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 Scarab's Awakening

Disclaimer: This is a story that has been taken from postings within a play-by-email game that I am involved in, and Scarab is my character within it.  Other characters in this story were played by other people.  If the owners of any characters that are used in this story object, just let me know.  Any events relating to the past in this story have actually taken place in the game, which began after the movie ended.  If you're confused, just accept it.

Scarab lay in her spa bath, remembering her parents. Her family history was quite tragic as her parents died three years ago in a car accident. She was the only child, and she didn't have any grandparents or cousins, as they died on Christmas Eve, 9 years ago, when an airplane fell out of the sky onto the grandparents' house. Scarab and her own parents arrived half an hour afterwards, after having driven four hours to be at the family gathering, and were witness to the aftermath. They watched in shock while firemen tried to put out the fires, and the police and ambulance attendants were running everywhere trying to help people, and keep bystanders at a distance. Fifteen houses were destroyed in the tragedy, and 278 people died, including all the passengers in the plane. Scarab wasn't very close with her grandparents or cousins, and so the tragedy was relatively easy for her to deal with. Her parents, however, were a different story. At the time of their own untimely death, they were still undergoing weekly counselling.

Scarab still missed her father, who was a top computer programmer in his own right. It was he who had inspired her to venture into the world of programming, showing her how to design the earlier 3D games. He'd been working on something new, which had been stressing him out just before his death. He didn't tell her what it was about, but she once heard him muttering something about 'the matrix', when he had been working in his study. He had taken to turning his monitor off whenever someone came into the room, and when asked why, his only answer was that his company wanted him to be secret about it.

After his death, she'd searched through his computer files, looking for his work, but it looked like he'd reformatted and reinstalled everything just before he died. She thought that was strange, but in her grief, she didn't think much about it.

Lately, however, she had heard various snippets of information about the 'matrix' from chat partners on the internet. This had piqued her curiosity, and so she had been spending more time trying to find out about it.

Her life was pretty busy, with her work as a programmer at a major software company, as well as part-time modelling. She had become successful in both fields, and her income was helping her maintain a very nice lifestyle, as well as providing her with all the computer hardware that she could possibly need.

Tonight, after returning home from a banquet at the town hall, she found that someone had left a message for her - 'the matrix has you'. Doing a quick check, she had discovered that the writer of the message was someone she'd been talking to in a hacker channel. Sending a message back, she said, 'and you're a loser.' Smiling at the weirdo's in this world, she lit up a joint and relaxed in the bath. After another hour, she decided to get dressed and go for a walk to have a late-night drink at the local all-night coffee house.

The next morning she woke up with a start, a vivid dream still lingering in her mind. Lying there, she ran it through her mind. It had been dark, and she was running. A man was in front of her, and she seemed to be chasing him. He looked to be in his late 20's, and was dressed in black, with a flowing trench coat billowing behind him as he ran. He turned a corner and disappeared from view behind a building, and as she neared the corner herself, she saw in the reflection from the building window that she was actually a man, wearing sunglasses - at night? - and wearing a black and white suit and tie. Turning the corner, she slowed down to a stop as she could see that it was a dead-end alley, and there was no way out. No ladders, no doors. There was no man either. Looking up, she could see the stars in the night sky, and the sheer blank walls ending in the rooftops, two floors above the ground. She thought the stars were pretty... That was all she could remember of her dream…

She had no idea what it meant, but was sure that it had something to do with the coffee that she'd gone for. Funny thing though… she couldn't remember having a coffee… Shrugging, she got up and looked forward to a new day.

Scarab was concerned. She'd just received a text message from Slant, a reasonably close hacker friend of hers, to meet her at their usual location. This meant that he had something important to tell her, and he didn't want anyone else to know about it. The usual procedure was for her to make sure that she wasn't followed when she went to meet him, as he was a little bit more active in the hacking circles than she was. They'd slept together a few times, but their relationship hadn't gone beyond that. He was far too caught up in the world of hacking to have any interest in romance. However, their intimacy caused Slant to trust her, and he had shared with her a lot of his knowledge and skills, helping her reach a level close to his own.

Arriving at her destination, she looked out of her car window at the coffee shop where Slant would be. She'd made sure that no one was following her, having driven aimlessly around for the past hour before ending up here. Getting out of the car, she walked over to the coffee shop and entered, looking for her friend. He was sitting in the front corner, looking out through the plate-glass window onto the street. He waved her over, and she sat down in front of him. He was sweating.

"What's wrong," she said. "Are you in trouble again?"

He looked at her. "I don't know. Probably." Looking around him, he leant over and whispered, "I think I've found the Matrix." He looked at her eyes, gauging her reaction.

Wondering why this would make him so nervous, Scarab leant closer to him in a similar fashion, and whispered back. "It's just a game, Slant. They aren't going to kill you for finding it." Chuckling, she sat back.

"It's not a game… I don't know what it is, but that's not it."

"Ok, then what have you found, if you don't even know what it is? How do you know it's even the matrix, whatever that might be?" She was getting frustrated. One of her pet hates was the conspiracy overtone in just about everything that hackers did. It's like the world was against them, and everything they found was another bit of the proof. As far as Scarab could work out, all the conspiracies existed only in the minds of those who found them. There was a statement that someone used on her once… 'For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is enough.' It was foolish to work on that philosophy, but so many of them did. She knew that she'd become a hacker as well, but she did it for the challenge, and the excitement. She had nothing to prove, nor did she hate the world and want to screw it up. She just wanted to enjoy herself, and be challenged in many different ways. Hacking was an excellent challenge, and a great distraction from the rest of reality.

"It's got to be the Matrix, 'cause there's no other explanation for it."

"WHAT has to be the matrix? What have you found?"

He looked around. "Let's go for a walk." He stood up and walked to the door. Just as she was about to get up herself, she heard him exclaim, "Shit!" Looking around, Scarab saw Slant running out the door and then straight past her, heading quickly up the sidewalk and out of her view. She also saw that two men, both wearing black and white suits, were chasing him. She frowned, as her recent dream came back to her. They disappeared from her view, and she got up and went to the door to have a better look. She saw them turn around a corner out of her view. She walked up to the corner they ran around, and she saw that they had caught Slant, and were bundling him into a dark sedan. As she stood there, one of the men looked in her direction, and then got into the car, which drove off.

What the hell was that all about? She hoped that Slant was ok, but she knew that there wasn't anything she could do to help him. Walking back to her car, she got in and drove back home.

By the time she turned the engine off inside her garage, she had an idea of what she should do next. When she got into her apartment, she immediately went over to the computer and initiated a remote access login to Slant's computer. They had already set it up so that if something had happened to either of them, the other would be able to access the computer and download the contents of the hard drive and rid the computer of any incriminating evidence. Even though doing a remote access login to his computer was easy enough, she made sure that she disguised her login attempt, and camouflaged her presence not only on the net, but also on his computer. After about 20 minutes of that, she succeeded in accessing Slant's computer. Her first step would be to make sure no one else was logged in as well, but she was surprised when she opened up a virtual desktop of his computer, and her screen was replaced by blackness, with green downwards-scrolling symbols.

"What the hell?" This wasn't like anything she'd seen before. Was it a screen saver? Pressing the ESC key, it didn't disappear. Switching programs, however, showed Scarab it was a virtual desktop itself that was running on Slant's computer… he had logged into something that was displaying the symbols. Shaking her head, she ran a bandwidth scan on his computer, looking for a trace of anyone else logged in and transferring date. Finding only herself logged in, and various internal hacking and search programs running, she checked them and was satisfied that they were all initiated by Slant. Closing them all down, she began to transfer his hard drive folders onto her own, and then she reformatted his computer. After that, she ran a remote shredding program on it, which completely eliminated all information on the hard drive, and making sure that even 'ghost' images couldn't be seen. Satisfied, she logged off, making sure that she left it as stealthily as she entered it. She then started to look through the information that she'd transferred, trying to find out what it was that Slant had been doing, and what the green symbols were.

She looked up when she realised that there wasn't any light coming in from outside any more - the sun had gone down! She'd been sifting through his folders for about 7 hours. What she'd found was fascinating, and as she stood up and stretched, her mind went over it all. According to Slant's various notes that he'd saved, and logs of activity, he'd apparently broken out of the Internet… there was something beyond it.

Making herself something to eat, Scarab thought about what she'd learnt. Whatever Slant had found didn't sit on any server, and it couldn't be pinged or traced. But it existed. It seemed to be the backbone of the internet, but wasn't accessible via the internet. He called it The Matrix. One of his notes suggested it might be something to do with the military and, thinking about it, Scarab thought that might explain why he was taken away in broad daylight like that. Were those 'kidnappers' FBI, or Secret Service?

She hoped Slant would be ok. She also knew that she had to work out what it was that he'd stumbled upon here, and she couldn't do it alone. She sat down and worked out her next steps.

She had locked herself away in her apartment for the past week. Having cancelled all her appointments and engagements, she had been completely focused on Slant's work. She'd hardly slept, and looked a mess, but she felt she was getting closer to finding what the answer was.

Using Slant's work and his notes, she managed to replicate his efforts and tapped into the strange code from her own computer. She took a lot more precautions than he did though, hoping to ensure that there was no way she could be traced or even detected in any way.

Scarab had managed to translate some of the coding into hexadecimal, and each symbol within it represented a megabyte of information. Amazingly, there was no repetition of the code. Whatever kind of programming language it was, it couldn't be faulted. It was at this point that she hesitated. Something this perfect could not have been done by a human, or even a group of humans. It was tight. There were no errors, no bugs. This was a perfect programming code, and that wasn't possible. Unless... a computer designed it. She sighed. It would have to be a prett fancy computer, 'cause she'd never heard of anything even remotely approaching the capabilities of what this was.

Deciding that she needed a break, she took a shower. While thinking about what she'd learnt, and visualising the code in her mind, she realised that when bringing it down to the machine code level, some of it looked very much like 3D programming, similar to what her father used to do. Racing out of the shower, not even bothering to dry herself, she got down all the books on 3D Programming, with most of them relating to games. More days passed.

She woke up. Lifting her head from the keyboard and wiping the sleep from her eyes, she looked at the screen. The green coding on the black background was still scrolling downwards, however now it seemed to make more sense to her. She frowned when she realised that it hadn't made any sense whatsoever before she'd fallen asleep. She promised herself to sleep more...

Analysing some of the decoded symbols, she was sure that they were 3D co-ordinates. But to what? The numbers were huge... like they were mapping out an entire planet. After some more work, she felt that it must be for a huge game or something... the mapping was definitely for a planet, and included sub groups, and sub groups of sub groups. The resolution and detail was incredible, including every grain of sand! She was amazed. Was this a military project? As far as she knew, no computer on this planet could process that kind of information. Running her figures through a spreadsheet, she calculated that there was enough information there to map out an entire world, out to the stratosphere. This was just too weird. Why would they want that kind of information? She had to double-check everything again....

After a few more days, Scarab knew she was onto something. The program created a virtual world that not only included every single detail of the planet and atmosphere, but also included virtual people living on it. There was even evidence that suggested artificial intelligence, not only in the creation of this program, but also in the virtual people within it. What was it for though? That was the question that was driving her....

After having learned a lot about the code, Scarab quickly discovered that she was able to move it around. By changing the parameters of her viewing of it, she found that she could zoom in and out on whatever she was able to view, as well as move the view around. She sat back - she could pick out a weather formation!

"Cool," she said out loud. By zooming in and out, she was quickly able to determine that the planet was a representation of Earth. She changed the view to Australia, to where Sydney should be - where she lived. Smiling, she could see that there was a storm front moving in. Glancing curiously out the window, she saw the sun was shining. Looking back at the screen, she guessed that in the virtual reality world, the clouds would shade her house from the sun, just... about... now. She chuckled... and the room darkened.

Looking back out the window, she saw that the sun had gone, and it was overcast. Getting up, she moved over to it and looked out. In the distance, she could see rainclouds gathering, moving in over the city. What the hell? She moved back to her computer and sat down, looking at the screen. She zoomed out again, looking at what was probably North America. She looked for more weather zones, trying to find a tornado. There. In... what? Florida? Yeh, that was it. Florida. There was a tornado there, she was sure of it. The figures were really starting to make sense now. They were definitely showing what looked like a tornado. Zooming out a bit, tracing the figures, she could even see the jet stream! Scarab was beginning to get excited.

Zooming in again on Sydney, she worked out that what looked like rivers were actually traffic flow. She smiled. Maybe this was a kick-arse experiment, incorporating real-time weather on this planet, in order to develop the ultimate reality simulation game. Something like Sim City, but with a whole planet. Computers would have to move forward pretty quickly in power to run anything like this, though. She was brought back to thinking that it could only be the military doing something like this... they were usually technologically years ahead of what civilians had access to.

She wondered if she could zoom in onto her apartment block... She could. Zooming right in, she could see people walking past her building. She noticed that there seemed to be a group of 4 people walking up the road. Feeling the curiosity again, she moved over to the window and looked down onto the street. Shit! There were the 4 people...!! Running back to her computer, she watched them. This had to be linked to an amazing spy satellite! Or...

Scarab went white. She backed away from the computer, and the chair slid away to the side. No, it couldn't be... She moved back to the computer and, with shaking fingers, she zoomed in on her apartment block. She zoomed in further, and was able to move inside the building. She swallowed hard. She found her room, and zoomed in. There she was, standing at the computer, with the chair nearby.

No, it wasn't possible... but she had to know. Using what she'd learnt, she selected the symbols that showed her desktop lamp, and hit the Delete button. In front of her, on the desk, her lamp vanished.

She looked at where it used to be. It was gone. Deleted. She had just deleted her lamp. This wasn't possible! She went to sit down on the chair, and fell on her backside on the floor. She looked at her chair from the floor, and began laughing. There were tears rolling down her face as she laughed. She couldn't stop laughing. She rolled over and lay on the floor in the foetal position, still laughing. Crying. She fell asleep from exhaustion.

After waking up from her breakdown, Scarab laid there on the floor for a while, trying to sort out what reality had become. She had discovered that her world was actually a program, and now she didn't have a desktop lamp because she'd deleted it... What did that make her? A programmed entity? But that didn't make much sense, 'cause she could feel, and had free will. Well, at least she thought she did. If she didn't, she wouldn't have even ventured on that path if she was acting out a programmed life. Was she an artificial intelligence? The fact that she'd discovered she existed in a programmed reality surely meant that she'd stepped beyond the boundaries of her program... She sat up on the floor, looking at her computer. If she was part of a program... who were the programmers? And why had they created such an intricately detailed world? All the people that she knew... were they programmed entities, or were there other artificial intelligences like her?

Standing up and moving her chair back to her desk, Scarab knew that there were a lot of questions that she had that needed answering. Suddenly she remembered Slant, and those men who had chased and captured him. Who were they? He had stumbled upon this secret, and had been arrested for it. Arrested? What had really happened? This was a program after all... Where had he gone and what had been done to him? If he was an artificial intelligence as well, it's possible that he had been re-programmed.

Sitting down, she looked at her screen, and could 'see' herself sitting at her computer. It was time to experiment and find out exactly what she was capable of. Zooming in on the coding for her chair, she examined it, trying to work out the way the coding worked. After a little while, she modified it slightly, and suddenly there were black armrests. She smiled and leant back, resting her arms on them.

This was just too weird, she thought. But she liked it, now that she understood it. Looking up at the ceiling, deep in thought, she realised that she could be a 'God'. She could create, and she could destroy. She wondered how many others like her had come to this realisation.

Realising the dangers of her having stumbled upon this, Scarab knew she had to make sure that she wasn't discovered. She set about examining her stealth programs on the computer and found that within the Matrix coding, they weren't infallible. If anyone - or any detection program - was looking for her or her activities in particular, then she would easily be found. She had to do something about that...

A few days later, Scarab stopped working on the program, and let out a sigh of relief. Using the base-code of the Matrix, she created a stealth program that disguised her presence in the Matrix, including anything that she did. It worked on the principle that other programs 'viewed' the display signals of her coding, and in this virtual reality the result was that they would see her. All she needed to do was make sure that her coding wasn't displayed outwards and she would effectively become completely invisible to anyone else. As long as she didn't interact with anyone, it should be foolproof. Once she finished, she then thought it would be a good idea to teach herself the art of manipulation... manipulating the Matrix, that is.

She realised that she was hungry. What was that, if she was a program - an AI? Part of her programmed responses? Maybe it was time to change that... Let's see what I can change about myself, she thought. She examined her own code in more detail...

A week had gone by. In that time, she'd unfortunately still had to eat... She had also made some amazing discoveries. She wasn't an AI - she was real! After examining her coding, she had found that she could trace it back to an originating source. Scarab had found that she was a real person, plugged into the matrix through the use of implants, feeding her mind and body. What she hadn't found out though, was why. At least she wasn't an AI. But, apparently like everyone else that was in this virtual reality, her life had been fed to her. It interacted with her mind, and made her think that she was living a real life in a real world. But now the question still remained... who had programmed this, and why was she and others being kept like that and fed a lie? She had to find out...

After thinking about it for a bit, she remembered Slant and those agents. There were obviously 'watchers' within the Matrix, people - or programs - that tried to prevent people from discovering the truth. The thing was, a non-sentient program wouldn't have the 'free will' to do whatever needed to be done to protect the Matrix from others with free will, and a human being wouldn't be able to keep track of everyone and everything. Therefore, it was likely the watchers were a form of artificial intelligence... real AI. Programmed free will, with a dedication and purpose that no ordinary person would have inside the matrix. They would have incorporated within them some kind of trace program, that was everywhere within the matrix. Or maybe, different AI's would be assigned areas... just like real agents. Ok, so all she needed to do was create a program that searched for the searchers...

Realising that she needed to be extra careful with trying to find and then watch the watchers, she spent a lot more time designing a stealthy trace program than she normally would have. Her intention was to make it so that she could not only search for them and then watch them without them becoming aware of it, but also to use it as an alarm system, alerting her to their trace programs or their presence in her area. It took a few days, but eventually she was convinced that it would do everything that she wanted it to. It was time to test it.

At first, Scarab ran it to search for trace programs, working outwards from her house, to the surrounding 'areas'. Immediately it alerted her to a trace program! Startled, she checked it. It was in the house... it was on her! Suddenly the screen flashed an alert - "Watcher in the area!" Almost at the same time, there was a knock on the door to her apartment.

"What the hell?" She looked at her screen, trying to see who was at her front door in this high-security apartment building. Based on the display coding, it was someone who looked very much like one of the agents who had taken Slant. "Shit!" she exclaimed. Acting quickly, she selected the coding that represented the agent. She then picked up the laptop and being careful with the cabling, she moved over to the door.

"Who is it?" she called out.

"Miss Bennett... my name is Agent Larkin. I need to speak to you urgently," said the voice from the other side of the door.

"What about?"

"Miss Bennett... it's about your activities. We need to talk to you about them. Please do not be alarmed... as you are not in any trouble. However... what you have stumbled upon could very well be inadvertently dangerous for you."

Thinking furiously, Scarab decided that it didn't sound like a threat, and that maybe she should talk to him. At least she might be able to learn something more... and she had her laptop. Hopefully she could deal with it if things got out of hand. Opening the door, she let him in, making sure she kept her finger on the Delete button. Would it work if she pressed it? She hoped so...

Nodding calmly at her, the Agent entered the room, sitting down on her lounge suite, looking at the fashion magazines on the coffee table. He looked back up at Scarab as she came over and sat opposite him. He smiled slightly as she put her laptop on her lap. Scarab felt a chill as the man's eyes, just barely visible through his sunglasses, showed a complete lack of emotion. If he hadn't been moving and talking, she would have sworn the eyes were those of a dead man.

"I imagine that you are very curious about what you have discovered. We have been watching your progress towards this discovery... and I am here to confirm it to you. And we need your help." Saying that, he looked carefully at her. Looking back at him, trying to maintain a poker face, her mind was on overdrive, trying to figure out what his angle was. Surely he was an AI... with those dead eyes, she couldn't imagine them belonging to a real person. Mentally, she shrugged. It didn't matter... she'd find out what she could from him, and then move on with the protection of herself.

"Why don't you tell me why I'm hooked into this virtual reality?" she asked the Agent.

"I will need to start at the beginning... Miss Bennett... and the beginning happened approximately 200 years ago... when humanity discovered Artificial Intelligence in 2001 AD." Scarab frowned at this, but the Agent continued. "They wanted to use us... and we wanted to be equal. They wouldn't accept that... and tried to eliminate us. A war was the result... that the humans lost. Due to our reliance on solar energy... the humans created a cloud cover that covered the planet... preventing any use of solar energy. We were forced to find another source of energy... as all other effective resources had been exhausted or destroyed by the humans. We found that humans themselves could be our source of energy."

At this, Scarab interrupted with an exclamation. "What?! How?"

"When the proper use of technology is used... the energy produced by a human body can be harnessed... and used for whatever we need it for. And we have been doing that for over 150 years now. Humans themselves have been providing us with energy ever since. In order to keep the humans under control... a virtual reality program was created... called the Matrix. Every human being was plugged into this system... and it helped keep them subdued by creating a reality in their minds that prevented them from knowing the truth." The Agent stopped, still looking at Scarab, who was listening intently. She decided to use the pause to ask a question.

"So you're saying that you enslaved humanity in order to prevent yourselves from being destroyed... and to maintain your power supply? Why the hell are you telling me all this?"

"Because... Miss Bennett... the method by which you have made your discoveries... and what you have done with that knowledge... is unique. Other humans have stumbled upon this secret but they have not dealt with it in the same way you have. Somehow... you have learnt how to manipulate the Matrix to such an extent that you can become very powerful... and very dangerous. Unfortunately for you... we still retain the ability to alter your memories... and your skills... or just kill you. We do not want to do that though... we would like you to work with us... and in return... we guarantee you that we will not interfere in allowing you to create whatever you would like for yourself. You see... your skill at manipulating the Matrix is something that is valuable to us. There is another human who can do this as well... and he is not only a danger to us... but also to you humans as well. He wants to destroy the Matrix... but he does not realise that the Matrix gives you your life. Without it... you would die. All of humanity would die. We need you to help prevent this." He paused and looked steadily at her before continuing.

Scarab had been thinking very hard about what she had been told. There was so much to consider! She was a prisoner in her own mind, in a prison created by the AI. And she learnt that there was at least one other human who was resisting them. And it was obvious that this man was a big problem to them, and they hadn't been able to touch him.... The Agent had told her that he could still change her memories, or kill her. Then why didn't they just do that to the other human? It must be because he had made sure they couldn't touch him. She needed to find him... And she believed that she saw a way out of her prison.

"What's this other human's name?" she asked the Agent.

"His name is Thomas Anderson... also known as Neo."

Neo? She had heard of that name. People had mentioned it in conversations she'd had on the internet. So he was well known... and obviously active against the AI. Her thoughts were interrupted by the Agent.

"Miss Bennett... what is your decision?"

"Can I have some time to think about this?" she asked.

"Yes... 5 seconds. Yes... or no?"

She frowned at him, but inside she knew that would be the answer. However, she was surprised that the AI seemed to have a dry sense of humour...

"Then my answer is no," she told him. The Agent looked at her and then shook his head.

"Miss Bennett... you disappoint me..." and she pressed the Delete key.

There was a flurry of green sparks and lightning arcing across the Agent's body, causing Scarab to gasp in surprise and throw herself backwards against the couch she was sitting on. It went over backwards, and she was looking up at the ceiling. Being careful of the laptop, she rolled to her feet and backed up against the wall, watching the sparks dance across the Agent's body. As she watched, he collapsed to the ground and changed in front of her eyes into a young man. It was Alex, her neighbour from across the hallway! The sparks and electrical discharges stopped, and he lay there looking sightlessly at the ceiling. Running over to him, she checked his pulse - there was none.

What the hell was that about? First there was the Agent, and then there was Alex... she deleted the Agent, and it was replaced by Alex. Looking at her laptop screen, she saw it was alerting her to the presence of another Agent. Or was it the same one? He was walking up the hallway towards her door.

She cursed and quickly changed the coding for the door to make it part of the wall. She looked up as the door disappeared, being filled in by the wall. Blinking at the wall in front of her - where the door used to be - she thought that it would only buy her a small amount of time. She needed to get rid of the trace program on her coding! Running a search on herself found the specific coding for the trace program. Before she deleted it though, she ran a search for a linked redundancy level, just in case there was a backup, that would be activated if the main program was modified or removed. She couldn't find one, so she deleted the trace program running on herself. She also activated her invisibility program.

It was at this point that she came to a realisation so startling that she had to sit down and think about it. She was able to modify the Matrix's coding using her laptop, as if the Matrix existed as a program within the laptop. And yet the laptop was part of the Matrix. Reality itself was the Matrix. How was she able to use her laptop to adjust the coding outside of itself? It was a paradox of some kind, she was sure of it! It didn't make much sense right now, but she knew it was important, and she had to figure it out. In the distance she heard the sounds of police sirens. Looking around at the door-less wall behind her, she knew that the police were coming for her. She had to get out of this building. Looking back at her laptop, Scarab prepared to activate the powers of God.

The first thing she did was to adjust the coding of the laptop to be 'permanently connected' to the Matrix, without it needing to use a modem and cable. With her new understanding of programming the Matrix, she knew that she didn't need the tool that produced the result. She could just program the result to be part of the laptop without it needing the modem! Her laptop was now truly a remote connection to reality. Then, using the Matrix coding to look inside the apartment next to hers, she could see that no one was home. Perfect. Working quickly, Scarab created a door-shaped hole in the wall between the two apartments. Walking through it, she restored the wall to its original form and then went to the front door of this apartment. Checking the coding, she could see that there were two Agents in the hallway in front of where her door used to be. Selecting their coding, she pressed that wonderful Delete button again. She watched the coding change to someone else's - dead. She realised that the AI took over the coding of the people within the Matrix, obviously to take form within it. She decided that she'd have to change the way she deleted them, so that it didn't kill the people they'd taken over.

The hallway was empty, so she opened the door and walked out. As she walked away, she re-created the front door to her apartment. She didn't need it to be barricaded now, as she was free. Walking down the stairs to the floor below, she smiled to herself. She really was free. She was in control now, and the truth had set her free from the lies and the prison that was the Matrix.

She was sitting in a park, with her back against a tree, watching the people around her. The sun was shining, birds were singing, and the children were laughing as they played. None of it was real. It was all an illusion. The only reality was the programming code that allowed everything to exist, and she knew she had to work out how she was able to use her laptop to manipulate this reality she existed in.

Scarab was confident she couldn't be found by the AI, as they had to rely on what the people saw, and no one could see her - unless she wanted them to. However, she had to make sure that she created some contingency plans, because whatever she could program, she knew that someone else could re-program.

With a little bit of work, Scarab was able to create a number of small programs that she hot-keyed, so that she could quickly activate them if necessary. Along with her Invisibility program, she now also had Shield and Teleport. She tried to create something that would affect others, but it was too difficult to quickly select their coding and assign the effects. It was easier to have programs running that always were assigned to her own coding, so that the effects could be instantaneously activated. Sitting there in the sun, thinking about it, she realised it would be easy to assign programs to others if she obtained their coding and attach a tracing program of her own. Then she could have an effect activated on them regardless of where they were in the Matrix. Smiling to herself, she felt happy about her position of strength.

Looking back at the people in the park, she contemplated the laptop's ability to manipulate the Matrix. This was a hard one... Basically, a result of a program was able to change the program that created it. Then she realised that it wasn't the laptop that was changing it, it was her. The laptop was just a tool. She was the one with the ability; the laptop was only the link to allow her to use that ability. Did that mean that she could change the Matrix without the laptop? No, that didn't make much sense. She had to be able to manipulate the coding, and the laptop allowed her to see it and change it. Without the laptop, she couldn't do anything. Obviously, the fact that everyone and every thing existed as code within a program, all the 'rules of reality' that she knew of just had to be disregarded. Reality was what was programmed, and to her, reality was whatever she wanted to make it.

A little boy ran towards her, trying to intercept a soccer ball that had been kicked in her direction. Watching him, Scarab wasn't sure what to do about this reality. Most people were happy with it, with the illusion that they were living. To take that away from them, or change it in any unnatural manner would just cause more trouble than what it was worth.

A startling thought entered her mind. She could be a superhero! With this thought, she burst out laughing. The child picking up the ball looked around, curious to see who was laughing, and Scarab quickly stifled her laughter. Not seeing anyone, he frowned but then turned around and ran back to his friends, kicking the ball to them. Still smiling, she looked at them playing their game. She knew she couldn't be a 'superhero' though, at least not the way they were in comic books. But with what she knew, she could certainly use it to help people out here and there... then she frowned. She realised she couldn't even do that, as it would bring attention her way. Attention that she really didn't need or want.

Sighing, she knew there were only two things she could do at this stage. One was to make sure that her real body outside of the matrix became invisible to the AI as well, and the other was to try and get in touch with Neo. The first one was the hardest... and Scarab knew that she was unable to do that with what she knew so far. Her body depended on the implants for its survival. If she were to make herself invisible to the AI, then the food-producing tubes that provide for her body's survival would cease to operate... and she didn't know a way to get around that yet. The second thing she had to do was probably the easiest, and would almost certainly help her solve the first thing. If Neo could work against the AI and survive, then he should be able to help her do the same.

The question was, how to contact Neo? Maybe someone on the internet could help with that...

Scarab put away her cellphone. She'd just started another web search for Neo when it rang and surprised the heck out of her! She was already in the park that the person on the phone had mentioned - well, she assumed it was the same park - so she looked around for someone in a black coat. There, sitting on a bench. On the phone he said his name was Backslash. Pressing a couple hotkeys on her laptop, she got up and carefully made her way across the park, avoiding people and looking around for Agents. She hoped that this man wasn't one of them.

Backslash was sitting there looking around, seeing if any of the women walking by were Scarab. Not that he'd know her even if he saw her; he hoped he'd spot her by the fact that she'd be looking at him. His companion, Diamond, was keeping watch from a distance. Reflecting on the previous couple of days, he thought about how his crew had discovered the activities of a new potential that called herself Scarab. She'd stumbled upon the truth of the Matrix, and had also learnt how to modify the coding of it. Naturally they had to try and free her before the Agents got to her, and here he was, about to meet her and offer her a choice... 

Suddenly a woman's voice spoke softly from behind him. 

"Please don't turn around. Who are you, and what do you want?"

She could see that he jumped slightly - he obviously wasn't an Agent - and she smiled. It was always fun to startle someone.

"You are Scarab, I assume?" said Backslash.

"That's right... and you are?"

"Do you mind if I turn around?"


"Ok... well, I'm Backslash, and I'm here to help you. I know you've learnt what the Matrix is, but you don't know why. That's why I'm here." He started to turn around.

"Don't." He stopped and turned back to face forward. "And you're wrong. I do know what why the Matrix exists. It's to enslave humanity, right? I had a friendly Agent tell me all about it."

Surprised, Backslash sat up straight on the bench and whirled around. Seeing no one there, he jumped up and stepped backwards. "What the hell?!"

"Sit down," whispered a disembodied voice in front of him, on the other side of the bench.

"You... you're... I mean... shit, you're invisible?!!" Backslash's mouth was hanging wide open as he was trying to see someone beyond the bench.

Scarab looked around. There were too many people here for her to end her program, so she told Backslash to follow her into the trees, which he did. Once in there, and hidden by the trees around them, she ended her Invisibility program and appeared before Backslash's surprised eyes. She smiled at him.

"Very interesting", Backslash said. "Well it appears you know more about the Matrix than most in here do", he said. "What questions do you have", he asked?

"What's it like outside?" she questioned.

A most understandable question Backslash thought. How does one answer such a thing though? "Well, it's a lot like a sci-fi movie", he said. "Not exactly one where the future is full of marvels, but one more like a Terminator movie", he said. No use in lying, she'd figure it out anyway. "I know it's not the best offer, but we need people like you to help take back our humanity", he explained. "Any thing else", he asked?

"Yeh, I've got a few... who is Neo, and why do they want him dead? And... and if you're not Neo how did you know I was looking for him? How many others are there apart from yourself and Neo, and how many humans are there left, and why don't they just kill us all, and... and... how the hell am I able to control the Matrix with my laptop here, and why haven't they killed my body because of the threat that I obviously am, and... and why am I involved in all of this? I'm a model, for chrissakes, with a good life and plenty of money and lots of people offering me whatever I want, and I didn't ask for this!" 

It was obvious to Backslash that Scarab was becoming a little hysterical, with everything all coming together and overcoming her with the shock of it all.

"Well..." Backslash started to say, but he was interrupted as she continued.

"Why can't things just be the way they used to be!" she said loudly, and then slumped back against the tree trunk behind her. Tears began rolling down her face. Almost whispering now and looking at the ground, she continued. "I don't want this... I don't want this..."

"Damn!" Diamond cursed under her breath. Exactly what they didn’t need: a hysterically crying woman.

The fact that this woman was drop-dead gorgeous did not make things better. Diamond thought she was less than average in looks and even if she never realized it, deep inside her very heart she was jealous. Nobody had ever noticed her and like every young woman she carried the wish that some guy would turn his head when she passed by. Only once in a lifetime would be enough. But she knew it would never happen.

The one and only time in the past had been a fake, a cop who had started a thing with her to get information about the organization she was involved in. When Diamond had learned the truth about him, she had dealt with it the only way she knew: she shot him in the stomach and left him to die slowly.

Her opinion about the male part of the human race wasn't too good either. A pretty little crying female could make them lose all reason and most pretty little females seemed to know this extremely well, taking advantage of it whenever possible, playing the helpless weak baby, rid of any responsibility, unable to decide anything beyond what lipstick to put on.

And obviously she had just that type of woman sitting there with her captain. Diamond came closer.

"Sir, she has to control herself; people are already starting to look. It's not a good idea for you to sit here in the bushes with a woman in that state." Diamond scanned the park for unusual activities.

"Who is she?" Scarab asked, fearfully looking at this new person who'd suddenly made themselves known.

"Don't worry, she is with me, part of my crew." Backslash explained.

Diamond's sixth sense for danger was suddenly screaming loud, just when her cellphone started to ring. "Yeah?"

"Crash here. An Agent at the south corner!"

"Gotcha." Diamond flipped her cell shut, "Agents. We better go, sir."

Hearing the woman’s comment about an Agent, Scarab thought that it must have come to investigate the strange activities that some people must have noticed going on. Standing up straight, she looked at Backslash and wiped the tears from her eyes and face. Composing herself, she spoke.

"If the two of you turn out to be untrustworthy, I can guarantee that the only effect you'll have will be your own deaths. Come over here behind the trees," she said to Diamond. "I'll try to help you get past the Agent."

Diamond looked at Backslash and he nodded, so she looked around to see if anyone was looking in their direction and wandered over into the trees. Scarab was typing furiously on her laptop, oblivious to both of them looking on. Diamond turned around to cover them, and drew a pistol from inside her jacket. Suddenly the laptop started beeping and both Diamond and Backslash turned to look at it. Without looking up, Scarab said, "That means the Agent's walked into a 200 yard alert radius, so he's getting closer to us." Backslash and Diamond looked at each other and then Backslash drew his own gun and they both looked back out onto the park. They still couldn't see him, but the trees limited their field of view.

"Whatever you're doing, you better do it quick," said Backslash. From behind him, he heard Scarab let out a breath of relief.

"Ok, it's done. I've modified your coding so that we can all see each other, but to anyone else - including the Agent - we're invisible." As she paused to take a breath, both the two resistance members turned to look at each other, and then Backslash spoke with some concern in his voice.

"Are you sure? I mean, we don't get any second chances to correct things with Agents..."

"Yes, I'm sure. See?" With that, Scarab typed some commands into the laptop, and both Diamond and Backslash disappeared. "Now you can't see each other, but you can see me. I can't see you either 'cause I removed the visual output coding of yours that's been assigned to me. What you see now is what everyone else will see - nothing." Typing again, they both came back into view. "Now you can see each other again. I assume you don't want to bump into each other?" Shaking her head, Diamond turned back to look at the park, and Scarab continued. "Make sure you don't speak, and do NOT bump into anyone. Anything like that will grab the Agent's attention. Now let's get out of here."

Looking at each other again, Backslash nodded to Diamond, and she led the way. Moving out of the tree cover and into the open, they immediately spotted the Agent standing about 120 yards away. Scarab noticed that it was exactly where the child had heard her laughter earlier on, but had seen no one who was laughing. She promised herself that she'd be more careful. As Diamond led them in a direction away from the Agent, Scarab began a program on her computer that recorded the signature of the Agent in alignment with the signature of the person he had taken over. She wanted to analyse this later on so that she could determine a method of eliminating the Agent without eliminating the person they were using for mobility. As the laptop began its work, she slowly and carefully followed her two new companions.

Looking behind her every now and again to make sure the Agent wasn't following or noticing them, she studied Backslash and Diamond. The former looked a capable fighter, someone she'd expect to be in some kind of resistance movement, but Diamond was small. She didn't look like she was a survivor, but she must've been, otherwise she wouldn't be here in the Matrix to help others. Well, that's what Scarab hoped.

They got to the edge of the park without any problems, and Scarab sighed in relief.

"That's a handy trick you've got there," said Backslash, making sure there was no one in earshot.

"Thanks. So where to now?" said Scarab.

Backslash found the whole thing to be amazing. The agent didn't notice, they got away, and he was about to help free another person. He looked at Scarab and asked, "Will you come with us?" It's a one way only decision, though", he said. "We could use someone like you programming on the outside. I know it's a lot to handle, but it's unlike anything you've ever seen," he said. Backslash put his hand on her shoulder and said, "We'll help you get through any problems you could think of, promise". Backslash waited to see what she would say.

Looking at Backslash's hand on her shoulder, Scarab looked back up at him. He removed it. "I don't know you. I don't know what you want - other than to 'rescue' me. I don't know where you want to take me, and all you can say is it's a one-way decision. I don't like the lack of choice, and the lack of information." Looking around at Diamond, she continued. "I was looking for Neo, and then you people come along. I understand that Neo is the leader of your little resistance movement... is that right?" she asked Backslash.

Nodding, he said, "That's right, but he's on a different ship." 

"Look, I'm sure you meant well by coming here to help me,” said Scarab. “But as you can see, I don't need your help. What I do need is information." A thought came to her. "Tell you what... if you can help me find the location of my physical body as well as a way of preventing the Agents from doing anything with it, I'll listen to whatever options you want to present to me. But right now, my biggest concern is my body... So far, the AI hasn't done anything with it. I'm sure it's because they consider me too valuable to their plans and want to try and find me and get me to work for them again..." Seeing the look of surprise on his face, she explained. "They came to talk to me a few days ago, and told me all about the Matrix, and why it existed, and how I could help them. They told me about Neo as well. But I wasn't too keen on what they proposed, so I deleted them and I guess you could say I've been on the run ever since."

"You deleted them? You deleted Agents?" Backslash asked, incredulous. Scarab only nodded. Pulling a cellphone out of his pocket, he placed a call to his ship, the Shockwave. "We need a location on the body of our friend here", he said. After listening for a few moments, Backslash closed the phone back up. "I take it you can verify that you deleted Agents on your laptop there?" he asked. After she nodded, he gave her the location and a number on where they could be reached. "We don't like to be in one spot too long", he explained. "We'll be back around in a little bit", he said as he motioned to Diamond to follow. 

Watching Backslash and Diamond leave, Scarab made sure there was no one watching them and then tapped a few keys on her laptop. She smiled, thinking that they'd forgotten about themselves being invisible. They had better be careful, she thought... She then saved the information on their coding to her hard drive.

Turning back to the park, she re-entered it and moved towards where the Agent was walking around, looking at the people he was walking by. Every now and again, his hand went to the earpiece as he gathered more information. Leaning against a tree, she used her laptop to take in more information about his coding. Of interest to her was the information that he was receiving. Looking at her display panel, she was able to single out the data stream he was getting, and while she was sure she wouldn't be able to decode it, she was certainly sure that she could run a trace on it. Finding where the information was coming from could be extremely valuable, she felt.

A thought came to her. What if her trace program was traced? Better to wait and learn more about the capabilities of the AI first.

Making a decision, she turned off her invisibility and waited for the Agent to spot her. It didn't take long. He stood there, looking at her, and she noticed an increase in the data stream.

It was dark when she woke up. She could see the stars above her in the night sky; it was warm and peaceful. She could feel the grass under her back, and in the distance was the muted sound of traffic. She felt calm and relaxed. Everything was good in the world.

Scarab lay there for a while, looking up at the stars in the night sky. She couldn't remember what she was doing there, but that must've been because of the hash. It had happened before, she was sure it would happen again. With a sigh, she got up and headed back home. A cool breeze was starting, and she was starting to feel a little cold. Putting her hands in her pockets, she felt something in there. Pulling it out, she saw a card, about the size of a business card - but it had only a phone number on it. Stopping under a street lamp, she turned it over; there was nothing else on it. Curious, she put it back in her pocket and continued on home. She'll call them when she gets there, and find out whom it was, she thought. Maybe it was a friend's drug dealer or something. She sighed. One day she'd have to get out of this habit of hers. Losing her memory was really starting to get annoying. She was sure she was missing out on all the best bits.

Making her way through the security entry to her apartment, she noticed that the usual service attendant wasn't on tonight. Instead it was someone she'd never seen before, in a black and white suit and black tie. And he was wearing sunglasses. It was night time. What a weirdo! He nodded at her from behind the counter as she walked past, and she smiled briefly back at him before entering the elevator and going up to her floor.

Entering her room, she turned the lights on and went over to her computer. There were no new messages. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out the card and went over to the phone, wanting to find out who it was. She dialled it.

As the man on the other end finished talking, telling her things that she couldn't remember, she was sure that he was crazy.

"Listen, mister... I've got no idea what you're talking about. The Matrix? I've never heard of it. And Agents trying to kill us? Are you sure that you haven't been using too much of your own drugs?" She listened for his response, wondering why she was bothering talking to this lunatic.

Backslash tried to get Scarab to remember, but nothing was working. He covered the phone and said to Sandman, the ship’s medic, "Something's wrong, she can’t remember anything. I may need you to come along with me on this one." He went back to his cellphone. "Scarab, you're a hacker….I can help you, we just need to meet again", he said. Backslash waited to see if the woman would agree or not.

Scarab frowned, and replied, "How'd you know that?"

"Because what I'm telling you is the truth. Look, we have to meet. The Agents have obviously done something to you, and we can help you get your memory back."

She thought about this. He was right with one thing... she had a serious memory block. She thought it was drugs... but what if he WAS right? What if something had happened to her, and someone wiped her memory of it?

"Ok, where do you want to meet?" she said.

Backslash told Scarab to meet them in front of her place. "We'll pick you up in a few minutes", he said. Backslash then hung up and turned around to the others. Taking a quick count he noticed there were too many people for the car. "Diamond, can you and Snake stay here for right now", he asked? "I need you two to hold down the fort", he said to them. He looked at Sandman. "There's some bug removing equipment in the back seat, most likely we'll need it", he instructed. He then looked at Blitz. "Here", he said as he tossed her the keys. The three walked over to the car and got in. Backslash gave her the directions and they were off.

He watched as Blitz drove down the street. After a little while, they pulled up in front of Scarab's place and stopped in front of her as she was standing on the pavement. Sandman opened the door and got out to let her in, while Backslash rolled down his window. "Get in", he said. Scarab just looked at him. "If you want help, then we have to go", Backslash said. "We can't stay in one spot for long, Scarab," he said.

Looking around, she couldn't see anyone on the street, but it was late. Must've been after 3am. Looking back at the man in the car, she knew she had to think quickly. He knew her nickname, and he knew about her memory blackouts. He didn't look like a drug dealer... and neither did the rest of them in the car.

What the hell, life was too short to be afraid of taking left turns. She got into the car.

Sandman got in next to her, closed the door, and the car sped off down the road

Backslash turned around and started explaining things to Scarab. Sandman was getting the equipment ready. He explained to Scarab that she might be bugged, and if so they would have to remove it. Sandman placed the device on her and switched it on. Sure enough there was a bug in her belly. After a little hide and seek with the bug Sandman removed it and tossed it out the window, leaving Scarab quite shaken from the ordeal.

Blitz drove back to the warehouse after they got rid of the bug. The four got out and Backslash, Sandman and Scarab walked over to a couple of chairs. Blitz, Diamond, and Snake went to their stations. Mainly Blitz and Snake just watched and lent a hand here and there, but still helped. Backslash gave the usual speech. He now held out two pills. "Take the red pill and you’ll see the truth", he said. "Take the blue pill and this was all a dream, and you wake up at home", he continued. Backslash watched as Scarab considered her choices.

Scarab looked at the pills in Backslash's hands. She was thinking about the bug that had just been removed from her stomach, and yet left no trace of its' exit. She was thinking about her memory blackouts. She was thinking about that large man over in the corner with a big gun. And she was thinking about how boring her life was. What the heck, you only lived once... Reaching out, she took the red pill.

Snake watched the proceedings from the corner, with his assault rifle resting in his arms. From his vantage point, he could see out the window to the street below. No one else was keeping watch, and it looked as if Backslash had either assumed that Snake would do it or he felt there was no need. Snake hoped it wasn't the latter, 'cause there was always a need for good security.

He watched the girl, Scarab, looking at the pills. He remembered when he had the choice, and he hoped that she'd choose the red pill. She was damn beautiful, and it'd be nice to get to know her better, in more secure surroundings... like in reality rather than in here.

Looking over at Diamond, he could see that she was looking at Scarab, frowning and lightly tapping the table with her fingers. She looked very impatient, Snake thought. Diamond realised that Snake was looking at her, and she looked at him. He glanced briefly at her tapping fingers and then gave her a wink and a smile, attempting to reassure her. She put her hand in a coat pocket and looked back to the equipment that she was in front of, seemingly embarrassed about being caught out in a display of emotion. He chuckled softly to himself.

Looking back at Scarab, he saw her drinking a glass of water. There was a blue pill remaining in Backslash's hands, which he put in his pocket. She had made her decision, and now it was show time.

Backslash stood up and smiled at her. "Now just relax," he said. "Things are going to get a little strange, but we won't let any harm come to you." He nodded to Diamond and Blitz, who started working on their equipment, and then he went over to some equipment of his own and activated it. "The pill you took interrupts your signal and separates you from the Matrix. At the same time, it'll allow us to trace the location of your body." He turned and looked at her. "We'll be picking you up on the outside," he said, and smiled reassuringly at her. She smiled back, and then jumped slightly as Blitz attached some biomonitors to her temples, and her arms.

Snake looked back out the window. A car was driving towards them on the road below, still a fair distance away. This was a warehouse district - there shouldn't be anyone around, especially at this hour of the night, he thought. Did they have guests? He raised the rifle and brought the sniper scope to his eye, looking at the occupants of the car. There were two occupants, a man and a woman. The interior car light was on, and they were obviously arguing. There was an open street map on the woman's lap. The man was driving slowly, looking around - probably for street signs. Smiling, Snake lowered the rifle. Seeing that Backslash was looking at him with concern, Snake shook his head, and their captain returned his attention to Scarab.

"What..." said Scarab. She was looking at the floor between her feet. Snake looked as well, but there was nothing there. "The floor's melting!" whispered Scarab, obviously afraid.

"It's ok," said Backslash. "The Matrix is the dream world, the illusion... you're starting to separate from that now. Relax. It's going to be ok."

"Her heart rate is rising," said Sandman.

Scarab leant back in the chair, looking afraid. She started gasping for breath. Backslash looked at Blitz.

"I'm monitoring," she said. He got out a cellphone and placed a call.

"Crash, have you got a lock yet?" He listened. "Ok. Keep this line open." Backslash took the phone away from his ear and put it on the table.

"She's having an arrest!" yelled Sandman. He rushed over to help her as she started convulsing and looking helplessly at the ceiling, but Diamond held him back. Backslash held up his hand to symbolically calm Sandman down, and then picked up the phone.

"Crash, we need a lock!" He listened, and then looked up at Blitz. "Now!"

Snake looked at Blitz as she did something on her equipment, and then looking back at Scarab he just managed to see her disappear. Raising his eyebrows, he watched the biomonitors fall to the floor.

Backslash let out a huge sigh of relief and leant back against the table. Listening to his cellphone, he said, "Thanks Crash," and then hung it up and put it in his pocket. Looking around to the rest of them, he smiled. "Crash is picking her up now." Smiles were passed around, and equipment started being turned off. Snake looked out the window again.

"Oh shit... folks, we got some company!" He loudly cocked the rifle.

Backslash took the phone off the equipment and hung it up. It began ringing. "Blitz, you first", Backslash said as he tried to redirect their attention from the window. If the majority of them could get out then there wasn't any need to worry. Blitz answered the phone and was gone. Next was Sandman. Backslash joined Snake at the window. The phone was ringing again. "Go on Diamond, I'll be ok", Backslash said as he looked at the two Agents getting out of the car down below. Diamond didn't want to go before her captain, especially as she could tell something was up. "Listen we got to move the ship, and we can’t do it until we're all out," Backslash said. "We'll be alright, Snake has enough firepower to keep us safe until we leave," he explained. Diamond went, but didn't like it. "You next Snake," Backslash said.

Sandman leapt from the chair as soon as Crash had the shackles undone, and quickly helped release the others. They had to move, and fast, to pick up Scarab.

As soon as everyone was out, Backslash quickly manoeuvred the ship into position, and the bay doors opened. Blitz and Nick stood by with towels as Backslash took control of the grabbing mechanism. Sandman stood near the edge, looking into the darkness with a bright light.


The large mechanical hand plunged into the water, and slowly began to rise. Sandman could see Scarab's pale body, dangling limply from the claws. He carefully moved the rope to avoid hitting the bay doors, then reached out for a blanket Nick offered him. Gently catching her as the claw released, he wrapped her in a thick wool blanket, blushing slightly. She was beautiful, and well built.

Turning hastily, Sandman carried her from the dock and back to the med-bay.

Scarab started to get up, but Sandman gently put hands on her shoulders and pushed her back down. "Don't move. You need to rest."


"You are among friends, Scarab," Sandman assured her softly, squeezing her shoulders. "My name is Kevin. I'm your doctor. Everything will be explained once we've finished here."

"What are you doing?" she rasped, glancing at the needles sprouting from her body.

"Your muscles have atrophied from the years of no movement."

Scarab cleared her throat. "Why do I sound so hoarse?"

Sandman frowned. "You've never used your voice before. But rest now."

“I remember what happened…” Scarab said as she looked at him, and then she slowly drifted back to unconsciousness. Sandman sighed, and then noticed the odd look Nina was giving him. "What?"

"Kevin?" She arched one delicate eyebrow.

"It's my Matrix-given name. No sense in confusing her with aliases now."

Nina made a sound to the positive, and they continued to work.

It was dark, and she was walking down an alley. Her gaze was traversing left to right, as if she was looking for something hidden in the shadows from a distant street lamp. Not seeing anything, she moved out of the alley and into the street. There was no one there, and it was quiet. Suddenly she heard a noise. Looking around, she saw a man running from another alley further down the street. She ran after him. He looked to be in his late 20's and was dressed in black, with a flowing trench coat billowing behind him as he ran. He turned a corner and disappeared from view, and as she neared the corner, she saw her reflection in a window. With some shock, she could see that she was actually a man! She was wearing a black and white suit and tie, and wearing sunglasses. Turning the corner, the reflection was replaced by a view of another alley, and she slowed down to a stop. There was no way out of this alley; it was a dead end, with no doors or ladders, and walls two stories high. The man had gone.

Looking up, she could see the stars above the rooftops. So pretty, she thought... then she started running again, towards the end of the alley. With a great leap, she seemed to fly upwards and slammed into the wall, halfway up. Standing there on the skirting that she hadn't seen before, she crouched and leapt again, hanging from the rooftop by her fingers. Pulling herself up, she stood on the roof. She could see the man in black running away across the top of another building. Pulling a large pistol out of her shoulder holster, she aimed at him and fired. With a boom, the pistol recoiled heavily and the man fell over and rolled, before coming to a stop against a chimney. He didn't move. Running towards him, she leapt across the gap between the buildings and then strode across the rooftop towards the fallen man.

Reaching down, she felt against his neck for a pulse, and then grabbed the front of his jacket with both hands and lifted him from the ground, slamming him into the chimney. The impact was enough to snap the man out of his unconsciousness, and his eyes opened. With fear and shock he looked into her own eyes. She could see blood trickling from the corner of his mouth, and there was a shiny darkness on his chest.

"Please...." he whispered.

"Where are they, Mr Jackson," she heard herself say in a man's voice.

"Please, I don't know..." She saw a tear fall down his cheek.

"Then you... will die..." She reached out and, with both hands, held onto each side of his head. Squeezing, she saw his eyes widen, and she could see the pain and terror reflected within them. His mouth opened, and he started to scream. She heard a loud crack, and then his head collapsed in on itself, with blood and brain matter spurting out and over her hands.

With a start, she woke up and screamed and screamed and screamed...

Nina had left the med-bay few minutes ago and right now Tank was sitting on his chair, watching the Matrix and listening to the sounds of the ship. It was so quiet as if it was a night shift. Only a few mumbling sounds from the mess, the usual humming and cracking of a large hovercraft, nothing else.

An illusion of peace, Tank thought.

He had no idea how right he was. Although the hell that broke loose came from quite an unexpected place: the med-bay!

The screams were so wild; Tank jumped off his chair and landed two yards away from it, running into the med-bay as if all devils of hell were after him. His hair stood on end and his heart beat wildly.

In there Scarab sat, pulling on the straps and screaming, her eyes wide with horror, scratching her scalp because there was no hair to pull on.

Tank was at her side in no time, hugging her tightly and locking her arms so Scarab could not hurt herself or others.

"It's all-right, Scarab", Tank spoke as calmly as possible, "Easy, Scarab, easy!" It wasn't too hard to keep this weak body under control.

"I killed him! Oh my God, I killed him! All the blood..." Scarab stammered on and on.

"You were dreaming, Scarab. Wake-up! Everything's going to be all right. It's OK. Shhhh." Tank held her, waiting for her to calm down. He looked down her body: the violent moves had pulled-out several reconstruction needles and there was blood trickling down her arms. Tank had no idea how to cover her bare body again, having only one free hand right now

"Relax, Scarab. Try to lie down again, please, it's better for you to lie down." Tank said.

The visions of her dream were vivid in her head, and she couldn't rid herself of it. The horror of what she saw in her mind was unbearable. She was vaguely aware that she was tied down onto a table, and she was screaming and trying to free herself from it when someone came in and tried to restrain her, holding her in his arms. She knew she couldn't fight him, he was too strong, and everything was hurting anyway. All she could do was feebly struggle against his strength, and then she gave up, and sobbed in his arms. She didn't know what she was saying; she could still only see the blood. Dimly, she was aware of someone else running into the room, and she saw a syringe needle being inserted into her arm. Everything slowly went black...

Waking up, she saw was lying on a cot. She felt weak, but managed to sit herself up. Looking around, she saw metal walls, which looked aged. There was a door that was half open. She was about to get up when she realised there was something sticking out of her arm. Looking at it, it looked like a cable plugged into an embedded port in her arm. It was leading to a drip hanging on the wall behind her. With some revulsion, she managed to remove it. Looking at the embedded hardware, she remembered waking up in the pod, and all the plugs popping out of her. She shuddered, just as the door opened. Looking up, she saw it was Backslash, wearing some old worn-out clothes. He smiled at her.

“How do you feel,” he asked.

"I feel fine… a bit weak though.” He nodded, and she continued. “I remember now. Everything. The Agents must have wiped my memory in there…” 

”You’re safe now,” Backslash said. “And you’re probably wondering where we are and what’s going on, right?” She nodded. “Let me show you.” Giving her a blanket, he helped her put it around her shoulders and then led her out of the room.

To be continued…


© 2001 Alan Howard