l...l


Chapter Forty

August 21st, 2077

Night City, Northern California

The Estate, North Oak

Thirty years.

That's how much time passed in between Eliza's arrival and Cyrus's crash landing months earlier.

Following Isabel's capture by the Sirens, a swarm of Banshees made the poor life decision to point a rifle at Cyrus's helm.

The Spartan would have imparted a brutal lesson upon the Sirens that day, but Eliza managed to intervene before Cyrus, and his Bloodhounds started cracking skulls.

The Matriarch used the charms she had acquired over the last three decades to persuade her former charges that Cyrus and his men descended into their domain to fight against a mutual adversary.

As a result, their trespass into the catacombs would be absolved if they agreed never to return to the tunnel network.

Cyrus and his Bloodhounds weren't thrilled by the prospect of leaving their prey in the hands of another, but Eliza tempered their worries. With great reluctance, the Headhunter acquiesced to their host's demands and allowed the Sirens to escort them to the surface.

The Spartan was still brimming with irritation that his venture into the catacombs was technically a failure.

The Sirens seized Isabel's battered form, and instead of executing her on the spot like he wanted. The Banshees took her to their holy ground of Solaria in rags.

Isabel's judgment would be carried out by a council of High Elders within the Sirens hierarchy, not by a vengeful Spartan.

Eliza didn't want to see her daughter's brains scattered across the floor, not when her death needed to be witnessed by those who remained loyal to their Matriarch.

Acadia needed to put the betrayer on trial for the whole of the Siren order to see, and a summary execution would only make Isabel out to be a martyr.

The Warrior caste would have its vengeance, but only after the High Elders deemed it so.

Before Cyrus's departure the Matriarch slipped him a message using a series of coded hand gestures that he was familiar with from their early days at Camp Currahee.

North Oak. Grid coordinates 589-136. Be there in an hour.

Chamber wanted him to look presentable, but he didn't exactly possess clothing for….special occasions. The Spartan ended up arriving at a sizeable high-end estate, dressed in his signature black tactical jeans coupled with his zipper-less leather jacket and a short-sleeved combat shirt.

Cyrus did not dress in the most elegant manner for a family reunion, but he made do with what little clothing he had available.

He immediately deduced the impregnable nature of Eliza's otherwise comfortable compound. Security cameras and automatic turrets were strategically placed across the perimeter, deterring anyone with an inquisitive nature or malicious intent from testing its defenses.

After reaching for the doorbell, Cyrus spotted his colleague walking towards the security gate with a pleasant grin on her face. His crimson gaze noted her modest clothing, from the flow of her high waist denim hugging her posterior to the form-fitting compression shirt.

Eliza was dressed for comfort, not entirely surprising considering her humble adobe, but his attention wasn't on how enticing she made it look.

No, the first thing Cyrus saw was how inadequate her clothing's level of protection gave her. There was no defensive padding, no holster for weapons or knives, and little allowance for mobility, which was a product of her restrictive clothing.

Eliza wasn't dressed like a Spartan or a Headhunter.

She dressed like a civilian.

His wayward thoughts were banished when she threw her arms around his torso, tucking her head underneath his chin and allowing her golden hair to brush against his skin. A vanilla fragrance assaulted his nostrils, and for the first time in days, the Spartan allowed himself some sense of moderation.

The length of time they spent there was unknown to Cyrus, but he relished each and every second of it.

The bond between Spartans is difficult to describe for those who have never walked a mile in their shoes.

On an emotional level, they maintain a connection that runs deeper than anything humans have the luxury of experiencing. Their bond is further cemented through years of brutal training and suicidal missions that have closely tied them together through adversity.

When Eliza eventually loosened her grip and stepped a comfortable distance away, Cyrus finally received an unobstructed view of his Spartan sibling.

She was older now.

There was a subtle hint of age lines along her forehead, but that was the closest sign of aging Cyrus's enhanced perception could deduce. Other than that, Eliza hadn't aged all that much, especially considering the significant length of time she's spent on this planet.

Her skin no longer exhumed, the pale pigmentation that Cyrus had grown accustomed to in their Spartan days. Instead, she possessed a vibrant olive complexion, a consequence of no longer being confined within her MJOLNIR on a daily basis.

Time did not sap Eliza of her Spartan physique, and the form-fitting clothing ensured that even a passing glance settled his curiosity. Cyrus had little understanding of how old Eliza was or how much time had passed since they'd last seen one another.

But it didn't really matter.

He had his partner back.

At least, that's what he hoped for.

"You're late." Eliza's voice laced with amusement as she nodded him along. "We'll come on in and take off your shoes. I don't need you tracking dirt into my house."

Cyrus simply nodded in acceptance, following her through a set of steel gates at the epicenter of a ten-foot-high wall edging the perimeter of her compound.

Eliza didn't bring Cyrus to her Estate to discuss Siren politics.

No, she brought him to her humble adobe to meet one of the remaining treasures in her life.

"Mommy!" Cyrus ever so slightly jumped as a tiny torpedo slammed into Eliza's abdomen, eliciting a hearty laugh from the Matriarch.

"Selena!" Eliza adopted a faux expression of disappointment, snatching the spitting image of herself by her armpits and raising her to eye level. "You're supposed to be studying for your class tomorrow. Where is Liana?"

Cyrus's ears perked a the name, and his puzzled expression shot to a commotion from Eliza's front door.

A woman whose eyes brimmed with fury stumbled from the doorway. Her golden hair was cluttered with silly string, and her partially blind emerald orbs scanned her environment for the perpetrator.

"You little shit!" She exclaimed while wiping strands of pink string from her sight. "When I get my hands on you, your ass is mine!"

Selena tossed the empty can of silly string over her shoulder, holding her hands up in a poor demonstration of her innocence. Eliza's delighted expression soon turned into one of resignation as she moved to calm her wayward charges.

"Liana." The Afterlife Merc froze in place, her blurry vision limiting her perception. The Matriarch retrieved a handkerchief from her breast pocket, wiping away the chemical solvent with practiced ease. "We have a guest, and your behavior isn't exactly a great first impression, especially you, Selena."

The youngster curled in on herself with a pout before belatedly realizing that their mother had let someone other than a Siren inside their compound. Selena's mind teemed with childish innocence as she stared at Cyrus's somewhat startled expression.

Within moments, the Headhunter found himself swarmed by the little tyke. Selena's tiny arms were grasping at pieces of his clothing as she climbed up his towering form and finally coming face to face with a very off-put Cyrus.

"Hello!"

Children are attention-seeking creatures, and his interactions with them are basic and effective in most circumstances. His typical thunderous silence amongst people did not function with children since everything went to hell the instant they thought his attention was upon them.

The best way to deal with kids was to give them concise answers without hesitation.

"Uh….Hi?"

Goddamnit.

"Are you…special?" Her vibrant eyes dulled with confusion.

"Selena!" Eliza's outraged expression made Cyrus feel like he was just disrespected.

It wouldn't be the first time a child made him feel incredibly stupid.

"One moment, please." The Matriarch snatched her offspring by the waist, allowing Cyrus precious amounts of personal space and time to dwell on his recovery from such a brutal insult.

Selena was adequately….chastised by her mother.

Cyrus could feel the shame oozing off his niece's shoulders in torrents, and he felt a ting bit of sympathy for her plight. He'd been on the receiving end of her fury during their time with ONI, and she had a temper that matched a blazing sun.

Eliza turned on her heels and obliged her youngest daughter to apologize for her remarks. The girl straightened her back and came to a sudden stop, not feet from where Cyrus stood.

"I apologize." It was quick, and to the point, everything Cyrus hoped most people would seek to emulate when interacting with him.

"I accept." Somehow those words managed to reinvigorate the adolescent, and she almost shot off into the stratosphere before Eliza slammed her hands on her shoulders.

"Selena." The Matriarch began, eliciting a curious glance from her daughter. "This is your Uncle Cyrus."

The words seemed to slowly register in Selena's mind, and when it finally concluded, she practically squealed on the inside.

Cyrus was somewhat prepared to field a stream of questions regarding random moments of his time as a Spartan alongside Eliza. He'd assumed that his partner chose to share her experiences as an ONI Headhunter with her family.

He wasn't in a position to comment on Eliza's decision-making, and he also wasn't in a place to judge. Considering the nature of her children, it was more than likely for the best.

Isabel and Selena were leagues above their peers in the Siren order, which was a consequence of their mother's enhanced and augmented genes.

Cyrus didn't know how much of Eliza's genetic material translated to her children, but it was enough to allow Isabel to bear her MJOLNIR without shattering her bones.

Selena stared at him with a mixture of curiosity and confusion, and her eyes trailed off towards the pastures in Eliza's Estate.

"But isn't Uncle Cyrus-" The Matriarch cut into her daughter's words.

"Here to see you," Eliza interjected, shooting a knowing glance towards Selena. "Haven't you always wanted to ask him about being a Spartan alongside your mother?"

Her words launched Selena into an endless and uncoordinated rambling that managed to overload Cyrus's hearing for a few seconds. Thankfully Eliza came to his rescue, albeit because she was the reason his ears were ringing.

"I'm sure I don't need to introduce one of my adopted daughters." Crimson eyes once again locked with a pair of emerald orbs that gaped back with reddened cheeks.

"Ms. Sharp." Liana cringed in embarrassment, hoping to all hell that Cyrus would not bring up that their first interaction was her hitting on him.

"Ahem," the Afterlife Merc cleared her throat. "Hello, again. It's uh, it's good to see you."

Cyrus hardly believed that statement, but it was clear that this conversation was purely meant for Eliza's entertainment even as she held a very confused Selena in her grasp.

"Likewise." The Spartan gave V's former flame the out she so desperately craved. "I'm sure Selena could use some…assistance with her studies. Wouldn't you agree, Eliza?"

"I certainly do." Selena stared at him with apparent shock, unable to comprehend that her favorite, and only, uncle would betray her so promptly.

This was an unjust declaration of war in her childish exuberance, and Cyrus had unknowingly fired the first shot.

His ignorance would not go unpunished.

"Go on, you two," Eliza demanded, shooing her youngest daughter towards Liana. "I need to speak to your uncle in private."

"Ok, mommy, love you." Selena gave Cyrus a cutting glare even as Sharp tried to drag her back into the safe confines of their home.

"You gave Liana quite the scare that night." Eliza committed while her daughters disappeared from sight.

"She didn't know when to quit while she was ahead," Cyrus locked eyes with his partner. "Much like her caretaker."

Eliza hummed with amusement, waving him towards a porch overlooking the setting sun off to the west. Her Estate sat on a perfectly placed overview of Night City, and Cyrus knew that this property cost his partner a pretty penny.

She guided him to a pair of cushioned lounge chairs, sitting next to a sparkling swimming pool with a well-maintained jacuzzi at one end and an ingeniously constructed slide leading into the deepest part of the water.

A tiny stand between the lounge chairs held a vintage wine bottle and two plain champagne glasses. Both Spartans occupied the comfortable lodgings, with Eliza laying flat on her back while Cyrus sat on the edge, propping his elbows on his knees.

They shared a premium glass of Caymus Cabernet that dated back to 2019, and its red cherry taste settled Cyrus's growing nerves.

Neither Spartan spoke for what seemed like an eternity, preferring to take in the breathtaking sight of a setting sun. Eliza focused fully on the descending flame and gave off an atmosphere of comfort that would have deceived even the most discerning of minds.

But Cyrus wasn't as easily convinced.

The Spartan recognized the underlying strain in her posture, and her azure orbs betrayed this image further by expressing an extreme amount of anxiety.

Cyrus was discouraged by Eliza's discomfort in his company, and he was at a loss for what to do to ease the seemingly random onset of tension between them.

But she did.

"Do you think Casey made it?" He glanced up, finding Eliza's azure eyes finally fixated upon him with an eased expression.

"No…." Cyrus hesitated, his mind flashing with images of his indomitable and relentless Spartan sibling. "….I don't think she did."

She didn't immediately react to his words, snatching their half-empty bottle of Cabernet and pouring its remaining contents into their glasses.

"I didn't expect she would," Eliza said. "Casey ended up becoming the most patriotic out of the three of us. Knowing her, she probably made a heroic last stand against hordes of Covenant, taking down battalions worth of elites and brutes in the process. She'd make them earn every drop of her blood."

"Yes, she would."

They shared a knowing glance followed by a humorous chuckle. It would seem out of place to feel amusement at a sibling's passing, but Casey wouldn't have it any other way. She believed in the Spartan cause with a zealous fever that mimicked a crusader of ancient times.

She would be the first to volunteer without hesitation for a suicidal mission if success meant humanity's continued survival. Cyrus and Eliza would be right behind her, granted they would at least weigh their options before throwing themselves into the fire.

"To Casey." Cyrus raised his glass in salute, a notion that somewhat surprised Eliza if the raised eyebrow was anything to go by. "May she find peace in the afterlife."

"To Casey." Eliza mimicked his movements, downing the rest of her drink in one go.

Cyrus's metabolism easily burned away the alcoholic beverage with ease, barring the effects of liquor from ever taking root in his body. In between their salute to Casey and their drinks, Eliza managed to become unglued from the tension weighing her down.

She stood to her feet, taking her partner by his hand and dragging him to the edge of her pristine swimming pool. Eliza dipped her feet into the emerald waters and encouraged Cyrus to join her. There was a slight hesitation, mostly because he lacked the correct clothing to enjoy an evening swim and didn't feel like taking his pants off in front of her.

Instead, Cyrus chose to find a comfortable seat an arms-length way from Eliza. He crossed his feet under his legs and leaned away from the sprinkles of water she slapped towards him.

"What scared of water?" Eliza stated with a tinge of banter.

"No," Cyrus replied. "I just don't feel like swimming tonight is all, and knowing you'd probably try and drag me in."

Eliza's treasonous mouth curled upwards in a humorous smile."Probably?"

"I was trying to be nice," Cyrus apprised with simplicity. "Certain…..friends of mine have commented on my brutal honesty of late. They find me too pessimistic for my own good and have advised me to….tone it down."

"I'm presuming that was, V?" He stared at Eliza with an unreadable expression. "Interesting girl you keep around you. She's broken my Liana's heart more than a few times now, but sooner or later, my daughter will get the message…."

"….Because nothing lasts forever." The Matriarch's expression changed into one of uncertainty as they locked eyes. Cyrus shuffled in place under her melancholy gaze as an uncomfortable silence descended upon the two Headhunters.

"Tell me about your children." The Spartan craved a change in subject to break another round of tension. "I've only had the luxury of meeting one."

"And what a poor first impression that was…." Eliza groaned, muttering something to herself as she straightened out her back and stared at him with expressive eyes. "…I'm sorry about Dana."

"I'm only sorry I didn't get to her in time."

Dana's death would forever haunt Cyrus to the end of his days. Not just because of who killed her was but of how much the Chieftain suffered at her killer's hands.

Every now and then, he'd get this sudden urge to head back into the catacombs and crush Isabel's throat, but he made a promise to Eliza, and he never went back on his promises.

No matter how much Cyrus wanted to.

"What was it like raising them?"

"Which kind?" Eliza countered humorously. "If you haven't noticed, I seemed to have made a living the last thirty years picking up strays and giving them a path."

"The ones you gave birth to," Cyrus contended, allowing a small smile to grace his lips. "Don't be cheeky, Eliza. I have enough of that from Chamber already."

"How is my favorite AI?"

It was an undeniable fact that Chamber and Eliza didn't get along very well. Their relationship was tenuous at best, and Cyrus often found himself regularly mediating the constant tension between the two during deployments.

Chamber only developed a meaningful connection with Cyrus due to his natural compatibility, although this was more by design than circumstance.

The AI was now as much a part of him as he was her, and Eliza severely disliked this artificial bond, especially when Chamber ended up taking Casey's place as the third member of Reaper Team.

Which was why Eliza's attempt at a subtle subject change went nowhere.

"Irritating," Cyrus remarked. "And our time away from the confines of an ONI prowler has only seemed to make her more unbearable. Now stop avoiding the question."

"….I was terrified." The veracity in her statement caught Cyrus off guard. He had grown accustomed to watching her express a carefree but no less indomitable willpower, but he assumed that childbirth was a different beast to conquer compared to hunting Covenant.

"…There father was a great help to me, but he couldn't be there for every waking hour, and I wasn't exactly the best when it came to raising the twins."

"Isabel told me she killed him during the uprising." Eliza nodded slowly, her eyes wet with subdued grief. "What was his name?"

"Morgan," Eliza's voice contained the familiar pain attributed to the passing of a loved one. "I met him while trying to find any trace of you in Central America. He was running a classified op tied to the NUSA, and somewhere along the way, we ended up parting on good terms. He was the best I could have asked for when I started putting together the Sirens because I didn't know anything about logistics or convincing people to follow me into hell, but…Morgan did. Without him, I don't know where I would have ended up."

"Sounds like I would have liked him." She barked in amusement, her beaming smile masking the grief developing in her eyes.

"You would have hated him," Eliza stated. "He was far too expressive and sarcastic for me to handle, and I couldn't imagine what it would have been like if you to ever met. I liked to joke that you would have killed him in his sleep one day just to be rid of his mouth."

"I would have given him a chance at the very least." The Spartan's claim elicited another chuckle from the Matriarch.

"To get on your good side?"

"I'd give him a headstart on running."

Eliza emitted a faux huff of disappointment, turning her back to Cyrus, but she could not keep the smile off her face. Both craved one another's presence in this foreign and ever-changing environment, and an amicable conversation was just the icing on the cake.

They spent hours on the observation deck of the UNSC 'Dusk' in total silence. Simply enjoying one another's company during the precious amount of downtime afforded to them in between combat deployments. Their handlers would often find them sitting back to back, one dozing off while the other kept a constant watch.

It was the only way for any of them to catch some much-needed sleep in the cramped confines of an ONI prowler. None of the crew particularly enjoyed the company of their Headhunter detachment, and there were more than a few occasions where Cyrus and Eliza came into conflict with an overzealous ODST Trooper.

They replicated their favorite hobby, and before they knew it, the sinking sun was soon replaced by glistening moonlight.

Cyrus could have sat there for the rest of his days in content silence, but Eliza had other plans.

"Do you still have it?" Her sudden inquiry momentarily caught him off guard.

"Have what?"

"My dog tags." Cyrus slowly reached into his collar, dislodging a set of metal tags firmly wrapped around his neck.

"Never leave home without it." Eliza caught her identification tags, rubbing them between her fingers with a despondent expression.

Cyrus quietly kept to himself while she fidgeted with her UNSC tags. Before every operation, it was customary for their team to exchange their dog tags as a silent pledge to one another that they would all come back alive.

Should the likely scenario occur that a member of Reaper Team was killed in the line of duty, the survivors would bury their fallen comrade's dog tags on the soil of their next area of operation.

If the entire team were killed, it wouldn't matter what dog tag a member of Reaper Team had on them. ONI wouldn't come searching for them if they died on a backwater world while carrying out their duties.

That's how Headhunter's operated.

Succeed, and the Spartans get an extract.

Fail, and they get left behind.

Cyrus patiently waited to receive his tags in return, but as the seconds ticked by, all Eliza did was pocket her tags and then down a mouthful of liquor.

She didn't have his tags on her.

That stung at his heart for a few beats, but Cyrus was prepared to disregard the breach in tradition because it had been a few months of separation for him.

As for Eliza, the last time she saw him alive had been over thirty years ago.

For all you know, she might not want you back.

Isabel's venomous remarks rippled in Cyrus's ears as he grabbed for the few strands of ignorance he could manage to acquire. He desperately convinced himself, again and again, that the peculiarities of their circumstances were to be expected.

It was the only way he could banish Isabel's poisonous remarks.

Nonetheless, Cyrus craved a change in subject, anything to keep his brain from exploring the darkest reaches of his consciousness.

Anything to keep the analytical section of his psyche from tearing down his ignorance piece by piece.

And yet.

It did not deter him from posing the one issue that would serve to shatter whatever semblance of goodwill remained in their time together.

"How long did you know I was out there looking for you." Her breath hitched, and the subtle movements of her legs came to a screeching stop.

"A few weeks now." Cyrus felt a swell of emotion that he'd never felt before in his life.

Betrayal.

He stood to his feet and felt a crushing sense of doubt consuming him whole.

A lot can change in thirty years.

"A few weeks?" She felt shaken by the intensity of his voice. "I spent months searching for you up and down this city."

Eliza was quick to match his underlying fury.

"I did the same for you!" She shot to her feet, eyes burning intent. "I spent ten years of my fucking life looking for you, Cyrus! You have no fucking clue what it was like searching and searching to only come away with nothing. I survived on false hope for years, and when it finally ran out, I was lost."

Cyrus turned away, breathed in a substantial amount of oxygen, and discarding the intense emotions that threatened to take hold of him. He didn't want Isabel's words to be true, but his logic started to put the pieces together.

"If I hadn't entered the catacombs looking for Isabel." The Spartan's eyes bore directly into the Matriarch's. "Would we even be talking right now?"

"I…." Her lack of words spoke volumes, but Cyrus still couldn't understand why she would leave him toiling in the dark. He would have spent the rest of his life searching every inch of the planet for Eliza and died regretting the reality that he'd never been able to find her.

But the most vexing and destructive thought was the reality he could easily pick out the valley leading to his hideout from her fucking Estate.

Chamber and Cyrus spent night after night scouring through every nook and corner of Night City, while his so-called 'partner' was only five kilometers away from his base of operations.

Isabel was right.

And that made Cyrus sick to his stomach.

The Spartan walked off into the seasoned grounds of Eliza's Estate ignoring her anxious calls and finding a place of solitude under a fully grown Japanese cherry tree. Blooms of pink and white were dusted across the grazing pastures.

Cyrus found a pair of distinct grave markers nestled at the base of its foundation.

The marker on the right had 'Morgan' scrawled into the ornate wooden material with numerous flowers decorating its foundation. It was a magnificent gravestone, no doubt devoted to the man who was the father of Eliza's children.

However, Cyrus's attention pealed away from the decorated headstone towards its polar opposite. An iron headstone was struck into the ground six feet to the left of Morgan's grave, but it lacked any of the latter's decorations or flowers.

The Spartan's eyes fixated on the set of numbers and letters scratched into its surface, along with the dog tags waving in the winds.

Cyrus's heart froze on impulse, and his racing thoughts came to a sudden and screeching halt.

Isabel's poisonous smile echoed with her condescending tone.

Because if she buried her armor, Uncle.

Sierra B-259.

Then doesn't that mean she buried you?

Eliza finally caught up with Cyrus a few moments later, coming to a gradual stop and staring at the gravestone bearing his name.

The Matriarch did not want any of this to come to pass in this fashion, and she devised a method to explain why she was so apprehensive about meeting him again after all these years.

But nothing worked out the way it was supposed to, and as Cyrus stood there in muted shock, there was no better time to come clean.

"…When you asked me about raising the twins, I didn't lie about being scared." The Matriarch chuckled as memories of her eldest daughters came to mind. "I was utterly terrified at the thought of parenthood, and Morgan for all his strengths was as lost as I was…."

"…I didn't know the first thing about raising children, so I took a page out of the Chief's book, and I taught them how to be Spartans …."

He didn't move an inch, but his mind peeled away from his grave towards Eliza.

"…The twins were damn near perfect, and they excelled at the training in almost every way. Isabel was ruthless but calculated, exemplifying every quality in a Headhunter…."

Cyrus didn't miss the way she phrased the word Headhunter, but he didn't comment.

"…Acadia possessed an intellect and collected persona that made her the perfect Spartan, and as they matured, their differing personalities became more apparent…."

The Spartan shifted in place, acknowledging the Matriarch's words with the slightest inkling of a nod.

"…Acadia was a near-perfect image of myself. Her bravery and compassion made her stand out above the rest…."

"And who did Isabel remind you of?" His inquiry caused the Matriarch's eyes to dip towards his marked grave.

"…You."

Ruthless but calculated.

Do you see the black haze like me?

A Headhunter who enjoyed the thrill of the hunt while disregarding the duty of a Spartan.

How many times did Cyrus come dangerously close to abandoning his responsibilities for the sake of his bloodlust?

There were numerous instances where Eliza and Casey had to bring him back from the brink of bloodlust while hunting their Covenant targets.

These incidents became fewer and far between after Chamber was installed into his MJOLNIR. The AI had a predilection for curtailing his more violent tendencies whenever they came about.

Any chance of a reunion between the surviving members of Reaper Team was snuffed out years ago.

"I was going to ask you to join me, you know?" Cyrus lamented. "Just like old times."

Eliza's expression fell with each passing word. There wasn't a tinge of emotion in Cyrus's tone, and that only seemed to hammer home his feelings on the matter.

"I made up excuses about why you would even think about giving up your MJOLNIR to Acadia, but you didn't just bury that armor, and you didn't just bury me."

Crimson orbs stared directly into Eliza with pure disappointment.

"You buried our duty to humanity."

There was no greater crime in Cyrus's eyes, and if they were back home, Eliza would have been executed for treason, but he was no longer a judge, jury, or executioner for ONI anymore.

He came here to find the missing piece to his family, only to find out that they no longer held the same interest.

"That armor, Cyrus," Eliza whispered. "Is a beacon for violence. I bore its mark for thirty long years, willing to bear the weight and responsibility that came with it….but it has taken a toll on my people and family. I will never wear it again…."

Eliza cupped his stunned face in both hands and ensured that every word echoed in his mind.

"…And as long as you do. I don't want you near my family until you give it up."

Every thought…..every possible response and plea for an amendment to her declaration, was snuffed out until his mind only acknowledged the consuming silence.

Cyrus has spent most of his life fighting Mercenaries, Covenant, and Insurrectionists, all of whom have inflicted untold amounts of agony and misery upon him with each passing encounter.

Nothing hurts more than family.

But he couldn't even fathom what to say to Eliza and scrambled to fall back on Spartan instinct and directive.

"Y-Your MJOLNIR." Cyrus couldn't keep in the raw emotion from his voice or his burning eyes. "It doesn't belong to you anymore, and it doesn't belong to the Sirens. I want it in my possession by the end of tomorrow, or I will go down there and take it from them."

Eliza only tenuously nodded, fighting down her motherly instinct to bear her fangs against the underlying threat to her people. Her armor would be in goods hands under Chamber's supervision, and Cyrus would sooner destroy it than let it fall into corporate possession

Nothing more could be said.

Eliza could practically feel the unbreakable bond forged in the fires of hell itself shatter underneath a tidal wave of sorrow.

The Matriarch stood there in forlorn silence as Cyrus disappeared into the darkness.

His heart was broken beyond measure.

Cyrus activated his transponder, signaling a nearby Phantom for pickup. Chamber tried to connect to his commlink, but he wasn't in a mood to talk.

He had never felt more empty in his life.

The Phantom slashed across the Estate, and its turbines consumed its grounds with a silent hum. Cyrus expedited his pace and ignored the pair of eyes gazing at the back of his head in sorrow.

When the cargo doors slid open, a graceful and familiar hand reached out to him.

"Need a lift?" V's infectious smile reached her amber eyes, and all the laboring emotions festering inside Cyrus began to simmer down.

"Something like that." He grasped the Merc's forearm using the shuttle door and her weight to lift himself into the cargo hold. V could feel the negative emotions rolling off of him in waves.

Cyrus appreciated his personal space, and she knew exactly when and when not to test that appreciation. V could tell that he wasn't in the mood to even be near anyone right now, let alone talk to them.

There was only one person aside in the world who could understand his troubles, and with that thought, V manipulated the Phantom's navigation system.

"Let's go home." The Merc's declaration rang hollow.

Home.

A bitter word for Cyrus tonight.


Time heals all wounds, but in reality, the wound still remains and the pain never goes away.

It can also lead to fresh ones.

Brutal chapter for Cyrus but the war against human corruption takes its toll on everyone and casualties don't always come from the dead sometimes it comes from the living.

No responses to reviews for tonight because I am currently in Vegas celebrating.

As always I hope you enjoyed this chapter, and remember to review to your heart's content every little bit helps my motivation.


Next Chapter: September 20th


The next chapter is available on my Pa t re on for those who would like to see it. The Link is below.

www .(p)at (r) e o n. co (m) /Cypher1597 (remove the spaces and () to access)