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10 August 2012 @ 12:06 pm
Fac Fortia et Patere (13/16)  

0545 Hours, August 27, 2557
Control Center, Requiem Shield World
Forerunner Installation SW-0043

Cortana was alive.

John gave her a sideways glance as they continued making their way to where the Librarian and the Didact were.

Or, at least, John thought she was.

There was no doubt that this woman in front of him had the same personalities and mannerisms as the AI who had been his near-constant companion throughout the Halo campaign. Her voice was different, but it still contained the same nuances that it did before. He could hear the smirk behind her sarcastic observations, the smile when she called him “Chief”.

Still, John couldn’t shake the feeling that this was some kind of plot by the Didact to obtain the crystal from him. It seemed too convenient that he had taken the Librarian away just after Cortana had been revealed. It felt too contrived that after two weeks, the Knights would suddenly make their move against the Didact.

It was the major difference in her personality that left John unsettled.  There was a vulnerability in this woman had that seemed contrary to the Cortana he knew.

From the minute he met Cortana on Reach, there had been a no-nonsense assurance about her. She was confident in everything that she did. But, as they were making their way through the control center, John hadn’t missed the way she had seemed nervous when the Elites started to attack them or the confused look that had passed over her face when she had accidentally used the term “Reclaimers.”

“I can hear you thinking from here, which is quite a feat considering that I’m no longer in that head of yours,” she said, turning to him.

“How do I know that you’re really Cortana?” he asked bluntly.

“You mean, how can I prove to you that the Didact didn’t just create some random human based on the information he gathered from my matrices when I was in Requiem’s systems?” she returned.


“I can’t.” She shrugged. “The truth is, the Didact had access to all of the data my program contained. Anything I knew in my AI state would have been available to him.”

He frowned.

“I can’t prove it to myself either, Chief.” She sighed. “One minute, I was in the inner core with you, barely unable to think. The next, I was experiencing a pain so horrific, I thought I was dying again. The only thing I can tell you is that I feel like I’m Cortana. That means that my loyalties lie with the UNSC. And you, not the Didact.”

He had a decision to make, whether or not to trust this woman in the front of him. In the end, it wasn’t that difficult of a choice: he had chosen to trust Cortana throughout the time they had been assigned to work together and he would do the same now.

“Lucky me.”

“Come on, Chief.” He recognized the relief in her voice. “We’ve got a couple of Forerunners to rescue.”

They walked down another long corridor, getting closer to the Librarian and the Didact’s position. As the archway of a large room came into view, a booming voice carried down the halls.

It was the Delegate.

Cortana paused for a moment and held her hand out for John to stop walking. “We’ve been given clearance to the Inner Chamber where we need to destroy the crystal.”

John looked forward. “How do we get there?”

“Through the center hub,” she answered, nodding towards where they had heard the shouting. “If we’re careful, we might be able to get through there undetected. Based on the transmissions between the Knights, they are unaware of our exact position.”

He nodded as he started walking down the hallway. The corridor opened into the large room. A bulky contraption loomed in the far corner of the room --the Bloc, he assumed. The Librarian stood close to it; a Knight had his rifle pointed at her head. The Didact, who was in the center of the chamber, was next to the Delegate. There were at least eight other Knights scattered throughout the room, guarding the exits.

“I never said it was going to be easy,” Cortana muttered.

John crept along the wall, allowing the shadows to blanket him. When he glanced in Cortana’s direction, he saw that she was watching the exchange between the Didact and the Delegate closely.

“The Delegate has control on short range transports,” Cortana said over his comm. “Watch your back.”


The Delegate continued to shout as they made their way to the eastern side of the room. “Where is the Source?” he demanded.

“I have told you that the Intellect is collecting it from the Reclaimer,” the Didact replied. “She will deliver it to me herself.”

John jerked his head back to Cortana and stopped walking. Had he been too quick to trust her?

She looked at him, her face still hidden behind the visor. “I’m not going to give him the crystal, John,” she assured him. “I’m not going to turn my back on you, I promise.”

He was willing to disregard his concerns. Cortana had plenty of opportunities to retrieve the crystal if she had wanted along the way. John gave her a curt nod and looked back to the scene in front of them.

The Delegate’s helmet peeled back. His skull burned. “Do you take me for a simpleton? She will not deliver it to you! But I will find the Reclaimer and take it by force. If you are too weak to go through with the Plan, than I shall do so myself.”

“We need to get going, Chief,” she said, taking a step forward.

They continued to creep along the edge of the room, careful not to attract any attention as the Delegate and the Didact continued their standoff. Just as they were turning the last corner, his armor squealed as a bombardment of shots hit him.

They had been caught.

John ducked and turned around, looking for their attacker. When he spotted the Knight, he fired the lightrifle, hitting the Knight’s arm, throwing off the Promethean’s aim. Then, the Knight unexpectedly disappeared.

The Knight rematerialised several feet away from him briefly before he vanished again. The next time he appeared, he was close enough to John to knock him to the ground. His gun flew out of his hand, sliding several feet away from his outstretched fingers.

The Knight towered over him, his lightrifle pointed at his head. “It is time to finish what I started, child.”

John swung his arm out in front of his chest, knocking the Knight’s gun to the side. John rolled to the left and kicked the Knight’s leg, causing the Promethean to fall to his knees. Then, John threw his elbow backwards, slamming it on the Knight’s jaw piece. It snapped at the contact.

“Chief!” Cortana cried. She was looking at him with her gun, ready to take a clear shot. He reached up and shoved the Knight’s jaw as hard as he could, lifting it away from him.

Suddenly, a loud voice cut through the air. “Enough!” the Didact shouted. “Tell them to stand down, Delegate!”

The towering Promethean raised his hand and the Knights stopped their attack. The Knight over John reluctantly released his hold on the Spartan. He stood up, leaving John on the ground, wheezing slightly.

“Get the feeling he doesn’t like you much?” Cortana was standing next to him, looking down.

He took her offered hand and stood up. The Librarian moved to stand by her husband. The Delegate, armed with a lightrifle, pointed it at the two of them. Then gestured with his free hand for John and Cortana to join the Forerunners.

“It is fitting the two of you have arrived since you are partially responsible for his change of heart,” the Delegate said to John and Cortana. “My Knights will relish in making your deaths as painful as possible.”

“And you!” He stopped in front of the Librarian. “You have always created interference!”

She said nothing; it was the Didact that spoke. “She offered insight during troubled times. The Builders would have been wise to listen to her counsel.”

“You are a fool!” He spun to face the Didact. “Once I knew that she was on this planet, I knew that your commitment to the Plan would falter. She has always been your weakness.”

“She is my strength,” the Forerunner countered, taking a step towards the hulking Knight.

Cortana’s voice cut through on his comm channel. “Get ready, Chief. The Didact is plotting something. I’m detecting dozens of energy signatures headed to our location. Be ready to make a move when I give the signal.”

John scanned the room, plotting an escape route. He’d feel a lot better if he had a weapon available to him.

The Didact spoke again. “Now, let her and the Reclaimers go. If your issue is with me, then contend with me directly. Leave the others alone.”

"I will do no such thing," the Delegate snarled.

"Then you have condemned yourself and those that foolishly follow you," replied the Didact.

Cortana's voice suddenly cut through John’s comm. “Duck!”

John immediately dropped to the ground. She, the Librarian and the Didact did the same as a dozen Aggressor Sentinels flew in the room, firing their beams at the unsuspecting Knights. The Prometheans started to shoot at the moving targets, turning their attention away from the quartet. Using the distraction to his advantage, the Didact charged at the Delegate.

“Now is our chance!” Cortana said, rolling to the side.

“We need to get to the Inner Chamber,” the Librarian said as a shot sailed to the side of her.

John pushed off the ground and straightened. Unfortunately, the Knight who had attacked him before the Delegate’s intervention was only several inches from him. “Where do you think you are going, child?”


He saw Cortana toss a lightrifle in his direction. His right hand reached out and grabbed the weapon while he kept his eyes trained on the Knight. Then, in one fluid movement, he brought it up to the bottom of the Knight’s chin and fired.

The Knight dropped to his knees before falling over, dead.

He watched as the Sentinels took aim at another Knight. Two of them were shot down by the Promethean, but finally, with a few well placed shots from John, another Knight had been killed.

He swung around and watched as the Librarian dodged a volley of plasma bullets. She was unarmed, staying behind Cortana who was shooting at two Knights that were approaching their position. He watched as Cortana fired the scattershot three times. The closest Knight burst into a shower of light.

Before she had time to reload, the other Knight shot at her. John watched as the energy was absorbed by her armor’s shields. Cortana stumbled backwards, dropping to one knee.

“Intellect!” the Librarian cried worriedly.

Fueled by adrenaline and concern, John sprinted across the room, dodging the bullets that raced around him. He brought up his rifle; when he was close enough to the Promethean, he shot him in the back of the skull twice.

The Knight crumbled to the ground, but John’s attention was on Cortana who was slowly moving to stand upright.

“You alright?” he asked breathlessly.

“I’m fine,” she assured him.

He held a hand out to help her straight from her awkward position. As he felt her fingers wrap around his hand, he pulled her to stand next to him. They stood facing each other briefly.

“Thanks, John.”

He gave her a curt nod and turned back to where the majority of the fight was happening. More Sentinels and Knights had appeared while he had been helping Cortana. The Sentinels still outnumbered the Knights three to one, but the Prometheans were easily shooting down the defense drones faster than they were being attacked.

It was time to even the playing field.

“Here.” He swiveled to face Cortana. John reached into his compartment and pulled out the case that held the crystal. “Take this and get down to the Inner Chamber.”

There was a moment of uncertainty on her part.

“I trust you,” he said sincerely.

That was all of the encouragement she needed. She gave a curt nod and reached out to take the container. “Come on,” she said to the Librarian.

He watched the two women start to escape. A niggle of worry crept into his thoughts. As quickly as the unwanted feeling entered his consciousness, he dismissed it. Action, not emotion, would help Cortana and the Librarian to get to the Inner Chamber.

He scanned the area, spotting a Knight that had taken notice of the fleeing women. Before the Promethean could alert the others, John fired twice. The bolts of plasma hit the Knight in the skull, pulling his attention away from Cortana and the Librarian.

Then, the Knight abruptly disappeared.

John was ready for the Knight’s attack. The Spartan raised his rifle in the air, predicting where the Knight would rematerialize and waited. Seconds later, the Knight appeared in front of the Spartan, skull blazing. John released his the trigger. The burst of molten plasma hit the Knight directly in the chest. The Promethean staggered forward. Despite his wound, he lifted his scattershot and fired a round at John.

Immediately, his shields were completely depleted. The status bar flashed red as his suit attempted to reestablish his shields.

Ignoring the searing pain, John fired two more shots at the injured Promethean. The Sentinels added their firepower and soon the Knight fell to the ground, unable to fight.

Then, John and the Sentinels moved to congregate with the others in the center of the room. Together, they eliminated the remaining Knights with the exception of the Delegate who was next to the Didact.

The Delegate was backed up against the wall. His gun had been knocked to the ground, his armor had sustained significant damage. The Didact towered over him. “You have forgotten your place!” His voice shook with anger.

“It is not me who has forgotten!” The Delegate shouted. “This is not yet over!” Then, he disappeared.

John tensed and scanned the room for signs of the Delegate.

“Do not trouble yourself, Reclaimer. He is no longer interested in our actions. Come.” He walked over to him. “We must go help the Librarian and the Intellect.”

Then, everything disappeared.

Chapter 14