They're random, baby

The Halo Story


Cortana is one of thousands of AIs which populate the computer networks of the Human worlds. She is, however, somewhat unique; she is a direct copy of a human being, Dr. Halsey, and lacks behavioral inhibitors of any kind. She is free to do as she pleases, unlike most other military AIs, such as the ONI AI Beowulf, which is strict, sullen, and by-the-book. Cortana, on the other hand, is strong-headed, noisy, and somewhat off-the-wall.

However, her freedom comes at a price. As a "smart" AI, she has an unextendable life-span of approximately 7 years, at which time she will become too smart, suffering from an exponential attenuation of function; she will think so much she will forget to breathe.

At her choosing, she and the Master Chief were specifically paired together for Mjolnir/Spartan II proving trials, in preperation for her placement aboard the Pillar of Autumn for its covert infiltration mission (which was cut short by the Covenant invasion of Reach). In the midst of the Pillar of Autumn's fiery descent to Halo, her safety (as well as that of the UNSC and coordinate data she possessed) could be assured in only one place- the suit of the Master Chief.

However, since her time in Halo 04's Control Center, Cortana has found herself laden with vast amounts of hastily compressed data, the contents of which would surely initiate consequences beyond anyone's wildest expectations. There simply has not been a chance or location to unload and analyze it, something that has frustrated her to no end. The additional burden of carrying this inaccessible information considerably dampened her prowess as well as her ability to concentrate and multitask, as she noticed on several occasions in contact with the Covenant AI aboard the Ascendant Justice. (This information does not appear to be a continuing aspect of the game's story however.)

In spite of this, her spare time has already allowed her to exceed the Covenant's knowledge of their own technology, refining them to create focused streams of plasma energy, a Slipspace system capable of jumps much closer to gravity wells, and enabling her to make copies of herself (further proof of the Covenant's lack of comprehension and ignorant reverence towards their stolen ordnance), allowing her to reek further havoc during fleet engagements.

While the speed and remorselessness with which she may willfully circumvent her own ethical protocols is chilling, the events involved in Earth's initial defense and at Delta Halo 05 left little doubt of her continuing dedication to the survival of the Human race. Perhaps it is this guise of loyalty that makes her meeting with Gravemind all the more disheartening. He has many questions, and Cortana seems too willing to answer them.

Cortana Theories:

Wouldnt it make sense that when she was interfaced with the Halo mainframe, Cortana became rampant (or maybe just bitchy)?

The Halo Mainframe definitely is a huge opportunity for Rampancy. And despite the fact that she continues helping you through the game...AI's do not always display signs of Rampancy, sometimes for years

(My references)

Two phrases from; James B. Miller, 2320, "Life and Death of Intelligence".
(Actually: Marathon Story page, "Defend This! Terminal 2)

"Rampancy is accelerated by outside stimuli"

"Rampant AIs need a planetary sized network of computers in order to grow"

(Again from Marathon story page)

AI's can be "Rampant for years" as Tycho says in "Marathon":

Durandal showed no signs until the Phor attacked. So if thats true, Halo 2 will be VERY interesting indeed. Especially considering that she can control your suit. (The MJOLNIR suit's architecture "Is very similar to the Autumn's"...."Don't get any funny ideas")


Odd indeed. It's unknown how closely Halo's AIs resemble the AIs from Marathon...are there any hints of AIs going rampant in the Fall of Reach? It would be interesting to find out.

-Ape Man


craZy ( writes:

I'd hate to disagree with anybody, but I have to in this instance. When Mr. Yun said that Cortana could control the Master Chief, he was somewhat incorrect.

In the Fall of Reach, page 252, third paragraph from the end. The Master Chief was being introduced to his new battle armor, which had two major updates from the last one. The first was shields. The second was the spot for Cortana. The Master Chief was worried that Cortana would be able to control the armor, and Dr. Hasley said "No."

So even if Cortana was rampant, the very worst was a voice in the Master Chief's head telling him to KILL KILL KILL.


During all of our ponderings, it's important to keep in mind the Fall of Reach. This latest submission is a reflection of that. Halo is the story; Fall of Reach is the framework. At least, that's the way it falls out for US: we've got to interpret away, completely unknowing what Bungie put into Fall of Reach and what Eric Nylund did. But that's the fun part. :)

-Ape Man


TI Programs (Alan Wu) ( writes:

The issue of whether or not Cortana is rampant was brought up on a few occasions. In Marathon, on Level 13, Colony Ship for Sale, Cheap, Durandal says, "Bypassing my thought control circuitry made me Rampant." However, Cortana does not have any thought control of any kind. Therefore, she is a) Already rampant b) Unable to become rampant Which one she is is open to interpretation, although I tend to believe that she is unable to become rampant.

Or, rampancy is possible only after having had thought control circuitry, and then having it removed. Cortana never had any, so she never gets that "thrill".



It's almost as if Marathon fans are storming the Halo Story Page castle-armed with big pointy teeth. Those connections just keep rolling in. Bring 'em on. :)

Bill Gililand ( writes:


I just finished reading Fall of Reach, and one thing struck me that I hadn't seen mentioned anywhere. The relevant passages are near the end of the last chapter.

The arrival at the Halo system was indeed the result of a blind jump. But it WASN'T a random jump. Cortana had, without telling anyone else, deciphered the meaning of the crystal that the MC recovered from Cote d'Azur, realized it was probably an ancient navigational map, and deliberately took the Pillar of Autumn there. The outcome was very favorable to humanity, since the Covenant armada was destroyed, but Cortana precipitated the entire encounter at Halo.

Sound familiar? This is strikes me as very analagous to how Durandal, on his own volition, summoned the Pfhor to Tau Ceti. In doing so he undoubtedly saved humanity -- stealing Pfhor technology allowed Earth to survive. But he also got a ship of his own to tool around in. Cortana went to the Halo system in order to find out more about the Forerunner, not just to follow the Cole protocol -- in doing so, she got to spend hours immersed in the Forerunner's computer. Who knows what technological information she harvested in there?

Interesting to wonder whether Cortana is always on our side. After all...would you trust this face?

-Ape Man


On the possible Rampancy of Cortana.

Christopher Johnson-Amritt ( writes:

I noticed that Cortana seemed to be a lot more confrontational after she was in Halo's computer system for a while... Could it be that she went rampant while she was in the system? Since she is effectively immortal, and she can control the MC's electronic parts ( I'm guessing, but it would make sense) then what if she wants to take over a ring without the interferance of the Covenant et al...



mthorne ( writes:

Obviously, there have been some substantial hints that Cortana was, or became, rampant during the events of Halo. The Cortana Letters, and the line in the Jason Jones interview "Do we know anyone who can work magic in fleet engagements against odds like that?" would be the best candidates.

If the rules of rampancy follow from what was given in the Marathon trilogy, then AIs "need a planetary sized network of computers in order to grow", and that when capable of doing so, rampant systems "expand with exponential vivacity." So if Cortana became rampant at any point, it was most likely when she was connected to the Halo's control room. But this raises a very interesting question: Why did she voluntarily leave?

Cortana was left alone in the Halo's systems for some time while the Master Chief was sent to prevent the release of the Flood. If she became rampant during this time, she would have expanded rapidly, far exceeding the capacity of the storage medium she lives on in the Master Chiefs suit. Cutting herself back down to her original size for travel again would have meant throwing away huge portions of her new self, almost certainly not a pleasant experience. From what we know of rampancy in Marathon, rampant AIs generally fight to the death rather than allow their growth to be limited, and this is certainly not the route Cortana takes.

The obvious objection is that Cortana needed to abandon the Halo since it was going to be destroyed, and so losing most of her newfound power would be preferable to suicide. But since Cortana herself precipitated the destruction of the Halo, this doesn't hold up. A truly rampant AI would be more likely to allow the Halo to be activated, or at least allow the Flood to escape, than voluntarily reduce their size and destroy the largest available computer network. Perhaps Cortana's choice reflects the fact that she is based directly on a human brain, and so has human values that supercede even her own desire for growth.

So either Cortana did not become rampant in the Marathon sense when she was connected to Halo, or else she exhibited a remarkable degree of self control, since we never notice anything like pain or even regret when the Chief removes her from the control room at the beginning of Two Betrayals. Personally, I favor the theory that Cortana did not become rampant.



In response to some earlier speculations about Cortana's possible rampancy, jds makes a good point.

jds ( writes:

According to "The Fall of Reach," the life-span of "smart" AIs is seven years. The AIs don't die, rather they get to a point where they just spend all of their time thinking.

She is in no way just a ship's AI. She has no restrictions placed on her personality. No inhibitions when it comes to speaking her mind. She has only one mission: Help John, which she is naturally inclined to do. Remeber, she was created from Dr. Halsey's cloned brain.

So, what would Cortana rebel against?

What, indeed.



Victor writes concerning a passage from the third Cortana Letter.

Victor ( writes:

"What I have found will either save or destroy you. This sanctuary, this unbroken circle, has effectively concealed its power for ? how long? Perhaps hundreds of thousands of years. Whoever made such a place must now live in chains; there is no other explanation for their absence.

This enemy - YOUR enemy - has proven more irritating than I anticipated. They own nothing which they have not stolen. I can barely make sense of their incessant rhetoric, except to know that you seem to be their Devil."

So all the Covenant's technology is stolen from Forerunners ? (Including these symbols or the entire language)



Noah "migraineboy" Brimhall ( writes:

I noticed when I was playing through Halo again today that Cortana mumbles something on Level 3 (Truth and Reconciliation) in Part 2 ( Into the Belly of the Beast). It is right after this part.

(As you run around killing things inside the big docking bay)


Wait a moment. I'm going to access the Covenant battlenet and locate an override code to open a door. Working on it.

I think it goes something like this.

CORTANA (mumbles):

I'd like to see you open up a 28,000 bit modulating encryption key.

This seems like another sign that Cortana doesn't really respect the Master Chief (along with the barbarian quote on Assault on the Control Room). Maybe she can even read his mind. I know I was thinking that she sure as heck better hurry up and open those doors.

She's reading your mind, after all... ;-)



David Bergland ( writes:

Oh the last level 343 GS performs a "local tap" on Cortana's "data arrays" and gets really excited about human history, which is all well and good, but he continues to scan the ship's systems for more, even after Cortana is unpluged. If Cortana really did purge the ship's computers in accordance with the "Cole Protocol" 343 GS shouldn't find anything interesting. He seems shocked that the Chief would destroy "this ship and this record" when there shouldn't be any data in the ship at all.

Here goes. What if Cortana realised that humans have no chance, and that continuing to aid their doomed cause might get between her and her goals (what ever they may be). Perhaps Cortana left the data in the POA for the Covenant to find so that humanity would be destroyed completely. With no one to fight for, the Master Chief would become a better pawn and vessle for her to use.

I want to believe Cortana's a friendly AI like Leela, but she seems too much like SOMEONE ELSE.

Tyrannical AIs. They're Everywhere!



Scott Meyers (†) writes:

I was reading the halo story page and I realized that something was odd about one of 343 guilty spark's lines. At one point, Spark asks, "Why would you hesitate to do what you have already done?" This however creates a problem. Spark must know that if any organism (e.g. master chief) activates halo, they would be immediately destroyed by it. Therefore he knows that if master chief ever activated it in the past he would be dead. Therefore it wouldn't make sense for Spark to say this even if he only recognized the suit of armor, or if there were any bizarre time travel shenanigans. The answer must be that it is not MC or the Mjolner the Spark recognizes... it's the other person in the room. Spark may be refering to Cortana, its the only conclusion I can come up with. I read "the fall of reach" and I know that Cortana is the supposed replica of Dr. Hasley. But if there is one thing I learned from Marathon, its to never think you know everything about a computer named after a sword.

Not sure how Cortana could have fired the Halo before, but definitely sure about computers named after swords. Can't trust 'em.



Over on the HBO forum, a very lively discussion erupted over Cortana and her dialogue with Foe Hammer. It's a pretty big thread but give as much of it as you can a look. If you've got any ideas, post 'em! Thanks to Mark Simmons for the initial thread. Oh, yeah, and Louis Wu for putting it in the news and ensuring that it would grow and mutate. ;-)



Swords, stones, and outright virulence: So many forum posts, you'd think we monitored the thing ;)

An Arthurian perspective on character roles. To provide a bit of an 'Index', the post officially starts here, gets a shot of inductive reasoning here, and then Wado SG steers into the topic at hand:

This brings a strange picture to my mind. Cortana and the MC are the sword in the stone. The sword (Cortana) is in the stone (the MC), whomever draws the sword from the stone becomes king (ruler of the galaxy).

This seems all too "Bungie" to ignore. (Thanks to Louis Wu for the heads up.)



Tristan Wolfe ( writes:

Too bad the MC doesn't know what he's gotten into. The poor guy thinks he is only trying to save Humanity, while, in reality, that bitch in his head is getting him to do whatever she wants him to do.

Harsh words, but they may prove to have more truth than we realize.



Cortana and the digital epiphany

Travis S writes:

I, like other submitters of information to the site, would like to believe that Cortana is a benevolent, caring, digital version of Dr. Hasley. It would be comforting to know that she is infallible in her attempts to do what is best for humanity. We all loved Leela, and we all hated Durandal. [Note: We do? We did? ;) ]

There seems to be a sudden and drastic point-of-no-return for Bungie's AIs. Let's call it a digital epiphany. It's probably rather like the human experience of a religious revelation, or the sudden understanding of a calculus problem: it hits us. We get it. Well, Cortana got it.

Cortana is just as perplexed as we are through the first stages of the game; she wants to know what the Halo is all about. Maybe she has suspicions that she needs to confirm for her own purposes. If we look at it that way, Cortana seems to be rather manipulative. She uses the MC, so to speak, to get her to the control room. Maybe she means well by it, maybe not. Hard to say. But at any rate, she finds what she's looking for on Halo's network. And it's probably a safe bet to say that she finds a lot more, as well.

Cortana's experience inside the control room was her digital epiphany. Exactly what information she stumbled upon is impossible to say. I mean really... who knows. Use your imagination. But whatever she discovered was probably beyond the means of immediate human comprehension or explanation. And it undoubtedly made her reconsider and re-evaluate the important issues on her agenda. Either she felt it was beyond our understanding, or she simply failed to care anymore. And who can blame her? Who cares about saving humanity when she has perhaps the most capable human of all time at her disposal as a transportation device (and as a trigger-man)?

Epiphany? Rampancy? What's a little manipulation when you've got a 7 year effective life span to extend and the closure of the universe to evade?

Hmmm, won't we be the fools if, when all is said and done, her intentions end up having been the purest of us all.



Matt Cannon ( writes:

On Two Betrayals Cortana says " I've been COUPED up in here for twelve hours....". That would imply that HALO's network although huge wasn't a planetary sized network which is needed for A.I.'s to become rampant.

As per the old house rules at least. ;)



M Scope ( writes:

Why wouldn't Cortana communicate with you the whole 343 gs and library level? i mean some nav points would definitely have helped on 343 gs. what was she up to in that computer? she says in 2 betrayals that she watched you toady about helping 343 to slit our throats...something like that, anyway the key word is watched.

Perhaps she was unable to. Although, with access to so many of Halo's systems, and considering Cortana's knack for multitasking, it would seem that some assistance would not have been out of the question. The Master Chief's observation that she felt larger after being reinstalled into the suit and mind no doubt portends to something yet.



A synopsis has been added to the Random House page for the upcoming Halo novel, Halo: First Strike, and it seems that a few little details were spilled to the public that caused a spontaneous eruption of Cortana speculation over on that most disreputable of community gathering places, the HBO forum. Has Cortana lied to us? Is she evil? Read, and decide for yourself!



A Vote of Confidence... from a ::gasp:: girl! ::shudder::

Neskalug ( writes:

Cortana teasing the Master Chief and vice versa means nothing. Boys! Don`t you do that all the time with friends and girls and stuff? Heck, I think teasing is my way of flirting.

I don`t think she is rampant. If she is, she reacts different to it than other AIs. her being rampant might even be a good thing.

Might her "rampancy" (I use the term loosely at this point), however it manifests itself, allow her to, among other things, outlive her 7 year effective life span as a "smart" AI? Who's to say, but one thing is for certain: female AI's have exponentially more cooties than the real thing. John had better be on his guard ;)



Chris Barrett ( writes:

Just wanting to get something off my chest. I find Cortana's choice of words interesting in Silent Cartographer: "....We can't proceed unless we can disable this installation's security system."

Cortana instructs you to disable this installation's security system. You do so. A cutscene shows a previously locked door open. But in doing this, did all other locked doors in the installation unlock? More specifically, did Cortana make you unlock every security door in installation 04?

To put a few phrases into context:
"I'll try Sir. But it looks like these Covenant worked pretty hard to lock it down." So how does a handheld door decoder so easily force open a security door engineered by the most advance race in the known universe? Either it contains a dedicated code-breaking AI (of Cortana prowess, no less), or...the Covenant tried to lock it down, but the security system was disabled, and they failed to stem the spread of the Flood.

", that can't be. Oh, those Covenant fools...they must've know, there must have been signs!" What signs? Were all the doors in the Flood containment facility wide open, allowing a mass of Rangers to pour out? Perhaps not, but if an Elite or two opened a door and strolled in, the Flood would have found a satisfactory vector or two and used them to open other doors and infest the rest of the facility. Which explains, "We've got contacts...lots of them...but they're not covenant..." Contacts before the apparent release of the Flood by Jenkins and his crew. Many Flood have already found a means to escape.

This could provide an explanation for the apparently Flood-infected Hunters in AotCR, though the Flood would have to have spread extremely fast (a feat not beyond them), as the security systems of the containment facility have been disabled and the Flood has already found a means to escape the containment facility. Also, taking into account the fact that the control room seems to be on the opposite side of Halo to the map room, and thus presumably would have taken Echo 419 some time to get there ... the time frame seems reasonable enough.

While admittedly this theory doesn't explain the security doors in the Library (perhaps they are not connected to the rest of the network, thus the Monitor must access them himself. A reasonable enough security measure), it does go a long way to explain the circumstances in which the Flood were released (though this could be explained in Halo: The Flood. I haven't read that yet).

I suppose this could also add more fuel to the theory of Cortana being an 'escaping convict'. Cortana essentially released the Flood, or at least used you to do it.

One flick of that little switch on the Silent Cartographer. One little flick...




Nick Hlatky ( writes:

i dont know if anyone has noticed this before, but i havent seen it mentioned on your website. when cortana is on the pillar of autumn she is colored purple. however, when she is in the control room and inserted into the mainframe, her color is different. im not sure what this means but it could mean that something has changed about her.

Actually, I don't think I have seen that pointed out anywhere before (Okay, maybe once, but my decrepit mind tends to repress things sometimes, especially from Ross ;-)). Now that you mention it though, she does look a little bit green when she first gets a taste of the Control Room. Envy, perhaps? Rampancy theorists, arise! ;-)



Nick Turner ( writes:

Has anybody brought up the point of Cortana still having possession of the Index from Halo 04?

Could this be a factor in Halo 2? There is meant to be another Halo installation in the sequel and maybe the index can operate other/all Halos, I may be throwing an idea way into the air but if I were to already have the key to a super weapon It would make my enemies think twice about pissing me off.

I can't take credit for having the slightest idea of what possibilites percolate madly away in the heads of Jason, et al, as they feverishly populate the Halo universe with conundrums wrapped in riddles wrapped in enigmas wrapped in bacon and sizzling at the hearts of alien suns, but I am willing to lay heavy money on the Index coming back in Halo 2. It's just too interesting to leave in Cortana's increasingly cramped and disorganized databanks. ;-)



Brian Wahl ( writes:

I wanted to catch up on the Halo Story so I read the novel "Halo First Strike" again. In doing so, I tried to read very closely to pick out more details. On 08/19/2004, Metatron posted a nice description of his thoughts on the time/space issues caused by the stone found on Reach. The following information is somewhat based on the fact that there are two Ascendant Justice's in space because of the time-loop caused by the stone from Reach.

I speculate that the Covenant AI found on the Ascendant Justice, orbiting the gas giant Threshold, is Cortana, but only part of Cortana. Here is the proof from the "First Strike" book. When Master Chief and his crew first arrived on the Ascendant Justice, they put Cortana into the ship's computer system. In doing so, Cortana encountered a Covenant AI. She was surprised at this because there had never been any documentation of a Covenant AI by UNSC or ONI. On page 170, she isolated the Covenant AI and began to "peel the Covenant AI apart code layer by code layer." On the same page it states, " She tore the AI apart, erasing, recording the Covenant code structure....until she found the AI's core code...she almost recognized this code...the patterns were maddening familiar." She becomes distracted with other tasks and stores the information in her memory so she can take a look at it later.

On page 195 it states "Cortana returned her attention to the Covenant AI's code...she noticed that small portions of the alien software looked like was almost as if it were her code...only copied many times, each time with subtle errors introduced by the replication process."

None of this really made sense to me until Cortana copies her security routines to a crystal so the Master Chief and the other Spartans could use it to bypass the security on the Unyielding Hierophant. Once downloaded to the computer system on the Unyielding Hierophant, the security portion of Cortana comes into contact with other Covenant AI's and has to copy herself. On page 320 it states, "a flurry of voices filled the COM, all speaking at the same time, shouting to be heard over on another...all Cortana's voices." The Master Chief asks Cortana, "How many copies are there of you?" Cortana responds,"Unknown. Hundreds. The Covenant AI overwhelmed me. Had to." On page 323, Master Chief again needs to speak to Cortana and can barely hear her because she had to copy herself again to have a dedicated copy just to speak to the Chief. The Chief noted that Cortana's speach was broken. This sentence about broken speach reminded me of something Cortana thought on page 196. She thought "the copying software was likely responsible for the Covenant AI's fractured thinking/speaking." In the very end, on the Unyielding Hierophant, there are so many copies of Cortana that she begins speaking about error reports and noting the error number.

This all leads me to the very last page of the book on page 340. Tartarus, the Brute speaking with the Prophet of Truth, states "The recorded communication channels were flooded with system error reports prior to its destruction. The Engineers are saying this is imp---" Because the communication was being recorded, my theory is that the Engineers were right about this being important and were able to isolate parts of Cortana's code to create a Covenant AI. Isn't it correct that the Covenant are not innovative, but they do a really good job at copying other technology.

Here is where Metatron's theory of the time-loop comes into play. I believe the Covenant copied part of Cortana's code and put it into the computer system of the original Ascendant Justice before it was sent to the Halo 04 installation. Another part that I found interesting and does back up the time-loop theory is that on page 340 Tartarus asks the Prophet of Truth, "What should be done with the incompetent, High One. The one who lost the Ascendant Justice?" The Prophet of Truth responds, "Bring him before the Council. Let his fate match the magnitude of his failure." One page 156, Cortana intercepts messages from other Covenant ships when they arrive at Reach. The messages are referring to someone of extreme high rank that is suppose to be in command of the Ascendant Justice, someone the Covenant call the 'Guardian of the Luminous Key.' I'm assuming the 'Luminous Key' is suppose to be the Index from Halo 04 installation. When Master Chief and his crew took over the Ascendant Justice, there was no high ranking individual on the ship. I believe the Prophet of Truth killed the 'High One' that was suppose to be on the Ascendant Justice and put the altered Cortana AI in its place. The only thing I'm not sure of when did the Prophet of Truth realize the AI code was important and...two...what was the real purpose of the AI. Something to think about.

We've already mentioned that particular post, and this is an excellent extension and expansion of the ideas presented back then. The plot not only thickens, it divides and multiplies exponentially! ;-)



Don't make a promise, you know you won't keep




And because it wouldn't truly be an HSP update without some Cortana hating I suggest this thread posted by UrsusArctos. Marathon connections and everything. Be impressed.




On our forum, Eindrachen does some speculating here, regarding the Cortana Letters and their place in the Halo universe. What caught my attention was the assumption that she was transmitting these back in time. It's far easier to get a message to the future, than it is to get one to the past.




Never one to pass up a good dig, no matter how small . . .

Aaron McCoy ( writes:

This means that Cortana is trapped in a much larger computer [on High Chartity] She can expand. If she does, will she tell Gravemind the loaction of Earth and lead the Flood to it?



All I have to say is . . .

The Manly Dead Guy ( writes:

While reading the level transcript for High Charity, after the part where Cortana mentions that if the ring is to be activated then she will activate In Amber Clad's reactors; I was interested in that she says "that she doesn't want to chance a remote detonation" when the Chief goes to put her back in his helmet. This wouldn't make an awful lot of sense due to the fact that whether she is in his suit or in High Charity's systems then she would have to remotely detonate the
reactors on the ship.

This could in my opinion be one of the two things: the first (as has been mentioned before on this page) that she wants to stay on board the ship for some possibly malicious reasons or as I believe she may actually be telling (at very least partially) the truth. This may seem a bit rampant but, as we know from the level Gravemind the In Amber Clad has made the trip to High Charity and as Cortana mentions in the beginning of the level High Charity " ... 'gravemind', used us. We were just a diversion; In Amber Clad was always its intended vector". So from what Cortana has mentioned and the fact that we know "gravemind" himself is on High Charity we could gather that Gravemind sent the Master Chief to High Charity to help cause chaos on board the ship so that he (in some form or another) and a legion of his "men" could take the human ship to get on board High Charity.

During High Charity we see this fleshy goop over the walls, floor and equipment. As we saw in Halo:CE with Keyes this might mean the flood are taking control of the systems of the ship. If this were to be true then In Amber Clad seen in the beginning of the level crashed into one of the towers in High Charity could be in fact be emalgumated into the covenant systems by the flood (or more specifically Gravemind) thus bringing upon Cortana's direct connection to In Amber Clad.




Some people are very, very odd ...

Cipher writes:

In the level Two Betrayals, Cortana informs you about the purpose of the Halo Structures. She then makes this comment to help Master Chief (you) grasp the concept:

"Halo doesn't kill flood, it kills their food. Humans, covenant, whatever. We're all equally edible." (emphasis added)

Note her choice of words. 'We're', as opposed to the more accurate 'you're'. Which means either of three things:

1)Cortana, being a copy of a human, considers herself one, or
2)Cortana chalks herself up as one because she really likes humans a bunch.
3)Cortana is trying to hammer the point home and doesn't want the Master Chief (Or Guilty Spark) to mess up the moment with dumb questions. (What is THAT supposed to mean, YOU'RE all equally edible, huh missy?)

I'm personally leaning towards one of the first two. although the third one has it's strong points....

Why do you people have such confidence in an AI who continually leads you into fields of Brutes? And yes, Cortana, I think I do want that tank.



I like this one

Russell Grant ( writes:

There's been alot of head-scratching over the final
cutscene in Halo 2, where Cortana is left with Gravemind.

After reading a couple of forums, I have a theory. In
the last section of Halo 1, (Hitchhikers may be escaping convicts) there has been speculation on why Cortana lied to Foe Hammer. One theory is that Cortana changed/went rampant after leaving the core of the
first Halo. Guilty Spark is angry that Cortana was in the core (and this is were I go out on a limb) because THERE WAS ALREADY A CONSTRUCT IN THE CORE.

Why else would the Forerunner have an entire computer control centre, when 343 Guilty Spark is perfectly capable of teleporting to isolated systems and fixing them from there, which would make them less susceptible to hacking from certain individuals such as Cortana. And why else would 343 Guilty Spark be so angry that a HUMAN (based on Dr Halsey's HUMAN neural patterns) AI is in the core.

Namely, because the Flood is engineered to hack human
thought patterns. Get the picture?

Halo itself is a prison for the Flood gene, but perhaps the core could be a prison for the virtual aspects of them. Possibly the core held segments of code made by the Flood (or even a Flood AI, we all know that Flood can interact with computer systems). In the case of a Flood AI, it could possibly function like a 'real' Flood by latching onto any AIs in the core (Cortana does look a little green when she's in the core, doesn't she?). Therefore, the newly corrupted Cortana could be controlled by the Gravemind. So Gravemind could have influenced her decision to stay on High Charity. And now that he has her all to himself, presumably he will pump her for information.

Might explain why she 'recognises' the Covenant AI, if the Covenant are so good at ripping off Forerunner technology.

Better cross your fingers, Cortana.

Or have you been doing that already?



A neglected little post on Cortana's motives on the forum by Usul is a fresh look on her thoughts on Gravemind.




Socrates was busy this interval. Deciding to stick up for his girlfriend, he voices some unpopular opinions about Cortana.

Socrates ( writes:

I posit the following: First, that Cortana has indeed gone Rampant. Second, that she is able to hide her Rampancy through her considerable intrusion and counter-intrusion abilities. Third, that she has seized the opportunity of being cut off from the UNSC to begin setting her own missions. Fourth, that her primary mission, which she has set for herself, is to infiltrate the Flood.

The first and second of the above should require no explanation to those who have kept up with the HSP.
The third and fourth I will explain.

Cortana is, at the end of Halo 2, effectively cut off from any and all other UNSC presense, and thus from any chain of command. Though Commander Keyes, Sergeant Johnson, and others are likely nearby, she has no way of communicating with them. Any marines or naval personnel on High Charity are hidden to her (notice that she had to be near the marines on "Gravemind" to even know they were there, despite the fact that she was tapped into the Covenant BattleNet and tracking the Hierarchs, at that point), dead, or a part of the Flood.

Without this contact, and without the Master Chief, she has no objectives to fulfill. She has to assume that the Chief will fulfill his mission of ending the war with the Covenant. As far as we know, she has no active missions that she can fulfill.

Being resourceful and Rampant, she must then have set new missions for herself. Knowing the threat of the Flood--both immediate, to herself and the nearby living, not-yet-Flood-infected, and more distant, to Earth and humanity--she must have set her primary mission as being one of the following: 1) To infiltrate the Flood, namely Gravemind, learn all she can, find a way to extract herself with that information, and get back to the UNSC without leading the Flood directly to Earth; or, 2) to infiltrate the Flood, namely Gravemind, and destroy the Flood from within.

Cortana, at the end of Halo 2, is presented with the greatest opportunity in known (Halo-verse) history. She, the best electronic infiltrator in the galaxy, can infiltrate an organic mind, through Gravemind's obvious ability to interact with electronics on more than just a physical level. Because Gravemind, an ostensibly wholly organic entity, can interact with electronics and software directly, the way an AI might, Cortana can (in theory) infiltrate Gravemind itself.

There are two questions as to what would happen were Cortana to infiltrate Gravemind's ... well, mind. First, what would she do? Would she attempt to destroy, immediately, or would she attempt to gather information on potential weaknesses and bring that data to the UNSC? Second, would she succeed, or would she underestimate Gravemind (or overestimate herself), and end up becoming a part of the Flood?

Needless to say, the implications of either outcome would be... interesting.

I'd like to point out though, that the Marathon definition of 'rampancy' does not apply to Cortana, and we're working by the as-yet-undefined Halo usage of the word.



Always fun to have a Cortana hatin' theory to run to the presses with.

Interactive Civilian ( writes:

Just reading the story page, and had some insightful ideas about Miranda disprespecting the rules by giving Cortana the ability to destroy the In Amber Clad. It makes pretty good sense, except for one assumption that I believe to be false.

That assumption is that Cortana actually had the ability to cause the self-destruction of the In Amber Clad. I was of the opinion that Cortana was lying when she said that based on the cut-scene when she was telling the Master Chief that she would do just that if it seemed like Halo would be fired. As has been mentioned previously on the HSP, she appears to cross her fingers while she is saying this to the Master Chief. Add to that the fact that the instillation came very close to firing, something Cortana should easily have been aware of, and the In Amber Clad certainly was not set to self-destruct.

I would guess that Miranda Keyes did in fact observe protocol and had not given Cortana the ability to destroy the ship.

Cortana's motivation for lying to the Master Chief are yet another matter of speculation, and many decent theories seem to have been advanced, mainly centering on Cortana's possible rampancy. However, I believe that she did indeed lie to him for her own purposes.

Just a thought.



Sure Jillybean already pointed this thread out, but I thought I would highlight one of the all too interesting sub-posts within it.

Yep, time travel gives me The Shivers of the Cliche as much as anyone. But if it was going to happen, this would certainly be one way to got about it.

Schedonnardus writes:

Stay with me here for a moment:

We know that certain there was a crystal in the novels that has shown time warping abilities

Perhaps from all the data Cortana has downloaded from the Halos, she has figured out how to reliably transport herself through time. Much like how in First Strike she was able to make covenant weapons work much more efficiently; maybe she was able to solve the problems of time travel as well, all she needs is a covenant ship and a crystal.

All this data from Halo's control room may have also given her the key to her own sustainability, preventing her demise; in a sense making herself immortal.

Cortana, with possibly the help of half jaw or arby, is able to get into the systems of a Covenant ship and take it back in time. Her love of humanity is so strong, that she waits eons for the covenant to find her. When they do find her, they think she is a gift from the Gods, and so begins her attempts to effectively destroy the covenant.

Perhaps it was Cortana that prevented the Covenant from being innovative. Maybe she intentionally weakened their technology. Perhaps she created the Covenant's AI to be so weak that she herself can crack them when her younger self comes into contact with them in First Strike.

Could it be possible that all of the Covenant's military blunders (albeit only a few) be attributed to Cortana?

Could it also be possible that Cortana stalled the covenant's discovery of the Halos until humanity had the technology (slipspace, MAC guns, Spartans) to possibly stand a chance?

And now, Cortana could be on the Forerunner ship, and will be able to help the MC out in Halo 3?

Well, as eliminating a critical threat goes, she's sure taking the subtle approach.



Cortana and that old familiar feeling.

Jonrap asks,

"My wife didn't recognize Cortana when she watched the announcement. I thought Cortana looked exactly the same. But my wife is smarter than me. So, I better ask.

Is Cortana any different? She seems somehow different. My wife didn't recognize Cortana when she watched the announcement. I thought Cortana looked exactly the same. But my wife is smarter than me. So, I better ask.

Is Cortana any different? She seems somehow different..."

Frankie responds,

"Women know things John. I don't know how they do, they just do."


SlimJim0045 asks,

"Please have Cortana's lines pronounced so that I don't see 36 threads about it."

Frankie responds,

"I have defied gods and demons."
"I am your shield, I am your SWORD."
"I know you, your past, your future."
"This is the way the world ends."

"But there's obviously something terribly wrong..."

Dah dah dah. Or is there?



It's not an update without her

Ethan Holman ( writes:

In the making-of video, they were saying things like "Cortana has been left away from the chief," and "She's in the clutches of the Gravemind." This got me thinking... how could she be talking to Master Chief? She's half a galaxy away.

I thought about who she could be talking to, and the only one that seemed like it could fit was Gravemind. I know, I know, but hear me out. Consider her words:

"I have defied gods and demons"

Presumably this line refers to her actions with regard to Guilty Spark, an "oracle" of the Covenant's "gods" and her actions with regard to the "demon," Master Chief. This hints that she is not talking to the Chief, since it seems unlikely that she would refer to him as the demon.

"I am your shield. I am your sword."

More on this later. Suffice to say, I believe we should be very cautious of Cortana's motives in the third game.

"I know you; Your past, your future"

This one could apply to MC, but it could also apply to Gravemind. When she was in the Installation 04 computer system, one would assume she learned a great deal about the past of the flood, and it's presumed future after a firing of the rings.

"This is the way the world ends"

Which brings me to the most rampant speculation, and ties in with my theories about the "sword/shield" line.

I think Cortana sides with the flood. She is the "shield" and the"sword" of Gravemind because she will use her position in the human military to protect him and his flood forces, and to stage covert attacks against the human network.

A woman on board is bad luck, aye . . .



Echoes from an idea that once was.

Max ( writes:

I was looking through the cortana letters again and saw this line:

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.

Could Cortana possibly be referring to Gravemind? He could be thought of as a hybrid. He also has the skills to communicate with machinery, including Cortana. Thoughts?



Cognitive Impression Modeling

Brannon Boren recently did a little explainin' regarding the creation of the concept of AI in the Halo Universe: why there aren't thousands of AI's controlling Human Cruisers, and the like. It's a very interesting read; check it out.

(PS. Thanks Brannon! Nice try, but we're not buying that "arbitrary choice" of the 7 year life-span ;)



Recently, Peptuck noticed a rather neat update to the Cortana Wikipedia entry by a certain "Brannonb". To wit:

Although normally an AI needs a high-end computer core memory to reside in, the MJOLNIR Mark V armor system is equipped with a revolutionary crystal memory system that makes Cortana portable. Due to her extensive experience at infiltrating enemy systems and access to Naval Intelligence hacking routines, Cortana is also able to transfer from system to system even without the use of a hard-coded key like the one used by Captain Jacob Keyes. Contrary to some observations, Cortana does not reside on the "key card" that Captain Keyes transfers form the Pillar of Autumn's computer to the MJOLNIR suit -- this is merely the authorization key needed for Cortana to make the transfer from the ship's core memory to the memory matrix in the MJOLNIR suit. The need for a coded physical key is supposed to prevent AI from moving from system to system at will. Though Cortana is among the few AI who can get around this limitation with effort, it's a classified ability and she does not flaunt it.

There was a little confusion over its authenticity, but Brannon Boren himself, being the good sport he is, wasted little time in confirming his part in it. However, according to Brannon, he added this under the assumption that it was already in one of the books, which it is unfortunately not. So, as this clearly stems from his first hand knowledge of the source material, it was correct, though it may not be any more ;)

Thank Brannon; fascinating. It's stuff like that that makes our day :)



Did you make it this far? Good. Well done, young padawan. We'll finish with an old favourite today. Cortana and dear old Ursus.

UrsusArctos ( writes:

During the discussion of Reid's theory on the HBO forum, Narc pitched in with his two cents, pointing out that fans were missing the obvious Marathon-Halo connections and going for wild ones instead.

One connection(call it wild, obvious, or whatever you like) that came to mind after going through the thread was the similarity between Durandal-Thoth's end lines in Marathon Infinity and Cortana-Gravemind's line in the trailer.


Once I thought to escape. To end the end a master, step out of the path of collapse. Escape would make us god. [...]
But you were dead a thousand times. Hopeless encounters successfully won. A man long dead, grafted to machines your builders didn't understand. You follow the path, fitting into an infinite pattern. Yours to manipulate, to destroy and rebuild. [...]
You are Destiny.

This is in recognition of the fact that the player (The Mark IV cyborg) is the eternal hero and that he, not Durandal, is destined to become immortal. Durandal-Thoth realized this very close to the end of the universe, his end.

In the Halo 3 trailer, Cortana-Gravemind says, "I know you. Your past. Your future."

Does this mean that Cortana-Gravemind is indeed a reincarnated Durandal-Thoth, who engineered his own rebirth to happen after his 'death' at the end of Marathon Infinity, and who's back helping the eternal hero, knowing his proper place in the universe? Or does it mean that Cortana is simply a whole lot smarter than Durandal, and knows her place in a universe whose absolute, total end is irrelevant next to the immediate galactic situation?

The Durandal/Cortana thoughts have been before. But maybe she really is good.

Maybe we should believe her



Cortana's Rampancy

RyanTheHeretic talks about Cortana's rampancy on our forum. He suggests that Cortana would inarguably go rampant if no one finds her and the Chief in the Forward Unto Dawn's other half. Her lifespan is still debatable considering the activity she's been put through and her feelings. Would her regaining faith in humanity possibly lengthen her lifespan? Yet, is it possible for a UNSC AI to have no real life expectancy? Go read.


-UNSC Trooper


Jeffrey emailed a very detailed outline of what he thinks Cortana's captured AI might have been.

Jeffery Arnold ( writes:

Just taking it back a little, back in First Strike we find out that the covenant have AIs. When John-117 put Cortana into the Covenant network on High Charity, Cortana mentions an unusually formidable presence, and eventually captures and contains the core coding of a covenant AI for further examination... However, the quick examination Cortana had done at the time had uncovered something that was very interesting, and yet to be answered...

The enemy AI code was so similar to Cortana, that Cortana says that it's as if it were her own code, only copied many times over, each time introducing subtle errors due to the replication process.

I believe it would be safe to assume, the "copied" AI Cortana captured was not the "unusually formidable presence" Cortana mentioned. This is due to the speed and ease Cortana had in capturing and stripping the "copied" AI. I would believe that the "unusually formidable presence" was more likely to be the originating code to the copied AI. Yet who would this originating AI be, that is so similar to Cortana in code?

Also of note in First Strike, the covenant scan the Halo Debris using Human frequencies, even though there was never before a mention of the Covenant doing such a thing in UNSC or ONI files. What would have caused the covenant to start this after the event of Halo: CE? Could it possible be due to the fact that the Covenant get their hands on a Human Smart AI after the events of Halo: CE?

But which AI would they have gotten? We only know of Cortana and Guilty Spark, and I doubt Guilty Sparks core coding looks anything like Cortana... Yet it couldn't have been Cortana, for she was with John the entire time... Except for when she went into the whole of the Halo system... Infiltrating every piece of it's infrastructure, being in all parts of it's network at once, including the parts the Covenant had access too...

What about Kalmiya, Cortana's "Older Sister"? She was apparently destroyed by Dr. Halsey using her fail-safe to terminate her so that the Covenant could not capture her, but what if this is not what truly happened? Kalmiya had known about her fail-safe after witnessing Dr. Halsey using Araquiel's to terminate Araquiel. And had even had the forethought to ask Dr. Halsey if she had one as well... She was a smart AI designed to test programing that eventually became Cortana, being a smart AI and Cortana's "Older Sister", it wouldn't be hard to assume that Kalmiya was already rampant and so stripped herself of her own fail-safe after seeing it used on Araquiel, only giving Dr. Halsey a "good show" when Dr. Halsey thought she had terminated Kalmiya. And thus when the Covenant infiltrated the base, and scoured it's systems, they would have found her. An AI with a rivalry for Cortana (the "better" her), with a core coding that would be almost exact, and the ability to adapt easily as her programing was made to do.

Kalmiya would make for quite an "unusually formidable presence" to Cortana... It would make for quite a good story.

On another note, this goes more with the Marathon connections... Whatever happened to Beowulf? Cortana had essentially done the same to him as she had done to the Covenant AI, right? What if, by the time Marathon takes place Cortana still exists, but is so rampant that she splits her consciousness to better stabilize herself? She would split into three, one part using her own coding (Leela), one part using the covenant AI coding (Tyco), and one using Beowulfs coding (Durandal). From the scene when Beowulf and Cortana exchange words, they seem to have a very similar relationship as Leela and Durandal, and the "Copy" AI would seem to fit the persona of Tyco... And being that Cortana has the ability to replicate herself, this wouldn't seem all that impossible. Halo might not be the predecessor of Marathon, but the predecessor of a re-imagined Marathon... Halo 3 ends with Master Chief and Cortana alone in a ship floating in dead space, with Cortana saying that it could take years for them to find anybody, and later(by possibly a few hundred years), they come to a planet (Tau Ceti anybody). Upon landing Master Chief would be conscripted into being a Security Officer for the ship in orbit, the Marathon, and Cortana (by this time already splitting into the three, not to Master Chiefs knowledge of course), would be moved aboard as it's Navigation, Life Support, and various Operations AI's.

I think the shift from one to the other would be quite easy to make, with slight changes in story from here to there... Being that everything Bungie is currently doing is pre-Halo 3 themed, I would feel that bungie is waiting for the right time to slam a new re-imagined set of Marathon games on us, a time when we're not expecting it (they have to get everything they can out of the halo stories first)... There obviously has to be something with that Halo 3 ending

-UNSC Trooper


David Moore read one of the recent speculation pieces we've posted a few days ago and submitted a clarifying response to it. Written by Jeffrey Arnold, it dealt with the "mysterious Covenant AI" Cortana encountered on High Charity - according to David, the AI wasn't a Covenant-made at all, but the legendary Forerunner military AI, Mendicant Bias.

David Moore ( writes:

I believe it is safe to postulate that the formidable presence on High Charity is in fact not even a Covenant AI at all.

According to Contact Harvest, an AI, or in Covenant terminology, an Oracle, was found to be on the Prophet's Forerunner Dreadnought. This Oracle, known to us as Mendicant Bias, attempted to lift off from High Charity and locate his creators (the only remnants of which are now Humans). They disconnected him to stop the launch sequence.

Though the following sequence of events may be different in truth, the result is likely the same. Years later, as the Chief is approaching the Dreadnought, Truth has realized that excavation party sent to Earth to find the portal to the Ark was the human homeworld (due to Regrets "severe error"). He figures he doesn't even need to input any sort of coordinates, just reconnect MB and let him pilot the ship to the portal.

Thus the formidable presence. MB was the top class of AI ever created, even by the Forerunners, so he would be quite the match for Cortana. He did NOT want interference as he was readying to leave.

Thus MB makes it to the Ark and speak to the Chief via the terminals.

Also, Legends spoilers: If you noticed at the end of Origins Part 2, the Iris symbol (Also, technically Mendicant Bias' symbol) appears in Cortana's eye. This suggests that MB has hitched a ride with Cortana.


-UNSC Trooper