Title: Exile: The forgotten ones

Author: Elthial

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I do not own the matrix or any of its characters. The ATS universe is co-owned by Stormhawk and Overlord Mordax. The various characters you might recognise belong to their respective authors and I wont claim to own them except Nike who is mine. Also don't sue me because I don't have any money in the first place and it would be fairly pointless.

Author Notes: This is an ATS fic which uses ATS characters and the ATS timeline, this is the sequel to Exile: Program. ATS stands for Agents the series, which is our fan series, more information can be found at stormhawk2.hyperboards.

It is also strongly recommended that you read Exile: Evolution and Agents: between layers to fully understand the story. Anyway R&R people! Feedback is always helpful.

The Real world was a desolate wasteland devoid of all life, the ghosts of the past whispered their stories to the lifeless plains, few ever listened to their stories, fewer even existed in this dying world however she did. Nike listened to every voice, every song and fading echo that floated across the winds learning and remembering then adding her own song to the winds, its lamenting tune that promising to haunt you for the rest of your life.

Nike felt at kind amongst the tunnels and ruins, she liked to be in places that no one was meant to be in, forgotten places, this matrix was beyond comprehension. The side tunnels, the secrets, forgotten passageways, people and places, there was just so much to the world and Nike saw it all as a ghost, powerful but forgotten, unnoticed by all.

She was wandering through the war torn streets of what was once New York, its great skyscrapers now nothing more than hollowed out shells, rumble filled the streets and the streets themselves collapsed into the awe inspiring tunnel systems deep below the city.

Nike was doing something she truly loved doing, finding out the little stories, not the great wars and the great hero's, history would remember them but the small snippets of life, of the ordinary people. Small things such as a child's rag doll, loved but left behind in the middle of a train track, the great rents in the walls and bones of the dead indicating that they had been fleeing for their lives, a flight in which some had failed. Two huddled together skeletons in the ruins of a burnt out office told another story, a man and a women huddled together in there last moments of life before the fires consumed them, the charred bones the only witnesses to events which had transcribed centuries before.

The child who had left her doll behind all those years ago had survived, even in this desolate land she had grown, aged, had children of her own and died. It was upon her grave, a pile of rocks in Central Park that the beloved rag doll forgotten for so long was returned to its owner. Humanity was amazing sometimes in its ability to survive, overcome obstacles and adapt, Humanity was also horrifying at times too, one only had to look at its history to see the atrocities that spanned millennia and their own pride having destroyed the world.

Some might say that it didn't matter, that this was all merely a simulation but in Nikes eyes it was truth, humanity, life and existence had been perfectly represented in all of its horrifying glory on this system as Nikes own time in the 'True' world had shown her. Real didn't matter because what was real? "Reality is perception" was the philosophy that Nike subscribed to, if it felt real, seemed to be real then it was real.

Nike sighed as she effortlessly hopped over a chasm that had formed due to the collapse of a tunnel below the surface of the road, the laws of physics gave up and bent to her will. The distance between the two sides seeming to shrink to a few inches before expanding back to its original 15 ft allowing a move that should not have been possible especially in the 'Real' world. After that slight flexing of her metaphysical muscles Nike landed on the other side of the chasm and carried on walking down the rumble filled street in the shadow of previously awe inspiring buildings.

Wreckage of ancient hovercars lay around, some burnt out, some crushed from slabs of concrete fallen from the gigantic towers that flanked the street and rats scurried around between the rumble somehow surviving in a world that now had no sun. The thick rolling clouds rumbled overhead as always, dark and menacing they themselves were a fearsome sight and an everlasting reminder of humanities past mistakes.

As Nike walked past the great buildings black shadows leapt through the darkness with unnatural predatory grace, the shadowy predators danced and played in the darkness before disappearing deeper into the ruined city like the ghosts that legend described them as. Smiling at the rare passing of such secretive creatures and with the wind ruffling her short blue/black hair Nike walked on because time as they say waits for no man.

She wiped her damp eyes, wrapping her blanket closer around her and hugged her knees to her chest rocking back and forth as she shook with silent sobs, It hurt, after so many years it still hurt. Her people may exist in her dreams but every time she awoke she would face that momentary confusion of waking, thinking she was back home with her people still and safe before she would come to her sense and the reality of the situation would come crashing down on her.

Resting her chin against her knees, she just let the tears slip silently down her cheek, she hated the endless torment her own mind played on her, she hated this non existence and most of all she hated that bastard Jonas. Wiping her eyes again Sula pushed herself to her feet and began her daily wanders, she didn't know why she even bothered sometimes, alone for almost 300 hundred years watching the world fly her by, unable to change anything or even be noticed. It was enough to make anyone eternally depressed.

The tunnels of the real world seemed to fit her mood, the visible remnants of genocide almost soothing to her, there was nothing left of her world, no remnants of building, no corpses, nothing to make it real and nothing to tie in with the pain deep within her heart. That's why she spent time here, it was like a monument, a graveyard, a place of remembrance and mourning. The tunnels were all but abandoned and there probably wasn't another human soul for a hundred miles and even they would be scavengers living just to exist and survive day to day, no hopes and no dreams.

"I just want someone to know that I'm here." Sula said to the heavens for the millionth time "Is that so much to ask?"

The heavens remained as silent as always and Sula sighed, looking away, part of her glad for the small mercy that Jonas did not know she existed and could not torment her anymore. Sula made her way out into the desolate world outside of the tunnels, it was better than staying were she was and might help her to remain sane for long with something to do, to watch.

Nike could feel the despair of someone within the city, odd due to the deserted nature of the city, as she walked amongst the rubble-strewn streets of devastated New York. A deep lonely soulful depression that seemed to radiate through the walls, streets and rumble filling everything it touched with the same damning despair… 'alright…' Nike thought… 'that's the last time I have digestives' … they made her feel damn morbid.

Shaking off that thought and having little better to do, Nike reached out with her mind scanning the code that surrounded her catching the waves of code that were the depression and tracked it back to its source finding something very intriguing indeed. Her interest peaked Nike faded from existence with but a single thought, shifting through code as if it were but water a move which would have left startled eyes behind if anyone had been around to see it.

Sula was alone, a wraith that existed between the very layers of existence and although she could see and hear the worlds around her, nothing or no one would ever react back or notice her presence.

Sula could then understandably be forgiven for her startled yelp, stumble backwards and prompt tripping over as she looked up from her musings to find a pair of sympathetic brown eyes staring right at her. Learning against the side of the tunnel wall was a young woman with short blue black hair and sympathetic brown eyes, standing with quiet dignity and power, wearing clothes that definitely weren't rags.

Sula paused from were she lay sprawled across ground and looked suspiciously at the women who still seemed to be looking at her, centuries of disappointment had left their mark upon her and she was not in such a rush to be disappointed again. Sula waved her arms from one side to the other and then goggled in amazement as the brown eyes followed her arm and changed to having a bemused look twinkling in them.

"But… But… I…." Was about all that Sula could stutter out despite probably having imagined this moment in her mind a few billion times.

The young woman made no effort to move from her place at the wall and watched with dispassionate yet amused eyes at Sula.

Rallying herself Sula asked "Who...who are you?"

The blue/black hair woman stared for a moment more making Sula's heart drop before moving and replying quite simply "Nike"

"Nike…" Sula murmured the name back, still half in shock with a thousand thoughts running through her head.

Nike raised an eyebrow as she stood looking at her "Your different from all the others" she said with nonchalance patience, her voice neither a question nor a statement.

Sula's mind still racing with a thousands thoughts, tried desperately to grasp her meaning and failed miserably with a puzzled "different?" coming out.

"Your not part of the world, you are separate, your presence isn't recorded in the system registry… technically you shouldn't exist" Explained Nike calmly as if it was the most simple thing in the world.

"I noticed" Replied Sula bitterly from her place on the floor. "Believe me I noticed…"

Nike smiled sadly at the woman on the ground before her, stepping forward she offered her hand, Sula took a firm grip on Nike's hand, gaining reassurance that this was not a hallucination and that she had not lost her sanity yet.

Without another word Nike pulled Sula to her feet with no visible effort and then allowed Sula to regain her sense of balance and footing before looking her over and speaking again.

"Come walk with me Sula" she said before turning and talking slowly down the road.

Sula paused for a moment before following the strange blue/black hair woman down the road with one thought crossing her mind.

"Hey? How did you know my name?!"

Nike smiled as Sula broke into a jog to catch up with her, she walked with ease though the rumble and devastation that filled the filled the once great city around them while Sula struggled to move through the wreckage.

"I know a lot of things" Nike stated stepping around a large chunk of concrete "To me everything is laid out"

Nike looked across the skyline at the towering shells of ruined skyscrapers and at the chaotic, menacing clouds that rumbled eternally across the sky. She paused considering for a moment before continuing.

"Secrets reveal themselves to me, all I have to do is look" Nike said kneeling down to play with a small brown rat that was on some rumble by her feet.

Rats seemed to be one of the few creatures that could truly survive in this devastated world along with cockroaches and humanity, it almost told you something about mankind.

Sula ran Nikes almost cryptic explanation through her head several times before she managed to decipher Nike's meaning.

"Code… your talking about code?" Sula asked realisation coming to her "you can see into the code of things and understand it right away?"

At Nike's nod, Sula let out a heavy sigh "Where the hell did you come from?"

"Outside" was the maddeningly simple reply from Nike

"Outside where??" Asked Sula irritated

"Outside all of this, outside of Jonas system from the "true" world out there" Nike explained patiently taking no offence in Sula's irritability.

"oh… I see" Said Sula her mind running over the implications of Nike being from beyond Jonas's system, it was obvious that if Nike wasn't created by Jonas to exist inside the matrix then she would probably process the ability to manipulate and control the system to a powerful extent. There was the possibility that Nike wielded more power than Jonas and could potentially help her from this lonely prison of hers. "I see"

"You said that twice" Nike pointed out

"I know" answered Sula playing with a strand of her golden hair nervously "I was thinking"

"About?" Asked Nike picking up the rat in her hands and stood up.

Sula wrinkled her nose in disgust "You know that's not exactly hygienic" She said point to the rat.

"It can be, all it takes is a simple tweak of the code" Nike said tweaking the code of the rat changing its colour from brown to red to purple.

"Interesting" Murmured Sula as she raised an eyebrow at the multicoloured rat.

Nike grinned "I name you Neon, the one true savoir of ratkind… Now go forth!" Nike declared putting the now purple rat on the ground and letting it go, chuckling at some internal joke.

Sula watched the rat scuttle through the rumble before disappearing from their vision and was silent for a long while. "Nike?" She asked almost timidly.

"No, I can't help you" Replied Nike sadly to Sula's yet unspoken question of could she help her.

"Why not?" Sula asked despairingly

"It would require changing your program to make you compatible with the current programming, there is no guaranty that you would still be you afterwards" Nike said carefully "The spark of life is a very delicate thing, change it too much and it just goes out"

Sula looked down depressed, she would not like to exist as little more than a lifeless zombie does but she had hoped that Nike could have at least helped her to an extent.

"Lets go somewhere more comfortable" suggested Nike gently

They appeared within New York City in the matrix or perhaps appeared is the wrong word, for although the two ladies had arrived no one in the street could have truly have said to have notice their presence. They walked and moved through the crowds like wraiths, the crowds parting around them to allow them passage unconsciously although none knew why they did it, Sula was enjoying the novel experience of walking down a busy main street without someone walking through her every 2 minutes.

The New York City of the matrix was starkly different from that of the real world, were the real world city was one of ruin, death and destruction, the matrix city was one of life, activity and thousands of people just going about their lives. Nothing out of the ordinary if one ignored the shadowy places on the edge of existence were the more incredible inhabitants of this world lurked however even in a crowd you didn't have to look far to find them.

Nike lead Sula up through a almost unnoticed door and up a pair of stairs until they emerged into a small café in the centre of the city, the windows looked down on the street a floor below and at the people milling about doing their own thing. A young girl with long black hair and wing tattoo's down her arms was the only other customer in the small café, the single member of staff a man who stood behind the counter with short orange hair and a name tag which identified him as "bob".

Sitting down at a corner table near the window the two remained unnoticed, "bob" came to the table with two cups of tea although having absolutely no idea which didn't matter as the memory of the incident faded from his consciousness moments later.

"So…" Sula began after the two had a sip of tea.

"Tell me about yourself" Said Nike

Sula crossed her arms across her chest feeling a bit exposed "Cant you look and just tell?" She asked with a hint of bitterness

"I could but would you rather me do so?" Asked Nike "I think stories are better told then read"

Sula took a deep breath before starting "Well I was born into a perfect world, we were a simple people just working to tend the crops, fishing and simple everyday tasks. We didn't have much in the way of technology just enough to meet our needs, to harvest the crops, build houses and to cover the day to day tasks."

Sula sighed and took another sip of her tea, looking down at the people milling about in the street below. "For a time things were good, in our free time we were dancers and artists, I can remember this charming young poet from the next village who used to send me love poetry saying my hair was like spun gold and eyes like sapphires. It was like paradise…" She said sadly reminiscing

"What happened then?" Asked Nike sympathetically

Sula's eyes darkened "Then Jonas happened" she all but spat.

"Jonas?" Asked Nike not recognising the name

"You don't know about Jonas?" Asked Sula surprised "He's the one who controls everything from the world outside"

Nike nodded thoughtfully "So he is the systems administrator"

"Yes" Sula said bitterly and with hatred "He pulled me out one day, I'll never forget that day, it's like a bad dream that hasn't ended and just carries on. It's a haze what he said to me, all I can remember is the sinking feeling in my heart and the sound of the world crashing down around me. I can remember… I can remember him saying that he was tired of my world, that he was going to end it all by the end of the week and then laughing as he sent me back."

Nike looked at the young woman with pity as Sula wiped her eyes of tears before continuing.

"You're view of the world changes dramatically after something like that, how do you cope knowing the world, your life and existence is all one big lie? I didn't even understand the principle of a lie, our lives were perfect, there was no reason for lies and worse than that was the knowledge the world was ending."

"I don't know for how long I stood there in just pure shock, the next thing I can remember is my mother shaking me and calling my name and I just collapsed into her arms crying. Over the following week I tried to enjoy the little time we had left with one another before the end, to pretend I didn't know that it was coming but his words kept coming back to haunt me, plaguing my thoughts and dream. "

"And then like he said, it happened at midnight on the last day, everything blurred for one horrible moment making reality warp in the most agonising way ever, I took cold comfort that my loved ones were asleep when the end came. I remember what felt like my soul being torn at and I can remember fighting against it, somehow instinctively knowing it was Jonas and somehow… somehow I survived." Sula chuckled bitterly "If you could call that surviving perhaps"

She sighed "And then I ended up as I am, trapped between realities never able to touch or talk to anyone, I sat and watched as the world flew me by. Over time I noticed the faces of my people I once knew being worn by other people, Jonas had "Recycled" them into new characters as he said, my mother, my sister and even the boy I played with as a child were now someone else. I cant explain the emotions that went through me when I saw this, it was like sacrilege, like dishonouring the dead and these people were like imperfect zombies or ghosts of the past."

Sula clenched her fists "I don't think I've ever truly hated anyone the way I hate Jonas, he took everything that was knew, loved and cared for and twisted, warped and destroyed it. Because of him I have been alone for more than 200 hundred years until now you have come." Said Sula, the anger in her voice changing to relief as she looked at Nike.

Nike was silent for a moment or two after Sula's tale. "Fate is a cruel thing, truth even more so"

"You believe in fate?" Asked Sula curiously

"I do not" Answered Nike

Sula was silent for a moment, looking down at the table silently contemplating

Jonas wandered into the lab with his morning cup of coffee and paper, putting his cup down on the table he sat at his chair and browsed through the paper, it was the usual news stuff, wars, murders and scandals. 'It never changes' through Jonas as he took a sip of his coffee, he was pleasantly surprised when he read that AlphaCores had announced that their Artificial intelligence program had suffered a major setback when their computer systems were destroyed by the Revelation virus several weeks ago.

The resulting drop in AlphaCores stock price had made Jonaslabs seem stronger and had resulted in Jonaslabs stock prices rising quite considerably, needless to say Jonas was in a fairly good mood as he sat at his main terminal in his lab sipping his coffee. Carol was even being well behaved, she usually was quite a nuisance although she was quite pleasing to both eye and body and willingly did everything he said, she always managed to do something behind his back becoming quite sneaky at times…still that was what made her fun.

His appreciation of her dropped slightly when he had received his monthly credit card bill, he had not know it was humanly possible for an individual to spend that much money. However as he constantly reminded Carol, she was not human and it appeared that she had the secret ambition to bankrupt him.

After receiving a credit card bill the length of his arm, he had put firm limitations in both on his credit card and on Carol's own programming that she was not to spend more than a reasonable amount of money.

Carol had complained originally that his credit limitation were set too low, after much pouting and whispered promises she had however managed to gain a significantly larger amount of spending money although nowhere near enough to bankrupt him.

Taking another sip of his coffee Jonas ran his checklist through his head once again, modifications had to be made to the secondary protocols of the system to avoid a possible conflict error between the protocols and the operating system's memory management system. He also had to defrag the entire system as the files were becoming fragmented which lead to an increase search time and inefficient file allocation.

All potentially very boring and uninteresting work but with his spirits high from the collapse of AlphaCore's share price and the sharp increase in his own shares he was willing to do a normal tedious job. Accessing a monitoring program he had written his self, Jonas ran a full systems diagnostic checking that the program stability was still at its peak, an unforeseen error while upgrading protocols could be catastrophic, resulting in the system crashing and data lose.

The chances of that happening were so incredibly slim that it was almost astronomical to calculate but Jonas had not reached his current position by taking unnecessary risks and so waited patiently for the diagnostic report to return. A few minor anomalies showed their presence in the report, easily overlooked and forgotten as they affected none critical parts of the system however Jonas was already bringing up the highlighted files and accessing them to locate the source of the anomalies.

The files revealed that someone had modified them, he certainly had no memory of doing so and no one besides himself and Carol had access to the system. He didn't entirely trust his assistants anymore and restricted their access to key parts of the building including access terminals to the matrix system.

Carol also couldn't have modified the system without him knowing, it was literally physically impossible for her to do so after he had performed some minor "tweaking" of her configuration files.

Frowning Jonas checked the gateway logs, if it turned out to be some delinquent hacker then he would just have to him eliminated as permanently as possible. Unfortunately the logs showed that the system was still secure and nothing had broken through the firewalls leaving only one possible conclusion, that a program on the inside had somehow gained access to the system commands and was able to manipulate the entire system.

This was not a particularly good thing, Jonas did not want some renegade program messing with his research, manipulating his files and altering all his work. So with a suitably pissed off mood he called up a trace program to locate the program responsible for the anomalies.

Irregular shifts in the code caught her attention first, focusing some of her concentration on the source of the irregularities Nike discovered the origins of the shifts, they were caused by a tracer program that was searching for unwelcome programs with the ability to manipulate the system.

Unwelcome programs such as herself and Sula, they both had the required traits searched for by tracer and while Nike herself could take care of herself from a royal bastard such as Jonas, Sula had no such protection and was near powerless in the world which she existed.

Nike hmmm'd thoughtfully as she considered her next course of action, she could easily hid herself from Jonas's scan but Sula would have no such luxury and would be powerless to protect herself. Sula had suffered enough in her life and didn't deserve to have her life end now … so instead Nike would show herself to Jonas… and besides it might be interesting to go against Jonas.

"What?" Asked Sula looking up from her place on the other side of the table.

"Someone is searching for us, someone from the outside" Nike answered, feeling revelation stir within her even from the potential chance to cause chaos.

"Jonas…" Sula said with some dread, the poor girl was almost trembling.

"Most likely" Replied Nike cheerfully, her attitude perking up "You'd best hide"

"What are you going to do?" asked Sula half in fear, half in concern for Nike.

"I'm going to introduce myself…." Nike answered with a smirk, her eyes glinting that dangerous, dangerous red.

Jonas sat at his terminal waiting patiently for the tracer program to bring up any anomalous programs which fitted the search parameters, sipping his coffee Jonas considered his next course of action, the sooner he disposed of this unwanted program the sooner he could get back to his normal work. Jonas's mood was starting to dampen slightly from the discovery of the renegade program but things were only going to get worse.

The monitor in front of Jonas flickered twice causing him to frown before the tracer program and the desktop behind it disappeared, the screen becoming blank before the image of a girl with short boyishly cut blue/black hair appeared on the screen.

"Hiya" The girl greeted cheerfully, not improving Jonas's mood one inch

Jonas looked at the monitor startled, this even in his line of work was not a usual occurrence "Who the hell are you?"

"I would be whom your looking for" The girl answered "The name is Nike"

Jonas raised his eyebrows "Really?"

"Oh yes… any particular reason you want me? My charming company?" Nike asked calmly if slightly sarcastically

"I'm going to delete you" Jonas stated coldly, hoping that would terrify the program and give him the upper hand.

"Oh… but cant you just leave me be?" Nike asked quite reasonably and watched with growing amusement as Jonas turned red with anger, the security cameras in the room not missing a detail.

"I cant just allow a virus to run rampant on my system" Growled Jonas at Nike practically spitting at the screen, this was almost a matter of honour for him as a programmer.

"Then we find ourselves in quite a predicament" Declared Nike unblinking

"I could just delete you" Stated Jonas trying to calm himself down, it wasn't worth losing his temper over a piece of code.

"You really wouldn't want to do that" Nike informed him

"And why is that?" Sneered Jonas nastily

"This is my world" Nike answered coolly "and in here, we play by my rules"

"Is that a threat?" Scowled Jonas not liking being threatened by a mere program

"You try to delete me and I swear before the command goes through I will destroy everything" Vowed Nike, eyes now that dangerous menacing red.

The screen flickered back to the system display as Jonas watched Nike tweak, corrupted and destroy several folders of his work but what truly struck fear into his heart was the code that twisted, warped and corrupted everything it touched. Like any programmer worth his two cents Jonas could recognise the unique and deadly distinctive code of the revelation virus, possibly the most advance and destructive computer virus that mankind had ever invented, it was considered a grim reaper as any system infected with it was doomed to die.

The screen flickered once more and Nike returned eyes red with mischievous amusement

"What do you want?" Asked Jonas slightly fearfully realising that she had a trump card over him and worried that there was now a very real possibility that he might lose his life's work

"Its simple, you ignore me and leave me be and I'll leave you be" Said Nike's voice echoing from the speakers "Then everyone is happy"

Jonas mumbled mutinously under his breath for several moments before replying "Alright program but I had better not regret this"

"We'll just have to wait and see wont we?" Nike all but purred before disappearing

Jonas sighed as he saw the monitor in front of him return to its normal state, his day had just gone to hell and what on earth was he going to do now with the revelation virus on his system. It was obvious that the revelation virus was somehow a part of that Nike program and being controlled by it but that went against everything he knew of the virus, its primary objective being to destroy everything it touched.

There was little he was able to do, he was unsure of how the program would react if he tried to search it out again and was unwilling to risk the chance it would react negatively. Jonas had a feeling it had been on the system for a while and if that was true then it had most likely imbedded itself in several of the operating system's files making it near impossible to remove easily.

Jonas frowned thoughtfully, his system had been having a constant glitch which showed up every now and again, he had originally thought it due to some incorrect coding he had added in somewhere. Now it came to him that it had most likely been the virus program doing what it shouldn't have, modifying operating system files while the system was running which would have caused the glitches.

Drink the last of his coffee Jonas scowled at his computer and in a fit of anger picked up the monitor and threw it against the wall, watching in satisfaction as the thing smashed to pieces. He knew it was petty but he disliked being bested especially by a piece of coding and he'd now have to buy a new monitor although that didn't matter too much since he wasn't exactly lacking in money. Carol would probably have spent more today then one of those monitors cost anyway but he guessed it was the principle of the matter.

'Damned bitch virus' thought Jonas with his day at work ruined he decided to spend the day at home. He pondered briefly if Carol would be home as he grabbed his coat maybe he would treat her and go out for a meal or something. With a vague plan of what to do next in his mind Jonas stormed out of the lab, it was one of the great things about being the boss… you could do what you pleased.

Storm clouds rumbled as lightning arched through them, the eternally black clouds threatening rain yet non-ever fell however the clouds also never broke and the light of day never hit the ground. The ruined landscape below was cast into a permanent darkness casting eerie shadows through the half darkness and watching over the city, eerie shadows and all sat the two women.

The wind gently ruffled Nikes short blue/black hair and blew Sula's golden hair as they both sat on atop of a ruined tower observing the dead city below them, it seemed to be one of Nikes favourite places to stop and just think or relax. Quite odd that she would find a place like the war torn real world peaceful but Sula had learned of Nike duality of nature, of the destructive persona that lay just underneath, it scared her but it was a part of Nike and therefore something she would have to accept.

At times like this Nike seemed so at peace and calm, Sula didn't quite know whether to thank Nike for saving her life from Jonas or not but she was truly gratefully that Nike had shown herself rather than leaving Sula to fend for herself. Sula wasn't quite sure if she would have managed if she had been in Nike's situation, now always having to keep an eye out on Jonas at all times but Nike seemed to take it calmly and easily. Nike was unlike any of the others in the system, she was so calm, almost inhumanly so at times but she had once told Sula that keeping an permanent eye on Jonas and the outside world just took but a small flicker of her consciousness.

Nike with eyes closed put her flute to her lips and played a melody distracted Sula from her thoughts, the song was haunting, though neither sad nor happy it captured the mind, soul and imagination. Suddenly having the desire to join in Sula bemoaned her lack of her lute, the instrument she had once played so long, long ago and the her unfamiliarity with the tune. Her eyes widened as a lute appeared in her lap, the very same one she had once long ago and she looked up at Nike who opened her eyes and winked at Sula before returning her attention to her song.

Sula strummed the lute a few times getting used to the instrument that she had not played in almost 300 years, instincts and tunes filled her mind as she held the lute she had once made herself by hand. She joined in with Nike's tune somehow knowing exactly what notes to play and as their song twisted and twinned through the air, Sula realised she was no longer alone.