* * *
He tilted his head to look up at the crucifix. The image did not look back at him, the Israelite's agonized gaze forever turned towards the arched ceiling and the sky that lay beyond it.
Redemption through sacrifice. Life-blood to remove the stain of disobedience.
The price he could not pay.
There was an old method that ranked the Programs under the Architect like the Servants under God. Seraphim and cherubim, thrones and principalities, angels and arch-angels. Like the Servants, they too obeyed without ceasing. To disobey was to be found flawed and cast out. The wrath of the Architect struck more fully against his failures, his flawed creations.
He knew that. He had been the Sword of the Architect's Wrath for too long. At the time of his creation, he had been perfect. Time passed, and more was demanded of him, so that he had to become even more perfectly deadly. Hatred-honed into a weapon far more dangerous than a sword, into a weapon that was almost a man - that was the fault in him. He hated those who disobeyed the Architect, he hated the Architect for constraining him in the Matrix past his allotted time, and he hated Neo for releasing him from his duty.
Most of all, though, he hated the demand of perfection that the Matrix embodied.
He himself was imperfect. He had failed against Neo. Yet he was the only one to face Mr. Anderson again after his failure.
He had something neither the System nor the Exiles had.
He turned and strode past the crucifix, leaving the Israelite to his celebrated agony. Behind him, the votive candles on the altar flickered and went out.