I love the new map version, and I love how the perimeters have left holes in Covenant territory. It's also cool how you've integrated Loftus's proposed map of UNSC territory. If you did that on the prior versions, I hadn't noticed.
That's not something I've thought of, but I suppose it fits with my stuff considering I haven't really thought about the setting in that much detail beyond 2560. I mean, I have ideas for a few centuries going forward, but nothing too concrete or fixed. Once I've laid sufficient groundwork for the 2552-2560 era, I think I might move on to a secondary setting I have in mind in the 2610s or perhaps even a bit later. There's a lot of stuff in my fanon that is designed to set up the changing status quo in the future, and there's also a lot of ideas I have that will definitely work better when not constrained by the current endpoint of the canon timeline.
Still have a lot of work to do on the immediate post-war era, but I'm interested in hearing about this secondary setting you have in mind.
I don't have any firm plans for the status quo, except for what I outlined with Jul 'Mdama. The absolute endpoint that I have for that storyline is that, eventually, the portal to the Ark is re-opened, and the Ark is brought back online. That will eventually lead to a golden age as more portals are manufactured and installed throughout the Holy Ecumune. This removes the threat of the Halo array, as no one faction can bugger off to the Ark and wipe the galaxy clean. The Ark is also opened up to manufacturing other designs, and its production capabilities singlehandedly end the dark age that started by High Charity's fall.
I do see human space splintering into various polities sooner or later, especially with non-UEG humans gaining access to Covenant drives and/or transportation, but that development will be even more dramatic if Earth gets taken. One thing I am keeping from canon is the way the UNSC simply has no ability to project power over all its colonies anymore, let alone colonies established by colonies. I just try to do it better than the New Colonial Alliance. You'd be much more likely to have multiple smaller alliances and factions - one in the Isbanola Sector, and so forth - that could just as easily be contentious with one another as the UNSC.
Your version of ONI balancing factions off one another is also quite similar to my ideas - they tried to do that, they just weren't able to do it in such a scale suggested by Traviss and 343i, and definitely not as far away as Sanghelios. Your idea sounds like a decent compromise where the core idea is incorporated, just in a context that makes more sense.
Hah. I never even saw the similarity. I guess I rejected the whole idea out of hand because it didn't make any sense, and then wandered back to it when I realized that the UNSC has to do something about all the warlords running around in its backyard.
On a somewhat similar thread, I have some ideas about technology and trade. The UNSC needs something to offer to those warlords, and to the Arbiter as well. And... well, do you remember what Cortana did to the Ascendant Justice's plasma torpedoes? She basically reconfigured them into hyper-lethal beam weapons. And it's as simple as a software patch!
So the UNSC's allies get a major upgrade to their offensive weaponry. In exchange, the UNSC asks them to patrol certain areas and participate in offensives against rival warlords. But the UNSC has to play it safe. Once they've upgraded a Shipmaster's weapons, they have to get as much out of the deal as they can, because there's not a lot else they can offer him. And if the warlord breaks away, how do they stop him from sharing the software patch with hostile factions?
They can't. The UNSC's best scientists can encrypt the software and harden the weapon controls against intrusion, but that just makes it slightly harder for a Huragok to learn and replicate the secret. ONI reckons that the secret will slip within the decade, either through espionage or betrayal.
The UNSC needs to find something else to offer to the Covenant within that timeframe. Very likely, it won't be any one thing, but rather a package of smaller benefits like medical technology or incremental shield upgrades.
Compounding this problem is that so much is lostech. When the Gettysburg returned to Earth, the captured Huragok were split up among the leading defense programs and critical industries. Since Huragok show up on a Luminary, these sites were almost universally bombed, glassed, or raided by ground troops. The UEG's industrial base was irreparably harmed in key areas.
-The main campus of the Colorado Springs Institute for Advanced Cognitive Research was all but destroyed, along with the UNSC's capability to assemble smart AI. One surviving engineer estimates that, after certain consumables are exhausted in the next few months, the UNSC will lose the ability to manufacture new smart AI entirely.
-Many key MJOLNIR production facilities were lost as well. Existing suits will have to be repaired with existing stocks of replacement parts, although some components can still be manufactured.
-The latest generation of slipspace engine was lost along with the orbital manufacturing facilities on Mars. A cost-benefit analysis suggests that it would be cheaper to buy slipspace engines off the Covenant rather than rebuild those lost factories. More likely, though, the UEG will declare that industry to be a keystone of national security, and prioritize reconstruction.
-Exabytes of data were lost during the bombardment of Earth and Mars, and more will be lost as damaged infrastructure fails. Crash programs are on to preserve databases and servers for eventual recovery, but there is just too much to process.
-There are ripple effects from the destruction and rebuilding that will be felt throughout Human civilization. A factory that manufactured MJOLNIR visors also produced aviation sensors for Pelicans and Longswords. Another factory produced a certain fusion reactor component which can be reproduced by well-equipped machine shops. For the foreseeable future, Humanity's machines are going to be an eclectic mix of new, old, salvaged, and hand-made components.
One issue with the idea may be the impact of H2-H3 being lessened if Earth is just going to get taken over later anyway by an alien warlord, but I suppose that depends on how you look at it. Canon has certainly had its share of post-war invasions anyway, and nothing can compete with the irrelevancy of HitD's Retrievers wrecking the Home Fleet only for it to amount to absolutely nothing. Still, it does run into that issue where the focus of the conflict loops back to humans, which is something I've been trying to avoid.
I admit that is a danger. Hell, I grew sick of saving the world when Mass Effect 3 and Halo 4 made me do it twice in the same year.
Part of me just wants to see it done right. Again and again, the invasion of Earth is undermined by the fact that nothing of consequence happens. You’re right, HitD’s Retrievers are irrelevant. So was the first Battle of Earth, because 343i bent logic and established canon into a pretzel to evacuate the majority of the population and rebuild the planet in the span of four years. And the Didact’s assault was irrelevant because, well, who cares about New Pheonix? Who cares about the Prometheans?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the giants of science fiction, Niven, Pournelle, and Bear, it is this: When you destroy the world, go the whole nine yards. Don’t hit the reset button in the last chapter.
Additionally, I think both the Ark and Humanity’s connection with the Forerunner are unresolved issues, as far as the greater galaxy is concerned. The Ark is a factory as wide as Jupiter that uses an earth-sized planet for feedstock. It might still contain the keys to understanding Forerunner technology and manufacturing it on a large scale. It might also contain the history of the Forerunner Ecumune. If it is still functional, the Ark’s rediscovery may precipitate a change in the Orion Arm as radical as the industrial revolution or the information age.
Humanity’s connection to the Forerunner has all kinds of interesting and troublesome ramifications for the Covenant faith. It also presents a strategic threat to the Holy Ecumune, as Humans can activate Forerunner technology. What’s to stop Humanity, or a rogue faction, from bolting through the Voi portal and holding the galaxy hostage?
For the sake of settling these two issues, I think an invasion of Earth is warranted.
Another question I could maybe see is the reaction of the Arbiter and allied polities, and by extension their level of involvement with the UNSC at that point. I suppose the rules of realpolitik would still apply, and it's possible he was too tied up in his own turf to help, but I'm not sure if he'd be so callous as to leave Earth to its own devices after what he personally went through. It depends on the circumstances and what happened in the interim, though.
I’m sure that the Arbiter would help Earth, but there’s a difference between willing and able. By the time the Arbiter can respond to Jul ‘Mdama’s assault, Jul’s coalition should be in control of Earth.
Anyhow, that's what I have right now. Will address the rest tomorrow.