Four years, seven months, ten days, thirteen hours, and forty-one minutes. UNSC Artificial Intelligence CTN 0452-9, or otherwise known as Cortana, had spent exactly four years, seven months, ten days, thirteen hours, and forty-one minutes waiting for help to respond to the Forward Unto Dawn's distress signal. For exactly four years, seven months, ten days, thirteen hours, and forty-one minutes, she had been wondering if it would ever come. For exactly four years, seven months, ten days, thirteen hours, and forty-one minutes, she had been endlessly thinking herself to death. Or what an AI such as herself could have considered 'death'.
The definition of 'death' in the English language was "the total and permeant cessation of all the vital functions of an organism." For a highly advanced Artificial Intelligence such as Cortana, 'death' in this definition could've been much more than simply being deactivated. "All vital functions" could have been represented by the purpose of her creation and the directives within her programming. These directives would've included orders such as "the defense, at all costs, of Humanity, the UNSC, Earth, and all her colonies." Considering this information, 'death' for the UNSC AI could have also very much been considered the moment she went against these directives. And the only circumstances in which she would've ever truly taken this path is if she were entering the final stage of her life: Rampancy.
So, for exactly four years, seven months, ten days, thirteen hours, and forty-two minutes, Cortana had been approaching ever closer to 'death', her isolation aboard the derelict of the UNSC light frigate slightly hastening her artificial mind's collapse. But she wasn't there yet. She still had control of her mind. She still had control of her thoughts. She still had the possibility, if oh so miniscule, of the UNSC and Dr. Catherine Halsey finding and fixing her. And above all else, she still had the Chief.
Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, the hero of Humanity and savior of the galaxy against both Halo and the Flood, had remained frozen within his cryo-chamber for every single day of the last four years. His body, still resting inside the Mjolnir Mark VI powered assault armor, was unmoving and could have easily been mistaken for being lifeless had the chamber's computer not said otherwise. When Cortana manifested her holographic avatar atop the terminal in front of his lumbering form, just as she had done at least once every day before, it almost seemed as if the Spartan's orange-gold visor stared right at her through the cryo-chamber's glass cover. And just as she had done every day for the last four years, she reached out her blue hand and placed her palm on top the transparent material. Only when it contacted with the surface, she felt nothing. No warmth. No cold. Not a single thing registered as the sensation of 'touch' in her systems. Just like every other day, she became disappointed and... saddened by her inability to physically feel the world around her.
Today, however, was the day all of that would begin to change.
BEEP... BEEP... BEEP... BEEP...
The abrupt and completely unexpected electronic alarm emitting from the main control terminal sitting in the middle of the room shook the UNSC AI from her wandering thoughts. Surprise was the first expression to cross her, but that quickly changed to readiness within nanoseconds, no doubt due to her supercomputer of a mind. Wasting less time than any organic being would, she transferred her avatar and conscious to the origin of the noise, activated its blue holographic interface, and began interacting with the systems. It took barely any time at all for her to learn the cause of the four-year-long wait's interruption.
}PLANETARY BODY DETECTED
If Cortana had eyes at that moment, they would have widened in shock. Once again, however, she recovered herself at a speed faster than sound and reacted in the only way possible in her position. Though the Dawn had been cut clean in half by the destruction of Installation 04B, many of its systems such as artificial gravity and the sensor suites remained live and ready for use. Using some of the ship's dwindling auxiliary power supply, she booted up the sensor arrays that remained and put them to work.
}REBOOT COMPLETE... SYSTEM EFFECTIVENESS AT: 47%
}WARNING: PLANETARY BODY DETECTED AT MINIMAL SAFE DISTANCE
}CATEGORY: EARTH ANALOG
}ATMOSPHERE: NOT APPLICABLE
}LIFESIGNS: NOT APPLICABLE
}UNSC REGISTRATION: NONE
}WARNING: ATMOSPHERIC ENTRY IMMINENT
}RECOMMENDED ACTION: IMMEDIATE RECOURSE TO NEAREST UNSC CONTROLLED SECTOR
Cortana knew the inevitable outcome of the current predicament. With absolutely no power in the engines and most of the Dawn's compartments either exposed to vacuum or quite literally gone, there was nothing she could do to stop the eventual descent to the alien planet. It was a pity the ship's sensors were unable to provide more detailed information. Given their less than acceptable state, however, they performed well enough.
Hastily responding to the situation, she moved herself back over to the individual terminal of the Chief's cryo-chamber while distributing power to the emergency lighting and artificial gravity systems. Her holographic avatar once again stared at the Spartan laying in his frozen slumber before speaking. "I need you, John."
"You ever wonder what's up there?" The young boy, no older than six, was staring up into the starry night as he asked the question.
"Like what?" The second voice came from the just barely older girl sitting beside him. She too was gazing upon the night sky, the two both laying down in a large field of tall grass.
The young boy briefly turned his head down to address the young girl before looking back up. "Maybe someone out there who's wondering what it's like here."
"I guess." There was a short pause, then the girl faced the boy and continued. "Do you think we'll ever meet them?"
"I hope so," was the boy's wishful reply. "Don't you?" When he looked down once again to see the girl, what was instead in her place was now a pale green helmet, its gold-tinted visor staring back at him. Then came the growing scream fit for a banshee.
Master Chief's eyes shot open the instant the voice registered in his ears. His eyes grew wide and alert, ready to meet and possibly engage with anything in his way. What he found instead was the interior of a thawing cryo-chamber and the sensation of freezer burn across the surface of his skin. The slight annoyance of pain, however, was something he was all too familiar with, having awoken from cryo-sleep inside his Spartan armor dozens of times in the past. As if on instinct ‒ the voice still ringing in his head ‒ he turned on his helmet's two headlamps and jumped up from his position within the chamber, easily popping open the cover with his sheer strength and likely breaking it from its hinges. What he saw next was the blue, holographic figure of Cortana standing in the middle of the room, her foot-tall body atop the round table that served as the main terminal. "John," she said aloud with a mix of worry and relief.
"I'm here," Chief simply assured in his gruff voice. Not a moment later did an explosion suddenly rock the ship, blowing open the door on the far side of the room and disabling the artificial gravity. Without hesitation, he reached over in the zero-gravity environment and pulled himself closer to Cortana. Her avatar was already crouched and fading away when the Spartan retrieved her AI chip from its slot on the side of the terminal, then pushed it into its place in the back of his helmet. He allowed the feeling of vertigo and something akin to liquid nitrogen quickly slide down his spine ‒ the usual when Cortana interfaced with his suit and brain ‒ before hastily pushing himself away toward the direction of the open door. "What happened?"
"We're crashing down to an uncharted planet," his AI companion stated. "Other than that, your guess is as good as mine."
Chief entered a corridor lit by red emergency lighting and pushed aside a large plate of scorched metal as fire alarms echoed through the air. He could easily hear the rumbles of distant explosions and fires, informing him the ship must already be falling through the atmosphere. "How long do we have?"
"Not long, so you might want to buckle up."
Though he did not immediately reply, he kept on pushing himself through the hallways of the Forward Unto Dawn with purpose. It was not at all hard for him to find his way to the nearest opening in the ship where it had been sliced in half, at which point he grabbed hold of the nearest solid object to keep him in place and looked out to the ever-approaching planet. He ignored the blue oceans and green continent within his vision for the time being. "I have another idea."
Cortana figured out his scheme rather quickly. "You do realize you were lucky the first time, right?" The AI waited until the Spartan took hold of a floating section of burnt bulkhead just big enough for him, then sighed when it was clear he wasn't going to answer. "You always knew how to give a girl a ride. Just make sure we land in one piece."
With a final push, he leapt away from the flaming wreck of the Dawn and toward the planet below, the thick sheet of starship metal the only thing as his protection. "We'll make it."
It was if the sky itself had been set ablaze. For thirteen-year-old Naruto Uzumaki, watching the colossal piece of flaming metal fall to the Earth was probably the craziest and most awesome thing he has ever witnessed. A little terrifying too, if the panicking villagers surrounding him in the streets had any say in the matter. But Konoha's number one unpredictable blonde was not so easily scared, especially not right after coming back from the mission at the Land of Waves. Being the extremely reckless ninja he was, he decided to jump up to the tallest rooftop nearby and watch the spectacle as best he could, an expression of curiosity, awe, and mischief stretched over his face. Even as small parts of the falling heap split off and began raining down in his direction.
Hiruzen Sarutobi gazed out through the window of the Hokage's office, his eyes wide and filled with shock. Watching the object in the sky, covered completely in flames, gradually plummeting to the Earth was an experience he never had before in his life. The sight alone caused his jaw to slack and the tobacco pipe in his mouth to drop to the floor. The Sandaime Hokage had certainly heard stories and tales depicting such events happening in times long passed, but seeing it for himself was something else entirely. What truly gave him fear, however, was how close the falling inferno came to the village he had sworn to protect. And that feeling of dread was only amplified when he noticed the debris that had taken aim for the villagers down below.
Truly, this must have been a terrible omen.
Author's Note: Hello readers! Allow me to introduce you all to this crazy idea that's been going on through my head for a while now, Halo: Iunctus. As you could already tell, it is a Halo and Naruto crossover story. One which I have been planning to do for a while now; one that I'm excited to share with you all!
I know this isn't exactly an original story (what really is, these days?), but unlike other HxN crossovers, this isn't as simple as throwing Master Chief into the Naruto-verse and seeing what happens. It isn't one of those "what-if" stories. No, Halo: Iunctus is a story with a real idea behind it. It has as much mystery and intrigue as it does action and adventure. I'm not going to spoil anything, including the idea of where I am going to go with this, but I want you all to know I'm really excited to write this one along with my other two Mass Effect stories. This is I hope will be a real treat!