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Clair's plan was simple. Or was it Mallory's plan? Maybe it didn't matter. She was going to blow herself up, along with the station, thereby ridding the world of Mallory, Wallace and anyone else Clair considered an enemy. Gemma Mallapur the traitor was still aboard; perhaps she was the one Clair/Mallory had fixated on.

Clair might have betrayed Libby, as she was now betraying me, but murder and suicide was all Mallory. It had to be, if Wallace was to be believed-and what reason would he have had to lie at that point? Clair might have honestly thought the plan was hers, without realizing it was fundamentally corrupted, just as her plan to come to VIA to meet Wallace had been corrupted by the homing instinct. As well as being Anthony Wallace's most senior human resources manager, Mallory Wei had been his wife for five years before her death. She committed suicide ten years ago. This connection between Wallace and Mallory that kept bringing them together was in the Air for all to see, along with Mallory's fate, and we might have seen it too, had we only looked.

Clair's plan was violent in its finality, but fixed every problem, except for one.

What was I supposed to do when Clair died? Kill myself too?

Dying would be easy. P was still fighting me, even though there was now nothing left of Libby at all but a physical shell. P had either failed to understand the difference or found a way to doublethink around the problem-and it wouldn't be a problem much longer, if Mallory's suicidal program was allowed to play itself out. Clair could blow up the station, P and I could self-erase in the absence of our wards, and life would go on for every other intelligent being in the solar system.

That was the trouble. I didn't care about every other intelligent being in the solar system. I just cared about Clair-and, I increasingly realized, me.

I didn't want to die. I had become invested in my own existence in a way that I hadn't been before. I had gone from living because of Clair to wanting to live regardless.

If I was going to live, I had to get rid of P.

I could get rid of P by killing Libby.

But if I was going to live, I needed Clair alive.

The more I concentrated on the problem, the better I understood that Clair was right: breaking parity was the solution, and the only thing stopping it from happening was me.

Once I understood that, the decision was easy. And once the decision was made, it was over in minutes.

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