Dream a little Dream

Author: Tenhawk <tenhawk[at]gmail.com>

Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners... none of which are me. If they knew what they were doing I wouldn't have to write this stuff.

Summary: Elanthielle teaches Xander about the Dreaming.

Warning: Crossovers ahead. (Yes Plural.)

Rating: PG-13 to PG-16; for mild cursing, violence, and demonic horror content... in other words a bit more grown up then the series... but only cause I don't have to suck up to censors.


Xander would have been sweating if his mind had time to create something as useless as sweat. Elanthielle, however, wasn't giving him that time.


Xander ducked low, barely evading her spin kick, and lashed out with low sweep to take her feet from under her.

But she wasn't there.

The power he had applied to his move caused Xander to overbalance, his weight shifting as his kick flashed through empty air.

"Not fast enough."

Xander gurgled in response. His throat constricted by her arm as it wrapped around him from behind.

Elan growled into his ear. "Speak clearly, Alexander."

He gurgled again.

Elan sighed, and shoved him away from her in disgust. "You never learn."

Xander rubbed his throat gingerly. "How am I supposed to speak when you're crushing my throat!?"

Elan glared at him, her hands on her hips. "How many times must I tell you, Alexander? You don't need to breath here! It's in your mind!"

"Yeah, well... My mind say's it wants air."

Elan growled and flashed her hands in a wide, violent gesture. Xander shuddered as the scene around him changed. The ground became water, and they dropped inexorably down into the endless sea.

Xander panicked, thrashing about as he tried to stay on the surface. He looked around, but saw nothing. Elan was gone.


He searched from side to side, but couldn't see her anywhere. He had just regained control enough when suddenly he was grasped by something from under the water and pulled under. He screamed into the air, until the water closed over his head and drowned out the sound.

Xander held his breath, struggling against the clenching grip that drew him inexorably down.

Thirty seconds.

A minute.



He looked around in confusion as he realized that he wasn't running out of air. His lungs weren't burning. Tentatively he relaxed. He even drew a breath, slowly, carefully. He didn't need to but it felt natural.

He looked down.

"Elan!" Xander screamed, outraged as he saw her smirking form holding his kicking legs and keeping him under water.

Her rippling laughter floated up to him, "I told you, Alexander. You don't need to breath here. And I notice that the water doesn't seem to be blocking your speech either."

Xander rage burned itself out as quickly as it had formed, but he still wasn't happy. "You scared the crap out of me, Elan!"

She laughed again, "I know."

Xander glared at her impotently, but that only caused her to laugh harder as she let him go and kicked away. "Elan!"

Xander kicked after her, his limbs flailing to catch up to her as she effortlessly glided away from him. Try as he did he couldn't catch up to her. She would glide in from the murky waters around him, tag him once, and fade into the depths with ease.

"Cut that out!"

Her voice echoed back, rippling through the water around him. "Stop me if you can..."

He growled and swung around in the water, looking for her. <Where is she!?>

Another flash of movement, and he felt a hard rap on the back of his left shoulder. But as he turned she vanished in another flicker of rippling motion.

"Come back here!" He yelled through the water that surrounded his head and kicked off after the motion.

The only answer was a rippling laugh that came out of the murky surroundings.

It took him time, but he soon learned that willing himself to move was faster then trying to swim. Clumsier, but faster. Xander flashed through the water, flying more then swimming as he willed himself after the rippling flashes of light and motion.

"Better!" Elan called from just ahead.

Xander caught sight of her and flew after her.

Elan paused and floated in the water ahead of him, her long blue-green hair floating free in the easy currents around her. "Come on, child... you have much yet to learn."

Xander growled at her taunting tone and willed himself after her.

She grinned at him as he approached, then arced her back and looked up. Her body flashed upwards, cutting clean through the water, and vanished from sight in a second. Xander glared upwards and then gave chase.

He cut through the air/water interface and was dozens of feet in the air before he realized it.

Suddenly assaulted by a wave of vertigo, Xander began to fall. Below him the water was gone and he could see Elan standing below him, looking up.

"Elan!" He screamed as he flashed back down through the air and impacted with the ground.

Elanthielle grinned down at Xander as he peeled himself off the ground. "If this were the real world I'd say that looked like it hurt."

"Of course it hurt!" Xander growled, not noticed that he wasn't actually in pain. "I just fell five stories onto the ground!"

She kept grinning. "Where does it hurt?"

"I... Ever.... ummmm" Xander looked down.

He was whole, and in no pain. His clothes were even in perfect shape. No dirt, water, or damage. He looked up ruefully and rubbed the back of his head. "Ummm... I guess nowhere."

She just grinned at him. "How did you enjoy flying?"

"Up until the falling part it was pretty cool."

She laughed, "It's not the fall, Alexander. It's the sudden stop."

Xander laughed along with her this time. "You have a point."

Elan looked serious then, "But here, the stop is only so bad as you allow it to be. This place is of the mind."

She looked around, "Your mind actually."


"The dreaming is..." She seemed to search for the words, "A very large place. But this, is only a part. This aspect is... comparable to your apartment in the real world. You have absolute control here."

Xander grimaced, "You seem to be in more control then me."

She smiled, "I'm... riding on your control. Guiding it. This place is of your creation."

Xander looked around. "That's disturbing."

Elan smiled, "This is a reflection of your unconscious mind... Your inner self. Your Soul, in a way. But I've told you this before."

Xander nodded.

"Today," Elan said, "It's the larger world I wish to show you."

She waved her hands and the sky changed. It became night, and thousands... millions of stars dotted the sky. Xander looked up. "Wow."

"Beautiful, isn't it?"

Xander nodded.

"Fly to them."


Elan laughed and rose into the air, "Fly!"

Xander watched her rise up, and swallowed. "Here goes nothing." he muttered.

Slowly, unsteadily, he rose into the air. Following behind Elanthielle. He gained speed slowly, but steadily, as he rose up. A few dozen feet. A couple hundred. Then... disaster.

He stopped. His will couldn't push him up anymore, and suddenly he began to fall again.

"ELAN!" He screamed all the way down.

Then he smashed into the dirt for the second time.

"Ouch. Ouch. Ouch." Xander said reflexively as he peeled himself out of the dirt again.

Elan laughed.

He looked up, she was hovering just above him. "You just hit the barrier of your own mind. Beyond that point lies a realm that connects all of the infinite realities. The one truly universal constant is the dreaming, Alexander. Every sentient species in existence is represented there."

Xander dusted himself off. "You let me slam into that barrier without telling me?"

She sighed in annoyance, "Did you listen to the rest of what I said?"

"Yeah yeah, infinite realities, sentient dreamers... yadda yadda yadda." Xander muttered, "let's talk about you letting me slam into the ground again."

Elanthielle let out a breath of exasperation. "You are a truly simple soul, Alexander."

"Thanks..." Xander said, then he looked up. "Hey!"

A week later

"Everything in here is representational, Alexander."


Elan sighed, "Nothing is quite what it seems... everything you see has a deeper meaning."

"Oooo kay." Xander drawled. "So what do the stars represent?"

Elanthielle smiled and looked up at the spectacular 'sky' above them. "That would depend on when you look."


She laughed, that same liquid sound that rippled through Xander's mind. "Right now those are dreamers."

Rather then say 'huh' again, Xander elected to shut up and wait for her to explain. Elan looked at him with an amused look, clearly seeing his confusion written across his face. "Those represent other people and their own 'dream worlds'.

"Whoa." Xander looked up, seeing a glimmer of what she was trying to explain. "You mean... those are... real people?"

Elan smiled, "Precisely."


She shrugged, "Barring a few who, like you, are learning or have learned how to control their aspect in this realm."

"How rare is that?"

"Today?" Elan said, "Very rare among humans. Not quite so rare among demons... but you won't see any vampires up there."


"The dead are not part of the dreaming..."

"Oh." Xander looked up again, "You said it's not so rare for a demon to have that control?"


"Can they... I... What can they do?"

She frowned, "It depends. Some are simply dreamers like humans. Most even. But some can actually attack people in their dreams... even kill them."

"Whoa. Like Freddy."


Xander smirked, "Freddie Krueger... a movie monster. He kills kids in their dreams."

"Like that?" Elan asked, pointing behind him.

Xander turned around and screamed.

Behind him, Freddie Krueger was standing with a threatening leer on his face. His razor sharp bladed glove extending toward Xander. "Fresh meat."

"Ahhhh!" Xander leapt back, slipping into a defensive stance.

Elanthielle laughed. "Relax, Alexander. You created him."

"I what?"

The Freddie figure advanced menacingly on Xander, his gloved hand cocking back as he approached.

"You created him." She repeated simply.

"How?" Xander recoiled from the slashing attack of the figure.

"You imagined him into being. You dreamed him up."

"How do I get rid of him?" Xander grunted out as he dodged another blow.

Elan shrugged, grinning at the show. "Stop fighting him. He is being fed by your fear now."

"Stop...!?" Xander looked at her as if she was nuts. "He's trying to slice and dice me like a damned Ginsu knife!"

Elan glared at Xander now, her amusement fading. "For goodness sake, Alexander! You created him. Are you suicidal??"

"What!? No!"

"Then he can't hurt you."

Xander swallowed and stopped dodging, staring at the figure with unease. "You better be right about this."

Elan said nothing.

Freddie pulled back his gloved hand to strike, his coarse voice echoing across the dreamscape. "One, two. Freddie's come for you..."

The glove slashed downward and Xander flinched, his eyes slamming shut.

A few seconds later he opened them again, and Freddie was no where to be seen. He swallowed deeply and looked around. When his eyes lit on Elan she grinned at him and gave him her best 'I told you so' look.

"Real funny." He muttered.

"I thought so."

"Very good, Alexander." Elanthielle said, smiling. "You'll be ready soon."

"For what?"

"To travel beyond your own mind."

Xander swallowed, "Is this a good thing?"

"It is... necessary." Elanthielle said.


Elan sighed, "Because in order for you to become more capable in wielding me, you must be fortified. Mind, body, and Soul. You *must* become stronger, more controlled. I've shown you how to heal yourself... that's body. This... this is Mind. It is a step in strengthening your mind so you don't snap if, and when, you are forced to channel a sizable portion of my power."

Xander took a deep breath. "Ok... If you say so."

"I do."

"Push." Elan ordered.

Xander strained against the barrier, his entire will bent against it as he tried to force his way up. Far below him the ground spun dizzingly as he floating far above it, staring up through the invisible barrier that held him in place.

"I can't!" He gritted out, still trying to climb higher.

"You're almost through!" Elan said, "Do not stop now!"

Xander didn't reply, he didn't have the energy. His vision was sparkling with lights as he strained harder. Lights that suddenly shifted, and entered into a pattern. He felt/heard a humming in his ears, a humming that spread to his entire body. It gained in power until it felt like he was touching a live wire, an electrical charge rushing through him.

Suddenly the strain was gone and he was rushing up. Beside him, Elan was yelling out joyously. "You did it!"

He blinked and looked over beside him. Elan was spiraling up beside him, whooping and yelling with joy.


"It has been a long time, Alexander."

He looked at her in confusion.

She smiled, coming closer to him. Her hand brushed against his face. "I am bound to the mind with which I am joined. I can not leave your mind, unless you do. It can become... constricting."

Xander tilted his head, not quite understanding. "I thought you had linked to others before?"

"I have... but only light links. Barely touching their minds..." She explained, "Just enough to learn what is passing me by. It has been... a very very long time since I was linked strongly enough to a mind that was powerful enough to learn these lessons. I thank you."


She laughed, "Come, Alexander. let us... explore."

"Explore what?"

She pointed to the closest stars, "Dreams, child. Dreams."

The darkness loomed around her, pushing in from all sides. It weighed down on her, stooping her shoulders as she struggled under its oppressive weight, until she couldn't breath because of the pressure.

Then the whispers started.

"You failed..."

"They died.... died... died..."

"You were never strong enough... it should have been you... not them... them..."

She tried to deny the whispers, but she couldn't. After all, they were in her voice.

She fell to one knee as the dark pushed down even harder.

"I failed..." She sobbed.

Xander looked around, disoriented. "Elan? Where are you?"

"Here, Alexander."

Xander jumped in surprise as the armored form of Elanthielle appeared out of the darkness surrounding him. "Jeez!" He said, holding her hand over his heart, "Don't DO that!"

"Sorry." She said seriously, looking around a little nervously.

Xander calmed down. "What is it?"

"I'm not sure where we are."


She shrugged, "Relax. I don't mean that we're lost. You can't get 'lost' in the dreaming... not exactly anyway. You always have a lifeline back to your body."

"So what do you mean?"

"Exactly what I said."


"I do not know where... 'here' is."

Xander shook his head, "Well... how did we get here?"

Elan frowned, "I followed the closest link you had... I thought that, until I got used to movement in the dreamtime again, it would be safer to explore close to home."


Elan looked around, frustrated. "So, do you see anything you recognize!?"

"I don't see anything at all... It's too dark."

Elan nodded. "So... who are you close to that has this much darkness in their soul?"

Xander pondered that for a second, only one name coming to mind.

At that moment a female scream of despair rent the air.

He turned and bolted toward the sound, a name on his lips. "Faith!"

The whispers picked up, assaulting her from all directions as she flailed against the oppressive darkness.

"You're worthless..."


"You bring death..."


"No one is safe when you're around..."

"No one..."

She screamed again. "NOOOO!"

For an instant, the force of her scream and the presence she put behind it caused the darkness to falter for an instant. It quailed back, but only for a second, then it regrouped and surrounded her once more.

Beaten, nearly broken, she slipped to one knee again. Her shoulders hunched as she collapsed before the weight of the darkness. She looked up, blond hair framing her tear streaked face. "I'm sorry..."

"Buffy!" Xander cried in shock, as he tried to move to her side.

Elanthielle's hand clamped down on his shoulder.

"Let me go! She needs help!"

Elan shook her head, her blue-green hair drifting in the non-existent breeze like it had a life of its own. "Interfering in someone's dreams can have unforeseen effects."

"I don't care!"

"Alexander!" Her voice snapped out like a whip. "Wait and see. Wait and see. Remember, she is in no danger from her own mind so long as she does not wish to be."

Xander cast a worried look to where the blond figure was crumpling under the weight of the darkness around her. "And if she does?"

Elan's voice was solemn, "Then not even you can save her... but look... she's strong, and her mind isn't ready to give up the fight yet... It's already preparing her counter attack."

On one knee, she shuddered. She was so cold, the darkness was seeping through her skin, reaching for her organs and freezing them in place.

She gasped as her breath froze in her throat. "I'm sorry..." She said again, closing her eyes in defeat.

She almost missed the soft light that appeared in the distance. It flickered against her eyelids, causing her to open her eyes wide. She looked at the approaching light, growing brighter as it approached from the distance.

With the light came warmth again. And strength.

She forced her way to her feet, pushing against the weight of the inky blackness that had permeated her very being. And still the light grew.

It became a figure that walked with calm confidence, a figure she knew and recognized.

"Xander." She whispered.

"Hello Buffy." He said, his smile was as brilliant as the rest of him, permeated in an inner glow that made everything he touched seem to glow with hope.

"You saved me."

He shrugged. "Not really."

She looked around, "Seems that way to me."

He smiled, "I know."

"I don't understand." She looked at him, puzzled.

His hand reached out and caressed her face. She half closed her eyes and leaned into the touch, thrilling in the energy she felt in him.

"I know that too." he whispered gently, "But you will... some day."

She shook her head, still confused. The her eyes widened in alarm as he turned to leave. "Don't leave me, Xander!"

He looked back, the same brilliant smile touching his lips. "I never have, Buffy."

Then he faded into the brilliant light he had brought to this place, and only his words remained.

"And I never will..."

Xander swallowed. "Let's go."

Elanthielle didn't answer, she was looking around the, now more cheerful, environment.

"I said let's go." He repeated.


"We... I don't belong here."

Elan shook her head and followed him as he left. "She cares for you deeply, Alexander... perhaps even l...."

"Don't." Xander snapped, cutting her off.

"What?" Elan asked, bewildered.

"That can't happen." Xander said firmly. "Ever."

Then he walked off, leaving a very confused ensouled weapon in his wake.

Mid Jan Dreamtime

"What's on the script this evening?"

Elanthielle looked up from where she was sitting, cross-legged, by the glittering water of the lake. "That would depend, Alexander."

Xander arced an eyebrow, "Oh yeah? On what?"

"On you."

Xander smirked, "Cut the cryptic act, Elan. It doesn't fit you."

Elan smiled, "We could explore some more."

Xander shook his head, "No way. I'm sorry, Elan, but I can't go peeking into my friends heads like that..."

She nodded, "Very well... perhaps something... more strenuous?"

Xander looked at her oddly.

"If you are, as you say, 'up' to it?"

Xander mock leered at her, "Is that a proposal?"

Elan laughed and smacked him lightly, "Get your head out of the sewer that your current bedmate has drug you into."

Xander grinned, "Sorry. So, am I up for what?"

"For some real exploring."

Xander tilted his head curiously.

Xander looked up, "We've been here before."

"Not precisely." Elan grinned, "Remember what I told you about perception?"

Xander shrugged, "Sure. You said that nothing is exactly what it seems. So?"

"So, what are these Stars?" She waved her hand at the night sky.


She shook her head.

"Not dreamers?"

She nodded.

"Ok, now you're confusing me."

Elan laughed. "Remember, the stars are simply how you perceive the information the dreaming is presenting to you."


"So, this time they represent something else."




She smiled again, "This time the stars are representative of a much larger reality. Or realities. Each point of light is a sub-domain of the dreaming. Each sub-domain is attached to a separate dimension."

Xander looked up and frowned. "You know, this could be simpler."

Elan shrugged, "Don't blame me. It's your mind."

Xander curled up his lip and shot her a look of disgust. "How do you tell the difference?"

"You don't..." She said slowly, "You just... know."


Xander pondered her words and looked up at the night sky. In truth, he had to admit, there were certain differences apparent in the sky from what he had seen before. This sky looked like something out of a science fiction movie. Multicolored nebulas and twining links of light seemed to connect some of the points of light to other nearby stars. Looking around he immediately picked out several 'nearby' stars that seemed to connect to where he was standing.

"What are the interconnected stars?"

"Realities that are extremely close to one another, or realities that have dimensional gateways that connect each other."

Xander nodded slowly. He looked at one of the links that connected to their own 'reality'. It was a dark red and black star that pulsed against the sky. "Is that what I think it is?"

"The Hellmouth." Elan confirmed. "I would not recommend visiting that place."

Xander shuddered. "Don't worry."

Xander fell silent as he looked up at the sky. He known about alternate dimensions for some time now, living on the Hellmouth sort of kicked him in the teeth in that regard. But, despite his comic book collection, he hadn't realized or imagined how many there were. He couldn't begin to count the number of stars in the sky, and he suspected that there were meany more just out of reach of his eyes... or mind... or whatever it was that he was looking at them with.

Then he looked up, and saw something curious. "Elan... What's that?"

He pointed, and Elanthielle looked toward the spot he indicated. She frowned. "I do not know."

Off at an odd angle in the sky was a very bright star. So bright, in fact, that it was practically a sun. Xander shook his head at the non-sequitur. All stars were suns, but this one seemed close enough to be the sun for the place he stood at.

"How close is it?"

Elanthielle's focused on it for a moment, muttering as she did. "That was NOT there the last time I was exploring."

"How long ago was that?" Xander muttered under his breath.

"What was that?" She snapped around to look at him, an amused scowl on his face.

"Nothing..." He grinned back.

"I'm sure." She turned her attention back to the star. It was a remarkable sight, not only was the light substantially brighter then anything else in the sky but there were patterns of light visible within its structure. "It is very far away... but very very large and well structured."

"What does that mean?"

"I am not certain." Elan admitted. "Dreamworlds are not normally a very structured environment. They flow with the breath and beat of the people that inhabit them... I have never see anything like this."

Xander let a slow smile cross his face, "Wanna check it out?"

A gleam entered Elanthielle's eyes, but she frowned. "It could be dangerous, Alexander. Outside of your mind and body you would be vulnerable to psychic attack."

Xander nodded and mused about that for a second. "We'll be careful... I'm curious. Besides, its not like my home life is all that safe anyway."

Elanthielle muttered something that Xander didn't quite catch, though he thought he caught the words 'bedding' and 'Slayer'.

"What was that!?" He looked at her with an amused glare.


"Right." he snickered, then looked up at their far off destination and concentrated.

The two figures lifted off the ground and flew toward the light.

It was a typical modern city. Xander shrugged as they walked down the sidewalk. Skyscrapers, bright sunlight streaming down. He didn't see anything unusual at all. When he told Elan as much she snorted.

"*That*, Alexander, is what is unusual. Dreamworlds fluctuate, then ebb and flow with the current of the mind. This place is far too stable."

"Is that a bad thing?"

This time it was Elan's turn to shrug, "I do not know."

Xander stopped, noting at last that the people who were walking past them were all staring at them as they did. He glanced at himself and then at Elan.

He was dressed, more or less, the way he had been all day. Black leather pants, white dress shirt, black leather biker's jacket with armored inserts. He had gotten used to wearing the leather armor since Jarod had given him the BMW and it was starting to come out in his dream persona.

Elan, on the other hand, was dressed in her trademark semi-armor that revealed considerably more then it concealed. Her aqua hair color and tattoo didn't help matters.

"Uhh... Elan?" He said slowly, "Maybe you should change clothes?"

Elan looked down, and blushed. "I forgot. It has been a long time since such things mattered."

She stepped into an Alley, and Xander casually moved to block her from site. A few seconds later she stepped back out and he whistled in appreciation. "Very nice."

"Why thank you, Alexander." She grinned, twirling around on one heel to show off her new look.

She was dressed in leather biker armor herself, but the color scheme was more in keeping with her own preferences. White leather jacket, with blue and green accents, that fitted tight to her form, hugging her ample curves. No undershirt, and the jacket was only zipped up halfway, showing a slightly excessive amount of cleavage... or not enough, depending on your point of view. Her pants were as tight as the jacket and matched the color scheme perfectly.

The two continued to walk down the road, and continued to draw stairs. Only now they were looks of appreciation and lust directed at the pair of them, Xander was surprised to note, rather then the looks of shock and surprise they had garnered earlier. He grinned, he could handle this better.

The group watched the building carefully.

"It's time."

They all nodded and surreptitiously checked their firearms. One by one they stepped out of the back alley, squinting in the brilliant sunlight as they slipped on sunglasses and patted their jackets to feel the comforting weight of the weapons concealed beneath.

Xander and Elan stopped at the corner of the block, looking up and down the streets in four directions as they tried to decide what to do next.

"Well this sucks."

Elanthielle raised her eyebrow under the ornate tattoo, and looked at him. "Excuse me?"

Xander looked disgusted, "Well, I was expecting something... cool."

"Cool?" She enunciated carefully.

"Well... yeah." Xander said, "I mean... this is supposed to be some alternate dimension or something right?"


"Well... it looks suspiciously like... well, I think Sidney Australia..."


"Never mind." Xander shook his head in disgust, "This place is more normal then home."

"You live on the Hellmouth, Alexander... Normal isn't a word I would use to describe your home."

"Ok, so you have a point there," Xander conceded, "But I still..."

Xander suddenly stopped in place, his eyes locking onto a group that had just crossed the street. They moved in calm unison, walking as if they owned the street, the buildings, the very world they surveyed. But... But something about them drew his eye, triggered an internal alarm that he didn't really understand.

"What is it, Alexander?"

Xander was silent as he watched the group stride into the government building just ahead of him. "Those people. They're armed to the teeth."

Elan looked at the group as they vanished into the building, then back at Xander. "How do you know?"

Xander shook his head. "I'm not really sure... Just... Impressions. The way their coats bulged, the way the walked... something else..."


"They're... supremely confident... and scared to death." Xander said in confusion.

Elan didn't reply. She just looked at the building the group had entered with an equal amount o concern and curiosity.

"Neo, you and Trinity take the room." The black man ordered. "Lark, Singer, and myself will hold this floor."

The man in black nodded and turned to his task. He didn't bother to reply with words because he knew the plan, and he knew that the others did as well. Beside him a brunette in skin tight leather followed him down the hall of the government building, toward the mainframe housed in a cold room in the back.

That computer was the digital representation of a network node that the resistance could make good use of. But first he had to get to it.

Piece of cake.

Xander hadn't started to move again, he just stood where he was and looked through the crowd. "Something's changed."

Elan looked around herself. "I know."


She shook her head, "I am uncertain, Alexander. But something has just been changed in the very environment around us."

Xander frowned. Whatever it was the change was subtle, and powerful. Both were extremely difficult to manage in a dreamworld. At least for Xander.

Singer looked around and blinked. "Whoa. Deja Vu."

Morpheus snapped around and looked at her sharply, "What?"

She shook her head, "Just a case of Deja vu."

"What did you see?"

She shrugged, it was hardly important.

Morpheus took a step toward her, "Deja Vu occurs when they make a change in the Matrix. Now what did you see!?"

She swallowed and almost took a step away from him. "I just felt a chill... I felt the same when we first walked in..."

"Exactly the same!?" Morpheus asked sharply.

"I don't know..." She admitted, "maybe."

Morpheus pulled out a cellphone and snapped it open, "Tank."


"Tank, this is Morpheus."

"Yes Sir?"

"Check the screens. We might have walked into a trap."

"Yes Sir."

The well muscled man looked over the black screens with their pouring green symbols. He didn't see anything out of the ordinary and was about to tell his boss that when something grabbed his eye.


"Got it."

Morpheus snapped the phone shut and looked around, "Lark, get Neo and Trinity. Singer, break out the big stuff."

Singer swallowed and dropped the attache case she was carrying to a desktop. Snapping it open she pulled out a stubby, folded weapon. She snapped it straight and tossed it to Morpheus.

He caught the M-79 easily and held out his hand. A second later a small bandoleer of hi-ex 40mm shells followed and he dropped on into the weapon, snapping it shut with a hollow noise.

"Get ready."

Singer swallowed again and pulled a pair of MP5-K's from under her long coat. "As I'll ever be."

"Alexander..." Elan stared, "Look at that building..."

Xander looked to the government building, not sure what he was looking for. "What is it?"

"The doors... windows... they changed color."

"Huh?" He looked closer.

The doors and windows now had a definite blue tint, visible even from where he stood. "Bullet proof glass."

Elan raised an eyebrow, "You are certain?"

Xander nodded.

"Why on earth would they resort to something so... mundane?"

Honestly, Xander didn't know. The Dreaming was considerably more flexible then that, and it allowed for much more creative solutions to problems. "Maybe... I don't know..." he admitted.

Suddenly they heard sirens approaching, and in seconds the place was flooded with police and SWAT units.

"Shit." Xander muttered, backing carefully against the wall as he watched the activity.

Elanthielle didn't say anything. She merely stepped into place beside Xander and leaned carefully against the wall.

"Neo!" Lark was breathless when she burst into the room, "It's a trap!"

Neo looked around sharply, "What?"

Before she could respond he had turned away again, looking outward as if he could see through the walls. "Yes. You're right. Damn it. I should have seen this."

Trinity laid a hand gently on his shoulder, "You can't see everything, Neo. Not even you, not even here."

He nodded, but his face didn't clear. "We have to hurry. The Agents will be here soon."

Lark looked confused, "Hurry? We have to get out of here?"

"No. We need access to this node."

"It's probably just a fake, Neo." Lark said, "They wouldn't have used a real node for bait."

Neo shook his head, "No. It's real. I would be able to tell the difference if it weren't. And it knows that."

Lark looked confused. "It?"

"The Matrix."

Xander and Elan leaned against the wall, arms folded on the chests, and watched the events with interest. The didn't look out of place, human nature being what it was, there were a ton of others displaying as much or more interest in the events as they were.

The police and SWAT units were pouring over the government plaza, mostly snapping orders to people who weren't listening and trying to appear as anything but the ineffectual force they were.

"Cops remind me of Sunnydale police."

Elan didn't bother to dignify the comment with a response. She hadn't learned much respect for modern police forces in her time with Alexander, but they *were* police. And that, at least, was sufficient for her to hold them in some esteem.

"Feebs are in charge." Xander muttered, "Must be a federal building."

"Excuse me?"

"The guy's in the suits. They're snapping orders, and the uniforms don't like 'em. That makes 'em federal officers... if the laws here are like home then that must be a federal building. Makes it their jurisdiction."

Elan shook her head, "Perhaps. But look at the 'suits' more closely, Alexander. Tell me what you see."

Xander did.

"What the hell?" he whispered.


To Elan and, recently, Xander's eyes the grey suited agents directing the police movements stood out like a magnesium flare in a darkened room.

"Jesus." Xander muttered, "Those guys are packing some major power."

"Tightly focused as well." Elan added. "Though perhaps not as powerful as they seem..."


"They are more controlled then anything I have seen, Alexander." Elan said slowly, "But I am unsure as to how much power they actually have in reserve... what we see... may actually be all they have."

Xander didn't answer. He knew that the strength of a person in the dreaming was based primarily in the persons 'will'. But in humans the reserve energy below the surface far out weighed anything visible on the surface. If Elan was right, then these federal agents were extremely dangerous, but perhaps not as bad as they seemed. Perhaps.


Morpheus just nodded and stepped back. "You might want to take cover."

Singer glanced back and swallowed. Morpheus lifted the M-79 and leveled it at the, now bulletproof and locked, door just as three agents stepped up to the vertical piece of glass. Singer dove for cover, pulling a desk over on its side and covering her ears.

Agent Jones touched the door handle with an indifferent confidence, only pausing for a split second to glance inside. His eyes widened.

A tall black man was on the far end of the lobby, pointing a very impressive weapon directly at him. "Oh..."

"... Hell."

Morpheus grinned as he read the Agent's lips through the blue-green tinted glass. He depressed the trigger and felt the M-79 buck in his hand.

The world slowed to a crawl as the 40mm high explosive grenade leapt clear of the barrel of the stubby weapon. It flew across the room, trailing sparks and smoke, and slammed into the large, bulletproof, doors.

The flame and the concussion swept back over Morpheus, who just let it sweep past him like water over a sandy beach.

Xander jumped as the explosion deafened his eardrums. He watched the two enforced doors rip clear off the hinges, picking the three federal agents up and throwing them along with the cracked glass doors back into a SWAT van.

He winced. No one deserved that. He turned his attention back to the building.

"Xander." Elan laid a hand on his shoulder.


"The bodies."

The three Agents crumpled against the van and slid to the ground, green light flickering like electrical energy across their bodies as they changed into normal uniformed cops.

Oddly, none of the local police noticed. Of course, the majority of them were far more interested in laying every round they had into the first floor of the federal building.

Neo flinched as he heard the explosion, but didn't turn around. He stayed focused on the computer he was hacking.

"They've put some major encryption on this."

Trinity just nodded, two big pistols in each hand, and watched the door. "You should hurry."

"I'm working on it."

Trinity rolled her eyes and flicked off the safeties on her two pistols, aiming them down the hallway.

"What the hell?" Xander muttered as he watched the three feds approach the building again, their Desert Eagle pistols held in single handed grips as they ordered the police to stand down.

Elan didn't answer. She didn't have one to offer. Instead she turned to Xander with a semi-smile, "Is this weird enough for you, Alexander?"

Xander actually snorted involuntarily. "Yeah, I think this will do."

Morpheus retreated into the building, the M-79 hanging from a shoulder strap, firing back in the direction of the lobby. "Neo....! We have to get moving!"

He heard Neo's quiet voice drift back to him on the digital air. "I'm almost done."

"Hurry up." Morpheus' voice was calm, but the order was clear.

Neo didn't look up as Morpheus entered the room. "I'm almost done... Whoa."

"What?" Trinity snapped around.

"Check this out." Neo moved aside so they could see the screen.

"Jesus Christ." Trinity swore, "This node must connect to three quarters of the Matrix."

"Only the best bait for Neo." Morpheus said approvingly. "Now lets move!"

Neo nodded and got to his feat, as he grabbed his guns from the table they heard a familiar voice echo down the hall.

"Oh, Mister Anderson!"

Neo looked at Morpheus, "It can't be."

"Oh, Mister Anderson!"

Agent Smith casually stepped over the debris and looked around the lobby. He smiled and shook his head at the destruction. Morpheus and his team were many things, but subtle wasn't one of them. He hefted the big chrome Desert Eagle and walked into the room, followed closely by Agent's Jones and Brown.

"Come now, Mister Anderson," he yelled down the hall, "Must we really go through this again?"

He smiled again when the familiar figure, garbed in black, stepped out of the computer room and faced him.

"My name," Neo said slowly and deliberately. "Is Neo."

Xander looked at the smoking debris that was left across the government plaza and shook his head, "Whoever those guys were they play for keeps."

Elanthielle nodded, "They certainly seem to believe in excessive force."

"Yeah." Xander stared at the cops, who were now milling about outside as if waiting for instructions. "Terrorists I guess."

Elan shrugged.

"Hello, Mister Anderson."

Neo shook his head and advanced on Agent Smith, "Some people just don't learn."

Agent Smith stood his ground and met Neo face to face. "Come now, Mister Anderson. Never underestimate your opponent. You never know what they have up their... sleeve."

Neo swung out, a fast jab to the Agent's throat. Smith intercepted it easily, grabbing his wrist and twisting it around. Neo winced as he spun around, ripping his arm free, and lashed out with a kick at the Agent's knee.

Smith smiled and lifted his knee up, catching the force of Neo's kick on the meaty part of his lower leg. He lashed out a back hand at Neo's face with his Desert Eagle as the young rebel complete his spin.

Neo ducked and twisted, letting the pistol pass a few millimeters above his eyes in a near miss.

"You're slowing down, Mister Anderson."

Neo stepped back and eyed the Agent warily. <No time for games.>

He shook himself, flexing his muscles as he prepared to decompile the Agents code. In a lightning fast move he lunged at the Agent...

... And bounced back.

"What?" neo muttered from the ground as he shook his head.

"Just call me... Smith two point oh." Agent smith smiled at the stricken young rebel.

"Oh..." Trinity muttered.

"Shit." Singer finished.

"Looks like the excitement's over." Xander said as he looked at the satisfied expressions that had passed over the faces of the two federal agents who had remained outside. They had touched their ear pieces and looked at each other, nodding.

"Perhaps." Elan's focus remained on the building. "Perhaps not."

"Huh?" Xander said, turning to look at her. "What's that?"

"Turn your focus on the building, Alexander. Look within."

Xander looked at the building, trying to blank out it's physical structure in his mind. Slowly he began to feel something emanating from the building. "Holy shit."

Elan nodded.

"What is that?"

"I believe that the word 'who' would be more accurate, Alexander."

Neo scrambled to his feet and stared at the Agent. "Nice encryption."

"I'm glad you... approve, Mister Anderson."

Neo nodded and faced the Agent, "Morpheus... get the others out of here."

Agent Smith didn't respond, but Jones and Brown spread out and prepared to intercept anyone who tried to leave. The Rebels glanced at each other and nodded. As one they stepped up to stand by Neo's side.

"Morpheus?" Neo said, uncertainly.

"Not this time, Neo." Morpheus said quietly, breathing deeply as he focused his mind.

Neo shook his head, "Trinity?"

"Not gonna happen, Neo."

"Singer? Lark?"

They were silent.

"Alright then." Neo muttered, "Let's do this."

Xander took a few steps toward the police line, almost against his will as he felt the power focus inside the building. "Holy shit."

Elan stepped up beside him, looking around at the police and spectators. "I do not think the realize what is happening."

Xander shook his head, "This is gonna get bad, isn't it Elan?"

"I do not know." She admitted, "In a normal dreamscape? No... the most that would happen is some people would wake up with cold sweats and racing hearts. But the rules and structure here are imposed by something else..."

"People could get hurt?"

"They could die."

Xander swallowed as the feeling of power spike and a sudden crash brought his attention back to the building.

Bulletproof, shatterproof, and impact resistant glass was turned into shards of bulletproof, shatterproof, impact resistant particles as two women came flying through the lobby's huge windows. The sprawled along the pavement and came to a stop at the feet of a group of SWAT officers.

Xander blinked an almost missed it as both women sprang to their feet with lightning speed and disarmed the SWAT team in seconds, turning heir own guns on the officers and pulling the triggers.

"No!" A cry died in Xander throat as the officers fell under the hail of bullets and the rest of the cops ducked for cover.

"Get down, Alexander!" Elan grabbed him from behind and hauled him to the ground, covering his body with hers.

The two Agents had opened fire, taking little if any precautions against harming bystanders or even the local cops. The two terrorists had returned fire in like manner.

"They're both nuts!" Xander muttered as a hail of bullets ripped through the wall behind them.

Two more yells and crashes announced the arrival of two agents and a man and woman from inside the building. They were grappling with each other as they burst out into the plaza.

As those four hit the ground rolling, gouging, and kicking, a fifth crash sounded as one of the federal agents crashed through one of the upper windows and flew over a hundred feet into the crowds.

Xander winced as he hit the ground and bowled over a dozen spectators. The agent got to his feet and glared back into the building. "MISTER ANDERSON!"

A silence fell over the plaza. The gunfire trickled down as cops, agents, and rebels alike stopped to look to the shattered front face of the government building. A man in black jeans, tight shirt, and an array of empty weapons holsters stepped out into the plaza.

"Let's do this."

The agent growled and charged the man in black.

"Holy." Xander whispered as he watched the two men go at it.

They were moving at blinding speed, speed that made his eyes water as he tried to follow them. Then Xander cursed himself and forced his eyes *to* follow them. As he poured his will and focus onto the task the world slowed down and he began to follow the fight.

It was eerie, actually. The men moved at normal speed, but all around them the world was at a standstill. As they exchanged punches and kicks Xander could see and practically count the particles of smoke that had still been drifting up from the wrecked doors and the SWAT van.

"Remarkable." Elanthielle said from where she had rolled beside him.

Xander looked over at her, almost surprised. She had altered her speed without a thought, or so it seemed to him. "It's more the that..." Xander whispered.

The two combatants were throwing each other into the SWAT and police vehicles, using the tons of steel around them as their weapons. Neither had access to any firearms, presumably lost in their earlier battles.

"Should we get involved?" Xander asked.

"On which side?" Elanthielle muttered.

Xander had to admit that she had a point. While the cops themselves seemed to be reacting like cops, the Agents had no care for the lives around them. Not any more then the terrorists seemed to. "Maybe we should try to clear the area? Get the civilians out at least?"

Elan looked around. "They are mostly gone, Alexander."

Xander looked around in shock. She was right, the spectators had broken and ran after the shooting started. "Smart people."

The two warriors climbed back to their feet and continued to watch the battle royal that was unfolding before their eyes.

"Jeez," Xander muttered, "I am so glad that vamps can't move like that."

Elan shrugged, "There are worse things then vampires on our world, Alexander."

Xander shot her a worried look but couldn't get up the courage to ask.

Neo and Smith broke away from each other. The nodded, almost respectfully, and began circling.

"That's some upgrade you have there."

"You've made some improvements as well."

"Still just a machine, you know."

"And you are still merely a virii masquerading as a mammal."

Neo smiled and flexed his arms, causing tendons and bone to pop audibly.

Smith casually removed his sunglasses, damaged as they were, and cricked his neck in response. He looked around the plaza calmly. "You can't win you know. There are far too many hosts available to me here. Even if you kill this one, I'll be on you in an instant from another direction. I can be patient and wear you down."

Neo didn't reply. He merely got ready for the next round.

Xander and Elan found themselves staring at the combatants as they prepared to move into another bout. They weren't alone, all of the local cops and SWAT teams were staring at the fight in shock. Even the other federal agents and terrorists were standing back and observing the fight, but their expressions were a mix of anticipation and worry. To Xander it looked like they were watching a prize fight that they had a ton of cash riding on.

The fighters were moving at lightning speed, throwing and blocking blows with uncanny skill and precision. Xander winced as the shots started to fly faster and faster until even his best attempts to follow the fight were useless.

"Holy..." He whispered.

Beside him Elan watched the fight with an intensity he had never seen in her. Her pupils were flickering at highspeed, making her look like she was in REM sleep with her eyes open.

"Jeez, Elan..." Xander muttered, "Can you follow that?"

"With some difficulty, Alexander." She responded, "They are very fast."

"No shit." Xander curled his lips in derision. "I figured that out for myself."

"I've seen faster."


"And in the real world as well." Elan said. "People so fast that they seem to be standing still. You never know what hit you."

"Great." Xander muttered, "That's real nice to know."

Elan shrugged.

Neo broke off the fight, this time he was breathing hard. He hadn't felt this kind of fear in the Matrix since his first fight with Agent Smith. Smith was the monster of his nightmares, a monster that had been haunting his dreams ever since the day he died.

"Come now, Mister Anderson." Smith smiled, "Is that the best you can do?"

And that was the crux of the problem. Was that the best he could do? Neo wasn't sure. He'd never had to do better. Until this moment he hadn't had a challenge in the Matrix, at least not since the moment he opened his eyes and feeling the bullets from Smith's Desert Eagle being absorbed into his system.

Suddenly he smiled.

Smith looked at him oddly, "Why are you smiling?"

"Because I just realized something."

"And what," Smith asked, "pray tell, is that?"

Neo's smiled deepened. "I've needed this."

Smith looked almost confused. "What?"

"A challenge."

With that Neo launched himself against Smith again, his fists and feet a blur as he pushed himself higher, faster, farther then he had ever had to do before.

Morpheus shook his head as the fight started again, he had to make his move soon. Neo was having trouble, and that spelled trouble for them all.

"Trinity, Lark, Singer." He called. "Get ready."

The three women nodded and pulled their weapons, their stances tensing up as they prepared to move.

Morpheus palmed his cellphone and snapped it open. "Tank."


"I need an exit."

"Got a patch on an old line, two blocks down. Trail and Burns."

Morpheus flicked the phone shut and dropped it into his pocket. "Trail and Burns."

"Got it." Trinity replied.

The other two merely nodded.

Morpheus stepped forward, guns coming up in his hands. "Go!"

The three women broke and ran.

"Stop them!" Smith yelled from the center of his fight.

Jones and Brown broke into a run after the two rebels but Morpheus threw himself horizontally across their path, actually taking the two agents off their feet.

Agents Clarke and Ryan drew their Desert Eagles in a blur and began firing after the retreating rebels.

Xander's eyes grew wider as the two federal agents opened fire at the running terrorists, their bullets ripping through the crowded streets the three women were running through.


Xander surged forward, moving at blinding speed himself as he placed himself between the agents and the milling crowds.

"NO!" He screamed as he brought his hands up in the universal expression of 'stop'.

Clarke and Ryan blinked under their sunglasses as the young man stepped into their line of fire. Neither Agent paused, however, they continued to fire after the running rebels.

Xander's eyes slammed shut as the bullets flew toward him, and he expected to feel the ripping pain of the bullets passing through his body.

A second passed.

The two. Three. A dozen.

Xander opened his eyes.

The two Agents were staring at him in shock. He looked down. On the ground at his feet lay a dozen fifty caliber AE rounds. Each one flattened by impact with something hard. Something unyielding.

The Agents looked at each other in shock, then back to Xander. The raised their weapons in unison and fired again.

Xander winced this time, but kept his eyes open. Less then a foot from his body the bullets splattered against an invisible force, flattening and dropping to the ground.

Xander swallowed and set his face. "You shouldn't play with guns if you don't know the rules!"

He reached out with his mind, focusing on the two big guns the way Elan had shown him with rocks and debris in his dreamscape. The Agents stared in shock as their weapons shook in their hand, then ripped free and flew directly at the newcomer.

Xander ducked as the two guns nearly nailed him in the head. <What the? Why didn't they stop at the shield!?>

"Agent Smith."

Neo and Smith paused in mid fight, surprised at the interruption.

Smith looked over, clearly aggravated. "What?"

"We have a problem."

Smith stared at the two as if they were completely insane. "What?" He asked, keeping an eye on Neo.

Neo, for his part, was looking over to where Morpheus was being hauled to his feet by Brown and Jones. He had successfully delayed the two Agents, but wasn't a match for two at once.

"Him." Clarke nodded to where Xander was standing.

The entire group turned their attention to the young man standing the two Agents off with a determined look on his face.

"You *must* be joking."

The two Agents just watched the young man nervously.

Xander had had enough.

"I've had enough!" <There... that felt good.>

The terrorists and the federal agents stared at him in shock.

"I don't know what your goddamned problem is," Xander yelled, "And frankly... I don't GIVE A DAMN! But take your freaking death match somewhere private you fucking freaks!"

Agent Smith turned to Neo, "One of yours?"

Neo shrugged, "I thought he was one of yours..."

Smith turned back and eyed the young man. "Fascinating."

Morpheus eyed the newcomer through blurry eyes. He was still trying to shake off the beating he had just received from the two Agents who were holding him. <Whoever he is... he's pissed.>

And the kid certainly looked pissed. He stood there, eyes flaming with anger, between two Agents and a crowd of bystanders. His entire posture suggested that he was daring the Agents to try to cross the line he had drawn.

Morpheus shook his head slightly and relaxed his muscles as he tried to focus his energy for another move against the Agents.

Clarke and Ryan looked at each other, a little nervous. The last time an Agent had come up against someone who could stop bullets, it cost an Agent his 'life'. Not something that was to be looked forward to for sentient programs who should technically be Immortal.

That Smith had been reborn was irrelevant. Not every Agent was as valuable as Smith.

<Who is he?>

//Insufficient data. Inquire. Investigate.

The Agents paused for a moment, touching their earpieces. The nodded and Clarke lowered his pistol. A moment later so did Ryan.

"Identify yourself."

"Oh no... I'm not falling for that one again."

The two Agents looked at each, still puzzled. "Excuse me?"

"Last time I told someone who I was the crazy SOB's followed me home..."

Sentient programs don't generally get confused. They are usually capable of processing more information in a second then most humans can in a lifetime, or so they believed. Being confused by a human wasn't something they could accept easily, especially considering that they had access to most of the minds connected to the Matrix.

So it was disturbing to find that they couldn't read this young man at all.

They tried again, "Who are you?"

"Who are you?"

Xander shook his head, "Jeez... not to bright are you? I'm nobody. And your going to walk away from this one."

"This is federal business. Identify yourself or we will open fire."

Xander raised an eyebrow. "Simple minded bastards aren't you? What are you going to shoot me with?"

The two Agents glanced at each other and nodded. An instant later their were two very confused cops standing in their place.

Xander blinked. "What the hell?"


Xander spun around at the voice and saw Elanthielle put herself between him and the two federal agents as they raised their guns from behind him.

The two Agents blinked as the woman stepped between them and their target, but again their minds arrived at the same conclusion. She was irrelevant. The target was all that mattered. Both Agents opened fire.

Or they tried to.

They blinked. Their faces expressionless for a moment before they looked down at the weapons in their hands. Their fingers tightened on the triggers, but nothing happened. Their knuckles whitened around the triggers as they tried to force the levers to obey their commands.

They glanced back up at the woman and took an involuntary step backward.

Her eyes were glowing. Her pupils and iris's were completely covered by the silver gleam.

Elan felt a certain thrill run through her, even as her rage built. It had been a very long time since she had been physically involved in a conflict. <Well, mentally... personally... something like that.>

Her eyes had shifted into enhancement mode, taking in every piece of visual data available and processing it instantaneously. Her voice altered, growing more menacing as she challenged the gunmen. "I would highly recommend that you take the young man's advice. Walk away."

//New instructions follow... Contain and apprehend unknown factors. Known rebels priority reduced to level blue until unknowns have been contained.

Agent Smith glared at the newcomers, still uncertain as to what was happening. "Excuse me Mister Anderson... It would appear that we must delay our... rematch."

Neo stared at the Agent as he turned away. "Hey! You can't walk away from me!"

"On the contrary, Mister Anderson." Smith said over his shoulder, "I can do whatever I want."

Neo took a half step toward Smith, but was torn by the sight of Morpheus slumped in the grip of Jones and Brown. He turned around and looked at the two Agents. "Let him go."

The two Agents looked at each other in confusion and worry.

Smith looked back at them, "I suggest that you do as he says. We'll apprehend Morpheus later."

The two Agents dropped the rebel to the ground and stepped back. Neo walked over to Morpheus, forcing them back several more steps. They didn't have the encryption upgrade that Smith did, and they didn't want to see if Neo had learned any new decompilation tricks.

"You ok?" Neo asked softly as he lifted Morpheus to his feet.

Morpheus nodded.

"Get out of here." Neo said.

"What about you?"

Neo looked over to where the Agents were surrounding the two newcomers. "I can't leave them."

Morpheus nodded. "I'll stay."

"No." Neo shook his head. "You're in no shape for a fight. Get back to the ship. You're needed there."



Morpheus hesitated but finally nodded. "Be careful."


Morpheus turned and ran.

Neo looked at the confrontation that was forming up and shook his head. He didn't know what the hell was going on, but he couldn't leave others who seemed to know the truth, or some of it at least, to the tender mercies of the Agents.

"You are coming with us." Smith ordered as he approached the two newcomers.

The boy smirked. "Make us."

"As you wish."

Xander felt Elan step back until her back was gently touching his. "You realize, Alexander, that we could very well be in a lot of trouble."

Xander shrugged, knowing that Elanthielle could feel the motion through the contact she had made with him. "So what else is new?"

"We could just leave this dreamworld..."

"Yeah, but then they'd start popping off bullets into crowded streets again..." Xander said, "Say, speaking of bullets... how the hell did you manage to keep them from firing their guns?"

He felt her chuckle, her shoulder blades rubbing against his as she laughed softly. "I replaced their pistols with dummy versions."

"Huh?" Xander glanced back at her blue-green hair. "How the hell did you do that?"

"I have shown you everything you know about the Dreaming, Alexander," Elan said, a grin evident in her voice, "But I have yet to show you all that I know."

Xander groaned. "Like I've never heard that one before."

Elan's voice was puzzled, "What one?"

Neo turned away from where Morpheus was heading toward the land line phone, and the exit from the Matrix. He looked at the five Agents that were closing on the two newcomers and winced. Five on three, even with his skills, wasn't good odds. Especially since Smith's upgraded ass came back to town.

Neo shook the dust of his previous fight off of his black shirt and forced himself to approach the group calmly.

Smith looked over the couple carefully. <Humans.> They didn't look like much. A young man and woman. Both perhaps in their twenties, fairly fit... attractive by human standards, at least as far as he understood the parameters to be.

He shook his head. In short they didn't seem to be worth his time. But orders were orders.

"Get them!"

Jones came to close to Xander and received a kick to the face as a reward for his efforts. The kick appeared to be little more then a tap, but the surprised Agent was thrown back thirty feet.

Xander grinned and shifted his attention to the next Agent who was approaching. "Come one, come all!"

"Alexander!" Elan yelled from behind him, "Take this seriously."

Xander nodded, "Ok, fine. But come on... a little fun never hurt anyone."

He could feel Elanthielle shake her head behind him, and heard her muttering something.

"What was that!?"

Elan declined to respond.

Xander smirked and shook his head, "Thirteen thousand year old rune weapons... can't live with em... can't..."


"Alright already!" Xander chuckled and shut up.

Neo increased his pace as the Agents made their move. He was surprised to see the two newcomers fending off the Agents with remarkable ease, but he also noted that Agent Smith had yet to enter the fight.

The woman was obviously the better fighter of the two. Her motions were graceful, and her style was incredible to watch. But Neo didn't recognize it at all. And that bothered him. Tank had uploaded over two dozen distinct styles into his mind, along with dozens of variations on each style, but none of them watched what he saw now.

She flowed through the fight, her arms moving like waves on the ocean. A seemingly gentle motion yielded incredible power.

At her back the young man fought with a style that Neo did know. A distillation of Jeet Kun Do, Akido, Judo, and Karate developed for Special forces units. In contrast to his companion the young man's moves were simple, direct, and brutal. Were it now for the inhuman vigor of the Agent programs Jones and Brown would be nursing multiple fractures and lacerations from contact with the lethal young man.

Neo was a few paces away when Smith entered the fight.

"You fight well," The agent said as he approached Xander.

"I know." Xander smirked.

The Agent grimaced. "Humans. You're all so... arrogant."

Xander struck out at an Agent trying to blindside him, jabbing the fed in the throat with his knuckles. He ignored the fed as the Agent fell away clutching at his throat. "I don't know what the hell you are, but I've taken down aliens, vampires, demons, and god alone knows what some of the other things were... and I can tell you one thing."

"What?" Smith looked interested.

"Arrogance isn't limited to humans." Xander lunged forward with a savate kick.

His kick caught the agent in the stomach, keeling the man over. Xander crouched and followed through with an elbow strike to the face that flipped the agent over onto his back. Smith hit the ground with a sickening thud and stared up at Xander from that position.

"Impressive." Smith said, smiling.

Xander swallowed. It was never a good thing when an enemy complimented you.

Smith flipped back onto his feet with an easy motion and looked at Xander. "My turn."

"Uh oh."

Elan rocked her body in a smooth motion and threw the closest agent through the air, sending him tumbling about forty feet away in a lump. She turned around quickly to find Xander, having lost track of him in the fight.

Xander was being pressed back by a blurring series of attacks unleashed by the lead Agent. He was blocking most of them, but enough got through that he was bleeding from his nose and lip, and had a rapidly swelling eye.

Elan started toward Xander's position but was immediately accosted by three of the feds.

"I do NOT have time for this!" She growled and crossed her arms over her chest, her eyes glowing as she focused her strength. In a smooth, flowing, motion she spread her arms apart and a concussion wave erupted from her position, throwing the agents back and knocking them unconscious.

Unmolested, she continued toward where Xander was being forced back into a concrete wall.

His back hit the wall and Xander was forced to stop. He had a hard job seeing, his vision had blurred badly, and he could taste blood in her mouth. In a last ditch move he lashed out and connected with a solid kick to the agent's right leg, twisting it awkwardly. As Smith dropped to one knee Xander brought his own knee up and nailed the fed in the face.

Smith dropped back in surprise, but quickly regained his footing and turned his attention back to the young man. His eyes widened in shock when he did.

Neo and Elan were both rushing toward the two fighters when they saw Xander fight back, pushing Smith back a few steps.

What happened next caused Neo to falter slightly.

The young man straightened up and, by force of will alone, caused his injuries to heal over. The blood from his mouth and nose was absorbed back into his skin, the swelling around his eyes was reduced visibly.

"What?" Smith started as he took a step back.

Xander shrugged, "Just a little trick a friend taught me."

"Impressive." Smith admitted. "But futile."

"Probably." Xander admitted himself, "You're a helluva lot faster and stronger then I am..."

"So why are you smiling?"

Xander shrugged, "Cause all but one of the your allies are unconscious... and my friend and your enemy are coming up behind you."

Smith whirled around, coming face to face with Neo and the unidentified young woman. "Well Mister Anderson. You think you've won?"

Neo shrugged, "I don't know. We'll see when I break your encryption."

Smith smiled, "Maybe another time."

Smith jerked and flopped around as green energy flowed over him, and seconds later there was a confused police detective looking around, wondering why he wasn't in his office chewing on a donut.

Neo grimaced. "Damn."

Xander looked at him, a mix if curiosity and distrust in his eyes. "What the hell is that thing?"

"An Agent." Neo said simply, "Sentient computer program that can take over any software that's hardlined into its system."


"It can take over the mind of any human plugged into the Matrix."

Xander nodded. "Ok... What's the Matrix?"

Neo groaned. "That is a long story."

Xander glanced around nervously. The Agents had pulled out but the regular cops and SWAT officers were starting to get up more nerve then was healthy for them. "Uh... maybe explanations can wait?"

Neo looked around himself. "Them? They're no problem..."

Xander looked at him sharply, "No killing!"

Neo shrugged, "Hey, I'm not happy about it myself. Thing is that as long as the Agents are around any one of those cops is a potential Agent. Since the Agents have turned tail, we can probably evade the cops without violence."

Xander nodded and glanced at Elan, "Airborne?"

She nodded.

"You two can fly?" Neo grinned, "That makes it easier. Top of the building."

The three warriors lifted off smoothly and quickly accelerated out of sight. The police and SWAT officers looked at each other in shock.

"Uh... did anyone just see..."

"No! And neither did you!"

The first cop just nodded.


"So, let me get this straight..." Xander said from where he was leaning on a cement beam. "Everyone here is plugged into some funky power station that's feeding this machine empire in the real world?"


Xander shook his head, "You know... I'm no engineer or brainiac type... but I'm pretty damned sure that this has got to be the least efficient power plant I've ever heard of... and I live in California."

Neo shrugged, "I'm a computer expert... I don't do power plants."

"Actually," Elanthielle cut in, "There is a potential there..."

Xander looked at her oddly, "You've got to be kidding."

She smiled, "No. The human body takes energy sources that the machines can't use, your food... and turns it into energy they can, neuro-electric, bio-magnetic, heat..."

"Come on, they still have to be running at a loss..." Xander cut in, "I mean, sure I've seen watches that run off the bodies magnetic field but this isn't a timex we're talking about..."

Elan looked at him crossly, "If you would let me finish..."

Xander looked abashed and shut up.

Elan nodded and continued, "But the real power source is the same thing that allows the dreamworld to exist in the first place..."

"Whoa..." Xander breathed. "You've got to be kidding me."

"What?" neo looked confused.

Elan was about to speak but Xander cut her off again. "Soul sucking robots."


Elan glared at Xander, "Simplistic, but descriptive. If the machine culture has developed a way to draw its energy directly from your mental charge then it would have sufficient power available to it."

"Whoa." Neo said.

Xander just nodded in agreement.

Neo shook his head, "look... this is all real interesting but I can't stay. They might be tracing my carrier wave... the Matrix can feel me. I have to get back to the ship."

Xander and Elan nodded, "Fair enough. Be seeing you."

They turned away, "Wait."

They turned back and looked at Neo, "What?"

"You never said," He spoke quickly, "Where you came from?"

Xander laughed, "That's a long story."

Morpheus looked over Tanks shoulder at the pouring green code on the flat screens in front of them. "What's going on, Tank?"

"I don't know." Tank said helplessly. "Neo is just talking to thin air... there's nothing there man."

"Look, I know that there were two people in there. A man and a woman. I saw them with my own eyes."

Tank shook his head, "No way. There's been nothing but you, the Agents, and the cops.... oh yeah, and some civilians who beat it when the shooting started."

"Tank..." Morpheus growled.

"Look, Sir. I'm telling what the code tells me. Nothing more. Neo is talking to himself."

Morpheus shook his head and stepped back in frustration.

Neo shook his head, "I wish I had time to hear it."

Elanthielle looked thoughtful, "Tell me about this... construct... you mentioned."

"The construct?" Neo looked confused. "It's a training sim. Similar to the Matrix, but a lot smaller. Why?"

"It is safe from these... Agents?"

"Oh yeah." Neo nodded, "Its completely sealed off. No link to the Matrix at all, a self contained environment."

Elan smiled, "Then I believe we will be able to explain ourselves after all."

"Tank. Exit."

Tank touched his earpiece lightly and nodded, "Trail and Burns."

"Got it. Be right there."

"Be glad to have you back, Neo."

"Be glad to get home, Tank."

Tank closed the connection and turned to the others, "Neo's coming in."

Breathes of relief were heard throughout the deck as the crew relaxed and smiled. The One was coming back.

A few minutes later Neo opened his eyes and rolled them around, looking at the room. Sitting right at his side was a very beautiful face. "I love waking up to you."

Trinity smiled back, "That's why I'm always here."

Neo tilted his head as far as the neuro plug would allow, "Tank, Put me in the construct... Dojo mode. Morpheus, Trinity... if those two were serious you'd better come in too."

Tank looked at him as if he had lost his mind. "What two? There was no one there!"

Neo smiled, "Oh, they were there all right. Put me in, Tank."

Morpheus looked at him and nodded, "Me too. Lark, hook me up."

Trinity was undecided for a second, but only a second. "Singer... Help me into the seat."

Neo looked around the large dojo, waiting patiently.

"So?" Trinity looked around, "Where are the mystery couple?"

"Patience, Trinity." Morpheus spoke quietly.

Trinity was silent, she trusted Neo and she trusted Morpheus. But sitting still wasn't her favorite pastime, at least not since her world had been shattered by the revelation of the Matrix.

Neo was leaning casually against a huge ten by ten beam while Morpheus stood serenely in the center of the room. Trinity stood next to Neo, but tended to fidget and glare around her.

"Look," She said finally, "No one is gong to be able to break into..."

"Hey, Neo!" A young man seemed to walk out of the wall, followed immediately by a tall woman with striking features. "Sorry we're late... we almost lost track of you when you woke up."

Neo smiled softly, "Hello Xander. And no problem, we just had to wait a bit."

The young man stepped up to Neo, prompting Trinity to step between them, "Hey! Back off!"

"Relax Trinity," neo laid a hand on her shoulder and gently pulled her back. "I doubt you could stop them if they really were coming for me anyway."

"Are they that good?" Morpheus asked quietly.

Neo nodded, "Especially Elanthielle. I saw her incapacitate three Agents."

Morpheus raised an eyebrow, "Fascinating."

Xander looked over the imposing black man, then turned back to Neo, "Who's the statue?"

Trinity's eyes glared while Neo sort of half smiled, Morpheus chuckled quietly and stepped forward. "My name is Morpheus, Mr...?"

Xander extended a hand, "Xander, just call me Xander."

Morpheus nodded, "Very well, Xander. May I ask what exactly you are?"

Xander laughed, "Straight to the point huh?"

Morpheus shrugged.

Xander nodded, "Cool. Elan, you want to handle this or shall I give it a shot?"

Elan looked the group over, "I'll fill in anything you miss, Alexander."

Xander rolled his eyes, "Gee thanks."

So Xander took a breath and consider what he was going to say, "I guess you could say that we're not from around here... wherever 'here' is to you guys... Uh... say... where is 'here'? I mean really... I don't even know what continent you guys are on... hell, is this Earth?"

Trinity snorted at the question but Morpheus merely shrugged. "This is Earth, some time around the year 2100... give or take. I'm really not certain what continent we're based on, because we never go up to the surface level for very long... Some of the underground markings seem to indicate a major North American city, by the standards of the Matrix, or perhaps Australia or Brazil. I'm fairly confident in ruling out Europe, Russia, Africa, and Asia... based on various factors and on historical knowledge taken from the Matrix..."

The Morpheus shrugged, "Of course, if the Machines made up their own history when they designed the Matrix then I could be completely off the mark."

Xander nodded, "Damn. That's rough. Hmmmm... Hey, Elan, how come it's 2100 here? We're still in the 20th century back home..."

Elanthielle shrugged, "Time is not a constant when traveling across dimensional boundaries. Some dimensions travel at slightly varying rates... usually no more then a few milliseconds per year in the difference."

Xander winced, "But it adds up, right?"

"Precisely. Over a few billion years it can add up to a noticeable gap in continuity."

"Excuse me," Morpheus interjected, "Dimensional barriers?"

Xander shrugged and smiled, "That's us... Elan's been teaching me some new tricks and this ones the latest. We were out exploring dream worlds and we noticed the one you guys call the matrix... it kind of stands out in the scheme of things... like a supernova in a pack of matches."

Neo looked quizzical, "What do you mean?"

"Well, the Matrix has more structure and is brighter in intensity then most dream worlds. Probably because it's computer regulated and no one ever wakes up... least that strikes me as the reason."

Xander looked to Elanthielle for confirmation and smiled when he received a nod.

"Oh come on!" Trinity objected, "You expect me to believe that you actually come from a different dimension?"

Neo smiled, and palmed a small phone from his pocket. "Trin, why don't you call Tank."

Trinity caught the phone and looked at Neo questioningly. He smiled and nodded at her so she flicked open the phone and hit the first autodial button.


Trinity looked at Neo again.

"Ask him how many people are in here."

She did.

Tanks voice was confused, "Three... you, Neo, and Morpheus... You know that."

"Tank..." Trinity said quietly, "I'm staring at two others right now. I've been talking to them for the last few minutes."

"I'm telling you, Trinity, that's not possible. There is no one else there but you."

Trinity nodded, "Thanks, Tank. I'll get back to you."

Before Tank could say anything she shut the phone and looked at Xander. "Ok, how do you do that?"

Xander was confused. "Do what?"

Neo stepped in. "You don't show up on the computers that are monitoring us..."


The group watched as Xander thought about it. "Well... we don't come in on the computer's hookup, right? We ride the mental connection that your minds have... so I guess the computer can't see us..."

Neo nodded, "That's what I figure. Which proves that your not part of the Matrix."

"Does it?" Trinity broke in, "They could be some kind of ghost Agents that are riding a stealth carrier signal."

Reluctantly Neo nodded, "I suppose that's possible."

Xander nodded, "Yeah... kinda hard to prove it I guess..."

Trinity looked at him, scowling. "Aren't you supposed to be trying to convince us that you're a good guy?"

This time he shrugged with a light laugh, "Why? I'm not from around here and I'm not planning on sticking around..."

"You're leaving?" Morpheus asked quietly.

Xander nodded, "yeah... I have my own problems going on back at home... End of the world and all that crap."

"How do you know that your world isn't the same as ours? Just another Matrix?"

That sort of stunned Xander. "Damn. I hope not. Vampires are bad enough."

"Vampires!?" Trinity looked at him like he was loony tunes.

Xander shrugged, "Told ya. End of the world."

Elanthielle nodded, "And also rather elegant evidence that our world is not part of a 'Matrix.'"

"Uh..." Neo said slowly, "I don't follow."

Elan smiled, "It would not be in the machines best interest to program a series of events that occur regularly that threaten the lives of their power supply. If our world were part of this type of... thing, it would be much more peaceful... with only human evil to mar its surface."

"Makes sense to me." Xander grinned, relieved.

Slowly Neo and Morpheus nodded, "Sounds about right."


Trinity looked at the group, "Are you people all nuts!?"

Neo grinned and rolled his eyes, "Come on, Trin... you've seen mechanical squids and body hopping ICE programs... is dimensional travelers that far of a stretch?"


Morpheus chuckled low in his throat as he watched the lovers exchange.

"They often like that?" Xander asked, walking up to Morpheus.


Xander grinned, "Some things don't change much... whether over time or dimensional barriers."

Morpheus nodded, a very slight smile touching his lips. "That's nice to know."

"Anyway," Xander muttered with a grin, "Nice to meet you guys... but uh... I think we should be going."

"Please wait." Morpheus said softly, and Xander turned back to him.


"How do you manage to link into the Matrix without broadcasting a signal?"

Xander shrugged, "Elan would have to explain any details but I call it Dreamwalking..."

"Dreamwalking?" Morpheus spoke the word slowly, tasting it. "Can anyone do it?"

Xander looked at Elan.

She nodded, "Yes, but it takes years... even decades of training."

Morpheus sighed. "Decades... but, you don't look that old..."

Xander laughed, Elan slapped him.

"What?" Morpheus was confused.

"Elan's a little... older then she looks." Xander managed to gasp out between chuckles and rubbing his arm.

Morpheus looked skeptical, but nodded slowly, "And you?"

"I'm not." Xander grinned.

"So how come you're able to do this.. Dreamwalking?"

Xader shrugged, "Mostly cause of Elan... she points me in the right direction and kicks me in the backside every so often."

"Far too often for my taste, Alexander."


Morpheus smiled lightly at the interplay, "I don't suppose you could show me the... direction, Elanthielle?"

She looked at him calmly. "Perhaps. May I enquire as to why?"

Morpheus steepled his fingers, looking at her thoughtfully over them. "If we could access the Matrix without having to come to broadcast depth it would be a tremendous advantage... The Machines would be unable to track us... or to detect us within the Matrix if your invisibility to Tank is any indication..."

Neo looked over, "I don't know, Morpheus... The Agents could see them easily enough..."

The group thought that over.

Xander lifted his hand tentatively. "Uh... Don't the machines hop into human hosts?"

Morpheus nodded, "I see where you're going... yes... they are using the senses of their hosts... so they can see what the human mind can see, and aren't limited by what the machine itself can detect..."

"Ummm... yeah... that." Xander muttered after trying, with limited success, to decode what Morpheus had said.

Morpheus turned back to Elan, "Could you show us?"

Elan's face darkened, "To be frank, I am uncertain whether to trust you... You and your people were remarkably reckless earlier. Many innocent civilians and police officers were killed or injured by your bullets as well as the Agents."

"Hey!" Trinity interjected, "We're fighting for survival here! You take your self righteous bullshit and sell it some..."

"Trinity." Morpheus spoke softly but it silenced the young woman. "She does have a point, and all I can say in our defense is that each of those people, civilian or not, were potential Agents. Until they are disconnected from the Matrix, or the Agents have been eliminated, they are an extremely real secondary threat to my team."

Elan nodded at that but still looked disturbed. "Perhaps. I will... consider your request, Morpheus... Alexander and I will have to agree to help you..."

Morpheus nodded, "Thank you."

"Do not," Elan said, "Thank me. I sincerely doubt if it will do you any good... the length of time it would take to show you this technique would most likely find you dying of old age before you mastered even the rudimentary forms."

Morpheus sighed, "Even so... I would gladly trade the time if it meant another weapon that could save my people."

Elanthielle nodded, "I understand."

A phone rang, and Morpheus palmed the device smoothly. "Yes?"

He listened to the phone intently, his face growing concerned. "We'll be right out."

Morpheus flicked the phone shut and looked at the others. "Squiddies."

Trinity and Neo looked worried and nodded.

As they both vanished form the room Morpheus turned to Xander and Elan, "We have a problem outside... I'm sorry, but I have to go... I hope to see you both again..."

Xander and Elan nodded once and watched as Morpheus vanished in a blink of an eye.

The room around them dissolved quickly and Xander turned to Elanthielle. "What do you think?"

She shrugged, "They are fighters, that much is obvious... but they have no apparent code... and that frightens me."

Xander nodded, "yeah. To easy to slip to the dark side... Probably the only reason they haven't already is cause their world is even more white and black then ours... Machines Vs Humans... simple."

"Precisely, Alexander." Elan said, "But what happens if they win and the Humans find that freedom isn't everything they expected it to be?"

Xander nodded. "Same old story."

Elanthielle nodded sadly.

"So, do we help them?"

Elan smiled, still a sad glisten to her eyes. "Do we have a choice?"

Xander shrugged, "Guess not."

Two Weeks Later

"Hey Neo."

Neo jumped about two feet in the air and spun around.

"Jesus!" He swore, "Don't do that, Xander!"

Xander just smiled and looked around, "What's this place?"

Neo looked up the long city block at the multitude of people, all dressed in black. "Training construct."

"Yeah?" Xander looked around, "What for?"

Neo smiled, "Why don't you come along?"

Xander shrugged and stepped up beside Neo, "Sure."

"Tank," Neo called to the sky, "Start the program."

"Walk with me." Neo said and started to walk against the foot traffic.

Xander shrugged and followed Neo, pushing and shoving his way through the people and wondering how Neo managed to flow so easily through them.

Neo was talking about the Matrix, the people, and how most weren't ready to be unplugged. As he reached the point were he mentioned how the people were almost as dangerous as Agents in some ways Xander noticed a woman in red walking toward him.

Xander stared. Xander managed to shake himself free of the distraction as Neo called out, sounding annoyed.


He looked back.

"Were you listening?" Neo asked, "or were you watching the woman in the red dress?"

"I..." Xander said.

"Look again."

Xander turned around and was startled to see an Agent staring straight at him, the big bore of the Desert Eagle pistol inches from his face.

"Freeze it!" Neo called.

Xander took a deep breath, "Funny. Real damned funny."

Neo smirked, "I thought so. But this also demonstrates a serious point. Agents can be anyone, and anyone can be an Agent. When we go into the Matrix, the only people we can trust are ourselves..."

Neo went silent for a long moment before he whispered, "And sometimes not even that..."

Xander's heartbeat slowed to a nominal level and he looked at the frozen agent, "You may be right, Neo, but I'm gonna tell you something that this forgets..."

"What's that?"

"Killing someone to save him is seriously fucked up way to think."

Neo opened his mouth, then closed it as Xander turned his back and walked away. He finally took a deep breath and nodded at the back of the young man, "Tell me about it." He whispered softly.

He didn't hear the pained whisper that came from Xander as he faded out of the Construct.

"Believe me, I know..."

Xander slipped from one Construct to the next, easily finding Elan and Morpheus where they were meditating.

"How's it going?"

Morpheus opened his eyes, looking at the young man. "Slowly."

Xander nodded, "Tell me about it. Sometimes I try to do this stuff without Elan's boost... it feels like walking through dried cement."

Morpheus let out a breath of amusement, "Yes... that does describe it. How did your meeting with Neo go?"

"Didn't learn anything I didn't already know." Xander said darkly and turned away.

Morpheus watched as Xander moved to the other side of the large Dojo and leaned on a beam, "What was that all about?"

Elan looked over at the young man, "He's had to make some very serious choices... and they are not resting easy with him."

Morpheus nodded, "I understand."

"Perhaps you do, perhaps you do not." Elan said simply, "In either case, there is little you can do."

"Perhaps," Morpheus smiled, "perhaps not."

The imposing black man got up and walked across the room toward the brooding young man. He stepped up beside Xander, "You need to talk?"

Xander took a breath and forced a smile, "I'm cool. No problems."

Morpheus shook his head, "I'm not blind, Xander... And I'm not stupid."

"And you're not my father. Or my shrink." Xander said flatly, "So back off."

"If that's what you would like." Morpheus conceded. "Perhaps you'd enjoy a sparring match then?"

Xander looked at him quizzically. "You're kidding right?"

Morpheus tilted his head and smiled. "You scared?"

Xander openly laughed, "You are a crazy old coot you know that?"

"So my crew say's behind my back."

The two of them laughed and Xander nodded. "You're on."

Neo looked around at the ship, people were running toward the command deck. "What's going on?"

Trinity stopped and hauled at his arm, "Morpheus just challenged Xander to a match!"

Neo let himself be hauled along, "How do you know? Tank couldn't..."

"Tank was reading Morpheus' lips..." Trinity grinned.

Neo cursed with a grin, "Damn! I knew I should have stayed in after running the Agent sim for him!"

Xander stretched out a bit, watching as Morpheus did a Kata. Morpheus grinned over at him, "You coming?"

Xander shook his head and grinned, "Rules?"

Morpheus seemed to think about it, then smiled and shook his head.

"Cool." Xander grinned, and shifted into a combat stance.

Morpheus waited for a while, then lifted his hands, waving Xander in. Xander grinned and shook his head, "I never swing first."

Morpheus smiled and nodded, then started to move in.

And the fight was on.

Morpheus came in and swung a neat right at Xander's jaw, which Xander ducked easily. Xander responded with a hard kick to Morpheus' knee. The big black man lifted his leg and stop the kick with the ball of his foot, then kicked Xander off balance sending his leg back with surprising force.

"Whoa!" Xander yelled as he was flipped off his foot by the force of the move. He landed in a tight shoulder roll and came up punching.

Morpheus stepped back, avoiding the first three blows easily, then countered with a flurry of kicks. Xander blocked three with arm blocks and jumped from his crouched position, leaping six feet straight up and unleashing a powerful kick to Morpheus' head.

Morpheus was snapped back by the blow as he was lifted off his feet and sent back intot he wall of the Dojo. He managed to land on his feet as he slid off the wall, and stood there smiling at Xander as he wiped his mouth clean.

"Nice shot."

Xander grinned, "Thanks."

"Let's take this up a level, shall we?" Morpheus asked.

"Lets." Xander replied.

The two warriors faced off again, smoothly sliding across the mat toward each other. Morpheus moved first, flashing in in a blur as he attack. Xander quickly found himself being forced back by the blinding speed, barely able to see the flurry of punches as they came at him. He nevertheless managed to block each of them and prepared to shift to the offensive.

The Morpheus changed his tactics. A swift kick flew up and caught Xander hard in the chest, sending him back a dozen feet and sprawling to the mat.

"Ow." He said from the ground.

"You're a very good fighter." Morpheus said, smiling. "Efficient, brutal, strong..."

"Not strong enough." Xander said as he got up.

Morpheus shook his head, "It wasn't strength that beat you."

"You're faster then I am, stronger." Xander said.

Morpheus shrugged, "You took on an Agent and did just as well against him. I'm nowhere near as strong as they are."

Xander thought about it and had to concede that was the truth. "So... what?"

"You're predictable. You're style, while effective, is limited by it's origins." Morpheus said simply.


"You use a military style, designed to be taught to soldiers in the minimum time for maximum effect."

Xander nodded.

"There is a reason why the more complex martial arts exist... why they never distilled all of them down to the bare bones. Style adds versatility, variety, options. You need to learn all of those."

"That's not all..." Xander said, knowing that there was something else.

Morpheus grinned, "That and you are still like every new recruit on my ship... You seem to think that the Matrix, the Dreaming as you call it, is a physical world. I'm stronger then you... Faster... right?"

Xander nodded.

"You think any of that has anything to do with my body?" Morpheus quirked a grin, "You think that's air you're breathing?"

Xander didn't respond.

Morpheus tilted his head, and laughed lightly like he had just heard an old joke.


"You're going to what!?" Tank looked at the group as if they were nuts.

Morpheus remained calm, "I'm going to take them to see her."

"For the love of God, man," Tank protested, "Why?"

"I think that she can help them... him..." Morpheus said, "And Alexander needs someone's help."

"Look, Morpheus, I know you've started to like these two... and damned if I can tell for sure if they're real or not, but they don't need to see her."

"Tank," Morpheus stated firmly, "I've made my descision."


"You've got to be kidding me." Xander groaned, "I hate oracles and prophets..."

Neo raised an eyebrow, "You've been to other Oracles?"

Xander shook his head, "Just had to deal with the aftermath of them and their god damned predictions."

Morpheus raised an eyebrow slightly as he slipped on his sunglasses, "The oracle is a very wise woman. Please, do not insult her."

Xander shrugged, "I'll do my best."

Trinity looked over at him with an half frown but was silent.

The car drove on through the streets of the Matrix.

The walked slowly up to the door of the apartment, and as the group reached it the door opened and a young black woman appeared.

"Morpheus." She tilted her head, "Neo... Trinity. Welcome. You've been expected."

"I hate it when they do that." Xander muttered as he and Elan followed the group in.

"Wait here, She will be with you in a few minutes."

The group nodded and Xander stopped and looked around. There were a number of children in the room, practicing various techniques relate to the dream world. A couple were telekinetically juggling, some were bending spoons, and doing various other little tricks.

"Cool." Xander grinned.

Neo stepped up beside him, "There is no spoon." He whispered.


"Something they told me the first time I was here... A boy told me not to try to bend the spoon... that wasn't possible. Instead I had to realize the truth. There is no spoon."

Xander snorted, "People have been saying the same thing for thousands of years... and you know something?"

"What?" Neo asked curiously.

"There damn well is a spoon. The thing is, it's only as real as you allow it to be... You... or someone else."

Neo raised an eyebrow as he thought about it, and finally shrugged. "Maybe."

The young black woman swept back into the room. "She will see you now."

Five of them walked into a quaint old kitchen, and Xander's eyes widened as he saw this nice old lady cooking taking some brownies out of the oven.

"I'll be right with you," She said from where she was bent over, "Just be a second."

She straightened up and turned around, a maternal smile on her face. "Morpheus, Always so good to see you..."

Her eyes widened as she looked beyond Morpheus, beyond Neo and Trinity, and right past Xander. She stared directly at Elanthielle and drew in a breath of shock. Suddenly that old woman snapped to attention with military perfection and placed her right hand across her chest, finger tips touching her shoulder.

"Kine!" She said.

Elanthielle smiled and stepped forward. "At ease, my old friend. I had wondered what became of you..."

The Oracle relaxed, "I was lost during the battle of Deluve. A demon of the third rank killed my Kana'Sai with a singularity attack... I was thrown here."

Elan nodded. "I heard that Deluve... but not for over a century."

"My Lady," The Oracle spoke quietly, "What happened to you? We searched for years..."

"My own Kana'Sai was killed in battle over Sanai... I was forced into dormancy for three decades by the shock. When I reemerged I was enspelled by a mage, he bound my independent powers."

"My Lady..." She old woman said softly, sadly.

Elan smiled sadly herself, "I was passed from one black heart to another... I couldn't risk revealing myself to them in my weakened state... The I was lost from time to time... spent centuries forgotten in some store room... until a few months ago."

The Oracle scanned the room, she knew that there was only one way to work free of that type of bondage. Her eyes rested on Xander. "Your new Kana'Sai?"

Elan nodded.

The oracle looked for, and received, a nod from Elanthielle and walked across the room to Xander. He stood nervously while she peered into his eyes for a moment and smiled.

"There's more to him then first glance would indicate."

Elan laughed. "I know."

"You always were lucky, My lady, when it came to selecting a Sai... Someday you must share your secret with the rest of us."

Elan's voice turned sad, "If we can ever find the rest, Mailyn."

The oracle, Mailyn, nodded sadly. "How many are left on the old world?"

"I do not know. Excalibur was rumored to be active a little over a millennia ago... Mjolnir left the Earth to fight with the Asgard... of the others I've heard nothing. You are the first I've met since I reawakened."

Mailyn shook her head, "All these years..."

"Wait a minute!" Neo interrupted, "What are you two talking about?"

Xander laid a hand on his shoulder, "Relax... I think we should give them a few minutes, man... Old friends need time to catch up."

Neo shook him off, "No! What are you talking about? Singularity attack? Thousands of years? Others?"

The Oracle smiled maternally at Neo, "Ah Neo... You're always the impatient one. Have you never wondered how it is that I can live in the Matrix but have never been found by Agents?"

"I... uh..."

Morpheus spoke softly, "You're the same as Xander and Elanthielle... The machines don't see you."

"Exactly right, Morpheus." She smiled, "It was I who awakened the first One... the one who began the resistance."

Morpheus shook his head, his eyes wide in wonder, "We never knew..." he whispered.

"Knew what?" She asked, smiling, "That I wasn't human? I'm as human as you are right now."


Xander spoke, "She's the same as Elan... a Rune weapon. A human soul that powers an ancient weapon... A human soul trapped in an eternal Matrix."

The Oracle shrugged, "Close enough, dear boy. Though I'm hardly like My Lady... She is considerably more powerful then I."

Elanthielle smiled, and spoke sharply. "Perhaps we should show them? Teni'Han!"

Both woman snapped to attentions, their forms blurring for a brief moment. In an instant Elanthielle was back in her trademark semi-armor. It was the oracle who's change was most dramatic, however, she shifted and grew slimmer and taller. In a few seconds she stood almost as tall as Elanthielle's six feet, slim and smooth of skin, and perhaps all of twenty years old. Her own body was partially covered in the same armor type that Elan sported.

Mailyn smiled, "It has been too long."

Xander looked at the two of them, "Ok... That's it... I have to ask... what's with the swimsuit armor?"

The two women laughed at the question and Elan responded. "The Armor of the Kine'iende, in formal presentation mode."


Elan nodded at Mailyn and both tapped their wrists. Their armor shimmered and retracted, until it was gone and they were wearing little more the skintight body wraps around their hips and breasts. A double tap and the armor expanded quickly, covering their entire bodies until even their faces were obscured by the smooth hard metal.

"Whoa." Neo muttered.

"Ditto." Xander said, <But I think I liked the retracted version better...>

Elan scowled at him humorously, but let the thought pass. She applied a slight twist to the place her fingers had touched on her wrist and the armor returned to formal mode.

"These were part of us when we were alive, bound to us as strongly as anything can be... connected to our very minds and souls as well as our bodies... So when we were... killed... the armor became part of our souls."

"Fascinating." Morpheus said quietly before turning to look at the newer, more youthful, Oracle. "Why...?"

"This form?" She asked, changing back to her pleasant old lady form, "Because, my dear Morpheus, this is calculated to surprise and inspire trust... not lust."

A soft laughter rang around the room from the two Rune weapons, and even the humans had to laugh slightly.

Trinity looked at the group and shook her head, "This place just keeps getting weirder."

"Tell me about it." Xander muttered through a grin.


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