Title: Through the Glass, Darkly
Rating: R for language, violence and adult situations
Timeline: Directly following Session 26
Spoilers: The entire series (including the movie) and general Matrix info
Summary: Matrix x-over. Spike didn’t die; he was just unplugged. How will everyone’s favorite Bruce Lee-loving Space Cowboy deal when he is thrown into the "real world" without a net?
Disclaimer: There was once a girl who wrote a story about some characters and places that weren't hers. But she added this little disclaimer to make it a tad less illegal. (i.e. Cowboy Bebop isn't mine and never will be. Neither is The Matrix. As if you hadn't already figured that out.)
Feedback: Look! It's secret mail-mail from Mars-Mars! (i.e. I want any and all feedback. Good, bad, indifferent? Doesn't matter. Still want it. *g*)
Take my hand
Off to Never Never Land
Now I lay me down to sleep
Pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I die before I wake
Pray the Lord my soul to take
Hush little baby, don't say a word
And never mind that noise you heard
It's just the beast under your bed
In your closet, in your head
("Enter Sandman" - Metallica)
Chapter 8: Exit light, Enter night
The Absalom was a frenzy of activity. Annie was leading an expedition into the Matrix to do some recon on potential recruits. Everyone was excited about the day's events... except Spike.
"I can't believe she's refusing to let me go," he grumbled dejectedly. "I would kill for some action right about now and she knows it."
Spike was slouched on a chair next to Ginny with his feet propped up on one of the many consoles at the operations station. She gave him a sympathetic look as her fingers danced across the keyboards, getting everything ready for the day's activities.
"Look on the bright side," she told him with a small smile. "You and Ed can keep me company while everyone else is gone. It'll be nice to have someone to talk to in here. Julian's always around, since he's the pilot and all, but he likes to go up and wait in the cockpit in case we need to leave in a hurry. So normally it's quiet as a tomb in here during missions."
Spike sulked. "It's been over three months. How much longer do I have to wait? I'm starting to go stir crazy."
Ginny shrugged, unable to give him any definite answers. "She'll let you go when she thinks you're ready."
Even as she said the words, she knew how useless they were. Spike, apparently, concurred. "We both know that I'm more than ready! Hell, I can take out anyone on this ship in the sparring simulations, Annie included. You can't get much readier than that."
"It's not just about skill level and you know it." Ginny sighed, watching Spike closely out of the corner of her eyes as she worked. "I know you don't want to hear this, Spike, but you're too much of a rebel for your own good. You keep making waves and you'll never get to go on any of the missions. Annie's a tough captain and she has a thing for the rules... rules that *you* keep breaking at every chance you get. If you want her to trust you, then you have to give her a reason to."
Spike frowned. "I've never been one for following orders."
Ginny gave him a sympathetic smile. "Maybe that's your problem."
The Bebop was currently docked on Mars, awaiting its newest visitor. Faye sat out on the deck, legs crossed Indian style, her back leaning against the closed hangar doors. Ein lay at her feet, dozing lightly, occasionally twitching his paws as he dreamed of chasing rabbits... or whatever the hell it was that dogs dreamed of, Faye mused.
Titling her face up towards the sun, Faye sighed as its rays warmed her skin. A light breeze was blowing through her hair and the deck was warm beneath her. It was the perfect day, at least on the surface, until she remembered why they were here to begin with... The sound of an approaching vehicle interrupted Faye's thoughts and she scowled. Jet was back with Electra, which meant that her day was about to be shot to hell. The worst part of it was that she could see it coming, but there was nothing she could do about it.
Faye thought of standing up to greet them, but a twinge in her shoulder from where she was shot by Agent Jones the other night made her rethink that idea. Instead she remained where she was and waited.
Faye hated waiting.
By the time the approaching engine cut off and footsteps began making their way up to the deck, Faye was already on edge. She closed her eyes and concentrated on breathing in and out, trying to calm her nerves. She could sense disaster on its way in the form of one lanky, fluffy haired bounty hunter who was supposed to be dead. The thought was almost too much for her to handle. But she was determined that she *would* get a handle on it. And when the time came, she was damn well going to give said bounty hunter a piece of her mind about all the trouble and anguish he'd caused her.
The voice was familiar and feminine. Faye felt her lips curve up into a smirk; her eyes remained closed.
She could hear the answering smirk in the other woman's voice. "It's been a while."
Faye opened her eyes and squinted up at Electra, one hand rising to shield her eyes from the light of the sun. "Yes, it has," she replied easily, one eyebrow arching upwards as she studied the other woman's appearance. She was just as Faye remembered, dangerously beautiful and exotic with her short, dark hair, dark eyes and olive toned skin. Her body was slender and muscular, the body of a fighter, and she was dressed all in black, with the exception of her bright red jacket. "I can see you haven't changed much."
Electra smiled down at her, taking in Faye's more conservative clothing and longer hair. The ex-military woman's gaze lingered on the dark circles under her eyes, testimony to the fact that the bounty huntress wasn't getting much sleep. "And I can see you have."
Faye shrugged, not sure whether that was a compliment or an insult. She decided it didn't really matter. "Everything changes," she said simply as she slowly rose to her feet, being careful of her wounded shoulder.
She noticed Jet walking up behind Electra and smiled at the older man, her eyes loosing a bit of their hardness when looking at her partner and friend. "Everything go okay?" she asked him.
He nodded. "Fine. And how are you feeling?"
Faye shrugged. "Same as before. A little pain but nothing to worry about."
Electra studied the exchange between them with interest. Apparently they'd grown closer since the last time she'd seen them. Not that it was much of a surprise, she reminded herself. After Spike's death, it would have only been natural for the two surviving members of the Bebop's crew to grow closer. She watched as Jet gave Faye his arm to help her back into the ship, calling to Ein and gesturing for Electra to follow them. As they walked, Electra noticed small things, like how Faye continually downplayed her obviously painful injuries, trying to keep Jet from worrying too much. Or how Jet held the doors open for Faye and how he carefully guided her over to the couch to lie down, never once going too fast for her or pushing her too hard. Once Faye was situated, Jet continually glanced over at her, reassuring himself that she was indeed all right. Some might think this was the behavior of two people in love, but Electra knew better. They didn't have the total familiarity with each other that lovers did. In spite of the obvious caring, there was still that undercurrent of awkwardness that existed between friends of the opposite sex who haven't been completely intimate with each other. No, what these two shared went beyond physical love. They were family. Maybe not by blood, but in the only way that truly mattered. They had gone through the pain of loosing someone close to them both and there was no one else alive who could ever share that with them. It had formed a bond between them and that was something that couldn't be taken away by anyone.
Electra sat down in a chair across from the couch and placed her hands on her lap, sitting with her back ramrod straight out of habit from her military days. She suddenly felt out of place here on the Bebop. Watching Jet and Faye with each other made her feel like she was on the outside looking in. She didn't belong here. There was only one other person who belonged here...
"Ahem," she began, clearing her throat softly. She wanted to get down to business and deliver this message so she could leave again. Being here just made her feel more alone than ever. But she would see this through. She owed Spike that much after everything he'd done for her.
Jet looked over at her and smiled, obviously trying to make her feel comfortable. Electra couldn't help but smile back. That was Jet for you, always playing the host and the peacemaker, trying to make sure that everyone around him was all right.
"You said you had a message from Spike," Faye said, breaking in on the quiet moment. Electra's smile grew a bit wider. Yep, and that was Faye for you, always wanting to hurry up and get to the point. The purple-haired bounty huntress hated waiting.
"Yes," Electra replied, pulling her communicator out of her jacket pocket. "I do."
She reached out and placed it on the table between them, silently inviting them to pick it up and look at the message that waited for them there.
Faye and Jet looked at each other, something passing between them in that look that Electra couldn't interpret, and then Jet reached out and picked up the communicator, opened the message and began to read...
Everything had been going as planned.
Annie took a small group inside the Matrix - Eli, Zeke, Dom, Mac and herself - and they split up to cover both targets. Eli took the older and more experienced two crewmembers with him, leaving Mac under Annie's supervision for the duration of the mission. This was Mackenzie's first mission into the Matrix, so Annie wanted the young blonde to stick close by her side.
Meanwhile, back on the Absalom, Spike and Ginny watched over their comrades' still bodies while their minds journeyed through the mass of electronic signals and computer code that made up the Matrix. Julian waited up in the cockpit, ready to take off at a moment's notice, and they weren't exactly sure where Ed was. She'd disappeared inside one of the many crawlspaces on board the Absalom a few hours ago and nobody had heard from her since. She had many different little hiding places around the ship, so the crew was used to her random appearances and disappearances by now.
As far as the mission went, everything had been going as planned. But it only took one mistake to send it all spiraling out of control.
The two targets were in the same building. A large warehouse that was home to a techno club that many of the best young hackers on Mars frequented.
Eli's team was keeping an eye on target #1: a slender, young brunette who went by the online alias of Persephone. She was a rising star in the computer world, able to perform some of the trickiest hack jobs in extremely short periods of time. There was already a rather large bounty on her head. Naturally, Annie was interested in her.
Meanwhile, Annie and Mac were watching target #2: a handsome Latino who used the pseudonym of Stryker when doing jobs. He was older than most of the people Annie usually targeted - he would be turning twenty in a few weeks - but he had recently begun numerous searches for information on the Matrix, which had sent up a lot of red flags. Annie knew that if she didn't approach him soon, someone much less pleasant would.
Unfortunately for them, that less pleasant individual had picked tonight to do his approaching.
Ginny saw it first. A glitch in the Matrix that was all too familiar.
"Shit," she breathed. "An Agent."
Spike jumped up from where he'd been just starting to doze off on a nearby chair and moved over to her side. "Can you call them?"
Ginny shook her head. "Negative. Annie has everyone maintain strict radio silence during missions to avoid detection from any surveillance in the area. Their communicators are off."
Spike cursed under his breath. "Well, that's just great, isn't it? Now we can't even give them a heads up."
Ginny's eyes widened. "Oh my god," she breathed, her hands frozen a few inches above the keyboard.
"What?" Spike demanded, turning to look at her face.
"There's more than one of them."
Spike eyes narrowed. "How many?"
Ginny's voice was small and scared when she answered and Spike couldn't help but think that she had never sounded more young or alone than she did just then. "Four. There are four Agents in the building." Her hands were trembling badly.
Spike grabbed Ginny by the shoulders and gave her a rough shake. "Gin, you have to focus, okay? I can't have you loosing it on me now. You got it?"
The young operator nodded, her eyes wide. "I'll be okay... but Spike! They'll be killed! Four Agents..."
Spike shook his head. "No, they won't be. I won't let it happen."
Releasing Ginny's arms, he walked over to the last remaining chair and sat down in it, taking a deep, calming breath. He met Ginny's frightened gaze with his own determined one.
"I'm going in."
Spike's lips curved into a smirk. Finally, some *real* action...
Coming Soon: Chapter 9. It's taken me one prologue and eight chapters to get here, but it's happening at last! Spike is going back into the Matrix! And back on the Bebop, Jet, Faye and Electra continue to try and unravel the mystery that Spike's supposed death left in its wake, starting with the message he sent them...