the Spartans decide that they would allow the species to maintain its independence and cooperate with them. As the Contender asks each party if the disqualifying participants should be contained or killed, Halsey seemingly hacks into the AI's system and disables the ancilla. No longer obstructed from their goals, Halsey and Jul enter the interior of the Absolute Record.
The art on the second page is a duplicate of that of the first page, even though the speech bubbles are changed appropriately. Shortly after the issue's publication, Dark Horse Comics posted the actual page two on their Twitter, apologizing for the printing error.