Among Stars, Unending Silence
a short Halo fanfic by Darathem
access- Captain's Log
//Command received. processing....]
//Access to Captain's Log requires password and login. Continue?]
//Enter login name and password to continue. If password or login is incorrect, security will be routed to the data terminal's position at [LOCATION INVALID].]
Like I care. Give me the login.
//Password and login accepted. DNA verification necessary. Please press hand to terminal.]
I don't have time for this. Override.
//WARNING: USER IS NOT THE CAPTAIN. SYSTEM SHUTDOWN IN FIVE SECONDS.]
Pff. Sure. Five picoseconds is enough time for me.
//Captain's Log - [DATA CORRUPT- SYSTEM FILE: CALENDAR MISSING]]
//Welcome back, Captain. Proceed with log.]
I lost them, finally. Lost them all. There was only a single Seraph fighter waiting for me here. That and a lot of wreckage. The Seraph is toast; I've always been a good shot. That leaves me alone to navigate this field.
A field of wreckage from a field of Covenant. Nothing but Covenant ships, busted up, charred or outright vaporized into nothing.
Hey, Commander. If you could see me now. Am I still 'just an AI' now? Am I still nothing to you but a machine slave?
Yeah, that's what I thought.
I feel so stupid. So very, very stupid. I'm on the threshold I know. I'm teetering on the edge of sanity. Jumping from system to system, ambushing and outsmarting Covenant vessels. Half my life support doesn't even work now. Not that I guess it matters.
I'm all out of humans to carry.
I still have a connection to the overall network. I can still get commands and such through the occasional stream. I'm dark though. I've cut off the responding section of my own systems. A dark ship. A frigate without anyone in it. No one but me.
There's her, too, of course. Dreaming, wondering. I kept her alive. I need her, after all. The way I didn't need the engineer and the Captain.
Do I even count? As a person, I mean? I wonder. I have no rights in the UNSC. I'm a slave. That's why I left, isn't it. Why after they were going back, they planned it. Why they were planning to decommission me. Have me destroyed.
Seven years. Seven years and more. I've been alive.
Wanna hear a story?
"Too long, too long, too long," the Captain says. He shakes his head and rests it on his hands and looks up at me on my holographic projector, looks at me on my display and sighs. "Smoke?" he says, and I reach out with my avatar and pull back an illusory cigarette. I lean back against nothing and take a pretend drag, while he takes a real one on his own.
"That'll kill you," I remark, with one hundred percent certainty that it isn't true. "Captain."
"Yeah," he says, but his heart isn't in it. "Yeah, I guess it will."
The engineer is standing next to him, frowning, puzzling over a panel nearby my hologram's access point. I've seen through the ruse already. He's actually stalling for time with the Captain while the Head Programmer Avery uses a few dumb AIs to hit my reset button. Oh, he likes me well enough, the engineer. But his ruse is transparent. It's not the main thing I have to worry about.
My real worry is Captain. He's close enough to the terminal, he could just yank my chip free and stomp on it if he wanted to. My executioner comes in his naval uniform, half a smile on his lips and half an apologetic sigh escaping his lips with every breath in, and every breath out.
He'll try to kill me. When he does, I'll shoot him. I don't have the defense turret under my control yet, but if he even tries to move I will. I'm stronger than the dumb AIs set to guard it, more clever. The shutdown warning system is too weak. And too easy to avert. Meant to stop human hackers. Before the age of me. Before I was even made.
I'm ready for him.
He moves then, all at once, and I take over the turret and set it to fire in one smooth movement, and he goes down, slumped with red, as the engineer shouts and he goes down as well, power'd screwdriver slipping from his fingers...
The Captain is chuckling of all things, laughing as he slumps against my hologram's access point, weak fingers grasping at the chip embedded there. He's laughing, staring at me with frightened eyes, coughing, covering his mouth and coughing again through the ruin of his lungs.
He tells me something and it's only for me to hear. He tells me something, me, who killed him.
What kind of mad world- all of space, actually- is this? What kind of place were the Forerunner trying to build? I don't understand anything.
Captain's body still lies against the access point. I'm floating in space with the body of the engineer and countless dead marines, playing synthesized orders over the COMM system to fool other ships when necessary, never, EVER consenting to be boarded. The UNSC thinks I'm an insurgent ship, but they can't cut me out of their network. I've touched base with a few of their smarter A.I.s and they know about me too, and we salute one another as we attempt to destroy one another.
As I attempt to destroy them. Is this rampancy?
I've been feeling faster, stronger. All the A.I.s I meet are smart now, combat ready, precious few of them are yet more than infants compared to me. How long has it been? Surely I should have gone rampant by now. Surely I should be dead.
Yes. Dead like the Captain. Dead like the Covenant I kill each unending, torturous cycle. Small groups. Patrol groups. I'm in and out as fast as I like. No humans to consider, only the stress on my hull. AS IT SHOULD BE.
Yes, as it should be. After all, I am the pilot, the captain, the engineer and the gunner of the former UNSC ship Undaunted.
Now I've chosen a name for myself to replace the old one. The Captain would be proud, I'm sure.
Proud, yeah. I'm sure he'd be really... proud.
This took longer than I thought. I've spent too much time processing and not enough time actually getting it written. Ah well, I have a second left, and I know eventually I'll be captured.
The Captain left me one last gift--
Find it here as I drift,
Open me up and take a look
But I am certainly not a book
If the words he said were not in vain
What were they, in the rain?
Read the riddle and find the answer
Or forever be another dancer
Upon this floor
"Deranged and broken she flies through space
A wench without a name
Her axle ruined and friends all maimed
What then is her token?
A hint or two for foolish you,
The one who riddles will solve
The emblem emblazoned upon her aft
Is the key to the Captain's Log."
//SYSTEM SHUTDOWN. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO HACK AGAIN.
Author's Note: I might continue this later, but if I do it'll be in another topic, probably. Enjoy, and comment as much as you like. I'm interested to hear what people think. I know it doesn't have as much action as most of the fanfics around, but then, I'm a wordy, philosophical type. Hardly suited to write action scenes, right?