ONI Alpha Site

Mombasa Streets: ‘Kizingo Boulevard’ – ‘Oni Alpha Site’ Interim

Rest Easy, Old Friend

The Rookie finishes inspecting the destroyed Gauss turret and gives it a good pat. This weapon of war has seen its last battle.

No sooner does the ODST set off when a Phantom flies low over the building. It drops off Brutes with jetpacks and some Jackals with rifles in the courtyard.

If only that Gauss turret still worked.

 

If you stay where you are the Brutes will come to you. This mild threat provides for the perfect opportunity to make use of the weapons cache behind the building; the rockets are excellent to use against the Brutes, and there is plenty of pistol ammo for the Jackals.

Once the enemies is disposed of it’s a good time to reorient yourself. Out of all the flashback missions, these two are the closest to each other.

The city is much as you left it before “Kizingo Boulevard,” but with the context of the previous mission, the aftermath of the day’s battle is apparent. You make your way past the wrecks of vehicles: tanks, Wraiths, and Banshees, including one on a nearby rooftop.

As the landscape is familiar, you may not even need to pay attention to your HUD. Before you know it, you unlock the gate to the rally point of the previous mission. A group of Covenant with an Engineer is waiting for you on the other side. Dispatch those aliens (ignoring them is doable), and you’ll have clear access to the gate at the back of the rally point.

The gate is connected to a tunnel occupied by a small group of Covenant. Compared to the last two encounters they’re easy enough to deal with. Farther inside, brick walls flanking you bear the symbol for the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) on each brick. At the end of the tunnel is another gate with ONI’s symbol on full display.

The player sees this symbol everywhere. While readers of the Halo books published prior to ODST would likely know all about ONI, this is the first time casual players of the games have come across the entity.

The Office of Naval Intelligence is a branch of the UNSC, divided into three public sections and one secret, internal investigation division (Section 0). Avid readers will know that ONI often uses illicit or immoral tactics to achieve its strategic ends, an approach typified by ONI’s leader, Admiral Parangosky–a woman described by many as the last person you would want to cross.

“We don’t do pointless vengeance in ONI, B. We do vengeance with a pragmatic outcome in mind. Revenge might give you a warm feeling, but unless it delivers some lasting results you might as well have a nice cup of mocha instead” […]

“Never settle a score until it’s tactically useful and you’re certain you can finish the job. Then make sure they know you did it.”
–Parangosky [Glasslands, C2P48].

Section I’s duties include issuing evacuation orders and tracking Covenant force deployments. Section II is the propaganda arm of the UNSC; they no doubt helped prop up and maintain Vice Admiral Cole’s legendary figure until his disappearance in 2543, and they were responsible for going public with, and maintaining the invincibility myth of, the Spartan IIs. Section III is the most known to fans and has been the most consequential out of any of ONI’s divisions. Most notable among its projects are the MJOLNIR armor and the Spartan II and Spartan III programs.

At the end of the tunnel the gate unlocks and you are treated to a somber sight.

A Phantom flies overhead toward the burning remains of a building at the other end of an artificial lake. This structure looms large in your view even against the towering remains of the space elevator to the left of the structure. The Phantom joins another in circling the building. Whatever the ruined building is, the Covenant are taking an unusual interest in it.

By now you’ve certainly noticed that your HUD has lit up blue–there’s a flashback item nearby. Specifically, it’s the near the edge of a destroyed bridge: the remains of a remote-charge detonator.

The aftermath

The Rookie picks up, gives it a spin, and looks out over the lake…

Dutch
ONI Alpha Site
2 hours after drop

It’s a sunny day in New Mombasa, but the large amounts of smoke and mortar fire from a group of Wraiths ensure it’s anything but pleasant. It’s not surprising Dutch is eager to find some cover and get off the exposed bridge he and Mickey are currently on.

Aint a job to rush

Dutch: “Hurry up!”
Mickey “Look, if you wanna do this, be my guest, but this ain’t a job you wanna rush.”

Mickey finishes arming a detonator while Dutch glances over his shoulder.

Dutch: “That do it?”

The NMPD officer is in a raised platform overlooking the bridge.

NMPD Officer: “Signal’s good! Arm the other detonators and fall back to me!”
Mickey: “Come on, tough guy, we gotta blow this bridge.”

For the second time the player assumes control of Corporal Taylor Miles, but the environment is not the (relatively) serene beach where the player was introduced to the character. Spiker and plasma fire cut through the air while Wraiths make noise from a distance. The Covenant are here en masse. Their numbers and weapons fire tell you one thing: get the hell out of there.

But where are you? Due to the hectic circumstances, it’s hard for the player to take in their surroundings. You’re near the same area where you left the Rookie, but on a bridge that doesn’t exist by the time the Rookie reaches the area. At one end lies a sizeable force of Covenant wanting to tear you to pieces. On the other is a very ominous-looking and isolated building being defended by Marines and police officers. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which way you want to go.

Mickey: “Dutch! Arm the other charges!”

Mickey has placed charges on several of the support beams of the bridge. Once you arm the remaining charges you can fall back to the human forces, specifically the watchtower near the building.

Dutch: “What about those Wraiths?”
Mickey: “Forget about ’em! We got explosives to set.”

While difficult, especially on Legendary, it’s not impossible to fight through all the Covenant advancing toward the building (see Voc’s “Holding the Line” video), but it’s much easier and satisfying to blow up the bridge and the Covenant with it. Make your way past the numerous wreckages of Warthogs and tanks, and arm the last detonator. Along the way, two Banshees will join the fight. If you need any more pressure to get off that bridge and blow it up, I don’t know what it is.

Fast and Low

Mickey: “That’s the last one, Dutch! Everyone, behind those barriers–-bridge is set to blow!”

Make your way past one last wreckage of a tank and climb the ladder of the watchtower.

Mickey: “Watchtower, Dutch! Get up there and pull the trigger!”
NMPD Officer: “Come on, Super, unlock the keypad!”
Superintendent: “Keep it clean. Respect public property.”
NMPD Officer: “If you don’t let us trigger those charges, in about five minutes, your data center’s going to be crawling with Covenant!”

Now you’ve been given some story context for the level. The Superintendent, who has been helping you make your way around the city at night? The building behind you sits on top of his data center. It’s essentially where he ‘lives’. If the Covenant take that, they’ll have a much easier time taking the city.

The Superintendent gives in to the officer’s demands with a ping.

NMPD Officer: “About damn time! Do it, trooper!”

Dutch pushes the button.

Superintendent: “Bridge toll accepted. Have a pleasant trip.”

Enjoy the view. The Covenant advancing toward your position are engulfed in a satisfying mixture of smoke and fire. Before you drop down from the watchtower, you can grab a sniper rifle next to the keyboard.

Blowing the Bridge

Mickey: “Woo-hoo! Yeah! That’s the way.”

You don’t get much time to relish in this small victory. You may have to deal with a few Covenant that made it across the bridge in time, and the Wraiths on the other side of the lake will continue to shell your position. Not only that, but as you fall back through the main gate:

Mickey: “Aw man, Covenant landing on the other side of the wall!”

Heading through the unlocked gate with your police and marine allies, you emerge at the top of a small flight of stairs to see a sprawling uphill battle in front of the entrance to the building. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the long uphill fight on the ziggurat of “Assault on the Control Room”, with a major gameplay difference–this time you’re doing the defending. Barricades and various other UNSC fortifications dot the landscape. The patios are most noticeable–perfect for stationary turrets and as places to hold up and defend the facility against the Covenant from relatively safe positions.

A group of Covenant is already engaged with the Marines on the other side of the wall.

Mickey: “Go, Dutch! We gotta keep the Covenant away from that building.”

The major obstacle in this group of Covenant is the pair of Hunters. Luckily, Dutch never packs lightly, and this is the perfect time to make good use of your Spartan Laser if you haven’t used it yet.

Laser beats Hunter

The Brutes and the Grunts comprising the rest of the group are distracted: They are more focused on the Marines stationed farther up the hill than you. As a result the group is easier to handle than it otherwise would be.

Once you’re through with them and farther up the hill, two Phantoms enter the fray and drop off more troops. Both of them have a Wraith.

Female Marine: “All teams, hold the ridge. Don’t let them near the ONI building!”
Brute Captain: “We do the Prophet’s bidding. Show no fear!”

ONI Alpha Site

The Covenant want this building badly, and they have the force to prove it. The two Phantoms drop off more than two dozen Covenant. All of them advance toward your position at the same time. In the face of the Covenant’s numbers you’re forced to retreat after a few selective engagements.

Female Marine: “Fall back! I repeat, fall back to the top of the ridge!”
Brute Captain: “Courage, warriors! Take this hill or die upon it!”

Watch your back as you make your way to the top of the hill. Once there you should use however many shots left in your Spartan Laser to take out those Wraiths if you haven’t already. Don’t worry about missing a shot or two, because there is a fresh Spartan Laser in the middle patio.

Numerous turrets are scattered over the area and are excellent to help you hold back the Covenant horde. Should you choose to ignore the Wraiths, the barricades provide some decent cover as you focus on the ground troops.

Mickey: “More Phantoms, look sharp!”

After you finish off or beat back the Covenant from the last two Phantoms, another dropship arrives with reinforcements. This one, in addition to the more infantry, carries a Brute Chieftain and another Wraith. Too much muscle for the UNSC troops on the ground. Once again you’re forced to retreat.

Female Marine: “We can’t hold ’em! Everyone, fall back inside the building!”
Mickey: “Dutch, inside the building! NOW!”

Even if you can hold off the Covenant forces in front of the building, they still have another route through the landing pads in the back. Get inside–whatever UNSC soldiers remain make their final stand outside the building and don’t retreat inside. After the doors lock behind you, make your way past the broken monitors into the “pit” where all the police officers are. There, the mission objectives take a turn:

Stacker: “Hurry up, men, check those charges!”
Mickey: “Wait, what? More explosives?”
Dutch: “Yeah, what gives? I thought we were supposed to protect this building.”
Stacker: “I have orders to deny enemy access to all classified data housed in this facility. If you don’t like it, you jump your butts back into orbit.”
Mickey: “The only thing I don’t like is that our butts are currently inside the facility.”

This is where Sergeant Pete Stacker makes his appearance. Stacker has been in every Halo game as an Easter egg, voiced by his namesake, Pete Stacker (the voice of Captain Keyes in Combat Evolved and Reach). The character’s canonical status is unclear, as Stacker would have had to survive the events on Installation 04, and is supposed to be on Installation 05 during the events of ODST.

The pit, part of the “Alpha Site” Firefight map, contains some weapons, ammo (including rounds for the sniper if you lugged it this far), and a turret.

It seems all but inevitable that the Covenant will take the building. The defense has been beaten down to two ODSTs and a handful of police officers. Blowing the building up will make it that much harder for the Covenant to get to the Superintendent’s data center. If the Covenant want it that badly they’ll have to dig through the rubble to get to it.

Meanwhile, the Covenant’s persistence is something to admire.

NMPD Officer: “They’re cuttin’ through the door!”
Stacker: “Settle down, people. Find some cover. Someone man that turret.”

The Covenant successfully break through the doors and advance in waves. Stacker and Mickey will call out the direction of new waves to help you concentrate your fire. As Stacker recommends, use the turret to help hold your ground.

The Best Defense...

Breaking the turret off its footing grants you increased mobility and makes you less of a target, at the cost of limiting your ammunition. At first Jackals and suicide Grunts file in in alternating waves on the left and right, then Brute squads and infantry pour in from both directions at the same time.

When you’ve successfully stopped the Covenant from advancing through the front of the building, you’re given a brief respite–the first real rest since the level began. “ONI Alpha Site” is unlike many other Halo levels in the urgency it conveys. Most levels have you fighting an entrenched enemy, or defending a certain location, whereas “ONI” sees you doing the opposite: falling back and retreating. Bungie not only emphasized your weakness compared to the Master Chief in your base abilities, but also the mission design itself. You’re fighting against a seemingly endless force, and this is the small breather you get before the pressure starts up again.

There isn’t enough time to explore the surrounding area before more trouble arrives:

Pete Stacker: “Phantom dropping reinforcements! Cover your rear, trooper!”

Like the enemies in the Firefight map, a Phantom uses the landing pads at the back of the building to drop off more Grunts, Jackals, and Brutes. If you’re low on ammunition there’s always the Covenant weapons available from the previous engagement.

Unlike Firefight, the Covenant will not follow you into the pit. They’ll hang back and make you come to them through the narrow support beams of the lobby. Engage selectively, and fall back to the pit whenever you need to regain health, and you’ll get through them.

There’s finally a real lull in the combat to allow you to explore your surroundings. An excursion to one of the landing pads will reveal how close this building is to the space elevator. Miraculously no debris hit the ONI building, and the sense of scale the player gets from being so close to the elevator–and so much of its smoke obscuring a large portion of the sky–it’s hard not to feel small. If you are playing the missions out of order, this vista is another visual bookmark as to what timeframe you’re playing in.

The exterior of the ONI building is largely bare and unadorned–its monolithic size combined with an absence of windows makes it seem even larger and impenetrable–perhaps a visual cue as to ONI’s own ethos.

Black Box’s holographic avatar was a cube, a featureless box, picked out in blue light, because he saw no point in masquerading as something other than what he was–pure intellect, his intricate thought processes a closed book to organic life. He couldn’t bear the theatrics of manifesting as flesh and blood.

Faces are for wannabes, [he thought]. I’m not a surrogate human.
–[Glasslands, C02P45]

Inside, however, the architecture is less severe, with tall support beams, elevators, and an ONI memorial on the back wall between the two landing pads. Three dedications hang in this space. Two of them on the far left and the far right list the names of ONI officers who “gallantly gave their lives in the defense of the human race.” The one in the middle is the most interesting for extended fiction fans: Dedications to Preston J. Cole, Michael Stanforth, Catherine Halsey, and their accomplishments throughout their careers.

Monument to ONI's sins

Keyes righted his chair and offered it to the Admiral. He sat down and leaned forward. “I wanted to congratulate you personally on the miracle you performed here, Keyes.”

“Sir, I don’t–” Stanforth held up a finger. “Don’t interrupt me, son. That was a helluva piece of astrogation you pulled off. People noticed. Not to mention the morale boost it’s given to the entire fleet.” He took another sip of the liquor and exhaled. “Now that’s the reason we’re all here. We need a victory. It’s been too damn long –us getting whittled to pieces by those alien bastards. So this has got to be a win. No matter what it takes.”
–Vice Admiral Michael Stanforth [The Fall of Reach, S03C18]

“They told me to fight, and that’s what I’ve done. Let historians sort through the wreckage, bodies, and broken lives to figure out the rest.”
–Admiral Preston J. Cole, [Evolutions, “The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole”]

Dr. Halsey studied the five Spartans in the hallway and pushed her antique glasses farther up the ridge of her nose. Despite everything their precsence here meant–Reach invaded, their mission to find the Covenant leadership compromised, everything she had worked for now in jeopardy–she was still pleased to see them.
–[First Strike, S01C13]

Of course, Catherine Halsey is only officially dead. She survives the Fall of Reach through the intervention of her Spartan-IIs and their rescue by the human survivors of Installation 04. Shortly thereafter, she abducts Spartan Linda-058 and heads to the quarantined planet Onyx where she is again presumed dead by most, though Paragosky notes her historical tendency to beat the odds.

Halsey: “Apologies for the unusual security measures, Commander. But the stakes demand it.”
Carter-A259: “Dr. Halsey. Casualty reports have you listed as-”
Halsey: “Yes. Well, as they say, news of my death has been greatly exaggerated.”
–[Halo: Reach, “The Package”]

When Halsey is arrested at the end of Glasslands, Parangosky makes sure Halsey remains dead as far as the public is aware.

Other names of interest include Admiral Danforth Whitcomb, who along with ONI agent Elias Haverson sacrificed himself to destroy a Covenant fleet in First Strike. The Halo 2 ARG I Love Bees gets a nod with the inclusion of Jason Morelli, father of main character Jersey Morelli. Ghosts of Onyx mentions a Commander J.G. Ortega who first investigated the Forerunner ruins on Onyx; the memorial reveals his first name as “Jerome”. Bungie also honored one-time Combat Evolved voice cameo and dedicated fan Brian Morden.

Curiously, Parangosky’s own name is listed on the memorial plaques, for reasons unknown.

Mickey: “That’s the last of ’em, Dutch. Come to my position.”

Meet up with Mickey in the center of the facility, and by that time an elevator should have arrived with an NMPD officer. If you didn’t use it during the last fight, you can detach the turret and lug it inside the elevator with you.

NMPD Officer: “Everyone in the elevator. I put enough charges in this shaft to blow the building twice.”
Mickey: “All right, that’s it. Transfer the detonation codes to my COM. If anyone’s takin’ this place out, it’s gonna be me.”

Press the button to start the elevator.

About a quarter of the way up you’ll hear a familiar buzzing sound. Not too long after you’ll be pestered by Drones.

Buggers, heading over the rooftops

Dutch: “Where the heck did these buggers come from?”
NMPD Officer: “Underground tunnels are filled with the damn things!”
Mickey: “Finally, a good reason to blow this building up!”

The turret dispenses this small swarm with ease. The buggers are fast, though, and their aim is nothing to sneeze at. On higher difficulties the two health packs in the elevator help ensure you survive long enough before the elevator shaft narrows, forcing the Drones to retreat. Playing the game for the first time, the player won’t realize this brief elevator fight is foreshadowing a much larger fight with Drones later in the game.

Regrettably the landing pad at the top will not be a quick getaway.

Rooftop Battle

The Covenant is going to make one last attempt to thwart your escape. Brutes with jetpacks, Grunts, and Jackals will be there to meet you. There are two ways out onto the landing pad, but you can’t get a good glimpse of what you’re up against where the elevator is. It’s best to move the battle out to the landing pad and only retreat back to the elevator to let your stamina recharge.

Once you’re through with most of the Covenant, your evac Pelican will arrive to help clean up the stragglers. When all the Covenant are dead:

Mickey: “There’s our ride! Go, go, go!”

As it is near the end of the level, it’s easy to miss the view from the top of the ONI building. If you work your way towards the edge, you’ll be treated by quite the sight. Beyond the barrier that separates the lake, the ocean is littered with the destroyed rings of the space elevator.

Elephant Graveyard

Mickey and Dutch board the Pelican.

NMPD Officer: “Hey, you fellas know a Gunnery Sergeant Buck?”
Mickey: “Sure do!”
NMPD Officer: “Patching him through.”

Nearly three hours after the drop, the ODSTs have finally made contact.

Sound for Sore Ears

Buck: “Glad you boys are safe and sound.”
Dutch: “Likewise, Gunny. You need a pickup?”
Buck: “Long as you’re offerin’. We’re in the Police HQ.”
Dutch (to the officer): “Can you take us there?”
NMPD Officer: “Affirmative.”
Buck: “All right. Meet you up top.”

Mickey nudges Dutch in the side.

Dutch: “What?”

Mickey ticks off the seconds with his fingers. At zero, the ONI building explodes.

Boom Goes The Dynamite

Mickey: “Haha. This day ain’t turnin’ out so bad after all.”

“ONI Alpha Site” was all but inevitable in one way. Dare, whom you got to know in “Tayari Plaza,” is a member of ONI and what soldiers in the UNSC like to call a “spook”. It makes sense that a part of the game would involve ONI in some major way; as it turns out, Dutch and Mickey’s actions play a major role in Dare’s mission and the later journey of the Rookie.

Dare hasn’t been seen in a while, and the story will return to her eventually, but the next level sees the veteran ODSTs reunite.

Come fly with me

4 Comments

  1. […] Hindsight: ODST, by guest writer Michael Carollo, has just been updated with the next ODST flashback mission. Read about the battle at ONI Alpha Site. […]

  2. July 23, 2012
    Reply

    Again great article. I love the write-ups, always reminds me how great the campain of ODST really is.

  3. ODST Apache
    August 8, 2012
    Reply

    Halo 3 ODST always had a good story and I wish they continued the story.

  4. IB
    August 8, 2012
    Reply

    not to be nit picky or anything but it is not linda that Halsey abducts but kelly since kelly was injured when they rescued halsey

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