The Danger of Deduction
John experienced a sudden relief at the sight of the limp form of Sherlock Holmes lying in his bed. But it was hastily followed by sheer panic. He ran forward and drove his hand towards the detective's neck to take his pulse. However, the instant his fingers grazed his skin Sherlock woke up with a start, his eyes opened wild and pushed away the intruder's hand with a sudden movement. John backed away from the bed when he saw his friend standing up in a daze.
"Sherlock!" He exclaimed startled by the detective's behaviour.
It took the detective a couple of seconds to become aware of his surroundings. He was in his room; a tired and worried John Watson was at his side looking at him anxiously; it was late in the afternoon, he couldn't have been away for more than a couple of hours, he could listen to the light traffic outside Baker Street... nothing seemed out of place.
"John," he mumbled.
The doctor heard him speaking his name but somehow he knew Sherlock wasn't talking to him. He watched helplessly as his friend sat down in his bed, making a conscious effort to control his breathing.
"Are you okay?" John asked him keeping a calm voice.
His doctor voice. Thought the detective vaguely, and gave him a little nod.
Once he had regained his usual composure he closed his eyes. He focused on remembering down to the last detail of his little encounter with the Agents. Specially everything he had felt, heard and seen the moment they had injected him with the transmitter.
At once, John recognized the posture and the little preparations his flatmate always did when he was going to meditate lengthily and exhaustively. He always did it when he felt particularly disoriented in complicated and difficult cases.
In such state he'd become for all intends and purposes blind and deaf to the world around him. John knew once the detective entered the deep places within his mind he would blatantly ignore him. And this time, he would not allow it. So he grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him.
The surprise in his friend's eyes would have been hilarious in any other circumstances.
"Where you've been? Where did they take you? Are you hurt?" He asked the detective grabbing him firmly and enduring his stare.
Sherlock had a little frown etched on his face as he studied John Watson's own set features. It was clear the doctor wouldn't let him go until he gave him some kind of answers.
"I was at the MI6 headquarters," said Sherlock slowly as speaking with a child, a maddening habit he shared with his brother as John had been able to attest. The detective mocked John's bad mood even more by raising his eyebrows in pretended confusion, "I told you I had to take a look at some classified files as you might recall."
"No," John shook his head barely restraining his anger, "tell me the truth."
They looked into each other's eyes measuring their resolves in an uncomfortable silence.
Sherlock could not tell him anything.
Even if he wanted to, which he wasn't sure he did, he couldn't talk at the moment. He had a transmitter implanted in his belly, now. He had a direct connection to the Matrix's guardian programs. Machine made programs who could move at incredible dodging-bullets speed and breaking-through-walls strength. He might like a good thrilling challenge but he knew his limits. He wouldn't endanger Doctor Watson like that.
Sherlock shook his head not taking his eyes off his friend.
They remained in silence in a fight of wills of sorts, a very one-sided fight of wills, anyway.
And then Sherlock stood up ignoring his flatmate.
His first priority was to warn the human resistance, to warn Morpheus about the transmitter he was carrying. There was no other way. He would have to risk it and make a quick phone call. He knew the Agents would hear him and then they'd know. They'd finally realize he knew about the machines and about the Matrix, about the on-going war and their control over the human race, and they would come and get him. Another good reason to stay as far as possible from the doctor, he thought.
"John," Sherlock had a faraway look which was getting into John Watson's skin, "I am aware of the innumerable occasions I have abused of your trust in me."
John scowled even more.
"What?" He asked troubled.
"And once again," continued the detective putting on his coat, "I need you to trust me, my friend."
John's eyes widened in surprise, and he didn't know what to say.
"There is something I need to do," Sherlock turned around and picked up a couple of cell phones from his nightstand, "but I need to do it alone."
"Where do you think you're going?" asked an exasperated John, who couldn't believe the detective's sheer nerve! He was leaving with no explanation, none whatsoever, alone! Again!
"No, Sherlock!" Doctor Watson walked towards the door and got on the way of his friend, "You're not going anywhere, not by yourself! The last time you faced Moriarty alone, we almost ended up blown up! He is dangerous, and even in jail he is-"
"What?" Sherlock stopped short, looking wide eyed at John, with the Consolting Criminal's early text message in mind, "Moriarty? In Jail?"
"You didn't know?" John was astonished.
Sherlock paused for a moment.
"What did he do?"
"He breached the Tower of London, Pentonville Prison and the Bank of England's security this morning, and yet he didn't take anything and he didn't offer any resistance when he was arrested," said John quickly, "he did leave a message though, in the Queens jewellery exhibition glass: Get Sherlock."
Sherlock turned his back on John, deep in thought.
John watched warily the back of the detective's head shake.
It doesn't change anything. Sherlock repeated it to himself. He couldn't do anything about it in his current predicament. Priorities. There are priorities.
If Sherlock was right, which was almost a given, the Matrix's Agents would come after him the instant he let Morpheus know about the transmitter he was carrying. What they'd do to him afterwards he didn't know. But nonetheless it meant Sherlock would be gone from the picture and John would be at the Criminal Consultant's disposal.
A bored, maybe angry, undeniably maniac and obsessive Moriarty teasing the good doctor... only Moriarty wouldn't play games with him... No, he would-
John and Sherlock both started when they listened to their apartment door getting closed.
Sherlock turned apprehensively to the bedroom door.
"Mycroft," told him John reassuringly pinching the bridge of his nose, after the initial shock of having found Sherlock had worn off, his headache returned, "he was on his way here."
Sherlock nodded and led the way to the common room.
It was indeed Sherlock's older brother who came strolling towards them with his usual firm strides. He looked -would Sherlock dare acknowledge it?- relieved and worried at the same time. Be that as it may, Mycroft Holmes regained his composure rather quickly, masking his true feelings and relaxing his facial expression.
"Sherlock," he greeted with his usual paused voice, "I'm glad to see you back. I need to talk to you, but not here though, I need you to come with me."
John, who was half expecting a biting comment from his friend, was surprised to hear him reply in a calm voice.
"Actually, Mycroft, it is I who needs to talk to you this time."
Mycroft Holmes raised an eyebrow at his comment.
"I have a car waiting outside."
"I'm not going anywhere," said Sherlock pointedly, and sat down in the armchair, indicating his brother the seat in front of him with a nod, "I need to talk to you now. Would you mind, John?"
John frowned and bit his lip, as he looked from one brother to the other undecided.
"Please?" Added Sherlock as an afterthought not once looking at him.
"Eh..." had Sherlock really said please? "Sure," he said and headed for the kitchen.
"There's nothing eatable there, unless you intend to prepare sandwiches again?" Sherlock said in a barely louder voice, stopping him on his tracks, "no offence John, but you look terrible. Go to the family dinner at the end of the street, you need a good home-cooked meal and some sleep."
John re-entered the room appalled.
"Do you want me to eat out?"
"Aren't you hungry?" Asked the detective raising his eyebrows in an innocent way, which didn't fool John Watson at all. Unfortunately for him his stomach chose to enter the discussion with a loud grumble. He was hungry.
"Sherlock..." John tried to convey the warning in those two syllables; he wasn't in the mood for his usual tricks. Sherlock half-smiled at him briefly as Mycroft sat opposite his brother resignedly.
John Watson sighed and closed the door on his way out of the apartment. He felt bad for being left in the dark, but at least Mycroft would have Sherlock's back. He knew their relationship was difficult at best, but he also knew Big Brother would always be there if needed.
Once in the dinner, John sent Lestrade a quick message to let him now the good news: Sherlock had turn up in their apartment apparently unhurt.
When he came back to Baker Street, he found their flat deserted. Who knew where the Holmes brothers had gone after their little chat. But after a good meal and a couple of days without sleeping he couldn't physically worry too much.
He dragged himself to his bedroom and lay down on his bed, after a little sigh he took out his mobile and texted the detective with his last strength before drifting off.
[You better be here when I wake up]
Sherlock waited until the good Doctor had left their quarters to address his brother, who was patiently waiting for him to talk.
"Mycroft," he started, piercing his brother with a serious look. He wanted to be firm and unambiguous about this, "you cannot, under any circumstance, let John Watson fall prey to Moriarty. He must not get near him, nor be in deals with him of any kind."
Mycroft raised his eyebrows, too shocked to reply right away. Sherlock used this to his advantage and stood up; he couldn't stay there any longer, he had made his choice and speaking with his brother wouldn't help any of them. It was too dangerous.
"Be careful… blad," Sherlock turned walking towards the door, "somethings are not to be meddle with."
Mycroft frowned in confusion. Sherlock hated asking for favours. And even if he did, his brother would never admit to be above his head, not to him. And now, he was doing both.
Moriarty must have been involved somehow, after all. Had he been behind his abduction? What about Morpheus? Were they working together? What are you so afraid of little brother?
"Are you so certain of you imminent failure, brother mine?" He asked tantalizingly before Sherlock could reach the door, making an effort not to let his worry show, "you're giving up?"
Sherlock turned to him with a haunted look.
"I'm not," he said opening the door, "I'm merely choosing my battles."
Mycroft stood up, for once, alarmed.
"I cannot let you go," his voice, surprisingly even and slow, did not betrayed his fear, "You know that Sherlock."
I can help you. Was the hidden message both he and Sherlock could pick up from his words.
Mycroft didn't know what had happened to Sherlock during his absence, a dozen possibilities overlapping themselves in his mind, but his brother was definitely scared, and he was leaving, this time for good. What had they threatened him with? He knew his self-appointed sociopath of a brother really cared for too many people around him. Liabilities. He thought with contempt.
"I know you could try to withhold me, Mycroft, but it would only make things worse, trust me." After glancing one last time to his brother, Sherlock left, closing the door behind him.
His mind racing through different, possibilities, vantages, disadvantages, scenarios and theories, Mycroft took his cell phone out.
"Damn it," he mumbled inadvertently, pushing the one touch dial in his phone.
"I want all eyes on Sherlock, now."
Sherlock walked away from Baker Street in the opposite direction of the Café he knew John would be in. He walked as fast as he could without drawing any attention to himself. Avoiding security cameras wasn't easy, not in London, but he knew the National Parks had the least amount of them so he chose the nearest one to make the phone call. He had to make sure Mycroft didn't see who went looking for him.
Making sure no one was in the immediate vicinity he stilled himself and called Morpheus.
"Sherlock," a low-paced and deep voice greeted him.
"I've got a transmitter," the detective interrupted him quickly, "it's not safe to talk anymore," he said and hung up.
Now that he thought about it, making that call in the park hadn't been a good idea after all. Those Agents could take the minds of a family nearby to come and get him, maybe the minds of a couple of children.
He shook his head, there was nothing he could do about it now… unless he hurried to the nearest dark alley he could find and hope they possessed a couple of low-life thugs. Would he risk Mycroft to see something like that?
His thoughts were interrupted when Morpheus' phone rang. What was he doing? Maybe he didn't understand what he'd said?
"It's ok, Sherlock."
"Relax. They cannot hear what you say."
"They use those bugs to pinpoint your position within the Matrix and to detect if a free mind… huh, someone unplugged, comes near you, not to listen to what you say."
Sherlock felt an overwhelming wave of relief coursing throughout his body and only then he admitted to himself how nervous… no, scared, he had been.
He suddenly felt like he could breathe again and audibly sighed.
"Sherlock?" The worry was easily heard from the other side of the line.
"I'm fine," was the immediate response, "I guess… everything remains the same then?" asked the detective.
"Not… entirely," Sherlock gripped his phone a little tighter, he could hear the other man worry and doubt, "you are already in the Agents' radar, we cannot allow you to remain in the Matrix now. You are the bait, but if nothing springs the trap…"
"I get it."
"I'm sorry Sherlock; they must have got you-"
"They came soon after our phone call ended."
There was a little pause in which they both contemplated the meaning of their current situation.
Morpheus had spoken with Sherlock barely the day before, how'd the Agents know they'd been in touch so soon? It worried the Captain; more so, because of all the information the civilian possessed. It was potentially dangerous for him and what remained of his crew if the Agents chose to enter the detective's mind now.
But they couldn't afford to split his efforts and protect Sherlock; the first priority was to find a ship to help them all. Maybe they could take out the bug from the detective even if he remained in the Matrix? It could be arranged easily, but he would have to stay hidden until they could unplug him for good. And there was no precedent as what would the Agents do to him if they find him a second time without the bug. No, it was better for all involved if they didn't act on it, yet…
Sherlock was 80% sure he would have chosen to leave the Matrix anyway. Nonetheless having the choice taken from him felt wrong somehow. They would free his mind as soon as they could; as soon as they find the other members of the human resistance.
Helping save the human race from machine enslavement was worth the sacrifice of his current… life. But there were so many variables to take in count…
"Morpheus… I… when they injected me the transmitter, there was a moment in which I opened my eyes and couldn't see the room I was in, but felt a soft, semisolid pink substance all around me… I was hurting and it was all blurry. I couldn't move or breathe. It barely lasted a couple of seconds but it felt real."
There was another short pause before the Captain talked again.
"It was real. Tell me Sherlock, when was the last time you slept?"
"I just woke up. They gave me something to knock me out after the interrogation."
"And what about before the drug-induced sleep?"
Sherlock had to think for a moment, and opened his eyes in shock. No wonder why John had been almost hysterical, "Five days," he whispered, frowning. He'd never stayed awake that long; he was well aware of the risks of sleep deprivation, after all, "I've been awake for five days straight."
"And the last time you ate?"
Sherlock's frown deepened.
"The day before yesterday," Sherlock's mind was racing, "Do you think I could wake up by myself?"
"Are you hungry? Tired?"
"No." Maybe he was emotionally tired, but physically he felt good.
"It's not unprecedented," said Morpheus, and wasn't surprised at all when he felt the beginning of a headache forming, "but let's hope you don't. You don't feel hunger because you mental projection needs no food, or rest. You are unconsciously rejecting the program."
It was clear Morpheus wouldn't add anything else, but Sherlock had to ask.
"What is waking up like? I need to know Morpheus, in detail."
In detail? Morpheus knew only a few people would join the resistance if they knew in detail what they'd suffer after being freed. But he also knew the detective wouldn't be at ease with nothing short of the truth.
"Your body is currently connected to life support machines within a viscous liquid resembling a placenta. The moment you wake up, intentionally or unintentionally, the machines will, in a very literal sense, throw you away, releasing your body through the pipes. If we have our ship at the ready, we can pull you out from it. And you'd spend four months more or less in intensive care to restore your atrophied muscles. If not… well, you haven't used your body in 37 years, so even if your mind knows how to swim, you wouldn't be able to. You'd drown irremediably. "
"Oh. It doesn't sound very encouraging."
"It isn't. Right now, your only choice is to anchor yourself in the Matrix as firm as you can, until we come for you. Eat, sleep and avoid great disturbances. Allow yourself to feel as much as you can and," Morpheus chuckled darkly, "think less and live in the moment."