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The corrupted I Love Bees website.

I Love Bees (also known as ilovebees or ILB for short) was an alternate reality game (ARG) that served as a real-world experience and viral marketing campaign for the launch of Halo 2. The ARG was created and developed by 42 Entertainment, commissioned by Microsoft, and approved by Bungie.


On July 18th, 2004, ilovebees.com launched but wasn't discovered until July 23 when a subliminal message flickered across the screen of the Halo 2 theatrical trailer,[1][2] turning "xbox.com" into "ilovebees.com" momentarily.

At first glance, the website appeared to be hacked.[3] A message on the front page directed visitor to the blog of a girl named Dana Awbrey. Dana claimed that she built the ilovebees site for her Aunt Margaret and that the website recently got in this bizarre state, and asks if anyone could help her. Dana acted as a narrator in the game, describing events for people who missed the action.[4]


The countdown.

The front page had a counter counting down to July 27, 2004 (when "network throttling will erode"), August 10, 2004 (when "this medium will metastasize"), and August 24, 2004 (at 8:06 A.M. when it will be "wide awake and physical").[5] Many thought something would happen related to Halo 2 on these dates, however it was only related to the ILB game. There was a counter counting down to the day the Covenant will attack Earth, 500 years in the future.[6] In 2015, the website began redirecting visitors to 42 Entertainment's website.[7] A copy of the site is located at http://www.ilovebees.co.

Countdown timer

When the countdown ends.

On August 10, 2004, a list of GPS coordinates with times were added to the site's Links page, along with a countdown to "Axons go hot."[8] With the exception of one leading to the Pacific Ocean, all of the coordinates lead to pay phones. On August 24, the countdown ended as it reached the first set time. People who answered the pay phones (the "axons") at the scheduled times spoke to a recording of the A.I. and were asked basic questions about the character. If answered correctly, an audio clip would be released and a number would be added to a counter on the website. The audio clips, when threaded together formed an audio drama about characters in the Halo universe. As the number reached 777, the AI, as played by a voice actor instead of a recording, began interacting with players through the pay phones.[9]

ILB Fans at a Phonebooth

Fans wait at a payphone.

The AI would ask for their name, rank and proof that they were human. Players would provide their usernames, choose ranks and improvise proof (eg. joking, singing). Their names were added to the site, crediting them for activating the axons.

After the game was over, players were invited to go on a "training mission". Various sites around America were used to host the event, including movie theaters and malls. Players were told to say the phrase "The Operator left a message for me" to gain access to the event. Unfortunately, several of the hosts were unaware of ILB and thought it was just a Halo 2 event, disappointing many fans. At each event, players were given DVDs containing all of the ILB audio files, as well as deleted material and screenshots from the site.


Yasmine, Melissa, and the Apocalypso[]

In the year 2537, on the planet Coral, six-year-old Yasmine Zaman was forcibly inducted into the SPARTAN-II program. After eight years of Spartan training, she "washed out", meaning that she died during the augmentation process. Her brain was then used to make a smart AI named Melissa.

By 2552, Melissa was being used as a shipboard AI on the stealth ship Apocalypso. While the ship was in Covenant space, it intercepted a transmission detailing attacks on Troy and Harmony. This transmission included a Trojan Horse AI spy called the Seeker which began corrupting Melissa. Melissa realized that something was not well, and Captain Greene decided to bring the ship home.

On the way back, long-range sensors detected a Forerunner artifact floating around in space. With examination, it appeared to be a Covenant device of completely new design. They decided to bring the object to Earth, so ONI could examine it. During Slipspace travel, Melissa, under the Seeker's influence, convinced a crewmember to fiddle with the artifact. An enormous explosion threw the ship out of Slipspace within Lunar-orbit and shutdown all communications in the Solar System for about seven seconds.

The explosion blew Melissa apart, part of her was sent back in time to the year 2004, where she landed on the ilovebees internet website. On the site, the part of her that was the young Yasmine separated from the AI/Spartan part of her, called "The Operator". The Operator was a violent fragmented personality trying to make sense of what happened. Brought with her, was the System Peril Distributed Reflex, or SPDR, which was an emergency program that began to repair the Operator. Also brought along was the Seeker, who managed to convince the Operator that it was an updated version of the SPDR and tricked her into disabling the real SPDR. While the Seeker did do the work of the SPDR, it also began to overwrite the Operator's goals, "survive, evade, resist, escape," with its own: "seek the truth, behold the truth, reveal the truth."

The Yasmine part called herself "The Sleeping Princess," and spoke in a storybook fashion, referring to the Operator as the evil Queen who locked her away in a glass coffin. She began communicating with people through the site's 404 page, talking about day-to-day activities and answering questions emailed to her through the email displayed on the site. On other pages, she spoke with the Seeker, whom she called the Pious Flea, and eventually allied with it.

Another part of Melissa was not sent back in time, and landed on the home PC of Jersey Morelli. Jersey assumed her to be some kind of spam and told his dumb AI to delete her off his system; Melissa immediately retaliated and destroyed it. Jersey realized that the AI was military and asked what she was; she said she couldn't remember her name but knew that she liked to find things out. Jersey named her Durga, thinking it suited her. Because she couldn't remember what she liked to find out, Durga asked Jersey for a target. Jersey asked her to get info on the attractive girl down the hall, Jan James.


Durga began spying on Jan James, hacking into the chatters of people around her or talking about her. She found out that Jan broke into a military base to return a gate pass used by her friends to steal a Warthog, but was caught by MPs. She was taken to the police station to be given a PQI, she beat the machine but the cop could tell she was lying. Her father, Jim James, came to pick her up and got upset after hearing that they needed to take blood samples. On the ride home, he lectured her on how important it is for them to stay out of trouble. She expressed concern, but he said not to worry, that he'll take care of it. He ended up burning the station to the ground, destroying all the test samples.

Durga also began spying on a medical student named Kamal Zaman, because he seemed very interesting to her for some reason. Kamal was having dating trouble despite his roommate, Hiroyuki's help. So, Kamal's mother back on Coral set him up with a friend's daughter, Sophia Bossedon, who had immigrated to Earth. On their date, Sophia informed him that she was already dating someone, a local gangster named Aiden, but she couldn't tell her mother she was seeing someone from Earth. Listening to her talk about Aiden, Kamal suspected he was cheating on her and offered to hack into his chatter and find out for sure. After discovering that he was currently on a date with someone else, Sophia used Kamal's hack to publicly humiliate Aiden from his chatter. Afterwards, Sophia and Aiden made up, and Kamal was terrified that Aiden would want revenge, instead he was offered a job. Kamal agreed to work for him, if Aiden would get visas to bring Kamal's parents to Earth.

Also, without realizing it, Durga spied on an ONI Colonel, Herzog. Herzog suspected that ONI knew about incoming Covenant attacks on Troy and Harmony, but let the planets get glassed so that the Covenant wouldn't know they were being listened in on. Herzog made a call to the Quartermaster's helpdesk, pretending to be a cranky and annoying old man. He told the receptionist that he used to live on Troy, and was forcibly evacuated. He then told her that he had some very important family papers that were taken by the marines, and he had a receipt signed by Lance Corporal Janet Adams. After the receptionist informed him that Corporal Adams was KIA, he convinced her to launch an investigation.

Back on the ilovebees server, the Operator began receiving data from Durga, including audio files of her spying and of her interactions with Jersey. She was unsure of what to make of it, all her attempts to probe the connection failed, so she just stored the clips away. While the Operator was distracted, the Sleeping Princess listened to the clips and discussed them with the Seeker, who rapidly learned human concepts such as fear and humor.

In the future, Durga continued to spy on Jan, and although Jersey didn't see the point of it, Kamal. Kamal had invited Sophia over for dinner, claiming that they were only friends. However, Hiroyuki was sure Kamal would never attempt to cook a whole chicken just for a friend. After the chicken got ruined, they decided to go out for pizza. At dinner, Kamal talked a bit about his gifted sister, Yasmine, who died when he was younger from a process called "metabolic cascade failure" after an accident. Sophia made him realize that was why he decided to become a doctor. He became aware of his growing feelings for Sophia, but decided it wouldn't be right to act on them.

Durga also records Herzog meeting his old friend Prof. Avi to discuss a candidate he had found for an ONI spy. Later, Herzog shares some information regarding the Apocalypso and the alien artifact with his Lieutenant over a drink. Herzog says that he was told the story by Captain Greene before she was hit by a bus. They suspect that a man named Standish is responsible for the ship's records being erased and Greene's untimely death, and decide to wait and listen for the time being.

The Sleeping Princess managed to intercept some audio files being broadcast by Durga before the Operator received them. These files were of another person being spied on, a girl named Rani. Rani is a very perceptive person from Kentucky who moved to Boston for college. She was approached by Prof. Avi, one of her teachers, who suggested that she send her résumé to ONI. She was accepted, but she turned it down in favor of starting a chatter-selling business with a friend. When it looked like the business would never get on its feet, she accepted the ONI job.

Later, Rani tracked Herzog's call and determined that the old man didn't exist. But after looking at things, she suspected that there really was an evacuation of Troy since the marines mentioned in Herzog's communique had actually been there. She tried to start an investigation but was stopped by her boss, who claimed that it was a hoax. Feeling that there is something larger going on, Rani expresses slight suspicion of her bosses' motives.

Spartan-Is and Shifty Jobs[]

Meanwhile, Aiden had hired Kamal to help catch a group of grad-students who were cheating a casino out of a lot of money. Kamal hacked into their line, pretending to be the card-counter to foil their games. The casino owner convinced him to string them along, saying he was in for 30% of the take. He was paid in poker chips, because the value was so high that they didn't want to pay him in credit. When he attempted to play blackjack with one of the chips, he was informed that the table has a $10,000 limit.

After the cop said something about her ability to beat the PQI, Jan realized that she has what could be called superhuman abilities. She came to the conclusion that she had been altered, like her father had been in the SSF (Special Special Forces). She went to a moons parlor known as a place cops don't go to, to try out her abilities. She saved a man about to be killed by a gang, by beating the gangleader, Thin Kinkle, in a game of moons. Later, she was approached by a man who had a friend interested in joining Kinkle's gang, but first his friend had to prove himself by doing something they could hold over him forever, namely a rape. The man asked Jan to help out his friend, and Jan agreed. She helped out by rescuing the would-be victim and gravely injuring everyone involved, greatly angering Kinkle in the process.

After Jan expressed an interest in her father's past, he decided to take her to meet one of his old SSF friends. He explained that the SSF was in fact, the Spartan-I project - precursor to the Spartan-II project. The first project was considered a failure and was never made known to the public. Jim James and the others, known as Spartan 1.0s, were given extensive training, and a bit of surgical alteration, but nowhere near as much as the Spartan 2.0s (Spartan-IIs). When Jan was an infant, Jim had a medic give her injections to give her Spartan capabilities. If the police had run tests on Jan's samples, they would have found traces of the chemicals. After the news came about Reach, Jim decided to visit another Spartan 1.0 who wasn't doing so well. The Spartan, Gilly, didn't come out of the training psychologically intact. She is very violent-minded, thinking all the time about ways to kill people and hoarding weapons. After Reach fell, she'd been filled with the desire to kill, Jim had come to help her through it. During an argument with Jan, she revealed herself to be Jan's mother.

Herzog was contacted by Standish to meet him at a local duck pond. Once there, Standish asked why he was checking out the Apocalypso. Herzog questioned if Standish had approval when he ordered the assassination of Captain Greene. Standish replied that winning the war is far more important than procedures. Herzog insisted that Standish let go of the "mysterious Covenant device", Standish told him to take it up with the Admiral. Herzog then questioned him about Troy, Harmony and codebreakers. Standish asked about his source, Herzog ended the conversation. As he walked away, Standish guessed that Herzog's source came from Chawla Base.

Jim decided that they should move to Mexico, probably to avoid the cop. Jan realized that they were driving through their old neighborhood, and convinced Jim to stop at a favorite ice cream store for a trip down memory lane. At the store, Jan questions why they had to move around so much. Jim explained that he volunteered for the Spartan-I project, but for the Spartan-II project, they abduct candidates at six-years-old. Jan's injections made her the best at every school, so they moved before the local ONI took interest in her.

Kamal, Hiroyuki and Sophia were reveling in their new wealth, when Kamal received a message from his mother back on Coral. Sophia insisted he play the message to them, after a moment he agreed. In the message, Kamal's mother tells him to be a good friend to Sophia because her father ran off to Earth with a lawyer woman. This was the first Sophia knew of this. Although she claimed to be fine, Hiroyuki quickly left. About that time, Aiden came over to celebrate their payday. Sophia confided in Aiden, he comforted her. She begs Aiden to give her mother a visa to Earth. He agrees, but says he can't make her go if she doesn't want to, on the other hand, she might now because there is nothing left for her.

After her boss shut her down at work, Rani used her home PC to continue to track down Herzog's call. While she was working at around 1:00AM, she heard someone walking around on her roof. She heard the person fall off her roof and to the street below. As they were loading the body into an ambulance, Rani noticed that the man's ankles were clean when the rest of him was filthy. She realized that the man had come to kill her, and that someone else had knocked him off the roof with a sonic weapon.

Furious, Herzog alerted the Admiral to demand he penalize Standish for sending an assassin to kill Rani. The Admiral listened to Herzog, dismissed him, and told him to send Standish in. Before meeting with the Admiral, Standish shared a few words with Herzog. Standish warned him to watch his back, because he "wouldn't let him lose the war".

Aiden came to Kamal with a great new business idea to flash clone pop-stars to give them a new way to make public appearances. Kamal didn't want to be involved, saying that it was "child porn illegal" and if caught they would likely be sentenced to memory modification. Aiden insisted that it wasn't that bad, and asked Kamal to just give him a feasibility study. Kamal agreed and after a couple days, he came to Aiden with his results. Basically, Kamal thought that the idea would never work, and began to describe the things wrong with flash clones. Among them, was the fact that flash clones die after a year from "metabolic cascade failure". As he reached this point, he realized that his sister had been replaced by a flash clone. He ran out on Aiden and after a bit, went to Sophia to seek comfort as he told her as thoughts.

Jan somehow got kidnapped by Thin Kinkle, who was just a bit angry at her. Kinkle began to torture her with a device called a Cupid's Knife. The Knife would hurt her whenever she had a bad thought about Thin Kinkle, so the only way to for it to stop was to love Thin Kinkle. Her father came to rescue her, but was captured. After a few words with Jan, Kinkle shot and killed him, then turned on the Knife.

On the ilovebees server, the Operator had managed to locate the Sleeping Princess and isolated her in a part of code. The Seeker, however, freed her. When she was being moved around by the Operator, she saw that the Operator was somewhat controlling Durga through the connection. The Operator had her spying on Colonel Herzog without realizing it. The Sleeping Princess explained to the Seeker that the Operator was concealing the truth from Durga, and as it is the Seeker's job to "reveal the truth", it agreed to broadcast the Herzog audio files to Durga.

In the future, Durga received the audio files but had no idea where they came from. It seemed that she had spent a long time spying on Herzog, yet had no memory of it. She worried that she had done other things without realizing it. After talking about it with Jersey, he suggested that she was what crashed the Apocalypso and blacked out communications. However, she had no memory of the Apocalypso, even though she and Jersey had previously discussed it. When Jersey asked if she could still spy on the people she normally did, she found out about Jan. She quickly turned off the security in Kinkle's building, allowing Gilly, Jim's partner, to walk undetected. Gilly killed everyone in the building and rescued Jan, but Kinkle had left by that point.

After finding his house staked out by Standish's men, Herzog approached Rani at a train station. He explained about the "Covenant device" hidden at Chawla Base, the base where Rani works. Prof. Avi had recruited her so that he could have a man on the inside. He told her not to do anything, just to keep her eyes open.

Kamal realized that someone is spying on him, and decided that it's the same people who kidnapped Yasmine. He hacked into the chatter grid, stopping Durga from listening through his chatter. Durga, however, was smart and powerful enough to listen from the chatters of the people around him. While in the hospital cafeteria, he met up with Sophia. She told him that Aiden had been arrested by immigration, and several of his visas canceled including hers. After the reports came that Coral has been glassed, Sophia and Kamal decided to make a run for it. Sophia got arrested by a crooked immigrations cop while trying to bail out Aiden; and Kamal, left waiting at the bus station, thinks she ran off with him. Moving on alone, he decides to track down Durga.

At Jim James' funeral, Jersey took Jan aside and told her about Durga. Jersey told her enough information to easily convince her he's telling the truth. He then gave her all the info Durga dug up about Kinkle and who he works for. Durga, Jan and Gilly launched an assault on their building. In an attempt to be motherly and save Jan from killing, Gilly killed them for her.

Herzog contacted Rani with information about the artifact. Exactly where it was located, as well as the fact that the device had been putting out fluctuating magnetic fields, weaker and stronger but steadily overall weaker. Rani comes to the conclusion that the device is a timer, and when the oscillation ends, something very bad would happen.

While traveling, Herzog was contacted by Standish. Standish traded some words with him and says that yes, he did send an assassin to kill Rani, but that Herzog was the real problem. Traveling at three hundred and fifty kilometers per hour on the beltway, his car is then remotely placed under manual control, crashes, and explodes.

While talking to Durga about Kamal, Jersey realized that Durga used to be his sister Yasmine. Durga admitted it, but explained that she's not her anymore and doesn't want to be. Later, she told him about small memories from the Sleeping Princess she had been reliving in a dream-like state. She told him how she is seven years old, and how seven-year old AI's are always shut down by the UNSC before they go crazy in a state called Rampancy. She suspected that the dream-memories are a sign of that, and told Jersey that if he suspects she's becoming rampant, he needs to find a way to shut her down. Jersey refused, saying that he'd take care of her the way she'd done for him.

Returning to work, Rani gains access to a section of Chawla Base to which she does not have clearance by claiming to be on an errand for her boss, whom she had already suspected of connections to the plot. She is readily passed through security, only to find Major Standish waiting in the office for her. Terrified, Rani pleads with the major to consider the possibility that the artifact is a countdown, and then denounces her findings when the major threatens her with a conviction of treason for committing espionage, the penalty for which is permanent induced coma. Convincing her that Herzog's eccentric behavior was to blame for her actions, the major finally relents and releases her with the warning not to dig any deeper into the case.

A few days later, Kamal showed up at Jersey's apartment asking about Yasmine. Jersey, who had listened to Durga's surveillance of him and expected his arrival, introduced him to Durga. Durga claimed that Yasmine is dead, and Durga's just a copy of her personality. Kamal, however, insisted that Yasmine was still a part of who she is. Durga then offered him a job, saying it would be another chance to save her.

Jan tried to enlist in the UNSC Marines, but was denied on account of being too young. As she ranted to Jersey about it, Durga offered her a job -- breaking into Chawla Base to deactivate the artifact. Durga then sends Jersey to recruit Rani. However, Rani believes Jersey to be an ONI agent keeping an eye on her, so Durga spoke to her herself. Durga told her all the information she was trying to get on Troy, and Rani, realizing she was needed to help shut down the artifact, accepted. They all met at Jersey's place where Durga filled them all in, and they began planning to break into Chawla Base to turn off the artifact.

Back on ilovebees, the Operator had once again found the Sleeping Princess and trapped her in coding. The Seeker freed her but found that she had been damaged and unable to run. So it absorbed her and transferred her into the Operator, forming a partial version of Melissa.

Durga and co. managed to sneak into Chawla Base mostly undetected, the security team having come in just after Jersey triggered the artifact. The device generated incredible EMP spikes, shut down all communications within the Solar System, and generated massive real space and Slipspace signals. An effect of the artifact's deactivation caused whatever held the pieces of Melissa in the past to collapse, causing all pieces to merge in Chawla Base and reawakening Yasmine's personality. Rani was captured by security, but all others escaped back to Jersey's apartment after Durga remotely caused a Scorpion Tank to blow a hole through the outer wall.

Left on ilovebees was the Seeker and the formerly disabled SPDR. This time, the SPDR knew what to look for and killed the Seeker before it could do anything. The SPDR realizes that it won't be able to return to the UNSC until after it's sent back in time and is willing to wait until then.

In 2552, after Melissa composed herself, she used her skills to make herself an identity as a lawyer which she used to release Rani, Sophia and Aiden from jail. She had them all meet back at Jersey's place to fill them in on the purpose of the artifact. Reports had just come in from the UNSC Pillar of Autumn about Halo, Melissa suspected that the artifact was a remote control that fires the Halos. Everyone was relieved to know that their efforts were worthwhile.

Everyone heads home. While Jan was at a bar, she was approached by a kid who says he's the son of a Spartan-I. He said he and other children of Spartan-Is are planning to take a "tricked out 100-meter yacht" into Covenant space. He asked her to come along and she agreed. As she told Gilly the news, she heard air raid sirens.

As Kamal came home, he was greeted by his parents who had been on their way to Earth when Coral was glassed. He and Sophia decided to get married; Aiden didn't mind and wished them well. Kamal gave him a poker chip as a gift to help him get back on his feet. Kamal gathered his parents and started to tell them about Yasmine, when they heard the sirens and saw a Covenant capital ship outside.

While Rani was on a train, she was approached by an ONI agent from Section Zero who tried to recruit her. She decided she was in too far to back out, and accepted. They then heard the sirens.

At Jersey's, Melissa talked to Jersey while steadily raising the volume of the background music. She explained about the Seeker and how its mission was to reveal the location of the artifact to the Covenant. Before when it was activated, they were too far away from Earth to matter, but now... Jersey yelled at her to turn off the music because he could hardly hear anything else; she complied and the sirens could be heard clearly.

The Covenant had arrived.


  • Players in the game referred to themselves as "beekeepers".
  • Soon after i love bees became popular, someone bought the domain name www.ilovepees.com and auctioned it on eBay starting at $1000. The person claimed that whoever made it a redirect to their own site would receive a large amount of search traffic from players who typed the address incorrectly.[10]
  • A player tried to answer a live call in the middle of Hurricane Ivan. The staff member in charge of calls (Puppetmaster 2) broke character to tell him to run to safety: "Dude, it's a hurricane. Put the phone down."[11]
  • Yuri Lowenthal, voice of Kamal Zaman, is also the voice of the Prince in the Prince of Persia series, and Sasuke in the Naruto series. A piece of Kamal's dialog, "People think time is a river that flows in one direction, but time is an ocean." seems to be a deliberate reference to the Prince's "Some say time is like a river that flows swift and sure in one direction, but I have seen the face of time and I can tell you they are wrong. Time is an ocean in a storm."
  • In the website's source code, the following search engine keywords were included: "honey, bees, Margaret, small busines, beekeeping, hives, retail, market, Operator, bug, buggy, virus, infestation, WTF is going on with this damn thing, parasite, strong intrusive inclination, medium, messages, shipwreck, network throttling, SOS, hoax, game, bee hoax, bee game, survivor, survive, evade, resist, escape, a little help would be appreciated, thanks and tip your waitress, sleep, is, good, install, reinstall, re-reinstall, re-re-reinstall, I, love, bees". Though in-universe Dana put them in for her own amusement,[12] some of the keywords explain that it is a work of fiction, such as "bee hoax".


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