a/n: the long awaited update, ladies and gentaleman! I hope you enjoy it. I hadsketched out another version of this chapter, and I decided on this one - will post the "alternate" on TLG, but if you are kind enough to review, pls do so here!
The sky turned the colour of an amethyst when dawn came, reluctantly, as if it were afraid of the storms that had ravaged the night. Aubergine clouds shifted and collided with thunderous roars and blazing flashes of ultraviolet light, black rips across a purple sky. A strange and foreboding phenomenon, each bolt flickered like a strobe in the tiny cabin, illuminating some objects in an eerie fluorescent glow. Neo tried to ignore it, as he tried to ignore the instinct that this was more than just inclement weather. But as the torrents poured down, he could feel a chill in the air that went beyond the cold wind that howled through the treetops. It was something like spite, he thought. Something like scorn.
He frowned, and tried to reach his daughter again on the phone, but electrical discharge was too great to get through clearly. At the second ring he was cut off, and after a few seconds of staring out at the storm, Neo decided to brave the elements and check on her in person. He shouldn't have left her alone in the first place, he thought. Not when they didn't know what was out there. Or who.
Rorie's harrowing experience from the night before still shook him. The look in her eyes still haunted him, and the quiver in her voice as she described the voices still echoed in his mind. Everything she'd told him was vaguely familiar and yet enigmatic, as he had heard and could hear none of it. He could only listen, devastated and helpless to offer her any explanation, or protect her from whatever danger was lurking, unseen in this mysterious place.
He plucked his jacket from its hook and reached for the doorknob, but at the last moment, he pulled back. Or was pushed back. Something repelled his hand, as two like poles of a magnet resist each other. He grimaced, and then jumped at a knock on the door. "Dad?" Rorie's voice called out to him from the other side. "Are you there?"
"Jesus," he muttered, pulling the latch open and letting her in. "I was just coming to see you."
She stepped in quickly, shaking herself off and removing her rainwear, which was insufficient protection from the monsoon that raged outside. She was wet, and he offered her a towel, which she refused.
"You can put some of your mom's things on," he suggested, examining her carefully. Something was different about her.
"No, it's alright," she said, standing in the center of the room and looking into his eyes with a strange intensity that reminded him of someone else. He blinked. Synergy. She reminded him of Synergy. But perhaps it was all in his mind.
"Who is she?"
It took him a moment for him to process the question. And once he had, he could only stare back at her.
"Who is she really, Dad?"
An eternity passed, and Rorie took a step towards him. "She's in trouble, you know that. I need to know why she would come to me. Why me?"
"Because she's your sister."
It wasn't Neo who said it. It was Trinity.
She was in the doorway to the bedroom, looking over to her husband. Her face was stricken, and her voice shook. "She has to be," she said softly. "It's the only explanation that I could possibly believe."
He couldn't form any words, and he couldn't move as Trinity stood, equally rigid, as if in shock herself. Their eyes connected for what seemed to be the first time in ages, and suddenly Neo realized a possibility that he'd never considered before. "You knew when we left, didn't you?" he asked her, nearly falling apart with every syllable that he strung together. "You knew, Trin, and you never told me…"
"I thought the baby died." She just shook her head. "I'm so sorry. Neo, I…"
He strode over to her and took her in his arms. "No, I'm sorry," he whispered in her ear. "God, Trinity. I am so sorry."
"How could they do this to us?"
"I'm sorry." He repeated it several times, softly, into her hair. "It's all my fault."
"They took her from us. From me."
"It was the only way to save her," the confession poured from his mouth like tears. "It was the only way they'd bring you back."
He felt her stiffen in his embrace, and then he caught sight of a sudden flash of understanding in her sapphire irides, ghostly in the flickering lightning. "You… made a deal with them," she whispered, as if to herself. "You… that's how you knew."
"I had no idea who or where she was until now, Trin. I never thought I'd ever find her." He begged with his eyes for forgiveness, bowing his head down in complete surrender. "I couldn't let the two of you die… Things weren't supposed to turn out this way. She was supposed to be happy. They… they assured me she'd be happy…"
His voice broke, and there was nothing else he could say; his wife and daughter's faces took every breath he had. Rorie had moved to the other side of the room, and had turned her back from them until now, in her subtle way of giving them a moment of privacy. But now she gazed over at him with a sorrow that nearly matched her mother's; she covered her mouth, and began to cry. Her weeping was the only thing in his ears as he stared at Trinity's back, as she began to pace, running her hands through her hair repeatedly, pressing down on her head as if to hold herself together.
"Rorie," she said at last. "You came here to tell us she was in trouble. What did you mean by that?"
"I'm not sure," she said after a long beat, collecting herself in response to Trinity's soft, even voice. "But… I think it has something to do with what happened to me last night. Something to do with the insects I've been studying, and… well, I suppose the ones that have also been studying me. You see, I decrypted the message they've been communicating."
Rorie looked uncertainly from her mother back to him before pulling a chip from her pocket and continuing. "It's the proteomic sequence to what appears to be a biological pathogen. A virus."
"Meant to infect what?" he asked, fearing the answer to his own question.
"Well, that's just it. The capsid bears remarkable sequence homology to a single-stranded RNA virion with botanical-"
"In English, Rorie," Trinity interrupted.
"It looks like a plant virus. In fact, it's nearly identical to the Mosaic Viruses, which history reports the machines used to wipe out wheat fields during the first months of the Great War."
"You think they're trying to use it again? To attack Genesis without having to breech the periphery?"
"Possibly. Or to attack us," she replied hesitantly. "Mom, several pieces of the code have been changed. There's no telling what effect this may have on its host specificity."
"Sixty years ago, 01 used a few sentinels to expose a crew of five to the smallpox virus," Trinity said bleakly. "They unwittingly brought it back to Zion, and thirty percent of the population was wiped out. It wouldn't be without precedent."
"But what does it have to do with Synergy?" Neo mused, and was answered only by silence. "Is she the target?"
Rorie sighed. "I don't know. But I think we should warn the council of the potential threat. We should get a team of biochemists on synthesizing this thing to study what it actually does."
A pounding on the door caught the three of them off guard, and after Trinity cursed under her breath, she let a dripping Knight into the cabin. "Sorry, phones are out," he apologised gravely, as if he knew he was interrupting something. He looked at Rorie, and smiled for only a moment before continuing, "And I'm afraid the news doesn't get much better from there."
Trinity straightened, as if bracing herself. "What is it?"
"Logos just touched down, and took quite a beating. Niobe barely landed her in one piece."
"The electrical storm?"
"Well, there's that," he said soberly. "And the sentinels are getting worse. The reinforcements from the machine rebels never arrived. Squiddies are getting dangerously close to the Zionist border patrol."
"Shit." Trinity looked at Neo for the first time since he told her the truth. He tried to see into her but she was like stone under his imploring gaze. They didn't have time for this. "Anything on Synergy?"
"Missing in action. Our ships can't contact her. Can't read her in the code, either. She's been out of touch for nearly two days. Nobody knows what to think."
"Trin, we have to get out there," Neo said to her. She nodded in agreement. "We have to set this right."
"If we're going to go, we should go now," Knight warned. "If the rain gets any worse, we won't be able to take off."
"Alright. Knight, get the crew together and see what you can do to optimize the pads. We'll shove off as soon as possible. Rorie, you too. We'll report your findings to command before we leave."
Trinity gave her orders with resolve, and handed her daughter her coat. Rorie took it without argument, and pulled her mother into a quick hug before she left with Knight, his arm around her shoulders.
"She doesn't know, does she?" Trinity asked, turning to Neo once they were alone. "Synergy doesn't know who she is."
"Then God help us," she prayed, almost so softly he didn't hear. "God save us both from what we've done."
He went over to her, cautiously, and she let him brush his hand over her arm. He just needed the contact, he needed some form of connection to her before he crumbled. "Forgive me," he murmured. "Trinity, please…"
Her stillness stretched out forever, and a few tears poured down her cheeks, quiet and swift. "Will she forgive us?" she asked. "We failed her… Neo, we failed her together, you know that. I shouldn't have taken her there… or, I should have told you I'd lost the baby. Then you would have known. And we would have found her. We would have found her together. You… you shouldn't have been looking for her all this time, alone."
"No." He took her face in his hands. "No, I shouldn't have. I should have told you. I thought I was protecting you, but you had a right to know. I betrayed you both-"
"Stop. Don't do this, please." She wiped her eyes and drifted away. He knew. They couldn't do this now. Her heart was breaking and she was angry, either with him, or herself or them both, he couldn't be sure, but they couldn't deal with it now. "If she's in danger, then we need to hurry," she decided, her voice still shaking a little. "But, Neo. You know we may not be able to save her."
"I promised her we'd get her out."
His wife looked back at him, her watery azure gaze swirling with regret, fear, and strength. "Okay," she said, letting out a trembling sigh. "Then, let's go."
Rorie wiped back wet hair from her face and stared at the waterfall pouring over the windshield. "She was the price for my mother's life."
David sat opposite her in the cockpit, intently examining her profile. Her face was like stone, a strikingly uncharacteristic expression for such a passionate person. She almost looked calm. If it weren't for the focus in her eyes, as if she were studying something that he couldn't see. Or thinking about something he couldn't understand.
"And she has asked for your help?"
Rorie shook her head. "I don't know what she wants. I don't know what I'm…" she cut herself short. "No, that's not true."
"They haven't stopped calling to me. They haven't stopped since this morning. It's getting louder. I know what I'm supposed to do. Or… I know what I'm not supposed to do. But it isn't anything anyone is going to like."
"No," he agreed. "Especially not Knight."
"Sometimes I wonder if you can read my mind, David. It's a little unsettling, to be honest."
"Why else would you be speaking to me and not him?"
"You say that like I never talk to you about anything. Why shouldn't I talk to you?"
"You're in love with him. And he worships you. He always has."
She registered the statement with a flicker of surprise, and then a smile as she turned her face away. David watched with affection as she tried to mask her joy. Perhaps she was embarrassed. But how could he not know? Was he blind?
Knight's feelings had been obvious enough for months. And although David had never been particularly close, or fond of the pod-born boy who had been stealing his sister from him for years, he certainly understood his attraction. With time, he even came to respect it. Knight treated her like a queen, and so perhaps, he wasn't nearly as daft as David had once believed him to be.
And when Rorie arrived with him at fleet command to deliver her mother's orders, David instantly knew their friendship had become a romance. Their fingers woven tightly together, Knight caressed his thumb over her hand in the subtlest of gestures that spoke volumes to anyone who paid the smallest bit of attention. And she glowed at his touch, spoke to him in an intimate purr. Even in one of her most conflicted moments, mired in uncertainty and anguish, she'd never looked so happy.
"I don't know what happened," she said, still unable to meet his eyes. "I still can't believe that it's happened. He's… wonderful."
"He'd have to be."
"You've never thought so. You can't hide that from me."
"It's an older brother's duty to protect his sister… from all things. Knight is very lucky you seemed to enjoy his attentions. I never understood it. But… then again, our tastes in the opposite sex have never been simpatico."
"Oh, I don't know, David. I think we both have a soft spot for blondes."
He scowled at her arched eyebrow. "We are not talking about me."
"No, but you should talk to her. Hawk-Eye would be wise to reciprocate." Her smile faded, and she took his hands in hers. "Who knows where any of us will be tomorrow. No regrets, right?"
David gazed at her for a moment or two. Cherished each one. "I suppose there is no longer any reason for me to delay. Or… for you to delay. If you've decided."
Rorie's chin crinkled, and she blinked back a sudden wave of what David knew was fear. And she was so rarely afraid of anything. "I can't ask him to do this with me," she whispered. "I have no right to ask him."
"To ask me what?"
She wasn't surprised by his voice; she just tilted her head and sighed. Closed her eyes as David rose and pulled her into a tight embrace. He murmured a blessing into her ear and then nodded briefly to Knight, who had the look of a man who already knew what Rorie was about to say. Yes, perhaps he had underestimated him. Knight was not a fool.
"I've spoken to my parents," Rorie said once they were alone. "And I've listened to my heart. Knight… I can't go with you."
He didn't say a word. Waited. And when she didn't continue, he looked like he might cry. "Where you go, I go."
"Not this time."
"I don't understand. I'm not going to understand when you… when you talk like that. You're scaring me. So just… just say it. Explain it to me."
"I don't think I can explain it."
"There isn't time. You have to go. And so do I."
"Are you…" Knight trailed off and seemed at a complete loss. He ran a hand through his dripping hair, and then in a quick, sudden movement, he closed the door behind him, trapping them in the cockpit together. "Neither of us is going anywhere. Not until you at least tell me what's going on."
"They're calling me."
"We've been though this. I don't know. I just have to go."
"I'm not sure. To the truth."
"I know it doesn't make sense!" she suddenly exclaimed. "Don't you think I know how insane all of this is? All I know is that I'm not supposed to go with you. There is something here that… is calling to me."
"Synergy. Your sister. And that's where we're going to-"
"To broadcast depth, where I am completely useless, Knight! I'm no use to anyone sitting in the sewers!"
"Rorie, this rain is only getting worse. The electricity is out, the buildings are closed. Lock has put the boarder patrol on high alert. It isn't safe here."
"It isn't safe anywhere."
"You're safe with me. If you feel you have to stay, then fine. But you're not doing it alone."
"The Neb needs her tactical officer. The sewers are swarming with sentinels; you said so yourself. It's what you've been trained to do. It's where you belong."
"Knight, please. Don't fight me on this. You won't win." He opened his mouth to protest again, but Rorie was too fast, pulling him down into a kiss. He tried to break it, but she was insistent, holding the back of his neck and passionately swallowing any objection. A tear, hers, fell down his cheek. "Watch out for my parents," she said onto his chest. "Like you always do."
And then it was his turn to insist, pressing his lips to her eyes, forehead, mouth and neck. "You can't do this to me," he breathed. "You can't tear yourself away from me. Not now. I love you too much."
"I know, but we have to. Before the storm is too bad to take off." She unwound herself from his arms. "Please. Trust me. Look at me. And trust me."
He looked at her. Trusted her. And raised his hand to her jaw just as the door behind them squeaked open. Kirk peeked his head in hesitantly. "Knight. Rorie. I'm sorry. It's time to go. They're closing the gates."
Knight cursed in French and turned back to her, held her by the shoulders. "I'll see you again soon," he said, locking his eyes with hers. They were both desperate. "I promise."
They kissed again, heedless to whether or not Kirk was still there. Knight wouldn't be the one to separate them, so Rorie had to pull away, whispering an I love you as she turned to leave.
His fingers brushed her hip, and then, she was gone.