Yochanan’s maid responded to the knocking at the door as fast as she could. The repeating pattern mocked her as she hurried across the polished wood floor of the house. Three knocks from a knuckle then a pause. Three more raps, “alright, alright, keep your hair on” she muttered as she reached for the door handle.
The men standing outside were a stark contast to one another. The shorter of the two wore a shabby white lab-coat. His greying hair was scraped across his balding head in a failed attempt to cover it. He wore round cracked glasses perched on the end of a snub nose and carried a leather doctors bag that looked like it had seen better days. His companion wore a black suit, sunglasses and neatly polished loafers and carried himself with an aloof air. The better dressed man adjusted his tie and clasped hands behind his back.
“Yes?” the maid asked.
“We’re here for Yochanan.” The shabby doctor answered in a voice that carried a hint of a european accent.
“I will tell him that you’re here. If you’d like to follow me to the drawing room?” the maid said inviting the two men inside with a wave of her hand. After showing them to the drawing room she withdrew to continue her other functions within the house.
Yochanan swept into the drawing room wearing a scowl.
“I assume you have a good reason …” his outburst was cut short as the agent pulled a large handgun from his shoulder holster. To Yochanan’s surprise the agent laid it on the coffee table. This was the cue for his shabby attendant to reach into a doctor’s bag and pull out a gleaming stainless steel jet-spray syringe gun. This was laid on the table next to the agent’s firearm. The contrast was as marked as that between the two men: polished blue-black gunmetal beside gleaming stainless steel and glass; one loaded with bullets, the other with a vial of redish fluid.
The agent removed his sunglasses with a deliberate care, choosing to speak only after they had been neatly folded and slipped into his jacket pocket, “It has come to our attention that your business is booming. This house,” he waved a hand expansively, “is proof enough of that. I have no doubt that you can take me through every tax return and every piece of documentation we require. However, I am not convinved of the veracity of all of this so called documentation.”
Yochanan paled slightly but continued to stand tall, watching the agent.
“As you are aware, the system cannot function if lines of communication become blocked or, tainted. Information must flow freely. Am I making myself clear?”
Yochanan nodded, turning his gaze to the shabby doctor who hadnt spoken a word so far. The man sat with fingers locked in a deathgrip on the handles of his doctor’s bag. The bag sat on his lap and it looked to Yochanan like the man’s very existence depended on the contents.
The agent coughed politely and spoke again once he had Yochanan’s attention, “You have become adept at communication, profiting from the brokering of information between individuals who would otherwise never have dealings. You have the knack of discerning what it is that they want and what you need to say to achieve those ends. From time to time we have need of an interface such as yourself. I am authorized to offer you a choice.” he indicated the two guns on the table then looked Yochanan in the eyes.
Yochanan pointed to the syringe, “Shoot me.”
The doctor moved with surprising swiftness, scooping up the injection gun and pressing it to Yochanan’s upper arm in one fluid movement. Moments later the vial of red fluid was empty. Painless.
“Here, sit down…” the Doctor said, tugging on Yochanan’s arm, moving him to the couch. Feelings of self-counciousness faded quickly as a burning sensation rose in his bloodsteam. Suddenly Yochanan didnt care that the Doctor and Agent were watching him intently. All he could think about was what the red fluid was doing as it coursed through his veins. A blessed stillness began to enfold him, a numbness that began at his extremities. Fingers and toes, hands and feet, legs and arms, torso … soon he felt a black cloud closing around his mind.
The world vanished as the drug took hold but instead of blessed unconciousness Yochanan found himself alone in a featureless black expanse. He tried walking but the sheer futility came crashing in as he realized that he had no measurement of distance. Without a measurement of distance and for that matter, time, there could be no velocity. In an abstract mathematical sense, he wasnt moving. In the dim distance he noticed a point of light. It swelled to a circle and appeared to advance toward him with incredible speed. Colours mapped themselves onto the advancing hemisphere and with a jolt it slammed to a halt all around him.
Yochanan found himself back in his own drawing room again, standing exactly where he had been before the doctor had injected him. Had he imagined it? The agent and the doctor were stood by the couch staring down … at Yochanan’s prone body. The doctor pulled metalic implements from his bag and began to operate on the back of the body’s neck. After a few moments he stepped back and Yochanan could see exposed flesh and cervical vertebrae. While there was some part of his awareness registering that “he” was laying on the couch, the major part of his self awareness was detached, viewed the body as some kind of discarded shell.
The Agent pulled a gleaming metal box from his jacket and opened it, tipping what looked like a handful of raisins onto the prone figure’s upper back. He closed the box and returned it to his pocket. The raisins began to glow. They sprouted multiple legs and wicked looking mouthparts, taking on the form of spiders. Soon the group of metalic spiders were exploring the edges of the wound, moving toward exposed bone. Yochanan gasped as they began to eat the second cervical vertebra. A few moments later a fine metalic web filled the gap. One by one the spiders expired with a flash of heat, melting the web nearby. The doctor nodded slowly as the web melted and cooled, forming a new metalic replacement vertebra. He stepped in and Yochanan lost sight of his handiwork but he assumed that the shabby little man was closing and cleaning things up.
Without warning, the world receded from Yochanan’s perception and he found himself in the black void again. An unseen force grabbed him violently and dragged him backward through the infinite space. Soon the darkness wasnt so dark. It gained texture and a greenish tint. He could almost see the flow of a lighter green across the surfaces around him. With the flow as reference point, and still being dragged helplessly along, he gained his bearings realizing to his horror that he was falling through the black, legs and arms churning. Colour and texture hardened around him. He landed on his back on a cold slab. Interia seemed to stretch reality above him, the ground deforming to aborb the impact. The ceiling snapped back into place with a rubbery wobble and sensation flooded into his perception.
The world around him was different. He couldnt pin it down, perhaps it was the smell or the taste of the air. There was a sharp edge to reality as it impacted his various senses. He reached up and found his neck intact and without a scar. He sat up and realized with some surprise that he was naked. Looking around he saw dozens of empty slabs laid out in rows and from across the room, he spotted the Agent and the doctor advancing on him.
The shabby little doctor was the first to speak, “Ah, Yochanan, Welcome to the Matrix. If you’d like to follow us, we have a few tests to run, and then we have an assignment for you.”