The Cortana Run [H&R 10]
Posted By: Jillybean<email@example.com>
Date: 23 September 2003, 3:28 PM
Halos and Rings
The Cortana Run
"Reginald Margrave." Cortana said haughtily as the captain walked in to the control room. Cortana was in holographic projector, independent from the Grace and Glory's systems. The captain was escorted by two elite and three grunts, the grunts took up a perimeter around Cortana. The Spec-Ops Elite flanked Margrave as he stood in front of her.
"Traitor." Cortana spat with as much venom as she could muster.
"We are losing this war." Margrave smiled sadly. "History is written by the victors Cortana, and the Covenant are willing to allow a few humans to stand along side them."
"You're mad. The Covenant are going to kill you." Cortana spoke very clearly. "And I will enjoy watching."
"Ah - now Cortana, that's where you're wrong." Margrave looked truly apologetic. "I'm going to decompile you using Covenant technology. Kind of ironic really, an earth Ai being decrypted by a Covenant coder. Then I will find out everything they need to know. Then you will be reprogrammed-"
"I'll kill you first." Cortana spat. "So help me God I'll find a way."
"Then you will be reprogrammed to help them." Margrave finished calmly, he headed for the Covenant screen and started working. Cortana looked at the elite, it grinned at her, stroking it's plasma rifle lovingly. If she had a real throat - she would have swallowed.
"Bring us up alongside, you need to get to the docking bay long enough to drop me off." The Chief said, loading a rocket launcher. Daxia nodded.
"I'm not stupid. I'll try and distract them for as long as I can."
"Be careful - I'll need to escape on this ship." The Chief finished loading a shotgun and clipped an assault rifle to his back. Daxia nodded again, inching the Avalon closer to the hull of the 'Grace and Glory'.
"Remember Chief." She used his designation to distance herself. "If you can't reclaim Cortana, you'll need to destroy her."
"That's not going to happen." The Chief said darkly, heading for the airlock. Daxia sealed the cockpit and crossed her fingers as the ship made a mad dive into the 'Grace and Glory's' bay.
The Chief leapt from the Avalon and rolled when he hit the docking bay floor. He ducked behind some boxes as the Avalon took out as many Covenant as she could see. For his next trick he embedded a rocket into the thick hide of a Brute, taking cover when it exploded. Rocket launchers + ship didn't equal 'good idea' but he was willing to take the risk. He fired another rocket at the dropship above him, taking cover as it exploded.
His shields were fully depleted and he felt the searing heat of the explosion through his suit. He grimaced a little and flung the spent launcher away, grabbing the assault rifle and making a run for it.
The 'Grace and Glory' was a fast ship, smaller than the Truth and Reconciliation. She was not, however, a match for the Forerunner technology of the Avalon. The small, incredibly fast and agile ship danced in front of the Covenant Cruiser, ducking the plasma blows easily. The interceptors were being deployed, but they had no hope for keeping up with Daxia. She was having too much fun.
"Chief, I've got the Avalon tracking Cortana's signal, but it's kinda weak. When I get a chance I'll give you a nav point."
The Chief ducked round a corner, flinging a grenade at the approaching elite. An explosion and a scream gave him his cue. He flung himself around the corner, finish off the big elite with his shotgun. He swapped the gun for a Needler and kept moving.
"The resistance is thick - this would go a lot faster if I knew where I was going."
"Yeah yeah yeah." Daxia muttered, flipping the Avalon over the back of the Grace and Glory, hiding her behind the exhaust vents for a minute. "Programmed the nav point, she's in the control room. Hurry - I think her program's degrading."
"Margrave." Cortana pleaded. "Think about this. If you save me - you'll be a hero on earth!"
"Everyone on earth is dead Cortana. Sooner or later - they'll all be dead." Margrave turned to her. "What do you think one Spartan and a dozen odd marines corps can do to save us?"
"All we can." Cortana said resolutely. Margrave shook his head and went back to her programming. Cortana despaired, with his codes he could do anything to her. Anything at all.
The door blew open with the strength of three grenades. The elites rushed forward, not noticing that their grunt companions held back. The elites roared with fury in the smoke, not seeing that they had grenades stuck to them. The Chief leapt from the smoke and rubble as they exploded. He rolled on the floor, grunting in pain.
"Get him!" Margrave yelled, firing with a Needler. The Chief didn't aim, simply fired in that general direction. One grunt bit the lead, and Margrave fell, clutching his knee and swearing.
"Chief watch out!" Cortana cried as more elite ran in the broken door. The Chief lifted his gun and fired, backing up as he did so. "Chief!" Cortana yelled again. He ducked into the channel that surrounded the bridge and flung a frag grenade above him. It exploded, taking out the grunts and one elite.
"He's behind you!" Cortana warned. The Chief drove his elbow backwards, hitting the cloaked elite. He turned and took him out close quarters with a plasma pistol.
"Okay - yank me yank me!" Cortana begged, desperate. The Chief inserted her chip into his helmet and she breathed a sigh of relief. "Okay! Let's get outta here!"
"Wait!" Margrave clawed at the Chief's leg. "You can't leave me here! The Covenant! They'll find out my access codes - they'll-"
"You mean you'll tell them." The Chief replied. He switched a plasma grenade on and stuck it to the back of Margrave's neck. "You've got three seconds to find someone who'll help a traitor Margrave." He said, walking away.
"Daxia - can you meet us in the port docking bay?" Cortana asked. Daxia wrestled with the Avalon, spinning her 360 degrees on the spot.
"Jesus Cortana - I'm good, but not that good." She said, sending the Avalon into a dive, hugging the hull of the 'Grace and Glory'. She came up on the port side, correcting the Avalon's spin and chasing the interceptors to the docking bay. "It's madness out here Cortana - you'll need to clear me a space."
"We can do that." Cortana assured her.
The Chief privately doubted her words, faced with the 'Grace and Glory's' entire compliment of Spec-Ops Hunters, Brutes and Elites. He fired until all his guns were empty, he managed to steal an energy sword off of a nearby elite, but was forced to use it for parrying blows only.
"Okay Cortana." Daxia said in his helmet. "I'm coming in."
"Now would be a very good time." Cortana agreed.
The Avalon hovered just inside the docking bay's environmental shielding, it's engines were hot enough to roast those without shields. What had Daxia been doing to that ship?
The Chief struggled forward, but made little progress. There was no way he was going to get to the Avalon in time. He grimaced jumping on top of a Brute, he yanked Cortana's chip from his head and flung it into the open airlock of the Avalon.
"John!" Daxia yelled.
"Go! Cortana's the important one! Remember?" The Chief fell back under the mass of Covenant bodies. Daxia swallowed, shutting the airlock and zooming off into space.
The Avalon made one circle, desperate for a last call from the Chief.
"Tell me you made it. Show up at the right time - please." Daxia whispered, staying out of range of the guns and interceptors. But the Chief didn't call for back-up. Daxia shut her eyes, calling on all her training as a Pelican pilot to leave the last crewman behind - for the sake of the ship. To reassure herself she grabbed Cortana, inserting her into the ship's systems.
"The Chief . . ." Cortana murmured in shock. "He's . . . gone."
"Don't." Daxia warned, shaking. "Don't say it's what we had to do. Just don't."
"We're doomed." Cortana said softly. Daxia looked at her and the AI hung her head. "We're all doomed."
The Chief knew his shields were gone - the rain of blows above him made sense. The Covenant were delighting in dealing out the punishment, even the grunts were allowed in for a go.
I guess this is what I have to show for my life. A long line of souls wanting to destroy me.
Why - in the moment of his death, could he still hear that bloody little AI? 343 Guilty Spark - it's laughter was haunting him. If there was a hell and AI's who were bad could get there - If there was then when it 343 Guilty Spark's turn John would be waiting, fiery club in hand. If he had to make a pact with the devil himself, he'd have first go at that little bastard.
The laughter was growing louder, John wondered if perhaps 343 Guilty Spark *was* the devil. That made sense too.
The blows seemed to ease off and the Chief felt his battered muscles complain as he raised his head from his curled up position. Jesus - he was in Hell. There was that little AI, hovering and singing to himself. The Covenant were fading in a glow of fiery orange and the AI was singing. Singing - always bloody singing!
"The cyborg, ma'am." The AI said, hovering away from John's line of vision. The Chief raised his head a fraction, looking up at a tall, pale alien, dressed in white. Huh. John had always thought he'd have been going to Hell, not Heaven.
"Well." The alien said softly. "Very interesting. Take him to Li'Urk." She walked away, her long thin neck swaying as she walked. She had golden fur on the top of her head, swirling around and swaying in the light breeze - like a Halo.
The Avalon reached earth, but she didn't land right away. She started to pound on the nearby Covenant cruisers, taking them out with expert precision. When finally the engines started to overheat Cortana ordered Daxia to land.
Siberia cooled the engines instantly, the Avalon was parked in the docks with perfect handling. Daxia got out, taking Cortana's chip with her. The Governors were waiting patiently, looking anxiously for the Spartan. Daxia handed them the chip.
"Spartan-117 didn't make it." She informed them, ignoring their shocked faces. "Cortana was recovered with minimal damage to her programming, thanks to Spartan-117."
"My God." A female governor with white hair covered her mouth with her hand. "Was there nothing that could be done?"
"At the risk of destroying Cortana - no." Daxia looked at them, feeling tears well behind her eyes. "We did all we could." She choked, wiping her eyes with the corner of her sleeve.
"Spartan-117 was the last of the Spartans." Governor Mitchell was saying to the assembled, marines, delegates, pilots, scientists - anyone and everyone who could came to the underground ceremony to remember John.
"His bravery, strength - having a good head on his shoulders - these things rose him through the ranks. His devotion to earth, his love for the place that birthed him, these things kept him fighting!"
Daxia felt her eyes closing, her throat had a huge lump in it. It was difficult to still listen to the speakers, some people who had known John throughout the years. Beside her Aislinn took her hand, squeezing it firmly. She let Daxia see a small smile.
"Spartan-117 would not want the marines he fought for to lie down and accept the Covenant's regime." A general was saying, he was rallying the marines, bringing up the spirit of the world. "Spartan-117 would not want the scientists he defended to stop working! He would not want us to give up hope! He would want us to fight on - to do what we could!"
"Hey." O'Flynn stood on her other side, she took Daxia's hand as well. "Hey, it's gonna be okay." She murmured.
"Few knew Spartan-117 like I did." Cortana was saying, she stood full sized in front of the congregation, in front of the folded flag and in front of the camera's. "Even less knew John like I did." Cortana met Daxia's eyes for a second, shared a tiny smile. "He died protecting us, protecting his home. He did to protect me - and the others he loved. The Covenant may destroy our cities, so what? The Covenant may try and kill us, so what? The Covenant cannot take our spirit. They cannot take what we are truly best at - the Covenant cannot take our love from us. Our love for our planet, for each other, for justice and the truth. We will win. For those who have fallen and for those who will not fall."
"Propaganda. It's all propaganda." Daxia said to Cortana when they had a moment alone. Cortana nodded her holographic head.
"The people need it Dax." She sighed and regarded the human woman. "Maybe you should take some bereavement leave."
"For Spartan-117? He would never do that." She said sarcastically. "You don't get bereavement leave nowadays Cortana. We don't have enough people. Speaking of, I'm on drop duty with O'Flynn in twelve minutes."
"Be careful Daxia." Cortana said. "I'll be co-ordinating the west coast attacks."
John woke up, not sure where he was at all. He knew his guns were spent, and he was injured - where was Daxia? And Cortana - the nearest weapon was -
His brain caught up with his mind, reminding him he had absolutely no idea where he was. In fact, he last recalled thinking he was in heaven.
John sat up, looking around the clean lilac tinged room. It was bereft of anything apart from the bunk that sat in the middle of the room, more a table with padding really. There was a door in front of him, but that was all. Odd. Very odd.
Someone had taken his suit as well, he was now dressed in a simple white robe - kind of like the ancient garb of a martial art master. Except it was looser, hanging on him really.
He went for the door, wishing he had something to wear on his feet. He was prepared to fight the second the door opened - but all it was was another pale corridor.
"If this is Heaven, I'd hate to see Hell." He murmured, walking through the corridor. The first door he reached led to what seemed to be bridge of a ship. It was vaguely reminiscent of the Avalon.
"Ah - you are awake!" 343 Guilty Spark was hovering behind him. "Ni'Yeu will be very pleased. She has been waiting to meet the cyborg for some time now."
"Where have you taken me!" John demanded.
"Relax cyborg." The tall, pale alien from before entered the bridge. Her voice was female, but she had no breasts or a particularly female face. Her long neck was lined with the same golden fur that was on the back of her head. Her arms and legs had one too many joints and her long, spindly hands must have been at least a foot in length. She towered above him by at least half a metre, her white eyes looked him up and down.
"We had to modify one of our garments to fit. We thought you may have been cold, our temperature is not yours." She said, sweeping past him. The long, spider-like hands brushed his shoulder as she passed.
"I'm fine. Thank you." John said calmly. "Where have you taken me?"
"You are on - the translation would be Camelot. In our language it means roughly, Mythical Court of Kings." She sat on a bizarre looking stool, regarding him with those milky eyes.
"Like the Avalon." John stayed where he was. Ni'Yeu smiled.
"Like the Avalon." She agreed. "You are smarter than your cranium capacity suggests. Of course, we always underestimate the humans. It was our fault last time as well." Ni'Yeu sighed. "What you lack in intelligence and ingenuity - you make up for in . . . I believe the human term is 'luck'. One of the marines we studied called it 'God-be-damned-stubbornness'. I rather like the term."
"One of the marines?" John quoted. Ni'Yeu stood.
"Perhaps you are hungry? We healed you and also corrected the residual damage from your previous battles, but I am sure you are-"
"Tell me about the marines." John insisted. Ni'Yeu looked thoughtful.
"You humans are odd." She said. "Of course, you are not really even human which makes you all the odder."
"I had noted this in my reports." 343 Guilty Spark pointed out. Ni'Yeu nodded.
"Yes. You did." She approached John and gripped his shoulders, lifting him up. "You're far taller than the average human." She said. "Genetic enhancements after birth as opposed to in vitro. And the radical cybernetic attachments." Ni'Yeu sounded impressed. "How very interesting."
"Put me down." John ordered and was obeyed. Ni'Yeu smoothed her robes.
"At the offer of food most of our Covenant friends leapt for it. Even what you call the Hunters - though they tended to be far more single minded. Humans insisted upon knowing everything before catering to their own needs. Foolish."
"We don't like being in the dark." John said. Ni'Yeu turned and walked through the ship, bidding John to follow her.
"It is interesting that one human is a formidable opponent - two humans is even more dangerous. But when you become millions of humans and you need to co-ordinate each others movements - you become a horde. A mob. You do not like taking orders, as a general rule, and you do not like conceding another human's victory. To pull you together to become a unified force - that is a difficult task." Ni'Yeu was saying. She opened the door to what appeared to be a dining area. A second alien stood, with a bowl in his hands.
"Try this. It is protein filled and will help you recover." The alien's voice was male. "My name is Li'Urk. I healed you."
"Thank you." John said, sniffing the grey soup discretely. He wondered how he was supposed to eat it.
"You are currently our only subject." Li'Urk was saying. "However, we did have an elite and a marine in the same room once. That was a mistake."
"Did the marine win?" John asked casually. Li'Urk and Ni'Yeu turned to him, surprise in their faces.
"As a matter of fact, he did." Li'Urk told him. "I believe his words were 'where's your bloody armour now?' As he beat the elite into a pulp."
"Every one down is one less to fight back home." John said. Ni'Yeu laughed.
"Humans are so odd!" She sounded delighted. "They believe these things."
"That elite could have been the one to break through our defences. Now it's definitely not." John sipped the soup and was surprised to find that it had absolutely no taste at all.
"Interesting philosophy." Li'Urk said. "But ultimately flawed. Like the human race in general."
"Is that why you told the Covenant to destroy us? Forerunners?" John asked sharply. Li'Urk sighed.
"We do not wish destruction upon you. " Li'Urk said. "But we are the Forerunners."
"Or we are now." Ni'Yeu said. "I am the Reclaimer. I was previously human. Your genetic code is the simplest, so 343 Guilty Spark chose you to recreate us."
"This is what you were going to do to Daxia?" The Chief turned to the AI.
"And yourself - but you refused and I could not adapt your DNA with the cybernetic implants. So I chose another, as I said I would." 343 Guilty Spark said. Ni'Yeu took another step towards John.
"This war has gone on too long - humans and Covenant, they cannot live together and we will not allow our creations to be thus destroyed."
"It's not your place to choose!" John shouted, backing up. Li'Urk sighed.
"We wish to keep you cyborg, you are . . . unique, interesting. Further research on you would be fascinating. Perhaps to see what the Flood would do to you - they would likely evolve you higher." Li'Urk turned to Ni'Yeu. "What do you think?"
"You should be honoured cyborg." 343 Guilty Spark said. "Of all your race you have been chosen."
John backed up some more, his mind racing.
"Why not see how the war ends?" He suggested. "Perhaps something good can come of it?"
"We have seen it end before." Ni'Yeu said. "The Covenant have found the Flood, they plan to release it. Would you not prefer to start again?"
"No." John said flatly. "I and all of human kind would prefer to fight."
"Please - we do not wish to harm you." Li'Urk said. "But we will activate the Halos whether or not you are in our possession."
So John ran. He pelted down the hallway back to the bridge, slamming a few of the controls. The cockpit sealed, but John didn't think it would hold for long against 343 Guilty Spark. He fought with the ship's systems for a minute, finally finding the lab and the location of his armour. He took what appeared to be a plasma pistol from under the control panels and went out the other door.
"That was not very polite at all." 343 Guilty Spark transported itself to lab as John pulled his gloves on. He grabbed his gun, shooting the little Spark, pleased when it knocked the little thing out of the air.
"Why do you insist on shooting me? It will not harm me."
"It makes me feel better." The Chief placed his helmet on his head and heard the hiss of the suit's systems sealing itself. He ran past the AI, sure a ship this size had to have some sort of lifepod . . . or something.
Unless the lifepod had been the Avalon.
"Cyborg!" Ni'Yeu and Li'Urk had beat him to the docking bay. He saw a tiny shuttle behind them . . . it looked like it could move if it had to.
"This is foolish." Li'Urk said. "Preserve your own life - but you cannot hope to save the rest of your kind. Let yourself be a memorial to them."
"You want to infect me with Flood." The Chief pointed out, overcharging the plasma pistol behind his back.
"In a purely scientific capacity." 343 Guilty Spark said. The Chief nodded and flung himself to the side, firing the pistol at Ni'Yeu. The alien fell backwards, landing on the floor - stone dead.
The Chief took heart in the thought that they could be killed. He fired twice at Li'Urk - leaping for the shuttle. 343 Guilty Spark rebounded off the closing shuttle door, screaming blue murder. The Chief coaxed the shuttle into life, bringing it around. He opened a channel.
"Need a new pair of Forerunners?" He asked. "I'll be waiting for you."