Separate Lives 2 | Downtime

by: Narsus
original is *here*

Disclaimers: They belong to the Wachowski brothers, Time-Warner and whoever else…

A part of the “Separate Lives” time-line, so it won’t make sense unless you’ve read the first one.

What do Agents do in their ‘spare time’?


A boy sits facing a computer screen, in what appears to be his bedroom. Surfing the web, apparently. We look closer but can’t see what he’s doing. Suddenly we pan back to reveal that the boy and his room are only images on what appears to be an endless screen. Our view widens and all we can see it images projected on what must be perfectly white walls. The images flicker, change but slowly we realise that we’re looking at the same family each time. Almost like some bizarre family video, the type with silly comments and embarrassed children. The images cover all the flat spaces around. There appears to be no definition to this room, other than the images.

A little behind us, almost out of the range of vision we notice a dark shape. We turn to observe it. It is Agent Jones. He stands motionless, in what we can assume is the centre of the room. His eyes are covered by the constantly worn sunglasses and his face is ever passive. We watch him. He watches the images.

Focusing on the images over Jones’ shoulder we begin to recognise the scenes. A house. A family home. A wife, a son and two daughters. An average man with an average life. The more we look, the more horrific it seems. We can almost juxtapose these images with the dead son, shot by mistake; the murdered family; the man who has lost everything.

We refocus on Jones, who still remains motionless. Still no sign of anything. Not a breath, not a sound. Any normal man would be screaming out in desperation for a life lost forever, then we remember, he doesn’t talk much, just follows orders. Now we are beginning to wonder if we would want to hear what he would have to say.

All around us are images of the life he once lived, that was taken from him. We zoom in on his face, almost begging, pleading for some response… as much as we are terrified of it. Waiting for a response… that will most likely never come.


Suddenly everything falls away. A brief flash of stark white is replaced by the now familiar green screen. A strand of source code that was glowing brighter than the rest begins to dim. Another begins to glow. We are inexplicably drawn forwards, absorbed. There is another flash of white.


Again another stark white room with no definition, no limits. We might as well be in some sort of loading program. A flash… of something.

We are suddenly in a small apartment. It’s cosy. A living room, the sun pouring in through a window. There are computer magazines spread out on the couch.

A black cat pads across the floor to seat itself in the lap of Agent Brown. He’s sat on the floor, apparently in the process of sorting through a pile of more computer magazines. This is his apartment then… where he died.

The cat looks up at him curiously. He removes his glasses, setting them aside. The cat rolls over onto its back and he pets it belly. It begins to purr. Brown smiles sweetly.

We zoom in on his face, searching for some sign of falseness but find none. He looks like any young man. Utterly harmless. He laughs when the cat tries to swat at his hand with it’s paw and bends down to kiss the top of it’s head. We can hardly compare him to the silent Agent.

Our view shifts and we are slowly moving round the room, lightly observing Brown’s life. We see CDs piled up, books, a newspaper… some photographs but we are moving too fast to see them clearly. Moving now towards the couch… slowing… closer to the spot where Brown died. There is a hole in the upholstery, a small, circular gun-shot. It’s entirely out of place, in this strange simulated program… just like the cat.

Brown continues to stroke and coo to the cat. We return to watching him. As he bends over it we can hear him almost muttering, “They shouldn’t have stepped on you…”. It’s so simple that we might almost laugh, if it wasn’t so macabre. A dead Agent sitting in his old apartment, stroking a dead cat. Brown doesn’t seem to care, but there’s something about his smile, something as frightening as Jones’ silence.

Surrounded by reminders of who he once was, Brown is seemingly content. Our view begins to back off, perhaps so that we don’t have to observe that closely, the calm that could so easily border madness.

We are falling backwards, out of Brown’s ‘apartment’. The scenery melts out of our view, sliding upwards, until we are surrounded by stark white again. Stark white is replaced by the now familiar green screen. A strand of source code that was glowing brighter than the rest begins to dim. Another begins to glow. We are inexplicably drawn forwards, absorbed. There is flash of white.

Again another stark white room with no definition, no limits. We might as well be in some sort of loading program. A flash… of something.

The room that we now see has only vaguely defined objects, shadowy impressions of furniture. We see a grand piano, defined in perfect detail. Our view carries us round the piano till we are facing the pianist. It is Agent Smith. His sunglasses are out of sight and he sits with tie loosened, seemingly relaxed. We pause, listening to what he is playing. The melody echoes, resonating in the perfect acoustics of this endless white room. But it is not a pleasant theme, melancholy, heart breaking and bitter. Smith plays not only technically well but with a certain restrained passion. He continues to play, the melody running into itself. We watch his fingers move over the keys and are stuck by a jarring sense of similarity to the atmosphere that Jones and Brown exist in.

Suddenly he stops, our view moves back and we can see on an undefined piece of furniture, a clock. Smith’s gaze is fixed on it. He seems impatient.

Our gaze returns to his hands as he begins to play again. It is the same melody, the same repetitive, almost manic tune. We get the impression that Smith would be capable of playing this for as long as he is here. Again he stops and looks at the clock. Then begins to play again.

The third time he performs this routine we find ourselves looking more closely at the clock. It takes a moment to register but we notice that the second hand isn’t moving; the clock isn’t running and looks like it hasn’t been for a long time.

Smith returns to playing the same repetitive piece. We are carried backwards until we are behind him. Our view levels to just behind his head and we are probably at the same point from which his killer fired the shot… Suddenly his hands come crashing down on the keys, he slumps forwards, our vision fixes on his tightly clenched jaw, then moves to the knotted fists resting on the keys.

Then everything is falling away again. A brief flash of stark white is replaced by the now familiar green screen. A last strand of source code dims to become like the rest. We are looking at the code, randomly spelling itself out in infinite dimensions and we know, with a haunting finality that contained somewhere in that code are three Agents, accidental AIs. Once humans who should have never become what they have become, contained now, in shutdown, in stark white rooms, remembering. We must suppose that these programs were written for them to keep some residual humanity… unfortunately they would seem little less than solitary prisons, though we are not sure that would matter too much, if the prisoners were not really sane…


Don’t know… first draft written while online. I think the source code interferes with my writing sometimes; I just get caught up in it…



Narsus (2:58, 30/03/02)

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