Broadcast Depth: Hoverbarge Terra Nova
Row upon row of chairs, salvaged from the ruins of mankind. Theatre seats next to recliners, a dentist chair, a cosmonaut’s reentry seat. Nestled within, a hundred sleeping men and women.
Sleeping? Jacked in. Working. Gleams of sweat run along the jaw of one, mingling with the blood trickling from his mouth.
A bad day at work. It was about to get worse.
Two men, clinging to the bottom frame of the Terra Nova. Both, masked with rags of red and green surgical cloth, finish their work. Repairs?
“Give me my mark.”
They rappel to the shattered steel of a skyscraper, illuminated by electric runoff of the hoverbarge’s cascade.
“Count to ten, then hit it.”
The two men looked each other in the eye.
“We can still turn back from this.”
“Agreed. But that means we never go back. Ever.”
They held each other’s eyes. One checked his watch, an heirloom of a world they did not want.
Zion Command: The Dock
“No, sir. The damage was complete. All hover pads shut down along the craft’s mainline, then nothing on our repeaters. One hundred and forty operatives, sixty-three Operators... twenty other crew.”
“What kind of malfunction could shut down fourteen pads?”
“None, Commander. It was sabotage, or an attack.”
“It wasn’t an attack. Something like that would be followed with a thousand of those monsters spilling into our dock. Sabotage? Who?”
“We don’t know. We’ve heard of a new group in the Matrix, but no one is making any sense yet on who they are, or even what they are, for that matter.”
“I want answers, not excuses! We lost good men and women up there!”
Broadcast Depth: A Hovercraft
A whirl of servos, and three spikes emerge from the heads of three men. One, wearing a red sweater, walks up to the other two. An artificial eye gleams in its socket, a gift from the Machines to which this crew owes loyalty.
“Contingent on your continuing good work, you both will have a permanent positions on my crew. You impressed me on that mission, both of you. You seem almost reckless in your attacks. I don’t envy you both the bruises you picked up here in the Real.”
“Sir, we’re expecting to have forgotten all about that soon. We... expect an end to all of this mess and trouble in due course.”
“Eh? Well, pleasure to have you on the crew. I’ll respect your requests for the down-shift. We can never get anyone to work that late at night, anyway.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The Captain walks away, leaving the two men staring at each other across their seats. One scratches his neck, then pulls out a small electronic device. The other pulls out a green stretch of surgical cloth from his pocket, mops his brow.
“Watch the door.”
The first man regards the closed door for a moment, looks down at the device. Turning the object over, he begins to press a bent strip of copper onto a rivet. Each touch of the strip against the rivet sends a burst of electricity to the transmitter. It was an old way to talk. It was perfect.
Click. Click-click. Click. Pause. Click. Click…
The Matrix: Reagan’s Steak House, Downtown
“I do not know what caused the liquidation of the crew, operative. I can assure you that the Truce covers your flesh as an off-limits target. If what you report is true, then a human on board that vessel caused the other operatives and crew to experience cessation of awareness. I would begin your investigation there.”
“I understand, Agent Gray, but what sort of person will kill a Machine crew and not hoist a Zion or Merv flag?”
“I do not know, Mister Williams. You have told me of masked attackers who appear to follow the tenets of an old traitor to your kind.”
“Agent Gray, are you really returning redpills to bluepill status?”
The Agent touches his earpiece for a moment. He looks down at his dinner, untouched, as always. He stands, straightens his tie.
“Thank you for dinner, Mister Williams. You will forgive me for leaving abruptly, but I have business elsewhere.”
“I enjoy steak as much as the next man, Agent. Good night.”
The Matrix: Hypercube Monument, Richland
“… something interesting is about to occur. Three… Two… One…”
The female voice fades behind a digital bloom, electric sparks mingling with scrolling green code. A thing of beauty, in its own way.
The two men stand nearby with clenched fists. A red scarf peeks from the pocket of one. The other has a green scarf in his pocket.
“He’s got to die. They all do. We go back now, and they’ll just haul us out again. Lie to us again.”
“This is making me physically ill. What is he trying to do?”
“Screw this. Call the cells. Our plan is going into effect. When can we be ready?”
“Give it a week, maybe two. Set up the safehouses. Finish stockpiling. Tactics boosters… and guns.”
“Two weeks. Get it in motion. We’re going to kill every single one of them. Every single one. Then we’ll go and get out reward.”
The one on the left pulls up a red scarf over his face. The one on the right, a green one.
Enmascarado. Gemaskeerd. Masked men.
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