Worth It

Summary: An AI and his Spartan have a conversation that haunt the Spartan for the rest of her short life. Half non-canon, half canon. Oneshot

Notes: An idea that's been in my head for the better part of a day. Probably inaccuracies; don't care. If there are other stories like this, I'm sorry, I haven't read them and don't know they exist so I apologize if you feel like I'm infringing on your territory or whatever.

B312 used to be in the Sabre program, it was true. Her Sabre had an AI installed – just one to keep things running and warn whenever damage was taken or death was imminent – as all Sabres did. However, hers happened, by some terrible stroke of luck, to contain a smarter AI that was… for lack of a better term, demoted. B312 had no idea how this was possible, but she eventually found out – insubordination.

The AI's name was Simon and he was a pain in her ass in the beginning. He had a sly tongue that came back to bite her whenever she tried to make conversation. He kept her Sabre running beautifully, however, so she excused his over-active mouth. He was strangely philosophical, and unlike any other AI she'd ever met.

They often talked, usually with banter-battle that she always lost because, well, he was an AI after all. Occasionally their talks turned philosophical and on one particular day, B312 asked:

"Is it worth it?"

His holographic form – she had had a holopad built in her Sabre so she could see him – popped to the surface. Simon was an orange-red with narrowed white eyes and the usual pattern of circuitry running over his non-existent skin. He raised an eyebrow at her question.

"Is what worth it? Season tickets to Lunar Hockey? The price of New Mombasa transit? ODST Spring Training? Be more specific."

She sighed inside her helmet, taking her hands off the starfighter's controls for a moment to gesture widely in the limited space of the Sabre. They had been flying a training mission over Earth at the time, and she pointed down at the planet and then swept her arms outwards as if to give the galaxy a hug. Simon sighed, getting what she meant.

"Oh, you mean, is this whole thing worth it? The war, the Covenant, the colonies, the battles, Sabre program, Spartan program, ODSTs, the whole shebang, am I right?"

B312 shrugged, "Not quite. I meant life in general." Simon looked like he wanted to roll his translucent white eyes but settled for putting his hands on his hips.

"Tell me what life is like, and I'll tell you whether it's worth it or not."

Loaded statement right there.

B312 had wanted to tell him, but couldn't find the words at the time. As an AI, Simon was naturally curious as to what it was like to have flesh and blood as well as a computer for a mind. She couldn't explain in her Sabre, but she could now.

For there was more than loss of words, now. There was loss of determination, loss of will, and looming over her head, loss of life.

She was slumped, alone, in the dusty hills of Reach. Noble team was dead, she was Lone Wolf once more. There were no more missions, no more objectives, no more rally points, no more anything. Just her, this assault rifle and the hordes of enemies that were no doubt milling around outside of this semi-protected position. There was no one left to save or protect. There was nothing.

Nothing but life. A short, croaked laugh erupted quietly from B312's lips. She was going to die, she knew, and wasn't attempting to deny the fact, but she wanted to die fighting. And she knew how to describe life now. If only Simon was here for it, she could tell him, and maybe he could finally understand.

Life was this – an eternal struggle, a universe dead set against Human existence, a war that never ended. But it wasn't all bad; because one was constantly fighting, the victories were sweet and the joy of winning never fully went away. To stay alive was to constantly be better than the universe, to constantly show it up, to constantly defeat enemies that you didn't even know were there.

In a way, the struggle was beautiful.

It was funny – though not particularly amusing – how she was thinking about this one little conversation with an AI she'd never see again, in the middle of a death zone with said death guaranteed. Reach was done, she was done, and she could be thinking about so many other things. But she was tired, worn out, weary to the bone, and only had one last fight left in her. As soon as she departed from this area, she would fire her last few clips, kill as many bastard Covenant as she could and then die.

Something about phrasing it that way left a bad taste in Noble Six's mouth. It was like a National Geographic show on those bug species that mate and die and turned her slightly unwilling but – ha – noble death into an impersonal commentary on the weather.

She sighed. Her lungs felt compressed by the armor, her head felt heavy and her knees like jelly. Is this what getting old felt like? She was glad she wasn't getting any older, then, because this was a bitch.

B312 stood and faced the rest of Reach, a brilliant sunset and a ruined planet. In her mind, she was writing a letter – A letter to Simon, and other AI, and anyone who wanted to know what life was really about. She wrote the letter as she began running, vaulting over sand dunes and debris. She was dotting her i's as she brought her fist into an Elite's head. The Spartan crossed her t's and x's while she gunned down Grunts and Jackals and eventually ran out of ammo. She proofread it as she stumbled, her strength fading into weariness and her pace faltering. An Elite, no three… four – gods, more than she could count – ran up upon her as she fell, leaving her helmet discarded a few yards away. She signed her name at the bottom – not Noble Six, not B312, not 'Spartan'. She signed with her name, or at least the one that fit her best, as plasma plunged through her abdomen and the dusty sky whited out.

Dear Simon and AIs and any other curious minds,

I asked you {Simon} long ago whether life was worth it, and you told me to be more specific and explain what life was to you. I couldn't do it at the time – now I can.

I can't really fit it into a group of adjectives like 'fun', 'exciting', 'terrifying', et cetera. I need to give you the full explanation of what I mean.

Life is not as complex as what some would make it out to be. Life is basically a fight, from the moment one is born to the moment one dies, for survival. It is a terrible fight, taking every breath and every thought and every second of one's time. But for all it's terribleness, it has a certain beauty. There's a fresh feeling of victory for overcoming something, that sense of success, which means that you won the battle.

And there are so many battles to win in the long war. Talking, learning to walk, learning numbers and letters and how to read, learning to shoot a gun, learning to fly a Sabre – learning how to jump out of orbit into the middle of hell. Learning is the key word – to learn to is to win, to gain knowledge is to claim victory over the unseen enemies of life. It is the learning process that gives us – Humans – victory over the Covenant and over anything else that would oppose us. The mind is the key. If one doesn't think, they lose.

In essence, life is about living – and living can fit any definition under the sun, and so is fully individual. I cannot tell you the details of what life is really about, you have to figure that out for yourself. My life was about honor, and duty, and surprisingly enough, about working in a team. I only discovered that part at the end – thanks to Noble Team. Thanks to Kat, Emile, Carter, Jorge and Jun, I learned that even though I'm damn good at Lone Wolf, I'm even better in a pack.

So I sacrificed my life and the lives of my team members for knowledge – in the shape of Cortana. She has learned information that will help us destroy the Covenant, and now Humanity can do so because I passed the knowledge on. You might think it stupid, to die for an AI. But I'd do it again – because some battles in life are only won through death.

This was my final battle, and I won.

Sincerely: Reach

End notes: hngh. Chem lab to do now. I love Chem but labs are a bitch.