BECAUSE LIFE IS…
The impeccable, infinite whiteness of the construct. There’s an eeriness to it, in its purity.
If you take a space, any space, and empty it of all objects and matter, of anything substantial, that’s what you have left. A construct. A pure, empty white void.
And there… Neo, talking on a cell phone: "Guns. Lots of guns."
He looked like one of us, now. Black. All in black with black shades hiding his virgin eyes. I knew, though, that if I could have seen through the glasses, the innocence would have been fading. That sole figure of black in the field of perfect whiteness.
The guns came rushing at me as I approached him, racing from a nowhere that was infinitely far away.
For a moment we stood there, forcing ourselves to muster up the strength to do what we were about to do, fully aware that no amount of strength would be enough.
Not until he believes, I thought. I choked down the phrase as soon as it surfaced.
"No one’s ever done anything like this before, Neo."
He looked at me, determination set in his stance. He picked up an uzi and snap-cocked it in one swift motion. "That’s why it’s going to work."
I hoped he was right.
In combat, there is no time to be afraid. Instead, the fear attacks you in anticipation, riddling your stomach with holes before a single bullet has been fired. I didn’t want to let him enter the building first—we didn’t know who or what would be awaiting us. Tank assured us that the lobby level was safe, but this didn’t seem a good time to depend on the predictability and structure of Matrix code. Things were slipping out of their pattern, I could feel it.
I knew that the reason was standing beside me, wearing black.
I should have insisted that I go first, but the fact remained that this was his show. I had no idea what his plans were, or even if he had any at all. So I had to suppress the frustration and follow, hoping against hope that some of the abilities he denied having would manage to push their way through his scepticism.
I entered with the bomb moments after the first shots had sounded, the metal detector resolutely announcing my entrance like some half-wit crier. Instinctively, I took out the guard as he called for backup, but I knew it was too late. I took my place alongside Neo, matching strides, and at the same moment we threw aside our spent weapons. I had hoped that we could make it to the elevator before the main security block arrived, and then could let the bomb take care of the rest of them. The sound of quickly approaching footsteps drowned out that hope, though, and we stopped to face the onslaught.
They jogged in, dozens of people dressed in the same intense black as we were. "Freeze!"
I turned to Neo and saw my own determined reflection in his glasses. Without another thought, I dropped the bag and dove for cover as Neo jumped to the other side. Adrenaline surged and healed my shattered stomach, and the thrill of the fight took over.
I lost count of the number of coppertops I took out in that brief few minutes, and the specifics of the battle elude me. Every move you make is a reflex, there’s no time for processing. It’s frustrating, sometimes, fighting them, because there’s so much they don’t know. The unfairness of the situation is horrific; we fight the machines, and yet it is only the humans that get killed. Only unsuspecting slaves.
But then again, I guess they were never really alive to begin with.
I wondered how the machines would manage to cover that one up.
The bomb was still sitting exactly where I’d dropped it by the metal detectors. I picked it up and met Neo at the middle of the room.
The elevator doors closed behind us with a "ding" that echoed off of broken columns and broken bodies, heralding our departure and shutting the carnage away.
I shed my coat and stooped to arm the bomb as Neo hit the emergency stop and pried open the ceiling hatch. I set the timer and followed him up through the roof of the car, where he was already clasping his harness to one of the cables. He shot the binding of the first cable and I relaxed instinctively, absorbing the shock of the car’s slight fall with my knees. Without a word I stepped over to him, forcing myself to ignore the heat in my gut as I pressed my body against his, one arm around his shoulders, the other firmly holding the cable. His muscled arm snaked around my waist, much stronger here than in the real world
… the closeness…
…the closeness was almost overwhelming.
And then he looked up and whispered something I didn’t understand, something about a spoon, and I made a note to ask him about it later as he shot the second cable and the elevator counterweights yanked us up through the shaft.
I barely noticed the rush of hot air that surged up as the bomb hit bottom.
The scrimmage on the rooftop was, for the most part, hardly even a fight. The simplicity of it unnerved me—there were Agents in the building and coppertops all over the place, and yet all we ever had to fight were drones. SWAT guys, again, just like in the lobby. For Christ’s sake, you’d think that after we single-handedly kicked the asses of two full units, they’d leave us the hell alone. No such luck, though. They really were drones. Suicide machines.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that Neo was holding his own quite nicely; his training wasn’t finished, but apparently it was good enough. He reverted to hand-to-hand when his "lots of guns" started to run low, and did just fine with it. I kept an eye on him anyways, though, nailing the one guy who came a little too close with a well-aimed knife through the eye. The last batch of feds who came at me were on the ground in seconds, and I turned to see how Neo was faring. At the same time, he turned to face me, and—
Oh, damn. That guy in the back, there by the edge, in the helicopter—he wasn’t dead. He wasn’t dead… and now… oh shit--
An Agent. It was an Agent. I knew this had been too easy.
I tried to scream, to warn Neo, but my voice froze in my throat. Neo was looking at me, and he could see, he could see, but I couldn’t scream, oh God, I couldn’t scream, and--
Recognition flashed in his features, and he froze.
What the hell was he doing?
Suddenly, he spun on his heel, pulling his last remaining guns from their holsters on his thighs, and fired. He emptied both clips, and of course, the Agent dodged every single bullet, despite my burning hope that maybe, just maybe, he could pull it off.
"Trinity!" His voice snapped me out of my daze just in time to see the Agent pull his gun— "Help!"
Some morbid corner of my mind dared him to prove it, to prove himself now, to take this perfect chance and force himself to realise what he was actually capable of. But that thought was gone as soon as it came, and as I heard him call my name I realised that I had to protect him. It was my duty to protect him, but more than that—I needed to protect him.
A sudden understanding hit me like an axe to the skull: I would have to get between him and the Agent.
I would have to take those bullets.
But before I could move, before I could tackle his RSI to the ground and cover it with mine, the first horrific shot was fired, and—
Neo became a blur of motion as the bullets came at him. His body was bent impossibly back, his arms flailing, torso twisting, bullets flying—
He looked like an Agent. He was moving like an Agent.
And then, an instant later, he was on the ground, and the bullets stopped, and he was still alive.
He was still alive.
But so was the Agent.
The Agent walked up to Neo’s fallen body, and I saw what was going to happen. Without having to think, I ripped a .45 off of some dead SWAT guy and slipped around behind the suit. I heard the click of his pistol cocking as he aimed, and his parting words to Neo:
Oh yeah? "Dodge this." My gun was pressed to his temple, and I fired.
A flicker of electricity, and a dead SWAT heli-pilot fell to the ground in front of me.
Neo was still on the ground, and I extended a hand to help him up, my confidence returned. I knew for certain, now, that he was the One, but the question remained: did he believe? I had to push him. He—I—WE needed to know.
"How did you do that?"
He looked at me, bewildered. "Do what?"
"You moved like they do. I’ve never seen anybody move that fast." Come on, Neo, admit it. You know it as well as I do.
"It wasn’t fast enough." He pointed to a surface wound on his shoulder, and I wanted to shake him, hit him, do whatever the hell it would take to force him to understand the truth. Well, almost anything…
The void in my stomach was burning with a heat as white as the construct. But it wasn’t my place, anyways, I reasoned. Nobody could tell him he was the One, he had to know it for himself. And besides, we still had Morpheus to save, and we knew it would only be a matter of time before more Agents turned up.
At the same moment, we turned our gaze to the abandoned helicopter that sat by the edge of the building where the Agent had left it.
"You know how to fly that thing?" he asked.
There it was, again… that innocence. It was still there, in his eyes. He still didn’t fully understand the way things worked for us, in the Matrix. Understandable, though—it was, technically, his first mission. "Not yet." Then, I pulled out my phone, and dialled up Tank. "Tank, I need a pilot program for a V-212 military helicopter."
For a moment, my head went blank as the directions were uploaded into my brain. The instant I opened my eyes again, I looked at Neo. "Let’s go."
Using uploaded skills is always a bit of a trip the first time. I sat down inside that helicopter having never seen anything like it before, and I knew exactly how it worked, which buttons to push, which wheels to turn. And then, we were flying, me at the controls as Neo fed a round of bullets into the rear-mounted machine gun.
I couldn’t see what was happening behind me as I lowered the helicopter beside the building. The sudden gunfire was the only notice I had that we had found the right floor, and I struggled to keep us steady that close to the window. A moment later, the gunfire stopped, and I heard Neo’s whispered encouragement: "Get up, Morpheus. Get up. Get up!" And then more shots, and again, Neo’s cry: "He’s not going to make it!" And then…
He jumped. He jumped out of my helicopter. I hazarded a glance behind just in time to see Morpheus and Neo collide in midair and then fall. I felt the sudden jerk as they hit the end of the rope, and I started to lift us up over the building.
More shots, and the fuel gauge started to drop frighteningly fast. There was a roof, there up ahead, I just had to get there… drop Morpheus and Neo, and then… well, fuck it, that’s what I had to do, and as for my own sweet ass—well, I’d worry about that later.
I felt them touch down as the warning alarm on the fuel gauge began to beep furiously. The needle was below the empty mark. There was no way I would be able to land this thing. The engine was sputtering, and I was falling—
Without thinking, I unstrapped myself from the harness and caught the other end of Neo’s rope. A well aimed shot broke the binding, and then I was falling—or flying—into the side of a the building… praying that the rope would hold… praying that Neo would hold on to me.
The glass spider-cracked around me as I collided with the window, and I waited, expecting the rope to give or break and me to go falling into the cavern between the buildings. But then, no—I was moving up. I was being pulled up. And I looked to the roof, and there was Neo, looking over the edge, one hand moving at a time as he hauled me up to safety.
I didn’t mean to fall into him like that. My arms, shoulders, and back were burning from holding my weight under the rope, and as soon as I got a foot under me, the rest of everything just gave out, and I fell. He caught me.
And again, the smell.
Oh, God, the scent of him.
He had just saved me. I had put my life in his hands, I realized, and he had protected it at the risk of his own. And the void was a gaping wound in my stomach, and I thought that whatever was pulling at me from my centre was going to turn me inside out—
No. Not now, Trinity. Your independence, remember? Your strength? Don’t get dead, Trinity. He has to figure it out on his own, and you can keep your goddamn emotions to yourself. It would break me if I told him. Not now. Not ever.
"Do you believe it now, Trinity?" That was Morpheus. I had almost forgotten about him. Before I could answer, though, Neo cut in.
"Morpheus… the Oracle, she told me--"
"She told you exactly what you needed to hear. In time you will learn, Neo, that there is
a difference between knowing the path and walking the path."
Exactly, I found myself thinking. I can know I love him. I just can’t act on it. My resolve was fading, though, and I knew it. I wanted to tell him, but…
Morpheus was dialling up Tank, and they spoke for a moment before Morpheus pointed the direction, and started walking. When we reached the edge of the roof, he stopped, nodded one last time into the phone, and hung up.
"Let’s get out of here," I breathed, a little faster than I should have. I had to get us moving before all my emotions consumed me. I led the way, jumping to the next rooftop, the other two right behind me. The ease of it was still thrilling to Neo. He was grinning like kid in Disneyland when we stopped five buildings away.
The innocence was still there. He had just killed a few dozen men, but none of the guilty, hardened anguish that I knew festered in my eyes appeared in his. It was like he still wanted to believe the best of everything. I didn’t even realize I was staring until his brown eyes met mine, and I saw his pupils adjust to focus, and then they were burning a hole right through into the very depth of my soul. He took a step towards me. I broke the gaze, turned, and disappeared as quickly as I could down the stairs, covering my discomfort by pulling out my phone and calling for the exit, letting it ring twice before I remembered that Morpheus had already called back on the first rooftop, and then hanging up before Tank could answer.
I stayed a few steps behind Neo the rest of the way to the exit. Maybe he really wasn’t the One, I reasoned. Maybe he was just a regular guy who was damn good at freeing his mind. If he was the One, he would know it by now. He would have to. How couldn’t he? He—well, we, I guess—had just saved Morpheus from three Agents, and gotten out alive. Maybe our fates contradicted each other. Maybe it all really was mumbo-jumbo. Maybe I didn’t really love him…
Bullshit. That last one, I knew for sure. A few moments earlier, I had been prepared to put myself between him and an Agent—something which I had never even remotely considered before, for anyone. "No one can tell you you’re in love," the Oracle had told me. "You just know it, through and through, balls to bones." Know thyself. Well, that much, I knew. I knew it, and it was killing me from the inside.
Morpheus caught up to me as I walked, but I was so caught up in my own world that I didn’t notice him until he started speaking.
"Thank you, Trinity."
I looked up at him, not sure what he was talking about.
"For coming after me," he explained. "Thank you."
"I’m just glad you’re safe, Morpheus."
"Yes, I am safe, and I have only you and Neo to thank for it. And I do thank you." A pause. "But, Trinity…"
"You know you shouldn’t have done it." There was no condescension in his voice, only concern.
"It wasn’t my idea."
"What?" Confusion was written in his brow.
"Neo. He said something about the Oracle, and having to make a choice…" I let my voice trail off as my gaze drifted up and fixed itself on the gentle movement of Neo’s back as he walked. "She told him he isn’t the One, Morpheus."
He shook his head knowingly, a slight, cryptic smile on his face. "She told him what he needed to hear, Trinity. That’s all." He looked at me. "Trinity… what do you believe?"
"I believe you know what I think," was my quipped reply before I turned and followed Neo down the subway steps.
The phone was already ringing when we arrived. Neo picked it up and handed it to Morpheus, then caught the dangling receiver and placed it back in the cradle.
A moment of silence.
It was killing me from the inside, loving him.
What did I believe?
I believed it was killing me not being able to tell him.
…become your strength…
I had to tell him. Was this the right time? Was this the right place? No, not really, it wasn’t. But I had to do it before the bubble in my gut broke and I broke with it.
"Neo, I want to tell you
something…" He turned to face me, and those eyes, those perfect,
still-virgin eyes… I nearly choked. "But I’m afraid of what it might mean
if I do."
The ringing phone echoed through the empty station, and we both ignored it. His face was crumpled with concern, and I tore my eyes away.
"Everything the Oracle told me has come true. Everything but this…" I couldn’t breathe. I was suffocating on the words, and…
No. Not now. Not ever, Trinity. Not EVER.
A train rushed by, and I seized the distraction to step forward and pick up the receiver. I turned as I held it to my ear and HOLY FUCK A BULLET AN AGENT and I was swallowed into the real world.
"Neo!" It came out before I even knew I was speaking.
The receiver was shattered, which meant no entrance for me and no exit for Neo. I raced to the monitors as soon as I was unhooked, expecting to see Neo running for his life. Instead, he was standing perfectly still, facing the Agent in the desolate space of the subway station. And then, at the same moment, they ran and jumped, firing into the air, until they collided in the centre of the floor, both of their guns jammed tight to the other’s head. A second passed, then they stood. Their lips were moving, so I knew they were talking. We have no sound translator on the viewscreens, and while I could have deciphered what they were saying directly from the Matrix code, I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the sight of him on the screen.
A violent rattle tore me away from the Neo’s image and over to his flesh-and-blood form as he shook and writhed in his chair. He was getting his ass kicked. And then, for a few minutes, he picked up, landing a few solid punches, and it looked like maybe, just maybe, there was hope.
And then he got pinned to a wall and the Agent was pounding him, fists moving so fast they didn’t register with the monitory delay, and Neo was shaking violently in his harness—
"Jesus, he’s killing him." And he was. I tore off a piece of my sleeve and used it to wipe the blood off of Neo’s convulsing form.
The alarm sounded, and I raced with Morpheus up to the cockpit. Sentinels.
"How long?" I asked him.
"Four, five minutes." He picked up a comlink, "Tank, charge the EMP."
Despair seized me. "You can’t use that until he’s out!"
Morpheus exuded confidence as he looked me square in the eye, "He’s going to make it, Trinity."
And somehow, I knew he was right.
I thought back to that moment at the subway. I had been able to see in Neo’s eyes that he still didn’t believe, and I knew I had to tell him. I had to. But that would be the end of the Trinity I had worked so hard to maintain—the one that really didn’t give a shit. If I confessed now, there was no turning back. That was a bond, a dependency, that I was stuck with.
So I stood there, watching him get the shit beat out of him by a machine. The words of the Oracle echoed once again inside my skull…
…your greatest fear…
…your fear of weakness…
…will become your strength…
And I still couldn’t say it.
…fall for him, child…
… in love…
… the One…
…fall for him…
And then I watched him get shot by a machine.
Killed by a machine.
…become your strength…
…fall for him…
…when he needs you…
And I still couldn’t say it.
…will become your strength…
I watched him as he coughed and died.
…you’re going to need him, too…
…need him, too…
I watched the monitors go flat-line.
I watched his body go limp. Lifeless.
…the One…needs you…
… in love in love in love in love in love in love in love in love…
It was like an out-of-body experience. All of the sudden, my consciousness, and everything that went with it—my fear, my past, and even my pride, stepped out of me. It was like I was hovering in the air watching myself as I poured my heart out to his lifeless body.
"Neo, I’m not afraid anymore…"
…in love in love in love in love in love in love in love… The words pulsed through me in time with the beating of my heart. …in love in love in love in love in love…
"The Oracle told me that I would fall in love, and that that man, the man that I loved, would be the One."
…in love in love in love in love in love in love in love…
"So you see, Neo, you can’t be dead."
"You can’t be."
…the One…needs you…your strength… to fall for him…in love…IN LOVE.
"Because I love you."
…your weakness…it will become your strength… your strength…
"You hear me? I love you!"
…in love in love in love in love in love in love in love in love in love…
I was still watching myself, but I could feel the void swelling inside of me, the burning hole, expanding until I felt like an empty cavity enclosed by nothing but my skin. I watched myself kiss him. Everything felt muted, subdued by my clouded senses. I watched myself as I tried to purge myself of the void in my stomach, to push it out through my lips to his and let him breathe it in, then breathe out, then breathe in again, revived.
I love you.
I watched myself gasp when he inhaled, and then suddenly command him to get up. I watched myself call him back from the matrix, screaming for him to get the phone. The laser of the nearest sentinel crawled towards us, and I watched as I threw myself over him, shielding his prone body with my own.
The EMP surged.
I love you.
I watched myself smile and go teary-eyed as he woke up and looked at me… I watched myself stroke his cheek. The void was stretching and it hurt, it hurt so much for want of him.
My strength… in love… with him…the One… with YOU.
Then he kissed me. And as his lips touched mine, I rushed back into myself. I was living again, not just watching. I didn’t want to miss this. Everything that had been muted raged back to normal sensation. His lips burned mine, and the void that had been burned out by his scent was now filled with his taste. I needed this. I needed him. Like nothing before, I needed him.
I don’t know how long we stayed like that. It could have been a few minutes or a few days, I don’t know. I lost myself in him. I had never, ever felt so… whole. The void was gone and I felt full—crushingly, blindingly complete. This was the first time I had kissed a man outside of the Matrix, with my real lips. And feeling this, now, made me wonder how anyone could ever make do with the shallow sensation of the Matrix, with the subdued sense-experience that comes from the machines’ inability to feel. Now, it was hitting me full-force. It stung beautifully.
The euphoria was temporary. Reluctantly, I pulled away. Neo would need immediate medical attention, and I knew it. He had survived in the Matrix, but this was the real world, where he was no more or less human than I was. I reached down and unplugged him, and then offered a supporting shoulder as he slowly stood up. He winced visibly as he rose, and leaned heavily on my shoulder. Within seconds, Morpheus, who had obligingly stayed away until this point, was there to support Neo from the other side, and Tank followed closely behind, though his own injuries prevented him from helping us.
Nobody said a word as we walked, but my mind was racing at a million miles a minute. The fear started to trickle back. The old fear. The fear of dependency, the fear of attachment and need. As soon as I realized what had happened, the trickle turned into a flood. By the time we had brought Neo to the remains of the medic quarters, I was feeling it with the same full force that I had before. With it, the void came back. Not so all-encompassing as it had been just a few minutes earlier, but more the small pit-of-the-stomach hole characteristic of my earliest encounter with Neo.
The fear took over.
How could I have been so ridiculously stupid? To confess my love to him… shit. You get emotional, you get dead, remember? I can’t do this now. I can’t.
I helped lay Neo down on the table in Medical, pulling his shirt off to reveal half-healed bloody chest wounds on a torso that was much thinner and weaker here than in the Matrix. I remembered the feeling of his arm around me back in the government building, firm and densely muscled. Here, his ribs still protruded like piano keys and his arms were more bone than flesh. It would be hard, now, for him to make the transition between realities, but I knew he could do it.
He was the One, after all.
Morpheus dug up some anaesthetic and a syringe, so we put Neo out for a while to cleanse his wounds and stitch up the worst ones. He needed a more permanent medical facility, one with better equipment and a power source that hadn’t been ravaged by sentinels, to check for serious internal damage. Tank was online with Zion as we worked, sending for the nearest best-equipped ship in the quadrant.
Neo began to wake just as Morpheus and I were cleaning ourselves up. I walked over to him and rested my fingers lightly on his clammy forehead.
"Rest, Neo." He closed his eyes obligingly. I left.
Within hours, a nearby ship, the Wintermute, had picked us up. Neo slept fitfully for most of the two-day journey to Zion. I heard him call my name, once, during the night, while Tank was watching over him. I pulled my arm over my head when it happened, managing to convince myself that my staying away from him was the best thing for both of us. But when somebody knocked on my door a few minutes later, I knew that whoever it was probably had other ideas.
I didn’t answer, but the door creaked open anyways.
"Trinity, may I come in?" It was Morpheus.
"Morpheus… yes, come in." I sat up quickly and turned to face him. He leaned against the closed door, arms folded across his chest, head tilted down and slightly away from me.
"What’s wrong, Trinity?"
"Hmm." He wasn’t satisfied with that answer, and he knew it wasn’t the truth. Morpheus knew me too well for lies; my mannerisms were second nature to him.
"You know, if this were anybody but you, I would accuse you of being childish." He paused, and then shook his head, as though to clear it. He looked up at me. "But you… you were never a child. You’ve been mature your whole life. So tell me, why are you doing this to yourself? Why are you doing this to him?"
"I don’t know what you’re talking about," I lied, knowing full well that he would see right through me. He could always see right through me.
"I think you do."
He didn’t move for a moment, obviously expecting me to fill the silence. But I had nothing to say to him. With a sigh, he came and sat down beside me.
"Trinity… Did you mean what you told him?"
I became too fascinated with the lint on my blanket to answer. What could he do, pull rank and force me to see Neo? I still wouldn’t go. I thought of Morpheus’ insubordination. It had saved him, and that made it acceptable. Well, this would save both Neo and myself. I couldn’t see Neo now—it just wasn’t worth the risk.
Morpheus was still looking at me. "That’s what I thought."
"You’re jumping to conclusions, Morpheus."
"I know you too well to jump to conclusions."
Frustration began to boil up inside me. "Yes, you know me well. But with all due respect, sir, don’t pretend to think you can read me like a book." My tone had taken on an icy edge that frightened even me.
I think Morpheus was more hurt by my formality than anything else, because he became more subdued, after that. "I think you need this."
I forced the edge out of my voice, but I was unable to keep it from shaking and I couldn’t bring myself to look up at him. "Please don’t pretend to know what I need."
He recoiled like he had been hit.
A moment later, he stood up and moved to the door. A hand rested on the latch when he turned to face me again. When he spoke, his tone had lost all of its customary formality, and he sounded tired. Old, and tired. "It’s been twelve years," he said quietly. "Twelve years since I unplugged you. From the statistics, we should both be dead, but..." his voice trailed off and he looked down again, rubbing one hand slowly over his bald head. "You know… I don’t think of myself as superior to you. I haven’t for years. It is only experience that defines my rank above yours. I would never be so disrespectful as to command your personal life. But you’re like a sister to me, and I just hope you understand that I can and will be there for you." He sighed. "I have never seen you happy, Trinity. I just want to see you happy." With that, he slipped out the door, closing it quietly behind him.
I was still sitting there, picking at the lint on my blanket, when the lights came on the following morning.