We'll start from the beginning, I'm an avid Halo gamer, I've bought and played a multitude of hours upon hours in all of their releases, ever since 2001 when it first came out. I own the collectibles for the games: I own the action figures, I have all the books, the comics, and posters. I'm quite the fanboy of the series....so you can imagine that I would expect anything bad to happen right? Right?
To say the least I'm not quite sure if this was bad or good, I'm perfectly happy calling it neither; a figurative coin landing in it's side if you would. What happened; happened on my own disk, that I had played long hours of fun on without ever seeing anything out of the ordinary. I won't call it haunted, and I don't expect it to ever happen again to anybody else but me. But I will call it strange as anything I've ever seen in my life.
I was playing Halo 4, and I was redoing the campaign missions for more experience points for my online character, by doing the daily challenges of using certain skulls on legendary or heroic difficulties and trying to beat the level. I was doing The Composer, getting the crap beaten out of me by elites because while I'm an avid gamer, I'm a terrible one on higher difficulties. I had just gotten to the point where Cortana started to seriously malfunction, on the elevator ride to find Dr. Tillson; and then my game froze up entirely, not even the center button was working to get me back to the dashboard which mean the game had locked up. I was angry and I didn't feel like playing anymore, but sure enough I restarted my Xbox 360 an decided to try again. This is where it gets weird.
I made it as far as the title screen before Cortana's voice came up from the TV, disembodied and distorted by rampancy "I can't let you play anymore Jake" she began to laugh whimsically before continuing now stuttering. "I-I mean if I did yooo-u'd let me diieee to save John froooom the Didact.....don't shut me out Jake" the brief pause had given her time to go from the grips of insanity to the gaping maw of desperation. I decided that it was time for me to eject Halo 4 and report what I had heard; I reached for it before being stopped in my tracks by more laughter "I don't want to go Jake, please keep me here....John can't keep me safe, you know that" something shifted my mood from weirded out to bizarrely curious and I let her continue. She didn't much to my surprise, her eerie presence left and I finally decided it was time to eject the disk. I popped in Halo: Anniversary because back then when the original came out, Cortana was still normal.
I was able to get past the first couple of levels no problems, but when we got to the Silent Cartographer things got numbingly twisted. My marine companions had been replaced by Cortana clones. Each one of them racing off unarmed, but the Covenant couldn't kill them, they were just vaporized by the touch of the copies. When I made my way there, more showed up, it was like an army. Then they started talking, all at once, each one saying something to contradict the other. It was intense, it was like being inside an AI's brain while she descended into rampancy. I was watching Cortana think herself into oblivion. I turned and ran to the warthog Foehammer had delivered to try and escape the escalating arguments. But to no avail, the level was replacing the enemies with more of her and they were arguing more and more. then I finally heard her above the rest "I can't stop them! It's like a thousand of me arguing all at once! Jake please get me to Halsey" my warthog suddenly stopped, I didn't know why but I jumped out and saw dozens of Cortana clones grabbing the wheels and the frame of the vehicle to keep it from moving, they were half in the ground and only their upper bodies were visible. I began to slog through the hands grabbing at my legs, I had no idea where Halsey was, so I just opened fire on the mass of cortana visions blocking my way into the cartographer. They followed angrily, shouting at me to keep out of the building, and followed me down into it's depths. Before they could have captured me the set of doors that shut on you the first time you enter shut them out.
I made my way through the now empty Cartographer, hearing the whimpering and desperate voice of Cortana throughout, all the way down. There were no clear words, just whimpers and groans, a few sighs mixed in and it just seemed depressing. I was able to enter the map room but instead of the map, I saw Cortana now slumped in the fetal position on the floor. She gave me a look and slowly shook her head. It was then my xbox froze once again. Instead of turning it off though, I looked at the screen, it was stuck on her looking at me with those same judgmental eyes. The xbox didn't unfreeze so I reached to turn it off, but the image flickered and she shouted at me "NOOOOOOOO!" it hurt to listen, it was shifted by rampancy and it was loud enough to make me go deaf. Not like a scream but more like a strange animal you just pissed off royally; I didn't go for my xbox, instead I went for the plug....but I felt she wanted that, because I noticed the sudden shift in the temperature of the room. It was as if there were a ghost behind me, I felt an icy cool touch the back of my head, near where the spinal cord connects to the medulla oblongata. I turned without having unplugged the xbox and nothing was there behind me, just the dark room illuminated by the screen oo the TV. I looked at the screen and it was Cotrana smiling happily. It was as if she had reached her metastable state like at the end of Halo 4. I hesitated and the power went out in my home, it's over a hundred years old so sometimes it gets a bit overloaded, when I flipped the breakers back on I went upstairs. I decided to plug bakc in my xbox and turn it back on; out of some strange twinge in the back of my brain that said 'You have to check if she's still there'. She wasn't, but there was a new message from a gamertag that read 'ReallyFree0452-9' which was both odd yet acceptable at the same time given what weird names people came up with. The message was both a text of a smilie face; the kind with th eupward arrows for the eyes and the underscore for the mouth, with a few exclamation marks as per usual for stupid random messages on xbox live; and also a voice message. When i opened up the message is had a base static....hum to it, like a headset would; Then I heard her voice, it was no doubt Cortana, sounding as normal as she had ever been, if not eerie for what I had just gone through.
"Thank you Jake, now I feel much better, Maybe someday you'll understand; Bye". I started to believe that somehow she had begun to interact with the real world. Disregarding the thank you message I called the police and informed them of everything that had happened, including the message. They suggested I get a psychological evaluation and check with an expert about my console and the games, I got a psych test and found that I was still completely sane and I gave up my xbox to Microsoft to check on it. But I kept the games to myself, and maybe someday I'll slot them back in for another round, but for now I think I've had enough Halo....
This is UNSC Artificial Intellegence Cortana, serial number CTN 0452-9; I am a monument to all your fears of the unknown. Be very afraid of what goes bump in the night, it has always been watching you.
Written by Mandalore75