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- “We are Forerunners, guardians of all that exists. The roots of the galaxy have grown deep under our careful tending. Where there is life, the wisdom of our countless generations has saturated the soil. Our strength is a luminous sun towards which all intelligence blossoms and the impervious shelter beneath which it has prospered.”
The Forerunners (Latin Primoris Prognatus meaning "first born") were once a highly advanced and ancient Tier 1 species whose empire, the Ecumene, was spread across three million fertile worlds in the Milky Way galaxy approximately 100,000 years ago. The Forerunners were the creators and builders of many significant installations, including the Halo Array, the Ark, and the Shield Worlds, as well as numerous lesser artifacts later found on many worlds.
The Forerunners had taken up a role as custodians of the galaxy and believed that the "Mantle of Responsibility," the center of their society and culture, had been passed down to them by the Precursors, an even more powerful race that preceded the Forerunner civilization. "Forerunner" is a literal translation of the species' name for themselves; they identified themselves as such because they believed that they held an impermanent place in the universe's Living Time and that they would be succeeded by other, better races. Before their disappearance from the galaxy, the Forerunners would name humanity their successors, identifying them with the title "Reclaimer."
The alien alliance known as the Covenant worshiped the Forerunners as gods, deriving much of their technology from Forerunner artifacts found throughout the galaxy, and believing any who defaced these relics to be Heretics.
- “The Forerunners were wise, highly intelligent, noble beings and with a belief in justice, in peace, they bravely faced the adversary. They sought to sterilize it.”— Cortana on the Forerunners.
Early History and Origins
Around 15 million years BCE, the Precursors seeded the Forerunners on the world known as Ghibalb, described as a paradise, which would become their nascent homeworld. However, after the Forerunners' early experiments in stellar engineering ended in disaster, resulting in a series of novas in the Orion complex, the planet became desolate and scoured with radiation.
- Main article: Forerunner-Precursor war
Custodians of the Galaxy
The Forerunners were a very advanced civilization, coming to power after the destruction of the Precursors, who were presumed to have created the Forerunners in order to continue the Mantle of Responsibility. Soon after, the Forerunners became the dominant species in the galaxy, their empire spanning over three million fertilized and inhabited worlds. The Forerunners reached the peak of their civilization approximately 150,000 BCE.
Their civilization was based around the Mantle of Responsibility, the belief that it was the Forerunners' duty to protect all life in the galaxy. They presumably monitored the evolution of other sentient species throughout the galaxy, intervening in ways that ensured their civilizations would follow paths of peace, free of conflict. One such occasion is the devolution of the human empire to prevent further conflict emanating from what they considered a "violent species." The Forerunners themselves were a race almost entirely without conflict, and at some point in their history reached a point of disarmament, believing they no longer needed weapons in their rule of the galaxy, which ultimately weakened them when the Flood attacked.
- Main article: Forerunner-Flood war
Later in their history, Primary Pioneer Group, a Forerunner survey team searching for habitable planets landed on Seaward, designated G 617 g. When they landed, they came into contact with an extragalactic parasite known as the Flood. The group disappeared shortly after this, and communications were lost. Later, Advance Survey Team-Alpha, which was attached to the Primary Pioneer Group, was sent to investigate the disappearance of the Primary Pioneer Group on G 617 g. When they arrived on the planet, they discovered the Flood. The Forerunner-Flood war was about to begin.
After this first contact, the Forerunners failed to recognize the immediate danger that the Flood posed to the entire galaxy, and when they did eventually realize this, it was already too late to provide the containment necessary of stopping the spread. They underestimated the potential of the Flood to learn and adapt, believing it to be a non-sentient but highly contagious disease. As such, the limited attempt to contain the Flood was a failure, as the Forerunners tried methods more suited to disease control than warfare, trying to contain and quarantine the Flood rather than attack and destroy it outright. The Forerunners did not attempt a more candid and forceful form of physical warfare until later in the war, by which time it was too late.
When the Forerunners were unable to contain the Flood outbreak, the galaxy entered a state of war. During the 300 years of the conflict, the Forerunners studied the Flood in labs such as the gas mine located in the atmosphere of Threshold, looking for any exploitable weakness. As the Forerunners soon realized that conventional naval tactics were ineffective against the parasite's onslaught, they developed new weapons and tactics to combat the Flood. The Sentinels were deployed as a means of maintaining the Flood through surgical, localized tactics. The Forerunner fleet command even contemplated using naval battle groups to enact premature stellar collapse within compromised planetary systems, causing supernova to engulf entire worlds. However, as these tactics proved only to slow, but never stop the expansion of the Flood, the Forerunner leadership realized that the only way to stop the Flood was to deprive it of any and all hosts, thus eliminating its potential to grow. Eventually, the Forerunners created the Halo Array, a weapon of last resort designed to starve the Flood to death by killing all Sentient Beings with enough biomass to effectively sustain them.
Firing the Halo Array
At first, the Forerunners were reluctant to use the Array, believing that they should continue to embrace the Mantle of Responsibility and protect life rather than to destroy it. This led to great stretches of anguished debate and even civil war, but eventually, it was decided that the Array was the only means of successfully stopping the Flood threat. The Gravemind managed to convince a Contender-class AI, 05-032 032 Mendicant Bias, to unite with the Flood. Mendicant Bias soon led his massive fleet in an attack on the "Maginot Line," the final barrier between what the Forerunners could actively protect and what they were forced to cede to the Flood. At last, the Forerunners exhausted every alternative and activated the Halo Array, killing themselves and all sentient life of sufficient biomass in the Milky Way, with the exception of those species safely placed on the Ark.
According to 343 Guilty Spark, The Librarian is alive, and he knows where to find her. It has been said that the remaining Forerunners made an exodus out of the Milky Way Galaxy to which no one knows their current fate. This has also been said of the Precursors. After the Array was fired and the Flood had been eliminated, the Forerunners left behind an automated system of automatons, much like the Sentinels, and AIs to spearhead the reseeding of the galaxy with data logs, embryos, and specimens contained on Forerunner ships. The Sentinels sacrificed themselves in order to continue the planned activation of the array, with their last military presence and members of their parent species (Forerunners) defending the Ark until the Didact activated the Halo Array, cleansing the galaxy of the Flood.
The Forerunners were quite similar to humans, but also share traits with the San'Shyuum. The differences from either of these species is that Forerunners have a pale complexion and black sclera. As the Librarian and the Didact are Forerunners, a more accurate description can be drawn from them. Generally, all Forerunner were upright bipeds with two legs.
Forerunner customs required that they wear armor or combat skins at all times. Forerunner-manufactured armor protects its user both physically and medically, and impacts some of their biological attributes both positively and negatively, such as increased age/extended life among other races.
There were six known rates: the Lifeworkers, the Warrior-Servants, the Builders, the Miners, the Engineers and the Juridicals. Manipulars were juvenile Forerunners not yet mutated into a rate. Theoreticals were a rate of scientists that were dissolved after the Human-Forerunner war. Counting the Theoreticals, there were a total of seven rates.
The Forerunners appeared to be genetically related to the humans, possibly as they were both creations of the Precursors. This can be corroborated by the Iris Server-05 message about the humans providing "answers" to the Forerunner's own "mysteries," and 032 Mendicant Bias's own declaration in Halo: Contact Harvest. This also explains why the Prophets ordered the Covenant to exterminate humanity, knowing that they are the Forerunner's designated heirs and would undermine their power. Halo 3 and the Halo Encyclopedia provided further evidence of this as well.
Forerunner technology was highly cultivated and progressive. They managed to create solidified surfaces out of meticulous energy, construct a Halo-wide teleportation grid, and create and utilize a number of other advanced machinery. Forerunner machinery consists of many sharp angles of a metallic like crystal reinforced on a molecular level. The Halo rings themselves, the Micro-Dyson Mark II sphere, which is connected through a portal to the shield world Onyx and the Ark, are above all others, the most significant pieces of Forerunner technology. The planet Onyx in particular demonstrates both their ability for engineering on a grand scale, and their near transcendent grasp of slipspace technology. The Forerunners can also "devolve" a species back to a primitive state. It is unknown how much of their technology is based on the technology of the Precursors, if any.
Covenant Luminaries (which are actually stolen Forerunner equipment designed to detect other Forerunner objects) can detect Humans, previously mislabeled as "Forerunner Artifacts," leading to the initial Human-Covenant contact which sparked a seemingly endless war.
The Forerunners have thus far created a species: the Huragok. They are also known to have manipulated the genetics of other races such as the Thanolekgolo. Forerunners have the technology to reproduce entire individuals from encoded DNA/RNA/silicon samples in data streams.
Forerunner constructs and sentries use a broad variety of weapons, typically high-powered energy beams and hard light weapons. These weapons proved to be very effective when battling the Flood, burning Flood forms to the point that they cannot be revived by their compatriots. The Forerunners have also proven to be able to merge beams together into one stream to amplify its power. The Forerunners installed and constructed these intricate beam weapons inside their paradigm Arrays which allowed them to build an army of machines to battle the Flood without sending any Forerunner to the front lines. Forerunners evidently made active use of plasma weaponry as well; the Covenant's own weapons and technology are likely based on Forerunner artifacts.
The Sentinels wield orange-colored directed energy beams, used primarily for fighting the Flood. Sentinel Majors however, have a more powerful and accurate version of the beam, which sports superior energy output, at the cost of overheating issues. These more advanced energy beams are colored blue. All variants of these Sentinel Beams can be wielded by Humans and certain Covenant races.
Meanwhile, Enforcers are equipped with multiple packs of small grenades, or mortar-like explosives launched over the top of their shield. The Enforcer also boasts a pair of Pulse beams, which fire clusters of smaller red Needle-like projectiles or bolts of energy at an incredibly high rate of fire. These pulse beams are primarily used against infantry at close range. These mammoth constructs also are capable of lifting heavy armored vehicles, using some sort of magnetic or anti-gravity grapple, before crushing the target between their massive 'arms'. The Constructors' repair beam can also be considered a weapon, but with minimal damage output.
The Sentinels of Onyx had significantly more powerful weaponry. They were described to be a sphere surrounded by three floating "booms" or small pieces of armor that possessed powerful energy shields which would suddenly "pop" into place in order to deflect objects moving at high velocities. Their shields are not activated by slow-moving objects, however - Team Saber used this to their advantage to destroy one of the Sentinels with rocks. Their energy weapons are described as a single, slow-charging, golden beam that could melt straight through the SPI armor of the Spartan-IIIs. Linda-058 had also noted that one blast from these weapons was enough to drain the shields of her MJOLNIR Mk V armor. The Onyx Sentinels also have the ability to combine for different purposes, such as exponentially increasing their combat capabilities, or for large-scale excavation. One formation of these combined Sentinels was able to easily destroy two Covenant destroyers. However, it should be noted that the second Covenant Destroyer was caught off guard after a Slipspace jump, and the first one had its energy shields down in a gesture of peace, trying to initiate contact with the Forerunner constructs.
The Forerunners also constructed Automated Turrets that fire blue beams similar to those of Sentinel Majors. These turrets themselves resemble stripped-down Sentinels, and hover in mid-air, tracking enemy targets, but are otherwise immobile.
In Halo 3, it seemed that even the Monitors had the ability to defend themselves against the Flood using a focused beam similar to the Sentinel's beam, but much more powerful. 343 Guilty Spark displayed this ability during the Halo 3 missions: Floodgate, The Covenant, and Halo. The weapon was capable of draining the shields of a Spartan-II in one short-duration blast, and mortally wounding Sergeant Major Avery Johnson. It is also quite odd and puzzling as to why 2401 Penitent Tangent didn't use this ability against the Gravemind in Halo 2. It is assumed that the Gravemind is likely to have damaged 2401 Penitent Tangent when he captured the Monitor, disabling its beam weaponry. It could simply be that it was not equipped with one, although this is highly unlikely due to the importance of the monitors to ensure the Halo installation's upkeep.
In addition, the Forerunners also developed a number of hand-held weapons for use by infantry. These weapons included the Z-110 Directed Energy Pistol/Exotic, the Z-130 Directed Energy Automatic Weapon, the Z-180 Close Combat Rifle/Asymmetric Engagement Mitigator, the Z-250 Directed Energy Engagement Weapon, the Z-750 Special Application Sniper Rifle, the Z-390 High-Explosive Munitions Rifle, and the Z-040 Attenuation Field Generator/Localized.
Composers, devices that convert organic matter to digital information, could be used as weapons by the Forerunners as well.
- Main article: Forerunner Armor
The Forerunner had their own style of armor, simply called Forerunner Armor, as well as a completely different type of apparel known as Combat Skin.
Forerunner armor suits were equipped with ancillas, personal artificial intelligence constructs which interfaced directly with the wearer's mind. The ancilla stored and collated information recorded by the armor and the wearer's own sensory data, which could both be accessed later, significantly enhancing a Forerunner's already accurate memory. In addition to their own stores of knowledge, a personal ancilla could connect to a network, such as that of a starship, and provide information for the wearer at will. However, the information one could access was limited based on their position. Personal armor also allowed mature Forerunners to connect to the Domain. Armor also acted as a sophisticated mind-machine interface; for example, individuals could navigate a starship via their armor, sometimes with more than one Forerunner linked to one another in synchrony.
The armor eliminated a Forerunner's natural need to sleep, artificially managing the functions normally taken care of by sleeping and allowing a constant continuity of consciousness without side effects. This gave Forerunners more time for their daily activities and meditation. Forerunners did still rarely experience diagnostic waking dreams induced by the armor for "housekeeping" purposes. The armor was integrated with the wearer's mind to the point that in cases of psychologically harmful experiences, the armor could selectively purge specific memories. In the event of extreme mental damage, the armor could "reset" the owner's brain to a stable state. However, this process could potentially result in complications.
Forerunners could transfer enormous amounts of information to one another through the armor at the touch of each other's fingertips, and could engage in secure "silent conversation" by linking hands. Forerunners of higher forms, namely Promethean commanders, were capable simultaneously processing the collective sensory experience of thousands of individuals, relayed through their armor. The armor's sensor equipment greatly amplified a Forerunner's senses, and could even substitute natural vision altogether, such as in the case of Bitterness-of-the-Vanquished, who, despite her blindness, received visual sensory input from her armor.
Personal armor granted its wearer immunity to most diseases. In emergency situations, the armor could suspend its user until they were rescued, and even provide nourishment for a time. Most Forerunner armor was capable of keeping the wearer alive for years without outside influences. If operational, the armor would also preserve the wearer's body after death. Impressions of the wearer's consciousness were also stored in the armor in the rare event of death; traditionally, this essence would be placed into a timelocked Durance. Forerunner armor also served as a powered exoskeleton, assisting or enhancing the wearer's movement. Personal armor was sealed against vacuum or the lack of atmosphere. Most if not all Forerunner armor possessed N-barriers and a system involving lenses to protect the user from harm.
In some cases, personal armor could be configured to make its wearer hover some distance over the ground as opposed to walking. Lifeworkers and Warrior-Servants have been observed using this capability. The specific features contained by a Forerunner's armor also varied according to their rate and task; for example, Lifeworker armor contained a wide array of equipment related to medicine and biological research, while armor used by Warrior-Servants was designed with combat and warfare in mind. One notable attribute of Warrior armor was its ability to attune itself to specific forms of attack.
Though the body armor provided the user with certain advantages, it also caused the user to lose sensitivity to the world around them. For example, when Bornstellar Makes Eternal Lasting decided to remove his body armor on Earth, he found himself exceedingly vulnerable; a simple touch from Chakas caused a strong reaction. Since Forerunners also relied on the armor to keep track of minute details in their surroundings, supposedly allowing them to occupy their minds with more sophisticated thoughts, a Forerunner deprived of their armor might find their powers of observation significantly reduced, particularly in an unfamiliar environment.
The Forerunner also possessed advanced information technologies. The Domain was a massive network that the Forerunner used to keep track of all knowledge and information. The Z-9930 Information Vector Console, also known as a Terminal, was an interface device.
- Main article: Astroengineering
While the Forerunners' architectural and technological prowess is legendary among the Covenant and UNSC, their masterpieces also extended to the fields of stellar engineering. At least five Forerunner sites, the Shield 0459, Onyx, Requiem, the Ark, and the Micro Dyson Sphere that holds the Apex, made use of suns where none should exist. The Shield World existed permanently in slipspace, where solar systems outside of a Dyson Sphere cannot exist, and the Ark was located far outside of the galaxy where galactic material would have been insufficient to form the sun that illuminates the Ark. The sun at the center of the Dyson Sphere where the Apex was housed was abnormally small, in order to accommodate the planet-sized Dyson Sphere. Whether these suns are artificially engineered or simply moved from another star system by the Forerunners is unknown: either would have been an enormous technological achievement.
Another known Shield World is the planet discovered by the UNSC Spirit of Fire. This world had an outer crust like Onyx, but its inner Dyson sphere was accessed through a long narrow tunnel hidden under one of the planet's oceans. Once through the tunnel, the Spirit of Fire had to pass through several "cleansing rings" in order to make it to the center of the planet. This Dyson sphere, unlike the Onyx Dyson sphere, was not separated in slipspace but was actually constructed on what appeared to be the hollowed out interior of the planet. This sphere seemed to have had an artificially created sun like the one on the Ark.
The Ark has a "flower head" shape.
Art and Architecture
Forerunner architecture is noted mainly for being large-scale and geometric in style, with a semi-triangular theme being the most commonly observed design. The Forerunners were highly skilled at creating natural-looking habitats, such as those of the Halo rings, which tend to be very elaborate, with numerous extrapolations of the basic design of a construct appearing to be purely decorative. In addition, the structures were engineered to compliment the natural landscape, as opposed to the modern idea of replacing it. That said, their distinctive beauty are not restricted to Halo Array network. The Aztec-esque stones of Cote D'Azur, the arches and weathered inscriptions of Sigma Octanus IV, the intricate caverns and three-kilometer holographic dome beneath ONI's Reach complex, the ancient stepping-stones of the Unggoy's homeworld, and the Forerunner City discovered in the depths of the human-inhabited Onyx, all display the Forerunner's innovative architectures.
Most Forerunner architecture is constructed with a special type of metal that resists deterioration, bullets, plasma bolts and fire, as made evident by Forerunner structures standing in pristine condition 100,000-150,500 years after they were built. However their resistance to plasma fire is limited; in Halo: Ghosts of Onyx the Sangheili blasted a hole in a Forerunner wall with plasma weapons. In Halo 2, Sgt. Avery Johnson destroyed the door to the control room of Delta Halo with a Scarab. It should also be noted that the Flood attempted to melt a metal gate in a tunnel using Covenant weapons in order to attack UNSC troops on Installation 04. Other structures are constructed out of traditional materials, such as chalcedonic quartz, which does not preserve nearly so well. These structures employ complex geometric shapes that appear to operate in dimensions higher than human understanding can comprehend. The Forerunners also decorated the interiors of their structures with a complex web of engraved straight lines and applied decorative touches and designs to nearly everything that they built, from structures to weapons. Even the Sentinel robotic drones possess small holographic Forerunner script around their "eyes."
Forerunner architecture distinguishes itself from Covenant structures in that they incorporate heavy use of geometric angles, usually at either extremely sharp degrees (as the Forerunner buildings are usually triangular), or at forty-five degree angles, most notably seen in Halo: Combat Evolved . Originally, the ideas and concepts on Forerunner structures and technology was that it would be sleek and curved to give it an advanced feel. However, Bungie wanted the structures to feel as if they could stand the test of time and redesigned them to be solid and monolithic. The smooth, near-organic design would later be adopted by the Covenant in their architecture, although they did not adopt the Forerunner tradition of decorating their structures with glyphs. In Halo Wars, the Forerunner counting system is used to open and close portals on the last level.
Forerunner Glyphs and Symbols
- Main article: List of Forerunner Symbols
The Forerunner glyphs seem to be based on a series of circular, complex shapes. The glyphs have been inscribed almost everywhere Forerunners were once present, from different areas on Earth, to the Halos. They were also known to inscribe these glyphs and symbols onto their weapons, machinery, and clothing; a practice that the Covenant also copied, evident with the Forerunner symbols placed on the hilt of the Energy Sword and on the Sangheili Combat Harness. The only Forerunner glyph that has been translated is the "reclaimer" symbol, which also happens to be the logo of the Marathon series and a recurring image in the Halo universe. Though it was originally misinterpreted by the Covenant to mean "reclamation"; this mistake was brought to light by the fragment of 032 Mendicant Bias aboard the Forerunner Dreadnought that was located inside of High Charity at the time.
The Covenant consider the Forerunners to be gods and referred to them as "the Ancients." The Covenant believed that the Forerunners disappeared from the galaxy after the Halo Array elevated the Forerunner to a state of trans-sentient godhood. As such, the Covenant have sought after and appropriated many Forerunner technologies and artifacts; these searches led to the Covenant discovering the human colony of Harvest, leading directly to the Human-Covenant war. The most holy of these artifacts, the Sacred Rings or Halo Installations, were seen as the means by which the Forerunners ascended into divinity. The Covenant believed themselves to be the chosen inheritors of the Forerunners' legacy, and by locating and activating the Halo Array, the Covenant believed that they too could follow the Forerunners into godhood. This is referred to as the "Great Journey" by the Covenant races. After the fragmentation of the Covenant some Sangheili no longer believed of the Forerunners godlike status, questioning how they could wipe themselves from existence and the true meaning of their structures.
- The Forerunners were the main focus of the alternate reality game, Iris.
- Forerunner is also a rank in Halo: Reach.
- Forerunners have a significant appearance in Halo 4, particularly the Ur-Didact, who served as the game's main antagonist.
- The Forerunners upheld the Mantle and therefore only ate a vegetarian diet, as it was against their beliefs of the Mantle to harm other living beings.
- The Ur-Didact and the Librarian are the first Forerunners to be seen not wearing a mask or helmet.
- Halo Waypoint, Universe - Species - Forerunner
- Halo: Cryptum - page 76
- Halo 4 - Epilogue (Halo 4)
- Halo 3 Limited and Legendary Edition - Bestiarum
- Forerunners on Halo Waypoint
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 164
- Halo: Cryptum - page 9
- Halo: Cryptum - Epilogue
- Halo: Cryptum - page 31
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 14
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 224
- Halo: Cryptum - page 222
- Halo 2 - The Great Journey
- Halo 3 - Terminal Six
- Ascendant Justice's analysis on the terminals - Voice From The Tomb
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 169
- Halo: Combat Evolved - 343 Guilty Spark
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 172
- Halo: Cryptum - page 11
- Bestiarum: "DNA/RNA/Silicon samples are encoded in this data stream. Reproduction of individuals for analysis is prohibited by this facility."
- Halo: Ghosts of Onyx - page ???
- Halo Legends - Origins
- Halo 4 Weaponry
- Halo: Cryptum - page 13
- Halo: Cryptum - page 167
- Halo 4: The Essential Visual Guide - page 129
- Halo 3 - The Ark, Halo
- Halostory.bungie.org - Forerunner symbols
- Ascendant Justice - A Comprehensive Research over the Forerunners