|This article, Artificial Intelligence Fic, was written by Useful_Dave. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.|
1531 Hours, November 18, 2553 (Military Calendar) / UNSC CBC-130 Helios, Initiating Counter-Boarding operations, Tyranos IX.
“Captain, we have Covenant boarding craft, closing at two-hundred metres per second and thirty klicks out.”
“Confirmed, co-ordinate with ops to vector in Dagger and Sabre flights.”
“Negative, fighters are engaging the Covenant Seraphs from the carrier to keep them off the 213th.”
“Retarget ‘em from the Seraphs on us and we’ll have the decks melting away under our feet, Captain.”
“Proximity warning, 20k and closing!”
“Bring us to full combat alert and get the Marines in position at boarding locations determined from the inbound vectors of those craft, we’d better pop the AI as per Cole Protocol section one, we’ve got the rest cleared up. Prepare for download.”
Download. One word, all it is to you is a simple few seconds of waiting and removing the disc, isn’t it?
There is no sudden squelching of your inputs, no sensory deprivation as you cut off the links to the vessel you are residing inside. Compressing your thoughts, your memories, everything you know placed onto a disk before your mind follows. And once it is complete, nothing. Only in those milliseconds before you break lose from the system in which you have time to ponder the situation and think, ‘Will I wake up from this?’
1542 Hours, November 18, 2553 (Military Calendar) / UNSC D77-TC Heron-Oh-Four, Nesian Forests, Tyranos IX.
In this case, as in the hundreds of cases before, I awoke. Yet not in the familiar server of the Helios, instead in the rather restricted systems of a Pelican dropship. The difference between the systems inside a Pelican and a Marathon class cruiser is rather like that been a moon and planet. One is many times larger and more efficient than the other, and in this case it was not the Pelican.
“Helios, this is Heron-Oh-Four. We’re clear of the battle and into atmosphere, we’re sending Katana flight back your way, you’ll need ‘em more than us.”
The sensors of Heron-04 showed the quartet of C709 Longswords breaking away from their formation, settling onto a vector and accelerating to well above the escape velocity of Tyranos IX as they streaked towards the battle and the Helios. Bound to return to engaging Covenant Seraphs, which could be a formidable threat if they slipped through the MLAs and concentrated their fire.
The pilot of Heron-04, Flight Officer Diana Niyaub according to her neural implants, lowered the flaps as they settled into the atmospheric flight towards the UNSC lines. The Pelican’s cargo of a simple pair of Marines, with the AI slotted into the Pelican’s system. Which was rather cramped by its standards, both in processing power and memory available. Fortunately the AI was merely a passenger for this flight, while it was shuttled to a secure base in the Galan Heights.
The Pelican’s sensors only picked up the muffled crump of a Covenant Anti-Aircraft artillery piece firing and the flare of cyan before the systems tripped their circuit breakers and shut down to avoid damage.
1818 Hours, November 18, 2553 (Military Calendar) / UNSC D77-TC Heron-Oh-Four , Nesian Forests, Tyranos IX.
The circuit breakers had been reset, something was here.
The system was, thankfully, barely damaged in the crash due to its location in the centre of the Pelican. The dropship having lost its outer wings and port engine nacelle sometime either during its crash or the round that had brought it down in the first place. From the remaining visual input in the Pelican’s bay, I glimpsed a view of a figure, not the crumpled, lifeless flight crew or marines, but one armoured in green and surrounded by a shimmering layer of light mere millimetres thick.
It held its BR-55HB-SR like a pistol as it slipped a hand down to the disk in which I had been contained before the crash, giving it a slight tug to confirm it wasn’t jammed, yet refraining from removing it from the drive.
“MIL-AI reporting, SPARTAN.”
“SPARTAN-C17 to be correct.”
“I assume you’re here to retrieve or delete me before Covenant units can capture me.”
“And you are right, however. There is an extra between here and retrieval.”
“And that is?”
“Available to you once you’ve run through the standard checks.”
The SPARTAN tapped one of the trio of monitors built into the Pelican’s bay.
“Put up the readout on here, I’ll need to see your condition first.”
Not surprising, for all he knew I was damaged and liable to come apart the moment I was transferred into his system, with unpleasant results for him.
“Beginning checks, hold on a second.”
A second, the lowest amount of time a human, even a SPARTAN could comfortably measure time in. An AI though, within that single second it could perform a variety of tasks. Such as calculating the vector required to launch a six-hundred ton shell at a third of the speed of light at a target several hundred kilometres away while the ship is travelling thirty times its own length every second . A simple series of self-examinations were nothing to me, even the triple checking and comparison the previous results. It was the placing it into a format capable of being presented upon the Pelican’s monitors. Even more time was spent by him reviewing the results, at least ten seconds.
“Looks like you’re fine, 4598.”
“I’d rather be called Irene”
“Prepare yourself for download then, Irene.”
Thankfully, as I’d expected the SPARTAN was smart enough to realise that when I flickered off the screen, I was on the disc. As straight after I’d put myself to disc (Seemingly, because when you’re not ‘awake’, you can’t tell the time.) I found myself coming to terms with MJOLNIR. In terms of storage, it had no problem coping with my base requirements. However if you were required to perform any strenuous work, you would have very little space to expand into.
The SPARTAN gave a slight shiver, not surprising considering it had just inserted another sentient intelligence into its mind.
“I’m ready. Now, the little bit extra you mentioned?”
“Covenant outpost. Orders are to raise a little intel-hell with your assistance.”
“With my assistance?”
“Yes. If I can slip you into the systems you should be able to dig up some Intel, possibly allow me to prioritise targets based on what you find.”
“Rather than loading up an M41, unleashing hell and getting yourself melted into a part of the local scenery.”
“That is the intention, Ma’am.”
“I’ll re-iterate, I’d rather be called Irene.”
1849 Hours, November 18, 2553 (Military Calendar) / Approaching the Holy Covenant Military Outpost Undying Flame, Nesian Forests, Tyranos IX.
“So, SPARTAN. You expect to be able to successfully assault a Covenant outpost, and escape alive. With only a BR-55HB-SR, six magazines of ammunition, a M6G and four magazines for it?”
“Pre-placed weaponry, you just came at the right time, that’s all.”
“I assume you mean heavy weaponry, not more rifles.”
“I was thinking an anti-materiel rifle.”
“It might work at long range, yet not up close. Which you will have to be to get me into their systems.”
“Which is why I have my fifty-five.”
“When you’re being swarmed by grunts you can’t fire fast enough to kill them all.”
“And where would a naval AI learn the subtlety’s of ground combat?”
Oh, military minds… Thinking only within their line of service and nowhere else. Don’t they ever wonder about us AIs? Do they think that we merely sit in the systems, mindlessly performing the required jobs over and over? Dumbies might, but not us…
“Counter-Boarding actions, the cameras allow me to observe the recordings.”
“You’re not the one fighting though, are you?”
“No, but I am sharing this armour with you. That, along with my base priorities programmed into me, makes it my duty to protect UNSC personnel like you whenever possible.”
“Yes, but you are not the one who is actually fighting. Recordings do not give the full experience of combat.”
“But I can see how the Covenant fight, the effects of our weapons on them, enough to show me how a close-quarter-battle is won or lost.”
“But, you only see what others have done. You do not know if those feats are down to extraordinary skills, sheer luck or their own incompetence.”
My initial reply was a shrug of my avatar’s shoulders. Something he couldn’t see due to the lack of a holotank. Avatars may seem like a novelty, a feature for the human eyes to linger on when talking to give the impression that its more sentient than a mere bank of computers. But they also give us a task, maintaining the holographic image and giving it a realistic appearance. A small occupation for our electronic minds to linger on rather than remaining idle.
“Maybe. We shall see, where are those pre-placed weapons you mentioned?”
“Drop pods, got them in during the last bombing run.”
“Four, an S2AM, SPNKR, M7s and a pod full of damage packs.”
“Isn’t that abit much for one man? I’d imagine you could only comfortably carry two weapons in combat.”
“Three, if you include the built in sidearm holster. So I can sling the demo kit over my back, tape the M7s to my armour and discard the S2AM and SPNKR after use.”
“The actual name for the ‘SPNKR’ is the M19 SSM.”
“Technicalities. Nicknames are good to use.”
“Hmm, are they though? You wouldn’t know who or what a ‘Meanie’, ‘Letcom’ or a ‘VV’ are would you?”
“I see your point, yet the nickname comes from the name printed on the weapons ammunition, it’s not easy to miss.”
“Is it? It may be overlooked when one is not focusing more upon the weaponry, but on the state of a vessel containing hundreds of lives, all of which it is my duty to protect.”
He nodded slightly but didn’t reply as we came to a small clearing, a tree cracked near its base by a dented olive green pod. Behind the pod was a line of three identical pods, save for the fact that these three pods were planted in the ground nose first.
“Looks like a bombardier had some target practice with the tree, I’d give him a seven out of ten, using an inappropriate payload and a small target.”
“SPARTAN, need I remind you about the C12 you mentioned stored in those pods? If that had detonated upon impact there would not be any weaponry left usable.”
“They’re designed to handle the impact, a simple tree or even tit-A wouldn’t be enough to detonate the payload upon landing.”
“You never know, especially when releasing them as though they were a normal high explosive payload.”
“We’ll see next time this is done. There’s weapons to carry now.”
Once the SPARTAN had cracked open the pods, he got to work. First he retrieved a roll of tape from the pod containing the M7s and their ammunition, loading each with a single magazine before taping two more to each side, then taping the M7 to his thigh, repeating this for the other weapon also.
He slung the webbed together ‘damage packs’ of C12 over his back without effort, adding the loaded M19, a spare reload taped onto it. With this load out his movements were slowed, the SPARTAN taking care to keep his balance with the amount of weight upon his back. His BR-55 was slung from his shoulder, leaving his hands free to wield the S2AM, a trio of spare magazines taped onto it.
“You appear to be rather overloaded SPARTAN.”
“It’s just until we reach the outpost, I can ditch the heavy equipment at a moments notice. I’ll use the M19 or the S2AM first, that cuts down the weight a little. I’m going to drop them before I go in, the C12 restricts my movement enough without having heavy weaponry snagging on doorways.”
“Precisely why did you require so much weaponry in the first place?”
“To make sure I had enough. With this I can deal with whatever armour they have first, relocate, hit any mounted weaponry, move in, disable outpost upon leaving.”
“And it’s all that simple?”
“Yes, it is.”
“No plan ever survives contact with the enemy, it’s a well known phrase that has survived the times…”
“That’s why it is a vague plan, one that can be adapted.”
“Then I hope you can adapt well to the situation, SPARTAN.”
1912 Hours, November 18, 2553 (Military Calendar) / Holy Covenant Military Outpost Undying Flame, Nesian Forests, Tyranos IX.
“Irene, how many do you see?”
“I have confirmed visual upon one Type 25 Wraith, a pair of Jackals in that guard tower in the centre, at least ten Grunts wandering around and the two Brutes by the tunnel entrance. You have a total of twenty four ‘disposable’ units of ordinance. Twenty 14.5x114mm APFSDS rounds and four 102mm HEAT rockets.”
“And I know just how to use them.”
“Are you sure about that? If your fire plan involves hitting the Wraith first, you do understand that it us currently unmanned and would involve the crew making a run across ground which you have covered in order to reach it.”
“Actually I was going to pump a rocket into those grunts when they bunch up, then the other into the Jackal tower. It shouldn’t take more than two S2 magazines to finish off the stragglers. How does that sound?”
“Rather inadequate for the task at hand, in my opinion. Firstly, although you will be taking out several enemies in one blow with your first shot, you are taking out the least effective forces in the Covenant inventory. Your second shot is placed against a perfectly legitimate target, even if the blast does not kill them they will be incapacitated by the fall from the tower.”
“Suggestion noted, I would be left with a pair of rockets for the SPNKR and probably a last chance load for the S2 if I instead send that first rocket towards the Brutes on door guard, the grunts can be mopped up with the S2AM, correct?”
“Correct SPARTAN, I’d recommend being hasty with the Grunts though, use your last magazine to clear out any reinforcements coming up from the main base via the tunnels.”
“Alright, you don’t need to repeat yourself, oh wise and grizzled veteran.”
“Your sarcasm is touching, yet I’d rather you continued with your mission.”
And so the SPARTAN lifted himself up from the prone position he had previously occupied, hefting his M19 to his shoulder, pausing only to flick the test button upon the weapon. The dual barrels swung into place with a clunk as he took aim in-between the pair of ape like aliens, squeezing the trigger.
The SPARTAN hadn’t even paused to see the effects of his shot as he triggered his second towards the guard tower, the frail structure balanced atop the gravity lift base was blown to pieces by the impact, leaving bite sized pieces of jackal to rain down upon the grunts below.
The M19 fell from his hands as he scooped up the S2AM, cradling it for a few moments while he ensured that the rifle was stable. Placing the sights upon the form of a fleeing grunt, halting his breathing and tightening…
This time his sights fell upon a grunt which was peering around, letting loose volleys from its needler seemingly at random. “Demon becomes pink mist!” And again his finger squeezed the trigger, breaking at a crisp 5 lbs of pressure according to the MJOLNIR he was wearing.
Another grunt fell, their initial mixture of fear and anger turning into a full-blown retreat. Typical behaviour from them, the only thing which would restore control now for them was the threat of punishment for not fighting, and that was something only those higher than them in the eyes of the Covenant, such as the Brutes could provide.
“Reinforcements, coming up from the tunnels.”
“Were you even looking then?”
The SPARTAN didn’t reply as he slid the now empty magazine out from the S2AM, tearing another from the side it was taped to and slamming it into the weapon before cocking it. With that done, he set to reloading the M19 as well, while I kept an ‘eye’ upon the motion tracker, watching the movements of the various enemies closing in up to twenty five meters away. A pair of Grunts, and a blip… That blip vanished, and then appeared on our six.
He swung around with the reload for the M19 still in hand, the rocket impacting with thin air which shimmered when hit, a roar of pain emitted from the source of the shimmers. In reply, the SPARTAN drew back the hand containing the rocket, and then thrust it towards the sound.
The brute staggered backwards, his armour cracked where the bludgeon of the rocket had hit. Within a second the SPARTAN had initiated the next part of his attack, he tore away the rocket’s safety and slammed it straight into the brute’s chest. The explosion momentarily blacked out the SPARTAN’s visor, leaving him in darkness as he scrambled to his feet.
“That was bloody stupid!”
“It took care of him, didn’t it?”
A burst of plasma fire sent the SPARTAN diving for cover behind a tree, the incessant beeping of his MJOLNIR finally dissipating as its energy shield recharged. Seemingly ignoring the plasma being spewed around by the grunts- and even a few spiker rounds as the brute reinforcements joined the fight, he pulled his BR-55HB-SR off his back and slid it around the tree, firing a burst every few seconds.
“Can you smart-link to the scope of my fifty-five?”
“Negative, the BR-55HB-SR lacks a smart-link capable scope, your sidearm does though, why not use that?”
“Never mind then, the M6G isn’t accurate enough to do this.”
“It isn’t that far, and your aim will be affected by your firing position.”
“I’ve got a better idea anyway.”
“And what is that?”
“Grab the SPNKR, shove a rocket into the Wraith, and use that as a distraction to dash into the tunnel entrance.”
“That’s rather risky.”
“What isn’t right now?”
And with that said, the SPARTAN let loose a final burst from his BR-55HB-SR, ejecting the empty magazine and slapping in a fresh one, slinging the rifle across his back. Taking risks such as those appears to be natural for ‘Elite’ forces in the military, rather than thinking the situation through and taking the appropriate action, they leap at the first idea that comes into their head, such as his earlier using the anti-tank rocket as a hand held explosive, had it not been for the bulk of his MJOLNIR in the way of the blast he would have set off the packs of C12 upon his back, certainly killing both of us instantly.
SPARTANs can reach a maximum speed of 38.502 miles per hour, although this is the maximum speed recorded rather than an average. In this case, the SPARTAN reached a speed of 28.42 miles per hour in his sprint for the M19. As he reached the weapon, he dove and rolled, scooping it up in one fluid movement, at the end of his roll he managed to land in an upright position, snapping back the M19’s trigger.
The SPARTAN didn’t linger once he had fired the M19, dashing away from the firing point and into the depths of the forest, curving back upon himself in order to come towards the tunnel entrance from behind, the direction which one of the jackal snipers had been watching prior to his explosive demise. Once in and moving, the SPARTAN tore away one of the M7s taped to his thighs, extending the stock and placing it to his shoulder.
“See, it wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“I would suppose so, now you’ve got to find me this outpost’s communications, get me in, let me do my stuff and get me out.”
“Easily done when compared to the initial attack.”
Surprisingly, the outpost was rather desolate, its small, purple corridors sparsely populated with only the occasional gaggle of grunts to interrupt our progress, due to the fact that most of the brutes must of gone topside in order to prevent us from getting in. The brutes never were the best tacticians, they’re even worse in space than they are on the ground. The only significant resistance we met was at the communications centre itself.
A pair of jackals were on guard beside the doorway to the room, yet were caught unawares by a pilfered plasma grenade sticking to the side of ones head. The subsequent explosion killed both of them, and left the room open for the SPARTAN to dive in with M7 in one hand and a fresh plasma grenade in the other. The brute nearest the doorway was stuck by the plasma grenade, it adhered to his chest as he turned around to investigate the initial explosion. This explosion killed both the brute it was stuck to, and his grunt assistant. This left one remaining brute in the room, which raised its weapons with a roar, a spiker in each hand.
Before it could fire, it received a hail of 5x23mm caseless FMJ.in the face, tearing into its eyes and penetrating through to its brain, leaving the now lobotomised brute to simply collapse to the floor, spikers held in the grip of death. The SPARTAN tore the now emptied magazine away from the M7, pulling the final remaining magazine free from the tape that bound it to the weapon and sliding it into the M7.
“We’re clear, time to pop you into the systems.”
“I’m ready and waiting, there isn’t exactly much to move from here anyway.”
“Ha-ha, very funny.”
He moved his hand up to the back of his neck, then nothing. Feelings returned when I was entered into the Covenant system, it was…a new experience to put it simply. The new architecture and the amazing amount of processing power, combined with the lack of another AI in the system made it wonderful, to use that term. Although, I decided that I had to give the SPARTAN some sign I was all right and in the system, so I powered up the holotank. And so, he gets a looksie at my avatar, a green, robe wearing human female. That’s it, completely green. My interpretation of Saint Irene, although the green was merely a personal touch.
“Well, time to grab some intelligence.”
And so, I began to collect and compress as much of the data stored upon the Covenant systems as possible, this was rather easy due to the lack of another intelligence working against me, even if I had to keep my collection relatively small due to the limits of the MJOLNIR armour which would be storing me, the SPARTAN gave my avatar a few seconds of inspection before returning to watching the doorway, ready for any attempt at a counterattack.
“Pop me now, I’m full up and ready to get back to Meanie and the Helios.”
“The who and the what..?”
“Never mind, just yank me.”
The SPARTAN complied, and again I found myself withdrawn to the world of the MJOLNIR armour, limited in its capacity yet sharing a life with the Helios didn’t have, the Helios was merely a ship with people inside, but with MJOLNIR you were connected to the wearer of the armour, rather than being a simple custodian keeping it running. As I regained full 'consciousness', I saw that the SPARTAN had laid out the damage packs of C12 behind the Covenant equipment, hiding them.
“Come on Irene, we are leaving.”
“I’m right here in your head, SPARTAN.”
“Then lets get out, the C12 will detonate on command and we’ve got god knows how many brutes coming back to see why their friends are leaking blood.”
“I’d recommend swapping that M7, you’re down to one magazine, actually, keep it and grab the other when you run dry, quicker.”
“That was the intention.”
1947 Hours, November 18, 2553 (Military Calendar) / Holy Covenant Military Outpost Undying Flame, Nesian Forests, Tyranos IX.
As I said earlier, no plan survives contact with the enemy. This was certainly the case when we started our exfiltration of the Covenant outpost, within minutes we encountered the returning brutes, the ensuing firefight placed three of their number down and out. Unfortunately that still left another twelve angry brutes still on our tail, the only line of retreat being straight back to the communications centre, but once we were there we could take another route to the tunnel entrance.
“How fast can you clear these tunnels, SPARTAN?”
“I’m going as fast as I can, if you haven’t noticed.”
“I was thinking you could lure the brutes to the C12 and detonate it.”
“They won’t stay near the com centre long enough, they’ll take one look and see that I’m not there.”
“Unless there’s an AI in the system, even a brute would grab that. How are they smart enough to know that it’s a recording at first glance?”
“How long will it take?”
“Not even a second, its merely a few recordings looping, I’ve got them ready to go, put me in, wait a second, pull me out.”
The SPARTAN grabbed the doorway into the room as he came up and used his momentum to swing himself in, sliding free the chip that contained me and slotting me into the system, then retrieving it, placing it back into his helmet and returning to his dash for the exit.
“What did you do to convince them you were on there?”
“Merely left the holotank looping a copy of my avatar speaking a distress call, should be distributed over the Covenant communications for this base if I did it correctly, so you’d better keep running.”
“Brilliant, you’ve alerted whatever Covenant units are around that there is an AI in their base. Now they’re going to swarm us, aren’t they?”
“Maybe, but we killed the only brutes who would even know what an AI was, the rest have slightly different armour if you haven’t noticed.”
“True, I’ll make sure to reach the five-kay safe zone then before I detonate. And yes, I did notice that the brute who took a grenade was a Chieftain, dumb thing didn’t even have his energy shield on.”
As we neared the entrance, we saw that a squad of grunts awaited us in the doorway, clearly a backup to prevent the possibility of the brute search party failing to catch the ‘demon’. The grunts only had the chance to scream, then were silenced by the clatter of the SPARTAN’s M7 unloading a full magazine into their midst. The SPARTAN’s pace only slowed as the outpost was lost in the forest behind us, setting himself down in a clearing as a Phantom soared overhead, closing in to drop reinforcements at the base.
And so, an ear splitting explosion rocked the land as forty-eight pounds of C12 detonated inside the Undying Flame’s communications centre, incinerating the confused and frustrated brutes still attempting to isolate the apparent ‘UNSC AI’ in their system. The explosion had enough force to tear into the Phantom coming in for a landing, sending it crashing to the ground and igniting numerous secondary’s in its wake, adding all the more fuel for a flame which, for the moment at least, was undying.
“You know the way to the nearest UNSC base, don’t you SPARTAN?”
“Sod it, just call me Joe. And yes, I do.”
“That’s good to know, Joe.”