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Halo: Project Zeus
Posted By: PCDestroyer<adam@floridapaintball.com>
Date: 14 January 2002, 4:26 am

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USNC and ONI have been working for quite some time on the refinement of the cloning process. So called "Fast Clones" could already be produced inlarge numbers with high success rates. However, cracking the human genome and learning to manipulate it to the finest detail- had as of yet beenunattainable. In the original stages of the USNC/ONI Project codenamed Zeus, the eventual goal had not required it.
    With the loss of most of the USNC main fleet at Reach, and the unexplained disappearance of both Captain Keyes and Spartan 117, ONI had begun toconsider drastic measures. The Spartan III project had been monitored closely, and the realization dawned that viable soldiers would be too late toeffectively assist in combating the Covenant. The Spartan funding was cropped slightly and diverted to a new and more risk bearing venture. With theloss of Dr. Halsey to the Spartan III project, a data backup of her cloned AI "Cortana" was activated and dedicated to the task of retrieving allgenetic data on key subjects from the USNC officers, ONI intelligence personnel and the original Spartan IIs. Once this was accomplished, the lasthope for Earth and the Human race would take form in Project Zeus.
    Cortana, having collected all pertinent data, initiated Project Zeus at a facility on Verania Prime. Verania Prime was on the doorstep to the SolSystem and its unique geological makeup made it perfect for all manner of scientific and military training facilities. The former of the twofacilities was controlled primarily by Cortana, who chose all the staff and personnel involved in Project Zeus, with ONIs careful eye watching overthe entire operation. This "freedom" being given to an AI was unprecedented, but led to massive leaps in efficiency and production of results. Thefirst of which was the complete mapping of the human genetic code for Captain Keyes. Having successfully "fast cloned" Keyes was a huge leap and ledto the quick and precise mapping of the genetic codes for all of the Spartans and even Dr. Halsey. With all of this information collected andcatalogued, the next stage could proceed.
    Initial trials with fast cloning of Keyes and Halsey had proved slightly difficult, but produced perfect results in the end. With memory transfersfrom matrices taken shortly before their departure, the clones began to show the same characteristics and memories as their counterparts. The Spartanclones, however, were not the successes ONI had hoped for. Instead of perfect copies of their augmented and battle-hardened former selves, ONIreceived copies of the original human tissues and their inherent properties. This satisfied the protocols for fast cloning sufficiently, but thegoverning AI had not been written to consider current traits versus that which was already accounted for within the human gene code. This is whereCortana took over-

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    Colonel Solomon had been stationed at Compound Theta on the southern hemisphere of Verania Prime for the past 2 months. The assignment made himuneasy in this time of war, as he considered the current project a mere waste of resources and time. The Covies had reduced their present advancetowards the inner colonies and the Sol System to a crawl. It was often thought curious that this event had coincided with the disappearance of CaptainKeyes and one of the last legendary Spartans. Many had put a theory into place that Keyes had slowed the advance of the Covenant with yet anotherbrilliant tactical battle in the far reaches of space. Solomon knew better than to raise such high hopes, and his inside knowledge of Captain Keyes'final mission solidified his convictions. Nonetheless, his mission now was to follow orders and be the "errand boy" of a free-reigning AI named Cortana.
    The intercom on Colonel Solomon's desk flashed twice. He pressed the button without any hesitation and the projectors above the desk flashed to life,their pivoting motors whirring in unison. The bright figure of Cortana appeared sitting on the edge of his desk. "Solomon, I need to see you in thescience facility at subsection 6, pronto" Cortana said. "Aye ma'am," Solomon replied. "Right aw-," He was cut off mid-sentence as Cortana swirled anddisappeared into thin air. He'd never get used to the lack of personality an AI could have at moments, and the over-abundance of it at others. Heretrieved his data pad and left quickly- It was never a good idea to keep an impatient AI waiting.
    Solomon presented his ID to the guard at the first station and was met with a crisp salute and nothing more. The facility runs smoothly and by thebook, yet no words are to be spoken outside the compound as per Cortana's orders. The AI views such pursuits as a trivial waste of time that could bebetter spent on other endeavors. Not that it mattered much to Solomon, he got more than an earful from that chatty AI anyway. Clearing the nextbattery of 15 security checkpoints was a matter of automated procession through machine examination and biological identification. Having passedthrough these measures, Solomon stepped onto the final deck of the compound- the Cloning Facility.
    "Good afternoon Cortana," Solomon offered."Hello Solomon," she replied. "I need you to look at the current data I have prepared and review it for ONI."
    Normally he would have questioned this order, as she could send the information to ONI by herself easily enough. He had learned that questioning thisparticular AI just got people reassigned to mundane stations within the compound."What kind of data?" he asked.
    Ever vague, Cortana replied, "Have a look."
    Reviewing the data was a chore, for a human, but the summary of the results was easy enough to read. "Human Genome code separation and verificationfor reference in recompilation in enhanced configurations." Solomon almost dropped the data pad on the floor. "Are these gene-maps- verified?" he stammered.
    Cortana gave a knowing smile.He knew this meant she had perfected what no one else thought possible- a perfect map of the genetic codes for each and every test subject and theirrespective augmentations.
    "With these I should be able to play with the code and end up with viable augmented clones," she said triumphantly. "Provided I get the properapproval from ONI."
    "This is way beyond what we had hoped to accomplish Cortana," he said. "Not to mention the implications with the Hamilton-Davies Charter for theEarth Federation."
    "That's why I need you to push it straight to your superiors at ONI, and past the higher-ups at USNC."
    "I can see your point," he said. USNC would never let this get past them knowing the severe penalty of breaking anti genetic alteration regulationsin the H-D Charter. Medical centers had been tactically nuked on some of the rebel colonies because of this feared reality. The USNC could not imaginefighting a war against perfect soldiers pumped out of medical "factories". It seems that the Spartan project was a slight tilt towards the directionof irony in the past few decades for the USNC.
    "Up until now we have kept within the boundaries of those protocols and only selected perfect specimens from existing population centers," she said."A process that has proven too slow and with too many risks to the specimens in question."
    "I am aware of our shortcomings," Solomon acknowledged. "But that should not give us free reign to play catch-up by breaking the rules."
    "Perhaps a demonstration would quell your apprehension, Colonel."
    "You- you couldn't have-" the words stumbling off of his tongue. "I still don't know where you found the time or privacy to decipher the geneticcode, but you mean to tell me you've created one?"
    "Why don't you see for yourself?" she said as she motioned towards the training facility below. "I took the liberty of bringing to light the bestSpartan of all- John 117."
    Searching the floors below he could find only the few fast clones made in the previous months practicing the obstacle course below. "I don't see-"Then he spotted him. A lone marine, ahead of the rest, leading the others through the obstacle course. It was unmistakably him, yet he looked nothinglike the Master Chief of legend. "What happened to his appearance?" he asked.
    "Since I had the code and the time," she said, "I just put him together how I saw fit, in order to conceal his identity." "At least for now," she added.
    "Don't worry about ONI or USNC-" he said marveling at the sight below. "I'm sure we can get this done- we have to, because we have no other choice."

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