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DATE OF BIRTH
October 12, 2542
|Political and Military Information|
- "You don't have to teach me how to be a soldier. Just teach me how to survive"
- ―Zoey Hunsinger to Simon-G294
Sometimes the great players in history are not alien warlords or augmented supersoldiers or wily politicians. Sometimes someone caught up in events too enormous for her to even fathom can make all the difference in the galaxy.
Zoey Hunsinger was a human spacer and a native of the Stray"; the scruffy renegade became her reluctant teacher and companion, filling the void left by the death of her family. The two later hired themselves out to the smuggler Gavin Dunn; the trio crewed the freighter Chancer V and following Gavin's retirement Zoey assumed command of the battered vessel and began building a new life for herself on the galactic frontier.-aligned colony Venezia. The daughter of farmers, she grew up on her parents' land and knew little of life elsewhere in the galaxy until her family was caught up and slaughtered in a crossfire between local criminals. In order to survive, Zoey threw her lot in with a wandering mercenary known as "
"A World of Opportunity"
- "To hell with their politics. This is a world of opportunity, a place where we can have a new start. Who cares what flag's flying in New Tyne?"
- ―George Hunsinger regarding the rogue state of Venezia
Zoey was born on October 12, 2542 to George and Lily Hunsinger, two farmers living on the colony world of. George and Lily had fled colony when it was besieged by the invading . The couple had hired a local smuggler to traffic them off-world; after a harrowing run through the Covenant's blockade the smuggler evaded the aliens and escaped into . Zoey was conceived during the two-month journey. The smuggler brought the Hunsingers to his port of call on Venezia. The planet had cut its ties with the a year previously, declaring that the Earth government was incapable of defending its remaining colonies from glassing at the hands of the Covenant. Although wary of settling down on a planet that was known as a haven for terrorists and outlaws, the Hungsingers had little choice: the price of passage off of Arcadia had cost them almost all of their money. The smuggler who had been their pilot sympathized with their plight and arranged for George and the pregnant Lily to get jobs working in the capital city . The couple were able to earn enough money to purchase a small plot of land in one of Venezia's many agricultural regions, where they built a farm. Lily gave birth to Zoey a week later and the overjoyed Hunsingers took it as a sign of future happiness on the isolated planet.
- "If it's broken, it can be fixed"
- ―George Hunsinger, instructing Zoey in basic mechanics.
From even her early years, Zoey proved to be an adventurous, inquisitive child. Quickly learning to walk, she often terrorized Lily by wandering off to explore when left unattended. While Lily struggled to juggle work on the farm with keeping Zoey in check, George encouraged his young daughter's precocious streak and enjoyed bringing her out into the fields to watch him work. Much to Lily's dismay, Zoey spent more and more time outdoors wandering the farm. Despite the Hunsingers' satisfaction with Venezia's opportunities, they were wary of the Insurrection's influence on the planet's culture and chose to educate their daughter at home on the farm rather than send her to their community's school. This choice was met with mixed results; Zoey was not one to sit still for long periods of time and frequently abandoned her parents' lessons to spend more time outside. Worried that his daughter would fall behind other children her age, George came up with a solution to Zoey's learning problem. While Lily continued to teach their daughter standard lessons, George would take Zoey on "breaks" into his workshop, where he would give her lessons in practical machinery. Despite her educational deficiencies, Zoey was fascinated by the mechanics her father taught her and studied constantly to become capable enough to eventually help her parents maintain their farming machines, particularly their temperamentalharvester units.
Venezia was fortunate enough to avoid the Covenant's attention and the war passed the renegade planet by, leaving its government and citizens free to maintain a thriving economy and infrastructure. For Zoey, the alien fleets remained a distant terror present only in a few scattered colonial news bulletins and her parents' stories of their harrowing escape from Arcadia. Zoey loved these stories, pressing George and Lily to recount them over and over again. She was interested by her parents' life before Venezia, but was even more enraptured by the idea of space travel. Venezia's farmlands were the only world she had ever known, making her fascinated by the idea of traveling through the night sky to other planets. The smuggler who had saved her parents, always the hero of George and Lily's stories, became Zoey's idol and she dreamed of someday making her way off-world in a spaceship. At night she would often crawl onto her family's homestead roof to stare up in amazement at Venezia's starry sky. The end of the war and the diminished Covenant threat only reinforced her ambition; even as she embraced her responsibilities on the farm she continued to hope that one day she would leave to make a life of her own amongst the stars.
"We're Looking For A Bad Guy"
- "We all deserve to be free to make our own way in life. But there's always some sacrifices you have to make to get it. If you want freedom, you have to be willing to pay the price for it."
- ―George Hunsinger
The end of the war brought even more prosperity to Venezia. As rebels, criminals, and even aliens from the dissolved Covenant flocked to the world and its promise of free enterprise away from the UNSC's jurisdiction, credits flowed into the economy. The price of this good fortune was the rise of crime across the planet. A new era of organized crime was spreading, feeding on Venezia's thriving black market and lack of trade controls. The Hunsingers knew little of these sinister developments; they benefited from the economic surge along with the rest of the planet, earning enough credits to expand their farm, purchase more JOTUNs, and hire on new help. Zoey celebrated the success with her parents, content to take on more responsibilities around the enlarged farm even as she continued to dream of a future in space. She worked hard to improve as a mechanic, hoping that the skill could make her a useful part of a spaceship's crew. Her parents, content to remain with their farm, admired Zoey's drive and encouraged her to pursue her goal. On her thirteenth birthday, George delighted his daughter by promising take her into New Tyne to see the spaceport and possibly learn more about how she might join a freighter crew when the time was right.
A few days after George's promise, Zoey was working in the fields when she found an armed figure lying amongst the crops. The figure, clad from head to toe in battered armor, was dehydrated and begged Zoey to help him. As she hurried to find her father, Zoey came upon an armed militia patrol on the road. The patrol claimed to be looking for a "bad guy" and asked Zoey if she had seen any strangers around the farm, offering a thousand credits for information that helped them track down their target. Guided by George and Lily's upbringing, Zoey lied to the patrol and contacted her father the moment they had left. George brought the armored fugitive back up to the homestead. The fugitive called himself "Stray" and Zoey was shocked to discover that when his helmet was taken off he looked to be only a few years older than her. George and Lily were frightened by the armed young man and the trouble he seemed to be running from. A wary George told Stray that he could hide out in their machine shed, provided he left in the morning. Despite her parents' fears, Zoey was fascinated by Stray's weapons and armor. Sneaking out to the machine shed that night, she wore down the bemused Stray with her questions and was delighted to learn that he had been to space many times, though the strange boy refused to go into detail about his origins.
- George Hunsinger: "For the last time, I don't know where he went! Go take it up with marshals, they're the law around here!"
- Marcos Ramon: "No, we're the law. Now start talking or you'll be wearing your brat's brains."
- ―George Hunsinger being interrogated by Ger 'Hullen's thugs
Stray honored George's conditions and slipped out of the machine shed after speaking with Zoey. He vanished into the fields and Zoey, disappointed that she hadn't learned anything about the strange visitor, assumed the encounter was over. The following morning she went out again to work in the fields. There she encountered more strangers, this time in the form of amercenary named Ger 'Hullen. Terrified by the imposing alien, Zoey was captured by 'Hullen's militia group, composed of human and thugs. Threatened by 'Hullen's lieutenant, an enforcer named Marcos Ramon, Zoey admitted that her family had housed a stranger the night before. 'Hullen and his troops took the girl back to her homestead and confronted George about harboring the fugitive. George's claims that he did not know where Stray had gone failed to satisfy 'Hullen. As a horrified Zoey looked on, Ramon beat her father to a pulp as 'Hullen continued to question him. Still not getting the answers he wanted, the Sangheili turned his attention to Zoey and threatened to kill her if George did not cooperate.
Lily, who had remained inside the homestead, reacted furiously to 'Hullen's threat. She opened fire on the enforcers from inside the house, killing the Kig-Yar restraining her daughter. With 'Hullen and his troops distracted, George ordered Zoey to flee. The terrified girl ran into the crop fields as plasma and gunfire erupted behind her. Encountering one of the hired hands, she begged him to get help only for the man to seize her with plans to turn her over to the criminals. As more of 'Hullen's Kig-Yar reached them, gunfire cut down the farm hand and the aliens. Stray, who had hidden out in the Hunsingers' crops, emerged and brutally finished off the Kig-Yar before a stunned Zoey's eyes.
- "Your family's dead! You can come with me or die here, just move your ass!"
As Zoey grieved over the loss of her parents, 'Hullen—hearing Stray's gunfire—ordered his troops to set the crop fields ablaze. The fire spread quickly and Stray realized that they were being cut off by the inferno. The young man violently berated Zoey into action, shaking her out of her sorrow-induced stupor. With everything her parents had worked so hard to build burning to the ground around her, Zoey found herself seized with a sudden desire to escape and survive. As the thugs fired into the burning crop field, Zoey led Stray to an irrigation pipe that ran under the farmlands. The two of them escaped into the underground pipe and made their way through the irrigation system. Emerging near the edge of the lake near the farm, Zoey could only watch as 'Hullen's men completed the utter destruction of the Hunsinger farm. Exhausted from her ordeal, Zoey collapsed from shock and grief. Stray, however, insisted on putting as much distance between himself and 'Hullen as possible. Faced with being left alone outside the destroyed farm, Zoey forced herself to hurry after the armored stranger as he fled off into Venezia's plains.
"Whatever it Takes to Survive"
- "Never forget that I'm bigger and stronger than you. And I always will be."
- ―Stray to Zoey after fending off her attempt to kill him
Despite Zoey's fragile state, Stray made no allowances as he pressed on into the Venezian wilderness. Knowing full well that the armored fighter was responsible for the tragedy that had befallen her family, Zoey nursed a growing hatred of her companion even as she desperately followed him across the plains. Displaying no apparent remorse over the carnage inflicted on his behalf, Stray simply pressed relentlessly onward. Isolated and bewildered by the horrific turn her life had taken, Zoey stubbornly followed after the mercenary. Infuriated by his flippant dismissal of her exhaustion and repeated threats to abandon her, Zoey pushed herself to the absolute limit as she tried to keep up with Stray's brutal pace. When Zoey finally tired of Stray's brutal pace she tried to stab him with a stolen knife. He easily overpowered Zoey and abandoned her when she refused to continue walking. Zoey lay alone on the plains for hours, hoping that she would die and find herself with her parents again. Instead she was discovered by a patrol ofmercenaries as they hunted for Stray. Before the hulking aliens could put Zoey out of her misery they were ambushed by Stray, who killed them all and secured one of their Warthog jeeps. He begrudgingly let Zoey into the Warthog, using it to traverse the rest of the plains.
As night fell over the plains, the Warthog broke down and left them stranded once again. Stray, exhausted from the earlier fight, resigned himself to walking once more. His brutal philosophy of life continued to shock Zoey, who found herself unable to comprehend her unwanted traveling companion. But tired and afraid as she was, she could no longer simply resign herself to death. To Stray's surprise, she fixed the Warthog's engine and left them ready to travel once again. Satisfied, Stray drove them both in the direction of New Tyne. But the Brutes had not given up and as the Warthog neared the city it came under attack from a pack of Jiralhanae. In her first real taste of combat, Zoey cowered in the Warthog as Stray led their pursuers into one of his "contingency plans": a minefield he had prepared some time earlier. Many of the Choppers were destroyed in the minefield, but an errant explosion blasted the Warthog on its side and left Zoey and Stray at the mercy of the remaining aliens.
- Zoey Hunsinger: "Why is everyone trying to kill us?"
- Stray: "Hell if I know, it just sort of happens no matter where I am."
- Zoey Hunsinger: "I don't blame them."
- — Zoey and Stray flee pursuing Jiralhanae
Stray and Zoey pulled themselves away from the ruined Warthog but were soon surrounded by furious Jiralhanae. An injured Zoey looked on in amazement as Stray desperately fought off the hulking warriors. But he was soon overwhelmed and collapsed beneath his injuries. He and Zoey were saved once again when gunfire from an unknown ally cut through the remaining Jiralhanae. Another figure emerged from the smoke, one that wore the same armor as Stray. Zoey could barely register this latest development; finally overtaken by her wounds and sheer exhaustion, she blacked out as the new arrival rushed to her side.
"Teach Me To Fight"
Zoey came to in a small medical facility, the worst of her injuries treated. Stray, himself bloodied and exhausted by the wilderness pursuit, was recovering with her. Their benefactor was a young woman named Cassandra Engel, who ran the unlicensed clinic in New Tyne’s poverty stricken outskirts. It had been Cassandra who had saved them from the Jiralhanae pack and, based on her armor and proficiency in combat, Zoey deduced that the “doctor” was of the same breed as her mercenary companion. Stray and Cassandra—who shared an uneasy friendship—admitted to having military background but refused to elaborate further. Zoey was shocked to learn that Stray (His real name, as she learned from overhearing conversations between him and Cassandra, was Simon) had not exacted payment from her as he had promised. Despite having the access key to her father’s trust fund, the inscrutable fighter had withdrawn only a single paltry sum to reimburse Cassandra for her trouble. Cassandra offered the newly-orphaned girl room and board at the clinic, but their respite was cut short when Ger 'Hullen's enforcers attacked the clinic. Stray and Cassandra fought a running street battle with the criminals as they fled with Zoey to safety. Stray contacted an AI named Diana who helped them outrun their pursuers and seek safety deeper in the slums. Shortly afterwards, he left Zoey in Cassandra's care and slipped away on his own with the promise to make things right.
Despite Stray's departure, Zoey and Cassandra found themselves once again under attack by Syndicate enforcers. The street doctor amazed Zoey by exhibiting combat skills on par with Stray's, taking on an entire patrol of Sangheili and Kig-Yar by herself. Zoey tried to slip away from the fighting but ran into Marcos Ramon, the enforcer who had tortured her father on the farm. The criminal tried to grab Zoey but she fought back and in the ensuing scuffle Ramon's gun went off, killing him. Cassandra arrived to save Zoey from Ramon's thugs and they slipped away to safety under the cover of night. Despite Cassandra's efforts to console her, Zoey was utterly traumatized over the carnage and brutality she had witnessed over the past few days. In the early hours of the morning the two fugitives were rejoined by Stray, who told them that the fighting was over. Zoey soon learned that Stray had cut a deal with the Syndicate, the organization he had betrayed and been hunted by. Having killed Ger 'Hullen and laid the blame for the entire affair at the dead Sangheili's feet, Stray had won himself a reprieve from his former employers and once again become their enforcer. Crushed by the loss of any hope that her slain parents might know true justice and exhausted by everything that had happened, Zoey collapsed and was taken back to Cassandra's clinic.
In the days that followed, Zoey recovered from her ordeal and tried to piece her shattered life back together. With her parents dead, her home destroyed, and the illusions she held about the nature of the galaxy shattered, she struggled to summon the energy to even leave her cot in the clinic. Stray was a frequent visitor and while Zoey still continued to balance gratitude over the fact that he had saved her life with resentment over his part in her parents' deaths. Despite—or perhaps because of—her conflicted feelings surrounding the armored killer, Zoey found herself strangely drawn to Stray and his violent way of life. Realizing that he had fought on and survived where her mother and father had died, she became determined to learn from him so that she too could survive in this dangerous new world. Although Cassandra again offered to take her in at the clinic, Zoey chose to instead live with Stray. The mercenary reluctantly agreed to take her on as a helper and teach her what skills he could. Moving into Stray's cramped Venezian apartment Zoey stuck with her new guardian, determined to learn as much as she could from the killer who had smashed her old life to pieces.
"No Place For Heroes"
- Zoey Hunsinger: "Rations for dinner, again?"
- Stray: "Close your eyes and pretend its, uh, something else."
- Zoey Hunsinger: "Your taste buds died a long time ago, didn't they?"
- — Zoey and Stray discussing dining options.
Over the course of the next few months Zoey stayed by Stray's side, following her scruffy guardian across Venezia as he carried out contracts for both the Syndicate and a multitude of private employers. Despite the high-tech appearance of his body armor, Stray was almost always dirt poor as the cost of food, equipment, ammunition, and other supplies ate away at his earnings from each job. Though she had gotten a taste of how harsh life could be during their time on the run, Zoey had trouble adjusting to the austere trappings of Stray's lifestyle. Stray rarely took her on his jobs, which often sent him across Venezia, but when he did they would spend long periods of time out in the field doing little other than guarding convoys or helping stake out settlement and farming locations. When Stray left her alone in New Tyne, he usually gave her chores to do around his apartment or sent her to help Cassandra maintain her clinic. Zoey also grew acquainted with Diana, an artificial intelligence tapped into New Tyne's digital infrastructure. Diana was Stray's estranged partner and occasionally contacted him with information on contracts or tasks to be done around the city. The AI was contemptuous of Stray's new ward and often mocked him for taking her in, though Stray demonstrated loyalty and even affection towards her even as he joined Zoey in firing back at her insults. The jobs she worked with Stray and the days she spent helping Cassandra exposed her to the poverty that was rampant among the less fortunate residents of New Tyne; the young orphan quickly began to realize just how sheltered she had been on her parent's farm and how relentless the daily struggle to survive really was.
Though Stray had become much friendlier to Zoey since the Syndicate had stopped hunting them, he clearly had little plans to train her as anything beyond a potential assistant and Zoey soon realized that staying with him was not a long term option. Despite all the time she had spent with him, her young mentor remained an enigmatic figure, rarely speaking of the past that had led him to become so proficient a fighter at such an early age. He had few interests outside of jobs, his own occasional amusements, and the day to day business of staying alive. Although she had forgiven him for his role in uprooting her life and come to enjoy his company, Zoey was ill-equipped to deal with his often callous lack of moral compulsions. Stray saw nothing wrong with his work for the Syndicate, despite the evils he and Zoey had seen them commit. Though it repulsed Zoey that she and her friend were supporting the same system that had trapped and killed her family, she could not argue with Stray's logic that they had little choice but to continue taking contracts for the criminals, who had a monopoly on violence in Venezia's underworld. But in spite of his ethical shortcomings, Stray respected Zoey's boundaries, curtaining off a small private section for her in his hideout and allowing her to use the bunker's only bed while he slept on the floor. Outside of work and training, Stray was often quiet and even occasionally awkward around his young charge, though he more than made up for these gentler moments with his rough approach to training.
Outside of the impressive collection of scrapes and bruises she received from Stray's training, Zoey saw little real violence on Venezia. Stray was careful to only take her on jobs that featured little chance for danger; the closest she came to combat was when she would accompany her friend on jobs to "encourage" residents of New Tyne to fall in line with the Syndicate's network of smuggling and extortion. Though it disturbed Zoey to see the armored Stray intimidating locals who could have been her parents, she often pestered him to include her in more of his contracts. Stray usually responded to her requests by forcing her to do extra chores or putting her through unreasonably difficult training, but after Zoey did particularly well on one of his makeshift shooting ranges he agreed to let her accompany him on his next job. Tasked with making an example of a drug dealer in one of New Tyne's outskirt districts who was not giving appropriate cuts of his earnings to the Syndicate, Stray armed Zoey with a scoped rifle and set her up in a concealed shooting position while he drew the dealer out of his home. When the target emerged to talk to Stray, Zoey shot him through the head. Conditioned by Stray's training to be ready for the act of long-distance killing, Zoey felt very little about the killing when she pulled the trigger. It was only when she saw the dead man's grieving family, that the full weight of what had she had done sunk in.
- Stray: "Of course he had a family. They all have families. The galaxy isn't full of orphans like us. Maybe I shouldn't have put you out there, but you asked me to teach you, so I'm teaching you. This is the way things are out here."
- Zoey Hunsinger: "I know... you're right, about all of that. But I'm not like you, Stray. I thought I wanted to be, but now I don't. Not anymore. I-I have to go."
- Stray: "Yeah, yeah, I get it. If you ever need anything, I'll be around. Anything at all."
- Zoey Hunsinger: "I know. Thanks for everything."
- ―Zoey leaves Stray's hideout for good.
Unable to reconcile what she had done with the kind of person she had thought she was, Zoey realized that regardless of what she planned for herself she could no longer remain with Stray. Despite the friendship she continued to feel for him, she feared that she would become too much like her armored companion. Although she had nowhere else to go, Zoey announced her intention to strike out on her own. Feeling guilty over what had transpired, Stray made no effort to dissuade her and instead gave her a few supplies and what credits he could spare from his meager finances. Zoey considered returning to Cassandra, but by now Venezia held far too many painful memories. Instead, she simply wanted to escape from the planet that had claimed her parents' lives and used the credits from Stray to buy herself a cheap ticket on a bulk freighter. Zoey left her homeworld crammed in a makeshift cargo bay with only the clothes on her back, a backpack full of supplies, and no idea of what the future might hold.
"I'll Make It On My Own"
Zoey's first time in space, something she had been dreaming about since she had first looked up at the stars, was cramped, smelly, and utterly lonely. It quickly dawned on her that she had not planned anything beyond leaving Stray and getting off Venezia. The freighter took Zoey to the Outer Colony world of, a colony with divided political loyalties and an only semi-functional infrastructure. Within minutes of stepping off the ship, she was caught up in the crowds filling the colonial spaceport and was lost for hours in the unfamiliar environment. Hours later, she stumbled out of the port and sought sanctuary in a nearby alley. There she met two other children, a brother and sister, who offered to help her find lodging. The siblings led her to a dead end where they attempted to trip her up and rob her. Stray's training paid off and Zoey fought back and forced her attackers to flee, but not before they snatched the backpack of supplies Stray had given her. Less than a day off the freighter and Zoey already had nothing but the clothes she was wearing and a meager handful of credits.
- Judith Ives: "Don't mistake my kindness for weakness, kid. You owe me now."
- Zoey Hunsinger: "Don't worry, I know how it works out here."
- ―Zoey Hunsinger and Judith Ives
Desperate for money, Zoey headed for the nearest bank. The account her father had left for her had gone untouched during her time with Stray and now seemed like a perfect time to draw from its funds. Unfortunately, the Venezian banking system operated in a medium completely separate from the networks on colonies loyal to the UEG. Unable to access an account that for all intents and purposes didn't exist offworld from Venezia, Zoey was left completely without resources. Desperate and alone, she attempted to steal food from a nearby store. What she had not counted on was that Talitsa's local law enforcement were much more watchful than the police on Venezia and she was quickly apprehended. Before the officer could haul Zoey to the police station, a woman who had observed the entire affair stepped in and loudly claimed to be Zoey's mother while paying the officer a paltry bribe to let the would-be thief go. The policeman took the money and departed, leaving Zoey with her unlikely savior. The woman's name was Judith Ives and though dismissive of the girl's pathetic attempt at thievery she believed that a penniless urchin like Zoey would make an excellent assistant in her line of "work."
After her experience with Stray and the Venezian underworld, Zoey was not surprised to learn that Judith's work kept her squarely on the wrong side of the law. A low-ranking courier for the Talitsan branch of the Syndicate, Judith helped keep the criminal empire's activities out of the colonial authority's attention by ferrying written and verbal communiques between Syndicate agents and the officials already in their pockets. Herself a former street urchin, Judith saw potential in Zoey as an accomplice. Though the girl's attempt at thievery had been a miserable failure, Judith was impressed by Zoey's technical skills and familiarity with military-grade weapons and equipment. An accomplished slicer in her own right, Judith interspersed her work for the Syndicate with thefts of both government and personal vehicles, which she then sold to Syndicate fences. In exchange for room, board, and a small cut of Judith's earnings, Zoey acted as a secondary courier as well as a decoy, second pair of hands, or any other odd job Judith needed her to perform in the field. Though upset that she still could not escape the necessity of working for the Syndicate, Zoey appreciated that Judith's criminal enterprises were not overtly violent and began to look up to her boss for her determined independence. Zoey's technical skills improved during her time on Talitsa; Judith taught her how to hotwire cars, trucks and other vehicles, bypassing various electrical barriers through a variety of clever but simple tricks. Judith's mentorship inspired Zoey to once again dream of making it on her own as a space captain. Reading up on starship operation during her free time, Zoey would often watch the freighters coming in to land at Talitsa's spaceports. Although she could never hope to make enough money to buy a ship of her own, Judith's lifestyle sparked a new plan in Zoey's mind. Rather than buying or hiring herself onto a ship, she resolved to steal one.
"One Last Con"
- * "Remi Marshall, Dynasty. Large crew, armed and dangerous, rebel/criminal contacts, been out here a long time. Not a gang to tangle with."
- * "Kerulus. Glory of the Hunt. Jiralhanae, DO NOT ATTEMPT."
- * "Gavin Dunn, Chancer V. No crew, standing Syndicate bounty. Gullible sucker."
- —Excerpt form Zoey's personal journal.
The plan was simple: use her knowledge of Judith's contacts to charm her way aboard a freighter, then steal it out from under its unsuspecting owner. Zoey then hoped to sell the ship and use the funds to chart a new course out of the perpetual poverty she'd known since her parents died. She soon found an ideal target in one Gavin Dunn, an old associate of Judith's and frequent visitor to Talitsa. Gavin's ship was a battered, Argo-class transport called the Chancer V and in preparation for the heist Zoey did everything she could to familiarize herself with Argo-class controls. If Judith suspected any of Zoey's intentions, she gave no sign. But when the time finally came for Gavin's next visit to Talitsa, Judith surprised both her old friend and Zoey by asking Gavin to take Zoey on as a crew hand. Even more surprising was the speed at which Gavin warmed to the idea. After bidding farewell to a knowing Judith, Zoey followed Gavin back to the Chancer V's berth. But a far less pleasant surprise awaited them on board the freighter.
- "Wasn't expecting to see you here. It really is a small galaxy."
Gavin, Zoey learned too late, was on the wrong side of a Syndicate bounty. The latest mercenary lined up to collect the price on the smuggler's head was none other than Stray. Zoey's former guardian breached the Chancer's security systems and waited to ambush Gavin inside the ship. Though surprised to see Zoey, Stray easily overpowered Gavin and took him prisoner. Stray's interference put Zoey's whole plan in jeopardy but she bided her time and used his fixation on Gavin to her advantage. Stray forced Gavin to take off at gunpoint, plotting a course for a frontier Jiralhanae colony called Famul. Effusive despite his precarious situation, Gavin invited Zoey to help him in the cockpit. While craftily studying the ship controls Zoey was surprised to learn that Gavin and Stray shared a past together as Insurrectionist fighters. The revelation reminded Zoey that she still knew very little about Stray's elusive background. But with Stray more interested in guarding Gavin than reconnecting with her, Zoey refocused her efforts on the immediate goal: stealing the Chancer V.
The Chancer and its strange crew touched down on an orbiting station over Famul where Stray arranged to hand Gavin over to the Syndicate. As soon as the mercenary escorted his prisoner away from the ship Zoey set about bypassing the Chancer's security protocols. She blasted off from the station, surprised to find flying the freighter easier than expected. Figuring out her next course of action proved more difficult as Zoey fumbled through the ship's communication logs in the hopes of finding a potential buyer. Instead, the potential buyer found her. Zoey received a terse broadcast from a group identifying themselves as an Insurrectionist force called the Second Vanguard. As soon as the Insurrectionists determined that Gavin Dunn was no longer in command of the Chancer V the group offered to buy the ship for a "reasonable price." Relieved to see her immediate problem resolve itself, Zoey agreed to the deal and touched her stolen ship down at the group's coordinates. There she was confronted by an armed group led by an Insurrectionist commander called Redmond Venter.
It did not take much conversation with Venter and his operatives for Zoey to realize she was in over her head. Venter was far more interested in using the Chancer to track down Gavin than in purchasing the ship itself and ordered his troops to interrogate Zoey the moment he realized Gavin was still over Famul. The "negotiation" was cut short by the arrival of Gavin himself. He and Stray shared a past history with Venter painful enough for them to set aside their differences and ambush the Insurrectionist party. Zoey escaped to cover during the ensuing firefight but Venter cornered Gavin and blasted away on the Chancer V. Stray recovered Zoey, determined to hunt Venter down. Feeling guilty over her role in Gavin's capture, Zoey helped him hijack a nearby dropship and flew in pursuit of the Chancer. Boarding the ship, they drove Venter off following a pitched battle. Zoey then joined Gavin in repairing the ship while Stray fought off their pursuers. The unlikely trio narrowly escaped Famul with Zoey and Stray now sharing the bounty on Gavin's head.
- 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 Dunn and Zoey Hunsinger.
Gavin, as Zoey discovered, was full of surprises. Rather than be angry over the theft of his ship he instead simply expressed admiration at Zoey's technical and piloting talent at such a young age. She was flabbergasted when the smuggler offered her a permanent place on the ship. She quickly accepted the unexpected offer. Stray, now on the run with his erstwhile bounty, was less enthusiastic about signing on with the Chancer V but a run-in with Syndicate enforcers already on his trail convinced him that his chances were better with the ship than on his own. Zoey settled into her strange new home aboard the ship she'd hoped to steal, finding herself looking forward to the future for the first time in years.
The Cabin Girl
"I'm Part of This Crew"
After all her time slumming first on Venezia and then on Talitsa, Zoey found life on even a modest ship like the Chancer to be a great improvement over past conditions. Under Gavin's supervision she assumed a variety of odd jobs across the ship and worked to familiarize herself with the Chancer's cantankerous systems. Though he hoped to train Zoey into a capable co-pilot, what Gavin really needed was a mechanic who could fix problems that arose within the Chancer while he was in the cockpit. To this end he trained Zoey primarily as a mechanic. Though Zoey had little traditional training, her early experiences working crop harvesters gave her a place to start from. Gavin found that she was a quick learner and before long trusted her enough to work areas of the ship unsupervised.
Though Gavin himself was nominally the Chancer's captain, Stray's presence complicated the ship's hierarchy. Zoey's former caretaker deferred to most of Gavin's decisions in running the ship but refused to be lumped in with Zoey as a junior member of the crew. It became apparent that Stray possessed a better business sense than Gavin and he was often the driving force behind the jobs the Chancer picked up as it slipped beneath the Syndicate's radar across the frontier. Zoey was content to keep her distance from the worst of Gavin and Stray's arguments, though she never lost an opportunity to tease the abrasive Stray. The social situation on the ship was further complicated when the Chancer briefly returned to Venezia in order to rescue Cassandra from an Insurrectionist "oonskie hunt." While extracting Cassandra, the ship took on another passenger: Simon's AI partner-in-crime Diana. Cassandra asked to be let off on Talitsa but Diana remained on the ship, using the Chancer as a mobile base of operations. Though Diana's digital capabilities proved useful Gavin strenuously objected to her presence on the ship-a sentiment echoed by Zoey, who was keenly aware of the AI's callous attitude toward their safety.
With the Chancer struggling to survive on the Syndicate's blacklist, the crew realized they needed to come to terms with the criminal empire. Zoey felt as if she had stumbled into something far bigger than she could ever fully understand, with Gavin and Stray both highly wanted fugitives and Diana brokering deals with enigmatic powers. Through Diana's meddling the crew succeeded in negotiating a return to the Syndicate's good graces in exchange for stealing several Forerunner artifacts from a UNSC facility on. Zoey was both fascinated and terrified by Stray's explanation of the Forerunners-more evidence that she now lived in a universe far more vast and strange than the world she had known on her parents' farm. Zoey's role in the heist was simple: guard the Chancer while Stray and Gavin slipped into the UNSC compound. But the situation escalated out of control when two UNSC operators-wearing Semi-Powered Infiltration armor like Stray's-attacked the ship and abducted her.
From what little her captors told her, Zoey realized that the UNSC assassins aimed to use her as bait to lure Stray into a confrontation. Their ambush was spoiled when an Insurrectionist strike force led by Redmond Venter attacked, throwing the facility into chaos. Stray used the opportunity to free Zoey and she raced away to join Gavin as he scrambled to escape with their cargo. He and Zoey turned the Chancer around to save Simon from his attackers, only to arrive as he brutally finished off his opponents. The crew fled the embattled facility, delivering the goods to the Syndicate and winning a reprieve from the organization’s vengeance. Though relieved to be free of a death mark, the violence Zoey saw from Stray frightened her in a way his fighting hadn’t before. Worried about what it meant to be traveling with a violent killer, she unconsciously drifted closer to Gavin as the Chancer picked up more contracts across the frontier.
- "It's just the three of us. Sometimes we take passengers, bu they're always weirdos. Not that Stray's much better."
- ―Zoey Hunsinger
Life on the Chancer offered Zoey a life she had never dreamed of. But cooped up on a ship for weeks on end with only a smuggler, a rogue Spartan, and a contemptuous AI sometimes made her yearn for someone her own age to spend time with. She briefly found such a friend in Tegla, an adventurous girl she met during a layover between jobs. Zoey bonded quickly with Tegla, but their friendship was cut harshly short when Tegla’s father tried to kidnap Gavin. Stray intervened, killing Tegla’s father in front of the horrified girl. Tegla fled the scene and Zoey was left confused about the true nature of her bond with the Chancer crew.
Personality and Traits
- "I was raised by an ex-Innie and a superhuman killer. Most of our friends were card-carrying psychopaths. By the time I was sixteen I'd broken more laws than most criminals do in a lifetime. Not exactly the future my parents had in mind for their little girl. At least it's not been boring"
- ―Zoey Hunsinger
Raised under her parents' loving, instructive care, Zoey grew up an optimistic, curious girl who loved the help she did on the family farm yet dreamed of a life of adventure in the stars beyond Venezia. The deaths of her parents and the suffering she endured did not stunt Zoey's inventive and daring spirit, though the sudden tragedy forced her out into a cruel, dangerous world where her once bright and cheerful outlook quickly turned into one of careful cynicism. Her friendship with the bitter, sardonic Stray, particularly her exposure to his violently survivalist lifestyle, prompted Zoey to develop a warped moral compass of her own and the once-upstanding farmgirl found herself willing to fight, steal, and cheat in order to get by. But in spite of her questionable ethics Zoey never lost her courageous attitude and a firm belief in the basic principles of right and wrong. Her parents' murder instilled in her a deep hatred for injustice and she would often put herself in harm's way if she spied an instance of the strong preying on the weak. Zoey's apprenticeship under Gavin Dunn solidified her moral beliefs; though she, like the rest of her adopted family, was never above working outside of the law if it suited her purposes, she would also go to great lengths to do what she thought was right. Many took Zoey's good nature for weakness, though they did so at their peril; Zoey had been trained by a Spartan and a spacer, both former insurgents, and was a vicious, unrelenting foe for anyone who crossed her and her adopted family.
- "You showed me how to be a killer when I needed to be one. When there was no one left in the universe who cared whether I lived or died, you cared enough to drag me back up and put some of your fire into me. And I'm alive today because you cared. I have a family today because you cared."
- ―Zoey Hunsinger
Despite, or perhaps because of the role he played in her parents' murders, the Spartan deserter Simon-G294 remained one of Zoey's closest friends throughout her life. Hunted by criminals on Venezia, the orphaned farmgirl and the outcast mercenary relied on each other to survive. Zoey initially despised Simon—whom she knew by his pseudonym of "Stray"—for his callous indifference to her pain and the deaths of her parents, though she later learned that much of this was a facade to push her to survive and to hide the guilt he harbored over George and Lily's murders. Stray's chaotic blend of self-serving greed, reluctant kindness, and rare flashes of genuine heroism often left her confused over his true nature. Despite his years of combat training, battlefield experience, and role as her teacher, the rogue Spartan was not much older than Zoey; when they served together aboard the Chancer V Gavin would often equate them to siblings, much to their dismay. Zoey looked up to Stray for his tenacity and will to survive but was often disgusted with his callous attitude and perceived lack of empathy for the suffering of others. Stray, for his part, was often irritated by her constant insults and mockery, yet felt strongly protective of her and trained her in fighting techniques, going so far as to give her scraps of sparearmor for her own personal use. Zoey initially set out to become as tough as independent as Stray, but struck out on her own when she feared she was becoming too much like him. They reunited aboard the Chancer V, where Zoey felt that Gavin Dunn's influence was enough to keep her from adopting too many of Stray's amoral habits.
With Gavin Dunn
- "You mean a lot to me... I care about you like you were my own daughter"
- ―Gavin Dunn to Zoey Hunsinger
Zoey never expected Gavin Dunn to be anything but an unfortunate casualty in her struggle to make her way in the galaxy. An insurrectionist-turned-spacer, Gavin came into Zoey's life as little more than a target on Stray's hit list. Zoey was dragged into Stray's repeated attempts to collect the bounty posted on Gavin's head, all of which ended with the freighter captain slipping away from his frustrated pursuer. Gavin impressed Zoey with his wily and offhand tactics, both of which she took into account when she stole his ship, the Chancer V in a moment of desperate opportunism. When Gavin hunted her down and confronted her, he stunned the impoverished girl by not only forgiving her but taking her aboard the Chancer as his copilot in training. Joined by Stray, the three of them formed the crew of the ship that became Zoey's new home among the stars. Gavin took it upon himself to ensure Zoey's safety in their oft-dangerous line of work, and he trained her to fly his beloved ship. A far more patient instructor than Stray, Gavin found in Zoey a gifted pilot and groomed her to eventually captain the Chancer himself. Gavin and Zoey grew extremely close during their time together on the Chancer V, with Gavin eventually choosing to adopt Zoey as his surrogate daughter.
- Zoey Hunsinger: "Money's the only god out here."
- Cassandra-G006: "Only if you let it be."
- ―Zoey and Cassandra debating life on the frontier
Stray was not the only fugitive Spartan living on Venezia when Zoey's parents were killed. Cassandra-G006, once the best combat medic in Gamma Company, worked a small clinic on the outskirts of New Tyne and did her best to employ her considerable skills in the service of Venezia's poor. When living as Stray's ward, Zoey often visited Cassandra's clinic and sometimes acted as Cassandra's assistant during medical operations or the many times Cassandra would venture out into the New Tyne slums in search of those too sick to make it to the clinic. Though Zoey had little talent for medical work, she looked up to Cassandra who in turn tried to lift the young orphan's spirits and prevent her from sinking into the despair and amorality that defined much of the colonial frontier. Even after Zoey left Venezia and began working on the Chancer V, she often encountered Cassandra during the Chancer's many jobs and appreciated the presence of another woman on the ship whenever Cassandra traveled with them. Zoey took great pleasure in prodding and intruding into the on-again off-again relationship Cassandra shared with Stray, though neither Spartan appreciated her teasing in the slightest.
- Zoey's favorite song is Here's To You, a refrain tune popular on Venezia. She privately learned how to play the song's simple melody on the guitar and would make a point of playing it on the anniversary of her parents' deaths.