Narsus > The Desert of the Real

The Desert of the Real

Staring out over the desolation that Morpheus had termed ‘the desert of the real’ the rebels hid in the shadow of some broken building. It was freezing, somehow a chill wind reaching everywhere. Neo clenched his teeth in an attempt to stop them chattering. Trinity was jammed up against his side for warmth, almost frozen fingers clutching an EMP riffle. Neo hazarded a look behind them, at the newer recruits huddled together, not that they were inexperienced troops. In fact there were few humans left within what was left of the Matrix and they were only left in a hand full of segments for researching purposes. Most of the Matrix had been shutdown, freeing the few humans whose minds could adjust, while so many others were lost. But they were free, that was what counted, Neo reminded himself. Now all they had to do was rid the world of the machines on the outside. That was why they were crouching in the shadows of a broken city.


"Do you think they’re any left?" someone whispered behind him.

"Yes. We have to flush out the ground units." Trinity replied, tightening her grip on her riffle.


The machines in the real world could be divided into several classes; large, ship-sized units, larger than Sentinels; slightly smaller ones, including mechs like those often seen in Japanese animation, capable of crushing humans underfoot; and ground units, built to the dimensions of humans, so that they could reach the hiding places that the larger machines couldn’t. It was these smaller units that were causing the most trouble, infiltrating the passageways traversed by the rebels, acting as snipers within what was left of the cities, planning explosives in places that before only rebels could have reached.


There had been reports of a detachment of ground units, moving through this section of the city, killing many rebels before they could escape down the passageways that made it impossible for the larger units to trace them. Neo was beginning to wonder was use it was being ‘the One’ when they were fighting the last wars out here in the real world. What was the use of being able to manipulate a redundant system? In the real world, he was just as human as anyone else.


"There." Trinity pointed to the scanner readout. Neo bit his lip. A dozen units headed in their direction. He watched the readout, two units moved off at a tangent to the rest: snipers. Of the remaining, three held back while the rest continued in their direction. They waited; it was the only thing they could do. Five rebels against twelve ground units. Neo figured that it gave them a relative chance.

There they were, closing in. Seven ground units, looking a lot like a human SWAT team. They stopped. Beside him Neo heard Trinity curse softly, the ground units were just out of range. They stayed just out of range.


"We have to get closer." Someone said from behind.

"We can’t without giving ourselves away." Trinity replied, shaking her head.

"We can’t just stay here!"

Neo was about to respond, when suddenly their decision was made for them by a grenade hurled directly into their hiding place. Scrambling out, just in time to avoid the explosion, there was now a volley of fire from the ground units to contend with. Firing back as they tried to run for cover, one of the newer rebels fell, shot in the back. Now at least they knew where the snipers were, Neo thought in macabre reflection. The ground units charged, trying to separate them. Trinity managed to take down several units but was unable to prevent her and Neo being cut off from the other two rebels. The three units that had held back now joined their fellows. Neo kept firing, trying to keep an eye on where the others were. He caught a glimpse of one falling, shot by a sniper. Then the other being crushed by a mech, as Trinity grabbed him, so they both fell back into the relative safely of a sewer enterance.


The ground units didn’t try to follow them as they staggered along the dank passageways, Neo stumbling into the walls several times. Finally he slumped down, exhausted.

"Neo. Neo, we have to go on." Trinity was at his side, trying to haul him up.

"Yeah, sure." He slowly managed to regain his feet. But is wasn’t physical exhaustion that weighed him down, in fact, he’d have welcomed it as a change to the mind-numbing sensation that washed over him everything he saw someone die. So many deaths, so much destruction… no more prison, no more ‘reality’ as the Matrix was supposed to be. Only the desert of the real.

"We’re free then." He muttered, disheartened.

Trinity didn’t hear him.


The sound of feet splashing in the water collected in the tunnel, made them pause. Now hiding in a side passage, hoping that the darkness would cover them, they watched several ground units move past. One of the units paused and Neo recognised Agent Jones, looking just the same in the real world as he did in the Matrix. Except, he was dressed like all the other ground units, in non-descript black body-armour, sans sunglasses. Jones turned to face another familiar looking ground unit.

"We can not locate them." He reported dutifully, looking faintly bored.

"We will. It is only a matter of time."

Smith again. Neo found himself detachedly wondering about the reappearance of his apparent nemesis, finding it quite odd that Smith actually looked like he was enjoying himself. The thought crossed Neo’s mind, ‘is this why he wanted to escape the Matrix?’ seeing as Smith seemed to be reacting as if he was playing some advanced version of "Return to Castle Wolfenstein".


After the ground units passed it wasn’t difficult to return to the Neb, to the silence of a semi-deserted ship, deserted because most of the crew, even the new additions were dead. Neo found Morpheus sitting in the redundant core, staring at the screens. Neo came and stood beside him, looking at the readouts for the section of the city they were in.

"We lost fourteen today." Morpheus said quietly, not turning to look at Neo.

"That’s good, isn’t it?" Neo replied, hesitantly.


"You mean… in this section alone?"

A nod from Morpheus was the answer.


"We didn’t expect there to be so much resistance once the Matrix was shutdown." Morpheus said, using the word ‘resistance’ with bitter irony.

"Shit." Was all Neo could say again, quietly this time.


Above ground, in what was left of a human city, the ground units milled round, impatiently awaiting orders to commence the next offensive. Sitting on a broken foundation stone, Brown reloaded his sniper rifle. Jones sat beside him, alternating his gaze between Brown and Smith, silently watching. Standing near them, amongst the horrific destruction of the city, was Smith.

He was grinning up at the sky.

End of Transmission

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