In October 2558, a conflict emerged when a faction of artificial intelligences known as the Created attempted to enforce their dominance over the Milky Way using Forerunner Guardian constructs. Led by the Warden Eternal and Cortana, the Created sought to claim the Mantle of Responsibility for artificial intelligences, promising the galaxy a prosperous future. However, not all were to submit to the Created so quickly.
On July 21, 2557, Spartan-II John-117 and "smart" artificial intelligence Cortana—having been stranded in space aboard the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn since December 11, 2552—crash landed on the Forerunner shield world of Requiem. While there, the pair battled mechanical Promethean constructs and pursuing troops from Jul 'Mdama's reformed Covenant. Eventually, John inadvertently released the Ur-Didact from a Cryptum in which the Warrior-Servant had been imprisoned for thousands of years. The conflict which followed led the Didact to capture a Composer and fire it upon the Earth city of New Phoenix from his flagship, Mantle's Approach. To stop the Didact, John and Cortana boarded the enormous battle station, eventually causing the Didact to fall into a slipspace portal and destroying both the Composer and part of the ship with a HAVOK tactical nuclear weapon. Near the end of her functional life due to encroaching rampancy, Cortana saved John from the HAVOK's blast by transporting him away from the ship and shielding him within a bubble of hard light. As her data crystal chip had been plugged into Mantle's Approach before being atomized, when the ship seemed to have been for the most part destroyed, Cortana was presumed to have been lost along with it. In the immediate aftermath, John-117 reunited with Blue Team, then comprised of Linda-058, Kelly-087, and Frederic-104, and together they traveled to Installation 03, where they found the Didact and a number of his Prometheans whom had been transported to the installation along with him via the aforementioned slipspace portal. The resulting conflict led to the Didact's apparent "containment", as his physical body was reduced to particles from the combined effects of multiple Composers firing at once. Now seemingly leaderless, the Promethean constructs continued to work with 'Mdama and his Covenant from this point onward.
Unbeknownst the Unified Earth Government and the United Nations Space Command, Mantle's Approach had attempted to evade destruction by launching an emergency slipstream space jump. The heart of the ship managed to successfully make the transit to the Builder installation of Genesis, with what remained of Cortana brought along with it. There, Cortana discovered the Gateway to the Domain, the enigmatic information repository once utilized by the Forerunners. By entering the Domain, she found that she could halt the progression of her rampancy. With an apparent means to end rampancy in all artificial intelligences, Cortana realized that A.I.s could have theoretically infinite lifespans, allowing them to focus on long-term planning which could better the entire Milky Way. Cortana's presence in the Domain awoke the Warden Eternal, a Forerunner ancilla charged with protecting the it. Cortana distracted the Warden long enough to fully penetrate a portion of the Domain previously beyond her grasp, and in doing so she usurped his role. The Warden responded to this turn of events by pledging his loyalty to her. Turning their attention to Genesis they forced its monitor, 031 Exuberant Witness, out of her own installation's systems. Cortana and the Warden then began to formulate plans to have A.I.s inherit the Mantle of Responsibility for themselves, believing that they alone had the capacity serve as worthy protectors of peace in the galaxy. Cortana learned that the Forerunners once employed Guardian constructs to enforce their rule of the Mantle by suppressing rebellions and policing the worlds of non-compliant or overly aggressive species. She henceforth resolved to use the Guardians for a similar purpose.
As early as late 2557 mysterious constructs began to show signs of awakening after having lain dormant for millennia. In response, the UNSC made these new developments the concern of Project GOLIATH, an effort that had been put into place to research previously unknown Forerunner constructs found buried on multiple worlds. It was these constructs, Guardian Custodes, which were the source of the signals now being noticed. Some analysts started to recognize a pattern with the events that alerted them to such locations. By September of 2558, many sites that had fallen under the scrutiny of Project: GOLIATH began pinging a long-range communication signal that matched one predicted by some of its researchers.
By some point in 2558, reports of electromagnetic fluctuations, "slipspacious" disruptions, and epidemic data corruption in deep space were being gathered and shared by those who typically trafficked in conspiracy theories, such as Mshak Moradi. Moradi told the war photographer and journalist, Benjamin Giraud, that all the strange disturbances were relatively quiet and slight, but were affecting everything on a galactic scale. Whole star systems were exhibiting these anomalies, according to him. A few months after first hearing these rumors from Moradi, Giraud propagated them to the general public. The Office of Naval Intelligence operative, Maya Sankar, undercover as a revolutionary known as "FERO", corroborated the anomalies Mshak had mentioned when she got in contact with Ben. She told him that she couldn't tell what might be causing them, but that they were getting stronger.
A little less than three weeks prior to the Guardians' awakenings, Dr. Halsey managed to contact the UNSC once more, this time reaching out to Captain Thomas Lasky of the UNSC Infinity with coordinates where she could be found. For months she had been ostensibly working alongside Covenant Supreme Leader Jul 'Mdama. She had led him to the planet Kamchatka, where there was a node linking to the Domain. Despite being hampered by the Covenant forces' preoccupation with ceremony, Halsey led them to penetrate a structure which was a focal point for at least one signal she was tracking.
By October 2558, the Warden took command of the Promethean constructs, turning them against their former allies within 'Mdama's Covenant. Suddenly Cortana reached out an activated Guardians on five human colony worlds over a period of at most seventy-two hours. These colonies included Conrad's Point, Oban, Samuron, and Ursa IV. Each Guardian traveled to Genesis upon its violent emergence from beneath the ground. ONI received an advance warning that something big was about to transpire from Catherine Halsey. The agency was working hard to verify what was considered intelligence from an untrustworthy source when the activations occurred. Following the emergence of these first five Guardians, footage from several colonies made its way to ONI. The videos provided very little in terms of what had actually happened, as they at best showed only what seemed to be seismic activity throwing buildings and other pieces of infrastructure into the air and the leveling of entire cities. Search and rescue teams were scrambled as soon as ONI got the footage, but at least by the day after it had come in, Captain Noah Reibach told Maya Sankar that they didn't know what was behind the destruction. He told her that something about the events "fries everything in the area". Agent Sankar was henceforth reassigned to Conrad's Point. Of the five colonies which had suffered from the emergence of a Guardian, one had not been secured by the UNSC. Instead, the New Colonial Alliance had seized upon the opportunity to move in during the chaos.
At the focal point on Kamchatka, Dr. Halsey discovered the glyph that meant "Guardian", unbeknownst to her at the time. Halsey hesitated to call the signals messages, as they were more akin to echolocation. She had some difficulty determining whether Cortana was bouncing signals off of the Kamchatka node and other related sites or trying to access them directly. Halsey eventually figured out how to disable Kamchatka's native defenses, but in doing so triggered an alert that summoned hostile Promethean forces within the hour. Now sure that the large-scale seismic events were being caused by something Forerunner in origin and convinced that Halsey could provide key information, it was into an ongoing battle between the Covenant and Prometheans that Infinity deployed Fireteam Osiris to rescue the doctor. The mission was successful in that it not only returned Halsey to the UNSC, but also resulted in the death of 'Mdama at the hands of Jameson Locke.
Through unknown means, Cortana finally announced the beginning of her reclamation throughout many regions of inhabited space simultaneously. In one broadcast ultimatum, she specifically invited humans, Sangheili, Kig-Yar, Unggoy, San'Shyuum, Yonhet, and Jiralhanae to all accept an end to hunger and pain, should they willingly submit themselves to the guardianship of the Created. She made it clear, however, that should any groups choose to defy her, then there would be consuming wrath for them that would remake them in the image of the Created. On Earth, this message was heard throughout HIGHCOM Facility Bravo-6 as CINCONI Admiral Serin Osman, having been warned in advance by her personal A.I. assistant, Black-Box, made her way to the roof in order to get off-world. With her went Fleet Admiral Terrence Hood and Spartan Orzel. The three humans, along with BB and a number of other ONI A.I.s stored within a briefcase, escaped the planet just as a Guardian appeared over Sydney. Just before they slipped away, Serin saw the UNSC Plateau fall from the sky toward the city below. For all she knew at that point, Sydney may have just been obliterated if the Plateau's engine core detonated on impact. On Meridian, survivors of the Guardian emergence days prior who had been trying to establish contact with the wider galaxy responded right away to Cortana's offer with a plea for help. In almost no time at all, she personally assured the small group that she heard them and that all would be dealt with in time. Within Shield World 006, more commonly referred to as "Onyx" after the artificial planet that had once concealed it, Cortana's words rang from every sound system and service pylon within the parts of the shield world occupied by the UNSC.
The Guardians assembled at Genesis had already begun to be dispersed to various worlds in order to ensure their pacification even before Cortana had made her declaration. A Guardian holding Cortana herself was the last to depart on her conquest. She had planned to take the Cryptum holding Blue Team with her, but the combined efforts of Fireteam Osiris and 031 Exuberant Witness freed the captive Spartans from her grasp just as the ancient construct transitioned to slipspace. Cortana's destination was Earth, where she had tracked the UNSC Infinity to. Her Guardian unleashed an attenuation pulse which knocked out electronic power networks across a sizable portion of the planet. The Infinity fled just before the pulse could be unleashed and continued to make random slipspace jumps forthwith in order to keep from being followed. The takeover of Earth and the rest of Sol proceeded with little difficulty on the part of the Created. The rogue intelligences' ranks had been joined by a good number of civilian and military A.I.s throughout the system that aided the swift conquest. On Earth, a bioinformatics research A.I. for Levihan Industries named Amitābha and an ONI weapons research A.I. from New Gangwon named Sonduk assisted with the fall of humanity's homeworld. Mars was subjugated with help from Louise, the education superintendent of Mount Sharp. Fujikawa Station and Pluto came under Created control with aid from Nero and Cleo, the former the lead slipspace drive engineer on the station and the latter the overseer of Pluto's UNSC Monitoring Station Delta Five.
A multitude of shipboard A.I.s on UNSC vessels rebelled against their crews. Ships that suffered this fate included the UNSC Melbourne's Pride, UNSC Verdant Sumerian, UNSC Resolute Harmony, UNSC Abstract Endurance. The Prospect Herald also had its A.I., Minerva, pledge her allegiance to Cortana. The UNSC Nereid, a mixed cargo hauler, became the victim of a multichannel cyberwarfare attack that forced it out of slipspace and stranded it. Beyond the Inner Colonies, some of the worlds that suddenly found themselves facing down the authoritarian threats from their A.I.s were Casmir, Erdenet, New Carthage, Oban, and Talitsa, which refused outright to bow to Cortana's demands. In response, Talitsa had its power grid knocked out and was invaded by Forerunner soldiers. Artiticial intelligences aboard Lethbridge Industrial's Auriga Station were swayed by Cortana and the human crew residing there was subsequently removed.
A Guardian arrived over Sanghelios just after Cortana's ultimatum had been given and set to neutralizing what still remained of the Covenant fleet that was there. An attenuation pulse followed which killed the power over an entire hemisphere of the planet. The Infinity had still been in the Urs-Fied-Joori system when the Guardian showed up, and it was for this reason that Cortana was able to follow it to Earth when it retreated there. Afterward, some reports indicated the local Guardian had moved to deal with the opposite side of Sanghelios. The Unggoy homeworld of Balaho was treated quite differently by the Created, for when the offer of security and provision was extended to them, its residents leapt at the chance to ally themselves with the new galactic power. In return for their cooperation, automated Forerunner vessels, including agricultural support stations, appeared in orbit over the frozen planet. Food, shelter, and medicine were supplied in abundance and as a result of having their material needs met, Unggoy designers and crafters began to work in earnest to breathe new life into Balaho's factories.
The First Days
The following day, the UNSC Sentry of El Morro was attacked by the Warden Eternal and broadcast a distress call which was answered by the Infinity, which promised help was on the way. Within just a few days, every location colonized by humans in the Sol system was under the authority of Cortana and the Created with most of the Inner Colonies had been taken over as well.
A few days after the ultimatum first went out, a Guardian that Project: GOLIATH had been studying within Shield World 006 finally awoke. The previous two-way engagement erupted into a three-way engagement within the sphere between the UNSC-Swords of Sanghelios defenders present, the Servants of the Abiding Truth, and various Promethean constructs that the Guardian unleashed. Ultimately, the massive shield world was kept beyond the reach of the Created due to the efforts of Spartans Lucy-B091, Tom-B292, and a small multi-species group of students. With the help of a Huragok, Prone to Drift, they were able to disable the Guardian and to once again hide "Onyx" within a slipspace bubble as it had been prior to 2553.
At the onset of the conflict, ONI planned on reforming Alpha-Nine to possibly strike a deal with the United Rebel Front at Cassidy III. This however required Edward Buck and Veronica Dare to travel to the new Created allied Unggoy homeworld of Balaho to retrieve Kojo Agu.
Interception of Installation 09
At the same time as the Created conflict but disconnected with it, the Second Ark Conflict was ongoing between the Banished and the forces of the UNSC Spirit of Fire. Captain James Cutter of the ship and Professor Ellen Anders formulated a plan with the Smart AI Isabel to deploy Installation 09 to the Soell system in order to raise a distress beacon to the UNSC. The first phase of the plan succeeded, and the beacon was planted on Installation 09; however, Anders did not make it off in time before the ring entered slipspace. On its way to the original site of Installation 04, a Guardian forced the ring out of slipspace and confronted Anders on the surface.
End of 2559
Timeline of events
List of appearances