by Your Cruise Director

The room is white and gray, ice-cold, and Mr. Smith's hands are icy as well when he adjusts the straps binding Neo's arms to the flat white cot. Neo tries to struggle, but his body won't move. Pain flares at the back of his skull and he wonders whether something has gone wrong on the ship, preventing him from fully entering the Matrix. And from leaving.

"Trapped here." He speaks the words aloud, though his tongue is thick and swollen and doesn't want to cooperate. Instantly Smith stares into his eyes, then disappears for a moment, and Neo finds Trinity leaning over him.

"Something's wrong with the interface," he tells her, feeling greatly relieved. But Trinity's eyes are cool too, and she shifts back, folding her arms.

"He's still hallucinating."

"At least he's not aggressive."

"We don't know how those chemicals are affecting his brain chemistry."

Neo can't understand why Trinity is talking to an agent and wonders for a moment whether she's a copy programmed to trick him into talking. Is this a new training simulation? "Am I in the Matrix?" he asks her, and waits quietly while she leans over him, shining a light into his eyes.

"There is no Matrix, Mr. Anderson," Trinity says in a slow, precise voice, looking directly at Neo. "You took a pill. A drug -- a combination of drugs. We're not sure about everything that was in it, but you've ingested some very powerful chemicals that are affecting your brain. You're lucky to be alive. You've had a bad trip, and it's over now, and you need to rest."

"Trinity..." Neo jerked in the restraints, trying to knock his wrist free of the tube pumping cold fluid into him.

"My name is Dr. Tremis, not Trinity. Please stop trying to pull the IVs out. We're trying to flush your system. You'll feel a lot better when we do."

This is all wrong. Trinity wouldn't be in the Matrix here. Trinity shouldn't be talking to Smith. But Neo's head throbs, and he can't remember how he got to this hospital, nor what happened aboard the Nebuchadnezzar when he was last there. "I want to see Morpheus," he demands.

"Is Morpheus the man who gave you drugs?" she asks in that maddening voice and shows him something in her hand. A blue pill.

Automatically Neo tells her, "That's the wrong one."

"The red pill, right?" She's nodding, studying him. "That's what you said when they brought you in. That you took the red pill. Mr. Anderson, listen to me very carefully. The red pill almost killed you. This..." She holds up the blue pill. "This is an anti-psychotic drug. It's what's in your IV. It brought you back."

Neo tries to lunge toward her, but the straps on his arms and legs are strong and his limbs feel weak, weaker even than before he learned to control the Matrix. "Where is Morpheus?" he asks again.

"The man who gave you that pill is in police custody," Trinity says in what Neo guesses is supposed to be a reassuring voice. "He's a very dangerous man. Anything you can tell me about the drugs may make it easier for me to treat you. Do you know what was in the red pill, Mr. Anderson?"

It's a lie, it has to be a lie. Neo shuts his eyes and tries to think. He took the red pill, and the walls bent under his fingers, and he started to suffocate in liquid plastic until he woke up in the real world. Now he's back in the Matrix, trapped, and they want him to believe that it's real. He keeps his eyes closed as Trinity -- not Trinity, Dr. Tremis -- begins to speak again.

"Mr. Anderson, you took a pill. You made a choice, and now your body is dealing with the consequences of that choice. I need you to work with me so that we can get you well."

Neo says nothing. If they have Morpheus, if they have Trinity, then he may be alone; no one on another ship or in Zion may be able to reach him on the Nebuchadnezzar in time. "I'm the One," he recites, willing himself to believe it. "I am the One. This isn't real. This is not real."

Abruptly Trinity disappears from his vision. "We'll have to increase the dose," she tells Agent Smith. More blue pill to erase Neo's memory. "He isn't ready. I'm going to sedate him again."

Not real, not real, Neo tells himself. But he can't move, and the drugs in his system have made his mind sluggish. He may be the One, but in this part of the Matrix he is helpless. And Trinity, like Cypher, has chosen slavery.

Get up, he wills, but his body will not listen. His consciousness sinks toward sleep. Slowly the waters of forgetfulness rise to cover him again.

He will have to choose the red pill again and again.


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