Summary and Author's note: At the end of Halo 3, the Master Chief, Cortana, and half of a UNSC frigate are seen drifting in space for an unspecified amount of time. They come across a planet, which glows bright blue-white just before the seen cuts out. What I'm attempting to do is put the epilogue of the Chief's journey into writing. It's been tried before, but in one shots, from what I see so far. Who will the Chief find on this planet? What will he find? And just where the hell is he?

PROLOGUE: The Way the World Ends

"Chief? Can you hear me?"

Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, the last of the SPARTAN-II super soldiers, found himself floating in a weightless vaccuum. His last memories had been reassuring Cortana and leaning against an equipment console in the hangar bay for some well deserved rest. He flicked on his helmet lights and tried to get his bearings.

He heard Cortana sigh with relief. Even though the AI was technically a computer, she was based off the neural patterns of a human, and exhibited very human emotions. "Good. I thought I'd lost you, too."

The Chief pushed off the bulkhead, righting himself with the floor. The view that occupied his visor wasn't the inside of the Dawn's hangar, or even the spherical Earth hanging from the heavens. It was space, the vast emptiness. Hundreds of stars yet to be unexplored by the UNSC twinkled brightly at him. This was growing worse and worse by the minute.

"What happened?" The Chief asked. He floated over to the hangar bay door, and found that it had been mostly sheared off. The Chief kept a tight grip on an exposed beam of cooling red titanium. After coming all this way, the last thing he wanted to do was float off into what could possibly be extra-galactic regions of space. Cortana sounded almost apologetic in her answer.

"I'm not quite sure. When Halo fired, it shook itself to pieces...along with the Ark. The portal couldn't sustain itself. We made it through just as it collapsed." That slightly narrowed the chances of being outside the Milky Way, but he could have been in any of a million stars that the galaxy possessed. A billion stars. The Chief felt his head start to swim. "Well...some of us made it."

The Chief nodded grimly to himself, thinking of the fallen Marines that he had left behind on Halo, the first ring. On Delta Halo. On the Ark. Spent lives, he had told himself. Not wasted. Spent to keep the Flood and the Covenant from eradicating the Human race. Good men and women. He lingered for a moment longer, than pushed off.

The UNSC frigate was relatively small compared to other ships of the line the Chief had served on, and he remembered the layout down to the last detail. Moving through the ship as fast as he could with zero-g, the Chief proceeded to the cryo-chambers, which thankfully had been in the aft of the ship when it had been ripped in half.

The small room, containing about thirty-five pods, was more than sufficient for the Chief. He cast a glance as he drifted by, noting which seemed to still be operable. There were several in the center of the room, near a data terminal for an AI. The Chief stopped when he got to it, removing Cortana's chip from his helmet and placing her inside. The built in projector hummed and Cortana sprung into form. Out of courtesy, the Chief killed his helmet lights.

"You did it," she said softly, voice emitting from his speakers rather than from the terminal. "Truth, and the Covenant, and the Flood. It's finished."

"It's finished," the Chief agreed. For the SPARTANS and Earth, the war was finally over. He ejected the half empty mag from his MA5C, locking the rifle snugly into a slot on a bulkhead-mounted weapon rack. The Chief placed the half dozen remaining clips and his sidearm into an empty ammo locker as Cortana watched him.

"I'll drop a beacon. But it'll be a while before anyone finds us. Years even."

The Chief knew that Cortana would be gone in approximately seven Earth years, either driven rampant by isolation or devoting too much processing power to thinking. It happened to every smart AI, without exception. The thought made him want to rip the pod from its place and smash it against the ground until it was nothing but powder in his hands. Dammit, they had come so far together! To lose Cortana after rescuing her from thousands of Flood was like the plot of a Greek tragedy.

He pushed these thoughts to the back of his mind, crawling into the cryo pod. For all he knew, they could be heading to within sensor range of a populated Human or Elite colony, or a ship...but he doubted it.

"I'll miss you," Cortana said as the door to the pod began to shut the Chief into his slumber.

"Wake me," he answered. "When you need me."

The pod sealed, and gas began hissing in through small vents in the side of his casket. The Master Chief, John-117, entered stasis under the watchful eye of his closet living companion, where he would stay for a very long time, as Cortana had predicted. Lifetimes passed before the ancient holo-tank hummed back to life as the ship's jury-rigged proximity alarm began to bleat softly.

"Chief," a synthesized voice whispered into his helmet. "I need you."

A/N 2: I've also been hearing complaints about the ending. I think it was brilliant. In Halo: CE, we first meet the Chief and his Chiefy-ness when he emerges from a stasis pod. He progress and blows up the first Halo. In Halo 3, the Master Chief destroys what is hopefully the last ring and the game ends with him (re) entering stasis. That's climactic right there.