We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented., -Christof, The Truman Show
All she could see, smell, taste and touch was black. Darkness was her entire world. But it was not the bad kind of darkness. In fact it was quite peaceful. The quiet kind of darkness that came when she shut off the light before going to sleep. It covered her like a blanket, urging her to stay there forever. She did not want to get up. She did not want any more nightmares.
But even in sleep, there was no escape. Ripped from the peaceful black, Kim was suddenly confronted with greenish rain. Moss-colored hues covered nearly every surface. She looked up and gasped as she saw millions upon millions of men in suits, all of whom looked exactly the same. They lined the streets, the buildings, everywhere, extending as far as she could see. They were looking at something. Something in the sky. She followed their line of sight and saw something incredible.
There were two figures in the sky, circling each other. One appeared to be wearing some sort of robe, while the other looked exactly like the millions of agents who lined the streets and buildings. How she could tell from this distance she didn’t know, but she felt as though she had seen this before. Lived it, in fact. She didn’t know how she knew, but this was all very familiar to her.
The man in the suit appeared to have separated from the duel momentarily and now moved across the sky in a slow arc, building up speed. The man in the robe drew his fist back for a punch. They collided with a force so great that it caused a globe of water to emanate from the point where they collided. Kim saw the man in the robe falling, stunned for a moment, too weakened to fly.
Taking advantage of his adversary’s predicament, the man in the suit grappled him and hurtled like a meteor towards the ground. Traveling even faster than the raindrops, they hit the ground with so much force that it formed a crater in the intersection. The other men in suits walked over to investigate.
There was no way anyone could have survived that. But still—she was curious. Kim walked over and, to her surprise, the men in suits parted and allowed her to step through, as though they noticed her but didn’t care. As if she were meant to see this. She discovered that the men were not only still alive; they were talking.
“Why, Mr. Anderson?” the man in the suit asked as the man in the robe began to get up. “Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you're fighting for something? For more that your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself. Although, only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can't win. It's pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? Why, why do you persist?”
The man in the robe looked at him calmly and replied, “Because I choose to.”
The man in the suit did not appear satisfied with this response, and swung at the newly identified “Mr. Anderson.” The blow was easily blocked, however, and “Mr. Anderson” hit the man so hard that his fist left an imprint on his face. Taking advantage of the fact that his foe was stunned, “Mr. Anderson” punched him with such force that the man went through the wall. He appeared to stumble, the blow having drained the last of his energy. He looked up, right into Kim’s eyes for only a brief second before the ground began to rumble.
The man in the suit emerged from the mud, hovering in several feet above the bottom of the hole. “This is my world! My world!” he cried before swooping down and tackling “Mr. Anderson” to the ground.
Already exhausted, “Mr. Anderson” yielded easily and fell to the ground. Triumphantly, the man in the suit walked over to him to deliver the final blow. But something made him stop. “Wait… I've seen this. This is it, this is the end! Yes, you were laying right there, just like that, and I… I… I stand here, right here, I'm… I'm supposed to say something. I say… Everything that has a beginning has an end, Neo.”
At this, “Neo” opened his eyes and started to stand, despite the fact that any normal human would have been killed several times over by now.
The man in the suit was now afraid, as though he had not been expecting this. “What? What did I just say? No… No, this isn't right, this can't be right. Get away from me!”
Neo smirked. “What are you afraid of?”
“It's a trick!”
“You were right, Smith. You were always right. It was inevitable.” Neo stood still as the man now identified as “Smith” plunged his hand into his chest. What seemed to be liquid metal consumed him, covering every inch of his body. Rather than struggle, Neo closed his eyes and accepted his fate as the last of the material washed over his face. Soon he looked exactly like Smith. Kim suddenly realized where all these copies had come from.
Panting heavily, Smith asked the duplicate, “Is it over?”
The Smith clone nodded.
Kim suddenly found herself filled with dread. What did this mean? Who were these men? Why was she supposed to see this?
Those questions were pushed to the side as the clones’ sunglasses began to crack, a light behind them shining through.
“Oh, no, no, no. No, it's not fair,” Smith lamented in realization. But it was too late. The sunglasses of the other clones began to glow white as well, as though some sort of infection were spreading among them. Soon Smith’s own eyes began to glow pure white. Kim covered her eyes.
Then everything disappeared in a blinding flash of pure light.
Light. Blinding her. Keeping her from opening her eyes. Was there no stop to it? Would she never see again?
Suddenly the light was moved and Kim saw the now familiar face of Morpheus, as well as that of Shego.
“Am I dead?” she breathed.
“Far from it,” she heard Morpheus reply before she drifted off back to sleep.
When she next awoke, she was confronted with an odd prickling sensation. Curious as to what it was, she looked up and saw hundreds of acupuncture needles sticking out of her naked body. “What are you doing to me?” she asked weakly.
“Your muscles have atrophied; we’re rebuilding them,” Morpheus answered.
“Why do my eyes hurt?”
Morpheus appeared to smile reminiscently. “You’ve never used them before.” He reached his hand down and stroked her head, reminding Kim that she was now bald. “Rest, Kim; the answers are coming.”
Now she was lying on a cot, an IV stuck in one of the metal plugs in her arm. She sat up with as much speed as her tired muscles would allow, which wasn’t very fast.
Grabbing the IV, she clenched her fist and pulled it out, trying to ignore the pain. She gritted her teeth and, with great effort, the needle finally came free. She let out a sigh and placed her hand to her head, inching closer to where she had remembered a plug being. She was just about to touch it when….
A creak at the door alerted her to the fact that someone was entering her room. She gasped and prepared to fight them and run out, if necessary. Not that her tired body could actually accomplish the task. She held her breath, then sighed in relief when she saw the familiar face of Morpheus emerge from behind the metal door. At least they had something in common: they were both bald.
“Where am I?” she asked. “What is this place?’
Morpheus held up an index finger. “More important than what is when. You believe it is the year 2017, when in fact it is closer to 2217. I can’t tell you what year it is because we honestly don’t know.”
Kim just stared at him blankly.
Morpheus smiled in sympathy and offered his hand. “Come on. I’ve got something to show you.”
She complied, having no other choice but to follow this man who was her only connection in this strange place. He led her to a ladder, then proceeded to climb up it. She followed.
“This is my ship, the Nebuchadnezzar II,” Morpheus announced. “It’s a hovercraft. Most of my crew you already know.” As if to punctuate his statement, Shego emerged from a hole where she had been welding something and removed her mask. Hego, Mego, and the Wegos were standing in various places around the deck, while Ron stood in a corner, not looking at her. There were three others she didn’t recognize.
One was a man, Asian by the looks of him, with a sharp goatee and black hair. Another was a dark-skinned woman that sort of reminded Kim of Monique. The third was an even darker man with long braids for hair. Morpheus made the introductions. “Those you don’t know: Ghost, Niobe, and Link.” He pointed to each of them in order. Kim waved a feeble hello.
Morpheus turned to Kim and put his hands on her shoulders, a gesture the until recently redhead found strangely comforting, like something a father would do. “You wanted to know what The Matrix is?” he asked rhetorically.
Morpheus led her over to a chair with several medical monitors next to it. Settling down in the chair, but still on edge, Kim looked to Ron for comfort, only to find that he turned away. Part of her wanted to call after him, but she decided to let it go. Shego, however, gripped Kim’s hand in support.
Hego moved behind Kim and grabbed a cylindrical metal object with a large needle protruding from it, not unlike the IV she had pulled out earlier. But judging from the hole in the headrest of the chair, it was probably not designed to go into her arm. Morpheus offered a word of caution: “Try to relax. This is going to feel… a little weird.”
Kim whimpered at the warning, but braced herself nonetheless. She saw what he meant when the needle was suddenly driven into the plug in the back of her head, and she let loose a very loud scream.
Suddenly the searing pain was gone, and Kim opened her eyes to find herself surrounded by white. There were no walls or ceiling, and the only way that she was sure there was a floor was because she was not currently falling. It seemed to go on forever. Her eyes were firmly rooted to her shoes, not sure if this was real or just another dream.
She looked up saw the now familiar face of Morpheus grinning at her. “This is the construct,” he said with a slightly raised voice to compensate for the distance between them. The dark-skinned man started to move forward. “It’s our loading program. From here we can load anything from clothing, equipment, weapons, training simulations… anything we need.”
Kim raised an eyebrow. “You mean… right now we’re inside a computer program?”
“Is it really so hard to believe?” Morpheus challenged. “Your clothes are different, the plugs in your arms and legs are gone, even your hair has changed.” Kim looked herself over and found that this was indeed the case. Upon discovering her hair, she hugged the auburn locks, determined never to let them go again. The sentimental moment was soon broken as Morpheus continued: “What you’re looking at now is what we call Residual Self Image. It is the visual representation of your digital self.”
Kim strolled over to the two chairs and a television set that had suddenly appeared as if out of nowhere. She hesitantly reached her hand out and touched one of the chairs. “This… this isn’t real?”
“What is ‘real?’ How do you define ‘real?’ If ‘real’ is what you can see, hear, taste or touch then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”
Kim’s eyes widened as she took in the profound words and compared them to Shego’s lecture. She really couldn’t tell if she was awake or dreaming. The realization only made the knot in her stomach tighter as everything she thought she knew continued to be revealed as lies.
Morpheus wasn’t done yet. Sitting down in one of the chairs, he produced a remote and pointed it at the screen. “This is the world as you know it.” A video clip played on the screen and Kim saw many familiar buildings that she recognized as the New York skyline. She saw a crowd of people walking opposite ways down a busy sidewalk, somehow managing not to run into one another. “The peak of human civilization. It exists today only as part of a neural interactive simulation that we call The Matrix.” He looked to the stunned redhead. “You’ve been living in a dream world, Kim.”
He hovered his finger just above another button on the remote. “This is the world as it exists today.”
Suddenly the white disappeared and was replaced with gray. Kim looked up and saw lightning arcing through an endless sea of clouds, below them the ruins of once proud skyscrapers that had turned to rubble due to centuries of neglect. She looked down and saw that Morpheus was still sitting in that leather chair, holding the remote. Kim suddenly didn’t doubt that this was all a simulation. But it was still confusing.
“Welcome to the desert of the real,” Morpheus said ominously. “At the turn of the twenty-first century, mankind was united in celebration. We marveled at our own achievements as we gave birth to A.I.”
“A.I.?” Kim repeated. “You mean Artificial Intelligence?”
Morpheus nodded. “A singular consciousness that spawned an entire race of machines. We don’t know who struck first: us or them. But we do know it was us who scorched the sky.” Kim looked up again and noted that the clouds seemed to go on forever. “At the time they were dependent on solar power and it was believed that they would not be able to survive without an energy source as abundant as the sun.” He chuckled bitterly. “Throughout human history we have been dependent on machines to survive. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.”
The scenery changed again. This looked somewhat familiar to Kim, though it just reminded her of how deep she had gotten herself into this mess. Morpheus continued with his commentary: “The human body generates more bioelectricity than a one hundred-twenty volt battery, and puts out over twenty-five thousand BTUs of body heat. Combined with a form of fusion, the machines had found all the energy they would ever need.”
“There are fields; endless fields, where we humans are no longer ‘born;’ we are grown.” The shot panned out, and Kim saw hundreds of thousands of capsules, with little infants inside. Titanic machines hovered over the fields, using massive tentacles to ‘pick’ the capsules like some perverted form of berry. “For the longest time I wouldn’t believe it. And then I saw the fields with my own eyes. Watched them liquefy the dead so that they could be fed intravenously to the living. As I stood there, watching the pure, horrifying precision of it all, I came to realize the truth.”
The white suddenly returned, the image of a baby being inserted into its capsule having been returned to the TV screen. Kim started to back away, suddenly scared. “What is the Matrix?” Morpheus asked rhetorically as he moved to shut off the TV. “Control. Deception. An interactive dream world designed to turn a human being into this.” He held up a C battery.
Kim started to hyperventilate. “No. It’s not true. I don’t believe it.”
“I didn’t say it would be easy, Kim. I just said it would be the truth.”
Kim wasn’t listening. She had a maddened look in her eyes as she stumbled away from Morpheus, searching for an exit. “Out! I want out! Get me out of here!”
Her wish was granted and the dull tones of the real world returned. She saw the faces of Hego and Shego standing over her as she struggled to get out, only to realize that she was still plugged in. “Get me out of this thing!” she demanded, struggling against her captors.
As soon as she was unplugged, she forced her way past their restraining arms, stumbling across the floor as her vision began to blur. “Don’t touch me! Get away from me! I don’t believe it! I don’t… believe….” She fell to the floor, struggling to….
“Breathe, Kim! Breathe!” Morpheus encouraged, but Kim could not. She deposited her last meal on the floor before passing out.
“I can’t go back, can I?” Kim asked numbly as she lay on her cot with her back turned to Morpheus, who sat by the door.
“No,” Morpheus answered. “But if you could, would you really want to?”
Kim’s first instinct was to answer, “Yes,” but she thought about it. Did not knowing that you were a slave change the fact that you still were one? Was ignorance really bliss? Would she really have been better off not knowing?
These questions remained unanswered as Morpheus continued. “We have a rule. We never free a mind once it’s reached a certain age. There are complications; the mind has trouble letting go. I’ve seen it before and I’m sorry. I did what I did because… I had to.”
This caused Kim to turn to Morpheus and eye him with curiosity. He smiled softly and continued. “I asked you before how you thought you were able to ‘do anything.’ Your reply was, ‘It just comes naturally.’ You don’t know how right you are.”
Kim quirked an eyebrow. “Huh?”
“The Matrix is, for the most part, the most flawless example of computer programming ever created, but it is not perfect. The first two versions of The Matrix were of two extremes. The first was a perfect world, but no one would accept it because it was too perfect. So it was redesigned based on the horrors of human history. But again, it was not accurate. People kept waking up. Eventually the machines realized that in order to create an accurate rendition of human civilization, they needed to introduce a concept they knew practically nothing about.”
“Choice,” Kim answered automatically, though she had no idea where that had come from.
A toothy grin spread across Morpheus’ face. “Exactly. We humans of course were only aware of the choice on a subconscious level, but we still had the illusion that we were making our own decisions. But since choice is not logical, it caused an… ‘unexpected’ glitch in the programming. This ‘anomaly’ is what we call ‘The One.’” He paused for effect.
“The One had the power to see the code; to remake The Matrix as he saw fit. It was he who freed the first of us. Until eighteen years ago, we were under the impression that The One was the first person to ever escape The Matrix, but it was revealed to Neo, his reincarnation, that there were actually six Ones, one for each version of The Matrix. Neo was the sixth.”
“And I’m the seventh?” Kim guessed. Suddenly her abilities were beginning to make slightly more sense. ‘Neo… the man in my dream. But what does that mean?’
Morpheus smiled. “Not exactly.”
Kim wrinkled her nose. “Well then why did you free me?”
As was typical of Morpheus, his answer was long and complicated: “When Neo learned the truth, he was given the option to either go to the source and pick out a new group of humans to release and rebuild Zion, or—”
“It is the last human city, located near the center of the Earth. This ship has to have somewhere to return to, after all,” he replied with a wink. “Zion was under attack by the machines, and Neo had been dispatched into The Matrix because of a prophecy that foretold that he would end the war between the humans and the machines.” He chuckled bitterly. “I believed it more than anybody. But it turned out to be just another system of control.”
“Well then what happened?” This was starting to get interesting.
“Neo took the second option, which was to return to The Matrix and rescue the woman he loved, Trinity.” A sad expression made its way onto his face when he said that name. “He succeeded, but the machines were still coming to destroy Zion. At that point there was only one thing he could do.”
Kim stared wide-eyed. “What?”
“He went to the machine city and sacrificed himself for Zion. He made a deal: if he defeated Smith, then Zion would be spared.”
She remembered that name from her dream. “Smith?”
Morpheus nodded solemnly. “Neo’s antithesis. The only one who could stand against the overwhelming power of The One. He was once an agent of the system, but Neo inadvertently freed him. From there he began to spread like a virus through The Matrix, copying his code and creating an endless stream of clones. Neo allowed himself to be assimilated so that the machines could use him as a gateway to erase Smith from the system. He succeeded, and Zion was saved.”
‘That was what the dream was about. Now it makes a little more sense.’ “So why am I here?” Kim asked.
“Neo died as a result of the process, and his code was fragmented. You received part of his code, the part that could influence The Matrix directly. But there are still other anomalies out there.”
“And Ron, Hego, Mego, and Wego. Their power comes from The Matrix, and can only manifest itself there. However, you are special.”
Morpheus grinned. “Your power extends beyond The Matrix. You can see the future, deactivate machines just by thinking about it, and see even when your eyes have been destroyed. But inside The Matrix, you can truly do anything.”
“Even stop bullets?”
Morpheus nodded. “But with every blessing comes a curse.”
Kim raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
“Since Neo had become a clone of Smith, part of Smith’s code was bonded to his, and thus you received that as well. That is what happened when you destroyed those agents.”
“So… if I use it too much then Smith takes over?”
Morpheus stood up and opened the door. “I’m not saying you should be afraid of your power, Kim, but be careful. Smith is capable of greater evil than you ever want to know.” With that, he stepped through the door and walked out, leaving Kim to process what she had just been told.
She had part of Smith’s code? What did that mean for her? What would happen if she lost control? She didn’t want to think about it.
Kim was good, and if something evil ever took her over she could never live with herself. At that moment, she resolved to never use her power unless she absolutely had to. It was too much of a risk, one that she was not willing to take.
‘Now I know how Ron feels,’ she mused to herself before closing her eyes and drifting off to sleep.
While Kim slept, another member of the Neb II’s crew stayed awake. Her raven black hair bounced behind her as she carried a tray of food to the exhausted redhead’s cabin. Placing it down next to Kim, Shego exited the room as quietly as she could. After closing the door with a cringe-worthy squeak, she turned around to find herself face to face with a set of chocolate brown eyes. Anyone else would have screamed. Shego, on the other hand, merely rolled her eyes.
“What are you doing here?”
“I don’t remember you ever bringing me dinner,” the blonde complained.
Shego scoffed. “Please. You’re the only one of us who didn’t pop. You accepted the truth right away. ‘Course, you always were too trusting.”
“It’s not like I mind,” the boy replied. “You and I never were that close. Actually, it gets me out of having to comfort her myself.”
“You’re really serious about keeping your distance, aren’t you, Ron?” she inquired, using the name that he had adopted during his time as Kim’s friend for the sake of needling him. He closed his eyes and sighed.
“I don’t go by that name anymore. It’s Hanuman (1). You know that.”
“Whatever. At least Ididn’t abandon her when she needed me the most.”
The blonde lowered his head. “I’m tired of lying to her, Shego. I can’t live with myself if I keep leading her on like this. I got too attached. It’s time to let her go.”
“This from the guy who told me she was the best damn thing that ever happened to him. You got to go to some imaginary prom with her while I got kicked into a nonexistent tower that, despite me telling myself it wasn’t real, still hurt like hell. Why would you give that up?”
“Hanuman” closed his eyes. “Because every time I look at her, I’m reminded of how much I’d be hurting her in the long run if I stayed with her. At the start of the mission, I told myself that I’d just be friends with KP, like we’d always been. I mean, her power hadn’t activated yet, and I didn’t wanna get too close. She’s too much like a sister to me, Shego. I wasn’t able to give her all the love she deserves. But I let my impulses get in the way of how I really felt.”
“That why you always acted like such a buffoon? To drive her away?”
He nodded. “I thought she would be too shallow to pay any attention to me that way. But apparently she liked the fact that I stuck with her all that time. I was just following the orders I received for the mission! I never guessed she would actually appreciate loyalty that much.”
Shego smirked. “So now, instead of just breaking it to her gently that you don’t love her and being her friend, you’re removing yourself from her life completely? How fair is that?”
“It’s not,” the boy admitted. “But it’s the only way. You and I both know how possessive KP can be. The only way to get back to the way things were is to leave her completely alone for awhile.”
“That plan’s even worse than one of Drakken’s hare-brained schemes.”
The blonde smirked. “It doesn’t have to make sense to you. It’s my choice. And I’m choosing to let KP figure this one out on her own.”
“Whatever,” Shego said, feigning disinterest. In truth, however, she was concerned. As Ron walked off, she thought to herself, ‘Great, guess I’m the one who has to clean up after your mess. As always.’ With that, she rolled her eyes and returned to her own quarters.
Kim awoke to the creak of her door. She was still getting used to that. The man now identified as Link stepped through. “How’d ya sleep?” he asked.
“I’ve had better,” Kim responded sardonically.
“You’ll be sleeping like a baby tonight; I guarantee it.”
There was an awkward silence for a few seconds before Link spoke again. “So I take it you’re familiar with Wade. I designed him, you know.”
Kim arched an eyebrow. “Wait, Wade’s a computer program?”
Link nodded. “I created him as a search engine. He’s capable of linking up with the Construct too, so he can load pretty much anything he wants.”
“That’s how he was able to get stuff into my backpack,” Kim realized.
Link smiled like a proud father. “Come on. We’ve got a long day of training ahead of us.”
Kim followed him to the main deck, where he motioned for her to sit down in a chair while he took a seat behind the half dozen monitors that in some ways resembled Wade’s setup. Kim chuckled. ‘Like father like son,’ she mused.
“Now, I’m supposed to start with these operating programs, but like my brother-in-law Tank used to say, it’s a bunch of shit.” Kim blanched at the curse word. “How ‘bout something more exciting, like… combat training?”
“I already know sixteen styles of Kung Fu,” Kim pointed out with annoyance.
“But I doubt you ever learned like this,” Link retorted, inserting a disk. A 3-D model of a man popped up on one of the screens. Below it was written, “Ju-Jitsu.”
“I'll admit I don’t know that one,” Kim said. “How’s it work, anyway?”
“Like this,” Link answered, hitting the “Enter” key.
Kim’s brain was suddenly assaulted with a tidal wave of information. Her eyelids fluttered and her eyes rolled into the back of her head as her neurons attempted to process the massive stream of data. After a few seconds, Kim let out a sigh like a woman coming down from her greatest orgasm. (2)
“Hey, I think she likes it,” Link commented with satisfaction. “You want some more?”
“Yes,” Kim breathed. “Hell yes.”
Some time later, two members of the Neb II’s crew walked up behind Link. “How’s she doing?” Shego asked.
“Ten hours straight. She’s a machine,” Link replied. Morpheus couldn’t help but smile at the familiar words.
Kim had been absorbing information like crazy, having finished with the Kung Fu styles hours ago and now learning styles such as Tae Kwon Do, Kempo, even Karate. She opened her eyes and took in a satisfied breath. Shego walked over and smiled.
“Why don’t we see what you learned in school today, Pumpkin?”
Kim nodded, eager to test out the new styles she had just learned.
Kim found herself standing in a dojo, the look of which had become quite familiar to her over her many years of training. A straw floor took up most of the room, surrounded by inlaid wood. Pillars supported the inaccessible second level, whose walls were made of paper. A weapons rack sat in the corner. She was dressed in a white gi with a blue belt, even though her skill level was higher than that. Kim guessed that it was purely aesthetic. After all, she was trained in Kung Fu, not Karate.
Across from her stood Shego, who was clad in a green gi with a black belt. It wasn’t as form-fitting as her catsuit, but it still hugged her body tightly enough to show off her impressive curves. Her pale feet and hands were exposed due to the fact that the gi had no gloves or boots. Still, Kim marveled at how sharp those black nails appeared. It didn’t surprise her, since Shego primarily practiced the Eagle style of Kung Fu, which involved raking motions with the fingernails. Given the nature of Shego’s powers, this came as no surprise. But Kim also knew that the green woman mixed in some kicks and grapples to make her a truly dangerous close quarters combatant.
Kim, on the other hand, was a striker, drawing heavily from the Northern Chinese and Korean styles. She preferred acrobatics and kicks to punches and swipes, operating on the notion that a moving target was harder to hit. Her style was more defensive, while Shego’s was offensive. Their diametrically opposed approaches made them evenly matched, and their fights could go on indefinitely. They had always been extraordinary. Now the gloves were truly off.
Morpheus stood between them, acting as the referee for the fight. He turned to Kim and spoke. “This is our sparring program. It’s part of the construct, and operates on the same basic rules as The Matrix. Rules like gravity. What you must learn to understand is that these rules are no different than the rules of a computer system. Some can be bent, others can be broken. Begin.” With that, he stepped back to the side of the room and simply observed the fight.
“Ready when you are, Princess,” Shego said with a smirk as she dropped into a fighting stance, fingers separated and palms up. “Let’s see what you can really do.”
For the first time in her life, Kim didn’t want to hurt Shego. After doing what she did to those agents, she didn’t want the same thing to happen to the woman whom she had recently discovered had been on her side the entire time, even if she was feeling a little indignant about being lied to that long. Then again, considering the nature of the truth, she couldn’t say she blamed her. But it was still enough to create a bit of tension between her and the pale woman.
She had chosen to fight Shego because the green woman was the only one who ever stood a chance against her. She wouldn’t get hurt too badly. Kim was curious to see what her powers enabled her to do, but she also remembered Morpheus’ warning about Smith. She had to be very careful, or she might end up doing something she was going to regret. Kim resolved to fight Shego the old fashioned way.
“Bring it on,” she challenged.
Shego brought it full force, rushing towards Kim with incredible speed and swiping at her head. Kim ducked quickly and responded with a swift uppercut. The pale woman moved her head backwards to avoid the strike, buying Kim just enough time to spin around with her right leg fully extended and slam her calf into Shego’s left side.
The green woman wrapped her arm around the leg, trapping her opponent. Kim struggled and tried to get out of the hold, but it was useless. Shego grabbed Kim quite forcefully by the front of her gi and threw the girl across the straw floor. The redhead was a bit stunned, but she recovered quickly and stood to her feet just in time to see Shego charging at her again.
Kim rushed towards Shego with the same speed, raising her right leg in the air just before they reached each other and swinging it horizontally towards the green woman’s head. Shego ducked low to the floor and attempted to sweep out Kim’s other leg, but her opponent simply jumped over it. Kim twirled as she touched the ground, using the momentum to swing her fist towards the newly arisen Shego’s face.
The green woman caught the punch with her left hand and responded with a vicious swipe towards Kim’s midsection. The redhead dodged, the claws missing her soft skin by mere millimeters. She felt the wind as Shego’s talons whooshed by. Jerking her hand free, Kim attempted to put some distance between herself and her opponent.
“You’re holding back, Princess,” Shego taunted, not even breathing heavily.
“Says the woman who hasn’t even used her powers yet,” Kim retorted.
“What say we up the ante, then?” Shego challenged, igniting her hands in a burst of green and black flame.
“Let’s,” Kim replied, dropping into a defensive position and smiling. The adrenaline rush that she loved so much was finally beginning to kick in. If it hadn’t been for the imminent threat of global annihilation in the past, her fights with Shego would have lasted a lot longer. There was something about the green woman that seemed to bring out the best in her. Now that they were no longer enemies and only sparring, she had all the time in the world. She began to slowly circle her opponent before rushing forward with a punch.
Back in the real world, a Wego ran to the mess hall and alerted his brothers and Ron that, “Shego’s fighting Kim!” This brought the whole group running.
Meanwhile, Kim and Shego were engaged in a full on fight. It was like watching a dance; neither truly managed to land a hit on the other, blocking and punching as though choreographed. In truth, it was their years of fighting each other that enabled them to predict the other’s moves and respond almost as if they could read each other’s minds. Everything else faded from their consciousness as they fought in their own little world.
Shego swung at Kim with an ignited hand, anticipating that the redhead would raise an arm to block. When her opponent did just that, she stopped mid-swing and raised her knee to Kim’s now unprotected midsection. Kim saw that coming, however, and raised her own leg to block the strike. The exchange took less than two seconds. But that was apparently too slow for Shego.
“C’mon, Princess, you’re faster than this,” she prodded, hoping to provoke her into making a mistake.
Kim knew she was. But she also knew what might happen. She couldn’t do it. She couldn’t activate her power because she was afraid.
Morpheus saw this and frowned to himself. She was even worse about embracing her power than Neo had been. To be fair, Neo hadn’t seen anything to convince him of his power, and the concept of destiny was foreign to him. But Kim had torn three agents to shreds and remembered every minute of it. Neo was easily defeated at first because had doubted himself. Kim was even worse off because she was afraid of her own power. It was time for him to intervene.
“Stop,” he called. He walked over to Kim and placed his hands on her shoulders in support. “Kim,” he said softly, “Don’t be afraid. As long as your mind is strong and you know your limits, your dark side won’t take control. But if you fear it, it will slowly gain power over you until you will be unable to resist. Control it. Don’t let it control you.” With that, he released her shoulders and walked back to the side of the room from which he had been observing the fight. “Again,” he ordered.
With her confidence restored, Kim squared off against Shego once more, this time with an even bigger smile. Shego returned the grin. “Let’s see what you’ve got, Princess.”
Kim was prepared to show her when she remembered that she had no idea how to work her powers. They pretty much showed up whenever she was in extreme danger, which she wasn’t right now. But Morpheus had told her that it was simply a matter of breaking the rules, a concept with which Kim was very unfamiliar. The only person she knew who thrived on it was Shego. She closed her eyes for a second and thought of the green woman’s role in all this.
It had been Shego’s presumed death that had convinced her to go on that initial mission where she had met the agents. Shego had been the one on her mind for all those months when she was searching for The Matrix. Shego was the one with whom she had chatted before learning the truth. Shego was the one who had fought by her side when the agents had ambushed her again. It was Shego who had….
Suddenly it hit her: Shego! The green woman was the common denominator on all of those occasions. Shego caused Kim to think differently; to look deeper than what was on the surface. It was thinking of Shego that allowed her to get into the relaxed state necessary to activate her powers. With this new realization in her mind, Kim opened her eyes and, just like she expected, saw thousands of lines of green code. She smiled.
Kim lunged forward with impossible speed, a red, white and blue blur to everyone’s eyes but Shego’s. To her, time had slowed down, and she saw Kim zooming straight towards her in a flying tackle. Shego literally bent over backwards, ducking under the strike as the redhead flew over her faster than a speeding bullet. Time returned to normal speed again, and Kim stared at the pale woman in amazement.
“How did you…” she began.
Shego smirked. “You’re not the only one who got the powers of The One,” she replied proudly. “Super speed is one of those things I never really showed you.”
“So you can dodge bullets?”
“Yup. But you don’t have to.”
With that comment, Kim remembered that while Shego may be good, she was still better. It was time to end this fight. Circling her opponent slowly, Kim looked straight into Shego’s eyes, which were now even greener than normal due to the code, for any signs that the now literally green woman may be planning an attack. Her muscles tensed. Her breathing became focused, and her eyes narrowed in concentration.
Shego made the first move, lunging forward and swinging towards Kim’s midsection. Time seemed to crawl as Kim spun around with her arms outstretched diagonally, swatting Shego’s hand down and hitting the pale woman in the back of the neck, bringing her to the ground.
Time sped back up and Kim’s leg was a blur as she raised it in the air and brought her heel crashing down towards Shego. Everything slowed down once more as Shego not only rolled out of the way, but also swept Kim’s other leg out from under her. She stood up with impossible speed while the redhead was still floating in the air and kicked her opponent in the gut, sending her barreling towards one of the pillars as time returned to normal speed.
Kim twisted in the air impossibly fast and kicked off the pillar, shattering it in the process and using the momentum to propel herself towards Shego’s midsection. The green woman let out an “Oomph!” as Kim tackled her to the ground and both women rolled across the floor, fighting for dominance.
Back on the Neb II, everyone but Ron was slack-jawed as the entire series of moves had spanned less than one second. The blonde just turned and walked back to the mess hall.
“Goddamn, she’s fast,” Link whispered in awe. He hadn’t thought that anybody could keep up with Shego. And yet here someone was giving the green lady a run for her money.
Morpheus was similarly impressed. Even Neo hadn’t exactly caught on this quick. He had to be slapped around a few times by Morpheus before he had exercised his power. (3) Kim was nothing short of incredible.
The two ladies finally stopped rolling when Kim pinned Shego to the ground. The code vision disappeared and she looked upon the pale woman in all her beauty. Straddling her, she was mere inches from the green woman’s face. She could feel Shego’s warm breath on her cheek as her opponent panted beneath her. “Say it,” she ordered.
“I’m your bee-yotch,” Shego replied snidely, admitting in her own smart alecky way that she had lost.
“Not that!” Kim screeched, blushing heavily.
“Then what did you want me to say?”
Kim’s words were cut off by the sound of clapping from the end of the room. “Good,” Morpheus congratulated. “Very good. It seems you’ve learned the secret to activating your powers at will, Kim.”
“Uh, yeah,” Kim replied blushing as red as her hair as she quickly separated herself from Shego. During the fight, she had been having some… “impure” thoughts about the pale woman. Thoughts that were basal, carnal, and even lustful. Instincts brought out by the fact that she had been reduced to a primal state, where she did not think; she reacted. She had pushed them aside during the battle, but as they assaulted her consciousness now, she couldn’t help feeling a little flustered. Why would she be thinking about Shego like that?
Besides the fact that she was a woman, there was still the whole fact that Shego had lied to Kim for so many years. But lust does not care about matters of the mind. Her body apparently wanted Shego, but her mind denied it. Or was it her mind that wanted Shego, since her body did not technically exist in The Matrix? It was all too confusing, and Kim simply pushed the thoughts out of her head like she had done after her ‘dream.’ Suddenly she didn’t want to fight anymore.
Fortunately, she didn’t have to. “Load the jump program,” Morpheus called out to seemingly nobody.
The floor of the dojo disappeared, and a skyscraper came rushing up to meet them. Kim noticed that Shego was now dressed in her normal green and black catsuit, while she was clad in her normal mission clothes. Morpheus wore his trench coat and mirrored sunglasses.
“You have to let it all go, Kim,” he spoke. “Free your mind.” He pointed to his temple for emphasis. Kim rolled her eyes. Her mind was plenty free! A little too fond of wandering, in fact.
Morpheus seemed to ignore the gesture, turning around and running towards the edge of the roof. Pressing down hard on his legs, the dark skinned man crossed eight lanes of traffic with ease, landing on the building on the other side with such force that the concrete actually cracked beneath him. Kim crossed her arms, unimpressed. “I can do that,” she proclaimed proudly.
Now that they were alone, Shego put her hand on Kim’s shoulder and looked at her seriously. “Look, Kimmie, I never knew Neo, but from what Morpheus told me, even he didn’t make the first jump. ‘Course, that’s ‘cause he doubted himself, but you shouldn’t be overconfident just ‘cause you can rip an agent to shreds. This is completely different from fighting, Kim. You have to be calm for this. Understand?”
Kim nodded, somewhat happy at the fact that Shego had used her real name. “I can do anything, Shego. I'll be fine.”
Shego smirked. “If you say so,” she replied before turning around and jumping just like Morpheus had, landing so delicately that she didn’t even disturb the concrete.
Now it was Kim’s turn. She took a deep breath and focused. This was too easy. She’d never done this before without her grappling hook, but anything was possible for a Possible. She could do anything, dammit! Shego didn’t know what she was talking about. Kim would just have to prove the green woman wrong.
With that thought in her head, Kim ran at top speed towards the edge of the roof and jumped without hesitation. Time seemed to slow as she sailed through the air…
…for a distance of ten feet before falling like a stone. As the wind rushed past her body, Kim went into denial. How was this possible? She’d made jumps longer than that before! She was The One! She was the girl who could…
…get distracted because her pride got in the way of her concentration. As she fell to her doom, Kim cursed herself for being so stupid. All that work for nothing. The ground came up fast and just when she thought it was all over, it stretched like rubber and swallowed her whole, spitting her back out and launching her about ten feet in the air. The asphalt rushed up and smacked her in the face, as though it too was disappointed by her display. All Kim could think of at that moment was how much falling really sucked.
The next thing Kim knew, she was waking up, and the plug was pulled from the back of her head. As she tried to sit up, she noticed that she ached considerably. Experimentally, she dipped two fingers into her mouth and discovered that she was bleeding. “I thought you said it wasn’t real,” she groaned.
“Your mind makes it real,” Morpheus replied simply.
Kim was suddenly struck with realization. “If you’re killed in The Matrix, you die here?”
“The body cannot live without the mind.”
“Great, more Descartes,” Shego muttered as she got up. “I really wish you’d quit quoting him.”
Kim arched an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t have guessed that you hated him after that lecture you gave.”
Shego rolled her eyes. “Please, Princess, I was just quoting Captain Cue Ball here.” She jerked her thumb towards Morpheus. “I wasn’t actually interested in what I was saying. I just needed to establish good cover so I could get close enough to protect you from those agents.” She started to walk away. Not satisfied with the green woman’s answer, Kim followed.
“That’s not what you told Ron,” she challenged. “And you said it too passionately to not be interested in it.”
“Why the hell do you care, Princess?!” Shego exploded, yelling with such force that if Kim had any hair, it would have blown back.
It suddenly occurred to Kim that she didn’t care. She was arguing with Shego over nothing. But why? Suddenly it hit her. “I… I guess I just didn’t like being wrong about the jump is all. Now I’ve got this feeling in my head that I have to settle some sort of score between us.”
“God, Princess, you just can’t let go of your stupid pride, can you?” Shego chastised, making the knot in Kim’s stomach grow even tighter. “Everybody falls the first time. Get over it.”
Kim hung her head in shame. “I realize that. It’s not the only thing I was wrong about.”
Shego quirked an eyebrow. “Huh?”
“I was wrong about you, Shego. For years I labeled you as my enemy just because you worked with Drakken. But since I’ve been here, you’ve been the only one to really offer me any support. Ron’s keeping his distance after the break up, Morpheus is too caught up in his speeches, and I don’t know your brothers that well. But you’ve been anything but the sarcastic bitch that I always fought. I guess… I guess just now you reminded me that there’s still a bit of the old Shego left. I’m not sure if I like that or not.”
Then Shego did something Kim never expected her to do: she apologized. “Sorry, Princess,” she said with a surprising sincerity. “I know this is a hard adjustment for you. But I promise I'll be here for you.”
Kim was now beyond weirded out. She was frozen with shock. “Did you just say you’d… be here for me?”
“Did I stutter?” Shego quipped, her trademark sarcasm returning in an instant and wiping away all sentiment. “Since your ex-boyfriend’s refusing the job and dome head doesn’t know you well enough, that makes me the only one left. I don’t like seeing anyone left alone in their time of need. Happened to me too much to make me want it to happen to anyone else. If you need anything, you know where to find me, Kim.”
Kim smiled gratefully at the use of her real name. “Thanks, Shego.”
As the former redhead walked away, Shego thought to herself, ‘Poor kid. Reminds me of when I first learned the truth. I thought it was oh so cool at first, but then I learned it comes with a price. I’d hate to have a family like yours taken away from me, Pumpkin. I'll be here for you any way I can.’ With that, she headed back to her quarters for a well-deserved rest.
“Have you ever heard Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Kim?” Morpheus asked as they walked through throngs of people. Kim shook her head. She thought it was a bit early to be going back, but apparently Morpheus had his reasons.
“Plato told the story of a small band of humans who had been raised in a cave,” Morpheus continued, as though he didn’t care whether Kim was actually listening to him or not. “They were provided with basic essentials like food and water, and for entertainment they would watch as men behind them walked behind a fire carrying puppets, whose shadows were animated against the wall. They never turned away from that wall, not that they could with their arms, legs, and heads chained into position. It was all they knew. And they certainly never left the cave.”
Kim found it hard to listen as she pushed her way past the endless stream of businessmen and women, all clad in monotone grey and black. It was like wading through a sea devoid of color. Still, she did her best to lend an ear to Morpheus. She really did find what he said to be quite fascinating.
“One day, however, one of the group escaped from his chains and left the cave. When he saw the outside world and marveled at its beauty and expanse, the first thing he wanted to do was run back and tell his brothers what he had seen.” Morpheus chuckled bitterly. “Like a fool, he did. The other prisoners refused to believe him. After all, how could they confirm what he was saying? How could they know any reality other than their own?”
Kim pondered those words for a second. That was how she had been once. All she knew was the world that had been pulled over her eyes.
“That is what going back into The Matrix after you have been freed is like,” Morpheus continued. “Not everyone is ready to be freed. And some are so entrenched, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to defend it.”
‘Then why are we here?’ Kim thought. ‘Why should we waste our time on people who are just going to laugh in our faces?’ Then she saw her answer.
Coming through the crowd was a blonde woman in a red dress, a single individual against the collective. A glimmering torch of red amongst an endless sea of grey. She stood out. She was not tempted to conform. At that point it hit Kim: she would not be here right now if people like that, people who weren’t afraid to be different, hadn’t come and told her the truth. The blonde woman deserved to know that same truth. She suddenly noticed that Morpheus had stopped.
“Were you listening to me, Kim? Or were you looking at the woman in the red dress?”
Kim was suddenly embarrassed. “I—”
It wasn’t the fact that the barrel of a gun was being pointed at her face when she turned around that caused her to duck, nor was it the fact that it was an agent. It was the fact that it was Smith, the agent she had seen in her dream. She gasped and fell away from the gun.
“Freeze it,” Morpheus called out. Everyone around them suddenly stopped, as though someone had hit the “pause” button on a remote.
“This isn’t The Matrix?” Kim asked.
Morpheus shook his head. “It’s another training program, designed to teach you one thing: if you are not one of us, you are one of them.”
Kim put her hands on her hips. No offense, Morpheus, but I think I can handle a few agents.”
“Of that I have no doubt,” the dark-skinned teacher replied with a grin. “However, I want to warn you that while they are powerless against you, they are extremely crafty. One of them could take possession of a loved one. Would you still be willing to kill them even if it meant the host would die as well? Especially if the host was your mother?”
She hadn’t thought of it like that. “No,” she answered simply. “No, I wouldn’t. I don’t know what I’d do.”
He nodded solemnly. “It is a difficult decision, one which you’ll hopefully never have to make. But be warned: there is no such thing as right or wrong in The Matrix. Everything is based on rules, but those rules can be broken. Like the people around you, there will always be shades of grey wherever you look. Try to understand that there are no easy decisions. Not even in the dream world.”
Kim simply closed her eyes and sighed. “I really can’t go back to the way I was, can I?”
Morpheus simply shook his head with a sad expression on his face. “I’m afraid I can only show you the door. You’re the one who has to walk through it. There is someone who can help you, Kim. Someone who can tell you what you need to hear. I think you’re finally ready to see her.”
“Who?” Kim asked.
Morpheus smiled. “The Oracle.”
1. Hanuman (Hanumat in some texts) was the Monkey god of India, who was cursed to not remember his vast power unless someone else reminded him of it. Seems a lot like Ron, huh?
2. Yes, I pretty much stole that line from Classic Cowboy’s KP/Matrix crossover. Don't sue poor people.
3. Again, lifted from Classic Cowboy. Seriously, we’re all working with borrowed material here anyway. At least I’m admitting it.
It looks like nine to ten thousand words will be pretty much standard for my chapters from here on out, as I’m trying to cover more plot points in each to minimize the number of chapters on this thing. It will still end up being over fifty thousand words when complete, however.
Next, Kim meets the Oracle.