- "Seems these days like everyone's trying to run the galaxy. Me? I'm just trying to run from it."
- ―Gavin's outlook during his time as a spacer.
Gavin Dunn was a human smuggler, musician, and captain of the Argo-class freighter Chancer and its successors. Born far from the Sol System, Gavin grew to resent the UEG for its efforts to control the colonies without being able to protect them. Their failure to live up to the responsibilities contributed to the deaths of his brother and father, and ultimately led him to join the Humanity Liberation Front on Mamore. Gavin was deeply devoted to the Insurrection, justifying to himself and Redmond Venter the use of child soldiers in their ever-more desperate struggle. Only when their methods killed someone he'd cared about did he realize the horror of their terror attacks, and gave up the HLF's location to the UNSC before fleeing the planet. Wanted by both sides, Gavin fled to the Outer Colonies as a freelance starship captain transporting cargo and passengers between worlds, often employed by the Syndicate until his relationship with the criminal cartel soured. For a while, Gavin managed to get by on his own until he got caught up in an incident with Simon-G294, a child soldier-turned-bounty hunter he'd known from Mamore, and Zoey Hunsinger, a would-be teenage ship thief, and afterwards hired them both on as a crew for the Chancer V, coming to think of them as a surrogate family.
|Gavin, age ten, growing up on the streets of New Alexandria.
"I'm Gonna Fly Someday"
- "Dad would point out all the ships to us kids as they were coming in. Tell us the class, the tonnage. Their home ports . . . there were a hundred different names. When he finally showed us pictures from his spacer days, we finally got it. Every one of those names was a whole other world out there, somewhere in the stars. It was like astronauts had landed on the moon for the first time. I knew right then what I wanted to do. Couldn't have been more'n four or five years old."
- ―Gavin recalls what made him want to be a spacer.
Gavin was born the middle child of two first-generation colonists on Emerald Cove. His father, Corey, had been a spacer before settling down in the small port city of Castaway after he met Sarah Gibson, whom had immigrated with her family as a little girl. Growing up around the only terrestrial spaceport on the colony, where his father made a modest living as assistant dockmaster, Gavin would often watch as starships came and went overhead and dreamed of one day going with them. But when Gavin was eight years old, construction of an orbital elevator funded by the United Nations Space Command, which had recently usurped jurisdiction on the planet from the diminished CMA, was completed in Emerald City, Oz, making it cheaper for ships to dock in orbit than enter and leave atmosphere. Castaway's spaceport lost virtually all its business, cutting wages and laying off workers, and Corey only narrowly kept his job. Fortunately, Gavin's older brother James was just coming of age and managed to get a job with the ferry companies that carried goods between the colony's archipelagos, which had greatly benefited from the space elevator's business.
For a time, the extra income would improve their family's quality of life, but tragedy struck in 2540, just a year later. Ordered by the newly-established UNSC headquarters to make a supply run despite protests of unfavorable weather, James' ferry was caught in one of the fearsome tropical storms born of Emerald Cove's warm, shallow seas called hypercanes and capsized, being lost with all hands. James' body was found by a civilian-organized search while the UNSC, made up of stationed troops from other worlds whose standardized training left them ill-equipped for the planet's watery conditions, was still mounting a response. The new colonial garrison's part in causing and failure to handle the emergency was felt planet-wide, but nowhere as greatly as in Castaway, where most of the ferry's crew had come from. Many who felt they'd lost jobs or loved ones on account of the new authorities began to resent the UNSC, Corey among them, and not knowing any better, Gavin started to emulate his resentment.
Without a second person's added income, Corey found it more and more difficult to support his family on a spaceport worker's salary, but opportunities were about to present themselves. With blood quite literally in the water, agents of the Insurrection soon arrived across the colony to capitalize on bitter sentiments and convert discontent citizens into rebel sympathizers. For a while, Corey steered clear of their crowd, until two months after James' death, he was approached by some laid-off former co-workers with the offer of a job that promised a big enough payoff to keep them fed and sheltered for months. A freighter called the Double-Aught Shovel, backed by the Insurrection, would be making a run to retrieve military-grade warship ordnance stolen from the Misriah shipyards on Reach and and smuggle them off-world, and was in need of an experienced crew. In spite of the potential risks, Corey was desperate and tempted enough by the idea of getting back at the UNSC to return to his former career as a spacer, though he kept the true nature of his job from the rest of his family.
- "This isn't fun! I'm supposed to be fighting pirates, not cleaning bathrooms!"
- ―Gavin's first day working aboard a ship.
Still enamored with the idea of space travel, Gavin begged his father to bring him along, but Corey, of course, refused. When he didn't come with his mother and sister to see him off, Corey figured it was because he was still upset, but his son did far more than hide himself away and sulk. As the members of the crew were saying their goodbyes, Gavin snuck aboard the ship and stowed away in its cargo hold, hiding until the vessel had passed the point of no return and transitioned into slipspace. By the time he was discovered, they could no longer turn back and his father, though angry with Gavin for disobeying him, was powerless to help the situation and suggested he be taken on as the ship's cabin boy to make up for his passage and the consumables he'd take up. The crew all agreed, and though Gavin was eager at first to take part in running the ship, he soon regretted it. While the other spacers seemed to think the voyage was going well, Gavin found himself stuck inside doing what he considered menial chores.
|Compared with an Inner Colony like Reach, Emerald Cove was little more than a backwater.
After two weeks in slip, the freighter finally reentered normal space over Reach, and looking down upon its vast cities, some of Gavin's excitement returned. But when they touched down at the New Alexandria Starport, Corey grounded him aboard while he and some of the other crew went to pick up their illegal cargo. Fed up with his father's rules and not about to miss his chance to explore another world, he slipped away from the men left behind to tend the ship and ran away the first chance he got, heading into the networks of skybridges and starscrapers larger than anything he'd seen on Emerald Cove. As he soon discovered, however, the area around the port district fell far short of his expectations of city high-life. Homeless camps filled the streets, populated by refugees of the Human-Covenant War who'd immigrated illegally and been denied services of the surveillance grid, leaving widespread poverty and civil unrest.
While he was gone, his father's group made contact with the Insurrectionist plants at RCS and were handed off the weapons shipment, but were warned the operation may have been compromised and to get off-world as soon as possible. On their way back, however, they were contacted by the men left behind and were told Gavin had run away. Though they were suddenly pressed for time, Corey parted company with them to find his son and promised to meet them back at the starport. Unknown to Corey, this proved a narrow escape for him. When the other spacers returned, their hangar was stormed by the New Alexandria Police Department, led by Inspector Reginald Harding. Their raid revealed the stolen weapons, and the crew was taken into custody. From the official manifest, the officers gleaned one of their crew was still missing, though it said nothing about Gavin, and Harding took several officers to find him with help from the grid. Corey was tracked to a homeless camp nearby and located just as he'd found Gavin. The police's presence among so many resentful refugees, however, quickly incited a number of altercations which spiraled out of control, beginning a small-scale riot. Afraid of his father's anger, Gavin fled past the police trying to hold the crowd back, and in the growing chaos, Corey was shot and killed by Inspector Harding as he tried to run after his son. Terrified by seeing his father gunned down, Gavin fled the disturbance unnoticed and spent the night cold, crying, and alone, falling asleep in the shade of a park. He made his way back to the starport the next morning, only to find the ship gone, impounded by police. Fearing he'd been left behind, Gavin stayed in the hangar for several hours until he was chased out by dock hands, and finding himself starving by this time, Gavin set out into the city once more to find something to eat.
"I Got Lost"
- Judith Ives: "Strength in numbers only works when one isn't holding the other back. You couldn't handle a grocery store without my help, and you stay on the street you aren't going to last ten minutes. If you want some more help, I can point you in the direction of my old orphanage."
- Gavin Dunn: "Hey, I've already made it out here for like, ten hours! I can handle this."
- ―Gavin pestering Judy to let him stay with her.
Walking the very same streets as before, he began to realize to his distress that without his identity verified by the colony's surveillance grid, none of the city's automated infrastructure would respond to him, and that even if he did manage to get inside a place, he had no money to pay for anything to eat. Eventually his hunger drove him to resort to stealing, and Gavin slipped inside a store behind another person walking in. Settling on a display brimming with apples, he hesitated for a minute as the time came to commit the act, and then swiped one of the fruits. In the minute he'd stalled, however, the store owner had noticed the disheveled boy and anticipated his shoplifting, shouting at him the moment he took it. Gavin tried to run, but was caught when the front door wouldn't open for him. As the vender seized his arm, a girl suddenly stamped on his foot and made him lose his grip, allowing both children to escape as he stumbled close enough to activate the door himself.
|Judy, the young thief who would become Gavin's partner.
The girl turned out to be Judith Ives, whom had come to Reach with her parents more than a year ago only to lose them to disease. Running away from her orphanage, she'd learned to be a pickpocket and had been living in a deserted house ever since. Grateful for her help, Gavin eagerly suggested that they band together to survive, but Judith was reluctant at first, thinking he had no useful skills and would only be an extra mouth to steal for. He soon proved her wrong by distracting one of her marks while she hacked his Chatter, allowing her to get away with twice her usual payoff. Before long they were working in tandem, able to ply their trade even in areas the grid surveyed heavily with tricks like positioning their targets between themselves and public cameras.
As they became more successful, however, they were brought into conflict not only with the law, but with another group of street thieves as well. Led by arch-crook James Felson, a former New Alexandrian socialite who'd lost his fortune in investments because of the Human-Covenant War, the gang of children relied on Felson's hacking skills to hide them from the grid while they were stealing, and first noticed Gavin and Judy when the pair began picking from the area they had claimed as their territory. Felson sent his underlings to track them down at once and bring them back to the gang's lair, but instead of threatening his rivals, he extended both an invitation to join his crew, impressed by their ability to steal in plain sight. But, sensing that Felson only wanted to use them for his own gain, both of them refused, and afterwards would often get into fights when they ran into the members of his crew.
- "Nuh-uh. First off, Judy wasn't the one who scuffed up that pocket watch, you did that yourself so the cops wouldn't recognize it. Secondly, one Chatter here costs twice of what we got from you for ten of 'em, and last the tablet's prob'ly worth five hundred on its own. So we get seven hundred, or we sell elsewhere and I tell Felson you've been buying from us on the side."
- ―Gavin barters with a stingy shop owner.
For their first year together, Gavin and Judy relied only on each other until one day they came upon several of Felson's Filchers who were ganging up on one of their own that had bungled a job. Though Judy urged him to leave before they were noticed, Gavin came to the boy's aid, and in the scrap that ensued the three of them drove off the other children. Taking in the boy in spite of Judy's initial reluctance, Redmond Venter would soon become as close a friend to them as one another and the first of many fellow urchins to join their own little family, nicknamed the Irregulars by Inspector Harding, who would sometimes rely on them for information, with Judy and Gavin as the crew's leaders.
Unfortunately, just as Judy predicted, the group eventually became too large to be supported only by picking pockets. After working up the nerve, she and most of the older children, who were better thieves, broke into the house of a wealthy RCS executive, and began taking whatever expensive-looking pieces of art and jewelry they could find. During the job, however, Gavin tripped an alarm which caused the city's urban infrastructure to lock the building down and alert the police. They managed to find an escape route just as the first policemen arrived, but as a choke point slowed them down, Redmond was caught and taken into custody. Although Gavin and Judy planned a naive rescue attempt, they learned that Redmond had been taken off of Reach before they could ever try. Missing him as much as any of the crew and blaming himself for setting off the alarm, Gavin decided the others would be better off if he didn't come with them on any more burglary jobs, and found a new place in the crew as he discovered a talent for haggling with the fences they sold their stolen goods to.
- Judith Ives: "It's about survival, Gavin, just keeping as many credits as we can between us and going hungry."
- Gavin Dunn: "That's a load of Moa plop! With all the cash you raked in just last month, we could've fed three times our number for half a year!"
- ―An argument breaks out between the leaders of the Irregulars.
As Judy carried out more and more robberies to support the crew, she became better and better at it, leading to even more jobs. But as she grew to enjoy such work, Gavin began feeling concerned that they were going too far. Finally, the last straw came at the start of 2544 when Judy accepted payment from the Syndicate to do a job for them. Disgusted that what had started in his mind as harmless games had turned into organized crime, Gavin got into a fight with Judy over what the morality of what they'd done, and stormed angrily out of their hideout after it was clear their argument was only going in circles. Determined to show Judy that their crew could survive on taking only what they needed, Gavin resolved to steal something on his own before he returned, and found his opportunity back at the very same spaceport that he had arrived in four years earlier. Identifying a shipment of fresh produce bound for Coral being loaded onto an aging freighter, Gavin snuck aboard to seize it when the ship took off, beginning its journey and taking him with it, away from everything he'd known on Reach.
At first, Gavin was afraid of what the crew would do to him if he was discovered, and hid himself in the ship's numerous smuggling compartments. But when he was caught a few days later trying to pry open one of the produce containers for food, the captain turned out to be a fair, if stern, man named Tom Spender who allowed Gavin to work off his debt for room and board by helping the shorthanded crew for the remainder of the journey. Simply thankful he hadn't been thrown overboard, Gavin learned fast and worked hard, impressing several of the crew enough to endear himself to them. When they reached Coral, Spender offered to take him on permanently as cabin boy, and thinking he had little to go back to on Reach, Gavin accepted.
The Cabin Boy
"I'm Ready To Learn"
- Gavin Dunn: "Why do I even have to calculate the jump? The NAV computer can handle it, that's what it's for."
- Tom Spender: "And why don't you tell me what you're for, boy? You're a spacer now, not some runaway hacking a security camera. If so much as a digit in all that code is off, this whole ship would wind up slipping us back into the middle of a mountain, or a slagging sun! So you learn to check your math, or you'll wind up dead or some bulkheaded air taxi driver, which is all the same to me. Now, run the numbers again."
- ―Gavin learns astrogation from Captain Spender.
|Captain Tom Spender, seated at the Chancer’s helm.
Once again thrust into entirely new surroundings, Gavin soon found he had misgivings about joining the Chancer’s crew, and Spender in particular. While grateful for having a place to stay and a shot at the spacer's life he'd always wanted, the reality of how Spender conducted business proved far different from what he'd imagined, taking shady jobs and exploiting the misfortune of others in order to stay ahead of their debts. Gavin's first runs with the crew involved charging refugees of the distant-seeming Human-Covenant War for passage deeper into the Inner Colonies, taking peoples' livelihoods as they fled for their lives. Then, only a few weeks after Gavin signed on, Spender took a no-questions-asked contract from a mysterious woman and her prodigiously strong-looking pair of associates to take them into the depths of empty space. There, they rendezvoused with a menacing-looking vessel none of the veteran spacers could identify to take on a single crate no larger than a table, the contents of which their client refused to discuss.
All the secrecy surrounding such a miniscule cargo piqued Gavin's curiosity, and partway into the return slipspace journey he snuck down into the cargo hold and opened the crate. This immediately triggered an alarm which brought their clients running, and the commotion attracted Captain Spender's attention as well. When they reached the hold, they found Gavin staring at the form of a four-year-old girl locked fast asleep inside an icy coffin. Gavin at first was horrified, thinking the girl was dead and the Captain had known about it, but Spender drew his pistol on the woman and demanded an explanation, accusing her of involving him in human trafficking. The standoff with her bodyguards was peacefully resolved when the woman agreed to share with them a secret: that the girl was being taken to one day become a Spartan. Though the SPARTAN Program had yet to go public, Spender had heard the rumors of supposedly unkillable soldiers fighting for the UNSC, and stood down. They finished the job, dropping off the agents and their cargo on Epsilon Eridani IV and collected their payment before parting ways. Spender's quick willingness to stand up against them reassured Gavin of his integrity, and he started looking up to Spender more as a role model than merely a boss.
As he learned to trust the other members of the crew, Gavin threw himself wholeheartedly into learning the trade of a spacer. While he wasn't allowed to do anything as exciting as flying for the first few months, Gavin stayed up late into his sleeping cycles to study old manuals and secondhand textbooks on everything from engineering and control schemes to astrogation and slipspace math. Throughout his apprenticeship, Spender pushed Gavin to his limits, springing difficult questions on him at the least expected times and assigning him extra duties when he answered wrong. But Gavin steadily improved, and Spender eventually felt confident enough to test his skills in action, intentionally causing shipboard emergencies on several occasions and forcing Gavin to recover from them, each time rising to the challenge spectacularly. Once Spender was satisfied, and he had spent enough time sitting in to observe the pilots at work, Gavin was allowed to fill in as Spender's co-pilot for the occasional shift, and even tend the controls on his own while the Chancer waited in orbit for clearance, until at the age of fourteen, Gavin was trusted enough to pilot the ship by himself.
|Gavin during his years as a cabin boy aboard the first Chancer.
Having nearly forgotten he'd ever had a family of his own, Gavin started to think of Spender as a father figure, and worked all the harder for his approval. This sentiment made it come as a shock to Gavin when they made port in Elyon, capital city of Halorale, and were met by Spender's fiancé, Julia Fahri, and soon-to-be stepson, Jason. Hurt, and embarrassed for feeling hurt, Gavin retreated while Spender visited with his family, and grew more distant during their return voyage. For the first time, Gavin realized just how lonely he was, with his place on the crew dependent on his continued hard work and no one among them his age to relate to. Soon after, when the Chancer smuggled a cargo of explosives to Falaknuma for the Insurrection and overcrowded itself with paying passengers for the return journey, Gavin took an interest in Amanda Wade, a girl who was traveling with her parents to Earth as refugees from the Rubble. Since the Covenant's attack on the Rubble when she was very young, Amanda had grown up in a squalid refugee camp, and reminding him of the kids he and Judy had looked after and considered a family on Reach, Gavin started to steal from the ship's supplies to give her and her family extra food. Before his interest could lead to anything, however, Gavin was caught taking extra rations, and Amanda left with her family once they reached the Sol System.
Already vexed by Gavin's withdrawn attitude of late, his stealing food prompted Spender to figure out what was bothering Gavin, and decided to give the boy some space by letting the other members of the crew take time to mentor him in their own roles on the ship. This started with Myrtle Kalani, the ship's mechanic, who'd known of and teased the "squirt" about his crush. Her expertise in the repair and maintenance of a ship afforded Gavin valuable insights, and gave him a better understanding than he might otherwise have learned from Spender, who was merely proficient in a wide range of skills. As he continued to learn from the specialists in each job aboard the Chancer, Gavin developed an extremely diverse and highly-advanced skillset that covered practically every field of the trade. While it wasn't a formal spacer's education, Gavin picked up the knowledge and ability to ace the Commercial Astronaut's Exam a year before he was eligible thanks to Spender's connections in the Department of Commercial Shipping. Grateful and reconciled with Spender once again, Gavin graduated from cabin boy to being a full-fledged member of the freelance freighter's crew.
One part of flying with the Chancer’s crew, however, lived exactly up to his expectations. The contracts and odd jobs they took on brought them to the vast majority of humankind's distant colonies, from Arcadia to Earth, over the course of the following seven years. In the short spans of time the crew was allotted for shore leave, Gavin took the opportunity to explore each planet's unique cultures and become acquainted with their people. From Madrigali refugees, he picked up some informal Spanish, adding to the scant Hungarian he'd learned on the streets of New Alexandria, and began to form a network of contacts both his own and through Spender's existing acquaintances whom he one day planned to use. By hanging out with his crewmates in drinking establishments and dive bars specifically catering to the ever coming-and-going spacers, he picked up a taste for the blends of folk, blues, and rock music popular with civilian astronauts and learned to play the guitar himself, quickly growing into a talented young musician as he practiced over the months-long slipspace jumps. As years went on, however, Gavin noticed their list of destinations was becoming shorter and shorter as the Human-Covenant War overtook more and more worlds. Before long, it would catch up to them, as well.
"Is That Really You?"
- "I'll be up front about it, the chances of making a return voyage are either slim, or none. You don't like those odds, I'm not forcing any of you to go. You can step right into the escape pod and wait for those Navy boys to pick you up, with not a judgement passed. But I'm taking my ship down there, come alien invasion or the planet's own rapture. Any takers?"
- ―Captain Tom Spender, before flying headlong into the Battle of Halorale.
By the late 2540s, the Chancer’s crew had been forced to rely almost completely on illegal work like smuggling refugees and weapons because of the higher earnings. Jobs were growing scarce in the densely-packed, ever-constricting space lanes still safe for human vessels to fly, and both the Syndicate and UNSC were tightening their grips on their holdings as the state of the war worsened. Their licensing and protection fees skyrocketed, even as shipments going to the outermost remaining colonies decreased or nearly stopped while their populations pulled up roots. While work coming from such colonies increased, it still cut the profit of round-trips in half. They also had their first two encounters with the Covenant, once from afar while UNSC forces engaged them over Paris IV, and a second time when the crew came to the aid of civilians in need of evacuation from Ballast, during which they were chased by and outran a squadron of Seraph starfighters. Thus, when a job transporting medical supplies to Halorale, which would give Spender a chance to see his wife and stepson, they seized on the chance.
When they exited slipspace on the fringe of the star system, however, the Chancer immediately received a warning from UNSC Navy vessels to stay away from the planet. The reason became obvious as local navigation buoys gave them access to local civilian broadcast information; the planet had been found and was under attack by the Covenant. Spender's home city of Elyon had already fallen, taken by Covenant troops, but not glassed. Finding hope in that fact, he petitioned the Navy to know if his family had been evacuated, but disregarded and ordered to join a flotilla of evacuation ships preparing to slip away from the system. Not about to give up, he ignored them in turn and had his crew attempt to contact Julia through the civilian Chatternet. To their surprise, the call reached her, enough of Elyon's infrastructure still intact to support the call. They learned that she and her son had been unable to reach the evacuation points in time and instead remained hidden inside their apartment, undetected by the alien occupation for the time being. Sure at once of what he had to do, Spender gave his seven-person crew the option of abandoning ship while he attempted to rescue his family; not one of them chose to leave, and Gavin was the first to volunteer to go with him. As they set their course, the UNSC ordered them to turn back, given their computers still held slipspace coordinate data which would be a breach of the Cole Protocol to take behind Covenant lines, but again, the transport ship and her crew ignored their warnings.
Plunging into the midst of a battle between titans, Gavin served as co-pilot while Spender guided his little freighter through a maelstrom of dogfighting Longswords and Seraphs, dodging Archer missiles and plasma torpedoes as they prayed they didn't enter the path of a MAC round or point-defense laser, their only defense that they were too small to draw too much attention. Miraculously, the tiny ship made it through and eased itself down into the planet's atmosphere. Approaching low, they landed in the shattered city without notice and relatively close to where Julia and her son were hiding. Over their years of smuggling, the crew had managed to acquire a number of contraband weapons, which they outfitted themselves with before all moving out together, leaving the ship unguarded. Making their way through eerily-empty streets, they were soon ducking patrols of squat Grunts and muscular Elites, learning to avoid them by the smell and heavy clanking of methane tanks. Their luck would run out, however, when they were spotted by a band of Jackal marksmen, the civilians being no match for the alien soldiers. Their only trained fighter, an ex-Marine named Priya Bhasin, and a deckhand by the name of Bowen Troeh, were both killed before the rest were able to flee, escaping faster than the Jackals could climb down from their vantage point. Though mourning the loss of their crewmates and friends, the group pressed on.
|While they managed to escape Covenant attention, the smuggler crew was unprepared when confronted by UNSC special forces.
When at last they reached the apartment building where Julia and her son had stayed, they were relieved to find both alive and unharmed. Without a minute wasted, they turned back towards their ship, but came under attack almost as soon as they'd left the building. The Jackals had told their Elite masters of the humans' presence, and a lance of the shielded warriors had waited outside until the crew was in the middle of the street to strike. Caught in the open, Iqbal Darzi, Spender's navigator for almost as long as he'd been flying, was struck in the head by a bolt from a plasma rifle and killed instantly. The crew tried to take cover, but only a moment later, a round from a Covenant carbine went through Julia's body as Spender tried to shield her, and she passed away in his arms. Trapped, the crew would have been slaughtered had it not been for the arrival of a squad of ODSTs in red-and-black armor. Displaying an unusual array of skills and tactics, the troopers killed or routed the Elites within minutes of their appearance, but upon approaching the crew revealed their duty was not to rescue the civilians, instead placing them under arrest for risking a serious breach of Article 1 of the Cole Protocol. The remaining deckhand, Oscar Casillas, resisted, and with tensions running high, Casillas was shot by mistake. This caused Spender and mechanic Myrtle Kalani to fight back, giving Gavin the opportunity to escape and run as they were subdued, with one of the ODSTs in pursuit.
- "Take it and run. Now, go!"
- ―Gavin's old friend makes a sacrifice for him.
Gavin was quickly run down and cornered before he could reach the ship, being held at gunpoint by the ODST. When he turned around, however, the trooper recognized him, and pulled off his helmet to reveal himself as Redmond Venter. Though shocked to see one another again, they had no time for a reunion. Knowing a retrieval ship was inbound for him and his squad, Redmond tossed Gavin his pistol and told him to run, and already half in shock from the day's events, Gavin obeyed without question. Reaching the ship just as a number of Jackal scavengers were encroaching on it, he used the pistol to scare off the aliens long enough to get aboard and seal it up before running to the ship's cab. Though he'd never handled a solo flight without supervision before, Gavin started up the freighter and took off, rocketing up into the high atmosphere. With the space battle already mostly over, Gavin was able to avoid both Covenant and UNSC warships and reach a safe slipspace entry point, activating the translight drive to take him to a randomly-charted point in deep space. Finding himself the last remaining member of the Chancer’s crew and responsibility for the ship now falling to him, Gavin's future was filled with anxiousness and uncertainty.
For a few days, Gavin remained on the Chancer in deep space, lacking in drive or direction, until he realized the ship's fuel and supplies would not hold out forever. With no one to check his work, he took painstaking care in working out the calculations for a series of slipspace jumps and, taking a great risk, initiated the transition into slip. Two months later, he arrived on the fringe of the Epsilon Eridani system and limped on minimal bursts of thrusters the rest of the way to Tribute, accessing the ship's accounts to pay for a berth in an out-of-the-way starport. While mechanics tended to the minor repairs he'd paid for, Gavin took an intra-system shuttle to Reach, where he walked the streets of New Alexandria again. Its streets were even more crowded than when he'd lived there, but as he searched the old hangouts he'd spent time in with the Irregulars, he found each to be abandoned or taken by some new group of squatters or delinquents, and soon gave up. He began a Chatternet search for them when he got back to Tribute, but turned up nothing aside from Redmond, whose whereabouts had been classified by the UNSC. It was then he had the thought he might still have family on his homeworld, but couldn't remember so much as the colony's name. To find it, he looked up his father's record, and in the process of rediscovering Emerald Cove, found the incident report of his death and learned Reginald Harding, the same officer who'd so often used him and his gang for favors, had been the one to kill his father. Though fearing he might be on UNSC watchlists after Halorale, Gavin strongly considered flying to Reach to track down and have it out with Harding, but it seemed the detective had retired after an incident some years later, leaving no trace behind. Feeling powerless and deceived, he used most of the emergency funds Spender left behind to buy enough fuel and supplies for the jump to Emerald Cove.
|Without the crew, Gavin was suddenly without direction.
Returning for the first time in almost twelve years, Gavin found Emerald Cove was Reach's polar opposite. The Covenant had invaded and obliterated colonies in several surrounding systems, and with negligible assets or resources to keep them there, the UNSC had abandoned the planet altogether, prompting a veritable exodus of its undefended colonists. A few families, however, were too poor or too invested to uproot themselves, and stayed despite the danger, including Gavin's. Landing in the spaceport of Castaway, he found his hometown still housed many such stubborn folk, but as he walked towards his old house found most of the city empty, the windows on houses and shops boarded up along deserted roads. When he at last reached home, he was greeted to his surprise by his younger sister, Melete, just seventeen years old and holding her infant son. The father, as he would learn, had fled in the exodus, leaving her and the child behind. His mother, Sarah, remained as well, but after losing her husband and second son had slowly ceased making any effort to provide for the family and was in terrible health. Shortly after their quiet reunion, Gavin put himself to work helping out the few fishermen left in town, while his sister knitted and patched clothing people brought them to together put food on their table. Tied down by obligations in a dead-end job in a dying town, with the ever-present possibility of the Covenant discovering and destroying their whole world, Gavin drifted slowly into melancholia and began to feel like he was waiting for the end.
It should have come as a shock, then, when word reached Emerald Cove from Earth that the war was over—humanity had not only survived, but with the help of its new alien allies, it had won. But to the backwater colony, which had never so much as seen the Covenant, the news did little to change the shortage of food outside of fish, or repair the deteriorating roads and other infrastructure the few remaining colonists were incapable of maintaining. What did change it would come next. With the threat of fighting abated, Earth sought to unburden itself of the many refugees it had taken in over the almost three-decade war, and as one of the last remaining UNSC-loyal worlds left unscathed, Emerald Cove was a prime candidate. Transport ships arrived bearing new settlers from across former UNSC space, from Madrigal to Reach, who had been swept through the colonies to Earth by evacuation after evacuation. While the planet's original inhabitants were unsettled to suddenly find themselves neighbors with strangers who were the products of so many different cultures, it was the authority that came with them they soon learned to despise. A full garrison of Marines had been given the sole task of ensuring the resettlement effort succeeded, and as such had even less sympathy for objections than those who'd replaced the CAA before them.
As the stock of basic essentials sent with the recolonization effort began running low—their next shipments dependent on the unreliable eddies of slipspace—acts of theft committed against the better-adapted native colonists became increasingly common. Making matters worse, some families who'd evacuated now returned to find their homes occupied, appropriated by the resettlement effort. The older colonists appealed to the Marine overseers, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. With a great deal more colonists coming in than had ever lived on Emerald Cove before, housing shortages became a growing problem as new construction projects were just getting underway. After a fishing trawler was stolen from his employer, Gavin joined a crowd of the older colonists in marching on the local Marine outpost to demand action. The Marines, however, untrained in handling civilians as police were, quickly resorted to violent methods of dispersing what they perceived as a mob, resulting in four men and women losing their lives. In the aftermath, the mood in Castaway turned dangerously grim, and the events became well-known enough to attract a particular kind of attention. As Gavin was playing one night in a bar in the part of town rapidly becoming known as "Old Castaway," he and several other patrons were approached by a stranger calling herself Marina Alvarro, by no coincidence the name of the woman who'd captained Emerald Cove's founding colony ship, who promised she knew a means of convincing the Marine garrison to leave them in peace.
"I Want To Make A Difference"
In a private meeting called the following day, Alvarro revealed a plan to the discontent citizens she'd gathered: by launching a mock attack on a Marine base in another sector, they could lead the UNSC to redeploy its troops away from Castaway. Seeing his first chance in months to do something he considered meaningful, Gavin joined the volunteers, even pledging his ship to help smuggle in what they would need to stage the attack. When the day came, Gavin boarded the Chancer with a small crew, all of whom were surprised when Alvarro guided them only so far as Emerald Cove's orbit where another ship was waiting to hand off their package. Descending to one of the planet's many uninhabited islands, the freighter dropped its cargo and crew with a boat which would carry out the actual "attack," while Gavin returned the freighter to its berth in Castaway's spaceport. He wouldn't have long to wait for the results. With the old colonists' knowledge of the waterways, the crew made their assault and vanished, leaving nothing but rocket impacts on the Marine outpost's walls. Convinced a rebel cell was hiding out in the deserted archipelagos, the UNSC garrison's leadership saw fit to redistribute their men, leaving fewer soldiers to patrol Castaway's streets. Older inhabitants of the town banded together to protect each other from the disorganized newcomers—and soon, to force their will upon them.
Less than a week later, Alvarro again called the conspirators together to congratulate their success, and ask if any of them were willing to return the favor. Alvarro revealed herself as an agent of the United Rebel Front, an organization which—despite accusations by Earth-controlled media of being a terrorist group, she assured—was dedicated to the freedom and betterment of the colonies, as she claimed she had already demonstrated. She explained the URF's goal was to help ensure the colonies were not made second-class worlds by Earth again, but lacked the manpower to resist them effectively, and urged any who could to leave Emerald Cove with her to fight for the independence of other colonies. Mention of the URF gave some of them pause, despite their complicity in what had come before, until Gavin stepped forward as the first to volunteer. Feeling as though he'd found direction and purpose for the first time since coming home, a cause to which his talents could be useful, Gavin pledged himself to the rebel cause, and many more followed his lead. With hardly a thought given to his mother and sister, Gavin left little more than a note explaining his compulsion to serve a higher cause before departing. Carrying a full crew of aspiring freedom fighters, the Chancer left Emerald Cove behind to enter into service with the URF.
|Pariah Station allowed the URF to covertly spy on and place agents within the UEG's very core.
Alvarro—whose real name, she revealed, was Lucia Varise—provided the ship with coordinates which brought them to the Sol system, heart of the UEG itself, and guided them to an inconspicuous refit platform in orbit around Saturn: Pariah Station. Shown how capable the URF was to have a base of operations so close to the UNSC's headquarters, they were brought aboard to be briefed on what would be their task: aiding a burgeoning rebellion on the colony of Mamore. Independent sentiment ran strong among the planet's colonists, and had led to multiple insurrections in the past. Though an attempt had been foiled only the previous year, the colony's citizens had risen up again in response to renewed demands placed upon them by the resurging UNSC under the banner of the Humanity Liberation Front. Convinced a weakened UEG would cede the planet if it resisted, too busy with reconstruction elsewhere to justify enough forces to retake it, the URF seized on its chance to establish another independent planet and promised support for the fledgling HLF. Alongside veteran officers and agents who could help organize and train further recruits for the rebels would be reinforcements drawn from a dozen worlds, Gavin and his fellow volunteers among them.
Given only a few weeks while supplies for the rebellion were gathered, Gavin was put through a hasty training regimen on the cramped space station to learn the basics of soldiering, also demonstrating his skill as a pilot and learning enough about encryption to qualify for a communications specialist. These, in addition to playing the guitar he'd brought with him, led him to be noticed and picked up by Varise's team handling recruitment and propaganda measures for the campaign. In the course of studying the UNSC and its own use of propaganda, Gavin encountered more media regarding Earth and its rebuilding efforts, which led him to wonder just how much damage had been done. The casualty rates he discovered were staggering, and led him to search for any trace of his former crewmates aboard the Chancer. While these searches were unsuccessful, he was surprised to learn Redmond Venter was still alive, and recovering from wounds sustained in the Battle of Earth just a short trip aboard the medical station Lockhart. Under the pretext of touring Earth, Gavin was able to board the station and pay Redmond a visit, catching up on everything that'd happened not only since they'd last met on Halorale, but since Redmond had been arrested that night in New Alexandria.
- Gavin Dunn: "You had a mohawk?"
- Redmond Venter: "Look, I did a lot of things I'm not proud of."
- ―Gav and Red catch up.
Redmond had been faced with a choice when he was arrested: jail, or a military rehabilitation program—and chose the latter. Through dedication, he'd made it as an ODST and been headhunted by an elite unit, but that tight-knit team had been decimated and cast aside when the rogue special agents they'd been tasked with hunting were welcomed back into the fold. Given their longtime friendship, Redmond revealed much more than he was legally was allowed, along with a deep-seated bitterness over the UNSC's betrayal of the people he'd believed in. In an equally rash show of trust, Gavin then informed him he'd joined the Insurrection, of what good they'd done for him and hoped to do elsewhere, and encouraged Redmond to go with him. Despite the consequences his defection could mean, Redmond agreed almost at once, and Gavin smuggled him off of Lockhart station immediately. Though the URF's leadership were understandably wary of an admitted UNSC special forces operator in their midst, Venter quickly proved himself with the information and training he was willing to provide. Already short on qualified soldiers, Colonel Novak was all too happy to have him join the Mamore task force. Aboard the Chancer and a small fleet of stolen DCS freighters, the freedom fighters set out through slipspace for the distant colony world.
The Rebel Hero
- "Welcome back, punks and rebels! This is Gav Dunn, your host of Radio Free Mamore! Broadcasting wherever we can on whatever frequencies we can hack. To start us off, here's one of my own compositions I think anyone who doesn't like the taste of Inner Colonial boot can get into; it's High-Tech Lowlife."
- ―Gavin broadcasts from the Chancer as a pirate Chatternet station.
A Crew of Misfits
On the Fringe
Personality and Traits
- Gavin Dunn: "Everybody thinks the only way to survive out here's by being strong. You know how a fool like me has made it this long?"
- Zoey Hunsinger: "Not really, no."
- Gavin Dunn: "Trust. The Chancer trusts me to take care of her, and if I've done my job, I know I can trust her."
|Gavin with his usual black baseball cap.
- —Gavin's outlook on life on the frontier.
Despite a line of work in which he regularly dealt with criminals, Gavin was exceptionally trusting in the better nature of humans, and other species to an extent. Though he never made much money, he was always generous towards people in need of help, letting "hitchhikers" stay in his ship's spare accommodations or running the occasional odd job free of charge, even if it took him out of his way. His bleeding heart has gotten him into trouble or played several times, but once he understands a person's reasons for doing so and so long as too much harm hasn't been done, Gavin is usually willing to forgive or at least forget.
Gavin has an unusual tendency for a civilian to get involved with Spartans, revolutionaries, crime bosses, and all sorts of other persons of note, and as such can often find himself in over his head. Seeing what they've had to deal with and his own experiences on Mamore, however, have made him a firm disbeliever in the idea that the ends justify the means in a galaxy after the Human-Covenant War, and has sometimes acted as a moral guide or source of perspective for those more important individuals.
Able to keep his freighter well-maintained on his own, Gavin is highly skilled in the mechanical systems of civilian starships, though he prefers to let major repair work be done by a shipyard dock if he can afford it. He also had a disputedly good sense in music, fond of old American rock 'n' roll and similar genres popularized by spacers in the Outer Colonies. He owned an acoustic guitar, and often made a bit of extra money by playing ambiance music in bars for tips, and at least knew how to play a pocket harp.
Notes and References
- Gavin's maternal grandfather, Hank Gibson, was the first man to have been killed by a member of the Covenant.
- ↑ Reference to the Baker's Street Irregulars of the original Sherlock Holmes novels.
- ↑ Unbeknownst to Gavin, the girl in the cryo pod was Amber Gibson, his own cousin.