October 16th, 1200 UNSC Time, 2552
Almost every member of the UNSC had gone for a long nap after the battle, but Ben and a few other marines volunteered to stay awake in case the base came under Grimm attack. Fortunately it didn't, and what few Grimm wandered close were neutralized with a quick blast from the turrets.
Ben was eating an MRE as his lunch when he was approached by Ilia again.
"Hello." Ben said, pausing his eating.
"Hey, do you mind if I ask a few more questions sir?" Ilia asked.
"Go for it." Ben said.
"So... how old are you?" Ilia asked.
Ben got that question almost every time he took off his helmet. While all of the Spartan 3's had gotten through augmentations alive, not all of them had made it through unscathed. Ben in particular had gotten some rather nasty traits. His Face no longer developed, leaving him with a younger looking complexion on an adult body, which commonly confused people.
"15." Ben answered.
"Really?" Ilia asked. "But your..." she began.
"Really tall?" Ben finished. "Yeah, I get that one a lot, it's my augmentations."
"I keep hearing that word, what exactly does it mean?" Ilia asked.
"Well back home we had some really advanced chemicals and steroids, but they were dangerous." Ben explained. "Augmentations are sort of like permanent changes to the body using those chemicals."
"If it was dangerous why do it?" Ilia asked genuinely.
"Because the Covenant were winning." Ben said. "And humanity needed better soldiers."
"How bad could things have been?" Ilia asked.
"Things looked bleak for humanity as a whole when we left, but I'm confident we could've turned it around." Ben said, believing what he said.
"Do you feel any regret about what happened to you?" Ilia asked. "Like becoming a soldier so young?"
" I love my job." Ben said. "When I was young my whole family was killed by the Covenant, I didn't want that to happen to anyone else. That's why I enlisted when they asked me if I wanted too."
Ilia looked like she was in deep thought for a bit before continuing. "So you fight for the safety of others?"
"We all do." Ben said. "That's the whole principle of the UNSC, to defend humanity."
"What about faunus?" Ilia asked.
"Well we don't have them where we come from." Ben said. "But they aren't really any different from humans, our doctor said they have the same blood, same genes, and same brains, that's enough for us to classify them as human in our book."
Again Ilia looked at him in deep thought. "But what about the White Fang?"
"They got the wrong idea." Ben said. "Back where we came from there were organizations that tried what the Fang did, equality through violence, and all it did was cause trouble. Not to mention the White Fang attacks civilians, they're no better than the Covenant."
Ilia looked at Ben with an expression he couldn't decipher before speaking. "Would we consider diplomacy an option with the White Fang?"
"Only if they were surrendering I'd imagine." Ben said. "The fact of the matter is that if we let them get away with the crimes they've committed, it makes those crimes meaningless and everyone would be free to commit them, they have to stand trial."
"I understand." Ilia said, her face still a confusing combination of emotions, most of which Ben still failed to understand.
"What's on your mind?" Ben asked, she was obviously thinking about something.
"I just don't understand why we can't all just... get along." Ilia said.
"I don't know, I'm a soldier, not a philosopher." Ben said. "That sounds more up Curie's alley in my opinion."
"I've never met this Curie, people talk like she's a real person." Ilia said.
"She is." Ben said. "Smart A.I's are made from human brains."
That obviously surprised Ilia. "How?"
"Volunteers have their brains recovered upon death and their converted into A.I's through a process I admittedly don't really understand." Ben said. "But the basic idea of it is that they're basically digital people."
"Huh, we don't have anything even close to that." Ilia said.
"There's also dumb A.I's. Their made entirely digitally, but they don't have a limited lifespan, their brains are therefore a lot less... human, for lack of a better term." Ben explained. "They only really operate in one field, but the name isn't entirely true, as they can be extremely smart."
"That sounds like what we have." Ilia said.
"I met one of your A.I's at the CCTS tower in Vale, it was a dumb A.I for comparison." Ben said.
"So... do they have rights?" Ilia asked.
"Their treated like any other soldier, except they don't well... have a body." Ben said.
"So is Curie a Smart of a Dumb A.I?" Ilia asked.
Ben hesitated, he didn't want to honestly answer that question. "A smart A.I, but she's... different, she doesn't have a limited lifespan, but she has a lot less processing power." Ben said. "She was my A.I before we got stranded here, now she mostly stays in the ship."
" 'Your' A.I?" Ilia asked accusingly.
"Yeah, we're Battle Buddies, partners, whatever term you like." Ben explained.
"Oh." Ilia said. "So you know her well then?"
"Yeah, I was there when she was... born, activated, enabled?" Ben said looking for the right word.
"Do all Spartan's get A.I's?" Ilia asked.
"No, they're very expensive." Ben said. "Curie was a special case, she needed someone to look after her, So I was selected for the task by my superiors."
"How long have you known her?" Ilia asked.
"Since I was eight, so... seven years, give or take a few months." Ben said.
"Has humanity ever had rights troubles with A.I's?" Ilia asked.
Ben thought back to where Curie originated. "Yes, I guess, but in very limited instances, only one I can think of, and it was hastily resolved." he said.
"We have all these movies and books where A.I rise up and take over the world." Ilia said. "How do you know that won't happen?"
"Well it's been 400 years and nothing bad has happened so far, I can only imagine things going well." Ben said.
"Ah, thanks." Ilia said. "You know, some of the marines were talking about how antisocial you guys are, but you seem pretty social."
"The other Spartans weren't as social as me and Jorge." Ben said. "Jorge's class of Spartans especially were notoriously focused on fighting."
"I can't imagine being like that, existing only to fight." Ilia said.
"Me neither, I may be made to fight, but not meant to fight and fight alone." Ben said.
"Thanks for answering my questions." Ilia said.
"No problem, anytime." Ben said before Ilia walked away and he got back to eating.
October 10th, 1630 UNSC Time, 2552
Ilia thought a lot about what Ben had said, she concluded that Spartans and the UNSC were more like Huntsmen then an actual military. Sure they had protocol and rules and acted like a military, but their goals were more like those of a huntsmen. Protect human life, irregardless of nation, race, or alignment. They certainly seemed more willing to use lethal force however.
I really don't think the White Fang has any right to complain about the use of lethal force. Ilia sadly realized. But… we have our own enemies to fight, just like the UNSC. Sure ours are more human and reasonable than the covenant but… its a similar goal, right?
After that Ilia's training had resumed as normal, with Fairfire increasing the intensity of their exercises. They had started on weapons training, mostly how to clean and disassemble them.
Ilia's exercises were interrupted when Jorge called her on the intercom to his office. As she approached the room she overheard a discussion in progress between Commander Meadows and Jorge.
"...I don't understand Sir, troopers died under my Command, how did I do a good job?" Jorge asked.
"The battle was a victory, and we assisted in saving civilian lives. While it is regrettable that marines died, I'm sure there was nothing you could do." Meadows said. "I'll admit I haven't seen all of the combat footage from the helmet cameras yet, but I have seen all three... casualties. None of them were your fault."
"There still must have been something I could've done, maybe if I had issued different Commands, or-" Jorge began but Meadows cut him off.
"I don't think Commands would have stopped Pvt. Reynolds from being grabbed by that Nevermore." Meadows said. "And your quick thinking with the Nuckelavee saved the lives of your team and a Huntress, you shouldn't blame yourself for their deaths."
"Yes Sir." Jorge said.
"Right... your Ilia right?" Meadows said, finally noticing her.
"Yes Sir." Ilia said.
"Good, we have a very awkward question we need you to answer." Meadows said bringing out his datapad and placing it on the table."I was watching Jorge's helmet camera footage when I noticed this interesting moment." Meadows said beginning a playback from Jorge's helmet of a scene during the battle, it was just after the battle with the Nuckelavee had been finished. And Jorge was talking to Mags.
"We're happy to help." Ilia said as she entered frame.
"I... Ilia?" Mags asked, her face visibly surprised. "Your working with the UNSC now?"
"I... changed for the better." Ilia lied. Ilia recognized just how see through her lie and been, and wondered how Mags had bought it.
"That's good." Mags said. "The UNSC are a decent enough..." Mags began before Meadows stopped the recording.
"At first I thought it was nothing, I thought you two maybe met at a Huntsmen academy or something." Meadows said. "However, then I remembered that Mags never went to a Huntsmen Academy, she doesn't even have a valid Huntsmen license outside of Menagerie."
Ilia could see where this was going, and she hoped she was keeping a neutral face even though she was absolutely terrified.
"I remembered she was a part of the White Fang before she changed sides." Meadows finished, looking at her sternly.
"I… I don't unde..." Ilia began before her voice died, she wasn't doing well with the pressure Meadows was putting on her.
"Lying is only going to hurt you, so I'm going to ask this once, were you, or are you, a member of the White Fang?" Meadows asked firmly.
"...Yes." Ilia said. "I'm part of the White Fang."
"Part of, as in currently?" Meadows asked surprisingly aggressively.
"Yes but..." Ilia said tentatively, in a cracked voice.
"What do you mean by that, you either do know or you don't." Jorge challenged.
"You don't understand." Ilia said, on the verge of tears now. "I don't know anymore."
"Explain." Meadows ordered sharply.
"I..." Ilia began. "I used to believe what the White Fang was doing was right, but now... seeing who you guys really are… Your a lot more like the old White Fang then you realize."
"So your conflicted, you don't know what side your on anymore." Meadows kept his face stern and devoid of any sign that would reveal his thoughts on the matter. .
"...Yes." Ilia said, a tear slipping out of her eye.
"Have you leaked any intelligence to the White Fang?" Jorge asked.
"Yes... but it was all things they already learned from you guys." Ilia said honestly.
"I see." Meadows paused for a moment and brought a hand to his chin. "So what are you going to do now?"
"What?" Ilia asked, not understanding.
"What are you going to do now, fight? Run? Try to talk your way out of this?" Meadows asked. "You're not in a good situation right now."
"I know..." Ilia couldn't help the stinging at her eyes as she fought back tears. "I don't know what to do."
"And you'll think about it... in the brig." Meadows said. "I can't risk you causing any harm."
"I... I understand." Ilia said.
"I'll take her sir." Jorge said as he got out his desk.
Meadows turned to Jorge. "Confiscate her weapon, make sure she's cuffed."
"Aye sir." Jorge said as he brought out a set of cable ties, Ilia didn't resist as her hands were bound behind her back.
Illia's control finally slipped and as a wave of tears poured down her face, she was confused and she didn't know what to do. She felt ashamed for failing her mission, but at the same time she questioned whether her mission was worth completing in the first place. She didn't resist as Jorge took away her weapon and placed in on his desk before he lead her out of his office.
Ilia was taken to the now finished helipad, she was lead past several of the recruits she had been training with, most of whom had various looks of confusion on their faces. To her shame she couldn't meet their eyes. They waited for a Falcon which took Jorge and Ilia up too the Dominion.
"I'm sorry." Ilia said. "I never wanted to hurt anyone."
"Save it." Jorge said, not in a harsh manner, but just snappy enough for it too sting.
Ilia simply looked down with sadness before the Falcon landed in the Dominion's Hangar.
The journey was silent as Ilia was escorted to the brig, where she saw three other people in their own individual cells, the White Fang prisoners from earlier, they appeared not to notice her.
Ilia was escorted into one of the cells before her cable ties were cut and she was left alone, still in her casual marine slacks. The cell had a toilet, a bed, and an uncomfortable chair. Miserable, she sat and thought about what she had done, and more importantly, the opportunity for a new life she had destroyed.