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We Were Spartans

Brandon Hicks | 25 Aug 2011 13:30
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I'm in my usual spot, on top of our base with the sniper rifle handy. The Gulch is quiet, but I know something's up. I spot a warthog with three Reds barrelling down our right side and quickly start throwing grenades while I close. Four Blues join me, and suddenly all I see is the warthog flip over us, spilling all three Reds. My teammates and I fire every which way to finish them off.

Afterward, I run into our base to get ammo, and notice something's off. Something's missing.

"Uh, our flag's gone," I say.

"Yep," Dennis replies.

Our quick conversation carries down to the main floor, and soon the Reds down there are laughing. So are we.

Then we try to chase down the buggers who took it.

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***

For the life of me, I couldn't tell you with absolute certainty any of the cool moves that were pulled off during the matches over any of the Halo Sundays. Sneaky captures, killtaculars, and running riots all blend together in my mind.

But I can easily recall us stepping outside for a break to watch fireworks during a Halo Sunday on Canada Day. Watching a hockey game which fell on another one, and then turning back to Halo in disgust when our team was getting smoked. Talking about relationship stuff, life stuff, everything in between while we took breaks from killing each other. Meeting each other on nights not reserved for Halo just to hang out, and go out on the town.

Then the strangest thing happened: I found myself at a wedding. In the second row, family of the groom just ahead of me, other regulars of Halo Sunday at my side. I remember, clear as day, having this thought while my Spartan friend and his fiancée were exchanging vows:

"Halo did this. Halo is the reason why I'm here right now."

***

We're all taking a break and eating delicious barbecued burgers now, and I'm realizing how much I miss these guys, how much I missed this day of the week. How much I needed it back then, when the stress of university and my job were weighing on me and I couldn't get a girl if my life depended on it.

Dennis and I are sitting in Chris' living room, and I begin to marvel at how fast Halo Sunday fell apart when Halo 2 came out. And we both know why, ironically, it happened.

"It was Xbox Live," Dennis says. I nod in full agreement.

"There was no reason to actually be here anymore," I reply. "We just kept saying we'd meet online, and we never did."

"Yeah, and you can't yell at a guy across a house over a headset," he adds.

"It's not the same."

***

We bought the hype, hook, line and sinker. How could we not? Hell, the whole reason the group was named "Spartans of Halo" was for this moment -- when we could actually form a clan online. Halo 2 offered us what we were craving: Halo Sunday, every day. All of us stood in line for the midnight sale on Nov. 9, 2004, and cleared our night/morning to play it together at Dennis' new place. That first night, we thought it was glorious. We ignored the fact that the weapons were wildly unbalanced and that the maps were less interesting. We were floored by how pretty it was, and excused the game's faults by saying "We're not used to this one yet." And so, bleary-eyed, we all went home and promised to meet up online as soon as we could.

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