A/N: Hey Matrix fans! Back in the habit for round 2! This is a sequel, so I'm pretty sure none of this will make sense to those of you who havn't read the first story "Evolution of the One."
Special thanx to Meise for inadvertently reminding me that I was writing a sequel in the first place :) Please enjoy.
Blinded by the white light; deafened by the silence. It was cold; bitterly so, like the walls in that rather large, rectangular room were made of snow. There is a lone figure standing very still in the center, hands behind his back; orange sunglasses perched delicately on his nose.
He looks very young.
Suddenly, a flash. And another. The child is no longer so composed. It looks like he's screaming, but there's no sound. The flash keeps coming, but the boy is still standing in the middle of that room, staring.
"Help me, creation, the illusions are suffocating me."
Whispers. Mere whispers singe the heart; the soul.
Neo's eyes opened wide as he forced himself awake, his muscles relaxing once he realized how tense they were. It only took a moment to adjust to the welcomed darkness; to the familiar warmth beside him. He sighed.
He heard Trinity's voice in the comforting silence.
"…Yeah." He managed, closing his eyes and taking measure of his own breathing, too tired to roll over and meet Trinity's eyes. He felt her encircle her arms around him, holding him close from behind. She knew how scared he was of these news dreams, the only ones he'd ever had before being visions of the future—a devastating future at that. These were more like messages, but from whom?
Not only was she concerned for Neo, but for Dessa as well. She'd been having the exact same dreams, and so far, in the same instances as well. Father and daughter would often talk through the night via radio, Dessa having just last year joined the crew of the new ship, the Knight.
"Exactly the same dream?" Trinity asked as she took one of his hands in hers, knowing what calmed him.
"Yes." He replied. He was glad he was able to open up to her about these supernatural visions, having learned that telling her helps, never mind how little it solves. "The same boy in a white room saying the same things."
"Do you want to contact the Knight?"
He nodded, knowing she didn't need to hear him say it. The last time either had talked to Dessa was an entire week ago.
Having her leave the Sophia was an interesting transition. They knew she wanted to experience working independently—which meant, without her parents watching her every move—which made sense to them, she was almost twenty years old, of course she needed space. (Although, if she really needed that much space, she'd move out of their apartment in Zion, but neither parent was complaining...yet.)
They hadn't met the Knight's captain, Ciricia, until its maiden voyage, (which was extremely unnerving for Neo especially, the term "maiden voyage" alone putting him on the edge, it permanently reminding him of the Titanic.) At least Tomb was with her, he at least was used to helping her around the ship in her wheelchair.
Of course, Morpheus was going through the same emotional exchange, one even greater, probably. The fleet was now fully engaged with the growing crisis at hand—the "Blue Party," as they called it, fully protesting against the "Reds" in the Matrix—Niobe had to resign from co-captaining the Sophia to captain the newly built Logos II. Not only that, but with the lack of experienced crew members dispersed throughout the fleet, the limit for crew members was six. Victor was moved to the Logos II while Adrastros was recruited, Ghost and Sparks signing on after a few years of training novices at the Academy. Acantha was then recruited to the Knight along with Tomb and Dessa.
At least Link signed back on as their chief Operator instead of some new face.
"I'll go with you." Trinity said, and they both got up, headed for the core.
Dessa rolled over and groaned as she eased out of her unpleasant unconsciousness, inadvertently waking up Tomb in the process.
"Sorry." She half grumbled, still a little ticked off that she had the dream again. She thought this might help her insomnia, sharing a cabin with Tomb, and it had for a few days, until now.
"It's Ok. " Tomb answered, taking her hand that was now almost comically splayed across his chest, trying to suppress a smile. "It was the dream again, wasn't it?"
"Yeah…" She was about to elaborate when she remembered in her half-asleep state that the only people she had told about the dreams were her parents. "Wait, how did you know about that?" She quickly went through the possibilities in her head. "I don't talk in my sleep, do I?"
"No," Tomb almost laughed, "Before we shared my cabin I'd follow you to the core whenever I heard you leave. The first time was out of curiosity, the next few were for my own sake. I knew you weren't going to tell me anything."
"I'm your bodyguard; it's almost the same thing."
"Yeah, unofficial bodyguard appointed by my dad, half-metal."
"Only in the morning."
Before either could continue their pointless banter, the ship's red-alarm went off.
"What the—" Dessa sprung up with her arms, momentarily forgetting about her years of not being able to walk. They'd never gotten a red alarm before. Tomb got out of bed and quickly wheeled her chair over, helping her into it. The rushed to the core without even concerning themselves with putting their boots on.
When they reached the core, Acantha was at the feed, watching intently as Ciricia was jacked-in. The other members of the crew, Shosti and Pachelbel, ran in not too long after.
"What the hell happened? Why is Ciricia jacked-in?" Shosti shouted.
Pachelbel, momentarily being the smarter of the two, which was rare, went over to the controls and turned off the alarm as well as opened up the holograms. It showed three sentinels coming at them, and fast.
"Sentinels! But…how?" Pachelbel said in utter shock. In all his years of peacetime operating, never had he even thought he'd be in the middle of a sentinel attack.
"What?" Dessa tried to pull herself together, too many thoughts clouding her mind. Looking at the hologram and seeing their coordinates, she tried to sense them. It was a threatening presence, but she could feel something. She knew this was something only her father was able to do, but maybe she could figure it out on the job. She concentrated, seeing the mechanical waves and flashes in her mind's eyes, finally reaching the sentinels. Their language was blocked and encrypted. Was this something her father was able to decode? No, these sentinels were different; controlled by…something else
"Must be rouge. I don't know why or how, but they are." She wheeled in Acantha's direction, the entire crew surprised and yet passively accepting of Dessa's apparent leadership skills. Shosti watched her intently, seeing if she would actually make commands without his consent. As second in command, he was obligated to take control and lead under protocol, but protocol was never something he cared to remember. Only in a time like this was he reminded that if anything were to happen—especially to Dessa—he would be permanently suspended from the fleet. Not here, not now. Not when I have so much to avenge.
"Acantha, how close is Ciricia to an exit?" Shosti said, trying to take control of the situation.
"Not close enough, there's no way she'll make it!"
"Not if I can help it." Dessa retorted, wheeling herself to her usual jack-in chair. After she locked the wheels, with all the strength in her arms, she hoisted herself up and swung her weight on the chair. "Get me in there!"
Both Tomb and Shosti took high offense to this demand, Shosti speaking first. "As ranking officer, I can't let you do that."
"I'm Ciricia's only chance of survival, Shosti! I can get her out!"
"And what if you're both in there when we have to blow the EMP?"
"Then don't launch it until we're out!"
"It's not that simple, D!"
He remembered then that she'd never been in a sentinel attack before. He had, but only once. It was a devastating feat, four deaths in less than a minute. He was only eighteen; that experience alone had driven him to resigning from the fleet for the rest of the war. Until now.
"Pacho, contact the nearest ship before—"
Just then, the monitors flashed warnings of a security breech and a satellite down. They're in now, goddammit. And we're trapped.
"Let me in, Shosti!"
"You're staying here!" Tomb spoke up, taking her shoulders as if to ground her. Shosti looked from Ciricia to Dessa indecisively, not having a clue of what to do. All he knew was that he wasn't going to lose his captain and one of the most skilled soldiers he'd ever seen, not to mention the daughter of the Goddamned One.
"Damn it." Neo cursed under his breath. "Where are they?"
The Knight's signal was shot and they couldn't be found on radar. It was a complete mystery.
"The only reason they'd be off radar is if they blew the EMP." Link said, trying to start conversation.
"But…why would they have to?" Zak spoke up, asking the question that was clearly on everyone's minds.
Link took one more look at the radar and got up from his chair. "I'm getting Morpheus."
Morpheus, for once, was also somewhat at a loss. "We have to look for them. Contact the Element, the Logos II and the Hammer, see if they know anything from the Knight."
Link nodded and got to work.
Neo turned to leave, his eyes filled with unrelenting concern. He didn't notice Trinity's watchful eyes on him as he walked in the direction of their cabin, thinking that she'd be concentrating on the information, or lack of it, that they were seeking while contacting the other ships. Once he was gone from her sight, Trinity looked back at Link and Zak, Clash now awake and wondering why everyone was up. She followed Neo's path, eventually finding him leaning on the wall just outside their cabin, as if we were too weak to open the door.
This weakness almost scared her, but not because he was so affected by Dessa's disappearance, but because she wasn't as affected. She stared at him for a moment, knowing exactly why she wasn't afraid.
Neo wasn't completely oblivious; he knew her silent swiftness all too well. He turned his head as to look at her sideways, seeing her in the corner of his eye. She moved in front of him, taking his face in her hands and resting his head on her shoulder, having him lean on her instead of the wall.
She drew him close and whispered in his ear, feeling his arms wrap around her neck, a hand tangled in her hair. "I know she's alive. She has to be. I'm worried, too, but…" she trailed off, remembering all those years ago when all she did was worry about her lost child, somewhere alone in the Matrix. A strong part of her didn't want to worry anymore; didn't have the energy to worry, especially when she felt so deeply that she was in fact alive.
Neo leaned back, wanting now to see her eyes. They stared for a moment, sharing their feelings without talking; restoring each other to equilibrium.
The next week was dedicated to finding the Knight.
They'd searched to where they'd last contacted the ship and went from there, trying to find a possible trail or even clues of their being there. They checked as many routes as they could within the range they estimated possible. They were about to send Neo and Trinity into the Matrix to see if the Oracle had answers when the Knight finally broke radio silence. Both Morpheus and Link were on watch that night, a voice abruptly interrupted the silence.
"This is Acantha of the Knight. Do you copy?"
Morpheus was the first to reach the head set, Link at first surprised at his speed, but then found it predictable.
"Acantha, Thank heavens."
"Where are you?"
That was the only question he pressed to know, habitually knowing that the explanation for their disappearance would be better explained in person and by a ranking officer.
After she gave him their coordinates, she couldn't hide her fear. "Daddy, we were attacked by sentinels."
"Sentinels?" Link exclaimed, stunned. "That's impossible!"
Although Morpheus didn't favor that word being spoken of any situation, he found himself more or less agreeing with the statement.
"Casualties?" Link pressed, not having the headset or else he would've asked himself.
"Were there any casualties?" Morpheus relayed.
"Yes. Ciricia and Pachelbel. They're dead. It's just me, Shosti, Tomb and Dessa."
Morpheus and Link were left stunned a second time. Link then sprung up from his chair, headed towards Neo and Trinity's cabin to relay the news.
The Sophia was up and running very early in the night when they found their invisible ship. Morpheus decided that they board the other ship to observe what possible damage it had acquired. Neo couldn't quite care less about the logistics of their situation; the only thing he was interested in was seeing Dessa with his own eyes.
When they boarded the ship, they were surprised by how much damage three sentinels had caused. The machines had entered through the cock pit and tore up what was between them and the core. The core itself was completely ripped apart, but nothing much else was touched after that.
"Pachelbel destroyed two sentinels and was killed by the third." Shosti retold Morpheus. He noticed Neo waiting patiently beside Morpheus and Trinity, who were actually listening to him, although Trinity wore the same kind of detachment in her eyes. He was used to their subtle signs of emotion; he used to rely upon after he'd been unplugged. He supposed his willingness to bend the rules was what he gained from being freed by Morpheus, but he could never master the art of subtlety that was Neo and Trinity.
He pointed with his thumb to the mess hall, looking at Neo. He felt the turbulence as Neo passed. He looked back to the two officers of the Sophia. "Acantha destroyed the last sentinel with the same gun, nearly lost her life she was so close to the thing."
Morpheus was taking the information in waves. Pride, fear, horror, and pride again. How would Niobe react to this? He was grateful Trinity was somehow in the right state to ask questions.
"What happened to Ciricia?" she asked.
"Killed inside the Matrix." Shosti answered, his arms crossed. "She was jacked-in—and I don't know how she did it—Acantha said when the red alert went off, she was in the Matrix with no Operator. We didn't see what happened, but she died before we blew the EMP."
"So we have no idea why Ciricia is dead, how she jack-in in the first place or why sentinels decided to attack." Trinity stated, frustration lining her tone.
"We'll have to investigate." Morpheus noted.
"We can see if any of our Detectives know anything about it." Shosti suggested, the "Detectives" being a new branch of Reds that remain in the Matrix to gather information for the fleet. Trinity had actually started that program, partly because she felt sorry for all the lone detectives she had to end up killing or whom committed suicide after failing to find her.
"We can consult with the Oracle as well. " Morpheus added. "Neo and Dessa need to see her as it is."
Trinity nodded, knowing exactly what he meant.
Acantha appeared from the direction of the med bay, a bandage wrapped around her hand. Morpheus went to her without much thought, immediate concern riddled through his mind.
Trinity took one last glance at Shosti. They stood there for a brief moment, Trinity taking in how much he'd changed throughout the years. Although he's grown up, he still had amazing amounts of learning to do.
"Can someone help me rewire this?" Link said from underneath the last remaining console. Shosti answered, nodding Trinity a temporary goodbye as he walked in Link's direction. Trinity then made her way to the mess hall when she met Tomb half way. She instinctively reached out, Tomb the equivalent of the son she never had. He hugged her, still loving the feeling of belonging that humans possessed. He was more human than machine now.
"How are you?" He asked. They hadn't talked months, so the statement was relevant.
"Better. This last week has been so…"
"I know." He said. "I was beginning to worry if we'd ever find a way to contact you."
"How did you do that, by the way? Contact us without power?"
"Dessa and I made a radio out of one of the sentinels. It took us a few days, but we managed."
"How is she?"
"See for yourself."
Neo found Dessa sitting alone on the metal bench, her wheel chair just beside her and a metal cup of water in her hands. She looked up, relief now taking both of them. He sat next to her and they embraced, her arms just as tightly wrapped around him as his were around her. Neo took extreme comfort in not only knowing she was alive, but knowing she was now in the safest place possible.
"Dad, those sentinels, I couldn't understand them. It was like they were possessed. And Ciricia, I think she had secrets."
Neo sighed, not having a clue of where to start. So he changed the subject. "I don't know what's happening." He admitted. "Did you have the dream again?"
"Yes. Did you?"
She felt him nod and kiss the side of her face. What did this all mean? "Where do we go from here?" she heard herself say.
"Morpheus wants you both to go to the Oracle. As soon as possible."
This answer took them both somewhat at surprise. They both turned to see Trinity standing in the doorframe, gazing at them.
"Mom!" Dessa couldn't contain herself, wishing she could walk over to her. Knowing this wish all too well, sadness only reflected in Trinity's eyes for a moment before she went over to sit next to her small family.
"As soon as possible?" Neo repeated.
"I'd say we're a little overdue for a visit anyway." Trinity replied.