Another Lifetime

* * *

Catherine "Trinity" Chardonay flopped down on the couch with a sigh. Today had not been a good day. She hadn't had any coffee, she'd been late for work, and her boss had demanded that she come in on Saturday for some unpaid overtime.

Luckily, today was Thursday. Her boyfriend of two years (and hopeful fiance) didn't work late on Thursdays unless there was a crisis of epic proportions, and there was nothing like that in Yahoo's news.

She sighed again, a bit more happily. Smith (who still jokingly insisted that his first name was Agent) was very good-looking. An attractive receding hairline, dark hair, ice blue eyes (though they could never be described as cold when they looked at her), and a voice that could melt butter were his most obvious characteristics.

He was also singularly brilliant and could pull off wearing a suit like no man she had ever met. While his tendency to wear sunglasses indoor was a little annoying, she was starting to break him of the habit.

True, he did work for the government and she was a fairly notorious hacker. However, Trin was sure that Smith already knew about that aspect of her life. She didn't exactly hide it from him.

The sound of the door to the apartment opening roused her from her thoughts. Trin lifted her head up and waved at Smith. "Come to comfort me?"

He looked down at her and raised an eyebrow. "Do you need comforting?"

"Don't I always?" she said with a smile. His mouth twitched, a sign that she had long ago recognized as his version of a smile.

"Unless you find being sat on comforting, you might want to move," he suggested drily.

She sat up with a laugh and promptly collapsed after he sat down. With a smirk, she wiggled her head deftly in his lap. "Weren't you going to comfort me?"

"As you wish, Trin," he murmured and preceded to comfort her a great deal.

* * *

Catherine "Trinity" Chardonay smiled politely at Agents Brown and Jones. She knew them as her boyfriend's partners, but they were a bit too creepy for her. Besides, she was fairly sure they were gay.

"Ms. Chardonay," Agent Brown stood in her doorway, looking appropriately creepy. "Will you let us in?"

Trin frowned. "Where is Smith?"

"Due to his personal involvement, he is forbidden to be present for this. Will you let us in, Ms. Chardonay?"

"What is this about?"

"Ms. Chardonay, we believe you have had contact with the terrorist known as Morpheus. We wish to speak to you about that." Agent Brown did not move, but he gave the impression of already being inside her apartment.

"Come in," she said guardedly.

The two agents walked inside, Agent Jones shifting to a position that effectively blocked the door.

"Ms. Chardonay," Agent Brown said. "You may or may not know, but we have been trying to track down Morpheus for years. And for years, we have been unsuccessful. He is impossibly good at evading detection. However, we believe that with the information you can give us, we can finally bring that terrorist to justice." Brown paused to remove his sunglasses. "Will you help us, Ms. Chardonay?"

She tilted her head to look into the dark gray eyes. "I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. The only time he contacted me was to ask me about the Matrix," she said coolly.

"I see." The agent carefully replaced his sunglasses. "And what did you tell him?"

"I told him that it was just a cyber-myth."

"I see," Brown said again. "Well, Ms. Chardonay, if you have any more information, please do not hesitate to tell Agent Smith." The agent left her apartment without a backwards glance.

Agent Jones stopped holding up her wall and looked at her. It wasn't an ordinary look. In fact, it was the look that was exactly appropriate for this situation. It seemed to say "We know you're lying, but we'll let you tell Smith the truth" to Trin.

She shivered.

* * *

Catherine "Trinity" Chardonay laced up her combat boots and headed for the door. It was Tuesday, the one day of the week that Smith traditionally worked late no matter what.

She was about to walk out the door when she realized that she had to tell Smith what she was doing. Whatever Morpheus had to show her, it was going to change her life. Smith at least deserved some warning.

She hurriedly scribbled a note and left it on the table.

Smith -

I'm going to meet someone I met on the Net. Don't worry, I'm taking the Desert Eagle you gave me. I'll tell you what's going on when I get back.

- Trin

* * *

Catherine "Trinity" Chardonay glared at the man in front of her. She didn't care if he was one of the most famous hackers in existence. She didn't like people pointing guns at her; she hadn't liked it when she first met Smith, she didn't like it now.

"Trinity, listen to me. What Switch did was for our protection as well as yours," the large man called Morpheus said. "Do not let that affect the decision you are about to make."

Trin sat down on the edge of one of the wingback chairs. "What is this about?"

"Have you ever had a dream that you thought was real? If you never woke from that dream, how would you know it from reality?"

It sounded like a rhetorical question, but Trin could feel something in her mind start to open up. "You wouldn't," she whispered.

Morpheus looked at her expectantly. "Do you see where I am going? Do you want to see?" He carefully laid two pills on the table between them. "Take the blue pill, and you will wake up in your bed and believe what you like. Take the red pill, and I will show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."

She picked up the glass of water and the red pill. "Go ask Alice."

* * *

Catherine "Trinity" Chardonay looked at the endless whiteness and wondered what she had gotten herself into. This was not what she expected when Morpheus offered to show her what the Matrix was.

"Trinity, you believe the year to be 1995. In reality, it is closer to 2195," Morpheus said. He stood, a dark spot against the unending, pervasive whiteness. "Humanity is living in a dream world. Everything they see, touch, taste, hear, and feel are sensations that the Matrix is programmed to produce. This," he added with a click of the remote. "This is the real world."

Black clouds roiled overhead and the ruins of a city were all around her. Dark machines moved in the ruins. And everything was covered in an impenetrable layer of gray dust.

"In the early 21st century, mankind gave birth to AI. What an accomplishment it must have seemed." Morpheus paused, suddenly pensive. "We don't know who struck first, us or them. We do know that we scorched the skies."

She looked up into the roiling clouds. "Why?"

"The machines were dependant upon sunlight for power. I believe that we thought that if we robbed them of that power then we would win the war. However, the machines developed a method to harvest energy and heat from humans. Thus, they created the Matrix."

The scene shifted to vast fields with great, black spires rising from the ground. Alien machines hovered around those spires, removing red pods and taking them elsewhere.

"Humans are no longer born, Trinity. Instead, they are grown and when they are old enough they are put into a pod like the one we rescued you from. The Matrix is the prison that keeps humanity from seeing that they are slaves. As long as they believe that they are free, then they never will be."

"No," she whispered. "No." She felt the cold weight of her Desert Eagle in her hand. Not questioning how it got there, she pointed the gun at Morpheus. "I don't know what you're trying to pull, but take me back home!"

Morpheus looked at her sadly. "Trinity, you can't turn back after taking the red pill. As far as the Matrix is concerned, you are dead."

The gun clattered to the ground. "No," she whispered one last time before being pulled back into the real world.

* * *

"Trinity" Chardonay hurried to keep up with Morpheus, pushing back against the crowd. She deftly dodged and wove her way through the crowd of people that all seemed intent on going in the opposite direction.

She sneered at a passing woman wearing a bright red dress. She turned around to look at Morpheus and found him regarding her with amusement.

"Were you listening to me, Trinity, or were you looking at the woman in the red dress?"

She grimaced. She hadn't been listening to him. This training session was off to a splendid start.

"Look again," he said.

She looked and found herself staring down the barrel of a gun. Ignoring Morpheus's "Freeze it", she dropped to her knees and hoped whoever it was wouldn't change the angle of his gun before he fired. When she realized that she and Morpheus were the only ones moving, she almost blushed.

"Today's lesson, Trinity, is that anyone who is not unplugged can be one of them," Morpheus said, looking at the man holding the gun. "We call them Agents, but a more accurate term would be the Gatekeepers. The Agents are sentient programs designed to protect the Matrix against incursions, such as us."

Trin felt something in her chest constrict. "Morpheus, why does he look like my boyfriend?" she said quietly.

He flinched. "That is a question I cannot answer now."

"He looks exactly like my boyfriend," Trin said quietly. "Why?"

He looked at her impassively, the sunglasses he wore in the construct hiding his emotions. Rage tore at her- how could he have destroyed so much of her life and just stand there? "Dozer, get us out of here," he said quietly.

* * *

Trinity Chardonay stared at Morpheus. "You're lying. My boyfriend is not a computer program."

Morpheus leaned back in the wingback chair and sighed. "Trinity, the man you know as Smith, your boyfriend, is simply a facade he used to get close to you. You are a brilliant hacker and it was only a matter of time before I contacted you. From his point of view, you must have been a Godsend."

She felt something cold slither through her. "He was using me to get to you?"

"He has been hunting me for years, Trinity. And he will continue to hunt me as long as I live or until the One destroys the Matrix."

Trin swallowed and swallowed again. There was a lump in her throat that she couldn't get the words she wanted to say past. She felt tears gathering in her eyes.

This couldn't be happening. She could not have been living inside of a computer program all of her life, Morpheus could not have taken her out of that program and into the horror that he called the desert of the real, and her boyfriend could not be a sentient program who had been using her to get at this man.

This could not be happening.

* * *

Trinity ran. The exit was just ahead on the corner. She could make it. Accuza could make it. The two of them would get out of here alive.

She managed to coax just a little extra speed out her legs and she grabbed the phone. Turning around to Accuza, she saw a familiar form gun down her friend with ungodly accuracy.

Something cold squeezed around her heart.

"No," she whispered. The tapping of good shoes rang in her ears. Ignoring her mind yelling at her to take the exit, she carefully replaced the phone and waited for the black and pale specter to get there.

He stopped several hundred feet away and she thought she saw surprise on his face. He resumed walking, slower this time as if he wanted to be sure that she wouldn't run away.

She faced him, ignoring the madly ringing phone. "Agent Smith."

"Trin?" He seemed unsure. Well, that wasn't surprising. She had changed during her time aboard the Nebuchadnezzer.

"My name is Trinity," she said coldly.

"Trin, why are you working with them? They're terrorists," He practically spat the word.

"You mean they're rebels," she said icily. "They're going against you machines and are trying to free humanity from the prison you've placed them in."

"So, Morpheus has been filling you with his lies," He snarled. Then he carefully straightened his face out. "Trin, please help me. If I can capture Morpheus, then I'll no longer be needed to police the Matrix. If you help me, they'll put you back in the Matrix. We can be together."

For the first time since she had met him, she heard an emotion that wasn't dry humor. Desperation gave an unusual edge to his voice.

She felt the cold weight of the Desert Eagle in her hand. "We could never be together. I should have realized that long ago."

Trinity shot the Agent called Smith.

The End