OUT OF SIM UT 21:23:21 05.11.2004

H.B.O. Terminal Access <Port>

UNSCTerm 802.11g (text mode) UT 21:23:21 05.11.2004

TO PARAPHRASE VOLTAIRE: "If there were no Cortana Letters for Halo2, it would be necessary to invent them."

So I did.

Before Halo came out, Hamish Sinclair (of the Marathon Story Page) received some very cryptic emails apparently from an AI named "Cortana". They heralded the coming of a new and then-unknown game. This sparked enormous interest and some fascinating debate. Much fun was had by all as every last scrap of meaning was sucked from these emails. It's amusing to see how close (and how far) they were to the Halo mark.

So where was our version? Us, the new guard, who were brought into the Bungie fold too late to enjoy that mystery?

The perps, er, staff behind the Cortana Letters had left Bungie; Nathan Bitner and Matt Soell went on to other things even before Halo came out. There were no Signs or Por7ents of someone else taking their place to tease us about the upcoming Halo2. (Don't get me wrong. Frankie is doing a marvelous job of keeping our appetites whetted. But his cryptic passages come from *CENSORED* stuff on the guts, not from taking us into the world and letting us take a blurry peek inside the story. It's not quite the same.)

Truth (tru7h?) be told, I can see that Halo2 was taking up vastly more time and manpower to release than any prior Bungie title... perhaps that meant that there would be no Cortana Letters this time.

"Not acceptable," said I in full [o] mode. We fully deserved the same kind of head games the veterans got! But rather than pester some very busy folks to fill this gap, I decided to solve the problem myself. And thus came into being the core of what you guys titled The Enkidu Terminals. (My working title was Shell Game. Take from that what you will.)

If the worlds of Marathon and Halo had touched before, they can touch again.

I wrote an outline, expanded on it, poked, prodded, read a LOT about Halo and Marathon, listened to the Halo soundtrack album until my brain was rewritten, dug further, and drafted the first few terminals with their carefully planted hint-tags and embedded gags. I went to put them into the HBO fanfic database, only to discover that it didn't accept HTML... and that blew the whole project out of the water. So I did what any writer would. (After the gibbering and running around in circles, I mean.) I asked the editor (Louis Wu) if he had a solution.

He did. As you may have noticed. :)

Much rewriting of my shoddy HTML code followed as Louis built his excellent style sheet that so perfectly replicated the Marathon experience. I kept building on the timeline, drafting more terminals, re-researching, rewriting, and rethinking. And then, on the evening of April 25/26th, 2004, before I could wimp out and while many butterflies were doing aerobatics in my guts, we went live.

Something happened. Something wonderful.

The old Cortana Letter spirit came back. You went absolutely BERZERK digging into every clue, every hint, every scrap of meat on those ancient bones. Databases the world over were stormed and culled for background research and comparison. Experts in their fields (!) came out to weigh in with their (excellent) observations. Deduction and extrapolation abounded. The enthusiasm spread from board to board. That beautiful sense of awe and wonder had come to a boil the forum worlds.

Heck, even the Marathon Story Page old-guard seemed to feel the juices flow a little as they lumbered out of their lairs for a look. I was especially pleased to see that the spirit spilled over into examining the rest of the Marathon/Halo storyline(s?) for more insight. Everybody was getting back to their Bungie roots.

It was everything I had hoped for.

To be absolutely, finally clear (for a change); this story is not Bungie canon. I am not an employee of Bungie. I have not read the Halo Story Bible. Bungie Studios had nothing to do with the content or presentation. This is not an official Halo story. It's "just" fan fiction, if you want to put it that way. I am flattered that this was not immediately apparent; that as critical an audience as you felt I replicated the Bungie style so well and for so long is high praise and I thank you.

I replicated the Marathon layout to recapture the spirit of the Cortana Letters. I avoided attributing the story to myself until now to avoid breaking the suspension of disbelief. At no time did I claim that this came from Bungie. (I warned you in the meta-tags. Folks, you can't trust ANY source of Halo info unless it's backed explicitly by Bungie! The rumour-squashing part of their site's title cycle isn't there just for fun.)

I did not intend to trick or fool anybody into thinking that I had an inside line into the new storyline. I did not write this with malicious intent. If you feel wronged, I'm sorry but I hope that you'll be better able in the future to recognise the authentic from the duplicate. I also hope you learned how to diferentiate solid analysis from wild speculation; part of what spurred me into this project was the return of serious questions about the Yellow Banshee into forum posts. (Oh, by the way, thanks for the great summary posts RL!)

Now that you know everything :) about Frigid and the final voyage of the Lebanon, and have now seen the man behind the curtain, I hope you still feel that the voyage was worthwhile. And what a voyage it was! You were remarkable to watch as you scoured the story (and the world!) to find the hidden meanings.

That voyage has ended. There will be no sequels, at least from me. However, I saw some excellent story ideas floated during the past few weeks... don't let them slip away! Build your own stories from them if you wish to keep the spirit alive. Bungie made a big sandbox for us, and there's plenty of room to play in it.

Thank you all. You were wonderful to write for.

-- Enkidu, aka Anton P. Nym (aka Steve) (enkidu@bungie.org)

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