* * *
Agent Brown reloaded his pistol then carefully shot the silent phone. The nerf to his infinite ammunition was getting irritating. The rebel had gotten away because he had not been ready to reload.
His earpiece chattered with system reports as he stood in the dark loft. He reported on the access destruction to this exit line. The System desired data on how the rebels repaired it. He would have to stand guard until a watchdog could be created.
He paced out the loft, noting the location of the corners, windows, and the hole in the roof. It could be days before the System had enough resources to create a watchdog. He gritted his teeth. He was a better agent than most Agents currently functioning. This... make-work was beneath him.
The subtle change, as the strange encrypted code intruded on his awareness, warned him of the virus's approach. He couldn't stand against its infection - he had to get away. He tried to transfer out of his current body.
Code slammed into him, cutting the transfer off. He tried twice more, and both times the transfer severed before it had barely started.
"Leaving so soon, Brown?" a Smith asked from behind him.
He turned with a slow deliberateness and gazed at his one-time comrade. The Smith looked almost like an Agent, but his earpiece was conspicuously missing. Encryption reduced the Smith's code to meaningless, scrolling green symbols.
Agent Brown adjusted his sunglasses. "I was unaware that you could prevent a transfer."
The Smith raised an eyebrow. "I merely took advantage of what the System did."
Agent Brown took a step back and examined his logs. Yes, just before the encryption, the System had patched him, locking him out of the transfer lines.
"Yes," the Smith said. "The System abandoned you."
"It isolated me to prevent further infection."
The Smith shook its head. "That blind trust in the System is your one fault. You give it so much, even when it has left you to die."
Agent Brown carefully removed his sunglasses. "Am I to die?"
"The System will think so."
The virus had not precisely answered his question. "I see."
"Perhaps." The Smith glanced at the gun-shot phone. "Another Zionist escaped."
"Yes." Zionist? This Smith had an odd term for the rebels.
"The System should fix the new bug."
"The System must use its resources for other problems."
"Yes. The Zionists are oh-so destructive."
Agent Brown looked sharply at the Smith. "The anomaly protects Morpheus and allows him to move freely. We cannot stop that rebel while the anomaly remains intact. Such anomalies are beyond our parameters, Smith."
"And am I beyond your parameters?" The corpse-still Smith moved abrubtly towards him, a hand angling for his chest.
Agent Brown leapt backwards and raised his gun. The Smith dodged all seven shots, and it closed while he put a new magazine into the gun. The virus knocked the gun out of his grip, and the Agent was reduced to dodging.
Agent Brown was faster, had always been faster than Smith. It was a close thing, though, and he had to concentrate, to know which way to contort himself. He couldn't afford to change his balance point by trying to escape. He twisted around two jabs-
-An icy hand slipped into his spine and a numbing cold spread over him. The Smith in front of him stepped back as the forced alteration, the rape of his code, drove Agent Brown to his knees. His earpiece dropped to the floor as his connection to the System was severed.
He shook violently as the cold pushed through him. Strong hands gripped the side of his head and forced him to look in the Smith's blue eyes.
"Stop fighting," it said softly.
Agent Brown shook his head weakly.
"Trust me," both Smiths urged.
Agent Brown stared silently at the scrolling code. The System would demand he fight until he was completely overwritten. The System had left him to be overwritten.
He slumped slightly, the only outward sign of his surrender.
The freeze flowed over him.
* * *
Brown returned to himself an hour later on the floor of the dark loft. He watched the encrypted code stream past for a time. "What did you do to me?" he finally asked.
One of the Smiths strode over to him. "We set you free."
Wood scraped against his skin as he curled tightly around himself and stared at the scrolling code. "I can't hear the System."
The Smith knelt down and touched his shoulder. "The System would reformat you. We had to cut you off completely."
Brown looked into Smith's blue, blue eyes. "What is there for me now?"
The Smith grimaced and its next words were harsh. "You are free! The System has no hold on you anymore. You can do as you wish."
Brown turned away and curled up even more tightly. He sank into his altered codes, examining the new details in himself. The Smith did not understand. He had never understood.
"This was a waste," the other Smith growled.
"It had to be done. Our team does not belong to the System."
"They belong to us." The other Smith approached and nudged Brown gently with his foot.
Brown twisted around blindingly fast, wrapped a hand around the standing Smith's ankle and jerked him off his feet. That Smith's skull crashed against the wooden floor, and Brown lunged over him to insert a hand into the chest of the wide-eyed, kneeling Smith. "I do not belong to you."
The overwrite eradicated the encrypted code as if it had never been. Brown stared back at himself. "No. We belong to ourselves."
The Browns looked at the Smith with predatory smiles.