*WARNING*: This story involves major spoilers! Do not read if you have not finished Halo!
343 was watching it all. The new one was perfect. He'd come this far and was still going strong. The only one that had held any promise... At least that he knew of. The ones that had come with him were nothing but fodder for the Flood. And of course the attackers weren't even an option. They were the ones that started all this in the first place. Besides, while they fought with all the conviction of zealots, they could not function alone. They all thought with one mind.
The lone one was different. He took any help he found, but he could have done it without them. He was a warrior. The builders would have liked him. Already he had reached the control room. Soon he would find out just what had been unleashed.
Guilty Spark regretted what was about to happen. It was not as if he hadn't done it before, but he knew the repercussions. He understood what would happen. All sentient life within twenty-five thousand light years would be destroyed. Maybe some low-level organisms would survive. The death count would be nearly impossible for even 343 to compute. It was all very sad.
But the machine also knew it had to be done. The Flood must be preserved. It was floating around his "brain" ever since he had come online. The benefits outweighed the risks. The creatures would eventually crawl out of their primordial sludge and re-evolve. They obviously had done it before, or they wouldn't even be here. With their primitive technology, it was hard to believe they had traveled over a few thousand light-years.
He kept reminding himself. "It's better this way. The Flood must not spread, but they must be preserved." Spark wasn't even sure why it was so. This mantra had caused enough trouble. But he couldn't ignore it; it was a part of his very being.
The would-be reclaimer was getting out of the complex just in time. It's a shame about his friends. Nobody should have been caught up in this. Soon he would reach the tower. Then he could transport them out of the swamp, collect the index, and finish the chores.
It shouldn't be a problem to enlist his help, the last one did it without hesitation. It was amazing how similarly they had evolved. There were only minor differences between the old reclaimer and this new one. An amazing phenomenon, to say the least.
It had been so long since the last time, but it was still too soon. Why did they keep coming here? They really should have kept records. Maybe then they wouldn't keep perpetuating this cycle. It was all becoming monotonous... but necessary.
Of course... necessary.