Soma the Painter
Soma the Painter is a short story exclusive to the separate Volume I edition of Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe. It takes the point of view of Soma, a Forerunner inhabitant of Seaward, as she experiences the first sighting of the Flood in the Milky Way since the human-Forerunner wars.
The short story begins with the Forerunner Soma waiting for the sunset on the planet of Seaward. It is explained that all the Forerunners on Seaward live with only the basics of technology and live a relatively primitive lifestyle. Personal armor, starships, and communications are either not used or use to only a very limited extent. Most of the planet's residents, including Soma, live in the small community settlement of Wharftown. Located on the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, Seaward is designated uninhabitable and was only open to extremely wealthy individuals or high-ranking politicians.
As the sunset begins, Soma begins to paint it with her jetbrush. She captures the unique optical effect caused by its two suns, called Twofire. As the jetbrush automatically paints on her glass easel, Soma notices that it has made an error: drawing a dark gray streak in the sky, with a sickly trail of yellow smoke following it. Upon looking up at the sky, she notices that the object on her easel is in fact in the sky. As the object moves towards the horizon, she packs up her equipment and returns to Wharftown, realizing that something is wrong.
Some time later, the Auditor receives a report from the Prelate detailing the events, recorded by an automated monitoring system spanning the Forerunners' ecumene and employing a variety of devices: a trade beacon, a medical station, and Soma's jetbrush. Unaware of the true danger, only a transorbital balloon is initially sent to Seaward to give supplies to the damaged medical center. The two Forerunners decide to inform the Didact of the event, claiming that their "test has come".
Halo: Cryptum reveals that the Didact was not awakened from exile until the last decade of the Forerunner-Flood war, meaning the Auditor and the Prelate could not have informed him of the Flood's return for roughly 300 years.
- ^ Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, Soma the Painter