Halo 4, is thus-far the narrative masterpiece within the universe's extensive collection of stories. There are many reasons for this assertion, many of which I have already gone over in great detail. However, there is one motif which towers above the rest in terms of meaningful characterization within the Halo universe. The surprisingly deep and meaningful connection between the Didact and John-117.
Imagine, for a moment, you are gazing outwards into the galactic plain from the Forerunner capital city of Meathrillian. A trillion souls rest in your hands, in your ability to protect every last one of them from an enemy which has no discernible weakness. You know it will end, you just refuse to believe the future which now lays before you. And in a single moment, time slowly closes around you. Your memories stripped, your civilization, your culture and all which you have loved are forgotten, washed away on the shores of infinity. You are the Didact, the last Forerunner. Awoken a hundred thousands years later, and all is lost.
Now imagine you are John-117. You have no recollection of your childhood, did you even have one to begin with? You were trained for endless combat before even reaching the age of ten. The few comrades you did find within the prison of war, have long since perished. Your closest friends, only a memory now. Your only companion, sacrificed herself so that you may live on. A burden which weighs heavily on you. And now those sacrifices seem meaningless, for a new war rises from the ashes of victory. You wonder if it will ever end. You ask yourself, are you but a machine of war, is there a shred of humanity left within your cracked and blasted armor? Or are you hardware, a tool?
Two souls, separated by a hundred thousand years. At odds against one another, but fighting for the exact same outcome. Salvation. Take the hand of destiny, let go, and find yourself within the waters of restitution.
Sea of Agony - The Didact
The Diadact is the character who has, quite frankly, established the Halo franchise a a work of legitimate science fiction space opera. You can, for certain, say that the core narrative and themes of the franchise always held legitimacy, but you can't say they have had the meaningful depth of characterization and story-telling until the Halo 4 era. Most of that is due, in large part to Greg Bear's masterful ability to create a self-contained universe within Halo to flesh out both the Forerunners and the Didact. Which, on a side note, gives credence to my assertion that 343 Industries needs to hire a capable academic writer to tie the universe together in a more meaningful and thorough fashion.
To gain a better look at the Didact, I need to delve into The Forerunner Trilogy of novels themselves to thoroughly, and more completely, peel back the layers of his character.
Re-reading the Forerunner trilogy several weeks ago, I came to wonder, did the Didact (Ur) truly realize, or accept, that the time of the Forerunners was nearing an end? In the millennium leading up to the firing of the Halo array, he seemed to have an almost passive attitude despite his knowledge of The Flood's eventual return. Speaking to Bornstellar, a young Forerunner who would soon bear the Didacts essence, he spoke of power and greatness as the catalyst to defeat.
"Greatness and power are often allied with defeat. It is how civilizations are shaped—some ideas prosper, others die. The quality of the ideas has little to do with the outcome. It is personalities that matter. Pay attention to those around you." - Cryptum 
This suggests a willingness to accept that perhaps, The Forerunners would not be around indefinitely. A stark contrast from the Didact we see in Halo 4, who commands the power of Forerunner Prometheans in awesome form to assert his specie's dominance. I can only begin to wonder what changed between his stoic composure and his isolation within his Cryptum. You can blame said shifts on the Librarian's inability to ensure her husband meditated on his flaws within his Cryptum properly, but I believe there were other machinations at work. Other, more personal, machinations.
After the Forerunner war with Humanity, millennia before the current events of Halo, a war in which would see the Didact loose all of his own children, he had learned of the force which caused Humanity to ransack Forerunner colonies en-mass. Speaking to Humanity's Lord of Admirals, The Didact confessed his knowledge, and fear, of what was to come.
Know this, relentless enemy, killer of our children, Lord of Admirals: soon we will face the enemy you have faced and defeated. I can see that challenge coming to the Forerunners, and so do many others.... And we are afraid. - Primordium 
It must have been pain beyond anything felt within the Forerunner Warrior caste, to be afraid. The protector of the species, of all they held dear, was afraid. The significance of this cannot be understated. At this point, we see the Didact begin to hear the wraiths of the future, of what would soon become reality. Piece by piece, he lost himself in the endless torment of slowly watching what he swore to protect, fade away.
And so, like a violent and unrelenting tide, The Flood came.
Century by century the Didact watched as his civilization was consumed by The Flood, each planet lost was accompanied by pangs of guilt and building rage at his own inability to preform his duty, to protect. As the Forerunner Builder caste began their work on the Halo weapon, the Didact desperately attempted his own strategies. Promethean warriors threw themselves at the parasite, loyal to the last. Each one of their deaths, made a lasting impression on the Didact, as his heart filled with the sorrow of a trillion dead.
A thousand other strategies were attempted, from trying to merge the physical and digital worlds to deny The Flood precious bio-mass, to utilizing a digital cipher known as "The Composer" to place biological essence into digitized warriors, immune to The Flood. These endeavors failed, as there were insignificant numbers of Promethean soldiers to stand against the almost infinite might of the parasite.
As entire systems, and eventually the Forerunner capital of Meathrillian fell to The Flood, The Didact began to reflect back on humanity in solemn repose. Why had Humanity brought this enemy to the shores of Forerunner supremacy? Why had they so arrogantly hid the secret to The Flood's defeat from the galaxy's periphery? The Didact's sorrow, began to manifest into anger. His wife, The Librarian, had begun indexing samples of the now devolved Humanity, to be re-seeded after the firing of the Halo weapon. The Didact, however, saw other purposes for Humanity. Perhaps he could yet halt the destruction of his species.
"Your humans will find immortality as a new kind of weapon. They are now Prometheans - an honor I have granted them, though they do not deserve it." Their essences will go where all but one of my Prometheans have already gone. Their loyalty is now past question. They are our only hope against the parasite." - Silentium 
Having used The Composer to digitize some of the last remaining humans into Promethean constructs, the Didact raged one last time against The Flood's encroachment, anger now consuming him. The future which he now saw as reality, which he refused to believe, had turned the once noble Didact into a being of almost unquenchable wrath. The Librarian sought to end his rampage, imprisoning him within a Cryptum, meditating for a hundred thousand years. To be awoken only by Humanity, to which he would guide as the new shepherds of the galaxy and holders of The Mantle of Responsibility.
A hundred thousand years to contemplate the loss of his species, all which he sought to protect, and his betrayal by his own wife. And then, Halo was activated. He lay within the loneliest of slumbers, wounded. As the galaxy healed itself around him.
The galaxy he awoke to greeted him with visions of his worst fears, come to pass. Humanity, to which he lay blame for the events a hundred millennia before, had risen to power within the galaxy. His species now lost to time, all that remained was the digitized essence of his bravest warriors and comrades. Husks, a reminder that The Forerunner's time had past. He soon learned that his own wife, had aided in the rise of Humanity, another reminder of her betrayal. A painful memory of the trust between them, that had been shattered. So, commanding The Composer once more, he sought to end Humanity once and for all. But a single hero, unlike any the galaxy had witnessed, save perhaps for the Didact himself, defeated him.
Though not dead, the Didact himself had been composed, digitized into some foreign realm of the Domain in which he pondered the fate of The Forerunners once more. Left to meditate, the species he was meant to shepherd filled him with resentment to an even greater degree. In both physical and abstractness, he had become a machine. A machine whose only function was to drift along a sea of agony, and like his own species, slowly ebb away until lost to the stretches time.
"I stand before you, accused of the sin of ensuring Forerunner ascendancy. Of attempting to save us from this fate where we are forced to... recede." - Halo 4 
River of Sorrow - John 117
There is something to be said, when the only action you have ever taken throughout life, is to extinguish it. What does that leave within a person's psyche? Concerning the hero of Halo, John-117, it has lead to the stripping away of all a person can hold dear.
Born on March 7th, 2511, John was a boy filled with life and energy. Playing "king of the hill" with his classmates, John was always on top, always first. He possessed a trait which, along with his determination, set him apart from the other children on Eridanus II. Luck. At the age of only six, John was kidnapped by the Office of Naval Intelligence, selected as a candidate for the Spartan II super soldier program. Having never been able to say goodbye to his mother and father, he was replaced with a simple flash clone, which passed away several years later. To his own parents, John was but a tragic memory.
"They let me pick. Did I ever tell you that? Choose whichever Spartan I wanted. You know me. I did my research. Watched as you became the soldier we needed you to be. Like the others, you were strong and swift and brave. A natural leader. But you had something they didn't. Something no one saw, but me. Can you guess...? Luck." —Cortana 
During his training on the Planet Reach, he was subjected to beatings, rigorous physical activity and indoctrination regimes. This followed for several years, and while the grueling slog carried on, John managed to create friendships with the other Spartan II candidates. At the age of fourteen, he and the rest of the children were physical and mentally augmented with various cybernetics and organ enhancements. Some of his closest friends did not survive the procedure. The augmentations were for a single purpose, to dawn the newly constructed Mjolnir powered armor. Part man, part machine of war, his childhood stripped away from him to be replaced by the cold and calculated heart of war.
The Spartan II's were conceived as a means to end the colonial insurrection, but when The Covenant began their three decade war on humanity, that all changed. John saw humanity's future, clearly. It was no longer a species of squabble, bickering or in-fighting. But one of unity. That unity however, would come at a terrible cost in life, society and culture. John and his fellow Spartan IIs were deployed on dangerous missions to push back at The Covenant's continued momentum. During the battle of Chi Ceti IV, John lost one of his closest and most trusted friends, Samuel-034. It was the first, in what would be a cascading series of tragedies which would unfold for John.
As the war raged onward, John began to witness what he had become. While the operational deployments of the Spartan IIs were kept classified, the public had some knowledge of his actions. He had become legend, a hero to which would stand before The Covenant hordes and brush them aside as Neptune did the tides. The entire morale of Humanity, its civilization and culture, rest on the shoulders of John. The Master Chief. A man with no childhood, no memories but those of conflict and war, was Humanity's greatest hope.
"If you'd have told me a few years ago we would be here in this place talking about this, I'd have said, 'No way, it's not gonna happen.' If there's one reason why we're here, um, I would say it's because of the Chief." - Huffman 
How ironic, that an individual who had more in common with a tool, who lacked the knowledge and experience of what it was to actually be human, was its savior.
On and on the war slogged, billions dead, entire planets turned to cinder. By the time Reach fell on August 29, 2552, John had lost nearly every single one of his friends. The Spartan IIs reduced to only a handful of surviving members. But John had made a new companion, who was even less human than he. An artificial intelligence by the name of, "Cortana." He and Cortana would forge a lasting friendship across the stretches of battle and war. From the discovery of Halo, to the final moments of the war in which John would see perhaps his closest friend, SGT Major Avery Johnson, killed before his eyes. But Cortana had been there, through it all, and indeed the man who felt more machine than human, finally found a companion he could confide his deepest thoughts unto. After the war, John and Cotana were lost to space, drifting in the hulk of what was the UNSC frigate Forward Unto Dawn. And like leaves on top a river, they drifted for four years. But Cortana, being a "smart" artificial intelligence, had her lifespan dictated at seven years, until she thought herself to death in a process known as "rampancy."
John and Cortana woke from their sleep four years after The Human-Covenant war, confronted with the Didact on his fortress world of Requiem. John struggled to keep his composure as he witnessed his companion continually degrade. For perhaps the first time in his life, he attempted to comfort someone, assure them everything would be alright. Through the artificiality of Cortana, John had finally found his humanity.
John could save an entire civilization from extinction, he could rescue entire colonies from certain destruction; but he could not save the those closest to him. A man who could save billions, but could not save an individual. At the final confrontation with The Didact, Cortana sacrificed her last processes to ensure John's survival, not because it would save humanity in the process, but because John meant a great deal to her.
"We were supposed to take care of each other. And we did." - Cortana 
And now, John has very little left. The surviving Spartan IIs within Blue Team, perhaps less. The hero of humanity had extricated the human species from extinction, but could not rescue those closest to him.
The Breaking of The Dam
The Didact and John 117, two characters set apart from each other in so many ways, yet bound together by shared pain and defiance. And though time, culture and species sets these heroes apart, I do believe it is time to break the dam between them, and create a new companionship.
The greatest forms of literature, which enthrall us as a species and which continue to do so, show us the value of common ground and reaching out to one another. Gilgamesh, Bhagavad Gita, Odysseus, Star Trek, Star Wars and all of the other forms of fiction throughout the ages; the timeless tale of the individual finding a greater meaning in life by the way of his fellow man is a triumphant mythology that has stood the passage of time.
While Cortana may be lost, and should be lost, the hero of Halo, John 117, can find a new narrative within the parallel world of The Didact. These character's play off of each other's weaknesses, and together make a stronger bond than any we have seen in The Halo universe. Where as The Didact could save those he loved, he could not save his civilization. Where John could lift the entirety of Humanity upon his shoulders, he could not carry those around him.
The macro, and the micro. The sea, and the river.
A smart, intelligent and wonderfully meaningful narrative is what should be in the card's for Halo. Not a consumable form of media, but a tale to last the ages. To point at John and The Ditact and say, with utmost certainty, that heroes can be weak, but together can be strong. A message that would be especially relevant within our society, and one which should be echoed throughout our culture. To understand one another not because we share ideology, but because we share experience. How fitting then, within the space opera narrative of Halo, that two adversaries, with such similar experiences of war, anguish and loss, can put aside their pre-conceived notions which formed throughout a lifetime of hardship; to seek better galaxy for all. A reclaiming, of all that was lost.
The water's of Halo can drip into our collective consciousness, or cascade throughout our culture.
"Spock: I've lost a brother.
James T. Kirk: Yes. I lost a brother once. I was lucky I got him back.
Leonard McCoy: I thought you said men like us don't have families.
James T. Kirk: I was wrong." 
Texts Utilized & Sourced For This Article
Cuddy, Luke. Halo and Philosophy: Intellect Evolved. Chicago: Open Court, 2011. Print.
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1972. Print.
Bulfinch, Thomas. Bulfinch's Mythology: The Age of Fable: The Age of Chivalry: Legends of Charlemagne. New York: Modern Library, n.d. Print.
A Halo fan since the beginning, 2001. Also a games industry consultant, writer, and educator. These are my thoughts, praise and advice concerning the past, present and future narrative of the Halo franchise.
Halo, all assets within, characters and merchandise are property of the Microsoft Corporation and is developed by its subsidiary 343 Industries.
I do not own, claim to own or retain any rights to the Halo franchise. This is a fan based work, and is strictly non-profit.
All other images, articles linked, materials and franchises that are not strictly specified as my own are property of their respective owners.
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Written, Researched, Produced And Published By Halo-Nation member "Synth Samurai"
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