Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters or places with the exception of Ram, Byte, Mega, Healer and Re-load time. I believe they belong to Warner Brothers and the Wachowski (sp?) Brothers. I am not being paid for this and I am not intending to violate any copyright laws.
Please send me any comments or constructive criticism to [email protected] Thank you. 🙂
THE PRICE OF A FIND
Ram, a small, dark figure among the cheery green and orange interior of a tiny, cluttered kitchen, looked at her companion in disbelief. ‘You’re kidding.’ ‘I don’t belive you.’ Ram’s voice was defiant, her dark blue eyes stormy. She girl started to stand, crossing her arms.
‘Sit child. I’m telling you nothing more then the truth.’ The Oracle’s voice was losing some of it’s motherly intonation. ‘You may be just a child Ram, but you have a job to do before you die. It’s my job to help you to find and to realize this path.’
Ram started to look uncertain. ‘How do you know this anyway? And how do I know you’re not just making this up?’ Her voice started to tremble ‘I don’t want to die, I saw what happened to Mama. I don’t want too and it’s not fair.’
‘Life knows nothing of fairness, child. The next life may be more fair perhaps.”
‘I don’t want to die, it can’t be true.’ The words were whispered, almost an acceptance of what was to come.
The Oracle stood and waked over to the small girl, placing a comforting hand on the dozens of dark brown braids that adorned Ram’s hair. So much sorrow the Oracle had for this child, but the Oracle wasn’t able to help her. Feeling almost helpless, the Oracle watched on as Ram’s eyes filled with tears.
The two stayed there, one sitting, the other standing. The old, black skinned woman with her infinite wisdom and the little girl, with the dark features, whose faith, trust and hope had been broken so many times.
It was the Oracle who spoke first. ‘Time for you to go Ram and time for me to see your brother.’
Ram nodded then stood up, wiping her hand across her eyes, a gesture that almost broke the Oracle’s resolve to stay strong in front of the girl, to stay tearless. Ram walked through a curtain of bells, whose music chimed and pealed each time they were disturbed. Ram looked up briefly at her older brother, Byte, who passed her. His usually clear blue eyes were cloudy and he was wrapped up in his own thoughts.
Ram was soon sitting down on the threadbare carpet of the living room, playing with other girls and boys who were around the same age as herself. Old, wooden alphabet blocks floated through the air, defying the rules of gravity as Ram, her forehead creased with the effort, concentrated on the small brighlty coloured cubes.
An unexpected tap on her shoulder broke Ram’s concentration and the blocks fell to the ground with a clatter. A scowl marring her features, Ram twisted to see who had ruined her game.
There stood Byte, his face impassive, his voice flat as he told Ram it was time to go. After hesitating for a moment, Ram asked in a tiny voice what news he had received.
Byte merely shook his head and walked out to where Morpheus would be waiting for them, his face still blank. Following, Ram ponderd what the Oracle had told her. *When you next go into the Matrix a zap of green will end this life.* Then just before Ram had left, the woman who reminded Ram so much of her own dear mother had said something about a job.
Soon Ram was sitting in the long, thin car the group used for transportation in the Matrix and it not much later that the monotonous sound of the tires on the road had lulled her into a dreamless sleep.
Staring out the tinted window of the silent car, Byte tried to ignore the thoughts that were running through his mind but was unable to. The words of the Oracle kept coming to him, over and over like a song stuck in his head. *A sister lost, a sister found* What did that mean? That Ram would go and lose herself in the Matrix and be found by someone? Who though? An agent perhaps, that would mean trouble. The rest of the words came to Byte again. *A sister lost, a sister found. Something found that has been lost, something lost that has been found.* Byte looked down at his baby sister Ram, who had fallen asleep. Her mouth was open a little, her breathing deep. No trouble would come to her if he could help it. Ram was all he had left and he wasn’t going to lose her. He would ignore this prophecy which seemed to forbade Ram trouble. Despite this silent resolve, Byte heard the sing-song words again, over and over. *A sister lost, a sister found. Something found that has been lost, something lost that has been found. The price will be paid.*
Later that day, back in the Nebchudnezzar, Ram walked over to where Morpheus was sitting in front of the computers. Ram’s approach was silent, her tiny feet padding noiselessly over the cold floor and so the sound of her voice startled Morpheus.
‘Ram, what is it?’
‘I need to know something Morpheus.’ Ram’s voice was soft, shaking, without the girl’s usual vigor.
Morpheus glanced at the child, who stood there nervously. ‘What do you need to know?’
‘There was something the Oracle told me…’ Ram’s voice was uncertain and trailed off as she turned her head to watch the green codes run down the eternal blackness of the computer screens.
Now Morpheus turned to face her properly, his dark probing eyes watching Ram carefully. The cramped space of the core was quiet except for the sound of his voice. ‘Yes?’
‘She told me something would happen.’ The droning hum of the computers seemed to intensify, its noise drowning the fear present in Ram’s words.
Morpheus frowned, his eyes darkening. ‘Do you remember what I told you before Ram?’
Now it was Ram who scowled unhappily. Her voice pleaded with Morpheus’ stern face. ‘I know you said we weren’t to talk about it but –’
‘No buts Ram, it’s not my place to talk about it yet and that’s final. Part of the process is working out what the Oracle told you yourself.’
Ram gave a little sigh before abruptly changing the subject. Another approach might work, might answer her questions. ‘What does green in the Matrix mean?’
Morpheus started to stand, his large figure silhouetted in the dim light of the room. ‘I thought you had done your operations training. You should know what it means.’
The words of a training program came easily to Ram’s tongue. ‘Green is the colour of the Matrix coding . The framework of digital images is also coloured green. A sudden flash of green usually signifies that a sentient program is changing hosts.’ The recitation of facts reminded Ram of her days in a large, crowded and noisy classroom, full of boisterous children and troublemakers at the nearby school.
Ram looked over to the computers. Morpheus had disappeared, as allusively as he did in the Matrix. It didn’t matter however, as Ram had found the answer to her own question. She whispered the words to herself, making them true. ‘A zap of green will end this life…flash of green usually signifies that a sentient program…sentients are agents…agents like to kill us, an agent will get me and kill me.’
Ram had fallen into another deep, dreamless sleep and was woken by someone shaking her. She followed the person out from her tiny room into the main part of the ship. The person was hard too see, he slipped through the ship into the core with a lightness, a gracefulness.
The dim light given off by the overhead bulb was not the sallow yellowness Ram was used to but a bright, flashing red that reminded Ram of the light from a police siren in the Matrix. The gentle hum of the large air conditioning units had disappeared along with the throbbing drone of the ship’s engines. Ram shivered uncontrollably from the cool air of the ship and a certain dampness that hung in the air. The shuffling of her feet as she followed the dancing shadow of the boy was the only thing she could hear and Ram longed for the creaks of the ship at night that usually frightened her. The unearthly silence was broken by a mysterious voice that seemed to close to Ram yet far away at the same time.
‘You need me.’ Ram struggled to see the face of this unknown speaker but it was impossible. ‘I am the reason you are here.’ The voice echoed from a thousand different directions.
‘Come, we have much work to do.’ That voice sounded like Morpheus’ but Ram couldn’t see him either. She felt herself being led over to one of the worn, threadbare chairs. A figure sat at the nearby computers, which glowed in the eerie red light, and started pressing the gray keys, so different from the ones Ram had used in the Matrix, with a complete silence. The person wasn’t Tank, Ram was sure of that, the shadow was of a younger, slighter person. However, he typed with the same speed, accuracy and confidence of a programmer and operator like Tank.
One of the thick steel pins, colder then usual, brushed against the skin of Ram’s neck sending shivers up her spine before it was jammed into her plug. Information was entering her mind, being stored in the crevices of her brain while the shadow at the computer willed her to retain the information. Ram started to shake as the details came, quicker and quicker, forcing themselves into her. A small red warning light started beeping near her and Ram panicked. Thre pressure being put on her mind was too great, Ram was just about to pass out from the strain when it ceased. The notched bar that had transmitted the knowledge to Ram was pulled out by another one of the shadowy people.
‘Watch the Matrix, then rest. Your job shall be done.’ Ram felt her throat tighten. Those words had a bubbly quality to them that reminded her of Meagan, Ram’s sister who had been lost for so long.
Ram crept over to the main computer console and clambered up into the comforting chair. She watched the green codes of the Matrix as the alien characters ran down the screen. Ram was not sure as to what she was searching before but kept looking at the vertical lines all the same.
Ram’s eyes felt heavy and they kept trying to shut as she watched the screens for something unknown. The dim, reddish light illuminated her small figure and the green characters of the Matrix gave a phosperance glow to the area. Sleep started to come, moving stealthily, never stopping and the individual shapes on the dark screens started to blend into one another. It wasn’t long before Ram was in a dreamless sleep for the third time that day.
When Trinity walked into the core to start her night shift, she was surprised to see that Ram was sitting in Tank’s seat, swamped by the enormousness of the worn leather.
‘Ram?’ There was no reply but as Trinity walked closer she saw the huddled figure was asleep. Trinity shook Ram lightly until the little girl woke up.
‘What are doing here Ram? You should be in bed.’
Ram looked up at Trinity, with traces of sleep in her voice as she replied, ‘There was a boy, he brought me here.’ Ram looked puzzled as she struggled to remember what had happened next. ‘Then he…he gave me something…’
Trinity listened, skepticism on her face. Ram had been dreaming but didn’t seem to realize it.
‘Meagan then told me to come here…but Meagan’s gone…it couldn’t of been her…’ Ram’s voice drifted into a silence. A lone silver tear fell from the depths of Ram’s dark blue eyes.
Trinity’s voice was kind and she placed a comforting arm around the child. ‘Who was Meagan?’
Ram sniffed and wiped her hand against her face. ‘Meagan was my sister, my older sister. She was Byte’s twin and looked almost exactly like me except older.’ Ram paused for a moment as more tears flooded her eyes. ‘Then she ran away from home two years ago when Mama died, but I don’t think she ran away, I think she was taken. I want Meagan back…’ Ram’s voice broke off into hysterical crying and Ram’s thin body shook with the effort.
‘What did you do that for?’ asked a deep, accusing voice.
Glancing up, Trinity saw the tall shape of Byte standing to the side of them, his dark blue eyes, so similar to Ram’s, flashing with untamed anger. He strode towards them and picked up the still sobbing girl then turned towards Trinity. His voice was low and threatening as he told her, ‘Don’t you ever do that again.’
Trinity watched with unmasked astonishment on her face as he walked off.
Byte knelt beside his sister, watching over the sleeping form with affection. It had taken many assurances and the promise of happy dreams before Ram would stop crying and rest but she finally had.
Byte loved this little creature so much that it often hurt him, this little girl he had taken care of for most of her life. Their father had left them just after she had been born and when their mother died two years ago and Meagan disappeared, Byte was all that Ram had left.
The thought of Meagan had brought back painful memories that Byte desperately tried to forget. Where was she? he wondered. Had she died or was she still living out her life in the streets, oblivious to the pain she had caused her twin and baby sister.
Byte glanced down at Ram again and pulled the thick woolen blanket over her crumpled body. The ship was colder then normal and dampness hung heavily in the air. It was almost a night for spirits, for the unwanted memories of past lives…Byte shook his head, clearing his mind of such childish thoughts then stole out of the room, careful not to disturb his sleeping sister.
The next morning when Ram woke the ship had been alive for many hours already. Walking to the mess room Ram could see someone with the computers and she could hear the shouts of two people and the clanking of tools as the never ending repairs for the ship were being worked on. Outside of the mess room, the bland smell of the synthetic protein food wafted to her nostrils mixed with the lemony smell of washing up liquid.
Inside the room, as cramped as the other areas on the ship, Ram sat with her metal bowl of soup like mixture as Tank washed up the rest of the dishes.
‘What am I doing today Tank?’
Tanked looked away from the soapy water he was using to wash up in. ‘Training then another trip into the Matrix. What’s wrong?’ Tank had seen the terrified look on Ram’s features.
‘No!’ Ram’s frightened voice startled Tank. He looked at her, questioningly.
‘I can’t go in today. I have to do something.’
‘Do what?’ asked Tank as he watched her.
Ram looked upset and her voice became louder, angrier, more annoyed. ‘I don’t know, I told Trinity last night I can’t remember.’
Tank recalled the events of the last night that Trinity had related to him. Tank didn’t want a repeat performance of Ram’s hysteria so he tried to calm her.
Ram didn’t appear to be listening and just as Tank had finished talking in his soothing voice, she broke in. ‘I need to use the computers, that’s what I have to do.’
Tank nodded. ‘I’ll ask Morpheus, it should be okay.’ He peered closer at Ram. ‘You sure you’re okay?’
Ram nodded, a grin already on her face again. Tank narrowed his eyes as he looked at her. She, and Byte, reminded him of someone, he just wasn’t sure who. It didn’t matter though and there was work to be done.
Ram was perched in Tank’s seat at the shiny, humming computers. With the same ease of the mysterious programmer that had visited Ram last night, she fed the computer with lines and lines of coding and commands. She was unaware that behind her, hidden in the shadows stood Morpheus.
Beside him was Tank, whose heavy eyebrows had shot up as he watched Ram make hacking programs, quite unlike anything he had seen before.
Morpheus turned to Tank, ‘She couldn’t do this before.’ His voice was almost accusing.
Staring past Morpheus to the flickering lights of the computer, Tank nodded in agreement. ‘I know, this is strange. Very strange.’
‘You have no idea how this happened?’
‘No, but this morning I found some training files lying out and the Matrix has been hacked into very recently.’
Morpheus’ features were wrinkled with thought and worry. ‘It wasn’t Byte?’
Glancing sharply up at Morpheus, Tank replied, ‘No, it wouldn’t have been him. I have no idea who.
‘I suppose we will just have to be patient.’
Late into that night, Ram reached over and pulled out two floppy disks, the result of many hours of hard work. She jumped down to the ground, as lightly and gracefully as a cat, then almost stumbled as her legs, wobbly from lack of use, tried to support her. Out of the corner of her eye, Ram saw the garish green glow of the computer that seemed to glare at her, mock her and make fun of her. Ram was just about to aim a kick at one of the monitors when the sound of Morpheus stopped her.
‘You are finished.’ The words from this alluring man were a statement, standing out among the nighttime noise of the small hovercraft.
Ram nodded. ‘Yes, I need to go into the Matrix tomorrow,’ here she stumbled over the words as the Oracle’s prophecy came back to her, ‘and I need some people to go with me.’
An inner instinct, a form of intuition told Morpheus to trust this girl. ‘Very well. Neo and Trinity will accompany you in the morning. What do you need to do?’
Ram gave smile of joy that lighted up her face as she started to explain what would need to be done. ‘First of all…’
‘Here we go.’ Tank swung into his chair, wincing as it gave a threatening creak. His long graceful fingers started flying over the keyboards, dancing over the keys as he accessed the pirate broadcast signal then started to hack into the Matrix. Today, the trio of Trinity, Neo and Ram were to enter the facade of the Matrix so that Ram could fulfill her destiny.
Ram scanned her surroundings, taking in the ship for what she knew would be the last time. The ship was small, dark, cramped, but for the past few weeks it had become a home for Ram, a home that was better then any she had ever experienced while locked into the dreams of the Matrix. Ram slowly rubbed her hand across the cold, strong metal of the ladder to the observation deck. She would miss this place, this place where she had been wakened from a dream.
Trinity called Ram over to her. Ram was acting strange, thought Trinity, as if she were saying goodbye to something. ‘Can we run through this one more time?’ Trinity asked Ram.
‘Well we go into the Matrix then set up the hardline for hacking. You know how to do that right?’ Ram was suddenly worried, her computer and hacking skills were so few that she wasn’t sure if all these tasks would be possible.
Trinity nodded, ‘We can do that if Tank gives us some equipment in the Construct. Keep going.’
‘Once we are in we use this first program to help us hack into re-load time. Once weve got it, we call Tank, give him the number then move into it. ‘ Neo’s voice was puzzled as he asked what re-load time was.
‘Re-load time is similar to the Construct and works on the same principle that you can bring up any files or programs you need and either upload them or download them. The difference is that in re-load time you re-load deleted or missing programs and files. You know what to do next Trinity?’
Trinity gave a small nod. ‘We find the deleted file #66873 263 733 3737733 96626 by using that program.’ Trinity pointed to a red disk that Neo held. ‘We then upload the file to this program’ Trinity held up a floppy disk in one hand ‘and download the whole thing using this program.’ and another floppy disk, in Trinity’s other hand was held up.
Ram gave a nod, telling them that was right. She then paused, lost in her own thoughts for a moment before turning back to Trinity and Neo. ‘No matter what happens in the Matrix, those programs have to be started. If anything, and I mean anything, happens to me, just run and leave me. I can take care of myself.’
‘Not if there’s an agent you can’t.’ interrupted Trinity.
‘Yes, even with an agent.’ Ram walked over to one of the chairs telling Tank, ‘We’re ready.’
Byte came to Ram and she hugged him hard. ‘I’ll always love you big brother.’
‘Why all the dramatics? I’ll see you when you get back.’ Byte gave Ram an extra tight squeeze then released her. Ram smiled at him while thinking that there would be no later.
The thick metal bar, the pin, entered Ram’s head. A jolt went through her and she gasped with pain, something wasn’t right. In front of her she could see a green figure, dancing, moving in front of her. It was alive and yet, at the same time, wasn’t alive. The bright green sparks were completely unlike anything Ram had ever seen before.
Ram tried to move but she couldn’t. She then tried to breathe but couldn’t. Nothing in her body was working right, she could feel nothing except for a painful tingling that ran up and down her back. Around her, Ram could hear voices.
‘What the hell was that?…an electricity surge…watch that wire, it’s live…the electricity’s green…Neo!…she’s dead, Ram’s dead…Neo’s been hurt…Ram, don’t…Ram…
The last voice was Byte’s, wrecked with pain, with sorrow. Ram tried to call out, to reassure him but was unable to. A peacefulness started to float over Ram as she felt the last, precariously thin threads of life start to disintegrate. She didn’t mind, her job was done, her time was up. Ram used her last bits of energy to recall the prophecy the Oracle had made. *When you next go into the Matrix a zap of green will end this life.*
Ram almost laughed, how mistaken she had been. She had thought an agent would kill her in the Matrix but the Oracle had spoken of going into the Matrix, not being in it. Again Ram tried to move, to speak, to smile but the zap of green electricity had done it’s job.
Tank stared at the silent figure. Behind him, Trinity knelt over the unconscious figure of Neo who had also been struck by the power surge. Tank’s concentration however, was on the still form of Ram. Although the jolt of electricity had burnt part of her face, Tank was sure he recognized her as someone different from Ram.
‘Mega?’ his voice was full of fear and hope at the same time.
Byte’s head snapped up. ‘What did you say?’
Tank looked sadly at Ram. For a moment he could of sworn…then he answered Byte. ‘Oh nothing.’ Seeing Byte’s expression Tank explained, ‘For a moment I thought I saw a person I once knew.’
‘You knew Mega?’ Now it was Byte who’s voice was hopeful.
‘Yes, she was a great friend of mine. She had been in the Resistance for years but on this ship for only a few weeks when she went into the Matrix and was killed by an agent while trying to save Morpheus.’
Byte traced his finger along the face of his dead baby sister while remembering the words of the Oracle. A sister lost, a sister found. Something lost that has been found. But oh, the price of a find.