||This article, Conscripted, was written by Sonasaurus. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.
|2304 Hours, September 23, 2517 (Military Calendar)
Location: Reach Military Complex, planet Reach, Epsilon Eridani System
"As per Naval Code 45812, you are hereby conscripted into the UNSC Special project, code-named SPARTAN-II."
Six-year old Linda O'Connell rubbed her eyes and blinked, unable to open her eyes fully because the lights in the room were so bright. She heard the woman's voice but couldn't understand what the words meant. Naval code? Conscripted? Spartan? For reasons she couldn't explain, she felt uncomfortable being here; she stifled a yawn, trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible.
There were more than seventy other children in the room, and Linda could see that they were all looking frightened or confused. And although she had no idea what was going on any more than they did, this was hardly anything new to her. Even before she ended up...here, wherever here was, she had always kept to herself, distanced herself from everyone around her. Not to mention, her parents had always been too busy with something to look after her.
No, she had no idea what the cause of her discomfort was right now, and that was what made her nervous. It wasn't the fatigue-clad men, standing silently over them with eyes straight ahead. It wasn't the amphitheatre they were standing in, for she had actually been to several of them on the occasions when her father would take her with him on his scientific expeditions out-system. It wasn't even the fact that she had woken up from a cryogenics bay surrounded by people she didn't know, for something else demanded her attention.
"You have been called upon to serve. You will be trained...and you will become the best we can make of you. You will be the protectors of Earth and all her colonies."
It was her. The woman with the white lab coat, the one who was speaking to them.
She looked remarkably young for someone with such an authoritative presence. Although there was no sharpness to her tone (and in fact, Linda could tell that she was trying to speak as gently as possible), something about her made it positively unnerving to stand here and wait, wait for her to explain why they were brought here like this.
Linda could see the foreboding in the stranger's eyes; her mother had always taught her to look into the eyes of whoever was addressing her, to see what kind of person they were through two things—their words, and their eyes. And from what Linda could see as she observed the woman, she knew something was very wrong.
"This will be hard to understand, but you cannot return to your parents."
Some of the other children shifted uneasily at these words. But Linda thought only of where her parents could be now, and if they would miss her at all. I know mother will. I just know this will be hard for her. And now, for the first time since waking up, she wished she could go back, if only for her mother. I don't want her to be unhappy. She's hardly around, but it's because she does it for me. And father, I guess...
"This place will become your home. Your fellow trainees will be your family now. There will be a great deal of hardship on the road ahead, but I know you will all make it."
Wait! What was it that the woman had said earlier? Linda frowned, trying to remember the words so she could piece together what it all meant. Something about a Naval Code...and a project. A UNSC project. That was it! But mother's in the UNSC! Does this mean I can see her? She decided to ask as soon as she got the chance to.
"Rest now. We begin tomorrow." The woman turned to the uniformed man standing next to her, and said, "Have the children...the trainees escorted to their barracks. Feed them and put them to bed."
"Yes, ma'am. Fall out!"
The men standing around the room prompted the children to stand up, and they did. As Linda followed them out of the amphitheatre, she stared at the woman, deciding to ask her tomorrow. She's in charge here. She would know, right? She had no idea why they were in the UNSC or what they would be doing the next day, but she wasn't too worried. After all, they were only children...it couldn't be anything too difficult...
|0632 Hours, October 9, 2517
Location: Civilian district, planet New Constantinople
Linda has fallen ill from a number of illnesses I confess that I did not foresee. I cannot explain it; two weeks prior she had been perfectly healthy and showed no signs of contracting any ailments, although I noticed that she had become rather distant with me even before her health had waned. As much as I hate to admit it, I must be honest and tell you that she withering away. Although I have hired the best doctors I could find to look after her, as well as taking my own measures in trying to keep her alive, I fear that her time is short.
I must make a confession; I know that you will never forgive me for telling you this, but I am far too stricken with what has become of Linda to keep it a secret any longer. As you know, I have begun testing a new memory drug I had been development, a product in which the UNSC is most interested in procuring once I had perfected it. Three months ago, the drug had contaminated our home's water supply without my knowledge, and it was something I had realized only when it had taken effect upon Linda. I had done my best to reverse its effects, and although most of her memories have been recovered, she sometimes forgets who I am, and for reasons I cannot uncover, refers to herself by your surname when she introduces herself to others.
I had gone to very extreme measures to ensure that her memory remains as intact as possible, even though the agents I have issued her contained...risky substances. I know I should have been more careful, but I didn't want you to come back and see that your own daughter couldn't recognize you. Now I wonder if my decision is costing Linda her life. It torments me greatly to think this, but I had taken a gamble and may now possibly be paying the price.
The doctors I have spoken to have mentioned something that has caught my attention. I've been told that Linda is one of at least five children on New Constantinople to have caught this condition in the past month, and more than fifty others her age have the same ailments on other nearby colonies, all of whom have passed away not long after becoming ill. I suspect that there is possibly another cause to all this, but I must find out first if Linda's illness was by my hand, and if so, then perhaps I still have a chance to save her.
Whether I had put her in this state or not, I know that I have a lot to answer for. I doubt that her memory can ever be fully repaired, but I think she will remember you well enough until she is with us no more. I certainly hope so, for it will haunt me for the rest of my life if she dies without remembering the one person who cared about her. I know that person is not myself, because a true father would never have allowed something like this to happen to his own child. If there is anyone who does not deserve to be remembered by her, it would be me.
I plan to stop with these experiments now before I cause any further damage than I have already done. The UNSC will have to do without my memory drug, because I know what they plan to use it for and I've come to realize that I cannot give this power to them. But before I do away with my research, I will do everything I can to try and save Linda. Please, come home soon. Your daughter wishes to see you.
I can't blame you if you will never want to see me again. But I cannot live without you like this. I cannot live with myself like this. So I beg you, don't say goodbye. I hate goodbyes.
- —Leonard Church