Act Four: Silence Must be Heard
Neo dreamt that he was sinking. Sinking, farther and farther, deeper and deeper still. The enormous lake he must have fallen into was drowning him. But wait a second…when did I fall into a lake? There are no lakes…this is a strange dream.
He started to become aware of his surroundings, and even began to enjoy himself. You couldn’t go swimming in a lake in this day in age, unless you wanted to go into the Matrix, so dreaming it up was the closest he would get to the sensation. He opened his eyes, expecting to see a clear, blue body of water, and maybe some fish or plants or something. Wouldn’t that be nice? After months of seeing nothing but a rusted old ship, what a wonderful break it would be, to be floating along in some fresh water…
It was dark. The feel of the water didn’t seem right. Neo noticed once he started to try and swim back to the surface (If there had ever been a surface to begin with) that it was thicker than water. It had the consistency of oil…and what colour was it? It was too dark to see.
Almost in response to Neo’s inner questions about his dream’s setting, light penetrated the liquid he was swimming in. He swam for the light, and the closer to the surface he got, the clearer the colours were. It wasn’t blue; it wasn’t even algae green. It was amber-coloured. Neo knew what it was instantly after seeing that vile shade. It was liquefied human flesh.
Neo knew what to expect next, but refused to relive it. Waking up had been the most traumatic experience he could have ever imagined, and he had no desire to go through it again. He would have tried to change direction, and to stop swimming for the top, but he couldn’t stand being in the sea of flesh. He tried to wake himself up, but that didn’t work either. His lucidity wasn’t strong enough.
When Neo reached the top, the actions came naturally to him. He pushed through the moist, slimy barrier and took in a deep breath of air, although it was hardly fresh. Then he looked around while he rested a little, waiting for the machine he expected to come and wrench the metal coil from the socket behind his neck.
Time passed, and no machine came. This isn’t how it went, Neo eventually told himself, but what’s different? It looks the same…at least so far it does. Are there…Neo shuddered involuntarily, at the sickening thought of helpless human bodies encased in glass and wires all around him. Still, he had to know if they were there like before, to understand the dream, so Neo turned his head and looked.
Pods much like his own surrounded his immediate view, so that had not changed. He stared blankly at them, wondering what had possessed his brain to create such a disturbing dream. When the pod to his right began to show strange activity, his interest flared. The person next to him was waking up?
The other pod’s thick membrane rose from its inert position and was torn wide open in a single, powerful rip. Neo couldn’t look away from it even if he had wanted to. The dream was in control. Slowly, a body began to emerge from the pod, wiping away the disgusting slime from his face and neck. Neo tired to get a clear view of the man, but the cords attached into his own body were pulling at him, and it took a lot of effort.
Then, the man came into crystal clarity. And he was no stranger to Neo. How could he possibly ever forget those eyes…the eyes of the one who had killed him. Smith!
He couldn’t understand it! Smith was a machine. How could he be here? What did it mean? The questions were filling Neo’s head, questions he didn’t have any answers to.
But the dream was not over yet. Not even before Neo had started to accept Smith’s presence did his psyche receive another jolt. A clear and very loud laugh began to echo in the dream. Although he could hear the laughing in any direction he turned, it was loudest in front of him. Neo looked towards the sound and searched for the source. The strangest part (To Neo anyway) was that it was a woman laughing…and he knew this voice well. But he couldn’t place it.
Before him lay a flat level of floor, even though Neo knew his pod had been several stories up in real life. Wires and tubing were strewn everywhere, along with large, dark shapes – maybe computing units? He traced the path the wires took, and followed them further forward, and a little up. They all converged in roughly the same place. As he stared at that location longer and longer, still listening to the endless laughing of a woman, Neo realized that all those technological pieces connected to a person! It was a woman without a doubt, but her back was turned and Neo could not see her face or any distinguishing things about her aside from that she was wearing a silvery bodysuit of some kind.
He felt an extreme desire to see her face, to know who she was, but at the same time Neo dreaded it. The laughing continued, and the woman covered in cybernetic implants and shining material began to turn around. Neo was starting to be able to see the slightest hint of actual skin. Her face was coming into view and –
He woke up.
Neo rubbed the cold sweat off of his face with his soiled sleeves, and then let his palms rest over his weary eyes as he tried to interpret the strange chain of images he had just been overwhelmed with. Although the bunker room that he had fallen asleep in was relatively silent, he could still ‘hear’ the laughter from his dream echoing in his ears. He had been so close to figuring out who it was…and yet the answer was still so fleeting.
He stopped himself abruptly in the middle of this train of thought. It was just a dream, Neo assured himself, and it wasn’t real. Dreams are just that – dreams. They don’t mean anything. Convincing himself of this gave Neo a sense of comfort and freedom from the obligation of discovering any hidden meanings in this or any dream he had.
With any hope of falling asleep gone, Neo turned over and set his feet on the metal flooring, standing up wearily. He lurched over the second he thought he had his balance, and gripped the side of his bed again to keep himself from falling over completely. The ship was moving at high speeds now, something Neo wasn’t used to. He slowly became readjusted to the motion and eventually let go of his support. As he steadied himself, Neo’s feet knocked against something on the floor.
Although Neo was the ultimate slob (his apartment in his past life was undeniable proof of this), he could always remember he had left everything. He had no recollection of leaving something on the floor. He bent down, curious to know what it was.
His feet had brushed against a tray from the mess hall that was carrying a small dish of the generic slime the crew ate for their meals and a tin cup filled with water. Neo dipped a finger into the cold mush and tasted it, wishing that it would taste like something edible instead of vaguely metallic.
He squatted on the floor and began to eat away at the food that someone had provided him. As he took a gulp of water from the cup, he got a strange feeling of déjà vu. Then he remembered why, and the thought made him smile. Although he still didn’t quite understand why Trinity had been so upset, he felt relieved now, positive that she had forgiven him to some extent.
After finishing off the meager contents of his meal, Neo picked up the platter and took it to the mess hall so he could clean it. As he approached it in near darkness, he could hear voices coming from the other side of the door. Neo jerked the door open, balancing the tray with one hand and shielding his eyes from the light emanating from inside the room with the other hand as he entered. Inside, 00 and Dagger were seated at the table. It looked like Dagger was giving her companion the third degree.
“Come on. You have to remember something from before they found you,” Dagger said to 00, asserting her opinion on the matter.
“Well…no. I really don’t remember anything before that! It’s the truth!” 00 replied. His voice severely lacked the confidence Dagger had when she spoke, and it was making him appear as if he wasn’t even so sure of himself. Neo tried to do nothing to intrude on the discussion. He proceeded to head to the other end of the room and do what he had come to do.
Dagger growled, annoyed and frustrated that 00 refused to tell her what she wanted to hear. Looking for support, she turned around in her seat and poked Neo in the spine as he washed his dishes in the nearby sink.
“Neo, don’t you think that 00 should remember more than what he says he does? I refuse to believe that the last thing he can recall is waking up after that crew found him lying in the sewage system, dumped as a corpse! There’s got to be more than that!” the girl shouted, waving her arms in the air.
“I think you should drop it,” Neo responded dryly, not even bothering to turn around. He was not in the mood to deal with Dagger’s insensitiveness towards their younger companion and his past. Even so, he could not deny that he had found the story not only odd, but also borderline impossible when he had first heard it from Tank as Morpheus asked for 00 to come onto the Nebuchadnezzar. The whole thing struck him as a bizarre puzzle that was missing a few key pieces that were needed to properly see the whole image. Neo also knew that he was not alone in sharing this perception. Pretty much everyone on the ship had hinted at his or her disbelief at least once.
As far as they all knew though, the final explanation drawn by the medical officer on board the hovercraft that discovered 00 (that the trauma of his sudden release gave him his amnesia) had been enough to convince Morhpeus that 00 could be useful to the Resistance operations. Morpheus had always possessed a very keen intuition when it came to selecting new recruits, and it looked like he hadn’t gone wrong when it came to 00. His innate knowledge of manipulating the Matrix code had been developed so well in such a short time that he had been able to incorporate potent viruses designed by others into the code itself. The tactic had become the backbone of their onslaught against the Matrix, and it was working.
So for now, the crew abided by an unspoken agreement not to press 00 for memories, but to leave it until their role in the Resistance movement was complete, which was supposedly near. No one wanted to traumatize him in case he stopped being able to do what he could. Only Dagger refused to leave the subject be, and she was often interrogating 00 or eavesdropping on what he said in hope of catching him in a lie.
She shook her head at Neo’s comment, appearing to be appalled that he would suggest anything along those lines.
“Aren’t you the least bit curious as to how he learned how to write that wicked code? That kind of ability doesn’t exactly come out of thin air you know!” she argued.
‘Well…what about you? Where are you from?” 00 inquired, starting to get desperate.
“Got unplugged a few years ago, sometime in my mid-teens. I spent a lot of time in Zion learning medicine. It’s so totally different from what I thought it would be. I had originally wanted to work with Matrix weapons, like guns and stuff, but it turned out I was better at treating injuries than causing them. So I did that, and got put on a ship for a bit to have some ‘field experience’ as my teachers put it, came back here, and then found myself on this lovely ship! You have to admit, being on this one has got to be tons more interesting than any other with the One on board – Hey! Are you listening?”
00 had fallen into slumber while Dagger recounted her freed life in brief, and was now dozing peacefully with his head on the table, his chest rising and falling to the rhythmic motion of his breathing. Neo sighed, putting the tray and dishes on top of the clean stack.
“How long have you been here?” he asked, trying to deviate from her previous question now that she was no longer occupied with giving an autobiography.
“I don’t know…” Dagger said childishly, “it can’t have been very long. The lights only went out a while ago.”
The ship’s lights turned on automatically as she spoke. 00 yawned, waking up from his little nap.
“I guess it was longer than you thought,” he commented, “can I go now?”
Footsteps could be heard approaching the room from the hallway as he spoke. The ship was starting to wake up and continue on its journey. The door creaked and opened up.
“You don’t have to ask 00,” Trinity replied as she walked into the room, “go get some sleep. I’m sure Dagger won’t mind doing some of your work for you.”
“Hey! I did not agree to that! I’m not doing his job!” the teenager yelled as 00 got up and retreated to his cabin to get some much needed sleep.
“You don’t have a choice,” Trinity simply said in return. Dagger pouted, but promptly left the room, slamming the hatch behind her. Neo snickered at Trinity’s ability to assert her command position without having to do anything but say what she thought. He said nothing more as she helped herself to a small bowl of slop, sitting down next to him. Neither of them spoke for the next few minutes. They could both sense a certain amount of tension between them that lingered from their dispute.
It was Neo who could finally stand it no longer. What was he supposed to say? What did he have to do? Did he have to do anything?
“Trinity, look,” he carefully began. Trinity looked up from her food. She hadn’t even begun eating it, but had just been stirring it around with a spoon the past few minutes. She gazed at Neo with a neutral expression on her face, waiting for him to continue with whatever it was he had to say.
“I…uh…um…well…” Neo stammered, groping for words. He gave up quickly, unable to find anything else to say. He hadn’t thought ahead of his introduction.
“I’m not good at this,” he uttered at the end of his string of nonsensical sounds.
“Neither am I. Spending a good portion of your adult life fighting a war tends to do that to you,” Trinity said. Suprisingly enough, she smiled at Neo’s honest attempt to say something of importance about them.
“Yeah, I’ll bet.”
“Why don’t we just forget about it? I can live with that. Can you?” Trinity suggested.
Neo looked shocked. “That’s it? I thought you were more…”
“Upset?” Trinity finished for him, “yes, I was. And I still am. But, I think I made my point. I could survive inside the Matrix when you were not around. I helped teach you to do the same before you…learned how to use your skills. I don’t need to be protected. Just don’t forget that, okay?”
Neo nodded. “I get it. No knights in shining armor.”
Satisfied with their agreement, Trinity continued to watch Neo, only now it was not because she was waiting for him to speak. She was examining his features, taking note of every inch of his face, memorizing the way it looked. Without even noticing what they were doing, they leaned towards each other for a kiss. Their lips were just millimeters apart when once again the door creaked open. Node strode in hastily, barely noticing that he had caught Trinity and Neo in a somewhat intimate moment.
“Morpheus called a meeting here, so I hope you guys are done eating,” he called out. Once he saw the look on their faces, he realized what he had just stepped into and took a step back.
“Whoops, eh, sorry. Didn’t meant to intrude or anything,” he managed to declare, rubbing the back of his head, embarrassed by what he had done.
“That’s all right Node,” Neo responded with a grin. He didn’t care. He felt as if things were starting to look up again, and was intoxicated by the thought. Happiness was a rarity for them.
Within the next few minutes, the rest of the crew piled into the hovercraft while its systems remained on standby. They seated themselves around the table and waited for Morpheus to come. He was the last to arrive.
“We’re very close to Zion, not more than a few hours away,” he announced in his usual fashion as he walked in, shutting the hatch noiselessly behind him, “so before we enter the security zone, I want to address something. But not as your captain.”
Morpheus certainly had everyone’s full attention, and they all peered at him curiously. Only Neo had a hint of what to expect next. It was actually something that had been bugging him. He had gone to ask advice from Morpheus concerning it prior to their last mission, and although they had come to a decision, they both felt that everyone on the ship had to agree for it to work.
“I don’t want any of you to reveal to anyone, and I mean anyone, that Neo is the One. Both he and I think this is best,” Morpheus stated. Half of the crew stared at him in amazement.
“What?” Dagger exclaimed in surprise after blinking a few times to make herself realize she had not imagined those words.
“But…why? Everyone in Zion has a right to know that the One has finally returned!” Tank retorted.
Morpheus shook his head, undeterred by what Tank and Dagger had said.
“Just put yourselves in Neo’s shoes, and then tell me if you would want the same thing,” Morpheus told them, “so many people looking to you for nothing less than salvation…I know I would be overwhelmed.”
No one said anything to refute that point. Neo felt uneasy just at the thought of it.
“I asked Morpheus to bring this up,” he confessed to them, “because I don’t want everyone to know. I don’t think I could handle it. But I also didn’t want to force anyone into silence. Even if Morpheus did order you all not to say anything, someone with a higher rank could still find out. So I’m asking you guys to do this for me as my friends. I want it to be a secret…because you are my friends.”
“You know I would never tell anyone. You didn’t have to ask,” Trinity said, placing her hand over Neo’s. Morpheus nodded in agreement.
“I can relate to the whole pressure bit, so count me in,” Node cut in.
“But how are we going to explain the whole Agents thing? Or how we managed to pull off this whole mission?” Tank asked. He was not convinced.
“We were given that mission because we survived against three Agents before, though nobody really knows why beyond us. We cannot stop people from speculating things, but as long as there is an uncertainty about what the truth is, no one will fully believe. All we have to do is keep that uncertainty there,” Morpheus answered.
“And when we’re being debriefed? How are you going to explain how we pulled things off?” Dagger asked.
“We could create some sort of collective lie. As long as we all agree on what the official story is going to be, there should not be too much of a problem convincing the head office that it is the true one,” the captain suggested.
“I don’t know Morpheus. It sounds a little crazy,” Tank replied.
“Sometimes crazy works,” Morpheus pointed out.
Tank looked over at Neo, who was imploring with Tank to give in to his request. Tank considered everything, and then smiled.
“All right, all right, my lips are sealed,” Tank finally said.
“Mine too!” 00 proclaimed.
The crew then looked at Dagger in search of her answer. She looked back at them uneasily, not liking this kind of attention. She gave in.
“Fine, I get the picture. I won’t tell another soul, not even a rat,” she swore unhappily.
“Thank you,” Neo said, “I feel better already.”
“Then let’s get this show on the road! Next stop, Zion!” Tank said loudly. The crew said a few more words along those lines to each other and then went to their stations to get the ship under way.
Two hours passed by without incident, and to all they felt as quick as the ship they rode in. The anticipation rose within the crew. Trinity, Tank, Node, and Morpheus had not been to Zion in a long time. 00 and Neo had never been there before. It was, a second time, too good to be true.
They were just another hour away from the fabled city when an alarm started to blare from a console in the cockpit. Trinity and Morpheus, who were the ones driving at the time, investigated what it meant by reading the console’s text screen, but neither were too pleased by what they saw. They looked at each other for an instant, then without a word they turned the ship around completely and headed back the way they came at full speed.
“Get the EMP ready,” Trinity announced through the intercom.
“What’s going on?” Tank asked. Neo, Node, Dagger, and 00 gathered around Tank’s speaker to hear the answer.
“We’ve received a distress call from another ship. We’re going back to help,” she replied. The intercom went out.
“This is bad,” Tank muttered, “very bad.”
00 looked terrified. Nobody else was at ease any more. Sentinels had probably caught the ship that had sent the call and were now defenseless from using their own EMP to ward the machines off. Dagger groaned, plodding away from Tank’s station back to her own. They were headed back into the belly of the beast.