AUTHOR'S NOTE

(Author's note's at the front this time. No reason...really...Skip to the little decoration if you don't feel like reading these...)

Whoo. Sorry for both the extremely long chapter and the extremely long wait--- my Internet was kaput and my father was downright SLOTHLIKE in fixing it. But you have the chapter the way I like it now, anyways. Before, I hated it. Less romance, less puppy-dog eyes, less blood. Now it's good. Not too OOC, I think. I'm going to write an author's note at the end as soon as I edit it, (so it's gonna be a few months) explaining where in the Matrix trilogy it was, why Trinity is the main character, the songs that made me think of it, the deliberate parallel to Reloaded (HINT) etc. etc. It's going to be extremely different, the story, actually--- much more in the chapters and crap. Tell me if you have any ideas. And I'm also thinking of writing a sequel. Milk the franchise and all that. Can you tell I like the plot?

So here are your damn reviewer shoutouts, anyways.

kathysidle I think a lot of us have cracked up at the uberdramatic Trinity parts in the movies, man. Especially the dying scene? The theater's silent, everyone sobbing quietly--- and my friend starts laughing her ass off. SO many angry stares. Yeah, I did that for a reason… you'll find why in my revised edition. Thanks for reviewing! And good luck with that disorder you got there….:D

bantSorry, I so did not write back soon….but YOU nearly figured out the ending, you lucky little fanboy/girl! Thanks. I pride myself on my unashamed cliffies.

MistyX Excellent! I have TRANQILITY! Up yours, Ritalin! (pumps fist triumphantly) And thanks for the comment--- my self-esteem skyrocketed. No, this is not an after-death fic, thank God, although I was contemplating it at one time I did not give in. It's…oh, screw it…in the six months between M1 and Reloaded. They were supposed to be in Zion by now, but got delayed while looking for her. There. I said it. Don't worry about confusing sentences, I get what you're saying. (Great minds think alike!) And I guess she did visit Neo? Even if he was STILL POSSIBLY A FIGMENT of her IMAGINATION, which also makes me sad but there's no way around it. This ending fell from the sky and I love it to death. So consider this chapter my explanation, incoherent as it may be. PS--You seem like an extremely good writer; have any tips on editing? Need….feedback….

SapphireNightYes….updating…quickly…(darty eyes) I took seriously your suggestion to write a sequel. And don't worry, it won't introduce philosophical Frenchmen and Will Ferrell with a beard. I hope. Thanks for all your reviews! I feel needed!

Cinn Thanks! (And I forget to review faithfully others' stories too…wicked me. 'S okay. )

eridani My only friend…the end….la la la….Beatles… (snaps out) Thank you, sir! Ma'am! Denizen of fandom! Hope you liked it.

sleeping awake: Trinity. In. Target. After I got done laughing, it occurred to me that it was scary enough to get into the story… And rest assured, there is no Trin-splat on the pavement outside the hospital. Neo would try to scrape her together, and we can't have his coat getting messy now can we? Ew. Anyways. Sorry--- the suspense really must have made you crazy…I'll send you to the institution and maybe Neo will come for you? Fingers crossed! Thanks so much for reviewing all these…

TrinityNeo6: Good, another Frank R. Stockton reader! I'm sure he's happy. Decaying…and happy. Glad you think it's cool, because I doubt it all the freaking time….Many thanks! PS—Are you on the Looking Glass forum? Or does someone have your name?

lilleoI like it too….And all reviews are helpful, don't sell yourself short. They buoy the author's interest and encourage carpal tunnel syndrome.

Destiny Chaser: Duality—good name for a character!! (writes frantically) Perhaps a Gemini-Anyhoo. Yeah, the dreams are always my favorite parts of this fic; I hate it when they're so realistic it's not funny. But--- what do you mean she's an adolescent?? I mean, I suppose she could be, you're the reader and you get to decide…But let me just say, the mad sex scene that's after this one would be a bit Y Tu Mama Tambien if she is---Just kidding. Another thing I hate. Poorly written erotic trysts. I hate to say it, but I'm horrible with symbolism and so there is like zilch in this story. Maybe it was subconscious for me, though, or something? I mean, sometimes random objects do mean something. But yes, I was thinking of the speedway when I wrote the car crash. That, and it was lifted DIRECTLY from something that happened to me this summer…psychotic horseback riding teacher, dark hair, new cell phone, near-miss with semi, Nithke buckles seat belt. Really. Scary, ain't it. (Thanks for all the commentary!!)

I&-&I

CHAPTER TEN

Awake

A cold wind blows through the room.

It seeps through the holes in her mint-green hospital pajamas, numbing the skin and carrying with it a faint smell of the city. Gasoline. Smoke. Even though the ground is several hundred feet away.

A cavalier monologue, she talks with bravado to ensure she will go through with it—

(Ow. I guess not all of the glass flew into the street with the table, since there seems to be some embedded in my left eyebrow…You really should bolt down your furniture and put grills on the window, Doctor. Irresponsible. If this isn't a simulation, my parents will probably sue your ass. At least they'll be rich after my body is scraped from the pavement…)

Was it ever this cold here? she wonders, still trying to figure out if the place she's at is real or a hoax as her bare bleeding feet step closer to the window. Blood all over her from shards of glass that didn't quite go out with the rest, instead blowing back at her, carried on this chilly wind. I remember it being warmer in October---

Well, stop thinking now, whatever your name is. We'll find out soon enough.

If this is the Matrix, I'll be on the next rooftop soon. If it's not, well, I'm dead. Which I guess won't be so bad, as it's either that or a life that I want to escape anyways.

She no longer cares about the darts of pain in her soles, just wants to get to the window before anyone can rush through the door. The six feet pass in slow motion. She punches out the remainder of the glass and steps onto the frame.

Looking downwards, her stomach flips with vertigo. It is a dead drop, a sheer cliff of brick and window. She knows that she is on the forty-first floor, but it hasn't struck her until now just how far four hundred and ten feet really is; how there is a straight line from her to the ground, and nothing is stopping her from hitting it---

Of course there's something stopping you. It isn't real. The only way it can hurt you is if you believe it can.

You know you have to do this, Adele. So go.

The soldier inside of her breaks her gaze from the ground and looks dispassionately ahead of her, calculating the distance to the rooftop across the street and twenty feet away. Not too many steps. Probably one back, a thrust. Then aim. Concentrate.

She takes a deep breath and focuses, shutting out all other thought.

This is it.

'Bend the limits… Remake it…

"It's only a simulation, Trinity. Hack the code."

Make it give you what you need.'

She takes the step back. The desperation, the familiar wanting-another-world-so-badly-that-she's-willing-to-die rises. She does not shake it off--- she will need strong emotion to manipulate the code that she cannot see but knows is there.

Trinity/Adele tenses her muscles for the jump----

but something, something, tells her to stop.

Wait. You're not ready. Just wait a minute and then go---She fights it for a nanosecond, then sighs and gives in, figuring one more pause won't hurt. Relaxing her muscles, she perches at the edge of the windowsill.And before she can stop herself, Trinity looks down again.

Her stomach plunges at the sight. Didn't I learn my lesson the first time? She swallows, glances up--- and does a double take.

Directly below her, a black car. Haphazardly parked, headlights running, its wheel on the curb.

Holy shit--- No. No, it's probably just an emergency. Someone's in labor or something. But the make looks so---

Then from the hallway, a nurse screams.

Adele jerks around, her bloody hair hitting her in the face. Stepping forward quickly, her foot lands on a piece of glass and flies out from under her. She lands with a thud on her back.

Her eyes closed in pain, she does not see who opens the door. But she hears a sound she recognizes.

Pistol fire.

When she opens them, a scene from her dreams---

Dr. Jacobsen flings open the door of her room. He has taken off his white coat and bared the brown suit that he wears underneath. A handgun is clenched in one fist as he fires into the hall, grimacing.

And someone is returning his fire.

IIIIIII

A blanket's harsh rasping fibers are the first thing she feels. Next is the shocking cold on the parts of her body still exposed, shoulders, ankles, arm; frigid chill against the slimy skin.

She retches red fluid onto whatever is below her as arms support her. Finally Trinity is eased back into someone's hold. He grips her gingerly, but at the edges she can feel him never wanting to let go.

The rough metallic world around them (though she dimly recognizes the room they are in) can wait, because the first thing she sees is his face. His eyes searching her body as if he can't believe she's really there, but as her own snap open he looks into them. Unsmiling, bated breath, waiting for her to say something---

Too many emotions flying through her now. This is too good. Too unexpected. A surprise present--- a wonderful awakening---

So brilliantly, she croaks, "I got it all over your pants, didn't I?"

Shouts of laughter surround them. As she looks around, the entire crew is there, their faces blurred with her baby's eye view. Only Morpheus stands out, for he kneels next to them, beaming.

Neo just stares at her, a grin finally blossoming on his face. He laughs once, as if it's something he hasn't done for a while, though his voice is choked.

"Yeah, well…Not like I haven't been covered in fluid before…" (Then so only she can hear: "Oh, God, Trin…")

The crowd laughs again before quieting, and this time she can hear the relief in their voices. She smiles wearily at him, then tries to ask.

"How did you find me?" the woman who is no longer Adele says hoarsely. "How did you look…"

"The phone call," says Morpheus. "The ten digits you dialed but didn't get to the ringtone on. The number came through at the last second on our equipment; it gave us an idea of where you were in the simulation. Without that we had no idea where they had you. So then we headed to the location of the call---"

Neo mutters, never looking away from her, "Breaking into a Perkins. We looked pretty stupid, I'd have to say." One corner of his mouth rises in a little sideways grin. She cannot say how much she loves him.

"Exactly," Morpheus claps him on the shoulder. "Nobody there could tell us anything about where you had been taken, only that you put up quite a fight. Nothing, no information at all. Even when the police showed up we couldn't get anything out of them."

"Of course, that might have been because they were firing at you---" Link stage-whispers from out of her range of vision.

Morpheus ignores the rumble of guffaws and continues. "So we had to hack our way into every database of every place you could be and search for an Adele Dubois. Even then, we weren't sure if they had you under a false name or not, but luckily we found the hospital and threatened our way in. They had Smith guarding you, unfortunately."

"I know," she rasps, her eyes closing briefly. "He was my psychiatrist."

"Really?" Neo says. "What did they…No. You don't have to tell us now ---"

"Was that why you were going to jump out the window?" Morpheus furrows his brow.

Trinity does not answer. What can she say, 'No, I'm sorry, I thought you all weren't real?'

Instead, she moves her free hand up to her forehead and feels for the deep gash from the glass. It is still there, deep and wet; her hand traverses up her scalp, searching for---

She stops as she feels something else.

Something damp, glued to her skull with the drying goop.

Pauses for a second, mind racing. Then yanks a section down and stares at it fixedly, its six-inch (yes, the way she'd cut it on the ship, but still) length.

Her hair floats around her in the tank---

"Jesus Christ," she breathes in a hiccupping voice. "This can't be a dream. This can't be---"

A worry line appears between Neo's eyes.

"Trinity," says Morpheus, "is a dreamer ever able to ask that without realizing the truth?" He smiles. "We're real. Welcome back to the Nebuchadnezzar."

"But---"

"They were in a hurry to get you in after they ambushed the ship, it seems. Not enough time to shave your head. I assure you, this is what we think of as the real world. You are here."

Neo nods assent. He grips her tighter, reassuring her without words. She tries to calm down. I'm just so used to thinking that way, second-guessing everything, that it's carried over. Yeah. That's it.

But once doubted, now the world is shaky again, sliding out from underneath…

Unbidden and uncalled for, the memory of Smith-the-shrink rises.

"My point, Adele, is how do you know what's real? Your senses are telling you that there is another world, because you have experienced it. But couldn't they be lying? Because if you're right, Adele, then that means that my senses are lying to me too. We're both hooked up to a machine somewhere telling us that what we see now is real--"

Oh no. Oh GOD.

The euphoria and relief disappear. The fatal question emerges.

I went insane once, could I do it again? Could I have made a fantasy just before I jumped?

She is aware that she is shaking uncontrollably. Gasping for breath, her chest rattles but she can't get air.

"Trin. Trin. What's wrong? What's happening?" Neo says intensely, desperately, staring into her face. She would think that his eyes are begging her for something, but she's too occupied with the question, the horrible terrible question.

"Shit--- oh shit, oh---" Her voice cracks and she breaks down. "Neo. Tell me this…how will I know when I'm in the real world?…Even when you're looking at me right here I can't tell. I can't and it scares me, I could before but I can't now---will I ever be able to? Will I?" She is desperate in her turn, a death grip on the arm of a man who might or might not really be there.

The crew is silent. She's not all right, they're thinking.

"They've brainwashed you. I was afraid of this…Whatever you're thinking, it's not real," Morpheus says firmly. "You're dehydrated. You'll think more clearly when we've got some fluids into you. Why don't you take her into the other---"

"But that's what I would want you to say!" she sobs inaudibly, her face rumpling. "Maybe I just went crazy again--I'm really Adele---My parents are staring at me talk to thin air right now ---"

"What's the bastard done to you?" Neo yells.

"Mom. Dad. I'm sorry for doing this… but I can't get loose from it, I can't escape it. Forget about me and move on," she says just in case, loudly, clearly enough for someone to hear. "I love you. And if I ever see you again, I'll make it up to you, really---"

"Trinity! Listen to me. I'm what's real! This---" He gestures wildly. "All this is real!"

"I don't want to let them take me in again---"

"Get her into sick bay!" Morpheus shouts. "Now!"

"Tell me the truth, just, please--- am I--- imagining you or are you---"

"I don't know," he says, attempting calm, desperately trying to help. "I don't know. ..But I'll, I'll stay by you while you figure it out."

(0)(0)

And so I have to ask you, which is it, then?

It's your choice. Not that it matters. But still.

Be careful now. The outcome of the story depends on which gets chosen---

God damn it…

So now, whoever you are,

is it the lady?

Or the tiger?

THE END

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