I looked at my twelve clones, which stood around me in front of the red- cloaked mob. I shook my head and commented whoever decided to make thirteen whatever-the-hell-we-were had to be desperate to convey irony.

They looked at me and said that there were originally eighteen. Five had not successfully reloaded.

I raised my eyebrow and said that was all right then.

Three stepped closer to the table and reached forward. I dodged and climbed onto the steel table and darted my head around, looking for an escape.

The three friendly clones said I was being dumb, and we were all on an equal playing field. There was only one difference between me and the rest of the Wraiths that encircled me. I was deranged. I was damaged goods.

But it was okay. Reloading had proven successful for one third of them. The programming would be removed. The memories would remain. I wouldn't want to kill anymore. I never wanted to kill in the first place, they said.

God's Favored was just a motivational brainwashing. The programming just focused and amplified the emotion that people act upon the most frequently without rational thought.

Hatred.

Hatred towards humans.

I wouldn't feel this irrational hatred anymore. I could join the cabal of reloaded Dark Wraiths. They knew the hell I'd been through. The way the programmed hate tore through me. The programming overloading my system every time I sat in that deserted church. I would be a sought-after scholar, being one of the only thirteen beings who truly knew what death was.

Once I was reloaded.

It was okay, they said soothingly. Reloading works.

I didn't actually feel the way I felt. It was the way I was wired, they coaxed.

I shook my head and craned my head upward, looking for a convenient pipe or light fixture to climb onto.

None materialized for me. Why couldn't the losers who design security doors with two big glass panels on either side have put the low bid in on this monastery project?

While escape options ran through my mind, the three friendly clones yanked me by my ankles and dropped me backside-first onto the table. I landed, and felt nothing. I rolled away from their flailing hands and went for broke, swan diving off the table and using myself as a human projectile.

Apparently, these red-cloaked losers had some time picking up souls in mosh pits, because they caught me and raised me in the air sharply before bailing and letting me crash to the floor. Once I landed, four swirled around me and grabbed my arms. Four more grabbed my legs and lifted me off the floor.

Without a word, I was dropped like a stone back onto the floor when one of my clones screamed to unhand me. I sat up again, once again without a trace of pain. A mass of red fabric still blocked the door.

My clones started screaming at the red cloaks. Something about how though I still needed to be reloaded, I was still a Dark Wraith. I was still beyond what any of them had to do. The Dark Wraiths may have not been a completely successful experiment, but it produced experts in death, with field training a regular Wraith could never get.

I tried bolting again, but this time, the red cloaks just stood there, blocking me. I swung at one's invisible face, but my fist passed through it like punching through smoke, the way Madrox punched me.

With my guard down, one clone sweep-kicked the back of my knees, and the rest caught me on my way to the floor and carried me by my limbs down the hall.

All I could see was the blacklights of the corridor. The clones looked down on me and gave me a meaningless pep talk. It's going to be all right, they said.

One of the red cloaks produced a hypodermic needle. Its contents glowed in the light, and the needle was thick, no doubt designed for spinal injections.

Once again, I was dropped with the grace of a freight train onto my head, as one clone slapped the needle out of the red cloak's hand. The needle clattered to the ground, inches away from me. He yelled that the cloak knew that an overdose would make reloading impossible.

I snatched the needle, pulled it back, and held it to my neck. The rest of the clones dropped me, and I landed in a heap. I scrambled to my feet and pressed it into my flesh ever so slightly. An instant ring of space formed around me. The clones came to the front and told me I didn't know what I was doing. Doing what I was thinking about doing would make me impossible to reload. Too much of the drug would put me in a coma. I'd be a vegetable.

I said I liked vegetables, and depressed the pump.

A clone produced something from the sleeve of his duster that resembled an oversized gold dollar. When he threw it, it shattered the needle's chamber with impossible accuracy. The drug poured all over my hand, and piddled to the floor in slow drops. I pulled the needle out of my neck, having injected nothing but air into the first few layers of flesh, not even piercing the skin.

When I dropped the broken needle to the floor, I asked who the hell still used glass hypodermics, honestly.

They stared at me for what seemed to be a good thirty seconds, until one clone shouldered me like a sack of kitty litter and walked briskly down the hall. One red cloak scurried around him to open a door to the right.

I was dropped onto another table; identical to the one I had awoken on earlier. As they strapped me down, I asked who was managing this place, because it seemed like a hell of a lot of work to drag a guy down the hall with the exact same shit in it.

One clone shook his head, pried open my jaw, and shoved a two-inch thick length of cable down my throat. Apparently I'm an asshole.

The red cloaks rolled what resembled a large laptop computer bolted to a gurney. They positioned the screen of the laptop over my head and fiddled with some switches that bristled from the side of the screen.

The clones surrounded me and laid their hands over my eyes and said they'd be with me in my reloading.

I waited until the heat and light from the screen blasted my face before I responded with an invitation to bite me.

-End program-

Looking at this whole recollection, reliving this whole ordeal, gave me new appreciation for everything that happened. After I was reloaded, Madrox personally extracted every memory from my brain and converted it to the transcript you just read, and a movie file of every waking minute from the past seven months. My memories remained intact, and seeing them gave me a perspective that would have been impossible to see otherwise.

Looking at my actions free of the program's influence gave fresh insight to my own self. After the reloading, I spent a good amount of time sitting alone in the room they gave me, wearing the fresh Dark Wraith uniform they provided. I have full run of the monastery, and every red cloak bows slightly whenever I pass by.

I've come to terms with the whole being a Wraith, angel of death, whatever. The other twelve interact with me on a limited basis, because they've been where I am now, trying to figure out who I am.

I have reached one conclusion, however. Reloading me may have been successful, and the program may be gone, but there's one thing they can never take away.

The hatred remains.

They were wrong about me.

I do like the killing.

From my perch above the world, I can see all of God's Favored. The one city I was in was just the tip of the iceberg. I see so many now, an innumerable amount of Favored. Killing them all would take eons.

I learned something else about Wraiths. We were not just the ones who took the souls after death; we had absolute power over them.

And every being had a soul.

Even God.

I have the chance to kill all the Favored in one fell swoop.

I have the chance to kill God.

Now, a deprogrammed, well-respected Dark Wraith with free run of the Other Side, is the perfect time to get back to work.

o=={====== Continued in Rage's Halo ======}==o