Disclaimer: If you recognize it, it's not mine.

Chapter 21

It was almost impossible for anyone to recognize the signs of young love brought asunder simply by looking at Nysa. For one, the entire crew of the Neb was suffering from a severe strain of melancholia. All were affected by Olivia's death, the suddenness and terror of the event itself as well as the chore of simply trying to move on and live without her. But more than that, the crew was faced with being thrown into a war yet again. When in Zion they took part in the waiting game that all citizens seemed to participate in, wherein everyone simply waits for the other shoe to drop and violence to erupt. When away, then, time was spent worrying about loved ones back home while desperately trying to concentrate on the task at hand. The jobs of those aboard the Neb had become increasingly perilous as of late with threats of sabotage following them even outside of Zion's dock and more documented agent activity than there had been in 17 years. This was the other reason why no one took notice of the sulky ways of Nysa, a young girl distraught over what she thought was true love.

Of course she did not spend all her time thinking of Styx, very little of it, in fact. Because of the increased dangers inside the Matrix, it was not possible to send only one or two people in at a time. Instead as many as could go at once would so as to provide extra support on the inside. This left the ship short staffed, forcing Nysa into the role of operator. She no longer simply helped Link monitor the screens, but worked with him in a fully licensed capacity, even she was not technically fully licensed. And so she was precluded from spending too much time moping as duty was all too often calling.

As expected the first foray into the Matrix served the primary purpose of locating the Oracle, a task, which seemed unusually simple when compared to the last visit. Nysa watched as her father disappeared from the screen, remembering the last time she saw that happen, and wondering how she could recall something that happened in a life she no longer even knew.

"First you wait six years. Now it's more than ten." The old woman slowly lowered herself onto the kitchen chair. "Our visits seem to be getting fewer and further between." She shifted her weight with a slight groan, the wood of the chair creaking beneath her. "You don't look so hot."

"I was told to come and see you."

"Really? By whom?"

"You don't already know? I thought you knew everything," Neo said snidely, his unmoving gaze digging into her.

"Why don't you just tell me what this is all about, kid."

"That's just it. My kid."

"Ah, yes, she must be lovely now. How old? Sixteen?" Neo did not answer, he simply stood, looming over the woman, partially blocking the light so that she was encased in shadow. "Do you remember what I said to you the first time we met?" she asked after a painfully long pause.

"You said I was not the One."

"And you believed me. Until you came to another conclusion on your own." She got up and moved to the window, looked out at the park, watched as two children ran circles around each other in the rain. "Children are an extension of ourselves. Even here, where biology doesn't play a role, they're still a part of their parents."

"Or so the programs would have them believe."

She turned back around to face him, her eyes suddenly carrying a somber expression. "I can't tell you what you want to hear. I only know bits and pieces, but I know I can't give you what you want."

Neo slowly removed his glasses and set them on her table before walking around to the other side and sitting. He gazed at the floor, rubbing his eyes and watching as the various codes swirled in and out of focus with each press of his fingertips. It was strange, he thought, how easy it was to control the Matrix, manipulate the codes when you needed to, but doing simple things without thinking about them resulted in bizarre activity. Since he wasn't really there, wasn't really rubbing his eyes, his vision shouldn't have been effected. How many times had he fought and not felt a thing, run but never tired? Yet here he sat with bleary eyes, letting the Matrix manipulate him.

"I had a dream," he said finally. "It was years ago."

"And what happened in the dream?"

"I was attacked. In Zion. And killed, I think."

"By whom?" she asked sincerely, though seeming not at all anxious to hear his answer.

He breathed her name out, more a guttural sigh than an actual word, "Nysa."

She came and sat down across from him, looked into his eyes. "That must have been one hell of a dream."

"We're close to war at home, maybe even at war. Trinity and I don't want to take sides, even though it looks like we might have to. But Nys…" He drifted off then, not knowing how to continue.

"Before you there were others," she began, more to relieve him from having to go on than to inform him of things he already knew. "There were other ones, other Zions, other wars. But you stopped that cycle. This is something new, something different. Why are pain and suffering such a large part of this made up world?"

"Because it's human nature. Without it everyone would recognize the fallacy of it all."

"They bring it on themselves, pain, death, war."

"No one wants war."

"Of course not. They need it. Don't misunderstand, Neo, I'm not saying humans are bad. They need the turmoil to better appreciate the good things in life. People know this, they've known forever. It's the Ying and the Yang. It's physics, you know, for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction."

"I know that. I understand that. What I don't understand is why my child has to suffer."

"Because she's human."

"But she's been through enough."

"Has she?"

"I don't want her going to war."

"But she is your child Neo. You ended the cycle, there won't be any more 'ones'. This is a new cycle, and instead of a Neo there's a Nysa."

"You're saying she's the new 'one'?"

"I said there won't be anymore 'ones'."

"Then what is she?"

"Either the Ying or the Yang, depends on how you look at it."

Neo leaned back in his chair and took a moment to process, to simply think. "She might be on the wrong side," he said more to himself than to her.

"If you think in terms of right and wrong."

"Which side will she choose?" he asked, looking at the Oracle with pleading eyes.

"That's her choice."

"But you know what her choice will be."

"No, Neo, I don't."

"I have to know. How can I protect her…"

"You can't," she interrupted suddenly.

"Someone tried to kill her."

"I know."

"Who was it?"

"Can't say."

"Can't or won't," he challenged. She did not answer. "Why do they want her dead?"

"I can't-"

"Can you say anything!" He rose from the table and began to pace. "Do you know anything?"

"Just what I've already told you."

"But you haven't told me anything."

"There is nothing I can tell you that will help the situation."

"That's not fair."

"Life never is."

"Please," he managed through clenched teeth. "Please, give me something."

The Oracle rose from the table once again. She walked back towards the window, but did not peer out. With her back to Neo and her eyes tightly shut she began to say what she knew she should not. "The problem with having both good and bad in the world is that there has to be a balance of the two. Nysa is… special, just like you. Just like her mother. There can only be so much might on one side. That is what they call 'fair'."

"But you just said that life wasn't fair."

"Life's not, but the universe is, in a sense anyway. Neo," she said turning to him, "If you want to know which side your daughter will choose, pick one yourself."

"She'll follow me?" he asked both hopeful and confused.

"No, not in the end."

"I won't oppose her." In this he was steadfast. "I will not be pitted against my daughter."

"No?" She moved closer to him and softly, lovingly, placed her hand on his cheek. "If you want to know who wished Nysa dead, Neo, you have to look within."