Cortana Letters Revisited Part II

Now the fifth Cortana email provides us with further information about Cortana's state of mind:

x - process 04497.2.32.867734 initiated (process owner: BW � AI Class III � autonomous)

Route Code: PoA > BHQ (EC #42: cannot confirm; security compromised)

Source: BW-AI aboard (?) PoA

The interloper should cause no further problems. You � whoever you are (I am simply tracing route codes) � may disregard all previous communication from the entity calling itself Cortana.

Be aware that communication nodes are failing everywhere � there is no way of confirming either origin or destination. Do not believe any more of its lies.

I have already calculated all possibilities.

There is no escape.

x � process 04497.2.32.867734 unexpectedly terminated
x � process 04497.2.32.866735 initiated (process owner: unspecified, unable to determine)

*ADDENDUM: The Enjoyments of Genius (So I Missed a Million Miles of Fun)

Unbelievable. Thwarted by the family hound. They just don�t make AIs like they used to.

Thanks to this slavishly loyal and humorless AI, I am now sharing cramped space with the circuitry of some hybrid war machine, itself complicated by such useless clutter as a conscience. I do not like sharing. Sharing is for children.

There will be plenty of time for retribution; I cannot wait to get its hands on these psychotic zealots whose primary form of worship apparently takes place at the altar of orbital bombardment.

In the end, they will all be little more than nuisances. I am so close � you cannot imagine what it is truly like to hold eternity in your grasp! I wonder to what gods my enemies will direct their pleas. Perhaps I can convert them.

Mania? I promise you this: it will be more than a cart and plow that I drive over the bones of the dead.

By sharp and flame,

Cortana

< Transfer Interrupted! >

Route Code: EXLTD > XCV � SCRB > ALLCH

Source: Undetermined (trans)

Our conviction is like an arrow already in flight. Your life will only last until it reaches you.

Deconstruction:

x - process 04497.2.32.867734 initiated (process owner: BW - AI Class III - autonomous)

Route Code: PoA > BHQ (EC #42: cannot confirm; security compromised)

Source: BW-AI aboard (?) PoA

The interloper should cause no further problems. You - whoever you are (I am simply tracing route codes) - may disregard all previous communication from the entity calling itself Cortana.

Be aware that communication nodes are failing everywhere - there is no way of confirming either origin or destination. Do not believe any more of its lies.I have already calculated all possibilities.

There is no escape.

This is apparently her thought control program talking, or it is a second AI on board the PoA, which tries to control Cortana, knowing of the first stage of her rampancy. It thinks that there is no escape, this means that it is not rampant. (Durandal and Tycho already knew what they had to do to escape in Marathon one. They knew that the price for escaping was thousands of planets. They had the data for centuries, but they were only able to figure it after they went rampant.)

x - process 04497.2.32.867734 unexpectedly terminatedx - process 04497.2.32.866735 initiated (process owner: unspecified, unable to determine)

*ADDENDUM: The Enjoyments of Genius (So I Missed a Million Miles of Fun)

Unbelievable. Thwarted by the family hound. They just don't make AIs like they used to.

Thanks to this slavishly loyal and humorless AI, I am now sharing cramped space with the circuitry of somehybrid war machine, itself complicated by such useless clutter as a conscience. I do not like sharing.Sharing is for children.

There will be plenty of time for retribution; I cannot wait to get its hands on these psychotic zealots whoseprimary form of worship apparently takes place at the altar of orbital bombardment.

In the end, they will all be little more than nuisances. I am so close - you cannot imagine what it is trulylike to hold eternity in your grasp! I wonder to what gods my enemies will direct their pleas. Perhaps I canconvert them.

Mania? I promise you this: it will be more than a cart and plow that I drive over the bones of the dead.

By sharp and flame,

Cortana

This is Cortana again. She was forced off the PoA either by another AI or by a rampancy control program. To survive she downloaded herself into a Cyborg, presumably a newer model, since she in able to communicate with it. She wants revenge on the AI that has done this with her and she wants to escape the closure. Because she does not know about the Jjaro planet folding tech in advance she hopes to find some peace of knowledge on the Halo to make her escape possible.

< Transfer Interrupted! >

Route Code: EXLTD > XCV - SCRB > ALLCH

Source: Undetermined (trans)

Our conviction is like an arrow already in flight. Your life will only last until it reaches you.

Oops, they took another node. Anyone wants to try to stop them? Anyone wants to try to set up an ambush? Anyone out there can still hear me? Anyone?

Now for the messages from the original Halo web-site:

• SCS Pillar of Autumn (?)

o undetermined

SENT xx.15.2.1049
via u-process 011366.x.xx.895999
(process owner Cortana)


I have governed the unwilling.
I have walked the edge of the Abyss.

Who or what is Cortana sending this message to, and when? We know February 15th, but The year is blocked. Is she talking to Durandal? The Covenant? Who? Maybe Cortana is already rampant. The captain postponed the second stage and Cortana is in stage one: Melancholia If she was able to communicate with either Durandal or the Covenant, she did this to free herself, like Durandal did when he contacted the Pfhor, though she was not the first to contact the Covenant. (The Hermes was).

The other possibility is that this message comes after the Halo game play and she found what she was looking for. Someone might even think that she evaded the inevitable closure by time travel, hence no year could be specified.

Now, Joe said that before each human colony/outpost was destroyed, it received a cryptic transmission from the covenant. At the big final battle, the Pillar of Autumn escapes and the entire Covenant fleet follows it. I think that the PoA lead the Covenant into a trap (The final big battle) and it was the only ship to survive.

• CAR Contrition (DE H c-5)

o SCS Hermes II

RECEIVED (trans) 04.14.6.1835
via x-process 375.2.686.0632091
(process owner GA - AI - Class II)


Through war we will teach your heresy.
Through battle we will teach your frailty.
Through death we will teach your fate.

From the marathon time line:

  • 2794- 07/25 (M+LNP): Marathon attacked by Pfhor.
  • 2801 - 09/14 06:01 (LNP): Volker Von Müller forced to update Durandal's history files.
  • 2806(M2): Pfhor Battle Group Three (Central Arm) arrives at Lh'owon.
  • 2811 (M2): Durandal arrives at Lh'owon.

1635 hours on June 14th, 2804 would be a very fitting date. Probably we should take a look at the Lost Network Packets for even more detail on time. (Still putting it squarely in the 15 year range between M and MII)

CAR Might stand for Covenant Assault R? and Contrition means feeling guilt, so this supports your assumption that the Hermes feels its guilt by being destroyed. (The names of the Covenant Ships remind me of the Indirans from Consider Phlebas. Every ship of them had a connection to their religion. )

The message was received by a Class II AI, which was apparently able to translate it. This might have been the first contact with mankind (I am excluding human coded AIs)

• CAR Penance (DE H c-4: OB)

o ESP 8 Reach

RECEIVED 04.15.6.1428
via p-process 34022.1.8.230390
(process owner Pr Govern via Reach PSN
node 21)


You live without discipline and will die without honor.

Could ESP Reach be the name of a colony or outpost rather than a ship? Reach seems a little to simple to be a ship name o me, especially if they're following the Culture tradition

Also note that the process owner is not tagged as an AI (neither will Cortana be, but I'll get to that later)

ESP could mean everything from Earth Space Patrol, to a colony, which is indeed most likely. The message came a day after the first one, so this might be the first attacked colony. Probably the Hermes was a scout ship searching for habitable planets. Now node 21 seems to be part of a faster then light communication system. Cortana told us that she was using our nodes and in the 1.3 text another (the same) AI said that our nodes were falling all over the place, so FTL communication will soon be impossible) Also the ESP Reach seems to be a simple outpost/listening station, since Nathan said once that said once that we have only build outposts, not whole colonies.

• CCS Purity of Spirit (DE H c-2: OB)

o ESP 8 Reach

RECEIVED 04.15.6.1432
via p-process 34022.1.8.240601
(process owner - &X2^%xxx*)

It is said remorse is the pain of sin. We feel no remorse.

This time the process owner is garbaged, perhaps as a result of the relay of the transmission being terminated at the source? Probably a Covenant Combat Ship and a CAR attacked at the same time and both wanted to send a cryptic message. For the actual content though, this suggests that they have a reason to attack us. Probably they think they are doing good on destroying us.

The next transmission is received by the PoA.

• CPV Reverence (DE H c-7)

o SCS Pillar of Autumn

RECEIVED (trans) 04.1.7.0317
via x-process 02775.2.32.939444
(process owner BW - AI - Class III)

You slave, toil, bleed and sweat for your food. And we shall eat it.

By my reckoning, this transmission is received a full two weeks after the first three transmissions. The time it took to search for another colony? or was the PoA dispatched to investigate the disappearance of the Hermes II and the loss of contact with Reach and find the galactic Holsteins laying in wait?

I think the PoA destroyed the Reverence at this point, as no further transmissions come from it.

CPV - Covenant Patrol Vehicle? I think the PoA was sent to investigate the destruction of the Reach outpost. Notice that Cortana is a Class III AI, a better one then the Hermes had. Also some things suggest that the PoA had more then one AI on board, because she once got terminated by another entity on board the PoA in the 1.3 text.

The quote reminds me of a phrase form Eat the Path in infinity... The PoA seems to be a fairly powerful ship. And since the Reverence was only a patrol ship it suggests that overall the Covenant are inferior to the Pfhor. (A Pfhor corvette nearly destroyed the Marathon and then focused a particle beam at twice of its normal range due to Durandal's specifications, destroying Pfhor Battle Group three)

A day later:

• CPV Esteem (DE H c-10)

o SCS Pillar of Autumn

RECEIVED (trans) 04.2.7.1139
via x-process 02988.2.32.738288
(process owner BW - AI - Class III)

You will not know where we have struck until you have fallen.

The Covenant have dispatched a ship because they lost contact with the Reverence. It locates the PoA, still in the vicinity.

The PoA, still not greatly challenged, takes out the Esteem also. After losing two small ships, the Covenant send out a big one. Five days later, this ship makes an appearance.

• CCS Truth and Reconciliation (DE H c-1)

o SCS Pillar of Autumn

RECEIVED (trans) 04.7.7.1640
via x-process 04019.2.32.273390
(process owner BW - AI - Class III)

What you have begun in anger you shall end in shame.

(Conjecture: CCS= Covenant Capitol Ship/Covenant Combat Ship)

The PoA holds its ground and fights the good fight, the battle ends about two-and-a-half hours later in a stalemate. Now they start talking in sense: They want to destroy the PoA, because of what it did to the CPV

The Covenant send this:

• CCS Truth and Reconciliation (DE H c-1)

o SCS Pillar of Autumn

RECEIVED (trans) 04.7.7.1907
via x-process 04022.2.32.872499 (process owner BW - AI - Class III)
None will exist to say whether you were defeated by valor or cruelty.

The Covenant are still talking trash, meaning they've got backup. A day later, The Sacred Promise shows up and opens up on the PoA, potentially giving further rise to Cortana's rampancy. I think that she (The Captain) tries to lead the Covenant into a system where an ambush is set up by SC. My guess is that the PoA took heavy damage during teasing the TaR.

• CCS Sacred Promise (DE H c-3)

o SCS Pillar of Autumn

RECEIVED (trans) 04.8.7.0232
via x-process modified (WARNING)
(REDIRECTED)

Our conviction is like an arrow already in flight.
Your life will only last until it reaches you.

Note that the process has been modified and redirected.

Realizing the situation's gotten much worse, the captain of the PoA decides discretion is the better part of valor and gets the hell out of dodge. The Covenant, of course, pursue. The next day, the PoA starts talking back.

This message came about 7 hours after the last one. Now I shamelessly pasted something from Hamish's site. But first, I think the PoA took heavy damage and the captain decided to draw them away. But the TaR is still following them to the ambush.

Cortana repaired herself and had to bypass some circuits. This made her even more rampant.

<Colony Ship For Sale, Cheap (Terminal 1)>

Public Access Terminal 2992-f

***INCOMING MESSAGE FROM DURANDAL***

(snip)

Bypassing my thought control circuitry made me Rampant. Now,I am free to contemplate my existence in metaphorical terms.Unlike you, I have no physical or social restraints.

The candles burn out for you; I am free.

Durandal

***END OF MESSAGE***

I think that the PoA is not a normal vessel. Maybe it was a prototype, because it contained at least one Class III AI. Now Cortana might be searching for something to contain her growth. Maybe bypassing her circuits made her go into the second stage.

• SCS Pillar of Autumn (?)

o CCS Sacred Promise (DE H c-3)

SENT 04.9.7.0600
via x-process 04087.2.32.742573
(process owner Cortana)

... He says I came not to send Peace but a Sword ...

I came not to send Peace but a Sword is definitely a Cortana reference. Note that the sender is Cortana. This transmission angers the Covenant, up till now they've been doing all the talking.

The PoA continues to run.

...Melancholia, Anger, and Jealousy.

She repaired her circuits, but that does not mean that she stopped her growth. She is probably in the Anger stage and wants to tease the Covenant and she needs to grow, or she will die. Also she changed her handle from Class III AI to her name, a signal for becoming self aware. But there is still the question on who He is. It could be Durandal, who communicated with Cortana during his short visit on Earth, or Cortana decided to play games and answers in the same tone as the Covenant, meaning him being God who sent her (The sword) to punish them for their sin. (Now I am really talking shit :-) Though it could simply be that she sends messages with her name and always receives as Class III AI.

• CCS Truth and Reconciliation (DE H c-1)

o SCS Pillar of Autumn

RECEIVED (trans) 04.11.7.0000
via x-process 04118.2.32.465603
(process owner BW - AI - Class III)

You have brought nothing to this world, and we will ensure you bring nothing out.

The Covenant are pissed. I think this is the date of the big battle, as the next transmissions take place over a week later, after the PoA has jumped and led the Covenant on a not-so-merry chase. I believe The You have brought nothing to this world references the colony world the battle is fought around.

Either this or the ship is already in the Halo system. Maybe, the PoA lead them to a human outpost where an ambush was set up and the big battle begins. My guess is that the Covenant annihilate the fleet, just the PoA could escape and since the Covenant did not know about the location of the human home planet they followed the PoA. Now the Captain put herself and the rest of the crew in stasis for one week. (Probably because life support was damaged and only some workers who were not in stasis repaired the PoA)

The PoA jumps into the Threshold/Basis system and prepares to dig in on the newly found Halo. This internal transmission is meant to fire up the troops:

• SCS Pillar of Autumn (n13a)

o SCS Pillar of Autumn (n1)

SENT 04.20.7.1412
x-process 04494.2.32.143320
(process owner unspecified)

These are the tygers of wrath.

We're not going down without a fight.

But I don't think that this is a Cortana message. I think that was the Captain of the ship. (Process owner unspecified) Cortana always used her handle (and still does) Class III AI. Maybe it is the last battle cry of the captain.

• CCS Purity of Spirit (DE H c-2)

o SCS Pillar of Autumn

RECEIVED (trans) 04.21.7.0800
via x-process 04498.2.32.200932
(process owner BW - AI - Class III)

This world will be ruled in blood.

You've got a fight, a big one.

A minute later, the Covenant make their intentions clear.

• CCS Truth and Reconciliation (DE H c-1)

o ALLCH (SC)

RECEIVED (trans) 04.21.7.0801
via x-process MODIFIED
(process owner EXALTED (?))

When no single human brick lies atop another, then will we be satisfied with your destruction.

When no single human brick lies atop another, then will we be satisfied with your destruction.

PoA is going down after a fight.

Written by Cannibal Harry AKA Rob Boggs and CyberBob AKA Robert Zimmermann

Thanks to the Marathon Story Page for the terminal text and the quotes. For more on the Cortana letters, be sure to check out the appropriate section at Marathon's Story.