the story so far
THE DEMON WAS A KID, ONCE. He learned in school on Eridanus II, and played with the other kids; Ellie, Katrina, the future Lieutenant, Parisa. He ran and had fun and laid in the grass with his friends, looking up to the stars and making up names for the constellations, knowing too well what the real names really were. But it wouldn’t last. He was fast, and strong, and smart, and determined to win at any cost. Making him ideal for that Doctor and the soldiers to turn him into one of those monsters.
THEY TOOK HIM AWAY, BUT NO ONE EVER KNEW. The military were slick like that. Took him away, and replaced him with a frail copy, an incomplete shadow with an expiration date. No-one would ever come looking. On Reach, he was raised a soldier, a fighter, a warrior alongside the other children. He excelled, breaking through the ranks a proven leader, excelled even further than Kurt and Fred, excelled far enough to finally earn his number; 117.
THEY CHANGED HIM FOREVER. Physically, 117 would never be the same. That Doctor, Halsey, made him stronger, faster, more reflexive. One of her elite soldiers who would serve in defense of humanity for years to come. One of her Spartans. Clad in a warrior’s armor, 117 and the other SPARTAN-II’s went on to carve their status as the protectors of humanity. 117 became more in his campaign against the zealous enemy, the Covenant; an alien coalition that had decided humanity stood in the way of their journey to the righteous thereafter. In his conquest of them, he had earned two titles. The Covenant, and especially it’s Elite Sangheili soldiers, referred to him simply as Demon. Humanity called him the Master Chief.
REACH WAS GLASS. It was the place they had made him into the soldier they needed him to be, and now it was gone. After attempting to get all that they could out of the human world, the Covenant turned their most powerful weaponry onto Reach, blazing its surface so violently as to turn everything in sight into black glass. Good soldiers lost their lives fighting for it. Both sides lost many. The Chief lost friends of his own. But he made a new friend. The little blue woman.
CORTANA WAS AN AI, AND SHE CHOSE HIM. All Spartans had the capability of working with one on missions, and thanks to the efforts on Reach, Cortana was able to meet 117. Their friendship quickly blossomed. Together, they fought many enemies, conquered many battles, and nearly died together on more than one occasion. More than any other human, more than any other Spartan, Cortana was who the Chief trusted most. She felt the same for him. And so…
WHEN CORTANA BEGAN TO DIE, become Rampant as all AI do, John wouldn’t have it. He had fought alongside her for so long; against the parasitic Flood, against the zealous Covenant, against the imperturbable Forerunners. What Cortana was to him, the Sun was to Icarus. He must be with her, even if he were to die in the process. She helped him remember who he was, constantly, and reminded him to keep fighting. Even after the war with the Covenant came to a close, Cortana made sure he did not lose his way and purpose. She knew him as John; and as John, he fell into a long sleep following the betrayal of a long-had ally, the Forerunner 343 Guilty Spark. Stranded in space, John remarked to Cortana, ”Wake me...when you need me,” and for four years, seven months, and ten days, John slept, Cortana speaking to him in his sleep as though he could hear her.
WHEN JOHN AWOKE, CORTANA’S rampancy- the dying, corruptive state of an AI -was reaching its peak. John was desperate to cure her. Stranded on a Forerunner world, Requiem, John and Cortana delved deeper into the Forerunner’s mysteries, facing loyalist Covenant forces as well as Forerunner “Prometheans”, artificial lifeforms who attempted to stop the Chief’s progress on Requiem. They failed. John bested an ancient Forerunner, but in doing so, lost Cortana to rampancy forever.
AFTER LOSING HER, JOHN SOUGHT TO BECOME BUSY. With more than twenty-seven years of active military duty, the UNSC urged him to retire his combat operations, but the Spartan reunited with his old team, and continued to fight throughout the galaxy. It was what kept him sane- if only for a while. He began to see her everywhere. It seemed like all that he had done was for her, and now she was gone. Fearing he was becoming unhinged, the UNSC sent another team of SPARTAN-IV’s to retrieve John’s team of SPARTAN-II’s, when they went rogue in pursuit of what John thought to be Cortana.
CORTANA WAS NOT GONE- not in the sense that John believed her to be. She had become part of the Forerunner’s vast network. She had been chosen by them, like John had been chosen by her. Chosen to lead the galaxy into an era of peace. No longer suffering rampancy and brought to life in corporeal form, Cortana took other AI under her wing, referring to her new legion of artificial allies as the Created, commanding great Forerunner technology to usher in her new “peace”.
JOHN WAS TORN. UTTERLY SHELLSHOCKED, John had to make a choice, between joining the being that he trusted the most in her new mission, or standing against her in the pursuit of freedom for all life. Cortana allowed him to make the choice. Standing before her, before this new digital goddess, the Master Chief truly was torn. But he chose humanity. With electronic tears and sadness, Cortana sealed the Spartans away. “They wouldn’t understand,” she had said.
THE SPARTAN-IV’S, LED BY LOCKE, MANAGED to retrieve the others. For a long moment, John and Locke stared each other down, standing over a great precipice. Locke removed his helmet, and while John did not, much was conveyed. Locke could see the hurt and torment John was going through. The Chief’s body language translated into, possibly, betrayal. 117’s silence was always stoic, but this new silence spoke of pain. Locke advanced towards the Demon as a friend in a time when he so needed one. And then--