Morpheus met her as she came up to the main
"We're almost ready to take you in to see the Oracle."
"Oracle? Like the Greek fortune teller?"
"She doesn't so much tell fortunes as help you choose your future, if you will."
"And she's human?"
"Yes, very much so." Morpheus put a hand on the girl's shoulder and steered her towards one of the chairs. "She's extremely old. She's been with us since the beginning of the Resistance. She was the one who told me I would find Neo."
"So she knows everything? Is she ever wrong?"
"Try not to think of it in terms of right and wrong. She is a guide. She can help you to find the path for your future." Morpheus helped the girl into her chair and then walked behind her to get into his own. Tank secured the foot restraints over her boots and then took the connector needle down from the holder over the girl's head.
"See you on the other side." Mouse said, grinning from the chair next to hers. Tank pushed the needle into her head.
The old hotel again. Sunlight streaming in through the heavy ripped curtains. The dark man was the first one in this time. He looked from side to side as the others appeared around him- the dark hared woman straightening her sunglasses, the other man, long coat fluttering in an almost-dead breeze, the boy, looking around nervously from behind a pair of dark glasses, and then, a new one-a girl, short, curly hair a stripe in the front dyed bright purple. She blinked and looked around her, then looked down at herself.
Trinity stepped up to the phone in the middle
of the room and lifted the receiver.
*Have fun* Tank told her. She grinned and hung the phone up again, nodding to Morpheus.
Neo opened the doors, holding them as the others headed out. They opened onto a sort of porch-like area, a loading zone. There was an old-looking big black car parked a little ways away. Morpheus headed for it. Flux looked behind her. Neo was coming out of the doorway. He grinned.
"It's okay. The first time in is always a little weird."
"More than a little weird.... Where's Mouse?" she looked around. "I didn't see him come out."
"I don't know." Neo opened the door again. Flux looked in. Mouse was standing on the stair landing above, gripping the banister with both hands.
"Mouse... come on!" she called. He shook his head.
"I can't do this."
Flux looked back at Neo.
"Tell Morpheus to wait for a minute."
Neo nodded and let the door swing shut. Flux started up the stairs.
"Mouse, I'm coming up, okay?" There was no answer. She reached the landing he was on and leaned on the banister next to him. "You all right?"
"This... here.... is where the... the Agents..." he dropped his head and closed his eyes. "The only reason I made it last time- when we came to get you- was because Morpheus was there... and I wasn't going to let myself break down in front of him."
She put her hand over his. "Where?"
"Third floor... Second room."
"Do you want to go up there?"
He didn't respond.
"You don't have to, but it might help."
"Okay." Mouse whispered, nodding. "I'll go." He let go of the banister and took Flux's hand. They started up the stairs. As they got to the landing on the second floor, Mouse started to shiver. Flux put her hand on his back.
"You don't have to."
"Yes, I do." He took a breath and opened the second door. Eyes closed, he stepped inside. He was almost crushing Flux's hand, but she stayed silent.
"Here." Mouse pushed aside the drapery over what seemed to be a window, revealing a brick wall. There were bullet holes through the bricks and red stains smeared down the walls and the floor. Mouse put both hands on the wall and bowed his head.
"God... I thought I was dead." he whispered, dropping to his knees. "I thought I was dead." A single tear dripped from his eye. Flux knelt and embraced him. He turned around and put his arms around her waist, sobbing quietly into her shoulder.
They stayed that way for a good five minutes
before Mouse sighed and sat back, wiping at his eyes.
"I don't know why this affects me so much."
"You almost died. You're entitled to it."
"I guess so."
"Do you feel any better?"
"Actually... yeah, I do. Thanks... a lot."
Flux smiled, a little embarrassed.
"No problem." She stood and helped Mouse to his feet. "Should we go down and join everyone else?"
"I guess so." He took her hand and they went down the stairs together. Flux squinted against the sunlight as Mouse opened the door.
"It's bright out here."
"No, it's just dark in there."
Flux looked up at him. He grinned, obviously in a better mood. The car that had been out in front of the building was running. Neo stood up from where he had been sitting in the open door, gesturing for them to get in.
Even though the car looked like it should have
had room and then some to spare, it was crowded with five people in it.
Trinity was driving, and Morpheus sat shotgun. Neo was in the back with
Flux and Mouse. Flux watched the outside world go by through the windows.
"Hey." She pointed to something outside. "That was my favorite CD store. It wasn't even real, was it. I just thought it was. All of the stuff I though I had done, the memories I've got...none of it's real."
"The Matrix can do a lot of things," Neo explained. " but it can't tell you who you are. You have to decide that yourself."
The car pulled up outside a shabby apartment building.
"Come, Flux." Morpheus got out of the car and took the girl inside the building.
"I hope the Oracle's easier on her than she was on me." Neo muttered.
Inside the building, Morpheus pushed the elevator
up button and then ushered the girl inside. They rode to the third floor
in silence. Morpheus got off first and led the girl to a door. Room 303.
It looked the same as any of the other doors lining the hall.
"I can only show you the door, Flux. You have to open it."
Flux looked at him for a moment, then reached out towards the doorknob. Before she touched it, the door swung open. The kind face of one of the Oracle's 'priestesses' greeted her.
"Hello, Flux. You're right on time. Morpheus, make yourself at home. Flux, come with me."
Flux followed her into the living room of the apartment.
"You can wait here, with the other potentials." The priestess moved off, down the hall. Morpheus was nowhere to be seen. There were others in the room, her age or younger-a young bald boy in a toga-like garment was sitting on the floor behind a row of mangled spoons. Two girls were juggling blocks in the air, never once touching them. The boy in the corner who looked to be the closest to her age looked up from the book he was reading to glance at her. He looked from her head to her feet and back again. Flux smiled at him, but there was something condescending in his eyes that she didn't like. He returned to his book. Another of the priestesses touched her on the shoulder.
"The Oracle will see you now." She was pointed towards the kitchen. Looking up at the beaded doorway hanging, she went in.
There was a plump African American woman sitting
at the kitchen table wearing half-glasses and squinting at a needlepoint
frame on the table in front of her. She looked up as the girl came in.
"You're the Oracle?"
The Oracle smiled.
"Not what you expected, huh?"
"I don't know. I didn't know what to expect."
"Smart girl. You were expecting one of those Greeks draped in a bedsheet and sitting in a marble chair though, weren't you?"
"Well.... kind of." Flux looked down, somewhat embarrassed. The Oracle chuckled.
"Girl, that's one of the more flattering things I've been imagined as. I'll take it as a compliment. Now then, you have no clue why you're here, don't you."
"Morpheus said you saw the future-you were a guide, and helped people choose the way to go."
"Morpheus was right." She put a few more stitches into the needlepoint. "You have a thing for that Mouse boy, don't you."
"Well..." Flux stalled.
"Don't hide it, girl, I can read you like an open book."
Flux turned red and looked at her boots.
"There's nothing wrong with it. Just be careful. He'll be there when your life takes a turn. Can't see if it's for better or worse, though, and if it's for worse, there's no telling what he'll do. You kept him sane today... he knows it, and he's ready to do the same for you."
Flux's face was fire-engine red, and if she stared any harder at the floor, it was going to start smoking.
"Hey, girl." The Oracle got up and put an arm around Flux's shoulders. "Don't be embarrassed. I see you doing great things. Great things, girl. You're gonna get out there and do what even Neo hasn't attempted."
"-a darn lot, I know. But what you're gonna do he's never even thought of trying."
"Is that good or bad?"
"I don't know, honey. I honestly don't know." The Oracle gave her a squeeze, then went over to a cow shaped cookie jar. "Take a snickerdoodle. You'll feel better when you get outside, trust me."
Flux took the cookie, and turned to go.
"Keep your chin up, Flux." the Oracle called after her. "Always look to the light." Flux smiled. The beaded curtain in the kitchen door clicked as she exited. The Oracle smiled and shook her head, returning to her needlepoint.
Morpheus met Flux as she came out of the kitchen.
Sensing she was about to speak, he stopped her.
"The Oracle's words are for you and you alone."
Flux shrugged and bit into the cookie. She slowly finished the cookie in the elevator ride down. It was dark outside, and streetlight reflections shone in the paint of the shiny black car. Flux slid into the backseat next to Mouse again. Neo had moved up to shotgun to talk to Trinity; he got out and moved into the back, relinquishing the seat to Morpheus.
"What time is it?" Flux asked. Trinity looked at the dashboard clock.
"Hey... Millennium's open," Mouse commented.
"He's right... anyone for clubbing?" Neo looked around.
"Uh.. slight problem." Flux waved her hand. "Unless you guys have a lot of pull, you're not gonna get me in. I'm still only fourteen."
Neo pulled something out of his pocket and handed it to her.
"You're not fourteen. You've been eighteen for the last month."
It was a laminated ID card, dated a month ago, with her picture and date of birth... 1982.
"You and Mouse both have one. We've changed your birth certificates and records temporarily too. You'll stay 'eighteen' until you actually have your eighteenth birthday, and then you'll start aging again. It's so you can get into places with us or without us if something weird happens." Neo explained.
"Of course, it also comes awfully in handy when you get carded at clubs." Mouse whispered to her.
Trinity pulled the car into a gravel parking
lot behind a row of low brick buildings. Flux pulled at the door handle,
trying to figure out how it opened. Mouse leaned across and opened it for
"Ohh.... I get it." It was a suicide door.... no wonder she had been having problems. She slid out and straightened her jacket. It kept getting hung up on the velvet of the shirt she was wearing. Mouse stood up behind her and closed the car door. Neo crunched over the gravel towards the low silver dome on the other side of the lot.
The line to get into Millennium was short,
and the group reached the front almost immediately. The bouncer waved Trinity,
Morpheus and Mouse through and then paused, looking at Flux.
"You don't look-"
Flux cut him off, holding up her ID card between two fingers. At the same time, Neo moved in closer behind her, making it more than obvious that they were part of the same group. The bouncer took the card from her and looked at it, glancing from the picture to her face and back again. Flux gave him her best impatient look. The bouncer turned around and tapped another man on the shoulder, showing him the card. They exchanged brief words, and the other man nodded.
"Okay, go on." The first bouncer sounded less then happy with his counterpart's decision.
"Thank you." Flux took her card back rather sharply, and with Neo headed inside.
The air was hazy... partially with cigarette
smoke and partially from the dry-ice fog they were pumping in for 'atmosphere'.
Flux paused for a moment, letting her eyes adjust to the semi-darkness.
Neo took her elbow and steered her towards the other side of the dome where
Trinity and Mouse had commandeered one of the low tables. Morpheus was
nowhere to be seen.
"Pretty cool, huh?" Mouse said into her ear. She turned, grinning.
"Yeah... pretty darn cool."
There were lasers and strobe lights and stage lights in all colors suspended from the top of the dome, the lasers cutting through the smoke to project colored squiggles on the walls. The stage-type lights pointed in all different directions, flooding different sections of the dome with all colors of the rainbow. The music pounded from hundreds of different speakers, surrounding you in an envelope of noise and making it hard to communicate.
"Both of you okay?" Trinity asked. Flux and Mouse both nodded. "No alcohol, remember. There's only so far I'll push the laws. Oh... Flux." She dug into her pocket and pulled something out. Taking the girl's hand she dropped a small green crystal on a chain into her palm. "It's a tracking device-so Tank can tell where you are. The transmission signals fluctuate so the Agents can't use it to find you." She smiled. "Everyone wears them differently, but I thought this might be the easiest for you." She and Neo moved into the crowd, heading for the bar. Flux sat on the carpeted tabletop and shrugged her jacket off, hooking the crystal around her neck.
"My parents would so kill me if they could see me now."
"The thing is that they're genetically not really your parents." Mouse pulled the chair at the back of the table out and sat down, putting his feet up next to Flux and taking his sunglasses off.
"What do you mean?" she scootched around to face him.
"I mean that the people you thought you were living with aren't really your parents. Everyone's born in a test tube now, and the machines just make the couples think that it's their kid. You could actually be the offspring of some Canadian and an Australian. That's why these days, a lot of kids don't look a darn thing like their parents."
"That kinda makes sense... I didn't look like either of my 'parents'." She made quotation marks in the air with her fingers. "Of course, it made it easy for them. They could just claim I wasn't theirs when I got into trouble."
"Which you did a lot."
"Which I did a lot, yeah." She chuckled and swung her legs over the other edge of the table so she was sitting face to face with Mouse. The song changed, transitioning into a jazzed-up and synthesized version of Britney Spears' "Baby One More Time.' Flux made a gagging noise.
"Even technology can't help this song. Or Britney herself. 'Hit me baby one more time'" she warbled in a mocking falsetto. "Blonde silicone enhanced bimbo... your type of girl, Mouse."
Mouse glared good-naturedly at her.
"That wasn't funny."
"Oh, yes it was."
"How do you know what type of girl I like?" He leaned forward.
"The Pamela Anderson clone you programmed kind of gave it away."
"Maybe that's just one type. How do you know I don't think short girls wearing black with partially purple hair are hot?"
Flux grinned, twisting the purple stripe in her hair around her finger.
"Are you calling me short?" she asked.
"Are you saying I like Britney Spears?" he countered.
"Then I'm not calling you short."
Flux crossed her legs and propped her heels on the arm of Mouse's chair, remembering what the Oracle had said about him. She cocked her head to the side and looked at him.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
She shook her head. "Just thinking."
"Something the Oracle said?"
"Yeah." she rubbed the side of her nose. "It's no big deal."
In a techno riff, Britney Spears disappeared into Eiffel65.
"Oh gods, I love this song." Flux started singing along. "-that lives in a blue world and all day and all night and everything he sees is just blue like him inside and outside." Flux stood up and pulled Mouse to his feet, dragging him out onto the dance floor.
"Oh, come on...." he protested.
"Don't give me any crap about not being able to dance."
"Well, I can't!"
"Then you'll just have to learn." She grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him in close to her, putting one arm around his neck. "Just move. Don't think."
Mouse found out quickly that he could dance, and in fact rather liked it.
The song ended, morphing into an even more
popped-up version of Right Said Fred's 'I'm Too Sexy.' Flux immediately
started mouthing the words, making Mouse laugh. She started to giggle,
and then it was all they could do to make it back to the table before collapsing.
Flux put her head down on the table and tried to catch her breath.
"Whooo..." Mouse breathed.
"And you said you couldn't dance." Flux looked up at him from the tabletop.
"Maybe I lied."
"Maybe you shouldn't lie. It could get you in trouble."
"Ooh..." Mouse raised an eyebrow at her.
"Sicko." She swatted at him, putting her head back down on the table. He caught her wrist and pulled her up.
"I... uh... never got to... thank you for what happened earlier.... so I guess... thank you." He leaned forward and kissed her gently on the lips, then pulled back, watching for her reaction.
"Well then.... you're welcome." She kissed him back, then smiled. "Would you believe I've never kissed a guy before?"
"If you'd believe I've never kissed a girl before." He smiled back, and put an arm around her, letting her rest her head on his shoulder.
"Here's to the blind leading the blind," she joked.
"Hip-hip-hooray." Mouse gave a quiet cheer, and they both laughed.
Trinity and Neo came back to find them around
10:00. Flux was half asleep, tired from her training that morning and then
the excitement of meeting the Oracle, and was dozing on Mouse's shoulder.
"Time to go, you guys. There may be trouble coming in." Neo said. Mouse nodded, and nudged Flux.
"Wake up... time to go."
"Mmmpph.." she complained, and opened her eyes. "I heard him." She pushed herself up out of the chair and put her coat on, following Neo and Trinity out the back door. The car was waiting, in the rain, Morpheus in the driver's seat. She slid into the back seat after Mouse and shook her damp hair out of her eyes, pulling the door shut. Morpheus stepped on the gas and the tires ground on the loose gravel as the car turned and sped away.
"What kind of trouble?" Flux asked.
"Tank said there were three agents getting too close for comfort." Neo explained. "We decided it was better to be safe than sorry."
"Which is usually a good policy." Trinity added. She twisted the knob on the car radio, and it sputtered to life, playing the GooGoo Doll's 'Iris'
"Ooh... good song." Flux put her head back on Mouse's shoulder and closed her eyes.
The ride back to the old abandoned hotel was
uneventful at best. Flux was jostled awake again as they pulled into the
loading zone. Morpheus killed the engine and everyone climbed out, squinting
against the rain. Inside, Flux shook her jacket off, leaving a series of
small puddles in the entryway. As the group climbed the stairs to get to
the hard-line on the second floor, Mouse looked up to the third floor then
took Flux's hand. She looked up briefly too, then squeezed his hand gently.
Morpheus pushed the double door open, holding it for the rest of the group. Almost on cue, the old-fashioned phone rang. Neo lifted it to his ear. He was covered in.. no... he became a wireframe image, then disappeared from the bottom up. Trinity hung the phone up again. It rang immediately. She picked it up again, and offered it to Flux. The girl took it and put it to her ear, watching Trinity. The room became a wireframe model for a split second, and then there was blackness.
Her eyes opened. She was back on the Nebuchadnezzar,
and Tank was *hello!* taking the spike out of the back of her skull. He
leaned over and spoke into her ear.
"So you chose Mouse over me, huh? I'm hurt."
"You little..... aagh!" she smacked him on the shoulder. He grinned and thumped her on the back.
"No.. hey. I'm happy for ya, Little Sister."
She smiled, a little embarrassed. Neo was grinning from the other side of the room, unhooking Trinity. Tank caught the girl up in a big bear hug, and she laughed.
"All right... thank you, Tank!" Climbing down from the chair, she yawned and headed down to the lower deck and her room.