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Castaways: the sequel to Halo3 by jameson9101322

Castaways: The Sequel to Halo3 (log01 - 03)
Date: 12 May 2010, 3:01 am

Halo: Castaways
recovered log batch 01

Initiating Standard Thaw Cycle
Thaw Cycle commencing in T-300
Vital Signs real all-normal.
Blood pressure 90/70 and rising
Heart Rate holding steady at 45bpm

The pins popped out of a standard UNSC cryo-containment pod in the jagged shadow of a mutilated drop ship fuselage. Within the coffin was the slumbering shape of the universe's greatest super soldier. Seven feet tall, a pillar of nerve and wire completely contained in a ton of green MJOLNIR armor. The last SPARTAN. John-117. The Master Chief.

Cortana watched the sub-freezing vapor rise from the vents in the pod. It was the only thing, beside herself, that was still intact in their ruined joke of a spaceship. She monitored the rise in his body temperature. She paid close attention to his respiration and heart rate. She noted every integer of his rising blood pressure as if they were the most precious numbers in the world. He was the only friend she had left. Maybe the only one she'd ever really had to start with. Her specs read all normal, but she'd learned long ago that when it came to humanity figures could be misleading. It wasn't until his brain-scans began looking normal that she let herself relax.

The Chief pried himself slowly out of the pod, every inch of skin burning from the sudden change in temperature. He was on the ground. Or at least there was gravity. He was still a little without his bearings. He immediately spotted Cortana's familiar purple light, even if he couldn't quite get her in focus. "Where are we?"

"I'm glad to see that you're okay." Cortana said, a little snidely. "Our inertia carried us into the gravity of a planet the UNSC has charted as HK-154. Not that that means much to us. We're light-years away from them now."

The Chief stepped down onto the metal floor, his knees and ankles uncomfortably weak. He didn't like coming out of stasis, it made him feel vulnerable. "How long was I out?"

"18 months." Cortana answered.

The Chief snapped his head to her. "Only 18 months!? I said wake me up when you needed me not wake me up when you're bored."

"I woke you up when we survived a fiery landing onto this planet." She replied. "And I was bored."

"I'm glad to see you haven't thought yourself to death." He said. The ground was feeling more solid now, he straightened himself up to full height. Everything was sore, but at least all his wounds and such had healed while in stasis.

"I took measures to prevent that." She answered matter-of-factually. "I spent most the time rereading logs from the Halo missions and watching archived videos."

"So you couch-potatoed your way through a year and a half." He observed.

She cocked her head to one side and fixed him with a soft smile. "I missed you."

The Chief paused to look at her, the faintest bit of a smile hiding unseen behind his face place. "So. Why did you wake me, really?"

"Our electrical reserves were nearly obliterated in the crash." Cortana explained. "I am currently running solely on battery power. I didn't want to die out while you slept, and I didn't want to leave you sleeping until there wasn't enough power left to wake you."

"This is a problem." The Chief agreed. He walked over to her pedestal. "How about our beacon?"

"I'm rerouting whole power to it now." She said. "Give me five seconds after I close down to set the subroutines then yank me."


He did as he was told, watched the seconds on his HUD, then pulled Cortana's chip from the pedestal and inserted into a slot at the back of his head. Her voice filled his mind like a second awareness. "That'll take care of that for a little while at least."

"What do we do now?"

"We need to find an alternate power source." Cortana said. "We've got a lot of useless parts in the walls of this ship. We can construct some kind of transducer even if all we have is solar power."

The Chief took this moment to look up at the blue sky and bright white sun. HK-154 seemed very much like Earth, even the trees looked the same. "We may find something more than just that."

"I can pull up topographical scans from the UNSC research library. It won't be exact. Humankind has yet to make it out this far."

"Noted." The Chief said. He dislodged his Assault Rifle from the mangled wall mounting and checked the clip. Near empty. It still had some of the orange sticky from Installation 04 ground into the handle. "At least we know what we won't find."

"What's that?"

"Sentient life."


The terrain was almost exactly like it had been on the Ark, which was almost exactly like it had been on the Halos, which was almost exactly like it had been on Earth. The grass was green, the trees were tall and strong, the sky was blue with wisps of white cloud and white warm sun glowed peacefully over the land.

Still there was one obvious difference between HK-154 and his previous locations. That was the sound, or more accurately, the lack there of. The Master Chief puzzled at this for a moment over the white noise of Cortana's constant chattering. There was typically a natural ambiance in forests; the chirp of birds, the buzzing of insects, perhaps the bark or howl of some native mammal prowling in the distance, but when he and the Arbiter fired the Ring back at the Ark, the white light of supposedly divine purification had killed all the local critters for what could have been hundreds of worlds. Earth was not in range at the time, nor, the Chief assumed, were any of the covenant homeworlds, but this planet had been, and the silence was unsettling.

He refocused his attention back to his in-house companion, who was in the middle of a long stream of statistics. " – which makes it relatively similar to Earth in respect to tilt and rotation, which therefore also equalizes the pull of gravity up to a variation of 1.4 percent. Soil samples I conclude suffer slight differences, the chemical makeup of the topsoil shows a different mixture of natural minerals, but everything checks out for healthy human consumption. The vegetation here might even be more nutritious for you than Earth produce! You will have to give me a taste analysis when the time comes for that, but at least you won't go hungry, right?"


"Unfortunately the atmosphere does not have the proper balance of oxygen to other elements so it's not safe for you to breathe, but the good news is that the elements are there in varying amounts. I'm working on a filtration system for your armor that will be able to translate the HK-154 atmosphere into breathable reserves for you to recycle. That way your tanks won't run empty in case we're stuck here a long time. If it works, I'll also be able to draw up design specs for an area-filter so perhaps you can eat the aforementioned flora without holding your breath."

"That sounds convenient."

"It will be." She answered. "I'm very much looking forward to that taste analysis."

The Chief rolled his eyes behind his visor. "And tracking it all the way down I'm sure."

Her reply was a little too anxious. "Yes, that too."

"I'm not a source of entertainment for you, Cortana." He said. "I know you've been lonely, but think twice before you use me as a guinea pig for your mad-scientist food studies."

"I'd never put you in any danger, Chief!" Cortana reassured him. "I'm just curious about what would happen that's all."

"If our luck improves it will give me super powers and let me fly around."

Cortana chuckled in his head. "You're lucky, but not THAT lucky."

They walked through the wooded glade along a free-flowing natural stream. Cortana had located what most likely was a waterfall somewhere in this area. If the fall was strong enough, it would be an excellent place to set up a waterwheel or something for charging batteries. While this would have been ideal, the state of the stream was not looking favorable. If there was a powerful waterfall in the area, it most definitely was not feeding this flow.

He noticed Cortana was still talking. "ONI dismissed this quadrant years ago as low priority, even before the war with the Covenant. There was nothing unique about it and it was too far from Alpha Quadrant to colonize. I wonder if we would have made it here if we were left on our own to expand. Imagine. A future where humankind has covered the entire galaxy!"

"Manifest Destiny at its best." The Chief noted. "We've terra-formed worse places than this. Although it'd need a better name than Heck A-Hundred and Fifty Four."

"Maybe after something in History or Earth Mythology." Cortana offered. "Mankind does love to name things symbolically from the past."

The SPARTAN shrugged in his MJOLNIR armor. "Or after some scientist or his mother."

The stream led them out of the forest toward a steep bluff. A thin waterfall was pattering down from the plateau above like a flickering silver chain from the sky. The faucet-like falls emptied into a pond and then into their stream. The Chief stared up the waterfall with disappointment. "This won't do us much good."

"You're right." Cortana agreed. "We'll just have to keep looking."

He turned and headed along the bluffs. There was a fairly substantial ice cap on the mountains above, perhaps their hydro-kinetic power source was near by. Suddenly he stopped. Trough the trees to the left he spotted a shape not native to a forest.

Cortana spotted it too. "Is that –?"

"It has to be."

It was a cabin, as small and quaint as any fairytale. The Chief cased the area around it, looking for signs of life he knew would not be there. The building was made of stone with a shingled wooden roof and delicate landscaping. A well sat nearby, but closer examination proved it to be more of a set piece than a functioning mechanism. The Chief looked down at it from above, standing nearly a foot and a half taller than the point of its tiny little roof. "I guess this means there was intelligent life on this planet."

"I guess so." Cortana agreed. She sounded distracted. "I'm picking up something weird, Chief. Some kind of a signal. I hadn't noticed it until now. Move closer to the house."

He was already on his way. The door to the building gave the Chief a sense of proportion. He was tall for a human, but this door only came to chest level on him and was rounded along the top in what he had the feeling was a specific brand of alien architecture. The frame was shaped like an Omega as were all the windows along the walls. The peak of the roof was nearly twelve feet high and at the very top was a fixed weather-vane and what looked to be a radio antenna. Cortana focused tightly on that.

"The signal, Chief. It's transmitting to that receptor."

"Could there still be people alive?" The Chief asked.

"Highly unlikely." She replied. "Climb up there and fix the antenna, I want to put my ears on."

"Hah, right." The Chief said dryly. "I don't think so."

"What's the matter?" Cortana asked. "It's not like you're trespassing. You won't be bothering anyone and no one will see you if you look ridiculous. Now climb."

He hung his head in defeat, secured his Assault Rifle across his back and jumped up onto the roof. His heavily plated food went straight through the weak shingles like a pit-trap and sent him tumbling into the structure. He landed on his side in an ornate glass table with bits of roof debris showering down on top of him.

He closed his eyes and let his helmet clunk against the metal table leg. "Why do I listen to you?"

"Did I tell you to jump?"

He shoved his way back to his feet, bits of splintered wood falling from chinks in his armor like pine needles. The architecture style thankfully encouraged high-vaulted ceilings, and the Chief could rise to full height without restraint. He looked up through the skylight he'd just made. "Not a soul alive to care, yet somehow I'm still embarrassed."

"I've got it on record by the way." Cortana smirked.

"I hate you sometimes."

She brushed him off and threw up a nav point. He turned to follow her direction. "By the wall, Chief. The antenna seems to be connected to that terminal. Check it out."

He headed toward the terminal, which was little more than a screen and a couple buttons on the wall, and knelt down to take a look. Cortana mulled the situation over. "Turn it on." He paused to understand the controls. She misinterpreted his action. "Please?"

"You feeling guilty about ordering me around?" He asked, switching the screen on.

"I don't know. Perhaps that's it." She answered. "I just got you back, I don't want you to be mad at me."

He watched the little screen flicker to life with various alien dots and lines that both did and did not remind him of covenant shorthand. "You seem more human than usual lately, Cortana."

She'd become fixated with the 'Welcome Screen'. "It's a dialect of one of the Covenant languages. More specifically the Unggoy."

He sounded more shocked than he intended. "Grunts?"

"Seems that way. This is an unusual place for them to live though. The Unggoy homeworld is an icebox covered in methane gas. This is far too temperate and, frankly, cute for Grunts."

"A relative perhaps?"

"Probably." She said. "Maybe distant. Or maybe something like a trading partner. Close interactions with the Unggoy would foster the development of similar written language."

"Why do I get the feeling that these people probably thought it up first." The Chief thought. He recalled clubbing over a hundred of these little triangle-shaped aliens while they were asleep at their posts.

"From what I can tell they called this planet Kgorr, or at least this country Kgorr, or maybe the people living in this house Kgorr. It's hard to understand by this simple message. Wait. Scroll down." The Chief punched a button and the screen changed. Cortana huffed. "You pressed the menu button. Wait." Her voice sounded like she'd found the edge of some great discovery, he could feel her icy presence running rapid calculations in the back of his head. "Chief there's a city! Close by! A big one!"

"How close?"

"About seven kilometers latitudinal East." She replied. "Chief, if there is a fully functioning city on this planet, they would have food, water, power – everything we could need!" She triangulated the distance and put up a new navigation point. "Perhaps you really ARE that lucky."


It was a tomb. Thirty blocks of alabaster columns and blank white walls. The streets were paved in gravel and sand so that they sparkled in the sunlight. Standing at the front gates was like standing at the edge of a sun-bleached mausoleum erected in the place of thousands of individual headstones. For some reason he felt terrible.

Cortana had no such feelings. She scanned the area with what Chief's limited sensors could manage. "As far as I can tell, they call it the city of Cant."

"The City of Can't?" The Chief asked. "That's a pessimistic name."

"Its another language, Chief, it probably means something totally different."
He blew a puff of air through his nose and clouded the inside of his faceplate. "Might as well called it the City of Won't. Or the city of Who the Hell Cares?"

He stepped on in. The streets were abnormally clean and well kept, but every so often there was a fallen bag or abandoned book lying tenant-less on the ground. He could imagine the shape of the creature who moments before had been holding these objects sitting carefree on a street corner before being suddenly and unexpectedly obliterated. Cortana was analyzing the constant radio signal and reported her findings as she received them. "This is the largest city on HK-154. There are smaller cities to the west and south, but this is the only inhabited continent. They call themselves the Unggai and are indeed a relative of the Unggoy, albeit very very far removed. From what I can tell, they haven't been in contact with other intelligent races for centuries."

"And we wiped out their homeworld." The Chief surmised, passing an alien-shaped toy doll half covered by an abandoned newspaper. "Flash genocide - a whole race of creatures gone."

"This wasn't a homeworld, it was a colony." She corrected.

"Whatever." He replied.

Her voice sounded like a lecture. "Lighting the ring was necessary to kill the Flood. There's nothing else we could have done. We destroyed the Ark and maybe hundreds of worlds like this to keep the parasite from spreading."

"Thanks Cortana, that really helps." The Chief said dryly.

"Stop it." She snapped at him. "Would you honestly have kept from firing it if you knew this planet was here?"

He felt conflicted and guilty. "Inhabited worlds way out here? The thought never even crossed my mind."

She sighed. "This is real valiant of you, Chief, but snap out of it, please? You're supposed to be invincible."

"Since when?" He asked. "I'll be honest, I never liked the hero-worship thing. I'm closer to Spark's Reclaimer than I will ever be to humanity's Savior."

Her voice was concerned and disappointed. "But, you did save them."

He was quiet for a long time. Cortana wished sharing his neural net meant she could read his mind. Whatever was bothering him was also bothering her. She wondered if this was a side effect to interfacing, but felt like it was her emotion not his. For some reason it was really important to her that he be okay with what they had done.

He walked straight through the city taking in the layout of the streets. There was nothing alien about the planning of the place, every block was evenly spaced with roads branching off at right angles leading from the main road where they walked. His avenue was lined in shops and businesses, all empty except for the ghosts of the dead and unclaimed merchandise. At the end of the road was a plot of open pavement and a pair of giant electrical turbines set back from the sidewalk as if their constructors were trying to hide them from the rest of the skyline. The turbines were still running, their technicians in no position to turn them off. The Master Chief smirked. "That's a nice waterfall."

"This is exactly what we need." Cortana agreed. "An energy source of that size might power our beacon indefinitely. All we need is a way to get the transmitter here to hook it up."

"I'm strong, but I can't carry a ship that size even if it is only half.." The Chief said. He headed through the bounding fence and into the open lot to explore. Near the building was the first vehicle he'd seen yet; a ten-wheeled mini monster with a rear-mounted utility hook. The Chief peered into the driver's side door to find the key stuck plainly in the ignition. "I think I'll call it The City of I'm-Going-To-Steal-This-Crane."

Cortana thought his wit was twice as funny as usual. "Go for it, Chief!"

He peeled the cab open like a sardine can, ripped out the seat, which was several sizes too small for him and climbed in. The space was still a little snug, so he sat on his ankle and hung one leg out the enlarged door to free up room. He started the battery-powered engine, figured out how to clock it into reverse, then pressed one hand to the floor-mounted gas pedal and pulled the joystick to get it in gear. The machine backed out over the fence, executed a perfect 3-point turn and trundled off down the street.

Cortana accessed the radio channel and local national archives. There she found a complete topological survey with altitude, forest mapping and weather charts. "Go out the back, Chief, there's a valley and a prairie that lead straight back to our crash site."

"Just tell me where to turn."

The crane crawled slowly out of town, obviously not intended to move at speed. He lodged the butt of his assault rifle between the dashboard and the gas pedal, then sat back against the rear of the cabin to enjoy the ride. Cortana relaxed as well and continued to stream the information from the Unggai wireless network. There was a complete history on the race, catalogs of art and music, and archives of news broadcasts. Although it was tempting, she fought the urge to share these things with her human companion. He'd never been one to stay angry or sad about anything, but the short moments when he wasn't a happy neutral were strange and unsettling to her. She set a reminder for herself to puzzle why later. For now she was happy to stream new information and enjoy his company.

The Chief made sure his makeshift autopilot was working properly then closed his eyes and let himself doze. For the first time in a long time he wasn't bitterly exhausted. Stasis was never considered a 'good night's sleep', but after months of endless battle in various places the year and a half's rest was very much appreciated. He let his arms drop to his sides, his firearm otherwise occupied in a uniquely un-warlike task. He never expected that it would feel good to be unarmed.

This planet was empty, and he let himself be glad of that. There was nothing to kill or be killed by. It was just him alone. Cortana called him out of his moment's peace with a wary tone. It snapped him back into lightning-fast awareness in a fraction of a second.

"Chief you need to see this."

He yanked the gun from the dash and stood in the open doorway, the crane coasting slowly to a stop in the tall grass. He leveled the rifle over the roof of the cab for a sweep and was stunned by what he saw.

The valley below his rise was coated in blood. Smoke rose from a shattered bit of alien spacecraft laying in various pieces along the line of impact. The hull was still seeping a sickening familiar noxious green gas from its compartments.

There was nothing left of the bodies. The combat forms had been vaporized by the affect of the ring, but their slimy paths through the grass still smelled of the same orange rot he'd seen consume and destroy both enemies and allies in hellish waves of animated corpses. They'd been headed toward the town. 18 months ago they were marching through the blue-brown patches of fresh Unggai blood and taking the locals for their own.

The Master Chief stared at the valley at length, waiting for even one infection form to slither into view. None ever came. Any surviving Flood were either starved to death or scattered over the continent on an 18 month forage. Still, the Chief would not let himself flinch. The Flood was the most evil and destructive force in the universe, and there would be no room for peace where the smallest possibility of its survival existed.

Cortana could sense no Flood activity in range of Cant's local radar scanners or weather towers. There was no trace of the Flood in any of the city's current event or archived reports. She found a law-enforcement order to send investigators to a meteorite landing site outside of town. That had been ten minutes before her personal record cataloged the Halo reaction. Triangulating the distance, it would have only taken ten more for the first of the Combat forms to reach the clean white doorstep of Cant proper.

"It had just started, Chief." She told him. "When we set the ring. We stopped the invasion at its advent." She paused as he slowly lowered the gun from his sights. "So in a way you saved them too. Better to die quickly from the ring then to endure the horror and torture of being infected by the Flood."

He hung his head and retreated back into the cab. "We need to get that beacon going." He put the machine back in drive and pushed the pedal to the floor. This time he used his foot.

Castaways: The Sequel to Halo3 (log04 - 06)
Date: 12 May 2010, 3:11 am

Recovered log batch 02


Forward Unto Dawn was once an example of the UNSC's finest. Now it was nothing more than the butt end crashed into a million tiny pieces. The Chief rooted through the wreckage recovering what he could and loading it onto a huge sled-like chunk of fuselage. Cortana was most interested in the signal tracker that was broadcasting their distress beacon, but her human companion made sure to recover airtanks, MREs, computer equipment, and the holographic stand the AI had used to manifest herself the last time they spoke face to face.

He rigged it all to the tow hook of the ten-wheeler and made his way back toward Cant. The ride to the crash site had turned cramped in a hurry, so he clamped the gas pedal down with a brick of refuse and stood on the runner as he hung out the window. Cortana was chattering cheerfully in his head.

"We'll have to get to work right away. We need to hook the receptor to the generator, but once that's installed we should be able to increase output up to 1000 percent! Earth might even hear us this time!"

"That's encouraging."

The crane moved its way toward town, the Chief steering one-handed through the open doorway. The sled scraped a path up the center of town toward the power plant. When they were close enough to coast, he let his foot off the gas and plowed down another section of fencing. The towage acted as a drag break and brought the vehicle to a stop just shy of hitting the wall. Cortana whistled in his head. "Good aim."

"Let's just get this beacon set up." He put down the breaks and grabbed the transmitter from the sled. It was still hooked to a battery unit which he stacked on top of it and carried toward the door. "The sooner its broadcasting the sooner we get out of here." He stopped when his load collided with the top of the low doorway. Cortana snickered but he ignored her and stooped down through the door at a squat.

With instruction from the AI, the networking system was relatively easy. Ironically, Unggai technology was very similar to late-1900s Earth, so with the added benefit of Cortana's historical lectures the signal was pumped upward through a radio antenna erected at the top of the building out of salvaged steel rigging. Everything completed, the Chief stared upward at his creation with a surprising lack of satisfaction.

"This is great!" Cortana congratulated. "It's got enough megahertz to suit our purposes, and it's a very handsome construction if I do say so myself."

The Chief's eye moved from the top of the antenna to the sky above. "Is this it?"

Cortana sounded concerned. "What do you mean?"

"Is there any more we can do?" He asked. "A way to speed the process up?"

"It's a waiting game, Chief." Cortana said.

He looked back to the antenna. "Can we make it taller?"

"We can." Cortana said. "But its going to take just as long to get to Earth."

"Would it be a stronger signal?"

"If we hook up another generator."

He nodded and headed back downstairs. "Lets do it then."

Cortana sounded unexpectedly amused. "Restless?"

"I'm surprised you're not." He said.

"I'm fine." Cortana replied. "I'm happy to have someone to talk to. It was much longer when I was alone."

"I just have a thing against stagnancy." The Chief said. "Standing still is counterproductive."

"Exhausting yourself is too." Cortana said. "We've done a lot today. Maybe you should take a break."

"I'm fine." He said. "Rest might as well be hibernation and I'm not in the mood to go back to that at the moment."

"I guess I can understand that."

The two of them rigged up another generator, added another fifty feet of height to the antenna, and rigged an intricate support system to steady it. When they were done, the Chief actually was feeling a little drained. He sat himself down on the edge of the rooftop and looked down over the ruined fence and gravel courtyard to the rest of the town. Cortana hummed in his ear, it made him feel like she was sitting there next to him with her legs over the edge like a normal, human woman. "So now what?"

"I don't know." He admitted. "Suggestions?"

"I'm still working on the methane-to-oxygen converter schematics, so we can't start working on that yet." She took a moment to consider her partner. "What do you want to do?"

"What do I want?" The Chief asked. It was an interesting concept, one he hadn't considered before; maybe in his entire life.

"Yeah." Cortana encouraged. "This is the ultimate get-away, your own private planet. Here you can do whatever you want without anyone watching or judging you or anything. You can do things you've always wanted to but never had the chance."

"Hmn." He stopped to consider this. Cortana could feel his mind working as he chewed on the idea and hoped he would reach a conclusion out loud. The Chief relaxed his resolve and explored down into some of the deepest parts of his heart that he'd purposely left unexplored. He picked his head back up and looked out over the city. "I don't have much that I've 'always wanted'." He was feeling strangely awkward. "I'm a drone in that sense. I've only wanted to do my job and look out for my team." He smirked behind his visor. "Now I have no team and I have no job. What I really want I guess is to want something."

"Now's your chance to try then." Cortana nudged.

He was silent again for a little while. When he finally spoke it was in a 'whatever' tone Cortana hadn't heard before. "I've never lived in a house."

"There you go! You've got tons of houses to choose from!" Cortana cheered. "Let's go pick a house!"

"House hunting..." He shook his head and stood up. "We'll see how good I am at this..."


For how much Cant looked like an Earth city, the Master Chief swiftly discovered tastes in neighborhood planning between the humans and the Unngai varied enough to confuse the poor SPARTAN as he wandered the streets looking at the buildings were white fronted with arch-like Chief couldn't tell what was the business district and what was the residential finally found a building with an over-emphasized entryway and assessed his choice."You go for grand huh?"

"The doorway is bigger." He said simply."I'm not crawling into my house."

"It would be like a club house!"Cortana chuckled."A crawl-in hole and a password..."

"That would only be useful if there was someone to keep out."He ducked under the door and into the grand foyer, which was built in the round like a of Unggoy-sized creatures in dramatic poses cycled about the Master Chief could feel Cortana's manic curiosity whirring to life.

"I think you've found an historic building!Maybe a museum or government building!"

"Fantastic."The Chief said, traipsing toward a door in the back."I can be the mayor of Cant."

"Wait!Where are you going!?"Cortana cried as he ducked the doorframe and changed rooms."I want to study the murals more!"


The back room was something like a forum space with round benches circling a set of central ceilings again were vaulted, coming to a point no more than a foot above his kicked one of the benches aside to make sure they weren't bolted down and nodded with satisfaction."This will do."

"One room is not a house, Chief." Cortana said.

"I'll take it all then."He said."I can move around in it, right now that's all I can ask for."

"Alright, I can't argue with that."Cortana said."And it'll give me more of a chance to study that antichamber."

"I'm glad it suits you."He started to kick the benches to the walls and clear space in the middle of the finishing, he backed up to the wall and sank down to the floor to stare out his new bedroom doorway into the nearly blinding sunlight reflecting in from the alabaster he was left without a next felt like the roof top all over again, and this planet felt no more like home."Now what?"

"Well, we'll need to furnish it and decorate and personalize it."Cortana said."Make it feel like you."

He actually had to stifle a laugh, something he hadn't experienced since he was too young to be useful."Feel like me?"

"Yeah, make it a home."

"How on Heck are you going to do that?"

"We're going to do it, Chief!Together!"She cheered."We'll go out into the city, find things you like, bring them back, hang them on the walls or set them in the house somewhere... When we're done, the place will say "John 117" so loud strangers can hear it!"

"What strangers?"

"Come on, Chief."Cortana sounded like she was pouting."I'm trying to help you out."

"I'm sorry, Cortana."He said, shoving up from the floor."I guess I can't get excited about home decor."

"I could make a joke about Spartan living..."Cortana ventured."But I'll let you make one for yourself."

He smirked."They've been times."

Cortana sighed."If you're not going to let me live out my dream of being an interior decorator, what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to move in."He said.

She brightened again."You reconsidered?So fast?"

He marched through the antichamber and back to the street."Trust me, it's not what you think."

Days on HK-154 were of similar length to Earth thanks to the proportional size and rotation of the planet to humanity's provided less sunlight than the Chief was used to, having grown up on Reach and fought on various other planets and said, it was dark before he had completed work on his bedroom.

"I have to hand it to your, Chief," Cortana congratulated him, "you may not be a designer, but you've made me feel at home."

"You ready to try it out?"His helmet lights moved from the hardware he was working on to the open switch on the power cord by the wall. He turned on the electricity and watched the point lights in the console turn on.

Cortana grinned warm in his head."Go for it."

The Chief reached up to the back of his helmet and slid out the AI's storage the tingling present in the back of head dissolved, leaving him feeling strangely plugged the card into the console and watched as the shimmering form of his companion took shape on the holo-pad."Better?"

"Feels great."She nodded, smiling."Its good to stretch my legs a bit."

"Try and access the airwave network."The Chief instructed."I'll open the breakers."

"Right."Cortana stretched out to feel the analog signal broadcasting not only across the globe of the planet, but out toward UNSC felt a console in the foyer switch on, then a sudden enlightenment as the thick length of cable stretching the distance between the Chief's house and the power plant was suddenly could access all the information in the computers there, read the power levels and signal strengths, she could fly there at a thought.

The Chief returned, ducking under the door, his headlamps tracking his head motion as he surveyed the room."How's that?"

"Fantastic."She replied."Hold on, let me get the lights."She accessed the grid and switched on the overhead light, which was little more than a glassless tube filament that lit the room in a dim cyan color.

The Chief turned off his lights."Thanks."

"You've done an excellent job, here, Chief."Cortana said."I couldn't be happier."

He looked over to her."You really are sounding more human."He considered the possible reasons."Why?"

"I don't know, I guess I'm just learning."She replied.

He sat down against the wall 'd been too busy to bother making himself a bed."Was it something...with the Gravemind?"Her response was more than just a feeling in his head this time, he could see her close herself to the suggestion, her posture shrinking back and her eyes searching the looked away."Never mind, forget I mentioned it."

She seemed glad to."Are you just going to sleep there on the floor?"

"I don't see why not."

She put a hand to her chin and looked mischievously at him."We could drag your cryopod in here and keep the lid up."

"I don't think so."He answered."I'll let you know when I need a floor will be fine."

"Tough as nails as always."She said, and looked fondly on him."I guess this is goodnight?"

He slouched and nodded."Enjoy your freedom.I'll wake myself this time."

She nodded."Alright by me."

To date, it had been the longest month of his life; longer than when he was fighting a seemingly endless war, longer than any period of training or recuperation or surveillance, it was the longest month in the history of mankind.

Cortana had the Unngai frescoes pretty much figured out. The Chief had heard every minute detail of her referencing and cross-referencing as she attempted to make the paintings tell a story. He'd listened patiently, but couldn't have cared less if his life depended on it.

In an effort to drive off the boredom, the Master Chief had turned his attention to the radio antenna, making it increasingly taller and sturdier as time went on. He was halfway up his two-hundred meter structure, limbs woven into the framework like four more pieces of recovered metal when Cortana paged him from the ground. "Good news, Chief, we've filtered enough oxygen to power your tanks for another three months! You can put them in storage as soon as you come down."

The Chief locked his homemade pulley system in place and ran a length of cable through it. "Alright."

"And, pray tell me, when ARE you coming down?"

He tugged the cord and a piece of thick metal piping began its long journey upward. "When I'm done."

Cortana followed the path of the beam with her eyes. "I'm starting to believe you'll never be done."

He mused to himself and continued to hoist.

Cortana rolled her eyes. "You know height has its advantages, but the signal is still limited by its output strength..."

He rolled his eyes as well. "Don't tell me that."

"You've got to face facts, Chief."

"I don't have to do anything." He began tugging the cord with more vigor. "But I've got to do something."

"You're such a child." She huffed.

He sobered up a little and focused on his work. Cortana measured his silence and dismissed him with a sigh. There was nothing else she could do here, so she decided to turn her attentions to other matters. "I'm going to watch the weather. Page me when you come down."


"I'll tell you if a tornado is going to blow you off."

He resettled himself in the scaffolding. "I'll be fine."

She rolled her eyes a second time and went about her business.

There was a flash of brightness and then the click of the automatic screen dimmers in his helmet. The Master Chief winced and eye open and saw the sunrise over HK-154.

He'd fallen at the top of the tower. Below the entire city of Cant was in view, the white walls painted pink in with dawn hues. Looking down made him dizzy for a second, but all it took him was a minute to get his bearings to put him back in control. He pulled his feet out of the structure and began his way back down. "Cortana?"

"Chief!" She almost sounded relived. "I thought you'd died up there."

"You know better than that."

"What were you doing?"

"Resting apparently." He paused and noticed the pulley cord waving in the wind. "I'm good now."

"Good." She said flatly. "Great."

He grabbed the line and repelled the rest of the way down. Five minutes later he planted his boots on the roof of the power plant. Cortana was waiting for him on a tiny homemade holo-pad with her arms crossed. "And what, may I ask, was that about?"

He made a sarcastic face knowing she couldn't see it. "What's done is done."

She relaxed her posture and broke into a wide smile. "You're embarrassed!" He shifted weight a little and made her laugh out loud. He couldn't hide his body language behind his mask. "You are! You're embarrassed about sleeping on the job! Oh that's so cute!"


She recovered her composure. "Well, I think it's tall enough. You know, now that it's a two day trip."

"I guess so." He sighed. "And that ends the list of things to do."

Cortana put a hand to her chin. "How about storing those oxygen tanks from yesterday?" He nodded slightly and headed downstairs. Cortana kept talking to him over comlink. "I'm sorry, I know that's not the excitement you were craving..." The Chief didn't answer. He reached the ground floor and she rematerialized in a more sophisticated holo-pad. "Chief?"


She watched him move about the space. "Are you okay?"

He removed the tanks from the wall-sized filtration system and loaded them against the walls with nearly thirty other tanks of the same size. Doing so felt like storing away weeks of his life.

Cortana didn't like his silence. "Are you mad because I teased you? I didn't mean anything by it..." He returned from his task and stopped to stand by her pedestal. At that angle she thought he seemed very tall. "Chief?"

"I'm going to take another lap around this continent." He announced. He looked down at her, and even through his mask she could tell he wasn't angry. "You want a ride?"

She smiled and nodded, beginning shutdown sub processes. "Sure." He reached down, pulled her chip from the pedestal and inserted it again in the back of his head. "Although we probably won't find anything."

He checked the ammo in his MAB5 even though he hadn't fired a shot since they'd landed. "We didn't last time."

"Its very SPARTAN of you to be so vigilant." She said. "Never let your guard down for a moment to you?"

"Only on the tops of radio antennas."

They marched across the landscape, past the wreckage of the Flood ship, past the wreckage of the Dawn, and off toward the eastern coast. At the edge of a bluff he stopped and looked back. The distress beacon glinted brightly in the morning sun, its excessive height a physical representation of the best he could do to get himself rescued. He was almost sorry to be done with it.

Castaways: The Sequel to Halo3 (log07 - 09)
Date: 12 May 2010, 3:21 am

Recovered log batch 03





"A shotgun and fifty brutes in a straight line."

Cortana laughed in the Chief's head. "Heh okay, I'll do a harder one." It was the morning of the second month on HK-154. The two of them were on their morning patrol, traversing the same foot-worn path for the hundred-something-th time since the crash. "Art."


"Pointless!?" Cortana cried.

The Chief was secretly amused at her outrage. "I thought it was supposed to be the first thing that pops into my head."

"It is, but pointless?" She asked. "Art is supposed to be deeply symbolic and personally significant."

"We weren't taught art appreciation in killing school." The Chief replied.

"Okay." She said. "Artistic Representation."

"Blue, purple and green spattered in arches across a rock wall."

Cortana was impressed. "Wow!"

The Chief was less amused by the iconic tone in her voice. "Around the crater of a spent fragmentation grenade. Obviously."

She groaned. "I must be more broken than I thought to not see that coming."

He agreed. "Dead people saw that coming."

"Fine. Alright," The southern ocean was visible over the next rise. "Instinctive response."

"Sniping a grunt through the trees while in freefall."

"I'm beginning to see a pattern."

"Beginning to?"

Now she was determined to catch him off guard. "Hyperspace Trajectory Equations."



"Following my shoulder through a pane of glass."


"Regret." He replied. "Truth, Mercy and Reconciliation."

She rolled her eyes. "Almost had you."

He shook his head. "You mention any kind of dogmatic terminology my mind will shoot straight to the Covenant."

She couldn't help but accept this and tried a new train of thought. "Historical Significance."

"Sparta." He replied. "The first one not the remake."


"A merciless death."

"Okay then, Mercy."

"A bullet in your head not your chest."

"Transcendental Migration." Cortana said.

"Whales." The Master Chief replied.

Cortana paused a moment. "Whales?"

"Holy Whales." He said. "To cover the Transcendental part."

She was flabbergasted, even though this was what she was aiming for. "But Whales? After all that?"

"Whales migrate." He replied. "It's the first thing that popped into my head."

"These aren't alien whales?" She asked. "Or the undead corpses of whales floating from continent to continent?"

He was getting tired of this game. "Why would I think of either of those things?"

Instantly she was tired of the game too. "Never mind."

His heavy MJOLNIR boots came to a stop in the brown coastal sand. The waves of the foreign sea stopped short of his footprints before retreating back to shores unknown. On the first thirty or so visits to the southern end of his private continent, he thought of the possibility that alien life existed somewhere on the other side of the sea. He never mentioned this idea to Cortana, but secretly hoped for someone to make contact with. On the thirty-something-th visit he realized how quickly he'd forgotten that all life in this quadrant of space was gone and the breadth of the ocean could not have spared any Unngai from the cleansing power of the Halo. With a pinch of shame, he promptly abandoned the whole train of thought and now looked at the ocean with little more than acknowledgment of its existence.

Unexpectedly, Cortana, inspired by the chatty mood they'd shared the way there, was the one to bring up the possibility as she used his sensors to survey the distant horizon. "Imagine if there was someone out there."

He paused but she could tell by his brain-scans that he was not actually imagining.

"I mean there's not, of course." She said. "But if there were... I've learned a lot about these people while we've been here. They might have made good allies, if we could convince them that you weren't a monster of course." She played the scenario out in her head. "You're probably five feet taller than they were. And you can't take off your mask in this atmosphere. It might be a tough negotiation."

"Not to mention I've got a woman who lives in my head and tells me what to do." He said, turning away from the shore. "Let's not dwell on it."

She thought he sounded sad. "You've been really down lately, can I help?"

He marched up the sand dunes and back to terra firma to continue his lap around the world. "You've done all you can."

"But you're down." She said. "You can talk to me if you want."

"I don't have much of a choice." He said.

She felt a pang of hurt inside. It was a peculiar response, but for some reason felt wholly justified and natural. "What do you mean by that?"

"It's nothing, Cortana."

"Are you lonely?" She asked. "I can understand if you are."

"I said it's nothing."

The pain at her core was still there, but dissipating. She ran a diagnostic on herself, but left its monitoring to a background subroutine. She was more concerned with her partner than herself. "Why is it so hard to admit that you're lonely?"

He really didn't want to give her an answer. He wanted to ignore the topic and let it die on the table like every other time she took interest in his mental health, but the concerned tone in her voice sounded like more than just artificially simulated sincerity. It sounded like true sincerity.


"I'm ready to go home." He said. "I'm done with this planet and tired of exile. I'm ready for it to all be over."

She sighed in the back of his head. "We've done all we can do, the beacon's up and..." She stopped. Somehow she knew it wasn't what he wanted to hear. "I'm sorry."

"Hmn." He came to a stop and stared a the ground for a moment. Cortana found this discouraging. Their hope was in the sky. The Chief turned away from his well-worn path. He could see the radio antenna in the distance, but had stopped gazing fondly at it weeks before. It was just another monument to a rescue that he was beginning to suspect would never come. "I'm tired of this. We're going back to town."

"Alright." She said carefully. "You don't want to check the western coast?"

"I've seen it."

"But..." She was confused and troubled. "You... Never... Leave anything half done." She appealed to him. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"I'm frustrated, Cortana. I'm angry." He replied. She knew he was telling the truth even if his voice only betrayed the slightest hint of his self-proclaimed mood. "Don't bother me."

"But." She could feel his anger stronger now. She didn't like it, and she didn't like being in there with it. "Chief."


She slid into silence. Her background scan concluded all-clear, but in her present mind she knew she felt worse than ever.


Cortana was wrong on the shore when she said he was lonely.

Now he was lonely.

He and the AI hadn't spoken in three days. Immediately upon their return to town, the Master Chief had marched into the power plant, whipped out her chip, stuck it in the holopad and headed for his quarters to fume. She, through the magic of power lines, beat him there.

"Chief, talk to me. What's wrong."

"I said drop it." He replied, tersely.

"No, I won't drop it!" She persisted. "We've been stranded on this planet a long time, I know, but I hope you understand that I've done enough research to know what solitude does to a person."

"Stop." He plodded through the room, ducked and hit his head on the low door frame. Backing out, he wound up a fist a punched straight through the upper part of the wall, irrevocably damaging a fresco of two alien figures throwing rose petals. He marched through again grumbling to himself about how a person should be able to fit through doors in his own house.

Cortana beamed herself into his bedroom. "You're losing your cool Chief. Just sit down and take a deep breath and get yourself under control."

"No." He stormed past her to his bed; a mattress-sized pad of cloth-stuffed pillows and recovered linen from the surrounding buildings, and pulled out an Unngai-sized backpack, which to him was more like a duffle bag with the arm straps for a handle. Into this satchel he began loading food and supplies.

Cortana watched with alarm. "What are you doing?"

"I'm leaving." He said.

"Why? Where?" She didn't know whether to be angry or frightened. "You can't run, there's no where to go! What are you running from!?"

"I said drop it!" He snapped at her.

She recoiled and the asp-like bite of his voice. "There's something wrong with you! The Master Chief I know doesn't yell, doesn't run… You've got to calm down and get a new grasp of things or you're going to hurt yourself."

He growled and tied the end of the bag. "That's it." He slung it over his shoulder. "We're in a fight, Cortana."

She was aghast. "What!?"

"You. Me. We're fighting." He clicked off his comlink and headed for the door. "I don't want to talk and I'm not listening anymore."

She dashed to the antichamber pedestal. "Chief stop! Please!"

He stomped past.

"Chief!" She cranked the volume up on her external speakers. "CHIEF! I don't want to fight! Please! Come back!" He rounded the corner and left her sight. Her radar scans watched him head down the street away from the house and out of her reach. "CHIEF!? CHIEF!!"

The sun had circled the planet three more times since then, and the Chief could still hear her desperate call echoing in his head. He looked out over the city of Cant from a distance, the forest stretching below him was the same as the one they'd explored upon arrival. In the distance to the east he could see the moldering wreckage of the Forward Unto Dawn.

He hoisted himself to his feet and headed back up the shallow mountain. The smooth gray shelf under his feet was worn down in vein-like patterns by an ancient system of streams running silently past him. The vines of water twisted and wove among themselves, until finally braiding together to form a river which he followed to his camp. The river originated at a pool butted up against a vertical bluff, and in the center of the pool was the waterfall he'd searched vainly for some two months ago.

This camp wasn't home. It felt less like home than any other place he'd rested on HK-154. He'd explored the mountain in great detail, pondering his probable fate and dueling with doubts of the past. He fought mental battles with ghosts and guilts from the forty or so years of his life he could remember. He grappled with the possibilities of what could have happened if the slightest things had been different. If he'd kept the SPARTANs off Reach. If he'd fired the first Halo. If he hadn't left Cortana behind on High Charity. If he'd lost at least once at king of the hill.

Eventually his thoughts and his climbs all came to the same conclusion. All his life he'd been a tool of his superiors. He was a weapon of war. He always had a direction or a mission or a goal to achieve, and without these things he felt more lost than the first time his squad was dumped in the woods under the command of Sargent Mendez. At least then he had people to lead. Someone to be strong for.

He realized his identity hinged on his rank. He was the Master Chief SPARTAN 117. Not John. He hadn't been John for a very long time.

Still there was a bit of irony in the fact that while he played the part of a suit of sentient armor, he really needed a team or a squad to defend and depend on. When he lost his brothers and sisters, he gained a team of Helljumpers. When he lost them he found himself with Sergent Avery Johnson. And when he was gone he had the Arbiter of the Covenant. And even he had left him at the last moment. Who's to say he even survived the portal as it closed and forced them light years apart. Squadless, friendless, the Master Chief realized that John had grown very very tired.

Cortana was sitting in a ball on his bedroom holopad. The Chief had walked straight out of Cant and out of radar range. She'd tried arresting control of the local broadcast towers, weather stations, even her own distress beacon but nothing she tried could increase the strength of the radar sweep further than a mile out of the city. It had only been three days. He hadn't been gone longer than his supplies could last. She maintained her holographic form purely on the hope that he would resist whatever it was he was doing and come back to her. The Chief she knew wouldn't give up and do something irrational like jump from a cliff face or into the ocean or anything like that. The Chief she knew wouldn't strike off from the southern coast and leave her there alone while he explored distant continents by himself.

But the Chief that had left her side was not the Chief she knew. It was an impulsive, angry, frustrated man that had left her without a word. Her tightly wired positronic neural network could conjure hundreds of ways for a man like that to cope with the hopelessness of their surroundings.
Suddenly a shadow broke the sunlight reflected through the door. She snapped out of her self-induced standby mode and sprung up. The Chief dropped his bag and looked straight at her.

"I'm lonely."

She couldn't find a word to say, and watched as he walked over and sat on the bed across from her, his elbows on his knees, his head bent close. "I admit it. You were right."

She stammered out of her daze, her voice shaky and broken like the last time they'd been separated. "But what, what was that?"

"It's hard for me to admit weakness." He told her. "Leaders aren't supposed to show anything but solid determination. I'm supposed to have everything under control, but I don't." He gave her a slight nod. "I felt like I should tell you that."

"I," she felt the twinge in her core again, "I'm in shock. How, how could you leave me like that?"

"I'm sorry." He said. "I guess that's how I have a breakdown. I had to get my head back on. I'm sorry it took so long."

"I need you." She said softly. "I'd never seen you act that way before. I thought the worst."

"You don't have to worry about me." He said. "I'll be alright."

"I worry about you all the time, Chief." She replied. "You're the rock I stand on. You're all I've got to hold myself together. If something were to happen to you, I…" She trailed off.

"Now you need to stop worrying so much." A touch of humor had come back to his voice. "Wouldn't want you hurting yourself."

She tried to smile up at him but still felt small. It was a strange feeling. "You have to make me a promise." She said. "You hold yourself to your promises."

"Okay." He agreed. "What do you want me to promise?"

"I don't care." She said. "It's the promise that's important."

"Okay." He thought for a minute. "Then, I promise not to abandon you. As long as we're in this thing, we're in it together." She felt the ache inside her go away. He could see the violet color of her apparition grow stronger. "Will that do?"

"Absolutely." She found smiling much easier. "Even if the beacon is up for years without a sign, you promise never to give up?"

"Even if we're never rescued at all." He replied. "I will never give up."

She leaned toward him on the pedestal, her face reflected in the gold of his mask. "We'll be rescued, Chief. Just wait. You'll see."


Slipspace was far less interesting than normal space. In normal space there were stars to look at, planets to pass (albeit at great distance), or celestial bodies to pull up extra information on for kicks. In slip space there was nothing fancy like that. The Captain watched the panels anyway. His ship had been traveling for months.

"Interesting development, Captain." A deep voice said from behind.

The Captain turned in his chair. "Report, Commander."

"Nothing solid, Sir." The Commander said, plodding forward. He presented his superior with a data pad. "The Communications Officers have picked up an echo in slipspace. It is a bit difficult to make out because of the interference, but it seems to be broadcasting from the Ark quadrant."

The Captain's interest suddenly piqued. "The Ark Quadrant?"

"Yes." The Commander looked down to the pad.

"But that area was cleansed." The Captain said with a touch of urgency. "The Halo... The Explosion."

"I know." The commander said. He offered the pad to him. "Nevertheless... We are picking something up."

The Captain took the readout greedily, searching it for meaning. All it held was a system of waveforms, each with a simultaneous spike at the same frequency. The Commander continued. "The signal is very weak. It is impossible to decipher the meaning in slipspace, but from what our specialists can tell it is a standard noncomplex cardiod transmission emitting a repeated pattern toward occupied space." He waited for the Captain to make eye contact. "It is a UNSC standard wavelength."

The Captain gave the pad another glance before handing it back to his second. "If we drop out of slipspace could we get a better signal?"

"Possibly." The Commander replied.

The Captain nodded and called to the helmsman on the far side of the bridge. "Alert the crew for the down shift. Put us back in normal space."

"Sir." The Commander interrupted. "Permit me, but is it wise to disturb the crew on this matter? We have been traveling at great length with only a matter of days to go. If you decide to investigate this beacon, it would take us months off course even traveling at slip space speeds."

"I only wish to investigate the signal." The Captain said. "A moment out of Slipspace. The message may be residual or nothing of interest, then we can continue on our way."

An alarm sounded warning everyone that deceleration was in progress. The transition was as smooth as a normal docking procedure. Through the view screens the Captain could again see stars.

The Commander turned to leave, ready to relate the captain's wishes to the communications specialists. He paused and looked over his shoulder to see the stars reflecting off the Captain's silver armor. "Be wary of your thinking. You must remember; the Halo, its Ark... the Forerunners would not tolerate survivors. Even if this signal came from that area, the Ring killed everything. Everyone who was there is now dead."

The Captain mused to himself and let the Commander leave without a word.

"Were it so easy."

"This one's making it to the ocean." The Chief said. He crouched and stuffed powder into a piece of tubing.

"That's what you said about the last one." Cortana said, observing. "It barely made it to the dunes, let alone the ocean."

"I've doubled the charge." He replied. "When this rig lands, there'll be a splash." He wedged the tube up under the bed of an Unggai land rover. The little buggy bore the scars of previous attack; what sufficed for a rear bumper was blackened, and dented to the point of complete dislocation. He pounded the loose piece into place with his fist before setting the fuse. "Here goes nothing."

He backed up a few paces and the powder exploded, propelling the vehicle high into the air where it tumbled end over end in a less than graceful arch. The two of them watched the scanner as the machine headed toward earth far on the other side of the dunes. The enhanced audio receptors in the helmet heard a wet thud in the distance. The Chief didn't even notice that he smiled behind his screen. "I think that did it."

"I don't think so." Cortana said. "That was not a splash."

"It was a splash."

"No, it was a thud." Cortana corrected. "A thud is not a splash."

"It was a splash and a thud." He replied. "There was lot of force behind it. Have you ever heard a car hit the ocean at terminal velocity?"

"I can pull up an audio recording." She quipped.

He took off running toward the beach. "You'll see. I'm right." He sprinted over the dry grass toward the rise, then skidded down the slope through the sand. The buggy was sticking cockeyed out of the beach amid nearly a foot of water at the edge of the rising tide. The water moved forward and back around it, washing the dark sand displaced by the crash slowly back out to sea. The Chief stopped and pointed. "It is IN the ocean!"


"But it's in." He insisted.

"Halfway." She reasoned. "It's on the line."

"On the line is in."

"Depends on if we're playing tennis or football."

He waded out into the water to take a look at the ruin. The explosion had bent the rear axle at a forty-five degree angle. "Art Appreciation."

Cortana laughed to herself. "What?"

"Modern art." He replied. "This is officially my contribution to this world. No squat alien life form painting frescoes and obsessing over the color white could possibly erect a monument such as this. I have planted my flag on this rock."

Cortana was more than pleased to hear his sarcasm so thickly. "You are a mighty Conquerer, Chief."
He thunked the stuck vehicle with the nose of his assault rifle. "I am King of the World." The sense of victory, however, was short lived. "And now I'm out of things to do again."

"There are more cars in town." Cortana said. "You don't have to stop now."

"Wanton destruction is only amusing to a point." The Chief answered. "I could try blowing up a bigger one. We still have that crane."

"But you named a city after stealing that crane."

"All the more reason to make it into a monument." The Chief answered. "I'd have to scare up a lot more gunpowder." He puzzled over the task. "We could use a small car and ride it when it explodes."

If Cortana were a projection she would have taken a double-take. "That's suicide!"

"It would make for an incredible jump though." He said. "Give you a good view."

"How about a camera instead." She offered. "We can see if the Dawn has any of her security feeds in tact and send that up on the car."

"Maybe we can see the other continent."

"I don't know if we can get it that far." Cortana said. "My topographical maps say this sea is very wide. We might get a glimpse of it though."

"It'd be nice to see something new." He agreed. "Okay, we'll do it."