Act One: What You Leave Behind
A tower of glass and iron was the target. It was a pretty typical building; tall, shiny, and in the generic sense, high tech. The security was top of the line. What the building was actually meant for held no meaning. It was not real, but only an illusion. An attempt at a manifestation of a real object within the Matrix. It was a center of input for the program itself. The mass destruction of it would cause chaos and conflict in the encoded prison the majority of the human race had to live in. It was the perfect target for rebels.
Naturally, such a location was swimming in Agents; the sentinels of the inside world, so no one had ever thought of making an assault on the hub of Matrix activity. That is, until now.
The security cameras displayed a new individual enter the building, from the front. This was not uncommon in itself; the building was a busy one. But, perhaps the profile of the new arrival might have caused some sort of alarm in a wary security guard. It was the face of a known terrorist.
Luckily for the intruder, there was no alert security guard on duty today. He was much more interested in his lunch than the boring old building he had to monitor.
The solitary figure strolled in, seemingly unaware, or perhaps uncaring of the strong signs of protection that the building conveyed to its visitors and occupants. He himself had an aura of power. The way he walked, paused to examine the area he had entered, the way he held his face…it made him appear superior, but not in a way that flaunted it. With a simple and graceful gesture, he smoothed over the dark locks of his hair with one hand while his other hand removed his fashionable sunglasses from his face a second later.
Neo’s face revealed none of the emotions he was experiencing at that moment. He was definitely nervous about the mission. It was probably one of the most ambitious ones to ever be attempted. At the same time, he felt some confidence about the role that he was going to play. His task was not impossible, nor was it difficult compared to other things he had tried. It was all a state of mind. Although his mission was that of a savior, with his flowing trenchcoat over the black suit his RSI wore, he appeared to be more of an angel of death.
He walked through the cold stone hall at a perfectly constant pace, his footsteps echoing off the steel-coloured walls. He headed straight for a passage leading to the eastern side of the building, and the emergency stairwell. As he walked, he seemingly conjured up a cell phone into one of his free hands, pressing a button on its keypad that brought it to life instantaneously.
“I’m in,” Neo stated, keeping his serene voice down to the lowest decibel possible, and not stopping his stroll down the hallway.
“Good,” a deep voice replied through the phone, “you know what to do.”
The comment seemed to give Neo some sort of amusement, for he smiled wryly as soon as he heard the sentence.
“Riiiiiiight…” he answered before hanging up.
As if by response to this little interlude, a young blond woman clad in a beige suit who was carrying a black leather briefcase, and a teenage boy in semi-formal clothing, came in through a back doorway near Neo. It was not long before the duo and Neo crossed paths. As Neo passed by the blonde, who was only a few centimeters away, a swift exchange of silent words took place. The blonde let her fingertips brush against Neo’s as the two made eye contact, his dark chocolate eyes peering into her emerald ones. Neo reached back tenderly, allowing himself this simple pleasure.
“Be careful,” he whispered to the woman, who merely smiled assuredly in return. A second later, their paths separated.
The woman and boy took to the first elevator they got to, taking great care to ensure that they rode solo. Neo proceeded to the stairwell, slipping through the heavy door, and, strangely enough, not triggering the fire alarm.
Once inside his new sanctuary where no one in the system would think of going until he was identified at the very least, Neo set about to his work. Restraining the fire alarm was just a slight demonstration of what he had learned. It was a warm up. Now he had to interfere with the entire security network. He had to shut it down.
He looked around the stairwell, all the while extending his mental self, the part that could control the Matrix. Neo watched as the world around him, or rather the reality composed of sensory input to the five senses, melted away to reveal the Code. It was much easier to interpret and pin down the parts that required alterations that way. He scanned the Code, once, and then twice, until found the parts he needed. Neo actually found himself looking upwards at them, since their manifestation in his immediate surroundings was in the form of a camera that was staring at him, recording his every move. They probably knew he was there.
He stared up at the apparatus, and it continued to stare back at him. “Bye bye…” he mumbled softly. Seconds later, the camera’s power light flickered out and died, as did all the other terminals all over the building. Now their eyes had been blinded. There wasn’t much time before it all went to hell.
The guard at his post before the array of monitors munched away at his rather unpleasant looking sandwich. It wasn’t until the TV screens he was supposed to be watching started to turn off did he realize something was going on. The slightly overweight man scrambled to the phones, attempting to dial when he was still gaping at the screens. Before the last one went out, he saw what his job demanded he should have seen minutes ago.
“Oh shit!” he cried out, seeing now that the man on camera was one who had broken into a government building and killed dozens of military officers. This was truly the guard’s worst nightmare come true, but it was about to get worse.
His body seized up without warning, and he felt as though he was convulsing. Then, the guard’s awareness went black. The drab tan-coloured uniform and unfit features were quickly replaced with a suit and an unnaturally healthy physique. It was too perfect, just like everything else. The only thing that appeared to be out of place was a pair of wire-rimmed sunglasses and the earpiece the man now donned, since no one tends to wear sunglasses inside, and earpieces are just not something you see everyday.
The Agent, Agent Jones to be exact, stretched his muscles as he got a feel for the new host. Then he examined the television screens and the security controls, finding them to be utterly unresponsive.
“He is here,” he stated to no one in particular as he headed to the door, “I will converge on his position.”
With that, Jones exited the now inert and useless security room, following his orders to converge on Neo.
Inside the elevator, the boy and the woman said and did nothing. All the while, the lift ascended, its destination set to the highest level. Attached to the roof of it was yet another camera, which the blonde watched from the corner of her eye. As soon as the power light faded out, she began to show signs of life.
She took a good look at the camera, and then set down the briefcase, removing the blonde wig she had been wearing at the whole time. “It may not be real,” Trinity said, yanking off the blonde tendrils, “but God, do I ever hate this clothing. How’re you doing?”
Her younger companion kept his gaze forward, but shifted nervously in the typical teenage fashion. “I’m all right,” he answered with some certainty.
Trinity smiled, and placed a reassuring hand on the boy’s shoulder. “00, you’re not fooling me. I know you’re scared. I’m scared too. But just keep your focus on our part of the plan, and try not to think about anything else. We have a guardian angel watching over us in any case,” she said, her tone softening slightly at the words ‘guardian angel’. 00 got the idea and merely rolled his eyes.
Trinity didn’t catch his expression. She was too busy checking her weapon and picking up the briefcase once more.
“Get ready,” she cautioned 00 as the elevator came to a halt, “let’s do this as quickly as possible.”
00 exposed his own weapon so it was easy to grab should the unexpected arise. The elevator doors swished open with a gentle hum, and 00 and Trinity set off at a sprint.
Back in the stairwell, Neo leaned against a wall facing the door. He counted down under his breath, predicting what would happen next. Once he hit two, he began to take a step backwards in the direction of the stairs, putting a hand under his billowing coat where his weapon was located. At one, he held his breath.
The door burst open and partly shattered from a spray of bullets until it was just dangling on its hinges. With a simple hand gesture, the bullets that penetrated the door all the way and were heading towards Neo were suddenly diverted and sent in the opposite direction.
Neo didn’t bother to see if any of the shots actually hit the mark. He jumped up the stairs, bounding over several at a time, and ventured to another floor at random.
Agent Jones walked into the stairwell unharmed though his normally well-pressed suit and slick hair was a little ruffled up. His goal had been to hit Neo when he wasn’t expecting it, but it appeared Jones had underestimated the human’s ability to predict the Code. He looked up at Neo, who was climbing the stairs and passing through a door. This time the fire alarm did sound off, as Neo had little thought for subtlety now that his presence was known, and the whining siren echoed through every room in the building. Jones allowed himself to show some distaste in chasing the One by frowning ever so slightly.
“He’s on the third floor,” the shadowy program commented, before a wave of code overtook the host he was in. Jones’ conscience vacated the helpless guard’s body, leaving it to writhe in shock as the sentinel searched for the target.
Trinity pinpointed the exact location she and 00 had to do their part, an isolated room on the seventeenth floor. There was no lock on the door strangely enough, and as the rebel and her young friend went inside, they discovered it was nothing more than an oversized broom closet. Old cans of paint, various industrial-strength cleaners, and some mops and brooms seemed to be the only occupants of the dimly lit storage space. The pungent smell was quite distasteful, but Trinity reminded herself that it wasn’t real.
“Uh…are you sure this is the right place?” 00 uneasily asked Trinity as she closed and blocked the door behind them, “it doesn’t look like a place the machines would put an important processor…”
“I think that’s the point,” Trinity replied, “it makes sense that they would make it a place we wouldn’t think to look, or wouldn’t want to be. Here, it’s time to do your magic.”
She put down the briefcase and opened it. Inside was a wide variety of mechanical pieces and a vamped-up laptop computer, which 00 flipped open and began to type away at. Trinity drew her gun, and kept an eye on the door and tiny window facing it. Being isolated in this kind of room was starting to make her feel like a caged animal. But she had to keep guard while 00 set up the program.
The sound of the siren caught her off guard as it went on a few seconds later, but Trinity quickly composed herself once more. 00, too, was surprised by the deafening wail, but took one look at Trinity and went back to work with an even greater vigor.
“We don’t have much time left!” she said to 00, almost yelling over the noise. It was true. They could only have a few more minutes at most…
The Agents pursued Neo without tiring. The floor Neo had gone into was a populated one, so seconds after his entrance, two Agents had arisen to make chase on him. He sped by (and knocked over) countless objects and people as if it was a dance. Every few seconds or so, the Agents would change bodies, or shoot at Neo, but they didn’t seem to gain any ground no matter what they tried.
Strangely enough, Neo made little or no retaliation to the attacks upon him. He would occasionally shoot back, or punch and kick at a sentinel if it ever got too close for comfort, but otherwise made no large assault on his attackers. At first, the Agents believed that Neo was too busy trying to run away to be bothered with fighting, but when they began to compute that he was taking them in circles, their logic started to draw conclusions.
They had assumed his only reason for coming to the building would be to disrupt the Code input. But, he was making no attempt at trying to gain access to the centerpoint, which was located on the seventeenth floor. The only other possibility was…he was a decoy.
Agent ‘Brown’ stopped in his tracks as he came to the correct conclusion. He shouted to his companion, Agent Jones as he made his way to the stairs.
“He’s not the target! He’s a diversion!”
Jones heard what the other sentinel said, but he had come to the same conclusion as well. Since whomever it was that was really trying to ruin the processor was now in the hands of Brown, Jones kept on chasing Neo. To destroy the One would be a great accomplishment. Keeping him from helping his partners-in-crime was not as good, but would be just as satisfying in the long run.
Neo was in the process of shifting his direction by rebounding off a wall when he saw the change in the Agent’s strategies. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what was going on.
He tried to dash to the stairwell so that he could get to the centerpoint and help Trinity and 00, but Jones caught him off guard with a sharp kick in the gut from the side. Neo faced Jones and glared. It was coming down to a showdown, one that was over in a flash. In a split second, both opponents tried to knock out the other, but it was Neo who was faster since he didn’t depend on the system’s rules.
Jones had sent a fierce punch at Neo’s neck, but Neo attacked first, sending a precise kick at his chest. A horrible cracking noise told Neo that he had broken the Agent’s ribs. Sure enough, Jones slumped to the ground and was exorcised by the person’s death.
Once Neo was sure the person was dead, he closed his eyes to scan the Matrix with his mind. He had to find out where the Agents were, how close to Trinity they were…and he had to get there first.
Trinity’s pulse began to quicken in anticipation of the escape. But the longer it took for 00 to get everything ready, the faster it seemed to go. She could tell he was working as fast as he could, but he was nervous like her, and wasn’t used to it. He kept mistyping things, dropping components, or muttering curses under his breath, which only made Trinity more apprehensive.
After what seemed like an eternity, 00 connected the last wire and closed the laptop.
“Bomb is…armed,” he announced to her with some relief, “and the virus is uploaded and ready.”
“Good. Set the timer so we can get the hell out of here,” Trinity answered, inching her way to the door so they could make a break for it once 00 was ready.
“Done!” 00 proclaimed a moment later, standing up. Sure enough, the timer was already going.
“3:59, 3:58, 3:57…”
Trinity was about to open the door when her cell phone started to ring. Trinity flinched at the sound. By now, it was safe to say that her nerves were close to being shot. Spending any amount of time in an Agent-infested building had always struck her as suicide, regardless of who she was with.
She picked up the phone, and even before she had placed the receiver to her ear, she knew what the person on the other end was going to say. It had been inevitable.
Tank’s rushed and slightly frantic voice was what she heard. “Don’t open the door!” he yelled at her, “Agents!”
Trinity pushed 00 away from the door, retreating towards the tiny window. 00 got the message and took out his gun. He was clearly afraid for his life, and he couldn’t aim straight because he was shaking. Now the tension was at its peak; they were trapped in a room with a bomb set to detonate in less than three minutes, and the only way of escape was now blocked, unless one counted the window.
“Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…”
Suddenly, an explosion rocked the building, but not from the direction Trinity had been expecting. It came from behind them…but there was only an outside wall there…
Though she was almost afraid to turn around and see what had caused the explosion, 00 tugged at her arm, forcing her to look.
The wall was completely gone; the explosion had taken care of that. But it was not the result of something a helicopter or weapon could have done. For there, floating in the air, was Neo, like it was the most normal thing to do.
Neo didn’t leave any time for conversation as he flew towards Trinity and 00 and scooped up the latter. “I’ll be right back!” he shouted over the sirens and the wind. He then dropped from Trinity’s immediate line of sight, because he had allowed gravity to take control again. When he was a few feet from the ground, Neo influenced the Matrix once more and came to a complete stop.
Setting 00 on the ground, he began his ascent once more, saying to 00 as she rose into the sky at top speed, “Get going! And tell the others to as well! We’ll meet you at the exit!”
Trinity’s heart was pumping even harder now than she could ever remember. There was no movement in the room save for her chest rising and falling with each breath, but the sounds were countless. Trinity tired to strain her hearing to detect the distinct footsteps of the Agents, but the fire alarm and the ticking from the bomb were overwhelming. It suddenly struck her that the bomb had less than a minute left on the timer.
“0:37, 0:36, 0:35…”
The slightly barricaded door burst open as the clock’s indicator read “0:34”. In what felt like slow motion to Trinity, the two Agents emerged from the small cloud of debris; their weapons pointed right at her. Trinity didn’t even pause to think about the futility of trying to hurt an Agent; she just opened fire on the two men and kept shooting rounds until her ammunition ran out.
The Agents were barely injured; they had performed their graceful dodging moves in a blur, but because of the limited room that they had, got nicked here and there on the shoulder or the leg. Now they had the advantage.
By now, Neo was almost at the top, and was reading the Matrix to see what was happening. Trinity was out of bullets, and had nowhere to run…Neo wasn’t sure if he could make it up there in time. He wasn’t certain if Trinity could dodge anything the Agents sent at her. His only option was to take a risk. He couldn’t…no. He would not let anything happen to her.
Pulling out his gun, which still had a few rounds of ammo left in it, Neo aimed using his knowledge of where the Agents were standing, and then poured as much of his thought and concentration into the weapon. He knew he could do this. He had to, or he wouldn’t forgive himself.
When he pulled the trigger, the bullets took off at an even greater speed than they normally would have. They turned bright red, then orange, and then yellow, continuing to brighten until they were almost white. The shards of metal pierced the walls of the building, and then dug their way to the Agents. They broke through the floor the Agents were standing on and passed right through one as seamlessly as if they were just rays of light.
“0:12, 0:11, 0:10…”
The Agent that had been hit exploded into a mass of light and greenish code, leaving the other practically in shock. Trinity didn’t have to be told twice what to do. She made as big a leap as she could out of the hole in the wall, and started to fall. Neo caught her in mid-air, and she clung to him as the couple tried to get as far away from the building as possible.
“0:03, 0:02, 0:01, 0:00.”
A huge explosion rocked the Matrix world, and sent shockwaves through the whole city. Signs of the computer virus that had been attached to the bomb were already showing signs of spreading. Reality was distorted and unreal in the vicinity of the building. Things that were supposed to be round were edged, the sky wasn’t blue, but green, and here and there the lines of Code could be seen by the naked eye without any effort.
Neo and Trinity watched the chaos develop as he flew onwards to the exit Tank had prepared in advance. “Not bad for a day’s work, wouldn’t you say?” Neo said, now that he was relaxing a little. Trinity smiled, letting Neo hold her a little closer. “You’re right,” she replied, “it’s not bad at all.”