Title: Kindergarten

Author: trinchardin

Summary: What if the characters of the Matrix went to kindergarten together?

Categories: AU/Humor

Author's Notes: This is -seriously- overdue and for that, I offer my humble apologies. Thank you to those who've e-mailed me to offer ideas, reviews, and encouragement. I couldn't have posted this final chapter without you. The main reason for drawing things to a close sooner than originally planned is that I've lost interest in this series, and I think it's unfair to you readers to drag things any longer with substandard work and erratic updates. This ending been on my mind for some time, and it gets heavier towards the last part. Hope you like it all the same. Everything that has a beginning has an end. [Check out the Construct! ]

Disclaimer: I don't own the Matrix concept or anyone/anything in it.



Chapter 18 - End of the Line

The rest of the week plodded placidly along with little incident. Having renovated the old classroom, the joint sections moved back in though they had to sit on the floor until new chairs came. Line formation was done, but Teacher Rama had been called to the principal's office, leaving his young charges alone.

Neo played idly with the new carpet of the naptime corner, face pressed against the soft green plush as he lay sprawled. Not far from him, Trinity and Niobe played with some puzzles. In stark contrast to their quiet, the other boys waged a mock battle of paper airplanes from behind opposing fortresses of wooden building blocks and sleeping bag barracks.

On one side, West, Hamann, and Locke argued battle strategy, while Morpheus ignored them and led his troops of Ghost, Link, and Sparks. At the other, Mero sat on his toybox throne with a bored Perse at his side. They were flanked by One and Two who were enthusiastically putting their air kungfu moves to use on an enemy several feet away. Their "army" was just as divided with warlord Smith snapping out orders that Jones, Brown, and Bane made haste to follow, and J&J were just as quick to countermand.

Just when it seemed like doomsday had come early, Teacher Rama walked in with a smile and an announcement.

"I am very happy to say that our field trip can continue as planned, since you've all submitted your permission slips." Rama waved the pieces of paper in his hand. "So, come on, class. Get you bags and let's go."

The man herded them out of the classroom and into the school courtyard. At the gate was an idling yellow school bus. They'd barely settled into their seats when the vehicle lurched forward and sped at a break-neck pace, only to screech to a stop in front of a train station. They went down a set of steps and past the turnstiles to step onto cool cream tiles. Advertisements were the only adornments in the bland pristine space. Fluroscent lights gave a harsh glow to the place, a sharp contrast to the darkness beyond the sudden drop of the platform. One had to squint to see the train tracks. The tunnel that stretched across was empty and silent, not even the whistle of the train they'd come to ride. The teacher himself seemed slightly on edge.

Then, without warning, the silver bullet zoomed out from one end as large as life. It hissed to a stop in front of them and metal doors parted to reveal a grinning man in serious need of a dentist. His clothes were thread-bare and reeking of old moldy cheese, but a dark blue cap was set on his head at a jaunty angle with a shining brass sign that read...

"Are you our conductor?" Mero asked dubiously.

"Can't you read, young sir?" The man said, leaning down to face him with a leer. Gnarled fingers tapped at the brass plate.

"It says 'trainman'," the boy haughtily retorted.

"Trainman, rainman," was the snorted reply. "Same thing. Prissy as ever." The last was muttered under his breath in disgust.

Then, the tall, lanky figure eyed the other children sharply.

"Well, what are you waiting for, li'l tykes? I don't have all day! All aboard!" He shouted raspily, spitting out a glob of phlegm before turning on his heel and back onto the train.

Perse wrinkled her nose. But, nonetheless, she let Mero help her over the gap. The other children followed suit, their teacher behind them. The doors snapped shut immediately after, making Rama jump and the Trainman chortle.

"Sit tight, kiddies." He smiled unpleasantly. "You're in for one hell of a ride."

With that last, he disappeared into the front part of the train. The children didn't even have time to sit this time. The steel snake rattled forward into the darkness. The lights on the ceiling were the same stark white of the station, but it seemed like a dim flame in comparison to their surroundings.

After what seemed like hours, the train started to slow and their conductor returned with a smirk at their green faces.

"We should be nearing our destination in a few minutes. ...Ah, see. Almost there," he said as a flash of light lit the darkness.

Another forked its way, higher and farther away this time. Gathering near the windows, the children realized they were in an open-air place. But, what surrounded them was a great expanse of scorched earth. It was lightning that lit up the sky at sporadic intervals. At some distance from them, they could see pillars that disappeared into the omnious clouds. Orange spheres lit them up in grotesque parody of Christmas lights.

The temperature in the train seemed to drop. Shivering, Smith pulled his dark blazer tighter around himself. As he did, he caught sight of his hand and for a moment, he thought green digits danced along his fingers. But, the Trainman was talking again.

"That's the Plant," he was saying. "Powers up the entire system."

A flash of lightning made his eyes gleam as he turned to look down on them with an unsettling grin.

"But, where are we going?" Morpheus asked softly.

"To where little boys and girls are made, of course." The man's smile widened, just as the train came to a stop.

"Let's see what choice you'll make this time around, Neo," he said to himself as the children shuffled out.

But, before the doors closed, Rama-Kandra looked back.

"You will remind your master of my proposal?"

At his careless nod, the other smiled tensely and left.

When the doors finally slid shut, the Trainman could sense the separation of the systems manager program from its charges. Then, the screened data was compressed and zipped through the proper channels, all in anticipation of another system re-boot. The train hurtled forward underneath his feet, headed farther ahead than his previous pick-up - into the Matrix itself.

The Merovingian was waiting.

The Architect took a key and opened the second door in Principal Archie's office. He shut it behind himself and smiled as he entered the center of his domain. TV screens lined the walls and there was his desk. He took a seat, leaned back, checked his watch. In just a few seconds, the 5th version would walk in.



"Hello, Neo."