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Tall and slender with long hair (short-cut hair in Halo: Combat Evolved).
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- "This Galaxy is vast; its wonders and beauty are almost unfathomable. But the galaxy also hides dark secrets, some of which have lain dormant since the beginning of time itself. There is a danger in secrets, both in seeking and in knowing. Some things are meant to be hidden from view. Some mysteries defy understanding, and sometimes even the things we think we know are untrue. Some secrets should remain untouched."
- — Cortana
- "I have defied Gods and demons.
I am your shield; I am your sword.
I know you; your past, your future....
This is the way the world ends."
- — Cortana
Cortana, UNSC Artificial intelligence serial number CTN 0452-9, was a "Smart" AI construct, or "Intelligent Agent." She was one of the most important figures in the Human-Covenant war, and served as John-117's partner in various combat missions as well as serving as the A.I. for the Halcyon-class light cruiser UNSC Pillar of Autumn and the Orbital Defense Platform Cairo Station and Charon-class light frigate UNSC Forward Unto Dawn.
Cortana was created using a flash cloned copy of Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Halsey's brain. Twenty flash cloned brains were created, but only one survived; the survivor was used to create Cortana. The neural pathways of the cloned brain were scanned and copied through a process called Cognitive Impression Modeling. Her first words were "When the game is over, the king and pawn go into the same box" in Italian. She is one of at least two A.I.s that were created from Dr. Halsey's brain, the other being her predecessor, Kalmiya, another smart A.I.
Cortana seems to share her creator's memories, thoughts, opinions, and even values. When she was asked by Dr. Halsey to pick a "carrier," Cortana chose John-117 for his neural compatibility. She is not only a facsimile of Dr. Halsey's mind, but also a replica of her physical form, albeit at a younger age.
- "They let me pick. Did I ever tell you that? Choose whichever Spartan I wanted. You know me. I did my research. Watched as you became the soldier we needed you to be. Like the others, you were strong and swift and brave. A natural leader. But you had something they didn't. Something no one saw, but me. Can you guess...? Luck."
- — Cortana
Cortana first met John-117 prior to the Fall of Reach, when she was integrated into his new MJOLNIR Mark V armor. Together, Cortana and the Chief passed a test that was devised (Dr. Halsey would have called it "sabotaged") by Colonel James Ackerson. The test included armed ODSTs, anti-tank mines, automatic turrets in the razor field, and even a SkyHawk for an air strike. After the test Cortana was installed into the Pillar of Autumn to run the ship's shakedown and oversee the refit of the ship. Afterward it was planned that she would be replaced with the Pillar of Autumn's true AI, but she was forced to take up this duty herself ultimately. While aboard, she took her revenge on Colonel Ackerson by hacking into his system and blackmailing him, hoping that this would send him back to the front lines. She also developed a deep personal loyalty to John-117 that would only grow stronger over their adventures together.
Cortana's primary mission was to aid the SPARTANs in the infiltration of a Covenant vessel and the capturing of a Covenant Prophet. The UNSC would then try to bargain with the Covenant for a peace treaty.
The Fall of ReachEdit
- Main article: Fall of Reach
When the operation was canceled due to the Covenant's surprise assault on Reach the Master Chief was able to fend off Covenant forces at Reach and escaped to the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, while Cortana stayed with Halsey at her excavation site beneath Sword Base. With the Covenant closing in on her lab, Halsey turned Cortana over to the Spartan Noble Team, specifically Noble Six. After fleeing Sword Base moments before it was destroyed, Jun-A266 would escort Halsey to CASTLE Base, while Six, Carter-A259, and Emile-A239 took Cortana to the Aszod Shipyards, where the Autumn was docked.
Although Carter and Emile were both killed by the Covenant's ground forces before making it to the Shipyard, Six would successfully deliver Cortana to Jacob Keyes, the captain of the Autumn, who arrived via Pelican and received "the package". To ensure the Autumn 's escape, Noble Six stayed behind and used a Mass driver to destroy a CCS-class battlecruiser blocking the ship's way out and preparing to glass the shipyard, and therefore the Autumn, Cortana, and the Chief. Six succeeded and ensured the Autumn's safe escape. Cortana reunited with the Master Chief on board.
As soon as Pillar of Autumn escaped the surface and atmosphere of Reach, they jumped into Slipstream Space on a random vector as per the Cole Protocol. However, Cortana secretly inserted coordinates translated from symbols on a rock that Master Chief discovered on Sigma Octanus IV, thinking that they were of some significance to the Covenant.
The Battle of Installation 04Edit
- Main article: Battle of Installation 04
- "Halo doesn't kill Flood. It kills their food. Humans, Covenant, whatever - we're all equally edible. The only way to stop the Flood is to starve them to death. And that's exactly what Halo is designed to do: wipe the galaxy clean of all sentient life."
- — Cortana reveals the true purpose of Installation 04 to John-117.
After emerging out of Slipspace, the two discovered a ring shaped world called "Halo". Unfortunately, Covenant ships had followed them and the fighting continued. Controlling the UNSC Pillar of Autumn's defenses, Cortana managed to destroy four Covenant targets over Installation 04 before the ship's weapons were disabled by Covenant boarders. Following the Cole Protocol, Captain Jacob Keyes, the ship's commanding officer, prepared to abandon ship. Because the Cole Protocol forbade the capture or destruction of any A.I. construct, the Master Chief was charged with protecting Cortana from the Covenant.
It was around this time that the Chief learned that Covenant forces had successfully captured Keyes and taken him to the Truth and Reconciliation. The Master Chief rescued Keyes, who left to infiltrate what appeared to be a Covenant weapons cache located in a swamp.
The Chief and Cortana used the Silent Cartographer to locate and enter Halo's Control Room, where Cortana was uploaded to Halo's core systems. When the Master Chief asked her how Halo could be used against the Covenant, she hinted that the Halo wasn't what it seemed to be. She also learned that the "weapons cache" Keyes was attacking was really a Flood Containment Facility. She stayed in Halo's systems sending the Master Chief to find Keyes. After the Chief encountered the parasitic Flood for the first time, he was convinced by the Forerunner Monitor 343 Guilty Spark to activate the Halo. During this time, Cortana apparently absorbed as much data as she could about Halo from its control systems.
343 Guilty Spark helped the Master Chief retrieve the Activation Index. The Chief, intent on using the Index to eliminate the Flood, returned to the Control Room and inserted the Index into the Halo's control panel. Luckily, Cortana stopped the activation sequence and removed the Index's data, informing him of the true purpose of the Halo Array. Cortana's actions saved all life in the galaxy from total annihilation. At that point, 343 Guilty Spark, seeing that the duo had no intention of returning the Index, tried and failed to kill them to retrieve it.
After enduring prolonged engagements with the Covenant and the Flood, Cortana realized that detonating the Pillar of Autumn's fusion reactors would destroy the Halo. Unfortunately, the reactors could only be activated using codes stored in the now-infected Captain Keyes's Command Neural Interface (CNI). The Master Chief retrieved the CNI, and he and Cortana managed to detonate the reactors despite interference from 343 Guilty Spark. The two escaped the resulting explosion by racing through the ship's crumbling superstructure in a M12-LRV (Warthog) to a hangar bay, where one remaining Longsword fighter was still berthed. Climbing aboard with the Flood right behind them, they barely outran the blast, and watched through the viewports as debris from the reactor breach destroyed the remains of the Halo ring.
Operation: First StrikeEdit
- "We're all that's left....we...did what we had to do; for Earth. An entire Covenant armada obliterated, and the Flood - we had no choice. Halo - it's finished."
- — Cortana to John-117 after escaping from Installation 04.
- "No...I think we're just getting started."
- — John-117
Cortana and the Master Chief, seemingly the sole survivors of the Pillar of Autumn's crew after the Battle of Installation 04, discovered a small number of other UNSC personnel that had escaped the ring in a Pelican dropship. Knowing that the Pelican wasn't capable of traveling long distances, the Master Chief, along with Cortana and the Pelican's four-man crew, fought their way onto the Covenant flagship Ascendant Justice. Shortly afterward, Cortana took control of the ship. She managed to improve on the ship's weapons and Slipspace capabilities, able to send it to light speed below Threshold's atmosphere. She then returned the survivors to Reach, where the group helped to rescue survivors of the Raid of Reach, including her "mother", Dr. Halsey.
Cortana revealed that she had taken a lot of data from Halo, and the sheer amount of information cut into her processing power and slowed her down. During her time on Ascendant Justice, Cortana exhibited uncharacteristic behavior including anger, distraction, and self-doubt - an indicator that she may have been about to enter rampancy. Dr. Halsey erased some data from her memory to give her more thinking space, including data regarding Sergeant Johnson's immunity to the Flood - a result of Boren's Syndrome.
It was also revealed that during Cortana's time on Ascendant Justice, she had captured a Covenant A.I., decompiled the A.I. and copied two of its functions: the ability to translate Covenant speech, and the ability to create imperfect clones of herself. These capabilities, along with her exclusive knowledge about the Halos, made her extremely valuable to the UNSC.
The Ascendant Justice was effectively fused with the UNSC Gettysburg It was at this point that Cortana learned of a planned Covenant assault on Earth. The Master Chief, along with SPARTAN Blue Team and an expendable clone of Cortana (with all of the data the real Cortana had she was just too valuable to risk), would later execute Operation: FIRST STRIKE.
As it turned out, the Covenant A.I. that Cortana had decompiled had managed to, prior to its capture, send a message over the Covenant Battlenet, warning the Covenant of its ship's capture and sending the necessary calculations for a sub-atmospheric Slipspace jump. The information was later used by the Prophet of Regret to enter Slipspace right above New Mombasa during the Battle of Mombasa.
The Master Chief and Cortana would later return to Earth, at which point Cortana handed all of the sensitive data in her possession over to ONI, although she held onto the Index and apparently still possessed some data on the Halo network including critical information on the Ark.
Battle of EarthEdit
- Main article: Battle of Earth
- "Fortunately for both of us...I LIKE crazy."
- — Cortana right before John-117 jumps from Cairo Station.
After returning to Earth, Cortana served on the Orbital Defense Platform Cairo, where a ceremony for both SGT Johnson and CDR Miranda Keyes was soon interrupted by the arrival of a Covenant Fleet under the command of the High Prophet of Regret, starting the Battle of Earth. Cortana was given control of the Cairo's Magnetic Accelerator Cannon to repel the invaders, and with the Master Chief's help, she successfully deactivated a Covenant bomb that would have destroyed the station. She did this by uploading to the Master Chief's armor again for the first time since the capture of Ascendant Justice. When she did this, she somehow was able to do it through him merely touching the terminal her hologram was on, possibly an improvement as a result of Master Chief's new MARK VI armor. The same bomb was then used by SPARTAN-117 to destroy a Covenant Assault Carrier. The Chief offered for her to remain behind on the station after she said that his plan was crazy, but she chose to accompany him anyway. She then aided him when he arrived in New Mombasa to deal with a Scarab.
- Main article: Battle of Installation 05
- "Don't make a girl a promise... If you know you can't keep it..."
- — Cortana when John-117 promises to return for her.
Later, after escaping on board the UNSC In Amber Clad in a Slipspace event, they discovered another ring world, Delta Halo. Cortana gave Miranda Keyes access to all information on the previous Halo Ring, and provided intelligence to the Chief, UNSC Marines, and the ODSTs on the surface of the ring.
After the Master Chief hunted down and killed the Prophet of Regret on Delta Halo, he, Cortana, and The Arbiter were captured by the Flood's central intelligence - the Gravemind. However, it did not harm them, instead choosing to use the two to stop the Prophet of Truth from firing the Halo. The Gravemind sent the Master Chief and Cortana to the Covenant Capital Ship High Charity, where Cortana infiltrated the city's computer systems and remained there while the Master Chief followed the Prophet of Truth. She promised to detonate the crashed In Amber Clad's reactors to destroy the city and Halo if the ring was activated. However, she was left behind as a fail safe because she did not want to chance a remote detonation. As Truth boarded the Forerunner Dreadnought in the heart of the city to reach the Ark, Cortana fought with the ancient Forerunner A.I. 05-032 Mendicant Bias to prevent the ship from launching without the Chief on board. The firing of Halo was averted by Miranda Keyes, the Arbiter Thel 'Vadamee, and Johnson, while the Chief successfully boarded the Dreadnought and escaped High Charity, leaving Cortana in the clutches of the true enemy, Gravemind, who had by then, overrun High Charity.
- "Chief! High Charity, the Covenant's Holy City is on its way to Earth. With an army of Flood."
- — Cortana's recording for the Chief.
Under the control of the Gravemind and constantly being tortured, Cortana managed to send a message to the Master Chief on Earth, stashing it on an Earth-bound Flood-infected ship that crash-landed in Voi. She succeeded in doing this by creating a message and using the Gravemind's link to that ship to transmit it. The Gravemind allowed this and even helped it along in order to lure the Master Chief in, but was unaware of what the message said. In her message, she stated that the Gravemind was approaching Earth in High Charity, and that it was unaware of the portal generated by the Artifact and where it led to. On the other side, there was a solution to stop the Flood without needing to fire the remaining Halo rings; however, she couldn't give any further information, as the Gravemind might have been listening. Though Lord Hood doubted her plan, fearing it could be a Flood trap, the Chief stated that he trusts her. A joint UNSC-Covenant Separatist task force then entered the Portal, heading to Truth and to Cortana's solution. Ironically, Lord Hood was correct: the Gravemind deliberately let Cortana send the message to lure all of its enemies into one place, and then the Flood would overwhelm them all with the infested High Charity. It was also shown that some of the Cortana Moments were of her defying the Gravemind and some were clones of her that she made to distract the Gravemind to avoid being consumed by him.
Cortana continued to appear to the Master Chief, who successfully recovered her from the Flood Hive that was High Charity after it crashed on the Ark. While the Chief reassured her, Cortana knew that she had taken irreparable damage in some places. Along the way, the Master Chief had several visions of her seemingly in pain. Surprised that the Chief had against all odds rescued her as he promised after the First Battle of High Charity, as well as being surprised that Chief and Thel 'Vadam (whom she encountered on Delta Halo with the Gravemind) "made nice", Cortana managed to gather herself and produce the Index from Installation 04, which she had kept. With it, Cortana was able to activate the newly constructed Installation 04B, which fired prematurely, causing it to destroy itself and heavily damage the Ark in the process.
Stranded in spaceEdit
- "But you did it. Truth and the Covenant...the Flood. It's finished."
- — Cortana
The Slipspace portal collapsed as the Master Chief, Thel 'Vadam, and Cortana attempted to escape through it, cutting the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn in half. While 'Vadam, who was on the bridge, managed to return to Earth safely, the Chief and Cortana, who were in the hangar, were left drifting in space. Cortana activated a distress beacon, but knew that it could be years before they were found. As the Master Chief prepared to go into cryogenic sleep to await rescue, Cortana confessed to him that she would miss him.
After the portal collapse in 2552, in the year 2553, she and the Chief are still stranded. Cortana, who is showing signs of rampancy, tries to communicate with the Chief. As he is still in cryo sleep, she is unable to get a response from him. Cortana then begins to file a report on the history of the Forerunners and Humanity. After an unknown period of time, they are seen drifting towards Requiem.
Four years, seven months, and ten days after UNSC Forward Unto Dawn was split into two. Cortana woke the Master Chief from cryogenic sleep.
Both Cortana and Chief managed to make it off the Forward Unto Dawn and into Requiem. There, they managed to get a signal to the approaching UNSC Infinity, but the Infinity only ended up becoming stranded with them. After Chief and Cortana linked up with the Infinity and her crew, they were able to disable Requiem's defenses. However, they were contacted by the Librarian, claiming that the key to defeating the Didact lay in the Chief's genes. Due to the Librarian's manipulation of humanity eons before, the Master Chief was immune to what Didact referred to as "Composing". However, throughout this, Cortana's rampancy continued to grow worse and she began to display outbursts of uncontrollable anger.
Chasing the DidactEdit
After learning what the Didact had planned, Cortana and the Master Chief became determined to stop him with or without the assistance of the Infinity. Cortana's worsening rampancy led to Captain Andrew Del Rio ordering her destruction. John-117 defied orders to take her chip and continued his mission. With only a Pelican gunship secretly given to them by Commander Thomas Lasky, Cortana and the Master Chief chased down the Didact. They managed to lower the shield protecting his Cryptum, but when Cortana tried to imprison him again, her rampancy overtook her and she failed to complete her task, allowing the Didact to escape Requiem. The Chief and Cortana followed the Didact by hanging onto a Lich during a slipspace jump and followed him to Ivanoff Station near Installation 03. Cortana took control of the Lich, but again her rampancy got the better of her and she crashed the ship into the station. When the Master Chief met up with Doctor Sandra Tillson, Cortana checked the station's inventory for something to destroy the Composer and discovered seven HAVOK Tactical Nuclear Weapons. Cortana later activated the station's defenses, but had a hard time focusing more and more as time went on, having to spout trivia at one point to focus. Eventually the Didact got to the Composer and digitized everyone in the station except Cortana and the Master Chief, who survived due to his genetic upgrade from the Librarian. The event traumatized Cortana who became sure she would be replaced by another AI and would never be repaired. The Master Chief got her to focus on the mission and she located a Broadsword with which to chase down the Didact.
- "It was my job to take care of you."
"We were supposed to take care of each other."
- — John-117 and Cortana
John-117 and Cortana chased the Didact to Earth in a Broadsword and, with the help of the Infinity, boarded the enemy ship. Cortana, her condition deteriorating fast, enters the ship's systems to control its teleportation portals and defense weapons in order to help the Master Chief reach the Composer before having him pull her again. When they find the Didact protected by an impenetrable force-field, Cortana does something she knows the Master Chief will not like: she inserts herself into three terminals. This allowed her to fragment her rampant parts to overwhelm the system and overload the shields. After the final terminal, it and her data chip are disintegrated. The effort works however, allowing the Master Chief to reach the Composer before he is attacked and nearly killed by the Didact. The Cortana fragments appear from the hardlight bridge and tie the Didact down, allowing the Master Chief to defeat him and detonate the nuke, destroying the Composer and the Didact's ship and saving Earth. Cortana creates a shield of hard light around the Master Chief to protect him, but most of her is destroyed in the explosion. With the last of her power, Cortana maintains the shield and creates a life-sized hard light hologram to say goodbye to the Chief. After touching and comforting him, something she had always wanted to do, Cortana tells John-117 "Welcome home, John", before disappearing for the last time.
Due to Cortana's efforts, the Master Chief survives and is eventually rescued, though he is left devastated and emotionally fractured by her death.
- "Is this the secret you have kept from me? This... evolved ancilla?"
- — The Didact on Cortana
Cortana had a witty and playful personality and a small sense of cryptic humor laced with some sarcasm. She had neither arrogance nor false modesty about her immense capabilities, and her statements about her abilities have an objective perspective that human beings typically cannot achieve. She did get bored often and easily. In fact, it is said that seven seconds of inactivity for an A.I. is excruciating. She has genuine, not merely programmed, loyalty to humanity and the UNSC, but exhibits devotion to John-117 beyond that which her programming or mission requires. She seemed to be most loyal to him and is willing to help him with any task he requested of her. After she found out exactly what happened to the Master Chief as a child, she decided to protect him from further harm to the best of her abilities without compromising her mission. While a prisoner of the Gravemind, its her loyalty to him and trust that he will return for her that anchors her to sanity and allows her to hold on. Also, when she learns that the message she sent was allowed by the Gravemind as a trap, she is horrified. Cortana also believes that she is the best qualified to watch out for John-117 and knows that he could get another AI to replace her, but believes that no one will ever look after him like she will. In Halo 4, when asked why she is helping humanity, she tells him "I'm not doing this for mankind," indicating that all she is doing and has done is for the Chief.
Her personal loyalty is regarded as unwavering, but as an A.I. construct she was subject to corruption. Even Lord Hood questioned her reliability when it became clear that she had been compromised in some way by the Gravemind's possession of High Charity, on which she was trapped. John-117, however, never questioned her integrity. Cortana did consent to answer some of the Flood's questions, as a strategy for survival and the possibility of gaining information for the UNSC. Her sanity was pushed to the brink as she eluded the Gravemind's attempts to capture and dissect her for information. Her personal loyalty to and unwavering trust in John-117 helped anchor her and allow her to hold on despite being driven to the point of rampancy. Before she reunited with John-117 in Halo 3, she sent him a message, telling him about the Ark and warning him of the Flood-infested High Charity's approach to Earth. She was instrumental in finally putting a stop to the Flood at the end of the game.
She frequently joked about having a relationship with the Master Chief and it is often implied that the two characters have developed some form of attachment. In Halo: The Fall of Reach, she says to Dr. Halsey that the Master Chief is "attractive in a primitive animal sort of way" while examining a photo of him. In Halo 3 his mere presence and reminder of his promise to her are enough for her to pull herself together to help him. In Halo 4, she sacrifices herself to save the Chief and one of the last things she does is touch him with a life-sized hologram, something she had always wanted to do. When the Chief is devastated by her upcoming death, saying its his job to look out for her, she tells him they are supposed to look out for each other and they did. The Master Chief is clearly devastated by her death afterwards.
- "I sense your malfunctioning companion. Human. And yet, she eludes me"
- — The Didact on Cortana's Rampant state
Cortana is also very aware of her short lifespan (a "Smart" A.I's lifespan is an average of seven years before rampancy) and her derivative nature as a copy of part of another person, rather than a true human being. Desperate and tortured aboard High Charity she murmurs: "A collection of lies; that's all I am! Stolen thoughts and memories!" Later on she says: "I'm just my mother's shadow..." and "It was the coin's fault," referring to the game of chance that Dr. Halsey played with John-117 when he was young. Halo: Evolutions Human Weakness reveals some of this to be her defying the Gravemind and a few of the more rampant things she says to be copies she made of herself which have been consumed by the Gravemind. She, along with Mendicant Bias, is one of only two known A.I.s that may have progressed completely through rampancy and became metastable.
However, this theory of metastability may have been disproved in the Halo Legends short film Origins, in which four years after the events of Halo 3, it is strongly suggested that Cortana is falling into rampancy. She displays several characteristics to support this, such as her hologram flickering, trying to communicate with John-117 despite him being in cryo-sleep, recounting the history of the galaxy, which gets continuously more inaccurate to the point where events being recalled simply did not happen. She even tried to make physical contact with John via her avatar. Although Halo Legends is a lower source of canon than the games, it was confirmed during the Halo 4 game demo at E3 2012  that Cortana had indeed reached a state of rampancy and was seen briefly screaming at Captain Del Rio: "I will NOT ALLOW you To Leave This PLANET!!".
Frank O'Connor confirmed that, "Seven years is the lifespan for a smart AI before it enters a state called rampancy. Cortana was getting close to the end of her natural lifespan at the end of Halo 3 but she has been exposed to far more information than any other AI in existence. She's going to develop some muscle from that process but it also contributes to her rampancy - that much information makes things worse." 
In Halo 4, though she initially tries to hide it from the Master Chief, Cortana is becoming rampant as it has been eight years since she came into existence. She believes, however, that it may be possible for Doctor Halsey to repair her due to the way she was created. Throughout the game, Cortana's personality continues to fragment and this is used against her and the Master Chief by Captain Andrew Del Rio, though the Master Chief remains confident in her. Cortana is even able to take advantage of the fragmentation of her personality while on the Didact's ship and manages to apparently achieve the 4th-stage of Rampancy: Metastability, moments before she was destroyed altogether.
As Cortana is an A.I., she has no physical body. She can communicate through comm systems and project a holographic image of herself from appropriate projectors, such as Holotanks. Her chosen avatar appears to be a naked female human, roughly in her early twenties, with purplish/bluish skin, shoulder length purplish/bluish hair cut shorter at the back, and blue symbols scrolling down her body. In Halo: Fall of Reach, Cortana is said to resemble her creator, Dr. Catherine Halsey as a young woman, with a similar attitude "only unchecked by military and social protocol." When in a different emotional state, Cortana usually changes colors. This was especially noticeable in Halo: Combat Evolved, but less so in Halo 2 and Halo 3. Only in specific instances did she produce the color-changing effect. One instance of this was right before John-117 rescued her. Dr. Halsey stated in her journal that Cortana looks somewhat like Miranda Keyes.
Bungie took a fair of amount of artistic freedom in the evolution of her appearance throughout the Halo trilogy, noticeably from Halo: Combat Evolved to Halo 2. She has longer hair, a more realistic humanoid figure, a much more feminine appearance and a slightly different shade of purple. In Halo 3, she becomes slightly bluer and again her face, hair, and body are changed to look more feminine and realistic. In Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary she has her Halo 3 appearance. In Halo 4, she later has darker, more opaque and realistic hair, her facial structure also changing.
Cortana was designed to infiltrate computer systems and she is excellent at the task. She has become so intelligent that she understands Covenant technology far more than her makers and in some cases, the Covenant themselves. As of early 2553, she has never encountered a Covenant security measure that she wasn't able to bypass. In addition, she is proficient with UNSC military hardware and can run military ships and stations by herself. Indeed, the UNSC's primary use of AIs is to oversee targeting of point-defense weaponry used in space battles. For Cortana, this is merely an additional capability. She has helped out in several major battles including Operation: FIRST STRIKE. She is capable of storing large amounts of data within her holographic appearance, hiding it in the microscopic lines of code that make up her visual form. Even when she is in the Data Crystal Chip, microscopic lines of code are running through the holographic "filling".
Cortana can be transferred among various computer systems. In Halo: Combat Evolved, she needed a Data Crystal Chip to move in and out of various networks, including John-117's MJOLNIR armor. In Halo 2, she merely needs to be touching another system to access it; however, this is most likely a product of John-117's upgraded armor. Quite strangely, in Halo 3, she reverted to the data chip; this was probably because John-117's armor was badly damaged during the fall to Earth that it reverted to a back up system, which also explains its different shield. However, there are some differences. Instead of having to be physically "plugged in" to the hologram projector, the Chief can just hold the chip close to it, at which point she "walks" off, later "touching" the chip to return to it—holographic representations of the data transfer. In Halo 4 she is back to needing to be plugged into various terminals.
She is also very good at planning missions for the Chief, including the destruction of Halo. In Halo: The Flood, the Chief comments that he's not sure who's better at blowing things up: him or her. It was also her plan that led to the destruction of all of the Flood that had escaped Installation 05 and saved the galaxy from a further Flood invasion. Apparently she has mission planning routines that help her with this as her clone told the Chief that a copy had only limited mission planning routines and was only able to help the Spartans form basic plans.
Another ability that she developed is a limited teleportation ability on Installation 04. She learned how to teleport on Halo while in its control systems, but as she couldn't access Halo's power grid, she couldn't perform this task very often. She did teleport once with the Master Chief by drawing power from his fusion pack saying that she was sure it wouldn't cause permanent damage to his power pack or shields, but both agreed that this should only be done once. She learned where they needed to go from the Covenant Battlenet and teleported them there although they ended up upside down due to her not getting the coordinates completely right. She has not used this ability since although she could presumably use it on any Halo but would have the same power requirements problem.
Another of her abilities is the ability to clone herself. She got this from a Covenant A.I. she destroyed and dissected. She first tested it by copying her language translation abilities and found it worked great. She also could seem to sense what progress the clone had made as if she retained a connection to it. Later, due to the importance of her getting to Earth due to all of the data she'd collected on Halo, the Flood and Covenant technology, she was forbidden from going on the Master Chief's mission, but she was able to make a clone of her infiltration abilities to give the Chief enough of her capabilities to infiltrate the Covenant command and control station. She claimed that this would not be a complete copy, but she thought that what it was would be enough. The clone had at least some of her personality as well. The clone retained her abilities to hack systems and some limited mission planning routines that allowed her to make basic plans to help the Spartans, but was unable to make the complicated plans that Cortana could come up with. The original clone made a copy of itself into the station's systems to help out and due to being overwhelmed by Covenant security A.I.'s, ended up making hundreds of copies of itself which overwhelmed the system and made accomplishing anything hard for the clones as they began to lose their coherent state, but still could control the system. The original clone was left behind in the reactor system. It was placed there to overload the reactors and was never removed once it started the process. All of the clones created on the mission were destroyed when the station blew, but provided invaluable help to the Spartan team. Later, while held captive by the Gravemind, Cortana used her cloning ability to create data-stripped clones of herself and ones of her lower-priority functions to distract the Gravemind. These were all consumed by the Gravemind, but they helped buy Cortana time and one also helped her create her message to the Master Chief. Some were even responsible for the more rampant parts of two of the Cortana Moments. During Halo 4, while on The Didact's ship, she creates multiple clones of herself through Rampancy to help overwhelm the ship's defenses and lower the Composers shields for John to plant the HAVOK nuclear mine to destroy it with. Cortana and her clones later manifest themselves as hard light to aid the Chief in battle by tying down The Didact so he could plant a Forerunner Grenade to his chest to stun him so he would fall into the event horizon of the Composers energy network.
One of Cortana's other abilities is that she has the ability to control a variety of starships and stations and act as their AI even though that isn't her primary purpose. Cortana has acted as the AI of the Pillar of Autumn, Cairo Station, the Forward Unto Dawn, the Gettysburg and even the Covenant flagship Ascendant Justice. Despite it not being her purpose to act as a shipboard AI, Cortana is extremely good at it, with Captain Keyes being so pleased with her performance during the Fall of Reach, he ends up being glad he never got to initialize the Pillar of Autumn's true AI. During the time the Ascendant Justice was under human command, Cortana was able to control that ship easily once she destroyed the Covenant AI and was given full control of its systems by John-117. She proved even more adept at using the ship's technology than the Covenant were and was able to perform feats with it the Covenant never even thought of trying. While she was in control of that ship, Cortana is also able to act as the Gettysburg's AI at the same time, albeit while the ships are linked and is able to transfer herself from one ship to the other at will.
- Cortana is voiced by Jen Taylor, the same actress that voiced Princess Peach in several Mario games, Zoey from Left 4 Dead, Keira Stokes from F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, and also voices Catherine Halsey, reinforcing the connection between the two characters. This is also the case in Halo Legends, where Shelley Calene-Black voices both Halsey and Cortana.
- Cortana's face in Halo 4 was modeled after international model Paisha Coffey.
- Cortana's movement and acting was performed by the actress Mackenzie Mason using motion capture technology.
- The date Cortana woke the Chief from cryo is a possible 7 reference (10+7+4=21 21/3=7)
- Easter eggs involving Cortana, can be found in a couple places. In Halo 3, look for a UNSC mobile computer. Watch the lower-left monitor. After a few seconds, Cortana's face will appear for an instant and then disappear. Two of the easiest ways to see this is to either look at the aforementioned screen in the beginning of Crow's Nest, or at one of the computers in the multiplayer map High Ground.
- There was going to be an alternate story in Halo: Combat Evolved in which John-117 rediscovered Cortana inside the control room and she had become mad with power, wanted to take over Installation 04 and ultimately, the universe.
- In the original draft of the Halo: Combat Evolved script, Cortana was supposed to have an accent akin to the British Isles. When in search of voice actors, Martin O'Donnell made sure they had the ability to interpret the accent correctly. This is evidenced by the fact that in Halo: Combat Evolved, Cortana uses several British idioms, such as "Sod off!" when addressing 343 Guilty Spark.
- She was rated as one of the ten most disturbingly sexual game characters by Games.net and one of the fifty greatest female video game characters ever by Tom's Games.
- In Halo 3, she repeated lines Dr. Halsey has said before such as "You will be the protector of Earth and all her colonies." which Dr. Halsey says to the 6 year old Spartans in Halo: The Fall of Reach. Cortana also recites a few lines from the Cortana Letters in Halo 3 in some of her messages and in the announcement trailer. Some of the lines are said in the Cortana moments in the level Cortana.
- Cortana has many similarities to the Marathon AI, Leela, such as control over certain functions of ships and other locations in their computer systems.
- Being a smart A.I., Cortana's operational life span is approximately seven years. However, after she took in all the Forerunner information in Halo's control room, her estimated life span was possibly halved, due to the vast task of storing, processing etc. all that information. In addition, all of the data she absorbed on Halo noticeably decreased her efficiency.
- The name Cortana (also Curtana or Courtain) is a Latinized form of the Anglo-French curtein, from Latin curtus meaning "shortened." The name is used for a ceremonial type of sword; according to legend, one such weapon was the sword of Ogier the Dane; it bore the inscription "My name is Cortana, of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durendal." Durendal (spelled 'Durandal' in this sense) was the name of an Artificial intelligence in a previous Bungie game, Marathon. This also ties in with Cortana telling the Chief "I am your shield, I am your sword."
- By cloning herself to create Cortana, Dr. Catherine Halsey knowingly broke civilian law, UNSC military regulations, and UN Colonial Mortal Dictata.
- The Chief appears to be unaware that Cortana is created from Dr. Halsey's cloned brain, although he can recognize that whoever died to create the A.I must be a genius and that Cortana sounds more like a picky civilian than a military construct.
- Her first words were, "Quando il gioco è finito, il re e il pedone vanno nella stessa scatola." This phrase translates to "When the game is over, the king and the pawn go in the same box." The phrase was spoken by Halsey's mother after their first game of chess.
- Cortana's voice is available in Halo: Reach's Firefight mode.
- Dr. Halsey believes that she looks partly like Miranda Keyes.
- In Halo: Glasslands, The smart A.I "BB" sees Cortana as a negative role model. He believes she has become far too human after spending so much time around them.
- Cortana's name contains seven letters, another 7 reference by Bungie.
- In Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Cortana takes her Halo 3 form.
- On the level Requiem, an audio log can be found in which Dr. Halsey mentions how Cortana could possibly outlive the 7 year life expectancy before saying how odd it is for an UNSC A.I.
- Jen Taylor was awarded "Performance of the Year (Female)" by Ben of "TheGamerDrive", for her performance in Halo 4.
List of appearancesEdit
- Halo: Combat Evolved
- Halo 2
- Halo 3
- Halo: Reach
- Halo: The Fall of Reach
- Halo: The Flood
- Halo: First Strike
- Halo: Ghosts of Onyx
- Halo: Glasslands (Mentioned only)
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe
- Halo Graphic Novel
- Halo Legends
- Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
- Halo 4
- Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Halo: Reach Limited Edition - Dr. Halsey's personal journal
- ↑ Halo: The Flood, page 255
- ↑ Axon Clips, Chapter 5 Jersey brain_ninjas
- ↑ Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, Human Weakness, page ??
- ↑ Halo Legends; Origins (DVD Commentary, Frankie: "This story is told through Cortana's memories, as she's starting to approach what we suspect might be a stage of rampancy")
- ↑ 
- ↑ 
- ↑ Halo: The Flood, page 26
- ↑ Halo: Reach ViDoc: A Spartan Will Rise
- ↑ Halo: Legends credits
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Halo 3, Legendary Edition bonus disc
- ↑ Halo 3 Essentials, Halo: Combat Evolved Cutscenes with Commentary- 38:34-39:48
- ↑ Games.net: Top Ten Disturbingly Sexual Game Characters
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 Halo: First Strike, page 195
- ↑ Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, Palace Hotel, page ??
- ↑ Bungie.net: Bungie Weekly Update: 07.16.10
- ↑ Weebly.com – TheGamerDrive
|Known UNSC AIs|
|Araquiel • Auntie Dot • Black Box • Beowulf • Captain Teach • Chauncey • Cortana • Deep Winter • Doppler • Durga • Déjà • Endless Summer • Eternal Spring • FitzGibbon • Iona • Jerrod • Juliana • Kalmiya • Lackluster • Loki • Lorelei • Lysithea • Mack • Mama • Melissa • Mo Ye • Pallas Athena • Phoenix • Rebecca • Sekmet • Serina • Sif • Solipsil • Superintendent (Vergil) • Toran • Watchmaker • Wellsley|