|The Doctor Is In: Agent Smith and Neo
Author: Guede Mazaka
Well, this was a unique one. Good enough to even make Paul forgo his after-lunch nap and actually start the appointment on time. He stretched on the couch, then sat back and reached for the file. He stretched on the couch and—
Paul sat up and glared as the room snapped back into his space-time. “Look, nobody reads the fucking info pamphlets we have to hand out when you fill out your insurance forms, but that’s no excuse for not knowing that you can’t manipulate this space. Or me. And especially not with such sloppy technique.”
Agent Smith’s opaque sunglasses glassily stared back with the eyes of Paul’s distorted reflection. The man-struct, as Greenly had dubbed him, slowly tilted his head as if he were rotating out a cramp. He pursed his lips, but otherwise didn’t betray any emotions whatsoever.
Beside him, Neo was also wearing black shades, but he at least had the grace to look faintly irritated. “He does that all the time. Every time we have a fight, he tries to cheat like that.”
“In love and war anything is fair,” Paul portentously pronounced. His sketchbook wasn’t going to do it this time…then again, if he got creative, that might work. He pulled it over and began making a grid of dots across the page.
Smith’s thin lips twisted in what might have been a knowing smirk, if it’d stayed around long enough to be categorized. “The second circumstance is allowable, but the first one continues to puzzle me. It’s one of the foremost, if not the foremost, preoccupations in these disgusting mortals’ minds. And also probably the one that leads most often to their downfall.”
“Do I have to break down exactly why you lost—twice—to me again?” Neo looked very cool and iconic in the slimmed-down priest frock, but as time went on, he was showing a distinct tendency towards the hacker’s slouch: that ungainly knot of limbs that occurred when an enforced sedentary lifestyle combined with the idea that good posture was yet another evil perpetuated by the Establishment to soften bones and turn tendons floppy. He still looked very picturesque doing so, but it clashed with the ultra-modern oval sunglasses and the tall shiny boots. They were damned nice boots, and reminded Paul of the crazy night he’d spent bar-crawling after the FBI Academy had graduated him.
Come to think of it, just Neo reminded him of that night if Paul overlaid the man’s face with a booze haze and added a dorkier haircut. Paul made a mental note to hack the FBI database and see whether there was muse crossover, and if so, if he could get a current address. The twins were in town and they’d “borrowed” Greenly for a couple days, which meant Paul either had to stay celibate or find his own fun. “No, there’s never much to gain by rehashing the past unless you’ve got a bottle of Jack Daniels and a pair of fluffy hand-cuffs. Now, Neo—you gave a very interesting reason for making this appointment. Flawed programming in your partner? What kind?”
“I’d just like him to acknowledge that I’m a personality.” Those black shades turned every look into a glare, but the one Neo was currently giving Smith was damn near melting the plastic.
Smith began to respond, but Paul got his hand up first. “As opposed to…?” he asked, stabbing the last dot into his grid.
“A meaningless entity like himself,” Neo filled in, curling his lip. “I don’t know what’s the matter—I’ve rewritten him twice and I know he integrated bits of Ba—of this human being, so he’s at least cyborg by now. He’s had sex--which I know he enjoyed and that’s definitely not pure rationality.”
“Maybe you forgot to terminate the coldblooded bastard loop?” Paul idly started connecting the dots. He didn’t try to make a pretty picture, but instead only connected two dots at a time so soon the page was filling up with a pattern of vertical dashes and spaces with dots in the middle. “Smith? What do you have to say for yourself?”
Something about the way Smith moved, even when he was only shrugging, connoted an eerie, oily creepiness. It reminded Paul of this predatory bastard that’d been hiding among the FBI instructor staff, just waiting for the baby-faced recruits to wander into his office. “Mr. Anderson seems to believe physical processes should somehow have a lasting attraction for me. I was created to be above such desires, though of course due to my…corporeal form, I can still pantomime them if I must.”
The curl of Neo’s lip approached Elvis proportions. “Oh, and he keeps calling me ‘Mr. Anderson.’ Even when he’s spurting like a geyser in my ass.”
“Well, according to your personal information form, ‘Thomas Anderson’ is a secondary name you use,” Paul mildly said. Normally he would’ve needled Neo more about it, but Neo wasn’t the patient he currently found the most annoying. Not to mention that he was beginning to categorize Smith’s less obvious body cues and much to his delight, there were plenty. Even software had idiosyncrasies; Paul had gone through several platforms before he’d found one that matched his own grumpiness without having an equivalently high level of redundancy. “Some people would take it as a sign of respect.”
Neo just looked at Paul. Since he was doing it through the sunglasses, ignoring whatever emotion he was trying to communicate was dead easy. “I want him to call me ‘Neo.’”
“And what do you have to say to that, Smith?” Ah, and there was that slow tic in the cheek muscle at the dropping of the job title. A grin hid behind Paul’s drawl as he added the last touches to his sketchpad. “Incidentally, you didn’t put down a first name on your form.”
“I don’t see why what I choose to refer to him matters. Humans arbitrarily decided to make up their names of letters—they might as well have chosen numbers, or any other symbol set,” Smith replied. He sounded bored and contemptuous, but he was trying at it, so that was a pretty good sign of how defensive he was beginning to get.
Paul made his own eeling shrug. “Okay, so you don’t have one. There’s no need to take out your latent feelings of inadequacy on poor Neo here.”
Smith stiffened. Neo paused, giving off an air of incredulity, and then turned to Smith while taking off his sunglasses to get a better look.
“I fail to see how lacking a first name constitutes a feeling of inadequacy.” The edges of Smith’s words were beginning to roughen, and Paul could distinctly see a vein throbbing in Smith’s forehead. He took his next breath with slightly more care than he’d been exhibiting before. He also removed his sunglasses. “I know names are mere labels used to organize sensory input into a form of information that the pitiful mental capabilities of human beings can handle. I attach no significance to them whatsoever.”
Nodding, Paul slowly tore out the page in his sketchbook. He made sure to rip as closely as he could to the binding, and to not get any tears across the nice, almost-random pattern he’d made. “And you attach no significance to Neo alias Mr. Anderson?”
“No, I do. He can impact my existence in ways that may severely enhance or hamper it, so it behooves me to watch him carefully. However, if you intend to imply that this somehow equals what humans call emotional attachment, I have to tell you that you’re greatly mistaken.” Apparently this was familiar ground, for Smith relaxed and Neo began to look like a teased puppy again. “If he ceases being able to have such an impact, then so does my interest in him.”
“See?” Neo said. “I have to put up with this all the time.”
Paul clucked in sympathy and casually dropped the sheet of paper into his wastebasket. Then he dug out his planner and began flipping through the pages—he had another appointment after this, but he could probably get their heads screwed into their asses in ten minutes if he put some effort into it. So he could get out for dinner pretty early today. “All right, Smith. So, Neo, sometimes I like to meet clients in more casual surroundings; the office can be somewhat restrictive in regards to certain conversation topics. You like Thai or French cuisine?”
Damn, that was impressive. Smith’s eyes bulged so far out that Paul was tempted to whip his ruler from his desk and take a measurement; he probably beat Greenly for extension. “What kind of therapy is this?”
Neo was equally confused, but less angry. Actually, once he’d gotten over being slack-jawed, he seemed a little intrigued. “Are you asking me out on a date?”
“Oh, what the hell—yeah. He’s an asshole…I’m called an asshole pretty regularly, but I’ve never denied enjoying good, hard sex. So you busy?” Paul asked.
It was Neo’s hesitation that did it, from where Paul was sitting. Smith just lost it.
And a second later, the quickie program Paul had written up and coded in binary—which had been a fucking pain and he was definitely tacking on an extra fee for that—snatched Smith and slammed him back into his chair. His spine bent and his limbs splayed out, twitching wildly as Paul’s virus chomped through his code.
Now that the sunglasses were off, Neo showed that he was damned pretty when he was impressed. “What the hell did you just—oh. Oh. Nice subroutine there. You know, you really didn’t look like the type--”
“Just because I’m over forty doesn’t mean I don’t know my way around technology,” Paul snorted. “You’re not bad, either, considering it doesn’t look like you specialized in AI. You messed up his feedback-inhibition and –promotion loops.”
“Oh…” Neo tilted his head and stared hard at the spastic Smith. “That’s gonna take a while.”
Paul steepled his hands, tried not to smirk too hard, and waited for it.
“I could really go for some Korean right now, actually,” Neo said. “And an explanation of that--that, right there.”
All in good time, of course.