Chapter Thirty

[May 5th, 2535 Halcyon Class Hercules - Slipspace]

Renee strode into the cafeteria, a large smile spread across her face. If one were to look at her expression without being Amy Smythe, they'd think she had won the lottery or some such thing. Why Renee was smiling was a mystery to everyone but Amy, who, when she saw her friend come into the cafeteria, towards her table, with her cheeks flushed a healthy pink and the broad smile across her face, she knew exactly what was going on. Amy was momentarily tempted to rush up from the table and meet her friend halfway and take her into a big bear hug, but due to the fact that Troy, Josh, Kirk and Blaine were accompanying her at the table, she decided to wait until Renee arrived. It didn't take her long, and she plunked down at her usual spot across from Amy and beside Troy, who had recently had the wires removed from his jaw and regained the ability to speak – and his mouth was flapping full speed to his friends, as he was expressing his true emotions about the torture he'd endured for the past month that he hadn't been able to get on paper.

Troy barely glanced at Renee, for the two of them were currently on non-speaking terms. Renee didn't so much as offer him a second of her time, she looked right to Amy, folding her arms on the table and raising her eyebrow.

Amy glanced to the boys then to her friend, leaning in closer to Renee, speaking lowly:

"Lemme guess, you've got damned good news," the excitement in her voice was easily heard.

"Right," Renee beamed, laughing slightly, "Luck was on my side this time," she raised her hand and Amy slapped it in an enthusiastic high-five. Troy, who couldn't keep his now-deformed nose out of other people's business, couldn't help but butt right on in.

"What's got you two in such good cheer?" he asked. He spoke carefully, not too fast, for his jaw was still a little sore and he didn't want to screw anything up. After being in the hospital ward for nearly four weeks, he was the most careful anyone had seen him. He walked like he was afraid a piece of dust was going to spring alive, jump up and trip him.

"Oh nothing that'd concern you, Troy, really," Amy answered, keeping her nose somewhat arrogantly in the air, not bothering to turn her head in his direction. Troy didn't care for being snubbed, she knew that, but he didn't say anything, except frown ever so carefully.

"That asshole better'd not be coming back, is he?" Troy snapped to conclusions, glaring suspiciously from Renee's happy face to Amy's snobby one. Renee whipped her head in his direction, the first actual real attempt at paying attention to him. Her brown eyes were suddenly vicious.

"He's not," she spat, raising her eyebrow ever so elegantly, "Why would you be concerned anyway? Whatever we might be talking about is none of your business, Lieutenant. Not to be rude or anything, of course." She gave him a bittersweet smile.

"What's up your ass, RenRen?" Troy asked, mocking her, "Not to be rude or anything, of course."

"Don't call me that," she hissed.

"I told you Troy, don't call her that," Amy waggled her finger at him; "You gotta listen sometimes. It wouldn't kill you."

Troy glanced back to his friends, seeing they were leaving him alone and engaging in their own conversation. He looked back to Renee and Amy, sighing. He ran his fingers through his freshly cut hair, shaking his head. His blue eyes flashed an emotion Renee couldn't quite place a finger on.

"Why is it always a conflict between you and me?" he asked, leaning his head on his hand. His voice was serene, not mad; it was just an honest question.

Renee laughed a light, melodic laugh, shaking her head. For a moment, it sounded friendly, but her expression soured and so did her voice:

"You're really asking me that?" she snapped, "I'm not causing any conflicts. It's always been you! Who got pissed off at who when they joined the UNSC? Who got jealous of whom? Who took advantage of someone when they were drunk?" The last sentence came out close to a snarl.

"Oh God, Renee, did you ever hear of forgiveness?" Troy rolled his eyes, "Honestly, you can be so childish sometimes! I'm your friend, we were both drinking that night, and you know it. It wasn't any crime. You liked it as much as I did."

"Oh fuck off," Renee snapped.

"You did, don't try and deny it. If you had any problems, you would've punched me, like you did that other time on Lacerta," Troy wasn't going to give up.

"Keep telling yourself that, cupcake," Renee said sarcastically. Troy opened his mouth to protest, but she let out a big sigh and shook her head, beating him to the punch: "Just leave me alone, okay? Talk to me when you actually have something intelligent to say, and when you aren't in the mood to pick a fight, alright?"

Troy held up his hands, his friends backing him up with some "ooo's" from the peanut gallery. He rolled his eyes again, muttering something and shaking his head. With that, he turned his back to her, and Renee made a face at him.

Amy laughed, and Renee looked to her, her expression quite stressed.

"Jeez, talk about PMS," Amy grinned, "Shot him down, girl. Feel better?"

"Yes, I do."

The massive Covenant fleet swept through the vacuum, illuminated by the starry background. Led by the Assault Cruiser Domination, it was absolutely huge. At least a hundred CCS Battle cruisers tagged along behind the large flagship like a school of fish. Each one of them carried hundreds of troops and vehicles, not to mention they each obtained the ability to vaporize the planet ahead.

The pitiful planet, the human colony of Hydra, was hued a light green and blue, and the inhabitants were unaware that, death in a physical form, was approaching rather quickly. They'd be upon them in minutes, and get a good chance to wreak a fair amount of destruction and killing before anyone could get the alarm out to reinforcements, and at least an hour or two before the first ships would come to their call.

On the Domination, a very eager 'Malnoonee was pacing the bridge, up and down between the flashing control panels, past the worried Huragok, that were working furiously, tapping away, punching in lines of code and sending and receiving messages from the following ships with their purple tentacles. A few Sangheili soldiers were there as well, some Minor Domos standing by the bridge doors. 'Malnoonee's pacing was a little annoying, for the golden armor clad Sangheili kept going back and forth, his two toed feet making repetitive clunking against the floor plates with each step.

Rtas 'Vadumee, who was there as well, folded his arms on his chest as he watched 'Malnoonee continue his obsessive pacing. 'Malnoonee reminded him of a caged animal, or a nervous human held in captivity moments after its execution has been finalized – though 'Malnoonee wasn't pitiful and scared looking like the pathetic humans often were. He stood straight and proud, but his head was hanging low, as if it was almost weighed down by all of the thinking he was doing.

"Must you pace, Ship Master?" questioned 'Vadumee, "We'll be there soon, and there is nothing for you to worry about. It will be over soon enough, with another victory. They don't even know we're coming."

"Yes, yes," 'Malnoonee raised his hand to his face, to tap on his lower mandibles with his long slender fingers. He turned fully to face 'Vadumee, almost stepping on a Huragok as he did. The alien let out a little shriek and floated out of his way, cowering, but 'Malnoonee paid no attention to it. He declared, "I am not worried, Rtas. In fact, I'm quite enthralled! I can only hope the Spartan and his little female come to attend this event. I have 'Kolsamee waiting with an energy sword in hand, with one goal, and one only – to kill them both. If you go to his chambers, you should find him more ecstatic than me."

"Whether they show or not, it is bound to be entertaining," 'Vadumee glanced down to his deactivated energy sword on his thigh, "If you do not allow me to proceed with the ground troops, I will be certainly dishonored for eternity."

"You desire not to remain up here and watch?" 'Malnoonee tilted his head in confusion, "You prefer to stain your hands with the filthy blood of the wretched human inhabitants?"

"I need to get some form of revenge," 'Vadumee said simply, "I haven't forgotten the Redemption, and how some of my crew met horrible deaths."

"You would've died yourself if I hadn't ordered you to abandon ship," 'Malnoonee snapped, though he let out a little chuckle, "I don't want the same type of heroic pertinence this time, 'Vadumee. There aren't enough Sangheili as talented and respectable as you. Such attitude is the Ossoona way of thought, not afraid to die, welcoming it with open arms."

"Isn't that what we're all trained to do?" 'Vadumee asked calmly, "Not fear death? The Prophets seem to stress such rules enough."

"There's a difference between not fearing death and accepting death," 'Malnoonee explained, "The Ossoona, like 'Kolsamee, know that their role has been assigned to them, and their role will eventually cost them their lives. They accept it. We, however, may laugh in the face of death, never dare to cower, but we don't go throwing ourselves towards it. If there is no avoiding it, then, only then is it acceptable. It's a carefully drawn line, however, between cowards and those who avoid death, but it exists."

"I understand completely, 'Malnoonee," 'Vadumee answered, inspired by his words.

"Though, if you so desire, you may go with the ground troops."

"Thank you, it would be an honor."

The Covenant forces slipped into Hydra's atmosphere with ease, and no doubt caused unequaled panic in those who were helplessly watching from the ground. People's entire schedules mattered none as mass hysteria began to sweep the planet. It was the main city that was the first target, and people could only watch in horror as they saw the huge fleet of Covenant ships drifting lazily – yet ever so menacingly from the clouds, looking as if they appeared out of nowhere. There had been no warnings – it was obvious to Hydra's inhabitants that there had been no outside forces that tried to put a halt to the alien invasion – not even a speculation had made it to the news. It was like death itself had come down and made a surprise visit, to greet them all with an alien smile. It was different, and hopeless. It wasn't like just one country had gotten in a war with another, which was different. You could simply go somewhere else, to the other side of the world, where there was peace and protection. But here, the Covenant were invading the planet itself. There was nowhere to go.

The entire day had been ruined, as chaos took hold, and people began to panic on the ground. Cars went off the road; people abandoned their homes and ran onto the street. Children were separated from their parents; people were trampled in the craziness. Everyone was scrambling for a place to hide – the peace and tranquility that had once been there moments ago, transformed into something opposite, something hideous and terrifying.

It didn't take long for the fleet to launch their attack – the ships branched off, spreading out across the planet. The Domination stayed above the main city with several battle cruisers still by her tail. The drop ships were quickly dispatched, and came soaring towards the ground, turrets on – blasting and melting the ground and everything it touched. People who were so unfortunate to be in the path of one of the beams were instantly vaporized into a splatter of blood and gore.

'Kolsamee watched out from the side of his drop ship, the doors dropped open to give him a bird's eye view of the hundreds of humans scrambling like ants, their screams of terror reaching his ears. He chuckled, ignoring how eerie the screams were. It was a melody to his ears. He was doing a favor, he was cleansing the universe of the human scum, and it was an accomplishment.

He didn't wait for the drop ship to touch down; he leaped from his seat and landed gracefully onto the hard asphalt. He watched as the humans closest to him, stopped in fear to gaze up at him – like they were petrified. Their already pale faces grew almost ghostly white – like the color of the Demon's, and their movements were retarded by the fear, but they took off, running, screaming things in their language. Praying to their supposed God, asking for mercy, asking someone to save them – it was pathetic. 'Kolsamee tore out his energy sword, and he activated it, the wonderful weapon sizzling to life, sparking the air around it with heat. He charged forward, and swiped it through the first unfortunate human. The body came apart in two pieces, blood spraying 'Kolsamee and the ground around it, and fell, motionless. The people closest to witness the massacre screamed again and ran, some of them so clumsy and blinded by their fear that they ran into things and other humans, tripped over each other and crashed to the ground.

'Kolsamee was amused, shaking himself and wiping the blood from his black armored plates, and continued after them. He could use his invisibility cloaking, but at this moment he was so high on adrenaline and the thrill of murder he didn't need it. He could take on anyone right now. He wanted the humans to see him, to be afraid of him, to understand what they were dealing with.

He made a few lopes forward, decapitated one human, and impaled another. One was particularly swift and tried to dodge his blade, but 'Kolsamee only missed his mark and the human's arm was sliced from his body. The limb fell to the ground and so did the injured human, and he began to scream loudly, meanwhile trying to stop the blood that was spraying out of the wound with each consecutive heartbeat. 'Kolsamee glowered down at him in disgust, and just drew back his arm to deliver the finishing blow, when a horde of Unggoy came charging – and leaped right onto the human, screaming their own battle cries in their annoying, high pitched voices. 'Kolsamee withdrew, and leaped right over the mass of squirming Unggoy and the one-armed human as they brawled with one another. He hated the Unggoy, and felt no desire to be around them, with their ridiculous forms of tactics – they, in 'Kolsamee's opinion, were no better than the humans.

'Kolsamee broke into a light run, the mass of fleeing humans had moved on – they were being chased by several other Sangheili, Unggoy and Kig-Yar. The humans were foolish enough to break off into different directions, only to be hunted down easier by a well-placed plasma beam, or perhaps even a grenade.

'Kolsamee continued along, killing humans that were within an arm's reach – mostly ones who were too afraid to run. They accepted their deaths rather quietly, although there was the occasional one who screamed and prayed and fell to their knees at his feet begging for their life to be spared. It mattered not, 'Kolsamee didn't even listen to their words – there was nothing wise to be heard. They were the dirt of the universe, and he had orders to kill them. There were no lives to be spared.

He came across one building, where rather stupidly, a large group of humans hid inside – but could clearly be seen through the large glass window. When they saw him, they all started screaming and panicking. 'Kolsamee could see there were male and female humans, as well as children hiding in this building. He didn't care; he drove his fist through the glass, shattering it, and then tore a plasma grenade from his belt. As he stood on the window ledge, he felt all the human eyes looking up at him, and at the grenade he had clutched in his hand. For a moment, 'Kolsamee felt a strange feeling in his stomach, which he didn't like. He was working well to push it aside, when all of a sudden, a little human boy, a child, stood up from the rest of the humans. Looking at him with big round eyes brimming with tears, the little boy spoke in a small, high pitched voice – similar to the Unggoy.

"Please, don't kill us, Mr. Alien," he said, his bottom lip quivering, "My whole family is here…"

A female human, which must have been his mother, half stood up and grasped at her son, trying to pull him away from 'Kolsamee, who was surprised by this confrontation.

"Billy, come here…" The mother half-sobbed, "Come here…"

"But mommy," the boy named Billy protested. Surprisingly, the little boy was able to get from his mother's grasp, and he ran right up to 'Kolsamee. Billy's mother was brought to hysterics, terrified for her son, but neither she nor anyone else in the room could muster up enough courage to try and get him.

'Kolsamee looked from the crying mother to the little boy standing at his feet. He didn't move – he was utterly floored by this little human's courage. He had seen full grown male humans cry and sob and run like cowards – but this one little boy was standing right in front of him, looking right into his eyes.

"Please," Billy repeated, "If you can understand me, Mr. Alien, we don't want to hurt you. Please, don't hurt me. Don't hurt my Mommy or Daddy; don't hurt these other people…"

'Kolsamee still stood there – the only movement was his shoulders heaving with each deep breath he took. His fingers tightened around the plasma grenade in his hand – damn it, all he had to do was activate it, throw it in the room, and kill them all… but for some reason, he couldn't, and because of this, 'Kolsamee let a frustrated growl climb its way out of his throat, and Billy took a step backwards, and his mother let out a muffled scream.

The Sangheili glanced back over his shoulder, and saw no one was there to see what he did. Determined, he activated the plasma grenade, and it came to life in his hands, glowing a light blue, and all of the humans gasped, but with a roar, 'Kolsamee whipped around and threw the plasma grenade out onto the street. It arced across the road, and stuck to a wall of a building. There was a deafening explosion as the wall melted upon the detonation, and crumbled to the ground. 'Kolsamee turned back to face the humans, and declared in his deep voice:

"If you want to live, don't stay here."

He saw the joy on Billy's pudgy little face, but everyone else looked bewildered. 'Kolsamee jumped down back into the street, and didn't look back, suddenly burdened with the guilt. He'd just committed the ultimate treason, the ultimate betrayal. He was meant to kill humans without question, but he had allowed a little human boy to persuade him otherwise. At that moment, he was tempted to take his plasma rifle, put it to his head, and kill himself. 'Kolsamee felt his honor slipping through his fingers, his dread creeping up on him – he was a heretic. A heretic, and the only ones with the proof was himself and the humans huddled back in the room, humans that should have been dead by now.

'Kolsamee ducked into an alleyway, and whipped his plasma rifle up and put it to his head, right below his eye. He could feel the heat from the weapon as the plasma charged inside of the barrel. His finger curled around the trigger, and he exhaled.


He had one last mission, to kill the Spartan, and his female companion, that was the whole reason why he was here. He had to kill them, and then it was done. He lowered his plasma rifle, ever so slowly, from his own skull. Kill the Spartan, kill the girl. After that was over, though, killing himself sounded just as nice.

"'Kolsamee, there you are!" a familiar voice made him jump, and 'Kolsamee whipped around to see Rtas 'Vadumee standing at the mouth of the alleyway, looking down at him. For a moment, he wondered if Rtas had been witness to him contemplating his own suicide, but nothing in Rtas' features portrayed that he'd seen a thing.

"'Vadumee," 'Kolsamee exhaled, "Any news? Has the human reinforcements been called?"

"Yes," 'Vadumee answered, "We were able to catch some of their transmissions. They've called for Spartans, as well."

"My Spartan?" 'Kolsamee demanded.

"Specifically, one Master Chief," 'Vadumee tilted his head.

'Kolsamee threw his head back and allowed a nervous chuckle to come from his mouth, and then he nodded.

"That's the one," 'Kolsamee gazed down at the plasma rifle in his hand, "When will he be here?"

"They expect within the next few hours," 'Vadumee replied, "Along with the marines. That ought to be some fun, won't it?"

"Indeed," 'Kolsamee agreed, "We'll destroy them with ease."

"'Not you, though," 'Vadumee declared bleakly.

"Why ever not?" 'Kolsamee stepped away from the wall, glaring at 'Vadumee, "They think I might get myself killed before the Spartan arrives?"

"'Malnoonee said specifically for you to stay invisible, stay hidden until it's been confirmed he's arrived and that he's in the vicinity," 'Vadumee told him, his expression not faltering, "And those are orders."

"I really would be better off killing," 'Kolsamee protested, "Trust me."

"You might be, but 'Malnoonee's given the orders," 'Vadumee snapped, "If you want to argue with him, so be it, though I doubt you'll get your way. 'Malnoonee doesn't want anything to go wrong."

"Everything already has," 'Kolsamee muttered beneath his breath.

"What?" 'Vadumee asked sharply.

"Nothing, sir," 'Kolsamee gave 'Vadumee an agreeable nod, "I will go into hiding, I shall not argue with 'Malnoonee. I'll kill the Spartan and the girl without any problems."

"That's good," 'Vadumee narrowed his eyes, "Normally you Ossoona are hard to persuade."

"In any other situation I would be," 'Kolsamee strode up the alley way, and brushed past 'Vadumee, "But, just like the Spartan, I haven't much time left. I don't really feel like spending it arguing."

"What do you mean, 'Kolsamee?" 'Kolsamee heard 'Vadumee say, starting after him.

"It doesn't matter," 'Kolsamee declared, clenching his fists, "I'll be dead in the end either way, whether I win or lose."

'Vadumee was about to speak, but he watched 'Kolsamee activate his invisibility. His entire form blurred, and then he was gone, disappeared into thin air. He heard his feet scuffing on the asphalt, away from him. 'Vadumee shook his head, and glanced up at the sky. He could never understand Ossoona, but then again, he wasn't sure if he wanted to try.

Letting out a little growl of frustration, 'Vadumee ran off down the street, following the sounds of gunfire and the pathetic screams of the humans, his energy sword at the ready.

When Keira received the notification of the Covenant invading Hydra with a fleet of over a hundred ships, she wished she had a physical human form. Captain Thomsen was slumped at one of the control panels, fast asleep. The other bridge workers were on lunch break, and she was controlling the Hercules by herself, and her mind was rather whizzing at the moment.

"Blake!" she cried, although her voice only went to a certain amount of decibels. Her holographic form flickered with irritation, and she tried again, "Blake! Wake up, Blake!"

Letting out a little sigh, she muttered, "Oh, I don't need him."

She didn't wait for his authority; she changed the Hercules destination to Hydra's appropriate coordinates, and the thrusters to full speed, meanwhile also responding to the ship that'd sent the message, confirming that they were on their way. Lastly, she went over in the intercom, and declared, "Attention all crew. This is not your Captain speaking; he's currently taking a nap. I've just received reports that the Covenant has launched an attack on the colony of Hydra, and we are making an emergency response. I wanted you all suited up and ready to go within the next few hours. This is not a drill. Keira out."

In the cafeteria, everything had grown silent, although Blaine was the first make some racket. He jumped up from the table and cried, "Finally, we get to see some action and kick some alien ass!" There was a moment's silence, but then everyone else – besides Renee and Amy – whooped the traditional marine response, the good ol' "Ooh-rah!"

"Who's Keira?" Amy asked Renee lowly, "The Captain's girlfriend?"

"No, you don't know who Keira is?" Renee asked, bewildered, "She's the ships AI!"

"Oh, right," Amy answered, "Now that I've gotten that straightened out, I don't know about you, but I'm not exactly sharing everyone else's enthusiasm. This planet, Hydra, they'd better call John or some other Spartans in to help us. If not, we're creamed."

"I'm sure they'll get some Spartan," Renee answered, as they both got up from the table, "It isn't wise for just marines to try and battle the Covenant in these times. The odds themselves are a plain indicator of that."

"Another planet, damn those bastards," Amy shook her head, "I wish those fucking aliens would just go shove their heads up their own asses for a change."

"Well it's our job, we're meant to fight them," Renee replied, "And I don't know about you, but it's been a couple of months, and I really want to kill something."

"You're just PMSing," Amy spat.

"No, I'm not," Renee rolled her eyes, "I'm always up for killing aliens."

"Last time you tried to take one on by yourself, it nearly strangled you," Amy answered, remembering clearly that the Elite had been 'Kolsamee, the strange one that spared her life that night in the camp, the one who simply stole a ration pack, then proceeded to eat it and watch her from beneath the tree – the huge one in the black armor with the bright, creepy yellow eyes. She shivered at just the memory of that Elite.

"That strange Elite, that's right," Renee replied, "But he was different, Amy. He was huge; it was like a Spartan Elite or something. The one before that, do you remember the whole incident with the Ghost? I took that Elite out no problem."

"Yeah," was all that Amy could say. She just hoped that they wouldn't run into 'Kolsamee again, because it could easily kill them all if it wanted to. She was still puzzled as to why it'd allowed her to live that night, along with everyone else.

They both heard footsteps coming up behind them, and Renee knew without even looking that it was Troy. Amy looked back over her shoulder, however, and confirmed her guess when she declared, "Whaddya want?"

"You two girls ditched me," Troy sounded offended, "It's not a very nice thing to do to your best friend, or your Lieutenant for that matter."

"I never knew you were wanting to tag along," Amy raised an eyebrow at him as he fell into step with her and Renee. He smiled ever so slightly.

"You know me better than that," Troy answered, "We're gonna be fighting aliens in a few hours. We have to rekindle our relationships; we're a team down there. I figured it'd be best to start practicing now."

"Oh, great," Renee muttered.

Troy frowned at her.

"I can say some intelligent things, Renee," he said, "If you'd want me to use huge words and speak with the vocabulary of a scholar, I can. Now that this has come up, you can't afford to snub me when were down in the middle of a battle."

"I'm not asking you to talk like a scholar, Troy," Renee didn't bother looking at him as she walked, "But yes, I do understand your point. I will talk to you, I will take your orders and I will exchange ideas and tactics – on the ground. But for now, while we're taking showers and getting suited up, I see no point in talking to you. I don't want to waste my breath."

"Okay," Troy said slowly, sounding irritated, "Of course, though, it wouldn't kill you to talk. You were never antisocial."

"I'm talking to Amy," Renee flicked her eyes towards him for just a moment, "Not you. Feel free to jabber away once we are finished of our conversation, but you'll find Amy will be the only participant. Sure I might listen, but I won't respond."

"Oh I think I know what's wrong with you," Troy said flatly, "Goddamned women."

"What do you think is wrong with me?" Renee snapped.

"You're… oh Jesus, help me out Amy…" Troy was desperately trying to avoid that delicate subject.

"She's PMSing," Amy finished, "Can't you say that? Are you embarrassed or something? God, what are you, twelve? Grow up."

"You're both bitchy," Troy cried, "Why to me? Why don't you save your anger for the aliens?"

"You are an alien," Renee replied, "Alien to us, you have no place here."

"Yeah, well, thanks Renee," Troy snapped quickly, his cheeks flustered, "I'll remember that one. I really will. I'm going to take a shower; I'll see you in the Docking Bay."

He broke off from them, strutting down another hallway, not bothering to even look back.

"Doesn't take a hint, that one," Renee sighed, rolling her eyes at Amy.

"You are being a little hard on him," Amy told her tenderly, "Just a bit."

"He took advantage of me!"

"Over a month ago," Amy retorted, "You are awful when it comes to holding grudges! It would've been different if there had been no alcohol involved, but you both were drinking! Blame the alcohol, not Troy. Although he's annoying, he can come in handy. He's valuable to us."

"No he's not," Renee huffed, "About as valuable as a used piece of toilet paper."

She expected to rouse a laugh from Amy, but surprisingly she didn't even snicker. Renee was going to walk into the armory to get her suit, but Amy paused in the door. Renee stopped and looked back at her in silence.

"He's a friend," her friend declared flatly, "Always has been. He'd give his life to save us - you especially. You know that. He can't help that he's changed a little – we all have. He may not be the goofball who made animal noises in class, but he's still Troy Fisher. And look at you! You're not the same, you've changed! I have too, and we accept these changes because we're friends, and we have to stick together, Renee. We can't win anything alone, not in these times."

Renee looked at her for a long time, but finally nodded, ever so slightly. Her words made nothing but sense, and the more she thought about it, the more her words had meaning to them.

"You're right Amy," she said quietly, "You're absolutely right."