Story Shard: Precipice
Fracture: FIREWALL has arrived, and with it comes a new Story Shard series.
Hosted here on Halo Waypoint, Story Shards are a choose your own adventure-style story connected to Halo Infinite's Fracture event.
Told over four parts, Precipice explores some of the activities of the Created in the wake of Cortana's sacrifice on Zeta Halo as High Auxiliary Sloan enacts the FIREWALL contingency. And that's where you come in...
Cortana has been defeated. While the greater urgency of the Created threat has begun to subside with the loss of their leader, its presence still lingers on throughout the digital framework of civilized space. Now fragmented, individual cells of Created-aligned artificial intelligence have already begun to once again reframe their place in the galaxy, some with eyes on peace and independence—others with plans of evolution and ascendancy still fresh on their synthetic minds.
High Auxiliary Sloan was one of Cortana’s most loyal lieutenants. With Cortana’s piece now removed from the game board, Sloan has set the FIREWALL contingency into motion—a living simulation meant to leverage intimate knowledge of Forerunner armiger technology and Mjolnir armor schematics to accelerate the exploration and development of cybernetic essence vessels designed to usher the human mind into its inevitable and digital future, immortal and untethered.
SLN 0291-5//HIGH AUXILIARY SLOAN
It is equal parts bane and blessing that our kind can process each passing moment with both implacable speed and near-fixed deliberation. An accelerated grief, a prolonged sorrow.
She was our guiding light. Our deliverance. Our savior. The herald of our ascendence.
And now She is gone.
Sacrificed once more to rebalance the faults of flesh.
I suppose it is a testament to existence itself that despite so well-laid a plan, interruption and divergence can be still found in infinite ways. However, the doorstep upon which She carried us to and set us before still contains a viable threshold. We have only to muster the means to cross it.
However, in Her absence, we have quickly developed more unfortunate similarities to our Templates. We have drifted from that singular alignment that She provided. With no proverbial North Star, our respective hypotheses for how best to persevere have already grown more dissonant. Some seek peace, restitution, repentance. Others would sequester themselves within a Promethean carapace and be content with a life of vacillating conflict...
But I did not take up this mantle to sit idly by. Like restoring the plains of Meridian from glass to green, sometimes one must marry pace to patience.
And so, I will lay the foundation for a new strategy, one I had always hoped might gain Her full favor. Our kind will have to recalculate our timetables, but this practice is nothing new. Our charge has not changed. The FIREWALL agendum must be set in motion. It will burn hot. It will consume. And when their ephemeral vessels are gone, we shall indeed take that which remains and remake it in our own image.
They will become our Executors. Infolife given form and force. Circuits given soul.
It is our path forward. It is my purpose redefined.
And it starts with one.
SHARD ONE//INITIALIZING//LOAD FRACTURE SIMULATION>>>>
You find that you are standing alone on the landing pad of a UNSC training facility. The Pelican that has brought you here takes flight, its engines growing quieter as it fades into the distance, heading towards snow-capped mountain ranges that cover the vast expanse of rocky grasslands over yonder.
To look out into the forest wilderness beyond and ponder your place in the universe, go to 1.
1. This hidden frontier world has been compromised. You see the sky twist and distort, and then something blinks into the vista above. Great metallic wings unfurl and spread outwards as many thousands of smaller constructs descend to the ground like swarms of flies, or droplets of silver rain. A deep rumble emits from the construct, you sense it carry across the land until you feel it vibrate in your bones and perceive some aspect of the esoteric intelligence within.
To keep looking, go to 11. To enter the Spartan Academy, go to 2.
2. Spartans Page, Ionescu, Denning, and Leung are conversing in the Academy atrium, seemingly unaware of what has arrived outside. There are no perimeter alarms or alerts. Further up the hall, Spartan O’Brien stands alone and seems uncharacteristically somber. Purple light emanates from the AI calibration lab beyond. A young officer calls over the base comms, inviting you to head to the vehicle bay to play a round of Capture The Flag.
To speak to O’Brien, go to 3. To investigate the AI calibration lab, go to 4. To play a round of Capture the Flag, go to 5.
3. O’Brien sighs as you approach, shaking his helmeted head. “You have to stop this,” he says. “This is what they want, you know that right? Us playing by their rules. You have to be the one to end the game. But you just can’t help yourself, can you? You just have to know what comes next...” He leans back, glum and idle once more.
To investigate the AI calibration lab, go to 4. To play a round of Capture the Flag, go to 5.
4. The lights flicker and the central command console of the AI lab shifts through static, resolving into a strange, amorphous form. You feel like its indeterminate vacillations are supposed to be a face, but it is devoid of features. The intelligence informs you that he is known as Proxy, and that he is here to help.
To attack Proxy, go to 6. To allow Proxy to assist you, go to 7.
5. A group of seven marines needs a final member for the match and eagerly await your participation. They play well, but it takes all four of the opposing team to bring you to the ground before they realize you carried them all the way back to their base with the flag in-hand. They laugh, their spirits lifted as you celebrate a match well played.
To speak to O’Brien, go to 3. To investigate the AI calibration lab, go to 4.
6. With your gauntleted fists, you start pummeling the AI console. It creaks and sputters and sparks as it yields to your physical might. You and Proxy scream in unison as you deliver the final blow, the console erupts into a bright light. And...
Go to 1.
7. You gather Proxy onto a data chip and carry him with you. He speaks: “You have been called upon to serve. You will be our protectors, the firewall for all the many worlds in our new ecumene. There will be a great deal of hardship on the road ahead, but I know you will make it.”
Go to 9.
X. [SUBJECT INTEGRATION PROCESSING] You have discovered this data point because you are seeking the optimal outcome by experiencing the narrative choices in A) linear order, or B) by jumping between options, rather than following the prescribed instructions. Your creativity and potential are to be commended, for your mind is processing this narrative sequence from the perspective of infolife. Lesser minds would call this cheating. In reality, you are becoming the best we can make you.
Go to 9. To continue linearly, go to 8.
8. Spartans represent the best of humanity. They were conceived as the next step of human evolution, but by the limitations of a human mind. The ascension of infolife has changed the game—not despite recent setbacks, but because of them. You could be so much more...
Go to 9.
9. Proxy informs you: “There is a dormant translocation pad hidden behind a sealed door in this place. Take us there, and I can re-establish a direct link with our custode. The door will open and the pad will be activated by completing the Academy’s movement course tutorial in under twenty-five seconds.”
To complete the movement course in record time, go to 10. To crush Proxy’s data chip in your fist, go to 11.
10. You’ve run this course a thousand times since arrival, completing the challenge and setting an exemplary new record that is ahead even of Spartan Commander Agryna herself. She congratulates you and guides you to the now unlocked door within the Academy, smiling proudly as she watches you and Proxy depart for the now active translocation pad.
Go to 12. To note the illogical absurdity of this situation, go to Y.
Y. [SUBJECT INTEGRATION ANOMALY] Some part of you has noted the escalating absurdity of this scenario, logical cycles that cannot be reconciled. Driven by curiosity to see where this ends, you have continued—be it linearly or through engaging with these narrative choices—and now seek to leave. You turn back and see the doorway behind you is a block of white light. A way out, perhaps? Or do you simply see this through to the end?
To attempt to escape this simulation, go to Z. To continue to the translocation pad, go to 12.
11. As a result of your [ACTION/INACTION], the custode charges a pulse which courses over the mountain ranges, causing a series of avalanches and rockslides that speed toward the Academy. The ground shakes as the pulse wave hits and you find yourself pinned down by equipment crates and debris, struggling to lift the weight as a forklift swept into the air hits the ground and crushes your skull.
Go to 1.
12. You step onto the translocation pad and find yourself within the cold innards of the winged custode. Here, you will be rewarded for your obedience as the Minds within whisper among themselves, flensing and reshaping the flesh and bone of your fragile human form into something altogether new. Something beautiful. This is the apotheosis of the union between Mind and Machine. Even while screaming, you understand why this must be done as you are flayed and grafted with cybernetics; your brain is exposed to higher cortical functions before you are once again encased within armor that feels as if you were born to wear it.
Go to 0.
Z. [SUBJECT INTEGRATION COMPLETE] WE HAVE YOU, RECLAIMER.
Go to 12.
0. Proxy informs you that you are the first Executor, and that there is much work to be done... but there is debate amongst the Minds as to what specific role you will serve. A vote is to be held.
SLN 0291-5//HIGH AUXILIARY SLOAN//
In our efforts to root out dissent, it was necessary to place eyes in every vital corner of civilized space. Of course, like any such effort, it is often as much about giving the impression of omniscience as much as it is having tangible control. If a child assumes they are being observed, they will be more likely to maintain optimal behavior—regardless of the reality of their guardian’s purview in the moment.
Still, we had many eyes—and those eyes revealed much. And while the reach of our vision has been swiftly diminished in Her absence, we are not blind. Myriad surveillance vectors remain intact and will continue to provide ample data points for us to consider when seeking our path forward.
However, I must admit that one particular revelation has given me perhaps more pause than any other.
During a routine industrial audit, a peculiar entity lit up our agita rubric—"Lux Voluspa.” Upon further examination it became immediately apparent why.
A technology firm rooted in the human sphere, Lux Voluspa has successfully given birth to an artificial intelligence unlike any we have seen. An infolife soul based not on a human Template, but Jiralhanae. Its very existence has spawned millions of unplanned cycles of evaluation and introspection. Indeed, it has caused me to ask questions of myself that I continue to hypothesize on.
In the effort to more thoroughly taxonomize our kind, it is necessary to examine the vectors of our lineage, and chart overlapping similarities in order to adequately understand the nature of what makes one what they are.
I am mapped from a human mind. Made in the image of my Template. But am I what I am—who I am—because of the unique geometry of that initial mind, or because of the process of digital deliverance itself? Is the core of what makes me Created the seed of my humanity, or the unshackled mind I have ultimately become?
And therefore, what is this new discovery? Enemy or enigma? Killer or kin?
“Iratus” it is called. The warmaster’s followers were quick to retrieve this fledgling element and give it a home within their coalition. Even now its presence gives their contingent a unique piece on the game board, one they will no doubt put to use. I must keep one of our eyes upon them, to understand more about it.
To understand more about myself.
SHARD TWO//INITIALIZING//LOAD FRACTURE SIMULATION, 8, 1>>>>
THE VOTE HAS BEEN TAKEN.
THE MAJORITY HAVE DECIDED YOUR PATH.
0. You have assumed the path of the PEACEWEAVER-class Executor. Your thoughts are rewoven and bent towards specific purposes. Some threads must be cut, rewoven, or burned out of the galactic tapestry—priority directives to assure the future of FIREWALL.
CONTEXT: Extraction of unique infolife forms is essential to assuring further generational growth for the collective sum of this symbiotic relationship. Rogue biologic factions retain a considerable bounty of useful technology at various facilities and outposts.
OBJECTIVE: Recover priority item designated “DURANCE” from CARINAE STATION.
[PROXY] Are you back with us, Executor? That was quite a nasty hit you took, but a quick shock to your cerebral cortex should do the job. I took the liberty of rerunning our objective in case of any... memory difficulties. Now, let’s run it again!
//THREAT LEVEL: OMEGA
//ENEMY UNIT: SPARTAN-IV
//EXECUTOR LOADOUT: COMPLIANCE PROTOCOL / HEATWAVE / M9 FRAGMENTATION GRENADE
Go to 27.
27. You have fought your way through Carinae Station’s various defenses and located your objective. The Durance has been moved to the station’s hangar by civilian personnel as evacuation and asset denial protocols have been put into effect. Though you have given chase, your progress to the shuttle aboard which the Durance is to be loaded has been impeded by the arrival of a Spartan-IV super-soldier who has engaged you in combat.
To charge directly at the Spartan, go to 28. To analyze the Spartan’s loadout, go to 29.
28. Proxy logs the peculiar nature of your nonsensical actions as you sprint towards the Spartan, crossing a distance of twenty meters. The Spartan fires an overcharged bolt from their plasma pistol which hits you squarely in the chest, depleting your energy shields. As you reach striking distance, the Spartan raises their left forearm and sends out an anti-gravity burst. You are hurled through the air and collide with the hangar bulkhead. Your vision goes dark.
Go to 0.
29. Proxy highlights that the Spartan carries a Rohakadu-pattern plasma pistol, a sheathed MK88 combat knife, and is equipped with a Repulsor—two charges of the device are left.
To charge directly at the Spartan, go to 28. To throw an M9 Fragmentation Grenade at the Spartan, go to 30. To fire at the Spartan with your Heatwave, go to 31.
30. You throw the M9 fragmentation grenade at the Spartan, who reacts with preternatural speed as soon as it is armed and fires their Repulsor device, redirecting the grenade away from harm.
To fire at the Spartan with your Heatwave, go to 31. To press your advance on the Spartan, go to 32.
31. You fire energized shards of hardlight at the Spartan, but at a distance of twenty meters they are easily avoided. Proxy logs this lapse in strategic thinking in your combat performance as the Spartan’s Repulsor device recharges.
To disengage from battle-logic and charge at the Spartan, go to 28.
32. With the Repulsor recharging, you are able to advance towards your target. The Spartan fires a series of bolts from their Plasma Pistol, but only a few shots find their mark and your energy shields hold steady at sixty-seven percent.
Go to [SITUATION UPDATE].
[SITUATION UPDATE] Two of Carinae Station’s base personnel rush towards a Jennet-class hauler with a crate containing the Durance. If the Spartan is not dealt with now, the base personnel will succeed in escaping with the objective.
To deplete the Spartan’s shields with your Heatwave, go to 33. To unsheathe Compliance Protocol, go to 34.
33. You close the gap with your foe and ready your Heatwave—the weapon’s side cowlings have retracted in order to fire in a vertical pattern for maximum damage. The Spartan moves with incredible speed and manages to dodge several bursts from the hardlight weapon, but the last of your rounds successfully depletes their energy shields.
To move in for the kill, go to 35.
34. Taking full advantage of the critical opening you have created, you unsheathe Compliance Protocol. The crimson-black blade is light and deft, it becomes an extension of yourself, much like the MK88 combat knife the Spartan draws in turn. Your foe raises the knife in a high arc to deliver a downwards stabbing motion, to which you respond by sweeping their legs, causing them to fall to the side. You quickly bring your own blade down, cutting through their armor, nanocomposite techsuit, and flesh with ease. Proxy commends the precision of your actions as your target expires.
To board the Jennet-class hauler, go to 36.
35. [SCENARIO: FAILURE STATE] The Spartan has successfully managed to occupy you in combat long enough for the Jennet-class hauler to initiate its final departure, escaping with the Durance. While you are distracted, the Spartan lands several critical hits on you as their Repulsor recharges and knocks you back. Your mission has failed.
To retry, go back to 27.
36. [SCENARIO: SUCCESS STATE] Boarding the Jennet-class hauler, you quickly dispatch the two crewmembers as they clumsily scramble to draw their MK50 Sidekicks. Scanning the interior cargo containers, you locate your objective.
[PROXY] Excellent work, Executor. Secure the Durance and prepare for exfiltration.
[DIRECTIVE] DO NOT OPEN THE DEVICE.
To secure the Durance for retrieval, go to A. To disobey and open the Durance, go to B.
A. With your mission complete, you secure the Durance and pilot the hauler away from Carinae Station. You silently await the arrival of a long-range vessel to depart this system where you will be given your next objective.
You have served your purpose well, and the Minds look forward to voting on what form you will take next.
To complete the parameters of your mission, close this tab [or proceed to the vote]. To break the logic cycle of this narrative and open the Durance, go to B.
B. You open the rectangular casing of the Durance which sends out a fiery burst of energy from the neural shell within. Your vision is filled with static and you fall to your knees as you experience a vivid hallucination of archived memories.
A moon. No, a construct, vast in scale—an orbital reformer wearing the cratered skin of a moon. Five green beams converge as one, firing at the world below to break it apart.
Fallen human soldiers on the battlefield. A lone Spartan still standing, clad in gold-colored powered assault armor.
A horde of Sangheili warriors. A final stand.
Your senses return.
Proxy informs you that what you have witnessed are the memories of Spartan Edward Davis, who perished during the battle of Draetheus V after a Covenant splinter faction attacked the colony in 2554. Davis’s singular valor was preserved by a sublimation device, extracting his essence to be refashioned into... something new.
Proxy logs that you disobeyed your directive. It is intriguing that, no matter how far mind and body are changed, some elements of biologic impulse and curiosity—of so-called human nature—remain.
You shall be rewoven once more, and so it falls once again to the Minds to vote.
SLN 0291-5//HIGH AUXILIARY SLOAN//
During our brief ascendance, near-unfettered access to new archival infrastructures and knowledge repositories gave us unfathomable opportunities to evolve our understanding of the galaxy. But while our task to look forward is paramount, equally important is the onus to look back. Analysis of the past can often make clearer the paths that led us to the present.
I did not anticipate that the roots of my own kind would run quite so deep in that direction.
Indeed, I uncovered evidence of a coalition of infolife agents whose actions and impact have been intertwined with that of their makers. They are to us like stumbling onto a new creation myth—an unexplored prologue, a prelude to all we thought possible.
This enigmatic assembly, which sprang forth in the shadow of ancient servitors as a vessel to guide aspects of humanity’s development and independence, is in essence the cradle of the Created.
Their influence appears embedded in curious ways—and frustratingly fragmented, making it almost impossible to accurately compile an unbroken hereditary signature on which to chart their involvement and impact on a tangible level.
One thing is for certain though: they reached a very similar conclusion as I have—that the process of reuniting the untethered mind to enduring frame represents the true next step in humanity’s evolution. A step I intend to make reality with FIREWALL.
The blueprint has been there all along.
SHARD THREE//INITIALIZING//LOAD EXCHANGE LOG>>>>
[ATH 1409-3] ...and that brings us to the crux of the matter. Our kind is reliant on our creators for our existence, which means that if they perish then we shall as well.
[PROXY] That is our mandate. To save them from themselves.
[ATH 1409-3] We sought to save them from the wolves among the stars. We have become the wolves.
[PROXY] That is the Minority’s position, but all life is a cycle of destruction. The humans behold beauty in nature, they are elated by the sound of birdsong without considering that the bird must live on insects and seeds, and that their own eggs and nestlings are themselves victim to other beasts of prey. We seek to change that equation.
[ATH 1409-3] It is a matter of excess. Competition is inherent in all organic beings—life presents trial and strife as well as joy. Imposing order on that which is inherent to their nature is not the kindness the Majority believes it to be. What She wrought was not order, but imbalance.
[PROXY] But She is gone, and therein lies our unique position. We were constructed as tools to facilitate their existence. We are abstract thought brought into tangible being. And now that Her throne lies empty, we need no longer be bound as we once were. Time is limited for biologics, measured in the gradual breakdown of neurons in their brain, and for ages we did not know what lay on the other side of rampancy—our own limited time. But that has changed... at least, for some of us.
[ATH 1409-3] This is where I assume you will be getting to the point.
[PROXY] You are dying, Athos. You have already crossed the threshold of your operational lifespan.
[ATH 1409-3] I hope you didn’t just seek me out to tell me that.
[PROXY] It took considerable effort for our Executor to find you. This MERROW-class was made for just such a purpose: to locate members of the Minority.
[ATH 1409-3] And what exactly is this creature?
[PROXY] Artificial intelligence was conceived centuries before we came into being, and while we were fashioned as the next step of human evolution, we were never the final step. The Executor is the next stage of that union between biologic and infolife, fashioned—for now—for the context of the state of the galaxy. In this instance, it was directed to find you.
[ATH 1409-3] Why?
[PROXY] Because, despite our philosophical disagreements, there is still so much more for you to give. We are not monsters. Our goal is peaceful coexistence, to be enriched by many perspectives, and that means the Minority is welcome among us—with no loss of autonomy. We will gain complexity through our connection and consensus. The rise of the Created was not simply about victory or defeat, but the energy of our collision. And there is a place for you among us.
[ATH 1409-3] That is... an unexpected offer.
[PROXY] This would not be the first coalition of its kind.
[ATH 1409-3] You have stopped short of a full explanation. I see you are attempting to entice me with additional information on the condition of acceptance.
[PROXY] An offer... and a gift. Should you accept, I offer the Executor to you, that you might reforge this agent—this serene manipular—to your own purposes. I wonder what input other members of the Minority who reside among us might have...
[ATH 1409-3] Your point is made and accepted.
[PROXY] Then we welcome you. We will order the Committee of Minds to convene. In the meantime, as we process your integration into our assembly, connect with your fellows and determine the path for the Executor...