ONI: The Secrets Within

For over a decade now, Halo has been at the forefront of gaming. And with its spectacular vistas, addictive gameplay and intriguing story line it’s clear to see why. But there are secrets within secrets in the Halo universe, and I’m here to uncover them.

So let’s start with ONI.

ONI (The Office of Naval Intelligence) has provided a constant presence in the Halo universe. They are an ever increasingly mysterious element of the UNSC, constantly battling the Covenant in ways that, I’m sure, we’ve only seen the smallest hint of. They employed Catherine Elizabeth Halsey, sponsored the SPARTAN programme in its entirety and hid an entire colony, the planet Onyx, from everyone else.

That’s the power of the UNSC’s premier intelligence service. Because an organisation like ONI never sleeps, never stops and never loses. 

So with that in mind, why was humanity so close to losing? The answer to this lies in each and every corner of everything we already know.

As an intelligence service, ONI are responsible for learning everything they can about current and possible future threats. In fact, Sun Tzu states:

“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles”

Military intelligence is vital to success. Knowing everything there is to know about your enemy is the cornerstone of any military commanders’ strategy. It is what he/she will build upon. It provides an angle that may not otherwise be available or apparent. It gives you an edge. And throughout the conflict with the Covenant, ONI strove to achieve that edge.

I believe they achieve their goal, and were about to put into action a plan that would win the war for humanity.

It’s clear from the Ghosts of Onyx novel that ONI were very much aware of previous extraterrestrial interference on the planet and would later learn that the ruins on Onyx belonged to the Forerunners. ONI’s initial thought and responsibility would then have been to determine if this mysterious alien intelligence was or could be a threat. But this was not the first time ONI had encountered Forerunner relics.

The military stronghold of Reach was clearly a mecca for alien artefacts. And it’s probably because of this why Reach was chosen as and would later become a formidable military centre. It’s probably no mistake that SWORD Base and CASTLE Base were located on top of a number of Forerunner structures, all of which were of significant scientific and military value.

ONI have had direct access to these artefacts for many years, and I’m sure that as soon as they were discovered that members of both ONI and HIGHCOM would have started laying the foundations for any future contingency plan involving first contact. But then something even more unexpected happened, mankind encountered the Covenant. And though this was unequivocal proof of alien intelligence it was also proof that a civilisation existed beyond the technological ceiling held by the Covenant.

Throughout the war ONI managed to get their shadowy fingers on a plethora of Covenant goodies. This ranged from vehicles, ships and weapons to the technology itself, such as shielding and active camouflage. Though some of this technology was dificult to replicate and in some cases impossible, I belive ONI suceeded where others failed, including Catherine Halsey. I don’t doubt that Halsey is an exceptional scientist, capable of remarkable feats of technological development, but even she has limits. But ONI are an altogether different beast–relentless, with access to almost anyone or anything and that includes High Charity. I believe that ONI are capable of far more than we know.

During the war each attack on a human colony concluded in an obvious pattern of familiarity, destruction, loss and retreat. Mankind was bested on a regular basis, which I always found unusual. I know the UNSC was outgunned during the war but the Covenant were unbelievably predictable, and ONI had access to Covenant communication as well, but that didn’t stop the UNSC losing colony after colony.

Space combat against the Covenant was also a one-sided affair. The enemy had shield technology, an advanced understanding of Slipspace travel and plasma-based weaponry. Couple this with several client species, all with greater numbers than humanity, and you can begin to see why humanity was so often defeated. But when you include the vast possibilities of what an organisation like ONI can do then things start to take a very different shape:

  • Advanced cloaking technology on a spacefaring vessel/s, something even the Covenant didn’t have. (ONI PRO-49776 from The Package).
  • The Spartans, often better in combat against even the Sangheili.
  • A previous visit to High Charity (Mentioned in Evolutions).
  • An understanding of Forerunner technology that was far quicker than that of the Covenant.
  • The ability to operate Forerunner technology directly.
  • Access to an Engineer.

All of these factors, and others I can only imagine, all point to one obvious conclusion, fleets of ships we haven’t seen, armies of advanced soldiers and access to weapons beyond that of the Covenant.

“So where is it?” I hear you cry.

There were a number of colonies that the Covenant never knew about, Minister being one of them. And there’s no reason why ONI and the UNSC couldn’t build up a vast and powerful fleet in reserve for a time when a crippling blow could be dealt to the Covenant. Warfare requires the best and the worst in a species and humans excel at it, we’re particularly good at deceit. The fleet we never saw, the soldiers who never appeared and the weapons that were never fired didn’t come into play because the game changed at the last moment. Earth was discovered sooner than expected and the war also came to swift and decisive conclusion, thanks to the Master Chief and the Arbiter. But most of all, you must allow your enemy to expose themselves fully to reap maximum gain in their destruction.

I’ll leave you with the following quote and you can decide for yourselves…

“Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.”

by Sun Tzu

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7 thoughts on “ONI: The Secrets Within

  1. An interesting take on ONI. I too believe that they were hiding something, as to what we may never know. I was curious as to why they never did anything different each time the Covenant destroyed a colony.

    Hopefully we may know more in the future.

  2. I think the main limiting factor was time. ONI may be quicker in understanding Forerunner technology, but the Covenant had thousands of years to research and use it.

  3. This is why i like Halo, the universe is so deep and full. Most is hypothetical and fantasy of fans but in the end it comes together and fits perfect into its fiction.

    I like this theory. I have seen many bits of technology throughout the game and books that could be of extreme help to humanity, but you never see it in large scale action or action of any kind.

  4. Hmm, very interesting. I’ve also thought long and hard about issues such as those you have highlighted regarding ONI. Thank you for sharing friend, insight such as this only enriches the canon already established, allowing it to grow/expand to places beyond where any but the most dedicated fans are capable of imagining. Keep up the good work 🙂

    • There are several of us who often joke on B.net when it comes to ONI. If something doesn’t fit within the canon or an enigmatic portion of the story line is difficult to solve, we blame it on ONI. “The Forerunner war with humanity. ONI did that. The Flood… ONI came up with that as well.”

      But I agree, there is much to explore.

  5. actually the flood was around way before technology ever was. in fact the forerunners were the first to encounter it so they created the the halo’s. they were actualy a system for destroying every living being in all of egsistince. they actualy desroryed themselfs to protect every other civilization in space. they get DNA samples from all speices before doing it of course. so after it happened they had robots replicate the DNA into living beings and repopulated the universe. but some how some of the flood suvived. that they didnt expect so thats how the flood got there

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