The Covenant don't go in for general-purpose AIs, but they do have sophisticated data networks. That means sophisticated computers and sophisticated programming techniques courtesy of their Engineer caste and salvaged TheForerunner technology. They have decrypted UNSC traffic before and shown the ability to learn Terrestrial languages; their first message to Humanity ("Your destruction is the will of the Gods, and we are Their instrument.") was in English. They have shown the capacity to build and deploy autonomous recce drones. They have also shown an ability to hack UNSC computer networks. (See the Cole Protocol.)
Tie in the Flea's antipathy for the Queen (assuming the Flea is the one writing the notes found in the KillerTranslations), the difficulty in locating it, it's outside perspective, its metaphorical parasitism , its metaphorical piety, and its hunger for external data... I'm not liking where this is going. We need to tie this in with the Crusoe quote before I find it a comprehensive theory, but the Flea could be a Covenant logic bomb or trojan.
Now, how do we test this hypothesis?... --UserAntonPNym 16:44, 30 Jul 2004 (PDT)
If this was the case, wouldn't TheOperator be extremely worried about detecting such a thing? She doesn't seem all that concerned about it; she appears to be much more worried about Dana -- UserClamatius 16:50, 30 Jul 2004 (PDT)
Interesting idea. I'm not too convinced, though. After all, it seems like the Flea is trying to help Dana. Combined with the Operator and SPDR's ambivalence, it seems unlikely that the Flea is not human. --UserKhaim 17:14, 30 Jul 2004 (PDT)
I can't find a direct reference to either Melissa, TheOperator, or TheQueen having found ThePiousFlea. We get that in The Widow's TheStory, but The Operator was still pretty loopy when that text came out. Dana, however, was a direct threat ("Shooting bullets into me") while the Flea was hiding.
If the MaydayTextTheTruthShort Seek the truth text is indeed the Flea's, that would match with a mission to find and reveal the location of Human population centres. Also, many of the motivations found in ThePrincessAndTheFlea would also match with a Covenant intrusion.
It's still not comprehensive, but there are a fair amount of supporting evidence. Perhaps communication with the Flea should be steered towards finding out its spiritual beliefs? --UserAntonPNym 17:21, 30 Jul 2004 (PDT)
Three things strike me as strange about this theory though. First, do the Covenant have the AI technology neccesary to make the flea? Cortana scoffs at their encryption ability, and there have been no record of a Covenant AI infiltrating human communications. In fact, there has only been one documented case of a Covenant AI, and it was "dumb" AI, and wasn't built for infiltration. Second, I'm sure the Queen knows not only that the Pious Flea exists, but also what manner of procedure it is. ("I was surprised to see the naked foot of a flea, yadda yadda...") If it were a Covenant AI, it would be impossible for the Queen to know what procedure it is, because it would be an entirely new monster never encountered before. Third, the only reference we have is a dumb AI but was programmed to hate humanity. Not only that, it repeatedly repeated Covenant rhetoric to Cortana over the system. The fact that the Pious Flea is congenial with Dana leads be to believe it is a human program. UserTankRamp 18:44, 30 Jul 2004 (PDT)
Good to see you, TankRamp! Glad to have your input.
Remember that Cortana scoffs at everybody! She's extremely talented in her field, and as a result is a touch arrogant and danged cocky. She's scoffed at everybody from Dr. Halsey, ONI AIs, Captain Keyes, much of the Covenant, and even the Master Chief! Also remember that she was surprised to see that the Covenant weren't encrypting their battlenet... her later successes could be due to her own taps put in during the earlier unencrypted phase, similar to the taps the Monitor put in her when she wasn't looking. (Trojans in the Index?)
I'm not seeing the "naked foot" quote as direct evidence of Melissa's knowledge of the Flea; after all, it's a near-verbatim quote of Robinson Crusoe at a time that SPDR is triggering random blocks of data storage. If there's anything to contradict that, please shout out! That the quote was re-jiggered to include mention of ThePiousFlea started me on a totally different line of investigation... I'm now seeing it as evidence that the presence of the Flea has influenced the Operator. (Supporting this is the substitution of "reveal" for "resist" in the SERE quotations.)
As far as the AI aboard Ascendant Justice, I'm not convinced it's dumb; it could just as well be a smart AI that went through too many copies. It's behaviour was similar to some of the faulty Cortana duplicates near the end of the book, but slanted theologically instead of cryptologically.
Still looking for feedback, folks! --UserAntonPNym 19:49, 30 Jul 2004 (PDT)
The most glaring problem with the Flea as Covenant device theory is that the Covenant are highly aggressive and openly hostile, and a program best suited to hiding and watching as opposed to searching and destroying does not fit the bill. However, there is your evidence, which is irrefuteable. So, I offer what I think of as an elegant solution to the dissonance: the Flea was created with Covenant code.
Melissa, obviously, is a hunter-killer type program, even calling herself nothing more than a weapon. Further, she is highly aggressive and hostile to anything she deems as a threat (Hence, Dana). As an ONI AI, as the memory benchmark tests indicate she is, Melissa would best be used as an assassin: stealthily inserted into an enemies system and systematically obliterating it. The problem is that a highly aggressive killer wouldn't want to do that, so ONI programed the Flea, using pre-existing coding on how to access Covenant systems, interpret Covenant languages, etc. The only place to get this data, and ensure that it works, is from a captured Covenant AI, therefore the Flea has a residual wariness about human made AI. --UserNoir
IMO, it is likely the Pious Flea is a Covenant AI. Firstly, it is described as Pious, and religion is a central and recurring attribute for the Covenant. Almost all of their motivations are attributed to Religious beliefs. In the AlternateComputerTextComparison it seems the Widow instinctively bites the Flea upon first discovering it. Also the text from Robinson Crusoe is in regards to a footprint Robinson sees, and that footprint <i>terrifies</i> him. Interestingly the footprint is later identified as that of a cannibal. One cannibal in particular is later captured by Crusoe, educated, and becomes his servant. (foreshadowing?)
--UserRoc 07:26, 2 Aug 2004 (PDT)
Alright, we seem to have a fair amount of evidence that the Flea could be Covenant; I support this with the recent LookingForTheGirlPart article quoting a snippet of monologue that I missed:
"Where did THAT come from?
Spider stuck a probe into SOMETHING I don't recognize at all."
Melissa has something added to her that she doesn't recognise. Again, not conclusive in itself but highly suggestive.
Now all we have to do is figure out why the killer.jpg text, if it is from the Flea, is so willing to help/protect Dana.--UserAntonPNym 08:07, 3 Aug 2004 (PDT)
Just a theory, but I doubt the killer.jpg voice is the Flea, despite the "behold the truth" line. The speaker also refers to the flea, not a couple lines later, as "a nasty little infestation". My best guess is that the killer.jpg voice is the Princess (see my page for more ramblings on that). --UserGunsmithCat 08:13, 3 Aug 2004 (PDT)
[Covenant Tactics] According to "The Fall of Reach" the Covenant used the same tactic to get something they wanted at least three times; Cpt. Keyes (I think) even remarks on it: "...just another diversion." They preform a brute force main attack while their real objectice is accomplished with a smaller group. The Pious flea as Covenant idea strikes me in being similar...(I'll reorganize my thoughts on this tomorrow...)
Additionally, the completion of the 2nd phase has given the Pious Flea as covenant speculation a little more credence IMHO.
I put up a spec on ThePiousFlea and the forum about this based on Phase 3 learnings. Werepanda then suggested something that should fit your senses of symmetry nicely - One of the Operator's Phase 2 MilitaryConversation memories mentions the ship eavesdropping on a Cov transmission, decrypting it, learning about the attack on Troy. In Phase 3 ShipboardMemories Melissa wonders if she's been compromised, and they speculate on a virus piggybacked on one of their intercepted transmissions - wondering if the Cov have gained an edge and learned how to make a virus undetectable. Irony suggests that embedded in the stored decrypt about the attack on Troy was...a Trojan horse program. Which may be our friendly neighborhood Flea. The Cov may have let that transmission be intercepted and decrypted deliberately if they suspected ONI were in the area. (Credit Werepanda) --UserJellyfishGreen 06:06, 12 Aug 2004 (PDT)
In Phase 3 it looks like the Flea is able to delete the SPDR. What if the SPDR is implementing the Cole Protocol as part of its operations, and if the Flea is a Covenant trojan, then this could be one of the reasons why the Flea would want to stop it? --UserCiaran 08:32, 13 Aug 2004 (PDT)
The Flea seems obsessed with finding out "the truth" Not sure if this has been said before, but doesnt it seem likely that the truth that the Covenant wanted the Flea to seek, behold, and reveal is the location of Earth? Especially since on the honey page, we see that the lines:
!init transmit proc !transmit truth
Perhaps the Flea transmits the location of Earth to the Covenant, using current radio frequency broadcasts, which *only* travel at the speed of light, which means that the if the Flea sends out a message now, in 2004, the Covenant may finally be able to receive it 500 years later, when the Halo storyline takes place, leading to the invasion of Earth in Halo 2. That means all you axon people are indirectly responsible for the invasion of Earth 500 years from now. (now for some more wild speculation) That means that what remains to happen is for the Flea to somehow gain the means to make a radio frequency transmission into space, or at least some medium for communication with sufficient range to reach the Covenant. Are there any major space launches scheduled for the next few weeks that the Flea might be able to piggyback on? Alternatively, seeing as the Flea seems to have developed some sort of influence/control over the Operator, perhaps they already have a measure of control over orbiting geostationary GPS satellites, which would explain how they were able to provide us with GPS coordinates. Does anyone know if a GPS satellite could theoretically be remotely repurposed for crude interstellar communication? (26 Aug 2004)