Halo: Ghosts of Onyx
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Halo: Ghosts of Onyx is the fourth novel in the Halo series. The book is written by Eric Nylund and published by Tor Books. It was officially released on October 31, 2006, and was released as an audiobook on February 6, 2007. The unabridged version includes 9 disks, and is narrated by Jonathan Davis.
The announcement of Ghosts of Onyx included a confirmation that two more novels would be released as part of the same contract; Halo: Contact Harvest, and Halo: The Cole Protocol. Chronologically, Ghosts of Onyx is followed by Halo: Glasslands, the first novel in a new series set after the conclusion of the Human-Covenant War.
Prologue: Beta Company's Victory at Pegasi Delta
The prologue begins with the 300 SPARTAN-IIIs of Beta Company being deployed to the Covenant-controlled planet, Pegasi Delta in 2545. Out of the 300, 291 hit the ground and proceed towards their target, a Covenant refinery. The Spartans manage to destroy the facility, but due to unexpected heavy Covenant resistance in the form of seven large Covenant cruisers, misidentified as part of the factory by the orbiting STARS satellite, only two; SPARTANS Tom-B292 and Lucy-B091, survive. Tom and Lucy are revealed to be only twelve years old, and Lucy is severely traumatized and rendered mute, being diagnosed with post-traumatic vocal disarticulation after the deaths of the other Spartans and several of her companions from Team Foxtrot, Adam-B004 and Min-B174.
Section 1: Lieutenant Ambrose
The narrative then moves back to 2531 to a raid by SPARTAN-II Blue Team against Insurrectionists on planet Victoria to recover stolen FENRIS nuclear warheads. Though the team is captured by General Howard Graves and the rebels, the timely intervention of Kurt-051 allows the team to complete their mission without any other serious problems, but Graves is killed during the course of events, preventing the team from learning valuable secrets the General held about the rebels' command and intelligence structure.
Five months later, Colonel James Ackerson of Section Three of the Office of Naval Intelligence, meets with three ONI officers: Rear Admiral Rich, Captain Gibson and Vice Admiral Parangosky. During the meeting, Ackerson moves forward a proposal for a new SPARTAN program which retains most of the effectiveness of the SPARTAN-II program without the high costs of the previous project. This becomes the SPARTAN-III program, a more streamlined, "disposable," as well as more numerous, group of Spartans that must be trained for high-risk operations. Ackerson is given the classified, UNSC-controlled world Onyx with the purpose of training the SPARTAN-IIIs, and is promised one of the SPARTAN-II to train them.
The next month, Kurt, Kelly and Fred are sent to investigate "suspicious activity" at Station Delphi. When Kurt approaches a ruptured Shaw-Fujikawa Translight Engine for closer inspection, his thruster pack malfunctions and sends him spinning away into deep space. Kurt awakes a month later and meets Ackerson, who informs him that the events as Station Delphi were staged in order to recruit him. Kurt is told of the SPARTAN-III project and is given orders to train the volunteers of the SPARTAN-III program. Ackerson promotes him to Lieutenant, Junior Grade and assigns him the surname Ambrose to hide his previous service as a Spartan.
Section 2: SPARTAN-III
At Camp Currahee on Onyx, Kurt reduces the four hundred ninety-seven volunteers for the SPARTAN-III program to three hundred trainees by ordering a nighttime high-altitude aerial drop from Pelicans, in order to assess who among the volunteers truly wants to be a Spartan. One of the volunteers, Shane-A112, is frightened by the prospect of a drop and is taunted by another recruit, Robert-A057. Upon reaching the ground, Shane attacks Robert for teasing him and the two are separated by Navy personnel. They comment on the aggressiveness of the two, hoping "the rest of them are like this."
Several years later, Kurt returns to the UNSC Point of No Return to be briefed on Alpha Company's performance and to proceed with training for Beta Company, where he learns of the complete destruction of Alpha Company during Operation: PROMETHEUS. Devastated by the images of the battle and the loss of his soldiers, Kurt improves the training regime for Beta Company, and presses for upgrades to their SPI armor systems. Regardless, most are killed in action during Operation: TORPEDO, with the exceptions of Tom-B292 and Lucy-B091, who, through Kurt's efforts, are assigned to Onyx to assist Kurt in training Gamma Company, despite Ackerson's protests. In a further effort to reduce casualties, Kurt then institutes an illegal procedure during Gamma Company's augmentations, designed to alter the Spartans' brain chemistry and make them resistant to pain and shock. The AI Deep Winter notices this, but unaware of the perpetrator, tells Kurt, who takes it upon himself to ensure that the files regarding the augmentations are purged.
Section 3: Intruders
On October 31, 2552, the top three teams of the SPARTAN-III Gamma Company—Teams Saber, Katana, and Gladius—conduct a training exercise near a restricted area on Onyx deemed Zone 67, only to find themselves and other UNSC personnel under attack by an unidentified class of alien drones. Very quickly, the few humans on the planet are either wiped out or struggling to survive against this new, unexpected threat.
Section 4: Dr. Catherine Halsey
Doctor Catherine Halsey and Kelly-087 arrive in the Zeta Doradus system aboard the stolen rebel ship Beatrice. As they get closer to Onyx they are attacked by the drones and crash-land. Once on the planet, they meet up with the human survivors of the attacks, including S-III Team Saber, Kurt, and Chief Mendez. Halsey identifies the drones as Sentinels based on Cortana's logs of the events of Halo: Combat Evolved. Halsey proceeds to call for reinforcements, piggybacking her transmission on another transmission made by Cortana after the events of Halo 2. On the message she calls out for caution about the danger coming from the Forerunner Dreadnought that includes SPARTAN-117, as well as the grave threat of the Flood, which was trying to escape from Delta Halo at the time.
Section 5: Blue Team
On Earth, two weeks after the New Mombasa slipspace event, the planet remains under siege by Covenant forces. Frederic-104, William-043, and Linda-058 are pulled out of the line of fire by Fleet Admiral Hood, who responds to Halsey's call for reinforcements by dispatching the Spartans to Onyx. After hijacking a Covenant destroyer called Bloodied Spirit and killing all Covenant on board by suffocation, the Spartans head for Onyx, only to be caught in the middle of a battle between Brute and Elite ships on the way. The Spartans barely escape and arrive at Onyx only to be attacked by the Sentinels. They escape using a Covenant dropship and link up with the survivors, and then make their way toward the restricted area of Onyx after shaking Sentinel pursuit.
Section 6: The Ghosts of Onyx
Within this section, the story takes place on Delta Halo, where the Covenant are in the midst of a civil war. The Elites intercept Halsey's message, learn of the existence of Onyx and its Forerunner artifacts then regroup at a Covenant world called Joyous Exultation. There, the Sangheili Imperial Admiral Xytan 'Jar Wattinree rallies the Elites together and discuss the apparent treachery of the Brutes and Prophets, and how to go about handling the situation. Ship Master Voro 'Mantakree speaks to his fellow ship masters and suggests that they go to Onyx, as well as be vigilant of the Flood threat. He is promoted to the rank of Fleet Master and is given command of a fleet of eighteen destroyers, two cruisers, and one carrier. They then prepare to go to Onyx to retrieve the Forerunner technology.
Meanwhile, on the Covenant supercarrier called Sublime Transcendence, a Grunt named Kwassass stumbles upon the Huragok who are busy examining what is revealed to be Admiral Whitcomb's NOVA bomb. The Huragok unknowingly arm it after Kwassass messes with the arming device. Shortly after 'Mantakree's fleet departs for Onyx, the NOVA detonates, devastating the surface of the Covenant world, shattering its nearby moon, Malhiem, into a billion fragments, and disintegrating the Covenant armada.
Section 7: Reclaimers
The Covenant fleet and a UNSC battle group arrive at Onyx, where they encounter one another and the Sentinel defenders, which attack anything approaching the system. In the ensuing battle, the entire UNSC fleet is destroyed except the prowler Dusk, which stays hidden and observes events unfolding. The humans on Onyx head for Zone 67, where they discover an ancient Forerunner city. Pursued by the Covenant, the humans head underground, where Dr. Halsey determines that the entire planet is actually an artificial construct concealing a Forerunner "Shield World", which was constructed by the Forerunners to protect themselves from the firing of the Halo Array, which are designed to eradicate all sentient life should the Flood escape.
Fighting off determined Covenant pursuers, they press on into the heart of the planet to find its secrets, but not before the ONI AI Endless Summer communicates to Dr. Halsey the importance of shutting down a Forerunner Sentinel manufacturing facility which is producing new Sentinels at a rapid rate. After disabling the factory, the group proceeds to the location of Team Katana. They find eight slipspace field pods, five of which contain members of Katana, with the rest housing unidentified individuals. They then press on to Onyx's core, where they discover a Slipspace rift supposedly leading into the "shield world". Will-043 and Holly-G003 fall fighting off the Covenant forces, Will-043 engaging several Hunters in hand-to-hand combat before meeting his demise. Halsey, Mendez, Tom, Lucy, and the other Spartans escape, while Kurt remains behind in order to stop the Covenant from following the humans into the slipspace rift. He waits for the portal to fully close and then he lists Kurt Ambrose as MIA under SPARTAN-051 along with the other Spartans, adhering to the tradition of never listing a fallen Spartan as KIA. He ends his life responding to the Elite Fleet Master, "Die? Didn't you know?... Spartans never die," he detonates the two FENRIS nuclear warheads that the team had taken with them.
Epilogue: Shield World
From outside Onyx, the surviving UNSC prowler Dusk watches on as the planet's surface rips apart, to reveal that the entire world is constructed of literally trillions of Sentinels, all connected together to provide an impenetrable defense around the shield world at the heart of the planet. The story is concluded on the other side of the slipspace rift, which is revealed to house an immense Dyson sphere, which features terrain similar to that of Earth and is separated from normal space-time inside a compressed slipspace bubble. The survivors hold a memorial service to the fallen, and Fred-104 takes command of the remaining survivors, ordering them to move out and complete their mission of finding Forerunner artifacts and searching for a method of escape. Kelly then welcomes the Spartan-IIIs to the Blue Team, stating that they are "going to make a great team."
Critical reception to Ghosts of Onyx was mostly positive. IGN stated that it did some "pretty nifty things" and that it was "an interesting and very sneaky way to conclude a story without spoiling Halo 3's story". Arbiter's Judgment stated that it was "a grand continuation of Nylund's previous work, and if you enjoyed it then you will enjoy Ghosts of Onyx, plain and simple".
However, Subnova had reviews that were less than positive, stating that "it introduces a new character...well, 300 new characters, while incorporating no old ones, and it dizzies the reader with new facts and information". It also noted how the Master Chief and Cortana were "ignored", and only appeared in one section, rather than in the past books.
For several years, Ghosts of Onyx was one of the most popular Halo novels to have a sequel made. Frank O'Connor had hinted at the possibility of a follow-up to Ghosts of Onyx, authored by Eric Nylund. The sequel was already in talks by early 2010. The follow-up to the novel was announced on July 20, 2010, and despite the earlier talks with Nylund, it was confirmed to be written by Karen Traviss, award-winning novelist and author of the Human Weakness short story in Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe. The novel, titled Halo: Glasslands, is a direct follow-up to the story of Ghosts of Onyx, and is the first of a new series to explore the Halo universe after the events of Halo 3. It was released on October 25, 2011 on hardcover, paperback and audiobook.
Cover art artwork