Author's Note: Gift-fic for Drake S. Hellion, to celebrate his birthday! Yay! Vano Maktoai and Raymond-G214 belong to him, Amaris Streenan belongs to me. This work is loosely based on an RP that we did.

Disclaimer: Halo, etc. belongs to Bungie.

Enjoy, Drake!


Memoria In Aeterna

In Everlasting Remembrance

Spartans never die.

The mantra was at the heart of everything that had to do with the Spartan project, a belief of the civilian public, fueled and encouraged by ONI to boost the publics' morale in the face of an unwinnable war.

If only it was true.

Raymond-G214 knew it wasn't.

He lowered the SPNKr rocket launcher from his eye as the remains of a Covenant banshee plummeted, flaming and tumbling, to the earth in pieces. In one smooth motion, the Spartan-III cast the used weapon aside and hurried down the pile of rubble he had used as high ground to give himself a clear shot, scrambling and sliding, jumping the last few feet to the ground and running hard across the riddled battlefield, dodging and leaping obstacles smoothly.

On his HUD, the vitals of his teammates indicated that there were no vitals, but he hurried to the last point he had seen them nonetheless. Ray slid to a stop as he finally spotted them, walking the last few steps as if a great weight had settled over his shoulders.

He came across Zen first.

The other Spartan was spread limply on his back, his head turned to the left. Beside him, just past an outstretched hand, lay his MA5B. Looking at his head and shoulders, it seemed to Ray that he was simply resting—not something that Spartans did often—but the bent and twisted armor on the left side of his torso spoke otherwise. Ray knelt and set the MA5B on his teammates' chest and rested his hands over the weapon. It was the only burial a Spartan would ever receive.

Ray found Jay next. The youngest member of their team, he had joined them only after the augmentations, when their former teammate had been rendered crippled. The Spartan-III had been thrown onto a pile of rubble, his body draped over the wreckage, facedown. Gently, Ray lifted him off the pile and laid him on the ground, arranging his hands over his blackened chest plates. The man's left leg had been blown away.

Cass was the last team member. The only female of the four of them, Ray knew that her gender made no difference—she could hold her own as well as the rest of them, and better than, in many cases. She was curled on her side, her head thrown back, shotgun still between lifeless hands. He couldn't look at the shrapnel protruding from her stomach. Ray gently moved her head to a more natural angle, and left her as she was, straightening and backing up slowly. Numbly, he called up the list of Spartan-IIIs in Gamma Company and moved Zen, Jay, and Cass from the active duty to missing in action lists. His job complete, Ray looked around.

He stood in the center of the triangle made by the bodies of the only friends he had ever known, and it seemed to him that the silence held accusations. Hadn't it been his job to take care of any aerial threats? Hadn't he been posted on the high ground with the complete trust of his squad to keep them safe? Hadn't he already taken care of two other banshees before the third one arrived, and hadn't he told them not to worry about the last before he had actually destroyed it, causing them to let their guard down and the banshee's fuel rod cannon to fire a single blast into all three of them? At the least, he should be dead with them, not left behind.

Their deaths were needless, and he was to blame.

Movement on the radar on his HUD drew his attention back to the situation at hand: defending the generators that kept Reach's orbital MAC guns operational. The surviving Spartan-III climbed out of the crater that was his teammates' tomb and stopped at the top, waiting for the approaching Spartan-III Zulu and Charlie squads to reach his position.

XXXXX

Honor guard Vano of the Maktoai state stalked purposefully across the pitted and charred battlefield, stepping effortlessly around scattered, burning debris without a second thought. He bore an energy blade lit in his right, two-fingered and two-thumbed hand, but it dangled at his side, not held in a threatening manner. His dark gray armor—usually meticulously polished to perfection—was dusty, scratched and scored in places, a testament to the battles he had fought in over the last six cycles—battles that had destroyed his squad and claimed the lives of his warriors one by one.

But they had been victorious, and any death given to vanguard the Great Journey was an honorable sacrifice. His squad mates had cleared the way to the generators that their intelligence pointed to as crucial to the human's defense of the planet. In a few minutes time, the Phantom dropships and the main ground forces would arrive to destroy the generators, fresh from their raze of a not-so-distant city.

For now, alone, the Sangheili scouted the terrain. It was like a graveyard—the only beings he had seen were the dead. In the cities it was non-military humans were scattered nearly everywhere, but here it was those of the military forces, weak, fragile bodies and lives tossed and uprooted by the might of the Covenant.

The honor guard froze, his keen ears picking up the sound of rubble falling. Quickly, on silent feet, he located the direction of the sound and ran towards it. He passed through the space between the remnants of crashed insect dropship and out into a more open section on the other side, treading carefully. A bit in the distance, but still quite close, the generators in question stood as the only things yet intact. Closer, however, movement caught the attention of his keen eyes, disappearing over another pile.

His entire stance taking on a predatory aura, the Sangheili swordmaster set off in pursuit of his prey.

XXXXX

Ray slid down the rubble pile, stopping and sitting down at the bottom, making use of the opportunity to rest, despite the fact that his MA5B remained at the ready in his hands. He absentmindedly reloaded the weapon and rubbed some debris off, then drew his pistol and checked it for damage as well.

It was pure instinct that saved the Spartan-III. The tiniest piece of rubble rolled down the slope behind him to tap his armor with a light pinging sound. The Spartan dove forward, dropping his pistol, rolling across the open space between the dune-like piles of rubble. He twisted as he came up to find an Elite, sword blazing, charging across the open space after him.

Gathering his feet under him, the Spartan leaped high, flipping over backwards and rolling again as he landed, coming up behind a small block of metal. He brought his MA5B up to eye level and leaped out from behind the block, kneeling and opening fire.

The Elite's shields flashed, and he roared, running across the crater-like space until the block was between them. When he reappeared, his was wielding a plasma rifle, glowing blue globs flying towards the Spartan-III.

Ray ducked around the block again, tossing a grenade and opening fire. The Elite's shields flashed once, twice, and died, but the alien disappeared behind a pile of charred rubble from a downed Pelican. The Spartan backed away from the alien, keeping crouched down and spinning to watch every direction at once.

With a hissing sound, bright blue suddenly filled his vision, and Ray's eyes widened as a plasma grenade came arcing over the pile on his left to land at his feet. The Spartan turned and ran, throwing himself forward as the grenade detonated, the shockwave throwing him.

Ray slammed into a another pile of rubble, dazing him, but the Spartan shook it off, his augmentations giving him an edge over a regular human soldier. He sat up and turned around—in time to lunge to his right as the Elite's sword speared into the wreckage where he had just been.

Reacting, he kicked at the Elite's hand with his foot, bringing up his battle rifle and firing at the creature's head. With a snarl, the Elite stumbled backwards, dropping the sword to protect his head, and Ray leaped to his feet and kicked the sword hilt away from them both, sending it bouncing. He turned and dropped to a knee, firing again as the alien tried to lunge after the weapon, making him stop and seek cover.

The Spartan ducked behind shelter as well, hands deftly reloading his weapon. He heard the Elite reemerge, heavy feet moving slowly over the ground.

"Come out, you cowardly insect! And your very presence causes the Uungoy to shake in their boots. What have they to fear from one who hides from battle?"

Ray remained where he was, letting his heart slow and trying to pinpoint the alien's position. The creature's next words gave him away.

"Give up, Demon! You only delay the inevitable; you cannot possibly hope to win. The Holy Prophets have ordered your extinction, and you shall not stand before our might!"

Ray heard the Elite move to the left of his position, towards the sword, and he ran out from behind his cover, firing as he moved. The Elite leaped for the blade, grabbing it and rolling, ducking behind his own protection. The Spartan gritted his teeth in frustration, and peeked out from his position. He immediately pulled back as plasma bolts flew past his head. Ray primed a grenade and tossed it up and over his position.

A roar told him he had gotten close, and the Spartan stood and opened fire on the prone Elite, dropping his shields and making him roar in pain. Still firing, he charged, and threw the battle rifle aside when the clip clicked empty, tackling the Elite, who had begun to rise, grabbing the wrist of his sword hand as the alien made to strike him.

Vano snarled and growled at the Demon's polarized visor, cursing him a thousand different ways. He strained, and the Demon fought back, but slowly, his sword inched towards the Demon. The human took hold with both hands, and the Elite's progress halted, but Vano's free hand snapped across to seize the Demon's neck through the armor. The Spartan grabbed his wrist again, but even augmented strength was not quite equal to the power of the alien's muscles. Ever so slowly, but steadily, the fingers closed, and the glowing blade inched closer.

Ray grunted, focusing first on pushing back the sword, then struggling with the terrifyingly powerful hand gripping his neck. He was barely holding on, and his strength was quickly draining as his breath waned. He took comfort in the fact the he would not escape the fate of his teammates; he only wished their bodies could lay together.

The Spartan felt his head becoming light, and his grip growing weaker. A buzzing filled his ears. In his almost unconscious state, he was never sure afterwards exactly what happened…but next his eyes opened to see the sky, and he lay on the ground, another Spartan-III hovering over him.

XXXXX

Vano roared triumphantly as the Demon's grip slackened, excitement rising in his chest. He could almost taste the victory—and to defeat a Demon! He adjusted his hold on his sword in preparation.

Suddenly movement came out from around the rubble, and metal bullets slammed into his chest, arms, and face.

Now roaring in pain, Vano was forced to throw the Demon in their direction, trying to stop the swarm of Demons charging at him. Ducking and limping, he took cover—but there was no way he could defeat so many of the creatures, nor run or hide.

For the Great Journey, then, he thought, preparing a last charge, determined that his allies would find at least a single enemy body beside his when they came across him. And he knew that, even if he fell, the Covenant would survive. Lives must be cast aside to bring all of them closer to the Great Journey, he knew. This was his duty, and he would not shrink before it. He straightened gray clad shoulders and grasped a plasma grenade.

With a whirring, humming sound, a shadow flew over him—and then another. Vano looked up in time to see a second pair of banshees shoot passed overhead, and behind them a dropship.

"Excellent work, brother," a voice came over his battlenet. "Fall back now, and let the banshees give the Demons their due!"

XXXXX

"He's still alive!" It was a female voice, coming from the other armored Spartan-III leaning over him. Cass? Ray sat up excitedly—but no, it wasn't Cass, she didn't move like that. He would recognize his teammates anywhere, even in full armor with polarized helmets.

"Where's your team?" she asked, all business.

"Dead," he managed to say. "Banshees."

She gave a nod. "Right. We're your reinforcements, Charlie and Zulu squad. Looks like we got here right when the Covie reinforcements did. They're pushing to the generators. Zulu's going wide to distract them. You're coming with us; you know the terrain ahead."

Ray rose to his feet. He retrieved his MA5B, and his pistol. "Right," he said. "Let's go." He followed them at a run. The mission continued. Above all else, that was the only important thing.

XXXXX

Amaris reached over to the Spartan-III as he finished his tale, gently working the fist clenched on his thigh open so she could fit her fingers between his. Of course, she never would have been able to even budge the Spartan's hand if he didn't want to let her—but he was always careful with her, always thinking of her before his own needs.

"It wasn't your fault," she repeated quietly, as she had many times before, when they spoke of this incident. "You did what you could at the time. You're a strong fighter, Ray. You lived to fight the Covenant again, to avenge your team, and we never would have survived that uninhabited planet, and the Flood, without you. I don't blame you for what happened, no one does."

Ray turned to her, staring down into her face. "I know," he answered quietly, squeezing her hand. "You do help me. And I kept that promise I made." He turned back to face the sunset in front of them. Amaris followed his lead, leaning to rest her head on his shoulder. "I kept fighting until the war ended. Until the mission was complete."

"You went above and beyond, Ray. You did much more than just what was required of you." She reached up to place a light kiss on his cheek, and he looked back at her. "And what you did helped make sure that humanity survived. Everyone will always remember what you did. As long as humanity lives, the memory of you will too. I guess, in a way, it is true that Spartans never die."