Halo belongs to Microsoft. This fic occurs sometime in January 2553. It is dedicated to my grandma.
The Sangheili woman threw her bundle down in the forest. She was miles away from the city: no one would find the runt here. The pathetic little creature did not yet have a name, nor would it receive one. It was very light in weight and had one shoulder slightly higher than the other. This creature would be too weak to survive the harsh training required for all Sangheili youth. The runt would be left in the woods where the elements of Sangheilios would kill it and ensure that it would not taint the other Sangheili of the keep with its presence. She straightened her robes and left the baby to its fate.
"What are we doing here, again?" Jules Meadows asked, not believing the place his current host was holding negotiations. He was a marine, an African American from Monroe, Louisiana in his mid-thirties with short hair.
"We are protecting the ambassador, who is meeting with the kaidon, who apparently likes going on nature walks," Esther Brooks said, unable to take in the kaidon's unorthodox meeting place either. She was also a marine, a Caucasian female of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry from the outer colonies, roughly the same age with short curly brown hair. They were part of a team assigned to protect a human diplomat negotiating with the local kaidon. The Arbiter had pleaded with Lord Hood to send him a convincingly Sangheili-friendly ambassador to help him persuade some of the kaidons who were on the fence about the human alliance. There was also a rapidly spreading rumor that the humans were giving weapons to the Servants of the Abiding Truth. Sending an ambassador was a quick way of dealing with the rumor.
The ambassador was an elderly Caucasian British man, bald with a remnant of grey hair and a moustache. He and the kaidon were several feet ahead, lost in conversation. They stopped when they heard crying.
Jules and Esther held their MA5C assault rifles at the ready. The kaidon knitted his eyes.
"That sound is a baby Sangheili," he said simply.
"What would a baby be doing out here?" Jules asked.
"Let's see," the kaidon said. "It could have been severely underweight, deformed, or sickly—unable to survive the harsh lifestyle that Sangheilios needs to produce excellent warriors. Abandoning such a child to the elements is the most merciful thing to do."
The Elites abandon their own children who can't be made into soldiers? Esther thought. This didn't surprise her at all! These monsters that killed her family at New Horizon were truly monsters indeed. She was glad that they helped humanity at the end of the war, but now that the war was over she wanted humanity to have nothing more to do with them.
The crying grew louder as they walked further down the forest trail. Jules noticed a white cloth bundle out of the corner of his eye, beneath a tree further inside the forest.
"Wait! I see it."
In moments Jules had returned carrying a baby Sangheili in his arms. It had stopped crying and looked intently at everyone. Its little mandibles quivered and it made a noise that sounded like "oor". At one moment it locked its eyes directly with Esther's before giving another "oor". For a little monster it was cute. Suddenly it began coughing.
"What's wrong with it?" Esther asked.
"We incubate our young in pods," the kaidon explained. "The little one is suffering from exposure to the elements."
It looked at Esther again. Cough. Oor. Cough. Cough. This little thing wasn't one of the monsters that killed her family. It was another of their victims. She stared at its face for a moment longer.
"Can we get it some medical attention?"
"I don't think the Sangheili society that threw this little one out will do anything to care for it," the ambassador said. He went to pains to avoid mentioning the dishonorable status that doctors possessed on Sangheilios, or the importance of culling the weak from the Sangheili gene pool.
"I was talking about human medical attention," Esther emphasized.
The kaidon chuckled.
"If we consider our own doctors to have a dishonorable profession, why would we use yours? Besides I'm sure there was a good reason it was abandoned." He looked to Jules. "Unwrap it."
Jules complied. When its upper torso was free of the wrapping the kaidon said, "Aha."
"There's the problem. Note that one shoulder is higher than the other. This would hinder it in training exercises. Best to leave it here where it won't contaminate the gene pool."
Jules's mouth fell open, Esther looked back at the baby, and the ambassador found himself praying that his bodyguards would not create a diplomatic incident. Jules covered its upper body again when the baby resumed coughing.
"Can I hold it?" Esther asked. Jules handed the bundle to her.
It stared at her, quivered its upper left mandible, and oored again. She looked back at the kaidon.
"So you are basically telling me that the Sangheili have disowned this child?"
The kaidon thought for a minute. "Disowning" was such a light term. Sangheili were in part raised communally and the only thing really comparable to being disowned was to be exiled from one's city-state. But, considering that this little one was about to be exiled from the state of the living, the kaidon mused that Sangheilios was disowning the child.
"You could say that," the kaidon said.
"So long as this child does not contribute to your gene pool, you don't care what happens to it?"
The ambassador could tell where this was going and he didn't like it.
"Brooks, are you suggesting that you intend to take in this Sangheili child?"
"Yes sir. No one else wants it."
Jules had a point. ONI had managed to get its hands on a few dead or dying adult Elites before, but they had never had one raised since infancy before. They might want to make clones and test different biological weapons on the Elite subjects at different stages of their life and compare the results. Even if it was not used for weapons testing the baby would probably be a lab rat in some experiment or another, its whole life. But if it were an Elite raised by humans, it would never have a normal life anyway.
Esther looked at the baby. She had distant cousins on Dimona, an insurrectionist world on the edge of human space. The UNSC had always had a weak presence there. Esther knew that her cousin Jonathan and his wife could be trusted to hide the child. There was at least one, possibly two, problems with her plan, namely the ambassador and the kaidon. She had openly announced her plans to take the child to the ambassador who was there on behalf of the UNSC. She had also announced them to the kaidon, who may be uninterested or who may want to ingratiate himself with Earth if an Elite civil war was imminent. Technically, Jules was a possible threat, but she also knew that he did not have the heart to send a kid into ONI's clutches. Even an Elite kid. That left the ambassador and the kaidon.
Esther closed her eyes and said, "There is nothing we can do for the child." Esther laid the bundle down. She was already formulating a plan. They had been given large sacks with which to carry their supplies on the kaidon's nature walk which went on for hours. Every now and then, the kaidon and ambassador would walk of the path and have lengthy conversations in hushed voices. There were apparently things that the ambassador thought that his bodyguards did not have the security clearance to hear. Esther marked the baby's location, and would return to it to place the child in the sack.
Esther laid the child down. Jules stared at her for a moment. He wanted to do something for it. Which would be the more humane thing to do? Leave the child to die or let ONI get it. The chances that ONI would want to kill a baby Sangheili when they could test it in so many ways. It would be a miserable life to someone who grew up outside a laboratory, but this child wouldn't know of a better life. The Sangheili didn't want it, and no life it had with humans could be "normal." Still, wouldn't any life be better than none at all?
"Sir, can we take the child?" Jules asked the ambassador.
"Absolutely not!" The kaidon roared. "I'm not letting the humans gain medical knowledge about the Sangheili lifecycle."
"I think that answers that," said the ambassador.
"No," the kaidon shook his head. "This answers it!" The kaidon ignited an energy blade.
The die was cast. Jules and Esther were about to enter a land of no return. Either they permanently damaged Human-Sangheili relations forever and ruin their careers in the process, or they let a child die. Both had the same priorities and both simultaneously dove for the child. Esther was closer so she reached the child first. Both pointed their assault rifles at the kaidon.
"Ambasador, your permission to dispose of your bodyguards if they get in my way?" The kaidon glanced at the ambassador
"Put those guns down at once!" the ambassador called, ignoring the kaidon. "You are willing to jeopardize our entire alliance with the Sangheili over one child? You are soldiers!"
"Soldiers, not monsters," Esther said, keeping her gun aimed at the kaidon. "If everyone would just remain calm, I know of a place where the child would be safe from ONI, and where other Sangheili would never have to worry about seeing it again."
"Why should I trust you, human?" the kaidon tightened his grip on the sword.
The kaidon had Esther there. Nothing she could do could convince him that she wouldn't give the baby to ONI. All she could do was tell the truth and hope that would convince him.
"Have you heard of the human insurrectionist groups?" Esther asked the kaidon.
"Yes. But what do they have to do with our problem?"
"I have cousins who are insurrectionists. They have no loyalty to the UNSC. They would not give the child to ONI—"
The kaidon slashed with his sword, stopping her mid-sentence. "First, I must assume that you are telling the truth about taking the child to an insurrectionist world. Secondly, I must assume that the insurrectionist do not harbor the same hatred for Sangheili that the rest of humanity does. We tried to destroy all of you unless you have forgotten."
Esther thought of her family who had all been killed. Yes, the Sangheili had tried to wipe out all humanity. Her life story was proof of that. But…
"…The insurrectionists have no agency with ONI's scope or resources. And what Earth doesn't like to admit is that there is no single insurrectionist movement. They are all loosely aligned against Earth, just as most allied with Earth against the Covenant. The people on my cousins' planet just want to keep to themselves." Esther then looked at Jules, then back to the baby, which coughed again. She closed her eyes and swallowed. "And as further assurance, I will resign from Earth's military and become a resident of Dimona. I will raise this child as my own."
Everyone stared at her. Esther tried to look only at the kaidon.
"You can send me on a Spirit, with Sangheili to accompany me at first. And I'll give you my COM Pad, and my cousins' addresses, so that you can personally see that the child has not left my custody."
The kaidon chuckled. "We have no spirits to spare, and I would not burden any of our warriors with making sure that this runt is safe. I still see the best scenario as killing it."
"Just put the child down, Brooks. This is a Sangheili problem; let the Sangheili handle it," the ambassador said.
The kaidon charged. Esther couldn't kill the kaidon, so she aimed for his right leg. Jules aimed for his left leg. In moments the kaidon was on the ground in intense pain and the two sabateurs to the peace process had vanished into the forest.
"It will take every bit of Thel 'Vadam's influence to clean up this mess," the ambassador winced.