Duel of the Hackers: Act II


Act II: The Duel


~ 01 ~

FADE IN:

INT. CORE

As we fade in, we are floating directly above the cable-covered Core tower, looking down upon the circle of weathered-and-worn suspension chairs. Trinity lies back in her usual chair to the left of the operator’s station, while Neo lies back in his chair to Trinity’s left. Although we cannot hear them, Tank stands between them, his hands gesturing in another animated discussion.

As we begin to hear them, the three crew members chuckle. We float steadily downwards towards eye level. We continue to float down beside the steel-plated tree trunk covered in black rubber vines, its multi-jointed branches carrying its flickering flat-screened fruit…

The bushy-haired operator injects his final thought.

TANK:
Let me just say for the record, you’re both loco. But you’re my kind of loco!

The challengers grin at each other.

NEO and TRINITY:
Thanks.

Starting on the outside, the operator jacks in the brown-eyed pod-born, steps over, jacks in the blue-eyed commander, then steps over and hops into his familiar station of multiple screens and keyboards.

TANK:
Okay…

He hits a series of keys.

TANK:
You guys ready?

NEO and TRINITY:
Yeah.

TANK:
See ya on the other side.

Tank punches the final key.

FADE TO WHITE.

FADE IN:

INT. CONSTRUCT

With an electric jolt that reminds the pod-borns of a sudden elevator shift, the dull darkness behind their eyelids flashes into the intense brightness of the Construct. Their residual self images appear in black leather and shades, standing face to face against a digital universe of super-bright whiteness.

Instantly, from the infinite virtual horizon, two black dots streak towards them at an unreal speed. Just as instantly, without slowing, the two black desks promptly stop at their feet, on Trinity’s left and Neo’s right. On each identical desktop, an identical black briefcase sits upright and ready to travel.

Without a flinch, Neo feels his long black trenchcoat billow in the virtual wind, and eyes Trinity as she reaches into her black mercury jacket, pulls out her Samsung auto-sliding cell phone, and dials the operator.

TRINITY:
Got everything?

TANK (Voice Over):
Yup. Everything you asked. Laptops, phone wires, headsets…

TRINITY:
Our tools?

TANK (V.O.):
Everything…

Hacking tools. All of the latest commercial, freeware and open-source tools. Stolen and rewritten ISP applications. Whois domain footprinters and IP address mappers like Sam Spade and VisualRoute. ICMP network ping sweepers, TCP/UDP network port scanners and OS fingerprinters like LANGuard, SuperScan and the ever-adored Nmap. NetBIOS name table enumerators, username grabbers, and drive-share scanners like Nbtstat, DumpSec and Winfo. Password-hash sniffers and brute-force password crackers like NAT and the ever-cherished L0phtCrack. Dozens upon dozens of the best tools, including some of their own.

An identical set on each laptop, as Neo and Trinity had agreed.

TANK (V.O.):
Identical. Loaded just like you asked.

An absolutely level playing field.

TRINITY:
Good.

The slick commander tucks away her phone, grabs the briefcase handle with her left hand, and looks up to her tall challenger.

TRINITY:
Ready?

Still facing her, Neo plucks the briefcase with his right hand.

NEO:
Ready.

Trinity raises her shaded eyes to the infinite white sky.

TRINITY:
All right, Tank. Whenever you’re ready.

INT. LOBBY

In another instant, the infinite surrounding whiteness is blocked off piece-by-piece by the floors and walls and ceilings of a dark and dingy lobby, the lobby of a closed and long-condemned apartment building. Beside them, the black desks are replaced by crusty canvas-covered chairs. At the front of the lobby, the double doors and four windows are boarded up. On the right wall, overlooking a narrow alleyway, two more windows are boarded up. On the left wall, overlooking the other alleyway, one of two boarded windows shows signs of trespass. Despite the night, the flickering streetlight filters through the partially covered opening.

The hollow ringing of an old black phone fills the stale and dusty dimness.

With the briefcase still in her left hand, Trinity pulls off her shades, tucks it in her jacket, pulls out her black Streamlight mini flashlight, and swiftly surveys their depressing surroundings.

The phone rings again. Trinity points her beam at the sound.

With an identical suitcase in his right hand, Neo strides a short distance toward the check-in desk and picks up the dust-skinned receiver with his left.

NEO:
We’re in.

INT. CORRIDOR

Making their way from the check-in desk to the central corridor, Neo tucks away his own shades, and pulls out an identical mini flashlight. He finds the first apartment on his left. On the door, the first digit ‘1’ is missing except for the dull unpainted shadow where it once hung. Meanwhile, the second and third digits ‘0’ and ‘1’ still hang tough in chipped gold plating.

With a slight hesitation, a barely noticeable curl passes through his lips. It is the same number of his old apartment. Then, with his flashlight hand, he reaches for the scratched door knob and turns it.

The door opens.

NEO:
I’ll take this one.

Standing in the hallway, he waits for his companion.

With a nod, Trinity glides to the next door on the left. Shifting her flashlight to her briefcase hand, she tries the knob.

Likewise, the door opens.

TRINITY:
I got this one.

NEO:
Trinity…

She looks over her shoulder at him.

NEO:
Good luck.

With the teasing tilt of her head, the blue-eyed mercury-slick warrior grins.

TRINITY:
There’s a difference between luck and skill.

She enters apartment ‘103’ and closes the door.

With an eyebrow raised, Neo stares back at the dark emptiness where Trinity once stood.

Entering apartment ‘101,’ he shakes his head and smiles.

FADE OUT.


~ 02 ~

FADE IN:

INT. APARTMENT 101

Crossing the once-vibrant carpeting, its rich patterns falling victim to the rips and ravages of unforgiving weather and overzealous vandals, the tall pod-born directs his light and zeroes in on the wooden desk in the main living area. Beneath the boarded window, the skeletal desk sits like a toothless skull, its drawers pulled and strewn like rotten incisors and molars along the torn wall.

With an effortless nudge, he slides the rectangular skull to gain better access to the phone jack. For an instant, he thinks about blowing a puff of air to clear away the layers of dust. But he thinks better of it and sets his briefcase on the desktop next to his flashlight.

With several clicks, he pops open the case, and reveals its foam-protected high-tech contents. A black Intel Pentium III laptop, a standard RJ-11 phone wire, and a Panasonic headset with microphone. Then noticing an oddly bulging foam flap, he peels it open to reveal an unexpected sight — a couple of nice cool cans of Sprite.

He chuckles.

NEO:
Tank!

Moments later, he flings his trenchcoat into a nearby dust-spewing couch, plugs the wire from the phone jack to his laptop, and boots it up. As he clips his identical Samsung cell phone to his belt, plugs the headset wire into his phone, and adjusts the earpiece and microphone around his head, he searches and spots the nearest usable chair. In one hand, he lifts and sets it down by the desk.

Feeling for his phone, Neo dials the newest code-changed number to his operator. Gazing into his awakening screen, he sits and awaits confirmation.

TANK (V.O.):
Operator.

NEO:
I’m almost set up. Machine is booting. Oh, and one more thing…

TANK (V.O.):
Yeah?

NEO:
Thanks for the soda.

The operator laughs.

TANK (V.O.):
No problem, buddy. You need all the help you can get.

NEO:
Really? You’re not trying to scare me, are you?

TANK (V.O.):
If I were, you’d know it. Just keeping you on your toes.

NEO:
Thanks… I think.

The pod-born stares at the dark empty cracks between the wooden boards.

TANK (V.O.):
Oh, Neo, hang on. Trin’s ringing in.

Neo readjusts his headset. But he only hears the operator’s side of the conversation.

TANK (V.O.):
Operator.

A pause. Neo wonders what his challenger is saying.

TANK (V.O.):
It’s the least I can do.

Another pause.

TANK (V.O.):
Almost. He’s booting up.

One more pause.

TANK (V.O.):
Okay, patching you in.

Neo hears a faint click.

TRINITY (V.O.):
Are you both there?

TANK (V.O.):
Affirmative.

NEO:
Yeah.

The operator sighs.

TANK (V.O.):
Well, it’s been nice chatting with you guys. But I’ll be cutting my mike now. Wouldn’t want to be accused of distracting or helping one side over the other, now would I?

TRINITY (V.O.):
Understood.

Neo nods.

NEO:
Sure.

TANK (V.O.):
If there’s an emergency, I’ll be right here. Don’t forget to enjoy yourselves. But don’t forget I have ears. So behave yourselves, kids…

Neo grins.

TANK (V.O.):
All right! Everything’s clear. Good luck and may the best hacker win. Cutting my mike… Now!

Another faint click.

INT. CORE

As Tank focusses on his crewmates’ encoded images amidst the descending streams of glowing green characters, he monitors their conversation.

NEO (V.O.):
Looks like it’s just the two of us.

TRINITY (V.O.):
Looks like.

INT. APARTMENT 101

Enshrouded in the eerie glow of his laptop and flashlight, Neo straightens in his chair.

NEO:
Okay, I’m set. Are you booted up?

TRINITY (V.O.):
Yeah.

INT. APARTMENT 103

Next door, in her just-as-shoddy and just-as-shabby apartment, Trinity is likewise enveloped in the equally eerie glow of her laptop and flashlight.

She listens as her challenger begins the count.

NEO (V.O.):
Okay, on the count of 3…

TRINITY:
Okay.

Trinity’s fingers hover anxiously over her laptop keyboard.

INT. CORE

Climbing up the ladder from the lower deck, Captain Morpheus approaches and joins his operator in front of the streaming monitors.

MORPHEUS:
How long?

With a wide smile, Tank hastily offers a secondary headset.

TANK:
Oh, they’re gonna start on the count of 3.

Morpheus accepts the offer, sets it around his bald scalp, and adjusts the earpiece. He catches the voice of the One.

NEO (V.O.):
1…

Tank holds his breath as he glances at Neo in the left-most screen then glances at Trinity in the right-most screen.

NEO (V.O.):
2…

Their eyes riveted on the iridescent rainfalling code, Morpheus and Tank anticipate the starting moment.

NEO (V.O.):
3!


~ 03 ~

INT. APARTMENT 103

Immediately, we start from the ceiling directly above Trinity and zoom down towards her laptop.

Trinity’s fingers flutter over her keyboard. She launches her stolen ISP connection.

She initiates the first hacking phase: Reconnaissance. That is, enumeration of the TCC network topology. But this won’t be a restful and careful stroll spread over several hours or days. This will be a super-quick perhaps super-reckless recon over the next half or full hour.

Recon Step One: Map out the relevant IP addresses.

Trinity launches one of her own advanced tools to begin domain footprinting and IP address mapping. Based on the VisualRoute design, she developed her tool over many of her restless stake-out sessions in the Matrix. She named it ‘Route303.’

Trinity enters her search parameters:

Domain Name: http://www.irs.gov.
Entity Name: Tennessee Computing Center.
Geographic Location: Memphis, TN 38130.

She executes the search.

INT. APARTMENT 101

Likewise, we start from the ceiling directly above Neo and zoom down towards his laptop.

Just as rapidly, Neo’s fingers fly over his keyboard. He launches his ISP connection.

But instead of immediately launching tools to begin domain footprinting or IP address mapping, Neo recalls the backdoor access code — KD3V1LL3 — of an implanted rootkit hibernating at his old attack relay at Owen Patterson High School, reawakens it, and sends a series of commands to download his personal hacking suite from another old relay at MetaCortex.

Just as Windows or Portals sat on top of DOS, his Visual Basic GUI suite wrapped around all of his favorite command-line hacking tools. But it wasn’t just a pretty face; designing the GUI was the easy part. It took some heavy-duty recoding to get the various components to communicate and interact with each other, particularly under an acceptable CPU threshold.

Fortunately, in the end, after weeks of hair-pulling and self-cursing, he succeeded in developing his ultimate all-in-one hacking suite. Everything from domain footprinting and IP mapping, to port scanning and OS fingerprinting, to username grabbing and password cracking. He named it ‘Evils-in-One.’

In fact, he remembers selling his suite to a mediocre hacker barely out of his script-kiddie diapers: Choi. But he was a harmless-enough kid with drug money to burn. And Neo didn’t mind the money.

Neo flashes back to that night almost a month ago…

INT. NEO’S OLD APARTMENT

Neo opens the door to the sight of a skinny goateed punk draped in leather and surrounded by several of his goth friends. Neo hands a computer disk to the punk.

NEO:
If you get caught using that–

CHOI:
I know, I know. This never happened. You don’t exist.

INT. APARTMENT 101

Neo flashes back to the present.

He stares at the download status bar: 5%, 10%, 15%…

INT. CORE

Tank glances from screen to screen.

TANK:
OK. Trinity launched her Route303. And Neo… He seems to be downloading something… from MetaCortex. Is that within the rules?

Morpheus smiles.

MORPHEUS:
I suppose it is. Noone said they couldn’t download additional programs.

TANK:
One of his own hacking programs?

Morpheus turns to Tank.

MORPHEUS:
That wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility, now would it?

TANK:
Ha! With Neo?

Tank laughs. As his laughter tapers, he offers another thought.

TANK:
Captain, we’re not crazy, are we?

MORPHEUS:
One man’s craziness is another man’s calm.

INT. APARTMENT 103

Trinity swiftly twists off the cap of her cool bottled San Pellegrino water. She prefers the bitter crispness, or maybe just the bitterness, over the childish sweetness and adolescent stickiness of soda pop.

As she takes a quick sip, we hear her conversation with Tank a few minutes ago. Their voice-overs carry the slight echo of the recent past.

TANK (V.O.):
Operator.

TRINITY (V.O.):
Thanks for the water. Even if it isn’t real.

TANK (V.O.):
It’s the least I can do.

TRINITY (V.O.):
Is he ready?

TANK (V.O.):
Almost. He’s booting up.

TRINITY (V.O.):
Me too… Okay, patch me in.

The audio flashback begins to fade.

TANK (V.O.):
Okay, patching you in…

As the audio flashback vanishes, Trinity continues to concentrate on her screen.

Her first IP search is completed: Zero results.

TRINITY:
Dammit!

NEO (V.O.):
Problems?

TRINITY:
No…

Then she realizes that the TCC may have no direct link to the http://www.irs.gov domain. Trinity changes one search parameter.

Domain Name: Any.

She executes the search.

TRINITY:
Just ruling out some possibilities.

NEO (V.O.):
I see.

TRINITY:
And you?

INT. APARTMENT 101

Neo continues to monitor the download: 20%, 25%, 30%…

NEO:
I’m fine. Although it feels a little weird.

TRINITY (V.O.):
Really?

NEO:
Yeah. Sitting here…

INT. CORE

Tank and Morpheus continue to monitor the conversation.

NEO (V.O.):
Here in the Matrix… with no missions to accomplish, no minds to persuade, no souls to save…

INT. APARTMENT 103

Trinity divides her attention between Neo’s soft words and her search results.

NEO (V.O.):
If I try hard enough, I can almost feel normal again. Almost.

Trinity lights up as her search begins to pull up dozens of promising IP addresses. She allows herself a restrained gasp.

TRINITY:
Yes.

NEO (V.O.):
What?

TRINITY:
Sorry. Just found some promising signs…

Her second IP search is completed: 97 results.

From the 97 results, Trinity focusses on the three or four dozen IP addresses with the brief but encouraging description beside them: IRS e-file receiver.

Looking up from her screen, she pauses to answer Neo’s thoughts.

TRINITY:
As for feeling normal again, we can never go back. Like a piece of paper that’s been crumpled up, it can never be perfect again.

Trinity drifts to her last days in the unreal world. A responsible yet rebellious individual of just 22 years. Not too young to understand her choices, yet not too old to take some risks. She chose and she risked the red pill. Unplugging from that world, she felt like a crumpled piece of paper blowing in the wind. All she could do was straighten her creases as best as she could.

INT. APARTMENT 101

Neo continues to monitor the download: 50%, 55%, 60%…

NEO:
I know.

TRINITY (V.O.):
But this is a different situation. We just have to adjust to a different kind of normal.

NEO:
So did you? Adjust, I mean?

INT. APARTMENT 103

Trinity is noticeably silent. She drifts forward from age 22 to age 33. To her first kiss with Neo. When her cold fear finally melted away.

She smiles slightly.

TRINITY:
Yeah. I think so…

She catches herself from drifting too long in the past.

TRINITY:
Just like I’m adjusting to the idea of you losing.

She hears Neo chuckle.

NEO (V.O.):
Yeah.


~ 04 ~

INT. APARTMENT 103

Trinity blinks and returns to the list of 32-bit IP addresses flickering on her screen. Her fluttering fingers return to their click-click-clicking.

Recon Step Two: Sweep and scan the network ports on the targeted IP addresses.

Trinity launches her favorite ping sweeper, port scanner and OS fingerprinter. The masterpiece named Nmap by Fyodor.

Trinity enters the specific ranges of IRS e-file addresses to begin her ping sweep and determine which of the 97 host addresses are actually alive and kicking. She executes the sweep.

INT. APARTMENT 101

Neo begins to get impatient as the snail-speed download nears completion: 80%, 85%, 90%…

He whispers.

NEO:
Come on. Come on…

At last, it completes: 95%, 100%.

NEO:
Finally.

Trinity jokes with him.

TRINITY (V.O.):
Hmmm, you sound pleased.

Neo decompresses the download file. Then, with a deep breath, he launches his own masterpiece. His all-in-one hacking suite: Evils-in-One.

NEO:
Maybe.

His brown eyes wide in unexpected nostalgia and pride, he finally initiates the Reconnaissance phase.

Neo enters his search parameters:

Target Name: Tennessee Computing Center.
Target Location: Memphis 38130.
Target Description: IRS e-file.

He executes the search.

INT. CORE

As Neo and Trinity lie back in their respective suspension chairs, Tank laughs.

TANK:
I was right! That’s one of his hacking programs.

Morpheus chuckles.

TANK:
You knew all along, didn’t you?

MORPHEUS:
I had a feeling. After all, it’s something I would’ve done myself…

He collects his thoughts.

MORPHEUS:
When you attack another system, it is only natural to fear that someone else will attack your own system. And when you come to fear such an attack, you can make certain preparations, take certain precautions.

Tank nods.

TANK:
Like implanting copies of your best programs in remote systems.

MORPHEUS:
Precisely. Spreading them like seeds… which wait for the proper time to germinate.

INT. APARTMENT 103

Trinity takes another sip of bottled water.

Her ping sweep is completed: 37 results.

Trinity tries to hide her excitement. That’s 37 IRS e-file host addresses alive and kicking. It should take no more than 37 minutes to identify the most vulnerable host. And she seriously doubts that she has to scan all 37 addresses.

She mouths silently.

TRINITY:
Yes!

Using Nmap once more, she enters the first ping-verified IP address to begin her TCP port scan and determine which of the 65,535 TCP ports are open for her nefarious business. Streamlining her scan to the first 1500 TCP ports — the more commonly used and abused ones — and skipping the less-reliable UDP ports, she executes her first port scan.

As she waits, she launches her parallel strategy against Neo: Conversation.

She grins.

TRINITY:
Speaking of promising signs… What’s your sign?

But she already knows the answer. Just as she knows many other things about him. And she wonders how long it will take him to ask about hers.

INT. APARTMENT 101

Neo pops open a cool can of Sprite. As he takes another sip of sweet nostaglia, he hears Trinity ask her question.

Caught off guard, he almost chokes on the carbonated liquid.

NEO:
Wha–

He coughs.

NEO:
What’s my sign?

He listens to her soft laughter. At the same time, he watches the alphanumeric lines roll down the main window of his GUI suite. His search begins to pull up dozens of promising IP addresses.

TRINITY (V.O.):
Yeah. What is it? Virgo? Or Leo like Neo?

He grins and shakes his head at her guesses.

NEO:
No-no.

His IP search is completed: 43 results.

He smiles at his screen. That’s 43 potential IRS e-file host addresses.

TRINITY (V.O.):
Well?

NEO:
You really wanna know?

TRINITY (V.O.):
Sure.

NEO:
Pisces. March 11, 1962…

He gives the information freely and without reservations. After all, age in the Matrix holds little if any bearing in the Real World.

NEO:
Sunday morning to be exact.

INT. APARTMENT 103

Trinity stares at her own screen.

Her first port scan is completed: 5 interesting ports of 1500 TCP ports scanned.

The five openings are TCP ports 21, 80, 135, 1025, and 1026.

She tries to sound surprised.

TRINITY:
Hmmm. Pisces makes perfect sense…

Trinity swiftly reviews the port list. Nothing useful yet.

NEO (V.O.):
Really?

TRINITY:
They’re creative, sensitive, intuitive. They tend to be artists, dreamers, visionaries.

Recon Step Three: Fingerprint and verify the OSs on the targeted IP addresses.

Finding the bottom of the Nmap scan, Trinity sees its best OS guess: Windows NT 4.0.

She mouths silently.

TRINITY:
Damn.

For her first IP address, the combination of open ports and OS yields a practical dead end.

Trinity quickly enters her second ping-verified IP address and executes her second port scan.

INT. APARTMENT 101

With his keyboard and finger-touch pad, Neo selects all of his IRS e-file host addresses to begin his ping sweep and determine which of the 43 host addresses are actually alive and kicking. He executes the sweep.

He smiles.

NEO:
Visionaries?

TRINITY (V.O.):
You don’t think so?

NEO:
I don’t know. Maybe. I’ll let you know when I get there…

Trinity laughs.

TRINITY (V.O.):
Agreed.

INT. CORE

As Neo and Trinity continue to recline in their suspension chairs to Tank’s left, Captain Morpheus readjusts his headset and approaches his usual first chair to Tank’s right. The captain climbs into his chair and leans back to relax.

He speaks softly but clearly.

MORPHEUS:
What do you see so far?

Once more, Tank glances from screen to screen.

TANK:
So far, Trinity has a slight edge. She’s on her second port scan. Neo’s still on his ping sweep. But if his program can do what I think it can, he’ll blow past her any minute now.

MORPHEUS:
Trinity has a few tricks up her sleeves.

TANK:
You mean, other than her verbal smoke screens?

Morpheus smiles slightly.

MORPHEUS:
Of course.

INT. APARTMENT 101

Neo’s smile fades.

NEO:
If I get there.

TRINITY (V.O.):
Yeah.

He can almost feel Trinity’s smile fade.

A brief but eerie pause. And then Neo hears her soft soothing voice.

TRINITY (V.O.):
Neo, I don’t mean to pry or play ‘twenty questions,’ but I’m curious…

Trinity pauses.

TRINITY (V.O.):
Do you mind my asking about your life in the Matrix?

This time, Neo pauses. The last time he heard that phrase, Switch pointed a gun at him…

He flashes back to that night almost a month ago…

INT. CAR

Outside, rain pours from the black night sky. A beautiful blond androgyne leans over the front passenger seat and aims a gun at Neo.

SWITCH:
Listen to me, coppertop. We don’t have time for ‘twenty questions.’

INT. APARTMENT 101

Neo flashes back to the present.

Now they call him the One. And Switch is dead.

Nevertheless, despite the slight distraction, Neo decides to play along.

NEO:
Sure, go ahead. I don’t mind.

He takes a small comforting sip of soda.

His ping sweep is completed: 31 results.

He nods. That’s 31 IRS e-file host addresses alive and kicking. It should take no more than 15 minutes to identify the most vulnerable host.

TRINITY (V.O.):
If you insist…

Another pause.

TRINITY (V.O.):
Why did you choose the red pill?

Using his powerful Evils-in-One, Neo selects all 31 of his ping-verified IP addresses to begin his TCP port scans. Trimming his scans to the first 1000 TCP ports, he executes his sequential port scans. It should take no more than 15 minutes.

As he waits, he leans back and takes a fuller gulp of soda.

NEO:
Why? You know why. The truth.


~ 05 ~

INT. APARTMENT 103

Trinity takes another sip of bitter water.

Her second port scan is completed: 13 interesting ports of 1500 TCP ports scanned.

The thirteen openings are TCP ports 21, 22, 23, 25, 80, 81, 105, 110, 111, 143, 443, 513, and 514.

Trinity answers tenderly.

TRINITY:
I know that. All of us who were freed from the Matrix wanted to know the truth…

Then almost to herself, she adds a memory.

TRINITY:
Some of us were more obsessed than others…

Like before, Trinity swiftly reviews the port list.

TRINITY:
But there are many paths to that obsession. Mine started with escape. Escape from my parents, their divorce, their lies to each other and themselves…

Her gaze sinks lower.

TRINITY:
Escape from a reality that allowed these things to happen…

Finding the bottom of the Nmap scan, Trinity sees the same OS guess: Windows NT 4.0.

Still nothing useful for this particular OS.

Once more, she mouths silently.

TRINITY:
Damn.

Trinity quickly enters her third ping-swept IP address. She executes her third port scan.

She sighs quietly.

TRINITY:
Things a sixteen-year-old shouldn’t have to endure.

For a moment, Trinity drifts to her last months before the unimaginable divorce. A responsible yet overprotected child of just 16 years. Not too young to cope with her breaking heart, yet not too old to blame herself. Her love for them failed her and left her cold. Reeling from that shattered world, she felt like a freefalling mirror crashing into the ground. All she could do was pick up the pieces as best as she could.

INT. APARTMENT 101

Neo continues to stare at his working scans.

NEO:
I’m sorry.

He can almost feel Trinity shake her head.

TRINITY (V.O.):
Don’t be. That path prepared me. It made me who I am today.

NEO:
Yeah. At sixteen, I was the butt of all the bullies’ jokes…

This time, Neo drifts back. He can still feel the dread of another day of books and boredom and bitches and bullies at Owen Patterson High. Back then, his long dark hair hung over half his face, and his typical black T-shirt hung off his skinny frame. For another instant, he can feel the throbbing ache in his gut where one of the fatter seniors hurled his fist before laughing at him and biking away.

NEO:
But after twenty years…

The next instant, he remembers his own past laughter. Memories of the infamous Knights Technoir, the ponytailed Levi Stevens, and the red-horned Katie DeVille. Not only did Katie take him into her knightly underworld, she took him into her willing arms and passionate heart. She let him explore, not only the unlimited depths of electronic information, but the hidden heights of physical pleasure.

Then the unthinkable happened. The week following her MetaCortex triumph, Katie vanished. He had been abandoned. And he was devastated. The emptiness. The weariness. The lack of direction. The loss of motivation. Whatever. The cloud of depression. He had plunged into depression. A profound depression.

But one lonely and shameful night, a realization hit him.

All of his life, he felt as if he was dragged along by the wrinkled hand of fate. Wrinkled and twisted. He never seemed to make things happen; things always seemed to happen to him. That never felt right. But that was going to change. Nothing was going to tell him what to do or what to think. Not anymore. Not his depression or emptiness or weariness or helplessness. Not his anger or disgust or shame or guilt. Not his bosses or colleagues or friends. Not even his futile fantasies. He didn’t need them anymore. Instead, he needed to take back his control. He needed to take back control of his own life. After all of these years, he was finally going to control it and find out the fucking truth.

Whatever it took, wherever it took him, he needed to know. It didn’t feel like a high-level government conspiracy. Or a top-secret military project. It felt bigger. Deeper. More profound. More pervasive. He needed to know the truth. He needed to know what the Matrix was. Every mystery pointed to it. Morpheus’ whereabouts. Trinity’s disappearance. Katie’s disappearance. As well as the mystery surrounding the Matrix itself.

Years passed and he was still no closer to uncovering the truth. No closer. No clearer. But he had no choice. To find the answer, he needed to find Morpheus. And to find Morpheus, he needed to scour the unscourable depths of the electronic underground. He needed to. He had to. For himself. And for Katie. He could barely remember her eyes. Her lips. Her voice.

Neo blinks and returns to the present.

NEO:
My path ended up being totally different…

He hesitates at how much he should reveal.

NEO:
Someone disappeared. Someone I knew. And I needed to know why.

TRINITY (V.O.):
Who was it?

Neo pauses.

NEO:
It doesn’t matter. Not anymore.

FADE TO BLACK.

End of Act II: 01-05

Act II: 06-11: To be continued…


Notes


  • Act I: The Challenge
    • Tons of research: “The Matrix Shooting Script,” hacking and phreaking history, hacking tools and phases, Commodore computers and modems, IRS service centers and computing centers, IRS statistics and consolidation, and the Kansas City Royals.
    • Screenplay format: Halfway into writing the first act, I realized that the character dialogue didn’t seem to fit the novella format. So I tried something else; it’s much better suited to a screenplay.
    • Hacking phases: There have been numerous interpretations or divisions of the various hacking phases, written over the last five years, but basically my fic phases = the following phases: (1) Reconnaisance = Reconnaisance, (2) Flaw Identification = Vulnerability Identification or Enumerate/Assess, (3) Penetration = Compromise, (4) Domination = Control or Escalate, and (5) Implantation = Embedding or Maintain/Leverage.
    • Kansas City, Missouri: Based partially on Kansas City, Kansas, in KM’s “Left” and Meridian’s “The Promise of What Is” (ch.12), but modified to match the KCSC in Kansas City, Missouri, one of the ten IRS service centers in the US. The Kansas City Royals is the hometown Major League Baseball team.
    • IRS consolidation: In September 1997, the IRS initiated the Service Center Mainframe Consolidation (SCMC) project to cut the number of mainframe computers it used, from 67 in 10 locations to 12 in just 2 locations, over the next three years. Upon project completion, the mainframes were consolidated to 20 in just 3 locations: Memphis, Tennessee (TCC); Martinsburg, West Virginia (MCC); and Detroit, Michigan (DCC).
  • Act II: The Duel
    • Samsung auto-sliding cell phone: The same phone that appears in “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Animatrix: Final Flight of the Osiris.”
    • Hacking tools: Tons of research. In “The Matrix Reloaded,” Trinity uses Nmap in her hack of the City Power Grid. She executes a ping sweep, port scan, and OS fingerprint of IP addresses 10.2.1.3 and 10.2.2.2. I presume she skipped the first IP because it yielded a best-match OS of AIX 3.3, probably Windows-based. Meanwhile, the second IP yielded an inconclusive match, so she gambled that it was probably Unix-based. Since one of the more famous Unix attacks is the SSH service on TCP Port 22, she tried it. And her gamble paid off.
    • Streamlight mini flashlight: The actual Streamlight Jr. mini flashlight. “Streamlight, builders of the world’s most trusted flashlights. For over 25 years, Streamlight has provided professionals both here and abroad with a constantly evolving line of personal lights. From the New York Fire Department to the Canadian Mounties, from Alaskan hunters to New Zealand mountain rescue teams, Streamlight products are a trusted source of light.”
    • Apartment 101: Based on 101, Neo’s number, which appears throughout “The Matrix Trilogy.”
    • “There’s a difference between luck and skill”: Homage to the lines in “The Animatrix: Detective’s Story” where Trinity says: “There’s a difference, Mr. Ash, between a trap and a test.” Also: “There’s a difference between a test and a choice.”
    • Intel Pentium III: The latest Intel CPU in 1999. On Feb. 26, 1999, Intel Corporation introduced the Pentium® III processor, the first microprocessor designed “to power a new internet experience filled with rich audio, video, animations and 3-D that make information come alive.” The Pentium III processor was available at 450 and 500 MHz, while the 550 MHz version was available in the second quarter of 1999.
    • Sprite: Sprite as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary says: “Etymology: Middle English sprit, from Middle French esprit, from Latin spiritus spirit; 1a archaic : SOUL b : a disembodied spirit : GHOST”.
    • TCC: The Tennessee Computing Center from “Really Good Noodles“. In September 1997, the IRS initiated the Service Center Mainframe Consolidation (SCMC) project to cut the number of mainframe computers it used, from 67 in 10 locations to 12 in just 2 locations, over the next three years. Upon project completion, the mainframes were consolidated to 20 in just 3 locations: Memphis, Tennessee (TCC); Martinsburg, West Virginia (MCC); and Detroit, Michigan (DCC).
    • Route303: Name based on the actual VisualRoute software and 303, Trinity’s number, which appears in “The Matrix.”
    • KD3V1LL3: Hax0r language for KDeville, or Katie DeVille from “Really Good Noodles” and “Why You Live Alone“. “Katie” is taken from Angelina Jolie’s character “Kate Libby” from the film “Hackers” (1995). “DeVille” is a word play on “devil.” Also symbolized by her red plastic horns.
    • Evils-in-One: Name of Neo’s all-in-one hacking masterpiece. One anagram is “Lives-in-Neo.”
    • Owen Patterson High School: Also appears in “Really Good Noodles“. Owen Paterson (sic) is the Production Designer of “The Matrix Trilogy.”
    • Script Kiddie: A hacking newbie. From Webopedia.com: “A person, normally someone who is not technologically sophisticated, who randomly seeks out a specific weakness over the Internet in order to gain root access to a system without really understanding what it is s/he is exploiting because the weakness was discovered by someone else. A script kiddie is not looking to target specific information or a specific company but rather uses knowledge of a vulnerability to scan the entire Internet for a victim that possesses that vulnerability.”
    • San Pellegrino: One of the more popular name-brand carbonated mineral waters.
    • “Like a piece of paper that’s been crumpled up, it can never be perfect again”: Reference to: “Forgotten” by Linkin Park, album “Hybrid Theory” (2000): “A little piece of paper with a picture drawn floats / On down the street till the wind is gone / The memory now is like the picture was then / When the paper’s crumpled up it can’t be perfect again”.
    • March 11, 1962: His date of birth 3/11/1962 in “The Matrix” interrogation file, and taken from the plaque on the Nebuchadnezzar which reads “Mark III no.11”. In the Bible, Mark 3:11 reads as follows: “And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out saying ‘You are the Son of God!’ “
    • Windows NT 4.0: From the http://www.entmag.com archive article “Migration Shows IRS Has Personality,” October 2000: “The IRS recently migrated to Windows NT 4.0 to standardize and upgrade equipment across the government agency… Because a Windows 2000 migration is a complicated task that makes significant demands of machines, the IRS chose to upgrade and standardize all desktops first. Windows NT 4.0 is the stepping stone for machines running Windows 98, 95, or 3.1… Another goal of the migration was to establish a standard desktop platform across all IRS offices.”
    • Knights Technoir: From “Really Good Noodles“. Name based on the similar-sounding Knights Templar where “Tech Noir” means “black technology,” a body of film which revolves around the concept of “technofear.” Literally an expression of underlying societal technophobia. The actual Knights Templar were knights of a religious military order established in the early 12th century in Jerusalem for the protection of pilgrims and the Holy Sepulcher.
    • Levi Stevens: From “Really Good Noodles“. Taken from the name Steven Levy, author of “Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution” (1984).

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