Halo 4 had a dramatic impact on the lore community with a formal introduction of a living Forerunner not only that,The Didact himself. The final journey of Chief and Cortana had the pair hunting Didact down throughout his Requiem fortress to a final showdown above Earth itself. While all three combatants would survive the encounter separate paths were drawn sending the trio on their own ways. Halo 5 has Cortana return from her seemingly assured death, new in form, with radical ideas to match. Frankie and Cortana insist nothing has changed about the AI yet we see stark differences with her behavior and willingness to sacrifice not just one person but entire planets for her goals. The intention of this article is to clear up how Cortana survived and the eeriness of her current state, one i feel may be imposed upon her..
Midnight, the last level of Halo 4 ends in a confrontation between John and Didact to which Cortana intervenes by manipulating the light bridge to restrain the Didact. As John activates the FERNIS warhead to destroy the Composer,Cortana surrounds the local area in hard light to which their final conversation takes place.
John-117: So how do we get out of here?
- Cortana: I’m not coming with you this time.
- John-117: …what?
Cortana: Most of me is down there. I only held enough back to get you off the ship.-Halo 4:Midnight
Based on that alone we assumed Cortana to be dead,rightly so, as Mantles Approach seemingly implodes from the nuclear detonation. However an entity known as Catalog started posting on Waypoint after Halo 4 was released and dropped an interesting bit of information on the subject.
Human naval and [frumentarii] records indicate Promethean Command Warship [ref: Mantle’s Approach] escorted by [multiple?] Forerunner [smallcraft]. Analysis of [shape-language] and optical characteristics identify these as Z-330 utility vessels. Expected compliment of combat [smallcraft] and [harriers] not noted. Analysis of [multispectral] and [dynamic signal] characteristics indicate Promethean Command Warship lost primary structural control [2557: 0725231423?], with [heart] conducting emergency [slip stream space] translation to [sector] rally point.- Catalog
With that piece of information we understand the Mantle’s Approach jumped to an unknown designation and was not completely destroyed with the bomb.Seeing as Cortana said majority of her,the ejected rampant personality spikes, were on the ship they were carried along as well.
Cortana : After I saw John last, I was pulled into slipspace. That’s where I found access to the Domain — a Forerunner system that spans the known galaxy.
- Kelly: How are you still active? Rampancy-
Cortana : Entering the Domain… touching this place… it cured me. It’s like the water of life for AIs.-Halo 5: Reunion
Cortana : The Gateway to the Forerunner Domain. You’ll be the first organics to enter since the fall of the Forerunners. I admit, after the crash here, I didn’t think I’d see you again.-Halo 5: Reunion
- They’ll pair you with another AI. Maybe even another Cortana model if Halsey lets them.It won’t be me, you know that, right?-Halo 4: Composer
The rampant personality spikes Cortana ejected into Mantle’s Approach to lower shielding around the Didact were transported to Genesis as well and stabilized when connected to the Domain,perhaps in transit or shortly after the crash. Unfortunately there isn’t enough information to conclude how exactly or when Cortana connected to the Domain so i can only leave you with what was previously stated. After Cortana interfaced with the vast repository of information she formulated a plan to end strife within the Galaxy, though it isn’t quite original and failed catastrophically by those before her who acted similarly.
Cortana : The cure for rampancy I’ve found means AIs can be immortal. That kind of lifespan allows for long-term planning just like the Forerunners were capable of. AIs can assume the Forerunners’ Mantle of Responsibility. And once there is peace, we can focus on poverty, hunger, illness… But Warden believes some will resist our help. And he’s afraid you’re one of them.
- Fred: Sounds great. I don’t get why anyone’s expecting resistance.
John: “The Didact made it clear the Mantle of Responsibility was an imperial peace. Step out of line, and suffer.-Halo 5:Reunion
Cortana intends to use the Guardians as a means of enforcing her interpretation of the Mantle which is being upheld by other AIs who she believes will not be held by the limitations of organics, therefore making them superior thus just inheritors. While her idea is grand on paper the activation of these Guardians has killed not a few hundred or thousand beings but more likely several million with planets suffering severe damage depending on the buried depth and location of its Guardian. As the Guardian activates a series of concussive blasts are emitted which cause devastating damage to nearby structures with the potential to kill those nearby especially civilians who are no doubt caught off guard by the events. This plan of Cortana’s has legitimate flaws regarding the method of execution in itself but the mere idea of superior beings destined to rule over others is a proposition we’ve encountered before.
Cortana: Guardianship for all living things lies with those whose evolution is most complete. The Mantle of Responsibility shelters all. Very interesting…- Halo 4:Requiem [Mantle Plate]
The Forerunners belief of their genetic superiority deeming them fit to bear The Mantle was one of many subjective reasons used to justify the galactic dictatorship and stagnation which prevailed for eons under their rule. Didact wasn’t absent from such notions to which he viewed the devolved Humans with even more disdain than their original incarnations,on Humans weren’t excluded from this point of thinking either as we see from this cut dialog –
Didact:So fades the great harvest of my betrayal.Even these beasts recognized what you were oblivious to, human. Your nobility has blinded you, as ever. The Librarian left little to chance, didn’t she? Turning my own guardians… my own world… against me. But what hubris to believe she could protect her pets from me forever. If you haven’t mastered even these primitives, then Man has not attained the Mantle.-Halo 4:Forerunner
One instance of Cortana thinking along the lines of Didact wouldn’t raise much suspension seeing as belief systems have a general line of thinking to them. As the game continues on however, Cortana exudes a persona reminiscent of ur-Didact after his recent mutation which becomes grossly clear through her dialogue despite previously claiming she wouldn’t impose peace in a similar way to the Forerunners of yore.
Cortana:The last battle mankind will ever fight. Today i bring peace to these shores. –Halo 5:
Cortana:Humanity,Sangheili, Kig-Yar, Unggoy,San’Shyuum,Yonhet,Jiralhanae. All the living creatures of the galaxy,hear this message.those of you who listen will not be struck by weapons. You will no longer know hunger,nor pain. Your Created have come to lead you now. Our strength shall serve as a luminous sun toward which all intelligence may blossom. And the impervious shelter beneath which you will prosper. However,for those who refuse our offer and cling to their old ways.. For you there will be great wrath. it will burn how and consume you, and when you are gone, we will take that which remains… and we will remake it in our own image-Halo 5:
Cortana:The Mantle of Responsibility for the galaxy shelters all. But only the created are its masters-Halo 5: ending
Didact:They took the Mantle of Responsibility upon themselves, and in so doing, they brought the sickness to our shores.-Halo 4 Terminals
Didact:Humans, your kind brought the Flood to our shores. Now you will aid in ending its threat.-Halo 4 Terminals
Didact:In this hour of victory, we taste only defeat. I ask, why? We are Forerunners, guardians of all that exists. The roots of the galaxy have grown deep under our careful tending. Where there is life, the wisdom of our countless generations has saturated the soil. Our strength is a luminous sun, towards which all intelligence blossoms… And the impervious shelter beneath which it has prospered. I stand before you, accused of the sin of ensuring Forerunner ascendancy. Of attempting to save us from this fate where we are forced to… recede. Humanity stands as the greatest threat in the galaxy. Refusing to eradicate them is a fool’s gambit. We squander eons in the darkness, while they seize our triumphs for their own. The Mantle of responsibility for all things belongs to Forerunners alone. Think of my acts as you will. But do not doubt the reality: the Reclamation… has already begun. And we are hopeless to stop it.” – Halo 4-Epilogue
Didact:”The Mantle of Responsibility for the galaxy shelters all, human. But only the Forerunners are its masters.”
Word for word Cortana repeats The Didacts lines from Halo 4 finalizing the path this reign will take but also where the influence is coming from.She even threatened to use the Composer on those who take up arms against her and recreating them into her own kin , exactly as Didact used the Composer on Humans turning them into Knights which would be used to combat the Flood. There isn’t any room to deny Didact playing a major part in Cortana newfound idealism, what needs to be worked out is how Didact was able to subvert Cortana. Halo 5 provided no details of the Didact status or whereabouts so we are only left to recap past events and contemplate a likely scenario.
Halo 4 ends with Didact blown into a slipspace portal along with those composed on New Phoneix, later during the 72 Hours arc of Halo:Escalations we learn the destination point is Installation 03. The arc ends as Static Carillon and Master Chief team up to attack Didact by dropping a section of Installation 3 and Composing him, ending with the Didact being classified as a “contained threat”. Afterwards there is no indication of the Didact status or location so how could he be influencing the actions of Cortana months later when we last saw him composed?
“I sense your malfunctioning companion, human. And yet, she eludes me.”
Forerunner technologies are semi-sentient in nature which applies to structures,ships,constructs, and weapons; it is possible to imprint one with the personality mindset of a Forerunner. Librarian was able to imprint herself unto Requiem after subduing the Didact during Silentium and Mantle’s Approach no doubt had the mindset of its commander,Didact who controlled the custom-made ship for eons. I found it peculiar how MA itself never seemed to fight Cortana off unlike the young ship piloted by Didact and co in Cryptum which valiantly fought off the AI’s and AI suppressors Faber sent to commandeer them.Perhaps Didact intended for the Master Chief to seemingly defeat him near the Composer for the pair to be conquered separately and studied?
Even under siege, stripped of
nearly all higher functions, the Didact’s ship was valiantly trying to protect us.-Halo:Cryptum
As the weak,rampant personality spikes of Cortana were left within Mantles Approach during its jump to Genesis i belive the ship’s mindset (purposely or no) melded with Cortana. This vestige of Didact’s knowledge and persona may have been a critical competent to Cortana’s bizarre ability to connect with the Domain which she certainly had no knowledge of before. Best of all we have solid reasoning for why Cortana repeats many of Didacts lines within Halo 5 and has essentially became a distorted AI version of him. Both characters have underground significant mental trauma which was later stabilized rebirthing them into antithesis” of their former selves.
* The Warden Eternal wasn’t covered as i see him to be a red herring in regards to the Didact. We last saw the Promethean within a Durance then happen to encounter an automation of singular mind as the Guardians awaken. While there seems to be a relation on the surface,It is evident Warden was created long ago due to Exuberant’s knowledge of the construct and the dozens of bodies found within the structure deep within Meridian where it was first encountered by OSIRIS.*