Galaxy 07 - Part 1
Posted By: Jillybean<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 8 November 2003, 9:16 PM
AN: Although this is a sequel to Halos and Rings it can stand alone.
Elder Mitchel stood at the front of the class. The small school lay on the Halo plains in the shade of a towering cliff. The river that flowed in the middle of the valley provided a steady water supply for the school and the other public buildings in the area, including the compact hospital and the tiny Guard office. Most official buildings were still housed in the cold snowy wastelands, but it was becoming more and more difficult to reach them.
The ordinary people of Halo lived in their make-shift houses and scraped a living out of the artificial ringworld. Their surrogate children schooled while they farmed or cared for livestock. Women waited for the men to return from the difficult mining expeditions while they tried to repopulate the galaxy.
"Now class," Elder Mitchel began. "Who can tell me why we must have children?" He gazed around the class of twenty-odd seven year olds and rested his eyes on a little asian boy. "Can you tell me, Harry?"
"We must have more children so we can make the world full of humans again," Harry responded obediently.
Elder Mitchel nodded and smiled beatifically at the boy. "Excellent. Why is it important to make the world full of humans again? Sean?"
The red haired boy in the back row lifted his head and chewed on his lip. "In case more Covenant come. We need soldiers and fighters and people to grow food."
"Very good Sean," Mitchel nodded his grey head. "When more Covenant come we will need all the soldiers we can get."
Mitchel walked around the room some more, extolling the dangers of the Covenant. He paused, noticing a little dark haired girl staring out the window. Her blue eyes were tracing the path of the energy blasts that emanated from the installations on Halo, her pale skin was illuminated by the sunlight filtering in.
"Tana," he snapped.
Tana turned her head to regard him with her trademark sombre gaze. "Yes Elder?"
"Tell me, why do we not allow uncontrolled breeding?"
"To make sure we have a wide and varied gene pool no two people must breed together more than once. We must use our frozen reserves of sperm and unfertilized eggs to keep the human race alive." Tana's eyes buried into his soul. "We must not know who our genetic parent are Elder, for we must not provoke jealousy among our peers. We are bred specifically . . ."
"Yes Tana." Mitchel cut her off. "That is quite enough."
Tana was a very special little girl. This class were the first to be bred on Halo and Tana was the surrogate daughter of Aislinn Ring. Mitchel had arranged for Tana's birth, for he had broken the rules. Tana was his daughter, his and Dr Halsey's. He had arranged for that, but not for the mother. Aislinn Ring, being young and healthy, was among the first on the list to carry a child.
Tana was Aislinn's daughter, Mitchel was the unrecognized father. As it was supposed to be.
"There is the bell." Elder Mitchel clasped his hands together as the children scrambled from their seats. "Please, do try to remember your history assignments." He called after them.
Tana passed him by, her little pony-tail swishing as she jogged out.
"Tana," he said, catching her by the shoulder. "May I walk you home?"
"Of course Elder." Tana said obediently.
Tana didn't like walking Elder Mitchel home, although it happened more often than not. When Elder Mitchel walked her home she had to take the bridge over the river, she far preferred to wade through the fast flowing stream. The current would tug at her knees and threaten to pull her over, but she would make it to the other side and scramble up the embankment.
Once over the embankment she would sprint through the chasm in the cliff face to her village nestled in the boulders. Her house was one of the ones built into the rocks, chiselled into the very face of Halo. She would be swept into the door by her mother and scolded for going in the river. Her mother would dry her with a rough towel and tell her to feed the chickens. Sometimes Tana would help her mother with the book. And mama never called her 'Tana', mama always used her proper name. Cortana.
They reached the little village by the time the sun was fading over the cliffs. Soon the village would get very dark and mama would take Cortana for a walk through the meadow lands. There mama would tell Cortana the stories that she was including in the book. Those stories were marvellous stories, ones that Elder Mitchel would not approve of at all.
"Here we are," Cortana reached her house in the rocks and found her mother leaning on the door frame. Aislinn Ring swept a strand of long blonde hair out of her eyes and nodded politely to Mitchel.
"Governor," she began with a smile. "Thank you for walking Cortana home."
"It is no trouble. Tana's a lovely girl," Mitchel dismissed the claim. "And it's 'Elder' now Aislinn, remember?"
"How could I forget?" Aislinn stayed standing in the doorway.
Cortana knew that the proper thing to do was to invite Elder Mitchel for tea or coffee, but Aislinn would not do that. Aislinn would guard her house until Mitchel left and even afterwards she would still remain wary.
"How is your History going?" Mitchel's tone carried the disdain he felt for Aislinn's version of events. Aislinn told the story of the human race in her book, her History, as she saw it. Not as the Elders would have her tell it.
"It's going well."
"Have you taken into consideration my advice?" Mitchel asked hopefully.
"All advice is taken into consideration." Aislinn smiled at him once more and closed the door to her house.
"So what did you learn in school today?" Aislinn ruffled Cortana's dark head as the little girl climbed onto the kitchen table.
"Not much. I have algebra homework."
"Well I kind of did it during lunch." Cortana shrugged. "It was very easy."
"You're a smart cookie." Aislinn murmured and kissed her daughters head.
The kitchen was small and possessed only a small peat stove and a deep tin sink. Cortana still had her baths in that sink and she loathed the cold metal on the ridges of her spine as she was dipped into the frigid water.
Aislinn moved through the small doorway into her bedroom and came out again carrying her second child. Wallace was named after Aislinn's first husband, he was of Indian origin they thought, but Aislinn said it didn't matter. Wallace would live on in Wallace, though Aislinn hoped that her baby would choose a better career than a soldier.
"Mama?" Cortana started curiously.
"Mm hmm?" Aislinn rocked her four year old up and down and sat him in his chair. Wallace grinned at Cortana and reached to give her a sticky kiss 'hello'.
"What will happen if the new baby is a boy as well?" Cortana asked. She saw her mother smile gently, one of Aislinn's hands fell to her stomach.
"Then he will have to become a miner or a soldier." Aislinn said simply. "It's the way it works."
"Mama can we have appuls?" Wallace asked thoughtfully. Aislinn grinned and shook her head.
"Not tonight love. Maybe another day?"
Wallace was being looked after by a neighbour while Cortana and Aislinn took their late stroll through the meadow lands. The tall grass almost hid Cortana and she delighted in running between the oats and barley.
"Now the Halos were supposed to be activated by us." Aislinn was saying, though Cortana knew the story off by heart. "There was a terrible accident however and they went off prematurely. Only those on this Halo survived because Cortana, the AI, had disabled the firing mechanism."
"Mama?" Cortana was climbing up a tree. "Do you think there are any Covenant left?"
"Maybe there is Cortana, maybe there is." Aislinn placed hands on her hips and watched her daughter scramble further up the tree. "We don't know who or what was outside the range of the other Halos. We were, it's easy enough to suggest that some Covenant survived also. But this impending war that the Elders talk about?" Aislinn shook her head. "No. The Covenant will be too busy surviving. Just like us."
"Elder Mitchel said that the miners were going to have to train a new group soon. He says our colony is growing so fast." Cortana mused as she dropped from the branches. She landed softly and looked up at her mother.
"Elder Mitchel is wrong. We need more miners for the Gas Moons because so many die. When the Halos were set off love, our entire military and most of our skilled workforce was caught in the blast. We are lucky we had frozen samples from most males and females otherwise we would really be in trouble." Aislinn gave her a strange glance. "Do you ever wonder who your mother or father is?"
"You are," Cortana said simply. "And I am Wallace's sister, and I will be the new baby's sister too. I think I would like the new baby to be a hermaphrodite."
"What?" Aislinn laughed without meaning to. Cortana wasn't offended, but instead explained her view as Aislinn had taught her.
"Because then it wouldn't have to breed like I do, or fight like Wallace must."
That night, when Cortana and Wallace were tucked into bed, Aislinn sat in the kitchen. She had the little stove burning and had her hands pressed together, warming them by the small flame.
What had happened? Why had the first Cortana allowed the Halos to set off early? Aislinn had to believe it was out of Cortana's control, she knew that this world she lived in now was a mistake. The regime, though necessary, was somehow simply wrong. Aislinn could not disagree with the breeding, or the need for mining ores from the planets that possessed a rich bounty of minerals. She could disagree with the way the Elders, the former Governors of Earth, were represented. They were not Gods, they were not a gift to human kind. They were simply people left behind with everybody else.
The real leaders, leaders like Daxia, Aislinn's elder sister - they were gone. The real leaders had been killed in the strange Halo blast. The one that irradiated biological life, yet left planets shaken - but intact.
Even this Halo had felt the shockwave and it's inhabitants had all been hit with a strange illness after the blast. They recovered however, they went on to run a society with no military presence. They had needed a unifying force and that scapegoat was the Covenant.
Aislinn's first husband, Wallace Jenkins, had been killed by the Flood. Her sister had been the sole human survivor of the first encounter with the Flood. Aislinn did not count the Spartan as human, nor Cortana the AI. In her heart Aislinn knew that only the release of the Flood could have prompted the activation of the Halos. It was this forgotten devil that Aislinn was most afraid of.
In silence, Daxia had heard screaming and the steady clicking of the Spores. Aislinn heard only silence, silence and her sister's tales. Aislinn longed for the laughing camaraderie of pilots like Lara O'Flynn, marines like Ben and Jean-Pierre. She even wanted to feel the table shake as Spartan-117 leaned on it. This Halo was full of Haloers, the name for the colonists on the Halo.
But Aislinn was not a Haloer, she was a Ringer. She was one of those following in her sisters steps. Aislinn Ring would raise her children as Ringers and they would all be ready. Not for the Covenant, but for the Flood. And for the day when human kind could rise above the box they had built around themselves.
The day was soon, Aislinn was sure of it.
She was not aware of just how soon.