Today on Halo 101 I, Dab1001, am privileged enough to be back, penning a second article. This time, we're talking locations as we take a look at the setting for what I think are some of the highest points of the Halo franchise: New Mombasa.
While titled "New" Mombasa, the city seen in 2552 is actually just the result of centuries of expansion upon the modern-day city of Mombasa, in Kenya. Having been an important port to trade routes through Indian Ocean for centuries, the city changed hands several times during the colonial era with both the British and the Portuguese having claimed ownership of it at one point or another. By the dawn of the 21st century, Mombasa had garnered popularity as a bustling tourist attraction, while also retaining its reputation as a vital port city.
Skipping ahead three centuries, Mombasa was more important than ever - in fact, it had was the busiest ports on the planet. It was due to this, and the region's economic stability, that in 2302 the city was selected to be the first city on Earth to house a space tether; a giant elevator designed to ferry people and property from the surface of the planet to high orbit, where it could more easily be collected by ships. Now being the cheapest way to transport goods on and off planet, Mombasa experienced an era of unrivaled prosperity. Urban sprawl caused the city to expand outwards, covering the entirety of Mombasa Island and much of the surrounding mainland. Many nearby settlements were engulfed by the expansion, becoming part of the city itself.
By 2552, the city was a giant metropolis, complete with its own MagLev Train system, Superintendent AI to monitor infrastructure, and even an impressive, mile-long suspension bridge connecting the island to the mainland. The city center on the island where the original city of Mombasa was located had become known as New Mombasa, and was essentially the business district, housing the local headquarters of many corporations which spanned Humanity's interstellar empire. The rest of the city, located on the mainland, was home to older low-rise buildings, for residential and industrial purposes.
- “This is the only place on Earth the Covenant decided to land. That Prophet is going to tell us why...”
Though New Mombasa had enjoyed centuries of good fortune, those times were about to come to an end. On the 20th of October 2552, a small Covenant fleet - the Fleet of Sacred Consecration, led by the Prophet of Regret - exited slipspace just outside the range of Earth's defences. Despite not having been expecting resistance, the fleet engaged the UNSC Home Fleet and a single CAS-class Assault Carrier, Regret's own flagship: the Solemn Penance, managed to break through the UNSC line.
Strangely, the vessel made a bee-line for New Mombasa and settled above the city, deploying troops to the surface. None of the Covenant seemed at all remotely interested in any other parts of the planet, and in fact, New Mombasa would remain the only place attacked by the Covenant until after the Prophet of Regret had retreated and a second fleet arrived, this one sent by the Prophet of Truth.
- “You’re [...] transported a little bit further back in time, to the day before, but to a whole different world.”— Joseph Staten, describing the Audio Logs which make up Sadie's Story.
Sadie Endesha was a young woman living in New Mombasa and the daughter of Dr Daniel Endesha, the scientist responsible for the maintenance of the Superintendent AI. Her mother, a defence attorney, was killed by a client when Sadie was very young. This unfortunate event prompted Dr Endesha to write Vergil, a subroutine in the Superintendent AI, with the purpose of watching over his daughter, as he rarely had the time to do so himself.
On the fateful day of the Covenant invasion, Sadie Endesha was traveling via train to Magongo, with the intention of enlisting into the UNSC. Vergil deemed this to be too dangerous, though, and so stopped the train to protect her. This prompted a heated debate between the AI and its protectee. However the argument was interrupted when the Solemn Penance arrived overhead. She hastily contacted her father, who adamantly refused to leave the city center, due to having discovered, through a seismic survey, the Covenant's objective in invading Earth: a giant Forerunner structure buried deep beneath the city. Due to her father's insistence on staying-put, Sadie instead elected to go to him instead.
Moments after ending her call to her father, she was "rescued" from a Covenant Wraith by Commissioner Kinsler, only to discover that he intended to rape her, saying that "It's the end of the world! Nobody cares what happens to one lost soul..." Luckily for Sadie, this statement turned out to be false as his driver, Officer Mike Branley, seemed to care. Branley intervened by pulling his superior officer out of the car, and left him at the side of the road. Sadie and Mike's newfound friendship didn't last long, however, as Sadie insisted on returning to save her father. Naturally, Mike didn't want to go to the city center, lest he be killed in the crossfire of the battle. Eventually, after arguing the point for a while, Sadie disembarked from the car, opting to reach the city center by foot.
After venturing further into the city (and meeting a jolly butcher known as Jonas on the way), Sadie found herself once again in peril, as she was cornered by a pack of Brutes. Fortunately, Officer Branley returned to rescue her in the nick of time, splattering her attackers. Reluctantly, Mike then agreed to go with her to the ONI building in the city center and rescue her father. On their journey, they met several people such as Tom Uberti, Marshall Glick and Stephen as well as having several close calls with the Covenant, Commissioner Kinsler and some hostile Mombasa citizens.
Near the end of their travels, the pair found themselves at the NMPD Headquarters, where Commissioner Kinsler contacted them with an ultimatum: Sadie would meet Kinsler at Kikowani Station, alone, or he would flood Vergil's data center with argon, killing her father, Dr Endesha. When Sadie complied, Kinsler revealed that he had in fact killed Dr Endesha hours ago, and forced Sadie to board his private train, headed out of the city. However, Sadie had one last trick up her sleeve: she ordered Vergil to open the train doors just as Mike rallied the angry mob swarming to get aboard the private transport. The mob showed as little mercy to Kinsler as Kinsler had shown to Dr Endesha.
Finally, when it seemed like they were home-free, Sadie still insisted on returning to the city center, this time in search of Vergil, citing that it was all she had left of Mombasa and of her father. Vergil used snippets of conversations with all the people Sadie had met along the way to dissuade her from staying in the city. Disheartened and distraught but with Mike there for support, Sadie complied with Vergil's pleas and boarded the train. As it departed from the station with a whistle, Vergil announced the train's destination, bringing the story full circle: "Makupa, Nairobi Road, Hope Station... And beyond".
Hunting the Truth behind the Invasion
- “What will it matter? This is the first day of the end of the world...”— Benjamin Giraud, fretting that the end may be upon humanity.
Dr. Daniel Endesha was not the only person to discover the Covenant's ulterior motive behind their peculiar attack strategy. Journalist Benjamin Giraud of HUNTtheTRUTH fame also stumbled onto that secret, as he attempted to escape the doomed city. Similar to Sadie, Giraud was on board a train mid-commute when the Covenant attacked. Panic ensued, and Giraud's train was struck by falling debris, knocking the journalist unconscious.
When he awoke, he found himself in a hospital in the midst of the Covenant ground assault. During the battle, Giraud was able to translate the speech of an Elite to English, uncovering the following message: "We need to clear this area before we can secure access to the Ark." This realisation shed new light on the Covenant's purpose on Earth and their odd strategies, and so a Marine officer ordered Giraud to deliver the intel to HIGHCOM.
Giraud quickly proceeded to the waterfront, hoping to find a functioning craft with which to escape the island. However, to his dismay, he found the waterfront packed full of panicked civilians, fleeing on everything that floats. It dawned on him that it would be nearly impossible for him to get on board any of the watercraft, in the current situation. So, instead, he entrusted the recording to a young child, and escorted her to a boat, sending her off in the hope that she could make the information known.
- “Dear Humanity... We regret being alien bastards. We regret comin' to Earth. And we most definitely regret that the Corps just blew up our raggedy-ass fleet!”— Sgt. Johnson, during one of his many speeches.
The UNSC's response to the Covenant invasion of New Mombasa was swift. With Commander Miranda Keyes at the helm, the UNSC In Amber Clad held position a few hundred meters off the ground just outside of the city, and deployed a trio of Pelicans, each containing a squad of ODSTs. One Pelican also carried Sergeant Johnson and Master Chief, while Sergeant Stacker was aboard another. Their mission: fight through the city, capture the Prophet of Regret for interrogation.
However, the Pelicans were ambushed by a Protos Scarab, which destroyed one and heavily damaged the other two, causing them to crash. Having survived the crash, the Master Chief, with a number of ODSTs in tow, pushed through the tight alleys of Old Mombasa, to Hotel Zanzibar where the survivors of the second crashed Pelican awaited him. Once he'd linked up with the second squad, he proceeded to the suspension bridge connecting Old Mombasa to New Mombasa, clearing the area of Covenant as he went. At the base of the bridge, Sergeant Johnson delivered him a Scorpion, which he used to pursue the Scarab that'd shot his Pelican down across the bridge, and into New Mombasa.
Upon reaching the makeshift UNSC command post set up at Palace Hotel, the Master Chief, John-117, spied Lieutenant Parisa holding a personal photograph. The Spartan intended to remind her that personal effects were forbidden in combat zones, however he was taken aback when he saw that the photograph contained his own younger self. Not knowing that she was in fact talking to the very friend she was describing, Parisa explained the story behind the photograph to John. Despite a rush of emotion, the Master Chief opted not to reveal his identity to her, lest it expose the dark truth behind the SPARTAN-II Program.
Following his reunion with Parisa, the Scarab entered the plaza opposite where Parisa, her Marine company and the Master Chief were holed-up. After destroying a Scorpion tank that'd made a vain attempt to fight back, the Scarab proceeded to scale the makeshift UNSC camp, and head toward the space tether. However, in doing, it accidentally trapped itself in a canal, allowing the Master Chief to board it and eliminate its crew, rendering it harmless.
- “The Conduit could open Forerunner portals across the galaxy...”— Roland, musing on the Conduit and its inherent power.
The Covenant not only came in search of a Forerunner artifact, but they also brought one with them: the Conduit, a device capable of opening a portal to anywhere in the galaxy. In a stroke of bad luck for the Covenant, the UNSC caught wind of the Conduit when a data pad making reference to it was recovered by an ODST squad. This same squad was then deployed to secure the Conduit, which they did successfully. Commandeering a Warthog, they intended to drive out of the city, to safety. However, they never made it out, due to the events that followed.
Hitchhikers May Be Escaped Convicts
- “That's right, you mothers, Run!”— Johnson, celebrating when the Solemn Penance prepares to jump to slispace, fleeing the battle.
Following the destruction of the Scarab at the hands of the Demon, the Covenant elected to retreat. Seeing as the presence of humans had denied them access to the Ark, the Solemn Penance prepared to instead jump to Delta Halo, whose location they'd learned from a Luminary found on Meridian. Some Covenant forces were lucky enough to make it back to the assault carrier, but many were abandoned on Earth. Unbeknownst to the carrier, though, they had hitchhikers.
Miranda Keyes, oftentimes referred to as "the ballsiest officer in the Fleet", lived up to her reputation here when she ordered the In Amber Clad, to pursue the Solemn Penance through its own slipspace portal. She, along with Johnson, Stacker, the Master Chief and all the rest aboard the vessel would go on to fight in the Battle of Installation 05, ultimately assassinating the Prophet of Regret, preventing the activation of the Halo Array and in doing saving all sentient life in the galaxy.
Back on Earth, however, things were not going as well. The in-atmosphere slipspace rupture brought a large chunk of the city through slipspace with it, and also sent out an electromagnetic pulse, wreaking havoc with all electrical equipment for miles around. The ODSTs evacuating with the Conduit were among those unfortunate enough to be dragged through the rupture, and the EMP caused the deaths of many more Helljumpers who were in the process of dropping from orbit.
- “The Covenant have found Earth. They own New Mombasa. Anyone that could've driven them off is dead or gone. I'd say that makes for desperate times... Me and my team? Guess we're the desperate measures.”— Edward Buck, describing Alpha-Nine.
Though most of their hope was riding on the Master Chief's mission to capture the Prophet of Regret, the UNSC was by no means idle in that time. Instead, they had prepared a backup plan: dozens of ODSTs lay in wait on the UNSC Say My Name, ready to enter their Drop Pods and drop feet-first onto the hull. From there, they would board the vessel and take it down from the inside.
Alpha-Nine, composed of Edward "Gunny" Buck, Kojo "Romeo" Agu, Taylor "Dutch" Miles, Michael "Mickey" Crespo and J.D. "Rookie", was one such ODST team. Only minutes before their deployment, however, Captain Veronica Dare of ONI requisitioned their squad to perform her own mission - though she wasn't particularly obliged to share it with the people meant to carry it out. This sudden turn of events was unpopular with the troopers, but ultimately ended up saving their lives.
Mere moments after Alpha-Nine's pods were released by the Say My Name, the Solemn Penance began preparations to jump to slipspace. All the other ODSTs whose target was the Penance were caught in the rupture, but Dare's alterations to Alpha-Nine's trajectory saved them from the blast. Still, their pods were all hit by the EMP, causing them to lose power and hence control over their descent. Mickey's pod slammed into the Rookie's, whose pod then began to spiral as it plummeted to the ground. Upon impact, the Rookie was instantly knocked unconscious.
Awakening six hours later, the Rookie found himself alone, in an enemy-occupied night-time city. After wandering around the city for hours, he was eventually able to piece together what'd happened in his absence, through clues he was guided to by Vergil, who remained functioning, albeit barely. First, he came across the damaged helmet of Dare, most likely presuming her dead just as Buck had several hours earlier. Next he was guided to the remains of a Wombat drone, which had taken a recording of Dutch's crash site a quarter of an hour after the drop.
He continued to follow the trail set out by Vergil. It led him to a damaged Gauss Turret used by Marines in defence of their rally point, then to a detonator for M168 Demolition Charges, which Dutch and Mickey used to cut off the Covenant's route to ONI Alpha Site. Following that, the Rookie found Romeo's sniper, battered and bent into a U-shape from a fight with a Brute Chieftain and later a canister of biofoam used to treat the wounds Romeo had sustained in said fight.
Next, instead of another clue, the Rookie overheard a distress call from Dare, who apparently had not been killed in her pod, but instead led underground by a Huragok. He promptly descended into the tunnels below the city, heading for Dare at sub-level nine. Along the way, he met a single NMPD officer in search of his team, who aided him in reaching sub-level nine. However, upon arriving at the ninth level, the officer unexpectedly asked the Rookie to hold position for a moment, while he checked on "something". After waiting for some time, the Rookie eventually followed the officer into the room, where he discovered that the officer had in fact been sent by Kinsler to ensure Dr Endesha had in fact been killed by the argon gas, as planned. To hide this fact, the officer attempted to murder the Rookie, but found he was no match for a fully trained ODST.
After the corrupt cop had been dealt with, the Rookie finally located Dare, who had apparently been expecting Buck. The two proceeded to Vergil's data center, in order to complete their actual mission: retrieve the data about the Covenant's motive in attacking Mombasa, that Dr Endesha had discovered the day before. Upon reaching the data center though, they instead found that a Huragok, Quick to Adjust, had attempted to fix the Vergil by combining the subroutine's data with its own.
It was at that moment that Buck returned, having stolen a Phantom with the help of Mickey. The three now-reunited ODSTs escorted Quick to Adjust out of the tunnels and down the Waterfront Highway, while dozens of Covenant ships arrived out of slipspace to glass the city and uncover the Forerunner artifact beneath. Eventually, they reached the entrance of the Uplift Nature Reserve, where Mickey, Dutch and Romeo picked them up in the Phantom, reuniting all members of Alpha Nine.
Fleeing the razed city in their stolen Phantom, the troopers knew that although the Covenant may have won the battle, they'd secured the intel that could win them the war.
Rebuilding and Resettling
- “As we start to rebuild, this hillside will remain barren; a memorial to heroes fallen.”— Lord Hood, at the Hillside Memorial in the nearby city of Voi.
Sadly, the city was razed to the point that there was almost nothing left, during the Covenant occupation. Nonetheless, a plan titled Project Rebirth was conceived for its reconstruction following the war. As well as outlining how the city itself should be rebuilt, Project Rebirth also suggested a memorial park be constructed on the site of Mombasa's previous city hall, dedicated in the memory of all those lost during the Battle of Mombasa.
It's been a pleasure to pen this article, as I've gotten to write in detail about a couple of my favourite games of all time, and I certainly hope you've enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed making it. Next time, Wilc0 will be back to talk about Mjolnir Armour. See you then!