Trak raised his head slightly. The approaching humans formed a loose circle around him. Their weapons were still pointed at him. One man stepped forward, his waist stretched outward and he was obviously past his peak years. He looked around at the dead, Covenant and Human alike. He began to speak, Trak looked up taking in his face. He had studied the human language since he could read his own language. Their dialect was easier to learn than the Jackal form was.
“I suppose we have you to thank for saving us?” the man asked.
Trak dropped his gaze once again to the floor and answered in a low voice “I am ashamed at what I have done. Make my death quick and painless.”
The humans stirred, they had never heard an elite speak their language before. “Stand up,” the human commanded. Trak glanced nervously from side to side, then raised himself slowly to his full height. He wasn’t even taller than some of the humans.
“You’re different,” he continued. “I’m not going to ask you why you did what you did. I’m just going to say this, thank you.” Trak felt his lower mandibles drop, he never expected this. He felt death was as sure as the suns rising in the morning.
“You are both merciful and honourable, but why would you allow me to survive when so many of your kin has not?” Trak asked.
The man looked around again at the fallen when he heard this remark, but quickly looked back to the elite standing before him.
“What you did saved everyone left standing here, even though it could of cost you your life. I feel the least we can do is let you keep that.”
A murmur of agreement ran around the circle at these words. A woman stepped forward, a small child held in her arms, “Thank you” she said quietly, “Thank you for saving my baby.” Others began to step forwards, soon Trak was been applauded from every angle. His skin blossomed a deep orange and he fought to keep his smile hidden.
The first man stepped forward again though and the sounds died out, “But you cannot stay here. It is too dangerous for both of us. Your kind will surely come looking for you, and if you stay with us then you will have spared us one time, only to condemn us another.” He faltered, his gaze looking over the dead elites, “I’m sorry” he finally murmured.
Trak looked up and finally let his smile appear upon his face, “It is alright. You have given me something much more important than a home, you have given me hope. May we one day meet upon better circumstances. Farewell.” Trak turned to face the main doors and slowly proceeded towards them. The crowd parted to let him pass, silent cheers and wishes following in his wake. The doors opened up before him and Trak stepped out into the glorious sunlight.
The city was just as he had left it before. Deserted, quiet, only this time Trak was on his own. Free from his team, the Covenant and his worries.
Beyond the city limits lay the vast expanses of woodland forests. It was a cool relief for Trak from the burning heat. He followed a large human road, always sticking to the trees, but not a single vehicle passed him. After several hours he lay down in a small clearing, his side ached from where the plasma had burned him. He had only basic medical equipment and proceeded to patch himself up. He lay back on the crisp grass and gazed up at the glorious blue sky. Trak pulled out one of his ration bars, it was made of a nutrient rich core surrounded by a layer of tasty skin. A thin layer. The whole thing reminded Trak of a sk’lip he had once eaten as a dare. The taste was bitter and lasted for a long time in his mouth.
Suddenly the sky blossomed a deep red. A cloud of dirty smoke rose high into the atmosphere and fell back upon itself creating a mushroom effect. Trak was hit by a shockwave that blew him back against one of the mighty trees. As the sounds of thunder fell Trak stepped out from the trees and his eyes fell upon the ruins of Cote d’ Azur. It had been levelled, all life lost. But it had not been a Covenant weapon, no, it was one of the humans, one of their ‘nukes’. Why would they destroy their own city?
But the answer came to Trak as quickly as it had arisen. The wrecked command ship laying across the human rubble showed why. The humans had sacrificed one city for one ship. Possible civilian losses for known enemy deaths. A smart, but desperate move Trak thought.
Trak knew he had to move on, the humans would surely come looking for any survivors. Gathering up his few items Trak went on his way again, always staying in sight of the road though now more hidden as regular patrols passed. Eventually he reached an intersection. The road was at least six lanes wide and the banks were half as wide again, clear of any cover. Trak checked his active camouflage system. It had been fried by the plasma, the inner workings fused into a mass of metal and fibre.
Trak checked both ways then began sprinting across the gap. Almost immediately a small four wheeled vehicle pulled out from one of the side roads. The humans inside were laughing jovially, obviously pleased with the destruction that had taken place. They stopped dead, the marine driving slamming on the brakes. Trak stood motionless in the middle of the road. The gunner of the small vehicle flexed his fingers on the grips of the mounted weapon. Trak looked down at what weapons he had. The small blade was in Lhib’s skull, his pistol was depleted and the single rifle he held had barely got enough charge to light, let alone the amount of damage it had sustained. Slowly Trak lowered himself to his knees and set the rifle down, the men’s eyes following his every move.
Trak stood back up and stepped backwards. In as loud a voice as he could muster he shouted “I am not your enemy any more. Please let me pass and I will never disturb any human ever again.”
The marines looked at each other and conversed in harsh whispers. The one manning the gun looked like he would like nothing better than to blast Traks flesh out of his armour. The passenger though stared wonderingly at Trak. Trak kept his gaze neutral, for the next few moments these humans would decide his fate. Slowly the passenger got out of the vehicle and advanced towards the lone elite, carefully checking the forest sides for any sign of an ambush.
“Are you alone?” he finally asked when within range.
Trak nodded solemnly.
“What happened to you?” the man enquired.
Trak took a deep sigh and explained just how he had come to be here, the marine in the drivers seat looked up when he heard the story, for he had heard it before from some civilians retrieved from the old museum. The passenger looked at Trak after hearing this new information.
Finally he asked, “If we let you go, what will you do? Where will you go?”
Trak looked at the man graciously and replied, “I will begin a new life, far from any human. You will never hear of me again. You have my word.”
The passenger returned to the vehicle and spoke once more to the marines. After a long time he came back.
“You can go free. We never saw you here alright. But if one civilian gets hurt or is killed we will come down on you so hard you will wish your team killed you.”
Trak lowered his head in respect then strode into the forest. The humans were reasonable Trak thought. They did not accept him fully, but at least they did not persecute him.
The rest of Traks journey was uneventful. He saw no more patrols and reached no more intersections. By now the dual suns were setting over a mountain range far in the distance. He would have to find shelter for the night, a place that was both safe from the elements and the humans for he could not explain himself when asleep. Eventually Trak selected a tall tree and nestled himself snugly in the branches, just like home he mused remembering times when he would hide out in the dense forests on his home planet.
The morning slowly awakened, but for Trak it felt like an entirely new world was beginning today. Suddenly a small cry echoed from the woods. Trak sat bolt upright trying to discern where the sound had come from. He cautiously peered over the edge of the large branch he was on. A human was sitting on a rock below, its head in its hands. Trak moved slowly to get a better look at it, it had not heard him yet and Trak wanted to keep it that way. As he reached for a branch Trak lost his footing and fell down through the branches. He hit the ground hard, but the soft grass cushioned any serious damage. Trak rolled over onto his back and stared up at the sky. The cries had gone, there was silence and Trak was nervous. Warily Trak stood up and looked for the human. He was standing on the other side of the clearing looking at Trak. His expression changed, first he was scared, then shocked, finally his face hit on anger and he charged at Trak for all he was worth. Trak was not expecting this, this human couldn’t of been older than he was and yet he was trying to charge Trak. Dodging to the right Trak avoided the initial blow, the boy spun around and began another blind assault. This time though Trak moved and tripped the boy at the same time. He went sprawling onto the grass and Trak was on him in a heartbeat.
“Please, listen to me,” Trak pleaded, trying to make the boy understand just like the marines.
“I will not harm you. Please understand, I am not with the Covenant.”
The boy simply spat at Traks face and squirmed as hard as he could to escape.
Trak let the boy go and jumped backwards, “There, you are free, you can leave, I will not hurt you.” The boy stood, dazed at the elite before him. Trak stepped back slowly, eventually consumed by the thick forest, leaving the boy alone to wonder what the hell had happened.
Trak fell back against a tree trunk. He had sprinted away from they boy. There were three possible outcomes he thought to himself. The boy could simply forget about meeting the elite, he could pretend it was a dream and simply deny it to himself. Number two, he could come back alone to try and see the elite again. And last but not least he could bring soldiers. If he said he had been attacked they would come and kill Trak faster than he could spread his mandibles. He hoped to his ancient Gods that the boy did not choose the third option.
The rest of the day was spent hidden away in another tree that had a good view of the clearing. Trak mused over what could happen in the next few days. But then a new thought came into Traks mind. Why had the boy been crying, then attacked an elite? He should have been scared at least, but the anger was not born of desperation or fear, but raw hatred. For what Trak did not know.
The sound of approaching feet woke Trak from his restless sleep. It sounded like only one person but he was not about to find out the hard way. The boy appeared on the edge of the clearing looking around carefully, sure that the elite would be watching. He walked to the centre of the clearing and placed a small object on the rock he had been sitting on earlier.
As he walked away the boy said a single word to the night air, “Thank you.”