Hello all! Yet another fic by SapphireNight, but with this one, I'm adapting a more serious style. This story is about bullying, it is based on events I and other people have been through, and I hope that you will appreciate the story that I have set out. Although there is only brief mentions of bullying in this chapter, the next ones will be set in the midst of it, and I hope to be sending the full message of what I hope to achieve.

Thanks to everyone who has helped me write this, including my beta reader, AmbrosiaBunny, and Angel-Of-Lightness, who came up with the names of Phoenix and Match.

As always, I don't own the Matrix characters, nor are the situations exact replicas of anything I or anyone else went through. It is all fiction, nothing more, nothing less.

I am doing this as part of a project on bullying, and would appreciate it if if you have been bullied, or still are being bullied, you contact me. I'd be very grateful, and I will keep everything private. If you want to talk or ask for help, I will try my best. Thank you.

Victoria sat in front of her computer in the dead of night, a dumbfounded expression on her face. Taking up all of the space on the computer monitor was a single email, expanded to fill the entire screen.

To: Vicky computer-whiz


Subject: Question


You have been trying to find the answer for a long time. Now we are ready for you to see the truth, providing you are ready. If you want to know the truth, be at the Adam Street Bridge at 2:00am tonight.

Are you ready to leave everything and everyone behind?

Vicky had been waiting for such a sign for such a long time now, the message had come as a complete shock. The problem was, she didn't know if she was ready. Ready to leave everyone behind, including her best and only friend.

As she thought about the subject, her hand came up subconsciously to rub her arm, where underneath lay a vivid bruise. She wasn't exactly the most popular girl in school, and she knew she would never be, but at least she had a friend. Just one, her best friend, Natalie.

Vicky had pretty much always been bullied throughout her entire school life, just like Natalie. It had actually been when Vicky had tried to confront and stop a bully beating Natalie the first week of school that they had made friends. They had now developed a strong bond between the two of them, standing up for each other, and helping the other all the time now. Vicky would gladly give up being tormented and bullied for a new type of life knowing the 'truth', but she did not know if she could leave Natalie to fend for herself alone, nor if she could cope with the guilt she would have if she did.

Early on, she had hoped to get Natalie to join her in her quest for the 'truth', by getting her interested in the sort of things that drew her to the search: hacking, and the questioning of reality. Whilst the latter had come pretty easily through her treatment at school, including to and from it, the former had been harder.

Although Natalie had accepted Vicky tutoring her about computers, she had been quite unsure and reluctant about the hacking part. Natalie had found out quite a long time ago about her friend's hacking tendencies, and whilst she did not exactly approve of them, she had no intention of telling anyone about them, nor to stop her from doing them. She accepted that that's what Vicky did, and didn't interfere. At first, Vicky had been very grateful for this. Now, however, she just wished her best and only friend would be able to come with her. She knew that that could not be possible anymore.

Vicky closed down the laptop and slid the object off her lap onto the bed. She quickly grabbed her pen and some paper, placing them on top of the computer and began to write. After about ten minutes of thoughtful writing, she slid the letter under the lid of the laptop, and then safely stowed it in its carrying bag. Carrying nothing more than the bag and her coat, she headed for the door of her bedroom and out of the small apartment her parents owned.

Walking out onto the dark, solitary street, her pace quickened as she navigated her way to her best friend's house. As carefully as she could, she slid the rusted garden gate open, and crept across the lawn to one of the side windows. Bending down, she picked out a fairly large stone from beneath the hedge, and tucked it into her pocket. Fiddling with the strap fastening on her bag for a couple of seconds, Vicky lengthened the laptop bag so it comfortably lay under her arm with the strap slung across her body.

Glancing up a couple of times at the great tree that overshadowed a large portion of the house, she gripped a low, strong bough and climbed up onto it, so she was perfectly balenced. She then moved her way up along the bough until she was a short distance from the building, sitting comfortably. Getting her balance and positioning, she leaned across to the window, where a few metres away, her best friend slept. Taking a deep breath, she softly knocked on the pane, hoping to God that it woke Natalie up, and not her parents or brother. After a few more attempts of careful persuasion, Vicky managed to get Natalie awake and to the window.

Still praying that her luck would hold out, Vicky started explaining to Natalie in a hurried whisper, exactly why she was there, and that Natalie would not just forget everything in the morning.

"Natalie, I'm sorry to have to come round to you like this, but there's been a problem. I'm in deep shit, Natalie, deep shit. I need your help. You'll find out about it tomorrow, but for now I just need you to take this. Here, it's yours now. Here!"

Vicky steadied herself with one arm on the window frame, whilst she used the other to lift up and move the strap so the laptop bag was swaying in mid air from her hand. Natalie reached out and grabbed it, and brought it safely inside to her bedroom.

As she tried to unzip the bag, Vicky quickly called out and stopped her. "No, don't look now. Not tonight. You need to get back to sleep, I'm sorry, but you'll need it. Just don't let yourself slip and fall, like a stone to the ground. Just remember, I'm your best friend, you know nothing of what I do with this," Vicky whispered, pointing to the laptop bag in her friends arms.

"Don't bring it to school, it will be noticed, and don't leave it out. You will need it. I have all of my records for everything on there, including everything I've shown you, so you cant let it get into wrong hands. Learn, that all you can do now.

"You'll probably think this is a dream tomorrow, but don't, remember. Just keep it, and make sure you don't fall. I'm sorry, I really have to go. Get back into bed and go to sleep, but don't forget to keep this safe. Good night, and good luck, I wish everything goes okay for you."

As Vicky steadied herself on the bough, she saw her best friend for the last time retreat from the window and into her bed again, and Vicky felt a desperate twinge of guilt pull at her. She sat silently on the bough with her chin on her arms, before she remembered the stone in her pocket. Withdrawing the stone, she palmed it, and leaned across to the window where she carefully placed the small object on the window frame, in way of the closed pane. Retreating to the trunk of the tree, she climbed down, and silently said goodbye to her last, truly best friend.

Moving once more to the shadows of the looming darkness, Vicky made her way through more enshrouded roads until she came to the old and distinctive bridge. It was a crisp and silent night, yet her senses were heightened for any fleeting danger.

Her pupils suddenly dilated as she involuntarily gave a step back under the bridge, and a few seconds later, a sleek black car came creeping down under it. The door was thrown open to reveal a dark skinned man in a leather coat, motioning for Vicky to follow her inside. After a moment's hesitation, she did so. Closing the door, the car began to move off again, this time leaving a hollow feeling inside Vicky's stomach. She had just entered a strangers car, with a dark man in a long leather coat, a strange and quite frankly, frightening grin on his face. Just as she was about to call out, or try and find the door handle, a voice from the front passenger seat stopped her.

"Don't be afraid, we're not going to harm you. You are the one seeking the truth, and you are about to find it." The woman shifted her position, and Vicky could see her more clearly. Dark, chocolate coloured skin, rich leather coat and lose wavy hair. She looked to be in her early twenties, yet the only source of light- the street lights did not convey that much.

With a little sigh at her guest's awkwardness, she twisted round and held out a hand to the young lady.

"My name is Niobe. That there is Morpheus, and the driver is called Match", the woman said, motioning to the man across from Vicky and then the driver, whom she couldn't see clearly.

"We are going to take you to see Phoenix. Are you ready, Illusra? Ready to leave everything behind, and learn the truth behind the illusion?"