The Ballad of Hamish Beamish

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"Honestly in the anthology, I was just excited to contrast stories about the giddy heights of artificial intelligence, with the slimy nadir of natural intelligence [in Saint's Testimony]. I’m also more closely aligned in real-life with Hamish than I am with Iona. And with Fractures, that’s further compounded by my now regular embarrassment of being contrasted myself, with a slew of far superior authors and creators."
— Frank O'Connor[1]
Accompanying illustration by Garrett Post

The Ballad of Hamish Beamish is a poem included in Halo: Fractures: Extraordinary Tales from the Halo Canon. Written by Frank O'Connor, the Ballad is a tongue-in-cheek piece detailing the life of Hamish Beamish, a Corbulo Academy janitor whom O'Connor originally portrayed in a cameo appearance in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn. The story includes art by Garrett Post,[1] whose artwork was previously featured in the Headhunters short story in the re-release of Halo: Evolutions.

The Ballad[edit]

A long time ago on a military ship

A boy signed on to a perilous trip

A would-be cadet

With a penchant for danger

He signed on for thrills

In a cryosleep manger


Corbulo's the name

Of his life's destination

A military school

With a fine reputation

An officer's life

Was the life he had chosen

As he and his chums were cryonically frozen


And off into slipspace the young people headed

But a problem arose that starfarers have dreaded

The long sleep of storage

Was to be interrupted

By a technical flaw

And some code that corrupted


As the good ship Jamaica flew on through night

The seal on his chamber grew a bit less than tight

The cryopod opened a decade too soon

And Hamish thawed out 'neath an alien moon

Alone and afraid in the space between spaces

He gazed with fear at his companions' faces

He wiped frost from their visors

But onward they slept

Safe and preserved while poor Hamish just wept


When he got it together, he resolved to survive

Alone on a starship, now surely he'd thrive

All he'd need is some heat and a good source of food

But on waking the AI, the news wasn't good

“Apologies, Beamish, but this ship is unmanned

“You and the others are effectively canned

“We ship you like cargo to some distant star

“But this uncrewed transporter has no buffet bar

“Nor heating for humans, but there's plenty of air

“So if you wrap up in blankets, you might still make it there

“Your sleep chamber's ruined

“And the backup is rusted

“So if you get to Corbulo

“You'll be all old and busted

“It's been called a flat circle

“And a relative hitch

“But the fact of the matter's

“Time is gravity's bitch

“So you have my condolence

“And I'll help if I can

“But I suggest that indolence

“Is the best kind of plan.”


So the darkness and cold would make anyone spooked

And young Master Hamish knew that his goose was cooked

He examined his options

And set in for the flight

He'd be cold and hungry for this long, lonely night

So he needed some fuel for a possible fire

And protein to eat lest his body expire

He looked high and low

And through every dark passage

But all he could find was an Oberto sausage

Two hundred years old

Discarded, incredible

But because it was jerky

It was still kind of edible

As he chewed the last meat

That he might ever enjoy

He thought about girls and he thought about boys

Though frozen intact, nails and hair would still grow

And the seeds of his madness had started to show

He would shave them and clip them

With tender composure

And burn hair and eat nails lest he die of exposure

The smell, it was dreadful

And the sight even worse

But better this madness

Than a flight in a hearse

And so ten long years passed

And Corbulo drew near

And Hamish's madness

Replaced all his fear

He got used to the routine

As we are wont to do

But he dreamed of poutine

And he played his kazoo

Oh, I didn't explain that he kept that toy whistle?

Or that he wore a tattoo of a plain Scottish thistle?

His buzzing lament did not keep him sane

In fact, you could argue it addled his brain


So when the ship at last reached the Corbulo banner

He was thirty years old and as mad as a spanner

The medics tried hard to habilitate Hamish

His exploits aboard were disturbing but famous

They found him a job doing what he does best

Which is making the most of a terrible mess

So they put him in whites and they gave him a broom

And set him about cleaning room after room

The other cadets soon forgot Hamish's story

And Hamish got used to his missed chance at glory

He'd never a soldier or an officer be

But he never got used to the odor of pee

He'd clean it in bathrooms from floor to the sink

But I never revealed . . . what did poor Hamish drink?


So here is the moral of this dreadful tale

Check all of your gaskets before you set sail

And if in your world, you're aware that it's cleanish

Remember the ballad of poor Hamish Beamish

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