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A Small Act of Defiance

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He didn't know what it was that made him consent to this.

Perhaps it was because there was still a small part of Smith inside him. He considered the possibilities for a microsecond, then determined this was the most likely explanation, that the virus was affecting his code in unexpected and unseen ways. Unseen, that is, apart from the very obvious fact that there were hundreds of him now, all moving through the simulation with a single goal -- the expulsion of all redpills from the Matrix.

The ability to multiply had belonged to the virus, of course, not to him. Not really. Normally contained, separated from the rest of his code, it had been brought out of its dormancy by the Architect himself. One of his copies had heard a human call it a last-ditch effort by the System, but in reality it was merely the most efficient way of dealing with the redpills who’d stubbornly refused to leave.

He couldn't understand why these humans were being so recalcitrant. If they knew how painful it was to be in the simulation during a reset, they would have already left.

Every exile, from the Merovingian on down, had already fled the Matrix. The bluepills were safely asleep and wouldn't be affected by the reset; the only ones left were the redpills and the agents who'd been sent after them. The humans had been warned and yet most of them chose to remain, even under the threat of terrible pain. Every agent available had been mobilized and still there were not enough to handle all of them. Simple simulacra of his colleagues had been created to aid them in their task, but sims weren't sophisticated enough to deal with the throng of humans who'd defiantly chosen to remain in the simulation.

This plan had been deemed the most effective means of forcing the redpills out.

His own skills, which had been greatly reduced in level (as his own people didn't fully trust him, not since his infection by Smith) had been restored to their original settings. And the code corruption within him had been deliberately awakened. Now there were hundreds of them. Hundreds of him, so many that they were designated by numbers and not names.

Smith’s words echoed in his mind. //It was happening just as before.//

His own thoughts intruded then, as if to banish the implied threat. //Or…perhaps not.//

His eyes took in the unfolding scenes from behind his dark glasses, and he had to admit that the situation here was quite different. This time, the singularity of purpose was directed towards cleansing the simulation, not controlling it. And he was working with the other agents now, coordinating and communicating with them through their earpieces. What he was doing was not so different from what he used to do, before Smith. Hunting and killing redpills. Only this time they weren't really going to die, thanks to the relatively new emergency jackout procedure; their 'deaths' tonight would merely force them out of the Matrix until after the simulation was up and running normally again. It was a way to protect them from the discomfort of the reset. There was a truce on, and they weren't killing redpills anymore...and besides, some of those redpills were now working for the System.

Smith never would have accepted this. His hatred of the humans was legendary; he would have been infuriated at the very idea.

There was something inside the agent and his copies that felt pleasure at that, or at least, as much pleasure as an agent could feel.

Their primary targets tonight had been Zionites, and to a lesser extent, Merovingian-aligned redpills. Their own human operatives were still targets, but they could be saved for last…especially the ones with high neurokinetic levels, as they were helping drive out the others. Everyone was attackable that night. There were no truces among the humans, and the strong preyed on the weak.

As he had just witnessed.

Two of him had watched from the shadows as a Zionite chased down a much less powerful Machinist. That one would be no help in pushing out the other operatives; she was still too new to the Matrix, her skills too low level. But the Zionite was so intent on the possibility of an easy kill that they were able to ambush him easily – two shots and he was down, dead before he even knew they were there. The Machinist had seen them, though, and she'd heard the gunshots as the other human fell. And she knew she was still a target no matter her allegiance. So, like all the others they'd encountered that night, she kept running.

She was about 20 yards away when she stopped.

She looked over her shoulder, then back down the street in the direction she'd been going. She looked over her shoulder again, and then turned around and began walking - cautiously - back to them.

They had enough experience with humans to tell she was afraid. Still, she kept walking until she was standing just a few feet from them.

"You saved me," she said hesitantly.

One of them nodded. The other said nothing, just continued to gaze out silently from behind his sunglasses.

"You saved me," she said again. And then she broke into a wide smile. "Thank you. Thank you so much." She took a step forward, reaching out to him…and then paused, as if she'd suddenly realized the inappropriateness of what she was about to do.

He stared down at her for a moment. Of course he should refuse, step back and away from the human who knew very well what he was, and equally well that this was something an agent would never, ever do.

But he didn't. He didn't move. He simply stood there, waiting.

His copy turned to him and raised an eyebrow curiously, as the same thought passed between them, between all of them. Maybe there was something in him that had been tainted by Smith permanently…something perverse, the thing that kept him from returning to the Source, which would allow him do something so atypical.

Or maybe, just maybe, it was the opposite. Maybe he was doing this to defy Smith - everything Smith had been and everything Smith had made him - even though a part of the virus would probably always be inside him. There was no real way to tell, but he would have preferred it to be the latter.

She reached up carefully, bringing her hands to rest at either side of his jaw, gaining more confidence as she realized she wouldn't be pushed away.

He still wasn't sure why, but he shifted forward slightly and tilted his head down anyway.

And as she pressed her lips against his, he was almost surprised to feel his own arms come up slowly, wrapping around her and closing the small gap between them, in what just might have been another small act of defiance.