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A Different Point of View

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APOC

No one has noticed yet. But they will.

If Trinity were anyone else, they would probably suspect it already. But she isn’t, so they don’t and she is able to get by without suspicion.

The first time Morpheus had mentioned him, she had rolled her eyes.

When she found out his age, she was furious. Damn near crazed as she ranted “he’s nearly thirty! Thirty! We’ve never successfully unplugged anyone over twenty and Morpheus thinks that he’s the One? If we even try to unplug him, we’ll kill him!”

Murmurs of “bullshit,” “thirty,” and “fuck this” were heard under her breath for weeks.

Then Morpheus had made monitoring him mandatory.

The murmurs and attitude stopped.

Within a span of a few days, Trinity became withdrawn-- she avoided her crew, avoided all of us. She threw herself into her work. She hadn’t played cards or goofed around with us since she first started watching him.

And now she sits at the computer, completely engrossed in whatever it is he does. She reads every report twice, criticizing those who leave anything left out. Her head is all over the place. I actually beat her while sparring in the Construct. I haven’t done that since she was seventeen and hungover.

Switch had suggested that maybe she was just burning out. It had been more than ten years since Trinity had joined the Neb and she had never once taken a vacation. Maybe it was catching up to her.

But I knew otherwise. I recognized the signs.

Trinity was in love.

I don’t know when she first fell for him-- the dark-haired coppertop who tripped over his own feet and was the very definition of anti-social.

I’d never even heard her say his name. Neo.

Or Thomas, I suppose, but neither name ever graced her lips.

“I’m going to watch him.” She’d say or “Did he do anything interesting last night?”

It was a miracle no one else had picked up on it.

He was half-asleep at his computer right now and she was watching the green glyphs rain down the screen. One of his hands was lazily typing at his computer while the other ran through his hair.

“It’s midnight.” I said softly so as not to startle Trin.

“Is it?” She asked, not moving her eyes from the screen in front of her.

“Yes.”

She nodded, still not looking away. “He’s close. Starting to make some headway. He managed to crack Homeland and found records of Morpheus in New York a few weeks ago and when he was in Capital City half an hour later. He ended up putting all the info on the webs and is running a couple forums trying to figure out how Morpheus traveled a few hundred miles in thirty minutes.”

“He shared the information?”

“Yeah. Didn’t even hesitate to just put it out to the public. Just decided it wasn’t his to keep.”

“An interesting choice.” I looked at her, eyebrows raised, wondering if she would get out of the chair on her own. “Trinity?”

“Hmmm?”

“You should go to bed.”

“I’m really not tired.” She said quickly. “If you want to go back to bed, I can take your shift.”

Really Trin?… I thought with a smile… Have you given up on hiding it?

“I’m all set. You should go get some sleep.”

She didn’t argue anymore, giving a quick nod. “Alright. Keep an eye on the forums and take notes on the conversation, particularly of what he contributes. And don’t forget…”

“This isn’t my first watch, Trinity.” I reminded her gently.

She seemed uncomfortable as she stood up, glancing away from the screen briefly to address me. “Just keep note. I’ll talk to you in the morning.”

She stood up from the chair, stretching, as she took a final look at the prospect. Suddenly, I found myself unable to resist the temptation as I said, “Trinity?”

“Hmm?”

“You might want to be careful.”

“Careful?” She repeated.

I gave her a nod. “Your subtlety is leaving something to be desired.”

She avoided eye contact, if only for a moment, before replying, “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Come on, Trin. It’s just me. I’m not here to judge you.” She still said nothing. “You like him.”

“He’s a very interesting person.”

“Switch described him as the most boring coppertop she’s ever been forced to watch.”

“Well, agree to disagree.”

“Trinity.”

“What?” She asked sharply, completely on the defensive. I sighed, hoping to have avoided defensive Trin.

“You like him.”

We both knew it was more than that but it was a start.

Trinity glared at me for almost thirty seconds before looking over to the screen, her face softening. “Is it that obvious?”

I shrugged. “No one else has noticed yet.”

“Key word being ‘yet.’” She sucked in her lower lip before asking, “You won’t tell anyone?”

I shook my head. “Your secret is safe with me.”

“Thanks Apoc.” And with a final glance at the screen, she whispered, “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.” I echoed, although I was almost certain that her last word was not meant for me.

I took my seat in front of the computer, taking up watch on the coppertop. Thomas Anderson. Neo. Maybe he was the One. Maybe not.

But if Trinity cared for him, then he was special. And so I would take extra care when watching over him.

No one has noticed yet, that Trinity is in love with Neo.

But they will.



DOZER

“Dozer.” Morpheus’ voice sounded on the intercom. “Infirmary. Now.”

That could only mean one thing. Cypher must have been hurt while in the Matrix. Sighing, I pulled myself out of bed, slipping into boots before hurrying to the infirmary.

The door was open already and I could see Morpheus standing, arms folded across his chest and talking to Trinity.

I raised a brow in surprise but didn’t say anything as I walked in. I stepped around Morpheus to assess the damage. There was a cut on her head and she was holding her left wrist at an awkward angle.

“Anything broken?” I asked, going to get antiseptic from the cabinet.

“No.” She bit out. “I’m fine.”

Morpheus sighed, clearly fed up with those two words that seemed to make up half of Trin’s vocabulary these days. “I’ll be back.”

When the door had closed behind him, I approached her. “Wrist?”

“Hurts. Not broken.”

“Sprained?”

She shrugged.

I moved closer, picking up her arm gently. She winced but made no sound.

“Make a fist.”

She did, her face tightening under the pressure.

“Bend it back and forth.”

She moved it a little backwards before hissing in pain.

“Probably a mild sprain. Let me get you some meds.”

“I’m fine.”

“Who are you trying to convince?”

She didn’t answer.

That wasn’t surprising. At least it wasn’t these days. In the past few months, she’d become more and more distant. She rarely would spend any of her free time with us, preferring to spend it at the computer working.

Her choice, I suppose. But I was still worried. Most of us were.

“I’m telling you,” Switch had said the other night when Trinity had backed out of playing a game of cards with the rest of the crew, “She’s burning the candle at both ends. The girl needs a break.”

“Have you suggested that to her?” I had asked.

“Nah. Not like she’d listen. It’s Trin.”

I had to agree there. Trinity did what she wanted to.

“It is worrying.” Tank had put in. “I went to relieve her a few nights ago in the Core… put my hand on her shoulder and she spun around ready to take me down, like I was the enemy.”

“Probably just stress.” I had said. “We all get on edge sometimes.”

“And how do you suggest she deal with the stress, Doctor Dozer?” Switch had asked with a smile.

I had shrugged. “Find a way to make the negative energy productive.”

“What does that mean?” Mouse had piped in.

“It means that she’d take all of the frustration and put it into her work-- spend more time sparring, exercising, get physical to work out all her feelings.”

“Like,” Mouse had lowered his voice, “sex?”

At which point Switch had hit him upside the head while the rest of us rolled our eyes.

“What were you doing in the Matrix?” I asked, setting her arm back in her lap while I went to find bandages.

“I work there.”

“Wasn’t Cypher supposed to do the all-nighter tonight?”

“I felt like taking a shift.”

She’d been doing that a lot lately… taking shifts that weren’t hers. I had started to suspect-- and I was sure that I wasn’t the only one-- that Trinity had feelings for the coppertop that Morpheus claimed was the One.

Were they romantic feelings? I wasn’t sure of that.

Maybe Neo reminded her of someone she had lost to the Matrix. Maybe she believed Morpheus, that Neo was the One, although I had never known Trinity to back up his statements.

I walked back over to her, unwinding the bandage. “How is Neo?”

She inhaled deeply as I picked up her arm. “Fine.”

“Think we’ll be unplugging him anytime soon?” I pushed.

“Don’t know.” She replied, abruptly changing the subject. “Is the bandage really necessary?”

“It’s probably a mild sprain.” I told her. “Wrapping it will control the swelling, help keep it from bruising.”

“So I don’t actually need it?”

I didn’t like where the conversation had turned. “It will help you heal faster.”

“But I don’t need it.” She confirmed. “I’m going to bed.” She hopped off the table and moved towards the door. My legs were longer, allowing me to head her off.

“I need to look at your head. You might have a concussion.”

“I know what concussions feel like. I’m fine.”

“There’s that word again.” I commented. “Want to try a different one?”

She stiffened at that. “I mean what I say.”

“Usually you do. I don’t typically associate you with bullshit but with the way you’ve been acting lately, I might have to rethink that.”

“Please, Dozer.” She said, sounding exhausted. “Let it go.”

It’s him, isn’t it? What’s got your head messed up, what’s got you going crazy. Neo.

But I didn’t say it. She asked me not to.

“Alright.” I said, instead. “But, please, let me look at your head?”

Trin nodded, willingly walking back to the table.

“Can I wrap your wrist?”

Another nod and she lifted her arm. I had just begun wrapping the bandage around her wrist when the door opened and Morpheus stepped in.

“Tank’s monitoring the Matrix. Are you okay?”

I could practically see Trinity restraining herself. For all our sakes, I answered for her. “Trinity seems all right. I’m wrapping her wrist just in case and then I’ll check her for a concussion but her head seems fine.”

“Good.” Morpheus said. “Very good.”

“Do we know how they tapped us?” Trinity asked, “Cypher was sure the line was secure.”

“He must have been wrong. But, no matter. We’ll just need to make contact with him sooner rather than later.”

“H-how much sooner?”

“The sooner the better. In the next few days, for sure. Is that alright with you?” Morpheus asked, aiming the question at me.

I nodded, trying not to focus too much on Trinity’s reaction. “Sure. I’ll start prepping the operating room for him in the morning.”

“How soon can you be ready?”

“Tomorrow.” I answered honestly. “It should only take a few hours.”

“Get it prepped.” Morpheus answered, “I’ll send someone in to make contact with him late tonight. We’ll gauge his reaction as to when we should take him out.”

“I can go.” Trinity volunteered without hesitation.

Interesting. I thought, saying nothing.

“Alright. I was thinking that on the bus home from his work—“

“Too quiet an environment. Someone could over hear. I was thinking drawing him out of his apartment. A bar or a club—loud and with enough people so that he won’t be intimidated. Get his attention. Give him time to think it over. A day, maybe two.”

Morpheus nodded. “Alright. Do you want to take the lead on him?”

“No.” She said quickly. “I’ll just make contact. Bring him to you. The usual.”

“Are you sure? You’re welcome to—“

“No. I’m sure.”

So was I. Trinity was in deep with a coppertop she had yet to meet.

Maybe this bastard really was the One.




TANK

We unplugged Him. He’s here, on board this ship-- I’m sure of it. After years and years of searching the billions of individuals still trapped in the Matrix, we found Him.

Neo.

The One.

Trinity was the first to make the connection between the two words: Neo and One. The first day Morpheus told us about the hacker. He hadn’t even told us his thoughts and Trinity had guessed, just from hearing Morpheus say his name.

“Though our next target will still be Labyrinth, I want to start monitoring Neo immediately. He’s a bit older than most of--”

“His name…” Trinity had interrupted, “You think it’s an anagram, don’t you?”

“For what?” Mouse had asked, never knowing when to just stay out of her way.

I wasn’t stupid but I hadn’t even thought about it until she mentioned it. NEO. Rearrange the letters and it suddenly became O-N-E

The One.

“Yes. I do think that Neo is the One.”

Trinity had nodded, face impassive but body coiled light a tight spring. “How much older is he, Morpheus?”

A fair question, but even I wasn’t expecting the number to be so high.

Trinity had ranted, insisting that it was impossible to unplug someone nearly thirty.

But now? Now Trinity believed. She hadn’t said so out loud but I knew she did.

I had seen the outfit she chose to meet him in. The tight leather dress, cinched in the back, and so short that it should have been illegal.

I had seen her after he was taken from Metacortex by the Agents. She had been ready to intercept him, to take him to us but he’d gone back in the building.

That was when I started to worry. Why would he go back into the building if he was the One?

But then Trinity volunteered to pick him up under the Adams Street bridge, suggesting he would already be skittish at his age. And if he really was bugged, Switch shouldn’t be the one to deal with him.

I had watched the feed. Switch would have been ready to let him walk but Trinity put her hand on his arm. I knew they were talking but words never showed up on the screen. All I knew was that a moment later, he was back in the car and the door was closed.

Neo had made his choice. And I had to prepare.

It was going to be close, we already knew. The moment I locked onto his signal, I had Dozer making the calls to bring my crew back home.

I pulled out Switch first, giving him Neo’s location so that she could run up to the cockpit to help Mouse get us ready to move. Then Cypher to take over for me in the Core so I could help Dozer move the body as soon as we reached the pods.

Apoc was only seconds behind me, ready to operate the crane. Morpheus and Trinity just behind him.

It was a seamless rescue once we located him. We wrapped him in a blanket and got the hell out of dodge.

No sentinels, thank god.

I wouldn’t say it was easy but damn, we had rescued all the time that didn’t go quite so smoothly. Did the machines not realize what they were giving up? Who they were giving up?

If Morpheus was right…

But that isn’t my job to worry about. No, instead I had to help my brother with the latest redpill, currently floating in the makeshift bathtub.

We had extra hands helping us. We usually did but it was very rarely Trinity.

She held Neo’s head above the water while Dozer washed the red fluids off him so he could operate.

She had quietly murmured something to Dozer that I missed and he was answering her, in an equally quiet voice. “Saw through… trying… swim… not worried. Seems…”

I got the gist of it. He was trying to assure her that, despite Neo’s age, he wasn’t in bad shape. His muscles hadn’t atrophied as much as they could have nor as much as we expected them too. The fact he was able to keep afloat so long was proof of that.

And now they’re done. Trinity wraps her arms around his chest from behind while Dozer grabs his legs and they bring him to the operating table. She tosses a blanket over his crotch, very purposefully not looking while Dozer cranks up the heat in the room.

I know how cold the ship is compared to Zion but the poor red pill just came out of a twenty-something year stasis of being trapped in a heated pool. If we didn’t keep him warm, he could go into shock.

“Hold his arm so that his forearm is upright.” Dozer instructs her and she does, one hand at his elbow, the other on Neo’s hand. His fingers curl, slightly, catching her off-guard and her entire body stiffens.

I nearly drop the tray of tools I was carrying to my brother.

Is that a blush staining her cheeks? The room was still cool, the hot air only just starting to pump its way in.

But why would… No. No fucking way.

But like a puzzle, the pieces started to fit together. Just like that first day when she had said it was an anagram. I never would have made sense of it if I hadn’t seen.

The countless hours in the Construct and the Matrix. She had me plug her in to update her knowledge of first aid. All the time she spent in the Core, how quiet she had become…

Neo was the One.

Trinity wouldn’t fall for anyone less.

Holy fuck.

I looked at my brother, eyes opened wide but he just shook his head.

He knew? Dozer fucking knew and he didn’t tell me!

He sent me a glance of warning and I kept my mouth shut. For now.

I had a job to do. But as soon as it was over, Dozer was going to talk.

I watched him the rest of the night, hoping he would give something away. Finally, he went to get tea and I followed, hoping that without her presence he would spill.

“What the fuck, man!” I hissed as soon as the door shut behind us.

“Leave it be.” Dozer started walking towards the kitchen.

“Leave it be?” I repeated, incredulously. “Leave it be? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“There is nothing to tell you.” Dozer said. “Frankly, it's none of our business.”

“Did you see how she was looking at him?”

“No. And neither did you.”

“Doze--”

“I’m serious. She’s got enough on her plate, she doesn’t need you harassing her.”

“I’m not going to harass her. It’s just… Trinity and Neo?”

Dozer shrugged, filling a mug with hot water. “He’s a smart man. Very capable. Kind. He has a lot of good qualities.”

“He’s the One.”

“He might be. But I don’t think that matters to Trinity.”

“Jesus.”

Dozer smiled, giving me a pat on the back as he walked past me. “Try not to think about it too much. You don’t want to hurt yourself.”

“Yeah… hey!” I followed Dozer back to the infirmary as he laughed at my expense, sobering only before he entered the warm room.

Trinity hadn’t left Neo’s side.

I had a feeling, she wasn’t going to leave his side for a long time to come.

 

SWITCH

Everyone falls their first time.

Everyone. Me, Apoc, Trin, Morpheus… I even had the pleasure of watching the first time Mouse plummeted towards the concrete.

Still, my heart sank a little when Neo started to fall.

“Wha-what does that mean?” Mouse asked. For a kid who had been bouncing on his feet not seconds ago, he looked crestfallen.

We all did.

Trinity was looking at the ground, slowly backing up a few feet before turning around and silently moving towards the door.

“It doesn’t mean anything.” I said loudly, hoping that she would know that I was talking to her. She bowed her head, signifying that she heard me but didn’t pause her step.

“Everyone falls the first time. Right, Trin?”

But she was gone.

I’d been putting it off for a while but eventually we were going to need to talk.

Tank pulled Morpheus out first and if he were disappointed, he didn’t show it, crossing the floor to help Neo up.

Neo touched his mouth, blood landing on his fingertips.

“I thought it wasn’t real?”

“The mind makes it real.”

Morpheus kept talking but Neo wasn’t really paying attention. His eyes danced across the room, searching. But they didn’t find her.

I almost felt sorry for the poor bastard.

Most male newbies had a thing for Trin.

Apoc referred to it as some kind of psychological transference bullshit that roughly translated to the idea that the newbies lost their entire lives to the Matrix so they cling to the first piece of reality they get served.

Usually served by Trinity. And even when it wasn’t, the boys would follow her around like a lost puppy. It annoyed her to no end but she was never mean or inconsiderate. She mostly just ignored it.

At first I thought that was what she was doing-- avoiding the hell out of Neo. Crushes from fourteen and fifteen year old boys were harmless but Neo was actually older than her, even if only by a matter of months. That… that could be less than harmless.

“Damn.”

“What?” Apoc asked.

“Gotta go talk to Trin.”

“Good. She’s half a glance away from jumping him.”

My head turned to glare at Apoc. “You knew?” Fuck that, of course he knew. “Of course you knew. Goddamn it.” I walked away, knowing that he was smirking at me. “I fucking hate you.”

I stalked out of the Core towards her room.

I really, really didn’t want to deal with this. Still, I knocked on her door.

No answer.

“You better not be naked.” I muttered, knowing without a doubt that she was in her room. Ignoring the summons, hoping whoever it was would go away.

Too fucking bad.

I turned the wheel and opened the door.

She sat on her bed, back against a wall and knees drawn up to her chest. “I don’t recall inviting you in.”

“Yeah, well…” I closed the door behind me. “Friends aren’t supposed to wait for invitations.”

Trin looked away from me, starting at the tops of her knees. “I’m finally starting to get that.”

I fell back on her bed, scooting so that I was also against the wall. “So you fell for a coppertop. It ain’t the end of the world, babe.”

Silence.

“He started looking for you as soon as Tank pulled him out.”

More silence.

I had to work hard not to cringe. Prying was not my specialty. And usually, I would never push. But Trinity seemed lost and Trinity never was lost. She was the voice of reason on the Neb. Arguably, she was the only one who could keep Morpheus sane and undoubtedly, she was the only reason we were all still alive. She had saved our lives countless times.

I owe her. But more than that, Trinity is my best friend.

So I held in a sigh and said, “Just because he fell, doesn’t mean that he isn’t…”

“Drop it.”

“Doesn’t mean that he isn’t the One.”

“It doesn’t matter if he is.”

“Wow.” I said, nodding slowly. “That might be the first time you’ve ever lied to my face.”

Trinity glared at me. “For the love of god, drop it.”

“No.” I think it surprised me more than it did her that I wouldn’t. “Trin, talk to me.”

“And say what?” She snapped, jumping off the bed. “What do you want me to say? That you’re right? That I do care for him? That him failing the jump doesn’t mean that he isn’t the one? I know all this! So what’s the point of going over it?”

“It might make you feel better.”

“If it it would make me feel better, don’t you think that Iwould have brought it up already?”

“No. I think you’re avoiding anything and everything that has to do with Neo and you have been ever since he panicked after Morpheus took him to the desert. But mostly? I think for the first time since you got pulled out of the Matrix, you’re actually scared.”

A moment passed and Switch wondered if she had gone to far.

“The Oracle…” Trinity stopped. Switch waited for her to continue at her own speed, “The Oracle told me that my life is entwined with the One’s. That I would fall in love with the One.”

Ho-ly fuck.

“When did she tell you this?”

“The first time I met her.”

Double fuck. The Oracle had told her at fifteen that she was going to fall in love with the One. No wonder she was so reclusive, always shying away from the men that hit on her in Zion.

If the Oracle had told that to me… damn.

“Do you love him? Neo?”

Trinity didn’t respond.

Oh damn.

“Shit, Trin…”

“I know you mean well.” She interrupted. “But I can’t…” Her voice broke, “I can’t deal with this right now.”

“Okay.” I stood up, “But if you need me…”

She nodded in response, facing away from me.

I opened the door and stepped out into the hall.

Jesus.

So, Neo was the One. Even if she wasn’t ready to admit it aloud, Neo was the One. I wanted to scream, fly home to Zion and rub it in Deadbolt’s ugly face that we had done it. We found him! But it wasn’t my place to share that news.

Neo was the One and Trinity was in love with him.

I wondered how long it would take her to admit it, why she was hiding it. Ever since he joined, she’d been avoiding everyone. Avoiding him.

But for what? What was it that she was afraid of? What else had the Oracle put on her shoulders?

Trinity is avoiding everyone and he’s completely lost without her.

It was damn near tragic.

 

CYPHER

It started with extra shifts. And now she’s bringing him dinner.

Complete and utter bullshit, that’s what it is.

Sure, the bastard was good. Probably the best unplugged I’d ever seen. He learned fast, although that could probably be credited to his age. Unlike most of the kids we unplugged, he wasn’t a chatterbox. Not talkative, not pushy. Nothin’.

Dull as a fucking post.

So what if he beat Morpheus in the Construct on the first day?

He didn’t make the jump.

He’d opened his eyes in the real world, asked a couple questions and then disappeared.

The bastard didn’t even try to socialize. What was he waiting for? An invitation?

Trinity had already disappeared and Switch had followed soon after.

I had followed Dozer and Apoc back to the kitchen and took my seat. Apoc picked up the cards from where they had fallen.

Poker was out with just the three of us so we started a half-hearted game of slap.  We were just starting the second game when Trinity came in, not really paying attention to us.

My eyes followed her as she crossed the room to get a tray. She tugged on the handle, pouring goop into one of the compartments.

“Want in?” Dozer asked her.

“No. Thanks.” She had acknowledged, giving him a small smile.

Trinity… she had looked sad. Damn near depressed. Did she really think that Neo could be the One? I never took her gullible but with the way she was acting…

I thought I would ask her about it. When she sat down to eat.

But she hadn’t.

She’d poured a mug of water, set it on the tray, and walked out without another word.

I dropped my hand in the discard pile, making an excuse about needing to use the john, and followed her. She walked down the corridor, past her own quarters and to the end of the hall. Neo’s room.

Jesus. Really?

Even if he was the One, which he certainly wasn’t, he was fucking boring. What could she possibly see in him?

I’d seen her turn guys down in Zion repeatedly. Hell, I’d never seen her accept a drink or a dance from anyone other than a friend or her brother.

What the hell did Neo have that those guys didn’t have? What the hell did he have that I didn’t have?

He was so boring. So dull. There was no passion within him and barely enough thought to get by. So why the hell was she so interested?

And why the hell was she still in his room?

There was silence. So I could only assume he was sleeping off ten plus hours of Construct training. Or maybe he would be fine was saying absolutely nothing to her as she brought him dinner. It wasn’t like he talked unless he was spoken to.

The door pushed open and I walked over, leaning against the wall.

Before she could register my appearance, “I don’t remember you ever bringing me dinner.” She looked at me, her face set in stone. I gave her a small smile, deciding to mess with her head. For all the times she never gave me the time of day. “There is something about him, isn’t there.”

Silence. And then, “Don’t tell me you’re a believer now.”

I gave her a small shrug, “I just keep wondering, if Morpheus is so sure, why doesn’t he take him to see the Oracle?”

She pursed her lips. “Morpheus will take him when he’s ready.”

She pushed past me without another word.

Extra shifts, dinner, and now attitude. All over the world’s most boring unplugged.

But it didn’t matter. She’d be dead in a week.

They both would be.

 

MOUSE

Neo was eating with us for the first time, I noted excitedly as I walked into the kitchen. Usually, he took meals in his own room after training.

He’d come out of his room only a handful of times since he failed the jump.

The first time, with no prompting from anybody, he had gone straight to Core where he sat down on the chair and told Tank to plug him in and load the jump program.

He made the jump. And then he went back to his room.

The next day, Morpheus had called him out to do more training. The jump program again, the dojo. And then he went back to his room.

That afternoon, he ran through the Agent training program, being interrupted by sentinels. And when we were safe, he went back to his room.

But now, here he was, in the kitchen.

“Good morning!” I said, cheerfully pouring myself a bowl full of goop.

I was met with half-hearted groans from everyone.

Rounding the table, I took a seat between Neo and Trinity. They both moved over to accommodate me.

“Here you go, buddy. Breakfast of champions.” Tank set a tray down in front of Neo. The One regarded it with the most polite look of distaste I’d ever seen.

I smiled, gesturing at my own breakfast. “If you close your eyes it almost feels like you're eating runny eggs.”

Apoc snorted, “Yeah, or a bowl of snot.”

“Do you know what it really reminds me of? Tasty Wheat. Did you ever eat Tasty Wheat?

“No.” Said Switch, “but technically, neither did you.”

I nodded at her, “That's exactly my point. Exactly. Because you have to wonder now. How did the machines really know what Tasty Wheat tasted like, huh? Maybe they got it wrong. Maybe what I think Tasty Wheat tasted like actually tasted like oatmeal or tuna fish. That makes you wonder about a lot of things. You take chicken for example, maybe they couldn't figure out what to make chicken taste like, which is why chicken tastes like everything. Maybe they couldn't figure out…”

“Shut up, Mouse.” Apoc said. It was a common phrase aboard the Neb, usually coming from Switch or Trinity. But I didn’t mind. It felt more like being in a family than anything I had experienced in the Matrix. I got to be the kid brother.

“It's a single cell protein combined with synthetic aminos, vitamins, and minerals.” Dozer said in a no-nonsense voice. “Everything the body needs.”

I grinned, “It doesn't have everything the body needs.” Looking back to Neo, I asked, “So I understand that you've run through the agent training program. You know, I wrote that program.”

Apoc rolled his eyes. He could afford to. He was the only man on this crew getting laid on a regular basis. “Here it comes.”

“So what did you think of her?”

Neo blinked, seemingly confused. “Of who?”

“The woman in the red dress? I designed her. She, uhm, well she doesn't talk very much, but, but if you'd like to meet her, I can arrange a much more personalized meeting.”

“Digital pimp, hard at work.” Switch added, shaking her head.

Again, easy to say for someone getting regularly laid. “Pay no attention to these hypocrites, Neo. To deny our own impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human.”

Neo looked away, almost bashful. I looked around the table. Apoc, Switch and even Dozer were all glaring at me while Tank was looking at Morpheus, standing in the doorway.

“Dozer,” Morpheus said, “when you're done, bring the ship up to broadcast depth. We're going in. Taking Neo to see her.”

Holy shit.

Neo looked around as Trinity and Dozer pushed away from the table.

“See who?” He asked, attention on the door as the two of them tossed their trays into the sink.

Tank looked towards Neo, “The Oracle.”

“About time.” Cypher said, rounding the counter. He followed Trinity and Dozer out, the door shutting behind him.

Switch nudged Tank and Tank, too, stood up.

“Neo, you want to learn to hack into the Matrix?”

“Uh, yeah. Sure.”

Instantaneously, the room emptied around me until I was alone with Switch and Apoc.

Switch crossed her arms and glared at me. “Mouse, you little fucking shit.”

“What’d I do?” I asked, looking between them.

“You’re an idiot.” Apoc said simply.

“I didn’t do anything!” I defended, thinking over the events that had happened since I sat down. We talked, briefly, about Apoc’s morning shift watching the Matrix. Then Neo’d come in with Tank and Tank had got him breakfast. We’d all talked. There was nothing I’d done.

Switch shook her head, “Will you hold him so I can punch him?”

“I didn’t do anything!” I reiterated.

She slammed her hands down on to the table, “Lay off on the red-dressed whore.”

“What?”

“Stop pushing your woman in the red dress.” Apoc explained. “Neo’s not interested.”

“Again, what?!”

“Neo wants Trinity.”

I stared at him incredulously. “Who doesn’t?”

“She wants him, too, dumbass.” Switch growled.

“No fucking way.”

“She loves him, he loves her and they’re both too afraid to say anything. So stop pimping out your perverted program.”

I looked between them again. Apoc looked serious; Switch looked pissed. But they couldn’t be serious?

Sure, every newbie had a thing for Trin. It was practically tradition. But she just flashed them a smile and ignored their advances. They were all younger than her but even the guys in Zion who tried to gain her favor were gently rejected.

“Trinity loves him?” I asked.

“Yes. And so you’re going to give them space like the rest of us have been doing.”

“The rest of us?”

"Yes. I thought Dozer was going to kill you when you sat down between them."

"There was space! And neither of them said nothing!"

"Of course they didn't say anything! They're trying to not be obvious!"

"Are you guys shitting with me?"

Switch shook her head at me in disgust. "Jesus fuck, Mouse. Think about it... Trin pushed pretty damn hard to take the lead on Neo.  Took more shifts than anyone."

"Holy shit... Trinity and Neo? Together?"

"It's a work in progress." Apoc said with a small smile, "just give them some space."

"Yeah," I repeated, "space."

Switch smirked, coming around the table and ruffling my hair on the way out the door. "clean this shit up. And when we get back from the Oracle, just leave them alone for a bit. There'll be time to bug them later."



THE ORACLE

“He’s here.” Cassandra, one of my priestesses, announced.

I could feel my lips turn up in a smile.

How long had I waited for this moment? How long since the last One came to me and I set him on the path?

Seraph had, indeed, been promising as the One. That boy had a lot of heart. A genius in his own right, Seraph had lead the armies of Zion like no other. But, in the end, just as his predecessors, had chosen the survival of humanity rather than risking extinction.

I did not yet know what path he would take… this Neo. But I suspected, I hoped that this time things would be different.

“What do you think of him?” I asked my priestess.

She breathed in and out before replying, “He’s searching for his bearings. I don’t think he knows himself yet.”

“Few of us ever do.” I offered Cassandra a smile, “You can send him in.”

Cassandra walked out and, moments later, Neo walked in.

“I know you're Neo.” I told him, “Be right with you.”

“You're the Oracle?” Were I human, I probably would have been offended by his incredulous tone. Instead, I was merely intrigued.

“Bingo. Not quite what you were expecting, right? Almost done. Smell good, don't they?”

“Yeah.”

“I'd ask you to sit down, but your not going to anyway. And don't worry about the vase.”

“What vase?” He asked bumping into it. It shattered to the ground and the poor boy looked mortified.

“That vase.”

“I'm sorry.” Neo apologized sincerely. Oh, this boy was simply adorable.

“I said don't worry about it. I'll get one of my kids to fix it.”

“How did you know?”

“What's really going to bake your noodle later on is, would you still have broken it if I hadn't said anything.” I scanned his body, paying special attention to his pale face. Big, brown eyes and dark, thick hair. But more than that, he had a genuinely kind face. He truly was the kind of man who would help his landlady carry out her garbage and allow people to cut in front of him in store lines. And the kindness just radiated off of him and I knew, without a doubt, that he would have helped me across the street in an instant if I asked. “You're cuter than I thought. I can see why she likes you.

His beautiful, kind face was mussed with confusion. “Who?”

I fought a smile. “Not too bright, though.”

I recalled a similar meeting, twelve years or so earlier, with the girl in question. Trinity. She had no intentions of sitting either. No, she had stood quietly as I told her pieces of her fate.

Her life, inexplicably tied with the One’s. There was no sense to it, no logic. But every single possibility surrounding the life of Neo ended with her.

He could not be the One without her.

And for that reason, maybe things would be different. Maybe, this time, he would take the risk.

The future of the world rested on the heart of this boy.

At least he wasn't alone.



MORPHEUS

“NOW!” Trinity screamed and I slammed the EMP. Bright light erupted, blinding us all and then the world went dark.

The emergency lights flickered on and I looked to Tank. He nodded, letting me know he was okay.

“Holy shit.” He muttered, surveying the damage.

It was a miracle that we had survived.

I looked around for Neo and Trinity. I knew without a doubt that they were both okay. Everything was okay now. We had found him.

Trinity was still standing over him, unmoving. And then, a hand brushed its way over her neck and into her hair.

What was…

Neo sat up and, suddenly, an arm wrapping around Trinity’s back as he clung to her and kissed her.

I felt my jaw drop in surprise, in shock. But sure enough, amidst all the damage upon the Nebuchadnezzar, were the One and my first officer, holding onto each other for dear life.

Trinity threw her arms around Neo’s neck as he moved to his feet. His hand left her hair, tracing the contours of her body before stopping on her thigh so that he could lift her up off of the floor. Trinity hugged her legs against his hips, holding onto him.

Their lips never parted.

I looked to Tank, completely in shock.

He gave me a small smile and a shrug. He was… not surprised.

I looked back to the couple, so completely wrapped up in each other that they were unaware of their audience.

There had been no indication of affection. I wasn’t even aware of them ever interacting. How could it be that they were now making-out like teenagers in the broken Core of my ship?

Trinity had never even indicated that she believed in the One. Every prospect I pointed out to her she vehemently denied it.

“No, Morpheus.” She would say, “That child is not the One.”

And then I had found Neo. Her initial reaction had been furious.

“He’s thirty, Morpheus!” She had screamed at me the first time we were alone after I told her about him. “Thirty!”

“Not quite.” I had replied, understanding her concerns. But I was so sure…

“Practically, then!” She snapped, “There’s a reason we don’t unplug people past a certain age! They can’t handle it. If we try to take him out of the Matrix, we will kill him. Do you understand that? This isn’t a fucking lottery game, this is his life!”

“But he’s not alive, Trinity. Not really. And because he is the One, he will survive and he will destroy the Matrix and save us all.”

“Bullshit!” She had screamed. “Bull-fucking-shit! You don’t know what he’ll do or if he’ll survive. You’re so fucking certain that the Oracle is right that you won’t even pay attention to the consequences of what will happen if you’re wrong!”

“I understand your concerns.” I had told her. “But, Trinity, Neo is the One. I know it.”

“You don’t get to determine who the One is.” And then she had stormed off.

For nearly a week, she avoided me-- a difficult feat on such a small ship. And then, she had conceded.

“Promise me, Morpheus.” She said when I went to take over her shift, watching Neo in the Matrix. “Promise me that he’ll live if we try to unplug him.”

“I promise.”

And now, she was in his arms. Her cheeks were wet… was she crying?

Gasping for breath, she and Neo broke apart, resting their foreheads together, breathing in the same air.

She smiled, choking out a sob. “I love you.” She told him, so quietly that I could barely hear.

“I love you.” He replied, punctuating his sentiment with a kiss, “So damn much. Trinity, I love you.”

And she laughed, softly, touching his cheek. “Don’t you ever, ever die on me again.”

“I’m never letting go.” Neo told her.

“You better not.”

“I love you, Trin.”

And she kissed him again.

He loved her.

She loved him.

How was I so blind not to notice? Was I really so focused on finding the One that I failed to acknowledge that Neo and Trinity had fallen in love with each other?

I looked around me, yet again.

The ship was in ruins. We were running on the backup generators which would, if we were lucky, last through the night. Five members of my crew were dead and Tank was wounded.

I cleared my throat and, again, Neo and Trinity broke apart. They appeared truly surprised by the fact that they were not alone.

“We only have the generator for a few hours.” I told them, not able to look either of them in the eyes. “Can you send out a distress call while I tend to Tank?”

Trinity nodded, blushing furiously as she disentangled herself from Neo and set her feet on the ground. She started to walk away but Neo quickly grabbed her hand and pulled her back for one last kiss. Then, pulling back, he whispered to her.

She smiled softly at him before turning and hurrying to the cockpit.

“Come on,” I said to Tank before turning to Neo, “Any damage from the bullets?”

“No, sir.” He said, more controlled or confident than I had ever heard him. “The wounds were only as real as my mind made them.”

“You have blood on your sweater.”

The corner of his lips tipped up in a smile, “My mind made it real. And then I was reminded that it wasn’t. My body healed.”

“I’d still like to check you. Let’s go to the infirmary while we still have light.”

Tank moved past me to head towards the med bay. Neo glanced toward the ladder where Trinity was making the SOS calls and he smiled.

Then he turned and followed Tank, leaving me to trail behind.

Neo and Trinity.

How could I not have noticed?