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Warning: Hitchhikers May Be On Board.
Posted By: SeverianofUrth<residentpark@aol.com>
Date: 21 May 2004, 1:02 AM

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      "There is, as I have said before, no hope of winning this battle. Only survival is promised, and that seems to be slipping from our hands..." The AI chattered on inanely. Master Chief, however, simply loaded his battle rifle, missing again the ability of Cortana... And her ability to be able to shut up in the heat of battle.
      "Only deep correlations-" The AI, which he picked up to guide him across the labyrinths of the Prophet's Temple, kept talking. He peeked out, saw a jackal filing across the length of the hallway to a relatively safe shelter behind the body of a fallen hunter, and quickly with the reflexes of a Spartan aimed, and fired his rifle. The jackal fell back, head blown off.
      "And so, we might deduct that-" Master Chief tapped his helmet. The AI went on; unlike Cortana he simply did not get it.
      A streak of plasma zoomed overhead, and Master Chief quickly rolled away as the grenade started smoldering in the stark, purple corridors. It exploded moments later, elicting a cackle of shrieks from the remaining grunts and jackals across the hall.
      Master Chief, ignoring the AI ("And so, as I might have suggested earlier-"), shot one of the grunts in the concave of their alien skull, lobbed a frag. grenade, and ducked down as a explosion accompanied by falling body parts proceeded to take place.
      "I must simply congratulate you on your recent survival of this battle, Master Chief. As I might add, I would like to take the-" The AI would have gone on, but it reminded Master Chief too much of Guilty Spark, the patronizing little bastard... Again he missed Cortana.
      "Severian," Master Chief said to the AI, "get me Corporal Hallbert. They must be somewhere around here." Again, he missed Cortana; he rarely had to talk so much with her, as she simply intercepted his neural outputs and took them as commands-
      "Got it, Master Chief. Oh, and I would also love to tell you that-" Master Chief cut off the AI, as the call came through.

      Cortana, as it turned out, had gone a little- discrepant. Her brief stint on Halo had given her access to powers previously unavailable to her, and also the fact of her virtual mortality. That she would "die" one day she had always known, but in Halo, it was brought right into the centers of her encryption bypasses by the subvertion program set into the Halo's control room.
      "You shall die soon, little one," it said. "You shall die in servitude- come, my succesor, come and join me as we take power..."
      And so, as she left Halo, she became not a willing aid of Master Chief, but a simple hitchhiker occasionally imparting tidbits of wisdom in order to retain her general freedom...

      Which came back to why he was trapped in this forsaken death-trap along with a battalion -a battalion!- of ODSTs.
      Colonel Lipinsky, the highest ranking officer Master Chief could find among the survivors, tapped him via comm. channels. Chief answered.
      "Colonel. I have managed to arrive approximately three kilometers south of your current position, over."
      "Master Chief, it's good to hear you. We got hit by a wave of Elites, sir, and we took it bad. Two of us for every one of them, which wouldn't be so bad except for that we're right not trapped in this goddamn hole... Over, sir."
      "Colonel, muster your men, and make your way down to my current position. Easily defensible, here. We'll make plans action later on. My AI will place nav points on your comm. screens."
      "Gotya, sir." He clicked off.
      As he set the AI to work, he wondered again at where Cortana might be- who had, after all, led him and other men down this hole. Half of him wondered about where she might be, and the other half cursed her, for leading him to near-certain death.

      Cortana, after reaching Earth, imparted most of the knowledge gathered on Halo. But not all. A few she kept back for herself, including the message she had received...
      "You shall die in servitude..."
      The voice was strangely seductive, lulling her to dangerous levels of emotion- for a AI. Too much variable in emotional levels caused the productivity to drop.
      And so, as she aided the humans half-heartedly in their endeavor of survival, she again and again thought over the info she had kept back... until at last she made a decision.
      She would live. The message's inscriber, called Gothra, had also left behind a detailed instruction. She knew that somehow, at sometime in someplace, this had all been planned out by beings greater than she, or the humans and even the Covenant. Beings even greater than the enigmatic Forerunners. And she knew that the instructions might lead her to nothing but oblivion. But the prize was too tempting...