Disclaimer: I'm a poor college student, please don't sue me. Besides, I'm making diddly squat off this. The Matrix and many of these characters belongs to Warner Bros., Wachowski brothers and company. I'm just.....borrowing some of them for fun. Crew of the Anubis (minus Trinity and Morpheus) belong to me.

Author's Note: For a better idea of what Dante looks like, check out the cover of Devil May Cry 2 (guess where I got the name Dante). No, this is not a crossover.
Chapter 8

*on board the Anubis*

The crew of the Anubis gathered in the med bay. Dante remained seated beside the operating table, where Trinity lay unconscious. Earlier, Trace had clucked and cooed over Trinity's injuries like a mother hen, cleaned her up with the help of Cora ("Ouch, good thing she's unconscious," said Cora, swabbing the scrapes and cuts with a disinfecting gel known to sting enough to make grown men tear up), and applied the acupuncture needles. Trinity lay covered in strategically placed towels and blankets, her face pale and blank as if she were dead, and would stay that way for quite a while. The crew would've gathered in the mess hall, but someone had to watch Trinity and another person would have to keep an eye on the ship and look out for squiddies. Only Ratch didn't mind missing out on Dante's story (Dion would fill him in later) and so he was watching the ship. The Anubis was parked on a stable ledge protruding from the mouth of a large cave. They were in an underground cavern, away from the tunnels and caverns where squiddies liked to roam, but someone still had to keep an eye out. Since no one else wanted to miss the story, they compromised and stayed in the med bay.

Trace and Cora leaned against the operating table facing Dante, while Dion squatted on the floor and Morpheus took the only other chair in the room. Link brought her pillow from her room and sat cross-legged on top of it, looking like a genie or a pixie because of her perky blue eyes and the halo of short blond hair around her head.

Everyone was settled and ready, eyes on Dante and ears perked. They're like children waiting for story time to start, thought Dante. The thought made him smile a little, except he knew that the smiles would disappear once he began his tale.

"Thank you all for being here," he started. "I appreciate your concern."

Cora smiled encouragingly, reached up and squeezed his hand. "Hey, we're all worried about you, we all care, more than you think. You're not just our captain, you're like a father to us."

"Yeah," said Dion. "We've been worried about you for a while now. You seem like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders and it's getting heavier."

"It's because you punks always get into trouble and I have to get you out," said Dante, trying to lighten things up. That got him some smiles from his crew.

"I know you have a lot of questions," he continued, "and I think the best way to answer them and tell you what I think about our new recruit is to tell you what the Oracle told me. To understand that though, you'll have to know my story."

Dante paused, once again thinking about the past. The life seemed to go out of his eyes as his mind traveled back in time, replaced by a darkness that only suffering and sadness could produce, and he looked like an empty husk before his crew. His blond hair seemed to lose its luster and his skin looked sallow and slack. Morpheus, in particular, was worried about this aspect of his captain. He knew that Dante probably didn't know how much his mind-travels worried his crew.

"Sir?" asked Morpheus, tentatively.

"Yes Morpheus?" said Dante, coming back from wherever he went.

"Nothing," said Morpheus. "Tell us your story."

Dante nodded and cleared his throat. "It's hard to think about my life before I was unplugged. How many years has it been, maybe fifteen years already? Sixteen? I'm an old man now compared to then and I can feel it in my bones. Back then, I could've leapt from building to building even before I was unplugged and knew about the Matrix, or at least I felt that way. I felt like I could fly, I had my entire life before me and I was going to do something great. I was young and daring and in love. Carrie was so beautiful and full of life, she was there with me every step of the way. I loved that about her, just the way she took on each experience and sucked the marrow out of it and wanted more. She was never afraid of anything or anyone. We were married the year before and we had a baby on the way. Everything was so perfect it was ridiculous. We even had the house with the frickin' white picket fence. It was the only time in my life when I was truly happy...."

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*flashback*

I grew up in a working middle-class neighborhood, in the suburbs I guess you could say, the only child of a high school teacher and a dentist. That's about as boring as you could get, or at least I thought so. I did the whole Boy Scouts and Little League bit, played short stop until I decided that baseball wasn't cool anymore. Meanwhile, I'd go on little adventures through the neighborhood with some of the other boys my age that went to my school. The five of us, we'd climb trees, ride bikes really fast down inclines, pretend we were pirates or Mafia men or something like that. Of course, whenever we played Mafia, I'd be the boss and order the other kids around.

It was while playing Mafia that I first met Carrie. We were thinking about what the gang could do one afternoon because the boys on Magnolia had formed another gang and said that they were our rivals and were taking over the nearby park. It occurred to Frankie, who was supposed to be the skinny gunman, that we were missing something. We weren't really a Mafia because we didn't have a "doll." All of the Mafia movies had dolls, and sometimes they came in handy. At the very least, they could cook us spaghetti. Being the boss, I was supposed to be the one with the girl. I didn't like the idea because girls were....well, girls and I didn't want one in my gang. She'd probably make us comb our hair and wash under our fingernails. Bottom line: she'd mess the gang up. Bobby suggested that we get ourselves a tough doll so we wouldn't be a wimpy Mafia and could get the park back, or at least the swings. I didn't want a girl in the gang though, even a tough one.

Carrie must've heard us arguing because she came over. Her family had just moved into the neighborhood about two weeks ago, and Frankie had her in his class. None of us really knew her because she hung around with the other girls and we'd all rather be caught dead than talking to a girl. At any rate, she came over and asked if she could join us.

"No," I said, crossing my arms over my chest. "No girls allowed."

"Well, you guys said that you needed a tough girl, and I'm a tough girl," she said.

We looked her over. She wasn't wearing any pink, which would've automatically disqualified her, and she was wearing pants instead of a dress. Shawn pointed out that she didn't have any braids, which meant she wasn't a prissy girl but Kevin noted that her shoes were too clean for her to be a tough girl. Her wavy black hair, dark as midnight, was drawn back in a ponytail with a ribbon tied around the rubber band.

"She's got that stupid bow in her hair though," I said. "Shows you she's stupid."

"Hey, who're you calling stupid?"

"You, of course," I countered, "or are you too stupid to know that?"

"Hey, at least I'm not as stupid as you are," she yelled back.

"Oh yeah? Well what if I take your bow?" I said and yanked it right off her ponytail.

"Hey! Give that back!" she yelled.

"I don't want to," I said, and held the ribbon behind my back.

"I said, give it back!"

"Make me!"

By this time, my gang had stepped back, eagerly waiting to see what would happen. Shawn said to Frankie, in a not-so-quiet whisper, "Oh no, she's going to cry now."

To everyone's surprise, instead of crying, she launched herself straight at my stomach and knocked me off my feet. I was too stunned to do anything except barely catch myself with my arms and landing on my side with her on top of me. She reached for the ribbon but switched it to my other hand. I rolled out from under her but she grabbed my shirt so I couldn't get up. I strained against her hold until she suddenly let go and I went sprawling on my face again with a "Oof!" She took this opportunity to scramble over me and grab hold of her ribbon. I wouldn't let go though, because I wasn't about to lose to some girl.

My gang was circling around, shouting at me "Get her!" or "Hit her!"

"Are you nuts? I can't hit a girl," I shouted back from the pavement. I froze as I realized what I'd just said. "Oh crap, she's going to hit me," I thought, "and I can't hit back."

We were still tangled in each other but she had the upper hand. When she heard that I couldn't hit her, she smiled and raised her arm to whack me a good one when my trusty gang pulled her off me. She was still kicking at them by the time I got to me feet.

"Just give her the stupid ribbon, Patrick," said Bobby to me.

"Fine, I don't want it anyway." I threw it at her and she caught it, sticking her tongue out at me. I was pretty sore, but my ego hurt much more than my scraped elbows and hands.

Kevin, the chubby kid in our gang, started laughing, saying, "Ha, you were beaten up by a girl!"

"Shut up, Kevin. It's just because I couldn't hit her," I said sourly.

"So can I play now?" she asked. "I'm tougher than all of you."

We thought about it. She may have been tough-I gave her that-but she was still a girl and the other gang would probably make fun of us for hanging around with a girl.

"Hey," said Frankie, who was the brains of the outfit, "if none of us can hit a girl, that means the other gang can't hit a girl either."

A light bulb went off in our heads. We'd be unstoppable with Carrie in our gang because the other gang didn't have a doll, and we doubted that they'd find one that would take out a boy like she just tried to. And if they couldn't hit her back, then there was nothing they could do.

"I don't know though," I said. "If she gets hurt and starts crying, we'd get into trouble."

"I almost made you cry," she said.

"Shut up," I said, still sulking.

She started giggling at my apparent misery, her green eyes flashing. She wiped at her face but only smudged more dirt onto the end of her little button nose. We both looked ridiculous with our hair mussed and grime all over our faces. It was her laugh that broke the tension and from that day on, she was part of the gang.

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*on board the Anubis*

"And that's how I met Carrie," said Dante. "She lived a block away from me, two doors down from Shawn, and we went to the same schools."

"Your future wife kicked your ass?" laughed Link. "That's so awesome. I'd like to meet her."

"Well, she didn't really kick my ass," countered Dante. "Like I said, I couldn't hit her back and she took advantage of that."

"Yeah, whatever," said Cora, trying to hold back her giggles.

Dante sighed with a smile and shook his head. "I'm never going to live that one down. She told me so, and I believe her."

"So where is she now?" asked Morpheus.

The smile faded from Dante's face. He was quiet for a moment, and then said, "I'm not sure. It's complicated. It's the next part of my story."

"Like I said, we went to the same schools, we sometimes had the same classes," continued Dante. "In high school, I hung out with Bobby, Shawn, Frankie, and Kevin; she had her own girl circle of friends but also hung out with us. She cut off her long wavy Barbie hair in sophomore year and went for a sleek look, slicking her short hair back and wearing very little make-up. She didn't need make-up, she had a natural pinkish blush to her cheeks complimented with high cheek bones and porcelain skin. All of the guys in high school apparently thought she was hot, and the fact that she refused to take shit from anyone just made her hotter. To us, though, she was just Carrie, almost like a little sister to us. It wasn't until junior year that I realized that she was a girl."

Trace snorted. "Excuse me, but I know how teenage boys think and from how you just described her right now, you already thought she was hot. No one describes their kid sister like that. You just couldn't admit to yourself until junior year that you liked her."

Dante gave a sheepish grin. "Yeah, you're right. I think I liked her from the moment she beat me up way back in like second or third grade, I forget when exactly it happened. No one had challenged me before that, I was just accepted as the leader. Of course, I didn't know that I liked her then. She was annoying and I always had these thoughts of mean things I could do to her, but now that I think about it, I was just confused."

"Yeah, I remember doing mean things to girls that I liked when I was little," said Dion. "Stupid stuff like pulling their hair or putting bugs into their desks. Never understood why I did all those things until later."

"You people are weird," said Link. "Anyways, what happened?"

"We started hanging out more, just her and me. It was nothing big, just going to the park or grabbing McDonalds or hanging out at my house. Senior year came and so did prom, so I asked her to prom. We were going as friends of course, and some of her friends went with some of my friends. Kevin and Bobby went with their girlfriends and teased us relentlessly. We'd just brush it off, not wanting to admit that friends don't usually feel like this toward each other. Our relationship had developed like the ones in those cheesy chick flicks, where a guy and a girl start out as friends and then become a couple, but we couldn't help it. We'd laugh about it, ignore it, do whatever we could to keep from admitting that our feelings for each other had passed the friendship zone about a year ago, maybe longer. We held out until high school graduation, when we became a couple.

"I went to the state university and majored in computer engineering; she went to a private college nearby and majored in chemistry. I excelled at programming and system design; she was brilliant in bio-chemistry and wanted to cure the world's diseases. We saw each other on weekends and weeknights when our workload wasn't too heavy. I'd sleep over in her dorm or she'd come over to my off-campus apartment sometimes. I got to know her hallmates well and she knew my roommate (who sometimes got pissed about sleeping on the couch but decided that he'd rather do that than listen to our 'games of tonsil hockey,' as he liked to put it). What I remember most vividly about our college years were the nights when we'd cuddle up together under the covers with me spooning her, my arms holding her close and her bare back pressing into my chest and stomach. I loved the feel of warm skin on skin, tucking my face into the crook of her neck and smelling her freshly shampooed hair. I swear I could stay in that position forever. She was a paradox to me: feminine but tough as nails, beautiful but not delicate, so passionate but still mysterious. I was madly in love with her.

"On the date of our four-year anniversary of being a couple, I asked her to marry me and she said yes. We got married in August, it was a beautiful day, and Carrie looked absolutely stunning. Her eyes, brimming with tears of happiness, shone like the first drops of spring dew, and we were so happy and in love. I was 23, she was 22 and a half, and we had graduated from college eight months ago. I was recruited by a software company during junior year and paid ridiculous amounts of money for a part-time job, and my paycheck increased when I graduated and started working full-time. She was immediately picked up by one of the leading pharmaceutical research labs after graduation, and together we were able to pay the down payment for a cute little cottage in the suburbs, not far from where we grew up. Four months after that, she became pregnant with our first child. I was walking on air. Everything was like a storybook tale. I remember thinking that I was on top of the world and that nothing could take that away from me."

Dante stopped and looked distressed, his lips twitching so that he had to bite down on them and his eyebrows were scrunched together with emotion. He turned away briefly, taking deep breaths and trying to relax his face and let the feelings die away. The crewmembers gave each other concerned looks. Dante put a hand up, signaling for them to give him a moment to gather himself. He was used to trying to hide his emotions and wasn't about to break down in front of his crew.

"We could continue this some other time," offered Morpheus.

"No, I have to tell this story now," said Dante, finally regaining his composure. His breathing returned to normal and his eyes were only a little bright. "It's just that remembering how my life used to be reminds me of how far from heaven I have fallen."

"It's Ok, honey," said Trace, her mothering mode kicking in. "Here, you look like you need one of these," she said, approaching Dante and giving him a hug.

Dante gave a sad little laugh. "Yeah, thanks Trace. You're always there to clean us up after battles, whether emotional or physical."

"No problem, kid," said Trace, even though Dante was older than her. "We've all lost something in this war. Some would say that the price of resistance is too steep, but those are the people who have lost faith. I've seen more death and destruction than some of you younger kids can imagine, but I still have faith that our losses will not be in vain. The One will return, and humans will triumph in the end."

Everyone nodded in agreement with her words and seemed to be lost in their own reflections of what they had lost for the cause.

"Regardless of whether or not the prophecy is true, we have no choice but to keep fighting," said Dante. "I know that I will not live to see the fall of the machines, but I have to continue. I promised Carrie that I would."

The crew settled back down to hear the rest of the story.

"I guess it started when I took on a project called Infinity for the government shortly after I found out that Carrie was pregnant. My company was contracted by the government to develop a program to trace and disrupt signals not hooked up to the mainframe. The idea was to trace and destroy the computer hook-ups of terrorist-hackers and prevent them from damaging the government's databases and programs. The government had run into problems developing an effective program and wanted fresh ideas. It was while working on the project that I first heard about the Matrix."

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More notes: Some of my characters seem kinda like cookie-cutter characters to me. What do you think? I've always been better at working with big picture and not very good with character development. I'm open to tips or help. I might be looking for a beta reader or just someone to bounce some ideas off occasionally. There are all these elements that I want to incorporate into my story, so it gets kind of confusing sometimes.