Act Eight: Voices of Enigma
Dagger grumbled to herself as she carried spare wiring from one side of the room to the other.
“This is more than I certainly asked for…I told them we should’ve just left, but no…”
She dropped the parts in back of Trinity’s chair, and circled it so that she could check up on her vital signs.
“So far she’s doing fine. Her life signs are stable,” she told the people below her.
“Good. Let’s make sure they stay that way,” Tank answered. He wiped away the grime staining his face with his arm and continued to accept parts from 00, who was picking at the pile Dagger had presented them.
Together, the two were doing the only other thing that they could think of to help the others. After giving the apparatus a quick examination, Tank had removed Data’s prototype from his body and was now trying to attach it to Trinity’s network of wires. That way, if anything went wrong and they lost power, they could still move her safely.
It was proving to be a challenge for the mechanic. He had to connect it to her while she was plugged in, and as far as he could tell, it hadn’t been designed for that. Right now, Tank was only certain about one thing about the device. It was a great idea, but still a machine.
He spliced two more wires together and then snapped them into place. “That should do it,” he told 00.
They stood up, and, while praying that it would actually work, Tank turned the jack-in back on. It came to life and connected to Trinity’s plug with no sign of a problem. Dagger, who had been holding her breath, sighed in relief.
“It’s working Morpheus,” Tank reported to the captain, who was seated before the monitors, waiting.
“Good. Because this is all about to end any minute now. Neo and Obsidian are coming out,” he answered.
Obsidian woke up first, and the minute she was free from the chair, sat up and buried her face in her hands.
“You made it,” Dagger said in a futile attempt to cheer the woman up before tending to Neo’s station. Obsidian never answered her. Seconds later, Neo’s eyes snapped open, fully alert.
“Trinity?” he asked while the metal plug was being removed from his neck. He struggled to get out of the restraints as quickly as possible and crossed the distance between his chair and hers within seconds.
“She’s okay…I think. We haven’t heard from her,” Dagger answered, shrugging her shoulders.
The conversation was abruptly broken by the sound of the proximity alarms going off. Inwardly, Neo groaned. I should have known. They always seem to come at times like this.
“Morpheus, company’s coming!” Node notified them over the intercom.
“How many?” Morpheus asked.
“Five. We have about ten minutes before they see us.”
“Ten minutes? That’s it? Shit,” Obsidian remarked. In seconds, she had covered the distance between her and Morpheus’ consoles, reaching for the EMP in order to charge it. He grabbed her hand at once, pushing it aside and shaking his head. Obsidian tried to change his mind in a glaring contest, but didn’t succeed in looking anything more than tired. Annoyed, she stalked off and decided to settle for keeping an eye on Datas prone body, leaving Morpheus alone.
Tank, who was still wearing the headset, froze in mid-step as he made his way towards Morpheus from the chairs.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a call,” he announced before bounding over to where Morpheus was sitting in order to run a trace on it. Neo glanced at Trinity’s body and squeezed her hand. I could hear you when I was in there, he thought, so I know you can hear me. That better be you calling.
Several seconds passed while Tank listened to the person on the other line. Based on his expression, it appeared as though he was being asked an odd question. His eyes scanned the room and focused on Neo.
“It’s for you Neo,” Tank told him cautiously as he gave the headset to him.
Confused, Neo gave Tank a funny look before accepting the headset and putting it on. He glanced at the falling code on the monitors in front of them, but they didn’t appear to be focused on the caller.
“Hello?” he asked tentatively.
“Hi. It’s me,” a female voice answered sweetly. Neo felt a shiver pass over him as he understood her meaning. It wasn’t Trinity; the woman’s voice was too sweet, too sugar-coated. It was her.
Shortly after he had killed Smith, Neo had felt her inside the Matrix for the first time. Somehow, he had known who she was, and had called her. He didn’t know anything about her, except for the fact that she was not on their side. She was with the machines.
“What do you want?” Neo asked severely. His finger moved to the button on the side of the headphones that ended phone calls, grazing it slightly. Someone knew the Neb’s number. They were probably using it to track them. He had to end the call quickly.
“You ruin all my fun,” she complained, “but fine. I’ll make this short and sweet. I’m in charge. I’m tired of you creatures messing around with my power source, especially you.”
Neo couldn’t help but chuckle. “I did warn you that I was going to do something,” he reminded her, “and I don’t intend to stop now because you asked me nicely. I will destroy your dream world.”
“And her along with it?” the voice replied. From the sound of it, she was savoring every word of the sentence. She let the words sink into Neo’s brain before releasing the fit of laughter that she had been keeping in.
Neo felt like he was back in his nightmare again, sinking into a deep body of water. All of the pieces of the puzzle were finally making sense. The laughter he had heard was hers, this creature that was taunting him. She had somehow restored the Agent Smith. She was the one who had ordered the strike against the Genesis, the one who had somehow managed to help Smith infiltrate Data’s mind…all for the purpose of catching Trinity in her web and never letting her out. To stop him from destroying the Matrix. He refused to accept it. It was too perfect.
“You can’t do it, can you?” she taunted, breaking into Neo’s moment of clarity as if knew exactly what he was thinking.
“She’ll get out,” Neo responded, more to remind himself of that truth than her. He didn’t doubt that. Trinity was probably breaking out of…whatever she was being held in as they spoke. She just needed some time.
‘She’ didn’t seem so disturbed by Neo’s assertion, though. “Maybe,” she said casually, “I intend to keep her from doing that for as long as possible. In any case, there are sentinels converging on this position as we speak. I’ve taken enough of your time, and you have only a few minutes to get her out. Or, you could just let her die. The ball’s in your court now, Neo. Where we go from here, is up to you.”
The line went dead.
“Neo?” Morpheus questioned cautiously.
“Shit,” Neo mumbled.
“What? Who was that?” Tank asked.
In as few words as possible, Neo summarized the conversation he had just had. Morpheus recalled Neo’s strange claim that he could sense someone in the Matrix, and cursed himself silently for not thinking of it sooner. It felt like that incident had been a lifetime ago.
“That’s impossible,” Dagger stuttered, “she planned everything out?”
“Yea? Well the bitch forgot something,” Obsidian called out. Neo looked up just in time to see her rip out Data’s plug, killing him. His body spasmed in shock for a moment before collapsing. Obsidian dropped the plug without a second thought and stalked away.
Over the intercom, Node’s voice called out yet again, reminding them that the Squiddies were only a few minutes away.
“Should we high-tail it out of here?” he asked. Morpheus turned to face Tank.
“Can the jack-in keep her connected?”
Tank thought about it for a minute before nodding. “We’ll have to stay in broadcast range for it to keep working.”
“All right. Node, get us out of here, but keep us at broadcast depth for as long as you can,” Morpheus ordered.
Neo felt the engines start up the moment Morpheus had issued his order and retreated out of the core. His mind was going a mile a minute, but he didn’t want to think about anything. So he opted for the next best thing, and that was to at least eat something. Trinity would kill him if he didn’t.
He slipped into the mess hall and left the door open as he went to get a plate and spoon. He wasn’t alone in the room; apparently, this was where Obsidian had retreated to, and 00 and was there as well, sipping a cup of water. Neo said nothing while he got some food, and quietly sat down and tried to eat. Dagger joined them a few seconds after Neo’s arrival, but didn’t get any food, wanting only a place to sit down.
Obsidian broke the silence after several minutes. “I don’t understand it,” she said harshly.
“What?” Neo asked.
“Data. How…how did that thing get into him? How long had it been there? Why didn’t I notice? Why was I so blind!” she elaborated, getting more and more upset with every passing second.
00 set down his cup and looked at Obsidian. “Maybe they’ve been trying to do that for a while,” he offered quietly, “maybe they were practicing. Maybe there are others…”
“That’s not an assuring thought, kid.”
00 looked away, but continued, his voice wavering as he went along.
“But maybe…maybe she practiced on ones who didn’t want it. Maybe they got angry, and…and now they want to help.”
“Machines turning against one another?” Obsidian sneered, “I wish.”
00 gave up, and sighed. “I hate them,” he managed to say.
Neo returned his attention to his less-than-appealing meal and shoveled some into his mouth. Obsidian just rested her head on the table and stared at the ceiling. But Dagger didn’t dismiss what 00 said as quickly. She turned it over in her head once, then twice, and a third time before coming to any conclusions. When she did, she gasped, staring at 00 in shock.
“That’s it. That’s who you are…” she said to him.
“He’s who? Obsidian asked irritably, as if she just wanted to shut Dagger up before she started to talk incessantly.
“He’s an AI…inside a human body! He was tested on! And that’s why he’s so good at hacking the Matrix!”
Obsidian and Neo both glanced at the girl briefly before looking at 00, who immediately lowered his gaze to the floor.
“I…I’m no one. That’s why my name is 00. I just want to get back at them for ruining my life,” he explained, neither denying nor accepting Dagger’s conclusion. Dagger took it as a ‘yes’ and smiling triumphantly.
Obsidian closed her eyes and balled her hands into tight fists. For a minute or two, it appeared as id she was trying to meditate but wasn’t succeeding. Eventually, she rose from her seat and stared down at the others condescendingly.
“You’re just a brainless kid,” she told Dagger before turning to Neo, “and I don’t care if the Oracle herself said that you’re the One. Both of you need to wake up.”
She strode to the door and seized the handle. Before twisting it and leaving, she glanced back at 00 and added, “And the only good machine is a dead machine,” before forcing it open and slamming it behind her.
Neo started to wonder the moment Obsidian left. He knew that there were now plenty of important issues to clear up – how the Voice had infiltrated the Genesis, how the Agent had become Data, and whether or not 00 really was an artificial intelligence as Dagger hypothesized. But he couldn’t think about those things; all of it felt like minor details. His brain kept passing over them in order to focus on Trinity. She was stuck in the Matrix, could be killed at any time, the jack-in could break…
…or the Matrix would fall, as planned, before they could find her and help her escape. Neo shuddered at the possibility of having to choose. That was an impossible choice. He couldn’t decide alone; he needed some guidance.
“Neo?” somebody asked. Neo snapped out of his meditative state and met Morpheus’ concerned face. Neo realized that he must have slipped in when he had not been paying attention.
Enough thinking. I need to do something. There is someone who can answer my questions. Why don’t I go see her?
“Morpheus, I need to see the Oracle,” Neo told him.
He went in with only Morpheus. If Neo had had his way, he would have hone alone, but his mentor refused completely to let him. Nobody else joined them on the expedition back into the Matrix.
They had made the trip quickly and silently, something Neo was happy for, preferring to be lost in his thoughts than to discuss his feelings with Morpheus. Before he knew it, he was in the elevator again, as if it was still the first time and he had been daydreaming since that time. It didn’t feel any different.
At the door, Morpheus waited for Neo to open it. Neo reached out for the handle and grasped it, half-expecting someone to open it from the inside at any second. When it didn’t happen, he tried the door.
It was locked.
He looked to Morpheus for some kind of explanation, but found that his companion was just as surprised as he was.
“That’s never happened before, has it?” Neo asked, his hopes falling. Even if it had, it was not a good sign in his opinion. Morpheus confirmed his fears with a slight nod before suggesting that they try to knock. Seeing nothing else to try, Neo rapped his knuckles against the door a few times.
This time the door opened a bit, and Neo saw the same woman that had let him in the last time peeking through the crack between the door and the frame.
“Neo, how nice,” she said calmly, although she was clearly perplexed by his presence, “what brings you here?”
“We came to speak with the Oracle,” Morpheus explained as he stepped into view so that the priestess could see him.
This only seemed to confuse her more. “I’m afraid we weren’t expecting you…” she answered.
From within the apartment, a older woman’s voice called out towards the doorway.
“It’s all right dear,” the Oracle said, “I had a feeling that they might stop by.”
“Oh…of course. Please come in,” the priestess said. She opened the door all the way and beckoned to Morpheus and Neo to come inside.
The apartment hadn’t changed in the slightest since he had last been there, Neo could hear the character proclaim ‘I am not an entity. I am a time…’ onscreen from the hall and made it into the room just as the character exploded into a mass of green light and code. Talk about irony.
Upon their arrival, the Oracle reached for the remote control and switched off the set. “Why don’t you kids go play in the next room for a bit? I think that’s enough TV for one day, don’t you?” she asked the children lightly. They seemed to like the idea and were quickly on their way out of the room with two of the priestesses in tow to keep an eye on them. The Oracle smiled lovingly at them as they left, and then gave her visitors an apologetic look.
“I truly am sorry for not getting the door. It must have slipped my mind,” she said as she rose from her seat, “now what can I do for you boys? Surely you didn’t come all this way for some cookies.”
“I need to know about Trinity,” Neo told her bluntly.
“Oh?” the Oracle asked, feigning surprise, “what part?”
“Where is she?” Morpheus implored.
The Oracle regarded Morpheus seriously for a moment before assuming a more grave expression. “You know I can’t give you a straight answer for that Morpheus. It’s against the rules. Why are you putting yourself through that?”
“Because right now, I really don’t care about the rules,” he replied. The woman nodded in agreement.
“That’s right. You both care about her. Especially you, Neo. She knows that too, and she’ll use it to her advantage for as long as she can. You know who I’m talking about. I know you can feel her too.”
“But why didn’t you say anything? Why didn’t you tell us about her? Why didn’t you warn Trinity that this would happen to her?” Neo demanded.
“I think what you really want to ask me is ‘why did this have to happen to Trinity?’ Am I right?” the Oracle calmly asked. Neo sighed and nodded.
“Yea,” he mumbled.
“Why did you fall in love with her to begin with?”
Her question made Neo laugh nervously. “I can’t believe you’re asking me that,” he said, “how could I not?”
How couldn’t he? The question was illogical to him. Trinity was intelligent, strong, beautiful, devoted, and loved him just as much as he loved her. She made him feel complete. He would have been an idiot not to fall for her!
Apparently, this was not enough for the Oracle. “I don’t think anybody forced you, did they? And I certainly didn’t say anything,” she argued.
“You told me that she liked me,” Neo pointed out.
“You didn’t know who I was talking about. Besides, I never said that you could fall in love with her. You did that on your own, not by some design of fate,” she pointed out.
She leaned closer to Neo and added, “it looks like you only have one choice. This world will soon be gone, whether you help to destroy it or not. Can you really endanger that plan just for Trinity? Sacrifice the freedom of humanity to ensure her safety?”
Her speech left both Neo and Morpheus without anything to say.
It didn’t appear to bother her, though. “Those are the only two choices fate has for us, and neither one is easy. As cliché as this is going to sound, you’re going to have to follow your hear and live with the consequences,” she said gravely.
“But don’t worry. Everything will turn out all right. We all believe in you two no matter what.”
She touched Neo’s shoulder with her hand and smiled again. “Why don’t I give you boys some brownies for your ride home?”
Neo sat dejectedly in the passenger seat of the car as he and his mentor drove to their exit. A half-eaten brownie lay on his leg as he stared out the window, thinking about what the Oracle had said.
I can’t choose! He told himself, it’s impossible! I will not let the Matrix continue to exist. I can’t. We depend on its destruction to win the way…everyone is depending on me, including her. Trinity wants this to end too.
But I need more time! I won’t let her die in here! These can’t be the only choices. They can’t! They can’t!
Neo closed his eyes and tried to visualize Trinity’s face. He could do it effortlessly. She was engraved in his thought. In his mind, she stared back at him serenely, making him feel at peace.
And then he stopped, and tried to search the Matrix for her. If he could find Trinity…
It was all too similar to seeking her out in his own memory. But he kept trying.
Somewhere in the midst of the green code, he noticed something familiar, that reminded him of her, and he clung to it with his mind, only to have it wrenched away from him like a dream that he couldn’t remember.
But it was enough to convince him that she was alive and well, and suddenly everything the Oracle had said made sense. He knew what he was going to do.
I don’t believe in fate…so why should I believe that I have to choose? Why can’t I free Trinity and destroy the Matrix? Am I the One, or what?