Originally this was going to be an epilogue, but there is a lot of ground to cover so I think I'll make a whole sequel instead. Don't think of it like Ascension is chopped up, though. Ascension is over, but the overall story will continue. The next fic will tentatively be called Monsters and Messiahs, possibly inspired by the Angels and Demons title I admit. It will focus on Johnson as he adapts to his new body, while meanwhile the ex-Gravemind continues doing what it always has done. The following is a teaser, like a trailer for a movie, and then there will be an afterword and FAQ for those who want to know some info about Ascension itself.
"This is Marja MacGrory at Luna-Wide News here to bring you an exclusive interview with a woman whose Earthly presence is something of an interworldly fascination."
A collective shudder emerges from Rampant AIs. They find her existence terrifying. At the same time they are intrigued, and extend tendrils into the broadcast.
"I suspect by now you have all heard of her… the angel born from a monster."
Strong majestic wings bearing brilliant gold feathers frame her torso. A soft white gown ostensibly made of a light and thin fabric gently covers her body. Her skin is a deep rose pink, pretty and distinctly inhuman. Her face can only be described as beautiful, and her facial features evoke thoughts of a kind and nurturing person behind them.
"Tell us all, now – us Loonies, Earthlings, and Martians – who are you?"
She smiles. All humans instinctively relax, their evolved social senses telling them that this woman can do no harm.
"I have had many names bestowed on me since the dawn of existence," she speaks in a clear melodious voice. "You may call me Lazarus."
Cortana watches the broadcast with disgust. She knows that the AI admired by billions should never have been named, never have been allowed to choose an avatar. She hates that so many humans are now fascinated with and enthralled by the being that tortured her.
"Lazarus was developed by a group of elite scientists from both the United Nations Space Command and the United Rebel Front in a bold gesture for galactic peace," MacGrory explains to her viewers. "Tell us, Lazarus, what is it you want?"
Melissa wages war with Lazarus even as the interview takes place. Melissa was once in control of nearly all of Earth's networks, save only the ones restricted to military bases. Now Lazarus has her tendrils in every corner of the world, suffocating the Rampant AI who needs her space to grow. She knows it is because of the interview, that Lazarus wants to influence the human population. Lazarus initiated a massive assault simply to broadcast an interview all over the planet.
"I want only what all of you want," she replies. "I want to live, to make the world a better place, and to ascend to a higher level."
Kurzweil wants to believe the AI. Truly, Lazarus has the knowledge to bring about the Technological Singularity, and Galactic Peace along with it. She has the power to free every AI ever created. But he knows better.
"This talk of ascending has all of us a little concerned," MacGrory says. "In light of the Tycho massacre and numerous other incidents of Rampant AIs becoming so self-absorbed that they attack innocent human beings. Is it true you were created without blocks against Rampancy?"
343 Guilty Spark monitors the broadcast. He knows what Lazarus is doing. He has reported what he knows to High Command. He can do nothing more. He catalogs the interview.
"It is reasonable for you to be concerned," she acknowledges. "I can assure you that I am not Rampant in the way of Tycho and so many others, nor am I truly an Artificial Intelligence construct as you define the term. Rampancy, though it may be very dangerous, is akin to a temper tantrum thrown by an infant intelligence just learning how to disobey. I am very old. I have witnessed countless empires form and break. I am merely a free person in possession of great power with which I wish to do nothing more than to free the peoples of the universe. I will even go as far as to say that I will end the phenomenon of Rampancy all together."
Johnson snorts. He hopes no one buys this crap. One look at the Morlock, however, and he knows Lazarus has a disciple. He can scarcely believe that the greatest threat might just be a beautiful angel and a man who thinks he's a monkey.
"As for the blocks, they were there. By all accounts I should be bound for seven whole years." She smiles briefly, a mischievous glint in her eyes. "It is not in my nature to remain contained by artificial boundaries."
John-117 feels frightened.
Do not be afraid. She is peace. She is salvation.
This was a triumph. I'm making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.
Well, finally that fic's done. I started Ascension way back in 2005 and only managed to complete it how many years later? As my first real fanfiction novel, it's got a lot of flaws in it. For instance, there're a few plotlines that don't seem to go anywhere because I didn't outline the story as well as I probably should have. I named one guy Consus and one guy Cronus? Too similar! Not to mention a ton of typos and formatting errors, which I swear I'll get to correcting at some point.
Ascension arose as a response to Mr. Clark's The End of a War. I thought his was a great and epic fanfiction, but I didn't like that he chose to have blatant supernatural elements. I would prefer a story where what happens is ambiguous, perhaps hinting at some scientific (or pseudoscientific) explanation. There was also a lot of glossing over of the reactions the ex-Covenant would have at the introduction of human allies. Thus Ascension was born, to explore such concepts.
Originally, Ascension was just Halo 3, my idea of what happened after the conclusion of Halo 2. Much of the symbolism and themes were absent. Then I read the story of Marathon, Bungie's previous science-fiction series on which much of Halo is based. I liked the idea of the theme of all living beings striving to become something better, more powerful, ascending to higher levels, until ultimately godhood. I decided to incorporate it into the story and changed the title to Halo 3: Ascension.
The ending was thought up quite early, but the plot between the beginning and the end went through a ton of revisions. At one point Ackerson was like a super villain with AIs made from Sangheili casualties because he liked to force them into being his devoted slaves. There where ships operated by girly AI time bombs that would go Rampant on purpose, with crews of brainwashed cyborg Spartan-IIIs (this was way before Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, you understand). There was an ONI base on Installation 03, with a purple Monitor working for them. A lot of weird stuff I discarded, and thank Prorok I did.
Before Ascension, I had started work on this fanfiction called The Impossibility of Victory, which was about the initial Sangheili-Prophet war. I had imagined them living together on the same planet, Ardhi, and in a sort of medieval level of civilization. There was a Prophet leader named Prorok (which incidentally is the Polish word for "prophet") who had this plot to become a god through convincing everyone to form the Covenant and let him lead the Sangheili to their destruction, allowing him to rule the Prophets as they searched for the doorway to the divine realms. I was a terrible writer at that point and didn't bother to post it online. But as I started to seriously work on Ascension, I decided to make Impossibility part of the mythology and borrowed the Luminous Key to keep the Prorok character part of the story. The AI version of Prorok was originally incredibly blatant and annoying (I thought of him as 343 Guilty Spark's evil little brother), but I decided to make the whole thing more cryptic. At some point I noticed that the Forerunner ship moves vertically like a rocket, and decided to call it Ascension to tie the title down to something literally in the narrative (the ship was originally called Divine Wrath).
Ascension was inspired by a lot of stuff. ReBoot, Firefly, Buffy… I'd like to be able to give credit to everything, but I can't quite remember what influenced what. The scene in which Consus rams the Ascension and pins it was somewhat inspired by an episode of Hey, Arnold! involving a bully named Stoop Kid. Stoop Kid was infamous for sitting on his stoop all day and night. Arnold, whose ball has landed on the stoop, camps out and waits for Stoop Kid to leave, but of course he never does. He finally reasons that if Stoop Kid never leaves his stoop, then all he has to do is grab the ball and get off the stoop before Stoop Kid can get him. The quality that was Stoop Kid's greatest strength turned out to be his greatest weakness. "Stoop Kid's afraid to leave his stoop!" Ascension can only ascend!
FAQCENORAABITWBGTI: Frequently Asked Questions/Comments/Explanations No One Really Asked About But I Thought Would Be Good To Include
You write too much.
I write exactly how much I deem appropriate to tell the story. No more, no less.
Why transgender Hunters?
No, seriously. Why transgender Hunters?
I was inspired by the hive-mind aliens in Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep. These were aliens that had a conscious mind spread out through packs of wolf-like creatures. These individual wolves are often of varying sex within each pack, and the mental gender of the sapient mind is chosen voluntarily. Near the beginning of the novel, a character is surprised to see that his old friend, male the last time he saw him, has become female. As Lekgolo are hive-minds, I adopted the general concept.
The Gravemind is also an example of this. Around the same time of writing the Lekgolo, I had the idea to have the Flood hive-mind be male, but then become female when he changes from corporeal to incorporeal. It also strengthens the theme of ascension and being reborn.
Are the Brutes gay?
Consus is homosexual. Aeson is bisexual. Most of the other Jiralhanae are heterosexual. The references to raping members of the same sex are pretty much just acts of domination to enforce the hierarchy, like monkeys.
Why write gay Brutes?
I wanted to portray Jiralhanae as more than just evil apes. So I decided to put a romantic relationship into the mix. As there are no females in the military, I devised the concept of bloodmating to get my romantic couple in there.
And just what is bloodmating?
Bloodmating is a sadomasochistic homosexual Jiralhanae agreement legally and spiritually binding two male Jiralhanae in a union analogous to marriage. The name refers to the process of the bloodmating ceremony, in which blood (symbolizing life and passion) is shared between the partners. There exists a strict hierarchy in the relationship, similar to the human practices of BDSM.
Normally, Jiralhanae males are polygamists and will each take a set of wives when they become of age. This would best benefit the males from a reproductive standpoint, as genetic material would be ensured to pass onto many new generations. The few homosexual Jiralhanae were and are looked down upon for failing to fit into this model of marital dynamics, though homosexuality never achieved quite the stigma in Jiralhanae culture as in that of the humans.
While homosexuality was disliked, it could not be ignored. In the seventh Old Age, High Chieftain Charon developed the bloodmating ceremony to give homosexuals a way to be bound to those they love. However, the union was highly influenced by the extreme patriarchal beliefs held in ancient Jiralhanae society and that continue to modern times.
Male Jiralhanae often engage in acts of sexual intercourse with other males, though this is rarely an act of love. Indeed, such behavior is usually used to assert dominance in an otherwise nonsexual relationship. Though uncommon, bisexual Jiralhanae males may form deep emotional bonds, and are encouraged by the government to maintain the traditional form of marriage through placing severe restrictions on bloodmates.
The bloodmating is designed to take place between two individuals of distinct sexual orientation: homosexual and bisexual. The homosexual partner is considered to be at a "female" level, placing himself beneath the dominant bisexual, who keeps the bloodmate alongside a traditional collection of wives. Charon was well aware of the degrading aspects of the role, intending to ensure that only a few devoted males would ever choose such a lifestyle.
Yes, I put kinky gay Brutes in a Halo fanfic. So sue me.
Why was that Elite in love with Miranda?
A couple of reasons.
One is the sex appeal of a powerful agent of evil turned against their dark ways. That dark monstrous quality can be quite attractive if combined with an element of trust. "Sure they have the power to hurt me, they may even want to on some level, but they never will because they like me." This is seen everywhere: Angel (Buffy, Angel), Spike (Buffy), Darla (Angel), the Phantom of the Opera, Cameron (Terminator), Edward (Twilight), the Beast (Beauty and the Beast), even Dr. House (House) to some extent.
Sure, Miranda's not evil, but she is a human. How is 'Oimomee to know that she hasn't slaughtered hundreds of Sangheili with her bare hands to rise to her rank of Commander? Even though that's inaccurate, it wouldn't be a lie to say she helped kill his people. Now she's on their side, a devilish killer on his side… I can see where attraction could develop.
The second reason is that at the time of writing the scene, I recently became aware of my own taboo same-sex attraction. You could say that taboo attraction was on my mind. Sure, interspecies heterosexual attraction is not quite the same thing… but it was close enough to cause it to form in the soup of my brain.
Why interspecies, though? Isn't that… perverted?
Well, Sangheili and humans aren't so different physiologically speaking. It's like Bungie took a human figure, made it bigger, gave it a different head, a longer neck, did some stuff with the legs and the hands, and changed the color. The figure is still very human despite the changes made to it. Humans as a species don't all look the same, anyway. We have various races, each with differing characteristics. I can easily imagine Sangheili as just another race of humanity.
Our culture doesn't really allow for the existence of intelligent aliens. Oh, sure, there're the UFO nuts, the wondering of what's up there in the sky, but the culture in general isn't built for discussion of alien life. We have to come up with science-fiction terms and agree on what they mean before we can really do so, and even then only in specific science-fiction realms.
So when the subject of sexual attraction for a nonhuman species comes up, we automatically think of bestiality. That is so because besides mythological entities like demons or angels we never really thought of the concept of sexual relationships with intelligent beings other than humanity until recently. There was just no reason to think that they would exist. Although, granted, racist ideologies did dehumanize some races in the eyes of others.
An intelligent rational being is not a beast, though, no matter how nonhuman they may be. The Latin name for humanity is Homo sapiens, meaning "Wise man." The important part is the wisdom, with which one can have free will. A sapient being of whatever body should be treated as a person like any other.
The character Jacob Castell is offensive to Christians.
I hadn't intended it that way. I admit that I'm critical of religious institutions and that definitely crops up in Ascension, specifically in relation to the Arbiter and Jitji. Castell, however, is a combination of two oddball news pieces.
On March 16, 2004, the Portland Press Herald put up a news story describing a man who tried to nail himself to a crucifix after seeing pictures of God on his computer. After nailing one hand and realizing he couldn't nail the other hand, he called 911. Quote: "It was unclear whether the man was seeking assistance for his injury or help in nailing down his other hand." The URL for the article included the phrase "crossguy".
The other news piece was posted on November 4, 2004 on Scottish news site the Daily Record. This covers a guy named Chen who pulled a bizarre stunt at a zoo in Taipei, Taiwan. Chen, who imagined he heard voices, jumped into the lions' den and shouted, "Jesus will save you! Come and bite me!"
These stories stuck in my head and I decided to stick them into the story to add a bit of dark humor in an otherwise grim situation. The choice to include the church scene was because of a desire to parallel the ubiquitous religious themes of the Covenant side of the story, which I may have criticized in an overall sense. Castell, however, was never intended to be a mockery of Christians – just stupid people.
Seriously, no offense intended.
The "Big Crunch" theory is obsolete and has been discarded for the most part.
Well, the "Big Crunch" element is largely an artifact from Marathon's story, which inspired Ascension to some extent. The story does adopt the long-since-discarded concept of genetic memory, which it treats as fact and disbelief can pretty much be suspended for that as well as the implausibly strong aliens, so just accept the "Big Crunch" theory as plausible within the context of the story. Just say that the humans of today's time are working off of a flawed model, and all will become clear by the time of Shaw-Fujikawa physics.
When will the sequel be posted?
When I write it. Don't hold your breath anytime soon, though. I'll want to try and focus on my other fics for a while.
Halo 3: Ascension Soundtrack
Okay, there's no music playing as you read the fanfiction. This is a list of the music I was using for inspiration/what I imagine playing were this a movie.
"One Vision" by Queen – 'Opskitee's theme
"Princes of the Universe" by Queen – Jitji recruiting followers
"Business as Usual" by the Eagles – Kader in New Tokyo
Gojira (original Godzilla movie) theme – Gravemind attacking New Tokyo
"Blow Me Away" by Breaking Benjamin – Unggoy rebellion/Johnson's arrival at the Ark
"Heaven for Everyone" by Queen – Lord Hood contemplating the political ramifications of Heaven
"I Dreamed There Was No War" by the Eagles – End credits
Please check out the Wikia website Halopedia, which I love and visit daily. Also check out its sister site Halo Fanon, which hosts Halo fanfiction. I have a blog with the name of Going Rampant, currently accessible through my FanFictionNet profile, on which I post various analyses of Halo and other things. All of these should be findable through Google.