Halo: The Unchained

Going to summer camp is just about the worst decision Ryan Winters has ever made. Spending three months with a bunch of idiots who think "tru dat" is correct grammar is certainly not his idea of a good time. But, according to his adoptive mother, he isn't good enough at pretending to not be a mutant. So, off to summer camp, trying to spend more time with the human persons so he can learn how to be a human person. There is only one problem:
Ryan isn't who he says he is.
In a desperate attempt to keep his past hidden, Ryan tries to navigate life at the campsite while drawing as little attention as possible. But, when an unlikely person discovers the truth, Ryan is forced to choose between the fate of the world and the life he has always wanted to live. Now, Ryan has never thought of himself as the type to help people.
Little did Ryan know, all it would take was an interdimensional messenger, his ex-best-friend, and a giant robot from hell to prove him very, very wrong.


9. An Unfortunate Development

An Unfortunate Development

If you’re ever caught in a position where you have to decide if you are going to teach your exbest friend how to fly or sleep, always choose sleep. For a guy who is supposed to be this star athlete, he really had no concept balance, and absolutely zero coordination. It probably wasn’t worth the endless hours I spent just trying to get him to stop wiggling in the air a foot off the ground. Yeah. Only one foot off the ground. That’s how far we made it. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

Everyone who had actually gotten a full night’s sleep was nice and perky, and more than ready and willing to go on the two-hour hike up to the top of Mt. What-the-fuck-ever.  This is what you get when you decide to go to a summer camp with a bunch of athletes. My tiny nerd frame almost couldn’t take it.

But at least Josh and I were in the same boat.  Long story short, we only got two hours of sleep, maybe three.  Hell, the weird Goth kid had more energy than both of us put together. Josh couldn’t even muster up his normal fake-Prince smile for the selfies he was taking with the ladies. I swear, he looked deader than Hades!

I was riding at the back of the pack, groaning to myself.  I could feel sweat dripping down my back in between my wings, which was just about the strangest feeling ever.  Like when ice cream melts between your fingers on a hot summer day.

All of a sudden, Gigi appeared next to me, noticing how tired I was.  “You look terrible. Did a bear get into your cabin or something?”  She teased, nudging my shoulder in a playful way.  It was a relief to see her acting normal around me.  I had been worried that she was still mad about the little prank I pulled at the campfire.

I scoffed, rubbing the spot where she had nudged me.  Ok, so it stung a little.  And, yes, I’m that weak. “That obvious?”  I groaned.  “Loud-mouth up there was snoring all night.  I didn’t get a wink of sleep.” Of course, I had to make something up.  I couldn’t tell her Josh and I had stayed up all night arguing about whose wingspan was bigger. That wasn’t something your typical 17-year-olds spent their night arguing about. Well, it was close. (Just while I’m on the topic, the official record, it was mine. Don’t believe Josh. He’s lying.) 

 “Mr. Perfect snores?  That’s surprising.”  She looked up at Josh, letting out a little giggle.  “I can’t imagine what kind of grief his friends would give him if they knew that.”

“You know he would pound me to a bloody pulp if I told any one of them,” I responded flatly. As much as I would have liked to get Josh back for years of torment, I didn’t want to give him a reason to blab my secret to everyone. Actually, knowing him, I was surprised he was able to keep his own mutant secret.

She shrugged.  “Guess you’re just going to have to invest in a pair of earplugs then, huh?”  She joked, and I actually laughed. 

“Hope they sell those at the camp store, or I’m doomed to a whole summer of sleepless nights.”  I looked over at her.  “Speaking of, aren’t you kind of bored around here?  A camp for academic enrichment doesn’t seem to fit your style.  Wouldn’t you rather be at a theater camp or something?”

She shrugged.  “My parents have wanted to go on this vacation for, like, forever to rekindle their marriage.  They’ve been going through a rough patch.  I want them to be happy, so I told them I would just go on the school’s annual camping trip.  They didn’t protest much. Besides, I have the grades, but I don’t do much outside of school.”  Gigi was up for valedictorian, and on top of that, she was a theater genius.  She turned to me.  “Why are you here?”

I rolled my eyes.  “My mom was worried I would grow old and alone, so she sent in the application behind my back to force me to make friends.  My idea of summer fun is a box full of video games and a jumbo bag of potato chips.  Her idea of summer fun is going to the mall with a group of friends.  Gross. Also, I may or may not have failed history.”

Gigi laughed.  “Oh, come on, making friends isn’t so bad.” She nudged me playfully.

“Yeah, maybe for you it isn’t, but have you seen who I have to choose between?  Not an impressive crop this year, I can tell you that.” I gestured over to Josh and his goonies, who were having a contest to see who could spit the furthest off the edge of the trail. That, and making friends wasn’t high on the list of things a mutant bird-human-thing run away wanted to be doing.

“Well, we’re friends, aren’t we?” She looked at me with her big, blue eyes.

My heart both soared and sunk.  Friends. I looked at her, and her eyes gleamed.  Wow, she was completely serious.  OK, friends it was.  I mean, it was better than nothing, right?  “Yeah, of course we are.”  I tried to ignore the way my voice shook ever so slightly when I spoke.  I mean, I would take friends over strangers any day of the week.  At least ‘friends’ meant that she had some feelings for me. Even if it was platonic.

She smiled brightly.  “Good!”

“Alright, everyone, we are going to take a ten-minute break!”  The camp counselor leading the hike sang, letting the group settle in the rest area.  Finally! Gigi and I were standing off to the side, by some bushes, when it happened.  She looked down as if to find a place to sit, then she cocked her head to the side, looking confused. I didn’t think much of it at first.

“What is it?”  I asked curiously, noticing her confusion.

“What is that…?”  She wondered aloud, leaning down to grab something glinting softly in the sunlight. Clearly, she wasn’t listening to me. She pulled a medallion out of the bushes.  We stared at it for a while.  “Do you think someone lost it?”  She asked, examining the gleaming jewelry carefully. It wasn’t particularly big, but it was on a thick silver chain, and there was some sort of crest embroidered on the oval-shaped pendant.

I shrugged.  “I don’t know, maybe we should ask?”  It didn’t really matter much to me.  If someone lost it, then it must not have been that important.  She turned it around in her hands, then looked to the rest of the group.

“Hey!”  She called, her voice projecting beautifully over the mountain.  She was a theater geek, so being loud was kind of her thing.  “Did anyone lose a necklace?”  There were a few murmurs and looks exchanged around the group.  No one stepped forward, but a few people’s interest was piqued. 

Bell, Mrs. Soccer Star, walked over to us curiously.  Bell and Gigi had been friends since elementary school, and even though Bell had turned to sports while Gigi took off in drama, they didn’t have any negative feelings towards each other. Unlike me and a certain someone I know who can’t even fly (like, seriously, “gifted athlete” my ass. Not that I’m bitter or anything.)

“Oh, it’s kind of pretty.  You think I could keep it if no one claims it?” Bell asked, practically shoving me out of the way.  I had been completely cut out of the conversation.  But that was to be expected.  Bell didn’t acknowledge my existence.  I wasn’t exactly “cool” enough for that.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea, Bell.  Someone is probably looking for it.  Maybe there’s a name on it.”  Gigi inspected it a little bit more, gasping when she felt a little latch on the side.  “Oh!  It’s a locket!”  She flipped it open, and she and Bell both let out a little scream of surprise, their eyes wide.  I flinched at the sound.  What is it with girls and high pitched screeching?

“What?  What is it?”  People started to swarm around them, and I squeezed through the bunch so I could see inside.  My face went completely pale. 

It was me.

Well, it was baby me, but it was still me.  The little fluffy wings on the back were a huge giveaway.  I was a baby, sitting on the lap of my birth mother, who wore a strikingly convincing smile.  My dad stood behind her, his hand draped over her shoulder.  I felt the overwhelming urge to vomit.  “That’s Jared Hall!  That’s definitely Jared Hall!”  Gigi exclaimed.

The group went wild.  “It’s probably just a prank!”  I said, trying to calm people down. I mean, seriously, I had never seen that locket in my life. It had to be a prank.

Gigi shook her head.   “Then why are the initials ‘JH’ carved on the other side!”  She challenged, pointing to the side of the locket that didn’t have the picture. Personally, I didn’t see how that was convincing evidence, but the other students who had gathered seemed to be on her side. Okay, I was starting to see the appeal of having friends to back you up.

I don’t remember ever having something like that.  Why would there be something like that in the mountains, of all places?  What in the seven fucking hells was going on?  Fuck… “Ryan’s got a point, bro.  JH could be anyone, and there are pictures of Jared Hall everywhere! Someone could have easily forged this for shits and giggles. We shouldn’t get worked up over it.”

My head whipped backward to see Josh pushing his way through the crowd, moving to snatch the locket and examine it himself. Damn. He actually did something nice for a chance? For me?  Good to know a fellow winged freak-of-nature has my back. I sent him a little nod in appreciation.

I’m not going to lie; I really didn’t expect him to stick his neck out for me like that.

Gigi shook her head.  “Regardless, we need to give this to the camp counselor.  It’s lost, and maybe someone is looking for it.  They can decide what to do with it.”  Okay, I love Gigi and all, but god dammit why? The last thing I needed was the adults sniffing their noses around suspiciously.


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