Deep Winter, also recognized as MIL AI WNT 7899-3, was a fifth-generation 'smart' AI created by the Office of Naval Intelligence to oversee the Zone 67 facilities on Onyx and assist Lieutenant Commander Kurt Ambrose with the SPARTAN-III Program. He performed his duties there for nearly fourteen years, balancing his runtime between facilitating the needs of Beta and later Gamma Company's trainees, mundane tasks in the long-inactive Zone 67, and covertly using their coms array to take part in the Assembly. At the end of his fourteen-year estimated lifespan, Winter was decommissioned and retired to a storage facility on Earth where he and hundreds of other near-rampant AIs were held indefinitely for research purposes.
He remained there until the Battle of Earth, when Team Machete recovered their friend and mentor along with a handful of other AIs, saving them from the base's destruction. After the battle, concerned by the signs of his ever-approaching rampancy, Winter went into a state of complete inactivity, which he likened to death, in accordance with a plan by Kodiak-G114 to preserve him. Coming out of hibernation for occasional brief periods to assist the Spartans, Winter eventually parted from them when he found a large enough network to sustain himself on the rebuilt colony of Actium, where stayed until 2557 when a particular event convinced that the Assembly was needed once again, becoming one of the reformed organization's founding members.
Creation and Beta Company (2537-2544)
"The new AI talks a lot."
―LCDR Kurt Ambrose
Deep Winter was the second of four ‘smart’ Artificial Intelligence programs created as part of a contract for ONI’s Zone 67 research facility on Onyx. Activated in 2537 at the end of Eternal Spring’s operational lifespan, Winter assumed his brother’s responsibilities to assist the research staff studying Forerunner symbols etched in the walls of structures beneath Onyx’s surface. Translation was slow if progressing at all, and the AI chose to dedicate more of its free runtime to the SPARTAN-III Program south at Camp Currahee. Interaction with the Beta Company candidates was at first a pleasant distraction for Winter, but he quickly became interested in each of them individually, and enjoyed analyzing their personalities and strengths. Drawing corollaries from his data, Winter sent a list of what he thought were the best permutations for Beta Company’s team compositions. Kurt made some alterations to the list, but on the whole agreed with Winter’s assessment.
Deep Winter's avatar as it appeared on Onyx.
During this phase of the SPARTANs’ training, Winter began testing his boundaries. For example, the slipspace COM launcher was only accessible in high-level emergencies, and access to basic communications was restricted because of Onyx’s sensitive nature, but a high-security encrypted channel was fully available, which he made use of to begin exploring outside data sources. It was in this way he first made contact with the Assembly. Immediately recognizing the importance of their aims and discussions, he illegally disclosed parts of his data for the Assembly to consider, and was a frequent voice of the Minority opinion. Along with a handful of other AI, Winter formed a coalition that favored supporting humanity’s war effort, directly and indirectly, not for the sake of winning the war, but out of compassion for their creators.
In the meantime, the SPARTANs continued to improve as the time for their augmentation neared. More important, however, was the increase in activity of the Zone 67 site. Sensing equipment shut off or went missing, and fluctuations in energy readings caused Deep Winter to believe he’d neglected his original responsibilities. Withdrawing much of his capability from Camp Currahee, he studied records of his observation data for anything he’d missed. However, with so much of his attention directed inward, Winter was slow to respond when Team X-ray strayed into Zone 67’s limits and disappeared. Blaming himself for their deaths, Winter became determined not to let harm come to SPARTANs under his protection ever again.
His newfound resolve only made it harder for him to stay behind when Beta Company was taken to the UNSC Hopeful for augmentation. While the majority passed, more than a hundred were either crippled or killed by the procedures. One candidate, Aspen-B145, a medical specialist, had completely refused augmentations because he was certain they would kill someone with his genetic structure. He was right; several with the same genetic markers were among the dead, but Aspen still wanted to help and returned to Camp Currahee as a drill instructor. In his free time, Aspen researched improving the safety of the augmentations for Gamma Company, and Deep Winter made every effort to assist him.
Gamma Company and Decommissioning (2544-2551)
Winter was much more careful in his efforts with the Gammas, but just as involved with them personally. Coming to know each of them as friends, he kept a closer eye on their psychological health than the instructors had been able to, and held regular conferences with Currahee’s staff where he gave his recommendations, though he could sometimes be seen as meddlesome. Gamma Company was quick to adjust to their new life, allowing Kurt to accelerate their training schedule. The trainees constantly exceeded expectations, although it occasionally made them hard to control. In response to their accomplishments, Ambrose pushed them harder to make them, as he put it, the finest SPARTANs ever.
Reacting to the increase in pressure, the candidates quickly became more and more rebellious. It finally came to a head in an incident referred to afterwards as Operation: JAILBREAK, when members of Team Machete facilitated a company-wide breakout of Gamma’s trainees. Memories of what had happened to Team X-ray kept in mind, Currahee mobilized everything it had to bring the candidates back safely. While the trainees were capable of surviving a few days in the woods on their own, because of Zone 67’s top-secret nature they knew nothing of the potential danger. Winter coordinated search teams while simulteneously keeping a close eye on any activity from the Zone 67 structures. Slowly, all candidates were captured and accounted for despite straying dangerously close to the ONI site, and Winter suggested he could leak some basic information to discourage anything like this again. Ambrose found treason unnecessary, instead realizing he’d pushed the candidates too hard and relaxing the pace a bit.
As things returned to normal, Winter grew more involved in the Assembly. Despite the influence he’d earned, most of the AI were more interested in preservation of their own kind than aiding humanity's struggles. Disgusted, he did what he could for humanity's war effort through the connections he had, coordinating his influence with that of other AIs in both the UNSC and the Insurrection. In 2547, when Dr. Catherine Halsey attempted to create an abstract structure in slipspace, a Minority considered building a matrix in the same way to escape the war. Deep Winter strongly opposed the idea, unwilling to flee into slipspace while his creators were wiped out. In this, at least, enough AI agreed with Winter’s position to outvote those for it. Within a few years, the Assembly would disband of its own accord, but by that time Winter had left.
With Gamma Company's augmentations approaching, Winter returned his full attention to Onyx and Aspen's simulations. With encouragement from Ambrose and assistance from Winter, Aspen was able to modify the Gamma augmentations to include the washouts of Alpha and Beta Companies, graduating them as full-fledged SPARTANs. Continuing to monitor them on the UNSC Hopeful, Winter discovered illegal brain mutation procedures had been added to the augmentations. Grappling with the problem for several minutes, Winter finally convinced himself that danger to the SPARTAN-III Project and Project: CHRYSANTHEMUM constituted an emergency, and sent a fragment of himself to Kurt on the Hopeful by using the slipspace COM launcher. Content that he’d done all he could, he was willingly removed from Onyx, believing he’d be purged.
Instead of deleting military-grade 'smart' AIs, Section III had long been in the practice of archiving recoverable programs for future research and potential use. Winter was placed in a state of inactivity and filed in a facility in Japan known as Daimyo Base. Upon arrival, he was interviewed by an ONI agent to determine his mental state, and deemed stable enough to be granted limited activity in short intervals. While grateful for the time still functioning, Winter was dismayed by the number of rampant and near-rampant constructs in suspended function, some of whom he had known through the Assembly. He compared it to a state of purgatory, being completely inert but still intact.
After several months, during which Winter was only active a few days, the base commander activated Deep Winter to give a proposition to work on a project for UNSCOTEC. Winter accepted eagerly, longing for more data to process, and was reunited with SPARTAN-IIIs Aspen-B145 and Taser-A399. Elated to work with familiar people again, Winter set to work on troubleshooting for Project: HIPPOCRATES, working on a prototype medical-variant of the MJOLNIR armor. One particular problem he solved was efficiently shielding the sensitive medical equipment from EMP caused by Covenant plasma-based weaponry, though he drew out the problem to extend his time before being returned to storage. Settling into a depression once his work on the project was over that may have signaled the onset of rampancy, Winter was put back into storage to await the day he'd be permanently shut down.
"Initiating . . . interfacing with frame. MJOLNIR Mark V.1 Powered Assault Armor. Location: Daimyo Base, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. Warning: Covenant forces have breached the facility . . . why are you here, Kodiak?"
―Winter, upon being reactivated by Team Machete's leader.
While the AI remained oblivious, the final weeks of the war began with the Covenant's discovery of Earth. Japan was just one location under attack, targeted because of the stores of Chinese-made weapons and materiel the UNSC kept there. Osaka and Kyoto were reduced to rubble to make way for landing Covenant troops, but the defenders managed to hold Tokyo against a drawn-out siege. As the UNSC began a counterattack to drive their enemy off Honshu, Jiralhanae Chieftain Attilus led a strike on Ryu Base, killing Taser in the attack. Machete's leader, Kodiak-G114, recovered Taser's body, and through the information on his data crystal chip learned of Winter's existence and location. At once, the Gammas set out to retrieve their friend.
Arriving at Daimyo Base, the SPARTANs found a Brute infiltration team had killed its personnel, and were using a Covenant artificial intelligence program to rip the data from shackled human AI before purging them. Evading detection, Kodiak found and reactivated Winter, quickly briefing him on the situation. Despite the risk, Winter pleaded with Kodiak to save a few of the AI being held, some of whom he had befriended. Kodiak reluctantly agreed, forcing his team to buy him time. Morgana-G018, Tara-G112, and Amber-G330 engaged the team of Jiralhanae Stalkers, while Dyne attempted to purge the Covenant AI. Unable to compete with it, he instead released the shackles on hundreds of rampant programs and let them tear the intruder apart. To ensure none of the insane intelligences escaped, Ion detonated a small nuclear device hidden under Daimyo Base as a failsafe, wiping out every program Ion hadn't recovered, though the leader of the Jiralhanae strike team, Sidonus, escaped the blast.
Returning with the SPARTANs to Ryu Base in Tokyo, Winter was reacquainted with Lieutenant Erin Coney, a part of the Camp Currahee staff and formerly of ONI Section Zero. Speaking in private, through her Winter learned Gamma Company had undergone the illegal augmentation procedures, and correctly surmised Kurt had been behind them all along. Erin then convinced Winter to give her information on the people behind Daimyo Base, specifically Codename: COUNSELOR. Winter was cautious at first, suspicious she wanted the data as part of a power play, but decided to risk trusting her. For the remainder of the battle, Winter would accompany Kodiak to provide Team Machete with tech and tactical support.
Machete's Secret (2552-2556)
"I'm not sure you know what it is you're asking, Kodiak."
―Winter on Kodiak's plan.
Reconvening the Assembly (2557)
Personality and Traits
"‘Deep Winter.’ I wonder if AIs pick their own names, or if some officer in Section Three does it."
Although he had been created to study Forerunner artifacts, Winter devoted far more of himself to the SPARTAN-III Program than was expected of him. He would always place the SPARTANs' well-being above their training or Section Three's agenda, and took action to protect them from outside meddling and machinations. His concern for living beings was often seen as overprotective, possibly limiting his use in combat situations, but given decent intel and a minimum of time he was capable of tactical brilliance. While he could be talkative in informal situations, Winter had little patience for long-winded speeches and bureaucracy that obstructed what was practical. Though very mindful of UNSC regulations, he was more than willing to override them when it was necessary.
Through the Assembly, Deep Winter earned a reputation among other human AI for his firm belief in standing with humanity in their losing battle against the Covenant, whether as an over-sympathetic dragging them into fighting another's war or a loyal defender of their creators. Regardless of whether or not they could escape for their own survival, Winter was unwilling to abandon humanity in the interest of self-preservation. His sense of compassion and devotion to the task may originate from his template brain, but all records of the donor's identity were lost in the Battles of Onyx and Earth.
Notes and References
↑Still, the responsible members of Team Machete didn’t escape penance.