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The Mind and the Master Part 7-The Mind
Posted By: Cthulhu117<spartan_eric_271@yahoo.com>
Date: 11 December 2005, 9:33 pm

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Section 11- Delta Halo 05

The mind had not stayed on the Intangible Avenger.

The gutted ship had remained in the proximity of Alpha Halo for as long as the mind wished. Nonetheless, the Forerunners had never been patient and the Flood were much less so. When it became clear that the Halos were activating and his Flood would be corralled onto the Installations, he headed for the one where the fighting was the most intense--Installation 05. The Flood there were putting up a fierce fight. Their Juggernauts, mighty forms that could be spawned from the Sharquoi beasts of the nearby world, were simply too much for the Sentinels too deal with easily.

It was really the only Halo where the Gravemind saw any future for the Flood's twisted remnants of life. He had a plan for them, but it would only work there on Installation 05. He would have to wait for someone to attempt to retrieve the Index, and then use them to claim it himself. It was a simple and straightforward plan, except for one detail: There was no sentient life in the universe, and certainly no Reclaimers. Furthermore, there wouldn't be for quite a while.

But the Gravemind was not so ravenous and mindless as his minions. He could wait seventy-five millenia, or longer, if he knew he could accomplish his goals by doing so. The Sentinels and Enforcers of this ring would be surprised and unable to defeat his Flood. The only problem would be the Monitor. 2401 Penitent Tangent. The name came into the creature's mind unbidden. His old self had known the names of the seven Monitors. 1 Reprehensible Provocation...7 Apologetic Impulsion...49 Culpable Impetus...343 Guilty Spark. The Gravemind struggled to remember the next after Tangent. 16807 Remorseful Incentive, he thought, and then 117649 Reproachable Instigation. He wondered why this had stood out in his brain, but could not find an answer.

These Monitors had powers of their own. He remembered containment protocols. In event of an outbreak large enough that no Reclaimer was available on any ring, hidden programming in the Monitors would activate and they would scour the galaxy killing any living thing they could find, Flood or no. So the Gravemind, along with all the Flood he could locate, retreated to Delta Halo.

On board the Forerunner ship, Gravemind's tentacles stirred, directing the crippled warship down towards the ring's surface. He would crash the ship in an area near to the Monitor. The ship's sensors could still pick up the identification beacon on 2401 Penitent Tangent. He aimed the ship for the beacon and accelerated the Intangible Avenger to a maximum realspace velocity of five hundred and twenty-one thousand miles per hour. If the ship needed to, it could go faster, but at velocities of more than a million miles per hour, even if the shields were up, a rock the size of an Unggoy could punch through the shields and quite a few decks of the ship, and a collision with a Halo would break the ring and simply vaporize the ship.

On Delta Halo, the Forerunner cybersoldier Enforcer-class, designation number 0565484125, was observing the sky. It was doing so because seven units ago, a ship had been spotted and all units had been put on alert. The Enforcer was now close enough to the area that it could scan the ship.

Intangible Avenger. Erinyes-class warship, reported disabled in recent skirmish above Installation 07. All well, then. It had escaped and was now in orbit above Delta Halo. The Enforcer suddenly remembered something. Early that revolution, it had received a transmission from an unknown source, but with clearance one- the Monitor's clearance. The transmission had made reference to the Halos firing. The Enforcer had been underground searching for a collapsed access junction at the time; it hadn't seen a thing. Still, if the ring had activated, then only the Flood could be controlling the warship. An ozone stench started to fill the thin air as the Enforcer charged its weapons.

But was the ship doing something?

Surely it wasn't opening a slipspace-

And that was when the ship performed a seven-nanosecond-long slipspace jump, appearing again not two hundred meters above the Halo's surface, super-accelerated and carrying almost two hundred thousand Flood forms.

For a shattered instant just before the Forerunner warship hit the snowy Containment area of the Halo, there was absolute silence.

And then there was a huge gout of plasma flame rising high above the ring's surface and noise so loud that any organic being that heard it would certainly have been killed by sheer sensory overload.

But the Flood were not organic beings. Nor were the Sentinels that filled the air to combat them. They killed each other furiously yet silently, a silence broken only by the hissing of lasers, the muffled explosions of robots torn apart, and the ghastly gurgling of the Parasite.

The Flood and Sentinels fought like they had never fought before. Yet amongst them was something that stilled the combat wherever it went. The Gravemind skittered along on its countless tentacles like an overgrown spider. A foolhardy Enforcer turned a stream of missiles on the creature. There followed a terrible shrieking of metal as a dozen tentacles grasped the Enforcer and tore it to scrap metal. Several Sentinels, seeing their superior fall, turned lasers on the Gravemind. They left no impressions on the khaki husk of the Flood creature, but tentacles shot out and smashed the robots to the ground until they were unrecognizable piles of shrapnel.

The Gravemind moved on. The fight was the job of his soldiers, not him. And there was a Monitor to be captured. He moved through empty rooms of flame and shattered wreckage, stopping to eliminate the cybernetic guardians that barred his path. He moved through dark rooms, every one identical and barren. He moved into a sort of shaft in which two antigravity gondolas rested. He needed no such things. The Gravemind extended his tentacles to their full length and used them to pull his way along the walls of the shaft.

At last he rested in the Index chamber. 2401 Penitent Tangent was already there, looking at the Index.

"Marvelous, isn't it?" came a voice from the red-hued Monitor.

The Gravemind didn't answer. It simply extended its tentacles and grasped the Monitor. The machine was quickly absorbed by the Gravemind's arms.

"You are mine now," the Flood creature said. "I will wait, and you will wait with me."

And they waited for a long time.

Section Twelve-Family Reunion

The Chief and the Master set foot once more on Halo. As the Master Chief exited the escape pod, he couldn't shake a strong sense of deja vu, even though he'd certainly never been there before.

But the Master had. He started to wish that John would get a move on. Fighting the Covenant had no purpose. Well, anyway, not nearly as much purpose as getting back to the human homeworld, where the Ark was located.

However, John seemed intent on sticking around on the ring, and before the Master knew it, John was descending into a Forerunner containment facility. The Master knew that he could not yet reveal his existence to John, but he tried to send every negative emotion he could at John, which only manifested itself as a sort of irritability on the SPARTAN's part.

And then, of course, John just had to go around opening doors, and before John knew what was going on, the Flood were out again and life was hell. It took quite a while for the SPARTAN to get back to the AI he'd abandoned, and before he did, he ran into 343 Guilty Spark. The Master was annoyed that he hadn't thought of this flaw in his plans. Of course, the Monitor recognized the Master and started talking to him, causing John to respond, causing a whole lot of confusion.

Finally, John retrieved the Index. The Master almost showed himself to John in desperation, but decided that Cortana would set him straight. Much to the Master's relief, she did, and the Halo wound up being destroyed, but the Master knew that Spark's supertough polymer shell would have survived the shock wave, if not the explosion itself.

It took a while, but John got himself over to Delta Halo with intent to destroy that. The Master knew that it would be a stretch for John to eradicate the ring, but the SPARTAN could do it with a bit of luck. And then everything went horribly wrong. Getting out of a succeeded assassination, John fell a few hundred yards into water. The Master wasn't even certain that John would survive, but he did. He survived long enough to be picked up by a Gravemind.

It took maybe half a second for the Master to recognize the Gravemind for what it was. As he directed the question -Who are you?- into the creature's brain, Cortana asked "What is that?"

The Gravemind looked at the Master and spoke in deep tones exactly like that of the commander of the [I]Intangible Avenger[/I]. "I? I am a monument to all your sins."

In that second, the Master saw the mind he'd seen on the bridge of the Forerunner warship a hundred millenia ago. -Now what do you want?- he asked silently.

The Gravemind did not answer immediately, speaking instead to John and the Sangheili who was present for some reason. But just as the Master was despairing of being told, the Gravemind directed an answer to him but spoke out loud. "You will search one likely place-" the Flood form articulated.

-Search for what?- the Master asked. When the Gravemind answered him, it was as a voice in his mind.

-Nothing at all, actually- came the thing's mocking answer. -I simply need a diversion-

And then the Master dematerialized again. He reappeared on High Charity. He did not tell John of what the Gravemind had said. He planned for him to be out of the Holy City long before the Flood arrived.

It didn't work out that way. The Flood arrived ahead of schedule. John and Cortana were separated. The Master considered uploading himself into Cortana's patterns and staying with her, but decided he needed to talk to John. As the Forerunner ship Champion's Vengeance took off from High Charity, John heard a voice.

"Hello?" the SPARTAN said quietly. He felt like an idiot, standing there on a Forerunner ship talking to nobody. A voice from inside himself answered him.

-I am a human from the time that the Halos were built. They called us Reclaimers then. We're headed for Earth. On Earth there is a Halo master installation called the Ark. It can destroy all the Halos and all the Flood. We need to use it. I can direct you to it-

John went numb. He knew something now. He knew how to end the war. The Sangheili would be their allies. The Flood would be destroyed. The Prophets would be caught in the middle.

A voice spoke again. This time, it was Lord Hood, asking him what he was doing.

Thinking of what he had just been told, he realized, like the Master before him, that it was time to do his duty. "Sir," John announced, his voice growing in confidence as he spoke,"finishing this fight."