Disclaimer: I donít own these characters, Iím not making any money from this.These characters belong to the Wachowski brothers and I recognize that they are not my own creation.Kirstma, December 2000

Heroes for Ghosts

 

 

1. Who Will Hold Us

 

were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

-T.S. Eliot, "Journey of the Magi"

 

 

Trinity sat alone in a room, shivering and unclothed. The room was white and barren, stark and utilitarian. She wanted her clothes back. She wanted to be through this, to be somewhere else, she wanted her friends. All of them. Back again. She wanted --

The door opened. In walked two doctors, one female and one male, the latter in the throes of middle age and rapidly balding. "Iíve been deloused," Trinity said. "Can I have my clothes back now?"

"Theyíll be ready in a few minutes," the woman answered firmly. She held a clipboard in her right hand. "But first, have you been generally in good health?"

"Yes," Trinity answered grudgingly.

"To the best of your knowledge, have you, at any time since your last visit, come into contact with any lethal substance or chemical, either identified or unknown?"

"Jesus Christ," Trinity said, trying her best to keep her breasts concealed from view. "If my blood work came back okay, I must be okay."

"Just answer the question, Miss Trinity," the man said, his voice hinting at severity.

Trinity twisted her mouth. "No."

"To the best of your knowledge, have you come into contact with any bacteria or virus since your last visit, either identified or unknown?"

Only the flesh-eating one that left me disfigured, Trinity almost said. "No. Can I have my clothes back?"

The woman pursed her lips. "Shortly." They both turned and left the room. Now she was alone again, still shivering and smelling of the chemical shower. Shivering, not because it was cold but because it was lonely and disconcerting to be treated with such aversion.

She wondered about Neo -- about how he was faring during his check-up and rehabilitation. "There is much repair to be done on his muscles," Morpheus had told her as they rode to the center of the earth aboard the Orion. Neo was resting. He wasnít in good shape. Of course, he wasnít in terribly bad shape either -- but heíd withstood a lot during his most recent battle in the Matrix. God, five days ago. It seemed like it had been a year or two ago when sheíd flown that helicopter through the skyline, escaping just in time before it crashed into the side of a skyscraper. And then, after that . . . well, no one had discussed it very much, except for Morpheus who spoke reverently and thoughtfully about her revelation. Those words that had simultaneously saved and shocked them all were fused with silence. "Trinity, know you love him, but you must be very patient with him," Morpheus had told her.

Morpheus was full of advice she didnít feel like taking.

Trinity missed Switch who, during all of the previous trips to Zion, had undergone the same humiliating inspection in customs that Trinity was enduring alone now. But when theyíd been together -- well, they could typically laugh it off as the usual Zion inanity. But now -- without Switch -- it seemed so much more personal.

Without Switch. Without Apoc, or Mouse or Dozer, dear God. . . . Trinity felt her face collapsing in a tense statement of grief that was becoming exhausting to suppress.

The door swung open. Trinity pulled herself together. "Miss Trinity, your clothes." The lady doctor dumped them on the floor and left, the door closing with a resolute clank.

After she was dressed in her usual scrubs -- that now smelled faintly of something like moth balls -- Trinity quickly left the stark waiting room. In the surrounding areas that resembled a doctorís office -- though with none of the amenities -- Trinity observed a nurse flipping through some charts. "Excuse me," she said, "have you seen my captain?"

He turned to face her. "I think the rest of your crew is still being processed." He was young and beautiful, and Trinity noticed how his lips curved out a little. Theyíd never been that attractive when she was young. Younger, that is.

He glanced over at her again. "My, thatís a nasty bruise."

"Oh, yeah." Trinity reached down to cover her arm with her ragged sweater. An RSI bruise that still hadnít faded.

"You want me to get you some ice for that?" His eyes looked at her, brimming with kindness. She hadnít seen that kindness in any of them for a long time.

Before she could answer with an irresolute no, the boy was already rummaging through an old icebox in the corner of the room and gathering ice chips and wrapping them in an old towel. He came to her, placing the pack carefully on her arm.

"Thank you," she said, barely able to form the words with her shaking lips. She felt human again. She couldnít bring her eyes to meet his, afraid that one look from him might cause one emotion to bubble to the surface of her face, then another, then another, and soon it would be out of control like Pandoraís box. She took the pack and carefully turned away.

* * *

Trinity ended up staying at the military hospital that night which was connected to customs. Neo, as it turned out, was to be kept under observation to ensure his full recovery. At least that was what the doctors told Morpheus, and when anything had to do with Neo, Morpheus took it very seriously.

The crew of the Orion was long gone by then, released into Zion to frolic and play and do whatever it was that normal soldiers did on their vacation in the city. Tankís wound was being treated with antibiotics, but heíd soon be released to join his family in Zion -- and then mourn the loss of Dozer. Trinity, however, was just glad to collapse on a make-shift couch that was put in the waiting room of the hospital for her.

"I want to see him," she told Morpheus, whose own quarters were at a military hostel. Trinity was encouraged to join him there, but she didnít want to leave the hospital without knowing more about Neoís condition.

"He needs a lot of rest, Trinity," Morpheus told her. "I donít think heís ready for anything particularly draining."

Trinity faltered, growing a little red. "I just need to talk to him."

"I know you do. But -- he is the One . . . his being here is a miracle in itself. For now, we must treat him very gingerly . . . this is a period of transition for him. And your feelings . . ." He didnít continue.

My feelings are secondary to everything. My feelings donít matter.

Trinity rolled over on her side on the old, worn sofa. Few things were made of new material in Zion -- everything was recycled, organically grown, and somewhat shabby. Human luxury was unimportant in the face of war, and most people wore their clothes until they just about rotted off. Frivolity was considered wasteful -- almost sinful. Vanity was some kind of horrendous crime.

And what about love? Is that frivolous . . . vain?

She couldnít sleep, thinking of Neo in the hospital bed down the hall and of her imposing, breathless feelings of love for him. Theyíd hardly shared a moment together in the last five days, due to his fragile condition and the arduous chore of getting to Zion before another sentinel attack. Those few moments after the EMP blast, after Neoís miraculous resurrection and hasty retrireview from the Matrix were fresh and raw in Trinityís mind. How theyíd kissed then -- she running the tips of her fingers over his cold cheek and reaching to tenderly hold his neck . . . the taste of his salty lips and the instant connection between them . . .

When he tried to stand afterwards, he collapsed. Trinity held him and Morpheus put him in bed, covering him with the extra blankets of dead crew members. Trinity had given him her blanket also, but then Morpheus found out and made her take it back. And while they waited for the Orion to come and rescue them, Trinity slept on the small space of floor beside his bed until Morpheus found her and made her sleep in her own bed. But when she gazed at the empty quarters of her dead friends, grief had floated to the top of her mind and settled there, a constant fixture.

The ship was cold and in shambles. While they waited for the Orion, they were frightened that theyíd be discovered by another batch of sentinels, though they werenít. And Neo was feverish and moaning in pain, in need of medical assistance that they couldnít supply. The power had been lost, but the backup had come on so there was enough to survive for a few days.

The Orion had arrived the next day, its crew pausing to gawk at Neoís existence. "Heís old for a trainee," the medic had whispered to a few of his cohorts, and Trinity had felt a sort of indignance that bounded to the surface of her mind. But theyíd worked on him then -- hell, theyíd probably saved him. She had to be grateful.

Morpheus was adamant about keeping Neoís true nature and purpose a hushed secret. And for good reason, because there wasnít just one war going on. Cypherís insidious betrayal hadnít been an anomaly -- just a symbol of something much bigger than all of them.

Trinity stirred, still unable to sleep. Her thighs ached and the slight bruise on her arm still swelled. And she wanted to see Neo.

Without really thinking about it, Trinity sat up and slipped into her boots. Quietly, she made her way down the hall in the dim hospital lights and sterile atmosphere. She reached the room where she thought he was staying, and pushed on the door.

Two men jumped up caught her by the wrists, forcing her back into the hall. She took note of their appearances as they came into view -- one fat and the other very thin with dirty blond hair. Their clothes were not as shabby as her own, but not nearly as tidy as the clothes in the Matrix. They wore simple pants with dark shirts.

"What are you doing?" the fat one hissed at her.

She jerked free. "I need to see him -- "

"No one is allowed to see the patient in there. Strict orders."

"Strict orders from whom? Who are you?" Trinity felt her voice climbing in desperation.

One pulled out a slim wallet with his credentials. "ZPA. Weíve been assigned to this man for the rest of the week."

"Oh, youíre fucking kidding . . ." Apparently the Zion Protectionary Agency had been assigned to Neo, and without her knowledge or consent. "Iím his commanding officer," she said, "I have every right to see him."

"Not until morning then, Iím afraid," the fat one said, his jowls waggling. "And not without your credentials."

"Trinity?"

Trinityís eyes widened -- Neo was awake and calling her from his bed. She pushed past the officers, despite their efforts to keep her contained, and crouched by his bed. She reached for a small lamp on the table beside the bed and a comforting light made shadows in the room. "Neo . . ."

"Trinity . . ." His eyes, glazed from sleep, tentatively scanned her thin frame. She shyly slid her hand into his.

"Neo, are you alright?"

"Yeah," he whispered, "I feel much better . . . where am I?"

"A hospital in Zion. Donít worry -- Iím sure youíll be well enough soon.

"Who are those men?" he said, his voice weak.

"We call them zaps. Theyíre no one, just police men here to protect you."

"Protect me?"

"Yeah, and Iím down the hall."

His grip on her hand tightened. "Theyíre doing all these tests on me. Is it because Iím . . ."

She turned away, afraid that she might cry. Then she looked back and reached over, lightly touching his hairline. She hadnít planned to fall in love, itíd just happened. And here it was, with so much power and emotion that she didnít know if she could take it on without breaking. "Neo, I -- "

She felt a hand on her arm. "Out." It was one of the officers. "You arenít supposed to be here. If we have to physically remove you, we will."

Trinity turned back to Neo and thought about what that would look like to him. Then she thought about kissing him, but decided against it. She squeezed his hand and left him without looking back at him and waited until she was in the waiting room again before she let herself weep.

* * *

The next day Trinity awoke and went to the room to find Neo. He wasnít there and his guards were gone. The bed was empty and made, and there was no trace that he had ever been there.

Feeling stricken and a little ill, she decided to venture into Zion. She had to walk a mile or so through a tunnel in order to reach anything vaguely metropolitan -- the city had been arranged that way for the purposes of protection. And when she emerged from the tunnel, there it was -- noisier and more unattractive than any simulation of a city she had known. Wires and metal tubing were in abundance; simple concrete blocks formed the roads and ground. Buildings sprang up senselessly, with no thought of organization or aesthetic purposes, and people jogged, walked, and yelled to each other in the street. Trinity could hear the hovertrain roaring in the distance. Though there were no cars or busses, there was the omnipresent whooshing of air and the buzz of electricity.

When she looked up, she couldnít tell where the "sky" ended and Zionís ceiling began. That was the trick of it.

The people who jostled her in the street were real ones. At least that was how they considered themselves. They had no plugs and their clothes were different, neater. She knew that being a soldier amid these civilians was obvious, but that day she didnít care.

Trinity spotted a paper on the ground, a newspaper. Zion had done away with most paper publications because of the waste factor, and because they couldnít grow many trees. But they kept newspapers and published just enough of them, recycling the papers each day to make a new batch the next. Most other publications were done electronically, like books and songs and records.

She picked up the newspaper. The Free Zionist -- a title that Tank always laughed at for its redundancy, because a Zionist was, by definition, free. This was a New Humanist publication, from a faction that was largely anti-war. The paper was a few days old. Immediately the thought seized her -- had the Nebís destruction made the paper? And what about Cypherís betrayal?

She tore through the paper, most of the articles concerning the politics of expanding the city and taking more resources -- which was evil according to the New Humanist point of view. And there it was on the back page: "Sentinel Attack leaves five dead, one wounded." "Oh, is that what theyíre calling it?" Trinity muttered to herself. She scanned the subtitle. "Nebuchadnezzar Captain Morpheus waits to use EMP, Sentinels destroy ship." Angrily, Trinity threw the paper down and continued walking.

That was just like the New Humanists, always trying to destroy the reputation of the resistance. According to that party, the war had gone on long enough. There was no legendary "One" -- it was all folly. The best thing to do would be to call an end to the war by destroying the machinesí database, and thereby destroying the enslaved population of the earth. New Humanists did not like ex-slaves. Neither did many other people.

It hit Trinity suddenly -- she was starving. She hadnít eaten since . . . well since the morning before last, when theyíd had breakfast on the Orion. There was a small place that served food on the corner -- sheíd been there before when she was younger.

She had no sooner entered the door when a man sprang up from his seat and left the restaurant. Another man followed. Another man -- supposedly the manager -- approached here. "Sorry, we donít have anything available right now. You might want to come back later."

"Really," Trinity said, enjoying the challenge. "Then why the empty tables?"

He turned around to look. "Weíre . . . weíve got reservations."

Trinity turned and walked out. Two young girls sat in a stoop a few paces away. One was reading a ragged book and the other was swigging from something, probably a bottle of rotgut. One look was all it took . . . Trinity knew they were Matrix born.

Then -- her name. In the street. Trinity turned around to find Tank parting the crowd. "Trinity!"

"Tank!" They met each other with a hug, drawing each other close. "Tank . . ."

"Yeah?"

Trinity pulled away. "Do you know where Neo is?"

Tank stepped back and frowned. "The hospital. Dr. Holdzapfel wanted to run some more tests. But donít worry, heíll be fine."

Trinityís gaze slipped to the ground. "This isnít going to end, is it? They want to find out what makes him tick."

Tank didnít answer her. "Letís get out of here. This isnít our type of neighborhood, if you know what I mean. One of my sisters has a flat on the upper east side, but sheís working in the agricultural district so she said I could stay there."

A few minutes later Trinity was on the hovertrain, letting the motion rock her back and forth. She glanced over at Tank. There was a lot he wasnít talking about -- like Dozer. How had his family reacted? Trinity wanted to be with them to offer her condolences, but she knew that this was private time, family time. They all wanted to be alone.

Tankís sisterís flat was in a dingy area -- their type of neighborhood -- a place called Lestrygonia. They had to walk up five flights of stairs and pull back a shoddy metal door before they reached the small, dark apartment. One main room, a bedroom, a porch overlooking a concrete courtyard where dirty children played, and a small kitchenette. The place held only a few pieces of furniture -- a chair, a table, a mattress on the floor that served as a bed.

"You want some water?" Tank offered.

"Sure," Trinity said, watching as he turned on a spigot and let clear water filter into a jar. It tasted good. "Damn, I almost forgot how sweet Zion water is."

Tank grinned affably. "I know. Everything on the ship has that metallic edge to it."

"I saw some girls today," Trinity began. "One was drinking some kind of grain alcohol. On the street. In a store front. They were with the resistance."

"What?" Tankís eyes grew large.

"I mean, they must have been with the resistance at one time. Now they just look displaced. They were pretty young. I think I might have known them."

"They could have been freeborn," Tank pointed out. "Some people leave their kids in Zion because theyíre in the resistance. And then they die or something, and the kids are totally destitute. Story of my life."

"They seemed like soldier types."

Tank moved into the bedroom. He came back and set some pot down on the table, then began to roll a joint. "You want?" he said, without looking up.

"Might as well," Trinity said.

* * *

Getting high was great, but it hardly did anything to solve Trinityís problems. It didnít open either one up to talking, either. They sat against the wall, passing it back and forth and talking lazily about how long it would take to fix the Neb or how they were going to get a new crew.

Then Tank said: "So you really love him?"

Trinity felt herself blanch. She tried to reply, but there was no air left in her lungs. Finally she managed a few gruff words. "I -- I donít know what it is."

Tank smiled sadly. "I know. You canít describe it. Itís just there. He probably feels it too."

"Oh I donít know, Tank." She looked down at herself. "How could he . . . how could anyone . . ."

"Love you?" Tank said. He reached over and put a hand on her shoulder, which rested against the wall. "I donít think itís so difficult to believe."

She bent forward and shielded her eyes from view with her right hand. "I donít think I can do this . . ."

"Iím here for you," Tank said. He removed his hand from her shoulder. "The funerals are tomorrow. For everyone."

Trinity drew her knees to her chest. Without meaning to, she had begun to cry.

"Hey kid," Tank said, "wanna talk about it?"

Trinity managed to shake her head. "Hey, itís okay," he said. "Youíre not a bad person for surviving. Neither one of us is. I wish it had been me instead of Dozer, but itís not our fault . . ."

"I just want to sleep," Trinity said. "Do you have a bed I can sleep in?"

* * *

Trinity didnít know why the need for sleep overtook her the way it did. Now in Zion, she had the feeling that she could sleep for days and still want more; it was insatiable and intoxicating. She crashed on the dirty mattress in the bedroom, and when she awoke Tank was gone and it was nearly dark. In Zion they gradually phased out the light to simulate a sunset in the evening. The clock told her it was past seven.

She stood up and shuffled back into her boots, deciding that it would be better to simply leave now. She left the apartment and made her way through the crooked streets, boarding the hovertrain and allowing herself to be transported back to the spot where Tank had found her. She wanted to go back to the hospital and see Neo for herself. Would they release him?

But when she reached the familiar strip, still bustling with human activity, she knew what had brought her back. Those two girls. And they were still loitering against a store front, one slumped against the steel siding, the other bent eagerly over a book. Trinity walked over to them and then simply stood there.

The girl with the book looked up and smiled tentatively. She was plain but pleasant, and had long, unkempt brown hair. She was tiny -- she couldnít have been more than seventeen. She looked down at the book and began to read: "When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, ĎThe Lord has done great things for them.í The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced."

She looked up and smiled again. "Those are pretty lines, arenít they?"

Trinity nodded. "What -- what is that?"

The girl continued to smile. "The bible. Iím Temple. Whatís your name?"

The other girl stirred and awoke. She narrowed her eyes in tiny slits.

"Iím Trinity. Iím sorry, but I think . . . this is crazy, but I think I know you."

"Nothiní crazy about that," Temple said. "We all know each other. See, Iím like you." She pulled back her sleeve to reveal a tiny plug. "I used to be a fighter, just like you."

The other girl hunched forward and spat at Trinityís feet.

"Donít mind her, maíam," Temple said. "She donít know what sheís doing."

This all was bothering Trinity very much. She wanted to know why the girls were sitting on the street rather than minding their duties on a ship. It was disturbing.

The man who owned the store was sweeping the sidewalk. "Alright kids," he said. "Iíve let you loiter long enough. No more. Get up and get going to somewhere else."

"You canít make us!" the other girl erupted. She tried to stand up but fell over.

The man laughed. "You drunks! If you had any sense, youíd pull yourselves together and stop begging from the rest of us. Now get out of here."

Trinity bent over toward Temple. "Can I get you something to eat?"

* * *

The pub was poorly lit and dirty, serving awful food that was most likely left over from some other time and place. Trinity had never enjoyed Zion food. She had long ago decided that having tasted Matrix food was a curse, and it was something that never left her mind. Sheíd wake up at night craving the most mundane things -- a hamburger, an egg, spaghetti.

But Temple seemed to enjoy her soy milk and dry bread, slathering the bread with hummus and eating hungrily. Sheís starving, Trinity thought as she quietly ate. Trinity should have been hungry, but couldnít muster any excitement for food. And the other girl ate solemnly and with less vigor.

"So, we were on the Aeolus," Temple said between mouthfuls.

"And what happened? Did it crash?"

"No maíam, taken by sentinels. Everyone died but the two of us."

Trinity put her fork down and stared. "Everyone died . . . but how did you . . . how did you survive?"

"Oh maíam, I donít know. We hid. We thought theyíd get us anyway, but they didnít. So we waited and waited. Took days for someone to find us. Yeah, we were all hurt and stuff. They brought us here to help us get better. I liked it at first. Itís warm here."

The other girl stopped eating.

"Thatís Nala," Temple said. "She donít like to talk so much."

Nala pushed her plate away and glared at Trinity. She was much prettier than her friend, but with a savage set of brown eyes. She folded her arms across her chest and continued to stare.

"So then what did you do?" Trinity asked.

"Oh, we waited for them to reassign us, but they never did." Temple finished eating and looked longingly at Trinityís plate.

"You want this?"

"Oh maíam, I didnít want you to think I was begging, but. . . ."

Trinity pushed her plate forward and Temple took the food excitedly. "Thank you, maíam."

"Why didnít they reassign you?"

Nala pounded her fist on the table. "I need some more money." She held a shaking hand out to Trinity, her eyes twitching a little.

"For what?" Trinity said. "You havenít eaten. You think Iím made of money?"

"I need five krummens," Nala said. "You donít understand."

"She need it, maíam," Temple said. "She need liquor like some people need pills and things."

"Oh, thatís it," Trinity said. "Well, I wonít give it to you. The less you need it, the better."

Nala lunged at Trinity grabbing for her neck but Trinity caught both of her arms, spun her around and held her arms behind her back. She was strong both in and out of the Matrix, with good reflexes that rivaled her mental abilities. And Nala, caught by surprise, limply fell to the ground.

Temple leapt to her feet. "Donít hurt her!"

Trinity stood back and brushed herself off. "I wasnít planning on it. She came at me -- not the other way around."

Temple began to cough. Trinity bent over and tried to help Nala, but she swiftly turned her head. Temple continued to cough, now laboring over each gasping breath. She pulled a cloth out of her pocket and coughed wretchedly into it.

Blood appeared in short spurts on the white cloth. Trinity backed away. "Temple? . . . Jesus . . ." Tuberculosis. Words ran through her head. Itís how Chekhov died. Now Iím going to die like that.

Nala scrambled to her feet and whimpered a little. She rushed toward Temple, throwing her arms around the girl and sobbing silently.

"Whatís going on here?" Trinity said. "Youíve got tuberculosis." She backed away a little and hated herself for it, but she didnít want to catch it. No, not now. Especially not now, not with everything that had just happened.

Temple calmed herself and pulled away from Nala. "Yes, Miss Trinity."

"What are you doing here?" Trinity said. She looked up to find the bartender eyeing them with heavy suspicion. He moved into the other room. "You know you could spread this to the population. Itís illegal for you to be out here -- youíre supposed to be in a sanatorium."

"Oh maíam! I was in one, you see." She folded the blood stained handkerchief and put it back in the pocket of her ragged pants. "It was horrible, I finally had them think that I was well and they let me out. Oh maíam, I donít ever want to go back! I ainít made anyone sick, I swear!"

"Okay, okay," Trinity said, trying to quiet the girl. Temple exhaustedly collapsed into her chair, and Trinity noticed how sick she looked. Why hadnít she noticed it before? The girlís cheeks were sunken and dark rings appeared below her eyes. Trinity had surmised that it was hunger.

"Please donít turn me in," the girl begged.

"You shouldnít be out among the rest of the people," Trinity told her. "Youíll make the others sick."

"Huh!" Nala said, crossing her arms in front of her chest. She flounced into a chair.

Trinity ignored her and continued. "And, and you need to be somewhere with doctors, where they can help you."

"Help me!" the girl shouted, anger rising up in her light voice. "Is that what you think they do?" Heads turned in their direction. "Is that what they told you when they put your friend there to die? Maíam, thatís all it is -- just a place for us to die. They put us six or seven, maybe eight in a room aní thereís hardly any food to go around . . . sometimes someoneíll die and they wonít take the body away for a day . . ." Her voice broke off with a slight choke. "Thatís how I met her. Your friend Harmony."

 

Trinity felt something digging into her palms, and realized that it was her own fingernails, leaving their succession of crescent moon marks. Her knuckles were white with frustration. She hadnít thought about Harmony in a long time. Harmony, the young crewmate who'd been on the ship just before Neo was freed . . ."Was she . . . was she treated . . . badly?"

No one said anything.

Trinity felt her breath catching in her throat. "Was she . . . alone?"

The doors burst open and in walked two men wearing dark clothing. Their gazes leveled to take in Trinity, Nala and Temple, and then they sharply turned and made their way to the three women. Cool as machines . . .

"Young lady, youíre to come with us." They surrounded Temple. They grasped her upper-arms and the girl rose to her feet solemnly.

"Miss Trinity, she just knew. She knew about the One --" The men began to cart her away. "She told us stories íbout how sheíd seen him! In my book! My book!"

Nala was wailing, though Trinity hadnít noticed until then. The men were struggling to keep Temple in tow, dragging her roughly through the door and into the street.

Trinityís mouth was dry. The book. She reached for Templeís bible.

Nala, still crying, swatted at Trinity until Trinity reached for her arm and pushed it away. "Fuck you! I hate you!" she cried, and turned and ran out of the pub and into the street. Trinity was alone again.

* * *

It didnít occur to Trinity until later that Temple meant something inside the book, rather than a biblical passage that alluded to the present moment. On the Hovertrain on her way back to military headquarters, she flipped through the tattered pages and a slip of paper fell to the ground. It was folded and unmarked. She picked it up and opened it carefully.

In Harmonyís careful scrawl was the word Neo. So she had known about him, had seen him briefly through the haze of sickness. What followed was a poem that spanned the length of the entire page.

1.

When the world frothed with unhappiness

I could trace the source of my dismay

by putting my hand

at the base of my skull,

letting my blue tinged fingers

kiss the cold metallic ring,

mark of slavery.

Head bare, eyes in pain --

ripped from the arms of my mother

and placed in the womb of a stranger --

I knew no comfort.

They come in to tell me my progress:

Congratulations. You weigh eighty-five pounds.

 

2.

When you came into my world,

I didnít understand that our time together

would smother

the whiteness from your head.

Your eyes are questions

or songs in a foreign tongue.

How I clamored to see your birth!

Yours was the first to come after mine

and you were pink

with the frailty I no longer

remember.

 

3.

This ship holds us.

She is our mother, and we

are in her womb.

Her milk sustains us -- white, tasteless, plain

and thin with waning memory.

We are waiting for this war to end so that we can be born,

but our birth will be a death -- and who will hold us then?

Touch this mother, for she

is the only mother you will ever know. 

 

4.

In a world that seems familiar

I walk on webbed concrete,

pull apart its strands like thin lines of cotton,

test its pliability

with heavy combat boots. In this world, I am not

a girl. I am a giant, I am a gangster.

I kill children, see smoke blood rise from their heads.

When I kill people, they burn out quietly, their screams

fused with silence. Like little children, they die

while sleeping -- preserved in a jar labeled ash,

still and black as the world above.

 

But I donít want to die while I sleep.

I go see the oracle.

She says, You will not grow old.

 

5.

On this ship, there is more than humanity

between us.

There is silence,

startled only by mere breath.

You Neo, my hope for warís death --

 

I forget most things about myself

but about you? Some things stay with me --

The wet, glistening shine

of your newborn skin,

the rasp of your first, timeless words.

All of us here, circling round you,

the prickling silence of hand in hand.

 

 

 

2. Flight

 

What are you now? If we could touch one another,

if these our separate identities could come to grips,

clenched like a Chinese puzzle. . . . yesterday

I stood in a crowded street that was live with people,

and no one spoke a word, and the morning shone.

Everyone silent, moving. . . . Take my hand. Speak to me.

-Muriel Rukeyser, "Effort at Speech between Two People"

 

The light came in slowly, like the light fades into the corners of a painting. Trinity opened her eyes and recognized nothing. Desperate, she searched her memory for a piece of something that would bring her to the present moment, but found nothing. She struggled to sit up.

"Donít get up so fast."

Trinity slowly turned her head. She flopped onto her back and stared at the white ceiling that loomed above. "Morpheus . . ."

"You were lucky that you were in the hospital when you fainted. Most people never get to pick where they pass out."

"What?" she gasped. Her head throbbed. "What the hell happened to me?"

Morpheus hovered over her, trying to help her into a sitting position. "Youíve been very sick for the past couple of days."

Then it hit her. She put a hand to her chest. "Morpheus, you shouldnít be near me. I need to be tested for TB --"

Morpheus held up his hand. "Itís already been done. Donít worry, youíre fine."

Trinity exhaled. "Then whatís wrong with me?"

"Just a nasty virus. Youíre lucky it happened here. On the Neb you would have been in bad shape, without a medic to help. Here, drink this." He handed her a small cup of juice and she took a tiny sip.

"A couple of days? Shit, I missed the funerals." Her eyes fell to her lap. "I never got to say good-bye, then or now."

Morpheus stood. "Iím just glad youíre going to be alright. Thatís what Iím thankful for." He lingered for a second and frowned, like he wanted to say something more. "Thereís someone else whoís been worried about you. Iíll send him in."

Jesus, Tank, Trinity thought as Morpheus left the room. Heíd probably been running around in circles when she didnít go back to the apartment. She wouldnít be surprised if heíd organized a search party.

Instead, Neo appeared in the doorway, smiling shyly and holding a bunch of sad-looking flowers. He stepped inside. "You look a lot better than you did yesterday."

"You look better too," she said. He looked so much different than she remembered . . . stronger, more confident.

He handed her the flowers. "When they showed me the agricultural caverns yesterday I managed to grab these. They were going to recycle them."

She made room for him on the bed and he sat down. "Thanks. But you shouldnít come near me. Iím probably still contagious."

Neo shrugged and looked down at himself. "Thatís what Morpheus said. But I donít care. The doctors fixed me up as good as new. In fact, I feel better now than Iíve ever felt in my life."

A wave of self-consciousness overtook Trinity. She looked away from Neo, carefully weighing her next move.

"So . . . so how are you?" he asked in his quiet voice, leaning toward her a little.

"Iím okay," she said, staring into his eyes for a brief moment and then looking away. Whenever their eyes locked, she felt that she was at risk of losing her own identity -- an identity sheíd spent years fashioning. Theyíd all had their own strict roles. Tank was the funny one. Mouse was the emotional teenager. Apoc was the cool guy. Switch was the clever bitch. Cypher was the whiner. Dozer was the confidant. And Trinity had been the strong one -- never the one to falter under pressure or let emotion shake her from her duties.

"Have you seen much of Zion yet?" she asked cautiously.

"Yeah. Morpheus and Tank showed me some things yesterday."

Secretly her heart fell. Sheíd been hoping to show Neo Zion before anyone else.

"The food is awful," he said, making a face of disgust. "I was hoping that theyíd have something decent here, but I guess not. That must be why everyoneís so thin."

She nodded. "Itís all vegan. They canít raise livestock. But the liquorís okay." She turned away again. "Um, I sort wanted to . . . I have to change now . . ."

"Oh!" Neo said, rising from the bed.

She looked over to see a slight look of hurt cross his face. "Iíll see you . . ."

"Later," he finished, his mouth forming a slight frown.

* * *

Dressing was the most exhausting thing Trinity had done in a long time. She was out of breath by the time she pulled on her pants, and could barely reach around her back to fasten her bra. By the time she was dressed, she felt like crawling back into bed.

She was up just in time for an important meeting at military headquarters. Dr. Holdzapfel presided, along with Morpheus. The crews of the Orion, the Blue Streak, and the Dragonfly were in attendance. As Trinity sat in one of the long rows, she found it increasingly difficult to keep her mind on the subject at hand. She twirled a pencil in her fingers as the doctor debriefed them on the latest advances in hovercraft technology.

"He looks a lot stronger than before," she whispered to Tank. She couldnít take her eyes off Neo, who sat closer to the front.

"Theyíve been working on him," Tank muttered out of the corner of his mouth.

"Well. Iím glad heís better."

Tank rolled his eyes and shook his head. "You guys are doing this backwards."

"Huh?"

"Well, think about it. You started out by declaring your undying love for him. Then you kissed him. Now youíre talking to each other in fragmented sentences and barely making eye-contact --"

"Thatís not true!" Trinity whispered harshly. She caught the eye of the doctor who glared at her. She sat back in her seat and resigned herself to staring at the edges of a note pad.

After it was all over Trinity quietly spoke to Morpheus. "Have you told anyone yet?"

"Only Dr. Holdzapfel. And a few resistance leaders. Thatís it. You, Neo, Tank and I are about the only ones who know the true extent of his powers."

"If the New Humanists got a hold of the information they could destroy us," Trinity said.

"The New Realists could be worse," Morpheus said. "Theyíd make him a poster-child, and for all the wrong reasons."

Trinity observed Neo over by the long, metallic tables. He was probing some odd looking sandwich theyíd put out for everyone.

"He needs to get out of here," Morpheus said. "I want you to take him to some other part of the city."

Trinity looked at Morpheus questioningly. "I thought you and Tank showed him everything yesterday."

"Itís a large place, Trinity. Iím sure heíll appreciate a different perspective."

Shit, even Morpheus was trying to throw them together now! Oh, for a place that had attempted to keep them apart for the first several days, it was certainly trying its hardest to push things along now.

"Heís under too much scrutiny here," Morpheus said. "Even those who donít know the truth know he is different from them. Heís older. And Dr. Holdzapfel canít stop experimenting with him. He needs a break."

Trinity nodded. "Shall I take Tank with us?"

"No, no," Morpheus insisted. "Go alone."

* * *

"You know, I can um, I can fly now."

Trinity looked up. She felt a pang of jealousy in her chest but squashed it. She knew she should be happy that he could do all of things she couldnít accomplish in her twelve years with the resistance. "Not bad for a guy who freaked out at the thought of climbing a scaffold." She smiled over her cup of coffee. They were in a small cafe that overlooked Zionís main square. Trinity had never dreamed that Zion could be so cozy.

Neo smiled a little. "I know. As trite as this sounds, itís amazing what you can do if you put your mind to it. I mean, I look at life in a whole different way now."

"There is no spoon?"

"Right. Exactly. And -- and Iíve been thinking a lot about what the oracle told me. She didnít tell me I was the One, but didnít really tell me I wasnít either. She made me say what I thought. Really, it was brilliant. I donít think she knows anymore than the rest of us. She just knows how to phrase things."

Trinity shook her head. "Mmm, I donít think so." She knew he wanted her to elaborate, but she lowered her eyes and remained silent.

"What is it?" He slid his hand across the table and gently took hers.

"Nothing," she said, looking up but not removing her hand from his.

"Are you alright?"

"Iím fine," she said. "You want to go for a walk?"

The central square of Zion was by far the most decorative thing in the whole city. Hell -- it had actually been planned. Canals of water used to irrigate the city flowed through concrete passages below them, underneath panels of glass. There was even a fountain in the center of the square. They ambled along, not touching, and paused there.

"What are these factions I keep hearing about?" Neo said.

Trinity sighed. "There are the New Humanists and the New Realists. In truth, both parties comprise only a small percentage of the population. But most people, if you question them carefully, will reveal a preference for one party over the other."

"What do they represent?"

"The New Humanists want to end the war, which sounds right and good, but they want to end it at all costs. They believe that by fighting within the Matrix weíre concentrating on an unattainable goal, and we should concentrate on simply fighting the machines at a ground war level. Cutting off their energy supply. Killing the enslaved population."

"Jesus."

"They believe in getting back to basics. They want to see us become less dependent on technology in general."

"And the New Realists?"

"Are technology lovers. Most are Matrix born like you and me. They want to use technology to further the war effort, even by studying the machines if possible. By using them to fight their own war."

Neo cleared his throat. "Which category did, uh, Cypher fall into?"

"Neither. He was just -- I think he just lost it."

"To put it nicely," he said, jamming his hands in his pockets. Trinity didnít say anything.

"So thereís a war here too," he said.

"In a way," Trinity said. "Sometimes this place feels more unreal than anything Iíve ever experienced."

Neo looked up. "That light feels almost natural."

"Itís supposed to be just like sunlight. But donít worry, it canít burn us."

Neo laughed lightly. "Thatís what I was wondering." He took her hand again and they walked, and Trinity let herself feel a certain comfort that sheíd only thought about. She almost approached euphoria a few times, but pulled back at the last moment.

* * *

Whenever Neo ate, he became sick. He apologized profusely because he was never quite able to predict when and where he might throw up. "Iím so, so sorry," he told Trinity while he was bent over and retching into a gutter. "This is awful, I know."

"Itís okay," she said. "It happened to all of us. The shock of eating solid food after a lifetime of receiving things intravenously has its downside. And you never did have a strong stomach."

"Iím so sorry," he said again, wiping his mouth and standing up.

"Really, itís alright." He amused her. He seemed so innocent about a lot of things -- it was rather touching. "Stop apologizing."

"The food here is disgusting. I donít know why I eat it."

"I know," Trinity said. "I miss real bread and noodles, and not the imitations here made without milk or eggs or anything else."

"Yeah. I miss a lot of things, even though they weren't real." They began to walk again.

"Sub sandwiches," she suggested.

"Steak."

"Did you ever try BLT pizza? Itís a lot better than it sounds."

"You know," Neo said, "when I was in college, a friend of mine gave me a jug of this liquid stuff called beefomato as a gag gift. It was totally disgusting at the time, but I bet Iíd drink it now." He paused. "Well, I donít know if Iíd drink it now -- it still sounds pretty disgusting, actually."

Trinity laughed, she couldnít help it. "You donít seem too sick anymore."

"Iíd hold you right now," he said quietly, "but Iím really revolting. Iíve been puking all evening. Youíll have to forgive me for that. Hey, where are we?"

Trinity looked up. She didnít recognize any of the tenement houses that surrounded them. The light had gone from Zion which made it even harder. "I -- I think we came from this way over here." They changed directions and passed between two metallic buildings. "Well, maybe not."

"Are you saying you donít know?" Neo smiled. He was clearly enjoying this unrehearsed bit of comedy.

Trinity wasnít as relaxed. Zion was a large place -- like Chicago. But virtual Chicago was more familiar than this. "If we can find the hovertrain . . ."

"I havenít seen it in a while," Neo said.

A group of people stood on the corner, speaking in a different language. Trinity tried asking directions, but they didnít understand.

"Shit," Trinity muttered. She led them down a different passageway lined with old pieces of scrap metal that formed uneven buildings. Donít get excited, donít let on that you donít know where you are . . .

"Hey!"

Trinity turned around. A group of teenage boys stood at the mouth of the alley. Theyíd been behind a heap of scrap metal so she hadnít seen them before.

"What do are you people doing?" a tall one asked. He had a slightly different accent -- typical of English-speaking people who were born and raised in Zion.

Another boy jumped down from the heap of scrap metal. "This is our patch. Take your coppertop selves somewhere else."

"Whatís wrong with this one?" A red-haired boy began to jab Neo. "Fuckiní bald guy with a plug so big it could hold eighty krummens."

"Letís get out of here," Trinity whispered to Neo. She took his arm and turned.

A stout boy flanked them and the tall one obstructed their passage through the alley. The tall one reached out and whipped Neo across the base of the skull. Neo took the blow and stumbled forward then danced around to face the boy, still holding his hand across the back of his neck. Trinity could tell that he didnít know how to react. He looked to her. In the Matrix he was the One -- but in Zion he was simply another soldier at the mercy of gang violence.

The red head stepped in front of Trinity. "Seen any real combat? Seen any real combat like this?" He reached out to grab her and she blocked him, raising her leg and kicking him squarely in the abdomen. He doubled over.

"Run Neo," she said, before taking a punch to her jaw. She reeled from the shock, then came back to deck another boy. But there were too many of them, and strong through she was, this wasnít the Matrix. She was thrown against the metal siding of a building before collapsing to the ground, taking a series of kicks to the face and throat. She felt despair for the first time in weeks. What was happening to Neo? Was he taking it as bad as she was?

"ZPA!" a loud voice bellowed. "Donít move!"

The boys who had been holding Neo let go and ran. Those who had been surrounding Trinity retreated and were not chased by the agents. Theyíd get away with it, as always.

Trinity couldnít see anything, but she could tell that the agents were busy helping Neo. Then they turned and bent over her. "This is bad," one of them said.

"Iím fine," she groaned, clenching her abdomen and trying not to shudder from the pain. "What are you doing here?" She squinted to see their faces and realized they were the same agents who had been staked out in front of Neoís hospital room all of those nights ago. "Neo . . ."

"Trinity? Are you okay?" Neo crouched down beside her, cupping her face with one hand. "Jesus . . ." He found her hand and squeezed it.

"Iím okay," she whispered. She stared at the men beyond Neo. "You were following us!"

"Your captainís orders, maíam," he said. Trinity tasted blood.

* * *

Back at the military hostel, Morpheus was on the rampage and the target of his fury was Trinity. "How could you?" he yelled, shut in a room alone with Trinity who was tending to a mess of cuts and bruises on her face. "With everything you know . . . how the hell could you get yourself and Neo in such a volatile situation? Do you have any idea what might have come of this? Do you have any idea what could have been lost?"

"You had us followed!" Trinity countered, her voice breaking.

"And itís a good thing, too! Jesus, this is something I would have expected from . . . from someone else, someone young like Mouse. How . . ." His voice grew quieter but with no less seriousness. "How could you be so irresponsible?"

"We just . . . got lost," she said faintly.

"You should have known better."

"It wonít happen again." Trinity bit her lip and turned away.

"Youíre damn right it wonít." He got up and walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

After what seemed like a very long time, Trinity finally found the strength to leave the room and stagger down the hall into her own private room. Neo was already there.

"Trinity, my God . . ." he said, staring at her face. Her eye would be swollen shut by the next day. "This shouldnít have happened --"

"Itís not your fault, Neo," she said flatly, avoiding his eyes at all costs.

"I think it is. You -- you were trying to protect me. It shouldnít be that way. It should be the other way around --"

"Oh God, go to hell," she said. "I canít believe what Iím hearing. You of all people."

"Iím the One," he said, as if that explained everything.

"Youíre right, you are," she said, trying to hide her face. "And the rest of us have to be willing to do anything to keep you safe. I let you down. You were my responsibility and I failed --"

"Bullshit!" he said. "You think my life is worth more than yours?"

"Yes! What do you think this is about? Of course your life is worth more than mine. Itís worth more than all our lives put together! Why do you think Morpheus gave himself to that agent? And Tank waited to use the EMP? Youíre the One! Youíre our last hope . . ."

Neo stepped back. Trinity could hear his ragged breathing. "That . . . thatís not . . ."

"I want to be alone," she said with her back toward him.

Neo didnít move. "Youíre shaking."

"Iím fine."

"Youíre in terrible shape --"

"Iím fine, goddammit!"

Neo grew very quiet. "Stop saying that," he whispered hoarsely. "Youíre not fine. Iíve never seen anyone farther from fine. Youíre not telling me the truth. You owe me the truth."

Trinityís shoulders were shaking. It took her a few moments to realize that she was crying. Neo came up from behind her and put her arms around her. She let him, slowly relaxing enough to turn around and wrap her arms around his waist. Neoís hands fluttered up to her shoulders and the back of her head. He whispered something. She could feel him touch the ring at the back of her neck and clutch her more tightly.

Several minutes later Trinity was sitting on the bed with Neo. She had let him take the ice pack from her and hold it to her face. Other than that, she couldnít do much of anything. "Iím numb," she said, holding onto his arm.

"Youíre not numb," he said. "Numb people donít cry for extended periods of time." He massaged her shoulder. "I thought maybe you resented me."

"You? Why would I resent you?"

He sighed. "The crew. I feel like . . ." He drew back, searching for the words. "I feel like it was my fault. Like they died for me. I guess they did. I guess they did die for me. And . . . if I had done things differently . . . like if I had paid more attention to the oracle, perhaps --"

"The same thing would have happened anyway. Cypher wanted us dead. He would have killed them anyway, if not then, then later. It was inevitable."

"Maybe," Neo said. He put his arm around Trinityís waist. "You told me you loved me . . . how did you know?"

"I just did," she said with a reluctant smile, though her tears were stinging some of the wounds on her face. "There wasnít any scientific explanation about it. And I do love you. Iíll always love you, even if you donít love me back --"

"Trinity," Neo said, touching her chin. "I love you."

They curled up together on the bed intending to go to sleep. Trinity held tightly to Neo, afraid that everything was a dream, another reality from which she would be pulled out of, and Neo ruffled her hair and kissed her softly. Then they were kissing more frequently, coming to grips with a need that suddenly seemed to run through them both. They were lifting each other now, holding each other up and making love with an intensity that shocked them and bound them together at the same time. And Trinity, always afraid that she might never really know anyone, realized that she had let Neo reach a part of herself that she never knew existed.

* * *

The days that followed were not easy ones. The council called for a special investigation into Cypherís last actions, and Trinity had to testify before a select assembly. Testimony was dragged out of her about Cypherís character and motives. After a particularly grueling day on the stand, Trinity came back to the hostel and collapsed. "That asshole," she sobbed to Neo, not quite knowing if she meant Cypher or the council member who cross-examined her.

"Go ahead and cry," Neo said. "This is the only the time weíll be able to afford to cry."

The case continued and no one knew what was going to come of it. Eventually it became clear that the council had no real objective; they were simply using the tragic deaths on the Nebuchadnezzar to fight a political battle. It was a profane abuse of the system.

"Weíre leaving soon," Morpheus told his remaining crew members in a meeting one day. "Theyíve got nothing to detain us."

"Thatís a relief," Tank said. "I never thought Iíd be so happy to get out of here."

But Trinity felt like there was something missing. One day she ventured into Zion to purchase new ship supplies. The Nebuchadnezzar had been repaired, but they lost many of the things theyíd taken for granted. As Trinity haggled over the price of a new frequency detector, she heard a shout go up and saw a dark blur sprint past her. It was Nala.

"Nala!" she cried.

Nala turned once but continued running down the next street. Trinity dropped everything and ran after her. Minutes later she found the girl huddling in a doorway.

"Nala, come with me."

"I stole this," the girl said, holding out her hand to reveal an apple. "I wonít give it back."

"No, of course not," Trinity said. "But I want you to come with me."

"No. I hate you. Youíll turn me in. I wonít go with you." Her dark eyes glared up at Trinity.

"I wonít turn you in. I want to get you out of here. Donít you want to get out of this place and do something for a change?"

Nala laughed humorlessly. "Iím happy where I am." She took a bite out of the apple.

"There she is!"

Trinity turned to find a grocer heading for them. "Come on! Letís get out of here!" She pulled Nala to her feet and dragged her down the street and into the tunnel.

* * *

Trinity watched as Nala slept in the military hospital. She was hooked up to an I.V. and a few other things that were supposed to get her system back to normal and clean out all of the nasty substances. Nala slept through everything, oblivious to the fact that she was being cared for by the people she once despised.

"Whereís Neo?" Morpheus asked as he approached the glass window.

"Oh, heís with Tank," Trinity said.

"Good. I hope Tankís teaching him how to maintain the ship engines."

Trinity smiled and glanced at Morpheus. "Oh, I think Tankís giving him quite a time." They laughed a little.

"Whatís going to become of her?" Morpheus asked, pointing at Nala.

"I donít know," Trinity said, touching the glass. "Theyíve got no programs to care for people like this. As soon as they turn her loose, sheíll go back to the same things all over again." She shook her head.

Morpheus studied Trinity and his mouth was set in a firm line. "I donít think theyíll turn her loose," he said carefully. "I think sheís coming with us. God knows we need her."

Trinity glanced up skeptically. "Morpheus, are you sure? This girl has real problems . . . and Jesus, weíve had our fair share of those."

Morpheus smiled. "I donít think sheíll be too much of a handful. She reminds me of you, the way you had that glint of hostility in your eyes. The way youíd flinch if anyone came too close."

Trinity looked up, startled. Then she shook her head. "I forgot."

"I think we forget most things about ourselves. Itís easy to remember things about the others." He paused. "And besides, Tank will grow tired of Neo. Heíll need someone new to boss around."

Trinityís heart felt light for a change.

"Iíve been hard on you," Morpheus remarked.

"Youíre kidding, right?" Trinity said casually.

"It was wrong of me to have your followed without your knowing it," he said. "And I apologize for that."

Trinity nodded, unsure of what to say or how to act. "I used to be the best. I was always the best. At everything. Now everything is different and itís better this way."

Morpheus squeezed her shoulder before walking away. "You might still be the best." Behind the glass Nala awoke.

* * *

When Nala awoke, she didnít speak for a long time. She simply followed Trinity around the room with her eyes.

"Nala," Trinity said softly, "what happened to Temple?"

Nalaís weak answer came an hour later: "She died a week ago."

"In the sanatorium?"

She nodded. Trinity went to see for herself if Nala was correct. She was not allowed in the sanatorium, so she had to discuss things with a nurse through a narrow window. "Miss, we had the body burned after she died. Thereís nothing to see."

"Did she leave anything behind?"

"No." The nurse went to shut the small window.

"Wait," Trinity pleaded. "There was someone else here. From my crew. A girl named Harmony. Do you remember her?"

"No."

"Could you check to see if she left anything?"

The nurse frowned. "Miss, we donít keep things around. Itís not good for the public health --"

"But this girl was a poet."

"It doesnít make any difference," the nurse said. "We get rid of everything."

So that was it. Trinity took comfort in the fact that she had Neo and a new crew member to look after, and the fact that they were finally leaving Zion. What was supposed to take two weeks had lasted nearly a month. A month away from the war. That was the longest Trinity had gone without being on a ship, or without being in the Matrix, for that matter.

* * *

Another newbie joined the ranks -- a pale freeborn named Link. He would be the new medic. "Looks pretty sickly for a medic," Tank whispered to Trinity and Neo as they prepared to leave Zion. They all tittered a little, but Trinity couldnít help feel a pang for Dozer, who had been the absolute picture of perfect health.

And Nala wasnít really talking, but she seemed rather content with her private quarters. She seemed for comfortable with the crew. "Youíre a nice girl," Tank told her while she helped him run wires from deck to deck.

"Shut up, fuckhead" she replied. "I hate you." It was fitting.

Trinity tried not to let the noises of the old ship haunt her too much. Now she had Neo to wake up with in the morning, his warm breath on her cheek and the back of her neck, his hands wrapping around hers, moist and damp with a mixture of sweat. Get the ring. The ring was in sight. She could almost touch it.

One day Trinity was clearing through some things in her old quarters when she came across items that she hadnít seen in a long time. She wasnít even sure how theyíd gotten placed in her quarters, but they stared up at her from the pile and she handled them reverently, and felt something touch her deep inside. Mouseís hat. Switchís deck of cards. Two books, probably either Morpheusís or Harmonyís. One was an old, fading book about North American birds, and the other was a tattered collection of Chekhovís short stories.

Trinity didnít like to read because it seemed like a complete waste of time, and because you couldnít change a book the way you could change a computer program. But now she let her eyes skim the words and take everything in. She liked one story in particular, for the end seemed rather poignant: And it seemed as though in a little while the solution would be found, and then a new and glorious life would begin; and it was clear to both of them that the end was still far off, and what was to be the most complicated and difficult for them was only just beginning.

* * *

They had been in flight for a week when Morpheus, Link, Trinity and Neo were in the mess hall together and Morpheus was talking about what they had to do now that they were getting back on track. "We need at least two more members to have a complete crew," he said. "Theyíre going to have to come from the Matrix. This is the first thing that needs to be done."

A loud voice came from the hallway. "No I wonít! You canít make me!"

Link chuckled. "Theyíre fighting again."

"Iím not doing anything to you!" Tank shouted.

"Youíre sick, really sick! You know that?" came Nalaís voice.

Morpheus sighed and closed his eyes. "Whoís on duty?"

"Nalaís supposed to be," Neo replied. "But I can take her shift."

Morpheus shook his head. "I almost forgot how wonderful it is to have young people on this ship. How could I have missed this?" He left to break up the fight.

Link smiled shyly at Trinity and Neo. Then he got up and left, which Trinity thought was awfully considerate of him.

"Thereís a lot we have to do," Trinity said to Neo. "Starting with the extra shift you just picked up."

"Youíll have to show me how to take it all on and retain some sanity."

"Oh believe me, this is just the beginning," she said.

Neo got up and accidentally knocked Trinityís book from the table, sending loose pages fluttering about the room like a soft explosion. "Oh my God, Iím sorry."

Trinity laughed and they both bent over to collect the scattered pages. "How will we ever get these in order again? Boy, itís useless."

"Wait -- whatís this?" Neo was bent over. He flipped something over in his hand that had fallen from the book and landed near his boot. It was a photograph. "Trinity?"

"What?" She got up and crouched beside him, draping an arm around his back and threading her other arm through his.

"This is -- itís --"

Trinity inhaled slowly. The photograph was about ten years old. The whole crew was there, but mostly a different crew, a crew that was long gone. The photograph was an official one, probably taken for record purposes in Zion, and what it was doing nestled in the book was a mystery.

Morpheus was the same, his staunch attitude reflected in the photograph. Tank was so young and innocent and grinning off to the side. Trinity recognized the other crew members -- they stared solemnly into the camera with age-old expressions of longing and candor. They believed they were doing the right thing, and none of them had expected to die that day or the next day or the week or month after that. This was before Switch and Apoc came, before Mouse -- even before Cypher. And she recognized all these people, could hear their voices calling to her in the corridor and fading quietly with the roar of the engine.

And there she was, with the same stoic demeanor as the others, her eyes catching the camera with a mischievous light. Youíre the best, heíd told her, and she believed him and she lasted. She had lived.

"My God," Neo said in a choked whisper. His eyes, wet and astonished, met Trinityís. "That -- thatís --"

"Yes Neo," Trinity said. "My God, I know."

 

December 2000