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18 August 2012 @ 09:28 pm
Fac Fortia et Patere (3/16)  

1145 hours, July 21, 2557
Forward Unto Dawn, UNSC Frigate
Unknown Forerunner Planet

The crash had been just as bad as Cortana anticipated.

At least John had the sense to buckle himself in the seat; Cortana didn’t want to attempt to hypothesize the number of broken bones and bruised internal organs he would have suffered if his body had gotten thrown around the cabin during the crash.

Of course, she thought bitterly, if I had only retained the data to open the cargo doors, we would have made it safely off the Dawn.

A wave of anger roared through her. For the past four and a half years, she had managed to keep control of the emotions tied to her rampancy. Now, she was finding herself struggling to keep them in check.

She forced herself to push aside the intense emotions. Being angry wasn’t going to help John regain consciousness or help plot an escape so the Covenant didn’t find them. She didn’t allow herself to consider her own condition any longer, but turned her attention to John.

She accessed his vitals through the armor’s systems. He had a mild concussion, a small fracture on his shoulder blade and a broken wrist -- all injuries indicative of the crash they had just experienced.

But, curiously, there were also third degree burns on sixty percent of the Chief’s chest.

And Cortana couldn’t remember why.

She quickly pulled up the medical file --which she had compiled herself -- and accessed John’s video feed during the interval that he had been injured.

Guilty Spark was there.

She watched as the Monitor fired his laser at John, not once, but twice before the Chief was able to use Johnson’s Spartan Laser and destroy the rampant AI.

How could she have possibly forgotten about that day?

Rage and sadness coursed through her. Johnson had died that day. That incompetent Monitor had nearly killed John which would have prevented the destruction of the Ark and the Gravemind.

Guilty Spark had been insane! He had been obsessed with power! He had only considered his own desires and disregarded those around him!

...He had suffered the same fate Cortana was going through.

Suddenly, she understood her desire to forget about that day.

She was supposed to be superior to any other AI. She had survived the time spent with the Gravemind. She hadn’t succombed to his temptations. She had helped to defeat the Flood.

It wasn’t fair that her last days would be spent fighting for her sanity.

Again, she attempted to push the weight of the reality about her rampancy away to focus on the Spartan. John was not going to survive for too long without some kind of medical attention. He had 72 hours --96 tops -- before his injuries would completely incapacitate him. She knew the biofoam would do its best to keep the Spartan alive and allow John to move around despite his injuries.

But that wouldn’t matter if the Covenant found him lying unconscious in the back of the Pelican. Cortana knew it wouldn’t take long for the enemy to zero in on their location.

John still hadn’t moved since the crash, causing Cortana to worry. “Wake up, Chief.”

He didn’t stir.

“John, you need to wake up!” Not for the first time, Cortana wished she could reach out and touch him to shake him awake. “We need to get out of here before the Covenant come looking for us.”

His left finger shifted slightly.

“Please, John.”

He moved slowly, letting out a soft groan. “I’m here.”

Cortana allowed herself to relax. If the Chief was conscious, then they would find a way to escape. It was times like these that made Cortana appreciate his determination. “Someday that luck of yours is going to run out,” warned Cortana. Her voice softened. “I’m glad it wasn’t today.”

John unharnessed himself and gingerly stood up.

“You’re going to have to manually override the door’s controls. If they even still work after the beating they just had,” instructed Cortana.

Cortana suspected he wanted to ask her what had happened to those files --and perhaps he would --but, being the consummate soldier he was, he voiced none of his questions. He simply made his way out of the Pelican and across the bay.

The control panel flickered continuously, but it was still functional. John pushed the button and the doors started to slide apart. They stopped retracting two-thirds down the track. The gears whined and grunted as they tried to force the doors further apart.

“Shut it down,” Cortana said. She calculated the width of the opening against the Pelican’s dimensions. It would be close, but she would be able to navigate the Pelican through.

He pressed the button and the room went silent. Then, he turned around and made his way back to the Pelican. Once he had returned to the pilot’s seat, he slipped Cortana’s chip into the transport’s controls. Her avatar popped up as she piloted the Pelican out of the Dawn and into the unfamiliar skies.

It was breathtaking.

Giant rock formations surrounded them. Vegetation colored the valleys; streams of water glistened in the planet’s sunlight. In the distance, she saw a mountain range standing proudly. Clouds filtered the suns’ rays, allowing her to see light after being trapped in the void of deep space for years.

“Atmosphere is remarkably similar to that of Earth’s,” Cortana commented. She accessed the sensor data from the Pelican, found a potential power source, and entered the coordinates into the piloting system.

“Where are we going?” John asked, surveying the land.

“Here.” She pulled up a holographic map of the planet. A glowing red dot indicated their destination. “I’m detecting a faint energy signature from this building. Hopefully, there will be some sort of access into the planet’s systems to figure out where we are.”

He nodded and was quiet for several minutes as the Pelican flew. Finally, he spoke, “How long ago did you lose the files?” His voice held no judgment, just concern.

She wondered when he was going to bring up her mistake. And, despite his patient demeanor, Cortana felt a swell of defensiveness roll over her. “Several months ago, I think. I’ve lost so much because of the rampancy.”

John nodded, saying nothing.

She crossed her arms and looked at him plainly. “Do you remember the conversation we had on the Cairo platform after I was cleared by ONI?” she asked, half-hoping he didn’t.

“Yes.” There was a tension in his voice that she didn’t recognize.

“My program should have been terminated years ago. The amount of data I collected from the Halo ring and the Gravemind should have cut my life span in half.” She flashed him a forced smile, trying to convince herself that everything was alright despite her impending death. “I suppose I have your luck to thank for that.”

John looked at her, silent.

She wished she had the ability to see his face. Hidden behind the visor, John was safe from her observant eyes. Was there a look of sadness on his face? Or was he relieved that there was a way to escape the dangers of dealing with a rampant AI?

“I’m on borrowed time, John. I can feel myself falling into the abyss,” she admitted.

“I’ll keep you from falling in.” He sounded so confident of himself. As though failure wasn’t an option.

But it was.

“Not this time, Chief,” she asserted. “There is no happy ending for me. You will have to activate my killswitch.” When he started to shake his head, she asserted, “You promised, John.”

“You’ll be fine,” he replied stubbornly. Abruptly, he turned his head away from her. “Have you figured out why the Covenant want to capture you?”

Cortana didn’t mind the shift in topics; contemplating her mortality was pointless. She shook her head. “So far I haven’t been able to figure that out. It’s not like I am much of a threat to them in my current state.”

So much for not thinking about the rampancy.

She pushed the conversation forward. “Other than the fact they keep referring to an intellect, I don’t know what they are doing here.” She shrugged. “Though if their past behavior is any indication, I’d guess it has something to do with a Forerunner artifact.”

He turned his head back to her. “Is this a Forerunner planet?”

“It wasn’t built like Halo was, if that’s what you’re asking. But, based on the energy signatures I’ve detected, the Forerunners have definitely been to this planet before,” answered Cortana.

The cabin was quiet as they soared over the unknown planet. The dual suns shone their light over the land. Cortana was so absorbed in her own thought processes, that it took her several minutes to notice how stiffly the Chief was moving. She remembered the data from the medical readout and chastised herself for not following up on his condition.

She looked him up and down as she put a hand on her hip. “How are you feeling, Chief?”

“I feel fine.”

It was an outright lie and they both knew it. Still, there was little she could do. A full dose of polypseudomorphine would help with the pain, but render the Spartan unable to fight for several hours.

“I could give you a partial dose of the polymorphine.” She shrugged. “It might take the edge off the pain for a while.”

“I’m fine,” he repeated.

Of all the Spartans, why did she have to pick the most obstinate one?

“Stubbornness isn’t going to aid in your recovery,” she huffed. “Just let me help you.”

“This isn’t your fault.”

Her next words were shoved aside at the impact of what he had just said. Over the years, she had almost forgotten that John had come to know her better than any human --with the exception of Doctor Halsey. She felt an odd mixture of appreciation and mortification that he managed to detect her feelings of guilt.

Indignantly, she crossed her arms. Her avatar briefly morphed into a faint green color. “Were you not there when I couldn’t open the bay doors?” she fumed. Then, she turned away, embarrassed. “I am a shadow of what I used to be. You should have left me on the Dawn. Your armor’s systems would have been a better option.”

“No.” His answer was firm, allowing no room for discussion. “I’m not going to let you go.”

His words echoed those of their fallen friend. She looked at John out of the corner of her eye. “Johnson wouldn’t expect for you to keep me in such a dilapidated state.”

“You and I are going to figure out why the Covenant are here. Then we’re going to find a way home.”

She sighed. “Has anyone ever told you that someday you’re going to encounter something that is stubborn as you are?”

His voice was somber when he answered. “Once.”

Chapter 4
Jackie: Halo - Chief & Cortanafantasticjackie on August 25th, 2012 01:25 am (UTC)
“There is no happy ending for me."

Yes there is, Cortana! yappichick lurves you too much! ;D

“I’m not going to let you go.”

Shippy sigh......
yappichick: Halo: Cortana Sadyappichick on August 25th, 2012 04:12 am (UTC)
I'm pretty mean to Cortana in this fic. I wonder if she'll ever forgive me.

You know, how I roll. I'm gonna throw in some 'ship when I can. :D :D