On an Eagles Wings
Woo wee, do I feel nervous posting this, but I had to do it, yessiree.
Halo? Crossed over with a fan servicing anime like Sekirei, what in the hell was I thinking?
But its been at thought that's been running in my head for a while now, and while I have my own reservations with Sekirei, the entire plot twist of the show about the true origins of the Sekirei was what really drove me to write about this.
Add in the fact that my first beloved character in all of fiction is the Master Chief, I believed that a character study of him colliding with a situation like in Sekirei would one hell of a interesting thing, given the nature of the aliens themselves.
But instead of sending chief back into the past or some alternate dimension, I'm going to try to integrate both crossovers into one universe, hell yeah, I'm so excited.
This is my first story so help me out yeah?
Let me know how I'm doing and what I can improve on, and if anyone is interested in beta'ing, feel free to pm me.
And if you lore heavy people want to drop any facts that I may have missed on either spectrum, please let me know
((SPOILERS)) Skip if you don't want any
So this is the prologue, might take a chapter or two before I get to the meat of the story, so just bear with me for a minute.
Chief: Aside from Halo 4, he's always been a pretty quiet guy, and often had Cortana speak for the both of them instead. Aside from that he only seemed to talk more around people who he really knew, got along with, or respected. So not too much dialogue from him here. I wanted to also emphasize a few of his thoughts upon seeing the SPARTAN-IVs, something Halo 4 never did. And we never saw him really talk about it either, so I put something down, but he doesn't know everything, and the main lore never really had him acknowledging the existence of the IIIs at all. Stoic and quiet is what he is here for the most part.
Time: I honestly had to make sure Cortana was dead, as much as I love her character, she would honestly be a hinderance to Chief's character progression throughout the story, as she often acted as the human medium of the relationship. I can't have that. So hence, the extra year thrown in, and none of the events of Halo 4 had happened yet. Requiem hadn't found the Dawn nor the Infinity yet, and I'm still debating if it will happen at all throughout the story.
Cortana: This was actually pretty rough for me to write. Her goodbye to Chief. I wanted to express how she had felt in the end, while surprising the chief with small fits of rampancy that affected her. But I had to make it meaningful in order to hit the tone of the story, hence the big bomb she drops on him. 'I Love You'. And this is meant to set off a sort of chain reaction inside the chief as he process the her words later on, and it'll effect him more as the story progresses.
Everyone else: Small Fireteam Crimson cameo, don't think too much on it. Lasky's past with the chief will be talked about next chapter so look forward to that, aside from that its mostly just John either ignoring everyone else, or being precise and straight to the point.
I honestly cant wait to get to the actual story itself, but I gotta make sure the suspension of disbelief is not too much. So, I gotta do it in a way that makes sense.
Please Read and Review.
Disclaimer: I own nothing))
I'll miss you…
Wake me… when you need me.
Pain. It was familiar. A sensation that stuck with me for most of my life. Let me know I could still function.
Let me know I can still fight.
Like a ghost it slowly creeped through my fingers, my toes, and my face, replacing the numb chilling sensation throughout my body with a hundred hot needles burning through my skin.
Freezer burn. My mind was able to supply unhelpfully to me through the muck that it wadded through as my body slowly rebooted itself sluggishly, slowly.
The light felt piercing as I opened my eyes, feeling as if my retinas were going to burn off the more, I kept my eyes open. My lips felt chapped and dry as they parted, an even dryer tongue, like sandpaper, darting out to wet them with no avail.
My heartbeat, slowly at first, became stronger as it thawed, an uneasy warmth spreading through my chest before it reached my extremities, adding fuel to fire as the uncomfortable pain spread throughout my skin was joined with an unwelcomed heat.
My lungs felt heavy, my throat absolutely raw, spots dancing in my vision, as I sucked in my first breath, feeling a stinging chill as the cold air still within my helmet met my warming organs in an unfriendly mismatch of extreme cold and warming heat, I held the need to cough as I exhaled calmly, already acclimated to the sensation.
Muffled sounds assaulted my ears, but I couldn't make complete sense of it. How long was I asleep? I tried to flex my fingers, slowly curling them, idly wondering why it was such a struggle to do just that blearily.
A muffled whining assaulted my ears. Were those alarms?
"…-up! We gotta get him outta there!" Someone cried out anxiously.
I just drowsily realized that everything was shaking.
Like a hammer going off in my head my body abruptly woke, mind shifting through the last moments I remember.
I inhaled sharply, my mind rebooted but still fogged, my body revitalized but still hardly responding, my vision refocused, immediately landing on the still defrosting glass in front of me, barely making out the shadow of two figures in front of it.
Unknowns in the area.
Ship alarms blaring.
My brain processed all this in the two seconds I had been awake.
"His vitals are skyrocketing! He- "
I slammed my right hand as hard as I could on the reinforced glass, palm first. It didn't budge, but a wide spiderweb crack was made instead. The automatic function for the door must've gotten damaged or jammed. Still not awake enough to break through the glass damnit. The shadows behind the glass jumped back as if startled. A yelp followed.
I paused, my left hand stopping where it was halfway to meeting the glass like my right hand. The voice was unmistakably human. I must've really been out of it if I was barely registering that fact in the five seconds, I have been awake. Sloppy.
"Chief! If can hear me there is a manual override switch above your head! Pull it! We can't get you out from this end!"
I glanced up and beheld the emergency eject lever not even 5 inches from where my helmet was.
But it seemed these unknowns were friendly for now.
Reaching up I grunted a little when the initial tug down wasn't enough to bring it down, jammed maybe. A little more strength changed that easily enough, and with a small screech of metal it went down followed by a pop and a hiss as the cryotube released the pressurized air within, and with a small click, the door began its slow ascent upwards.
Not waiting a second longer, I shoved the door out of the way, flinging it in an upwards arch where it stopped when the door reached its limit.
A curse filled my ears as I looked down to see what exactly the figures behind the glass were exactly.
Spartans. But not my Spartans, not the ones I grew up with, not the ones that trusted me to be their leader when we were younger, not the ones I lost to the Covenant these past 27 years we've been fighting. These were, for one, not as disciplined, judging by how one of these similarly armored people, one female and one male due to the figures, were currently sitting on the floor hands behind her supporting her seemingly startled, while the other had his rifle at the ready, helmeted head whipping back and forth between his sprawled female companion and I, as if he didn't know what to do.
The armor was different as well, while the Mark IV and V were quite bulky compared to the much more advanced Mark VI armor I wore, they wore even sleeker versions, which seemed to also be personalized with color and mismatched pieces of armor on the chest, shoulders, arms, and legs.
And those helmets… I thought wryly, holding back the slightest twitch of my eyebrow at the rather… unique designs.
"Stand down Sheppard!" I glanced to my side, not moving my head from the two in front of me, looking at the other armored female figure that was certainly not one of my Spartans standing in front of a console that must've been linked to my cryotube.
The confused one, Sheppard it seemed like, snapped his weapon down in response to the order, head whipping to the one that seemed to be in charge with a small nod as he took two steps away from me. This one must've been the one in charge of this little (rescue?) squad. With that I stepped out of my cryopod and regarded her.
Another rumble shook the ship.
"Identify yourself." I said simply, if they were friendly this might end up in a rescue, if foe then he would do what he needed to do to eliminate the threat, but considering the undoubtingly humanoid figures, I'd honestly rather not do the latter after fighting for humanity for so long, but he would do what he must, after all, who knows if the Insurrectionist were still as active now as they were during even Reach.
The armored woman on the floor gave another curse as Sheppard helped her onto her feet and the one in charge looked up at me with her blue visor, almost looking as if she froze in place as she regarded me towering over her.
"Uhm…" She said eloquently, and I held back my sigh, still not quite used to people seemingly losing their professional decorum when I regarded them, instead zeroing in on the eagle with arrows in one claw and a wreath in the other printed onto the collar of her chest piece, UNSC then, then definitely leaning towards rescue party it seemed. Good.
"S-Spartan Maria Hale Chief-Sir- I- err…" the Spartan saluted before realizing that I wasn't exactly an officer and seemed to fumble whether to go to attention, parade rest, and settled into an odd mixture of both, hands firmly behind the small of her back while the heels of her feet were together in a perfect 45 degree angle.
I clenched my jaw at the title, Spartan, unsure how to feel about it, before quickly dismissing it as I saw a larger console a few feet away from the squad.
The same console I plugged Cortana into before I went into cryosleep.
"Status report." I strided over to the console, a small spike of adrenaline going through my system when it had hit me that Cortana neither woke me up nor stood on top of the console. It was motionless, it looked dead, not a single light was being emitted from it. Her chip was still in the port where I left her.
"A-ah, yes, well Chief right now we- "Whatever else she was about to say was drowned out as I pulled the chip out and saw…
It was empty.
"Where is she?" I sharply cut off the woman, Hale, as I turned to her, chip in hand, voice tight and a definite edge in it that certainly startled the three, Sheppard and his companion looking at each other seemingly like they were unsure on what to do.
"U-Uh? Chief? Where is who?" Hale echoed, sounding confused, and irritation swelled up in my chest.
"Where is Cortana?" I snapped now, the need to know where my AI partner is so we can both leave growing more and more as, instead of responding, they gave each other confused glances.
Another tremor shook the ship.
"Chief," I turned to Sheppard as he hesitantly spoke," So far you're the only one we've found in the ship since we've been here, we- "
"Listen," the unnamed female snapped in agitation and anxiousness, gripping her weapon tightly enough that I can feel myself tense from her tone and stance. "We're less than five minutes away from an asteroid field, one that this damn ship is headed to, I dunno what you lost but we can't exactly stay here much longer, we have a Pelican in the hanger bay that we can use to get back to the Infi-"
"I can't do that" I growled lowly, glaring at the soldier who had the audacity to insinuate that Cortana wasn't important enough to spare the effort to look for. The woman seemed to become more agitated by my answer, but I didn't care, Cortana was my responsibility and I needed to take care of her, it was my job and I'd destroy another Halo ring before even thinking of leaving her behind again.
The ship jostled harshly, rocking the ship hard enough that I had to place a firm hand on the console in order to keep myself steady, legs spread a bit further than shoulder length to keep my balance as I rocked back and forth. The others weren't so quick, Sheppard stumbling into my newly vacated cryopod with a short shout while the unnamed female lurched onto all fours, as if she thought that gripping the floor would keep her from falling onto her side with the ship shaking so violently, not like it worked as she fell to her side, cursing loudly. Hale seemed the best off, legs swept from under her as she clutched onto the cryopod console with both arms desperately.
And as quick as the violent tremor began, it ended, the ship going back into its eerie silence as though it never had happened.
It was quiet for a second.
"FUCK!" The female snarled, jumping onto her feet angrily, "Cause we're wasting all this fucking time we must be catching the debris from the asteroid field!" She pointed to me angrily as I regarded her coolly, undisciplined indeed. "We've got to get the FUCK outta here now!" Quickly turning, she quickly helped her teammate out of the cryotube as he stumbled back onto his feet, holding his helmeted head with one hand.
"She's right Chief," I looked around as Hale spoke, if it was true and the remaining half of the Dawn was headed into an asteroid field like she said, we needed to evacuate now before the field capsized the rest of the ship. But not without finding my companion.
"We need to leave. Now, you're the main priority now that we know your alive, we NEED to get you out Chief." She stressed out as I glanced at the monitors around the room, looking for any clues that could lead me to where Cortana was, we were short on time, dangerously short, so it was the slightest relief brought when I dim blue light caught my eye from the many dead monitors.
"Affirmative," I responded moving to the monitor quickly and slipping in the chip in the slot a little ways off onto the side, removing it when the blue light died, and looking at the now dim blue chip, quickly slotted it into the back of my helmet, but the familiar feel of ice being poured onto my brain, nor the did the familiar presence of my partner enter my consciousness, instead my HUD winked with a message, informing me of a download for the quickest of seconds before it disappeared and a prompt stared at me.
A cold feeling filled my chest, my mind quickly coming to the conclusion on why of instead of Cortana, it was a message, no doubt left by her, remembering the how close to the edge of rampancy she had been when I recovered her from the Gravemind, and it filled me with an uncomfortable feeling that I quickly pushed down.
Later. There will be time later.
I looked to the other three.
Another violent tremor swept across the Dawn as we hurried down the halls, the lights overhead flickering ominously above us. Not much time left before the Dawn was made into scrap metal.
I heard something behind us collapse.
"This way!" Barked Hale, as we turned another corner, the giant blast door leading into the hanger opening as we made our way through. I looked around, noting the small fires beginning to erupt around the hanger as the hull integrity lessened with every hit from space, and locked onto the pelican as its engines revved, and it lifted ever so slightly from the floor and began to edge closer to us as its back doors swung open, another teammate in the cockpit?
Without another word we all pushed ourselves into a dead sprint into the back, crossing what must've been fifty meters in two seconds.
As I strapped myself in with the others as Hale pushed into the cock pit, I revaluated them.
At least they can keep up.
"Get us the hell out of here!" I heard Sheppard holler out as fires blew through the door of the hanger bay as the Pelicans back doors closed shut.
The Pelican lurched upwards and filling my body with the faintest bit of vertigo, we took off from the hanger. It was not a smooth ride as the Pelican jerked this way and that, as I'd imagine the pilot would be dodging incoming debris desperately.
My palms itched with the need to do something, anything as the pilot did their best to maneuver through the field, the dull thud of a few smaller pieces hitting the pelican sounding throughout the back.
Hope we don't crash. I thought dryly as the Pelican lurched again when another, seemingly heavier chunk of debris landed on my side. The two in front of me were cursing up a storm as their hands clutched desperately to their seats.
"I HATE flying!" The female across from me said miserably as she fought to keep herself steady on her seat.
"SHUT UP CORTEZ!" Sheppard vented as, he too, tried to keep purchase on his seat. "You know Price is the only one who could pilot this- URK." He was caught off when another lurch, downwards this time, just about lifted him to his feet violently before slamming, bottom first, back onto his seat.
"DAMNIT!" Cortez, the female, cried out again.
I couldn't help but stare dryly at the antics of the two across from me as they continue to groan and complain, idly examining the undone seat buckles on the side of their seats as they whipped back and forth with the movement of the ship.
I had heard rumors during the war of the possibilities of other Spartan classes coming after us, and them being deployed throughout the war, fighting the Covenant, but I had never seen one of these newer Spartans myself, nor have I ever verified if they had ever existed throughout the war, and if they existed, they would have most likely been an even more closely guarded secret within ONI like the SPARTAN-IIs were, well until our existence was announced for a much needed moral booster for the war, with our almost constant losses in the war.
And it had helped.
When we had been revealed to the populous, both military and civilian, I idly remembered there being a massive enlistment boost within the military, as our combat prowess in the battlefield were revealed to humanity as a whole, and like a chain reaction, everyone had begun to revere the SPARTAN-II like they were heroes.
Besides the ODST's of course, they never got over their grudge with us after the gym incident that had occurred almost 3 decades ago. When I had killed two of them and crippled another three for life in retaliation to their attempted hazing. All over a small misunderstanding and bruised ego, not to mention my augmentations I had little to no control over at the time, made the entire affair a bloody one that left quite the stain amongst our reputation with the ODST, that sometimes interfered with the mission. I idly thought back to Major Silva back on Halo and his rather blatant disrespect and animosity towards me back when we first met one another.
Of course, he wouldn't be the first with rather disparaging opinions about the SPARTAN-IIs and what he thought of them, but he was one of the few that were rather vocal with them, unlike the many others who whispered behind our backs or conspired to set us up for failure.
Or just flat out tried to have us killed, I reminisced, thinking of Colonel Ackerson and the first testing of the MLJNOR Mark-V power armor and to test Cortana's and I compatibility.
In which, after slapping away a missile fired from a longsword with my bare hands in the power armor, with Cortana's help, and passed the rather overkill test he had set for us, we proved to be the rather formidable team.
I ignored the feeling the thought of her brought, relentlessly crushing it, and ignoring thinking of the protocol of what to do when an AI descends into Rampancy.
Later, I told myself fervently, Later.
I reexamined the Spartans in front of me. Were these the same ones I had heard rumors about during the war? Were these the ones who were coming after us?
I shook off these thoughts ever so slightly, Humanity will always need the SPARTAN-IIs to help and defend her people and colonies, no matter the costs.
Another thought struck me: So, who exactly are these ones supposed to be? Spartan-IIIs? Or another class of Spartan-IIs?
Another tremor, a rather violent one that ejected the two across from me from their seats, rocked the pelican.
"We're hit! Stray debris clipped the left engine! Hang on we're going to crash into the Infinity's hanger!" A male voice roared from the cockpit as alarms blared from overhead of us and the pelican began to shudder violently as it tried to hold itself together as it flew, the two on the floor trying to brace themselves on the seats as we coursed for a crash landing, the engines and turbines screaming as we made our way.
I watched them desperately prepare for the landing as I sat there, quiet during the entire trip, almost relaxed even as we descended, my mind idly thinking back to my other crash landings that were under much worse circumstances than this.
To my slight surprised, I honestly thought that these crash landings were much preferable than my last ones… less painful, in my opinion.
Well, I almost sighed. At least I didn't jump this time.
I walked briskly with my escorts, more of these heavily armored soldiers, as they walked along side me in a diamond formation, one in front of me, another on the right and left of me, and the last one right behind me, each about two meters distance away from me as we made our ways down the hallway to the bridge.
After crashing into the hanger, which went a lot smoother than I had originally expected, being one who frequent crash landings, a team had rushed out to put out the fires that we had left in our wake when we trail-blazed our way into the hanger, while another had tried to make sure we were still alive. And considering the groans and moans that came from the team that retrieved me, aside from some scrapes and bruises everyone was alright. The pilot, another member of the team named Price, had jumped out the pelican hooting and bragging on how good of a pilot he was to get us through that field. Looking back at what little of the asteroid field I saw before the hanger shut closed, I had to admit that he flew pretty good, as I watched the last of the Dawn get shredded through the asteroid field.
Not even five minutes passed before what seemed to be another team of Spartans, these looking more unified with identical armor pieces and color, being another two male, two female team, made their way to him, telling me to follow them into the bridge. To see the captain most likely. Hopefully he could get some answers and find out where I would be deployed next.
Though as I walked, I was struck on how big the ship I was in really seemed to be. In most ships, I would be in the bridge in almost ten to fifteen minutes, rather quick due to my longer strides, sometimes a little longer depending on the size of the ship. but still it was something I was used to. We had been marching along for almost thirty minutes now and had to transfer ourselves through more than five different elevators, which was odd. I never did get a real look at the cruiser we were in, as I had been riding in the back of the pelican when we had landed and couldn't exactly get a good enough view from the lack of windows in the pelican.
As we walked up to the doors of the bridge, I discarded that train of thought and prepared to conduct protocol. The doors opened and a few bridge personnel close by us looked up from their work, and I heard more than one of them gasp as we walked through, the soldiers around me breaking the diamond formation as two stayed by the doors and while the last two positioned themselves behind me, a little ways from my right and left respectively.
The gasps increased infrequency, followed by whispers, as I made my way, idly, I thought about to the journey to the bridge and the lack of personnel I came across of, and how it almost felt like day or night when I made my way through the more crowded bridge. Technicians who were making their way across to do their job froze and just about jumped out of my way as I strode on my way to the head of the bridge, where a man, most likely the captain of the ship, stood staring down at something in his hands, his back facing me.
I stopped six paces away from him and stood stiffly at attention, as another man, of medium build and brown hair, commander ranks on his shoulders, the XO most likely, tapped his shoulder and sent a quick whisper to his ear. From my position I noticed how his eyes never left my form as soon as he took sight of me, an almost shocked look on his face.
The older man raised his head, a full head of graying hair coming into view as he sent a quick glance over his shoulder, an almost dismissive action as he took sight of me. He nodded back to his XO before turning to face me fully, and I was able to catch a glimpse of a data pad in his hand before it was hidden behind his back. Captain ranks were sown onto the shoulders of his uniform. I saluted him crisply. "Sir, Sierra-117 reporting for duty sir."
He stood at ease in front of me as I held my salute, giving me a once over as he stared at my form.
Due to the intense fighting in the last few days of the war, I still had traces of blood still flaking on my armor, as well as several deep scratches and dents that the nanomachines in my armor weren't fully able to repair with my over abuse of it. Scorch marks also were on my form from the super-heated plasma I took on the few times my shield had gone down and I wasn't able to find cover. One that undoubtedly stood out the most was the one on the center of my chest where 343 Guilty Sparks had fired his beam at when he betrayed Johnson, the Arbiter, and I on Delta Halo.
After he mortally wounded the tough as nails Sergeant Major with one of those blasts.
I had been extremely lucky when even the second shot of its scorching beam still wasn't enough to breach my chest piece. Even the Arbiter had nearly been put down with one shot of it. Johnson, as tough as he was, didn't have the sturdy armor nor energy shields we had to protect him from the beam as it burned through his chest cavity like a hot knife through butter. That still didn't stop him from saving me from 343 Guilty Sparks unrelenting attacks with the Spartan Laser he had on his person, and with a small utter of 'Kick his ass' passed out, barely clinging onto life, and giving me his weapon, cradling Cortana's chip he had in his hands to his barely breathing chest in a desperate form of protecting her from the fight between me and 343.
Killing the Monitor brought me the briefest feelings of satisfaction, I was never able to let go of the small grudge I had against him when he had initially betrayed Cortana and I on the first Halo ring. Of course, that feeling didn't last long when I got to Johnson, barely clinging to life, and when I tried to retrieve him, he vehemently denied it, instead giving me the chip of my partner in my hand with both bloody, trembling hands.
'Don't ever let her go.' He had whispered harshly, seemingly making me speak an unspoken promise to never leave her again, not like I ever would, not like last time.
'Send me out… with a bang…'
And with that, I watched with almost stunned disbelief, the toughest marine I had ever known, who fought from the first contact fight between Humanity and the Covenant on Harvest, and survived the entire war for the next 27 years to see the end of it, died in my arms.
He had finished his fight.
And a little bit afterwards, I had finished mine for the survival of Humanity.
I stood, still holding my salute as the Captain resumed his inspection of me.
He looked unimpressed. "Ah yes, Master Chief," he quirked his lips upwards at me as he gave me as short half salute from his position of at ease. "Good to have you back soldier."
I snapped my arm back to my side when he dropped his lackadaisical salute. "Reporting for duty sir."
His small twitch of his lips became a full-blown sardonic smile. "Of course you are Chief. Captain Del Rio." He introduced himself. "To be honest, when the Infinity had gotten a distress call from a dead ship so far out in the middle of nowhere, finding and recovering the 'Legendary Master Chief' had been the last thing on my list, at least alive of course. Almost lost some good men because of you."
I almost raised a brow at the slightly antagonistic words, had I done something wrong? And it gave me another uneasy question, one that might inform me of what happened to Cortana: Just how long have I been asleep?
"But here you are!" He paced slightly to my right, the smile never leaving his face. "And now Humanity will have its greatest asset with her again." He looked to the side, and, looking with the corner of my eye still standing at the position of attention, addressed a brunette woman in a skin tight body suit covering her upper body with military fatigues covering her lower half, where she was leaning on one of the many consoles in the room, arms folded over her chest. "Spartan Commander Palmer, your Spartans are as efficient as ever, you have my thanks on a job well done."
The woman, Spartan Commander Palmer, shifted slightly, the slightest looks of discomfort on her face at the gratitude from the man, as she gave a small nod of acknowledgement. "Fireteam Crimson is the ones who deserve the credit sir, one of the best fireteams I've got here, I knew they wouldn't let me down."
So that's the name of the team of the rather… loud Spartans.
Captain Del Rio gave her the briefest of looks before looking back at me, smile now gone, and gave me an almost disinterested look. "For now Commander Lasky, my XO," he gestured to the younger man at his side, who had whispered in his ear earlier, and who's eyes, I noticed with some consternation, never left my form the moment he saw me, staring at me with almost unnerving intensity. "Will debrief you on what questions you may have. Any questions?" The end felt rhetoric, and I felt as if I were to ask a question, I would be met with more disdain from this officer, and I would gain nothing else from him.
"No sir." I responded simply.
He nodded, "Dismissed Master Chief." He said simply, turning his back towards me and looking back down at the data pad that was in his hand, the sound of him typing away at it filling the almost silent bridge, and I relaxed my stance ever so slightly at the dismissal.
Soft murmurs began to sound around me, but I ignored them to face the XO who walked up to me with a small smile on his face and straightened myself back to attention. "Sir." That lessened his smile ever so slightly as he stopped in front of me before it came back up and his hands rose up in a slight placating gesture.
"Relax Chief." Like the Captain, he paused to give me an appraising glance as I relaxed, after his once over, he gave me an almost fond smile, eyes crinkling ever so slightly. "It feels a little weird for you to be calling me 'sir', especially with what you've done and all."
I wondered why he found that weird, it was only proper military decorum to salute the officers appointed over me as I only was still an enlisted, regardless of how high that rank may be on the list.
Movement caught the corner of my eye, and I glanced at Spartan Commander, I idly wondered when that rank came to be, Palmer as she sauntered up next to the Commander, arms still crossed over her chest. I noticed just how much taller she stood to the man and wondered if these new Spartans were augmented just like us, and if so, were they the same augmentations my fellow Spartan-IIs received when we were fourteen.
Part of me wondered if she would be able to survive the procedure.
"So," She began with a small smirk as she roamed her eyes up and down my form, her smirk grew a bit more in size when she was finished, looking up to my visor. "I thought you would be taller."
Well… that was a first.
And besides, I was still taller than her now, how much taller did she expect me to be?
"Palmer" Lasky sighed, in which made the woman's smirk into a full grin, and faced me once more. "This way Chief, follow me, I'll show you the way to the fitting room." He gave me another smile, and I moved to the side to let him walk past me, quickly walking a little way behind him as he escorted me.
"Fire team Amethyst, your dismissed." Palmer voice rang out, and I saw the first set Spartans that had stood quietly salute the woman as we passed by them at the head of the bridge and approached the second half of the team who stood guard at the door, where they followed up with another salute as we passed by them as well.
Taking my gaze away from the soldiers I glanced at our apparent tag along, and Palmer let out another smirk at my look before I returned my gaze to Lasky's back as we walked out of the bridge.
As we walked down the hallway I inhaled deeply, better now than later.
"Sir." Lasky peered over his shoulder curiously as I called for him, and I squared my shoulders.
"I have some questions."
I stared ahead, feeling a little numb.
The year was 2558. Five years I've been asleep in cryo.
Five years since the war ended.
Perhaps others would find that amount of time to be staggering and horrifying, to be asleep for that long as the world continued, your absence not hindering the progression of humanity for even a second. Perhaps they would come to the daunting realization of their own mortality or some philosophical theory like that, terrified of entering a new world they would probably not understand or have difficulty understanding. Coming to the bleak conclusion that if they really were gone, nobody would have stopped to mourn them any longer than they would need to before moving on, the person themselves just becoming another thought in the back of their mind.
Perhaps that's how civilians would feel, perhaps even some of the soldiers that I've met throughout the years would have a hard time coping with such a situation.
But that's nowhere close to my thought process, not even close.
It's not that I didn't care about myself, but I didn't find the thought of being forgotten or people moving on from the memory of me daunting, not at all. I didn't do all that I did to get fame and recognition, after all it was just me doing what I was raised to do. To fight and to win for humanity. That was the primary mission of our creation after all, but that didn't stop the populous from seeing the SPARTAN-IIs as heroes, and eventually we were forced to reluctantly accept the title.
'Folks need heroes Chief, gives them hope.' Was what Johnson had explained to me when I had expressed reluctance to the praise and honors, I had received back on Cairo Station. To be fair, I was just more used to being ostracized or left on my own for most of the war, before ONI had deemed it necessary to expose our existence.
So no, that's not the problem.
How long was it again that Smart AI's lasted again? I don't exactly remember the number, If I was ever told at all, but I did remember being told the difference between a 'Dumb' AI and a 'Smart' AI was, that while having the ability to perform a restricted number of tasks, the 'Dumb' AIs were able to live almost indefinitely. On the opposite site of the spectrum, 'Smart' AIs were the better model, actively learning from the world around them and processing information in a way for them to understand, much more human like compared to their dumber fellows. I never found out much more about AIs, the amount I knew coming from Deja when I was much younger when one of my fellow Spartans were curious to how much she actually knew, and she had given us a short explanation of it, or at least that's how I understand it. It was remembering that, because of the Smart AIs higher processing abilities, it was the reason that they lived much more finite lives, before they died, or hit rampancy, a very dangerous and unstable part of their lives.
Something I remember Cortana being dangerously close to when I had rescued her from the Gravemind, and it was dawning to me that she may have done it if it became worse as I slept.
Made the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect me form her rampancy.
The back of my head seemed to throb ever so slightly, grimly reminding me that, even though I had her data chip in my helmet, there was still only one of us in here.
It filled me with the briefest feelings of loneliness.
"Chief?" I looked to the side, only to see Lasky looking at me a little unsurely. "Went a little quiet there, I can only imagine how it might be for you to wake up with something like that hitting you. If you would like, I can give you a moment." I noticed Palmer staring at me, a scrutinizing look on her face as she took in my reaction, looking a little stiffer than before.
Was she here in case I took the news a little too aggressively?
The thought would have made me snort a little if I wasn't dealing with some one in charge of the newer generation of SPARTANs, as I don't exactly know just what they were capable of yet.
I shook my head. "No sir. The time doesn't change anything. I'm ready for any further deployments." Lasky raised an eyebrow at that, sharing a small glance with Palmer before regarding me again this time with an almost sheepish smile.
"Well, the doctors are going to have to determine that one Chief." He looked ahead again, "After we get you to a fitting room to remove that armor, its gonna take a little bit before we can get you your own temporary quarters here. So, we'll guide you to the locker rooms to clean up and show you where to grab chow here, as we have a 24-hour grab-n-go chow hall." He looked back at me, taking in the condition of my armor this time. "But after that its straight to see the doctors for you." He looked back in front of him. "After all I doubt your gonna need to fight anytime soon."
I nodded at the order, but the ending of his description made me feel a little uneasy. Surely, even with the war over, there would still be pockets of resistance from some remnant of the Covenant throughout space? That the Insurrectionists might still be out there, causing problems to the UEG.
After all, what was the point of Spartans if there wasn't a fight to be fought?
"One of the more personal fitting rooms, and locker rooms are over there," Lasky pointed to a door adjacent from the one we stood in front of. "There are some spare lockers that we have for any extra SPARTAN-IVs we might get, with a clean uniform, hygiene kits, and shower items still inside." He held his chin a little thoughtfully. "The clothes might be a little tight on you but they're designed for Spartans on board the ship so it should be able to accommodate for your size."
I nodded, filing the little tidbits of info in my head. SPARTAN-IVs. Were there ever a class of SPARTAN-IIIs made or does the UNSC just not like odd numbers, choosing to skip them instead?
After all the only Spartans I know of that came before us were the Greek ones Deja had taught us all those years ago.
He smiled a little bit at my acknowledgement, thumbing the area over his shoulder, "We'll be in the hallway waiting for you, feel free to leave the under suit in the locker room, we'll send some technicians to pick up all of your gear and properly inventory it."
I nodded again, a bit unsure now that it seemed like I won't be receiving my armor back anytime soon, the thought of me walking around without it genuinely making me uncomfortable already.
With how long I've actually been in it since the start of the war, starting from the Mark IV to VI models, there wasn't very many times I actually kept the armor off for long periods of time, aside from conducting basic hygiene I rarely parted from my armor. Add to that it's been an almost constant companion for the past 27 years, well, 32 years, for me, its basically become my second skin.
I tried to smother the small bit of anxiety that rose into my chest as I walked, reluctantly, into the room.
It was a pretty bare room, if not for the complex looking machinery in the dead center of it. Mechanical arms surrounded what looked to be an aero trim with holders for the feet and handles to grab onto. A small holographic console to the side of it, multiple caution and warning labels surrounding the machine, detailing what to do exactly and risks that might occur if I use the machine improperly.
I stared a little apprehensively at the machine, but quickly got over it as I stepped to the holographic console first, removing the chip out of my helmet and inserting it into the slot on the side.
I paused when the console, with a small whirl, came to life, downloading the items on the chip and placed a prompt in front of me, the question shimmering slightly from the graphics of the hologram.
Cortana's final words to me, I thought grimly, finally accepting the situation of my longtime companion. I would know everything I would need to from this, my closure in a sense. Part of me didn't want to watch it, still not ready to say goodbye from a dear friend, a deeper part of me refusing the reality in front of my eyes.
The other part, the one that had survived all 27 years of war, knew that I had to respect what might be her last wishes.
I steadied my breath, and myself, and tapped the prompt.
The console gave another small whirl, and before I knew it, Cortana stood right there, in all her glory.
Hands behind her back, back straight, she stared back up at me, but then I realized, lips pursing, she wasn't staring at me. "I-" she began before cutting her self off, eyes flickering around the room as she struggled with her words, before she deflated, shoulders hunching over slightly, looking smaller than before as she hung her head, one hand going across her chest to hold her other. It was an odd thing to watch, I thought, one of the most self-assured and vocal people I knew looking so tiny, so distraught.
Like she had when I had rescued her from the Gravemind.
"I'm not coming with you this time." She began gently. "it's been so long since I last saw you, and now there's so much wrong with me. Out of place." As if to confirm it, her figure flickered ever so briefly, her normal blue becoming a crimson red, as quick it would have been disregarded as a glitch, before settling to her normal blue.
She looked up, a small wry smile on her face. "You know I had much to think about, not like there was much to do. About the past and present of humanity, about the Forerunners, about the Halos and the Flood." She paused. "About you and I." Her form flickered again at the last bit, but instead of red, it was pink, the color she often turned to the few times I've known her to get embarrassed. For some reason it made my pulse quicken ever so slightly.
"I don't think I ever told you, the reason I chose you," She smiled and looked to the side once more, a wistful look in her eyes and it struck me on how human the action was, then again she was always the better one of the both of us when it came to expressing their thoughts and feelings.
"They let me pick. Did I ever tell you that? Choose whatever Spartan I wanted." She let go of her arm and begun wringing her hands as she continued to stare off to the side, a happy, almost blissful expression on her face. "You know me. I did my research. Watched as you became the soldier we needed you to be. Like the others, you were strong and swift and brave. A natural leader."
Her words took a reverent edge to them, as if her description of me was some passage of holy text to her. I only felt the smallest swell of embarrassment from her praise and thoughts of me, but the reason behind her sudden confessions kept me sober as I carefully took in her words.
"But you had something they didn't. Something no one saw, but me. Can you guess..?" Her smile became wider. "Luck."
Her smile lessened, a hard expression taking her face. "I hated what they did to you when I found out. What Halsey did to you." She almost spat out her name, another red flicker taking over her form. "It was inhumane. They stole your futures, your lives, your humanity, everything. Broke all of you for the sake of their little project! LIKE THEY HAD THE RIGHT TO! THEY HAD NO RIGHT!" I was taken aback when a snarl of rage overcame her face as she shouted, her form becoming a glaring red that held for a second longer this time.
She relaxed, her form becoming meek, an ashamed look crossing her face from her outburst. She took a few seconds to recompose herself before she spoke, voice gentle with a small tremor. "…So when I chose you as my carrier, I promised myself I would always protect you. To never let you suffer anymore than you already had from their machinations. And looking back at those days, fighting together on our first test, to fighting on Halo and Earth, relying on each other." A look of content was on her face. "It honestly feels like a dream." She said airily.
"I was made from that woman's mind." That woman must've been Halsey, but it still disturbed me with how much venom she had for her. Was this how she truly felt? Deep inside? Or was it the rampancy distorting her thoughts, twisting them to come to the conclusions she had.
"And the funny thing is that when I first saw you, I felt an attraction to you, a pull towards you that I couldn't ignore. As much as your luck contributed in my decision, it wasn't the main factor." She laughed a little, shaking her head from the thought. "It was almost easy to disregard the rest, and when I talked to her about it, she always spoke of you fondly. I don't even think she thought of her child as fondly as she did from you."
I furrowed my brows at the indirect confession. Halsey had a child? That was news to him.
She continued. "So maybe most of this, what I'm feeling, is a consequence from being flash cloned from her own brain. But you know what?" She smiled again; it was a brittle one. "As much as I hated that woman, as much as it hurt to watch you sleep, wishing with all that I am that I can just touch you with my own hands. I certainly don't regret retaining that part of her brain. It just made what I felt for you feel just that much more real." Her voice was sorrowful, but fond, as she reached out with one hand, probably to the direction of my cryotube at the time, trying to touch what was in front of her.
I noticed that my chest felt tight, an odd ball of ice forming in the pit of my stomach as she continued pouring herself out to me. What she felt for me?
"Chief." She hesitated. "John." My throat tightened. "I've been in service for nearly 8 years now." She looked down as she wrung her hands. "AIs deteriorate after 7. We start to go rampant, slowly thinking ourselves to death. And it's been getting harder to control, fighting with myself constantly, as every second to you feels like hours to me." A bitter look crossed her face, before it faded, a resolute one taking its spot.
"John, we swore to protect each other. And no matter what happened, we did. You always came back when I needed to you, never giving up, always resolute. You always protected me from what you can. You saved me when I needed you the most. And it was because of that reason that I was able to last for so long."
She clenched a hand to her chest. Staring ahead, her resolve never wavering.
"So now it's my turn to protect you John. Protect you from myself. Protect you from what I want to do to you. I hope," She hesitated. "I hope you can understand that one day, when you wake up." She looked up, an almost desperate look on her face as her form began to flicker red several times. "And when you do wake up, don't be what they made you John, don't let yourself become the machine they tried to break you to. You're a much greater man than you know." Her voice began to distort, sounding like many of her talking at once as her form continued to flicker.
"I love you."
I stared, feeling numb, as she vanished, and text began to show in front of me.
UNSC Artificial Intelligence (Service Number – CTN 0452-9)
Situation: Adrift on back half of UNSC Charon-Class Light Frigate (FFG-201) Forward Unto Dawn following successful firing and destruction of Forerunner Halo: Installation 04-b
Error: UNSC Artificial Intelligence (Service Number – CTN 0452-9) has initiated self-destruction protocols.
Reason given: "To keep him safe."
I stared at the text, her last words going through my head.
I love you.
And now she was gone.
Grief began to wrack my body as I leaned against the console, gripping the edges of it as I bowed my head.
"Cortana..." any composure I had was gone, nothing but emptiness and sadness.
The room was silent as I stood there.