In Video Games
Cortana first appears in all but two video games during the introductory cutscene of Halo: Combat Evolved. In the 2003 novelization of the game, Halo: The Flood, Cortana likewise plays an important role. Controlling the Pillar of Autumn's defenses, Cortana destroys four Covenant targets before the ship's weapons are disabled. Under the Cole Protocol, Captain Keyes, the Autumn's commanding officer, prepares to abandon ship. Since the protocol mandates the evacuation of any AI constructs, the Master Chief is charged with safeguarding Cortana from the Covenant. When the Master Chief arrives on Halo, Cortana monitors the communications channels, helps direct human survivors scattered across the ring, and assists the Master Chief in the rescue of Captain Keyes from the Covenant ship Truth and Reconciliation. Inserted into Halo's Control Room, Cortana looks for a way to activate Halo to use as a weapon against the Covenant, but becomes visibly agitated and sends the Master Chief to find Captain Keyes. Cortana stays in Halo's computer core as the Master Chief encounters the parasitic Flood and is conscripted by the Forerunner construct 343 Guilty Spark to activate Halo's defenses. The Master Chief and Guilty Spark return to the Control Room, intent on using the Index, the key to Halo, to eliminate the Flood, but Cortana reveals the truth that she has learned: Halo does not kill Flood, but their food. If Halo were activated, all sentient life in the galaxy would be destroyed. She takes the Index and thus becomes a target for 343 Guilty Spark. Having captured the Index, Cortana and the Master Chief plan to destroy Halo. They succeed after Cortana helps the Chief to detonate the Pillar of Autumn's fusion reactors, causing an explosion powerful enough to destabilize the ringworld. The two escape in a fighter and witness the ring's destruction.
Cortana appears next in Halo 2, on the Earth defense platform Cairo Station, at an awards ceremony for the heroes of Halo: Combat Evolved. When a Covenant fleet arrives, Cortana takes control of the Cairo's coilgun, the Magnetic Accelerator Cannon, to repel the invaders; she successfully deactivates a bomb that would have destroyed the station. Later, upon discovering Delta Halo, Cortana gives Commander Miranda Keyes access to all information on the original Halo, and provides intelligence to the Chief and United Nations Space Command (UNSC) Marines on the surface of the ring. When sent by the Flood leader, Gravemind, to the Covenant city-ship of High Charity, Cortana stays there as the Master Chief follows the Prophet of Truth. She promises to detonate the crashed In Amber Clad's reactors to destroy the city and Halo if the ring is activated. The firing of Halo is averted by Keyes, the Arbiter, and Sergeant Major Avery Johnson, but Cortana is left with Gravemind, who has overrun High Charity.
Cortana returns in the third installment in the Halo series, the 2007 Xbox 360 game Halo 3. During gameplay, Cortana appears to the player in broken transmissions, often reciting lines from Fall of Reach and earlier games. Cortana manages to send a message to the Master Chief on Earth, through a Flood-infected ship. In her message, she states that Gravemind is unaware of the portal opened by a Forerunner artifact on Earth. Cortana continues to appear to the Chief, who later recovers her from Flood-controlled High Charity. Surprised that the Chief has against all odds rescued her (as promised), Cortana produces the Index from Installation 04, which she has kept as a souvenir. With it, Cortana is able to activate a new ringworld being constructed. While the Flood are destroyed as planned, a slipspace portal collapses as the Master Chief, the Arbiter, and Cortana attempt to escape through it, thus stranding the Chief and Cortana. Cortana activates a distress beacon, but knows that it could be years before they are found. As the Master Chief prepares to go into cryonic sleep to await rescue, Cortana confides to him that she will miss him. He replies to wake him when she needs him.
Cortana makes an appearance in the last levels of 2010's Halo: Reach, which in the game's fiction takes place before Combat Evolved. When the Spartan group Noble Team receives orders to destroy important intelligence inside the military installation Sword Base, Cortana contacts Noble Team and sends them to an excavation site under the base. There, Halsey contacts the team and shows them a massive Forerunner structure buried beneath the surface. Halsey downloads Cortana and gives her to the soldier Noble 6, instructing the team to bring the AI to the UNSC ship Pillar of Autumn. While most of Noble Team's six soldiers were killed, Noble 6 hands Cortana over to Captain Keyes and elects to stay behind and protect the ship while it makes its escape. If the player performs the Easter egg to get into Dr. Halsey's lab, they can see a sort of chat between Halsey and Cortana, stating Halsey asking if Cortana is "ready to get started".
In the fourth game, the Xbox 360 exclusive Halo 4, Cortana wakes the Chief when Covenant forces attack the ship remains, then crashes with him on Requiem. Over the course of the game, Cortana begins to show strange signs and behavior: vocal and graphic glitches, irrational behavior and a tendency to become irritable or angered. The reason for this is soon revealed: Cortana's operation beyond her seven-year lifespan and her interaction with the Halo installations and the Flood have caused her to become Rampant, a state of over-knowledge that makes AIs 'think' themselves to death. Helped by the Master Chief and kept safe from the captain of the Infinity, who wishes to delete her, she helps in the battle against the Didact, a rogue Forerunner who hates humanity, and stops his scheme to convert the Earth and its people into his army using the Composer. In doing so, she has to fragment her various rampant personalities and upload them into the system, which first brings down the shields around the central core, then enables her to save Master Chief from the Didact. In a final act of friendship, she shields the Master Chief when he destroys the Composer, then, using the last of her energy to manifest as a solid-state hologram, she bids a final farewell to the Chief, managing to touch him for the first time.
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“It is among the ranks of school-age children, those six- to twelve-year-olds who once avidly filled their free moments with childhood play, that the greatest change is evident. In the place of traditional, sometimes ancient childhood games that were still popular a generation ago, in the place of fantasy and make- believe play . . . todays children have substituted television viewing and, most recently, video games.”
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“I recently learned something quite interesting about video games. Many young people have developed incredible hand, eye, and brain coordination in playing these games. The air force believes these kids will be our outstanding pilots should they fly our jets.”
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