Authors notes: This story takes place a while after the end of the movie. It centers mainly on Tank and his girlfriend he left in Zion when he joined the Neb’s crew.
It’s an agent showing up. We still don’t know how the line was traced.” He looked at his mangled boots. “I should have made him go first.” Trinity gave Neo a gentle hug and Tank put a hand on his shoulder.
“It’s not your fault. We had no way of knowing.”
“See ya, Michal!” Michal turned and waved to her friend. She smiled and shook her head as she made her way down the street to her small house. She looked around the city. Not many people did so since the war ended, so she was told. She stopped and leaned against a dilapidated house, ready to crumble. It was a massive background and Michal stared up to what she knew as the sky – a ceiling of hard rock near the earth’s core. She sighed and ran a hand through her short red hair. She shook her head and continued home.
“Hey, Jeremy.” Michal patted her five-year-old brother on the head as she passed. He stuck a tongue out and she laughed. “If you’re not careful, you’ll trip over that,” said Michal as he laughed. She sat down on the floor next to him and drew him into her lap. She rocked him as he told about his day filled with playing and sleeping, of course. It had been a good twenty years since she was able to live a life like his. She sighed and he looked at her like only a curious toddler can. She smiled and tousled his white-blond hair as she stood. “I’d better get dinner ready.”
Their mother had died a year earlier from a mysterious disease. Their father worked long hours at the electricity plant and was tired when he got home, usually to collapse onto the rugged couch and enjoy the meal prepared by his only daughter. She smiled at him as he walked in the door and plopped onto the couch as usual. He closed his eyes and cursed the electric company, as this was his everyday routine. Michal suppressed a giggle, though she was dying inside seeing her father so unhappy. He smile faded and she sighed.
Tank sighed as he stared at the screen, blinking as he tried to clear his eyes. Monitoring the Matrix was tiring work. He was relieved when Blik entered the room and said hello. Blik was a newbie as well, but much more knowledgeable than Poz. He had been a computer programmer and had stumbled upon a disturbing site when hacking on the internet. He had hacked into the Matrix without knowing it and it was an emergency for the crew of the to save him before the agents recruited him. He was a valuable asset to the team, but still needed a large amount of work.
Tank smiled as Blik plopped into the chair.
“Rough night?” Blik looked at Tank, noticing the bags under his eyes.
“Nah, just tiring.” Tank sighed and rubbed his sore eyes. “I’m just glad my relief crew showed up early.” A smile emerged onto Blik’s face.
“I’m taking that as a compliment.” They laughed and Tank turned to leave, chuckling to himself. Blik shook his head and stared at the screen. Every time he looked at it, he couldn’t believe it. The Matrix. Who would have thought?
“Michal?” Michal’s dad peeped around the cornerinto the kitchen, sleep creases marking the nap he just awakened from. “Smells great. What’s for dinner?”
“Awake already?” Michal laughed to herself. “Spaghetti. We didn’t have much else. I guess I need to go shopping sometime soon.”
“Yeah. Look, Michal. I have to tell you something.” She raised her eyebrow deviously. “I think you’d better sit down.” Her face fell and stomach dropped. Whatever this was, it couldn’t be good. “I ran into James and Debbie today on the way home.” Michal’s head flew up to look at her father. “They’re still looking for him. I hope you don’t mind — I …” he paused, searching her eyes. “I asked them to come to dinner and they should be here any —” just then there was a knock at the door. Michal’s face was pale as she went back to the stove. Her father got up to answer the door. She heard Jeremy’s voice in the front room and soon her father’s and their guests’. She fought the tears and barely won.
Tank stared at the ceiling of his room. His bed was comfortable and he was warm, but still couldn’t sleep. He closed his eyes and sighed, rolling onto his side. He needed sleep, but his mind wouldn’t rest. He kept going back to the past. He thought of her every night, but tonight was different. He couldn’t get her picture out of his mind. He could still see her, smell her, feel her. A few minutes later he sat bolt upright in bed.
“I have to talk to Morpheus.” He jumped out of bed, almost running into the wall as he ran out the door.
Michal stared at the computer screen. All hope was lost. She shook her head and cried silently.
“Michal? Why are you sad?” She turned to see Jeremy’s shadow in the doorway. She turned the computer off and a small, meager smile crept to her lips. She wiped her tears and sniffed as she lifted her little brother onto her lap.
“Well, sweetie, I was just thinking about an old friend.” She looked at her young brother. “That’s all.”
“Oh.” He yawned as he gave her a huge hug.
“Thanks, little bro. I needed that.” She smiled and picked him up. “Now let’s get you into bed.” “But I’m not tired,” he whined, yawning. By the time she got down the small hallway to her room, he was fast asleep. She crawled under the sheets, but didn’t sleep.
“Well, if you think she can help us…” Morpheus looked at his crewmate and friend. Tank rarely suggested Zion natives, so she must be good. Morpheus looked at Tank, looking hopeful. “Why are you suddenly struck by this idea? If you knew her when I first recruited you, why didn’t you say anything?” Tank looked at his shoes.
“Because… I don’t know. I guess I was overwhelmed.”
“And you won’t let the past come before your work?”
“I can’t promise anything.” Tank slowly looked up at Morpheus, hoping he hadn’t ruined his chances, then looked down again. “But I’ll try not to.”
“You’d better get going. I’ll drop you on the outskirts of the city, so no one will see you.” Tank’s head snapped up. “I’ll give you one full day – you’ll have some catching up to do.” A broad smile found its way to Tank’s face.
“Thank you.” He turned to go.
“Tank —” Tank turned back to face Morpheus. “Don’t push her. She will come if she wants to, and under no other circumstances. Let her decide.” Tank nodded and left, a huge grin on his face.
I love you, Michal. The words he had whispered the day before he and his brother mysteriously disappeared still echoed in her mind. They had disappeared over four years ago, without a trace. Everyone, including their parents thought they were dead.
Michal sighed and rolled over in her hard bed. She looked at her alarm clock, the fluorescent green numbers displaying the wee hours of the morning. She blinked and shook her head. She closed her eyes and tried to remember him. She could still feel his arms around her, strong but gentle. She could still see his deep brown eyes and contagious smile. She smiled just remembering it. She could hear his voice and feel his lips on her jaw, the place he loved to kiss her most. He would kiss her neck and jaw, right below her ear, and watch the goose bumps rise on her skin. Remembering it brought the same feelings back to her. She opened her eyes, and seeing herself back in her dark room glowing with the green light from her alarm clock, she closed them again and felt a tear run down her cheek and onto her tattered pillow.
“God, I hope she still lives here.” The Nebuchadnezzar had dropped Tank off a little over an hour ago and he now stood on what he hoped was Michal’s front porch. It was very early morning and he hoped she was awake, and alone. The house was dilapidated and still had the old paint he remembered. He closed his eyes and recalled every good night, good morning, and good day kiss he had ever given her. He opened his eyes, took a deep breath, and knocked.
Michal arched an eyebrow and got up to answer the door. Her father was at work, after taking Jeremy to school. As Michal neared the door, a feeling of uneasiness crept over her. She looked out the peep hole to see a dark figure, obviously male, lift his arm again and
Michal closed her eyes and shook the uneasiness from her. It was probably a salesman or someone. She reached for the handle and pulled. The man raised his head and their eyes met. Michal gasped as her eyes blurred with tears.
“Tyler?” She blinked, trying to understand, trying to clear the illusion. It didn’t leave. She pulled back as Tyler stepped closer. She’s so beautiful. He thought, smiling slightly. She hasn’t changed a bit. He looked at her. Her red hair was extremely short and her green eyes were even more vivid than what he remembered. Her figure was slim, but shapely, and her pale skin was flawless. She saw tears in his eyes as he spoke quietly.
“Is your father home?” His voice cracked. She shook her head as an answer, as she couldn’t find her voice. She closed her eyes for a second. She covered her face for a second, just moments, and returned his gaze. He put a hand on her arm. “Let’s go for a walk.” She nodded and followed him.
He led her around the corner to the old park. The grass was still green and flowers grew here and there, but the most striking characteristic was the trees. Massive trees lined the walkway through the park. Tyler told her of why he had disappeared – how a man called Morpheus had tracked him down and revealed the truth. He decided to join his team of rebels and help fight the machines. He told her of the machines’ manipulation and of the Matrix.
“I couldn’t tell you because… if anyone found out …” He trailed off and stopped walking.
“Why did you come back?” Michal looked him in the eye, something she hadn’t done since he first showed up on her porch. Her expression was cold, but her eyes gave him hope. He swallowed and stuttered his answer.
“We need you. My brother —” He stopped and looked at the ground. “He got killed.” Michal lowered her eyes. “He was my only help, and since he died I’ve been constantly on the go. I haven’t slept in two weeks.” She could feel him looking at her, but she was so shocked at the loss of his brother, one of her close friends, that she couldn’t meet his eyes. “We’ve been looking for another operator in the Matrix. We found one guy, but he’s not doing so hot. Morpheus would rather have him on the team anyway.” She finally figured out what he was suggesting, but didn’t want to admit it. She wanted to know just how desperate they really were, or if he just wanted her back. Either way, she already knew her answer.
“What are you trying to say?”
“We need you. I —” he paused and she looked into his eyes. Those deep, pretty eyes. “I need you.” She shook her head and backed away from him. Finally, she turned from him and started walking away. He drooped and closed his eyes.
“You come here after you disappeared four years ago,” she whirled around to face him. Tyler lifted his head. “And you expect me to jump on a ship with you and help people hack into an interactive program?” He looked at her. “You expect me to leave everything I have – my father and my brother, my job and friends- when you come back and contradict everything I’ve been taught? My brother is five. Do you remember him?” He nodded slowly as his eyes blurred. “You expect me to believe you when you tell me that the war really isn’t over and that any minute some machine could come crashing into Zion and kill us all?” Her eyes welled up and she didn’t fight the tears that stung her eyes. “After you left with your brother without a trace? We thought you both were dead! Your parents still think you’re both dead! They still look for you every day!” She sobbed uncontrollably between words. “I loved you and you disappeared, like everyone else I loved!” She collapsed to the ground, sobbing. He knelt beside her and pulled her to his chest. He held her as she cried, as they both cried. She leaned against him and listened to his heart beat.
“Where’s Tank?” Trinity looked confused as she stepped out of the hovercraft. Neo stepped sown beside her and looked at the city. Zion.
“Be calm. He’ll be here.” Morpheus scanned the barren desert a half mile outside of the city, looking for him.
“We have to hurry.” Tyler helped Michal gather her stuff and shove it into a pillow case. She grabbed some of her computer equipment and a picture of her father and Jeremy and headed for the door.
“Do I leave a note?” She lingered on the threshold of the old house.
“No. No one can know.” She lowered her eyes.
“I’m sorry, Daddy.” She shifted the load of equipment. “I’m sorry, Jeremy.” She turned and walked out the door. “We have to hurry,” repeated Tyler. “Your dad can’t see us and neither can any one else. We have to go the back way.” She followed closely as he led her through alleys she didn’t even know existed.
He led her about a half mile out of the city, where she saw a massive hovercraft waiting for them. They stopped in front of the group of people waiting.
“Tank, we need to get going. Hurry. I don’t know if the sentinels can track us here, but I don’t plan on finding out.” Morpheus led them onto the ship.
“Tank?” Michal raised an eyebrow once they were safely inside and on their way.
“Oh.” Tyler smiled. “We use our hacker names.” She nodded and noticed that a group of five people had gathered around them. She smiled.
“Hi.” Tank finally noticed the others standing, waiting for the introductions.
“Um…” he stammered. “This is Trinity, Blik, Neo, Morpheus, and Poz. Guys, meet…” He realized he didn’t know Michal’s hacker name.
“Kaz.” She saved him and elbowed him in the ribs, a smile on her face, for the first time since he showed up at her house. He smiled back at her and suppressed a laugh.
After dinner, which was composed of a bowl of what appeared to be runny eggs (or a bowl of snot), they sat around the table and she filled them in on the four years Tank and Dozer had been gone.
“We swept the entire city looking for them, but found nothing. I searched the internet for them, and eventually gave up. We all assumed they had died. I eventually got over it, but yesterday,” she looked straight at Tank, “your parents came for dinner. They’re still looking for you and I don’t think anyone will give up.” He looked down at the table, then back at her.
“Tell us about your family.” The only other female on the ship, Trinity, spoke. She seemed really nice, but intense. Kaz figured she would have to get used to that, as most of the people aboard the Neb seemed that way.
“My father works at the electricity plant. He’s got long hours and little pay, but it’s a job. My brother is five. He was born a few days before Tyler … er, Tank disappeared. He looks just like my dad.”
“And your mother?” Blik finally spoke.
“She died.” Tank looked at her in shock. “About a year ago there was an epidemic going around. No one knew what it was. She was the only one in our neighborhood to get it, luckily, but we were scared for a while.” She managed a small smile as Tank put a hand on her back, consoling her. “I had to quit school to help raise Jeremy. I’m back in now that he’s old enough for school himself, but it was hard for a while.” She sighed as she realized that she would never see anyone she loved again. She would miss them all, but especially Jeremy. She loved that kid.
Kaz stared at the ceiling, overwhelmed. Lost in thought, she fell asleep.
“You still love her, don’t you?” Tank turned as he closed the door to Kaz’s room. He nodded at Morpheus, who had posed the question. “She’s a gorgeous girl.”
“She’s more than that, Morpheus.” Tank leaned against the door and closed his eyes.
“I know. But does she feel the same way?” Tank opened his eyes to meet Morpheus’, then closed them again.
“I don’t know. I think she has enough to think about now though.”
“I agree.” Morpheus turned and left.
Kaz’s eyes flew open as her dream ended. She sat bolt upright in bed, her chest heaving, body in a cold sweat. She looked around her room, orienting herself, then laid back down to stare at the ceiling. Everyone else is asleep, she thought. She sat up in bed and swung her feet to the floor, gasping as they made contact with the cold floor. She decided to take a blanket with her as she went to find Tank’s room.
She found it, only to see it empty. She looked puzzled and decided to try the computers.
Tank stared at the screen, blinking, trying to clear his vision. It was late at night and he was searching the Matrix for more potentials. He felt a hand on his back and he jumped, turning to face the intruder. He relaxed as he saw a smile flicker across Kaz’s face. She rested a chin on his shoulder.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.” He smiled back after a chuckle at himself and looked at the screen again. “Is that the Matrix?” “Yep.” He felt her hand lingering on his shoulder and felt her breath on his neck. He explained what some of the characters meant and how to read it. “Soon we’ll be working together on this stuff.”
“Who monitors it at night?”
“No one, usually. I couldn’t sleep, so I figured I’d at least do something a little constructive.” He heard her laugh slightly. He stopped typing and put his hand over hers on his shoulder. They both felt the electricity as their skin touched. She shivered.
“It’s cold.” She tried to cover up her emotions with an excuse, but the shiver came from Tank’s touch, not the temperature. He let go of her hand and stood.
“I should probably try to sleep.” She nodded and pulled the blanket tighter around her shoulders. He gently rubbed her arms, trying to warm her up. She smiled and looked at her hands. He slowly drew her close for a hug and she nestled her head against his chest. Her nose was cold against his neck and he rubbed her back. “Try to sleep, okay? The morning comes awfully early.” After a few minutes of enjoying being in Tank’s arms again, she pulled away and nodded up at him. She placed a light kiss on his cheek and turned to go.
ONE MONTH LATER
Kaz gently inserted the spike into Poz’s head. It still gave her the creeps, but she had learned to suppress her uneasy feelings. She loaded him into the Matrix and sighed.
“I hope he does okay. Poor kid.” They had gone in on a mission to reach a potential. They gathered around the monitor to watch them. Soon, they were helping the others out of the Matrix. Poz was the first one out, proud that he had made it through his second expedition into the Matrix. The others were disappointed. She had taken the blue pill.
“I’m sorry, Morpheus.” Tank removed the spike from Morpheus’ head as the leader sighed. “I thought …”
“It’s not your fault. We had no way of predicting her actions. We’ll find someone.” Tank just nodded, but the guilt didn’t go away. Kaz put a hand on his back.
He watched her sleep. Her blanket was pulled up around her shoulders and her legs were pulled up near her body, searching for warmth. The gentle curve of her hip was a silhouette of her figure laying on her side. He kneeled next to her bed. Gently, he reached out a finger and caressed her cheek. She didn’t stir.
“I love you, Kaz.” He kissed her forehead and left the room. As soon as she heard the door close, she opened her eyes. He still loved her. She had never stopped loving him, not since he disappeared. In fact, she probably loved him even more once she experienced his absence.
A few days later, Tank was still depressed about losing the potential. Kaz found him standing in the hall outside his room, leaning against the wall, his back to her. She came up behind him and leaned against his back, her hands finding his.
“It’s not your fault.” She heard him sigh.
“Then why are you worrying about it?” He was silent. She walked around him to face him, her hand still in his. She looked into his eyes, questioning him. He looked away. She leaned into him in an embrace. Her hands rested on his chest and she felt him pull her close, hugging her back. One hand was around her waist, the other at the base of her neck. They stood there silently for a few minutes. “Tank?” She broke the silence.
“Hmm?” She hesitated, wondering if now was the time.
“When you disappeared, I was crushed.” He sighed heavily. “I didn’t know what had happened to you, but…” She paused and pulled away, looking into his eyes. ” … but I never stopped loving you.” He blinked and she immediately regretted saying it. She assumed he had changed his mind. She lowered her head to look at her hands on his chest. He lifted her chin with a finger and gently kissed her lips. She closed her eyes, all the feelings she had experienced years ago flooding back into her and she kissed back. The kiss lasted only seconds, but it’s point was clearly made. She leaned against him again.
“I never stopped loving you either.” He pulled her closer and rubbed her back. He was glad to have his girl in his arms again. This time, forever.