The Reflection Cracked

Clu had never seen blood before.

He wondered if he ever would. Only users shed blood. Their "biological code", as Flynn had once put it. Flynn, who'd slunk away from the system his actions had almost destroyed. Flynn, the false deity. Flynn, the betrayer. Enslaver. Flynn, the one who he swore that if he ever did see the bastard again, would be kept alive long enough to see what blood actually looked like.

But for now, blood would have to wait. For now, he had to deal with the mess his creator and former friend had left behind. For now, the closest thing to blood he had to experience was the remnant code of de-rezzed programs.

"Basic terminated."

"Basic captured. Rectify?"

"Games."

"Terminated."

"Will rectify."

The chatter filled his earpiece as his forces marched through the building. A bastion for ISOs and programs that, for whatever reason, thought the abominations were worthy of protection. Reasons that seemed academic now as they tried to engage the Black Guard, failing every time. They marched in tight formation, their leader at their head, forming a wall against any who tried to break their lines.

"De-rezzed."

"Terminated."

"Status pending."

Clu walked with them. This early in the purging of imperfection, he saw it as necessary. Flynn had ruled from his own world. Flynn had come and went as he pleased. Flynn had been lax, Flynn had been arrogant, and Flynn had no qualms against having his servants do his dirty work. So when Clu parried the arc of a Basic's disc, impaling the program with his light stick in a counter-thrust, he didn't enjoy it. But it was necessary. So as the program writhed on the ground, watching as his body crumbled into code, Clu felt the need to say something.

"Sorry pal."

Sorry…it wasn't much. But it was more than Flynn had ever said for his crimes.

And thus the march continued. Floor by floor. First Squad killing or incapitating their foes, ignoring those who fell into the former category and passing them to Second Squad behind to take them for whatever fate was deemed necessary. Clu knew that it would do the people of the Grid good for him to read out some judgements himself. Maybe even some pardons. But that would have to wait. He had to get to the top of the building. Because so far, only Basics had come at them. So far, the ISOs that insiders had reported were hiding here had yet to be found. And until they were erased from existence, anything else was secondary.

Within a manner of microcycles, the operation had neared its end. First Squad had reached the entrance to the penthouse. An entrance that was locked, but could easily be destroyed by the light grenades being set on the door.

"Detonation in ten nanocycles," one of the Black Guards murmured.

Clu nodded. The Black Guard would go in first. He'd follow. Once the resistance was subdued, he'd lead.

A penthouse. Perfect.

Why did a penthouse even exist, the program wondered? Why put one residence above the dwellings of others? It made sense that the ISOs would be here. But the Grid had been built before they'd begun polluting it. They-

"Three. Two. One."

Clu gripped his disc. They, would soon be removed from the system. They, would soon be a moot point. They, might not have bled, but if their de-rezzing process was much different from a standard program's, he wanted to see it.

"Detonation."

The doors crumbled under the blast. A Black Guard rushed in. The same Black Guard that found himself with a disc embedded in his helmet. Clu glanced at him as he tried to grab it, failing as his arms faded away with the rest of his body.

It had left the basic without her disc though. It made returning the favour much easier.

It was like a dance, Clu thought, as he and his men weaved in and out of their foes, their only consideration was that the ISOs be taken alive. Why programs even bothered dancing he didn't know, but if those insipid jigs gave one the same rush of electricity this event did, he could understand. He'd been created to create. But destruction had its own sweet taste as well.

"Traitor!"

It was a taste that remained as Clu narrowly avoided a Basic's disc. Snarling, the program brought it round again in an arc, only for Clu to parry it. The Basic went for another swing, but thanks to his foe kicking him in his gut, causing him to stagger back, he missed the chance.

"Traitor," Clu whispered. "You shouldn't have done that pal. You're messing with the mojo."

"You talk like Flynn but you're not him! You're not!"

Clu frowned – did Flynn really talk like that?

He couldn't remember. It was strange, the program thought…when he thought of his former friend, all he could think of was the period of time when that friendship started being deleted. As a person…Flynn barely remained in his mind. Flynn-

Shit!

Clu jumped back, avoiding the Basic's thrust. Snarling, he rammed into him, sending them across the room and into a mirror mounted on the wall. The Basic went to say something, but as Clu separated the program's head from his shoulders with his disc, he never got the chance.

He called me a traitor. There was nothing worth hearing anyway.

And yet…the words lingered on. Lingered as Clu rested his hands on the table below the mirror. Slowly, he raised his gaze…then recoiled.

Kevin Flynn looked right back at him.

Flynn!

No. It wasn't Flynn. Just his reflection. Like the device he'd used to create his codified likeness unity all those cycles ago. The traitor. Mirrored by one who certainly was not a traitor to the Grid. The one who was bringing order. Order, Clu noticed as he glanced back at the room, had been enforced quite well. The Basics were dead. The ISOs had been subdued, at the mercy of the Black Guards' staffs. And all for the cost of two Black Guards in total.

"Foes subdued sir," one of the grunts said.

I can see that, Clu thought. He walked over to the programs. They stared back at him, all with the same façade of defiance that failed to hide the fear that lurked in their eyes. They-

"You're Clu," one of them said.

I am Clu.

"Yes. I am," the program said, not sure who he was answering.

I will create the perfect system.

Clu glanced back at the mirror. His reflection stared back at him.

"You won't win," another ISO said. "You can't. This isn't your world. It-"

Together we're gonna change the world man.

"Shut up!"

Clu hurled his disc. The mirror shattered.

"Kill them," he spat, not facing his men. "Take them outside and kill them."

"Which method would you-"

"Just kill them!"

He kept facing the wall where the mirror had been. He faced it as the ISOs were marched out, their facades finally cracking as the cries of fear began.

"Why?" he heard one wail.

Why what?
Clu turned to face the one who'd asked.

"I don't like mirrors," he said.

There were no more questions after that. No more words. Only echoing cries, followed by the fainter sounds of screams from the street below. He barely noticed. He just stood there. Staring. Looking at what was once a reflection. Looked and wondered.

How much of what he saw was himself.

And how much of it was Kevin Flynn.