By Colin Almeida
“Wake me… When you need me.”– Master Chief Petty Officer, John-117
The story of the Master Chief is a well-known one for most gamers who have played any of the HALO games. A super soldier who saves humanity numerous times from threats both ancient and new. From the ruthless alien alliance known as the Covenant, to the overwhelming abominable parasite known as the Flood. From human insurrectionists, to the ancient forces of the long-dead race, the Forerunners. He’s faced every challenge head on, only concerned about the safety and well-being of the human race. He is a legend in the world of HALO. But how did this silent hero come to be?
His story, his origins, is one of my favorites. Not because how it’s told or how it happened, but because it was one of the first real stories I ever encountered in a game. Born on Eridanus II on March 7th, 2511, John was stronger, faster, and more intelligent than the other kids at school. A prodigy so rare and cherished, that it made him a prime contender for the SPARTAN-II super soldier project. In the year 2517, when John was six, he was kidnapped by Dr. Catharine Halsey, a scientist who worked for the Earth’s United Nations Space Command, and taken to a hidden military facility on the planet Reach.
To be taken from your home, ripped from your family at such a young age, and placed into a whole new world that is meant for the military elite is… jarring. It’s unfathomable just what that could do to you. But it gets worse.
There, he and 149 other children, were subject to advanced military training and genetic augmentation. The result was that by the time John was 14, only 33 children remained who had neither died, nor had been deformed psychologically or physically.
Yet, despite this, John kept going. He kept fighting on despite all that had happened, because he wanted nothing more than to help his race. He stayed strong and committed for the sake of those around him. That kind of resolve is insane and is something that I strive for myself.
“We make our own luck, but I’ll always be there when you need me.” – John-117
With his training complete and his augmentations finished, John and the remaining SPARTAN II’s were given the experimental MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor/Mark V. A powerful exoskeleton that no normal human could ever pilot due to the enhancements it made to one’s movement, reaction time, and strength. It was a dangerous set of equipment that no one had used up until that point without coming out scarred or dead.
John was first in line to try it.
Not for the sake of showing off or to prove himself, but instead to risk himself by being the guinea pig so his fellow Spartans wouldn’t have to. He always thought of others first instead of himself, and it shows with the amount of times he risked himself for the sake of others. Protective instinct to that degree is rare, especially for a child. There are so many stories and characters out there that claim to have that instinct, but almost none show it to this extent.
“Not lucky enough, we lost two Spartans today. Solomon, Arthur, and that Elite we encountered, he was strong. I have to be stronger.” – John-117
Despite being 6 foot 10 without armor and 7 foot 2 in armor, intimidating as all hell, quiet, and quite possibly the deadliest soldier alive, he’s still human. Even if he sometimes forgets it. This conversation with him and a commanding officer, Captain Lasky, after the death of Cortana, a close comrade and friend to the chief, shows this beautifully.
It’s thanks to this scene that we can actually still see it. Still see that despite all his augmentations, his experiences, his training, he’s still John. He still has feelings and weaknesses. He’s still human. And that’s what makes him great in my eyes.