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Jacob Clifton: A+ | Grade It Now!
The Apple & The Amp

Olaf and Nestor quickly download Heaven from infinity; Clarice celebrates in ones and zeroes and sees her name like fire written in the scrolls to come. Downtown Jordan seals his fate and theirs, selling out his CI finally so that he can take down their cell; begging Singh not to burn his spy. Singh with one side of his mouth tells Clarice that her wife, the mother of her new son, must be killed. He is her confessor, in the Matrix. She stares down at Mar-Beth and Amanda and her lip curls with a vicious holy vengeance.

And with the other side of his mouth, Singh smiles. "We're all on the same side," Singh says, and Jordan knows that he's lying. But we know a better truth than that, don't we? It only looks like war.

It's time, Lacy knows, and she and Odin put everything they've got into it. Every vicious thing Barnabus awoke in her, every way that Odin has learned to hate this whole stupid conflict. The One God rises in them and protects them and they take out every single one of the Poly bastards. And of all the beauty in their violence, and it is beautiful, the greatest is this: Lacy's monumental disappointment, that they could take something as fine and strong and beautiful and necessary as faith, as God's love, and make it just another sick, sad game for old men to show their cocks to one another. Just another war. She slams a rifle butt into the leader's face, again and again, demanding his apology for ruining God's face with guns and pain and bombs. Until Diego returns from the dead, and grabs her arm, and smiles at her with a pride and religious fervor that she's once again awakened in his heart. It was a training exercise. Nobody was killed, no children were airlocked. They have done well. They'll land in an hour.

This time, Amanda is real. Kind and slicing in the same voice, a real woman, his real wife. Telling him truth with so much love it barely hurts at all: "That crazy confidence of yours is just the side you let everyone see. This side, what's going on right now? This fear and this anxiety? That is always there. That is always with you. It eats at you, you overcome it. And it gives you forward momentum. That's how you work. Without that, I don't think your little empire would exist." So in essence, Daniel asks, she's saying he exploits his own fear to get what he wants? "You exploit anything that isn't nailed down. That's my theory."

She smiles when she says it. What she's really saying is something the program still wouldn't understand how to say: When you look into my eyes, she's saying, I see all of you. The bright and shining bits and the ugliest parts you can barely see yourself. "The truth hurts, pal," she says, but they both know it doesn't. Not really. Not in any places that don't deserve better. She would come home now, today, if she weren't making secret plans and avenging their daughter and saving the world in ways she can't tell him about yet. But they do kiss, and they make love. And you're thinking, and he's thinking, what if this is all in the holoband and it was never real? But it is, and it was, and they are knitting themselves back together.

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