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Title: Breaking the Barrier - Chapter 1 Author: Raúl Bonilla

Author’s Note: the following story is based on concepts created by the Wachowski brothers and the developers of the game Marathon.

They say cyborgs are the only ones who should be put to cryogenic sleep, because only they can carry on with their lives afterward. Now I know it is true.

Time cannot be cheated just like that. When you wake up from cryogenic sleep, you look and feel the same age you had when you went to sleep. That changes a few days later, when all the misery from those lost years slams into your body. Then you realize how naive you were. You though you could escape from the consequences of your actions by cheating time. Like I said, time cannot be cheated just like that. The only one cheated is yourself.

Leela, an artificial intelligence on board, gave me a bottle of green pills and she said to me: “The symptoms you are suffering are perfectly normal. Take one pill every twelve hours and you will be fine.” It was obvious she was lying; then again, we programmed her to be that way.

I am not going to reveal my name and rank, but I am part of the group who decided to turn the Martian moon Deimos into the Marathon. When the conversion was finished, we decided to hide a group of cyborgs inside the ship. The others think there were ten cyborgs, but the actual number is eleven. How do I know this? I personally brought the eleventh cyborg on board. He is the most powerful cyborg ever created.

Everybody on Mars knew the Marathon was destined for the first manned trip outside the solar system. It was reasonable to assume that terrorists would try to take over the ship. That is the reason we brought the cyborgs with us.

Before we put ourselves to cryogenic sleep, we left five cyborgs on active duty and we stored the other five (well, six) on cryogenic chambers within the Marathon’s lava reservoir. The task of reactivating the cyborgs, once we reached our destiny, fell upon my shoulders.

I ventured down the lava reservoir and I visited the secret locations where each cyborg was hidden. The last location was a lava gorge near a geothermal station. While waiting for the cryogenic chamber to come out of the lava gorge, I felt a gun pressed against the back of my head. A female voice told me: “Don’t move.” I tried to turn my head and the girl pushed me with the gun. “What part of ‘don’t move’ you didn’t understand?”

“You are too late.”

“Shut up!” she said to me and then I heard her say: “Hello, operator? Can you hear me?”

“To whom is she talking to?” I wandered. Was this an insane girl, even by terrorist standards?

“Loop? Are you there? I need help!”

“You need help?” I asked. “You are the one who is pointing the gun at me!”

I turned around and I noticed how beautiful this girl was. Her clothes were black, made of a reflective material unknown to me. Her hair was short and red. The gun was an antique model, yet the weapon itself was new. The thing that intrigued me mostly, was the small device (also black) she held with the other hand. She pressed one extreme of the device against her ear while she pointed the other extreme toward her mouth.

“This is my first time back in The Matrix and I don’t know what’s going on,” she said

“Maybe I can help you,” I said. “What is your name?”

“I’m Magik.”

“Magik, would you please put the gun down?”

“I can’t.”

“Yes, you can. I am not going to hurt you.”

“You will, if an agent takes over you.”

“You are not making any sense.”

“Agents are the guardians of The Matrix. If you’re not one of us, you’re one of them.”

“This is the second time you call this ship The Matrix. You are aboard the Marathon.”

“How do you know that?”

“What?”

“The name of my ship, the Marathon.”

“That is the name of this place.”

“No, this is The Matrix.”

“This the Marathon.”

“This The Matrix.”

“You just said the name of your ship was the Marathon.”

“This is not a ship. This is The Matrix.”

“Again, you are not making any sense.”

“The Marathon is the ship we’re using to broadcast the signal into The Matrix. My body is on the Marathon and my mind is on The Matrix.”

“All right. If that makes you happy, my body is on the Marathon and my mind is on ‘The Matrix’ too. Now, please put the gun down.”

“You still don’t understand. Your mind is on The Matrix, but your body is on a power plant.”

“So according to you, I am not here?”

“Your mind is here, but your body is elsewhere.”

“Elsewhere on a power plant.”

“Your body is on a power plant in the real world.”

“The important thing, Magik, is that you put…”

I could not finish the sentence. A strange sensation—some kind of stress I have never felt before—invaded me. I stopped being myself. I was absent from my own mind.

“You’re turning into an agent!” Magik exclaimed. “This is it. I’m going to die!”

“Nobody is going to die!” I exclaimed and the strange sensation ceased.

Magik looked at me as if I were a ghost and she dropped the gun. Upon hitting the ground, the gun opened fire and I took cover behind a lava pump. The bullet barely missed me.

“Please don’t go,” Magik said. “It was an accident!”

“What was that?” I asked from behind the pump. “What just happened to me?”

“An agent tried to take over you, but you repelled him. I wouldn’t believe it if I haven’t seen with my own eyes. I think you’re a… How do they call people like you? A potential. You must come with me.”

“Go away!”

“I’ll take you to the real world.”

I took out of my pocket the bottle of green pills and I gave it a look. “Only Leela knows what these pills are doing to me,” I thought. “Maybe she is using me for her own private experiment, called The Matrix.” I tossed the bottle away and I stepped into the light.

“Are you coming with me?” she asked

“Perhaps if I help you,” I replied, “things will go back to normal.”

“I’ll take that as a yes. Can you tell me where can I find a phone?”

“Come again?”

“A phone. Where can I find one?”

“A phone?”

“Don’t you know what a phone is?”

“No.”

“Well, this is The Matrix… A phone is something like this.”

Magik showed me the small device she was talking to early on.

“What is that?” I asked.

“This is a cell phone.”

“Do you mean a phone?”

“No, I mean a cell phone. It’s almost the same thing as a phone.”

“Then use it.”

“I can’t use a cell phone to get us out of here. I need a phone.”

“You are confusing me.”

“Just tell me if there’s something around here that looks like this.”

“No.”

“Then we’re as good as dead.”

“Not really.”

“What do you mean?”

“If Leela started this, she can finish it too.”

“Who’s Leela?”

“Follow me.”

We went to the geothermal station’s computer terminal and I asked Leela if she had any information regarding a phone device, similar to a cell phone. “Do you mean a telephone?” Leela asked. “That’s it,” Magik replied. A few seconds later, I learned what a phone is. It is hard to believe there was a time when people used those things to talk to each other.

“The only place you will find a device like that,” I told Magik, “is at a museum back in the solar system.”

“Is there any way we can build a phone?”

“How about an emulator?”

“That should do the trick.”

While Leela was programming the emulator, Magik’s cell phone played strange music and she talked into it.

“Loop? Finally! I found a potential and he’s working on an exit right now. You must see what this old man can do against an agent. He… What? Can we make a stop and free this man first? No, it’s OK. I understand.”

“Telephone System Emulator compiled and running,” Leela said. “Do you wish to make a call?”

Magik put down the cell phone and she said to me: “The machines are drilling a hole to get into Zion. I must return immediately to my ship.”

“Zion? Sure! Why not?”

“I’m not kidding! Once this thing is over, I’ll come back to take you to the real world.”

The terminal produced a metallic screech that felt like a swarm of insects inside my ears. “Incoming telephone call,” Leela said. “Press return to answer.”

“You know something?” Magik said. “This won’t be the best way to do it, but we must try. Here, take this red pill.”

“Oh no. No more pills!”

“You must trust me.”

She put the red pill in my hand. Except for the color, it looked exactly like the green pills. I threw away the pill and Magik ran to retrieve it. The cryogenic chamber emerged from the lava gorge and the cyborg jumped out. He landed between Magik and me.

“Why is the cyborg dressed like that?” I wondered. “He looks like a man from the 21st century. Where is his uniform?”

This was not the eleventh cyborg; it was a regular one. Otherwise, I would have not lived to tell the story.

“The gun!” Magik said to me. “It’s on the floor, next to you. Pass it to me and get out of here!”

Reaching for the gun, I accidentally pressed the return key on the terminal and suddenly there was no gun on the floor, no cyborg, no lava gorge—nothing! I found myself lying on an old chair in a machine room. Next to me, in front an even older console, a couple of men in rags argued.

“Are you sure?” the tall man asked the one-eyed man.

“I’m positive, Captain,” replied the one-eyed man. “The old potential picked up the call.” He pointed at me and he said: “That isn’t Magik. That’s the old potential, wearing Magik’s body.”

“Who are you? What is happening in here?” I asked. Then I noticed something odd about my body: it wasn’t my body anymore. As strange as this may sound, the one-eyed man was right: I was inside Magik’s body!

“Wait a minute,” the one-eyed man said. “Maybe if we plug him back into The Matrix, he and Magik could switch back.”

The alarm sounded and the tall man said: “Sentinels! We must go!”

“What about Magik?”

“Pray she won’t suffer when the agent kills her.”

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