RATING: R

TITLE: Because Life Is…

SUMMARY: The life of Trinity. A tale in four parts.

RATING: R. Adult themes n' language n' stuff.

CATEGORY: Hmmm… a little bit of everything, I guess. Pre-movie, movie, and post-movie.

SPOILERS: Tons. Almost the whole movie. So don't read this if you haven't seen it.

DISTRIBUTION: Basically anywhere. Just make sure my name and email are with it, and notify me first, please.

THANKS: I will be erecting a 50-foot-high monument in the honour of Mara Trinity Scully as soon as I either win the lottery or get my hands on a huge-ass piece of marble and some tools J . Because yes, she really DID review this entire bloody thing. I am forever indebted to her.

FEEDBACK: I love it. If you love my story, let me know. If you don't, then PLEASE tell me what I can do to fix it. I can't get better if nobody tells me what I'm doing wrong. If you send me flames, I will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action. Centaur82@aol.com

AUTHOR'S NOTES: This crazy thing is the reason I've been gone for so long. In my meagre specks of free time between exams, essays, reading, and the occasional effort to maintain some form of social life, I was working on this monster.

A note to those of you awaiting a "Hollow Crowd" sequel—it's coming, I promise!

Also--if you've read my past stuff, you might notice the remarkable similarity between parts of this and "My Reasons," my original fic. Here's why: this is a completely overhauled, re-vamped, vastly improved and lengthened version of "My Reasons," with a new title to match. The reason for this is simple: MTS, my faithful editor, was so kind as to point out a rather large plot hole in my original version that I, in my eternal genius, completely missed when I was writing it the first time. And this plot hole was so huge that it took me a solid 40 pages to fill it. So, if you like, think of "My Reasons" as the skeleton around which this rather beefy piece was built. And please don't discount this just because you've read "My Reasons"--there's much more new stuff here.

DISCLAIMER: They aren't mine—most of the characters, some of the dialogue, and a pretty big chunk of the plot. They belong to the WB and the Wachowskis and stuff. And I ain't making one red cent off of this. The quotes at the beginning of chapter 1 and the end of

chapter 4 are from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by my poetry god, T.S. Eliot.

Whew, that intro was waaaaaay too long. Sorry.

Enjoy!

For I have known the eyes already, known them all—

The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,

And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,

When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,

Then how should I begin

To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?

So how should I presume?

* * *

BECAUSE LIFE IS…

Part I

FEAR

I had always made a point of never really needing anybody. Long before I was unplugged, I learned that the only way to make sure anything was done right was to do it myself. Even when I was a kid, I was on my own. My father was an alcoholic ass-hole who beat my mother pretty much every night. Eventually, he killed her. Then he ran, and left me behind.

I was nine years old.

My aunt took me in for a while, but she never really gave a shit about me. She only did it because my mom's will said she had to, and apparently she had signed some legal document a few years before. It's like my mom knew she was going to die--I don't know why the hell she didn't get out of there when she could.

My aunt was more than a little bitter about getting saddled with a kid out of nowhere, but that was fine with me because I was more than a little bitter about getting saddled with an aunt who despised me. As soon as I was old enough to go out alone, I basically stopped going home except to sleep.

To kill time, I signed up for an after-school class on computer programming when I was fourteen. By the end of the first month, I had mastered C++, Java, and VisualBasic. The rest of the class was still struggling with html. Computers just made sense to me; they did what I told them, and they didn't fuck up unless I did. They were reliable, and I liked that. Before long, I could hack my way into—or out of—anything.

When I learned about the Matrix, I knew it was real. It was in the computer, so it was real. I knew that even though I didn't know what the hell it was.

That was when I really stopped giving a damn about anything at all. I moved out of my aunt's house and kept a shitty day-job so I could focus on the Matrix. And Morpheus, he had the answers. I had to find Morpheus.

I met Kurt at a party when I was seventeen. He was twenty and had his own apartment near the university campus where he went to school. Right away, I knew we would hit it off—he was the only person I'd ever met who had more holes in his face than I did. I had fourteen: ten in my ears, one in my lip, one in my nose, and two in one eyebrow. He had sixteen: nine in his ears, one in his tongue, two in his nose (nostril and septum), one in his lip, and three in his eyebrows. I moved in with him three weeks later. Yeah, it was stupid of me, but at that point, I just wanted to get the hell out of my aunt's place.

For four months, I lived with him. I worked when I could and chipped in on rent when I had money. At first, it was great—I went to school, came home, and worked on Morpheus for a few hours. But then, those few hours got longer and longer until after school just wasn't enough time. At first I just cut my afternoon classes, keeping my grades up by hacking into the school mainframe and changing them as often as I wanted. Then I just started skipping the whole day, until eventually, I dropped out completely, three months before graduation.

Kurt found out.

He wasn't happy.

I woke up the next morning to find my stuff packed up by the door with a note telling me to be gone by the time he got back from class. I had to go beg my aunt to take me back in.

So yeah, the idea of depending on anyone for anything had really become anathema. After all, the only person who would always be there for me was me. Nobody else gets credit or blame. It's all me.

Morpheus' first act as captain of his own ship was to recruit me. I found out later that an encounter with an Agent had left the entire plugged-in crew of the Nebuchadnezzar dead save for him, the then second-in-command. He told me that his previous captain had been a popular man--soft spoken and a friend to everybody on board, always trying to please as much of his crew as possible. This had made him completely incompetent, and it was only through insubordination that Morpheus had managed to finish that mission alive.

The group had actually pulled off the near-impossible feat of outrunning Smith, managing to lose him in the tangled alleyways of the inner city. That done, Tank had informed them that the nearest exit was a payphone in the heart of the bustling downtown area. Both Morpheus and the Captain said that to use an exit in a public place when agents were on the prowl would be absolute suicide, and Morpheus had asserted that they should use the exit in the Heart O' the City Hotel, a mile further away. The group had protested, insisting that the safest exit would be the closest one. When it became clear that the Captain would follow the requests of the crew and that none of them would listen to Morpheus' reasoning, Morpheus had defected from the group. And sure enough, the rest of the crew was slaughtered before they even reached the exit.

Morpheus had gone into hiding for weeks after the incident, overcome with guilt at not having been able to save the rest of the crew. But both Tank and Dozer realized that it had been a lost situation. They had worked under the same captain, and they told me that in hindsight, Morpheus had been right. They grieved for their parted crew, but knew that it was the previous captain's desire to please the crew that everyone had died. He hadn't wanted to upset them. So that was the first message ingrained into my head when I was freed: you get emotional, you get dead.

So the armour that I had carried over with me from the Matrix thickened until it became my skin, and that was all they could see of me. What they didn't know, though, was that every night I would lie in my cot and remember the few beautiful things I had found in my previous life: making lunch with my mother… finding my first bicycle under the Christmas tree when I was five… the time I spent with Kurt before everything went to hell… Even if I had to encase it in a bulletproof shell, my heart would not turn to stone in my chest.

The first few times they tried to send me into the Matrix, I refused because I didn't know for sure that they would pull me back out. I mean, I liked them well enough, but to leave my helpless body in the hands of people I didn't know—like hell. Now that I had my mind in my real body, there was no way I was letting it out again. Any help I could give the resistance I could give them from the real world.

Tank and Dozer hated me within a few days because I was such a bitch about everything. I know I was. But I didn't care. The fact that they hated me made me even less willing to jack in. If they decided they didn't want to let me out, then I didn't come out. So I wouldn't go in.

It was Morpheus who first forced me to loosen up a little. I don't even remember what he told me—I swear to God, that man could convince a duck to bark like a dog if ducks existed anymore. And that's how it started. Tank and Dozer decided I wasn't so bad once they understood my problems… or at least the face that I put on my problems. I was nervous, I told them. They were ok with that. But still, when I was in and fighting, I was no altruistic sop. I thrilled in risk-taking, but I never let myself forget that it was my ass on the line.

I became pretty attached to Morpheus, Tank, and Dozer, and eventually to Switch, Mouse, Apoc, and, unfortunately, to Cypher when they all joined up. But I didn't trust any of them completely. That was one risk I was not going to take. You get emotional, you get dead. So don't get emotional. I convinced myself that if something happened to them, I'd be sad for a while, and then I'd move on. It was nothing against them personally, but it was my life. Mine. And I was not parting with it for anything or anybody. Period.

And then there was Neo.

When the Oracle told me I would fall in love with the One, I was insulted as hell. To fall in love--that was the ultimate weakness. The ultimate dependency. Like hell I was going to let it happen to me. Like hell. But then I saw Neo on the net… and I just started watching him. An innocent fascination, I thought. After all, Morpheus said he was important. Purely innocent.

It was me who first noticed that the Agents had found him, and my initial assumption was that it would mean we would have to let him go. That's what usually happened—going after a "noticed target" was never worth the risk. They were almost always bugged, and no matter how promising the coppertop looked, they were basically never worth risking the asses of everyone on the ship. But for some reason, Morpheus was insistent with this guy. We had to warn him, he said. And I was the one sent in to do it.

Nobody was surprised that I was the one chosen. Morpheus was out of the question because he attracted Agents like bees to honey. Everybody recognized him. He was Morpheus, after all, the most notorious terrorist since the Unabomber. Mouse was too young and inexperienced to be entrusted with such a mission. Apoc, Cypher, and Switch were muscle. They were all excellent fighters, and all three possessed an incredible ability to think on their feet in crunch situations. Especially Apoc. When things looked hopeless, he was the man with the plan. But this particular mission required subtlety and tact; we had to scare him enough to keep him on his toes, but not enough to scare him off his pursuit of the truth completely. And I could do it.

The human mind is fraught with emotional barriers erected as a means of self-preservation. We had to get inside those barriers, to soften the coppertop's mind and open it to whatever it was we needed to tell them. And though nobody ever came right out and said it, we all knew that sexual tension was the most effective means, especially with the lonely people that we were almost always dealing with. When you plant the idea of sex in some poor sot's subconscious, defences come down and everything else somehow stops mattering. So that's what we did with Neo--we stuck him in a club that practically reeked of intoxicated hormones and then sent me in to deliver the final punch along with the message. Being a woman who looked good in black leather was an extremely useful asset, and one that I knew how to use very well.

Usually, people from a ship other than the one that was chasing the target would go in and do this kind of work, because the kind of close, tense contact that was required had the potential to make the post-unplugging relationship between the people involved a little bit awkward. That was Choi and DuJour's regular job. Morpheus wouldn't trust anybody else to do it this time, though. He was absolutely paranoid about some other ship coming in and stealing Neo out from under his nose. It didn't bother me to go in—I had always thought that the custom was unnecessary, anyways. Nothing that happened in the Matrix was actually happening, and once the newbies understood that, they learned that occurrences in the Matrix had no bearing on the real world. What happened in the Matrix stayed in the Matrix.

At least, that's what I had always believed.

There are certain hacker stereotypes that we all came to recognize as we watched more and more people get unplugged. There were the "hermits," who lived in ratty sweatsuits and whose skin was sallow from never seeing the light of day. That had been Mouse and Apoc. There were the "nerds," with clothes that didn't fit and glasses as thick as the bottom of Coke bottles. That had been Cypher. And then there were the "gothic hackers", who wore too much leather (or too little leather, I suppose, depending on your perspective) and did too many drugs. That had been Switch and me. And this club—this was a gothic club.

I could have picked Neo out in that club even if I hadn't known what he looked like from those countless hours of watching. His T-shirt and jacket among the leather-and-steel made him stand out like an Agent at a rave.

I approached him slowly, from the side, hands concealed, face up and clear, not coming too close until he had noticed me. This was a mathematical process, structured and formulated. Knowing when and how to enter his space was key. And then—there—that turn of the head, the crossed arms—he's still guarded, but he's ready.

"Hello, Neo."

His posture immediately became defensive. He looked at me, then turned away. "How do you know that name?"

"I know a lot about you." Oh, yes, Neo. I know more than you would ever believe.

"Who are you?"

"My name is Trinity." Come on, little fishy…IRS D-base IRS D-base IRS D-base…

"Trinity… THE Trinity? Who cracked the IRS Kansas city D-base?" Bingo.

"That was a long time ago."

"Jesus…"

"What?"

"I just thought… uh… you were a guy."

Ha. You and everybody else. Well, I'm not, and right now, it should be painfully obvious to you. But… his voice… and those eyes…

Damn, he really feels badly about it…

Does he really care? What if—No. Focus, Trinity. Procedure.

But… I wanted to get closer. I needed to get closer, but… I wanted to get closer… Watch it. Just answer him.

"Most guys do."

"That was you on my computer…" There, the hesitancy. Already, he was breaking. "How did you do that?"

"Right now, all I can tell you is that you are in danger." Closer… must get closer…yes… NO! Dammit, Trinity, FOCUS! "They're after you, Neo. I brought you here to warn you."

"What?" He was so innocent. Part of me was angry that we would be stripping him of that innocence. That openness… so like a child… and yet…
"Please just listen." Closer… the innocence…closer…ah, procedure be damned.

I didn't even notice when his arms dropped from where they had been crossed at his chest. It was a signal I should never have missed, but my head was spinning in a way that I couldn't control. I blamed it on the haze of pot smoke that clouded the room like fog.

Just keep talking, Trinity.

"I know why you're here, Neo. I know what you've been doing. I know why you hardly sleep, why you live alone and night after night you sit at your computer. You're looking for him."

I knew I was too close. Too close to him. Morpheus would get pissed, later, and go on about how unprofessional I'd been. But I couldn't… wouldn't… move away.

"I know because I was once looking for the same thing, and when he found me, he told me I wasn't really looking for him. I was looking for an answer. It's the question that drives us, Neo. It's the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did." Oh, god, I'm going to choke…the weed…too close… he's--

"What is the Matrix?" Yes.

"The answer is out there, Neo. And it will find you, if you want it to." Done. Get away, Trinity. You're finished here.

But for a moment, I couldn't move.

Get AWAY! Too close, Trinity, you're too close…get AWAY…

The scent of him lingered with me as I tore myself away. The queasiness—the pot had nothing to do with it, I realized. Through the stench of weed that permeated the room, beneath the faint herbal scent of his shampoo and the biting edge of his after-shave, I could smell him, and with every breath I took, it seeped like a drug into my lungs and a burned an ever-increasing hole somewhere near where my stomach should be. It hurt, and the sting followed me into the real world. I realized what was happening, and I remembered the Oracle. I thought of Morpheus's near-obsessive possessiveness of this guy. The pieces were sliding into place, and the picture scared me more than I would ever care to admit.

I wasn't certain, yet, that I loved him, but the seed was planted and the idea remained in the back of my mind. But I would be damned if I was going to let this "love" bullshit get the best of me. You get emotional, you get dead. Nobody would know anything. If I ignored it for long enough, the hole would close. And that's what I did—or tried to do. I shoved the void way down to the pit of my stomach and tried as hard as I could to pretend it wasn't there.

All of us save Mouse went in for Neo's unplugging. We went by the usual routine: Morpheus got him to the Adams Street bridge, and we picked him up there. Switch and I slipped instinctively into our good-cop bad-cop roles; without fail, the newbies would succumb to one or the other of us. Neo was like a deer in headlights when faced with the business end of Switch's semi-automatic, and for a moment, my heart went out to him. Just for a moment. And the hole in my stomach burned.

For an instant I was afraid that Switch's classic "our way or the highway" quip would actually scare Neo off. He was too old to believe in unreasonable risk-taking, and his instinct for self-preservation was strong. It was up to me to gain the trust that we would need from him in order to perform the bug extraction—a procedure which was nerve-wracking at best, and excruciatingly painful at worst. He opened the door and moved to get out.

"Neo, please, you have to trust us." The words spilled out before I even realized what I was saying. This would have to come off the cuff.

"Why?"

I cringed inwardly. This was going to be delicate. But we couldn't lose him—Morpheus would have had our heads on silver platters.

"Because you've been down there, Neo. You know that road." His features softened as he looked out through the open door. "You know exactly where it ends."

Even his posture reflected his uncertainty. I needed a kicker, a final hook that would pull him back into the car.

"And I know that's not where you want to be." Perfect.

With a stifled groan, he settled back into his seat and slammed the door.

He made little effort to conceal his fear after the bug was removed. Though he wouldn't have believed it, we all knew what was going through his head: it had been a nightmare…just a nightmare…but then it wasn't anymore...it was real…it was real and somehow these people knew about it. Apoc struggled to conceal his sympathy: he, too, had been bugged and had been through the terrifying removal process. But my sympathy was drowned out by frustration as I tried, in vain, to stifle the feeling that I had just taken a blow to the stomach. It was the smell, again. I could smell him, and it was overpowering me.

When we unplugged him, he was in the worst shape of anyone I had ever seen. He was old—too old, as Cypher was always quick to remind us—and for a long time we were concerned that our ship lacked the facilities to rebuild his muscles to the degree that he needed. Thank God for Dozer's medical genius.

Cypher was pushing for us to head straight down to Zion to have him rebuilt there, but Morpheus wouldn't hear of it. We already had a full crew, so he knew that as soon as we set foot in Zion, Military Command would have whisked Neo off to another ship that needed the manpower more than we did. Morpheus wanted Neo for himself. Finally, I got up the nerve to ask him why it mattered so much, and our leader's response was simple:

"He is the One."