The final door had been welded shut, and very well. If it wasn't for the spatial imaging hardware they had with them they would never have found it. Although it wasn't as if it wasn't well advertised, the long grandiose corridor led from the bottom of the shaft to the door.
The whole thing signified importance on the grand scale. But why had it been welded shut? so well in fact that the door had, at a molecular level, become part of the walls. The door shaped chunk of wall was moved to one side, to reveal a small dimly lit room.
It was by no means an easy war, scrapping over the many alien buildings scattered over the halo. When the shaft was found it was apparent that it was the key to what the halo was about. The whole human force was mobilised to secure it, and keep it.
Something that they probably weren't having fun doing judging by the low resinous thuds of large plasma bolts hitting the halo's surface far, far above. The air was heavy down here, the pressure was probably 1 or 2 atmospheres. In the beams from the flashlights you could see the small dust particles being compressed in waves by the sound of another plasma bolt hitting somewhere much higher up on the surface, before returning to their motionless state.
Where our team was working the dust was being continually disturbed, causing banshee type contrails behind the moving objects. Behind that door, however was completely different.
No dust, only a thin layer on the floor, not like the good 30cm on the floor in places of the shaft. The light also seemed wrong in the room, almost as if it was bending more and more the closer to the floor.
Millions of years, probably hundreds of millions had done this, with no external influences and only one 'cold' light the air particles had slowed down, being more and more affected by the halos generated gravity dropping and piling up on the floor. Whatever was in this small room hadn't been used for a long long time.
It almost felt wrong entering the room, as if it had been left alone for so long for a good reason. On the floor was one of those symbols again, this time under a glass like substance. Against one wall, standing out against the smooth matt black of the rest of the room was a 'thing'. On closer inspection it turned out to be organic, or at least had once been organic, now fossilised after millions of years.
Rabbit like in its appearance, it had obviously been through some rather radical evolutionary changes, like it had hands, or probably what were hands. Was this one of the builders? If it was it certainly wasn't living up to the large cranium'ed, fragile creature that many bobs believed the builders were.
One of the bobs, due to all the dust around, sneezed causing everyone to jump. As the sound echoed off into the blackness of the shaft the room became alive with the feeling of electricity. Then without warning, the symbol on the floor lit up, projecting an image that hung in the air, much like a hologram projection. This one was different though, it had a solidness to it, the objects weren't transparent.
"Oh that's marvellous, frikking marvellous! We've been fighting over the universes oldest video recorder..." said one of the bobs snidely. But sure enough there, hanging in the middle of the room, was an moving image of the team entering the room.
"I wonder how far back it goes" said another, "Maybe we can find out how to use the construct!""BACK", echoed the room in a strangely female like voice, the hologram pausing in its playback, "State time".
The team commander held up his hand, and while covering his mouth, motioning to the rest of the team to not make a sound. No one moved, the silence was only interrupted every so often by the dull thud of the Covenant bombardment of the surface.
"State time" the room repeated, "All times relative to the moment of decision"."Moment of decision? Whats that" said a Bob carelessly, before being thumped in the ribs with the butt of a rifle by another member of the team."Moment of Decision: Definition: Time in acrons from given command, Syntax: Qualifier Value" the room replied, almost as if it was reading from a manual. "State time".
The team leader motioned everyone to leave, which we all did, trying our hardest not to make a noise. The trek up to the surface was long, but no-one said a word. Once on the 3rd sub level of the shaft, the noise from the bombardment above was almost deafening. "We need the borg to do some smart thinking for us!" the team leader shouted to the commanding officer.
No one said much for the hour of so before the Cyborg arrived. Not that there was much point over the sound of gunfire and bombardment. When it arrived it was always impressive, the solid sound of power echoed in every foot step. It never said too much, but then again it didn't need to. You KNEW it meant business. The cyborg, our link to cortana.
The trip back down the shaft was a lot easier, probably due to the fact that the cyborg was carrying 3 or 4 persons worth of the equipment. Once at the bottom we quickly got to work, the air seemed lighter somehow, having the cyborg around always meant things went well. And when all of the preparation was done, the cyborg strode down the corridor with none of the hesitancy of us.
The 'borg entered the room, while the rest of the team stood by the doorway. It stood still for a moment, then started speaking "Commands, BACK, FORWARD, STOP, LOCATION, OBJECT". It turned to face the door, and almost as if it was smiling, said "what very old thing do we want to look at then?".
It was explained to me later that day, apparently the builders must have built the halo as the biggest storage device ever, they had programmed it with all the knowledge they have of the universe. Some things seemed strange though, like its ability to keep recording things (like us entering the room for example) and the 'forward' command. The cyborg and cortana had strangely very little to say about it too.
The next day started as did most, with the long trip down the shaft. We'd had our briefing earlier, and by all intense and purpose the 'recorder' (as it had been dubbed) was simple to use, and we were to work back back to when the builders existed and see what else the halo did. We were also to investigate the location and object commands.
The numbers we were looking at were large, it turned out that an acrom is the smallest unit of time known, and hence we had the cyborg with us to recite these numbers. Luckily for us the recorder seemed to speak perfectly good English, which considering the fact it was built, and last used hundreds of millions of years before humans existed is pretty good.
The inital tests went well, moving back a day to our entrance was simple enough, but the biggest breakthrough was with the location command. We discovered that we could change the 'view' of the hologram to anywhere on the surface of the halo. This was what we had been looking and waiting for the whole time! We could scour the surface of the halo, with time set to 1 acrom ago and look at where the Covenant are. We were going to win the war!
The halo seemed to be self aware, knowing what everything on its surface was doing at any moment in time. But further to that it seemed to be aware of basis and threshold. How much further we didn't check. Our primary mission was to discover what the builders built the halo for, and more importantly how we could use it.
The initial historic tests took a long time, for millions of years nothing had moved in that room, and we wanted to find out when it last had. When we finally located the date, 183million years ago, when the builder was introduced to the room. What we saw was confusing.
The shiny floors of the shaft demonstrated how new the halo must have been, the small room was a flurry of activity with many builders encircling the symbol on the floor. One of them spoke, or at least its mouth moved and the machine translated its words into English for us.
"Start", said the builder. "Running, load completed, algorithm correct" replied the room. The projection appeared within the circle. "Forward, 10 * 6,031 to the power of 1 million" commanded the builder. And there on the projection was the same small room, dimly lit, with the familiar shape of the fossilised builder on one side.
"Hey cyborg!" piped up one of the bobs, "Ask cortana what it does and how does it do it? How does it predict the future?". The reply wasn't one we were expecting.
"It doesn't predict" said the cyborg, "It knows. Its been programmed to know"."What?" said the bob."The builders discovered a formula, which assigns the position of any atom, electron, anything anywhere in the universe at any time""So it can set what is going to happen to anything in the future?" I asked."No" replied the cyborg, its voice had changed slightly, almost as if it was choking up. "Its going to happen anyway. Using the algorithm allows you to look at it".
The answers we were getting from the cyborg (and hence cortana) were too vague, we had to know if we had ourselves a time machine. I didn't believe it, time travel isn't possible. Nor is predicting the future any distance ahead. But still, we had to try.
We decided on a time of ten minutes, it seemed like a sensible time we would really be able to see if it was true. A couple of seconds, thats all we'd watch to establish it if was possible.
The projection was clear, we were all standing in the room, some people were looking at watches. At the back of the room I was waving frantically and cyborg got up and confidentially left the room. We stopped the display.
"If I'm waving in the future, I'm not wave in 10 minutes time" I proclaimed, "Now I KNOW I was waving I'll know not to do it"."It won't help" said the cyborg "its defined that you will be".
The ten minutes was the longest I have ever waited. The dull thuds of plasma bolts had stopped a while ago, just the laboured breathing of the team broke the silence. 9 minutes 53, 54, 55. A blue plasma shot thudded in to the corridor wall, leaving a scorch mark. Before the small balls of plasma had hit the floor it was followed by another.
"Covenant!" I shouted, causing the cyborg to rise to his feet and ready his gun, "HEY! IN THE PAST! THE COVENANT ARE COMMING!", I was shouting to myself in the past! No sound, of course, there was no sound for the bit of the future we saw, what could I do. I started waving my hands frantically - I had to warn us!
The cyborg had finished off the 3 covenant elites before the rest of us were ready to help. 3? Was that all? They must have slipped past the guard somehow.
"Oh my god, I wasn't going to wave!" I said outloud and it all struck home. "It doesn't matter what we want, we do it anyway?" I directed the retorical question towards the cyborg, "Are we programmed like every other thing to do what the formula says? Like what I'm saying now, its not because of me thinking it, its because I HAVE to say it!".
The cyborg didn't say anything, it just turned and started the long walk up the shaft. It was probably not affected by the whole thing, after all it had Cortana in its head, telling it what to do. And besides most of it was programmed to do things anyway. Not like me, I'm a Human being dammit! Not some silly ai player in a computer game. I don't want to think that if I shoot someone its only because of a formula! so I'm not going to shoot them! But then that's defined in the formula too, me NOT shooting them.
As of that day we have used the knowledge of the ring to our advantage, never taken by surprise we've beaten the Covenant back. Not because we changed the future, but because we were supposed to. No one is allowed to talk about the algorithm, the other troops don't know - they still care about life. I've become a machine, I don't care if I live or die, after all whats the point? I never belived in fate, now I live it.
"The builders were a very astute race, they noticed everything and accumulated great knowledge. They learnt that much like a fractal you can zoom in on any one part of the universe and examine it and keep going and going until you can't see it anymore. But they also discovered a formula which defined exactly what they saw.""So how come they all committed suicide?" said the another rabbitoid creature."Don't know, but that's why we are turning it on to find out!" replied the leader."Do we speak the builders language then?" piped in another"No, we don't need to, the machine knows who we are and what we've done for all time and therefore can understand us and speak our language""It might be dangerous though!" was shouted from the back"Indeed, and that's why we will leave a sign of death sealed in here for anything that dares use it"
"Start" said the rabbitoid leader, "Forward, 10 * 6,031 to the power of 1 million"They waited with anticipation as the projection focused in on that small dimly lit room."Oh no, that doesn't bode well" said the leader, "I think thats me".