|| This article, Scarred, was written by Timothy Emeigh. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.
With the Human-Covenant War finally over, Aleksandra Zaytseva is finally given some personal leave days. Returning one of the few surviving worlds she had fought on, Sirona, she takes time to walk through the woods, thinking about the future, and reflecting on the past.
|1200 HOURS, JANUARY 03, 2553 (MILITARY CALENDAR)
Location: GROOMBRIDGE 1618 SYSTEM, PLANET SIRONA, SIRONAN MAINLAND NATURE RESERVE
Aleksandra Zaytseva walked slowly along the ashen forest path, looking down at her feet, hands in the pockets of her civilian pants. This was the first time in a while she wasn't wearing her UNSC Marine BDU. She had finally been given a period of personal leave. With the Covenant War over, most of the UNSC Defense Force was being cycled through periods of R&R, giving the personnel time to relax and relieve stress after several years of fighting. But Sasha couldn't get the war out of her head.
For a while, she was stuck on the idea of whether or not humanity had actually won. Sure, they survived, but at what cost? Dozens of worlds burned and billions of lives were snuffed out. Men and women. Children and adults. Soldiers and civilians. Rich and poor. They were all killed. The Covenant didn't care for humanity. It was that fact that plagued her the most. For decades, the Elites had been brutal enemies of humanity, yet they helped the UNSC defeat the Covenant. As much as she hated to admit it, Sasha had to concede to the cruel, ironic fact that she, and the rest of the surviving humans, were alive due to the very species that had killed so many of those humans that died during the war.
So no, they hadn't really won. They had simply survived, and barely, at that. Even on this world, Sirona, one of the few that had survived the war, and ironically the site of one of the longest battles of the brutal conflict, the scars of the fighting were obvious. It had been just under five years since the Covenant had left the world, yet the forest still showed signs of the raging fires that had stampeded through it. The burned trunks surrounded by young, green saplings. The sooty grey path beneath her feet. Even the slight smell of wood-smoke, still lingering, wafting from the charcoal that coated the bark of the older trees and the ground beneath the underbrush.
It was here, in the middle of this living monument to the war they had just left, that Sasha had chosen to spend her leave. Of all the worlds she served on, from her home planet of Biko, to Reach, to Earth itself, this was the one planet left standing that she felt a true connection to. Good or bad, the four years she had spent on Sirona had changed her. Yet, for a planet named for a Celtic goddess of healing, she felt that it had provided her with anything but. The arm and eye she had lost during the opening days of the siege were the smallest fragments of what had been taken from her. Unlike any other battle she had taken part in, excluding, perhaps, the fall of her home and loss of her family, this one had hit her personally. She had been here long enough to make friends, comrades, brothers and sisters, and longer still to see them fall. Eventually, she stopped forming attachments. It was this world that had given her back a social life, and it was this world that had taken it away once more, stripping her back down to nothing but a soldier.
Sure, by the end of it she had returned to being a pilot, but here, walking alone through the woods, left nothing but her thoughts, she realized that a pilot was an even easier job to be isolated within. Alone in the cockpit, perhaps with one other individual, she could simply focus on doing her job, keeping the other soldiers and marines on-board alive. That's what she was good at. Sasha was the isolated, perhaps even cold, Navy pilot, doing her job, and nothing else. While she had often thought about retiring after the war, she now realized that there was no place for someone like that in the civilian world. Raising her head, Aleksandra walked faster, with a renewed purpose. Yet she hadn't found something new in herself, she had simply realized what had always been there. Reaching the fork in the road, she turned not towards the city, where she could live as a civilian for the rest of her period of leave, but towards the military base. She had no need for civilian life, and, even with the war over, all she wished was that there was still something the UNSC Navy needed her for, hoping that she could get right back to her job.