Act Five: Push the Limits
Out of the still atmosphere of the ancient pipelines came the Nebuchadnezzar, surging forward at breakneck speeds and leaving behind it a trail of smoky air and the whining noise of the engines slowly dying off into the everlasting night. The crew was pulling out all the stops to get to the other ship as soon as possible. The ship under attack was without a doubt disabled by now. If they were to rescue anyone, they had to get there fast, or the machines would get there before them.
Nobody was really clear on which ship it was either, and that caused further debate about the sanity of what they were trying to do. Morpheus had admitted that he didn’t know of any ship that was posted in the region from where the distress call came from, but he was still adamant about treating it like a rescue operation. All the same, not everyone was totally convinced, particularly Dagger and Node. But, they still did as Morpheus asked, and set up medical equipment to treat the wounded they may find. In the last few minutes of the trip, the anxiety was everywhere, marking everyone’s faces with extreme apprehensiveness and worry.
Trinity and Morpheus continued to man the cockpit, and pulled the hovercraft to an unsteady stop. Trinity leaned forward to see through the glass, narrowing her eyes in a futile attempt to get a better look at what was outside.
“Morpheus, there’s nothing here!” she declared after a few seconds of alternating her vision from the sensor logs below and the window in front of her.
“Are you sure?” Morpheus asked. He didn’t want to leave anything unexamined, for he was determined to find the ship before it was too late. He moved over to the ruined chair next to her and examined the readings. Trinity leaned away to give him a better look, and then gestured to the outside.
“There’s nothing here. No signs of any kind of electromagnetic power, and if there was a powered-down ship at the bottom, we would have hit some part of it,” she continued.
The captain reached for the intercom and flipped it on. “Tank, Neo, go to the lower decks. Turn on the spotlights and open the crane portal. Tell me what you see.”
Tank scrambled out of his seat, letting Node take it so he could use the EMP if the need came, while Neo began to descend the ladder. Tank beckoned for 00 to come along, and he complied after some hesitation. The three climbed down the ladder until they reached the very bottom of the Neb. Tank led the way to the control panel, and turned it on while 00 and Neo adjusted the spotlights so that they faced the now closed portal. They came on right after, sending bright white lights at the floor.
“Ready?” Tank asked. Neo and 00 nodded, and walked to the edge of the trap door.
“Okay, I’m opening the door.”
He seized the handles to the large and rather heavy door, and pulled with all his might to make them move. The door creaked open slowly and not without resistance. Eventually, the space was wide enough for Neo and 00 to send beams of light out of. The fluorescent lights completely lit up the entire bottom of the sewer. When they saw what was below, all three froze in horror.
“Oh my God,” Neo breathed. He could not believe it.
“What is it? What do you see?” Morpheus asked again over the intercom, not enthused by Neo’s reaction. 00 stepped away from the open hatch out of fear of losing his balance. Tank closed his eyes and answered Morpheus sadly.
“It’s the Genesis. They’re gone. The entire ship was destroyed,” he announced with a heavy tone. And he was right. For right below their ship, they could see nothing but sewage water and metal scraps that had been once part of another vessel. On one part that by chance happened to be right below the hatch, the ship’s name was inscribed in fading yellow paint.
From the cockpit, Trinity and Morpheus could now see this for themselves. The illumination from their lights showed them the same scene it showed the trio down below. Morpheus lowered his head and closed his eyes upon viewing the wreckage as if he was in deep contemplation.
“Morpheus?” Trinity asked gently.
“We have to examine the wreckage to see if anyone survived,” he told her, “I won’t leave any stone unturned.”
Trinity nodded and climbed down the ladder to tell the crew of Morpheus’ orders and get them organized into search parties. Morpheus remained above for a few seconds longer, his head still bent and eyes still closed, before following Trinity down. He wasn’t even halfway down the ladder when he could hear Trinity explaining what was going on to the best of her knowledge.
“The Genesis was another ship in the strike force Zion put together. It had the same mission as we did: to take out a portion of the Matrix code using those bombs 00 helped to create,” she told everyone. Morpheus strode up to the group to join in on the briefing.
“What I don’t get is what were they doing so far out? They should have destroyed their target long ago,” Node said. He didn’t understand what had possessed the crew to stay out in the danger zone when all the attacking ships had been called back to Zion.
“I think I have an answer,” Morpheus said, shaking his head, “I knew the captain of the Genesis. She had a fierce hatred of the machines, and always tried to cause as much damage to the Matrix as she could whenever she was on the inside. I’m betting they jumped the gun on their captain’s orders. The Genesis was probably on their way to the Fields on the surface to take out as much of their potential power supply as they could while the AI were distracted by the attacks on the Matrix. That was the next phase of the plan.”
“That far up? On their own? If you ask me, that ship was insane to try and go alone, if that was indeed what she had decided,” Dagger admitted.
“That was how Obsidian worked,” Morpheus replied, using the captain’s name for the first time, “catching her enemy off guard with suicidal strategies. It looks like her luck ran out this time.” He sighed heavily, and then issued orders.
“Let’s go so we can search the area as quickly as possible. I don’t want any more Squiddies catching us here like they did with the Genesis. Node and 00 will remain here to man the ship and the EMP. The rest of us are going down to search for survivors.”
With that, the crew silently went to fetch various supplies and the only first aid kit while the ship touched down on the sewer bottom and powered down. Five people filed out of the Neb’s main hatch equipped with flashlights and split into two teams. As they trudged through the ankle-deep water that was a putrid grey colour, Neo couldn’t help but feel that searching for survivors was futile. How could anyone survive like this for hours: alone, with no light, in the middle of the equivalent of a polluted swamp?
Trinity was quick to notice Neo’s discomfort, and took his hand in an effort to calm his nerves. She was rewarded with a small squeeze, and a reassuring smile from Neo. Still, she really did not want to look for floating corpses either.
“Morpheus, you and Dagger have the only first aid kit. We’ll look for anything useful that can be salvaged and call you if we find someone,” she called out to the captain. He yelled an ‘all right!’ in response, and headed in the other direction with Dagger.
“Come on, I want to find the EMP,” Tank suggested. Together, the three waded towards the remains of the main deck, or rather what they thought was the main deck by the fact that the Genesis’ nameplate was there.
“Something is not right about this,” Tank said to one in particular while he picked up the odd piece of wreckage along the way to examine it.
“I know. I don’t get it. Why didn’t they use their EMP?” Neo asked while he held both his and Tank’s flashlights so that he could use both his hands. Trinity moved off some distance away from the two men as she scrutinized some wet and burnt circuitry plates in order to determine whether they could be repaired.
“I have no idea,” Tank confided to Neo, “but…here it is.”
He plunged his hands deeper into the murky water and brought to the surface what was clearly the activation switch to the pulse. Even to Neo’s untrained eye, it appeared to be relatively intact. Trinity moved back to their position and came to the same conclusion.
“They tried to use it,” she pointed out, tapping the red switch that was in the ‘on’ position. It was exactly like the one on board the Nebuchadnezzar. Neo wondered if they were standard on all the ships Zion sent out.
“Let’s bring back as much of it as we can find,” Tank suggested, “I want to know what went wrong.”
They spent the next twenty minutes picking out bits and pieces of the weapon and stuffing it into one of the body bags that had been brought for a very similar purpose. By the time they had collected all the pieces they could find, Trinity had decided that that was all they were going to get out of the wreckage and they were headed back for their own ship. They were nearly there when Neo heard Dagger’s cry of surprise.
“Here! Over here!” she clamored excitedly, “I found someone! He’s okay!”
Tank said he would head back to the ship to drop off the wreckage they had collected, and left Neo and Trinity to converge on Dagger’s position. By the time Neo and Trinity had reached her, they found her hovering over a squatting figure with Morpheus a few strides away, clearly relieved. The teenage girl finally stepped away from the man, her head shaking in disbelief.
“I don’t believe it. There’s not a scratch on you. It’s practically a miracle,” she breathed, very amazed at this discovery.
“I guess I got lucky this time,” the man replied in a thick British accent. Dagger picked up her flashlight and pointed it at him so that everyone could se who it was.
“People,” she announced proudly to the newcomers, “this is Data.”
Although it was still too dark for Neo and the others to properly distinguish all of Data’s features, such as what colour his hair and eyes were, they could see that he had a somewhat thin and tired face surrounded by limp, thin hair and clothes sagging from the weight of water. He looked oddly familiar to Neo, but from where he just couldn’t say. Maybe he had seen him a few times inside the Matrix, in his old life.
Data smiled as a form of welcome and thanks for his rescue, but then his face became very grave.
“The others…I found their bodies and let them float away downstream. I didn’t expect anyone to find them, or me for that matter,” he confided.
“So no one else is left alive?” Morpheus asked, his voice tinged with disappointment. Data shook his head.
“No, I’m the only one left.”
“Hey!” Tank yelled from the other end of the wreck, moving slowly towards them while dragging something along with him.
Dagger scrambled over to him as she tugged her medical kit and flashlight along with her before dropping them in the water so that she could help Tank carry. Trinity pointed her light at the pair to see what they were carrying, and illuminated the figure of a woman close to her age. She had slightly tanned skin and short black hair. She was coughing and sputtering water while Tank explained how he had found her.
“After I had brought the parts we found in, I came out to see if I could find anything else of use. I found her under a large piece of the floor plating over there,” he said, jerking his head in the general direction of where he meant, “I thought she was dead.”
“I thought you said there were no other survivors,” Morpheus said to Data. He could only shrug back.
“Sorry to disappoint you,” the woman spat in between coughs. Her attitude was almost volatile. Dagger proceeded to treat her while Morpheus assumed the job of supporting her body. She put up a considerable fight and resorted to trying to break free from Morpheus and Tank’s hold and shove Dagger away.
“I’m fine!” she insisted, “and I can walk on my own Morpheus!”
“Yea, you’re fine if you ignore the fact that you have a nasty bruise on your head,” Dagger remarked in a ‘as a matter of fact’ tone, “but I guess I won’t be able to convince you until you start seeing pink elephants, eh?”
“Please, let our medics treat you inside at the very least,” Morpheus prompted. The woman conceded, and followed Dagger into the Nebuchadnezzar, but without allowing anyone to support her. Neo and Trinity took up the rear, with Data right in front of them.
“Is that…?” Neo ventured.
Data nodded, wiping his face with his hands to try and smear away some of the soot and grime staining it. “Yes. That’s Obsidian, my captain. She’s one tough bird.”
It was then that Neo noticed that Data was carrying with him a few pieces of some machine he didn’t recognize. “What is that?” he asked, pointing at the bits.
“This? A prototype I was working on before we were attacked,” Data answered quickly, clutching the parts even closer to his chest, “I was hoping I could fix it up again. It’s kind of a personal project.”
“A prototype for what?” Trinity said.
Data never answered her. Tank began yelling over the intercom at that moment that they all had to get inside and they didn’t have time to chat. At least for now.
Once everyone was inside, they sealed the hatches once more and they left the site of the Genesis’ wreck. Morpheus went back up to the cockpit with Tank to resume their course back to Zion.
Obsidian sat inside the medical ward as the Neb turned around and began to go deeper into the planet. She was clearly trying her best to restrain her desire to get up and leave, and Node and Dagger did their best to respect her wishes by examining her as quickly as possible. Dagger tied a hasty bandage to the scabbed wound on her head while Node scrutinized her vital readings from his monitor. He turned away, satisfied.
“It looks like there isn’t any permanent damage, so all you have to do is take it easy for a while, and that shouldn’t be hard given our destination,” Node said cheerily, shutting down the medical equipment.
“Just where are we headed?” Obsidian inquired as she practically jumped off the metal table.
“Back on our original course. To Zion,” Dagger replied.
The captain of the Genesis dashed out of the medical ward, leaving behind a very confused Node and Dagger. She began to take any ladder that led upwards, and eventually made it to the cockpit, where she blocked Morpheus’ access to the controls.
“We can’t leave. The mission is incomplete,” she stated firmly.
Undaunted by her outright contradiction to his decision, Morpheus frowned and tried to move Obsidian out of his way unsuccessfully. She firmly planted herself to the spot she was standing on and barely moved.
“Turn this ship around now,” she ordered, “I’m not moving until you do.”
Morpheus looked over at Tank, searching for a solution to this problem. “How far are we from the crash site?”
“Far enough not to be detected by anything that comes by it in search of more things to blow up,” Tank answered uneasily. Morpheus could tell that he was starting to really miss his native home and did not want to postpone the return trip again. But still, his mind reminded him, Obsidian was a fellow captain. He felt it necessary to hear her out. If Morpheus was anything, it was honorable.
“Land the ship,” he decided finally to Tank before addressing Obsidian again, “we’ll talk this one out. Fair enough?”
Tank complied with Morpheus’ request and brought the ship to a stand still. They both looked at Obsidian, who did not appear to be entirely convinced.
“That’s not good enough. Turn the ship around,” she reiterated.
“No. This is not your ship, and I prefer to know what suicide mission you’re proposing we undertake before I even consider turning around. Our combined crew will decide our course of action. Now you can either accept that, or I can have you dragged out,” Morpheus threatened. Obsidian glared at him for a moment, then stormed off.
They convened on the main deck, and Morpheus allowed Obsidian to take the floor and state her case.
“We were on a mission of the utmost importance when we were attacked. We were attempting to infiltrate a section of the Matrix and delete some key files from within,” she stated.
“That sounds like what we’ve been doing this whole time. What was so special about these files?” Node asked.
“They’re part of the Agent programs,” Obsidian replied. She certainly had everyone’s attention now.
“We managed to locate a source component to their programming on one of our other runs,” Data filled in, “we theorized that if this piece of their program was deleted, it would seriously weaken them, and that would make everyone’s job easier. Without the Agents to pose a threat, the Matrix could be shut down much faster,” he added. Neo couldn’t help but think that he had put a touch of malice into that comment. He wasn’t sure why, but it bothered him.
“It’s much more than that! It has the potential to screw up the logic of the Matrix itself, which could in turn cause a shut down now!” Obsidian declared.
“Why were you assigned to this mission by yourself? Even two ships would have stood a better chance than one,” Trinity inquired, “or did you decide to ditch them and go kamikaze?”
“Zion wanted to keep it as secret as possible,” Obsidian said sharply, “they didn’t want the machines to find out. They agreed with me in thinking a fast hit was better than a prepared one.”
“And we were so close before,” she continued, trying her best to convince as many of Morpheus’ crew as possible that it could be done, “we had located the target. Data was pinpointing it when the Squiddies attacked us. If it hadn’t been for them, we would have done it,” she spat, still angry over the thought.
Neo finally spoke up. “So you want to go back inside, relocate this part of the Matrix, and destroy it? It sounds too easy.”
“Trust me, it is a little harder than it sounds. But I am positive that it can be done. Zion knew I could do it!”
“Enough. We will take a vote. Whatever decision we come to will be the course of action we pursue,” Morpheus said, “but all of you know that there are other ways.”
Obsidian laughed. “What ‘other ways’? Surely you don’t mean the One, do you? There is no One, Morpheus. ‘He’ is not coming. It’s just an old legend. I don’t believe in that shit, nor anything the Oracle says. We have to take action ourselves. I’m going even if I have to walk all the way back and build what I need from scrap.”
“I’m not,” Data announced. Obsidian looked at him as if he were a traitor.
“What?” she said in a barely audible voice.
“I’m voting against going,” he repeated coldly, “we need to regroup and rethink our position. Going back to Zion will provide us with such an opportunity.”
“You…” Obsidian growled. Morpheus stepped in between the two crew members and asked that everyone continue their deliberations. Neo watched the confrontation, and found himself staring at Data. He seemed even more familiar when he was scowling in anger. Neo made a mental note to ask Trinity and Morpheus about him when this was over with, just to alleviate his growing anxiety.
“I’m with Data. Coming out here was dangerous enough given the number of Squiddies. But staying here is insane. We’re pushing it,” Tank said. He crossed his arms, and obviously could not have his mind changed by anyone.
Neo looked over at Trinity, who had been oddly silent during this meeting. He could tell that she did not like Obsidian’s attitude, and felt challenged by it, especially by her comment about the One. He knew Trinity shared a similar point of view with Obsidian and also believed in taking control, but was not so dismissive about ‘old legends’ now that she was a part of them in a strange way.
“I say we go for it,” she decided, much to everyone’s surprise. Neo saw it for what it was. She was challenging Obsidian’s point of view and her authority. Trinity wanted to prove to Obsidian that the Nebuchadnezzar’s crew was more than capable of taking on anything.
00 was next to come to vote. “I vote for taking on the mission,” he said quietly. It was another unexpected vote; 00 has always been cautious and quiet.
“You’re all mental,” Dagger said to Obsidian, Trinity, and 00, “this is stupid. I’m against it. I want to go home. The component thingy isn’t going to be going anywhere, so why should we be in such a rush?”
Neo recounted the votes in his head. So far, it was tied up evenly. He tried to think about what he wanted to do, but couldn’t come up with anything. Sure, he wanted to go to Zion, but he also understood the necessity of destroying the Agents and the Matrix. He said nothing, and hoped that Node and Morpheus would vote for the same thing so that it did not come down to him.
“Zion ordered us to return. We were not told to deviate or take up any other mission, and that is good enough for me. I think we should head back to Zion, but if we do go for this, I’ll do my part,” Node said.
“Well, I’m sure you are going to be against it Morpheus, so thank you oh so much for this lovely piece of democracy and your subtle manipulation of my only remaining crew member,” Obsidian remarked sarcastically.
“Actually, I believe we can do it,” Morpheus said, “and I can relate to your position. I will vote in favor of going, which means that the sides are tied, and the outcome falls on Neo’s choice. Choose what your mind tells you is right, not what we do.”
Oh, no, Neo thought to himself. This was exactly what he had tried to avoid. He didn’t know what to decide! He could already feel Dagger’s eyes imploring him to support her side, and Obsidian’s ice-cold stare was warning him bad would happen if he didn’t support hers. Everyone, save for Morpheus and Trinity, were trying to convince him to choose their choice through their looks. It was worse than trying to choose between the blue pill and the red pill. What was he supposed to use? Ennie, meenie, mynie, mo?
Morpheus had already said that he did not care what Neo chose, and he believed it. A part of him wanted to defy Obsidian for inadvertently insulting him, another wanted to prove her wrong. Still another wanted to go somewhere safe with Trinity, but then he remembered that she didn’t want to be taken care of in that way. She didn’t want the easy way out. And if that was what she wanted, he eventually concluded, then it was what he wanted too. He would prove Obsidian wrong with her. He would show her that the One did exist.
“Let’s do it,” he said, settling the matter. Morpheus didn’t waste any time after that and promptly began issuing orders.
“All right then. Obsidian, go with Node to input the location coordinates. The rest of us will set up the gear and charge the EMP.”
“I’m going to have a look at the Genesis’ EMP. Maybe I can get it working. It may come in handy,” Tank said to Morpheus before retreating to a corner of the main deck to work. Obsidian followed Node up a level to help him. Dagger, 00, and Trinity began setting up various pieces of equipment on the deck. The only ones that remained close enough to hear each other were Morpheus, Neo, and Data.
“Uh…sir?” Data asked Morpheus.
“If it’s all right with you, I’d like to repair my prototype. It too may prove to be useful.”
“A prototype for what?” Morpheus asked, echoing Trinity’s question.
“It…it is a portable jack-in to the Matrix. I was testing it while inside when we were attacked. It saved my life. The others were able to get me out when the ship’s power blew because it runs on its own power supply.”
“Interesting…” Morpheus commented, intrigued by the concept. He then added in something else. “Very well. But if someone needs your help, you assist them. Clear?”
“Yes sir!” Data exclaimed before heading off to work on it.
They managed to return to the crash site almost as quickly as they had left it. As they put the finishing touches on the equipment, Neo took an opportunity to speak to Morpheus privately.
“Morpheus, what do we tell Obsidian and Data? Should we tell that that I’m probably the One?”
“Not probably, Neo, you are the One. But I am not sure we should divulge that information to them. You have seen Obsidian’s attitude towards the concept. I think that even if we did tell her, she would not believe us. Perhaps it should remain a secret.”
“So I guess that’s a no,” Neo said, laughing.
“Not necessarily,” Morpheus pointed out, “in the end, it comes down to what you are comfortable with. This is a question of your identity, after all. If you decide to keep it a secret, I can only hope that you can keep it that way.”
“I don’t want her or Data to know,” Neo admitted, “at least not yet. I don’t know why, but I don’t trust them.”
“Perhaps it is because you do not know them,” the captain suggested.
“No, that’s not it. It wasn’t like this when Dagger and Node came on board. I just…it doesn’t feel right.”
Morpheus placed a reassuring hand on Neo’s shoulder and smiled. “I’m sure it’s nothing. You’ll figure it out in time,” he assured him.
“Morpheus, we’re ready over here,” Trinity called from the center of the main deck. The two men joined up with the group in the center.
“Are the coordinates entered?” Morpheus asked Obsidian.
“15497.48736.805, that’s it,” she answered, reading the numbers off of a monitor.
“Good. Trinity, Node, Neo, and Dagger will accompany you and Data inside. We’ll monitor from here,” Morpheus said, referring to himself, Tank, and 00.
“You’re not coming?” Dagger asked him.
“No, I wouldn’t want to steal the show from Obsidian,” he replied. His response garnered a few nervous laughs and another sarcastic glare from his fellow captain.
The group that was set to go inside took seats in the metal dentist-like chairs. Data turned on his newly repaired prototype and connected it to the circuitry that would be connecting him to the Matrix. Within a few seconds, Neo heard the machines whirring into life, saw a green flash of code, and was inside the Matrix once more.