Halo Fanon
Halo Fanon

The Weekly is a community project in the form of a series of micro-fiction contests, inspired by the discontinued Community Writing Competitions on Halo Waypoint. Each week, users can challenge themselves to write a short prose response to a prompt chosen at the start of the week by the competition's judge. At the week's end, the judge selects a winner to receive a shiny new Weekly Winner eraicon on their entry's page, and the entry will then be displayed on Recent Changes for the next week for all to easily see and read.

The project was conceived in response to a long-standing downturn in prose writing on the site, in hopes of encouraging more prose by presenting a painless, easily-attainable length as a target instead of a hopelessly-long novel length. The ideas the writers incorporate to hone their craft under such constraints might then become the seeds for events their own characters go through, or even be worked into whole other long stories.

How To Participate

At the beginning of each week, a new prompt will be posted on this page, for users to write in response to. Working with in the length and topic restraints (which could have to do with the theme, or subject, or writing style like "only dialogue"), users then write their response and create a new page on which to post it. Remember to include a Writer Template ("{{Writer|your username}}") at the top and categorize it "The Weekly" ("[[Category:The Weekly]]") at the bottom. A paragraph at the top can be added to introduce the piece and context for it without going towards the word count, so long as there's a horizontal line ("----") between to make set them apart distinctly. The word length for each entry is variable and set by the prompt's judge, but typically ranges between 500 to 1000 words. While you may submit multiple entries for each week, they must be individual entries (while having multiple entries be sequels/prequels to one another is a grey area, they must still work as stories on their own, rather than multiple-part stories).

Once an entry is complete, simply add a link to your entry's page in the scrollbox for the appropriate week for it to be counted. The judge in charge of that week's prompt will then read the entries and pick a winner for the week. The judge will also provide feedback for each entry. Bear in mind, the judge's decision may be based on subjective judgements, but good spelling, grammar, and punctuation go a long way towards impressing by presenting a professional and easy-to-read appearance. Winners will then be given a unique Weekly Winner eraicon and displayed on the Recent Changes page.

Judges and Prompts

In order to facilitate community involvement in the Weekly project, any active site editor may put themselves forward to write a prompt for a given week. That individual will then be responsible for selecting a winner from among the entries provided as well as providing timely feedback for each entry. Administrators and site patrollers will hold primary responsibility for selecting prompts and ensuring project stability. If a prompt receives no entries, a new prompt will still be submitted for the subsequent week. Prompt suggestions may be submitted on the talk page.

Weekly Challenges

Week 192: Dear Humanity

Prompt: One year ago, I dropped a stupid "hindsight is 2020" joke as a prompt; this year, I'm doing the same again, since it isn't any more. On a more serious note - since the 2020-in-review picked out some particularly good character-driven pieces, I'm hoping to pivot a little more towards those these days.

This prompt is all about regrets; things that were done, weren't done, or things that could-have-been. These can be spanning years, decades even - or just muttering "I should not have said that-" as soon as someone leaves the room. Go wild - at least, as wild as you can while aiming for this week's more generous 1000-word target.

Start Date: January 2nd, 2021

End Date: January 17th, 2021

All of these were really, really good - even once I was done reviewing I hadn't picked, and it was a tossup between all of the entries that weren't a length that scared me away from reading them. The win was only clinched by a hair, and I don't tend to say that lightly.

Retirement - and not in the "retirement", inverted commas, ONI-arranged sense - is something talked about more than shown, at least from what I see and get around to reading. While I'm not quite sure where this particular bit of touchiness takes place in the grand scheme of Andra-related things (or if this is even "canon" within that, given the name of the story series) it's still a really nice, character-driven short. While there's a lot of tying into other characters and past history, it doesn't feel like those are required knowledge or pre-reading like it's easy to fall into, and the regrets tie into it strongly. Being a nobody, being normal, being changed from the gung-ho child soldier of yesteryear builds into a sense of closure that's still tinged with the pathos of talking to those absent.
For me, that last line is honestly *chef's k i s s*. That, combined with the balanced weight and delicateness of the descriptions (in spite of the slight clumsiness of expositing Andra's past-to-date), and the slight touches like the Colonial Literature and related chatter, are what really make this piece.

Far shorter than what the prompt asks for - never mind from what I expected - but an excellent piece nontheless. This is a short but very sweet piece that's tight, to-the-point, and close to the prompt while in an unexpected direction. Plus, it plays right into my own favourite interpretation of ONI as cold but not unnecessarily cruel, and caring more about Getting Shit Done™ than overtly castigating or making an example of people for something that's already been done. Also very nice touches are the undertones that, in spite of this colossal cock-up, STONE HILL is still competent or valuable enough that keeping them on is preferable to a token resignation - plus, the header, names, and mixture of curt and clinical in IRONWOOD's tone make this a piece that's far stronger than its word count would suggest.

While a little more loose on the prompt than some of the other pieces here, I still really quite enjoyed this, and the character dynamics between Machete and what I can only assume to be their handler. The dialogue isn't hugely original in its ideas - the team bantering with Amber and Erin's pep talk later are both relatively by-numbers - it's still very nicely executed, feeling organic and believable and comfortably steering clear of the cliches it could fall into. While that makes up the bulk of the work, the opening half is wonderfully vivid, sharp third-person descriptions and the surgeon not pulling any punches bring some colourful images into mind, and the admission of a cock-up by superiors is an unexpected touch.

This is certainly the prompt played straight, arguably in most direct way out of all of the prompts. Like Tide's, it's something that does feel like further knowledge, context, background would lend this piece an extra supporting pillar - but like Tide's, it still stands plenty strong on its own. The dynamic between the three, particularly how Stray (it still feels weird calling him that) stands relative to the other two, is an interesting thing in itself and does lend a bit of awkwardness to the process of reading and getting the goings-on, alternating between dogsbody and close companion, but either way still makes the latter half of things really good. The only thing I would say is that the timeskip is a little awkward; even marking it with a line would've helped separate the two halves, but on first read it did make me double back to see if there's anything I missed. Still, a very nice piece, especially with the melancholy tinge to it.

I guess me saying that was really
*equip sunglasses*
opening a pandora's box.

Week 193: The Kids Are Alright

Prompt: Partly inspired by Tide's interesting playground game, and partly from how I actually had fun writing something to this theme last year: this week's prompt is all about the young'uns. Something about children, about youth, with a pretty broad scope thematically - after all, kids can be kind, they can be cruel, they can be innocent or jaded, and the Orion Arm has a vast range of different environments to grow up in. Still, I'd rather it at least be something in line with an image of childhood rather than just "takes place with young characters". In particular, while young, early Spartan candidates being taught the best places to stab someone isn't really what I'm after - and while lighter moments like in my piece above would work, more mundane human (or alien!) kids growing up would be plenty welcome too!

Looking to be a little shorter and sweeter this time; 800 words is your target.

Start Date: January 11th, 2021

End Date: January 24th, 2021

The case, intentionally befuddling; the characters, wholly invisible - I can't help but feel that, like Other Homeworld Theory, the pieces laid out here don't quite click together into much of a definitive, cohesive story. The dates seem wrong for any Spartan intake; the willingness to refer the whole case to ONI, the vagueness of the recollection (both in terms of description and how it's a little awkward to discern from the story's present-day), and the lack of context as to what's going on in the here and now - all of it comes together in an end result that never feels like it quite clicks, and I'm not sure if that's intended.
A dialogue piece set entirely between youngsters, slap-bang in the Created era, and with a young Sangheili in the mix? This wasn't quite a combination I expected.. The dynamics of the youngsters bouncing off one another, even with their familiarity, were really quite enjoyable to read - somewhat similarly to Tide's piece, it didn't seem to have a particular direction or plot it was going in, but the dialogue and inference of the going-ons in the world still kept it cohesive and left loose ends to ponder on. Very comfy, for sure.
This was - this was a huge bundle of "awwww". An oh no, segueing into laughter, and then into an "awwww". Zoey's own guilt, her trespasses that she spends the whole time agonizing over, takes centre stage - yet it doesn't quite weight down the piece. The overreaction, the angst of her wanting to flee, expecting to have to, and piling up a world of blame on herself over something already been and done and non-fatal - it gives her voice and the piece overall an immature feel. It's a feel that - once the punchline hits - is oddly endearing, a mixture of funny and outright wholesome 100 that gives the payoff such a grin, especially after the almost slight absurdness of Gav's Certified Dad Moment [TM]. All three pieces here are well written, both technically and set in the wider world, but this one in particular hits the childhood mark for me right on. Really fun to read, but really warm at the end of it, too.

Week 194: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Prompt: Something dug up from the past - that's the theme of this week's prompt. Whether at a individual, organisational, or even governmental, perhaps some time capsules should stay buried. Some memories may be too harsh to cling to; some scandals or heresies should stay buried. Maybe they're not even horrible revelations to their people or institutions, just a reminder of how they used to be better, of how far they've fallen. Maybe they're painful notes of what they've lost. Maybe they'll be used as impetus for change - or maybe they'll be buried again, deeper this time. It's all up to you, in the space of 800 words; although as always, that's a target, with a fair amount of flexibility above or below.

Start Date: January 26th, 2021

End Date: February 7th, 2021

I really do have mixed feelings about this one, although admittedly said feelings might be a little overly familiar since I've said similar about works from yourself in the past. The piece is certianly well-executed, the description tight and the Kallas's introduction sympathetic. But I can't help but feel it has a little trouble building itself up, at least as the piece goes on. The tie-in to the Deltas feels a little bit tacked-on, although I'm also unfamiliar of any further history behind them - but the recollection of the ambush in particular feels a little wooden. The opening and ending of that segment, both with the focus on burning, hit hard, but the rest doesn't share much of that energy, instead feeling like more of a plod through the events one step at a time.
The bartender is something that a lot could've been done with, and I definitely would've enjoyed seeing the two of them bounce off each other more, but the fact that he's not even named by the end of it is makes the whole interaction feel a bit flat. More banter between the two, or at least more sharing of information from the bartender beyond being ex-Navy, would've opened up the piece a lot more and offered more sympathy for Kallas; finding someone he can unload and share stories with rather than - well, rather than babysitting.
This was... honestly, thoroughly enjoyable all-round. Pretty much everything I see you write with hingies goes well, and this is no exception; you can feel Kino's frustration, his tiredness, his lament for what Sanghelios once was. Even with the almost-contradictions of rose-tinted nostalgia - admiration of the mighty fleets he used to see in the sky, yet disdain for the Covenant leadership of his time - the desire for something better for his people as well as himself is dripping from the page. "Thwack, ruminate, thwack, ponder" certainly isn't an avant-garde way to get emotion across via text, but it's one that's done very nicely here.
Once Kino gets into the cache, there's a swerve into external description from internal musings that feels a touch abrupt, but while said description would feel like filler with a poor execution, here it works well to show off the age of the place, the scale, the grandiose feel of what it truly was that he uncovered. Some odds and ends find themselves a little extraneous - Kino's spluttering over the bugs, for example - but none of it feels overtly out of place, none of it detracts from the story being told. The only thing I'd really say is that the final line of the insect's flight feels a little clumsily handled; not necessarily being too on-the-nose, since being so direct fits the sheer scale of the story being told, but just a little fumbled in its wording, without the grace or majesty or hope I feel that was meant to be implied.
Still, a lovely piece, and one (like Sundered Shore) that I'd love to see future follow-ups to and repercussions of!
I believe this is your first Weekly submission, so I have to offer my apologies again for leaving you hanging for so long over it - I've certainly given the thing a wealth of rereads, at least. With a relatively common set-piece like this, it's up to the execution to carry the piece, and there's a fair bit to work with - the principle one being the contrast between how well emotion is put across in varying ways.
I can't help but feel that the dialogue between the two leaves something to be desired here - sure, all that they're saying is certainly plausible for the situation, believable, but it doesn't add much to it. The emotional appeals to one another are a little blunt, and struggle to get across the more personal feel that would help colour a relatively plain setup. It's hard to dance around the feeling that the situation has a touch of cliché to it when their lines seem to steer the piece straight into that direction. On the flip side, though, the internal voice of the piece is much stronger, both directly via Dylan's thoughts and indirectly with how the scene is put across and described. The opening two paragraphs are especially good with this, neatly mirroring his physical struggle to get the two of them out of there with his mental one (although both may have benefited from a proofread). Later snippets of it are more cut-down and function to bracket the dialogue, but the capping off at the end then swings it back into good territory. The final note about coffee might have been meant just for humour, but it works excellently as a view of Dylan moving the trauma aside, replacing the torture of what-ifs with the jobs of the here and now.
Definitely a solid Weekly debut (I think?), and more from you would be welcome!

Week 195: Perchance to Dream

Prompt: Sleeping. Snoozing. Getting some shut-eye. Riffing off of the previous prompt in an uncharacteristically (for myself) original way, the key to this week's prompt is having its central character(s) asleep throughout. Not preparing or getting ready, not being tired or waking up; but actually being unconscious, for the bulk of the piece if not all of it. The primary angle to take here, as hinted in the title, is dreams - memories, weird mashups of waking experiences, or even psychedelic dreamscapes are all very welcome - but I also would be open to something as simple as an ongoing description of the goings-on around them, by their bunk or camp or bedroll, as they rest.

800 words is your goal, as per usual.

Start Date: Feburary 7th, 2021

End Date: February 21st, 2021

Darrow's musings - and descriptions of the world around him - are a real strong starter to this piece. I was originally planning on saying that they felt a little purple, a little overly poetic, but on a reread after bouncing back to check the prompt I ended up finding it fitting. It's a slightly excessive, too-real feeling that I think this piece could've benefitted from a little more of. The fight is certainly well-executed, cleanly and powerfully enough to follow while being badass in a mental visualisation, but its grounding saps a little something from the story. The whole segment still seems like something that straight-up could happen, that outside of the "but it was a dreaaaaam" added on the end it was firmly grounded. It's absolutely a very good piece in any case, but I just feel that - especially with the power (and perhaps worry over the renegade) getting to Darrow - the dream feeling a little more not-quite-right, a little more surreal, would have enhanced the feel of the thing a great deal.

An unknown date and location and a (relatively) unknown-to-me Cain come together to make... a piece that's a really nice read. It's definitely (and noticably) shorter than the 800-word target, but it's still sweet in its shortness - there's no fat to trim, and it segues very nicely and very cleanly from her awakening to the ancilla's introduction, and beyond. The dreamscape pulled from her memory - tall grass, warm sun is a nice touch (and certainly more pleasant than the sleep/dream-related writing we've had here and in previous prompts!), and there's just enough information on the background and situation outside of the cryptum provided to give it all context. The talk of picking out snapshots from a childhood and uncertain memories adds a flavour to the whole thing, but to me the best bit of it is the offhand compliment given to Cain. The contrast between her being only human relative to whatever's going on outside, but treated graciously as a cunning, seasoned Reclaimer once inside, really brings colour to what could easily otherwise feel cold or by-numbers. There's certainly far worse places to be locked asleep in.

Week 196: Behind Seven Proxies

Prompt: A techy macguffin is the order of the day this week. I'm after stories about sneaking, breaking, assaulting your way in in order to much with something techy, that's the top and bottom of it. Maybe it's innies going after a relay like Col. Holland was worried about; maybe a proof-of-concept test, testing RED FLAG's feasibility of boarding and fighting through a ship to break into its battlenet; maybe it's some bold (or suicidal) corp trying to get its hands on schematics for recreational McINKVs. All I ask for are two key elements - both physical and technological intrusion.

I'm also playing with wordcount a bit here after the last few were varying degrees of over-target; I'm willing to take ~800 for if the story focuses on just getting in or getting out; or ~1500 if you cover the whole op. See if you can back up your ambition.

Start Date: 1st March 2021

End Date: 14th March 2021

Week 197: Chitter-Chatter

Prompt: A story told through dialogue. Not a particularly original idea, but one that I'm wanting to put a spin on anyways. The key being - through dialogue, but through remote dialogue; dialogue that needs to be put through remotely. COM talk. Ship-to-ship transmissions. The frustration and loneliness of the cold, slightly-distorted voices that remind someone that they're inside a tin can floating in the void. The discomfort and unwanted intimacy of seeming to have someone right inside your helmet with you; the low, background drone of dust storms reminding you why you have to all be suited and sealed up like this. A story told through dialogue... just not talking directly to someone.

(And a story that's relatively short since this is just a one-weeker, to put us back on track with judging cadence - I'm happy with it being longer, but 500 words is the target to aim for).

Start Date: 15th May 2021

End Date: 23rd May 2021

Now - to get this out of the way first - I did end up looking up Stratos before going further into it. It does bring further context to the piece, but I do think that was a difficult thing to do within the scope of "dialogue-only". Admittedly, most of the dialogue covering info and as a recap didn't feel too overtly "hey here's an infodump for the reader to understand things" (which is honestly an achievement given the prompt and the story's setting) but I do have to say that a few moments did feel rather anime- or videogame-esque in terms of I am here and must narrate everything that I'm doing. The last third or so of the piece was more clear of that, though, with the joke to Erin and more matter-of-fact narration(-ish) from Amber grounding things nicely, and bringing it to a clean (apart from maybe the oh no, which felt a touch off) ending.
This piece I actually found a touch tricky to mark. In a vacuum, it almost feels a little stilted, a little overproduced in the back-and-forth between these two; but after a few rereads they both started to grow on me. It gives off the sense of them knowing each other, and intimately so, but also of being an outside observer as to what's going on and not quite getting things the way that the two do for each other with their bond - which comes off a mixture of heartfelt and awkward. But there's still a closeness to the writing that works its way through the thread of the conversation, mixed in with the stiltedness of long whole video messages rather than a real conversation, and arrives itself at... at an ending where I'm not quite sure what the payoff is. It's hard to tell if it's purely bouncing off of that "Let me know when you get back", or if there's something else (warm? touching? ominous?) meant there - and that's what I'd probably call the weakest part of it.
I do have to say that the slurring really caught me off guard the first read, and had me more confused than anything before I remembered that oxygen deprivation was a thing. Beyond that, well - it's a really really mixed bag. The initial conversations are pretty good, a pep talk that could have easily come off as cliché instead coming off clean and well-executed, with that sailors are too stubborn to die line standing out as real great. After that and the rest of the conversation - well, the arrival of the hunter-killers is quite clearly telegraphed, but beyond that it's really quite hard to tell what's going on. The gaps don't give the best of ideas of how much time is passing, or who's listening to what - who's asking or answering what, or even the meaning at all of that last line. On the other hand, the HK's line is... deliciously Sangheili-y.
A neat message-transcription header and footer. An half-story, half-confession, half-AAR (yes, I'm aware that I can't count) - and one that dares to set itself squarely in the face of fighting the Created, rather than simply tiptoeing around them nervously as a story topic. Oh, and it even leans towards Infinite and its setup, too. I can certainly see the ambition of this piece, and honestly? It pulls it all off really well. The stilted, formal, honourable language between the two Sangheili is as grandstanding as ever but doesn't mask how genuine the exchange is; and while some of the repetition (the gods / our ancestors // are dead, or the emphasis placed on being a warrior at the tail end) borders on heavy-handedness, it's very effective nonetheless - especially with some of the snappier lines.

Week 198: Mercenary

Prompt: Not necessarily "mercenary" in terms of "guns-for-hire". Just mercenary as in the adjective. As in greedy, as in immoral. As in one only concerned with their own back and enriching it at the expense of another. As in a giant corporation deciding that they're far more worthy owners of remaining technology or resources on a glassed world than the survivors still living there. Or, as in a member of a team or expedition deciding that she needs the ammo - and the share of pay - far more than that shaky new kid who can't watch his corners properly. As in someone who'd sell out their own grandmother to the Flood in order to come out of things richer, or safer - or someone who was made to.

No "if" gimmicks this time though - it's back to an 800-word target.

Start Date: 15th May 2021

End Date: 30th May 2021

Week 199: The Hard Truth

Judge: Actene

Prompt: A relatively simple prompt for this week: write a short in which someone must confront an ugly reality. This can take the form of internal conflict, such as a character facing their own weaknesses or flaws, or external truths. Perhaps a Sangheili warrior must face up to the fact that he is a coward or a UNSC commander must accept that a battle is lost. Be creative and try to use this prompt to explore your characters in a moment of weakness. Aim for somewhere between 500-800 words.

Start Date: 30 May 2021

End Date: 6 June 2021

  • DT 2021: Do No Harm by Distant Tide : This is a neat collaboration regarding Navisu’s Yuki AI. The choice Cortana’s Created presents an AI is an inherently interesting one and Yuki’s divided loyalties created a compelling dilemma. Yuki herself remains somewhat ambiguous throughout the piece—perhaps by design—and by the end her intentions toward the Created remain vague. Will she submit to the Created in an effort to minimize suffering or will she subvert their efforts from within? The piece is a compelling take on the dilemma faced by the galaxy in the wake of the Created uprising, though it does lean a bit too far into exposition for my liking.
  • The Regret by slowfuture : Slowfuture’s piece is a great look at Amy-G094 (soon to be known as “Hera”) in a moment of impressive weakness. This may even be the moment where she stops being Amy, severing old ties to become Hera. A Spartan’s frustration over the loss they’ve endured at ONI’s hands is ripe material to explore, though I do find some of the dialogue between Amy and Frendsen a bit stiff. Interestingly, the character who must ultimately face the hard truth seems to be more Frendsen than Amy—Amy embraces her anger and leaves Frendsen to reflect on the harm he has caused the Spartans under his authority. Stylistically this wasn’t my favorite entry to read, but it made me think a bit more than the other entries and as such it’s my pick for the winner.
  • Solitary (TPF) by ThePeteFiles : Everyone’s had a moment when they find themselves alone at mundane tasks while their friends slip out to do something fun. I appreciate TPF’s use of a relatable pang to help the reader empathize with Sam’s solitude. I did find it hard to pin down what exactly Sam was meant to be facing in this entry. Several problems are presented through expository prose rather than action or dialogue, which left me uncertain of what to take away from the short. This entry might be focused a bit more by cutting out a few extraneous details to let the narrative focus on Sam’s discontent with his situation.
  • Garden by Timothy Emeigh : Sasha’s confrontation with her past makes for some wonderful reading. Her visions are conveyed with a great focus on imagery and Sasha’s reactions to the scenes before her. However, more so than the other entries submitted for this prompt I felt that this entry was cut from a larger story. I wasn’t entirely sure what Sasha was doing in the Forerunner complex that clearly triggered her visions and as such I was left puzzling over what to takeaway from the piece itself. Overall this is a very well-done entry but the lack of a broader context makes me hope for more embellishment in the future.

Week 200: Bury Your Dead

Judge: Distant Tide

Prompt: I'm cranking up the emotional investment requirement. A week after Memorial Day in the States, I figure this could be as good a time as ever to write about losing loved ones and where that leaves the living. What are they left with? Gratitude? Guilt? Loss? Memories? Or maybe a material debt? A unfinished dream, an unsettled account? When those that pass leave our world, their presence can and will still be felt. Death is one kind of end, but its not for everyone. Standard fair, aim for a 500-800 word limit but I'll play loose with the goalposts.

Start Date: 6 June 2021

End Date: 13 June 2021

  • Headhunters (TPF) by ThePeteFiles: I guess you get the victory by default but that's no passing remark on your skill or polish. You've got quality in your words Pete, this win regardless is deserving despite my critiques that will follow. I hope on some level I can help you improve on your path as a writer. The first thing that stuck out to me was the use of passive voice in your narration; this short really is all narration which isn't bad but I would have liked to see some more show than tell for a prompt like this. I probably asked too much in the first place, it is a heavy topic to address and handle. What's there flows well, no hiccups in the sentences as I can see it. As for that passive voice, I'm referring to your use of "were/was -ed" sections. They're not super problematic but for someone who's super-aware of them in my owning writing, they stick out to me. Fairly common advice for writers given by English teachers is to eliminate such passive voices and try to write sentences that don't use "were/was/had/have" to force you into a more active narration. It gives more presence and immediacy in your writing as I understand and one of the things I look out for most. Whether this is actual useful advice, I'm not really sure. It's hard to tell between writers, even with feedback. Do what you feels works best for your style and level of engagement. For me, the passive voice did not detract from your description. It was straightforward, what you described here was facts and the reality of the situation. It holds up. But that set aside, my overall take from this short is that its also too-matter-of-fact. It reads like one of your articles, which are very enjoyable but I would like to see more of your prose. I've already accepted this prompt isn't the best for that when matched with the word count. But still, I would have liked to get more than what feels like a mix of history and a journal entry. Sam didn't take any action in this story, he didn't have anything to interact with other than to tell the audience what he's been through and experienced. What he experienced comes through loud and clear, but its also very simplistic. I would not call it formulaic though. Sam's decision process is clear here and we understand why and who he is because we have a mix of external narration and pseudo-thoughts to carry on. It's an internal rationale, a mantra. This piece feels like that, reinforcing what he believes in and why he does it. Not as impactful as your previous pieces about his home life but this one still adds a critical item to his story. Glad to be an indirect part in bringing that to life.

Week 201: Spartans never Die, except

Judge: ThePeteFiles

Prompt: In A Hero Falls, the Office of Naval Intelligence declares SPARTAN-117 Killed in Action. Throughout the trailer cutscene, we see a variety of individuals reacting to the news of Humanity's Savior dying in the line of duty. How does your character react to the news of SPARTAN-117 being listed KIA? How would a veteran of the Human-Covenant War react, a service member in the UNSC, or even an everyday civilian? Feel free to pick a Point of View. You're also free to explore the reason why Master Chief was declared KIA, to ensure people didn't know he went AWOL and so forth. Aim for about 500-800 words.

Start Date: 13 June 2021

End Date: 20 June 2021

  • Coming Apart by Actene: The angle Actene takes is interesting, I like how he balances the character between his past and present self. Venter saw Master Chief as someone he looked up to, now being surrounded by people who are cheering his death. The situation is quite tricky to navigate and Actene does an excellent job moving around the scene to capture the sides of Venter. Actene did a great job this week.
  • DT 2021: Roland Tries by Distant Tide: Tide focuses on the prompt from the Infinity and I like it. Not only does he include his character's struggle, he also focuses on how Roland is being treated in the start of the Created Crisis. I enjoy the focus of how Roland helps Andra on understanding what happened to the Master Chief over the course of the events.

Week 202: Regret, Regret, Regret

Judge: Actene

Prompt: Apologies (regrets, if you will) if this recycles an older prompt, but it's certainly a fruitful topic to consider. Write a short piece (500-800 word range, as usual) in which a character or group of characters confront something they regret: an action from their past that haunts them, an opportunity missed or not taken, or anything else that looms out of the past to influence them for good or ill in the present. Try to incorporate something dynamic into your response. Your character or characters should use the emotions they're dealing with to make a decision or take action on something rather than simply sitting around and reflecting on whatever past event is eating them.

I also encourage you to avoid the survivor's guilt cliché of a character blaming themselves for something that happened in battle. I won't flat out forbid these kind of entries, but you can do something a bit more personal than a Marine thinking their friend wouldn't have died if only they'd been a bit faster on the trigger or something equally tired.

Start Date: 20 June 2021

End Date: 27 June 2021

  • DT 2021: My Disease by Distant Tide: Tide’s efforts to carve out a future for Andra and Merlin after the Created conflict continue apace (with very little help from me, unfortunately). I must confess a sense of smug satisfaction in seeing elements of Heaven and Earth overshadowing Andra and Merlin’s future. Jokes aside, I’m interested in the narrative Tide is crafting around these characters and hope the threads he’s weaving into these short pieces come together into a full story soon. Merlin’s “disease” is woven throughout this entry rather than outright explained. Normally this would be a good thing but I couldn’t help but think that a single expository paragraph up front to explain just what Merlin is coping with would help ground the piece for a reader who isn’t quite familiar with what is going on. With that being said, I found this to be a highly enjoyable read.
  • Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda by Ahalosniper: This is a nice, reflective piece that highlights Gavin Dunn’s hesitantly paternal relationship with Zoey Hunsinger. There’s a lot of site history packed into the Chancer V’s backstory and crew, particularly in the almost-unspoken connection between Zoey and Emily. Any weekly entry faces the challenge of conveying enough background to bring the reader up to speed in a short amount of time. This piece handles the problem by confining the framing to Gavin’s own recollections. While there’s some nice details about Zoey’s adjustment to the spacer lifestyle, it also makes the piece feel a little unfocused with only expository prose to keep the reader engaged in the sentimentality. That criticism aside, it’s nice to see a Gavin-centered piece. I hope ASniper puts more content like this out in the future.
  • Career Change (TPF) by ThePeteFiles: This was a week of long entries, and while I have no problem with shorts busting the word count suggestion this week I find myself honoring the shortrunner in the mix. I’ll get the criticism out of the way first: the dialogue punctuation needs a serious proofread—“’Which part?’ she said” rather than “’Which part?’” She said, etc. I also found a few of the paragraph breaks and attributions a bit confusing. However, I appreciated the emotion and relationships behind this piece as well as the way TPF lays out the seriousness of Aniela’s situation. I knew absolutely nothing about the characters and situation going in, but by the end of the short piece I was sold on the gravity of the situation as well as the emotions mingling between Aniela and her father. I appreciated the clarity of this piece more than anything else. Sometimes simpler is better, and in this case Career Change is my pick of the week.
  • Rubbish and Ammo by Arminius Fiddywinks: This piece gave me pause for a long time. Under different circumstances it would win by pick for the weekly hands down. The first-person perspective and use of repetition really make it stand out from the other entries and the back-and-forth between the warriors performing an otherwise mundane task helps reinforce the emotional core beneath the narrator’s actions. Unfortunately, I cannot overlook the fact that the Sangheili speak to each other like human teenagers. While anyone is free to put their own spin on Sangheili dialogue, Halo has established conventions for Sangheili speech—more formal and elevated, without the use of contractions—and the deviation here is jarring enough to throw off the entire setting. The gratuitous use of profanity simply doesn’t work well within Halo convention and as such I was forced to pass this entry up for the winning pick.

Week 203: Wholesome Tour

Judge: ThePeteFiles

Prompt: For the past few weeks, we've delved into stories to showcase individuals handling adversity. This week, let's take a different spin and focus on the wholesome factor. Whether you have your characters sharing a moment together, to receiving a gift, or a confession of love to a certain individual. These are some examples to give people an idea of what to look for. Regardless, make it wholesome and ensure the story revolves around the theme. Aim for about 500-800 words.

Start Date: 27 June 2021

End Date: 4 July 2021

  • Find Your Way by Arminius Fiddywinks: I liked the premise of the story and how the characters interact with each other. One thing I think you should work on is the dialogue between the characters. It feels the words they're saying do not fit the canon portrayal of the characters. Overall, it's a good story, just need some tuning up in terms of the dialogue and you would be set.
  • To Victors Go The Spoils by Ahalosniper: I never expected the Chancer to be put into a situation where they help the UEG. I like how you include the good deed of what the crew did and how they helped out the colony. What makes me think this is the winner, is based on the idea of the crew thinking they did a good deed, only to see it taken away from them. I enjoyed the interactions between the crew and how things ultimately played out.
  • DT 2021: Birthday Girl by Distant Tide: A birthday party without the mother and Andra wanting her mom home. I liked the depth you went into with Andra dealing with her friends and the world of Sigma Octanus IV. The one thing I found to set you apart was the direction break between Andra and her father. It was still good, but it seemed like a bit of a different break between Andra and her father.
  • No Lords Here by Actene: It's interesting to see Tuka involved in a situation where he gets to live with everyone from his group. Often in war, it's easy to lose someone and it's a nice change of pace to see everyone come out alive. It was easy to follow and understand, I enjoyed how you handled the prompt.

Week 204: Heresy Will Not Stay My Feet

Judge: Timothy Emeigh

Prompt: It's "Freedom Day" in the US, and a Sunday most everywhere else. Either of those has something to do with freedom, right? Eh, it's close enough for me. So yeah, that's your theme. Freedom, and how your characters achieve it. Lose it. Interact with it. Whatever! You want to write about an Elite during the Great Schism, final free from the lies of the Prophets? Sure! Some prisoner of war finally getting released? Go for it. Someone suffering, mentally, emotionally, or physically, finally being freed from that burden? I'm happy to read and review it. Or maybe you want to twist the theme, go with something about freedom being taken away? A bit out there, but I've done some weird twists on the prompts before, I won't say no. Aim for around 900-1100 words.

Start Date: 4 July 2021

End Date: 11 July 2021

  • Mistakes Were Made by Arminius Fiddywinks: It was interesting to see a direct take on "freedom" in its physical form, what with all the other three being in a more abstract understanding of it. Additionally, the first person PoV was something I don't see often, and while I'm not sure I'm personally a fan, it's a consistent style of yours that I've noticed and it definitely gives something interesting to your writing. Finally, the Covenant dialogue is starting to feel more in-line with what you'd expect of an alien, so that's good to see! With those things said, there are still some aspects I'd work on. On a more technical side, the dialogue—while distinctly more "Covenant" feeling than some of your past works—still comes across as stilted in some areas. Perhaps there could be some more emotive descriptions between the breaks in dialogue, rather than just a new synonym for "said?" Additionally, towards the beginning, I saw some repetition in how the sentences were started which didn't seem to be for effect. Finally, while the approach to how you explored freedom was unique compared to the others in this entry, there wasn't much focus on how the lack of freedom and eventually return of it by the end impacted or played on the characters beyond Mik's rantings. Still a very good piece, just some areas I see could use improvement for next time!
  • Life on the Outside (TPF) by ThePeteFiles: This one was one of the harder ones for me to review. As a whole, it's a nice little story that fits the theme. Similarly to Zoup's story, later on, it explores someone who's been granted some degree of freedom yet still has something holding her back; though it differs in that Oriana seems to be working past that mental burden rather than lingering in it. On the other hand, knowing the character (and hinted at in this entry), she will eventually get dragged back into the fold (or choose to go back into it). Looking at the pieces, however, I find myself feeling that the latter third of the work could have been expanded to get something of equal "screen time" with the first two-thirds. The introduction was nice, and helped develop where she was in life, but once the attention on Clayton and Oriana's new life with him was brought up, it felt a bit "direct." It got right to the point of setting up her aiming for Stanford. Yet, compared to the detail on Oriana's thoughts in the first portions of the story, it was mostly dialogue and descriptions. All-in-all, a nice story that I wish was a little longer! It certainly had the room to grow and still hit the word-count range.
  • DT 2021: Freedom to Find Out by Distant Tide: Well, I joked I'd say it in the Discord, so... "Yay! Wholesome!" On a more serious note, I did enjoy this piece, especially the beginning section (it started really strong) and the end, though I feel there may have been a little bit too much of a break for describing the town and the road and the planet etc. in the middle. I understand what you were going for—developing a comparison for Andra and how she didn't exactly fit in—and the second section where that talk of her not fitting started up saw a return to form, but the actual description felt a bit extended. I did enjoy how the ending came back around to focus in on the theme, and it was interesting to see one of these stories play with their characters being free but still having commitments (in this case, Andra and her protection of Merlin). A very good story that could use a little more polish to fully capitalize on its focus, especially at a few hundred words above the range.
  • Let Out // Locked Out by LegendOfElTopo: I feel that this entry had one of the more interesting takes on the themes: a character who has—ostensibly—been freed, yet neither feels truly free nor fully desires what she has been given. The start began to develop these feelings, with Harriet thinking about how she misses her friends and doesn't really find her new crew to be quite the same, and the end really comes back to hammer home that point that she never actually got away from it all in the first place. There's very little I can critique, here. The length was good, I didn't feel much missed potential or wasted space, and the formatting was very nice. One thing I can note is the focus at the very end about it being "0055, now." I didn't really understand what the meaning was meant to be behind that, or if there even was one, but it was barely three sentences at the very end, so doesn't drag down the entry at all regardless. Happy to say this one is this week's winner.

Week 205: His Name is Atriox

Judge: Distant Tide

Prompt: For some time now, the Banished have been the main antagonistic force in the Halo universe outside of the continuously mysterious and backdrop-remaining Created. Halo Infinite is expected and soon on its way but we've been introduced to the Banished before the game comes out. For this week, let's write about our characters encounters with the Banished and what makes them terrifying. Let's write about what a force of reckoning they can be. This is mostly a post-Covenant War era plot so for those unable to write strictly in that venue, any interactions with a Brute or Brute-mostly faction that your narrative contends with is fine too. Let's aim for 500-800 words despite my own experience with often exceeding that goal post, you are free to treat it as guidelines more than rule.

Not supposed to write your for your own prompts but here's a non-competitive, narration-based entry on my part for the theme: DT 2021: Barbarians on the Frontier.

Start Date: 11 July 2021

End Date: 18 July 2021

  • Capture by Brodie-001: Capture has a rather simple title. So does New Threat by Pete. I guess simple/basic prompt gets simple/basic responses? Nah, Capture does exactly what I wanted from the prompt. It knows its enemy and it spends enough time with the victims/protagonists that you can sit in their spot when the mess takes place. If I'm not mistaken, while this isn't the actual Banished - this is one of their subgroups featured in Halo: Shadows of Reach? Correct me if I'm wrong since I haven't finished it cover to cover. I like how the Brutes here are a mix of professional cunning and standard-fair, 'going to murder you like you're a plaything' vibe you got going. The small interaction between the two human characters of note felt like a betrayal to me, giving a supposed friend bad advice that leads to unfortunate results. It was a pointless effort, they all were probably going to die anyway, but bad advice still gets someone killed. We don't see the punishment so I'm going to have to imagine it sucks. But this piece did leave me with dread and at the hands of Brutes, this is what I wanted. Thank you for giving me such a solid and enjoyable entry. The dark was a motif that stood out to me during the reading, I couldn't stop thinking everyone wrapped up in shadow and flashed by floodlights. It's well-written, you're this week's winner.
  • New Threat (TPF) by ThePeteFiles: Alright, I'll give it to you Pete. You were right with your warning to a degree. You didn't do it wrong, but this entry wasn't really about the Banished. It wasn't about the Created, or Jul, or the old Covenant. What I take away from this is either you're setting up a heist story or a intrusion war story, and this little piece is more about setting up "what" will happen than anything happening. It's about your crew, your team. Sam, Oriana, and the rest of the Osage crew - I admit I'm not familiar with Levi or Darrick very well. That's on me, I don't check in enough on your universe outside of the main characters and big event topics and that's a shame on my part really. The actual piece is pretty much solid, but I hazard to say "fine" because honestly it's all I felt about it. Dialogue was handled well, character interaction was just that. You learned a little bit about the characters and what their focus was, what the galaxy has in its rogues gallery and a forewarning of what really is to come. But it doesn't actually do anything with it. It's a lunchroom board meeting, you don't meet the Banished at all and there's not really anything that helps work on them outside of some vague reference to danger. The leading line about getting their name wrong due to obscurity felt out of place too. It's such a easy name to remember I have a hard time believing an ONI agent/Spartan would be able to mess up the translation or not at least recognize it in passing. It's well written but I just don't feel anything for it. This response is harsher than I intended but you were honest up front, it doesn't feel like it has anything to do with the prompt overall. I wish you did more with it, I've seen you can do better in other entries and especially your longer-form stories. This one just didn't work for me.

Week 206: Now Would Be A Very Good Time To Leave

Judge: Actene

Prompt: In a bit of a rush to put this one up tonight due to travel-related concerns so I'll keep it simple. Focus your entries on a departure of some kind. This can be a literal departure from a location or something a bit more thematic--perhaps "departure" can involve someone leaving an old state of mind behind or even "departing" this life for the next. Be creative, but try to make it clear to the reader what the departure in question entails. 500-800 words is the suggested range, but as usual I'm happy to be generous for pieces that exceed these guidelines.

Start Date: 18 July 2021

End Date: 25 July 2021

Week 207: Master Chef

Judge: ThePeteFiles

Prompt: To take a turn, I want to focus on a different type of prompt, food. Create a prompt revolving around food. Whether its someone having their first home cooked meal in a long time, going to a restaurant to order a meal, experimenting with a recipe they saw on Waypoint or another colony, or even creating your own recipe in the Halo universe. Whatever it is, just make sure it has food surrounding the story. Feel free to explore the world of cuisine within Halo and how it might be portrayed. Keep the story within 500 to 800 words please.

Start Date: 25 July 2021

End Date: 1 August 2021