Pariah is the first short story in Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe. It tells the story of Soren-066, a SPARTAN-II with a troubled childhood who was deformed in the augmentation process. Pariah was written by B. K. Evenson.
In 2517 Dr. Catherine Halsey travels to the colony of Dwarka. There she meets with a six year-old orphan named Soren. Unlike the other candidates however, she openly gives him the choice of whether or not he wants to join her "experiment" or stay on Dwarka in foster care. Soren chooses the first option, and immediately leaves Dwarka with Halsey and Lieutenant Jacob Keyes. Halsey believed that Soren's parents had died of a planet-specific disease in quick succession of each other, and Soren had lived alone for several months before trekking 112 kilometers to the nearest settlement. This however was not the whole story.
Soren was six years old when his mother died. His stepfather neglected to take her to a doctor because he was running an "illegal farm" beyond the limits of the lands authorized for settlement, and was afraid of being caught. By the time his stepfather realized that she was mortally ill it was too late to take her to a doctor and she died. The stepfather refused to accept this and kept the mother's body in a locked room in their house, telling Soren that she was sick and needed to be alone to recover. One night when his stepfather had too much to drink, Soren stole the key to the room and found his mother's decomposing body. He came to the conclusion that his stepfather was responsible, so later that night he stabbed him in the neck intending to kill him, hitting him between the neck and clavicle. The stepfather survived and Soren ran into the forest surrounding his home. After this Soren lived off the wild and watched his stepfather.
One day he saw that his stepfather was sick with the same illness his mother had died of. When his stepfather collapsed on the way to his field Soren finally revealed himself to his stepfather and instead of getting him medicine watched him die. He then buried his mother and stepfather and after staying in the house for a while went trekked 112 kilometers to the nearest human settlement where he was put into social services. He never told anyone exactly what had happened to him. Instead he simply said that both his parents had died shortly after each other, and after several months living alone he set off to find civilization.
During SPARTAN training Soren tries his best to simply "blend in"; to neither excel nor fail, simply to remain in the anonymous middle. Soren also proves himself adept at blending into the forest during training exercises. Dr Halsey watches him closely, and on one occasion tells him "Don't let yourself get left behind," words which would resonate deeply with him.
Prior to the SPARTAN-II augmentations, Dr. Halsey once again asks Soren whether or not he would like to participate. Confused, Soren asks her why he was the one selected to make the choice, to which Halsey replies, it simply turned out that way. Knowing the risks, Soren chooses to participate, stating that he "does not want to be left behind".
During the augmentation process, Soren dreams of a hulking, deformed creature pursuing him through a forest, occasionally giving out a cry of pain. The creature eventually catches up to him and smashes him. Soren awakes during the augmentation process, but falls back asleep into another nightmare. This time, he dreams of lying on his mother's bed, the same one she died on. His stepfather is in the same room, described as "more shadow than man". During this dream, another figure, his dead and rotting mother, is in the same bed. With a sudden wash of pain, said as being like "broken glass being worked into his veins", he is waken up again.
When Soren awakes, he is restrained to the bed. A doctor attempts to give Soren a hypodermic injection, but he breaks the man's wrist, stabs another doctor in the neck with the needle, and punches a third as he flees, sending him flying into a wall. Soren then tears himself from his restraints and attempts to run. During his escape, he is stopped by Chief Petty Officer Franklin Mendez, and a squad of UNSC marines armed with tranquilizer darts. Soren smashes through the Marines, but not before being confronted again by the Marines and being stopped.
After awakening again, Soren is in a brig, now chained by titanium wristbands. He is visited by Dr. Halsey, who informs him that he has been in comatose for three months, and his body did not react as planned to the muscular enhancement injections and the thyroid implant, which had caused his muscles to grow in ways that were unpredictable. Only by using the carbide ceramic ossification process was he saved. One leg is more or less normal, if a little bowed and twisted. However, the other is severely gnarled and about six inches shorter. His arms are incredibly muscular, painfully so, giving him the greatest upper body strength of any SPARTAN. The fingers of one hand are twisted and bowed, functioning more like a pincer or claw. To deal with the intense pain, Soren is given massive amounts of painkillers; however, he does not like the way they cloud his mind, so he gradually weans himself off them.
Soren is incredibly disappointed when Mendez tells him that he can't certify him for active service. Mendez tells Soren that if he were to join a team of other SPARTANs they would constantly be reminded of the SPARTANs which didn't make it through the augmentation procedures, and they would see it as their responsibility to keep him alive, thus hurting their focus and ability to perform. Additionally there is no body armor which would fit his unique physique, and his deformed hand makes it too difficult to fire a weapon. Against his will, Soren is relegated to a desk position.
Although his superiors initially assured him they would find a better fit for him, Soren remains a paper pusher until he is sixteen. As his "temporary" position begins to feel more and more permanent, it becomes hard for Soren not to feel resentful. This makes the young SPARTAN particularly vulnerable to the ideas of a technician named Partch who begins feeding him ideas sympathetic to the Insurrection. Slowly and almost imperceptibly, Soren's views change until he finds himself on the side of the rebels.
After several months of hinting, Partch tells Soren that they are going to defect, but first they are going to obtain a "souvenir" for their cause. One night, the two break into a geological research lab, force open a locked cabinet and retrieve a small titanium case, however they are interrupted by Randall, another SPARTAN. Randall is justifiably suspicious of their explanations, and escorts them out of the lab so that he can verify that they are supposed to be there. As they leave the lab Soren attacks Randall, and as the two struggle Partch shoots Randall with a tranquilizer dart. Soren and Partch then flee the facility and commandeer a Longsword fighter which Partch has pre-prepared and hacked, complete with a dumb A.I. named Captain Teach whom Partch fast-grafted to convert him to their cause. Their plan to escape Reach fails, however, as they are pursued by other aircraft which sufficiently damage the Longsword to prevent it from breaking free of the planet's gravity. Captain Teach and the backup computer system are damaged or destroyed, forcing Soren to manually crash land the craft himself.
When Mendez and his Marines find the wreckage they find relatively little left, however they only find Partch's body. Dr. Halsey tells Mendez that she believes Soren survived the crash, but due to his growing up in the woods, Soren will not be found unless he wants to be. Halsey has Mendez give up the search, arguing that Soren is no threat to them: he is not a traitor, just a lost soul. Without a body, Soren is officially declared MIA.
- The term "Pariah" can be used to describe someone whom is rejected or low in society, the former being true in Soren's case since he was rejected the normal duties of a SPARTAN-II due to his injuries.
- The character of Soren is reminiscent of Ephialtes of Trachis as he is portrayed in the graphic novel and film 300. Both are deformed and as a result unfit for battle, and betray the Spartans after they refuse to let them serve. In particular, a scene where Mendez explains why Soren cannot serve in battle with the other Spartans appears to mirror a similar scene in 300.
- Levi "Leviathan" Hoffmeier, whose community art contest submission was used for the re-release of Pariah, is the author of the acclaimed Halo: A Fistful of Arrows graphic novel.