“The Fall of New Phoenix”—eight months ago, an attack on Earth left seven million dead, including the family of Spartan Gabriel Thorne. Today the city has been opened from quarantine, and Thorne is going home to see what’s left . . . and what it has to do with the Master Chief.
On leave and back at Earth in March 2558, Gabriel Thorne is having a bad dream. In the dream, which is a memory of his from the age of eight, he is giving a third grade classroom presentation on New Phoenix, which he describes as the fourth most populous city in the United Republic of North America , behind New York; Los Angeles and Chicago. New Phoenix itself he claims came into existence when the cities of Phoenix and Flagstaff expanded to the point of merger. At this age Thorne is living with his maternal grandparents due to his parents being Army officers stationed on Alluvion. He had no fondness for Earth, having been raised until then on another planet, and saw it as old and overpopulated. During the report, his grandfather, walks into the class to collect him, having just received news that Thorne's parents were dead in an attack.
Thorne has another dream, where his grandmother teaches him to play violin. Not wanting him to join the military and her lose another family member, his grandmother has hopes he will become a skilled violinist and play for the New Phoenix Philharmonic. In his dream he suddenly becomes an adult wearing MJOLNIR armour. His grandmother looks out to a bright light in the sky and he tries to keep her away from the window. Thorne finds the Composer a much more disturbing weapon than glassing, as while glassed planets show evidence of warfare, a composed city has no damage at all and it appears as if the people ceased to exist.
Thorne is finally woken up by Grant, who he had in tern woken up during his loud night terrors. Neither feel comfortable in the space station's quarters, and decide to go for a walk. Talking about being home, Thorne confides that proximity to New Phoenix is disturbing him and he worries about the people he left behind when joining the military. A further problem is that the only real news on Waypoint is New Phoenix's quarantine being raised. When he says he doesn't want anything to do with the city, Grant insists that that won't solve anything and he should go there for closure.
Two days later on March 24, Grant and Thorne attend the re-opening ceremony, which they feel seems too much like a funeral. The two take a warthog into town to see Thorne's house. Thorne mentions to Grant he moved to earth at the age of six and lived with his grandparents for ten years; Grant meanwhile only saw earth four years ago. They arrive at 1322 South Turtle Creek Road, a name Grant objects to due to the blatant lie about turtles or creeks being in the area. Thorne is allowed entry in the house by a retinal scanner. Looking through the house, Grant stumbles upon a Master Chief action figure Throne's grandmother bought as a joke to celebrate his induction into the Spartan program. Grant ponders on if they would have their own propagandised action figures, though notes they haven't yet been approached for likeless rights. Thorne finds his grandmother's violin on the floor of a room; with a computer for sheet music still being switched on, Thorne concludes she was digitised while practicing and breaks down, not wanting to be in the house anymore. Grant tells Thorne that as an Arcadian refugee she saw the planet fall to the Covenant and never got the chance to have a keepsake like Thorne does. Thorne begins to understand her message, and starts playing his grandmother's violin in spite of the emotional pain it gives him.
Three weeks later, Thorne narrates a recurring dream he's been having. No longer about his grandparents or New Phoenix, he instead dreams about a talking couch named Steve which he is comfortable with. With the Infinity's repairs complete, it departs Earth into slipspace.
- Gabriel Thorne
- Grandpa Ayres
- Grandma Ayres
- Sarah Palmer