The darkness was absolute. Trak felt nothing and everything at once. Was this the Great Journey he pondered, the thoughts swelling around his head. Distant vibrations echoed in his mind, then went quiet.
Once more Trak fell into the abyss.
Cain looked at his friend lying on the cold metal table. Trak had stirred once, but then fallen back into a deep sleep. The guards by the door had stiffened, but did not bring their weapons to bear. The elite lying on the table was neither friend nor foe.
Cain held his head in his hands for it was he who had caused this. Trak could of easily won that fight, he had pulled of some amazing moves and once again saved people he did not know. But at what cost? Last time he said he had escaped with a burn to his side, this time it was much worse and Cain knew it. He sighed and stood up, he had been at Traks side for over two days solid. The doctor did the best she could, but her knowledge of elites was limited. The local people talked about Trak, Cain knew they did. Some thought he must be a spy sent to infiltrate them, others believed him to be a criminal running from the Covenant. Cain didn’t care what they thought though, he knew Trak.
Security had been stepped up in the local town. Guards patrolled only in threes and sensors lined the entire perimeter. They would not be taken by surprise again. Cain wanted to become a soldier, to defend his people, to fight back against the Covenant. He could understand Traks resentment to violence, but was startled by his ability in combat. The elite had performed moves he had never seen before. No way could he have failed combat school thought Cain, unless he did it on purpose.
Walking outside for the first time in days Cain was taken back by the sun that shone brightly in the sky. It was a perfect, peaceful day. The local people walked between buildings, children laughed and played, and guards stood watch on every corner. Walking into the gym Cain saw it had been cleared of death. The floor was clean, the bodies removed. The night mats had been stacked against the far wall, many tables replacing them. The room was half full when Cain entered, the talk cheerful. As soon as Cain stepped forwards though it died down, all eyes turned to face him and he felt his cheeks flush. Moving towards the dinner counter Cain received a meagre meal of chips and beans before turning around to face the people. Silently Cain walked towards the far corner and sat down alone facing the wall with the many eyes behind him. Sighing to himself he picked up his knife and fork and began to eat his meal. Slowly the talk returned, quietly at first, but eventually returning to normal levels. This time though there was no laughter, it was harsh discussion and Cain had a good idea about what.
Cain heard footsteps behind him, a slight cough and then a mans voice, “Did you know that covie’?” he asked quietly. Cain gently put his knife and fork down. Without turning around he replied, “He’s my friend. And he isn’t with the Covenant.” Cain heard the man sigh and turned round to face him. He was shocked, it was Captain Harrison, the highest-ranking man in town, Cain looked up into his face. He seemed tired, almost at his wits end. “Some of the folk around here claim he must be that hero elite from Azur. Do you know if he is?” the old man asked quietly, Cain nodded and looked around at the hall. They were all watching the discussion now. “Sir, I understand you want to know as much as possible, but not now. Please, just wait until Trak is better, then ask him yourself.” The captain looked down at Cain, his face set in stone, “You really think he’s gonna’ survive?” he asked finally. “I promised him he would” Cain replied, turning back to his meal. After a short pause the captains boots clinked away on the floor and Cain was once again left alone.
The darkness fell away once more. Trak felt more alive with each passing moment. The world outside was bright, the light flooding through his eyelids. His mandibles flexed and he sucked in a deep breath. His side ached, it seemed as the air was on fire, consuming his skin. Twitching from the pain he heard movement, he was not alone. A faint voice carried across the room to him, alien, human voices. Trak opened his eyes slowly taking in the immediate view. The walls were white, the ceiling was white, this must be a medical facility thought Trak. A person came into view, a young female human. She leaned over Trak and looked at his side, she jumped when Trak reached out for her. “Where… Where is… Cain?” he asked painfully. She looked at him, then nodded to one of the two guards standing motionless by the doors. They hurried out of the room. “He’s coming,” she said soothingly, “just relax. You went through an awful ordeal.” “Is… Is Faj… dead?” he asked slowly. “Faj? You must mean the gold elite. He was blown to pieces as soon as you were clear,” she replied, “Thank you for saving us,” she said before moving away.
The door opened and Cain came rushing in, he jumped to his friends’ side and looked at him in the eye. “You’re alright man, you’re gonna’ make it, I promised.” He smiled deeply at Trak, “You’re the talk of the town Trak. You’re a true hero now.” Trak returned the smile and moved slightly to get rid of some of the pain. “I… I am sorry for… for coming to the town. I know you said you wanted me to come with you, but… but I was curious.” Cain looked at his brother, his eyes full of gratitude. “If you had stayed we would be dead Trak. Including me. Everyone here owes you their life.” “I was not good enough to save everyone,” Trak replied quietly. Cain stood silently, he could not imagine the pain Trak was going through, both mentally and physically. “You still did more than any man here,” he finally said. Trak smiled gently at his friend before lying down, “I have killed three humans. I could save your entire race and still not have paid back my sins.” “But you’re on your way,” Cain slowly whispered as Trak fell into another deep sleep.
The following days progressed very slowly. Trak regained much of his health, but the wound he had taken was still very sore. The doctor would not let him out of the infirmary, as much for his health as the captain’s orders. He could now sit up on the table and was becoming increasingly restless. He had nothing to do all day except rest, the one thing his mind would not do. Could not do.
Cain came to visit everyday for hours on end. He would just sit next to Trak and talk about what was happening in the outside world. Trak had tried to get to know the guards coming to his room, but they didn’t seem very friendly. The doctor had said they were there as much for the towns’ protection as his, but Trak knew the truth. No one trusted him yet.
It had been almost a week since the fight and Trak was sitting on his bed reading a small book Cain had brought for him. It was a story of a man who has born into a powerful society, but resented its ways. He freed the oppressed people and lead them to a better life. The mans name was Moses. Trak liked the tale, it was full of hope, triumph over evil, but most of all it reminded him of the Covenant. He was rebelling against them, maybe he could help the humans. Maybe he could lead a few of them to freedom. Maybe was a very big word.
The guard shifted restlessly on his feet. He was alone today, the guard lowered. He was also new and wasn’t comfortable with the idea of being left alone with an elite, even an ex-covenant one. He looked away when Trak gazed at him. “Why do you hate me so human?” questioned Trak, curious to know the answer. “It’s just, well, you’re an elite.” “And?” continued Trak. “Since I was young I’ve heard stories of you single headedly taking out whole squads of marines, massacring civilians, butchering us. I saw you fight that gold elite. You moved better than any elite I’ve ever seen or even heard of. I’m just not sure if I can accept you’ve changed sides. I believe you in my heart, but my mind will always see you as a threat.” “I’ll tell you something human. I would do exactly the same thing.” The guard smiled and looked at Trak.
The doors slid open and captain Harrison walked in accompanied by two other soldiers. The guard by the door saluted the captain then stepped back to the door. Trak warily stood and saluted the captain with his bandaged hand. The captain returned the gesture before standing at ease in front of the elite. Trak slowly sat back down, carefully placing his book on the nearby table. “How are you feeling?” asked the captain looking at the bandages around Traks chest. “My health improves with each day sir. I will be fit enough to leave you all in peace soon.” “Excuse me” said the captain, “You’re going to leave?” “Surely you don’t want something like me around for long. I know how you feel about me. I am an unwanted burden on this town.” “Son, you saved everyone in this town. You can stay as long as you want. You’re are guest and if anyone gives you any stick I’ll deal with the accordingly.” The captain looked at the elite with a gleam in his eye. “I do not know what this stick is, but thank you captain. I am most grateful.” The captain chuckled at the remark, but lightly patting Trak on the arm he smiled and turned to leave. “What will happen if more of my kind come sir?” Trak blurted out, unable to hide his fear. “We’ll give ‘em hell son, we’ll give ‘em hell.”
The days turned to weeks. The weeks to months. Trak was released from the small hospital after over two and a half months of care. As he walked down the steps into the main street cheers erupted from the crowds standing outside. It seemed the entire town had come out to see the elite. Trak grinned and waved back to the people. Cain was at his side, he led him down the steps and across the main road. A supply room in the main gym had been cleared out and made into a habitable space for Trak. The room was small, Traks head nearly brushed the ceiling, but it was much better than any cabin he had ever had to live in before. Turning around he saw Cain look nervously at the room, then Trak. “It’s not much, but,” “It’s perfect” finished Trak. Cain smiled wider and left Trak alone in his new home.
Trak carefully sat on the small bed in the corner, testing it for his weight, but as he was not much bigger than most humans he had no serious worries. It felt wonderful, the mattress was soft and springy and the blankets smooth and obviously clean. A far cry from what Trak was used to. Trak began unclipping his armour, the doctor had not or could not remove, so Trak had been enclosed in it for what felt like forever. Carefully setting down the pieces he took another long look around the room. A small table sat next to the bed with a light on it. There were no windows, instead someone had placed large posters on all the walls, shots of the greatest places humanity knew. Trak felt a pang of guilt, almost certainly half of these places no longer existed.
The door swung open and a soldier entered, he stared at Trak for a while looking embarrassed. “Yes?” Trak finally questioned, curious as to the intrusion. “Erm, Captain Harrison would like to, erm, meet you. I’m to take you there now.” “Thank you,” replied Trak, noting that the marine did not move. “Can… can I ask you something?” the man continued. “You just did,” Trak said back, “but you can ask me again.” “What’s it like? In the Covenant?” Trak thought a moment about the question, “Honour without purpose, belief beyond knowledge.” The man looked genuinely puzzled at Traks statement but smiled after a moment. “So, are we going?” asked Trak standing up. “What about your armour?” enquired the soldier. “It is for fighting. Should I need it?” replied Trak. The man looked embarrassed once again, but quickly regained himself, “No, of course not. I just thought you, you know, lived in it.” “Just because you have only ever seen elites in armour, does not mean it is the only thing they wear.” “I know, dumb question.” The man turned and walked out of the room, Trak following close behind.
People turned to watch the pair move across the gym. Some gasped at seeing the elite without his armour, but others felt more re-assured. It showed the creature behind the metal. Moving outside they quickly followed the road to the Town Hall, Captain Harrison’s base of operations. Traks escort saluted the two guards in front before moving inside, Trak gave them a small nod and followed. Quickly turning to the right the escort began to ascend the curving staircase, Trak following silently. Eventually they reached a double set of large oak doors. The man knocked twice and stuck his head in, “Sir, the elite here to see you.” A voice answered from inside and the escort lead Trak in before leaving. The captain sat behind a large desk made from the same wood as the doors. His high backed chair swivelled and he turned to face Trak. Trak stiffened and saluted the captain, not removing his hand until the captain had finished his return gesture. Standing rigidly Trak looked straight ahead, long hours of training at school had taught him misbehaviour here resulted in severe punishment. The captain looked at the elite a long time before finally saying “Sit down, you’re not on god dam parade here.” Trak glanced at the captain stunned at how he could dishonour rules like this.
“I… I am sorry sir. It is just custom for me.” Trak replied.
“Well as long you’re here you don’t need to act like every move will result in your death. I heard that’s what it’s like in the Covenant.”
“You heard right,” Trak answered.
The captain pulled out two small glasses from his desk and a bottle of amber liquid. He poured some of the liquid into each glass and handed one to Trak. Trak looked at it quizzically, smelling the odour it gave off. “Well go on then, try it,” said the captain watching.
Trak put the small glass to his lower mandibles and carefully poured a small amount down his throat. It burnt and seared as it travelled down, leaving a sickly after taste all the way. Trak coughed and choked on the vile substance. The captain grinned watching the elite, “Can’t take it eh?” he asked smiling.
Trak looked up.
“It was… very nice sir,” he finally responded in between gags.
“I said you didn’t have to always be good,” the captain replied smirking.
“It tasted worse than my ritual juice. What is it sir?”
“This? This here is ninety year old, matured, whisky. Ain’t no finer liquor in space.”
Trak grinned. “I know some people who would disagree with you. Where I come from that would be considered a warm-up.”
The captain laughed jovially and looked at the elite. Eventually he sighed into his glass and looked back up at the elite.
“So, to the business at hand,” he finally said.
Trak returned his face to a neutral expression and gazed at the captain.
“I suppose my first question is what do you want to do Trak?”
Looking down at his bare hands Trak finally answered, “What ever you want me to do sir.”
The captain looked almost angry and Trak became nervous. “No kid, I mean what do you want to do. Not want you feel you should do, but what your heart tells you to.”
Trak took a long time thinking over what he could say. He had two main choices, stay or leave. The latter would put him in harms way, every human or covenant would try to kill him. But the first would be almost as hard. Eventually he looked into the captains eyes and spoke his answer. “If you would keep me, I would like to stay here. I would work for my keep. You wouldn’t even know I was here,” Trak finished with a small grin.
The captain smiled back, “No chance of that,” he said calmly, “But I think we can work something out. You’ve proven yourself loyal at least twice, it’s the least we owe you.” Trak broke into a wide grin and stood in front of the captain. “I thank you from the bottom of my soul captain. You are an honourable man. I promise, on my Gods, that I will serve you well.” The captain stood and placed his hand in Traks. “Welcome to New Lyon Trak. You’re now an honorary citizen.” Trak felt his heart lift as he left the room and returned to the gym. He had been accepted. The humans liked him.
The celebration feast for Trak was in full swing and Trak sat on a table with Cain and his girlfriend Rachael. “I told you this town would love you,” Cain said in between mouthfuls of meat. Rachael smiled at Trak and took one of his hands in hers, “Welcome,” she said slowly. Cain reaching over plucked her away from him, laughing he said “Go find your own girl, mate.” Trak grinned and pulled the fizzy liquid towards him. Taking a small sip he felt the bubbles in his throat, he liked this liquid. Cain and Rachael stood up and moved to the dance floor. Trak did not join them, he knew very few Covenant dances, let alone human ones.
He was shocked then when a human girl came up behind him, she must have been the same age as Rachael. She cleared her throat, a signal Trak knew humans used to ask for attention. Slowly he turned to face her fully. She was very beautiful by human standards. Her long dark hair flowed freely down her back and her face was very soft, her deep brown eyes full of innocence. She bit at her lip and opened her mouth slightly, Trak was at a loss for what to do, he had never seen a human act like this. Eventually she drew in a deep breath and said quietly, “Hi, my… my name’s Hannah. Would… Would you like to come and dance with me?” Trak was taken aback. This human female wanting to dance with him! For a single moment he considered rejecting her, but he knew that would harm her deeply. Instead he lowered his head slightly and spoke in a quiet whisper, “I do not know any human dances.” She smiled gently and stroked his long hands, “It’s alright, I’ll show you. Just follow my moves.” Trak stood slowly and followed her onto the dance floor.
Carefully she placed one of his hands around her waist and another on her shoulder. Doing the same she led him gently around telling him where to place his feet and what to do. Cain sailed past with Rachael, both smiling at them, Cain more so. The dance seemed to go on forever, but Trak did not mind. Hannah was a very good teacher and soon he could dance as well as her.
As the last song came on she leaned closer to Trak, he could feel her warmth on his cold body. She smiled gently at him, looking into his eyes. Trak smiled back at her. Ever so slowly she moved forwards and kissed him on his cheek. Trak felt the blood rush through his body, his mind raced with fireworks and his heart thumped in his chest. Hannah moved back and smiled once more at Trak.
“It was wonderful dancing with you Trak,” she said slowly. Trak gulped deeply trying to keep his emotions down, “I had an excellent teacher,” he replied. As the music died down and the towns folk began to leave Hannah left Trak and followed Rachael out of the hall. Cain came sauntering over smirking at his brother, “I reckon you’re in with a chance there mate,” he said. Trak elbowed him in the arm, but smiled as well. “What do you mean, she’s a human and I’m, I’m…” “One of us now,” Cain finished. Trak hung his head and watched as Hannah disappeared through the door. She was staying in the old library, not in the gym. Cain looked at his brother, unsure as to what he was thinking. “Do you. Do you think a human could ever, ever love something like me?” Trak asked slowly. Cain looked at the door and waved at Rachael, “Mate, I think Hannah’s proof enough.”
Trak retired to his small room. Lying on the comfortable mattress he stared longingly at the ceiling. Cain’s words echoed through Traks mind. For a long time Trak simply lay in the darkness thinking of things that could and couldn’t be. As his eyelids slowly closed Trak realised that it did not matter what you were, it’s what’s inside that matters.