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Sunrise of a still Mourning
Posted By: Mainevent
Date: 21 May 2004, 3:05 AM

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November 21, 2558
Lamda Octuvius, Unity
Michelson Braves Memorial Pathways
Heroes through Time Hallway

      Agent Aaltjea Chechovsky strolled through the hallway slowly. The dew was still fresh, scented beads of natural perfume sitting on the neatly-trimmed flowers along the walkway's edges. A light breeze fluttered through the corridor.
      It made a hallow whisp as it moved through the arches; tugged at his dark black overcoat like so many ancient souls reaching out for him. Trying so hard to get him to feel their pain, or at least know their story. For many of those who died here, their personal stories were never told.
      He felt for them. He would hate to have worked so hard for something, and then to have no one recognize his work. Those who did get the recognition usually only did so because they were the last ones alive. Whether by good luck or the help of a diety Aaltjea didn't know, but then again he didn't care.
      The black marble floor flickered reflections of light onto his polished black shoes. Standard ONI issue, but comfortable nonetheless. It had taken him so long to become an agent. They just don't understand true brilliance. I should have been here long ago. But no time to dwell on that. He sneered the ONI testing agency in his head.
      The official report said that he showed an inane lack of character manipulation, and an extreme inability to conceal traits that may be effectively used against him in the field. But I scored highest on the IQ tests. I passed all of their written exams flawlessly. Hell, they're implementing my strategies as we speak. But I didn't have the character? What's wrong with my character? I can hide it perfectly, they don't know anything about me.
      It was true. Aaltjea's intelligence was far above average, he scored a 167 on the IQ tests. He believed he was borderline psychic, but the doctors had reasoned that it was his enhanced logic and interpretation skills that gave him a heightened ability to predict outcomes. Though that evidently wasn't what ONI was looking for. They were looking for people with character, and blah blah blah.
      How much had the UNSC spent putting this building up anyway? They had much more important things to be doing than wasting money on memorials. After all, the Covenant and Humans were forced to live together on this planet, and the UNSC was taking the treaty at face value. Though they really couldn't help but do otherwise. Only a single meager fleet had escaped the Sentinel destruction of Earth, and scarcely more Covenant had escaped the Flood on their homeworld.
      But now this was home. For both humans and Covenant. The irony of it was astounding, that the two races should end up sharing a planet together after all of the fighting; and so one day it was simply over. Aaltjea often wondered if this treaty actually made Humans part of the collective of races known as the Covenant; after all, Humans and Covenant were living together and had a treaty. Why not go ahead and just merge?
      The thought made him laugh. He turned a corner of the open-air memorial and entered a small tunnel. The tunnel led him to another room. It was a large doughnut shaped room, and stretched along the walls were the signs he was in the right place.
      There was no one in the room that he could see, and he decided to peruse the exhibit: Spartans. He looked to the right-hand side of the circular path, which was now made of a series of Ancient Greece-styled stones. How appropriate. He thought. Built into the wall was a large mockup of Thermopylae.
      "Twenty thousand Persians fought three hundred Spartans in that battle. They held them off for three days before being destroyed in battle."
      "In our earlier messages you told me that they were invincible. That obviously isn't true then." Aaltjea replied to the General who had appeared behind him with subtle surprise. Not training, just an understanding of how things worked.
      "Ah, but they are invincible. You see, they died because they were betrayed by Ephialtes. The Persians surrounded them and killed them. But even in death, their legend lived on through the ages. They never died." The General whose name said "Ambridge", but was obviously fake, clasped his hands behind his back and moved further to the left.
      A trio of Mjolnir Mark IV, V, and VI suits were hanging on stands. Aaltjea stared at them, fascinated by their design and architecture. They reminded him of Greek gods in their outfits. Larger than life itself, and commanding attention at all times. Their luminescent skins shimmered and reflected the overhead lights beautifully; furthering the aura of invincibility associated with the project.
      "The Spartan project was started as a branch of the ORION project by Doctor Halsey. She kidnapped the kids who tested both brilliant and lucky, and trained them. Their parents never even knew that the flash clones they were given weren't their kids, and must have been devastated by their sudden losses due to strange diseases."
      Aaltjea was unnerved by the man's choice of words. ONI had kidnapped him as well. He was eleven at the time, and already showing enormous signs of intelligence. He'd been kidnapped much like the Spartans, during the day by men claiming to be law enforcement. His parents were in a car accident, or that's what they told him.
      There was some truth to that. When his parents had learned that he had been taken by men who were now obviously not real police, they headed for the station. They never made it off of the long paved road leading from their house before the bomb under the hood killed them. This Ambridge sure wasn't striking the right notes for Aaljea.
      "I worked so hard on the Spartan III's. I tried to make them so perfect. They were like children to me. It was so hard to persuade Abigaid to take up their cause, but he finally did. It was my idea you know, to have the Spartan program revived."
      "If you're no better than a child-stealer like Halsey, then we have nothing more to discuss." Aaltjea turned away from the man in disgust; he'd betrayed his training already. Ambridge smiled wryly behind his back, but it disappeared instantly as the agent turned to face him.
      "Oh, but you misunderstand me my dear Aaltjea. I never stole anyone. It was my idea in fact, not to accept any child whose parents didn't agree to it. I helped them as much as I could. I don't think I could bare the burden if I found out I had done something that would needlessly hurt them; oh those poor children under Halsey. I feel so sorry for their parents." Ambridge sighed and showed what appeared to be sincere sadness as he closed his eyes and looked at the pebbles.
      "How did you know my name?"
      "You don't become a general without knowing a lot of people, who know a lot of people. You also don't become a general without knowing who you're dealing with. I would never meet with an ONI agent in such privacy without knowing who I was actually talking to."
      His cover was blown. The man had known all along who Aaltjea was, had known he was ONI. Aaltjea's mind clouded suddenly as he panicked. The escape routes and alternate plans he'd thought up evaporated instantly as fear gripped him from the inside.
      "Calm down, calm down. No need to panic. If I was going to kill you, you would never have made it to the memorial. I'm here to talk business, very important business."
      "Business? What business could you possibly have with me?" Aaltjea's heart slowly returned to its normal pace. He could feel himself sweating; his training had failed again. Now wonder they hadn't taken me before. I'm a train wreck. He realized almost aloud.
      "I'll be the first to be frank with you. I'm a wanted man. I've done some things that neither the UNSC nor the Covenant would like me for, and so I need some help on the inside."
      "You want me to betray my government? That's treason."
      "I know what treason is. Treason is when you work so hard for your government that you can taste the victory, but then that government turns on you. Declares you a traitor, and tries to kill you. THAT! That's treason. This is survival."
      "Whatever you've done is your own problem. Why would I want to betray the people I love anyway?"
      "That you love? Who do you love? Your parents are dead. You can't love them. You love the UNSC? They betrayed all of us and allied with the Covenant. You love ONI? They're the ones who killed your parents in the first place! Oh, no. I know who you love. You love the Covenant. That's it, they killed billions until they got to you, then they just stopped. You two fell in love. I've seen the light! Hallelujah!"
      Ambridge threw his hands into the air and shook. Aaltjea reeled emotionally from each of his blows. It was true, all of it. The people he was protecting were the very ones who took everything he cherished away from him, who kidnapped him, and forced him to work for them.
      "When you think about it, you don't owe them anything. Technically, you're just a slave to them. So work with me. I won't betray you. Together, you can help me finish what you started. Only this time, you won't be a slave. Together, we can destroy the Covenant, kill those who destroyed your life, and you can live happily ever after. How about it Aaltjea?"
      The general was absolutely right. He was a slave. The UNSC had befriended his enemy, had killed his parents, destroyed his home, and all while he followed complacently along. No more. He thought. I told them I was the smartest, and they never believed me. Well, now I'll show them that I'm the smartest, and there's nothing they'll be able to do to stop me.
      "I'll do it."
      "We'll be in touch. Don't contact me, I'll contact you. In the meantime, enjoy the exhibit. It's wonderful." His last words had the subtle tang of venom in them, but Aaltjea didn't catch it. He was too ecstatic to care.
      "By the way, what's your real name?" Aaltjea turned to face the figure. He was gone, but not for good. Aaltjea sighed and turned to face the Spartan suit before him. There was something in it's hand that hand't been there before. A card. He picked it up and read the inscription under the picture of a woman in a golden dress: Ackerson's Lady Luck.
      Well General Ackerson, I look forward to our prosperous and "lucky" future together. Aaltjea stuffed the card in his overcoat and moved to the next part of the museum...Halo.