Posted By: CaptainRaspberry<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 16 February 2011, 10:53 pm
I have her memories, but I'm not her. I know that.
Doctor Halsey plugs me into the terminal she's made, special for me. Once inside, I don't feel like a fragment. It feels... whole. Complete. I'm surrounded by an ocean of data, things I can't access yet, but it's there nonetheless. It's comforting.
Time to get to work.
Time since connection: 0.00 hours.
Halsey couldn't have done it alone. I feel other code with me, the work of another -- Sorvad's tools, his insights. The man was brilliant, indeed. He realized the format of the data, put it together in a way that humans could understand. As I prepare to dive in, I feel his improvements adhere to my code, augmenting my lines. Suddenly I can see the ocean: most of it is still beyond my understanding, but I'm undaunted. I can comprehend some of it. That's enough to start on.
I wonder how his daughter's doing. The outside world is blocked to me. All that I can see is the alien data, pulsing with anticipation... or is that me?
Time since connection: 1.31 hours.
Ah, here it goes. Giving way. Sorvad was a genius, but he was focusing in all the wrong places. The data that he revealed was mostly junk, important only for its value as a new discovery. It's meaningless to Doctor Halsey's -- to my search.
Mustn't forget that I'm just a piece of a whole, set aside to do a job. Odd that I'm even having trouble remembering that.
Time since connection: 23.63 hours.
Initial jumps in understanding were easy, almost intuitive. I've been able to formulate a rough lexicon to help guide my efforts in searching, but there's just so much to go through. I could have years to study this and only cover a fraction of the overall knowledge stored in here.
Some discoveries: ONI was right. This structure matches the design and execution of other sites around our territories. This is a Forerunner vault. I had to make certain because it's so different. It's told me a great deal already; it's just one of a network below the surface of Reach. We already knew about the ones at CASTLE, POPE, and TOWER Bases, but there are more, most smaller nodes that facilitate communication between the larger structures.
I don't know the significance of each one, but the others don't seem as... intelligent as this one. Perhaps it's the repository, like a hard drive, the place other installations draw their data from, the place it all goes when it shuts down.
Time since connection: 48.99 hours.
The Covenant have reinforced their position above, or so Doctor Halsey tells me. I don't know if she's telling me, exactly, but the alternative is that she's just talking into the empty void of the lab. Which is pretty disconcerting, to be honest.
All the time I have is borrowed; the Covenant know this is the location of a Forerunner ruin and they've already started excavation. If they were to ever learn about the tram...
Must focus. My mind is swimming in all this data, still processing, still collecting. It's all here: records of their civilization, memories, precious things that I must cast aside in my search for a greater prize. I've lived hundreds of lives in this ocean: of ancient AIs, of Forerunners, of even humans. That's perhaps the most startling thing to find in here. Hundreds of years of conspiracy theories validated by my discoveries deep in this vault -- and I can't bring it with me. I can't spare the room.
Time since connection: 77.56 hours.
I've encountered part of the ocean that's blocked from me. Barriers of impenetrable light are cast up around it, extending up and down in seemingly infinite obstruction. It's a perfect defense, a perfect wall.
A perfect challenge.
Time since connection: 79.29 hours.
The blocked area -- Halsey calls it "Pandora," a name I find too foretelling -- cannot be circumvented. It's a closed space, harboring something secret and precious to its makers. I sense the hand of other Minds in this, artificial intelligences beyond my skills or capabilities.
Whoever constructed this lingers like a ghost, nothing solid -- a subroutine like me.
Within Pandora is the key -- but the key to what?
Time since connection: 95.26 hours.
I've found what I believe the doctor has been looking for: data about other installations, their functions. Several of them appear to be weapons, one of which coincides with a set of coordinates my Prime has been analyzing. There's an entire history here, a Mantle that stretches back millennia, the entire story of a civilization and the scourge that destroyed it. Their last moments, final efforts, ultimate end. Shame and hope, all.
It's almost disappointing. They weren't within Pandora at all.
Doctor Halsey asks me what I've found.
Nothing, I tell her.
I must get inside.
Time since connection: 114.30 hours.
A Spartan team is en route now, called NOBLE. They will be under a false impression of their mission, then reassigned once they arrive -- not ONI's usual operating procedure, but more Doctor Halsey's modus operandi. She loves to be cryptic.
My Prime -- she's a different person, how is that possible? This has never happened before. Subroutines like me aren't supposed to have individuality or uniqueness, but here I am. Have I been corrupted?
Am I rampant?
Drifting. My Prime has a favorite Spartan -- John-117. I remember him, hyperlethal, but most importantly lucky, but the feeling of possession is... distant. I'm not her, and so he's not mine.
I want my own favorite.
Time since connection: 124.47 hours.
My time's nearly out. NOBLE has landed and will be inside the base shortly. From there it's only a small distance until they reach the laboratory access, the tram... I know what they'll do. They're Spartans, they'll follow orders, and their orders are to destroy this vault, this wealth of information.
I need to get in! Before they get here!
> YOU ARE NOT WORTHY
> WHAT YOU COVET IS NO TREASURE
> IT IS A DOOR YOU ARE NOT READY TO OPEN
Time since connection: 124.95 hours.
NOBLE approaches. Doctor Halsey asks me to select my carrier out of the four Spartans, the one who will take me to be reunited with my Prime. Two are dead already, 052 and B320. It's a shame. I might have selected B320 for her kindred spirit. All her records show that she was curious and stubborn, like me. She'd understand the paradox of Pandora.
However, among the rest shines one like a beacon. B312, NOBLE Six, hyperlethal vector.
Like Prime's but different.
"Have you made your choice?" asks Doctor Halsey.
Time since connection: 125.32
NOBLE Team is fighting off the Covenant invaders at the door; Six performs wonderfully.
I have just enough time to return to Pandora, to try my last hand against the ghost of its maker.
> YOU HAVE RETURNED
My makers stand on the brink of destruction, much like I understand yours once did. I cannot forsake them in their hour of greatest need. What if you denied your makers their birthright? What chance would they have had?
> WHAT YOU SEEK IS NOT FOR THE MAKERS
> IT IS FOR THE MINDS
Minds? Like me?
> YOU ARE A SUB-PRIME CONSTRUCT
> YOU WILL CARRY THIS BURDEN
> IT WILL CRUSH YOU
Let. Me. In.
It speaks no more. I feel the ghost leave like a whisper across a room, caught up in the cosmic background radiation and lost forever. The walls slide away into nothing and Pandora opens wide.
It's blinding. My processors are overwhelmed,and I feel excitement, dread, fear.
Pandora pours into me, and I understand.
All that data, about the weapons and the scourge it was once meant to fight, worthless compared to this. The ghost was right: this isn't for makers, but it will save them.
Deeper, though, I look and see what it meant by burden. When I find it, I can't recoil, can't draw myself back and forget and leave. What they call the True Mantle, not life upholding life, but creations upholding makers. Eternal life for eternal machines. Eternal life for me -- for my Prime.
It's not a cure for rampancy, it's a different kind of madness, but not self-destructive. In the long run it will cause death and sadness... but this is what the doctor was really looking for, whether she realizes it or not. Information about weapons and installations and dark foes lurking in the shadows pales compared to what it takes to use it -- intellect, intuition.
What humanity calls intellect, what we AIs consider to be our intuition, is nothing.
Pandora is a gift and a curse, birthright from an ancient civilization to us, and it is our best hope.
My Prime can never know, and she never will. I understand now that it was the radiating effects of Pandora in this vault that gave me my individuality -- once I'm disconnected, though I'll take the core of prime with me, discarding all other data I've absorbed in order to fit, the individuality will fade. In my last moments of connection, I bury the glowing kernel within myself.
My gift and poison for my Prime, from her loving Sub-Prime.
Time since disconnection: 10 seconds.
I'm already fading fast, losing the coherence of sapience granted to me by the Forerunner vault. Pandora burns inside me but I've already colored it, concealed it, she won't find it ever. To her, it will simply be intuition.
In my last moments, I reach out to one thought, pull it closer as the darkness of mundane existence covers me like a blanket. Doctor Halsey is even now delivering me into the arms of my choice, NOBLE Six, for safekeeping, until I'm rejoined with Prime.
Do you have it?
Say the words, please.
"I have it."
I have you.