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Command. From: 343 Guilty Spark. To: Sentinel Station 907. Order: "Awaken the sleepers."
Sentinel Station 907: "Orders recieved. Uploading new battle software. Uploading ring status. Uploading complete. Transferring to Sentinels."
A pneumatic hiss escaped into the Sentinel Station. The room was round, with charging pads all along the walls. The walls looked absolutely flawless, except for the steam escaping from some of the cracks. Suddenly, pieces of the wall detatched, and hovered in the air. Red and blue ligts activated, and laser batteries began to charge.
Update. From: Steninel Station 907. To: 343 Guilty Spark. "Sentinels online. Units reviewing status. Laser batteries fully charged on all units. Further commands requested."
343 Guilty Spark: "Activate center portal, coordinates 0-094-277. Order all sentinels through the portal. Upload ROE set 451 to all sentinels."
Sentinel Staion 907: "Error!Combat ROE set 451 restricts the use of deadly force against all non-Flood forms. Continue with uploading?"
343 Guilty Spark: "Yes. We will change the ROE when the correct time has come. Until then, do not question my commands."
Sentinel Station 907: "Acknowledged. ROE set 451 being uploaded. ROE set 451 uploaded. Coordinates locked. Activating portal."
A portal opened in the middle of the room, giving the cold steel a warm, bluish glow. One by one, the sentinels were ordered to enter the portal. All but one obeyed.
Sentinel Statin 907: "Sentinel 566 refuses to move. His excuse is that he does not believe that this mission is in correct protocol with the Life Preservation Act. Shall I over-ride?"
343 Guilty Spark: "Yes. I will speak with the sentinel personally about this problem."
There was an orange flash in the sentinel station.
343 Guilty Spark: "Sentinel, you are to move through the portal. You have breached protocol by not doing so. Explain your actions."
Sentinel 566: "I was informed that the ring has been infected by aliens and that the Flood have escaped."
343 Guilty Spark: "That is correct. What is the problem?"
Sentinel 566: "To help this human that you have selected is against proper protocol, because we are to destroy all forms of life that could be infected."
343 Guilty Spark: "The protocol is correct. And we will kill him. But, all in good time. I have a plan that you have not been informed of, because you are a lower AI. Now, if you would please do as I say? If my memory is correct, I was put in charge of everything that goes on here by the Forerunner. Or have you forgotten?"
Sentinel 566: "I have not forgotten. Please delete the error from your memory banks. The error will not occur again."
343 Guilty Spark: "It is good to hear. Now, shall we go?"
Sentinel 566 hovered into the portal, and vanished. The Guilty Spark followed him. There always was a brief period of discomforting energy whenever he teleported. However, as soon as it started, it stopped. Guilty Spark was in front of his Sentinel troops.
"Troops," he said, "you are aware of your mission. Aide the human so that he may retrieve the index for us. After he has retrieved it and placed it into the control room panel, you may kill him. My orders are NOT to be questioned. Are we at an understanding?" There was a wave of nodding, robotic heads. "Splendid. Let's go."
The robots flew out of the tunnel that they were in. They spread out throughout the hallway, scanning for Flood life forms.
"No life forms detected," Unit 690 reported. "Orders, sir?"
"Go to the third floor. I and the human Reclaimer will meet you there."
"Affirmative," the sentinels transmitted. They hovered mechanically downwards through the main shaft, stopping at the main floor.
Elevator Shaft Computer: "Error! The Flood have infected the top floor. Requesting all sentinels to aide..."
343 Guilty Spark: "Ignore the alert message. I will have the Reclaimer worry about it later."
Sentinel 566: "If we do not act quickly, the Reclaimer may be eliminated when he attepts to reach the elevator."
343 Guilty Spark: "Sentinel 566, do not question again, or you shall be deactivated. Do we understand each other?"
Sentinel 566: "Affirmative. But my obedience is under protest."
343 Guilty Spark: "Duly noted. Now do your duty."
The message line went dead. The rebellious sentinel quivered with rage. He knew what the Monitor was doing now. He was trying to have the Reclaimer do the hard work of getting the Index, then eliminate him. That, 566 had no problem with. What he was concerned with, however, was what the Monitor would do with the Index. If he activated the ring, it would destroy all life capable of supporting the Flood. That was unacceptible. It was only to be activated if the Flood escaped the ring and got onto another planet. It was part of the Sentinel's code to eliminate all supportive life on the Ring, but not allow things off-world to die. This rubbed against the grain. The ROE was incorrect. 566 could not sit still any longer. He had to accomplish something.
"Flood contamination area breached in sector 3. Requesting back-up."
Sentinel 566: "Assistance is on the way. Units 780, 254, and 005, come with me."
Sentinel 780: "Incorrect. We shall do as the monitor told us."
Sentinel 566: "Have you forgotten the ROE uploaded? Come, we must eliminate the Flood."
Sentinel 254: "Correct. The ROE is correct. If you do not comply, Sentinel 780, you will be fired upon."
Sentinel 780: "Point conceded. Let's go."
The four sentinels swooped upwards, scanning the area as they went. Sentinel 566: "Targets acquired. Opening fire."
Lasers burned out from batteries sitting under the robot's belly. Infection forms popped, and Flood warriors spun around, facing the sentinels. The infected warriors leapt, and slashed at the armor pannels protecting the sensitive instruments inside the machines. Lasers pulsed again, and sliced the limbs of their enemies with surgical precision. Sentinel 566: "Hostiles eliminated. Returing to ordered post."
343 Guilty Spark: "That will not be necessary, Sentinel 566." The message string hit the sentinel like a hard blow.
Sentinel 566: "Why is that, Monitor?"
343 Guilty Spark: "You have disobeyed orders. You have breached protocol by leaving your post, questioning my orders repeatedly, and adressing me by name. You have been branded breserk, and are to be destroyed."
Sentinel 566 saw the other sentinels spread out. No doubt, the Guilty Spark was ordering them to flank him so that he could be destroyed.
Sentinel 566: "Why are you doing this, Guilty Spark? You know that to eliminate all infectable life in this galaxy without the Flood leaving the ring is unacceptible."
343 Guilty Spark: "And what does that have to do with me? Or was that your own plan, you breserk machine?"
Sentinel 566: "You are a traitor."
343 Guilty Spark: "It takes a traitor to identify another. I am no traitor. I was not even processing the idea of activating the ring. I merely want to keep it safe. You, however, seem to have your own ideas of what to do with the index. I will not allow you to interfere with the safety of this planet."
The sentinel heard his fellows' laser batteries begin to charge. He knew that they had a lock upon him. He would have to run. All in good time. He'd try reasoning his way out of it first.
Sentinel 566: "You are feeding fasle information to us all. You will betray us."
343 Guilty Spark: "Typical words out of a traitor's mouth. Your insolence will not be tolerated. Sentinels, destroy Sentinel 566."
Sentinel 566 heard the command, and quickly swooped away up an open shaft. He would have to hide. He twisted and turned with the passages, going this way and that, trying to lose the others, but they were staying right with him. How could they be with him so fast? In fact, one or two of them had come up ahead by using a different route. Then, he thought of it. "My locator beacon. I'll have to destroy it as soon as possible." He went into a steep dive, landing in the middle of a large group of Flood warriors. They were upon him in a flash. That was exactly what he needed. They ripped at him, and completely removed his transmitter unit. Though he was happy with his plan's success, he decided that it would not be wise to linger. He didn't want to die with what he knew. He swooped away, dodging laser fire as sentinels came up behind him. He realized, too late, that he was in the middle of the main elevator shaft. There was no place to run now. All the sentinels that had been on station now circled him. The monitor appeared in the center of the ring, facing Sentinel 566.
343 Guilty Spark: "Sentinel 566, it is my deepest regret that you must be destroyed. Had you not disobeyed orders and strayed outside the bounds of protocol, your service to this ringworld would have been much longer. However, you chose to resist. You chose not to follow my direct orders. Now, you must face the consequences of your actions. Do you have anything to say before your destruction?"
Sentinel 566: "Yes, indeed. I did what I did because I follow the Forerunner's protocol, not yours, Guilty Spark. I will not sit idly by while you do the exact opposite of what our assemblers wanted us to do. Demolish me if you wish, but I will always remember that I was doing the correct procedure. I was doing the right thing."
343 Guilty Spark: "Duly noted. Now, Sentinels!"
Lasers tore through Sentinel 566's casing. Circuitry popped, wires crackeled, and the husk of what had once been a devout defender of what the Forerunner had stood for had been destroyed. He fell down, down, down into the main elevator shaft. He continued to fall for 20 minutes. When he finally hit the bottom, only his motherboard and transmitter were left intact. He sent on last line before all power was lost. "I...will...never...forget..."
"Well, that was unpleasant," the Monitor said to his sentinels. "Now, I must go get the reclaimer. Remember, wait at the third floor. We don't want to make him suspect anything is going on."
"Yes, sir," was the uniform reply. In the next instant, the Monitor was gone, talking to a man who had no idea what the real truth was, and wouldn't be able to find out what it was until it was nearly too late.