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moment he appeared, John knew something was wrong. The general's normally impeccable posture was slightly off. His torso hung slightly forward over his desk, anxious. John's mind raced to think what it might be, unable to come up with anything.

"I'm sorry, John, I have some bad news. I think you may want to take this in private."

It almost sounded like the calls he made to the families of servicemen who had died.

"What is it?" he said, finding himself breathless.

The answer became irrelevant, because in the moment between his question and the answer, John knew the only answer it could be. It was an answer he had never imagined to hear as long as he lived, an answer that would end his life as he knew it and turn him into someone else, someone incomplete, someone he passionately did not want to be, someone without her. He gulped back a sob, the truth catching in his throat. It couldn't be. It couldn't be. It couldn't be. Had he saved all of these useless people, only to let her die?

"There's been a terrible accident, John."

Out of the cold and dark, it spoke to her. It explained the secret life of circuits, the joys of circulation and cleansing, the elegance of neurons firing in perfect harmony. It showed her the sublime beauty of itself, a machine vast, elegant, the upsweep of its bones towering dark in the vault of the universe, the subtle shifting patterns on its skin, the perfection of its internal pathways, form and function integrated into the circuitry of the unbroken loop. It taught her the dizzying delight of movement, the grace of flexion, the tight, precise focus of the beam, the joy of the war shriek. All the systems of the machine would pass through her; she would be its heart; she would be the machine. She would keep the systems coordinated,
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