Act Seven: Turn Around
“God damn it all to hell! It just keeps moving!” Tank yelled, kicking the shelves that held his keyboards and image translators. Morpheus looked up from behind the monitors and frowned at his companion.
“No luck I assume?” he questioned. Tank shook his head.
“This thing moves too fast. Every time I think I’m almost done pinning its location, it suddenly moves to another spot! It wasn’t doing this before!” Tank explained angrily. He gritted his teeth, leaned towards the screens in front of him as far as he safely could, and prepared for another chase.
Morpheus paced the main deck while Tank worked. So far, the only positive sign that things had not gone completely to hell was that everyone’s vital signs appeared normal. Stressed, but physically fine.
He figured that he be thankful for such small miracles, and even more thankful that he was not caught in the middle of this crazy mission, but in reality he wanted nothing more than to be in there. His place was fighting alongside Neo and Trinity, not lurking in the ship, waiting for something to happen.
And for the tenth time, Tank lost track of the elusive house.
Morpheus finally joined the operator behind the chair and read the code that Tank was searching. He too could spot the house appear and disappear in the blink of an eye, but he doubted that any search program could possibly catch it before it moved again, even the ones Tank had beefed up.
“What we need is a new algorithm. A faster, more specific one,” Morpheus said.
“You got that right. But specific ones are complicated. We’d need to make up a whole new search parameter protocol. Who could program one like that in such a short time?” Tank asked. They both got the answer at the same time.
“Tank? Are you there? Tank!” Trinity exclaimed. Static was the only thing that answered her.
“Shit. It’s being jammed.”
“That’s not the only thing that’s changed,” Neo pointed out, “I think the security protocols have been activated.”
Trinity nodded in agreement and took in the changes for herself as she put her phone away. Neo certainly exaggerating. It looked like every single light in the house was now on. There wasn’t a speck of dust anywhere like before, and the furniture was no longer covered. Classical music echoed from one of the rooms, filling the house with its joyful melody. From behind closed doors, Trinity could hear people laughing, talking, and drinking.
“How many are there?” she asked Neo, who had his eyes closed and was concentrating.
“Not sure…at least forty,” he answered after a few seconds. His brow creased in frustration as he continued to read the Matrix.
“I can’t tell which one is Obsidian, or Data for that matter,” he finally told her.
“Then I guess we have to do this the old fashioned way.”
Together, Neo and Trinity began to stalk the empty corridors in search of the Genesis crew. They made their way slowly towards the basement. It was the only place they could think that Obsidian would be going. Unfortunately, going there was proving to be a lot harder than before. The people were everywhere – in almost every room, traversing most of the hallways, and leaving little room for Trinity and Neo to sneak around in.
They paused briefly in an empty powder room to regroup, locking the door behind them. Neo once again put his skills to use and searched the Matrix for any information that could be helpful while Trinity watched the door.
“The way to the basement is almost clear. There’s one person off in one of the adjacent rooms on their own,” Neo told her.
“Might be Obsidian. Either way, we have to move,” she insisted, approaching the door. They slipped out of the room unnoticed and walked along an empty corridor.
“How did you know?” Trinity asked, keeping her voice level down. Neo already knew what she meant. She was talking about Data.
“Because the centerpoint was not where he said it was.”
“That’s it?” she pried, unconvinced.
Neo didn’t answer until they had rounded another corner and evaded another group of people. He managed to catch a glimpse of their clothing and couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow. As if to compliment the house’s Victorian ambiance, they were wearing finely pressed tuxedos and formal dresses. This place is something out of the Sound of Music, he thought to himself.
After checking behind him to ensure that they were not being followed, he looked at Trinity and shrugged nervously in response to her question.
“I can’t explain how I knew,” he confessed in a whisper, “I just knew.”
Before Trinity could respond, the sound of footfalls forced them to detour yet again into an adjacent room. They remained concealed behind the wooden door as the individual walked by. The black leather and cursing coming from the person’s mouth gave away who it was.
Trinity flipped around the door, seized Obsidian with one hand, pointed her gun at her temple with the other, and dragged her into the room in one fluid motion.
“Are you insane?” Trinity demanded as she lowered her weapon, but did not release Obsidian completely.
“We’re never going to get another chance to do this!” Obsidian hissed back arrogantly. She tried to squirm out of Trinity’s hold, but to no avail.
“Right. And going through this building with its security on maximum makes it that much easier,” Trinity snapped back, her eyes ablaze with anger.
“That’s a difference of opinion,” her captive responded haughtily.
Trinity considered simply punching Obsidian to get her point across, but quickly thought better of it. Instead, she removed Obsidian’s weapon and stuck it into her own holster.
“Now who’s insane?” Obsidian protested. At this point, she had either forgotten or given up on being quiet, and was nearly screaming at her two companions.
“I don’t trust you, and I do not intend to return your gun until I’m convinced of where your loyalties lie,” Trinity told her. Her expression was neutral, but Neo could tell that she was angrier now than he had ever seen her.
The argument would have probably continued for a good while, but the sound of more footsteps coming down the hallway reminded the three people of their immediate danger.
“We have to move now,” Neo said firmly. Obsidian moved towards the doorway, but stopped when Neo shook his head. “The whole hallway’s full,” he told her.
“So what do we do? I am not leaving without Data,” Obsidian repeated.
Neo’s eyes darted across the room, and eventually settled on the wall that separated them from a clear route to the basement.
“Walk through, turn right, then left, and then straight,” he instructed the two women. Trinity understood what he meant immediately and nodded, but Obsidian just gawked at him, wondering what he meant.
He didn’t explain what he meant. Neo busied himself with the wall in front of him. He pressed one of his hands firmly on the surface, closed his eyes, and focused. A few seconds later, the wall’s coding visibly changed with a flash of green, and Trinity ran right through it without a second thought. At Neo’s urging, Obsidian tentatively stepped through before breaking into an all-out sprint, and Neo brought up the rear, closing up the wall behind him. Within seconds, they had made it to the basement stairwell, and slammed the door shut.
“I hope no one noticed that,” Neo remarked. He was still worried about whether or not they had been detected. Had he tripped any alarms with his code manipulations? He hadn’t had time to check.
“How…the hell…did you…did you do that?” Obsidian asked breathlessly. The sudden sprint at speeds greater than a human could actually run had left her lungs begging for oxygen.
“How do you think?” Trinity asked cryptically. Obsidian scowled at her hint.
“There is no One. I’ll never believe in that,” she snapped, “you learned to do that somehow. How?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Neo answered.
Trinity used their safe heaven to try and reach the Nebuchadnezzar again. She handed her gun to Neo to hold, and dialed.
“Come on…” she muttered, watching the phone’s status screen. Finally, it said ‘CONNECTED’, and the phone began to ring.
“I’ve got them!” Tank cheered, “one of them is trying to call us, and it made all the difference!”
That was all Morpheus needed to hear to make him feel a little better. “Good work,” he told Tank and 00, “now let’s get them out of there.”
Smiling, Tank turned his attention back to the phone call. “Operator?” he asked nervously.
“Tank?” Trinity asked. Although she had managed to get a hold of the ship, the connection was bad and full of static.
“Yes. Are you guys okay?”
“We’re fine,” Trinity assured him, “what about Dagger and Node?”
“They’re making their way to an exit,” Tank told her, “but there’s something more important that I have to tell you!”
Trinity raised her hand to get the attention of Obsidian and Neo before they went down the stairs and motioned for them to come back. “What?” she prompted.
“I looked at the Genesis’ EMP…someone sabotaged it Trinity,” Tank told her. Trinity tensed.
“There’s no way to tell. Morpheus says that you and Neo’ll have to trust your instincts…”
As Tank continued to explain the situation, Neo watched as Trinity’s expression went from its usual serene self to something colder. Her hand went for her weapon at her waist, and he frowned. Whatever news Tank had, it wasn’t good.
“…I’d better go now, Trin. They might track this line if I stay any longer. You have to get out of there, you hear me?” Tank finished. Trinity closed her eyes, focusing her thought on what she had to do, and nodded.
“Yes. See you soon,” she answered, hanging up the phone without even looking at it. After putting it away, she gratefully accepted her other gun from Neo and checked it.
“What did he say?” Obsidian demanded, angry that she was not being told anything. Trinity glared at the woman as she made sure that both her guns were loaded and ready.
“Your EMP was sabotaged. That’s why your ship was destroyed. One of your crew was…or is a traitor,” she replied.
“That’s a lie!” Obsidian insisted. Trinity didn’t even blink.
“Then you’re the traitor. Either way, you’re not getting your gun back. We’re leaving.”
“How dare you say that about my crew! You have no right!” Obsidian protested. When neither Neo nor Trinity responded, she growled and ran down the stairs.
“Obsidian! Don’t be stupid!” Neo called out.
“I am not leaving my last crewman down here to die!”
“Ugh…somebody get this thing out of my head!” Dagger insisted. She was back on the Neb and desperately desired to get the plug out of her skull. In a futile attempt to remove it herself, she swung her arms backwards and reached with all her might, but did nothing more than pull a muscle.
“Relax. It’s harder to remove the plug when you are tense,” Morpheus chided her. He grasped the plug and gently removed it, leaving Dagger to get herself out of the chair. Once she had freed herself, she set about to checking the status of everyone else who was still plugged in.
“Has there been any word from them?” she questioned Tank while she worked.
“We managed to locate the house with one off 00’s algorithms, and we called them. But they’re not in the safe zone yet,” Tank answered uneasily.
“00? So he did it again. Huh.”
Tank shot Dagger a warning look to remind her not to say anything at her comment. She rolled her eyes and pretended to be busy checking Data’s vitals, although she was more interested in his contraption on the floor beside him.
“Everyone’s so on edge lately…except you,” she said to the unconscious man as she eventually looked at his monitor, “given where you are, you’re a cool customer.”
Obsidian burst through the basement door and whirled around in circles searching for her crewmate. She found him exactly where she had left him, in his dark corner. He was squatting before the bomb, facing the wall. She couldn’t help feeling that in this light he looked tired.
She approached him slowly, and did her best to render her voice soft and understanding. “Data,” she said, “this isn’t going to work. I never thought I’d say this, but we need to regroup.”
“It’s too late for that now,” he replied quietly, standing up. He reached out with one hand and placed it against the wall, as if he could no longer support his own weight. Obsidian, however, refused to let give in.
“Data, come on,” she tried again, “we weren’t fast enough the first time around, and if we don’t leave now, we all might be killed…like before.”
“No. Everyone is dead because you decided to take them on a suicide mission without Zion’s approval,” Data replied in a neutral tone, as if he was repeating the day’s weather report.
Hesitantly, Obsidian placed her hand on his shoulder in an attempt to calm her crewmate. So much of her attention was focused on Data at this point that she never even noticed the glimmer the wall was giving off, as green code began to descend clearly and touch Data’s hand. The code spread like wildfire up his arm.
“It doesn’t matter anymore,” he said finally. Obsidian found herself stepping back cautiously as he spoke. His voice was changing. And she didn’t like the sound of it one bit.
“What the hell? Someone come look at this!” Dagger hollered frantically. Her gaze was completely fixed on Data’s vital signs, particularly on his brain patterns. She watched in horror and curiosity as their tempo and frequency changed in an almost random fashion until settling on something that was very distinct from what they had been before.
Morpheus joined the medic as soon as she had pleaded for someone to come and tried to make sense of it. “This couldn’t have been caused by some kind of interrogation serum. It works too fast,” he observed. The new pattern was unfamiliar to him. It wasn’t a cracked mind, but it certainly did not resemble what it had been before.
“What’s going on in there?” he whispered to himself, wishing for the thousandth time that he could be in there with Neo and Trinity. But with the security on maximum, there was no way for him to hack in…
By the time Trinity and Neo had made it into the basement in pursuit of Obsidian, they found themselves with facing one horrified ship captain and one unreadable shipmate. Without hesitation, the two pointed their guns directly at the back of Data’s head, their fingers dangerously close to pulling the trigger.
“You’re the traitor,” Neo uttered. He let his eyes take in the Matrix code that made up the man, and realized something else. He knew that pattern, and it wasn’t human.
“You’re an Agent.”
The Agent laughed, and for the first time Neo had no trouble identifying which Agent it was. But he still couldn’t believe it.
“An Agent, yes, but I have betrayed no one…Mr. Anderson,” Agent Smith answered, enjoying the moment.
In an instant, Obsidian jumped back defensively, but Smith caught her by the arm, preventing her from getting to the other end of the room. He turned around to face the three, greeting them with a smug expression on his face.
His clothing had not changed, and neither had his hair, but his face, voice, and movements left no question to his identity. But most of all, Neo realized that his eyes had been the giveaway all along. Even though Data’s hadn’t even been exactly the same colour, there was something about the way they had looked in the Matrix as well as the real world that had told Neo the truth.
He wanted nothing more than to charge at the Agent guns blazing, but he knew it was not an option. Smith was using Obsidian as a shield. Even worse, something tickled the back of his mind, warning him that people were approaching.
“You’d better start running,” Smith mocked, smiling again. Trinity’s eyes narrowed in anger.
“Go,” Neo said quietly.
“What?” Trinity asked incredulously.
“Go,” he repeated.
The words were like a green light at a racing competition. Everyone moved at once. Trinity bolted for the door behind her, kicking it out of her way as she went. Smith had anticipated this and went for his gun, which was still sitting in its holster by his waist.
Neo moved to counter Smith and give both Trinity and Obsidian the cover they needed to escape the room. He tossed his own gun into the air and tackled Smith with both hands, narrowly missing Obsidian’s body. She took advantage of the distraction, squirmed out of Smith’s grasp, and sprinted for the door right behind Trinity, catching Neo’s gun before it hit the ground as she went.
Neo slammed Smith into the nearest wall with all his might, creating a large hole and sending plaster everywhere. While the Agent tried to recover from the hit, Neo kicked him in the head with a roundhouse kick. As his foot landed on the ground again, he pivoted and started to follow the two women out. Neo knew that it wouldn’t be enough to kill Smith, but he didn’t have time for that right now. Getting out alive was more important.
He joined Trinity and Obsidian at the top of the staircase in a fraction of a second, and Obsidian opened the door as soon as he arrived, rushing to the right once it was out of the way. She was searching for a window, a damaged wall, anything that they could break through to get to the other side.
As they had all expected, people surrounded the area around the basement door. Two transformed into Agents instantaneously, and Obsidian left them for Neo and Trinity to deal with.
Within seconds, the two had made short work of the Agents. After months of practice, Trinity was almost as bold as Neo when it came to confronting them. She let one of the Agents seize her wrist before shooting him the stomach and shoving him aside at an inhuman speed. She didn’t catch what Neo was doing, but she heard the buzz of the Agent escaping a dead host right before she pulled the trigger on her opponent.
In the time it took for Neo and Trinity to destroy the first set of Agents, Obsidian had located a window large enough to get through. She began shooting at it without a second thought, but even after she had emptied her entire clip on it, the window had not shattered. The bullets had merely become embedded in the glass.
“They’ve changed the windows!” she yelled to the others, who were finishing off the second round of Agents.
“Then we go for the front door!” Trinity shouted back while she used the butts of her guns to shove an Agent into Neo’s direction. She then tossed Obsidian’s own gun back to her to ensure that she wasn’t unarmed.
Obsidian nodded and began to make a run for the front door, but was quickly blocked by a group of people. One of them became an Agent, and yet another one appeared several paces behind Neo and Trinity.
In hopes of limiting how many more times the Agents could come back, Trinity began shooting as many of the remaining people as possible before the approaching sentinel got too close for comfort. Obsidian decided to try and shoot the Agent facing her, and managed to nick him in the shoulder. With no more bullets left, she dived past it, leaving Neo to deliver the finishing blow. Another loud crash caused her to turn around briefly to check on Trinity’s progress, and she couldn’t help but smile as she watched the woman defeat another of the programs. It was exhilarating.
All the while, they inched their way closer and closer to the way out, and Smith made his way closer and closer to them, emerging from the basement as they disappeared behind a corner.
They were just a few meters away from the exit when one more obstacle presented itself. What people were left (there was no more than a dozen or so, Neo estimated) were now trying to form a physical barrier between them and the door. All three fugitives froze and looked at each other.
“Go!” Neo repeated harshly. Obsidian complied, and charged at the group of people with all the energy she could muster. Her speed was enough to propel through most of the people, and she fought of the rest before grabbing the doorknob and twisting it with all her might. It didn’t budge.
When Neo saw that Obsidian couldn’t wrench the door open, he glanced at Trinity as a way of asking for cover, and closed his eyes, pinning down the code that was keeping the door closed. He started to push at it with his mind, and was more than surprised when it resisted his command. But it only made him try harder. While he whittled away at the code, the doorknob began to twist.
Agent Smith appeared at behind the trio while Neo and Obsidian were occupied with forcing the door open. Trinity kept track of him while she fought off anyone who got too close to the others, but started to worry when he got close enough to get a clear shot at Neo. They were almost out…she could see a faint crack between the wall and the door…
And then the door flew open as it ceased to resist Neo’s influence. Neo toppled over at the sudden release. It was like he had been accelerating his car to maximum while the parking brake was on, and then someone had released it. He hadn’t been expecting it.
Trinity watched Obsidian get pulled out once the space was large enough to squeeze through. She looked back at Smith, who had now been joined by the other two Agents (again). He was aiming his gun directly at Neo’s head, and Neo was still recovering from his fight with the door. Trinity wasn’t even sure if he had noticed Smith’s presence yet. All she knew was that she was not about to let the Agent pull that trigger.
She kicked the gun out of his hand with all her might and pushed the Agent back with a second jab. Then, she seized Neo’s waist, got him to his feet and pushed him out of the house. He tumbled into a ton of sand, and realized that the house must have hidden itself in the middle of a desert. Neo regained his balance upon his exit and whirled around in time to see Trinity rushing out behind him.
She was inches from the doorframe when a set of hands grabbed her and yanked her back, causing her to fall backwards.
And then the door slammed shut, and the house disappeared again, with Trinity still inside, leaving Neo and Obsidian standing alone in an endless landscape of sand.
Morpheus’ patience finally met its end as he watched the vital signs of the group go haywire, a telltale sign that they were in the middle of a fight. And then…Trinity’s just died down, as if in defeat. He had had enough. He needed to know what was going on in there, and he had to help in any way he could.
“I’m going in,” he announced bluntly.
Tank intended to point out everything that was wrong with the idea, starting with the fact that he had no clue where to load Morpheus, but stopped before the words came to his mouth. Someone from inside the Matrix was calling them.
“Hang on Morpheus, I’ve got something,” he called to the captain, who walked over to him in order to listen in on the conversation.
Tank tapped a few commands on his keyboard in order to run a trace on the call and answered it. “Operator.”
“We’re in trouble!” a voice yelled through the receiver. Tank’s hands flew across the keyboard while he listened to the man on the other line, searching for an exit in his vicinity. He lifted his headgear, microphone and all, off of his head and held it between his and Morpheus’ ears while the captain took over the controls.
“Hang on,” Tank said in an attempt to calm him down, “where are you? Is everyone okay?”
“I feel okay…but only Trinity’s with me. I don’t know where Neo and Obsidian are.”
“Okay. You’re in a suburb in New York State. I’m making a temporary exit for you a kilometer east of you in a red house.”
“Thank you Tank. See you soon.”
Tank put the headset back on after Data hung up, and gave Morpheus a questioning look. “Is it just me, or was that really weird?” he asked.
Morpheus nodded in agreement. Something was wrong. Trinity should have been the one to call them…and why was she not with Neo?
“Something is missing here,” he finally concluded, “and I think I know what it is.” He caught Dagger’s attention and beckoned to her.
“Shit,” Tank murmured, realizing what Morpheus meant.
Dagger strode up to the captain and raised her eyebrows at their contemplative faces. “What is it?” she asked.
“Get the knives,” the elder man told her. Her eyes widened in surprise.
“What? Why?” she demanded.
“We may need weapons.”
Dagger didn’t understand completely what he meant, but gave in and jogged over to the medical bay to retrieve the surgical knives.
Back in the Matrix, Neo and Obsidian were sailing through the air, using Neo’s ability to fly to get back to civilization faster. Obsidian busied herself with trying to get her cell phone working. She dialed the Neb’s number three times, and each time the phone failed to connect.
“What do you mean, ‘out of range’?’ she hissed at her phone, shaking it.
“It’s still a cell phone,” Neo reminded her, “and it still needs a network to connect to. Something tells me not too many people have phones out here.”
“Looks like it…Damn,” she swore in response, “Can’t you boost it or something?”
“Oh. So now you think I’m the One?” Neo challenged, raising an eyebrow.
“I didn’t say that. But I’m not just going to ignore the fact that you probably can,” she scoffed.
“Not while I’m doing this. I can’t fly and use the phone at the same time.”
He descended as quickly as he could and waited for Obsidian to give him the phone. She hesitated, and he gave her an annoyed look.
“We need to contact the ship now, not later,” Neo insisted. Reluctantly, she handed the phone over. Neo heard her mutter something about Zion, but he didn’t catch it. Whatever it was, it could wait.
He dialed the Neb’s number, and as the message on the phone’s screen said ‘CONNECTING’, he stared intently at the device, forcing its signals to go farther and farther. A satisfied smile appeared on his face as the phone gave in and connected to the network.
“Operator,” Morpheus said, his voice covered with static, though not as bad as it had been in the house.
“Whatever you do, do not unplug Data. He’s an Agent!” Neo told him harshly.
“What?” Morpheus asked, “Neo, did you just-”
“Yes! I don’t know how yet, just don’t unplug him!”
“All right. What happened? All of your vitals went crazy!”
“He got her. Is she okay?” Neo demanded.
“So far.” Morpheus’ replied, not bothering to hide his concern or pessimism. Neo heard him cover the microphone of the headset and put the crew on casualty and sentinel alert. He then returned his attention back to Neo.
“Neo, your exit is west from where you are right now. A rest stop with a dry well. There’s a satellite phone installed there. Get there as fast as you can.”
“No way,” Neo retorted, “tell me where she is. I’m not leaving without her.”
“We don’t know where she is Neo,” Morpheus insisted, “we have to locate the house again. It will be easier to plug you directly into it like we did before than for you to access from there.”
“…All right,” Neo answered reluctantly. He hung up the phone and shut it down without a word, and returned it to Obsidian, who jammed it back into her pocket and wrapped her arms around Neo again so he could start flying again.
With no planes or people whatsoever in the vicinity to avoid, he flew freely towards their destination, absorbed in his thought. He was focused on only two things: getting to the exit as fast as possible, and Trinity.
While he couldn’t alter two parts of the Matrix at once (yet, he assured himself), he could freely scan its code with little hindrance to his ability to fly. He checked to make sure that there was nothing in the area that could detect them, that they were indeed heading in the right direction, and that Trinity was okay. He tried to locate her in the mass of swirling green, but couldn’t pin her any more than Tank could pin down the house.
But still…he had a sense of her. He knew her better than anyone else he had ever known, and even in the complex world of the Matrix, filled with over six billion minds, he was sure he could sense her somewhere. She was fine for the moment, and that was enough for him.
Obsidian seemed to pick up on the subject of his reverie, and poked him to get his attention. “Do you think she’s okay?” she asked carefully.
“Of course she is,” Neo answered.
He knew he was right.