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.
Suddenly Cortana reached out and activated Guardians two Guardians on Oban and Ursa IV around October 17, 2558. Over a period of 72 hours, a total of five human colony worlds were affected with Conrad's Point being another to experience the destruction. Around this time, the Created turned the Prometheans against their former allies within 'Mdama's Covenant.
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.
Several days later, during Blue Team's Operation: BIRD IN HAND, Cortana reached out specifically to tell John-117 about the moon of Meridian. This was reported to the UNSC Infinity at the conclusion of the mission. John was ordered not to follow the lead. However, he and Blue Team acted against these orders and set course to Meridian.
With Blue Team now officially AWOL, Fireteam Osiris was assigned to bring the Chief in and were sent to Meridian. Upon arriving, the planet was under siege by Promethean forces. Osiris helped drive these hostiles out. They then began their investigation and managed to track down Blue Team. Learning they were elsewhere on the planet, Osiris followed them and confronted the Warden Eternal. After fighting him, they then found Blue Team who then quickly escaped on a Guardian which began to activate. Osiris escaped as the Prometheans returned in force and began attacking the people of Meridian again. The Guardian then traveled through slipspace with Blue Team.
Capitalizing on the chaos
Rumors were circulating around the colonies, though ONI was attempting to counter them. The first four sites were secured, but in a move against the UNSC, the NCA took control of the fifth at Conrad's Point. Agent Maya Sankar, known as the insurrection leader "FERO", was brought to Midnight Facility where she was briefed on the situation.
On October 27, 2558, She was promptly sent to Conrad's Point. There Ilsa Zane, a top member of the NCA was with a group of supporters. An ONI contact thought lost met with Maya and gave her some data on the activation of the Guardian. Maya also met an acquaintance, Bostwick she knew in her time as FERO.
At the same time, with Blue Team still AWOL, ONI released a statement declaring John-117 dead. This was broadcast publicly across various human colonies. Back on Conrad's Point, Ilsa announceed John's death to her group. After some time, the UNSC used an airstrike to blow up the gathering. Maya and Bostwick managed to escape from the NCA.
Some time after escaping, Maya, and Bostwick now with Mshak Moradi crash landed on Laika III. Maya wound up in the hands of the Triads who believed the Guardians were part of their religion. As she was there, the Guardian on Laika III activated causing massive gravitic distortions. Bostwick came to rescue Maya and they along with Mshak headed to the city of New Hedmark where Ilsa and NCA forces began engaging the UNSC. Mshak fled to orbit, but Maya and Bostwick began transmitting the data on the Guardians they got on Conrad's Point. After it was done, in an attempt to create a martyr, Bostwick killed Maya.
Sanghelios and escalations on Genesis
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. Cortana's ranks had been joined by a good number of civilian and military A.I.s who began to pledge allegiance to the cause, having fled from wherever they were in the galaxy.
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.
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.
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