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Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2005 3:15 am
by syntax
"So who is this lady," Michael said over the slow clap of the soles of his shoes against the hallway floor, "some kind of informant you got setup inside of here?"

"No...yes...She's that I come to ever so often...when she doesn't send for me, which I'm surprised she hasn't done in a while."

"And she is..."

Leena stopped in front of one of the apartment doors that lined the wall to her left and said, "She's the Oracle."

The door that opened in front of them without either of them making a move toward it had taken their attention off of one another and focused it on the man standing on the other side of it. "Leena. Come on in. She's waiting for you." She stepped through the doorway past him and Michael followed but not without noticing the sideways glance he was receiving from the doorman that seemed slightly less than welcoming. Michael shot him a quick grin and continued moving.

"Wait here," Leena said, raising her right hand up in front of her shoulder when they reached the living room. "I'll just be a second," she said, never breaking stride. Michael huffed out a sigh and took a seat on the couch staring from behind his shades at the hovering sentry that kept him company.

Leena stepped through the beads that dangled from the kitchen doorway and when the aroma of baking goods mixed in with burning tobacco hit her smack in the face it took her back to the second time, first time since being unplugged, that she had stepped through that particular entranceway. That conversation was definitely one to remember and a spectacle to behold. A half grin cocked up one side of her face as she thought back to her flailing arms, erratic speech, and utter bewilderment as the conversation bounded from what she thought was one absurdity to the next until walked out of that kitchen and apartment just as confused as when she walked in but comforted by the fact that she knew she had an ally in the program that had assisted in her escape from the powerplant. Leena walked into that kitchen once more feeling (fearing) that she would need the wisdom and guidance of such a friend more now than she ever had.

"You've got that look."

"What look?" Leena asked the woman seated behind the table.

"Same one you always have when you walk in here knowing that you're about to ask a question to which you already know the answer."

"You know about sentinels cutting through the tunnels?" The older woman pulled a cigarette out of the pack lying on the table while nodding her head. "And that...thing they're making room for? You know about him?"

"Yes. Yes I do."

Leena raised her palms up into the air beside her. "Then tell me what the hell is going on because I don't have the slightest clue."

"Yes you do. What you want to know is what you can do to stop it." Leena stood before her in eager silence. "The end is coming, Leena. I know you're scared," the young rebel's arms folded in front of her and a defiant frown crinkled her brow and lips slightly, "despite affinity to mask it behind the confidence you have in your abilities. But you're going to have to get past that if you're to make it through this."

Her hands went palm up side by side in front of her chest as she said, "Make it through what? The end of what? I don't understand."

"The matrix, for one. The system that maintains the construct is failing," she said, finally bringing fire to the end of her smoke and exhaling a small cloud.

"Maddox," Leena proclaimed.

"No. Actually the flaw in the deconstuction is within the system itself. The people connected to it through the confines of the powerplant have been rejecting the programming in an exponentially increasing rate."

Her lips arched up at the corners for a moment. "The people. They're waking up, aren't they?"

"As they have been for quite sometime. And a certain flying someone hasn't been helping the matter much any."

Leena's smirk of success soon faded. "Why do I get the impression that that isn't exactly good news?"

"All be it's true that this version of the matrix programming..."


" about to reach its summit a new one will soon be put in place...and that's where your problem with your dear friend Maddox comes into play."

Leena perked up at the mention of her nemesis's name. "What is he?"

"After the one you know to be the Merovingian was exiled into this system he immediately began preparing for what he was sure would be an esteemed position of power within the parameters of this system and so went about gathering up other exiles into his employment that he believed would assure him of this." Leena became very attentive. "One such exile was Maddox. A program initially created to monitor the vitality, system relevance, and energy potential of every subject connected to the matrix and estimate, based on his findings, whether or not, as well as when, said subjects should be rendered deceased and removed from the system."

"Deceased?" Leena asked nervously.

"The Merovingian took him into his employment," the Oracle continued, "taking very little stock in the resentment Maddox maintained after being expelled from a position he had grown more than a little attached to. He felt cast out; pushed aside; denied his rightful position in the rapture he knew to be the system he served and it left within him an acrinomy worthy of any fallen angel locked out of the place he once called paradice."

"Fallen angel? An angel that used to decide when people were supposed to get flushed out of here," Leena huffed, placing her hands on her hips. "An angel...of death?" Her arms relaxed and an icy chill swam around her stomach and up through her esophagus.

"Betraying his current master's ambition with that of his own, Maddox now plans on assuming control of the matrix, as well as everything connected to it, when the system is reloaded."

"Well..I have to stop him. How do I stop him?"

"I'm sorry. I don't have the answer to that, but what I can tell you is that the fate of the future of both of our worlds is going to lie in you conquering your fear of it. Be at the corner of Lexing and Bloomington midday tomorrow. North east corner. You'll find a shop and inside a man who'll be willing to help you in this."

"What about the machine army?" Leena asked. "What can I do to stop those sentinels?"

"We're all here to do what we have to do. Maybe the question you should be asking yourself is what can you do to save the people of Zion."

Posted: Sun Sep 11, 2005 8:42 pm
by syntax
"Let's go," was all she said to Michael as she moved passed him. He quickly complied, standing up from the couch and giving his host one last look before following her lead.

"What's up with you?" he said from his seat behind the wheel of the car. Leena hadn't spoken to him since they'd left the apartment. "You look spooked. What'd she say to you?"

"I'll tell you about it later. Right now I just need you take me somewhere. Something I want to see." The phone in her coat pocket came alive and Leena took the call.

After stepping in a shallow puddle Buxton turned the beam of the flashlight he held down to inspect the damage done to his shoes. "Somebody want to tell me again what the hell we're doing traipsing around in the sewer?"

"I'm following up on a hunch," Leena explained. "Michael's being annoying and you wanted to get out of potential scouting duty. Now I'd appreciate it if you two would shut up and let me do my job."

Buxton shined his flashlight in Michael's direction. "She always this much of a pain?" He made a jesture with his head and pointed at Leena who was walking ahead of them down the dank and dripping corridor.

"Actually this is a good day."

"Why does she think whacked out program guy is down here anyway?"

She stopped and turned around to face them. "Because this is the first place that I felt him," Leena interjected, growing more aggrivated. "And if he's got something going on down here then I'd like to know what it is and most importantly I'd like to do it without announcing our presence to whoever else may be down here so shut it."

The only one of them with no need of a flashlight to inspect the dimmer areas of the sewer they moved through, Leena scanned the floors, walls, and ceilings for something, anything that might have looked suspicious. The only thing she managed to find was an odd set of electrical wiring. This being her only lead at the moment she followed them. Right up to a locked door. Michael extended his hand toward the door inviting Leena to open it.

"The sooner we get this over with the sooner we can get out of here."

"Amen," Buxton commented.

A good swift kick brought the barrier down and when the three of them stepped through the doorway neither of them could believe what they were seeing. The large room was filled with an array of television screens that were grouped together at certain intervals and were suspended from the ceiling in jagged rows. The center of this viewing arena was home to a small platform five steps high. The screens were on and showed nothing but static but there was no sound to accompany it.

"What the hell is this?" Buxton asked already going for his weapon.

"Death must be so beatiful," a voice said from the shadows beyond the television screens. "To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above ones head, and listen to the silence." Michael's weapon was drawn and through they all looked around, no one could tell where the words emanated from. "To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace."

A figure began to emerge on top of the platform from the opposite side that Leena, Buxton, and Michael were standing on. The chill that began to creep up her spine let her know instantly who, or rather what, it was. "Maddox," she said.

When he reached the center of the platform he stopped walking. "I'm not accustomed to entertaining guest so you'll have to excuse me if I forget my manners."

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2005 3:13 am
by syntax
"Who's the clown dressed for his own funeral?" Buxton asked, training his gun on the dark figure standing on the platform in front of him.

"I am what you fear," Maddox resonded, "and yet secretly crave so dearly. A power that was and shall be again."

"What's the game, Maddox?" Leena spoke up. "Boys upstairs hand you your pink slip and this is your version of going postal?"

An eerie chuckle escaped the hooded figure and sent yet another chill through Leena. "Do you remember when you first approached me? Found me siphoning the depths of that elementary system of networks that yeilded me the fruits of the upgrades I would need, that the Merovingian thought to get his bumbling fingers on, before you came crashing in with delusions of stopping me?" He took her silence to be an affirmitive. "The effects have been slightly more than...stimulating."

"Tell me how stimulating this is." Buxton squeezed the trigger of his gun in rapid succession. Every bullet hit their intended mark on dark cloak...but the bearer of the blunt force thought little of it.

Maddox brushed the back of his right hand down the front of his chest a few times over the holes that had been made as if he were wiping crumbs after a meal. "And they multiply with every moment that passes. I will bring order back to this system," his bass laden voice continued after Buxton's rude interrption. "And peace back to this world."

"All you're going to do is get a lot of people dead," Leena stated.

"And what is death if not the driving force behind everything that you call life? What is life without death? With death comes value. With death comes meaning. Where there's death...there's purpose. I am the thing that gives time meaning. I am the reason each and every one of you insignificant worms place such stock in the things that you hold dear. And my reign will return. With a single touch I can end the life cycle of any human connected to the machine's power plant. Anyone. As the power grows inside of me so will my reach until the plant's very survival is completely dependant upon my will...same as the fate of the machine city, Zion...and you."

Maddox lifted his head and Leena could swear she saw those black eyes of his that were buried deep in the shadows that the brim of the hood he wore made over his face looking directly at her. "The hell it will," she replied.

"Got that right." Buxton dropped his gun down to his side a made a run for the platform. He could hear Leena's very vocal protest as he closed in on the hooded man but it didn't slow his stride in the least. Leena's hand did. Pressing against his chest as he made it to the third step up, she was able to halt him long enough for Maddox to close the distance on them both.

She fended off Maddox's advances for about a two seconds before a few well placed punches by him removed her from the equation that now only contained Buxton and himself. Buxton wasted no time flipping the pistol he held in his right hand until the butt of the gun was positioned for striking. When his left hand was balled into a fist he began swinging. His attack was short lived and his throws easily deflected. Maddox took a firm hold of his throat. "When death to either shall come," Maddox squeezed. "I pray it be first to me." Buxton dropped his gun and a low grunting scream began to slip from his mouth.

Michael hit Maddox with a few shots from his weapon and it did no good. Leena made it back to her feet and, with a roundhouse kick to his gut, managed to remove Maddox's grip from Buxton's throat and push him back. She checked to make sure he was alright and after confirming it Leena cut a quick eye to his assailant. "He's not plugged into the power plant, you ass," she said through gritted teeth. "Guess your plan's gonna need a little tweeking."

"All good things," Maddox spoke. "But for now I've got better things to consider. So I leave you to your respective fates." He made dark eyes with Leena from beneath his hood once more. "Be seeing you."

Maddox moved down the steps opposite of her and Buxton, who was still reeling from the effect of the contact he had just had with the departing black-a-vised enemy that had just presented himself, as well as his intentions, to the trio that stood before him. As the back of Maddox's hood began to disappear from her sight and a slew of all new faces began to appear from the depths of the shadows all around them, Leena laid Buxton's body down and took on a fighting stance.

Cpl. Tachery, the Juggernaut's operator, snatched the plug out of the back of Leena Storm's head. When she sat up she could see that Michael, the rebel who claimed the seat beside her, was very healthy, awake, and alive. It brought her little comfort though, considering what awaited them.

Posted: Sun Sep 18, 2005 2:53 am
by syntax
"Oww!" Michael said, rubbing his jaw. "That guy really packed a wallop." He turned to Leena. "Don't suppose this Maddox guy is going away anytime soon. Any ideas on how you want to handle this?"

"Why are you asking me?" Leena snapped. "It's a much my problem as it is yours. You act like I'm supposed to have all the answers." She hopped out of her chair and stormed out of the area, leaving Michael, Cpl. Tachery, and Sgt. Degger wondering what it was, exactly, that was bothering her so much. Michael found her in her quarters and posed the question to her. "Just get out of her, alright? I want to be alone for a while."

He stepped further inside of her room and shut the door behind him. "I'm afraid that's not going to be an option for a while. Look, Leena, something big's about to go down. And I know that you've got the inside track on the big ugly that's headed our way." He moved closer to the bed that she was laid down flat on her back on. "So if I don't get clued in in the very near future, not only will you not be left alone, but you're going to find yourself entertaining a new and very irritating roommate both here on the ship and back in Zion. So what gives?"

"I don't know," she snapped at him. "That's what gives. I don't know how to stop Maddox; I don't know what to do about the army approaching Zion; I don't even know what I'm doing here. You satisfied?"

"Hey. You want to take it down a notch. Whoever said the fate of the whole world was on your shoulders? Hope it wasn't that Oracle chick. Cause if it was you can tell her to go stuff it. You're going to have a lot of help in this fight. No matter the outcome. Hey, what did she tell you anyway?"

"Something...something I gotta do. In the matrix. But I'm not going anywhere until I get some sleep. You think you could maybe take over my shift on lookout just this once?"

Michael grinned big. "Get some sleep, kiddo. If anybody needs it it's you." He opened the door and exited the room leaving Leena alone with her thoughts of her last conference with the Oracle. Thoughts that provided her as much comfort as confusion. "What can you do to save the people of Zion," she had said. Leena closed her eyes and slipped into slumber. Maybe peace could somehow be sought out there.

Leena found Lt. Hornsby in the ship mess hall spooning the gooey sustenance that passed for a meal onboard the Juggernaut into his mouth one bite after another. She sat down on the other side of the table from him and stared down at the empty space in front of her. "There's more if you're hungry," he said. "For some strange reason there's always more." She cracked a half smile at his attempt at levity. "What's wrong, dear? You get to acting like that and it tends to make me nervous."

"Perhaps you should be." Her eyes found his. "Because I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing here. I'm starting to feel like I let you down. All the faith you put in me. This project. And now...with all that's happening."

"Now hold on a sec," he said, raising his spork and pointing the business end at her. "Don't you go on for one moment thinking you've let me down. The fact that you're here; that you've done what you've done; that you can do what you are somehow able to do has already left me devoid of any need for faith that you are here for a purpose. A purpose that has already benefited our civilization more than you or I might ever know. What you still have left to do may, in fact, be a mystery, but one that I have no doubt could only further my belief in you. What ever it is that you're here to do, I'm positive that questioning my faith in you isn't even in the running."

Cpl. Tachery inserted the plug into the back of her head. "You sure about this?" Michael said. "What's it been, almost eleven hours? If you need more time..."

"It's okay," she comforted him. "I know what I'm doing. I need to do this. If it's all going to end...then I have to go. Don't worry about it. I'll be in and out. Just hit the button."

Leena was inside the construct, standing a block away from the corner of Lexing and Bloomington. The Oracle had told her that there would be some one at the corner of that location that would be able to help her in her quest. She walked down to the corner and stood in front of a four way intersection. The corner of Lexing and Bloomington. There were four corners. Her eyes floated from one to the next until they setteled on the northwestern corner of the intersection and the locksmith's shop that resided there.

Leena walked inside. No bodies were visible. "Hello," she called out. It took one more such vocalization before a short Asian man made his presence known from behind the counter in front of her.

"Hello. And you are?"

"The Oracle sent me," she said reluctantly. "She told me that you could help me."

"Yes. Leena Storm. Right this way."

Somewhat surprised to hear this sranger speaking her name, Leena moved around the counter snd followed the man back into the dark recesses of his shop, confident that she could defend against whatever trap he might be attempting to lead her into. Instead it turned out to be anything but. Wall to wall keys. She let her eyes move around the room and all over everything. Nothing but keys. All shapes. All sizes. Nothing but keys as far as the eye coukd see. When her gaze turned back to the short Asian gentleman once more, she watched him grab at the side of his neck and tug at a chain, pulling the key that was attached to it out of the front of his shirt.

Posted: Mon Sep 19, 2005 7:12 pm
by syntax
Leena held here hand out in front of her and the chain around the little man's neck snapped as the key moved through the air and sat down gently in the palm of her hand. "It is a very special key," he said to her. "Meant only for one such as you."

She held it up in front of her face. "What am I suppose to do with it?"

"There is a building. Inside this building there is a level where no elevator can go and no stair can reach." Leena's eyes moved away from the key and focused on the man in front of her. "This level is filled with doors. These doors lead to many places, hidden places, but one door is special. One door leads to the Source."

The crew of the Juggernaut were gathered together in a safe house along with the crew of the Casus and the Odessus as they went over the plans that would need to be in place in order for Leena to make it through this door the now monikered Keymaker spoke of without triggering any of the building's alarms that he warned them would set off the bomb. It seemed simple enough. Knocking out the power to twentyseven city blocks to kill the building's security system long enough for her to squeeze through a miniscule window of opportunity and hopefully come out on the other side with a few answers that would put a lot of minds at ease. Speaking of which, it was all she could do to keep from glancing over at Lucas every five minutes and admiring his form in the suit he wore and at the same time quivering from the extreme awkwardness of their situation. Nevertheless, it was time to get started.

The crew from the Casus were dispatched to a nearby power station with orders to see to its destruction. The crew from the Odessus were headed after the core network of the grid to see to it that the emergency systems were deactivated and there would be no failsafe in place to restore power to the building before Leena could complete her mission. Everything went off without a hitch and before she knew, Leena was being led down a narrow corridor filled with doors with Michael in tow.

"What do you think you're going to find once you're in there?"

"I have know idea. A way to stop Maddox, maybe. I don't know. The said I'm suppose to be here so I'm doing it."

"You sure you trust that lady?"

"Right now she's the only thing we've got going for us."

The Keymaker finally came to a stop and inserted a key into one of the locks. The three of them stepped inside of room and closed the door behind them. "The key?" he said to Leena. She reached into the pocket of her coat and emerged with it. "You'll know which door." He then turned to Michael. "This way. I'll show you the way out."

"Guess this is it, princess. You'll just have to look out for yourself from here on out." She crinckled her lips up and rolled her eyes as she folded her arms in front of her. Michael put a hand on her shoulder. "See you on the other side."

Leena was alone in the room. It was alone then that she allowed the comfort of Michael's departing words to wash over her. She still wasn't ready to give him the satisfaction. Now all that was left was finding that door. Surprisingly enough it didn't take her long. She placed the key in the lock and watched as a brilliant white glow poured out from all around the door and consumed her. When the glare cleared from her eyes she could see that she was in a room. A room filled with small monitors that covered rounded walls and strangly reminded her of Maddox's lair that she had found under the city. Only this place had more structure, more order than the chaotic matter in which Maddox's place had been organized.

Suddenly every screen in the room lit up with her image and chair that had been in the center of the room spun around to reveal an aged gentleman clad in all white. "Hello, Leena," he spoke to her.

"Who are you?"

"I am the Architect. I created the matrix. I've been waiting for you. You have many questions, and though the process has altered your consciousness, you remain irrevocably human. Ergo some of my answers you will understand, and some of them you will not. Concordantly, while your first question might be the most pertinent, you may or may not realize it the most irrelevant."

"Why am I here," Leena asked him.

He reached up with the pen he held in his hand and gave it a light tap before addressing her question. Leena watched as the sceens randomly filtered through images of her past actions that had taken place in the matrix. "Your life is the sum of a remainder of an unbalanced equation inherent to the programming of the matrix. You are the eventuality of an anomaly, which, despite my sincerest efforts, i have been unable to eliminate from what is otherwise a harmony of mathmatical precision. While it remains a burden assiduously avoided, it is not unexpected, and thus not beyond a measure of control. Which has lead you," All the screens around the room flashed back to the image of her standing there.

"So you did all this? You brought me here?" His only answer was one slow nod. "Well as far as control goes you've got a lot to learn. I've been slapping this system forty ways from Sunday ever since I crawled out of that slimy pink pod and have been making sure that the same thing happened for a lot of other people. And the way I hear it this whole system you created is on the fast track out and about to fall down around your ears. Where's the control in that?"

"Nothing that has transpired since your awakening hasn't occurred outside of the parameters of the control of this system, the doom of which is apparent to me now as a consequence of the imperfection inherent in every human being."

"Is that why you haven't been able to keep them from waking up?"

"The programming of the matrix was designed to create an existence conformity, accordance. A world where the nations of man would be reposed to a constant normality, predictability. But in all instances it would appear that mankind's desperate tendency for insurgency on even the simplest levels was something that should have been taken into more consideration and most assuredly will be in the future."

"Choice," the images of her all said in unison. When Leena turned to look at the screens every image mimiced her motion. She turned back to the Architect. "The problem is choice."

"Understanding certain aspects of the human psyche and the process by certain impulses are initiated and acted upon is currently in the way of being prioritized. As for now the conception of the systemic anomaly parameters surrounding its application and its subsequent consequences is what concerns me at this current stage."

"And that would be me. The anomaly...that you had a hand in guiding directly to this room for...What am I doing here? What do you want from me?" Leena asked, thinking back to her original question that the two of them had just spent the last few minutes sidestepping around.

"You are here because Zion is about to be destroyed, its every living inhabitants terminated, its entire existence eradicated."

Leena spoke in chorus with every monitor. "No. That's impossible."

"The function of the anomaly is now to return to the Source, allowing a temporary dissimenation of the code you carry, reinserting the prime program. Afterwhich you wil be required to select from the matrix 23 individuals, 16 females, 7 males to rebuild Zion."

Leena swallowed deep as took in the gravity of what he had been telling her. "And I'm just suppose to accept this?"

"Failure to comply with this process will result in a cataclysmic system crash killing everyone connected to the matrix, which, coupled with the extermination of Zion will ultimately result in the extinction of the entire human race. Which brings us at last to the moment of truth, wherein the fundamental flaw is ultimately expressed, and the anomaly revealed as both beginning and end. There is one door, to your right." Leena turned head and examined it. "It leads to the Source and the salvation of Zion."

Leena stood there for a moment still taking it all in, half in disbelief. "As you so adequately put," The Architect continued, "the problem is choice."

Meanwhile, the crew aboard the Juggernaut scrambled wildly to get themselves into position to the sound of the proximity warning blaring all around them.

Posted: Fri Sep 23, 2005 3:13 am
by syntax
"Sgt. Weathers," Cpt Mills shouted. "Get those gun turrets manned and firing. Degger, Ratcliff go with him!" He moved to the ship's core. "Cpl. Tachery, get that EMP armed."

"You know we can't use that until she's out," Lt. Hornsby spoke up. "If you fire that EMP before she gets to a hardline you'll kill her."

"There's a handful of sentinels on our asses that's going to try and see to that whether she makes it out or not. Now I've given you a considerable amount of leeway with this little project of yours, but I've got an entire crew to think about, Lieutenant. Not to mention this ship. Do what you have to but get it done quick."

Captain Mills stormed off into the depths of the Juggernaut and Lt. Hornsby quickly moved to Cpl. Tachery's side. "That EMP doesn't go off until she's out. You hear me?"

"Lieutenant, I care about her too, but..."

Hornsby gripped his fist into the material that made up the front of his shirt. "Not until she's out," he said through a clenched jaw. "Do you understand me?"

"You have my word."

Leena moved toward the only door in the room and took hold of the knob. It twisted with barely an effort from her and swung open on its own. The light that engulfed her this time was gold and her eyes were less effected by this illumination that drew her in involuntarily. She felt more than she could remember seeing. An ever rushing flow of golden energy that carried her along the current that it moved in, in what direction she didn't know. Though she was aware of her physical presence, she felt as though she were moving through space and time without the incumbent of an actual body. It wasn't the first time she'd felt this sensation, suspended in a dreamlike state that felt like an out of body experience. But she wasn't asleep this time. She was wide awake. And suddenly at a complete standstill. Her mind, her body, and soul all present. And they weren't alone.

Michael climbed into the chair and took hold of the two control sticks, arming the guns on the outer hull of the hovercraft. It wasn't a second too soon. The sentinels that closed in on the Juggernaut left him, or the other gunners, little time dawdle.

Leena stood in the emptiness of the darkened abyss that surrouned glancing at the tiny goldened specs that spanned out in all directions from where she stood in perfect never-ending rows that extended into enterity all around her. It was as if she were suspended in outerspace staring at an array of specifically organized golden stars in a perfectly linear formation. The man who had introduced himself as The Architech joined her in her observation. "What am I looking at?" she asked him, turning her eyes in every three dimensional direction.

"Every human being connected to the matrix." He walked toward her along the invisible gound of blackness and pointed the pin he held toward the area above his head and tapped it. Leena watched the images of twentythree people streak toward her and stop a few meters in front of her face, causing her to take a few steps back. Their faces were stacked in gold rimmed boxes on top of one another with slow scrolling information streaming down the boxes next to their facial profiles. "I took the liberty of compiling, categorizing, and assembling the likeliest subjects and best defined choices that you would require to exponentially accentuate and expedite the rebuilding of Zion physical, as well as societal, structure. You are of course free to ignore my suggestions and carry on with that of your own doing."

"Thanks for your concern."

The Juggernaut was taking a pounding. The sentinels spared them nothing. After attaching their metalic bodies to the hull of the ship their lasers went to work. Pads were cut loose; thin and vulnerable layers of the ship's hull where cut into and pried apart by the claws that dug into them. When the hull was breeched Michael was forced to abandon his position at the gun torret and take up one of the bulky double hand held laser blasters, along with a few other memebers of the crew and defend the ship against the sentinels that now moved around through the Juggernauts interior.

Leena had made her choices, minus a few of The Architect's recommendations. "I...I..." A strange feeling had hit deep inside of her. "I have to get out of here. I have to go. Now."

The Architech raised the pen he held up over his shoulder and tapped it once more. A door appeared in the darkness in the distance behind him. "The selections you have requested will be relinquished to you upon your earliest convenience. This doorway is a link to the construct that will coalesce the code you carry onto a hardline of communication, aligning your current signal with that of the original, making your tranfusion from this world into the next an inevitable eventuality."

"Fine with me." Leena moved past him toward the door. Her pressing need to exit this place was overwhelming. She didn't quite understand it, but she was sure that there was a pressing predicament on the other side of this looking glass that required her immediate attention.

The phone started ringing. Tachery didn't know why, he didn't know how; he just answered it. He pulled the plug out of the back of Leena's head and stood in silence as she lifted her body up. Leena turned to face him, eager to let someone in on the experience she had just endured, but her expression was sideswiped by the one he was wearing on his face. It reeked of sadness and ache. An infectious combination that quickly sank beneath her skin and filtered into her system. "What happened?" she asked shakily. The corporal was reluctant to answer. "Tell me!" her voice raised.

He averted his eyes. "We were attacked. The ship took some damage. There were...some casualties."

A lump rose in her throat an her stomach turned in knots. "No. No!" She hurried out of the chair and ran through the ship's corridors with Tachery's voice echoing behind her.

"He said to save you no matter what!"

She moved shockingly around the metalic corpses of inactive sentinels as she moved through the ship. Leena ground her feet to a stop. There was a small crowd of three blocking her view. She pushed through it and found the horrifying image that the wounded bodies of Michael, Cpt. Mills, and Ratcliff stood over. Leena knelt down beside Lt. Hornsby, the tears already streaming down her face. "No!"

"I'm afraid so, child." The lieutenant reached a hand up to caress her wet face. "Just don't...don't let it end with me. Take heart, my dear. You'll need your strength. Finish this."

Leena rubbed a tear soaked hand across his blood speckled cheek as he turned his head to side and shut his eyes for good. Michael reached a hand down to console her as her tears fell over what the machanical octopi had left of his body and she shrugged it off. Leena stood up. She took one last tear drenched look at her the man who had shaped the soldier she had grown into before Cpt. Mills pulled the covers up over the upper portion of his lifeless body. She pushed through the crew that was there and made a bee-line for her quarters. Sleep wasn't an option. Despite how much her tears pushed her to slumber, everytime she closed her eyes she would recieve a vision that made sure she would never find sleep anytime soon.

She closed her eyes to the sight of a red glow. A red flourescent glow that signified the future of thigns to come. As if the present hadn't been bad enough. She would close her eyes over and over as she lie there in bed and feel the petrification of the image that made itself that much more clearer the longer she kept her eyelids shut togther. The glowing red image backed away from her and eventually expanded into several other red glowing lenses that made up the whole. The whole of a machanical object that would soon leave little to be discovered about it presence and its intention.