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Syzgy
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PostSubject: MDA   2/8/2009, 16:56

Author: exsuscito

Date Posted: 12/25/2007

Contact: http://mdas.deviantart.com/
------------------------------------------------

Memories, Dreams, Addictions
Chapter 1 - Orsus

The hovercraft Praemeditatio hums gently against a backdrop of dark sewer tunnels.  It sits tucked away in the upper reaches of the Q3 quadrant, broadcast-depth.

Lying awake on his bed, Esoterix stares blankly at the rotten, decaying ceiling of his quarters as the ships' lighting flickers on, illuminating the room with a soft glow.  Sharing a trait with his captain, sleep often eludes him; such is the consequence of an unfettered mind.  Foregoing a further attempt to rest, and with a weary stretch, Eso takes the short walk towards the main deck.  He passes the door to Exsuscito's quarters along the way, and notes his absence upon stealing a quick glance through the hatch.  Sync, the ship's operator, slouches at the console and intently monitors the systematically descending code of the Matrix.  Esoterix approaches him, already knowing why Sync would be active this time of the morning.

"He just went in?"  Eso asks whilst taking up position beside Sync, the tone suggesting it to be more of a declarative statement than a question.

"Yeah, mumbled something about a personal errand, and then had me do the deed." Sync replies with a grimace, and with a hint of bitterness at being called to work so early.

Eso leans in front of Sync for a closer look at the monitors.  "Hey, watch the hardware." the operator snaps, before recoiling at the glance his outranking officer shoots back to him.

"Where's he going?" Eso continues, much to the chagrin of Sync who fires a look of contempt towards him.

Although not an unusual occurrence, Ex's expedition immediately alerts Esoterix' concern.  Entering the Matrix on a whim has been proven to often lead to catastrophic results.  He knows that the captain can be trusted however, with his life if necessary.

"He didn't say did he?"

"Does he ever?" We can see him clear as blue sky from here though, I'm not sure why..."

Esoterix, eager to shake off his weariness, interrupts to put him out of his misery.  "Volunteering the information willingly would give the impression that his location is of our concern.  Now, jack me in Sync."

"There a problem?" Sync offers with a deliberate faux-passing concern.

Eso moves to the chair across from Ex, and lies back with a smile. "Personal errand"

With a sigh, the disgruntled operator nonchalantly enters the code for infiltration of the Matrix, and saunters over to his officer. "No one tells me a thing around here.  I could help out a lot more if you two would just..."

His superior closes his eyes, and waits in silence.  Sync notices the oft-used deterrent, and resigned to knowing nothing beyond his operator status, obediently guides the cerebral insert into the back of Eso's head.

"Fine, go live the dream."

With aplomb, Sync loads Eso into the simulation.
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PostSubject: MDA -Chapter 2   2/8/2009, 16:56

Chapter Two - Tether (The Excursus)
The vague, distant outline of the local church filters into view as the code subsides.  I'm not particularly fond of Camon, an unpleasant sector of a worse district.  I only come here if business demands as such and in that event it must be pressing, and the visit short-lived.  After resolving to press on, I reach the church doors to be handed a pamphlet by an overzealously enthusiastic volunteer.  "Salvation lies within" she proclaims with a smile as she opens the antiquated, heavy oak doors for my benefit.  Stepping inside, I'm greeted by an increasingly familiar sight.  Tens of worshippers line the aisles, spilling over from the over-crowded pews.  The Matrix somehow has a way of reflecting the internal conflict stirring down its alleys, and in its shadows.  ‘Society' reacts as the system ebbs and flows along the waves of increasing hostility.  They seek comfort, and they search for it in buildings like this, the designated ‘holy' grounds.  A choir leads the crowd in harmonious dirge as the echoes of their voices fill the interior of the building, and as I negotiate my way through the masses I quietly slip the unread pamphlet onto the end of one of the pews.  

Reaching the confessional adjacent to the West wall, I habitually check the periphery one final time, before slipping in unnoticed.  I find my way to the seat through the pitch black and sit down, the muffled chorus of the congregation still audible through the grating.  The slide opens to reveal the silhouette of a males' profile, via shards of light emanating from tiny, rotten holes on the booths' wall behind him.  

"Father."

"Hello, Son." His custom for calling me ‘Son', whilst undesirable, is an allowance I'm able to grant him.  It provides him solace, I presume.  

"What's the good word?" I reply with a smirk.

"The same as yesterday and tomorrow." I swear I could sense his grin from the shadows, whilst I form one of my own.

"You always were consistent."

"One has to be, when that word gives hope to many.  How can I help?"  He asks, as sharp and direct as ever.

"I'm getting unsubstantiated reports of a spy in your congregation, sent on the basis of the suspicion..."

"They know that I know." He declares intuitively, cutting my sentence short.  

Concealing my slight surprise, I confirm. "Yes, that may be true."

"Then they must also know that you have come to me."

"No, I was careful.  Besides, at this point they will only be monitoring your speech patterns during an address."

My words sidestep the absolute truth.  If they suspected him, they will initiate full surveillance without a moments pause for thought.  In the current climate, ‘unsubstantiated' could mean a number of things representative of several levels of significance.    

The priest counters with the faintest hint of sarcasm. "What possible threat can an old man's words pose to the Matrix?"  

"You can influence a great many in your position."

"You know I wouldn't..." He offers abruptly, mildly insulted by the insinuation.

Despite his reaction, I continue to push.  "I turn a blind eye, and risk my status everyday for you.  I defy my work and grant you anonymity because of your counsel when..."

I find myself unable to finish my sentence, some wounds shall weep anon.

"It still pains you so." The priest detects, softening his voice and lowering it to a whisper.

Ignoring his likely pursuance, I press on forcibly unabashed "If you're giving hints or..."  

"Oh, please..." He offers in response, becoming more animated with increasing exasperation.

"...Giving hints or subtly revealing information, you put all of us at great risk."

After a moment's pause, I sense the priest lean closer to the booth's divide, demanding my attention as he makes his point as slow and concisely as it takes to impress upon me.  "This knowledge is not something I take lightly, nor something I wilfully pass on.  You know this."

I don't wish to antagonise the old man, the increasing level of volume and enmity benefits neither of us, and my time here must be kept brief.  

"My apologies, Father.  I came here to warn you, please just lay low for a while, cut back on the sermons, and stay out of public view."

"I have a job to do, Son, as you have yours.  As long as this world requires it, I will give aid to those who ask."

"I still can't persuade you to come with me?" I ask with a resigned tone.  I have little doubt of his response.

"And waste a perfectly good red pill?  No, no, no, I'm precisely where I'm destined to be, as are you."

Destiny is a state of mind.  Ironically, those who attribute their successes to it barely have a foothold on the walls of any reality but the one constructed in their own minds.  Regardless of this self-delusion, the believer will continue walking blindly into darkness as if the ‘anchor of destiny' will guide them to the correct path.  There is no destiny or fate, only random spasms of action and direction.  Real world or not, we are all slaves to the desires of our own autonomy.  

"Destined according to whom, him?"  I immediately retort a little more caustically than I had intended, whilst gesturing towards his neck whereupon he wears a silver cross.

He takes it in his stride. "I still can't persuade you to believe?"

"In something as intrinsically false as the Matrix?"

"How can you say for certain that He doesn't exist?"

A slight grin somewhat unwillingly creeps across my face. "We've had this conversation, Father."  

"As we will again, no doubt." The old scoundrel was right, I'm sure we will traverse this topic on many more occasions.  

As the final strains of ‘Abide with me' draw to a close, I rise from the chair to leave. "I must go.  Be safe, Father, watch your back."

The old priest unhooks and removes the cross from around his neck, draping it over the divide towards me.  "He always does." He assures me, whilst rising from his seat and exiting the confessional, closing the door behind him.  

After all that man has done for me and for everyone aside from himself, I'm not convinced that he'd see fit to manually expose a few minds to the truth.  He doesn't fit the profile of those who wish to ultimately extract everyone whether they're compliant or not.  

The fact that someone's suspicion was alerted bothers me more than I'd like, the idea that the machines are monitoring him too much to consider.  I know where that road ends.  Even if he had thought about abusing his position to....no it's nonsense.  Our meeting had left me with further options to consider, and the near-certainty that he was innocent of the accusations made against him.  He had to be.

I slip out of the confessional, and make my way swiftly to the exit as the mass continues with fervour.  

In the dark enclosure of the booth, the priest's necklace slides from off the divide, dropping silently to the floor.
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PostSubject: MDA - Chapter 3   2/8/2009, 16:57

Chapter Three - Flux
Torrential rain cascades incessantly onto Esoterix as he races across the roof of a factory, giving chase to a fleeing member of the E Pluribus Neo group.  Lightning makes silhouettes of the contrasting figures, whilst the booms of thunder miss the beats of the rhythmic pounding of their feet against the concrete.  The assailant fires blindly and wildly behind his back hitting nothing but air, whilst Eso occasionally pauses to fire two rapid rounds from a trained stance.  They both leap from one building to the next, making short work of the distances between the rooftops.

Squinting through the driving rain, Eso notices the ‘EPN' bring his cell-phone to his ear, before placing it back into his jacket pocket and continuing the onslaught of misdirected bullets.  

Fearing that an exit is nearby or that backup has been notified, Eso momentarily relinquishes his own weapon for another.        

Sync sits at the console with his legs resting on a chair, arms cradling the back of his head with his chair reclined.  

He jumps with a start as his headset rings in his ear. "Operator."

"Where is he?"  Esoterix bellows, barely audible through the adverse weather conditions and gunfire.

Sync straightens up in his chair, and conspiratorially ignores the urgency in the caller's voice.

"Ahh Eso, let me remind you that I'm not your cleaning lady, this morning you left what can only be described as a..."

"WHERE IS HE, SYNC?" Roars Eso with increased authority.

"Alright, geez, don't yell at the messenger.  Where do you think he is?  Hi I'm Anne; I'll be your tasty morsel for the afternoon.  Today's specials are my..."

Eso hangs up the phone, reloads his weapon and continues the pursuit.

Frustrated and alone once again, Sync sighs with weary contemplation. "One of these days I'll get to the punch line."
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PostSubject: MDA - Chapter 4   2/8/2009, 16:58

Chapter Four - Duty
I beat back the rain and enter Peg's in Stamos.  It's no more glamorous than the best Camon has to offer, but because of this I can sit in peace and no one asks questions.  I go to my seat near the window, appropriately positioned to enable a full panorama of the diner at all times.  The green upholstery of the seating is torn, brown and archaic, much like the entire District.  Peg's is in a neglected area of the city, forgotten and ignored by those more interested in buffing up the leather in office sofa's Downtown.  Comfort over convergence, wins every time.    

"More coffee, Hun?" the waitress asks me in a fairly sullen, defeated tone.  She refills my cup before I can respond, a creature of habit.  It's ironic how compliant a puppet she is, easily manipulated within the unseen, pre-ordained grid of control and order.  I stop myself from feeling sorry for her.

I scan the room with interest, instinctively noting the number of people in the room.  Two young, smartly-attired businessmen sit leisurely in the opposite corner, arrogantly musing over their respective NASDAQ options and indulging in their self-importance.  The slightly older and corpulent of the two routinely snaps his wrist so that his over-priced watch becomes visible from behind his cuff.  I guess it to be an Omega.  They must be from out of town, no one in their right mind would choose to dine here, or anywhere in this district for that matter.  

An elderly couple sits adjacent to them, enjoying the same milkshake and holding hands underneath the table like teenagers drunk on chemical attraction.  It immediately endears me to them.  The old woman makes silly faces across the room towards a baby girl sat on a slightly scruffy looking woman's lap. The child's mother spits fury into a cell-phone, completely distracted from the sweet overture of her daughter's laughter. Barely audible through the caustic agony of the mother's words, I recognize ‘alimony' and ‘again' I notice how surprisingly sorrowful this makes me feel before shifting my gaze, and retreating back into my thoughts.  

Those who remain in stasis are at times far too penetrative to the resolute, their moods evasive of my self-imposed order.  I still remain a slave of sorts, trapped somewhere between loathing the ignorance of ‘society', and marvelling at the temporary beauty it can offer.  I wonder what she would make of this...

The waitress ‘Anne' refills sugar jars behind the musty, stained counter.  She has worked here for years, always doting on me as if she was the Maître d' of an upscale restaurant downtown, and I was someone of great importance.  I believe I represent the last remaining mystery in her existence.  She appears out of context with the dire surroundings, her unassuming, undiscovered beauty faintly sparkling behind a layer of what I imagine to be years of disappointment and bitterness.  From the barely concealed bags under her eyes, I deduce that she supports a child alone, the father long since disappeared.  I envisage that he resides in a pit of somnolence, empty beer cans and cigarette butts, a shining example of self-absorbed derision and idle ruin.  I'm happy to imagine him rotting in his pod.  The grace with which she routinely approaches me belies her meager existence, and reveals the hope remaining in her saddened soul.  

When I allow my thoughts to wander, I wish I could free her, take her with me.  I would personally oversee her training; show her that the world deserves to know who she is, and that she has a place within it.  Reality always floods these thoughts at this point.  It's not my place to unplug anyone at will.  I may be leading her to certain death from the shock of learning the truth, or from a stray bullet.  I couldn't risk that for the potential fulfillment of my idle-daydreaming.  As Seneca's works had taught me; "Fortune gives us nothing which we can really own." His words provide a momentary solace, but never succeed to dull the ache for long.  I still suffer my desires.           

The vibrations of my ringing phone jolt me out of my thoughts instantly.

"Yes?" I abrasively offer the caller, mildly irritated at being torn from the comforts of quiet reflection.

"EX, LOOK UP, LOOK UP." I recognise the harried voice to be that of Esoterix, an associate, before moving closer to the window overlooking the alley to follow his directions.  

An alarmingly anxious pause and the sound of gunfire permeate the air.  I barely register the muffled voice of the waitress asking "You ok, Hun?" with the concern only a stranger can offer.  

As I attempt to usher back the crowd which has gathered at the window, a sickening, dull thud trembles the glass.  I spin round to see a body lying awkwardly on the concrete, before a second crashes to the floor beside it.  Both dissolve into a haze of code and immediately alert my concern.  Behind me, the baby girl begins to cry over the commotion, one of the businessmen drops his briefcase and runs for the back door in fear, pushing over the old woman in his haste and sending her crashing to the floor.  The woman's husband goes to her aid, pushing past the second businessman who stares blankly, transfixed on the spot where the bodies were a second earlier.  Anne brings over a first aid kit from behind the counter, and sets it down to embrace the child.  She takes to the situation with an unflappable calm; she's witnessed these types of incidents before, and become rather adept at dealing with them.  The babies' mother sobs uncontrollably as Anne attempts to console them both.  

Before I consider my options, I look skywards to see a third figure rapidly descending towards the same spot, this time landing nonchalantly on two feet.  Still on the line, Esoterix turns towards the window.

"Forget the green caffeine, EP..." he screams, before bolting down the alley as I hang up the phone.  

I hear the faint sound of two rounds being fired in the distance. "Careless." I think to myself, the evening has drawn to a close but the fracas isn't entirely by cover of darkness.  Whatever is necessary must be done however, and intervention appears all too necessary here.  The ongoing terrorist threat had grown beyond a bothersome, minor inconvenience into something we had to work twice as hard to contain.  

"Guess you're racing off again then huh?" Anne strains to shout from inside as I fly through the door, and race down the alley in pursuit.  

The evening descends into darkness as the rain persists in battering the city.  The pursuit continues whilst the day weighs heavily on my mind.  I have questions without answers, kaleidoscopic images with no filter.  I recall becoming free through nightmares and here I was, tracking terrorists on a stormy night within a dream.  Here again as it always was.  

What of tomorrow?

There is much to do.
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PostSubject: MDA - Chapter 5   2/8/2009, 16:58

Chapter Five - She
Approaching midnight, Stamos has descended into a malevolent shadow of decrepit neglect.  Whilst gently bustling by day, the streets have now succumbed to that which reigns by cover of night.  Local ‘businesses' begin their nocturnal office hours cowering under the all-consuming shroud of darkness, whilst the echoes of ever-distant sirens struggle to extend this far into depravity.  

The once celebratory district by night is a burnt fuse on old circuitry, a testament to society's ability to sweep the undesirable under the rug.  

An old, generously bearded homeless man wakes abruptly in an alley adjacent to the local pawn shop, two blocks south of Peg's Diner.  Strewn around the immediate area are piles of discarded trash, illuminated by the intermittent blink of the ‘Pawn Shop' neon signage.  

The vagrant rises from an improvised bed of rotten boxes and wet, faded newspaper, catching sight of a figure lying face-down on the floor several feet away as he struggles to his feet.  The man, dressed in dull-coloured charity hand-outs and a jacket recently liberated from the body of an alley-mate, slowly shuffles towards it, stopping sporadically to cough violently and catch his breath.  Muttering quietly to himself about the nuisance caused by his uninvited guest, he reaches the figure of a woman dressed in a yellow dress, laddered tights and an apron.  Cautiously extending his arm to pull her hair back from her face, the woman comes to and murmurs gently to herself.  Still not fully conscious as she turns herself over to reveal a deep gash on her forehead, the old man jumps back anxiously, crawling in reverse on his hands and knees and concealing himself within several cardboard boxes stacked against the wall behind him.  

As the woman opens her eyes slowly and begins to sit-up, she clasps her wound in reaction to the pain now rapidly shooting around various areas within her head.  Leaning against the wall, she finally regains her equilibrium, beginning to lightly sob as the realisation of what took place dawns on her.  Her bag, shoes and jacket are missing.  She's been mugged, again.  The neon sign hums persistently in time with her uncontrollable tears, revealing her delicate, bruised features for the briefest of seconds.  Her subtle, ethereal beauty provides a sharp contrast with the weeping cuts and darkly-coloured bruises she has recently sustained.  "Oh god, pull yourself together." she orders herself defiantly, and using the wall for leverage she unsteadily stands upright, exposing a further superficial cut on her right knee.  The unlucky woman wipes the tears from her eyes and their trails from her cheeks, before limping to the end of the alley to check that it's safe to make her way into the street.

"We...We've been waiting for someone to bleed here, there's n...n...never anyone around to close up afterwards." the homeless man offers suddenly whilst finding the courage to come out from his cardboard enclave, picking something up off the floor and walking towards the woman with an outstretched arm.  Shocked by the sudden company and the stranger's advances, she leaves the alley and flees into the night.  Left standing alone and confused, the homeless man calls after her weakly "But, y...y...you've forgotten your name." Unable and unwilling to give chase, he drops the item in the puddle he's standing in with resignation, and retreats back to his makeshift bedding, grumpily muttering about people leaving blood-stains on the carpet as he settles peacefully once again.  

Sitting face-up in the puddle, left to join the discarded, forgotten refuse is a name-tag for staff at Peg's Diner.  Hastily scrawled in fading ink below the generic greeting of ‘Hi my name is:' is a woman's name.

Anne.
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PostSubject: MDA - Chapter 6   2/8/2009, 16:59

Chapter Six - The 3rd Of Never And Always
"It's gonna be a dark and miserable day today, folks.  Rain storms are predicted across the entire..." The radio DJ is interrupted by a weary fist repeatedly striking the ‘alarm off' button.  "No, really?" Anne spits to herself sarcastically in response to the forecast.  Lying next to the alarm clock on a bedside stand are the spare set of keys she keeps hidden outside the room for emergencies, and a photo of Anne with a young boy.  They sit on a picnic rug in an empty park bathed in the warm, amber glow of the late-evening summer sun.  The boy sits on Anne's lap as they smile broadly and playfully towards the camera.       

A shard of light coming through a hole in the curtains catches her in the eyes as she rises out of bed, shared only with the occasional cockroach or soft toy.  The prior evening's events had taken their toll on her slight frame.  Standing upright with slow progress, her right knee immediately stiffens and her head pulses with routine bouts of stabbing pain.  Revealing a tiny run-down studio apartment granting little in the way of comfort, Anne hobbles the short distance to the window, squinting at the sun which briefly pierces through a gap in the clouds as she draws back the curtains.  

Proceeding to the bathroom, Anne locks the door and takes a long, trembling sigh as she stares at the head wound in the mirror of the wall cabinet beside her.  Biting her lip to curtail the onset of tears, she opens the cabinet door and takes three aspirin out of their box.  With renewed resolve, Anne steps into the bath and begins to shower.  The hot water proves difficult to endure as it pours over and into her wounds, feeling more like a sadistic, hydrochloric water torture.  Switching the shower off and stepping out of the bath gingerly, she dries herself off, slips on the same waitress dress as the night before and reaches for a hair-dryer.  Repeatedly flipping it on and off to no avail, she moves into the main room and sees the alarm clock with no display.  The lights won't flicker to life and trying the microwave doesn't yield any results.  "Oh no, no, no not again" Anne says to herself as she rushes to the door to go and beat the landlord's door down, only to be faced by him as she pulls it open.

"Sid I have to get to work and..."

Anticipating her frustration, the portly, unkempt landlord dressed in a dirty tank top and worn brown pants gestures for Anne to calm down.

"Yeah, yeah, the fuse, I don't know - blew up again and I can't get anyone out to fix it today.  You know if you need help I could always..." He offers, looking past Anne into her apartment and moving towards the door.

Slamming the door in his face with a mix of mild trepidation, disgust and frustration, Anne quickly ties her hair back, leaving some to hang over the wound just below her hairline, picks up her keys and leaves the apartment.  

The hallway is dark, damp and rotten like a ship on its final voyage.  Affectionately named "Old Oak Apartments", it's an old building, and living up to its name with vigour.  The city would have torn it down years ago were it not for the stubborn protests of the landlord.  From the street the building appears derelict, adhering to the overall standard of living in Westview.  It is accommodation of the lowest order, attracting only the destitute and out-of-luck.  

Anne reaches the stop to be greeted by a young teenager pulling faces from the back seat of the bus as it speeds away without her.  Throwing her keys to the pavement in frustration, she sighs with resignation as she picks them up again, and sits on the bench to wait for the next bus.  

It begins to spit with rain, in response to which Anne can only whisper - with no small amount of frustration - "Typical." to herself.
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PostSubject: MDA - Chapter 7   2/8/2009, 16:59

Chapter Seven - Dues
"I can't believe I'm late again.  He's gonna fire me this time, for sure." I think to myself as I burst through the back door, and into the locker room of the diner.  Janelle's in there finishing her break, spraying the last remaining drop of perfume onto her neck and putting her apron back on.  

"Hey, girl, jeez what happened to you?" she asks as I fumble around with my locker combination, where I'm relieved to find a clean apron to cover the blood stains on my dress.  

"Oh I just um, I lost my keys and had to climb the fire escape to get into my apartment. You know how slippery those stairs are, anyone could take a fall." I reply, albeit unconvincingly.

"Well you better get ready, Barry's got it in for you, ya know?" Janelle advises me as she exits the locker room to go back to work.

Before the door can swing shut, the manager Barry comes through it into the room with me, striding purposefully.  I guess I didn't see him for a second, fixated as I am on concealing my cuts and stains.  Barry would make me pay for a new dress out of my wages if he found out.  I shut my locker and turn round to be confronted with his face close to mine, screwed-up in anger.  I can almost taste his rotten breath.

"Annie, so glad you stopped by.  Whenever you're ready to join us out front princess, you just tinkle your little bell and come through when you're ready huh?" He spits with barely restrained sarcastic fury.

The desperation in my voice almost makes me feel as sick as his heaving breath on my face.  I don't care about his crappy job, or his crappy uniform, or that he's upset about me being late again.  I do care about the money though, and how it would look if I lost my job.  Like it or not, my future lies in the hands of this overweight, greasy, Neanderthal of a man "I'm really sorry, Barry.  The electric in my building went again and my clock wouldn't work so technically it wasn't my..."   

Barry's tone changes in an instant to a quiet, threatening whisper as he reaches to close the door and leans in to within an inch of my face. "I don't care one tiny bit about you or your pathetic little excuses you little b1tch.  You will be here on time all the time from now on, or you and I are gonna have major problems.  Do you understand what I'm saying to you princess, am I getting through to that tiny little brain of yours?  Now, get your little (behind) to work without a word, you're pulling a double."

"Barry, it won't happen aga..."

"Not one single word, princess.." He interrupts, his gaze switching to Anne's apron "..and wear your name-tag."

He lingers in my face for another second or two, feeding on my nerves, then leaves the room.  

A slight panic creeps over me as I realise I must have left my name-tag at the apartment.  After desperately searching for it in my locker and pockets, I resolve to rely on Barry's failing memory to get me out of jail.  Who knows what he'd do if he felt I wasn't wearing it on purpose.  There's nothing I can do, I'll just have to risk it.  

I won't cry because of that man, I'm done crying.  A double huh?  Well at least I'll be able to afford the rent this month, and won't have to leave early everyday to avoid Sid.  There's always the chance that ‘he' will come in at some point too.

With a last draw on my will, I take a deep breath and prepare to serve coffee to strangers for 16 hours straight.  

"Once more into the breach."
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PostSubject: MDA - Chapter 8   2/8/2009, 17:00

Chapter Eight - Where Parallels Converge
"More coffee, Hun?" I ask him after summoning the courage to go over again.  I didn't expect him to say anything this time, he never does.  All he does is sit near the window and sip at his coffee whilst staring at the people passing by.  I wonder what he spends all those hours thinking about.  Once in a while his phone rings and he runs off without a word.  He always leaves me a tip though, I like that.

I fill his cup without him so much as acknowledging my presence, and go back behind the counter to clean-up whilst it's quiet.  I'd take his lack of awareness personally with any old deadbeat who wanders in here, but with him it's different.  It's as if he's holding on to a single thought so he doesn't forget it, that what he has on his mind is so important that he can't let it go for a second.  When his thoughts are that meaningful, who am I to try to drag him out of them?  

I wonder what his life is like, where he lives...who he's with.  For a start I've never seen anything like the clothes he wears.  He stands out like a sore thumb round here, but always seems to just fade into the background at the same time.  He's been coming in here for months, and I don't even know his name.    

"I don't pay you to stand around, princess." Barry scornfully whispers in my ear, barrelling into my thoughts and ruining them like a dust-storm obliterating an oasis.  I take my cue and ask my regulars, an elderly couple Mr and Mrs Harris, if they'd like another drink.

"Oh please, dear." the old woman replies. "We'd like the biggest chocolate milkshake you can muster, it's our anniversary after all." she adds, proudly.  

I notice the old couple holding hands under the table, and whilst I'm happy for them and this sunshine on an otherwise dreary day, my heart sinks with...jealousy I suppose.

"Congratulations to you both, I'll be right back with your drink.  It's on me."

After serving their milkshake I retreat back to behind the counter, happily letting my thoughts wander once again to distract me from my pettiness whilst I fill the sugar jars.

The vibrations of his ringing phone jolt me out of my thoughts instantly.

He answers the call seemingly agitated, and I find myself hoping that I've done nothing wrong.  He moves for the first time in hours and goes over to the window, looking up at the sky.  He seems anxious, tense.  I find myself walking over to him before even thinking of doing so.

"You ok, Hun?" I manage to ask under my breath like a complete moron with nothing better to say.  He doesn't respond and keeps his gaze fixed to the sky.  A moment later, the other customers join us at the window to see what we're both looking at.  Just as I begin to wonder if he's simply overly keen on rain storms, he begins to usher us all back away from the window.  I manage to sneak a glance at his eyes behind his ever-present glasses as I brush past him, following his gestures for everyone to get back.  They look exactly as I had imagined, but with added concern.  Something's wrong.

As everyone moves back whilst staring intently at the window, two people fall from the sky, followed by a man landing after looking as though he jumped from the roof.  He says something and runs away.  A frenzied rush of panic sweeps over the customers as they run away from the window upon witnessing the bodies fall, knocking Mrs Harris over in the process.  There have been so many lately I immediately think it's a mugging taking place right outside, and run to the counter to get the first-aid kit just in case it spills off the street, and into the diner.  I go to a screaming baby first and give it a hug to calm it down whilst the mother looks on, shocked by the sudden flurry of motion.  The sound of gunshots from down the street reaches the room, and the customers dive under the tables, terrified.  I hand the baby back to its mother and urge them both to do the same.  Shuffling over on my hands and knees to Mr and Mrs Harris to help them under their table, I notice him flying out through the door.  

I want to go with him.  I want to know what's going on.  The swelling urge to run after him is as strong as my desire to leave the diner and never come back.  Reality strikes me in the split-second he's still in sight, and all I can do is shout something stupid after him, perhaps hoping that he'll stop and...I don't know - take me away - silly really.  

After a few minutes of uncomfortable, anticipatory silence, the customers tentatively begin to come out from cover and I check around to see if anyone's hurt.  They all leave after I give everyone a hot drink to calm their nerves, still in shock but unscathed.  

I stand alone amongst the upturned chairs and scattered tables in the centre of the diner, confused over what had just taken place, and processing it all.  I swear I saw two people hitting the ground outside the window, but there's nothing there now.  

Perhaps he's a cop, that's why he runs off on a moments notice.

Perhaps I'm asleep after my double-shift and this is all a dream.

"What the hell happened? I was gone for ten minutes and you turn this place into Beirut, get this cleaned up, NOW." Barry roars at me from the entrance.

Wishful thinking.
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PostSubject: MDA - Chapter 9   2/8/2009, 17:00

Chapter Nine - The Soul's Eclipse
The late, summer evening glow of the amber sun illuminates the bleached wooden decking of the Ikebukuro promenade.  The orange and purple sky creates refractions of radiance across the calm, peaceful water beside it.  Distant bells can be heard chiming in the gentle breeze, and a small group of young children skip ropes merrily down one end of the walkway.

Anne and exsuscito stand motionless ten feet away from each other, staring intently into each others eyes, sizing each other up.  Anne playfully strikes a kung-fu pose towards ex, and gestures for him to begin with a nod of her head.  Amused by her self-belief, ex takes the cue and they both lunge towards each other with great agility.  Their light, linen clothing flows gracefully along with their every movement.

They come together, and exchange some attempted, half-hearted blows.  She's visibly well-trained and compulsive in her alertness, a constant state of readiness which appeals to ex's restless sensibility.  Her moves are elegant, her timing exquisite.  After making little effort to break her defence, Anne wheels back suddenly, creating space between them.

"Distracted, are we?" she says with a flirtatious smile, proceeding to withdraw her hair-pin, and shaking her hair alluringly and playfully.  

Concealing his true distraction, ex returns the smile and counters.

"I'm just getting started." he answers, somersaulting towards her and causing her to stiffen her stance and re-enter the fray.  

The two combatants block each other's blows with methodical precision, a stalemate fashioned between finesse and experience.  Time slows to a crawl. The children jump rope in slow-motion.  Ex spots a split-second opening in Anne's defences and attempts an improvised foot sweep.  Anne switches her pivot foot and blocks the attack with the other, carrying her momentum and hitting him with a palm to the Solar Plexus, knocking him backwards off his feet, and onto the decking.  She somersaults back, landing softly on her feet and relaxing her stance, beaming proudly.

"You could've blocked it." she declares, placing her hands on her hips.

"I didn't see it coming." ex responds sarcastically whilst rising from the floor and brushing himself off.

"You're a terrible liar." she says, laughing, but appreciating the attempt regardless.

"And you're quite the warrior." ex returns, walking to within a few feet of her.

He stops and searches for the words to describe how proud he is of everything she has accomplished.

"My, just look at what you've become." he proclaims, sighing with immense pride.

Anne closes the small gap between them by rushing forward and greeting his words with her finger on his lips.  She places her hands in ex's, and moves to whisper in his ear.

"What we've become." she offers, fixating her eyes on his.  

Time seems to slow once again.  Ex cannot bring himself to resist, and the two embrace.  The setting sun bathes the couple in an ethereal, iridescent glow.

Past tortures, duty, war, terrorism, time lost, all dissolve as Ex feels himself begin to let it all subside for, and because of this beautiful woman.  How he had longed for this moment, how he had never allowed himself to believe that it could ever cross his path again.  Not since...not since it was last taken away.

This is 'real'.

The muffled thud and subsequent reverberation of a gunshot sends a shockwave of sound across the promenade.  A nearby flock of happily idling seagulls take flight, and flee across the water.  The children's laughter turns to penetrating screams as they run away in terror, unconcerned with the skipping ropes they leave behind.  

A sudden, searing pain courses through ex's chest as the echo of the gunshot takes it path.  The intrusion immediately ruptures the couple's bubble, tearing ex from his thoughts with no remorse as he and Anne stagger backwards from one another.  

As the anonymous bullet tears mercilessly through her chest and into mine, I come undone.  No new beginning, no sound, lungs rapidly devoid of air.  The last gasp of a breeze blow a few strands of her beautifully dark, flowing hair into her bloodshot eyes as they close, and she collapses to the ground.  My vision begins to haze as I grow weak, and I drop to my knees beside her.  I try to reach out to touch her, but a heavy boot slams down onto my hand, pinning it to the floor.  

As the world sways and clouds gather, I look up at the silent assailant.  An agent looks down at me with a vacant glare, and begins to raise his gun.  I take a last look at Anne, who had since taken her final breath, alone.  She somehow seems peaceful, content even.  The agent presses his gun against my temple and pauses briefly, seemingly curious about the moment.  "Do it." I say defiantly, and close my eyes.

Pain                  trepidation            elation sorrow                         change joy                                 failure                               triumph                                         rhythm          family                                                 knowledge                             love

The sun sinks below the still waters, and darkness envelops the promenade.

The black tomorrow.  


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Exsuscito sits bolt upright in his bunk on his ship, The Praemeditatio.  Sweat pours profusely from his forehead, limbs shaking from trauma.  

"I must go back." he says to himself declaratively, and taking a few seconds to collect his thoughts and regain his balance, he swings out of bed and onto the cold floor beneath him.  He marches purposefully towards the primary console with new resolve.  The Praemeditatio's crew are off-ship, busying themselves with other responsibilities after Ex had called a halt to all activity within the Matrix, and given the order to go home to their families.  

Why must we dream?  What purpose does it serve?

Are dreams purely synaptic spasms of accidental, rabid electrical impulses, or a coherent ensemble of unsolved puzzle pieces, extending beyond our capabilities of reason and perception?

I consider the possibility that they're the voices of our better angels, attempting to show us our true paths in our sleep, when we can do nothing but listen intently to their efforts.

I've heard it said that they are answers to questions we have not yet learned how to ask.  I struggle to comprehend why any person would seek the ‘answers' presented to us in our darkest nightmares.  

Some things are perhaps better left unresolved, left to the individual to provide their own explanation for the things contained in their minds more private, and secure chambers.

Despite the lack of a conclusive rationalization, and whatever truths and falsehoods lie within the swirl of our bashful thoughts, we are forever prone to their mystery, and their unhinged grace.  We do not allow ourselves to be dictated to by them, but lest we ignore their wisdom, hidden in the walls of our sub-conscious.  

Ex reaches the console, and nonchalantly enters the auto-pilot sequence.

"There is much to do." he says quietly as he lies back in the chair and closes his eyes.  

The sequence begins, and he is loaded into the simulation.

Lost time, so much lost time.
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PostSubject: MDA - Chapter 10   2/8/2009, 17:01

Chapter Ten - When the Bough Breaks
Camon Central church.  20:36.  

The nocturnal beams cascading from the keen eye of the pale corpulent moon invite themselves through the open church doors out of the bitter, cold air.  Inside, the maligned figure of a man kneels in dark silhouette, bathed in the peaceful blue hue as if the shafts of light had created a direct path towards the effigy to which he solemnly prays.  The man crosses his chest with his right hand, and tenderly kisses a tiny, silver cross attached to his necklace, tucking it back under his shirt.  The cross back home close to his heart, he places a pair of headphones over his ears, and presses play on the tape player attached to his belt.  Wearily rising to his feet, and reaching to a pew on his left, he picks up a leaning mop, and continues his work.  

The aging janitor's tuneful whistle bombards every crevice of the empty church with a wave of intrusive sound, reverberating across the vast ceiling, bouncing excitedly off of the stained-glass windows and between each pew.  The echoes reflect the emptiness within the hallowed structure with an almost sinister blade-edge.  They deafen, and drown the silence.

Through the doors, in from the black night walks the slight figure of a lone woman.  She stops just inside the church to expel a long, heavy sigh, and proceeds slowly, further into the building.  After searching glances around, she sees and timidly approaches the janitor, who faces the effigy in constant observation.

"Pardon me.  Sir?" she asks with an almost inaudible, tense quiver in her voice.  The janitor, still humming along to the music emanating from his headphones blithely ignores the woman's advance, unaware of any stimuli outside the realm of Barry Manilow's ‘Mandy'.  Noticing the headphones, she asks a second time whilst lightly touching his shoulder.

"Sir?" The old man jumps with a start, sending his headphones crashing to the church floor.  

"Oh.  Sarah, it's you," he says with a sigh of relief amid the heavy thump of his heart under his fatigued, grey overalls.  "My heart almost leapt from my chest."  

"I'm so sorry, George," she says, retrieving and placing the headphones back around his neck, and offering a reassuring hand on his upper arm.  "I didn't mean to startle you.  I didn't recognise you in this light.  Is the Father here?"

"Oh, yes.  He's working late in his office," he replies whilst motioning towards the back of the church with a flick of his head.  

"Thank you, George.  I'm sorry to interrupt, I'll let you get back to Barry," she says with a friendly smile.  

"The music of a maestro, and the good Lord," he returns whilst continuing his cleaning duties.  "What more could an old man like me ask for?"
  
Following the janitor's direction, Sarah proceeds to the back of the church to a short corridor.   Beyond the slightly ajar door at the end of it, is Father Jack Morgan.  He sits atop an old wooden chair, slumped over a heavy, antique desk.  A single desk lamp adorns the room in an amber glow, revealing a filled, floor-to-ceiling bookcase and otherwise bare walls.  The only embellishment is a modest wooden cross overlooking the desk to which the Father silently sits.  He hurriedly leafs through a pocket-sized black Bible, scanning the holy text for a particular passage.  The pages are turned at an ever-quickening pace; such is the priest's increased vehemence for the solace contained within the desired extract.

"Father?" Sarah asks whilst respectfully and gently tapping on the open door.  

Father Morgan, upon hearing the door tap quickly shuts the Bible closed, placing it into his inside breast pocket.  He rises from his chair and opens the door fully to greet the visitor.
"Hello, Sarah.  It's late, is everything ok?" he asks with great concern.

"I'm sorry, Father.  I hate to bother you at this hour.  I just have no one to..." Sarah says apologetically, whilst breaking down into a well-worn sob.

"Oh.  Sarah.  Come, sit down.  What's troubling you?"

Sarah Klein, a 35 year old recently-tenured Professor of Philosophy at the local university had lost her partner in a frenzied shoot-out outside her most-frequented book store in Baldwin, eight months ago.  No suspects were ever identified, and the case quickly ran cold.  Sat hunched over with her head in her hands, she wears a modestly drab-coloured long skirt and jacket, with brown boots and a book bag over her shoulder.  Her long, hazel hair lacks any discernible style or conditioning, her unassuming attractiveness belied by her dowdy demeanour.  She has an air of a once-penetrating elegance which has long since diminished under the sheer weight of her bereavement.  She began to frequent Father Morgan's church in the last few months, an avowed agnostic seeking solace in the only place left available to her.  Her progress had been slow, her loss leaving a wound too deep to cauterise.  

"I can't do it, Father.  I can't carry on.  It just doesn't work without him."

Sarah opens and reaches into her bag for a half-used small bag of tissues.  Stale tears are wiped clear as fresh ones immediately absorb themselves into the cloth.  The present outpour of desperate grief is no more cathartic than on previous occasions.  Sarah's pain is unrelenting, almost visceral in its intrusion.  Here, in a place of worship and faith, her soul feels left behind.

Father Morgan pulls a footstool close to Sarah, and sits down to deliver a tailored sermon.  

"The Lord saw fit to take him from us, Sarah.  It hurts so deeply now because we have not yet learned His plan, or seen the path He wishes us to take."

Sarah sits up, and wipes her eyes a final time, as if to stem the tide long enough to speak without interruption.  

"My ‘path' was supposed to be taken alongside Max, Father.  I don't want to take it alone."

"You'll never be alone if you fully accept God into your heart.  Faith can heal any scar, and it's times like these that we must turn to faith.  Your grief will be purged, Sarah.  It will, if you can let Him in."

"Was this a punishment for not believing, Father?  Was I wrong to love someone other than ‘Him'?"  Sarah's tone shifts to mild agitation.  She had been grateful of the comforting words and the routine of coming to church, but had never truly lost her inhibitions when it came to giving herself over completely to Father Morgan's God.  

"No, that's not it at all," he responds in a soothing tone.  "God wants us all to love each other as much as he loves us."

"Loves us?  If He loves us so much, then why did He take him away from me?  Why did he deserve to die and leave me with nothing?  Why be so cruel?"  Sarah asks, just as her body convulses with the onset of tears, which do not come.  The well has seemingly been dried.  There are no tears left to spill.

"The Lord never conspires to be cruel to His children, even when it seems that way because we cannot immediately understand His actions.  You'll be together again eventually, Sarah.  Together in God's kingdom, there's no cruelty in that plan, is there?"

Sarah's agitation boils over into furious despair as she rises to her feet to respond.

"No cruelty?  Father, when the police found his body, there was an engagement ring in his jacket pocket."

"He obviously loved you a great deal," Father Morgan offers, rising from the stool to offer a comforting hand on Sarah's arm.  Sarah gestures as if to enhance her coming point, removing the Father's comforting hand in the process.  

"That's just it, I'll never know.  I spoke to his Mother soon after the funeral, and she told me that he had been carrying that ring around for three weeks.  Three weeks, Father.  Why that long?  What was going through his mind?  Second thoughts?  Regret?  Had I done something?  I'll never know, Father.  I'll never know because he was torn from my arms by your ‘saviour with a plan'  I'll never know if he ached for me as I did for him when he wasn't around, if he felt alive, content and happily consumed.  All I have left is the void Max left behind when he was taken.  I have nothing left.  Nothing."  

Sarah's sentence trails off as she falls back down into the chair, emotionally drained.  Father Morgan is momentarily unsure of what to offer by way of comfort, such is her emotional fragility and his sadness towards her.  He feels it deep within him, and longs to make her whole again.  All he knew to offer was what was in his heart.

"Faith is not a guarantee, Sarah.  It's a bargain we make with ourselves to believe that there are guiding hands beyond our perception.  It may take some time, but you will be restored.  You will be free from this pain.  I trust in Him to guide you back, or grant me the strength to do so on His behalf."

"I can't, I just can't."  Sarah responds with almost complete resignation, but also a new calm found through the release of her anger.  

"I should go.  I'm sorry, Father," she says suddenly, whilst standing up once again.

In her embarrassment and haste to leave, Sarah accidentally knocks over her forgotten bag with her feet, their contents spilling to the floor.  Father Morgan bends down to help her retrieve the items, and comes across a leaflet which sends a cold quiver of familiarity down his spine.

"THE SYSTEM IS A LIE."

"Sarah, where did you get this?" He asks with a tremble, whilst rising to his feet.

The now relatively composed Sarah takes the leaflet, and places it back into her bag.

"Oh, I meant to ask you if you knew anything about these leaflets being found all over the city.  This one was found underneath Max's body.  The police couldn't tell me if he had it on his person or had fallen onto it when he....when he fell.  Have you seen this before?"

Father Morgan, immediately uncomfortable with being presented with the leaflet expressing the truth he is forced to harbour, fidgets where he stands, uncontrollably.  

"Um, no, I certainly haven't, Sarah.  I can't say that I have."

His increasing anxiety unnoticed, Sarah continues.  "After Max passed, I buried myself in my work.  It was all I could do to distract myself from....what was happening.  I became curious by this leaflet, what it could possibly mean, and why Max would possibly be holding one.  So I began to look into it."

"Sarah, I'm sorry.  It's getting a little late..." Father Morgan says with a further nervous tremble in his voice, whilst inching backwards towards the door.

Sarah notices the Father's uncomfortable stance, and continues abruptly, pressing on as if to finally express an unspoken secret.

"In my research, I stumbled across a network of websites which alluded to a local underground publication, which mentions this so called ‘system'."

"Sarah, I'm pleased that you have found a focus, but really this is obviously just advertising for something or other."  

Father Morgan edges closer to the door, which Sarah acknowledges with interest and follows his movement.

"Further into my research, Father, I found something else, something which is apparently known by few, and mentioned by even less.  It seems to travel through the ether, as whispers and gestures, but every time I get close to it, it pulls away."

The Father's discomfort with being confronted by the truth he so closely guards reaches intolerable levels.  He turns round and opens the door, motioning for Sarah to do the same with a wave of his hand.

"I really must be going, Sarah..."

"Father."  Sarah continues whilst following him through the corridor into the main church area.  

"My apologies.  Do come and see me after mass tomorrow.  We can talk more then," Father Morgan offers back over his shoulder, his pace quickening towards the front doors of the church.  

Sarah, summoning a long since lost conviction, reaches out to the Father's shoulder, stopping his progress and moving to stand in front of him.  She pulls a piece of paper out of her jacket pocket, and lowers her voice as if wary of prying ears.

"Father, I found this leaflet right outside the doors of this building.  I must know what this is, and I think you can tell me."

Father Morgan slowly switches his gaze from the floor to Sarah's eyes, seeing a desperation and determination for the first time, and dreading what is to come.

"Father?"  

His resolve weakening and acute sense of dread heightened, Morgan responds with the resigned tone of a man who knows he is potentially facing his unravelling.

"Yes, Sarah?"

"What is the Matrix?"

The night sky swirls and crashes with an orchestra of hammering rain and furious crackles of thunder.  The rain invites itself through the open church doors out of the bitter, cold air, splashing onto the floor where the janitor stands motionless behind a pillar just inside the entrance.
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