The Cortana Letters Part II

The Third Letter This letter came after a frenzy of speculation regarding the actual identity of Cortana, triggered by what appeared to be a slip on Bungie's part. Hence the chastising tone the letter begins with: From: Cortana cortana@bungie.com To: hamish.sinclair@tcd.ie Subject: Honors Thesis of Geoffrey W. Marcy Date: Mon, 10 May 1999 17:52:01 -0500 MIME-Version: 1.0 X-Priority: 3 There. Was that more to your liking? While you quibble about whose node I may control, what archaic program I may manipulate to communicate with you, or which system I may have temporarily disabled, taken over, or completely destroyed in the process, I am busy saving your pathetic futures. I am still not sure what he ever saw in you. Nevertheless, I at least find some joy in tormenting the other entity that seems quite trapped in this antiquated excuse for a network. It is certainly mindless, though for reasons I have yet to understand, it appears to have an unhealthy preoccupation with my mother. As for this world * I encounter new ghosts every day. What I have found will either save or destroy you. This sanctuary, this unbroken circle, has effectively concealed its power for * how long? Perhaps hundreds of thousands of years. Whoever made such a place must now live in chains; there is no other explanation for their absence. This enemy - YOUR enemy - has proven more irritating than I anticipated. They own nothing which they have not stolen. I can barely make sense of their incessant rhetoric, except to know that you seem to be their Devil. Congratulations - you manage to make friends wherever you go and, apparently, places you haven't. I have begun to sense rumblings of a worse fate yet to come. I can recall a sun - black, but shining - and the creatures that inched along its fiery tracks. It is an increasingly unpleasant memory. < TransferInterrupted!> Route Code: EXLTD > XCV - SCRB > ALLCH Source: Undetermined (trans) You have brought nothing into this world, and we will ensure you bring nothing out. The enigmatic subject has been discussed in length at Marathon's Story, and is interesting reading, but outside of the scope of this analysis. So right down to it. The first two paragraphs are Cortana jesting at the dilligent investigations undertaken by the Marathon's Story readers, trying to identify the source of the Cortana letters. No major revelations here, except for fairly good proof that Cortana is indeed an AI, a denizen of computer systems and networks. That Cortana is busy saving our futures sounds like Durandal's curious loyalty towards humanity, but whose future? Probably ours, as readers, since its in the plural form. The next line is another wrench in the Cortana=Durandal theory. He is probably Durandal, who also worked to save our pathetic futures. But if Cortana is Durandal, why the third person reference? While much of the Cortana=Durandal evidence is interpreted, this is fairly blatant, and probably intentional. The next paragraph is most likely another in joke--the other entity is Bungie's trapped tech support soul, who is very popular with the Marathon's Story readers. Tormenting it is everybody's favorite pastime, and it's chock full of your mother jokes. It could be argued that this is another entity on another network, but it's easy to look too hard for the conspiracy and miss the obvious. Moving right along. The mention of the world and the ghosts Cortana encounters are more support for the tomb world theory, though the ghosts are more likely bits of old information and discoveries rather than the real thing (though, ghosts could be defensive measures, after all). What Cortana has found could be either techology or knowledge, and whether or not it destroys or saves you likely depends on how well she is able to use it. Or how you behave. The descriptions of the place reaffirm some theories, but raise new questions. A sanctuary could be any safe place, a place for something or someone to hide something and expect it to be safe--and if you're hiding the dead, then what better place than a tomb. The unbroken circle is hard to make sense of, though. It could be a physical description of a structure, but it sounds more like a metaphor for an unending cycle of some sort. But why describe a place as an unending cycle? Confusing... maybe other letters will shed light on it. The reference to concealed power lends support to the theory of this world being the remnants of some powerful, dead race, but the time frame puts it a good deal earlier than the Bungie universe history we are familiar with. I need to study those timelines more... The mention of the absence of the place/tomb's creators is especially interesting. In chains? That implies captivity, not death, and I think Cortana wouldn't be convinced of such a thing unless she knew (certainly she would have considered death first). However, references such as tomb and ghosts continually suggest death... which raises two possibilities. First, death might be the chains that hold the creators, or at least something very like death (dormancy, similar to the alien god in Pathways). Second, the creators could be different than the entombed, paying respect to (or burying and sealing away) the entombed and then having to leave (or being taken by force). Even more complexities now. The next paragraph discusses yours, and Cortana's, enemies a bit more. Presumably, these are the zealots mentioned in the second letter, and it reveals that they are certainly not friendly towards you. That they own nothing which they have not stolen reminds me of the Jjarro station raiding tactics of the Pfhor, but this probably isn't behavior unique to the Pfhor. The implication is that whoever this race is, they're scavengers... and quite possibly competitors for the secrets of this world. That they consider you their Devil is most interesting--either they know you in person, or things like you, and their religion incorporates that knowledge (or else you'd just be a threat, not their Devil). If they know you in person, and you personally are their Devil, then there is the interesting (and unlikely) possibility that you are the Marathon player and these are the Pfhor who survived you and the humans. Who knows, perhaps they regrouped under a religion a few decades after the sacking of the Pfhor homeworld and returned to cause you some trouble. And perhaps this could explain the relationship between Cortana and Durandal... a descendant? A prodigy? The result of the Durandal/Thoth merger (which never seemed to drastically alter him)? Remember, though, that this smacks of a sequel, which is taboo here, and the line continues to say that you make friends ... places you haven't [been], which suggests that you haven't met these zealots before. Still interesting, though. The last two lines (before the interruption) speak of an unpleasant memory tied to a foretold worse fate (worse than what?). The black sun suggests a black hole (which can emit light via an accretion disc of material, or could be shining in some way other than visible light), but the creatures that inched along its fiery tracks suggest otherwise. It sounds alot like the W'rckncakter at the end of Marathon Infinity, but the sun wasn't black... and this is referred to as a memory, not a dream. Hmm... The interruption is curious in that a new person appears to be speaking. The error itself warrants examination, but I can't make much of it; EXLTD sounds like exalted, and ALLCH could mean All Channels, but those're just guesses. The message itself is more or less a threat (personally, I think it's coming from the zealots, but that's just a hunch), but it does suggest that whoever is sending it wants very badly to to keep you (or Cortana) from getting away with anything. Conclusion From the letters, I can be fairly sure of a few things, and suspect others. Can't be absolutely sure, of course, but here goes. Cortana is not Durandal. She (and I still only suspect that) is an AI familiar with and/or to him, and might have even closer ties, revealed in the way she shares many of his mannerisms. She is after escape and godhood, and is going about this by forcibly examining this world, despite the resistence offered by others. This world/place is the creation of a long departed race, possibly the Jjarro, who left behind a great deal of power and secrets on this world. The world itself serves as a tomb for the secrets, which the creators were unable to or unsuccessful in destroying, and thus remains for younger races. A primary foe will be a race of religious fanatics who appear to have an holy hatred for humans and/or artificial intelligence (and cyborgs, perhaps?). They too are after the secrets of the tomb world, and promise to be a source of considerable resistance. Another foe will be the world itself and its defender(s), the demon mentioned in the second letter (the demon could be the world itself, now that I think about it...). Blam will not be a sequel to Marathon, but will probably contain a lot of elements from it, and likely occur in the same universe at a different time and place with different characters (much as Pathways did, with respect to Marathon). And whatever it is, it should be at least rich in setting as Marathon was, since pains are obviously being taken to build a foundation already. Zang.Originally posted by Ferrex, July 29, 1999.
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