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Dirt is the fourth short story in Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe. Written by Tobias Buckell, the story follows a Harvest native, Gage Yevgenny, from his time before the Human-Covenant war as he joins first the CMA, and then the UNSC.
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The story begins with a rookie Orbital Drop Shock Trooper who has just landed on a planet and discovered a crashed Pelican dropship. Not far from the crash he finds a mortally wounded veteran ODST. Despite the rookie's objections that they don't have time the veteran, named Gage Yevgenny insists on relating his life story, saying:
Shut up and listen, rookie! There's something important I have to tell you. About friends. Betrayal. Loss. If you keep your head up and do what I tell you, you might even live long enough to tell someone what happened here...
Gage Yevgenny was born on the UEG colony of Harvest in 2506. He grew up helping his father on the farm, which he resented greatly, stating that the farm was just "dirt." He seemed to have a strained relationship with his father, often getting into arguments with him.
On January 3, 2524, the hour he turned eighteen, Gage joined the Colonial Military, wanting to do more with his life. After getting out of boot camp, Gage met Felicia Sanderson and Eric Santiago at the Utgard Space Port. The three quickly became friends. They participated in Operation: TREBUCHET on Eridanus II, doing small jobs, such as investigating possible rebel activity and riot control in Elysium city. After two months, they had made friends with Allison Stark, a Pelican pilot for the CMA, who often flew them to parties on weekends. One particular weekend, after the four flew a Hornet to a night club, an Insurrectionist bomb inside of the club detonated. The blast killed Allison, sent Eric into a coma, and heavily injured Gage and Felicia, who were pulled out of the rubble by ODSTs.
While recovering in hospital, Gage, inspired by the ones that saved them, decided to join the ODSTs. Felicia, who had nothing else to lose, decided to join along with him. However, after several weeks of hard training, they were informed of the Covenant threat and Harvest's destruction. Felicia fell into horrified shock and screamed at Gage for his disrespect toward the planet.
Felicia was transferred from Gage's squad. Gage lost track of her, and for the next twenty-seven years, he fought hard in the war against the Covenant. He participated in many vicious battles, and soon stopped making friends after seeing so many die. The war began to take its toll on him after countless crushing defeats, and he became a very serious, hardened person.
During the Battle of Skopje in 2547, Yevgenny and another ODST were rescued from approaching Covenant forces by a strange soldier clad in gray-green armor. The soldier led the survivors to safety while engaging smaller aliens with impunity and meeting Elites and Brutes on equal terms. The ODSTs were led to a castle that was being used as the Marines' command center. Yevgenny, awed at the sight of the super-soldier, asked a comrade what he had encountered; he learned that he had been rescued by a Spartan, part of a top-secret project that had recently been unveiled by ONI. Yevgenny became disturbed by the realization that the ODSTs were no longer the most elite fighters of humanity.
While holed up in the castle, he encountered Felicia for the first time in over two decades. She had shed her grief over Harvest and become a Colonel. Felicia had Gage transferred to the ship she was on, the UNSC Chares, and while retreating the planet after another defeat, Felicia showed Gage that Eric had come out of his coma after five years and had become a pilot. The three were delighted to be together again, and already were having talks of retirement.
In the fall of 2552, five years after reuniting with his friends, Gage was involved in an operation to infiltrate a city under siege by the Covenant, who were looking for Forerunner artifacts. Simultaneously, several former CMA members were performing a clandestine operation to extract a massive supply of gold from a bank. However, after infiltrating the bank, the ODST team discovered a class of school children and their teacher, Julian, hiding in the underground vault, hoping to survive the planet's inevitable glassing. After loading two Pelicans full of gold, the ODSTs knew there was no room for the children. To deceive the civilians, the troopers claimed that the gold would be used in the UNSC's war effort. Gage, who had seen too many people killed by the Covenant, was in strong favor of postponing the theft to save the civilians. The other ODSTs, Sita, Dale and Orrin who claimed that the children were as good as dead, disagreed, causing an argument. Felicia stepped in, wanting to call in more Pelicans, but the other ODSTs had already raised their weapons at one another. In an instant, Gage was shot in the abdomen, three other squad members were dead, and Felicia was fatally wounded. Gage rushed to her side, but she died in his arms.
Gage, in shock, went outside to find Eric, who informed him that the UNSC were falling back. Gage knocked him out with his gun and called for more Pelicans, claiming they were under heavy fire. He then flew Eric's Pelican to the pickup point and collected the artifacts the Covenant were looking for, as well as a Shiva nuclear device, then flew away from the city. Gage believed that the Covenant forces would follow him in pursuit of the relics. As he was being pursued by Covenant Banshees, he was "accidentally" shot down by ODSTs, Amey and Charleston, who knew of his betrayal.
Gage crashed near the mountains outside the city, and that was where he was found mortally wounded by The Rookie, who had arrived with Gage's reinforcements. The Rookie, who had listened intently, promises to remember Gage and do whatever he can against the Covenant. Gage then tells the Rookie that Covenant forces and the rogue ODSTs are on their way to the crash site, and warns the Rookie to get as far away as possible, as Gage is going to detonate the Shiva, killing them all. The Rookie ditches most of his gear and runs for his life until he reaches the other side of the mountain, at which point Gage detonates the nuke, killing himself, his renegade teammates, and thousands of Covenant troops. The Rookie, being the only survivor, hails a Pelican and is informed that Reach has been glassed, and that the survivors are retreating to Earth. They escape as the planet is glassed, but the Rookie will not forget Gage Yevgenny, and his long and tragic life.
- Gage Yevgenny
- Colonel Felicia Sanderson
- Eric Santiago
- The Rookie
- Allison Stark
- Private Rodriquez
- Colonel Teller
- The story was heavily influenced by the films Three Kings and The Rock. Elements of both films' plots (soldiers plotting to get rich by stealing gold but having second thoughts when civilian lives are at stake, disenchanted veterans wishing to steal from the government they feel has betrayed them, a standoff that takes place due to soldiers disagreeing over whether they should save civilians or get money, and said standoff turning into a firefight when one gunman changes targets at the last second) are present in Dirt.
- At the bottom of page 118, an ODST recruitment officer speaks with Gage and his friend Felicia, saying "Raw meat for the ODST grinder, huh?" This is most likely a reference to a scene in Starship Troopers, wherein a recruitment officer states "More meat for the grinder, huh?" when speaking to civilians who wish to enlist.
- The story features the first two openly homosexual characters in the Halo Universe, Felicia Sanderson and Allison Stark.
- Yevgenny erroneously describes the Spartan's Mjolnir Armor as weighing two tons. However, Mjolnir Armor only weighs a half ton when operational.
- It has been speculated that The Rookie, like Lucy-B091, contracted post-traumatic vocal disarticulation from this event, which explains why he is so quiet in Halo 3: ODST. Of course, in game context, the Rookie is silent to allow the player to assume his role to become more in depth in the story, but it is still a possible explanation.
- ↑ Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, Dirt
- ↑ GoingRampant Blog, Tobias Buckell's comment to "Examination of Female Characters - Part 3 (Halo)": "The novella was a set up as a classical tragedy (everyone who's a major character dies except for the guy who frames the story, who is the recruit from ODST, I was trying to write this to flesh him out a bit for fans)."
- ↑ Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, Dirt, page 132