Castaways: The Sequel to Halo3 (log04 - 06)
Posted By: jameson9101322
Date: 12 May 2010, 3:11 am
Recovered log batch 02
Forward Unto Dawn was once an example of the UNSC's finest. Now it was nothing more than the butt end crashed into a million tiny pieces. The Chief rooted through the wreckage recovering what he could and loading it onto a huge sled-like chunk of fuselage. Cortana was most interested in the signal tracker that was broadcasting their distress beacon, but her human companion made sure to recover airtanks, MREs, computer equipment, and the holographic stand the AI had used to manifest herself the last time they spoke face to face.
He rigged it all to the tow hook of the ten-wheeler and made his way back toward Cant. The ride to the crash site had turned cramped in a hurry, so he clamped the gas pedal down with a brick of refuse and stood on the runner as he hung out the window. Cortana was chattering cheerfully in his head.
"We'll have to get to work right away. We need to hook the receptor to the generator, but once that's installed we should be able to increase output up to 1000 percent! Earth might even hear us this time!"
The crane moved its way toward town, the Chief steering one-handed through the open doorway. The sled scraped a path up the center of town toward the power plant. When they were close enough to coast, he let his foot off the gas and plowed down another section of fencing. The towage acted as a drag break and brought the vehicle to a stop just shy of hitting the wall. Cortana whistled in his head. "Good aim."
"Let's just get this beacon set up." He put down the breaks and grabbed the transmitter from the sled. It was still hooked to a battery unit which he stacked on top of it and carried toward the door. "The sooner its broadcasting the sooner we get out of here." He stopped when his load collided with the top of the low doorway. Cortana snickered but he ignored her and stooped down through the door at a squat.
With instruction from the AI, the networking system was relatively easy. Ironically, Unggai technology was very similar to late-1900s Earth, so with the added benefit of Cortana's historical lectures the signal was pumped upward through a radio antenna erected at the top of the building out of salvaged steel rigging. Everything completed, the Chief stared upward at his creation with a surprising lack of satisfaction.
"This is great!" Cortana congratulated. "It's got enough megahertz to suit our purposes, and it's a very handsome construction if I do say so myself."
The Chief's eye moved from the top of the antenna to the sky above. "Is this it?"
Cortana sounded concerned. "What do you mean?"
"Is there any more we can do?" He asked. "A way to speed the process up?"
"It's a waiting game, Chief." Cortana said.
He looked back to the antenna. "Can we make it taller?"
"We can." Cortana said. "But its going to take just as long to get to Earth."
"Would it be a stronger signal?"
"If we hook up another generator."
He nodded and headed back downstairs. "Lets do it then."
Cortana sounded unexpectedly amused. "Restless?"
"I'm surprised you're not." He said.
"I'm fine." Cortana replied. "I'm happy to have someone to talk to. It was much longer when I was alone."
"I just have a thing against stagnancy." The Chief said. "Standing still is counterproductive."
"Exhausting yourself is too." Cortana said. "We've done a lot today. Maybe you should take a break."
"I'm fine." He said. "Rest might as well be hibernation and I'm not in the mood to go back to that at the moment."
"I guess I can understand that."
The two of them rigged up another generator, added another fifty feet of height to the antenna, and rigged an intricate support system to steady it. When they were done, the Chief actually was feeling a little drained. He sat himself down on the edge of the rooftop and looked down over the ruined fence and gravel courtyard to the rest of the town. Cortana hummed in his ear, it made him feel like she was sitting there next to him with her legs over the edge like a normal, human woman. "So now what?"
"I don't know." He admitted. "Suggestions?"
"I'm still working on the methane-to-oxygen converter schematics, so we can't start working on that yet." She took a moment to consider her partner. "What do you want to do?"
"What do I want?" The Chief asked. It was an interesting concept, one he hadn't considered before; maybe in his entire life.
"Yeah." Cortana encouraged. "This is the ultimate get-away, your own private planet. Here you can do whatever you want without anyone watching or judging you or anything. You can do things you've always wanted to but never had the chance."
"Hmn." He stopped to consider this. Cortana could feel his mind working as he chewed on the idea and hoped he would reach a conclusion out loud. The Chief relaxed his resolve and explored down into some of the deepest parts of his heart that he'd purposely left unexplored. He picked his head back up and looked out over the city. "I don't have much that I've 'always wanted'." He was feeling strangely awkward. "I'm a drone in that sense. I've only wanted to do my job and look out for my team." He smirked behind his visor. "Now I have no team and I have no job. What I really want I guess is to want something."
"Now's your chance to try then." Cortana nudged.
He was silent again for a little while. When he finally spoke it was in a 'whatever' tone Cortana hadn't heard before. "I've never lived in a house."
"There you go! You've got tons of houses to choose from!" Cortana cheered. "Let's go pick a house!"
"House hunting..." He shook his head and stood up. "We'll see how good I am at this..."
For how much Cant looked like an Earth city, the Master Chief swiftly discovered tastes in neighborhood planning between the humans and the Unngai varied enough to confuse the poor SPARTAN as he wandered the streets looking at the buildings were white fronted with arch-like Chief couldn't tell what was the business district and what was the residential finally found a building with an over-emphasized entryway and assessed his choice."You go for grand huh?"
"The doorway is bigger." He said simply."I'm not crawling into my house."
"It would be like a club house!"Cortana chuckled."A crawl-in hole and a password..."
"That would only be useful if there was someone to keep out."He ducked under the door and into the grand foyer, which was built in the round like a of Unggoy-sized creatures in dramatic poses cycled about the Master Chief could feel Cortana's manic curiosity whirring to life.
"I think you've found an historic building!Maybe a museum or government building!"
"Fantastic."The Chief said, traipsing toward a door in the back."I can be the mayor of Cant."
"Wait!Where are you going!?"Cortana cried as he ducked the doorframe and changed rooms."I want to study the murals more!"
The back room was something like a forum space with round benches circling a set of central ceilings again were vaulted, coming to a point no more than a foot above his kicked one of the benches aside to make sure they weren't bolted down and nodded with satisfaction."This will do."
"One room is not a house, Chief." Cortana said.
"I'll take it all then."He said."I can move around in it, right now that's all I can ask for."
"Alright, I can't argue with that."Cortana said."And it'll give me more of a chance to study that antichamber."
"I'm glad it suits you."He started to kick the benches to the walls and clear space in the middle of the finishing, he backed up to the wall and sank down to the floor to stare out his new bedroom doorway into the nearly blinding sunlight reflecting in from the alabaster he was left without a next felt like the roof top all over again, and this planet felt no more like home."Now what?"
"Well, we'll need to furnish it and decorate and personalize it."Cortana said."Make it feel like you."
He actually had to stifle a laugh, something he hadn't experienced since he was too young to be useful."Feel like me?"
"Yeah, make it a home."
"How on Heck are you going to do that?"
"We're going to do it, Chief!Together!"She cheered."We'll go out into the city, find things you like, bring them back, hang them on the walls or set them in the house somewhere... When we're done, the place will say "John 117" so loud strangers can hear it!"
"Come on, Chief."Cortana sounded like she was pouting."I'm trying to help you out."
"I'm sorry, Cortana."He said, shoving up from the floor."I guess I can't get excited about home decor."
"I could make a joke about Spartan living..."Cortana ventured."But I'll let you make one for yourself."
He smirked."They've been times."
Cortana sighed."If you're not going to let me live out my dream of being an interior decorator, what are you going to do?"
"I'm going to move in."He said.
She brightened again."You reconsidered?So fast?"
He marched through the antichamber and back to the street."Trust me, it's not what you think."
Days on HK-154 were of similar length to Earth thanks to the proportional size and rotation of the planet to humanity's provided less sunlight than the Chief was used to, having grown up on Reach and fought on various other planets and said, it was dark before he had completed work on his bedroom.
"I have to hand it to your, Chief," Cortana congratulated him, "you may not be a designer, but you've made me feel at home."
"You ready to try it out?"His helmet lights moved from the hardware he was working on to the open switch on the power cord by the wall. He turned on the electricity and watched the point lights in the console turn on.
Cortana grinned warm in his head."Go for it."
The Chief reached up to the back of his helmet and slid out the AI's storage the tingling present in the back of head dissolved, leaving him feeling strangely plugged the card into the console and watched as the shimmering form of his companion took shape on the holo-pad."Better?"
"Feels great."She nodded, smiling."Its good to stretch my legs a bit."
"Try and access the airwave network."The Chief instructed."I'll open the breakers."
"Right."Cortana stretched out to feel the analog signal broadcasting not only across the globe of the planet, but out toward UNSC felt a console in the foyer switch on, then a sudden enlightenment as the thick length of cable stretching the distance between the Chief's house and the power plant was suddenly could access all the information in the computers there, read the power levels and signal strengths, she could fly there at a thought.
The Chief returned, ducking under the door, his headlamps tracking his head motion as he surveyed the room."How's that?"
"Fantastic."She replied."Hold on, let me get the lights."She accessed the grid and switched on the overhead light, which was little more than a glassless tube filament that lit the room in a dim cyan color.
The Chief turned off his lights."Thanks."
"You've done an excellent job, here, Chief."Cortana said."I couldn't be happier."
He looked over to her."You really are sounding more human."He considered the possible reasons."Why?"
"I don't know, I guess I'm just learning."She replied.
He sat down against the wall 'd been too busy to bother making himself a bed."Was it something...with the Gravemind?"Her response was more than just a feeling in his head this time, he could see her close herself to the suggestion, her posture shrinking back and her eyes searching the looked away."Never mind, forget I mentioned it."
She seemed glad to."Are you just going to sleep there on the floor?"
"I don't see why not."
She put a hand to her chin and looked mischievously at him."We could drag your cryopod in here and keep the lid up."
"I don't think so."He answered."I'll let you know when I need a floor will be fine."
"Tough as nails as always."She said, and looked fondly on him."I guess this is goodnight?"
He slouched and nodded."Enjoy your freedom.I'll wake myself this time."
She nodded."Alright by me."
To date, it had been the longest month of his life; longer than when he was fighting a seemingly endless war, longer than any period of training or recuperation or surveillance, it was the longest month in the history of mankind.
Cortana had the Unngai frescoes pretty much figured out. The Chief had heard every minute detail of her referencing and cross-referencing as she attempted to make the paintings tell a story. He'd listened patiently, but couldn't have cared less if his life depended on it.
In an effort to drive off the boredom, the Master Chief had turned his attention to the radio antenna, making it increasingly taller and sturdier as time went on. He was halfway up his two-hundred meter structure, limbs woven into the framework like four more pieces of recovered metal when Cortana paged him from the ground. "Good news, Chief, we've filtered enough oxygen to power your tanks for another three months! You can put them in storage as soon as you come down."
The Chief locked his homemade pulley system in place and ran a length of cable through it. "Alright."
"And, pray tell me, when ARE you coming down?"
He tugged the cord and a piece of thick metal piping began its long journey upward. "When I'm done."
Cortana followed the path of the beam with her eyes. "I'm starting to believe you'll never be done."
He mused to himself and continued to hoist.
Cortana rolled her eyes. "You know height has its advantages, but the signal is still limited by its output strength..."
He rolled his eyes as well. "Don't tell me that."
"You've got to face facts, Chief."
"I don't have to do anything." He began tugging the cord with more vigor. "But I've got to do something."
"You're such a child." She huffed.
He sobered up a little and focused on his work. Cortana measured his silence and dismissed him with a sigh. There was nothing else she could do here, so she decided to turn her attentions to other matters. "I'm going to watch the weather. Page me when you come down."
"I'll tell you if a tornado is going to blow you off."
He resettled himself in the scaffolding. "I'll be fine."
She rolled her eyes a second time and went about her business.
There was a flash of brightness and then the click of the automatic screen dimmers in his helmet. The Master Chief winced and eye open and saw the sunrise over HK-154.
He'd fallen at the top of the tower. Below the entire city of Cant was in view, the white walls painted pink in with dawn hues. Looking down made him dizzy for a second, but all it took him was a minute to get his bearings to put him back in control. He pulled his feet out of the structure and began his way back down. "Cortana?"
"Chief!" She almost sounded relived. "I thought you'd died up there."
"You know better than that."
"What were you doing?"
"Resting apparently." He paused and noticed the pulley cord waving in the wind. "I'm good now."
"Good." She said flatly. "Great."
He grabbed the line and repelled the rest of the way down. Five minutes later he planted his boots on the roof of the power plant. Cortana was waiting for him on a tiny homemade holo-pad with her arms crossed. "And what, may I ask, was that about?"
He made a sarcastic face knowing she couldn't see it. "What's done is done."
She relaxed her posture and broke into a wide smile. "You're embarrassed!" He shifted weight a little and made her laugh out loud. He couldn't hide his body language behind his mask. "You are! You're embarrassed about sleeping on the job! Oh that's so cute!"
She recovered her composure. "Well, I think it's tall enough. You know, now that it's a two day trip."
"I guess so." He sighed. "And that ends the list of things to do."
Cortana put a hand to her chin. "How about storing those oxygen tanks from yesterday?" He nodded slightly and headed downstairs. Cortana kept talking to him over comlink. "I'm sorry, I know that's not the excitement you were craving..." The Chief didn't answer. He reached the ground floor and she rematerialized in a more sophisticated holo-pad. "Chief?"
She watched him move about the space. "Are you okay?"
He removed the tanks from the wall-sized filtration system and loaded them against the walls with nearly thirty other tanks of the same size. Doing so felt like storing away weeks of his life.
Cortana didn't like his silence. "Are you mad because I teased you? I didn't mean anything by it..." He returned from his task and stopped to stand by her pedestal. At that angle she thought he seemed very tall. "Chief?"
"I'm going to take another lap around this continent." He announced. He looked down at her, and even through his mask she could tell he wasn't angry. "You want a ride?"
She smiled and nodded, beginning shutdown sub processes. "Sure." He reached down, pulled her chip from the pedestal and inserted it again in the back of his head. "Although we probably won't find anything."
He checked the ammo in his MAB5 even though he hadn't fired a shot since they'd landed. "We didn't last time."
"Its very SPARTAN of you to be so vigilant." She said. "Never let your guard down for a moment to you?"
"Only on the tops of radio antennas."
They marched across the landscape, past the wreckage of the Flood ship, past the wreckage of the Dawn, and off toward the eastern coast. At the edge of a bluff he stopped and looked back. The distress beacon glinted brightly in the morning sun, its excessive height a physical representation of the best he could do to get himself rescued. He was almost sorry to be done with it.