Life in Death,
disclaimer: the Matrix owns me.
Set between The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded.
"Loss reflects hope to gain,
the darkness leaves you jaded
progress is attached to pain,
but nightfall's almost faded..."
There was no morning in the real world.
That was the thought that had struck him hardest during his first sleep period onboard the Nebuchadnezzar. And it haunted him still. He wondered if day even existed anymore, if the scorched, lightning-ridden skies above the surface could ever be dissipated. So far they were from where he now lay, deep beneath the earth, trying and failing to get the rest his body was asking for... yet the image of them was burned upon his mind. Seeing is believing. He'd violently denied it even then.
Now that he knew, and doubt had no place anymore, the artificial nights on the Neb were still no easier to get through. If anything, they were harder. Longer. Awake, he sunk deeper into the troubling thoughts his oversaturated mind provided. Sleep was worse. His dreams had changed since his... resurrection? Was that the only appropriate term? He didn't like it. He wasn't divine - he was just another guy. Still, he couldn't deny what that moment had entailed. He had lost his life only to gain it back, with infinitely more. With Trinity. She, if nothing else, was constant. His only constant.
Yet it seemed that now, having defeated death, he couldn't stop dreaming about it. About how it felt, to be up against that wall, bullet after bullet choking the life from him, black entering his line of vision, sliding down
His awakenings were often laced with sweat, which only served to make him colder in the still cabin air. Pulling up the crude maroon blanket, he shifted closer to Trinity for warmth. He much preferred the deceptive, yet comforting dreams of being back on his bed in apartment 101; these had preoccupied his mind early after being unplugged... but at least now, he had Trinity. Back then, he'd had no one. The loneliness had been overwhelming. Part of what had worked his personal splinter closer to surface, no doubt.
As he listened to his breathing regulate, his heartbeat slowing to match Trinity's, he tried to think of only her - his sole clarity - and will the consciousness away
Morpheus looked up at the sound of a hatchdoor opening. Neo entered the messhall; he looked mildly surprised to see Morpheus sitting there. How many times does he come here off shift? Morpheus wondered. Looking upon Neo usually lifted his spirits; he was their hope, the silent promise of war's end, walking about his own ship. But now such optimism was mired by concern for the young man, who - though maintaining his sincere, honest demeanor - seemed to be isolating himself of late. And definitely not getting the sleep he desperately needed. What's troubling you, Neo? Morpheus left the question unvoiced. He knew how a reply would play out. Neo would attempt a half-smile, look down, shrug it off: "Nothing."
So instead, the captain merely nodded in greeting, setting down his mug of water.
"When do we broadcast?" Neo asked.
"Not for another four hours. There's time to kill." Morpheus eyed him. "Are you sure you can't use a couple of those hours to get some more rest?"
Neo shook his head and took a seat at the table. A pause. Then, "What do you do this early?"
Instigating conversation. That was rare. "I think," Morpheus replied.
"About everything. Anything that comes to mind. I like to organize my thoughts; I find it calming."
Neo's dark brown eyes stared back at the captain, trying to register what he'd said. He found dwelling on his own thoughts to be anything but calming. Morpheus seemed to perceive this, though he did not mention it. Many of his previous recruits had had the same problem, even months after being unplugged. Previous recruits... his chest tightened, as the images of Apoc, Switch, Mouse, Dozer, even Cypher flashed through his mind. Sometimes he would wake still expecting to see them at their usual positions.
Neo himself had died, mere hours later. But unlike the others, his position was not left unattended.
Morpheus wondered vaguely what that was like. To know exactly how dying felt.
This time it was Neo who turned at the rusty whine of the hatchdoor, from the opposite end of the messhall.
Tank's usually cheerful face was furrowed in worry. "Sir, you'd better come take a look at this."
Both stood to follow. "What is it?" asked Morpheus.
Neo had never seen another hovercraft before. It was strange. As he'd never been outside the Nebuchadnezzar he really didn't have a good idea of what one even looked like, so the large, circular, blue-lined electromagnetic panels and uneven hull of the Transient took him somewhat by surprise.
"They don't all look alike," Trinity told him. He had given up being startled by her sudden appearances. Had Tank woken her? Or had she simply, instinctively known something was up? It wouldn't be the first time. Either way, she now stood beside him and followed his gaze out into the murky bluegrey of the sewers, resting it upon the dead hovercraft, which was difficult to distinguish amongst similar metal refuse. "After awhile, you begin to tell them apart. The Logos is almost half the size of the Neb." She smiled. "But a lot faster."
Neo gave a nod, still staring out the cockpit window. "Is there anybody left down there?"
Her smile faded. "The ship's scanners don't pick up any signs of life." The ghost of a tremor ran through her body. Trinity was good at preventing such things from ever reaching her face. But Neo, standing shoulder to shoulder with her, felt it. He put his hand lightly on hers. "Did you know them?"
She shook her head, and was silent for a few heartbeats. "Somehow that makes it worse."
The ship shuddered, and Trinity recognized the dull hum of the ramp being lowered. Neo had never heard it before, but he guessed what it was well enough as he felt a draft of icy air, colder than anything he'd felt since the liquid of his pod, engulf him.
"Neo, Trinity." Morpheus appeared at the cockpit entrance, face grim. "Come. We're going inside."