Chapter synopsis: I'm sitting across from the most powerful, reclusive woman on the planet, and possibly the Universe. I've a rare opportunity to find out what makes the savior of the Human race tick. But I think I know already. I have a secret piece of information that may be ... interesting to her.


"... Dr. Halsey, thank you for your time ..." I carefully addressed the cold, severe woman sitting across from me.

I had to be careful, for this was a woman so powerful that her personal recorders had been expunged from the chatternet. This meant that all anybody knew about her was what had been recorded from secondhand sources, her height, one-point-seven meters, her skin color, pale, and her hair, which was originally 'blond' but she had very severely corrected me: her hair was 'golden,' she said, not 'blond.'

Everything about her was severe. She wore the grey and starched standard issue uniform of a civil service member of ONI, the 'Office of Naval Intelligence,' but unlike other civil servants, she wore hers unadorned by rank or insignia or reward or recognition. Other civil servants wore their ribbons and badges with pride: 'Look at me,' their uniforms cried out, 'I'm important!'

But hers was quite the opposite of those of her counterparts. It was plain and unassuming, and it cried out — if it cried out anything — was 'please ignore me, nothing to see here, go about your business.' No markings whatsoever on her uniform to identify her, but you'd have to be a fool or an idiot or have had turned off your chatter and hidden under a rock for the last fifteen years not to know who Dr. Catherine Halsey was by sight. Nothing was known about her until, suddenly, she seemed to come out of nowhere to make several singular contributions to science that have proved invaluable to humanity, particularly since humanity's fate hangs in the balance, given that there's a War on.

But besides that, everything about Dr. Catherine Halsey was classified. Her chatter, her background, her place of birth, her age, everything. Even the branch of ONI for which she worked. Even if that branch was the fabled 'Section 0' ... section 'Zero,' the branch that every and all Government sources swore up and down didn't exist and was a silly myth, and, please, sir, go about your business so we can go about ours, that being your safety: these FOIA requests do nothing to help the War Effort.

But I'm not just a journalist and writer, I'm also a scientist myself. Anthropology. I've studied ancient Earth history quite a bit, and the protoHumans and their societies and mores before the new space-faring humanity emerged, 'tweaked' and amplified, connected to everyone and everything through the chatternet.

People were still people, of course, but turn off your chatter? Unthinkable. Ask a protohuman to turn off their breathing. A person wasn't a person so much anymore, an 'individual.' No, we were, each of us, truly connected.

So when we lost the out colonies, and then the inner ones, we, all of us, felt it, each and every disconnection, and, incidentally, each and every death, individually, and on a massive scale. The Covenant came in, glassed a planet, and we lost thousand, hundreds of thousands, even, sometimes, millions of people as the planet burned and then melted into glass, the atmosphere boiling away, wiped clean for Covenant terraforming and reoccupancy.

The Covenant were Hellbent on our destruction, and it has only been through recent breakthroughs, by one of Dr. Halsey's protégés, Dr. Ellen Anders, that we have come to know that this was a religious war for the Covenant: their gods, their 'forerunners' have determined that humanity was a plague, a scourge, to be wiped out, and the Covenant was formed to be the instrument of our destruction.

We have found our answer: there is life out there.

We have met the enemy, but to our horror, we have found that he is not us. This enemy is much more vicious and brutal, and thorough than we ever were, when we were killing each other.

So we have been reduced from a space-faring race, exploring and colonizing our corner of the galaxy, to a whimpering, sniveling, cowering remnant, putting on a brave face, but pushed back to our formerly abandoned dystopia of our home planet, and just resignedly waiting for the Covenant to find the last of us,

... and wipe us out.

That's what most of us were doing. Most of humanity, living in squalor on this grey, squalid used up planet Earth, begging in the overcrowded streets for food, drinking out of polluted puddles, starving, crying, dying, waiting to be glassed.

Or there were the lucky few of us who met the standards, were issued a battle rifle, and shipped off-planet to die, eviscerated by an Elite's energy sword, or feel the burn from a bolt of overcharged plasma, or explode in a pink mist from Convenant crystalline needles, coughing up your own blood.

And then there were the very, very few soldiers who met the criteria and volunteered for the Spartan I program.

And then there was one of Dr. Halsey's projects: the Spartan II initiative.

I looked at the two towering hunks of metal flanking Dr. Halsey. Guarding her? Protecting her? I felt the two giants behind me, their hands cocooning their assault rifles that each weighed, with ammunition, almost as much as I did.

The Spartan II Mjölnir-class armor itself weighed five-hundred pounds.

A Spartan II in their arm weighted over one-thousand pounds.

I wondered what a Spartan II weighed just out of the shower?

I would always wonder that. Spartan IIs were so classified, they were just known by number Spartan-010, Spartan-023, Spartan-058 (sniper), Spartan-087 ... and, of course, the famed Spartan-117 who single-handledly took out a heretofore-thought indestructible Covenant cruiser.

He (or she, Spartan II gender was classified) would be celebrated wherever he (or she) went.

If we knew which Spartan II 117 was: they all looked and acted exactly the same, sometimes only a slight variation in weapon selection gave them away. For example, it was 'known' that Spartan-058 was such a good sniper that ... and this was pretty certain: ... 'she' was said to have sniped an Elite out of airborne and evading 'banshee'-class Covenant vehicle in pitch blackness from over six thousand meters.

Of course, that was probably just mythologization: the universal record for sniper distance was two confirmed kills at twenty-five hundred meters, but those were from a set emplacement against stationary targets.

So the stories about Spartan-058's sniping abilities were probably just myth. Like many of the stories surrounding the Spartan IIs: stories to give dying humanity a little bit of hope, one last 'huzzah' as we met our inevitable end.

And our end was inevitable, no matter what propaganda the UNSC broadcast. The Covenant were relentless, and we were ... losing this war, bit by bit, ship by ship, planet by glassed planet. We had inferior tech and with each battle, we grew weaker, and the Covenant grew stronger. It seems recently even a new race of beings had joined the Covenant, new leaders alongside the imperial Elites.

Brutes. Vicious, bloodthirsty — and it turns out: carnivorous — gigantic gorilla-like Brutes.

We've seen our marines eviscerated by Elite swords, that little bit of loveliness was broadcast by the Covenant: one second, nothing; the next, a three meter tall lizard decloaks and stabs a squad leader through the back, shrugging off every round fired by her squad mates at it with its shield tech.

But then they showed us images of the Brutes cleaning up the battlefield ... after. Eating marines, still alive, screaming, watching helplessly as the brutes tear into their guts and gnaw into their limbs. Unlucky bastards. Our boys, our ... girls, begging, screaming, dying.

God.

The lucky ones were being roasted on spits, already having died in battle.

The Brutes need their post-battle celebratory feasts, don't they?

Covenant scum.

I felt my hands shake. My detached journalistic indifference was being affected by my personal feelings. And we can't have that.

Not in front of Dr. Catherine Halsey.

Because there's been stories about her. About people who had 'scientific differences' or 'personal issues' with her. There've been stories about what happened to those people. People like Dr. Ellen Anders, for example, a brilliant Xenobioligist and -linguist, a war hero.

She and Dr. Halsey worked together in ONI for a while and then ... Dr. Anders was suddenly transferred to a tour of duty aboard the UNSC Spirit of Fire, and that's the last anyone's heard of that ship, ... or of Dr. Ellen Anders.

You don't cross Dr. Halsey.

She gazed at me coldly, and responded: "Time is a precious thing."

And I could see in her eyes that she was wondering what goon gave me permission to trespass on her valuable time for this interview, when she could be doing something better and more productive for the War Effort, like her research.

Her very classified research.

"Yes, well, ..." I ventured weakly. "It's just that I had some things to clear up about the dig site our team investigated in the forests of North West old Amirka, and ..."

"That's old news," she interrupted dismissively. "The dig was on a speculation that there may have been an artifact or artifacts there, based on some classified signature anomalies consistent with artifacts found on other planets. None were found, however, so the case closed."

She began to rise, indicating this interview, this very brief but obviously wasting-her-time interview, was at a close, too.

"But we did find artifacts, Dr. Halsey," I put in quickly.

She was half-in, half-out of her chair, looking at me impatiently.

"An outline of a family dwelling in the terrain," I said. "Carbon dating pegs it to about five hundred years? Or perhaps a bit older?"

She stood, again disinterested. "Perhaps. A cabin in the woods from old Earth is of no consequence. There was also evidence of the remnant of the town of Belle Fourche, South Dakota before the Great Diaspora to the Core Worlds in the late twenty-fourth century. Good day."

She turned to leave.

"Our team found traces of human remains, too." I said.

"... which where unidentified. You're not telling me anything I don't know."

Her back was like the rest of her, hard, sharp, angular, dismissive as the glass-steel door slid open to allow her exit.

"I identified them."

That stopped her.

The Spartan IIs didn't move. They just stared, facelessly, at me.

Dr. Catherine Halsey didn't move, but her back now gave the air not of dismissal, but ...

Caution.

"A one Isabella Marie Swan," I said carefully, "daughter of Charles Swan, sheriff of some town in old Montana, which records indicate was more than one hundred-sixty kilometers from the dig site."

Dr. Halsey turned back, regarding me critically, coldly.

"With no evidence of their primitive conveyance in the vicinity. They did have auto-reciprocating motor vehicles by then, didn't they, Dr. Halsey? So why didn't she use one of those?"

There was silence from her. An angry, controlled silence.

"And the thing is, the girl had been reported missing and presumed dead? There were some local media attention at the time, but she was never found? And I was wondering, Dr. Halsey, how a girl on old Earth in the wilderness could go missing and wander so far to end up safely in a cabin in the middle of the woods and then die at the very site where we were sent to investigate the possibility of finding a Covenant artifact."

"Forerunner artifact," Dr. Halsey corrected coldly. "I have no interest in Covenant artifacts. I leave that to other scientists."

... like the missing-in-action Dr. Anders, I thought, unsettled.

"Yes," I quipped, "The Covenant's 'gods,' right?"

And I snickered, showing her I was, like her, a sophisticated person, and in-the-know, not like the vicious religious rabble that the Covenant, and some hangers-on from the outer colonies, like Coral, believe in 'God' and having silly religious superstitions.

We were in an enlightened age now. Religion died, for all intents and purposes, in the twenty-first century, after genetic tweaking had replaced the need for 'God' by perfecting and stylizing Man. Just as philosophy at the time said it would.

And people thought at the time Eugenics were a bad thing. Silly, stupid protohumans!

My play at camaraderie fell flat, however.

Dr. Halsey regarded me coldly, and my laughter died in my throat. She sat back down, appraising me.

"You're very thorough," she said, distaste evident on her face.

"Good science is thorough science," I intoned.

But instantly regretted it. Dr. Halsey gave lectures. She apparently didn't like getting lectured to.

"But these details weren't in the report you filed," she said.

"I found them out after researching after the dig," I said. "They weren't in yours, either." I added carefully.

She shrugged. "They were incidental facts, and therefor unnecessary for my report."

"Perhaps for locating a Cov-..." I began then corrected myself at her frown, "I mean, a Forerunner artifact, but consider their significant historical impact!"

"And that's why you've taken my time today? To ask about details of an abandoned dig site?"

Dr. Halsey shook her head at my frivolousness.

"Dr. Halsey," I said, feeling the anger burn inside. "There is more to science than utility and pragmatics. You were the first scientist with boots on the ground at that site, and you saw the site pristine. Surely you saw things there that would be useful to other branches of science than the ONI branch of science." I spat out that last phrase angrily. We scientists hate the military for their one-cell-per-brain thinking, derailing so many viable research projects with their Neanderthal mentalities, driving over evidence in their warthogs and digging latrines on burial grounds. "Think of the contributions that could be made to anthropology! I mean, here was a member of a primitive culture probably doing mundane and domestic tasks that would be invaluable in unlocking what their society was like!"

"Ah, yes," she said with a wave and a dismissive grin, "your passion. It was after the dig you started writing historical fiction about this character you invented, wasn't it?"

"How do you know about that?" I asked surprised.

She sniffed. "We're ONI; we know everything. Your alias is recorded in your dossier which I read before granting the interview, doctor ... or should I just call you geophf?"

"Ah," I said at a loss. I thought my private life was safely separated from my public one. But, in the chatternet, there's really no privacy, or there's the new privacy: which is that there is so much related information that nobody has either the time or the inclination to follow the linkages.

Particularly not boring, standard and grey GIs — "Government Issues" — like Dr. Catherine Halsey. She's much too busy, and too important, to care that I write, and about what I write for my own pleasure ... if it hasn't been peer-reviewed by other scientists, I didn't think she'd sully her hands to care.

"Did you also read my story? Or did you just note that I wrote a story?" I asked shyly.

She regarded me levelly. "Stories. Yes, I read them."

"Oh," I said. I had one story that had gathered some interest over the 'net: it being 'historical' and 'human interest' harkened back to 'better times,' and people needed that these days. But the main story, the focus of my recent work, My Sister Rosalie, was the one that drew the readership, the other ones were not so much of a draw.

"What did you think of them?" I asked.

She regarded me an waved dismissively. "I suppose I could see why you have a following, but you romanticize the past, and that is not at all helpful for people to be reminiscing over the 'good old days' that never were. No, people, today, need to be actively concerned with what we need to do now so we will have a tomorrow we can collectively wake up to."

"I've never seen a pragmatist express optimism," I observed.

"It's not optimism," she corrected, "It's confidence."

She reached out and patted the Spartan II to her left on the arm: "These Spartans are very much like my own children, they are humanity's next step and only hope, and they will roll over the Covenant and destroy them, separating them like chaff from wheat to be cut off and burned."

My lips twitched upward. "Okay, one Spartan, one exemplar Spartan did take out a Covenant cruiser, perhaps, I'll grant you, but the Covenant armada is massive! Worlds-large, and we're reduced to nothing!"

"Nothing," she said, "and my Spartans."

She glowed with pride, then added: "... and we're just getting started. Before this decade is through, my Spartans will knock the wind out of the Covenant sails and push them back as we push out from this little corner of the Universe."

I noticed the emphasis she placed on 'my Spartans.'

"Isn't that right, Joseph?" she asked the Spartan to her left.

"Ma'am, yes, ma'am!" the Spartan replied devotedly.

I regarded the two-and-a-half meter war machine. His voice was distorted by his helmet's speaker's amplification, but it was much more youthful and enthusiastic than I had imagined it would have been for a terrifying warrior, defending humanity against the alien assault. The image his voice gave was more of that of a puppy-dog, eager to please.

I looked him over skeptically, then asked: "And these Spartans are going to be the new humanity that will go out and repopulate our worlds?"

I tried not to sound sarcastic. After a certain amount of tweaking, the body became no longer human, but a half-thing.

These Spartans had been tweaked much, much more than a 'certain amount.'

Dr. Halsey smiled sadly. "No," she said, "of course not. The Spartan IIs are mules, they will not be the next generation, but they will make sure that we do have a next gen-..."

The door behind her slid open and in rushed a young girl, stumbled in, more like, than 'rushed.' She had long flowing chocolate-brown hair that matched her sad, soulful eyes. She was a real looker. Quite the opposite of Dr. Halsey. Dr. Halsey was all hard angles and hard looks, every word and act of hers was deliberate, but this slim girl was all softness and hesitancy. Dr. Halsey was competent and ruthless. But this girl looked good and kind.

And she also the tired look of a young mother overwhelmed by the needs of a squirming bundle in her arms.

"Rosalie," she said, "are you done yet? Can you please, please, please help me with Miranda, she's been really, really fussy and ... Oh!"

She looked at me, shocked.

"Who are you?" she asked tentatively, then she looked thoughtful, like she was trying to talk? to her chatter? Like she was a person who hadn't had the prenatal chatter implant? Was that possible?

It was. There was scarring on around her scalp, mostly hidden by waves of hair, indicating very deep incisions healing after months of recovery.

And I noted her look ... proto? She had a hesitant, clumsy air, as if she only used ten percent of her brain capacity to maneuver her body, and her speech, New Standard, sounded non-native.

I set my chatter to work.

"You're not on my chatter-net," she stated.

She said 'chatter' and then 'net' as if they were two words.

I queried mine for her handle.

My chatter came back: id: unknown.

Not: 'id: classified' like for Dr. Halsey, or the Spartans, who came up: 'id: Spartan-122' for the one she called 'Joseph.'

But 'id: unknown.'

And I attempted to contact her chatter. And I couldn't. Just like for Dr. Halsey.

The Spartans were on chatternet ... and on the classified UNSC battlenet; how else would they bravely wade into the midst of battle and direct civvies to safety if they weren't on chatternet?

But Dr. Halsey wasn't. You wanted to talk to her, you talk to her.

And this girl definitely wasn't. She had chatter, obviously, but wasn't on chatternet.

How could this be?

Then I saw other tells. Her unformed look. Her, ... well, for lack of a better word, her innocence. Like she were new to this world. To this life. ... to her body.

Flash clone? I thought to myself, but then immediately my mind rebelled: Impossible!

Flash clones were so fucking illegal, just thinking about them landed you in an incinerator, and besides, the one that was discovered was so stupid-new in its body, it barely knew how to breathe, confined to a wheelchair while it lived its very short life of two weeks before complete organ failure killed it. It was supposed to be a surreptitious replacement for some child went in for a surgical procedure and came out a flash clone. The doctor was found out of have botched the operation, killing the child in the process, so he replaced the corpse with a flash clone and blamed the anesthesiologist. That trial made the chatternews for quite some time.

A flash clone didn't know how to stand up. It didn't know how to talk. It didn't know how even to move its lips to smile at you, or to blink, or how to do basically anything!

But how could she be 'id: unknown'? Every birth was registered. Hell, every conception was sequenced and registered, and the chatter implanted in the third term. You were known before you were born, and you knew everybody, yourself, from your mother's womb.

How could this girl grow to her teens before she had chatter installed if she weren't snuck in via flash cloning? But how could she be standing talking to me and Rosa-...

To whom?

She called Dr. Halsey 'Rosalie,' I just realized. That wasn't a common name now. That wasn't a common name in the era of Old Earth.

I looked from Dr. Halsey to this ... person and back again.

"You aren't on the chatternet, either, Miss ...?" I said gently, not wanting to scare this ... person, whatever she was.

Because she was a very scared looking thing now, seeing me, and seeing that I could talk.

She looked between me and the Spartans and Dr. Halsey, turning white with fear, not knowing what to do.

"Rho-Rose,..." she stuttered helplessly, "wh-what do I say?"

Dr. Halsey glared at me, pure hate humming across the table, but then her turned, and her gaze softened, and her whole body became less rigid, less angular. She softened when she addressed the girl.

"Sweetie," she said softly, "it's 'Catherine,' remember? Now, take Miranda to the sleep chamber; I'll be with you momentarily, okay?"

I queried my chatter for the baby. It came back right away: 'id: Miranda Keyes, b. 2520, parents, father: Captain Jacob Keyes, UNSC, mother: id: unknown.'

Even as the query returned, it was amended to '... mother: id: classified.'

I looked at the girl holding the baby, the baby's id hovered over her: 'id: Miranda Keyes,' but the id of the young girl remained: 'id: unknown,' it didn't change to the 'id: classified' of the mother of the girl.

In fact, chatter didn't indicate who, in this room, was the mother.

How many 'id: unknown's existed in the world? I had met my first. I'm sure there were more than one 'id: classified's.

But the odd thing was: the baby girl, so unformed, had looks of both Dr. Halsey and the girl ... and, calling up Captain Keye's image, not so much him at all.

Of course, the child could not have two mothers as homosexuality had been outlawed years ago and was now a Capital crime. Humanity had been so reduced that the gene pool itself was in danger, and designer genes were all well and good, but we now needed new and fresh source material, so the primary role of men and women was to survive and to breed, in that order, and homosexuality was an option humanity could no longer afford.

Offenders were summarily executed ... but only after their eggs were harvested. At least some good came out of them.

Only the ultra-rich escaped, because they could afford, first, privacy, living in their own quarters instead of sleeping on the streets like everyone else, and secondly, they could afford the highly-illegal harvesting of stem-cells from their bone marrow so they could fertilize the eggs of their lovers with designer sperm and just be like, 'oh, we're two pregnant girl friends with our husbands fighting the war on the front-lines! Don't mind us!' ... and when the time for registry came, they could afford to pay off the local clerk for the falsification of records of parentage.

'John Quincy Doe' was a very popular father among the ultra-rich.

They could avoid authority for a while, but let's see if they had enough money to buy their way out of the next, and the last, Covenant glassing.

Homosexuality was not tolerated in this new age, it's just a sad, practical reality of this day and age. Earlier centuries could afford those luxuries, we, now, on the brink of extinction, couldn't.

"I-I-... don't wanna go back there," the girl stammered. "Cortana's there."

Dr. Halsey regarded the girl impatiently, trying to get her away from this curious third-party.

I queried 'Cortana.'

id: Cortana, Military asset, clas-...

The chatstream suddenly broke off, mid-feed, then:

geophf, you can stop prying anytime you'd like. Just a friendly word of advice. You seem like a nice, bright boy, and would be missed, if you ended up missing.

Now, that was unsettling.

That was the first time my chatter talked back to me. They were information amplifiers only, not serving any role of advisement.

Can't say as I liked the tone of the advice, either.

"Baby," Dr. Halsey explained patiently. "Cortana's everywhere, and she'll take care of you, ..."

I thought I heard Dr. Halsey whisper something like: "she loves you, just like I do, ..."

She continued. "and ..."

The girl interrupted, huffing angrily: "She took care of me, all right!" then she hefted the baby significantly, who fussed some more, being taken away from the warmth and comfort of the girl's chest.

Dr. Halsey sighed and turned to the Spartan.

"Joseph, would you accompany Lizzie and make sure she's okay until I get back there?"

But it wasn't Spartan-122 that responded.

"I'll go."

It was a female voice, young, strong, sure, that responded to Dr. Halsey's right.

Dr. Halsey turned her head to that Spartan, appraising her. "Thank you, Kelly, ..." she said hesitantly.

The Spartan broke ranks and thundered out of the room with the slightly relieved young girl, the ground shaking with each footfall of her metallic boots.

"Don't get any ideas!" Dr. Halsey called after them, sounding slightly worried.

The young girl looked back in confusion, but the Spartan didn't. She blew out an angry sigh, "Catherine, we all know who she belongs to, okay? Just chill the fuck out!"

"Language!" Dr. Halsey shouted.

The glass door closed and then went opaque, but not before I saw the Spartan pull off her helmet and a cascade of chestnut brown hair fall to her armored shoulders.

I didn't see the Spartan's face.

I didn't query chatter. I wasn't interested in more baleful warnings.

Dr. Halsey turned back to me, and regarded me coolly.

She seemed to come to a decision.

"Well," she said brightly, "back to work; duty calls, and all that!"

She stood briskly.

"'Rosalie'?" I asked.

Did she think I was a fool, or deaf, or both?

"Yes," Dr. Halsey waved that away. "Lizzie's read your story, too, and was quite taken with it, and, well, as you saw, she's not all quite there. She was dying on the street in front of my apartment, and I took her in. It turns out she had severely incapacitating mental disabilities, so I took it upon myself to enhance and repair parts of her cerebral cortex that had been damaged with cybernetic implants. The operations ... mostly worked."

Dr. Halsey shrugged, but looked at me steadily.

Her story was so full of holes I was forced to believed she thought me an idiot.

Mental disabilities? Those were detected pre-birth and the fetuses dealt with. And 'rescuing someone off the street' in front of her apartment, which someone of the hundreds, and which security guard didn't instantly vaporize the girl for entering a restricted area living compound.

Earth took back its wanderers, but not with welcoming arms. If you were poor, you stayed out of the way of the superrich like Dr. Halsey, or the just plain rich, like me. You stayed away, because if you took just one step toward us, there'd be like seven security force members with weapons drawn. The second step forward was a death sentence.

It was actually the preferred way of suicide these days, for the poor.

"So, she gave me the name 'Rosalie,' ... transference, you know?" Dr. Halsey continued, "substituting the rescue from her own plight by me to a girl's rescuing vampire-angel-whatever you write in your drivel, excuse me, I meant to say in your stories that many find compelling, including my Lizzie."

"'Your Lizzie'?" I said incredulously.

"Well, I had to call her something!" Dr. Halsey snapped impatiently.

"And her chatter busted during these ... 'enhancement' operations?" I pursued.

"Just so," she said, then: "Well, goodbye ... geophf." She said the last bit sarcastically, the sneer of a hard technology scientist dismissing a soft science 'writerly' type, like myself, then she smoothly, perfectly turned away and whisked out the door.

I was left, sitting there, agape, shocked at the impossibility of the world I wrote about being ... possible? being ... true?

Everything in ONI was just so surreal!

One of the Spartans behind me cleared his throat, and in a very hostile tone commanded, "Excuse me, sir, we need to escort you off the premises now, please."

I looked behind me. The Spartans again looked every inch of the killing machines they were purported to be.

I rose from my seat. Carefully.

"All right." I said.

We left through the glass door behind me.

"Uh," I said after a moment, "I thought the exit was that way."

I suck at directions in buildings, getting so lost, so easily.

"I'm sorry, sir," the Spartan replied. "The conversation you had with Dr. Halsey has just been classified. We're going to have to have to ask you to come with us, please, for a chatter reconfiguration."

I stopped. The Spartans stopped.

"The, uh," I said, "the chatter is embedded in my brain."

The Spartans looked none too bright. I didn't want to confuse them with a word like 'cerebrum.'

"Yes, sir," he said, "but I regret I do have my orders, if you'd come with me this way, please."

"But," I said desperately, "but ..."

The Spartan's hand clamped down on my shoulder, very gently and then I felt everything go black ...

id: geophf, disconnected ...
id: geophf, copied ...
id: geophf, modified ...
id: geophf, reinitialized... testing ... verified ...
id: geophf, validation: complete.
id: geophf, reactivation in 5...4...3...2...

... I was walking down Newbury street past the Central Congregational Church with a massive headache wondering why I was going this way ... where was I supposed to be this evening?

I thought hard through the pain. Nothing came to me.

Shit.

I shook my head and went home. I really have to take a day off from work instead of going with with a migraine! It's just so unproductive, and I only feel sick afterward.