I prefer to keep fanfiction chapters around 1,000 words or less.

It works in my favor for this chapter, as there is a great deal of dialog relative to other chapters. Must be Pirates 4 bleeding into my prose.

The Flood was coming in waves. When Noble Six's heavy boot hit the floor, the horde emerged from every crevasse. The attacks only stopped as the Spartan stepped aboard the elevators to ascend from each floor.

"Hurry, Reclaimer. Two floors yet remain."

Then there was this ancient keeper, Guilty Spark, a creature tasked with maintenance and defense of this installation. Well into highly advanced rampancy and obsessed with protocol, Six did not trust it.

"Excuse me," Six called out to Spark.

343 Guilty Spark was an AI contained in a small floating sphere with a single blue eye. It hovered around the Spartan's eye level as he spoke.

"What is it, Reclaimer? Be cautious! This elevator will complete its circuit within thirty seconds."

"This object you're asking me to… reclaim. What is it?"

"Were you not briefed? The index is the key governing the primary weapons systems for this entire installation! Tactical options are rapidly diminishing. If we delay too long not even this installation's primary weapon will not be sufficient."

Six nodded.

"The Flood is currently repairing your vessel and at least three interloper craft of starship classification. An unknown number of short range transport craft are being repurposed."

Talking to Spark proved to be counterproductive. It was only worth it if you were willing to sit through a dozen lectures of questionable relevance. Six decided to shut up and let the machine talk, though Spark's motives were yet unknown.

"… your species' lack of knowledge on Halo array protocols are most curious. If there is time, we will have to investigate the existence and propagation of Reclaimer geas."

Spark had a teleportation network that seemed to reach throughout the ring. This was how Six had been taken away from that infernal swamp and transported to a mazelike containment structure. With the Index in hand, Spark brought Six to the Control Room, center of all operations on this Halo array.

The chamber was empty. Curious, as crew from the Autumn should have secured this area long ago.

Guilty Spark presented the Index, materializing it in a puff of static electricity and ozone. The index was a metallic green and about as long as Six's arm. The Spartan grabbed it before it floated to the ground.

The AI informed Six that placing the Index and activating Halo was a task delegated to Reclaimers – Six supposed those were humans.

"Spark, what will Halo do? There are more… Reclaimers on this installation. I need to know that whatever we're about to do won't harm them."

Spark looked almost disappointed as it bobbed about in the air.

"Your hesitation is unexpected. If only there were time to run tests… Alas, the Flood is spreading. Your duty must be performed, and quickly."

There was no time. Before Six could walk the short distance over to the central control panel and insert the Index, the door began to open. Six was left in the open with naught but a shotgun and a half-drained plasma pistol for firepower.

A group of three, all human, entered the room. The Master Chief was instantly recognizable amongst their number.

"Oh, hello!" Spark said.

"Six," Chief said.

Noble Six knew of Sergeant Johnson from his stint with Commander Yuri Bailey in Halo's underground catacombs. No introductions were in order on that end. Explaining Guilty Spark's presence would require finesse.

"Six, where's Commander Bailey?" the Chief asked.

Dom-312 turned to the Sergeant. "She told me she'd stay with them."

"Well she told us she was going with you!" Johnson said. "What's that?"

Spark floated between the two groups of humans. "Hurry, Reclaimer. Time is of the essence."

"This thing wants me to activate Halo's weapon defense system to stop the Flood."

The Chief and his squad had no recognition of this word. Spark explained it as the parasitic infestation currently attacking all sides in the Halo conflict.

"Halo's weaponry is specially tuned to defeat the Flood. It must be activated soon, lest the Flood escape this installation to plague the galaxy once more."

The AI offered to provide a truly staggering list of specifications about the performance of this installation. It would do the humans no good, as it was all written in the dead language of Halo's long-gone builders.

"Let's do it." the Master Chief suggested. "After we're done with the Flood, we can turn it against the Covenant."

Johnson had a victory cigar out of his pack. "That might work, Chief. Still, what does it do? We might want to be sure before turning this ring on."

"I'm with the Sarge. Still, the fellow in the suit might disagree – might want to pull rank on us. Just sayin'."

How incredibly perceptive. The FNG must have had courses in body language of some sort. He'd managed to read the S-III's actions almost perfectly without seeing a single facial expression.

Noble Six was naturally curious. "Curiosity" was one of the few words in B-312's Spartan dossier that was not [REDACTED]. Spark's symptoms of high rampancy were troublesome. Six was not about to take his word for it on an issue of this caliber.

"We need to consult a Cortana or the Captain." Six declared.

"Right you are, Dom!" a pulsing-green gigantic avatar of Cortana appeared on the Control Room dashboard. "Here I was thinking I was going to have to come out and keep you all from committing unwitting suicide."