“Okay. So where are we?” the Captain asked.
“It’s anybody’s guess if you ask me,” Syntax responded, spinning his chair around to face him. “We’re sitting on some program that apparently holds enough data to decode the image output of the entire matrix system. A program that we now know was given to us by an Agent of the system, by the way. There’s a doomsday program on steroids being babysat by the Oracle. And we now have in our possession a key that supposedly unlocks a door somewhere in the matrix, on the other side of which is the answer that’ll put this entire mess into perspective. Any idea what to make of it?”
“None whatsoever,” Despauna answered him. “But I’d suggest that you make finding that locked door your top priority.”
Syntax twisted his seat back around to face his monitors. “The things I do for this crew.”
“By the by, how did Apollo stumble onto this mystery key?” Despauna asked.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Let’s just say that annoying charm of his finally came in handy.”
“I don’t suppose it matters much,” Despauna said. “Just as long things keep heading in the direction that they are. Hopefully the next puzzle piece that drops in our lap will mean the end of this debacle.” He turned and headed on his way out of the core.
Syntax turned his eyes toward one of the screens streaming with the encrypted matrix code. “Right. The end. Somebody mind telling me why I suddenly get the feeling that things are just getting started?” He started typing away at the screens and keyboards in front of him.
“You mustn’t,” Seraph said, stretching out his right hand and touching it down on top of the left shoulder of the twenty something year old young man standing in front of him.
“Out of my way,” the man spoke.
Seraph dropped his hand but continued to remain where he stood, blocking the path between this individual and the small corridor leading to the front door of the Oracle’s apartment.
“And where would you go, Gott?” the Oracle spoke as she stepped into the living room from the hallway off to the young man’s right. He turned his head in her direction. “What do you think is out there for you?”
His brow slowly crinkled into an angered grimace. He quickly turned his eyes back to Seraph and followed up his gaze with a hard right to his chest. The Oracle stood there emotionless as she watched her protector’s body explode into a cloud of floating gold particles. “Twilight,” he said and proceeded to move forward through the swirling cloud of gold pixels. He walked to the front door and placed his hand over the knob. When he pulled open the door the expanse of a windy skyscraper rooftop lay stretched out before him. Stepping across the threshold and shutting the door behind him, he moved over to the edge of the building and stared down at the city below.
The Oracle walked over to the floating gold debris and stared through it at the corridor leading back to her front door. Suddenly the twirling cloud began to spin faster and collapse in on itself until Seraph’s body retook its original shape. He achingly crumpled down to one knee in front of the Oracle and slowly rose up to face her. “What are we to do?” he asked her, turning to get a look at the door at his back.
“Warn them,” she replied.
“Oh,” he replied after recognizing her. “How’s it going?”
“Suffice it to say, I’m still in one piece. So I’d say I’m in the above average category.”
“Yeah. Sorry about that,” Syntax said, turning back to his work.”
“For starters, the ‘almost getting you killed’ part of your day.”
“You mean the ‘saving my ass from being puréed’ part, don’t you?”
“Dustin did the saving. All I did was the dialing. Maybe if I had been more on the ball I could have gotten you out of there before the heat even jumped off. Suppose it’s about time for a refresher course in the fine arts of operating. I’ll have to remember to sign myself up the next time we dock.”
“Far be it from me to proclaim to hold a doctorate in the task that you’ve been assigned to perform on this ship,” Raven said, taking a step closer to him, “but as far as operating goes, and by no means do I have any measure to compare this to, I doubt I’d trust anyone else at the helm the way I trust you.”
Syntax cut his eyes over to her and then quickly dropped them back to the pad he held. “Great. Pressure. That’s always a big help.”
Raven cracked a smile and let slip a short, soft bout of laughter before walking up to him and placing a quick peck on his cheek. “Don’t let me keep you,” she said and moved around him, continuing her trek through the tunnel. Syntax kept his eyes on her back for a short while and then returned back to the data on the pad he held. It would take the sound of a ringing phone emanating from somewhere in the dank recesses of the hovercraft to distract him from his task once more.
“If you tell me to relax one more time, this little session is over,” Trix said.
“Right,” Dustin replied. “You say that as if I’m the only one drawing some minimal amount of enjoyment out of all this.”
Trix and Dustin were all alone in one of the rooms in the ship’s medical bay. Trix was lying face down on one of the cushioned tables with her bare back exposed and a towel covering the lower portion of her body. With her eyelids gently shut and her head pillowed on her forearms, Trix breathed out a soft sigh as she felt Dustin’s massaging fingers moved up from her left calf muscle to the back of her thigh. “My purposes here are purely medicinal,” Trix said to him.
Dustin abandoned the smooth skin of her leg for the portion between her shoulder blades. Gliding his thumbs along either side of her spine up towards the nape of her neck, he cracked a slight grin as he felt her body sink deeper into the cushion. Wrapping his palms over the muscles lining her collar bones and applying pressure managed to draw another barely audible gasp from between her lips. “If I had to choose, I’d say mine remained mostly in the realm of education, but then again, words are just words.”
Trix strained her lips against the smile that was attempting to overwhelm them. “Would I be out of place if I asked that the rest of this encounter take place in silence?”
“Play your cards right and you could find yourself in a position to request any number of things,” Dustin responded. Trix parted her eyelids and lifted her head up from her arms, turning it to get a look at Dustin. “The level of volume thereafter still completely within your discretion.” He ran his fingers down the skin of her back and continued his caress over her towel covered hips.
“Well in that case…”
Bam! Bam! Bam!
They both turned their glances to the door across the room from them.
“Core. Ten minutes,” they heard Syntax’s voice say.
Apollo walked into the core of the Nexus pulling a thick, wool knit, tattered sweater down over his bare chest and torso. “So what does old wingless want this time?” he said to the crowd gathered in front of him.
“I’m not sure,” Syntax answered him as he climbed into the chair behind his workstation. “That’s what I’ve got flunkies like you for. Whatever it is, it sounds important.”
“I’m beginning to find that that’s a relative term where you’re concerned.”
“Either way,” Syntax said, “you ticket’s punched and your seat is booked. But don’t worry. I hear the in-flight movie is to die for.”
Apollo opened his eyes and found himself alone in the all white realm with Raven standing next to him. “Now what?” he sighed. The cell phone in his coat sprang to life. He pulled it out and answered it. “What is it?” he said into the phone.
“I’ve got another assignment for you,” Syntax said to him.
“Why am I not surprised?” Apollo turned his eyes toward Raven and watched her pace around the blankness surrounding them, staring into the space over their heads.
“Turns out I managed to dig up a line on the origins of that mystery key that you ever so professionally recovered.”
“Then you’ve found the door that it unlocks?”
“Should be right up your alley,” Syntax said to him.
Seraph pulled open the apartment door and stepped aside to let Despauna, Dustin, and Trix enter the domicile. They found the Oracle in the living room sitting on the couch.
“We were told that there was some sort of problem,” Despauna said, continuing to stand as he addressed her along with Trix and Dustin.
Dustin looked around the room. “What happened to the kid? Or is he out making a beer run now?”
“That, Dustin,” the Oracle said, removing a cigarette from the pack resting on the coffee table and bringing it up to her lips, “is the problem.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Raven said, parking her bike in the lot across the street from their intended destination.
“Well,” Apollo said, climbing off of his bike. “It beats having to access some basement terminal at the sewage plant. You should have been here for that run.”
“I can’t imagine this surpasses it by much.”
Apollo cracked a smile at her. “Come on,” he said, barely able to contain his laughter.
When they entered the front lobby of the establishment Apollo threw down the cover charge to a man in a booth and Raven trailed behind him as he headed toward a pair of red double doors. When the buzzer went off Apollo pulled back on each handle. A flood of electrically charged Techno music spilled out into the once peaceful and serene lobby from the large room that lie on the other side of the doors. The rebel’s footwear moved from tile floor to carpet as they stepped through the door into the next room.
The brightly lit atmosphere of the lobby had been replaced by a dimly lit atmosphere littered with the constantly flashing array of brightly colored strobe lights. Apollo locked his shade covered eyes on the scantily clad waitress that intersected his path while carrying a tray of drinks. She flashed him a warm and welcoming smile as she continued on her way.
Raven’s line of sight had been more focused on the platform stage across the sea of seated individuals who had adjourned in the area around it for the sake of taking in the show. The topless pole dancers that were both onstage and gyrating atop the laps of business suit covered men seated at the tables all around seemed to be keeping all of their customers well entertained. As both she and Apollo moved down three steps into the indented sitting area Raven heard the chirp of the phone in Apollo’s pocket despite the volume of the music that played. He pulled it out and put it to his ear.
“Hang a left towards the bar,” Syntax said in his ear.
“Exactly what kind of a threat are we talking about here?” Dustin said. “I mean, this is just one guy we’re talking about, right?”
“Doubtful,” Trix responded.
“I fear Trix may be correct,” the Oracle said through a cloud of smoke.
“Whatever this guy is we have to find him and stop him before he does whatever it is that he’s planning on doing,” Despauna spoke.
“I’m sorry,” Dustin said. “But could you possibly be a little more vague?” His comment gained him every set of eyes in the room. “Setting aside everything we don’t know about this guy, am I correct in assuming that we’ll momentarily be throwing ‘knowing the first place to start looking’ onto the pile?”
“We may not know where he is,” Trix said. “But I’ve got a pretty good idea about where he’s going.”
Apollo and Raven moved down a tight corridor that lead them away from the main floor of this facility. There was still some very clear signs that they had yet to abandon the partying atmosphere that consumed this place. The scattering of couples (and sometimes more than just a couple) making out against the walls that they passed as they moved through this passageway as well as the lingering sound of music continued to be a constant reminder. Eventually they came to a doorway. Apollo opened it and Raven couldn’t follow him through fast enough. On the other side was a staircase that lead them down into the basement of the establishment.
“What’s the matter with you?” Apollo asked her once they made it down to the floor.
“Just overwhelmed by the need to take a long hot shower, that’s all,” she answered him as they navigated around the stacked crates of alcohol.
“Don’t worry about it,” Apollo said. “When we’re done here I’ll take you back up, throw a few tequila shots in you; spring for a lap dance. You’ll be good as new.”
They kept moving.
Apollo pulled the phone away from the side of his head and stuffed it back into his pocket. He stopped walking and both he and Raven stood in front of a single door in the basement of this adult playground. “Here we are,” Apollo said.
Raven reached out, grabbed the knob, and opened the door, revealing a small closet fully stocked with mops, brooms, toiletries, and other cleaning supplies. “You might want to get Syntax back on the line,” she said to him.
“Ah,” Apollo responded, reaching into his pants pocket and coming out with a chain that had a silver key attached to the end. “I think you forgot the magic word.”
Raven closed the door again and Apollo handed her the key. She inserted it into the lock on the knob and gave it a turn. She twisted the knob and pulled. “And opensaysa…” The sound of her voice froze in her throat as the door swung open wide and the knob bumped up against the wall.
Apollo’s unvoiced astonishment brought him one step closer to Raven. He stood shoulder to shoulder with her, staring out into the impossible. “My God,” he said softly.
Despauna pulled the car into one of the parking spaces in the shadow filled underground garage and the three of them got out. They paced side by side. The entrance to Club Hell lie in their sights dead ahead. They continued their march as they watched a long limousine pull up in front of the entrance. One of the bouncers guarding the door walked over to the vehicle and opened the backseat door. Much to the trio’s surprise the Frenchman stepped out of the car and turned his eyes in their direction. “Well, my dear,” he said in his signature thick accent. “It would appear that we have a few potential party crashers looking to make our acquaintance.”
He extended his hand down and helped Persephone out of the car.
“Where is he, Merv,” Trix said as she and her three companions continued to close in on the car.
“Oh, how disappointing. I was absolutely positive that it was my own allure that had attracted you here. Be that as it may, I’m afraid that you’re a bit early if you were hoping to consort with…the…other parties…scheduled to arrive here shortly. But not to worry. I’m sure that we can find someway of keeping you otherwise occupied for the time being. Wouldn’t you agree?” he said loudly, directing the comment back over his shoulder.
The entrance to the club swung open and a single Agent stepped through the door. He was being trailed by a never ending horde of the Merovingian’s men. Despauna, Trix, and Dustin stopped walking. The Agent moved over to the Frenchman’s side as the rest of the rabble continued to swarm around to the other side of the car. “Yes,” Agent Anderson spoke. “I would be inclined to agree."
“I see it,” Apollo said to her. “I don’t believe it, but I see it.”
“So…what are we supposed to do now,” Raven said, tilting her head over in his direction but refusing to remove her eyes from the spectacle in front of her.
“Come on,” Apollo replied. “Let’s get what we came for and get out of here.
He placed his palm down on her shoulder before taking a step forward and closing in on the open doorway. Raven mimicked his motion and one after the other they crossed the threshold, moving from the dank confines of the gentleman’s club basement into the bright porcelain white hallway that extended out in front of them.
They walked side by side staring at the walls that surrounded them. Marble statues of human figures were embedded in carved out hollows in the wall, each one separated from the other by approximately three feet of wall. The statues couldn’t hold their attention for long. Not with the spectacle of the room that the hallway opened up into still lying in front of them.
Raven lifted her eyes up. There was no ceiling to be seen at all. Just a bright blue cloud covered sky shining down on the corridor that she and her fellow shipmate moved through. They stepped out of the hallway onto a large circular platform covered with small white cylindrical pillars. After stepping out of the hallway they found that there were no more walls to be seen. No ceiling. No walls. Just the floor beneath their feet and a circle of small pillars surrounding a marble chair resting at the center of the platform.
Raven followed Apollo as he moved over toward the edge of the platform. They stared out at the expanse of sky both above and beneath them that appeared to extend out toward eternity. Raven lowered her eyes to the thick cloud cover floating beneath them and hooked her arm around Apollo’s. He turned his shade covered eyes in her direction.
“What?” she said, alternating her glances between his face and the atmosphere stretched out before them. “Not everyone here is blessed with the ability of defying gravity at will, okay?”
“Whatever,” he responded.
They stepped away from the edge and moved over toward the center of the stage where the chair and pillars lie.
“So now what?” Raven said. “Are we supposed to just stand here and wait for the answer to fall out of the sky? Which apparently there seems to be plenty of.”
“Well, there is a seat,” Apollo said, motioning to the marble chair. “Perhaps just standing here isn’t our only option.”
Raven sucked in two lungs full of the fresh air and sighed it all out. “What the hell,” she said to herself before passing through the circle of pillars and turning her back to the chair. She lowered her body down to the chair. “I guess since we don’t…” Her words ceased the second her backside came into contact with the chilled stone seat because the instant that that happened the circle of pillars began to move as well as the chair.
“WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME!!!” Raven called out.
All of the pillars had begun to move in a circle around the chair’s position. The chair itself had started to spin in the opposite direction of the stone fixtures. As the pillars began to lower into the ground while they moved the chair began to ascend up into the air…with Raven sitting in it.
Apollo walked around outside of the ring of pillars staring up at Raven’s rising body. The chair was sitting atop a much larger pillar that continued to push her higher into the air as it turned. “Jump!” Apollo yelled up to her.
“ARE YOU INSANE!?!” Raven screamed as she stared out at the expanse of sky while trying to clutch on to the slippery white marble armrests for dear life.
“Hold on. I’ll come up and get you.”
Just as he began to crouch down the pillars had sank completely into the ground. The circular tops of each structure suddenly flickered to life and began to project beams of light into the air. The ring of lights dramatically increased the speed at which the spun and Raven found herself surrounded by a cylindrical wall of light. “Wait a minute!” Raven called down to Apollo. He stood upright and stared up at her.
Raven darted her eyes back and forth as she scanned over the images and the data that sprung up all around her slow spinning body. “I think…I know who this guy is! Get me down from here! Hurry! We have to get to the others before it’s too late!”
Agent Anderson withdrew his gun from the inside of his coat and pointed it at the trio standing across the parking garage floor on the other side of the Merovingian’s car. He squeezed the trigger and a flurry of bullets moved through the air. The small projectiles came to a floating stop a few feet in front of Despauna, Dustin, and Trix. Dustin reached a hand out and plucked one of the bullets out of the air as he continued to watch the Merovingian’s henchmen move in their direction.
“Looks like we’re doing this the hard way,” he said, tossing the bullet in the air towards Trix.
She raised her palm in the air and caught it. “Can’t say I see where you factor in the hard part,” she said, tossing the small object back over her shoulder.
“Just remember,” Despauna spoke up, “we need the Frenchman breathing and coherent.”
Apollo and Raven hurried back up the steps toward the main floor of the club. Once they made it back out into the cluster of patrons they headed for the doors that they had used to gain entrance to this place. In doing so they caught sight of a small security faction moving in their direction, blocking the path to their exit.
“Excuse me,” the burly gentleman standing out in front of the pack said as he raised a palm up to Apollo’s chest. Both he and Raven stopped in their tracks and watched themselves become surrounded by these suited up individuals. “I’m afraid that you’re not supposed to be here. The Merovingian owns this establishment and it’s for members only.”
“What a coincidence,” Apollo said. “We were just leaving.” He went to take a step and felt a palm press against his chest again.
“I’m sorry, but our orders are to detain you until the Merovingian himself gets here.”
“Aren’t you going to find that a bit difficult?” Apollo said.
In a swift fluidity of motion, Apollo brushed the hand away from his chest, grabbed the gentleman in front of him by the lapels of his coat, and flipped his body up over his head. Apollo slammed the guy’s back down on a table behind him, shattering the piece of furniture to splinters.
Raven instantly sprang into action, leaping into the air and spreading her legs. She cleared the head of the man standing at her back before coming back down to her feet. When he spun around to face her she threw the sole of her footwear into his chest. His body collided with that of a few of his compatriots and the atmosphere of the club fell to complete chaos.
He grabbed Trix from behind, wrapping his forearm around her throat in an attempt to choke her out. With a single bound, her body moved up into the air, carrying her attacker with it. She didn’t stop until she came into contact with the garage ceiling. The forceful collision with the concrete knocked all of the fight out of her opponent and she simply let his body slide off of hers and drop back down to the garage floor.
Dustin had a hold of one of the Merovingian’s henchmen by the throat with one hand. Using the other to take hold of him by the waistband of his pant, it took a single tug to bring the body up and over his head before he slammed it down on the trunk of one of the cars present, shattering the rear window.
Despauna traded blows with two individuals in opposition of him before downing them both. Lifting his eyes up from their bodies, he watched as a fresh set of opponents closed in on his position, their numbers tripled this time. He stepped back, closing the distance between him and his crewmates. The three of them huddled together and prepared to take on the next wave of the Merovingian’s assault. Fists everywhere cocked back, but before anyone had an opportunity to drop the hammer they were all suddenly distracted by the lights overhead. The florescent bulbs that had previously left the interior of the garage in a shadow filled coat of darkness began to burn with a newly realized purpose. Every set of eyes, shade covered or not, that had turned up to get a look at them were forced to turn away from the blinding incandescence.
The sound of combat that had once filled the air of the garage had faded into a collection of quietly murmuring voices, the noise of which quickly fell dead silent to the chorus of a set of unseen footsteps.
Despauna, Trix, and Dustin lowered their guard and turned toward the area at their back. They saw a single figure round the corner of the ramp and head in their direction. “Am I…interrupting?” he said.
A jump spinning roundhouse kick sent Apollo’s next opponent tumbling back into two of his companions. “It isn’t the floorshow that’s keeping me here,” he said, preparing to face off against the next angry rabble making its way toward him.
Raven jumped down from the stage and lit out across the floor. On her way she managed to snatch up one of the small round tables and hold the top out in front of her like a battering ram as she made a beeline for the front entrance. She shoved several would be attackers out of her path before finally knocking one back through the set of double doors. “Come on!” she yelled back to Apollo before moving through the doorway.
The sound of footsteps continued to consume the attention of everyone in the parking garage as the latest guest to this area continued to make his way toward the entrance of Club Hell. Between him and his impending destination lie Despauna, Trix, Dustin, a huge gathering of the Merovingian’s henchmen, as well as the man himself.
“Well, look who went and got himself all growed up,” Trix said to the approaching gentleman standing in front of them. “Sorry to have to cut the fieldtrip short, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to come with us.”
“Humph,” he said, dropping his eyes to the ground in front of his feet as he continued to walk. “Arrogance.” His eyes lifted from the ground and focused in on Trix once more. “A quality I’ve always found amusing, seeing as how it so often springs from the most insignificant of creatures.”
“Stick around,” she said to him. “I’ll see if I can’t come up with something that you’ll find down right hysterical.”
“By all means,” he said, extending his right palm out in front of him. “Feel free to try.”
“Trix, wait!” Despauna called out to her. But it was already too late. Her body was already in motion and at breakneck speed.
Leaping into the air, Trix extended her right foot out hoping to smash a flying sidekick into the chest of the man who had previously, and so rudely, addressed her. The heel of her foot touched down against its intended target but the results it yielded weren’t anywhere close to what she was expecting.
Dustin and Despauna looked on in utter disbelief as they watched Trix’s RSI flash from a clear image of her body into one composed of streaming green matrix code. The shimmering pixels separated and washed over the man she’d attempted to throttle and fell to the ground behind him as he continued to walk. When Trix’s RSI resumed a more recognizable shape she found herself rolling to a stop across the concrete floor.
“I’m tickled pink already,” the man said stoically as he continued to press forward. He let his eyes fall on Dustin as Trix clamored to her feet behind him. “The integral anomaly,” he said, eyeing him up and down as he moved past where both Dustin and Despauna stood. “I must say, I don’t recall ever seeing it in triplicate before. But then, so many mysteries about this construct continue to baffle me.”
“Yes. Yes. Pay zem no mind,” the Merovingian called out to him from where he stood behind his car. “Right zees way, Missure Gotterdammerung. I’ve zeen to zee preparations of your accommodations myself. Come. Let us waste no more time here.”
“What the hell?” Trix said as she made her way back over to where Dustin and Despauna were standing. The three of them watched as the Merovingian’s henchmen filed back inside of the club entrance before he, his wife Persephone, Agent Anderson, and their newly acquired compatriot did the same. The overhead lights that had once shined so bright flickered out into darkness once more.
“I don’t know, but he’s getting away,” Dustin said.
The three of them rushed over towards the door barring entrance to the club. Kicking it open, they were all left to stand there and stare into the empty recourses of the soot and cobweb covered warehouse. There was nothing inside. Nothing…and no one.
“Perfect,” Trix uttered to herself.
The roaring engines of a pair of motorcycles distracted them from their failed mission and the three of them turned around to get a look at who it was that was now in the process of making their acquaintance. The headlights of their bikes cutting a swath through the darkness, Dustin, Trix, and Despauna watched as Apollo and Raven came speeding over to where they stood.
“If you guys are here for the meet and greet with the mystery guest then I’m afraid you’re a little late,” Dustin said to them.
“Our mystery guest might not be that much of a mystery anymore,” Raven said.
“Care to fill us in?” Despauna spoke up.
“The Architect?” Trix said as she hopped down out of her seat and walked over to the array of monitors positioned behind it. The entire crew of the Nexus, aside from Concent and Cara, remained gathered in the hovercraft’s core. “You mean Mr. white on white, I challenge anybody to a game of scrabble, biggest television fetish the world has ever known. That Architect?” She began touching her fingers to the screens.
“No. Not him,” Despauna chimed in. “I believe she meant that he’s an Architect. Not necessarily the one that created this version of the matrix.”
“So he’s like the creator of an earlier version of the matrix?” Dustin said from the loading chair that he continued to occupy.
“Wait a minute now,” Apollo said. “That old guy made it painfully obvious in a very choice display of grammar the last time we met that he laid the ground work for every version of the matrix.”
Syntax spun his operating chair around. “By version, you’re thinking about the difference between a Cadillac and a Porsche. In which case you’d be right. But we’re talking about the horse drawn carriage here.”
“Alright,” Trix said. “That explains the whole dog and pony show out front of the club, but what gives with this guy being all buddy buddy with the Frenchman?”
“I’m not sure,” Raven said, folding her arms in front of her. “But if I had to guess, I’d say that just because this guy’s an Architect doesn’t necessarily make him that much of big shot around here. I mean he does seem to have an infinite knowledge of the matrix, but the fact still remains that he didn’t exactly create this one.”
“Rules of the house still stand,” Apollo spoke up.
“And who’s the first person you’d want to hook up with if you were looking for the owners manual to the advanced prototype?” Dustin said. “None other than the man who’s made a commerce out of trafficking information.”
Despauna stepped away from the chair that Syntax was sitting in, placing his hands on his hips as he walked. “Jesus Christ. Which means now the Frenchman has his own personal deity in his hip pocket.”
“Which is what I don’t understand,” Syntax said, turning back to the monitors that surrounded his station. “Because how in the world did the son of a bitch find him in the first place?”
Trix walked back around to the front of her loading chair and sat down. “Any information regarding something like that would have had to have been stored in the machine mainframe itself. The Merovingian would have needed a direct line to the source to access any files on previous Architects.”
“He’s got one,” Dustin said, gaining Trix’s eyes. “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Agent Anderson. Couple that with Merv’s access to the Trainman and there you have it, instant genie in a bottle.”
“Something told me not to get out of bed this morning,” Syntax said, leaning back in his chair.
“This is so bad,” Raven uttered, glancing around at the other faces that filled the ship’s core.
“Bad?” Syntax spun his chair around to face her. “This is catastrophic. This is the stuff nightmares are made of. Tonight I’m going to go to bed and dream of happier times when things were bad.”
“What about the disc?” Raven said.
“That’s right,” Apollo said. “We’ve still got that uberprogram that the newb smuggled out. That’s got to give us some kind of edge in this thing.”
Despauna turned around where he stood. “You mean the disc that just so happened to be handed over to us by an Agent of the system itself? Is that the disc you’re referring to?”
“Right,” Syntax said. The gift from our good friend Smith. Another link to the powers that be throwing his hat into the ring. What do you think? You think that the Great White Hope sitting up in his TV room was hoping we’d defend the throne of the reigning God for him?”
“If that was the case,” Apollo spoke, “why wouldn’t he just give whatever that thing is to one of his Agents, or some other program in the system?”
Trix looked over at him. “If whatever’s on that disc has juice enough to take down our new player then I’d doubt that he’d want to go tempting any of his subordinates with delusions of usurpation.”
“But he’d give it to us?”
“My point exactly,” Despauna said, glancing over at Apollo. “Whatever that thing is I’d bet my next hot meal that there’s some damn Trojan horse buried in there waiting to spring up and bite us in the ass.”
“Anybody else up for heading back into port and putting in for an early retirement?” Syntax said, spinning his chair back around to face his monitors. His fingers began quickly typing away at the keyboards and screens surrounding him.
Trix pushed open the door to her domicile aboard the Nexus and walked inside. “So, how does it feel to be right?” Dustin said to her as he stepped through the door and shut it behind him.
“Oddly enough, like crap,” she replied as she collapsed down on the bed, lying on her back.
“Well, you nailed it,” he said, still standing with his back against the door. “It was the Frenchman this whole time. Any chance you could use that intuition of yours to come up with a quick fix solution?”
“I wish.” She let out a long exhausted sigh. “The Merovingian with his own Architect. Do you have any idea what sort of damage we could potentially be looking at?”
“No more than the usual,” Dustin said as he pushed his body away from the door and moved in the direction of the bed.
“You sound pretty confident,” Trix said to him as she watched him take a seat on the bed next to her supine body, “seeing as how you were present to witness my sublime vanishing act.”
Dustin placed his hand down gently on her right thigh as his eyes trailed down the length of her body. “Minor setback. All it means is that this particular mission is going to require a bit more tact, is all.”
“Speaking of which…” Trix said, clasping her hand over the back of his and removing it from her leg. Dustin’s eyes lifted up to meet hers. “What’s with this sudden onset of optimism?”
“Not sure,” he responded, taking to caressing her hand with his fingers, having been denied access to the rest of her anatomy. “Why? Would you prefer I carried on and on about the apparent doom of our impending situation?”
“I tend to prefer honesty over a false sense of hope.”
“And do you honestly think I’d risk souring the mood with the truth?” Dustin said.
Trix removed her hand from his grasp and stood up from the bed. “There’s no mood to spoil,” she said, moving towards the door.
“To zee future,” the Merovingian said, hoisting a wine glass into the air.
“A little presumptuous, don’t you think?” Gotterdammerung spoke up from his seat on the couch across the room from his host. He held his wine glass up in front of his face, but his gesture was committed so that he might more closely examine the contents of the container he held, contrary to the gesture of celebration that the Frenchman enjoyed.
“Not hardly,” the Merovingian said. He took a sip from his glass and stood up from the lounge chair that he was sitting in. “My friend, I do believe that you underestimate the ramifications of the precipice that we find ourselves facing. And I find that a strange sentiment indeed coming from someone as…shall we say enticingly domineering as yourself, no?”
Gott lowered the glass he held, leaving the wine in place, hovering still in the air in front of his face. He raised the glass up next to the floating solution and just stared at the container. “Such a strange world indeed to have produced so many bent on seizing it, yet so few with the capacity to understand it.” He moved the glass over and the liquid passed right through the side until it was once again back in the container.
“As well as enticingly profound, wouldn’t you say, dear?”
The Frenchman turned his eyes over to a chair next to an unlit fireplace and saw Persephone resting comfortably in it. “Ya, ya, ya. Rest assured, the both of you. My insight is surmounted only by my will. My will and my desire to see to the achievement of its endgame.”
“Then let your will be the catalyst,” Gott said. He breathed in deep and blew out a soft, quiet breeze from his lips. Bit by tiny bit, the glass of wine that he held scattered apart like dust and floated away on the light gust of his breath. “Your desire the closed fist and I the sword clutched tight as you usher in the breadth of your new domain.”
“Good,” the Frenchman said, once again hoisting his glass up to his guest. “Good. I find that it is always better to retain a more positive outlook about these things. Wouldn’t you agree?” he said, addressing the femme sitting next to the fireplace.
Persephone’s only response was the tilting of the glass she held up to her lips.
The three of them were surrounded. Their enemies continued to swell in number as they fought with all of their combined strengths to dispel each wave of attackers descending upon them. In every direction that he turned his glance Dustin could see the menacing faces of a great horde of individuals acting as one in their never ending endeavor to put an end to the lives of him and his shipmates. With each passing moment the scales of this ensuing battle were tipping in the favor of their enemies. He was forced to look on in horror as his companions Trix and Apollo were slowly being overwhelmed by the onslaught. And at the center of this great melee he saw the crowd part and reveal a single individual that was somehow able to remain a distinct figure despite the crowd that surrounded him. Dustin’s chaotic world fell dead silent as he locked eyes with the solitary being who flashed him as gentle smile. “What is the matrix, Dustin?” the figure said.
“You still hear?” Dustin heard a voice call out to him.
He opened his eyes and turned to see Trix standing in the doorway of her quarters. She’d returned to her room to find him lying in her bed. “Where would I go?” he said to her.
Trix shut the door closed behind her and leaned back against it. “Given that our banter and this shtick that we’ve perfected seems to have run its course for the night, my first guess would be some quiet corner of the ship where you can rehearse some new material without the hassle of interruption.”
Dustin rose from the bed and walked over to her. Trix grabbed the handle of the door and pulled. Shifting her body forward, she managed to get it open a crack before Dustin placed the palm of his hand on the door on the right side of her head and pushed it closed again. Trix leaned back against the door and he leaned in closer to her. “I suppose a cold shower is still…” Before she could finish her sentence Dustin pressed his lips against hers and silenced her speech.
When their lips broke apart both of their chins lowered and their foreheads touch. “Personally,” Trix said, raising her eyes to his. “I think I’m going to miss the tension.”
“I’m sure we’ll figure out a way to compensate for the loss,” Dustin said, pressing his lips against hers once again.
She opened her eyes and stared at the wall on the other side of the room in her quarters aboard the Nexus. Lying on her side in her bed, it took the feel of the rise and fall of his chest against the bare skin of her back to remind her that she wasn’t alone in the room. Trix looked down and saw Dustin’s arm draped over her waist. She listened to the sound of him breathing as he held her close while he slept. Trying her best not to wake him, she gently lifted his arm from her body and reached down to the floor for her clothes.
She wandered through the corridors of the hovercraft and eventually found her way to the core of the ship where she found Apollo sitting behind the operator’s station. He typed and touched at the screens with one hand, using the other to hold onto the makeshift bowl that contained a serving of the liquefied sludge that the crewmembers were forced to dine on while onboard the vessel.
“Syntax is going to go ape shit when he finds out you’ve been eating at his workstation,” she said to him, alerting Apollo to her presence.
Apollo spun around in the chair and flashed her a smile before scooping up another sporkful and shoving it into his mouth. “What he doesn’t know can’t hurt me.” He spun back around to the monitors. “What are you doing up?” he said to her, listening to the sound of Trix climbing up into one of the loading chairs behind him. “You’re not scheduled for a watch here anytime soon.”
“Couldn’t sleep,” she answered him.
Trix’s boots kicked up a small layer of dust as she paced across the carpet floor of the abandoned hotel room. She crossed the room again and headed back over to one of the soot and grime covered widows.
“You’re wearing a groove in the floor,” Dustin said to her. He was sitting in one of the leather lounge chairs in the room at her back.
Trix took hold of the curtain and used it to wipe away some of the dirt that covered the glass. “Am I bothering you?” she said, dropping the curtain and looking out into the dark, early morning world of the matrix.
“No,” Dustin answered her. “I just mentioned it because I don’t think that this old floor can stand the pressure of your constant motion. Just as a precaution. And while we’re on the subject, what happened to you last night?”
“What are you talking about?” she said, turning away from the window and looking over at him.
“Nothing. It’s just that I was expecting to find you there when I woke up, seeing as how I’d spent the night in your quarters…in your bed…with you. Only I roll over and nada.”
“Caught a mild case of insomnia,” Trix said, turning back to the window. “Made for an early rise. Didn’t expect you to make a big deal out of it.”
“Oh,” Dustin said. He turned his shade covered eyes over towards the floor model television in the center of the room off to his right.
“Don’t tell me you’re planning on getting weird on me,” Trix said. The leather that her ankle length trench coat was composed of made a stretching sound when she folded her arms together in front of her.
“Weird? No. Jealous, maybe. Possessive, definitely. But not weird.”
“Stop it. You’re scaring me,” Trix said, staring out the window at the skyline.
“All things considered, I don’t suppose I’d be too out of line if I asked you for a label in regards to what I hope is our newfound living arrangements, both on and off the Nexus.”
“Not out of line,” she said. “Clingy, maybe. Presumptuous, definitely. But not out of line.”
“You know, denial is not just what used to be a river in a place that was once called Egypt.”
Trix craned her neck around and couldn’t resist showing him the halfcocked smile that her lips spread into. Suddenly the television across the room from her swallowed up all of her attention and the smile she wore faded. “Turn that up,” she said.
Dustin cut his eyes over to the screen and took notice of the news program that she was referring to. He lifted his hand from the armrest and pointed a pair of fingers at the television set, instantly activating the volume controls.
“And in other news,” the anchorwoman said, her voice spilling out through the speaker and filling the air of the dark room they were in, “the financial world is still reeling from the blow that the stock market suffered under after the fledgling corporation of MervGott Industries, which seemed to come out of nowhere, engulfed and consolidated the majority…”
“Jesus. It’s starting already,” Trix said as she stared at the television screen.
“I imagine with his new friend at his side the Frenchman can pretty much rescript this place to his liking,” Dustin said. “And these are just the repercussions that these blue pills get to witness,” he said, motioning toward the television. “I wonder what he’s got in mind for the underlying programming of the matrix.”
“Whatever it is, I doubt it’ll be much fun for us.” Trix turned her attention back to the window she was standing next to and tried to block out the noise of the reporter’s voice.
“What’s with this guy anyway?” Raven asked him as they walked.
“Not sure really,” Apollo answered her. “To tell you the truth this is a first for me. But Despauna vouched for the guy so this should be a pretty simple in and out. Why, you nervous?”
“Not really,” she said. “But considering the last few times that I’ve jacked into this place I’m not sure I shouldn’t be.”
“Don’t worry. I’m pretty sure this broadcast will be calamity free.” They walked in silence for a few moments. “Mind if I ask how things are progressing for you outside of the digital realm?”
Raven turned to look at him for a moment, her lips twisted into a strange smile. “If you’re asking about how I’m adjusting to life on the ship I’d have to say just fine. Other than the rickety heater in my room.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about,” Apollo said. “There’s more to life back in the real than just our service in the fleet.”
“Then I take it you’re referring to my personal life. I don’t know. I guess I’m still feeling a bit lost back in the city. Probably just going to take some getting use to. Some time to find my way around.”
“Someone to help you feel more comfortable,” Apollo said. “More welcome.”
Raven held her lips together and smiled big. “You volunteering?”
“Did I ever tell you how warm it tends to get down at my end of the ship?”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Raven said.
When they reached the door Apollo took hold of the handle and pulled it open, allowing Raven to enter first.
“What is this place?” Raven asked.
“Looks like some kind of storage facility,” Apollo said, walking in after her and looking around the warehouse floor at the large stacks of crates that cluttered it.
“Well, where’s our boy?”
Apollo pointed a finger up towards the illuminated glass covering the room near the ceiling at the opposite end of the darkened warehouse from where they stood. “My guess?”
The door opened and the pair walked into the large office room where they found a gentleman inside sitting behind a desk. “You’re late,” he said, looking up at them after Raven shut the door.
“Are you kidding me?” Apollo said to him. “Late? You’re early. Do you have any idea what time it is? I doubt there’s even one copper top in this part of the network that’s conscious right now, figuratively speaking of course. Any reason why no one’s tucked you in yet?”
“I don’t sleep,” he said to Apollo, as he pulled open one of the drawers in the desk. “Here,” he said, tossing a small disc across the desktop. “Despauna said that you could deliver that for me.”
“Of course,” Apollo said, reaching down and picking up the parcel. “What about this recipient of yours? Is he also suffering from a bout of insomnia?”
The phone in Apollo’s coat came blaring to life. He reached in his pocket and took it out. “Yeah,” he said, placing the phone to his ear.
“Party crashers,” Syntax’s voice came in over the phone. “There’s an exit waiting for you at the corner of Camden and Blake. What say we wrap this thing up?”
Apollo hung up the phone. “We’ve got company,” he said to Raven.
She walked over to the window and parted the blinds with her fingers. She looked out across the warehouse floor below just in time to see the door that they had used to enter the building close shut. The light that had been seeping into the room through the open doorway was instantly consumed by darkness. She hadn’t been able to see who exactly it was that had come through the door nor could she be sure of an exact count of their numbers.
Raven pulled her fingers out of the blinds and stepped away from the window. “They’re in the building,” she said, turning back to Apollo.
“Agents,” he said to her.
The squeak of the doorknob twisting resonated through the silent room. All three sets of eyes present turned toward the door. When it opened a single suit walked into the room and shut the door behind it.
“Well now. This is a surprise.”
“What are you doing here?” the man seated behind the desk said.
“I believe the more appropriate inquiry would be just what do you think you’re doing here, Zephyrus? You were under strict orders from the Merovingian to cease and desist any and all operations that you had running in this system in exchange for safe haven. Considering what’s taking place here, I’d say this constitutes a grave violation of your arrangement.”
“Anderson,” Apollo spoke, gaining him the resigned face of the Agent. “How is the Merv these days?”
“I’m going to ask you to turn over any and all contraband present at this transaction and surrender yourself to his authority.”
Zephyrus huffed out a cough of air. “You must be insane,” he said from the comfort of his chair behind the desk. “Why don’t you go back and tell that old windbag that his so called authority is a long way from absolute just yet. I don’t give a damn who he’s allied himself with this time.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Zephyrus,” Agent Anderson said, reaching his right hand inside of the left lapel of his suit. “Your presence here will be sorely missed.”
Raven saw the shimmering chrome shine of the gun that the Agent produced from beneath his coat and she sprang into action. “Hey!” she called out, distracting the Agent’s eyes from the weapon that he was attempting to train on the seated man.
When the hand holding the gun began to crane in her direction she landed a front kick to the Agent’s wrist that knocked the weapon free. His body turned in her direction and Raven placed a front kick into his chest that did little more than back him up a few paces. Anderson started towards her and she managed to bring both of her feet up from the ground simultaneously. This time Raven slammed the soles of both of her feet into his chest, knocking him backwards as her legs rotated into the air above her head.
Raven’s feet made contact with the ground again just in time for her to lift her head and see the Agent stumble back through the glass of the office window. “Guess that’s are cue,” she said, listening to the sound of Anderson’s body crashing down into one of the stacks of crates that covered the warehouse floor.
“You bet it is,” Apollo replied.
Raven took a short running start before leaping through the torn open whole in the glass, knocking loose a few dangling shards as she went on her way. She came down feet first on top of one of the crate stacks and leapt down to the floor of the darkened room. She made a quick dash in the direction of the door that she and Apollo had used to gain entrance to the building. Her fast moving feet suddenly slid to an abrupt stop when she saw the image of three suits step out of the shadows in front of her. She backed a hard right and continued on her way through the maze of wooden boxes in search of another route out of this place.
Apollo hit the ground floor and was immediately forced to defend himself against a quartet of attacking Feds. He found the task simple enough, but his main concern right then was locating Raven.
More Agents. Two this time. And with guns drawn. The triggers were squeezed and Raven pulled off a hands free cartwheel that careened her body to the left, sending her down the next passage. When she ran into another roadblock she leapt against the side of the crate on her right and pushed off with her leg. Swinging her right foot through the air in front of her, Raven managed to knock the Agent off of his feet with the blow that she connected to the side of his face. After her body completed a three sixty spin she came back down to her feet and took to running once more.
Apollo crouched down before catapulting his body up into the air. He hadn’t made it twenty feet before the swift moving shoulder of a bounding Agent smashed into his midsection and knocked his body back. The pair went crashing through a wall and into the outside world. When Apollo’s back hit against a dirt soft ground he brought his foot up to the Agent’s chest and shoved his body off of his. Rising to his feet, he looked around at the area of the construction site that he found himself in on the other side of the street from the warehouse.
“Hello there,” Apollo heard a voice call out to him. He turned around to find the familiar face of the once young juvenile program that he and his companions had left in the care of the Oracle. “Top of the morning.”
The cell phone in Dustin’s coat pocket chirped and he yanked it out. “Go,” he said after placing the phone to the side of his head. He listened to the sound of Syntax’s voice for a few moments before hanging up and letting his eyes drift to the other side of the hotel room where Trix stood.
The corner of his lips crept up into a halfcocked grin and a look of disgust overwhelmed Trix’s face. “Does it always have to be an adventure?” she said in a frustrated tone.
“That was some show of defiant fortitude back there,” Gott spoke to him as he slowly closed in on where Apollo stood. He took one carefully placed step after another as he moved across the torn up grounds with his hands behind his back. “Despite the many advances and setbacks that these centuries have witnessed from both man and machine some things just seem too deeply imbedded to have been effected much by it.” Apollo’s eyes wandered the premises as he took in the sight of the growing number of Agents slowly making their way into this arena. “What is it about you mortals that make you so unwilling to accept your fate?”
“Looks like you’ve been doing some recruiting,” Apollo said, motioning toward the sentient programs closing in on their position. “What did you offer them to bring them over to your side, free dial up?”
Gott’s lips formed a gentle smile as he looked over his shoulder at the Agents that approached. “I’ll admit,” he said, turning back to Apollo, “I like what the guy’s done with them, but, upgraded or not, they’re just programs. Like I said. The more things change they just stay the same. They were simple enough to manipulate. One of the few similarities that man and machine both enjoy.”
“There!” Dustin said, pointing down to the area ahead of them, toward the skeletal framework of a new building under construction.
Trix’s body was streaking through the purple and black predawn sky above him off to his right. With a simple nod of her head she started her descent.
Raven ducked fast as the fist came barreling at her face. The Agent shattered the wooden crate with his follow-through, raining down splinters on her head. She leapt from the floor to the top of one of the crate stacks near her. When she came down on her feet she looked out across the shadow filled room and saw the silhouettes of several other figures bounding up onto the crates in the distance. They were all around her, hopping from one top to the next as they slowly closed the gap between them and her.
“So they sent in the cavalry,” Apollo said. “Just how bad are we expecting this thing to get?”
“I suppose that all depends on our newly acquired foster child turned Master of the Universe,” Trix answered him. “What do you say, Gott?” she yelled out to him, still keeping her eyes locked on the surrounding Agents. “We about ready call this a day or what?”
He turned his eyes up to the bluish purple sky. “Looks to me like the day’s just getting started,” he said, lowering his sights back down to the trio.
“Remind me to kill that guy,” Dustin said.
The surrounding Agents broke out into a full on run at the three rebels.
Raven withdrew a miniature fully automatic machine gun from the inside of her coat. She trained the sights at one of the many shadowy figures that stood atop the stacks of crates on the darkened warehouse floor. No sooner than she had wrapped her finger around the trigger did she feel the solid sole of a shoe smash against her wrist and knock the weapon free from her hand. She turned to face the Agent only to find herself being taken a hold of by the throat and hoisted into the air.
Raven wrapped the palms of both of her hands around his wrist as she felt her air supply being squeezed off. She stared into the dark tint of each lens covering his eyes as he lifted her higher into the air. Before she knew it her feet were in the air above her head as the Agent brought her body up in an arc over him and threw her down to the floor at the base of the stack of crates.
The pain in her back that presented itself upon her collision with the solid concrete floor had to compete with the sensation of her being able to breath again as Raven choked back one gasp of breath after the other. She lifted her eyes to the sight of a pair of Agents standing over her. When they reached into their jackets and withdrew the hand cannons that they were armed with Raven began to cherish each breath she took as if it was her last.
“What are you doing!?!” Despauna said, looking over Syntax’s shoulder at the array of screens that he tapped and touched at.
“I don’t have a choice!” Syntax replied, angered by the distraction of his commanding officer. He’d been seated behind his workstation aboard the Nexus watching this horrible nightmare unfold desperately trying to secure a safe passage for his fellow crewmembers to escape. With the appearance of Gotterdammerung on the scene he was forced to watch desperation turn into outright anguish. And with Trix, Dustin, and Apollo currently occupied by the forces that this former Architect summoned Raven was left all alone to fend against impossible odds. It was the only thing that he could think of that might possible save her life.
“You have no idea what that could do to her!” Despauna said to him.
“No. But I have a pretty good idea what they could.” Syntax’s fingers raced across the keyboards in front of him. Cutting his eyes over to the left he spied the LOAD trigger on the screen beneath a display of Raven’s vitals, taking in a heavy gasp of breath along with his second thought. Turning his eyes back to the screens covered with rapidly scrawling matrix feed, he saw that there was no more time left for second guessing. He tapped his finger against the screen.
Raven sucked in a deep breath and leaned back away from the twin barrels pointed down at her.
The Agents squeezed the triggers.
Raven cried out in anguish.
Her eyes shut tight and she thrust her fingers up into the hair covering the side of her head. “What is the matrix?” was the only thought that ran through her mind as she spiraled out of control into a never ending ocean of data. It took her less than a millisecond to figure out what was happening to her. Syntax, having obviously sensed her peril, had loaded up the augmentation program into her RSI that she herself had unwittingly received from Agent Smith and ferried into the realm of the real. In an instant that seemed to last for eternity she felt her mind being overwhelmed by a flood information that spanned back for centuries on end.
Raven saw it all.
The Nuclear Holocaust
Operation Dark Storm
The Power Plant
What is the matrix?
Every minute calculation that had been used to contain, manufacture, and exterminate the human race before, up to, and beyond the time that the first plug was inserted into the base of a homo sapien skull coursed through every inch of her body. Raven opened her eyes and saw green. The world in front of her eyes had been washed over with an array of streaming numbers, the sequence of which was eerily clear to her.
Two bullets hovered in the air in front of her face. Raven rose to her feet in the presence of two astonished sentient programs. Programs. After having looked on these beings with the awe that any child would display in the presence of a fairytale monster it seemed strange now to study them with a sense of impression brought on by the examination of their mathematical build up.
They raised their guns to her. Raven darted forward and sank the fingers of each of her hands into their chest. The pistols dropped to the floor and Raven looked on as a silver reflective liquid spread out from where her hands were imbedded in their chests and washed over the entirety of their bodies. The fluid subsided into two pairs of sunglass and Raven quickly snatched her hands back. She stood there for a moment staring at the two copies of herself standing right in front of her. Bringing her hands up to her face, she watched in amazement as they suddenly flashed into a transparent texture of radiant light. She lifted her eyes up just in time to see her two twins turn and head on their way into the depths of the warehouse as her translucent body began to sink through the ground beneath her.
Their numbers were increasing exponentially. Apollo, Trix, and Dustin combated the gathering of Agents to the extent of their abilities but the volume of their attackers showed no sign of diminishing at all. They battled them over every square inch of the construction sight from the excavated foundation floor to the numerous levels in the skeletal structure of the building that was set to go up. All the while having to endure the pleasant visage of Gott as he looked on. The trio made use of every possible weapon available which included the construction equipment, materials, and even the building itself; working in unison to collapse a floor here and there to dispatch of a number of their assailant. But nothing would stop the flood of sentient programs that continued to descend upon them.
Apollo moved backwards on one of the upper levels of the building until his back came into contact with Dustin’s. “This may sound weird, but I could have sworn I had a dream about this the other night,” Apollo said.
“You’re not the only one,” Trix responded, backing up to her two shipmates, closing the space between them while keeping her eyes glued to the skyline past the building’s edge in front of her. Her view was soon filled with the image of the dozen or so Agents that leapt from the construction scaffolds on the outer frame of the building onto the floor with them.
The entire outer shell of the building was swarmed over with the Agents that followed them up to each new level that they ascended to. Gott somehow managed to appear here and there, just a smiling face that was always fixated in the crowd of suits.
“Don’t suppose anyone remembers how this little scenario played out in the end, do they?” Dustin said as he readied himself for further combat.
All of a sudden the Agents gave them their backs as they turned around and headed away from the interior and toward the building’s edge. Soon they began to abandon the structure all together as the crowd that was once occupied with making their way up started down towards the dirt covered ground.
“Maybe we scared them off,” Apollo said to the confused eyes of his cohorts.
The three of them moved toward the edge of the level they were on and looked over the side. They each shared a bout of confusion as they stared down at the impossible scene taking place beneath them.
Raven and a small army of doppelgangers were engaging the Agents and assimilating a great deal of them into the fold of her likeness. Gott stood there watching the scene transpiring before his eyes seeming all the more pleased by this strange turn of events. A brightly glowing, transparent body began to ascend up through the ground at his back. Raven retook her solid form and watched Gott turn around to face her.
“Well now,” he said, eyeing her up and down. “Isn’t this interesting. It would appear that management these days prefers delegation as opposed to a more hands-on approach.”
“Your game’s over Gott. Yours and the Merovingian’s.”
“You flatter yourself. On the contrary. I believe that things are just starting to get…thought provoking .” Raven watched as his body morphed into green coding and scattered away into the wind.
When her combat with the Agents ended Raven found herself standing in front of an all too familiar audience, their numbers somewhere well within the triple digit range. Dustin, Apollo, and Trix kicked up a small gust of dust when their feet hit the ground where Gott had once been standing.
“Anybody care to explain this?” Apollo said as he looked around at the multitude of Raven’s closing in on them.
“I’m pretty sure you’re going to have to take that up with Syntax,” Raven said. “Speaking of which, what say we get to that exit and get out of here?”
“What about them?” Dustin said, looking around at the bodies that filled the construction site.
Suddenly every hand attached to every body extended out and penetrated the nearest RSI. Once the reflective surface was done washing over them Raven’s image as well as that of the Agents previously occupying them was rinsed away, leaving nothing but the human hosts in their wake. Shaken and confused, they all began to wander off in an atmosphere of low murmuring.
“I’m never jacking into this place again,” Trix said before turning and heading on her way.
“Anybody want to tell me what just happened?” Apollo said, sitting up in the loading chair that he occupied.
“If I had to go out on a limb,” Trix responded, “I’d say that somebody finally made use of that Trojan horse that Agent Smith dropped in our laps.” She continued to tap her fingers on the screens behind the loading chair that she had previously been seated in.
“Which is for God damn sure what it was,” Despauna said to Syntax.
“We don’t know that for sure,” the operator responded. “Besides. It was either that or sit here and watch her die.”
“If it’s any consolation,” Raven said, “I think you made the right choice.”
“Regardless,” Despauna commented. “I want you checked into medical as soon as we dock this ship.” He turned around and started out of the hovercraft core.
The barricade barring entrance into the Zion city docks parted and the Nexus passed through the portal as they breached the outskirts of the city. When the landing gear touched down and the platform lowered the crew of the Nexus exited the hovercraft carrying their personal equipment in tow. When they finally reached the city itself the crew broke apart and branched off in the directions of their separate lives.
Trix rubbed the palms of both of her hands up along the perspiring wall of the dim shower stall that she stood in. With her eyelids shut and her chin lowered down to her chest she reveled in the feel of the warm cascading water flow washing down over her body. Dustin lowered his lips and pressed them against the warm wet flesh of her right shoulder, tasting both the water that rained down over them as well as her recently lathered skin. Trix’s lips parted and she let slip a breathless gasp through the water running down over her mouth as she felt Dustin’s palm rubbing across the trickling droplets that covered her lower abdomen just beneath her naval. Arching her back and tilting her head to the side, she removed her right hand from the wall in front of her and reached back to push her fingers through the waterlogged strands of hair that covered his head.
Trix stepped out of her bathroom in her apartment in the city of Zion only to find Dustin across the room sitting at her desk flipping through a stack of her books. She continued to rustle the towel she held around in her hair as she walked over in his direction. “What are you still doing here?” she asked him, taking a seat on the small couch next to the desk and reaching for her footwear. “I thought you and Apollo had to meet up with Despauna for a consult with Commander Abner.”
“They should be able to get along without me,” he said, closing the book he held. “I figured I’d stick around here for a while; see if I couldn’t convince you to tolerate my presence further. Maybe take in a show. Get something to eat.”
“Actually, I’ve already made plans,” Trix said as she finished up with her shoes. “I’m heading down to the archives later to try and see if I can’t dig up anything on our newfound friend Mr. Gotterdammerung.”
“You know, there’s a reason it’s called downtime,” Dustin said to her. “I mean, how’s this thing of ours supposed to blossom if you’re permanently jacked into the Nexus?”
Trix took up drying her hair once more with the towel. “Tell you what. I’ll continue to take care of what I need to take care of and you can go blossom with your simulations.” Smiling brightly, she tossed the towel she held at his face and rose from the couch.
The slightly damp cloth hit against his face and Dustin pulled it away grinning. “You’ve gotta eat sometime,” he said to her back as he watched her leave the room. “Dinner tonight?” Trix remained silent as she stepped out of the front door of her apartment and shut it behind her.
“Great,” Dustin said to himself, tossing the towel down on the couch.
Syntax moved through the hospital until he found the room that Raven was hold up in with her physician. “Well, Doc. What’s the diagnosis?” Syntax asked him.
“Will you calm down,” Raven answered him. “There’s nothing wrong with me.”
“No side effects have presented themselves?” Syntax continued to pry.
“Other than the fact that I know pi to its near infinite decimal position I’d say that the damage was minimal,” Raven said as she hopped down off of the table. “Face it, operator. You didn’t kill me. You saved my life.” Raven turned her attention to the doctor in the room. “So is it okay if I head on out?”
“I don’t see any reason why not,” he said to her before turning and leaving the room.
“Wait a minute. Maybe there should be some further testing before you walk out of here with a clean bill of health,” Syntax commented.
“The only thing that I could really benefit from right now is a drink,” Raven said. “We’re supposed to be using this time to relax.” She moved past him and headed for the door. “Come on. You’re buying.”
“Just trying to get an early jump on our time off. Did I miss anything?”
“A lot more of the same.” Apollo looked down at the two cups that Dustin held in each of his hands. “Guess you weren’t kidding about that jumpstart,” he said.
“Nah. It’s just coffee,” Dustin replied. “I’m heading down to the archives.”
“I take that back,” Apollo said.
When they reached the elevators Apollo caught a car heading up and Dustin hopped in one heading in the opposite direction.
Trix was sitting behind one of the monitors in the Zion archive library with her feet up on the desk crossed at the ankle and the keyboard in her lap. She jerked her head to the side when she felt a set of fingers brush through her hair and looked up to see Dustin taking a seat next to her.
“You find anything yet?” he said, leaning forward and placing the still gently steaming tin cup down on the desktop.
“Nada,” she said, running her fingers over the keyboard once more. She pulled one of her hands away and took up the cup. “Whoever this guy is this is the first time that anyone from here has ever heard a word from him.” She took a drink from the cup.
“So how much time are you planning on wasting down here?” Dustin said to her.
“Not much. Why? Do you a better idea in mind of how I should be wasting my time?”
“I’m sure I can think of something,” Dustin said.
With a slight grin on her face Trix sat the cup back down on the desk and took up typing again. “Yeah. I’ll bet you can.”
Apollo stepped into the bar frequented by members of the fleet and quickly spotted Raven and Syntax hold up in a quiet corner opposite the entrance. He made his way towards their table picking himself up a double shot along the way. “This seat taken?” he said, removing a chair from another table and pulling it over to Raven and Syntax’s table. He promptly sat down and took a sip of his drink.
“Be my guest,” Syntax responded, finishing off the drink in front of him. “I’ll see you later,” he said, rising from his seat.
Raven waved him off and then followed him with his eyes as he left.
“Was it something I said?” Apollo spoke up.
“No,” Raven commented. “I think he still feels kind of guilty.”
“Anything in particular that would justify those feelings?”
“I can’t seem to convince him otherwise.”
“Well. You can convince me otherwise by having another drink. On me.”
Apollo and Raven lingered at the bar for a few more hours before he found himself walking her back to her apartment. “Looks like this is my stop,” she said, turning and leaning back against her front door. “Guess I’ll see you in the morning.”
“You know your night doesn’t necessarily have to end here,” Apollo said, taking a step closer to her.
“I’m aware of that fact,” she replied. “I’m also aware…” Raven’s eyes shut tight and her body slammed back hard into the door that she was already pressed against.
“Are you alright?” Apollo asked her.
“I’m not sure,” she said, opening her eyes and placing her fingers against each one of her temples. “I just…” Raven let out a short shriek before collapsing to the ground and falling into convulsions.
The next time Raven opened her eyes she found herself once again staring up at a hospital ceiling. This time instead of opening her eyes to the sight of the physician commissioned to run a checkup on her she was now greeted to the image of an entire team of medical personnel standing over her as well as Despauna, Apollo, and Syntax. “I take it you’ve found something wrong with me,” Raven said, sitting up on the hospital bed.
“Not physically. No,” Despauna answered her.
“Then what is it?” she asked.
“We ran a diagnostics on the programming that I…I uploaded into your system,” Syntax said to her, gaining Raven’s eyes.
“It seems that augmentation sequence,” one of the doctors in the room said, “aside from the mental adaptations, also seems to be systematically initiating a shutdown order for all the bio mechanical implants running throughout your body.”
“Are you trying to tell me that this thing is killing me?” Raven said, her voice coated in shock as she panned her eyes around the room.
“And we have our Trojan horse,” Despauna said.
“How was I supposed to…,” Syntax irately blurted out.
“Perhaps if you would have simply…,” Despauna started, cutting him off.
“Hey!” Raven called out, interrupting the argument. “Forgetting about everyone’s twenty twenty hindsight for a moment, how about we just skip ahead to the part where we just get this thing out of me.”
“There’s a great deal of data filtering through your system now,” one of the doctors in the room spoke up. “Too much. Unfortunately we can’t download it without killing you instantly.”
“So…there’s another way to stop this thing right?” Raven looked around the room at the slew of worried faces gathered all around her. “Right?”
“I wasn’t aware that you were so into music,” Trix said to Dustin as she moved back into a more secluded area of the lobby. Dustin followed her as she moved back into a corner.
“I’m sure that there’s an awful lot about me that you’re failing to be aware of,” Dustin said to her as he closed the distance between them.
“Perhaps that’s the only thing keeping us hanging in the balance.”
“Or preventing us from advancing to where it is that we need to be.”
“Oh? And where is that?” Trix asked as Dustin’s face continued to close in on hers.
“Would it shock you to be made aware that I’ve since been developing a most terrible romantic interest in you?”
“Is that so?”
Dustin leaned his lips down to hers but before they could make contact he was distracted from his task by the sound of his name being called out. He turned around to the sight of a frantic kid moving through the crowd in both his and Trix’s direction.
“Hey there,” the slightly out of breath young lad said to Dustin upon reaching him. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”
“Well, now that you’ve found me what do you want?” Dustin said to him, turning all the way around to face the intruder.
“Despauna told me to tell you to stow your gear and get back up to the dock. Pronto. Same goes for you too,” he said, looking over at Trix.
Dustin turned back to her with a confused look on his face.
Dustin and Trix moved through the dock towards the platform that held the Nexus with their packs slung over their shoulder.
“Mind my asking just what the hell is going on?” Trix said after she caught sight of Apollo detaching a large cable from the underside of the hovercraft. “Since when did a 120 hour leave suddenly turn into 36?”
“Ran into a bit of an emergency,” Apollo said as he continued to tend to the ship’s outer hull. “I’m sure Despauna will bring you guys up to speed. Afterwards feel free to lodge whatever complaint you want with whoever you can find to listen.”
The pads attached to the outer hull of the Nexus lit up with a bright blue glow and the craft lifted off from the platform and moved toward the gate that had allotted the ship clearance to pass from the dock and out into the tunnels just beyond.
“And we can’t just jack her into the ship’s mainframe and download her back to red pill status?” Trix asked as she convened with Syntax, Despauna, and Apollo in the core of the Nexus.
“No can do,” Apollo said to her. “Not without subsequently terminating her life.”
“Which is what’s going to eventually happen anyway if she continues to retain the rank of gold pill,” Despauna interjected.
“I still haven’t heard why it is that we were called off of leave,” Trix commented.
“It was just a hunch I had,” Syntax chimed in from his position behind his workstation. “If we can’t pull the information out of Raven without killing her…maybe there’s a chance we can find a way to get something inside of her to neutralize the program.”
“So I take it achieving this miracle cure is going to require a jack into Wonderland?” Trix said, collapsing back into one of the loading chairs in a huff.
“Several possibly,” Syntax said over the sound of his tapping fingers.
“Not so fast,” Apollo stepped in. “Aren’t we going to need little Ms. Dream Master’s help in taking down the Gott and Merv? We get her all fixed up now and we’re right back to square one.”
“You want easy,” Syntax spoke, “why not try and see if there’s an opening in the infantry. We’re on the clock. Gott’s gotta go down before Raven’s gold pill takes her out. And we have to find a way to deactivate that pill before the later of that situation takes place. Any questions?”
“Yeah,” Trix said. “Do you really think there’s an opening in the infantry?”
Trix placed the phone to the side of her head. “We’re in,” she spoke.
Apollo and Dustin were sitting atop the seat cushions of their bikes when Trix emerged from the office. “So what’s the plan?” Apollo said to her as he watched her climb aboard her own conveyance and fit the key into the ignition.
“Nothing’s changed?” she answered him, turning over the engine. “Dustin’s still on for his consult and you and I have a date with the CPU of the supercomputer at TechWare Industries.”
“Another day, another techno run,” Apollo said, activating the engine of his own bike. “Let’s just hope this one goes off without a hitch. I’m not in the mood for stretching this jaunt out any longer than it needs to be.”
“Don’t worry,” Trix said to him. “I’m sure your lack of patience will be at the forefront of our every thought and action.”
“Ain’t that the truth?” he replied.
The three cycles poured out onto the street and sped off together. Dustin eventually peeled off from the formation and left Apollo and Trix to the volition of their own mission.
Dustin brought the vehicle to a stop on the outskirts of a park next to the waterfront of a large lake. Seraph was standing in the grass next to the curb that Dustin had pulled up to. Glancing over at the sentry, he shut off the engine and climbed off of the bike.
“She’s waiting for you,” Seraph spoke to him.
“Lead the way,” Dustin responded.
Trix and Apollo sat in the company parking lot across the street staring up at the towering glass and steel structure that housed the facilities owned and operated by the software conglomerate known as TechWare.
“What do you think?” Apollo said. “Smash and grab?”
“Actually, I kind of had something a bit more subtle in mind,” Trix said to him.
“Well, there’s practical and then there’s just plain fun.”
“How ‘bout I split it with you?” Trix offered. “I’ll walk us in. We run into any complications in there and the show’s yours.”
“I might be able to live with that,” Apollo said, dismounting his bike. Trix climbed off of hers and turned to him. Apollo extended his arm out to his side. “So? What are we waiting for?”
Trix pulled a cell phone out of her coat pocket and brought it up to her ear. “Syntax. You got me?”
“Maintenance entrance on the north east corner. Be quick about it,” Syntax spoke into his headset while structural images of the building covered the many monitors in front of him.
Trix lowered the phone and started out across the street toward the building with Apollo at her back.
Dustin stepped across the grass covered field thick with trees remaining two strides behind Seraph’s left shoulder. From his vantage point he had a clear view of the woman sitting alone on the wooden bench in a clearing in the distance. She sat with her back to their approach, facing the pale gray wave crests that covered the large body of water in the distance.
Seraph stopped moving. When he turned his body to the side and extended his right arm out towards the bench Dustin continued forward without him.
“Hello, Dustin,” the old sage proclaimed as he neared her back. Moving around to stand on her left hand side, he imagined that it must have been the soft pats of his footsteps on the grass that had betrayed his stealth. “I take it this isn’t a social call and I’m fairly certain you’re not here for the view.”
Dustin’s lips could no longer contain the small smile that he tried to hold back. “I pretty sure you know why I’m here,” he said to her.
“Well,” the old lady said, still staring out at the waterway, “I believe I know why you think I know what you’re here for. Fortunately, I’m also aware of the actual reason why you’re here.”
“You haven’t, by any chance, been spending a lot of time with some old guy surrounded by a wall of television screens, have you?”
“Here,” the Oracle said to him. “Have a seat. And we’ll see if we can’t get to the bottom of this predicament of yours.”
Dustin complied with her request, walking in front of her and taking a seat on the wooden bench beside her. His eyes momentarily drifting away from her, he couldn’t help but to notice the small golden plaque embedded in the seatback between them. In Memory of Thomas A. Anderson, he read. Anderson? he thought for a moment.
“If I’m not mistaken,” the Oracle spoke to him, regaining his full attention, “I gather things aren’t going too well with the Gotterdammerung?”
“Not only that,” Dustin said. “It’s Raven. She’s been infected by a program that’s threatening to kill her and we’ve no way of getting it out of her.”
“Of course,” she said, turning to her side and taking up the purse that was resting beside her on the bench. Dustin watched her sit it on her lap and begin rifling through it. “It seems that even in these dire times that meticulous, manipulating old tyrant still can’t resist his games. Poor child. Entirely too much to have weighing on someone so young.” She removed a disc from her purse and handed it to him. “Here. This should help Syntax out in his pursuit. I’m sure that in his resourcefulness he’s already well on the way to completing the puzzle to free Raven from her impending fate.”
Dustin stuffed the disc into the pocket of his coat. He was all set to rise from the bench and bid her a farewell when her voice wafted through the air once more and held him in place. “Now what say we discuss the real reason why you’re here,” the Oracle said to him.
“I’m afraid you’ve lost me,” Dustin replied.
“I’ll grant you, she is a stubborn one, but if it’s any consolation to you I’ll tell you that you’re making substantial headway in breaching that barrier.” Another smile found its way to Dustin’s lips and he was forced to lower his shade covered eyes to the grass at his feet. Both he and the sage sitting beside him knew that there was no sense in him bothering to ask her to clarify who it was that she was referring to. “It’s the fight in her,” she continued. “The fight and the will that’s been the sword and shield she’s clung so tightly to ever since her feet first landed on the path. Only problem is she has no idea when and where to turn the damn thing off.”
“Truer words were never spoken,” Dustin replied. They each let a soft, short chuckle escape to the breeze.
“But you can’t let that stop you,” she said. “Your resolve is just something that she’s going to have learn to depend on whether she likes it or not.” She collected her things and rose up from her seat.
“I don’t understand,” Dustin said. “What does that mean?”
“Just remember,” she said, turning her back to him and heading off in Seraph’s direction. “You’re closer to her than you think. Shouldn’t be too long before she has to face that fact herself.”
Two guards passed down the corridor and continued on their way as they conversed with one another. When the two had moved past the opening of the hallway that they occupied Trix peeked her head around the corner. She lowered the shades that she wore and stared at their backs for a moment before replacing the sunglasses and turning back to Apollo. “C’mon. Let’s go.”
They stepped out into the adjacent hallway and headed in the opposite direction from the guards.
“I don’t know what exactly the point it is that you see in all of this sneaking around,” Apollo said to her as they rounded the next corner. “It’s not like this place is some stronghold housing a militia. TechWare is a hacker’s wet dream being lorded over by minimum wage earning rent-a-cops. If we’d have done this my way we’d already be surfing a mainline back to the Nexus by now.”
“No,” Trix said to them as they walked. “TechWare is a software company housing thousands of employees. All of which would be alerted to our presence right now had we done things your way. I’m sure you wouldn’t find all of those rent-a-cops so docile in a suit and a pair of sunglasses with and earpiece attached to the side of their head. I, for one, would just like to complete one damn jack without being shot at.”
“Fine. But could we hurry this up a bit?”
The doors to the front entrance of the TechWare Industries building opened and a single individual stepped into the scenic ground floor lobby. He moved quietly and calmly across the tile floor with his eyes glued to the ceiling. When the receptionist noticed his presence she began beaming brightly with the smile she wore as she greeted the guest. “Hello, sir. How may help you?”
He lowered his eyes to her and ceased his approach when he was right in front of her large desk. “You can start by coming with me,” he addressed her. “I’m going to be requiring your assistance.”
“What?” she commented, stunned by such a request. “I’m sorry. I’m afraid I don’t…” The young lady was suddenly overwhelmed by a sensation that forced her to lower her eyes to her desktop and slump over forward in her seat. Her body began to shudder and spasm and when she opened her mouth to scream the only noise that found its way out of her was a long drawn out electrical stuttering.
The Agent lifted his head up from the desk and rose from the seat.
“By the by,” the man who addressed the stoic warrior said. “We’re probably going to need to round up a few of your friends.”
“Something wrong?” Raven asked as she closed in on his back. She alternated her glasses between each screen that contained a depiction of the scrolling matrix feed.
“Just picking up on some major Agent activity that I am not liking one bit,” Syntax answered her. “On the plus side I do have Dustin enroute to rendezvous and an exit already simmering on the back burner. No. This is cake. Everything is going to just keep sailing along nice as pie.”
Raven heard the words but the frantic motions of his actions spoke to her of a building uneasiness within him. “Are you sure there isn’t anything that I can do to help?” she said to him.
“No can do. I’m not even sure it’s a good idea that you’re even down here now. Until I get a flu shot ready to deal with that gold pill running through your system I want you getting as much rest as possible.”
“If you say so,” Raven responded.
Realizing that there was most likely nothing that she could say to him in order to get him to agree to let her in on the situation that she could tell was mounting around the mission that her shipmates had been commissioned to complete, Raven opted to simply give him the space and solace he required in order to see them safely through it. Still, racked with the guilt of feeling partially responsible for the predicament that they would soon be left to weasel their way out of, Raven couldn’t rightly just go on about her business as if nothing were happening. If Syntax was so reluctant to jack her into the matrix in order to assist them then perhaps there was something else that she could do to aid their cause.
“Anyway you could speed this up?” Trix said over Apollo’s shoulder as he worked his fingers at the console in front of him.
Staring up at the large monitor above their heads that was embedded in the TechWare supercomputer, Apollo was more concerned with properly translating the enormous amount of data scrolling across the liquid plasma surface to make an attempt at heeding her request. “Whenever you feel like switching places, sweetheart,” he spoke as he typed, “just let me know.”
Trix craned her neck around to get a look behind her and saw the set of double doors that they had used to gain entrance to this room part. A pair TechWare security guards made their way through the doors and instantly zeroed in on their presence. “That’s alright,” Trix said, watching the two men remove a pair of stun guns from their side holsters. “I think I’ll just attend to our guests here.”
“Knock yourself out,” Apollo said as he continued to work at the terminal.
Trix started walking in the direction of the guards moving towards her and Apollo. “This is a restricted area,” one of the guards began speaking to her. “You’re not…”
Trix stopped walking when she saw both men freeze in their march towards her. The tasers that the two men held dropped to their feet as their bodies began to spastically shake. “Oh, shit,” Trix uttered quietly to herself.
Their transformation complete, the two Agents calmly held their stoic pose instead of initiating the attack that Trix would have expected to have already gotten underway by now. They just stood there the same as her, staring down the woman in front of them from behind their black shade covered eyes.
“What’s the matter?” Trix finally spoke up, breaking the silence between them. “You guys afraid to muss your suits?”
“Actually…” a voice called out from the area behind the two silent sentries. Trix focused her eyes on the area between their shoulders and once again saw the pair of double doors swing open. “They were just courteously awaiting my arrival.”
Trix remained standing in place as she watched the Gotterdammerung move into the room with three more Agents at his back. “You again?” Trix said. “I’m surprised that old Merv let’s you off the leash long enough to get around the way you do.”
“I believe the only leash present here,” Gott said as he continued to walk, “is the one attached to your foolish persistence that continues to lead you into harms way. Speaking of which…” He stopped walking and so did the Agents behind him. “What are you doing here? Other than instigating your own demise, of course.”
Trix breathed out a long drawn out sigh and dropped her head with a look of exhaustion on her face. Almost instantly afterwards the Agent standing closest to her on her left fell victim to the vicious right hook that she threw his way. The sentry standing next to him buckled under the force of the spinning back kick that she slammed into his midsection.
This unprovoked assault set the remaining three Agents that stood at Gott’s back into action. They sprang forward in Trix’s direction. She bounded into the air and performed a three sixty spinning roundhouse kick that smashed across the faces of two of her opponents and immediately eliminated them from the fight. The last standing Agent swung a punch at her head that she stopped mid-swing with a punch of her own, smashing her knuckles into his. Once that was done all it took was a right hand to the side of his face followed up by a left swinging elbow to the other side of his face and a hard right palm to his chest, knocking him back over a desk, in order to end things for him.
“Not in a very chatty mood?” Gott spoke to her.
Trix’s only response was the mumbling of a few inaudible grunts as she walked over to him. When they were face to face Trix reached her left had up and crumpled up a fistful of the material that composed the shirt beneath the waist length leather jacket that he wore and drew back her right fist. She threw her knuckles at his face but their journey was interrupted by the palm he raised into the air in front of them.
Smiling at her and slowly closing his fingers over the back of her hand, he said, “Then perhaps we can accommodate for that.”
Both of their bodies faded into a cluster of green streaming matrix feed that scattered in the wind and disappeared from the room.
“Yes,” Apollo said, making a few final keystrokes before rising from his seat. He walked over to one of the drives and expelled a small disc. “Got it.” Turning to leave, Apollo suddenly took notice of the scattering of Federal Agents achingly clamoring back up to their feet. “What the hell happened to you guys?” he said.
A scattered cluster of green matrix code collapsed into itself in the center of a lane of concrete. Trix saw the confines of the interior of the TechWare supercomputer room somehow wash away and be replaced by the scenic view of the street just outside of the TechWare building’s front entrance.
“The systemic anomaly,” Gott said sarcastically as he stared ahead into Trix’s confused face. “I see that even now you continue to remain in awe of your meager abilities to surpass the efforts of the numerous other specimens that inhabit this digital detention. But the fact still remains that though your capabilities border on the notion of exceptional in this place they are, no less, still bound by the will of the system from which they originated. And are nothing if not insignificant next to mine, which remains to be the well from which the powers that created this world sprang.”
Trix snatched her fist back from his clutching palm. “I liked you better when you didn’t talk so much,” she said to him.
“Really?,” he said arching an eyebrow. “But without my newly acquired affinity for speech how would you come to know of the large truck bearing down on your back right now?”
Trix watched Gott fade out into matrix feed before she turned her back in order to confirm what she’d just been told. Sure enough there was a set of headlights attached to the grill of a monstrous diesel-fueled towing conveyance closing in on her fast.
Trix leapt up into the air and arched her body backwards. As the truck passed under her slowly rotating body Trix placed both of her palms down on the roof of the cab of the truck. She used the momentary contact with the solid object to push her body further backwards as she completed her flip. When her feet were once again back on solid ground Trix’s facial expression was twisted with fury. “Son of a bitch!” she uttered to herself as she twisted her neck to the side and glanced over at the entrance to the TechWare building. She quickly made off at a fast paced walk to the parking lot on the other side of the street.
A TechWare employee stepped across the lobby floor on his way towards the glass doors that would take him out of this building. Holding an issue of the daily news up to his face as he walked, he pushed open the door to the sound of a roaring engine. Already startled beyond belief, he absolutely lost it when he found himself caught up in the wind shear of the motorbike that burst through the door past him.
The front tire of Trix’s motorcycle burst through the door that lead to the building stairwell. She had no idea where the Gotterdammerung had gotten off to. For all she knew he could have been accosting Apollo right at this second. As she sped up the winding staircase, at times past a few stunned TechWare employees, she hoped that if Apollo was currently engaging Gott that he could at least fend him off long enough for her to find him.