Caleb slunk silently through the shaking buildings, he had no fear, this would be just like normal. He heard the bark like chatter of a few grunts and lay his back against a half exposed staircase. Slowly they moved away and Caleb returned to his task.
At only seventeen Caleb was as fit as he could be given his conditions. The war was hell for many people, death for many more, but for a few it was an opportunity. If Caleb stopped and thought about what he did he might frown upon his life, but morals were something quickly forgotten in his line of work. Being a thief you could have no remorse for your victims.
Ahead lay the Covenant camp, frantic grunts and jackals moved between elites of varying ranks, none of them noticed a small human child sneaking towards their base of operations.
Reaching the camp Caleb slowly moved in between mountainous crates of weapons, ammunition and supplies. Spotting a tasty looking pair of rifles Caleb quickly pocketed them along with as many grenades as he could carry. Creeping around a pillar like box of carbines Caleb looked out at the centre of the base. A gold elite was conversing quietly with a black elite, both looked pleased with something. The black elites head twitched ever so slightly and Caleb darted back behind the crates. In a low crouch he hurried back the way he came. A loud crash came from behind him as a grunt tripped over one of the discarded weapons Caleb had been looking out. The odd creature looked up and screamed a startled surprise. Springing to his feet Caleb turned to run, but hit solid air. Shaking his head he looked up at the materialising form of a black elite.
Reaching down for him the mighty warrior held Caleb by his throat, feet dangling wildly. As Caleb turned blue and the world faded to darkness, the elite smirked and said “Thieving scum,” before throwing him to the ground unconscious. Calling forwards to blue clad elites, the black elite kicked Caleb hard in the ribs before he was dragged away to the purple gravity lift.
Raule Fuaz’Haw lay silently on his bunk, the sound of his brethren’s slow rhythmic breathing filling the air. Tomorrow he began his first day of duty on board the Sorrowful Awe. Training had been hard, he was very lucky to pass, but knew that his skills, or lack of, would prevent him from reaching the battlefield to kill the humans. His father would have been deeply disappointed, but he had already left the world, denied the privilege of entering the Great Journey in his afterlife. Was he up there now Raule thought, ensuring his only child failed as well.
Sighing gently in the room he looked sideways at the chronometer set into the wall. He still had over two hours until he had to rise. Two hours compared to the seventeen cycles he had endured so far. Quietly climbing down and donning his armour, Raule left the barracks to wander the ship, something he had been doing for a while now. Walking along corridors he had to bow his head to every elite he met; he was the lowest of the low in his caste at the moment. Even grunts and jackals seemed to give him little respect. Two elites walked past the other way along the corridor, dragging an unconscious human between them. Raule lowered his head and kept on walking past.
When Raule returned to the barracks some of the other fresh warriors were beginning to stir. Not wanting to wake them Raule carefully moved back to his hard bed using all the stealth he had. Lying back upon the frame he had only to wait five units before the lights snapped on and the elites began to wake properly. Still wearing his armour Raule waited for the elite below him to leave before hopping down. His hands were not their usual oily self, they felt dry and trembled slightly as he looked down at them. He was last to leave the barracks, trailing behind the others.
Soon they arrived at the main command room, the tall vaulted ceilings stretched above the room, which was abuzz with activity. There commander, clad in glistening white armour, moved between the warriors giving them their units and duties, Raule stood last in line as per usual. The commander glanced back down at Raule’s name when he stood before him, he gave a murderous look to the young elite before informing him that he would be working in the brig, under Commander Ketame. Raule bowed his head before leaving the room, he felt the glare of the commander follow him as he passed through the folding doors.
Brig duty was considered one of the worst onboard any Covenant ship. It was surpassed only by cleaning the intake vents and cooking for the many crew, both of which were usually reserved for grunts. But Raule knew it was the best he was likely to have got, not that it made it much better. Entering the first brig section of the ship, Raule headed towards the first block of cells. Sure enough, there stood a commander in gold armour, though Raule noticed it did not gleam as strongly as others of the same rank. Walking forwards quickly he bowed his head in front of his new commander and awaited a response. After a brief pause during which Ketame glanced over Raule, the commander spoke in a rough voice.
“You are Raule Fuaz?” he questioned.
“Yes sir,” Raule replied, already he knew where this was going.
“Raule Fuaz’Haw?” Ketame asked with a look into his subordinates’ eyes.
“Yes sir,” Raule replied once more.
“Well well well, they give me a dishonourable runt like you. As to be expected. Tell me boy, who in your ancestry earned you the disgrace? Who was it who necessitated the addition of Haw?”
“My father Sir. He, he was an honour guard for the Prophet of Joy, but…”
“Go on,” inclined Ketame, interested in how the young elite had received the disgraceful Haw in his family name.
“He was caught with one of the High Priestesses, he was executed on High Charity and the name passed down to me.”
“Your father was obviously weak of heart and faith. Let us hope you have only inherited his name runt,” with that the commander turned to the control panel set on a small pedestal at the rear of the cellblock. Raule followed quickly, not wanting to give his commander more reason to hate him.
“You will work in block four, you will be in charge as most of my warriors have been reassigned. There are only two grunts with you, but if you have any trouble with the humans then you don’t deserve to be in the mighty Covenant.”
With that the commander dismissed Raule who immediately left and headed for the fourth door along the hall. Upon entering he looked over his new domain, two grunts were sleeping with their backs against the pillars stretching to the ceiling. Walking to the far end Raule looked over the prisoner manifest, only one human was currently in his charge he thought gladly. The less he had to do the better.
Moving to the right side of the room he looked in upon the lone human. It was the same one he had seen earlier. The young boy was lying face down on the floor, breathing slowly obviously asleep. Looking down to his side, Raule saw one of the two grunts standing there silently.
“Sir,” it said in a high pitched voice, “my name is Nila and that Hujo. You new commander?” it asked finally.
“Yes,” Raule replied looking again at the boy.
“Goodie goodie,” said the grunt moving back over to its partner.
“Yeah, goodie,” Raule murmured to himself casually walking over to stand by the pedestal. This was going to be his life from now Raule thought to himself, ‘why father’ he questioned subconsciously, ‘mother was your true life partner and you had to throw everything away for your sordid affair.’
Raule spent the rest of the day following the same line of thought, his shift was over at twenty hundred units. Only nine hours to go.
The air smelt different, alien almost. Caleb awoke with a start, but quickly lay back down, his eyes never opening. His body was screaming at him, his ribs writhing in agony every time he breathed, the harsh lighting burning into his eyes so accustomed to darkness. Running his fingers over the smooth surface of the ground beneath him Caleb’s heart sunk, he must be onboard a Covenant ship.
Finally opening his eyes Caleb’s suspicions were confirmed, before him lay a shimmering wall of plasma. Rolling onto his back he looked up at the bare ceiling above him, if only to distract from the obvious. He was going to die here. Smirking Caleb sat up very slowly, his bruised chest accompanied by dark marks on his arms from where he had undoubtedly been dragged.
The smirk had not left his face; Caleb had always known he was going to die, just like most people. The only difference was he accepted it. He had nothing to live for, no one to cherish and no hope of a future. So he lived for the moment, taking what he needed and just scraping an existence. The slight humming of the plasma wall faded and Caleb looked into the face of his keeper.
“Eat,” the elite said simply, sliding a bowl of what looked like entrails into the cell before re-activating the shield.
“You expect me to eat that bluey?” Caleb exclaimed, kicking the dish away. The elite spun around and returned to the cell.
“I expect you to be grateful human, that during your last few days you won’t die from anything as dismal as hunger.” With that the elite turned once more and strode away.
“Yeah well I’d rather take death over eating that,” Caleb called after him. After a while though the smell of food began to make Caleb’s stomach ache. Looking at the disgusting mess on the floor he reached forwards and grabbed a chunk of what looked like sausages. He was used to living on the street, living of peoples waste, but this…. He put the food to his mouth and took a bite, immediately he spat it out, causing the brown blob to skid across the smooth metal, as it hit the plasma it vanished in a small crackle of energy. Moving the rest of the food to the wall soon Caleb was left only with the mess caused by the juices of the food, the rest having joined the first piece.
The elite walked up to his cell again and looked at the mess on the floor, following the stains he quickly worked out what Raule had done.
“So you do not like the food I bring you?” he stated more than asked.
“Are you deaf you walking piece of crap,” Caleb shouted before he could help it, “I don’t care what you put in front of me. I’m going to die, on a full stomach or starving I don’t care.” The elite just stood resolutely on the spot, staring at Raule.
“Then I shall not bring you any more,” he said quietly before turning away. Caleb watched the mighty warrior walk away with something of a droop in its shoulders he had not seen before. A feeling rose up inside of him, but before pity could do anything Caleb crushed it into the back of his mind along with remorse. The elite was the enemy, he kept telling himself.
That night Caleb slept uncomfortably on the cold metal floor, the lights, once bright and harsh had been turned down so that only the plasma walls lit up the room. Shortly before Raule had fallen asleep the elite left to be replaced with another who took up his position by the raised section at the end. Caleb rolled over in his sleep, dreams of death and murder swirling in his mind mixed with the events of the last few hours.
Raule returned to cellblock four the next day, relieving the night guard who didn’t say anything as he left, only staring at Raule with the murderous look he had come to expect from being a disgraced warriors son. Looking into the only occupied cell Raule saw the human lying on the floor, his face turned away from the room. Nila was standing beside the control panel checking the system as he approached.
“Has the boy talked since I left,” Raule questioned the small grunt.
“No sir, boy no speak,” Nila replied before moving away from the panel to allow Raule full access. “Sir?” the little grunt asked.
“Yes,” Raule spoke not looking down.
“What that?” Nila asked, pointing to a large pouch attached to Raule’s armour at the waist.
“None of your concern,” he simply answered. The grunt fell silent, he knew not to pursue to matter. Turning his back on the grunt Raule removed the pouch and pulled from it some of the rations he had deposited at breakfast. It wasn’t a crime taking food to eat later, but what he was about to do could be taken as one.
Caleb awoke just like the morning before. The feelings of pain and been in an alien environment overwhelming him for a few moments before the realisation sunk in. For a long while he didn’t move, choosing simply to feign sleep staring at his hand outstretched beneath his head. Occasionally there were the sounds of doors opening, shields flickering on and off; screaming. But Caleb just lay where he was, the world falling away around him as he fell apart inside.
Eventually he rolled over, still feigning sleep, and looked between narrowly closed eyes into the prison. There were the two grunts, either sleeping or moving around. And there, standing perfectly still was the elite, he was simply looking at the doors at the end of the room, never blinking or glancing elsewhere.
Caleb’s stomach growled angrily at him and he closed his eyes trying to wish away the pain it was causing him. He had been hungry when he was taken, for he had not eaten properly in a week, but now, now he was in chronic pain. Determination could only hold you so far. A single tear trickled down the side of his face.
Opening his eyes slightly once more he saw the blurred outline of two large, powerful legs standing before him. The shimmering wall faded and the still blurred legs stayed motionless.
“You said you did not wish to eat any of the ‘crap’ I gave you human,” the elites voice rang out, “I see your determination to fend off help and I hope you don’t consider this crap or help.”
With that the legs bent down and two hands placed a small blue container on the ground, before the elite walked away, reactivating the plasma shield. Caleb did not know how to react, should he look inside and possibly find something to quench his thirst and hunger, or should die with what little dignity he had left. Eventually though, Caleb realised that whatever dignity he had would die with him when his body slowly digested itself in order to survive just that bit longer.
Moving slowly at first he reached out and pulled the blue container towards him. The top folded off silently and peering inside Caleb emptied out the contents. A bottle rolled out onto the floor, followed by an assortment of unusual objects including balls of various sizes and long rectangular bars each giving off a distinctive smell. Looking up to ensure none of the grunts or the elite was watching Caleb opened the top of the bottle and tipped a bit of the liquid inside into his mouth. It tasted like sweetened water and Caleb hastily gulped down half the bottle.
Moving onto the food like objects, Raule picked up a small ball about the size of a squash ball and put it to his nose. The smell reminded him of a scotch egg, only the bluish colour put him off. Taking a small bite he let the material float in his mouth before chewing and swallowing it. He tried desperately to place the taste but nothing in his limited repertoire of foods and tastes came to mind. The outer layers were soft and chewy, almost like a well done chicken, the inner core there was almost liquid and flowed deliciously across his mouth. Picking up a different ball Raule hurriedly placed in his mouth and bit down. Coughing he spat up the vile ball and stared at the rainbow like puddle it made, the vile aftertaste already filling his mouth. Picking up a bar Raule was once again cautious and nibbled a bit of one end of. The outer layer was sweet and tasted like candy, but the centre had little to no taste at all, however it was very filling. This was obviously an energy bar of some kinds he thought to himself and he slowly ate his way through it.
Soon the entire container had been emptied and Raule lay back, his head resting against the wall, slowly sipping at the bottle. A deep grunt broke the silence and Raule looked up quickly to see the elite standing on the other side of the plasma.
“Thank you,” he said quietly, the first time he had ever said those words in his life. The elite simply looked down at his hoofed feet before speaking.
“I cannot risk feeding you again human,” he stated, looking at his indistinct reflection in the metallic floor, “That will have to hold you for a while.”
“My name is Caleb,” Caleb stated looking at the top of the elites helmet, “And I’m used to living off nothing.”
“You are a thief no?” the elite asked picking his head up and looking imploringly into the boys eyes. Caleb took his turn to hang his head now, no matter what society or race he entered, thieving would always be frowned upon.
“I stole to live,” he stated bluntly.
“So the end justifies the means?” the elite said, stepping closer to the plasma, curious to hear how this child had grown up doing so many wrongs.
“I don’t have to justify anything to you,” Caleb shouted, standing up for the first time since he arrived, the old pains flaring up. “Just because you gave me some food you think I’ll explain myself to you! You couldn’t understand me you blue blooded bastard.”
“Shut your mouth human,” the elite shouted, but Caleb stood his ground.
“Come in here and make me!” he taunted, holding his arms out at his sides.
“Stupid, pathetic, weak…”
“What!” screamed Caleb. “Your just gonna’ insult me? Kill me first, it’s agony.”
“I will not…” the elite stammered, his hands clenched into tight fists at his side, shaking from the power stopping him from striking the human. As he stepped back Caleb moved up to the shimmering plasma wall.
“You’re the pathetic one,” he whispered, before lying back down on the ground and closing his eyes. The elite stepped away from the cell, kicking away one of the grunts that came to him. Caleb slowly closed his eyes and grinned to himself, this battle had been won, who cared about the war.