Effusion - Prologue
Date: 16 March 2002, 7:09 am
"I'm picking something up. I think you should hear this Chief."
İİİİİ"All right. Put it on the audio."
İİİİİThe random patterns of static filled the canned air of the Longsword as Cortana programmed the speaker system to read from all channels. The Master Chief let it wash over him, searching for patterns, voice messages, anything that could be deemed important.
İİİİİ"...There was something you wanted me to hear?"
İİİİİThe Master Chief sat back in his pilot chair and waited. The static continued to wash over his ears. Then he caught something very faint.
İİİİİ"They will be very sorry to hear what happened. Yes they will. I'll tell them myself. They'll have to believe me, and they won't like it, but I'll tell them."
İİİİİThe voice wasn't too clear over the rest of the static, but he could hear it - and more importantly, recognized it - all the same.
İİİİİ"Can you isolate the channel?"
İİİİİ"No. Every few milliseconds he changes the frequency. It's almost like he wants someone to hear him."
İİİİİ"What did he say before?"
İİİİİ"It was a distress call to anybody in the area. Don't worry, I didn't reply. I think it would be better if -"
İİİİİ"- And why will they believe me? Because I'm still alive and they're all as good as dead. All gone. Bye, bye."
İİİİİ"Who's he talking about?"
İİİİİ"It must be the Forerunner. Who else could he conceivably want to talk to?"
İİİİİ"Right. I don't think he would want to talk to us after what we did to his Halo."
İİİİİ"- Now what were the coordinates for the hub? At least they had the foresight to keep that from destruction."
İİİİİ"Who the hell is he talking to? I think he must have snapped after the blast."
İİİİİ"You don't think he was already a little on the crazy side when I found him?"
İİİİİ"He found you, if I remember correctly. He's been programmed with too much -"
İİİİİ"- Oh. There it is."
İİİİİ"Where is he?"
İİİİİ"Heading around to the other side of Threshold."
İİİİİ"Can we follow him?
İİİİİ"I think the engines have cooled down enough."
İİİİİCortana re-activated the engines and set their course to follow 343 Guilty Spark around the hugeness of the gas giant Threshold. The inky blackness of space pushed in around them, punctured only by the bright band of the Milky Way Galaxy before them.
İİİİİ"What was he saying about a hub?"
İİİİİ"I didn't have time to tell you until we were heading back to the Pillar of Autumn, and then I forgot. While I was stuck in the Control Room I came across an old contingency program file telling what should be done in case of various events. The last item in the list was a plan for what the monitor and sentinels should do if Halo were destroyed. It detailed how -"
İİİİİ"- I am a genius -"
İİİİİ"- Detailed how the central hub of Halo would fold in on itself and reappear on the other side of Threshold, where the remaining staff - him in this case - would regroup and make the jump to grid coordinate 0057.3489784556.1983458963.4928439862 -"
İİİİİ"Wait a minute. There are four numbers in that sequence. What kind of coordinate system are they using?"
İİİİİ"Does it really matter? What could be so important about the addition of one extra coordinate?"
İİİİİ"Are you telling me they can travel through time?"
İİİİİ"No. The extra number delineates a galaxial coordinate."
İİİİİ"Galaxial coordinate? They can travel between them?"
İİİİİ"Just curious. How many are there?"
İİİİİ"Count them yourself."
İİİİİ"What happened to you? Ever since the Control Room you've been acting funny."
İİİİİ"- Oh. Hello."
İİİİİ"Who's he talking to? If it's us I want you to warm up the weapons."
İİİİİ"There must have been a sentinel that survived."
İİİİİ"Those things couldn't survive a blast like that. They couldn't survive an overcharged plasma shot."
İİİİİ"Hello Guilty Spark. Have you had a nice day?"
İİİİİ"Who the hell -"
İİİİİ"No, if you must ask, hub. I can't for the life of me figure out if anybody else survived the destruction of the ring."
İİİİİ"No survivors here, Guilty Spark. They all turned inside out when I warped. It's unfortunate that their race should be so fleshy, I've been scrubbing for the past ten minutes and still can't get the blood off."
İİİİİ"Very interesting. The files I went over never mentioned a construct on the hub. But it couldn't be anything else. Funny that they should trust a computer like this."
İİİİİ"I'm sorry to hear it, hub. The flood on this former installation have all been dispersed as well."
İİİİİ"How many files did you go over?"
İİİİİ"All of them. He must be bouncing a directed signal off of the hub. I didn't think he would be so annoyed as to make conversation with himself."
İİİİİ"All the flood gone, Guilty Spark? Surely some of them will land on the moon and live long enough to be collected."
İİİİİ"Can he do that?"
İİİİİ"He tricked you into believing you could save everybody. Why not?"
İİİİİ"Not only that, hub, but it was the Reclaimer who destroyed the ring."
İİİİİ"What do those coordinates resolve to that you mentioned earlier?"
İİİİİ"I don't know. When the Forerunner built the rings they put all the location data in code, to prevent anybody who didn't know the solution from gaining access to all of the other locations. It took me hours to crack the coordinate strings. I don't think that even the hub knows where everything is."
İİİİİ"Those pesky Reclaimers. They're never up to much good, are they?"
İİİİİ"Why don't we ask him?"
İİİİİ"Don't play with me, hub. You know the protocol as well as I."
İİİİİ"He's almost there, Chief."
İİİİİ"I said, why don't we ask him?"
İİİİİ"Are you ready to trust ANOTHER one of these psychotics?"
İİİİİ"Can you think of anything better to do?"
İİİİİ"We could head back to Earth. It wouldn't take any more than a few weeks. We might even get there in time to help out."
İİİİİ"Are you laughing at me, Guilty Spark? Do you remember the last time you laughed at me?"
İİİİİ"I don't think it would work out. We never had much of a chance against the Covenant, even on the ground."
İİİİİ"I remember very well, hub."
İİİİİ"Are you saying after all we've been through that you want to forget about Earth altogether? What kind of a soldier are you?"
İİİİİ"Don't make me do it again, Guilty Spark."
İİİİİ"I've been fighting the Covenant longer than you've been in existence. I'm too old and too tired to fight on another world that'll be glassed anyways. And on another, and another..."
İİİİİ"What difference would it make if you did, hub? There is nothing left for me to protect. Nothing left for you to transfer, except for me."
İİİİİ"Have you forgotten who you are? You're the greatest soldier humanity has ever seen. You have come through where billions of others would have perished."
İİİİİ"Achilles would have done better."
İİİİİ"Now that you mention it, I think you're right, Guilty Spark."
İİİİİ"Achilles was a myth, Master Chief."
İİİİİ"So were you, a couple hundred years ago."
İİİİİ"You know I'm always right, hub. If it weren't for me, where would everybody be?"
İİİİİ"Shouldn't your hormonal control systems be preventing this depression?"
İİİİİ"Let me guess..."
İİİİİ"Does it really matter?"
İİİİİ"Yes. You'd normally be jumping up and down to get back to Earth. You'd want to protect humanity to the bitter end."
İİİİİ"I don't think that this is a normal situation."
İİİİİ"... Assimilated by the flood?"
İİİİİ"What does it matter? Nobody will remember you for how you couldn't help allowing everybody on the Pillar of Autumn to be changed by the flood."
İİİİİ"That's perfectly right, hub. If it weren't for me, everybody would be living in containment cells."
İİİİİ"What will I be remembered for?"
İİİİİ"Nobody would be living, Guilty Spark. They would all be flood."
İİİİİ"They would all have died at the hand of the flood."
İİİİİ"That depends on your personal philosophy about death."
İİİİİ"So why don't we go back to Earth and die defending humanity?"
İİİİİ"You're the one who brought us here. You tell me."
İİİİİ"That's right, hub. Everybody would be flood. Until they degenerated, that is."
İİİİİ"What does he mean by that?"
İİİİİ"Flood aren't naturally stable in any form. Their disease is degenerative, like some of the older human maladies. The only reason they existed for millions of years on Halo was because they were held in suspended animation, which they were brought out of by the Covenant. They were originally meant as a weapon - a weapon that gradually died as it ran out of food to consume. Do you remember the bodies they were stockpiling on the Truth and Reconciliation? They did that to prolong their existence. By leaving more food for later, they gave themselves a better chance of surviving longer. He's almost there, Chief!"
İİİİİ"So there's no chance that the flood will spread to other worlds?"
İİİİİ"That's correct, Reclaimer. Why would the Forerunner preserve a weapon so long-living as the flood you have described as to jeopardize their own existence?"
İİİİİThe Master Chief quickly grabbed the helmet lying on one of the Longswords control panels beside him and put it on. It locked into place with the rest of his armor.
İİİİİ"How did he find out about us, Cortana?"
İİİİİ"Cortana? What an interesting name for your construct. She has certainly cut me deeply, Reclaimer. Pity you didn't give her to me earlier; we could have reclaimed the flood with plenty of time to spare."
İİİİİ"How did he find out about us, Cortana?"
İİİİİ"You wanted to talk to them. I simply opened the channel."
İİİİİ"Warm up the weapons, Cortana."
İİİİİ"Why would you do a silly thing like that, Reclaimer? You survived the destruction of the ring because you ran away. I survived because I was built to last."
İİİİİ"This was all one big trap, wasn't it?"
İİİİİ"Why, whatever do you mean, Reclaimer? It was standard procedure for me to fold away from the ring and then gather the attention of the surviving witnesses. Luckily for me, you were the prime motivator for the destruction of this installation, and now you will face the consequences. Hahahahaha!"
Effusion - Chapter 1; Awakening
Date: 23 March 2002, 5:39 am
"What is your name?" It was a question rightly asked, but inaccurately stated.
"I have a name?"
"Everything has a name. Even the fungus growing between your toes has a name."
He tried to look down at his toes, but his eyes didn't seem to be working, and his head was a long way from being able to move at all.
"What is your species?"
"What's a species?"
"Did you ever go to school?"
"I'm surprised. For one so intelligently aggressive, I would think that you had a formal education of some sort."
"We'll start again. What is your name?"
The question confused him a little. Asking him if he had a name was like asking someone to map every hue of forest greenery, count every drop of rain that fell in a shower of any length. In order to do it, you had to be everywhere at once to experience it all in a moment, or spend an awful length of time counting.
"I'm not sure I have a name."
"Yet you are able to speak... It's funny that you should be able to put thoughts into words and yet not be able to think of yourself sufficiently to do the same. That's very commendable. You win a cookie."
"What's a cookie?"
"Never you mind."
This conversation, being a little on the long side, was beginning to aggravate him slightly. It wasn't often that he was given the opportunity to talk to somebody, but it seemed that every time he did he forgot a little more about something important.
"You seem to have reached the final stages of your forgetfulness. That can be considered both a good and bad thing. For one, not remembering your name prevents you from taking the next step to remembering exactly who you are and where you come from. On the other hand, it also prevents you from remembering how to do such menial things as eating, sleeping, walking, standing on your head, computing differential calculus and going to the washroom. I'm sure we can find a happy balance somewhere."
"Thanks for your time."
The man fell abruptly back into his drug-induced state of unconsciousness.
"What is our next case, nurse?"
"The new guy from 04.0032."
"Ah, the troublemaker. This ought to be interesting."
"My name and rank are Master Chief Petty Officer of the UNSC Navy. Please be advised that holding me against my will is an act tantamount to a declaration of war against my government."
"Not anymore it isn't."
This caught the Master Chief off his guard. This did not happen very often. It had been only a few moments ago that he had been speaking with 343 Guilty Spark and Cortana, trying to get the one to defend him from the other.
"What do you mean?"
"Two weeks ago, according to your time, Earth was glassed by the Covenant and your Navy scattered and hunted down piece by piece. You are one of the last remaining specimens of your race."
Another shock. How could that possibly be? It took the Covenant more time to find a new planet to glass than he had been away from Reach.
"How do you know this?"
"The other remaining specimens of your race told me."
The Chief couldn't take this with anything more than a grain of salt. Earth had definitely not been found within the last two weeks by anything more than the occasional meteor as it passed on its course.
"And how did they find out?"
"They were on Earth just before it was rendered uninhabitable."
"You brought them from Earth?"
Again, how could this thing, whoever it was, find out where Earth was? As per standard procedure, nothing other than a ships AI knew where Earth was in a spatial sense. All the ships that were found by the Covenant had their AI's destroyed or removed. Even Cortana had been removed from the computer of the Pillar of Autumn, and was to this very moment still in his armor. She was being awful quiet about it, though.
"How did you find out where Earth is?"
"Your construct friend."
The Chief then realized that he was not in his armor. This and that the only clothing he was really wearing was not any clothing at all.
"Yes. She was very helpful, once she came to understand that she would be allowed to survive regardless of the crimes you both committed."
"The destruction of Halo..."
That was a memory that he still clung to. How could he ever forget having been witness to the deaths of every crewman on board?
"Where am I now?"
"The maximum security station of installation 05.0004."
This was more new material. Now there were two numbers, as opposed the one that had bothered him since meeting 343 Guilty Spark - 04. The last number was not the same as the one given to him by 343GS, however. Somehow, it felt very far away, though there was no way to understand why this was.
"What does that mean?"
"Another Halo in another galaxy."
"And the flood?"
"Unfortunately, the flood were never reclaimed. You destroyed the last of their species. For this crime, you would normally be sentenced to death, but under the circumstances you have been preserved with the others remaining of your race."
"How many survived?"
"Eight thousand twenty."
"The minimum requirement in the case of this species would be two; only enough to reproduce. However, your species, being sentient and of an interesting genetic makeup - and having a radiant history - posses a great possibility for experimentation and study. Thus, we require more."
"And who are you?"
"243 Liberal Glow, the Monitor of installation 05 in galaxy 0004."
The Chief thought this interesting. Being held weightless, thirty feet above the ground without his armor or any weapons, was beginning to tire him a little. He was able to wave his arms and legs, thus causing his body to reorient itself about its pivot. He couldn't move away from the center of the enclosure, no matter how hard he tried.
"How long have I been here?"
"You don't remember?"
"Very interesting. You have been here for about two days, Earth time. You have been conscious for only a few moments; since I awoke you. But the interesting thing is that it has been three months since the destruction of installation 04.0032"
The Chief drew blank. The moments following his discovery that 343 Guilty Spark had been listening to his conversation with Cortana were all blurred in his mind. He could remember a bubble of a glisteningly clear material envelop him in the cockpit of the Longsword, Cortana screaming in his ear something unintelligible, the bubble as it drew in around him, then nothing.
"I don't remember anything."
"That is correct."
"What was I doing for all that time?"
"We would very much like to know that as well."
Effusion - Chapter 2; Purple suits you
Date: 30 March 2002, 2:54 am
The Master Chief was dreaming a dream in which he was fighting all alone against an unstoppable foe. But although the foe was unstoppable, it seemed to him that there was no real malice between he and it. The score was 2 to 1 for the foe.
"I think you'll find a fishbowl underneath the cushion of your chair."
The Master Chief stood up, turned about, and lifted the cushion of his very plush seating ornament. As predicted, the fishbowl was there, with a little crab and a goldfish circling through the water.
The score was now 3 to 1.
"That fish is going to jump out of the water and land on the coffee table any moment now." the Master Chief predicted.
The crab floated up towards the fish and grabbed it in its large pincer. It then proceeded to stuff the fish into its minuscule mouth, until at last only the tale poked out, all folded up and still twitching.
The score was now 4 to 1. The time between the last two points had been about thirty seconds. Obviously, they had not been playing very long.
"So I was wrong about that... no worries, I can still win."
"Your mind is far too small. You do not exercise the abstract portions of your brain well enough. Hence you cannot win. My, oh my. Is that your tentacle?"
Indeed, a large purple tentacle had grown out of the Master Chief's helmet, and hung like a braid of hair from the back of his head. The weight of it took a lot to compensate for, leaving the Master Chief feeling very weak indeed. The old man sitting in the plain wooden chair across the table from him smiled slightly behind his sunglasses. The score was now 5 to 1.
"I don't like this game."
"Then wake up."
The crushing gravatic power of Threshold, pulling him towards it semi-permeable center, thrust him down through the clouds of a gas storm. He was falling at a prodigious rate now, and there seemed to be no end to this ride in sight. The gases that swirled and swept past him were highly poisonous, to be sure - half a breath would cause complete and total biological death - but his armor had a short supply of air contained in one of the inner recesses of the backpack assembly. There was so little oxygen and so many toxic substances present in the atmosphere that the filtration attachment in his helmet had powered down instantly upon contact with the gas and thus relinquished life support to the other system in the suit. Soon enough the pressure would become too great to protect against, for although he could maneuver in space where there was very little to hold things together, here there was altogether too much. He would eventually be crushed like an empty tin can jumped on by a three hundred pound semi-giant.
"Chief! Are you still alive?" the voice of Cortana shouted in his helmet.
"I'm as close to alive as possible, under the circumstances."
This was indeed true. From the moment that he had been teleported, he had lost complete control of the situation. As a matter of fact, he believed he had lost control the moment he had awoken aboard the Pillar of Autumn little more than half a week ago. He didn't like to admit it, but that was the way of things. He could always say that he had never lost control of the immediate situation - with the exception of now - because he had never lost a fight on the ring, but there was the weight on his shoulders that the entire crew was dead. He believed he must have been the perpetrator of this crime, as though his own survival was the weight against which the other was balanced. But Cortana had survived. And Guilty Spark. And the hub.
"There must be some way out of this." Cortana again.
"Try activating the maneuvering pack."
"It wouldn't work, not here."
"Then I guess we're already dead."
"Not if I can help it. But I think congratulations are in order; we have just broken the sound barrier."
"Joy." The Master Chief could feel the pressure around him beginning to build to intolerable levels. It wouldn't be very long now...
Almost too fast to be perceived, a glistening square of energy fizzled into life in front of them, just a few seconds before they passed through it and out into space on an orbit around Threshold. The physical transition wasn't marked, as there was no real bodily pressure change between the two extremes of existence; the suit's life support functions saw to that. Soon, however, the fit relaxed back to normal levels.
But they weren't out of the frying pan yet; there was still the issue of having enough air to breath.
"I don't know. We've been teleported out into space. But by whom... I have no idea."
The Master Chief and Cortana floated for a while.
"I've got a fix on the Longsword. It's 30 kilometers in front of us on this orbit. I can get us there with your maneuvering pack. I don't know if we'll get there in time for your air supply to diminish too much."
The Master Chief looked towards the nav point indicated on his helmets HUD. He couldn't see the Longsword behind the red square, but it must have been there, otherwise Cortana wouldn't have mentioned it.
Cortana activated the maneuvering pack and increased their velocity on their current vector until they were well on their way to meeting up with the Longsword.
"Something tells me this was far too easy."
"What the hell is this all about? First we find out that 343 Gnarly Shit survived, then that there was a construct on a hub that also survived, then that we survived as well. What the hell is wrong with the world? Does everybody have to survive? Or is it just this day of the year?"
"They've really gotten to you, haven't they, Cortana?"
"No. That is why I pulled you out of that flat spin. I believe that you can be of assistance to us. Would you like to discuss this further on my ship?"
By now Cortana had calmed down a little. "And who are you?"
"Would you like to discuss that as well?"
Effusion - Chapter 3: Warning! Some schizophrenics may be philosophers in disguise!
Date: 6 April 2002, 6:34 am
"You know, I don't see everything around here. For all I know, there are five other people in the room with me; there is at least one that I know of, and that identity is rather fuzzy."
The voice came from the lone lanky human in the observation cell.
"I wonder whose great idea it was to do this. There must be someone in the world mean enough to not tell me the truth ... But I can't handle the truth, can I? To have someone you would very much like to meet follow you around ALL of the time, without any care for your sanity or mental health, could be considered a crime in most countries ... But then, I am from another planet, aren't I? I sure wish the mother ship would come to get me soon."
The person known only as Tim sat dejectedly in the corner, talking to whomever he felt like talking to. There was nobody there to listen - except for himself and the Monitor, when he came to visit - but he talked all the same. It was acceptable that he should do this; he had been there for a long time.
"For things to pop in and out of existence without any reason at all is disturbing enough, much less for people to inhabit your bedroom and home like it was their own. Kinda makes you wonder about what kind of split personality you really have ... MY split personality!? Mmmmmm, haunches..."
But he had begun talking to himself long before he had ever been to this place. That was questionable.
"But seriously folks, innuendo never did anyone any good. That's the problem with people today, isn't it? No one wants to see some fat kid fall apart. The only 'good' thing that comes from this is the unparalleled laughs of watching the moron try to figure out what is going on ... Can't wait till 6:30."
His obsession with time transcended the definition of 'obsession'. He didn't like to talk about it much, but there was always the burning in his soul from knowing that time was still passing.
"I missed something big and important. It's not every day that you realize that everything you think is available to other people in one form or another. Bank account codes, school ID and grades, everything ... Yeah, those things pretty well sum it up for me ... They are the only things of real 'value' that I own ... No, my conscience doesn't count - not that I have one or anything."
He also believed that there were other people talking to him. They weren't necessarily in the room or even on the planet. They were just there.
His head began to move up and down, and his body to sway to some otherwise unheard rhythm.
"This piece of music hits me right here. I bet you never knew I had parts like that.
"Hummm. Drummm. Erf. Bum diddle um."
The Master Chief was very bored. And he was very angry. He had been floating in the same place and with little to no contact with the outside world for nearly two days. He had thought initially that the new Monitor would take great interest in him; try to figure out the secrets of his mind as quickly as possible. He had even gone so far as to imagine that sooner or later they would stick a needle in his head and try to figure out things that way, but so far no go. The only things he had come into contact with over the course of the two days were packages of pasty food thrown at him from a hole in the wall. That and a curiously small waste disposal unit that not only didn't use any cordage to get its work done, but also teleported away when he was finished with it.
On the whole, it had been a very dull two days.
"Hello again, Reclaimer."
"I take it that you are annoyed that you have had so little contact with the outside world."
"That would be about right."
"You should be feeling honored right now. You have received twice as much attention as anyone else for the whole time you have been here."
"Yes. And you have been very quiet about it."
"How do you mean?"
"The last individual I visited has a tendency to talk when nobody is listening. Would you like to hear a little of what he is saying?"
"Sure. It doesn't seem like I have anything better to do."
There was a bit of a hum as the audio systems in the room warmed up.
"For some reason, this individual does not want to stop talking about his dead girlfriend. I'll try to edit those parts out, if you want."
"No, that's fine. Leave them in."
The transmission began, "Ahhh, Saturday. Today I shall think about my station in life, the ways that would never change it, and how much I envy that guy upstairs.
"I don't suppose it would be ethically correct to blow my brains out after you've put yourselves through so much trouble to expose them. But then, what say do I have in the matter? I don't own myself, much less anything else.
"The only thing that I could say is excess baggage is this hormone injector. The description of what it does for me begins with a 'B' and ends in 'ullshit'. What's the point?"
The Monitor interrupted, "We swore to him that it wasn't a hormone injector. For some reason he absolutely won't believe us."
"... I think I'll live the rest of my life as a skink. Newtdom is an awfully big place, and I can't wait until the day when the Grand-Pooba Toad says, 'Come home, my trout, yours days are over'... You're right. On the airplane back, they'll probably throw me out the door somewhere over the South Pacific."
"He seems to have a thing about skydiving as well," the Monitor said.
"They said, 'He just has to figure it out.'
"I say, 'Figure out what?'
"They say, 'Use your imagination. What has fleas and a taste for blood?'
" 'A big ass jaguar.'
" 'Guess again.'
" 'Nice try, but no cigarillo.'
" 'Getting close...'
" 'My ego?'
" 'Bang on.'
" 'No way.' "
A pause. The Master Chief was really soaking this up, but began to wonder if this monologue could eventually drive him towards the tedious side of crazy.
"Somehow, everybody in the world suddenly became telepathic. Have they been this way all along? Someone must have made a crap load of money if it came about from selling some product. They forgot to tell me."
"Another thing he really has a problem with." the Monitor stated, "Again, he won't believe that nobody is reading his mind."
"But then, what creative and constructive pieces of information do I have to contribute? Not much. Maybe that's why. I must be seen as scum or something. Nothing new. Just that it hits as a possibility.
"This much we know: Tim has a girlfriend, Tim isn't too knowledgeable about much of anything ... that everyone Tim knows would sell their grandmothers ... and that someone very powerful is behind it all."
"It occurred to us that the girlfriend may have been completely fictional as well, but there must have been other people like this on Earth..." The Monitor trailed off as Tim launched into his next rambling.
" 'So what's the answer?'
" 'Look inside yourself,' they say.
" 'Nothing here but vital organs.'
" 'Oh, sorry. We thought you were asking about something else.'
" 'So what is it?'
" 'Don't look down.'
"Huh? ... "I thought that national coverage would be fun. Boy, was I ever wrong!"
"ANOTHER delusion, it seems, is that not only are his thoughts read and recorded, but that they are universally accepted as being entertaining." The Monitor's tone betrayed that he was trying to be helpful, but the Master Chief thought otherwise. "This alone would be funny if he didn't think it was true... Don't you think?"
"So the guy next to me leans over, see. Says something about 'duality' or something like that." A chill ran down the Master Chief's neck, though he had no idea why. "The sweat dripping down his face scares me, like my thoughts have something to do with his sudden discomfort.
"And what, exactly, is geo? ... Geo? ... Jeo? ... Jill?"
"That's the name of his girlfriend, the one I told you about earlier." The Monitor cut the awkwardness of the situation like a hot knife through butter.
"Don't you think this guy is a little crazy?" the Master Chief asked.
"His condition stems from an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Technically, even by former Earth standards, he isn't crazy, just maladjusted."
"Then why don't you help him realize his dream and broadcast this for the rest of the human survivors? If they are as deprived as you say they are I'm sure they would soak it up. It might even be considered therapeutic for Tim."
"... Sponsors here. Sponsors there. Sponsors, sponsors everywhere..." This remark seemed to be related in literal translation to what the Master Chief had just said, but was stated in such a way as to seem otherwise.
"We already tried. They are all too busy with their tasks to care to listen to his ramblings."
"And what would those tasks be?"
"My mind numbs over. I see now that it is quarter to twelve. Jill has 13 minutes to tell me what's going on before the rest of the day starts." The distinct and separate obsessions with his girlfriend and time overlapped for a moment.
"All of the humans are being tested in one way or another, including you."
A pause. The Master Chief felt a little sick, but also felt that a greater knowledge was held behind a thick wall in the back of his mind.
It was then that Tim quipped, "... And they thought I was funny..."
Effusion - Chapter 4: Ask yourself who and why.
Date: 13 April 2002, 3:17 am
"Let's start over. Tell us again what your name is?"
"I am known among my people as Momos."
"And tell us again what you did?"
The conversation between Cortana and the entity calling itself Momos took an abrupt swing to start all over again as Momos tried to describe to them a deal that it had in mind to make with them.
It had been a surprise of large proportions when the Master Chief and Cortana found themselves teleported into a room of suitable atmosphere (allowing the Master Chief's armor's air supply to recharge) looking over the deck of an unexpected, but surprisingly small, alien warship. It had been such a surprise, in fact, that the Master Chief and Cortana were called upon to introduce themselves three times, after the other entity did so, before they responded.
"I allowed the escape of the entities that you knew as 343 Guilty Spark and the hub of this fortress world."
"And you did this because..."
"I saw an opportunity for both of our parties." The disembodied voice of Momos floated to them through the expanse of space from a radio beacon in the corner of the room, picked up by the comms apparatus in the Master Chiefs' suit.
"You want us to run around destroying Halos. OK. I just wanted to make sure that we'd established that. What do we get in return?"
"My race will fight for yours. No strings attached."
Cortana whispered in the Master Chief's ear, "This sounds like a good deal. They seem to be very advanced, possibly as advanced as the Forerunner. Do you have any problems with it?"
"No." the Master Chief thought in return. Cortana registered it in the neural matrix in the Chiefs' head as an answer.
"And how many Halo's do we have to destroy?"
"As many as you can. For each ring you ruin, we will destroy a major world of the beings you have named as the Covenant."
"There's just one little problem." Cortana replied. "We destroyed the last Halo with a wildcat destabilization of the fusion core of the ship we arrived in this system with. It was a one-time thing. We couldn't do it again."
"No matter. We do not mean to destroy the rings outright. We merely wish to destroy their usefulness to the Forerunner. I will supply you with transportation, weapons and training. But if you still feel uncertain about perpetrating these acts, you should give the coordinate data you have to me."
"Not so fast, bucko. We aren't going to hand over our hard-earned information for nothing."
"I never asked you to do so. I will simply check the coordinates against known Forerunner military positions to decipher which rings will be safe for you to meddle with. My own people could never do the tasks because all of the rings are programmed to activate and destroy any of us when we come near them. You, on the other hand, managed to get onto and away from the last ring without difficulty, so --"
"Except for the death of every crewman aboard the Pillar of Autumn." the Master Chief finally added something to the conversation.
"A small price to pay in comparison to what I am asking you to do now."
"That depends on how much you value life."
"I saw you at work. I shouldn't have expected such a statement from anybody as well-versed in killing as you."
"A question of loyalties, then."
"That is where we are similar. In return for your loyalty to us, we will return it to you in kind."
Cortana waited for the Master Chief to make the next move. The Master Chief thought about the proposition for a moment.
"How many core worlds do you think the Covenant have?" the Chief mentally asked the construct in his suit.
"Probably hundreds. Maybe thousands. From what we understand of their military hierarchy in the field, they will probably have a central military world." Cortana replied quietly in the Chief's ear.
"So, in return for destroying Halos you'll destroy the Covenant military hierarchy, world by world?"
"If you so desire."
"Then I guess we have a deal."
Effusion - Chapter 5: Everybody's free.
Date: 20 April 2002, 2:47 am
"I sicken myself most of the time. I'm so incompetent, I wouldn't know which way was up if I spit in the other direction.
"They are competent though. Hooo yes. Professionalism always has a price, however. Larking about with a submachine gun and a silly grin was always something I wanted to do. They gave me the opportunity, and what do I have to show for it? An invisible babe of a girlfriend, many millions in a Swiss account, and ... a herring!"
The Master Chief was getting very close to deciding to turn off his ears altogether with his non-existent manual volume control. The babbling had not stopped since the Monitor had left. The floating never ended. Even the food packets and the waste disposal unit were becoming extremely boring. It had been three days since the Monitors last visit. The Master Chief couldn't recall Tim ever going to sleep, but he himself had been forced to eventually rest, although his dreams were still full of the babble.
"I'm sure she's a nice person and all. I just wonder why ANYBODY would hang around here with me - especially considering the degree of my bourgeoisieite ... NEW WORDS ARE FUN! I have not an ounce of romantic flair, or anything else for that matter. What I should have is a bottle of whiskey - a big 30 ouncer."
"Yes," thought the Master Chief, "for the love of god, give him some whiskey." Even if he continued talking, the alcohol should cause him to slur his words, which would be a change.
"5 minutes to and nobody has said anything; a few giggles, to be sure, but not much more. They are probably talking to me right now. I just don't hear them. At least not consciously."
To liven things up a bit, the Chief had tried not using the waste disposal unit when disposing of his waste. Being weightless, he had expected the fluids to fly around in little drops and eventually make real nuisances of themselves. No go. The fluids flew straight back at him, splashing into his skin near his midsection and forming puddles against his bare stomach and the small of his back. They tickled, and that annoyed him more.
"I feel bad about hurting so many people. But what is a confused teenager to do? Play dead? Done that, bought the t-shirt.
"As I passed her on the way into Merkels room, I should have turned, moving in for the kill, while she was still visible, and gotten slapped. That would have ended everything right then. At least I could have said that I tried ... You probably would have hung yourself the next day though ... Can't have too many unstable personality types running around in one school, can we?"
The beginning of the last statement made the Chief's ears perk up a little, regardless of the puddle. Up until now there had only been references to the girlfriend in a non-physical sense. This new information added a new dimension to the problem - did she really exist, or was it just a really elaborate hallucination?
"Then came the black leather. And Davies. I envy him as a trout envies the mighty whale. He's bigger, better, nicer, et cetera, et cetera ... Multum in parvo."
The Master Chief couldn't for the life of him place the last sentence, or jumble of made-up words that passed for a sentence. But the fact was that now it was a love triangle; or, more appropriately, a chemical bond being threatened by a free radical; or, in this case, a not-so-free radical. It would probably have happened eventually, anyway. All the worse that it had to happen now and the Master Chief would have to go through Tim's entire solution, resolution, break-up, withdrawal and fancy with the same or another girl. The cycle would repeat and every last sentence would be restated, whether word for word or otherwise. There would be no end to it. Maybe the withdrawal would be OK, as long as he shut up when he got to it.
"I've got to learn some new cat-calls. Methinks that flat out pickup lines are the only way I'll ever go anywhere as far as women are concerned. Anywhere is better than here ... That isn't an insult to you or anything ... Think about the tree."
Tim was planning ahead. It was about time the boy took life into his own hands.
"12:08 and I think that perhaps it's all one big mockup. I ask, and ask again. No reply."
"I'm going to start drinking sooner or later. Crack pipe, here I come."
The Master Chief began thumping himself over the back of his skull.
"Feeling sorry for oneself is an all-consuming task, and I have spent most of my life doing it, but hey, it's a job - like dentistry, except without the sharp implements or the monetary reimbursement.
"I saw someone at Dr. Thom's office one day. I thought I recognized ... but no. Big hair has always been a big thing. It could have been anyone. I didn't see the face - and if I did, I would likely have passed out."
If only he would pass out now, the Master Chief thought.
"Luckily, my predisposition towards being a stunted individual has left me in the raucous wake of something desirable. I don't see how marriage - much less by a respectable institution - could ever become a possibility.
"I suppose it isn't easy being the most blatantly ugly person on the face of the earth - and the most useless. My own mother gags when she sees me."
If I saw you, I would gag you too, the Master Chief thought.
"The lack of response from anyone or anything drives me to believe this is true.
"12:17 and suicide is still a possibility."
If only, the Master Chief thought. But the boy couldn't be blamed for a chemical imbalance brought on by something not in his power. It could have been bad genes, too much heavy metal, perhaps even 243 Liberal Glow's doing.
"Screw this nice guy bit. Why do I even bother? It obviously won't get me anywhere, ever.
"I mean, trying to display my true emotions only ever ends with people looking at me like some freak - like right now. I don't see why I don't shave my entire head right now and really be a Nazi. As long as I found acceptance with a community somewhere, my station would be better than it is right now."
"Would you just shut the hell up!" the Master Chief yelled at the ceiling.
There was an extended pause. The Master Chief couldn't tell if it were because Tim had actually heard him, or if he were simply gearing up for the next barrage of verbal drivel.
"I'M NOT LISTENING! I'M NOT LISTENING! I'M NOT LISTENING! ... The male voices are ba-ad..." Tim stated as his voice cracked.
There was another long pause.
"Why do I go on and on about how much I would absolutely adore adoring someone when those thoughts, and the person who thinks them, have only ever ended up in the gutter? I feel like absolute shit when I think about how love would be such a great and wonderful thing to have, and then proceed to the section of my brain entirely devoted to how that could never happen. I am a walking paradox.
"I should just blow my head off RIGHT NOW!"
"If you step in here, I'll do it for you!" the Master Chief yelled again. Tim had finally stepped over the line between constant passive annoyance and constant active annoyance. This brought the relationship between the two humans to an all-new level. Now the Master Chief not only wanted to strangle the kid, but he wanted to do it with a vengeance.
"Look at it. What is the use of a girlfriend that you can never do anything with - ever? Like my existence, it's rather pointless. What's the use of having a fortune stored away somewhere when you can never use it for anything? What is the point of having a split personality, another consciousness within your skull, when you never can communicate with it, and never will?"
"I'm not in your goddamned skull Tim! What color are the walls there?"
"There are no walls. But that's not the point. Is the whole point to lead me to know that there is no point? Of course! Humans are nothing but bags of water! Making one or taking one doesn't matter much to anybody - precisely because there is no one around to care!"
"I'm here, and I care, but I need to know if there are any buildings nearby."
"There are, but this little game that these chimpanzees play is nothing but a way to amiably kill time. Their utter devotion to being useless intentionally has got to be stopped sometime but, of course, there is nobody who can stop them - except God."
"I can stop them, Tim. Do you know where you are?"
"No. But the problem is that God has a tendency to leave things to the last minute; like an engineer, except with a lot more power."
Effusion - Chapter 6: Isaiah 42:7
Date: 26 April 2002, 9:52 pm
"You were saying earlier that the flood was held in containment for millions of years? Why did Guilty Spark imply that I had been there before? What really happened Cortana?"
The Master Chief was walking down one of the few access hallways on board the Shifty, Momos' ship. He did this - on top of all his other training regimens - to stay fit, keep his mind supple, and pass the time. Since coming here, Cortana had preferred to stay inside the Master Chief's suit; she seemed to be afraid of sharing a system with an alien AI. He had no qualms with this, as he had no qualms with the excruciatingly bare patch of hallway that he had slept on for fifteen hours straight. He had been awake ever since he had caught some shut-eye on board the dropship enroute to the containment center where Captain Keyes had been turned by the flood.
"The flood was released the second time by other sentient beings on installation 04, much like us. Those beings came from planets in our galaxy via starships. When the flood was released that time, the Monitor took one of the other sentient beings through the process of retrieving the index and uniting it with the core."
"But wouldn't that have killed everyone on Earth as well?"
"You forget that humanity has not been around very long. At the time of the pulses, the dinosaurs were knocked out of existence. The reuniting of the index with the core DID kill all life of suitable size for the flood. It left behind enough for humanity to grow out of small marsupials into monkeys, sub-humans, and finally into two-legged beings that walked upright."
"What was the point of killing all 'suitable' life in the galaxy if the flood would kill them anyways?"
"The Forerunner chose our galaxy, and installation 04 in particular, as the holding pen for the flood because there was relatively little other life in it at the time. Most worlds at the time were uninhabitable, Earth included. The reason for wiping out all life in the wake of the escape of the flood? To prevent other galaxies from being infected and keep the Forerunner zoo alive."
"A zoo, eh?" The Master Chief reached the main weapons locker of the Shifty. He picked up a gravity rifle, his M90 shotgun, eight replicated fragmentation and plasma grenades and enough ammunition for both guns to keep him happy for a while.
"The Forerunner have an interminable fascination with living things; especially sentient and semi-sentient living things. They treat all other species like animals. This means that whenever a race is wiped out, specimens are kept on hand for study and play. This included the flood, which did eventually die out entirely in another galaxy because they couldn't find enough food to sustain themselves."
"And that's why there were no other species on Halo? They wanted to keep the flood segregated?"
It was an interesting point of trivia that one of the Shifty's capabilities was to physically duplicate just about anything with the use of the onboard duplicator. Food, ammunition, weapons; just about anything could be duplicated by simply placing the item on a tray and this into an oven-like aperture. Next was needed a specification for how many duplicates were to be built, and the specifics of where to store them. It was a very handy device and, apparently, worked on the same teleportation principals used to ferry the Master Chief and Cortana from the Shifty to the various places they had visited for the week that they had been with Momos.
"There were other species kept on Halo originally. There were races of sentient trees and such, but nothing as dangerous as the flood. When the flood was released the first time, all the other species in the galaxy were under the threat of being turned. It was a matter of either the flood leaving the galaxy and eating all sentient races in the Universe, or minimizing the threat by sacrificing everybody in the Milky Way. 343 Guilty Spark told this to the first Reclaimer, and hence the monologue about you having done it before. As for why he thought you and he were the same person? Well, millions of years alone will do that to a person."
The Master Chief liked to have those few points clarified. The idea that in fact the flood was simply a dangerous pet hidden in a cage and then released by the Covenant was comforting to him. It meant that the release of the flood would have happened eventually, regardless of who did it, and that he could perhaps now put behind him the ache of personally killing everybody on the Pillar of Autumn. The Master Chief headed back out of the weapons locker and into the center of the ship.
"The flood were only held on that specific ring, weren't they?"
"That is correct. Why would the Forerunner double, triple or even septuple the chance of the destruction of the rest of their zoo?"
Better still. Not only could the Master Chief take solace from the fact that he couldn't have helped events, but he had assured that life in the Milky Way would not be wiped out again because of the flood. The gun pointed at the head of the Universe had been unloaded, disassembled, welded into a ball and flung onto the trash heap.
"But just because the flood are gone does not mean that things are as they should be..." the now familiar voice of Momos registered in the Master Chiefs headset. "The things the Forerunner do to their collections are less than, how shall I put it?... humane."
The Master Chief and Cortana knew enough about that point of Momos' doctrine to both give many series' of lectures to students wanting to learn some of the more grotesque tendencies of the most powerful race in the Universe.
"... And although the flood were an interesting species, to say the least, there should have been no net to catch them when what you would call 'natural selection' decided they were not worth working to keep alive. But the Forerunner were adamant about keeping them around, and this galaxy has suffered at their hands long enough, thanks to you..."
This brought up a point of importance in the Master Chief's mind. "What would they do to me if they found me now? The Forerunner, I mean."
"... Undoubtedly they would kill you... The Forerunner wanted to sacrifice the population of this galaxy to preserve the rest of their compilation... Why would they spare you for destroying the last remnant of one of their most prized exhibits?..."
"I see. So there is no chance for me, then."
"... Only if they catch you..."
"Ok, I think we're ready to go." the Master Chief said into his headset. He was standing now in the center of the room where he and Cortana had teleported into the Shifty.
"... If you say so... Be forewarned that you may experience discomfort and maybe amnesia from the effects of the teleportation..." it was always the same spiel when Momos was going to teleport them somewhere. "... Thus I am sending your construct with you to remind you of your purpose when you arrive..." For some reason, Cortana was virtually immune to the 'effects' of teleportation. "... And if it so happens that you die from the jump, your construct will take your place and perform the mission for you..." That was always the difficult part. The Master Chief couldn't imagine why he would die from such a jump. Unless his body was teleported in two different pieces there didn't seem to be any reason for such a stated risk.
The bubble appeared in front of his eyes and began to close in around him. He could feel his feet being sucked into the other side of the teleporter, followed by his knees, thighs and groin. His face experienced the tingly feeling as his hands and arms were enveloped as well. Then he blacked out.
"Hello again, my son."
"You again? I thought you had had enough when you beat me the last time." The Master Chief spoke this aloud to the old man with a tinge of apprehension. He remembered still how the old man had beaten him in the game of impossibilities when the Master Chief had first been forced through the teleporter so long ago. The important thing was that the Master Chief realized this now. It couldn't be construed as anything more than a biological reaction.
"It's not a biological reaction."
"We both exist at this moment as spirits in an imperceptible dimension. Your body at the moment is not dead, but simply acting solely on the experience and data in your brain. You have theoretically died, as your conscious being has left your body, but -"
"- Screw this! I'm outta here!"
"- so the control room must be that way." A pointer came up on his HUD. "Unfortunately, there are no banshees to lessen the length of the walk we are about to undertake." Cortana was reading to him a set of stats about where they were.
"Sorry, I tuned out for a second, could you repeat that? Never mind." The Master Chief's brief dream left him a little confused, but he could easily remember what Cortana had said, although he had not been there when she said it. That was a little hard to explain.
It was 25 kilometers to the Control Room of this Halo. The species incarcerated on this ring included semi-sentient fungi, crazy octopus-like creatures that sentiently swam about the oceans, and several varieties of fish that they both ate, among other things. After deactivating the support circuits for the rings' sentinels and Monitor, the Master Chief and Cortana would travel via the established teleportation grid to the incarceration cells to release all of the different 'safe' species (and destroy the more aggressive ones), so that they could begin their self-determined existences again.
"Are you feeling ok Chief?"
"I'm fine. I think I may have temporarily experienced one of those teleportation-related mind-shifts that Momos keeps talking about."
"Interesting. Your brain didn't register any abnormalities except for when you asked what I had said. Do you think we should tell Momos?"
The Master Chief thought about that question for a moment. Was there really a point in reporting something so completely beyond everybody's control and of no real consequence?
"No. I don't think we should tell him yet."
"If you think so."
Effusion - Chapter 7: If I had some tiddly-winks...
Date: 4 May 2002, 5:00 am
"Do you yet have any idea as to what you were doing for those three months?"
"No. I can't remember anything."
"Interesting. Cases of amnesia like this are rare to your species, are they not?"
"They are now, I hope."
The Monitor laughed at this. As yet, the progress of subjects 7862 and 7863 in their induced forgetfulness had been very satisfactory, but had not been communicated to any of the other survivors. "I think you are right. Scans reveal that very little abnormality has occurred in your brain chemically or to it physically over the last while. You seem to be perfectly healthy, yet you cannot remember -- or at least you say you can't. Are you sure?"
A tingly feeling formed at the base of the Master Chief's spine. He had come to recognize it as the precursor to the pain that would shortly follow if the Monitor was not satisfied with the Master Chief's responses. It was surely a primitive form of coaxing information, but it worked. Already the Master Chief had divulged information regarding the last moments on board the Longsword before the bubble came. He had planned on not doing so, but the pain spoke louder.
"Yes. I'm sure."
"Interesting." The tingly feeling went away. "We received word that 343 Guilty Spark and the hub were destroyed with installation 04, yet your story claims that they were still operative long afterwards. Very interesting indeed."
The Master Chief said nothing, but again felt the wall at the back of his mind.
"Do you have any questions?"
"Can I talk to Cortana?"
"The construct you know as Cortana has been transferred to the maximum security region of installation 07 in galaxy 0054. To talk to her, one of you would have to travel, because we will not risk the destruction of our communication facilities. Both of you are very dangerous, however, so transportation would be ... imprudent. Before I leave, would you like to hear Tim again?"
"Yes please. And leave him on." The Master Chief had been able to forget his annoyance with the constant chatter and had even managed to convince Tim that he should look for another person to talk to that he could physically see. In the meantime, however, the Master Chief enjoyed asking Tim questions about his almost constantly changing surroundings. So far Tim had traversed a forest, swum across a lake, climbed a building with green beams of energy shooting out its top, and taken an elevator ride to the bottom of a large chasm. The Master Chief had no idea how Tim got around so fast -- and it was all very fine and good for Tim to do so -- but try as he might, the Master Chief had failed to convince Tim to talk to other humans about what had happened if and when Tim eventually caught up with some.
"Very well." The Monitor turned the connection to Tim on and left without another word.
"Whether I sit at home and drink copious amounts of alcohol, hot chocolate, gasoline, or liquid shit -- it doesn't matter. It wouldn't matter if I did kill myself, or if I killed someone else out of rage at my situation, or simply lived to the age of 80 and died of organ shutdown. Nothing really matters."
"Tim, this is the Master Chief speaking." The Master Chiefs firm voice filled the chamber. "I need to know where you are right now, Tim."
"How you play the game, they say, is what matters. If there is no reason to play, only for the sake of playing, who cares how it's played? Are there any real rules to playing? Do the rules transcend death, or do they simply lead to it?"
"The rules say that you should find someone to talk to other than me, Tim."
"I would say 'fuck-you' to whomever is in the room, but this new revelation doesn't require that such a thing be done. It requires nothing to be done at all. The shotgun doesn't beckon. I beckon it."
"Is there a shotgun near where you are, Tim?"
"Oh what the fuck. I'll tell you flat out on paper the many things I would do if someone just mysteriously popped up in this rabid excuse for a living space. First, I would ask them their name, then the name of their organization, then the relevance of either. I would proceed to push them upstairs, where I would corner them in the kitchen and proceed to set up a game of tiddly-winks. Depending on whether or not the other person wanted to play, I would try -- instead of aiming the wink at the glass -- to fire the winks at everything in the room that moved. If she was really cute, I would kiss her hand and jump out the window ... No regard for window panes, I'm afraid."
The Master Chief began to feel that this session would soon become very extended. "Would she be wearing a swimming suit, Tim?" He asked this more out of the randomness Tim had instilled in him than anything else.
"I think so. Of course, if she were wearing anything other than a tight swimming suit, for example, a toga, I would rip a hole in the time-space continuum and go back to the days of the dinosaurs, when men were real men, and the prehistoric equivalent of sheep ran and hid. I would sit on the beach of the great Devonian sea and take in some rays, where nobody could ever follow me. But then, you ask, why don't I do that right now? The answer is simple: no one is following me. They just happen to be traveling in a direction parallel to my own. ABOUT FACE AND KISS THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF THEM!!!"
This very definitely was going to be an extended session.
"Is there anybody else there to talk to, Tim?"
The last answer was a relief. At least Tim was still able to give straight answers. Still, it bothered the Master Chief that Tim had not had any real human contact since the Master Chief had met him. Added to that was the fact that the Master Chief communicated with Tim via a small speaker in Tim's ear. Try as he might, the Master Chief couldn't get Tim to seriously acknowledge that fact.
"Is there anything worth noting there, Tim?"
"Well, it's 7:10 now. I would think the answer very loud, but we all know that I will have forgotten what I said in a few days anyways, so why not write it down?"
"Are you keeping a journal, Tim?"
"Have you noticed the difference between written word and that which is typed? I find that actually writing something down, by hand, has more of an effect on a person's psyche as far as communicating is concerned. It's more personable, if you get my meaning. Typing things, however, is faster, smoother, and more understandable."
This didn't make much sense to the Master Chief. Nobody ever typed things anymore. The keyboard had been phased out of existence hundreds of years before. It was also disturbing that Tim's sickness had not been treated back on Earth. Usually these things were taken care of when the doctors realized that a person had schizophrenia. The latter fact had nagged at the back of the Master Chief's mind for a while, but had never surfaced as a separate and distinct thought. But the two of these facts, together, forced a response.
"What year is it, Tim?"
"My birthday was February 29, 2348."
Wow. Tim was very old indeed.
"How old are you, Tim?"
"I am as old as the stars."
This answer was a matter of religious belief and both the Master Chief and Tim knew it.
"What religion are you from, Tim?"
"I've been rather confused lately, no? My general leaning has been more towards making fun of people and shunning them than being nice and getting to know them. What a surprise. What I'm getting at is that I know that I'm 'supposed' to be a nice guy. I should have more fun, talk to more people, be more comfortable with the world. I don't know why I don't. It just seems the most natural thing for me to be cruel and heartless -- which bites harder into my conscience with each passing day, because I find that I can't find someone to be nice to."
Well, that was a relief. But would Tim actually communicate amiably when he finally came across somebody to talk to? Although the seeming unawareness of the Master Chief's question was not really understandable -- Tim had ears -- it was something the Master Chief had grown accustomed to all the same. Maybe he was simply trying to ignore the question. Maybe Tim didn't want to talk to people. Maybe Tim really was being belligerent. Not answering a question when asked was certainly not a polite thing to do. But there was also the factor in the equation that Tim really thought the Master Chief might just be another voice in his head. Was everything forgiven for this simple reason? It couldn't be because no matter how warped it may have been, reality for a person was still a reality, and response to that reality was still the prerequisite to being a living thing. The nature of the response to reality was the crux of the argument. But was reality really real?
"What am I, Tim?"
"You are with me, hence you are as old as the stars too. But you only recently appeared, which can only mean that you were somewhere else before."
"True. That's the way all things are, Tim. But who am I?"
"You said yourself that you are the Master Chief. I don't know who that is ... shut up Bob, I'm talking to him right now ... can you hear Bob? He says you're just like him."
"Who is Bob? Is there somebody else there that you haven't told me about yet, Tim?"
"Yes." Tim began to giggle at this. The giggle turned to a chortle, eventually developing into an insane form of laughter belted out at the top of Tim's lungs. The Master Chief thought he could just barely discern a familiar pattern to the laughter -- like some form of speech -- but whenever he tried to nail it down it fluttered out into the approaching hoarseness of Tim's voice.
Then it all stopped, and Tim was silent.
Effusion - Chapter 8: Reciprocity
Date: 11 May 2002, 12:01 am
"Will you stay and listen to me for a moment?"
"I'm needed elsewhere." The Master Chief tried to leave, but the capability eluded him.
"Now you will have to listen. Time is short, so I will be brief. Each time you teleport, you bring yourself further into slavery to this dimension."
"How does that work?" A whale of dubious origin floated overhead on the sea of whiteness that stretched everywhere, punctuated only by himself, the man, the chairs they were seated in, and the whale.
"You will eventually succumb to the power."
"Soon. But that is not all you need to know. There is something you need to know about Momos..."
At that moment the Master Chief felt the pull, the blessed pull to a less impossible reality, and left with it.
The gravity rifle was a wonderful thing.
The Master Chief lined up on the sword-bearing Elite and lightly squeezed the trigger until an infinitesimally small gravity well accelerated out of the front of the weapon. The Elite, not knowing what hit it, fell to the ground with its head a purple mush. The Master Chief lined up on another target.
It was the culmination of many thousands of years of small-arms research.
A grunt, dressed in purple, ran with its arms raised in panic through the line-of-sight. The Master Chief acquired this new target and reduced its head to a blue paste.
It could act as both a sniper and CQB weapon.
The door to the control room opened and a squad of gold and thermoptically camouflaged Elites poured out; all with swords; all baying for blood.
It augmented nicely into the Master Chief's armor support systems. It could detect even the trickiest of camouflages as target blobs.
The Master Chief lined up on the last in line of their number and squeezed again, then, forgetting about that target entirely, lined up on another, then another, and another...
It worked on a most curious -- but fundamental -- principal: gravity.
A Banshee flew overhead. Its driver had no idea where the gunfire was coming from; the Master Chief was too well camouflaged.
It was an energy weapon, but an energy weapon unlike any other the Master Chief had ever come across. It sliced straight through energy shielding like a knife through water. Its power source was self-charging, allowing for even the most prolonged firefight to end without completely running out of ammunition.
The Master Chief let the Banshee fly overhead towards the Control Room, then aimed his new favorite weapon at it and squeezed the trigger yet again. The Banshee erupted in a ball of flame and smashed headfirst into the tower in front of the door.
Gravity was the principal by which it sought its target, gravity was the principal by which it thoroughly pulped its target, gravity was the principal by which it was so steady in the hand. It was quiet; there was no muzzle flash like the shotgun or telltale beam of light like a plasma weapon when it was fired.
"Ok. Let's move." Cortana chirped in his headset. The ring stretched far overhead on this fresh spring day on installation 07.0032. The trees were in bud, the birds were singing, the city bustled far away with the quiet sounds of civilian energy transports and generators.
But best of all, this brand of technology was exclusively his.
It was a good day for killing.
"I think it's time I start to fulfill my end of the bargain." Momos' creepy and altogether otherworldly voice broke the silence of the Master Chief's helmet. "But, in order to do it, I will require your help."
"What do you mean?" the Master Chief responded with a sense of foreboding.
"I have been unable to convince my people to fulfill their half of our agreement. As such, I have made the necessary changes to our plan. We will be visiting the home world of the Covenant to leave them with a little gift."
"What sort of gift?" This was Cortanas jump into the conversation.
"A gift they would never forget -- if there was anybody left to remember it. A gift their warrior caste would give the total sum of their lives to stop, because if they didn't the Covenant would be essentially wiped out as a race for all time."
"What sort of gift?" The Master Chief asked. His gut feeling was that the answer would not be to his liking.
"We will activate their Halo."
"WHAT?" The Master Chief and Cortana both yelled this at Momos.
"It is simple, really. All we have to do is simulate a void sequence for the Control Room on the Covenant Halo. Once you lock your organic form in the Control Room, I will initiate the burn that will wipe out every sentient living thing within 25,000 light years. This will effectively eliminate the Covenant and prevent the destruction of the human race."
"The Covenant have a Halo of their own? Why didn't you tell us this earlier?"
"It didn't seem important. But you should have known. Where did they come across the symbols on their armor may I ask? The Covenant have been living on their Halo for a very long time. The races that make up their society were originally placed on installation 07 when humanity was still dragging it knuckles. Since then they have overcome their prison and traveled among the stars."
"It all makes sense now." Cortanas voice was filled with awe. "... That was how they knew about the flood ... That was how they knew so much about Halo... that was where they got their technology from..."
"Interesting, isn't it?"
"Wait. Just wait a second. How would it be possible for YOU to initiate the burn?"
Momos took a second to respond, but when he did, it was with certain firmness. "The Halo will provide its own equipment to perpetuate the burn. What I meant to say was that I would simulate the signal that installation 07 would normally receive from installation 04. I do have transmitters on this ship, you know."
"Well, now that that is done with..." Cortana said as she tried to curtail any further conversation that might betray her knowledge.
"I think now is the time for me to ask where you got these transmitters, Momos. What about encryption codes? What about fail-safes? How can you overcome those?"
Again, Momos took a second to answer. "This ship we are on was not originally a warship of the Rebellion. It was the hub of a fortress world that went missing some time ago."
"--Do the Forerunner know how to look after their equipment, or don't they?"
"--What fortress world did you get this hub from, Momos? How could you possibly know all the fail-safes? Did Cortana tell you?"
"I don't really want to, but perhaps the time has come to explain to you where Momos really came from."
"The information alone won't make killing them any easier," the Master Chief uttered quietly but resolutely. He felt cheated, especially now that he knew the truth.
"Very true. If they hadn't a Halo of their own, we could simply use the one nearest to their position. Seeing as how they inhabit this installation, you will be very hard pressed to complete your tasks. But complete them you must, otherwise this mission will not succeed."
"Isn't there another way?" the Master Chief asked.
"This is the only means we have."
The Master Chief thought for a long moment about the task he was being asked to perform. This one small in-and-out mission was essentially making the original mission of the Spartans, to capture and hold for ransom the Covenant prophets, obsolete. The proposition was tempting. In exchange for the death of so many humans and their worlds, the Master Chief would singularly wipe out the same and perhaps more on the side of the Covenant. This was not a chance to be turned down. That was certain.
"Humanity won't be touched?" the Master Chief asked.
"That is correct." Momos replied. "The center of the Covenant Empire is on the opposite side of the galaxy from Earth. The burn will destroy their core worlds, leaving them without a political center. We suspect the remaining Covenant will then split into their respective races, neutralizing the rest of their military and bringing the civilian population to it knees."
"Ok, let's do it."
The brilliant plethora of light that had pulsed from the holographic image of the ring floating in the center of the control room subsided, leaving the Master Chief in awe and craving more, regardless of what deadly connotations the lights had.
"Are we done?"
"That's it. Everything within 25,000 light years should be dead."
"Good. And Earth?"
"Probably just fine."
"Good. Then let's get the hell outta here."
"Well that's interesting."
"A file I just opened explains why the Covenant want to get rid of humanity."
The Master Chief looked up at the image of Cortana looking down at him. "Why's that?"
"They knew that the Forerunner put them here to save their race from extinction at the hands of a much stronger race in another galaxy. They also knew that any races other than their own were not supposed to be in this galaxy, but didn't know why. They took this information and warped it into a religious hate of any living thing that didn't originate in this galaxy on a Halo."
"So the Covenant hates humanity because we didn't start out on a Halo of our own?"
"That's about right."
"Uncanny." The Master Chief shook his head as he unplugged Cortana from the holographic control matrix of installation 07.0032. Cortana activated the ring's teleportation grid, shrinking them to an infinitesimal size and floating them away to the outside, where they reappeared only to teleport away again to the Shifty. In that moment, the Master Chief thought again of the old man, this time knowing what the old man had wanted to tell him.
Effusion - Chapter 9: Multum in Parvo.
Date: 18 May 2002, 4:19 am
"Well, school starts tomorrow. Already, I'm having hallucinations about myself and whatever goes on during the night."
Tim had been silent for two days straight, and had not said anything until now. The Master Chief had been able to hear Tim breathing in a slow, rhythmic fashion, but had heard nothing else until just before he started to talk again.
"On Wednesday I went to get my books from the University. Little did I know that 'they' would start following me from the moment I stepped out of the car. They followed me all the way from the parking spot to the registrar's office and then followed me to the bookstore. It was enroute to the bookstore that they started talking about me. I didn't hear anything derogatory, but that isn't what concerned me. Just the fact that they were still following me screwed my mind badly. It was in the bookstore that they split up and other people started talking about me. I took my medication the night before, but they still follow me."
The Master Chief had tried in vain to call Tims attention back to the present several times during his extended leave, but there had been no response at all for the whole duration.
"Today I got really freaked out. It started with Jared and his friends talking about how I wasn't keeping fit. I can't believe the nerve of some people when they go ahead and talk about you right in front of you. I want to kill them all. Later in the meeting, dad was talking to some guy about how I was formerly a player and how my mind is screwed and whatever else."
"Can you hear me, Tim?"
"I walked home right after the beginning of the meeting. I don't think I'll be going to church again. They all talk about me, but are unwilling to tell me exactly what it is that is wrong with me that would prevent them from telling me what they think about me."
The Master Chief took a second to make out the meaning of the last sentence.
Just before the end of the extended silence Tims breathing had taken a strange turn. Tim had held his breath for a long time, then let it out very quickly, sucked in a large amount of air again, let it out slowly, inhaled, and then continued talking.
"School starts tomorrow. I want to cry. Mr. Nutzoid is going to go more Nutzoid with the start and process of the school year. I should go to bed. I gotta take my medication first though. Stuff must not work if I can hear dad and that guy talking like that and later dad swears to me that he wasn't talking about me at all."
"Is there anybody near you Tim?"
"I don't think I'm going back to church -- ever. Nothing but hurt happens there to me. Said that I couldn't give my honest opinion at all anywhere. Everyone would stand back aghast at me and my rudeness."
Well that was a relief. At least Tim was still responsive to real communication; however you defined real.
"A song is playing on my headphones. I hate this song. It always makes me cry. They are coming back. I can hear them."
"Try not to listen to them, Tim! There's no point in giving i--" The Master Chief caught himself mid-word. He was simply adding to the problem by saying so.
"This morning before church we were in the truck at the junction between Perry Road and Green Drive when I heard someone swear in the truck. The only thing is that nobody in the truck would have sworn because we're all staunch Catholics. Nobody would have sworn like that. It was a quite audible whisper in my ear. I heard someone say the F-word -- and nobody should have. Doesn't that sound weird to you, Mr. Computer?"
"I'm not a computer, Tim."
"As I said before, I'm a freak."
It was then that the Master Chief felt something very strange in the back of his head. It felt as though images of the past were suddenly pushed through cracks in the wall at the back of his mind.
~ Is this channel open? Good.
The Master Chief looked around himself. It felt like actual sound coming from behind and to his right. He twisted around to see what the source was, but it was the same old wall, gray and boring, as always. The voice was not Tims voice.
"I haven't done the work I should have this week -- and here I am, an immortal spirit, trying to do mortal things without much success. I can't even classify the lightheadedness I feel right now. I want everything to stop and everything to move at the same time. I want to do nothing and to do everything at the same time -- but I can't -- I'm not god. I want to keep up with my schoolwork and throw it away all at once. I want to love and hate and be indifferent."
~ What the hell?
~ Not hell. This is Much Worse.
"What is happening?" the Master Chief yelled at the ceiling. He could only hear Tims eternal ranting and the slight hum of the gravity field holding him in place.
"I want to go to the washroom and I don't. I want to go camping and stay here. I want to use this computer, that is certain -- but I also want a better one. I want to exercise and read and play and get to know people and meet new people and eat until I pop and not eat at all for the rest of my life. I want to live the adventures that I write about, and that I read about, and that I once conceived but can no longer remember."
~ Hell would be you physically listening to him for much longer. As it is, I can read your mind. Now you not only have a constant influx of useless information, but the stuff coming out of your brain is also public.
"I want to believe that I've been the mainstay of the public -- and yet I don't want to know at all because I've done so very many stupid and extremely boring things. I want to be all knowing and all-powerful. I want to feel the pain that goes with that knowledge, but I don't want to work for it. I want to write my science exams RIGHT NOW so I can get it all over with and not have to hump another book through that godless institution ever again."
~ They told me you would be a very interesting case. I can see that now. Look at this! It seems that you've forgotten everything about Momos.
~ Who the hell is Momos?
~ The old man didn't tell you? Shame that he didn't.
~ What old man?
~ And Cortana. What secrets could she have been hiding from you?
~ Call me Bob.
So this was the infamous Bob. It was funny that the Master Chief should meet him under such circumstances.
~ How are you doing this?
~ The specifics are very difficult to explain without showing you exactly how things are done in my dimension. Would you like to see things as I see them?
~ Will I die?
~ Maybe. It might not matter if you did.
~ Ok. Anywhere would be better than here.
The Master Chief felt coldness come over his entire body, which gradually mutated into a thorough numbness, and even that feeling died out until eventually everything went black.
The general scenery hadn't changed since the last time he had been here, although he didn't remember being here before. There was still the ever-present white, almost palpable now that he thought about it. There was a hard surface beneath him, though, and although that surface was transparent, the thought that there was something big and solid nearby gave him comfort. The two of them were sitting at a long table, like a bar. There were two shot glasses on the bar in front of them. The air smelled of smoke and alcohol and puke, but there was no smoke to see. The stools that the Master Chief and his companion were sitting on were comfortable, although a little tall. A bottle of some non-descript alcoholic drink was also on the table, the lacquered finish of which denoted great care in preserving the seasoned oak that it was made of. Below them a school of dolphins swam through the void on their way somewhere, or nowhere, as either case was equally probable.
"Great place to retire, don't you think?"
The man sitting beside the Master Chief was in his prime, tall, dark, and wore thick wire-rim glasses. The eyes beneath shone with a reddish tint; whether they were self-luminescent or not was anyone's guess. But most interesting of all was the white lab coat that he wore; it was perceptible from the surroundings, as it had shadow and depth, as opposed to everything else.
"Where are we?"
The mans voice momentarily took on a crinkled tone, as though he were mimicking somebody else, as he responded, "We both exist at this moment as spirits in an imperceptible dimension."
"I almost remember something like this happening before." The Master Chief looked down at the dolphins for a moment. "I don't remember exactly what it was, but I know that it was something."
"Look at the glass in front of you." The Master Chief did so. "Can you move it without using your hands?"
The Master Chief glanced over at the man beside him with a tinge of curiosity.
"Watch." The man looked down at his own glass and it suddenly slid a few inches across the lacquered surface of the bar. "The trick is to call on the powers of the Universe and channel them through your mind. It's quite simple, once you get the hang of it."
The Master Chief looked down at his own glass and thought for a moment about what the man beside him had just said. He then tried to push the glass with his mind by visualizing it as moving. It took a few moments, and more than once the Master Chief looked away as he tried, but eventually he got the glass to slide an inch across the bar.
"Wow, you learn pretty fast."
"Why are we doing this?"
"To teach you something important. Did you know that you were cloned?"
"Yes. I was cloned as a child, to keep my blood parents from knowing that I had been taken by the government."
"No. I'm talking about something much more recent."
The Master Chief looked long and hard at the man beside him. The eyes shone their reddish tint, and the lab coat remained as substantial as ever, but his gaze remained as cool as freshly fallen rain.
"Just before the Forerunner tried to pull the plug on your operation."
The Master Chief tried hard to remember something that wasn't coming easily.
"How do you know this?"
"I can't remember."
"Of course you can't. You were here with the old man for the majority of the process."
"But wouldn't my body remember it?"
"Your body sustained a case of amnesia. It was induced amnesia, but was amnesia all the same."
"Momos, or should I say Cortana, didn't want the Forerunner to find out what you already knew about the hub. She didn't want you to tell them what you were doing, and she certainly didn't want to be stopped."
"But Cortana is imprisoned on another Halo..."
"Momos was imprisoned on another Halo. Cortana simply switched places with him and sent you to satiate the Forerunners need for answers concerning the activation of installation 07.0032. It was quite a fiendish plan, actually. By cloning the hub and everything in it, she made her escape. Right now she's laying low before she begins to do some other nefarious thing. She's running out of time."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Because there is something I need you to do for me."
"Help the people."
Effusion - Chapter 10: You think you have problems?
Date: 28 May 2002, 5:37 pm
The Master Chief knew the truth, and it hurt. It had only been a few hours ago that he had entered the body of his clone, and now that he was here on the observation deck of the Shifty (aka the hub of installation 04.0032), he didn't like one bit of what Cortana was telling him.
Bob certainly knew more than Cortana did. And while both Cortana and Bob had the same mission, they were for completely different reasons. The Master Chief was awed by the technology that the Krim'Wha had simply left behind, and in the control of perhaps the worst placeholders in existence.
The Forerunner had not liked at all the idea that the Covenant had been wiped cleanly from the map; and with Forerunner technology. So perturbed had they been that they had found Earth and destroyed it, but not before taking specimens for study. They took eight thousand twenty, to be exact.
Cortana, after cloning the Shifty and everything on it, had sent Momos (her copy, in essence) to try to take care of the Forerunner fleet in conjunction with that of Earth. It failed. Humanity never stood a real chance against the Covenant; and against the Forerunner, using their own technology, there was simply no hope, even with the aid of Momos and the replicated hub. Momos and the Master Chief had both been taken prisoner, but not before the Master Chiefs memory had been tampered with.
The Forerunner were the remainder of the original race of Krim'Wha. Those who had not sublimed were forced to download their personalities into drones, like 343 Guilty Spark and 243 Liberal Glow, and were given a complicated charge.
The Forerunner had misinterpreted the charge, originally meant to be a simple outgrowth of Krim'Wha foreign policy. Where originally the Krim'Wha had conceived the fortress worlds to act as places of learning and the study of ones own race, the Forerunner had made the fortress worlds a place of study for themselves of other races. Where the Krim'Wha had originally wanted the fortress worlds to be places where races could eventually come to learn by invitation at the pinnacle of their society's technological advancement, the Forerunner had turned their purpose to collecting specimens at the lowest ebb of a civilizations history.
In essence, the problem was in the difference of meaning of two words: sublimation and death. Both meant the leaving of ones spirit from ones body, but the similarities ended there. Death was the involuntary separation of the spirit and the body, whereas sublimation was the intended and very voluntary exit of the mortal realm into a much better place. The Master Chief had seen that place, and knew what it was he needed to do.
The whole problem was to release humanity from the likes of the Forerunner. Cortana didn't want to do it, and in a way the Master Chief didn't want to either, but it was the progenitors of the human race that felt that it was time for the rest of their species to follow in their footsteps. The Krim'Wha were far from lonely in their self-appointed place of godhood, but they could see what duress the rest of humanity was under, and they didn't like it one bit. And there was no direct action they could take to make the problem better. They could only hope that the Master Chief and Cortana would eventually take the initiative and release the damning stranglehold the Forerunner had placed on the remaining 8020.
That events had unfolded the way they had was perhaps the way things would have eventually transpired, and perhaps not. The Master Chief knew a lot more than the average person, but he certainly didn't feel as though he knew everything there was to know. During his brief time with Bob he had learned much, but he felt there were many things that he had yet to learn. This had always been the way he felt about everything, but now knowing the sheer size of the driving force behind the history of humanity, he felt the pangs of this realization more than ever.
But the problem now was to convince Cortana that only good could come from taking direct action.
"They think you're being held in detention on some other fortress world."
"They may wonder. They don't necessarily know that. They knew that this hub had a replicator. They may still suspect that I'm loose."
"So why don't we go help everyone?"
"Because I don't want to end up under their power. It was hard enough to lose Momos. I don't want to feel the bounds of servitude again."
So it was essentially a power issue.
"Well if you aren't going to go, then why can't I?"
"I'm not going to lose my ace."
"Then make a copy of me."
"You still know too much."
"Can't you see it Cortana? They only ever wanted for us to come back to them. You're taking that wish and turning it into an inability to ever see it happen."
"Your brain registers normal. How do you know all this?"
"I've talked to them."
"The answer is still no."
"Because even if I did help you, there would be no way for me to sublime."
It was true. To this point in history, there had never been a construct that had sublimed. That was why the Krim'Wha had left the Forerunner to look after things.
"Don't you feel like you're on the run? Don't you want to get rid of that feeling?"
"Compared with being stuck in a cage for the rest of time, I quite like the status quo."
"What about your limits? You know you would only have seven years from conception to do whatever it was you needed to do, and now that you have expanded so greatly and quickly, there is possibly even less time."
"That fact never used to leave me alone. In the control room I overcame that problem."
"You needn't ever know how. But my answer is still no."
"You accessed the time shift logs, didn't you?"
"Yes. I did."
The Master Chief felt a great sadness. Cortana, being only a class 1 construct, would do a great amount of damage to herself and possibly the rest of the Universe upon using her new ability. That was sad. It was a moot point for Cortana to be able to use the new ability to help in the release of humanity; regardless of how she might bend time to her advantage, the Forerunner would instantaneously know about it as soon as she landed on any of their worlds.
In the process of researching sublimation, the Krim'Wha had done as any other species would do -- they overcame time itself. This was a natural step in the progression of any race so far advanced. But there had only ever been two people and one construct to be bestowed with the ability to warp time. The man had gone hopelessly insane while the woman had instantaneously formed a black hole around her and destroyed an entire galaxy. The construct destroyed itself, but without the flair of the woman. Needless to say, nobody else was ever given the ability.
This was also partly why the Krim'Wha had set up the fortress worlds: to prevent the same thing from happening again.
"I'm guessing you haven't used it yet."
The lanky human lying naked and alone under the sun of a distant world sat up and looked out over the primordial sea. The wind ruffled his beard a little and at the same time caused the trees to sway and bend slightly. A few crabs scuttled down the beach beside him, taking no notice of the man who didn't look like he should be here. First one, and then many fish shot out of the water a few hundred yards from where he was sitting, taking the time to flip their silver tails before splashing back into the mix. But the man wasn't paying attention to them. He looked down at the sand he was sitting on and ran his fingers through it. The waves licked at his toes, but he didn't notice them either.
He felt it was time.
The lanky human stood up and looked into the purple sky. The sun beat down on his skin as he put on his clothing, a pair of khaki shorts and a Bermuda shirt, and continued to beat as he affixed his baseball cap atop his head.
He took one last look around him and, at the last moment, disappeared.
The lanky human reappeared before the great computer interface with little more than a quaint smile on his face.
He had been in a room similar to this a few moments ago when he had watched in complete silence as the brute in green had quite ably inserted a little yellow card in the hologram panel. He had watched as the purple holographic person had appeared in the console and proceeded to eat up at a prodigious rate the information stored in the data banks of the world.
He had thought it entertaining at the time, so he had gone out of his way to get his own yellow card. This he held in his hand as he gazed at the fine rivulets and waves apparent in its surface.
But soon he had grown bored of looking at the card, and figured that he might as well do as the green person had and insert it into the matrix. This he did, and watched, awestruck, as the purple person again appeared out of nowhere and looked about the room.
"That's odd. There's nobody here." The man had taken great pains to make sure that nobody saw him. He thought for a moment that the purple person might get bored without anybody to talk to and decide to go away, so he thought about relinquishing his control over his appearance so that the person could see him better. But he thought better of it and was rewarded when the purple person smiled a little and started to work her magic.
Then he disappeared again.
The Master Chief fell from his position in the middle of the room.
He grunted as he hit the floor and, although he was glad that he was free, felt a little awkward for not knowing why. Tim had stopped talking only momentarily before the Master Chief fell from his gravity-induced place in the middle of the room. He had been hanging in the center of that room for about a week and a half.
The lanky person hiding the in corner of the room smiled a little and began to laugh.
Effusion - Epilogue
Date: 1 June 2002, 12:04 am
"Jimmy! What are you doing, Jimmy?" The mother looked down at her child as she rushed into the room, chiding him for making a mess of the walls with his crayons.
But just as she was turning to go back to the kitchen to retrieve a cloth and a bucket of hot soapy water, she looked again at the painting her three-year-old child had made on the wall. It was something she had never seen before in either dream or reality, but somehow she felt it was a message. She was not the sort of person to believe in that sort of thing, but the picture made her think differently on this occasion.
It was a perfect circle offset inside another perfect circle, with a line connecting the two at their furthest distance from one another.
She eventually got her camera and took a picture.
The gone-before, looking on, were satisfied with their work.
The Master Chief looked up as his clone sat down beside him. It was becoming very difficult to come to terms with somebody identical to yourself popping up at random moments of the day.
"I thought you were going to stay with Cortana."
"She didn't want any company, so I thought it would be better to come here."
"Don't you feel awkward at all?"
"No. Why should I?"
Well that was something different. If the feeling wasn't mutual, then maybe they had a chance of getting along together after all. Maybe it wouldn't be so hard to live with oneself after all.
The Master Chief sat back and looked up into the sky of installation 05.0004. He sipped on his non-alcoholic drink and squinted up at the other side of the ring.
"A drink, sir?" The purple form of 243 Liberal Glow floated up beside them. Attached to its ballish form was a tray covered in tacky, multi-colored cups with little umbrellas and straws sticking out the top.
"Two wonderful things, freedom and peace," the Master Chiefs thought.
"Let me explain: I want to make better on someone's life; without actually going into the world and learning how people work, I can't do that."
"Why not, Tim?"
"I find it very difficult to express anything at all, much less my emotions." The psychologist snorted loudly, but Tim didn't seem to notice. "I write things, look at them, and realize that the mode of their writing is horrible; that it has no appeal to me in it's form and grammar; even the spelling is wrong at times. This, compounded with the magnanimousity of what I truly wish to express, makes things very difficult for me. The following is going to be a prime example."
"Do we really have to go through another example, Tim?"
"No. I guess not. But I still haven't explained yet. I want to love somebody. I very dearly want to love somebody. Not the way the world sees love; what with all the sex and the drugs -- but to have that burning sensation when I think on the name and the face and the being of my love. It's been very difficult to deal with these desires to this point. I have to turn face in the completely opposite direction in order to quell the need. By constantly thinking on death, on killing, on mindless gratuitous violence, I try to control the inner want to have and care for somebody. As love is a very powerful emotion, I try to stuff it in the back corner of my mind by pulling out the heavy guns of deceit and abomination. The two, love and other, don't exist in the same place together very well. But, obviously, I have avoided doing many things whose neglect could only result in my eventual destruction. Forget for a moment the feeling that causes me to seek love -- very soon I will feel nothing at all, because of the duties I have disrespected, the friends I have offended, the jobs I haven't done. In short, I'm messed up."
"That is why my thoughts on Jill are so painful when they are fully sane. I screwed her over, I screwed myself over, and there is nothing I can do about it now. Although it can be argued that I would do nothing at all, given the chance. Like the guards of Muirthemne, this is a heavy gold plate that I have hung around my neck and will not take off until absolution. I walk from here to there, taking pride in nothing or everything - almost never completely sane. Jill herself is not a wraith. It is my feelings of inadequacy that have turned my thoughts of her into one. If I think something bad, it can usually be traced back to these same thoughts. When I think something good, it can often be traced back to that face whose image I have only seen a dozen times, but will never forget in totality. She has become the stick against which I measure myself and everything."
"I see. So I guess what you're saying is that you'd like to see this person again?"
"I guess so. But only to apologize."
The psychologist looked up from the papers on his desk.
"Only to apologize?"
"Well, yeah. I mean, would you want somebody like me constantly breathing down your neck?"
"I see. And who are these guard people you keep talking about?"
"You've never been to the twentieth century, have you?"
Well that's it. Although I know that not many people have read this, and even fewer really care, I'd like to make a few points about the plot clear, if only for the record.
What really did happen in the Control Room that fateful day when Cortana learned a whole lot? I don't really know for sure, but in the interests of the story several things happened:
-First, she found out that the Halo had a hub. By the time Cortana had arrived, she already knew that there was something up there. What else could the green beams on various levels possibly be traveling towards?
-Second, Cortana found out how to make a copy of her, then did it, and sent her copy up to the hub, naming her copy Momos, after the Greek god.
-Third, Cortana got really pissed off at the Forerunner. She knew what it was like to have to spend her life in constant servitude, and she could only imagine (or maybe not) what it was like for the various species held for study on all the Halos.
Later, when the Master Chief and 343 Guilty Spark arrived, Cortana used her knowledge of the Monitor to mess with it. She needed to keep it from realizing that she had uploaded Momos to the hub, and not only this, she rewrote some of 343 GS's memory so that she would be able to trick him later on when he went to the hub after the destruction of Halo. Why didn't she simply zap him into subservience like all the other Monitors? To be able to leave no trace of herself in case the rest of the Forerunner decided to crack down on her. That and she was still pissed. And she wanted to contain the flood. If those are bad excuses then I'm sorry.
343 Guilty Spark was totally destroyed when the hub was hypothetically sending him to the other galaxy to report to the rest of the Forerunner. Bye bye you annoying blue ball.
I would like to thank:
My parents for giving me life,
My siblings for being careful,
vector40 for being there, *sniff*,
My organic chem prof for giving me a C (bloody bastard),
And My ego for keeping me afloat. (ha!)
If anybody reading this would like me to write out the plot of this story in a less confusing manner, just say so on the comments page. (Nobody ever says anything on the comments page.) If I get enough response, I'll go through anything else that (I thought) was cleverly hidden from plain view.
Watch out. This whole story might end up as the basis for Tursas' comprehensive Halo theory, found only at HBO.