Act Six: The Crusades
When Neo became aware of where they were, he couldn’t help but be surprised. They had certainly wound up in what he thought to be the least likely of places to find important Matrix coding. It wasn’t a top-security government building. It wasn’t even a cave in the middle of some faraway desert.
“Where are we?” Dagger asked the older members of the team. Trinity scanned the room they had entered with a quizzical expression.
“A house?” she said, no doubt convinced that they had entered the Matrix in the wrong place.
They had materialized near the phone inside a rather spacious parlour room in what appeared to be an old house that was unused. Grey sheets covered most of the furniture, and dust covered what they didn’t. There was no power, and the place was dark because it was nighttime. To Neo, it appeared to be the perfect setting for one of those movies about ghosts and specters. Nothing appeared to be working.
Obsidian didn’t answer either of the two questions. Instead, she picked up her phone and dialed the Neb’s contact number.
“What’s our location?” she asked Tank, who was acting as their operator.
“Somewhere in Canada,” he replied. The connection wasn’t great, and his voice was muffled by static.
“Because no one suspects the Canadians…” Obsidian muttered just loud enough that everyone in the room heard her. Dagger couldn’t resist a small giggle as Obsidian exchanged a few more words over the phone before hanging up.
“Let’s go. We don’t want to attract any unwanted attention, so the faster we do this, the better,” Trinity suggested. Without even bothering to see if Obsidian approved, she picked up the suitcase containing the prepared viral bomb and headed towards the house’s main hallway. The others followed suit, with Dagger, Obsidian, and Data sandwiched in between Trinity, Node, and Neo. Node absently touched his cell phone, the only link to the Neb that they had. When he noticed that it wasn’t online, Neo could see the twinge of panic Node was experiencing resonating through the Matrix Code.
“My cell…it’s dead,” Node said carefully. Obsidian snorted.
“Of course it is. We’re maintaining radio silence with the ship. What do you think the machines will do if they detect a cellular phone call being made in a house where no one is supposed to be?” she replied as-a-matter-of-factly.
Node paused in mid-step as he heard this.
“You mean…we’re cut off?”
“No. It’s not like we can’t contact the ship. We’re just not going to unless we have to. And we’re only going to do that once we’re ready to leave,” the Egyptian said.
“That…doesn’t bother you?” Neo pried.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Scared that you don’t have Big Brother keeping an eye on you?” Obsidian snapped sarcastically, drawing looks from everyone.
Dagger tried to change the subject. She was not in the mood to hear more about why Obsidian was ‘mature’. “How come you guys just didn’t use a hard-line to get in here? You know, come in at the nearest entrance and drive here?”
“I wish it had been that easy,” Data answered distastefully, “but this house doesn’t have a fixed geographical position. Even if we drove up to it, by the time we arrived at the front door it would be gone.”
“That’s just…freaky…” Dagger commented, before becoming abnormally silent. Neo was inclined to agree. The house was just plain creepy. It really was something out of an old horror movie.
Despite the disturbing atmosphere, nothing threatened the group, and they managed to secure the first floor with no difficulty. Obsidian took another glance around to double check that nothing around them posed a threat, and refastened her gun to her belt.
“Data, did you ever find where the coordinates for the centerpoint are?” she asked her shipmate. Data shook his head.
“Okay, so why don’t we split up and find it?” she suggested.
“Sounds like a plan,” Trinity agreed, “Neo, Data, you two take the lower floors. Node, Dagger, check out the rest of this floor. Obsidian and I will search the attic.”
Dagger rummaged through random cupboards in the dusty kitchen while Node simply looked at the countertops briefly, focusing more of his attention on covering Dagger. There was no one else in the room, but that didn’t stop him from being overly suspicious of everything that reached his gaze.
“I don’t even understand what I’m supposed to be looking for,” Dagger complained.
“You’re supposed to use your mind to pick out any inconsistencies in what you’re looking at,” Node reminded her.
“Then maybe you should try. I was never good at that wacky stuff.”
She stepped away from the cupboard and allowed Node to take her place while she took out her gun and began to cover him.
“I don’t think anything’s here,” Node decided after a few minutes of examination.
“You sure?” Dagger asked while she tilted her head to face him while he spoke.
“Pretty. I’m not as good as Neo, but I don’t see anything funny,” he assured her.
The atmosphere was getting to Dagger though, and was making her jumpy. While she waited for Node to complete his search, she scanned the area several times over just to be safe. Suddenly, she tensed.
“Please tell me you just saw that,” she whispered to Node, staring directly at the place where she had seen the movement.
Node stared at the same place, squinting while he tried to see it with both his eyes and his mind, but noted nothing out of the ordinary. “See what?”
“Something so moved over there just now,” she insisted, pointing at the spot.
Wordlessly, the two approached the spot in the hallway, weapons drawn and safeties off, ready to strike. Node dared to enter first, while Dagger watched his back.
They found nothing but an empty hallway.
Node simply gave Dagger a pitying look, figuring that she was just being jumpy. She didn’t look back, still fixated on the spot. She was sure she had seen something.
“What do you say we check out the living room?” she asked guardedly, suddenly deciding that she wanted to get as far away from there as possible.
Upstairs, Trinity and Obsidian were searching the attic with little success. They hadn’t thought to bring flashlights, so they did their best to fumble around in the dark. Secretly, Trinity tried to look more at the Matrix code than the objects, flexing a muscle Neo had taught her to use. She stared fiercely at areas, and sometimes managed to catch a glimpse of green code. But, based on what she saw and felt, there was nothing here.
“I get the feeling that this would be so much easier from the ship,” she commented dryly, blinking a few times to relax her eyes.
“You’re right about that. But that’s irrelevant. We’ll find the centerpoint and destroy it no matter what it takes,” Obsidian replied forcefully, as if there should be no debate about the matter.
Trinity paused her search to look at Obsidian. As far as she was concerned, Obsidian had all the classic signs of being obsessed with destroying the Matrix. “How long ago did Zion assign this mission to you anyway?” she questioned curiously.
“I started looking for this centerpoint six months ago.”
“That’s not what I asked,” Trinity pointed out, “when did Zion tell you to destroy it?”
Obsidian pushed some hair out of her face and sighed. “Not too long ago. A few weeks maybe? I’m not sure.”
Trinity decided to leave it at that, but stopped again, realizing that she was looking more at Obsidian’s code than her RSI. It flickered uneasily and changed sporadically as she answered her question. She knew that changing pattern.
Obsidian was lying.
“Morpheus, can you take the chair for a few minutes?” Tank asked the captain.
Striding up to the younger man, Morpheus nodded, chuckling. “Certainly. Bathroom break?”
“Nah. I want to look at the Genesis’ EMP again.”
Morpheus settled into the chair in front of the monitors and was quickly able to pick up what was going on in the Matrix, though not in the house the group had ventured into. They had no way to lock onto it, so all they could do was wait until they were contacted to bring them out.
Tank opened up the bodybag that he had filled with the remnants of the Genesis’ EMP and continued rebuilding the weapon, examining each piece one at a time. He was almost done (just the detonator and a few fuses were left), and he still hadn’t figured out what was wrong.
“I understand it Morpheus,” he said, “the components of this EMP are probably in better shape than ours, if you don’t count the fact that they’ve been trashed by water. Why didn’t it work?”
“Are the fuses ruined? They tend to corrode rather quickly,” he suggested. Tank picked up the tiny fragments and brought them millimeters away from his eyes.
“Nope. But that just leaves the detonator…”
Upon picking up the detonator, which was still in the ‘on’ position, he flipped it around to examine its underside.
“Oh Christ…” he managed to say before scrambling from his spot on the floor to show the piece to Morpheus, who picked it up carefully. He quickly saw what Tank had: the detonator wires were split in two.
“That cut is too clean. Someone separated the detonator from the rest of the EMP,” Morpheus uttered, the realization of what this meant dawning on him.
“Someone sabotaged it…”
“Yes. But is the saboteur dead…or alive?”
Neo and Data made a more silent pair as they searched the lower floors for signs of the exact spot to place the bomb. Neo was quiet because he was too busy reading everything in terms of its Matrix code, and Data, he could only guess. Neo simply assumed that the mission brought back bad memories to Data. He did nearly die the last time he was in this house.
It only took Neo about thirty seconds to locate the spot where the Matrix files were hidden. The area was different from the rest of the house when viewed as Code. There were layers upon layers of coding that kept it invisible and protected, but the activity emanating from it was impossible to disguise. Waves upon waves of green symbols went in and out of that one spot in the span of a few seconds.
Looking over at Data, he saw that he was scrutinizing a corner opposite his. He had squatted down and was gently touching the wall with his fingers. Suddenly, he rose with a triumphant grin.
“We found it!” Data yelled.
What? Neo thought, there’s no way in hell it could be there. What’s going on?
He tried to figure it out in his head during the time it took for the others to join him and Data in the basement, but came up with no other explanation except that Data was wrong. He had to be. Neo was positive that he had read the Matrix code correctly. The spot was where he was, in another corner of the room.
…Was that the problem? Was he being too cocky again, like Morpheus had hinted?
He was still thinking about it when Trinity and Obsidian came jogging into the room, the last pair to arrive. Data reported his discovery to them, which caused Obsidian to break into a triumphant grin.
“Perfect. Now let’s trash the sucker and get out!” she said happily, like the task was nothing more than ripping the hood ornament off of some random car. Reluctantly, Trinity offered her the briefcase, but hesitated slightly. During the tiny pause, she glanced in Neo’s direction to see if he approved.
Knowing that this would probably be his only opportunity to make it clear to his crewmates that something was wrong, Neo approached Trinity and Obsidian, who were in the middle of the room between him and Data.
“You’re not pulling the trigger Neo,” Obsidian insisted, assuming that’s what he wanted to do.
“No, it’s not that. I don’t know…I’m not sure about this,” Neo replied vaguely, catching Trinity’s eye. He hoped she would get the message.
“Why not?” Obsidian demanded, getting irritated.
“It just seems too easy!”
Shocked that he would say such a thing, Obsidian cut around Trinity and positioned herself millimeters away from Neo, her brow furrowed with anger.
“Listen pretty boy. Nothing, and I mean nothing, has been easy about this mission. You didn’t spend weeks trying to find this house, pin down an algorithm to track it, and then get your ship blown into a billion pieces just as you were about to nuke it. Just fuck off! You think that’s easy? You don’t know anything!” she raged. All it did was make Neo angry. Oddly enough, he felt the same way Obsidian said she did: like she didn’t know anything either.
The whole room tensed up as the captain and he glared at each other, each one refusing to concede any ground to the other. Neo sensed yet another rant coming on from the fuming woman and started to wonder if he could use his powers to shut her mouth and get away with it when Trinity broke them up.
“For Christ’s sake!” she cursed as she pushed the two apart in order to hand the briefcase to Node. “Data, Node, set the bomb at maximum. We’ll just blow up the whole room.”
“Oh no. I’m throwing the switch. I’ve come too far not to give myself that as satisfaction!” Obsidian objected, waving her fist at the brunette.
“Fine. Just do it now instead of later,” Trinity replied. She didn’t bother to hide her own annoyance and spoke as curtly as possible. Feeling that she had gotten the message across, she nodded to Neo and Dagger and walked out of the room. “One minute should do it,” she yelled over her shoulder after handing the suitcase to Node.
“You’re not that subtle you know,” Obsidian taunted Trinity just before she managed to leave the room completely, “stop trying to protect your boyfriend. It’s disgusting.” The comment made Trinity freeze in mid-step just for a second, but she didn’t answer or turn around. Neo walked out right after her, unsure as to how to respond to Obsidian, with Dagger on her heels.
“You okay?” Neo murmured to Trinity as they made their way to the back door of the manor. He leaned closer to her while they walked, trying to assess her reaction to Obsidian’s remarks. She sighed in response before offering Neo a small smile.
“I’ll be fine. Just keep me from doing anything stupid.”
Neo sensed the others (he wasn’t sure who was who) fleeing the basement at full speed and estimated that they had roughly fifteen seconds before the virus was triggered. As one team, the six people sprinted out of the house (which did not protest in anyway) and took cover a hundred meters away. Neo could even hear Node counting down the seconds to when the house was set to explode.
“Five…four…three…two…one…” Node panted before bracing himself.
“Why didn’t that thing explode?” Trinity demanded once she realized that the house wasn’t about to be destroyed. She stared incredulously at the trio who had activated the device.
“It must have. I armed it myself,” Obsidian asserted.
“Was the detonator connected to the explosives and the computer?”
“Of course it was! I’m not six years old! I had Data connect them!”
That’s what happened. I’m sure of it, Neo realized. The doubt that had entered his mind was long gone. There was no way that two key mistakes could have been made. And he had been the one to commit both.
“I’m going to…” Neo started angrily, reaching for his gun. He looked around the empty field where they had wound up, searching for the man, but found him nowhere.
“He’s still inside! What the hell is he doing?” Node exclaimed, not believing his eyes. He stood up, brushed the foliage off of his pants, and started to jog back towards the large house. Neo and the others followed his lead, and Trinity pulled out her cell phone and dialed the Nebuchadnezzar.
“Operator,” Tank said in greeting. He sounded seriously stressed out.
“Tank, get a lock on the house now! The bomb didn’t go off, and we can’t lose track of it!” she ordered while running with the others to the back door.
“I think I’ve got it,” Tank informed her. Back in the real world, his hand were flying across the many keyboards and buttons strewn around his post. Morpheus skirted back and forth behind him, doing everything he could to assist the operator.
“Good. We’re going back in. Data is still in there, and we’ve got to find out what-,” Trinity told Tank before he cut her off.
“No! Wait a second!” he demanded, “there’s something you’ve got to know!”
“What is it?” Trinity asked. While she talked, she and the others drew their weapons and assumed defensive positions. None of them were about to take any chances now. Trinity signaled for an orchestrated break in, but Obsidian was too impatient.
“We can’t wait! The house might change its location any second now!” she protested. She charged the door without a second thought and went crashing inside.
“Obsidian, wait!” Trinity called out. While she seized the hem of Obsidian’s leather coat with one hand, her other hand was drawn away from her ear just as Tank was frantically trying to tell her about the sabotaged EMP. She missed the whole message as she tumbled into the house right behind Obsidian. Neo instinctively followed Trinity, and after exchanging a brief glance, Dagger and Node jumped in after him, but were not fast enough. As they reached the doorway, the house became nothing but openly exposed code, and flickered out of existence. The remaining crewmembers landed in soft turf with a ‘thud’.
“It’s gone…” Node whispered. Despite the fact that he knew it was programmed to do that, he still had to see it to believe it.
Dagger slumped on the ground in defeat and fished for her cell phone in her pocket. She dialed Tank and started to talk.
“Yea…it’s gone…just me an’ Node…uh-huh…okay, we’re going,” she answered to Tank in monotone. After hanging up, she slowly rose from her ‘seat’ in the dirt and reached out for Node’s hand.
“They’re preparing an exit for us in the nearest town. He says we have to get out of here before any Agents show up,” she told him. He nodded wordlessly and joined her as she headed in the direction of the town.
“The others are still inside that thing,” Tank finished, telling Morpheus everything he could deduce from his conversations with Trinity and Dagger, as well as what he could interpret from the sensors scanning the Matrix. Morpheus closed his eyes and frowned. There was nothing he could do until they knew more, until he and Tank knew where they were now. The feeling of helplessness threatened to devour him from the inside.
“We need to find that house again,” he told Tank.
“Let’s get to work.”