The Renegade: Prologue/Chapter One
Posted By: QuantumSheep<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 13 November 2009, 7:00 am
I remember when I was only about thirteen years of age I encountered a human on the streets of the capital city of Sanghelios. It was only a chance encounter, one that ended as quickly as it had begun.
I still remember it vividly, even if it was over two decades ago. It had been another hot day, the fourth in a row during one of the region's more profound dry spells. The human I encountered had been dressed in some sort of military uniform, one that beared a number of insignia that indicated he was of very high rank. Of what rank I could not be sure, but it was obvious that this human was important.
I would not have paid much notice to him if it were not for the fact that I quite literally collided with him. I had been in a hurry at the time, why I cannot remember. What I do remember was the human and his eyes, the pale blue ones that were both bright and unnerving at the same time. There was some sort of sinisterness behind their vibrant glow, as if this human male was thinking of very dark matters. Those eyes unnerved me but the rest of the face was ill-fitting for such unnerving eyes: the well-moulded jawbone, the average sized nose, the young glow of his skin. His hair was dark and cut short and his sideburns trailed slightly down his cheeks and near his ears but were otherwise of a reasonable length. It seemed that this human kept himself well-groomed, yet another hint at his overall importance.
Upon bumping into him I stopped and looked at him, my eyes meeting with his. When I look back onto this seemingly insignificant event I cannot quite remember why I averted my eyes from his, but it does seem logical to assume that I felt the evil in him back then as I do now. The human did not seem annoyed at the fact that I had collided with him. Rather, he gave me an appreciative smile and walked on, a typical human briefcase clutched in his right hand as he went.
I later learned that he had been on our planet and in our capital city for some important political summit, the first of several that had been intended to strengthen diplomatic relations between our two races. It was because of summits like these that our races learned to get along with one another but even now there is still much animosity. And even now, after thirty-six years of peace there is still much in the way of violence between our two races.
I did not think much of the encounter with this human back then but now I realize that it was to be the forerunner to a much more profound chain of events that would affect not only myself but many others, both Human and Sangheili alike. I did not even begin to contemplate that I may meet this human again but I did, many years later and in a far different set of circumstances.
I speak now of these matters.
It is hard to determine exactly where it began, if there was actually any beginning to it at all. My encounter with the human at a young age was perhaps the earliest thing I could remember that relates to it all, but other than that I cannot discern an exact "beginning". In fact, I believe that there was no such "beginning" at all: merely a set of events that were all interconnected that set everything in motion. I think I would do best to start with the morning of what I had thought would be another routine day on the military base, only for it to take a somewhat intriguing turn later on.
I work at the only Sangheili military base on the planet of Taleria. It lies some distance from the largest settlement on the planet, nestled in a valley near a large and mostly unspoilt rainforest. Taleria is unlike most other worlds for the simple fact that its colonization is the result of a joint effort between two very different races: the Sangheili and the Humans.
I personally do not know who came up with the idea but I do think they were quite incorrect in their assumption that the colonization of Taleria would settle differences between our species. It seems credible that it had been the Humans who had come up with the idea in the first place and not us Sangheili. The Humans were always coming up with ideas that did little to benefit anybody. It was a habit of theirs, one that I and many other Sangheili had learned to put up with over the post-war years.
Taleria lies in a region of space where Human territory meets with Sangheili territory. After the war, the Humans did well to expand beyond their devastated worlds in order to claim more untouched ones for themselves. During the early post-war years, when I was nothing but a youngster roaming the capital city of Sanghelios, the Humans put a claim on the unspoilt paradise of Taleria only for that claim to be challenged by a group of Sangheili explorers. Apparently these explorers had placed a claim on the world mere months before the humans and were understandably upset at the absolute blasé attitude the Humans had. The validity of the claims made by the Sangheili explorers was questionable and strangely enough the group had no proof to support what they were saying. However, some politicians saw this dispute as a means of easing the tensions that lay between our two races ever since the end of the war.
Many Humans felt much animosity towards us, especially because of the role we had played in the destruction of many of their colonized worlds and the millions, if not billions, our race had killed. There were Humans who believed that we should all die for what we had done, regardless of whether we had formed an alliance with their race during the later part of the war. There were Sangheili who believed that the Humans were naturally aggressive and were best to be eliminated, otherwise they may decide to try and destroy our race. There were also Covenant loyalists groups and Human Insurgents: the loyalists still believed in the ways of the Covenant and refused to believe that the Great Journey was a lie, despite the immense evidence that pointed towards this. The Human Insurgents despised the Sangheili race (as well as the Unggoy and Kig-Yar races) and believed that the Humans should do their best to destroy us. Both groups had made many attacks on Human and Sangheili worlds but neither were considered very major threats.
The politicians had believed that the planet of Taleria held the key in bringing our two races closer together. About two decades ago the first colonization efforts had been made and several settlements had been set up on the paradise-like world. These settlements were to be home to a mix of Humans and Sangheili in an effort to ease the problems that existed between both species. Taleria was to become neutral ground in any summits and negotiations that occurred between both races. The nickname the "Peace Planet" was given to Taleria for it was believed that the planet, where Humans and Sangheili coexisted peacefully, would in fact bring peace between both races.
It was no surprise to many that it did not quite go to plan. Things started off well enough, with several settlements being constructed and many settlers arriving over the colony's early years. However, as the settlements grew and the populations increased the problems both races had with each other became far more profound. Violence between species became a common occurrence and often whole groups of either Humans or Sangheili would set out to beat and even kill members of the other race. The political meetings that were held on Taleria often broke down, further straining diplomatic relations between our two races. The "Peace Planet" had become a world wracked with violence, almost always between races.
I had spent the last five years here as a Major at the Sangheili military base. Often I would be called to aid in quelling some sort of riot or general public unrest in the nearby settlements. I would be accompanied by many other soldiers, most of them young and inexperienced. The planet had been in a state of martial law for a number of years now, with a strict curfew enforced at nightfall in an effort to decrease the amount of violence that went on in the settlements.
In my perception the idea to create this "Peace Planet" had been doomed from the beginning. It seemed common knowledge that the Sangheili and the Humans could never coexist peacefully as both races were prone to aggression. I knew this well, as did most others who had been born around the same time as me.
I had been born about a year after the end of the war to a single mother, her name was Kelina. My father had died in battle shortly after my conception, leaving my mother to raise me by herself. As I had grown up on Sanghelios I had witnessed first-hand the increasing tensions that were between us and the Humans. I watched as the Humans began to develop a heavy influence over our society, with Human corporations attempting to move in on the large Sangheili market in order to sell their products. Political relations had officially began about two years after the end of the war and both sides had had peace in mind: our race had lost its only faith, that of the Great Journey. The Humans had been devastated and their military was weakened. Neither race was in any position to go to war over anything for quite some time.
The first major Human influence I recall that crept into our society rather subtlety had been that of religion. When the Great Journey had been proven as a lie to our race shortly after the war had ended there had been mass upheaval and many riots. Mass suicides had not been uncommon but naturally most Sangheili valued their own lives enough to not kill themselves. Many simply denied the evidence that the Great Journey was a lie, preferring to live in ignorance of the truth. Those that accepted it also accepted the fact that they may have to go through their lives without any sort of meaning to them: there were no gods, no glorious afterlife to look forward to now that the truth of the Great Journey had been disproven.
Our society remained in this state for a few years before the first traces of Human religion arrived, working its way from a relatively small percentage of our population and up until the first churches were built. The Humans had a multitude of different religions, some ranging from the fairly believable to the absolutely inane. It seemed that most Sangheili were keen to take upon a new faith, especially since the Great Journey had been a massive lie. It had been a lie concocted by the Prophets to justify the extermination of the Human race and it had fooled every Sangheili.
When I was about the age of ten my mother came home one day with a datapad that was in fact a Human work, one that detailed the basis of one of the more popular religions that the Humans had. Over the centuries it had existed it had changed and been altered and now it had been changed again to facilitate the explanation of where all life in the universe, including Sangheili, came from and not just Human life. It was not long before my mother was passing these beliefs onto me, even if I did not think highly of religion. I still have the seem feelings I do about it as I had back then, for religion is not something I feel I have need for. It is not an uncommon phenomenon for Sangheili born after the war to see no need in having a religion, becoming completely unlike the last generations who had developed almost fanatical beliefs in the Great Journey.
Human corporations had seen fit to capitalize on the fact that they had a whole new species to expose their products to, even taking the time to create new products specially tailored for the Sangheili. Regardless of how hard the politicians tried to prevent it, Human consumerism and corporatism began to infiltrate Sangheili society. Where many older Sangheili saw it as a destruction of our culture, other younger Sangheili (such as myself, I must admit) welcomed the changes and inadvertently found ourselves becoming increasingly more Human-like.
Here on Taleria such corporatism is everywhere: the Human corporations advertised their products to the mix of Humans and Sangheili that lived upon this world, displaying advertisements on practically every street corner and broadcasted them into the homes of both Humans and Sangheili. To some older Sangheili, Taleria was a sign that the Humans were out to control us and destroy our culture and traditions. I personally did not have much of a problem with this, having come to the conclusion that our pre-war customs were far too outdated in a constantly changing and modernising galaxy. Human influence was something I thought our race desperately needed, otherwise the great Sangheili Empire may stagnate, especially in the wake of the revelations that the Human-Covenant war had provided us in regards to the truth about the Great Journey.
Most older Sangheili would consider me as prime evidence that the Humans had too much influence in our society. They could think what they wanted, as I found that most older Sangheili were simply old fashioned. They thought that the old customs were far superior to anything that might come about in the post war era. Most simply refused to believe the truth about the Great Journey and continued to live in ignorance of it, often running sermons that spoke of the Sacred Rings and afterlife they could bring. Most of these older Sangheili had served in the Human-Covenant war and most would have preferred to have finished the job of exterminating the human race.
I had no problem with Humans, even if they might have been responsible for my father's death. My father's name had been Jerashar 'Stalakee and he had been a Minor, the lowest rank in the normal Sangheili infantry. He had died in a battle on the Human home-world of Earth, just how he had perished I had never found out and neither had my mother. He had been just another casualty of war, one bound to be forgotten in the depths of history if it were not for me and my mother, who had been his lover prior to his leaving for Earth. As hard as my mother tried but she still felt some sort of loyalty to my deceased father, unable to form any long-lasting relationship with another male. Often she told me of how she regretted never having said a proper goodbye to him before he had left for Earth. I was apparently the result of a single night the pair had had together, giving the impression that I was a mere accident. With this in mind I had developed a rather cynical attitude to the world around me, one that had simply grown over the years and one that affected my ability to form intimate relationships with females. There was always that fear in my mind that I might get a woman pregnant, only to perish shortly afterward and leave my child without a father. That did not mean I had avoided forming romantic relationships, it simply meant I had trouble making them last.
I was about thirty-six in Human years and it had been about the same amount of time since the end of the war, give or take a few months. I was one of the more highly respected soldiers here on the military base on Taleria, as most of the other soldiers were young Minors who had never seen much experience in combat. I was a Major and a fairly decorated one at that. I had seen action against Covenant loyalists and Human Insurgents on more than one occasion. I knew what it was like to be in a combat situation, being shot at and with the possibility of death lingering over me. I had learned that the best option one had in such a situation was to remain calm and alert. Undoubtedly this belief had kept me alive throughout my military career.
It had been what I had figured to become another routine day on the military base. I would train with the squad of Minors I was in charge of, marching, practicing on the firing range and going into one of the base's many changing rooms to hone my close combat skills. It was unlikely anything was happening in the nearby settlements that required my immediate attention from the military forces stationed at this base. In fact, I had very low expectations of today and so awoke in the morning in a disenchanted mood.
The morning wake up siren had sounded, stirring most of those that were asleep in the military base out of their unconscious states and into the realm of consciousness. My bunk sat in a separate room to the rest of the dormitory, seeing as I was the officer who was in charge of one particular squad's worth of Minors. The night before had been our fortnightly day off where I and my squad had ventured to the nearest settlement in order to get some well deserved rest.
There was never too much to do in the settlement, unless one was interested in the often lonely women there. Not only that but interspecies prostitution was a growing business on Taleria and one of the Minors under my command, a twenty-one year old by the name of Sysha, often paid much money to spend time with Human prostitutes. If the medical examinations were to be believed he currently had contracted some sort of infection, but no one could be sure whether it was from his relations with the human females or from something else. Still, no one was about to send him home over a minor infection, especially since everyone at this base was needed. Our forces here were stretched thin and had difficulty in keeping order when it was necessary, as had been evident with a recent riot in the nearby settlement. Our superiors were always requesting reinforcements but never got them.
With the sound of the wake up siren, better known as the "reveille", reverberating through my head I opened my eyes. Once again the bed's sheets had shifted until they had simply fallen off of one side, hinting at yet another restless sleep. I could not recall any of the dreams I had but I figured that most were enough to send my rolling around during my sleep. One of my arms hung limply over one side and I lifted it up slowly, flexing my fingers and stretching the muscles of that arm in order to get the blood flowing in a more efficient manner.
Within five minutes I had climbed out of the bed, collecting my suit of well polished crimson armour from the locker at the end of my bed. I took my time in getting dressed, putting on the under-suit first before the armour itself. The helmet was the last item to go on and it fit snugly upon my head, providing an added sense of security. Helmets tended to do that, even if it was a well known fact that they did little to protect one from weapons fire.
I stepped over to the window nearby, gazing out across the yard outside. The sun was rising and the sky above was an orange colour, with some scattered clouds dotted across it. The other buildings across the yard included the commissary and another set of barracks like the one I was in.
After a short but thoughtful gaze out of the window I turned around and made my bed, making sure that it was perfectly made in all regards before I made my way to the door that lead into the rest of the barracks. Behind it I could hear the usual assortment of chatter that came from the Minors as they awoke and headed off to bathe and use the toilet. I carefully pushed open the door, finding that about half of the dozen or so young Minors had already gone into the adjoining bathing facilities while the remaining ones were either talking or making their beds or getting dressed.
Sysha was half dressed in his armour, busy making his bed. He was a little shorter than me, with amber eyes and a typically strong build from all of the training he had been put through and that all young males went through upon beginning their compulsory military service. He looked up and saw me, saluting in my direction.
"Major Matrak, sir," he announced, snapping to attention. The other Minors in the room stood to attention but I gestured to them to fall at ease, which they did. In about half an hour they would all be in the commissary, as would I in order to eat breakfast. Most of the Minors here knew that I was not a morning person, so they tended to tread carefully when I was around. They were right though: I did not like mornings and I could be especially grumpy on some days. I could not be sure if today was one of those days, it was far too early to determine.
"I did not expect you to wake so easily, Sysha," I said. Usually, on the morning after one of our trips into the settlement, Sysha was always the last to wake up and was always late to the morning roll call.
"Today is a notable day, sir," Sysha replied.
I frowned. I could not recall today's date being anything important, except for the fact that it was the start of a new week and that it was my least favourite day of all.
"Why is that so?" I asked.
Sysha shifted where he stood, as if nervous about it. Intrigued, I eyed him carefully, trying to work out just what it was about today that was so "notable".
"Well, it is my birthday, sir," Sysha announced, "I thought you knew
I hadn't known and I doubted I would have even realized if Sysha himself hadn't told me. I was a little perturbed by this announcement, feeling guilty that I had not bought the young Minor a gift. If I had known yesterday I would have picked something up from the settlement while we were there. As far as I can recall, Sysha had spent most of yesterday in the company of a human female. I suppose that had been his birthday present to himself.
"It does not matter," Sysha added quickly, "You are a busy man, Major. I doubt you would have time to worry about the birthdays of the troops you command
"Nonsense," I said. Now the guilt really was beginning to weigh on my mind. I doubt I could have done much to counter it though since I was in no position to go out of my way to find Sysha a gift.
"I will get you a gift, Sysha," I added, "I am unable to do that today, though, but I will as soon as I am in the settlement again
"I appreciate the effort, sir," Sysha replied, "But it really doesn't matter
Outside, I heard what sounded like the noise of an aircraft, presumably Human in design. It also caught the attention of Sysha and the other Minors and they all filed to the door, opening it to take a look across the open parade ground and to the landing pad that was across it. I myself went there to take a look, watching with some bemusement as a Human Pelican craft descended onto the landing pad.
This was a strange enough sight in itself, a human craft arriving at a Sangheili military base. What was even stranger was the human who climbed from the rear of the craft, holding a briefcase as he stepped away from the Pelican. From this distance I could make out the uniform, a black one that signified that he might have been with either the human ODST Corps or some sort of Special Forces unit. I knew a fair bit about the human military, it came with being a Major in this post war era. Why an officer like the one I saw now was arriving in a Sangheili military base was unknown, although I was curious to find out.
The Pelican ascended once the human was clear and he started towards the main administration building where the base Commander had his office. He disappeared through the door and into the structure, walking with in a confident and business-like manner. He would have had a good reason to come here since humans did not often bother with an insignificant Sangheili military base such as this.
"Why is that human here?" One of the Minors, Kelas, asked. No one had an answer to this question. The matter was soon forgotten about and the Minors returned to carrying out their morning routines, leaving me to stand by the door of the barracks dwelling on the matter.
I supposed then that the reason for the human officer's arrival was to do with the trouble that occurred so frequently in the nearby settlement. It would not be long before I actually discovered that this was not the case and that the human was here for another matter entirely. I had no idea then that the matter concerned me but I would find out soon enough.
In the meantime I headed outside to start on my way to the commissary. There were other Sangheili on their way there or already there and by the time I was in the commissary and seated the large eating area was already half-full.
The food on offer was sub-standard but there was no need to have high expectations of the food that was available at military bases. I sat at the officer's table as I always did, sitting myself down in my usual seat after I had collected a tray full of the sub-standard foods on offer. It wasn't long before one of the other Majors on the base, Kalara, had sat down next to me.
Major Kalara was around the same age as me and was in charge of a squad of Minors, just like I was. He and I had formed a fairly rigid friendship over the years we had worked on this base together. He was of a large muscular build and orange eyes, and rather than be the quiet type like I was he was far more talkative, always finding something to discuss. Most of what he talked about was not entirely relevant but this was part of the man's appeal: his irrelevant talks could take one's mind off of things and he often helped me get out of my often dismal morning mood. Today was no different and as soon as he had sat down he started talking.
"Good morning, Ira," he said, setting himself and his plate down. I nodded, not in much of a mood to talk. Kalara took little notice of this.
"Do you know, Ira, that I met this female yesterday, when we were in the settlement?" he said, "She was perhaps one of the more attractive ones I have had the chance of meeting. I am quite sure she would like to see me again
I fingered my food timidly. I wasn't too hungry but I did drink a fair amount of water, listening to whatever Kalara had to say regardless of whether it was anything I would care about or not.
Author's Note: A little something I cooked up the other week. Unlike my past works, I am taking the writing of this one slow and easy, hence why there won't be another chapter for a while. And this time I intend on finishing this particular story. This first chapter acts as an introduction to the post war, species mixing environment I have envisioned. And "inter-species prostitution" I put in for kicks.