The Mind and the Master Part 5-The Firing of the Rings
Posted By: Cthulhu117<email@example.com>
Date: 21 November 2005, 1:15 am
Section 7-The Control Room
When the Master reappeared, he was in the Control Room. To his annoyance, Guilty Spark was still with him. He realized a second later that the Monitor was carrying the Index, so it was a good thing that he had stuck around. He wouldn't have put it past Spark to forget everything and simply teleport himself across the ring and sit there humming to himself while the Master had no Index.
The Monitor was, as always, humming. He was not paying any attention whatsoever to the Reclaimer, but he had the Index, floating in front of him on a xaser beam, evidently meant for the Master to take it. The Master took it, unwilling to leave the precious Index in the Monitor's grasp longer than was absolutely necessary.
The Monitor stopped humming and looked at the Reclaimer, his blue light pulsing slowly and somberly. The Master gathered that the AI was in a serious mood.
"If you will now re-unify the Index with the Core, Reclaimer, we will, for the first time, activate this station. Need I remind you, though, that there is a possible risk that the pulse will not activate. I have simulated the firing of the Halos exactly 3,187 times, but I may have been incorrect in one or more variables taken into account in the firing." The little Monitor's voice had lost all trace of insanity.
"What would happen if you were wrong?" The Master's harsh bass rang out. It echoed ominously in the cavernous room.
"Quite likely, you and all other organics in the region will go to a fiery doom! He, he, he, he, he, he!" The Master groaned. This was more like the Monitor he knew and hated.
He walked up to the control panel. This task was so simple. Put the Index in the terminal, and the Flood were gone. The wars would end. There would be nothing but peace. He hoped so, anyway. The Forerunners might be tempted to eradicate the Reclaimers once the Flood were gone. If that happened...he tried not to think about it.
He turned his head to look at Spark. His words burned themselves into the AI's unreliable memory.
"343 Guilty Spark?"
"What is it, Reclaimer?"
"If- if it were your choice, would you do it?"
The AI was silent for a few seconds. Then, "I'm- I don't- I am not sure, Reclaimer," it said quietly. "It is your decision, but you must activate Halo."
The Master turned back to the control panel. He placed the Index into the slot that was made for it.
There was a sound of a system powering up.
The Master looked back at the Monitor.
"How long will Halo take?" he asked. "To eliminate the Flood, I mean?"
The AI had no face, but if it had, the Master could tell it would have been wearing a puzzled expression. What he couldn't tell was why. At last, the Monitor of Installation 04 spoke.
"Eliminate the Flood?" the AI said incredulously. Now the Master was sure that Spark was confused.
"This station, Reclaimer, was not designed to kill the Flood."
The Master's voice was quiet, disbelieving what he had just heard.
"You did hear me, Reclaimer. The Halos do not kill the Parasite. They kill the Flood's prey."
The Master's heart skipped a beat as he snatched the Index from the console. The Flood's prey-that was anything sentient with sufficient biomass to sustain a Flood infection. In short, it was every intelligent race in the galaxy.
His voice rang out loud again. "Why wasn't I told of this before?"
The Monitor was now thoroughly perplexed. "I assumed you already knew, Reclaimer. Have not the Forerunners instructed you in the purpose of the rings you were sent here to activate?"
The Master's voice was bitter. "I wasn't sent here to activate a ring. I was sent to Gamma Halo to be bait for the Flood, and your pal Instigation sent me here before I could tell him I wasn't supposed to be firing any Halos."
"The ring must be activated, Reclaimer," said the AI. "If you are unwilling to aid me, I must --replace you-- with another Reclaimer who is more willing to activate the ring."
The Master raised his Plasma Rifle to Spark's level. "What do you mean, replace?" he said. His voice had a subtle touch of fury to it.
The Monitor was adamant. "What do you mean, what do you mean?" he responded sharply. "The ring must be activated, whether you are willing to help me or not."
"They'd all die. Everybody. The Reclaimers, the Forerunners, the Sangheili, everyone! And the Flood wouldn't even be dead! They wouldn't have anyone to infect, that's true, but there wouldn't be anyone around to appreciate it! Doesn't that bother you even the slightest bit?" the Reclaimer raged.
"To be quite honest, Reclaimer," said Spark with a terrible glee, "no, it doesn't bother me. I would be quite happy to see the Forerunners meet a miserable fate. Your Sangheili matter nothing to me! And the Reclaimers will be unnecessary once the Flood are harmless, although I may miss your edifying conversation," he ruminated. "Besides that, the Monitors will be around to appreciate it, and so--"
But the Master had had enough of the evil little AI sitting there musing on the extermination of all life in the galaxy. He aimed his Plasma Rifle for Spark's 'eye' and fired six shots at point-blank range.
Section Eight- Halo
The Monitor bounced to the floor, plasma-fire hissing along his polymer chassis.
"That was absolutely uncalled-for!" snapped Guilty Spark in a loud bossy voice.
The Master held up his hand for silence. "There will be no activation of Halo unless there is some way for me to save the races of the galaxy from total extermination."
"Deviation from protocol, Reclaimer," warned the Monitor. "No specimens on any Flood vector can be preserved, or the Flood would once more start to spread."
The Master pulled out the slipspace aggressor shard that the mind had given him on the bridge of the Intangible Avenger. The mind had told him that it was the way that the Forerunners would pass on their knowledge to the races of the future. He knew now how the shard could do that. It could hold a set of slipspace coordinates, but it could also hold a consciousness.
"This is not a Flood vector, is it?" the Reclaimer growled.
"It is not," the Monitor was forced to admit as he stared at the shard.
"It will carry the races safely through the firing of the Halos," pronounced the Master.
It was the work of a few minutes for the Monitor to teleport several specimens of Prophets, Sangheili, Unggoy, Kig-Yar, Yanme'e, Lek'golo and Huragok from the Intangible Avenger. Unbelievably, Spark had managed to locate the two frozen Reclaimers, Jaira and Kulitsan, that had been on the cruiser, and teleport them here, still in their cryo tubes. He woke his soldiers from their sleep. The Master considered abandoning the foolish plan he'd dreamed up, but he couldn't think of any other way to preserve sentient life.
When the slave races were assembled before him, he told them briefly the truth. He wished them good luck and told them not to tell their descendants of this truth. He wanted the races to forget Halo and the Flood.
The Unggoy, Yanme'e, Lek'golo, Kig-Yar and Reclaimers would each get their own planet. The Master would leave the Prophets, Sangheili and Huragok on the same planet; he hoped that they would be able to form some kind of civilization between them, even if the others couldn't.
He took the shard and smashed it. It splintered into other shards. Each race got their own piece. The Master prepared for the dissolution of the races as they each touched the shard, and, one by one, were absorbed into the gem, simply fizzing into their component molecules, which imprinted themselves upon the shard. Onto each and every piece the Master scratched a crude order- to re-manifest in exactly 75,000 years.
He looked last at his own species. Jaira and Kul had been together for years; it was fitting that they should continue the existence of the Reclaimers. He only had one order for them before they dissolved.
"Don't call yourself Reclaimers. We have already reclaimed. Call yourselves by the secret name of our race. Call yourselves...humans."
Then they were gone. The Master stood alone in the control room of Alpha Halo, surrounded by pieces of the shard. He ordered Guilty Spark to send the different species to random planets. He didn't want the crazed AI to send any race to a gas giant or something.
He wondered what would happen if he divided his mind. If one piece was not found, the other might be. The more he thought about it, the more he liked the plan.
He told the Monitor to put one half of his consciousness in the Core of Alpha Halo. Spark was about to refuse, but something in the Master's voice suggested to him that this might be a bad plan. If he had known the Master well, he would have realized that the Master was ready to rip him limb from limb, so to speak.
The Master was all alone now. He placed one hand on the shard and one on the console as the Monitor made the necessary arrangements for his absorption into the Core. Then he felt himself separate. He looked back at himself. His body stood there, but there was nothing in it. It was an empty shell now. Even as he watched, the shatter mechanism activated and the battle suit that had seen him through the whole war disintegrated into atoms. In a way, it broke his heart.
And then, from inside the Core, the Master of the Reclaimers, the one who knew the truth, activated Halo.
On the Reclaimer homeworld, on the Sangheili homeworld, on the Unggoy homeworld, on the Yanme'e homeworld, on the Lek'golo homeworld, on the Prophet homeworld, on the Huragok homeworld, on every colony, in every ship, everything simply fell dead. Those who were watching the sky might have been lucky enough to see a light band of ethereal blue energy transfix the sky before they fell soundlessly, unprepared to scream.
Then there was nothing. In the control room of Alpha Halo, there was no sound except for the humming of 343 Guilty Spark.
Suddenly words materialized out of the shifting holograms above the Core.
YOU WILL TELEPORT THE SHARDS AWAY, WON'T YOU
"Of course I will," said the Monitor. For some strange reason, he did.
SEND ME TO A RANDOM PLANET, AND MAKE SURE YOU CONTAIN THE FLOOD ON THE HALOS FOR THE REST OF THEIR MISERABLE EXISTENCE
The AI was affronted. "I am not so negligent as you seem to believe, Reclaimer."
I'M LEAVING YOU IN CHARGE HERE. DON'T WAIT UP FOR ME.
The AI hummed to himself for a second, then sent the shards on their way. He didn't particularly care where, but he did send them to planets he felt they could survive on. Last of all, he send the shard with half of the Master to a backwater little planet called Javaki'je. Eventually, it would be designated Sigma Octanus IV.
Lastly, Spark teleported himself away. He had orders to give to his Sentinels and the other Monitors.
Then the control room of Alpha Halo was silent.
It stayed that way for 101,217 years.