Disclaimers: They belong to the Wachowski brothers, Time-Warner and whoever else…
Be warned: this is somewhat bizarre…
Owes much inspiration to the dark city of the Russian Matrix and the atmospheric beginning of “Santi U” from the “Macross Plus” soundtrack. I suppose “Forgotten Realms” Menzobrian might have had something to do with it too…
Something had gone wrong with the upload; that was the only explanation. Neo wondered if the Agents had intercepted the signal that was meant to load him into the Matrix. He hoped not but rotated on the spot warily, taking in his surroundings. There was little light and what there was appeared to be very faint, a gleaming green that seemed to radiate out from the rock around him, the same way that obsidian might reflect the light of a distant candle.
He appeared to be in some sort of underground complex of caves. Hesitant, Neo reached out to touch the rock surface. It felt like normal rock, cool and dark beneath his hand, marking out the boundaries of the path he was stood upon. Looking behind, Neo couldn’t see where the path led, since it trailed away into darkness. In front of him the strange green light just about illuminated the path winding it’s way downwards in a gentle slope. Seeing as he couldn’t see in the other direction Neo followed the lit route. He wasn’t to know that a few steps into the darkness would have carried him round a bend in the cavern where the greenish light was no longer needed because of the opening that led easily to the surface.
Continuing downwards, keeping one hand stretched out towards the cavern wall, Neo found that it was steadily getting brighter, the green light slowly melding into a clearer white, mixed with synthetic yellow. A little further along the strange pathway and the light intensified, though only to normal levels. Turning yet another bend Neo found that one of the walls fell away to reveal the apparent destination of the pathway. A subterranean city, much like the city above, save in the vast cavern it occupied, it seemed darker and perhaps more miserable.
Now that he was aware of his destination curiosity took over and Neo make faster progress along the path downwards. Of course he’d suspected that there were further levels of the Matrix, other areas that might or might not function in the same way as the Matrix that he’d inhabited. He’d never mentioned this irrational belief to anyone else though, since it had seemed quite silly at the time.
At the entrance to the city there were huge iron gates, seemingly rusted open, like something out of distance apocalyptic tradition. Neo tried to remember some exact reference but couldn’t truly draw any parallels. He almost expected to see “abandon hope all ye who enter here” written over the gates.
There were people passing through the gates, at least they appeared to be normal people. Though standing near the gates and inspecting the passers by Neo was shocked to see that for the most part they looked like Agents. In fact the crowd passing him by without even noticing appeared to be comprised of various types of Agent.
Neo drew a deep breath to steady himself. Sure, he was surrounded by them but they didn’t appear to be paying him any attention at all. And now that he was here, he figured he ought to do some resonance for Zion. Squaring his shoulders Neo stepped into the crowd and entered the city of the damned.
Inside the city, still none of the Agents appeared to notice the presence of the One, all seemingly intent on their own business. Neo observed them, slowly beginning to notice distinct differences between different groups. Subdivisions between the Agents, most of which Neo had never seen before. There were the generic grey suited Agents that he had fought, of course but there were countless others.
A pale, Japanese man walked passed wearing white traditional clothing. Neo watched curiously as the man stopped to talk with another wearing similar clothing. At first Neo thought that they might have been speaking very quietly but as he strained to listen he found that he couldn’t hear them speaking at all, in fact he couldn’t hear anything.
Then, involuntarily he coughed, just as panic was about to set in and reassuringly heard the sound loudly, but it was the only sound he could hear.
Fixing his eyes on the speakers lips, Neo could just about pick out the Agent mouthing ‘Chi no Ryo’ but that was all. Strange. Neo coughed again, just to reassure himself and again heard the sound clearly. So there was nothing wrong with him… he just couldn’t hear anything externally. Then it occurred to him that the Agents could just as easily communicate in silence as the rebels might with words. Of course that didn’t explain them going through the motions of speaking but… well…
He continued along a street that appeared to be leading into the centre of the city, the crowds continuing to mill around him. They were all machines, sentient programs; that much Neo could be assured of. He slowed his pace, watching. A tall figure in a military uniform strode past, wires writhing around him, extended from the strange visor he wore. Another man of equal height, in a similar uniform hurried to catch up with the first. He appeared to be doing most of the talking as the pair continued on their way. A little way off, a generic black suited Agent removed his sunglasses to reveal a milky film over his right eye. He noticed Neo watching and winked with his blind eyes before disappearing into one of the buildings that lined the street. Neo blinked in surprise.
Apparently he was physically within this silent city, though bereft of sound. Neo was unsure if he should be grateful or not, he’d been beginning to wonder if the Agents could even see him. Of course it was debatable as to whether they could actually hear him though. Almost in answer to his question a surprisingly ethereal figure paused as it drifted past, turning to Neo and with a smile raising a finger to its lips before continuing on its way, jade eyes shimmering with suppressed laughter.
Standing there mutely, Neo was no closer to discovering the purpose for the strange city he was in. A city populated entirely by Agents seemed a very strange concept and doubtless must have some ulterior motive. After all, it wasn’t as if the Agents really needed somewhere else to go to… He made to continue in the direction that the street was leading only to have to suddenly step over a small white cat, that had inexplicably appeared in his path. It yowled silently up at him accusingly until it was scooped up a suspiciously familiar Agent in grey. She ignored him, moving across to the other side of the street where she handed the cat to another Agent. Neo stared, the woman across the road, the one who had picked up the cat looked exactly like Trinity. But she wasn’t, he knew that without doubt. It was strange none the less, jarring even.
Moving warily along the street, Neo kept his head down, expecting at any second to see something that might be a parody of himself. He didn’t have to wait long, as the door to one of the buildings flew open and a rather flustered Thomas A Anderson ran out of the building, looking very much as if he was late for work.
Paying closer attention to the buildings now, Neo discovered that they looked similar, each filled with computers and a few individuals who appeared to be assisting others to hook up. Behind shop-like glass windows Agents typed away at keyboards, scanned monitors, attached various wire interfaces. Periodically such interfaces looked like they had changed something, altered the sentient program attached in some way.
Wondering along he was surprised to look through one set of windows into what appeared to be a bookshop/cafe. Inside the clientele sat round drinking coffee and talking or reading. Near to the windows an Agent in an archaic military uniform made an unconvincing show of being engrossed in reading “1984” while watching his companion instead.
Neo continued down the street, wondering what exactly it was that this strange semblance of normality was hiding. He didn’t consider the possibility that the scenes around him were not illusions, that perhaps this silent city might be a place that the Agents came to rest. Since it wasn’t possible that they ever grew tired of fighting…
Finally what appeared to be the central district of the city loomed in front of him, tall gleaming towers where the machines dreamed up their schemes to enslave humanity, at least that was his impression. Again Neo was ignored and un-accosted entered one of the towering structures. No one stopped him as he entered the lift and randomly picked a floor.
Arriving on the 28th floor, Neo stepped out of the lift and into an open area that radiated several corridors. He picked one and entered the nearest door.
The room was vast. Rings of computer stations in concentric circles radiated outwards till the last set was against the walls. Some of the computer stations were occupied but many more were vacant, screens still flashing random images or code. Neo approached one of the vacant stations and peered at the monitor. The sight that greeted him was an apparently innocent image of green fields bordering on some sort of village. The screen next to that displayed the central square of what appeared to be a small town. The workstation beyond was occupied by an Agent speaking into a headset.
Neo moved towards of the inner circles. A quick glance at the monitors revealed more industrialised areas that grew increasingly familiar. The degree of technology increased as he progressed towards the centre of the room. In the centre there were only five monitors all under the supervision of one Agent, wearing VR gauntlets and a visor sprouting so many wires that they obscured his face. The Agent ignored him so Neo leaned over to look at the screens. The image displayed was that of the real world, Sentinels circling a crippled rebel ship. Another monitor displayed Zion itself, the interior of the city that the Agents should never have seen.
Peripherally he was aware of the Agent reaching out and adjusting something in mid-air and on the first screen the rebel ship let out an EMP discharge that dropped the Sentinels. Another adjustment on an unseen control panel and the ship suddenly powered down and crashed into the steel wall.
Neo turned back to look at the Agent, still too stunned to make sense of it all. The Agent continued to make various adjustments to, what Neo had once believed was the real world. It made sense, on some level, he supposed. A Matrix within a Matrix… so that the rebels could satisfy their rebellious urges without disrupting the entire system. And there was no way of knowing how many levels there might actually be…
He leaned back against one of the monitors. The Agent made some sort of adjustment close by and then Neo heard quite clearly a familiar voice, “Please do not sit on that, Mr Anderson.”
Neo jumped, not having expected to hear anything after walking through the city in silence. He turned to find Agent Smith regarding him over the top of his visor.
“What the fuck!” Neo exclaimed.
Smith appeared to say something that again Neo couldn’t hear before making another adjustment, “You should not be here, Mr Anderson, we will return you to your proper designation.”
But Smith had already re-adjusted his visor and appeared to be making other adjustments or possibly relaying commands.
Another Agent approached, Neo guessed he should be calling him Agent Anderson. Anderson said something to Smith, Neo watched him. Smith nodded and said something in reply.
“Goodbye, Mr Anderson.” Neo heard suddenly before everything went white.
Neo was aware of the impression of shapes against his eyelids, the red distortion that occurred when you closed your eyes on a sunny day. He opened his eyes to find that he was back inside the Matrix, sitting on a park bench. It was around mid-day if the angle of the sun was anything to judge by. He stood up, only to find that he was wearing his grey work-suit.
Hesitantly, Neo made his way back to his office. He returned to his cubicle, to the project that he’d been working on the day that his life had been thrown into chaos. And as expected a deliveryman arrived with a registered package for him, a phone sized package. Neo looked at the package without opening it.
It was beginning to look like the Agents had reset his life.
Calmly Neo got up and made his way to the empty office at the end of the hallway, sealed package still in hand. As he slid open the large windows the phone inside the package began to ring. For a long moment he stood looking at the package, hearing its urgent ringing. His hand strayed to the seal but stopped short of opening it.
He could open the package, answer the phone, take the red pill, fight the Agents and believe he was free… but against the backdrop of his mind Neo could still see the silent city, the Agents controlling all levels of reality with no clue as to where the illusion ended and reality began.
Hefting the still ringing package in one hand Neo leaned back and flung it out of the window as far as he possibly could.
There it ends. There was more but it was just too weird so I cut it, I’m not sure if it’s for public consumption…
Random CLAMP characters as per usual, I suppose they’re the characters I’m visualising while I write; on this occasion, Kakyo, Gingetsu, Kazuhiko, Sei-chan & Hisui; as well as non-CLAMP Zechs and Treize, not that you’d be able to tell… they’re just what I pictured.
Oh, and ‘Chi no Ryo’ translates as ‘Dragons of Earth’, of which Kakyo is one.