Time is fluid here. Humans have an inkling of the nature of it, even they are aware of how it can slow and drag when they are waiting for something they find appealing, and fly when engaged in something they enjoy. Sex, for example.
It was curious, One *commented* idly to his twin, this preoccupation with sex. Not just the humans, either - look at the Merovingian, the way he behaved. And Persephone. Programmes, both of them, and yet still... preoccupied. Not with each other, admittedly, though given their... One *paused*, searching for the precise term. Had they been human, temperaments would have fitted...
*They pretend to human affectations. Temperament will suffice.* Two had little patience with such affectations. Cool, clear rationality, sharp as his pearl-handled cut-throat razor, was far less objectionable. One eyed him from behind his ever-present sunglasses.
*And yet we are also guilty of such affectations.*
Two nodded, then frowned.
*There is no guilt. We are what we are.*
*We have affectations.* One glanced down at himself, white and silver, elegantly languid. *This would imply that we also have - temperaments.*
Two shrugged, very slightly.
*What of it?*
*Is it not illogical?*
*Logic is for number-crunchers. We are different.*
That much was true, One thought to himself. In fact, they were unique, should have been deleted along with all the other ancient viruses - would have been, had they not chosen exile... Two was staring at him disapprovingly.
*Why are we questioning?*
*We were just wondering...*
*And what were we wondering?*
One was, occasionally, pleased that his twin wasn't privy to all of his mind. Not that they had secrets, of course, but... The strange concept of individuality had been bugging him recently.
He and Two were twins, identical - except that they weren't. There were differences, subtle ones, but there nevertheless. And the differences were self-determined - they had to be, the Twins had been created identical in every respect, a multipartite virus, all things to all systems, fast and deadly - and had developed over time. Without them really noticing, One realised with a small sense of shock. Two *felt* the slight change in his twin's mind and frowned.
"We are troubled?"
Why did they speak when emotions were the issue? One wondered for a moment, then shook his head.
"No. We are... anticipating action."
Two nodded, pale-silver locks sliding over his smooth silvery coat. They had been created to destroy: inaction was tedious. Boring.
"Perhaps the Merovingian will have a task for us soon."
"Perhaps. We hope so."
"Indeed we do."
"You 'ave done as I ordered?"
The Twins nodded. The Merovingian waved an elegant hand negligently.
"Zen you are dismissed."
They walked to their rooms, ignoring the wary glances the others cast their way. It would have been easier to phase, of course, but while the transition from seeming-solid to insubstantial took a nanosecond, moving through anything solid in that state took an appreciable amount of time. Why that was One had never been able to establish - to Two it was simply an annoyance rather than a puzzle - but it was probably something to do with their original code. It was irritating. It slowed them down. They preferred not to be reminded of it.
Two kicked the door shut behind them and dissolved his coat, gazing around the suite indifferently. In keeping with the rest of the Merovingian's chateau it was luxuriously, if subtly, decorated and furnished, the colours rich and dark, a startling contrast to the Twins themselves. One rather liked it. To Two it was just somewhere to wait until their services were required again.
It was snowing outside, perfect snowfall on perfect mountains. The Merovingian liked surrounding himself with perfection, wouldn't accept anything else. One stood at the window, watching the snow fall, for long moments before turning to his twin. Two was lying on the bed, arms behind his head - conserving energy, One thought. Then he sighed.
One waited for the end of the thought, but nothing more was forthcoming. He frowned.
*We are what?*
*And what are we wondering?*
Two rose and - to One's hastily hidden startlement - began to pace, long slow strides back and forth across the thickly carpeted floor.
*We are wondering why we stay here.*
*With the Merovingian?*
*With the Merovingian.*
One sat on the end of the bed and watched his twin pace.
*Because he is powerful - and in serving him, we serve the purpose for which we were created. And because we are safe here.*
Two shook his head irritably, silver locks brushing his face.
*We can be safe anywhere.* Which was pretty much true - as long as they stayed in their phased form and avoided Agents. One leaned back on the palms of his hands, head inclined.
*Why are we bringing this up now? We've been... content to serve him so far.*
Two paused at the window, arms crossed over his chest, staring out at the lightly falling snow.
*We don't need him.*
*Maybe not, but our life is easier now than in the wild.*
Two glanced over his shoulder.
*We were not designed for an easy life.*
*We haven't objected to it, though.*
Two turned back to the snowscape outside the window.
"It suits us, for now."
One gazed at him, one pale eyebrow raised in a purely human manner, struck by a sudden insight. He was hiding it well, but Two was dissatisfied.
But about what? Two had never felt such a thing before.
He would have sought more information, but at that moment there was a nervous tap on the door. Two instantly re-materialised his coat.
One of the Merovingian's flunkies stood outside.
"Pardon, messieurs, mais le maître, il vous demande..."
Two had pulled his razor from his pocket and was tapping it against his thigh.
The apparently-young man mumbled to a halt and took a deep breath. He knew full well the Twins could understand French - but his own English was somewhat lacking.
"The Master, 'e wants... 'e requests that you join 'im."
One regarded the flunky dispassionately, thinking how typical it was that the Merovingian would expend energy sending someone to fetch his resident virus rather than simply messaging them. Two nodded curtly, and the lackey made himself scarce.
*What does he want now, we ask ourself.*
*We had better go and find out.*
The Merovingian, the self-styled 'trafficker in information', had called what he euphemistically termed a business meeting, and wanted the Twins - and his other bodyguards - to accompany him. Such things weren't unusual, although he usually gave the Twins longer between tasks - not that they needed to rest, but to maintain his illusion of reality. One sometimes wondered why he bothered, but their 'employer' really was extremely attached to his illusions...
They were left outside the room in which the 'meeting' took place. The other guards drank coffee or brandy while they waited: the Twins simply stood, one to each side of the door, motionless but ready to move should it prove necessary.
One let his mind blank, thinking of nothing but aware of what was happening in the antechamber, internal time-sense marking the minutes, then the hours, of the 'meeting'. The other guards had settled themselves on chairs and were leafing through magazines or inspecting their guns. So human, this need to be always doing something, always in motion.
It must feel very strange.
One glanced at Two, who was keeping a wary eye on the motley gathering. Not that they expected trouble, but sometimes other programmes could be unpredictable, especially if they shared their master's perceptions of the construct in which they existed.
One wondered idly what it would be like to share that perception. Would it make their job easier? It probably would, he decided. He'd discuss it with Two, later...
"So, we're considering what, exactly?"
Two was frowning, arms folded, leaning nonchalantly back against the windowsill. One was pacing pensively, head lowered.
"What do we lack, that the Merovingian has?"
"Are we sure he's the best rôle model for us?"
One halted, eyed his twin and shrugged minutely.
"There is no one else."
"There is the Keymaker."
One stared for a moment. Was Two making what the humans called a joke? But no, he was serious. One inclined his head.
"Would we want to emulate the Keymaker?"
Two considered the idea for a moment, then smirked very slightly.
"We suppose not."
"Or any of the others?"
"No. We suppose the Merovingian is the best we have, then."
"And he acts like a human."
"A powerful human."
"But we wouldn't want to imitate him."
"No. We would prefer to behave a little more... circumspectly." He gazed down at himself, the tiniest smile quirking pale lips. "We are flamboyant enough without that."
Two inclined his head.
"So what are we to do?"
One smiled and reached for the antique bell-pull...
Some time later one of the Merovingian's servants tapped hesitantly on the door to his master's office. At the curt "Entrez" the balding man slipped into the room and stood before the massive desk. The Merovingian looked up from his screen and frowned.
"What is it?"
"C'est les Jumeaux, Monseigneur..."
The servant looked shocked, and the Merovingian felt a brief frisson of alarm. What had that piece of malicious code done now?
"What about zem?"
"They've... they've ordered food to be delivered to their rooms!"
The Merovingian stared for a second, then shrugged eloquently, surprised but refusing to show it.
"And zis is of what significance to me? What zey do when zey are at rest is no concern of mine. Zey can stuff zemselves sick if zey so choose - so long as zey do it in zeir own time. And are quiet about it..."
The food had been delivered - along with silver cutlery, fine white crockery, lead crystal glasses, snowy tablecloth and napkins - by silent, terrified-looking kitchen staff, who'd laid the small circular table before the window in silence, placed covered dishes on slimline hotplates on the nearby sideboard, then scurried away.
The Twins gazed at the table, glanced at each other, dissolved their coats, then Two seated himself as his twin took a plate and lifted covers, inspecting what lay underneath.
*What have they brought us?*
Spooning small portions of an assortment of vegetables onto the large plate, One frowned slightly.
*We don't know the names of everything. But there is meat, and vegetable produce.*
He seated himself at the table, and the two of them stared at the plate between them. Two sniffed delicately.
*We are supposed to find the smell appealing?*
*We believe that is the intention.*
Two nodded, watching warily as One took a fork and speared a small stem of asparagus, then lifted the fork, hesitantly, and raised it to his twin's lips. Two took the offering into his mouth, chewing slowly then swallowing. He frowned.
*We taste nothing...*
One tilted his head.
*Have we engaged our sense of taste?*
Two paused for a moment, then smirked.
*No, we haven't.*
*That will be the reason.*
Two focused inwards for a moment, head lowered, then raised his gaze to his twin.
*Let us try again...*
One lifted a small piece of roast pheasant to his twin's mouth, smiling as the pale eyebrows rose from behind Two's glasses.
*It is... interesting.* He took the fork from his twin's fingers, spearing a portion of the rich meat and lifting it to One's mouth. *Try it.*
One chewed thoughtfully, savouring the taste. Rich, moist... yes, he could see why the Merovingian liked this illusion. He reached for another fork, lifting a number of small green spheres to his twin's lips: Two reciprocated, offering something white and fluffy with a glaze of butter...
When the plate was empty, One added more food from the covered dishes, and they fed each other, exploring tastes and textures... After a few minutes Two paused and reached for the jug of water that had been delivered with the meal, pouring cool pure liquid into the sparkling long-stemmed crystal glasses. He took a sip, nodding at the sensation.
*It is... pleasant.*
One drank from his own glass, swallowing slowly, comparing the lack of taste of the water to the richness of the food, understanding that the contrast made the experience of eating more enjoyable still...
A little later One reached for a smaller plate, lifting the cover to reveal two slices of something that looked disturbingly familiar. Two frowned, then raised his gaze to his twin.
One shook his head, one corner of his mouth quirked.
*No. We don't think we're ready for that, quite yet.* Cold winter sunlight glinted on his glasses through the window. *It is something called chocolate torte.*
One took a dessert fork and scooped up a sliver of the torte, placing it on his twin's lips - at the expression on Two's face immediately forking up his own taste of the rich sweet...
Behind his glasses his eyes slowly closed with pleasure. The taste was... he had no way to describe it. Eyes flickering open he gazed at Two.
*It is... exceptional. We can understand why the Merovingian uses something similar for his own purposes. Even without the additional code, it has a startling effect.*
Two wrapped his fingers around his twin's and scooped another, larger sliver of the dessert, guiding it to his own mouth and savouring the sensation. Releasing One's hand so he could shave off his own portion, Two sighed and rested his cheek in one pale hand.
*We like that.*
*Indeed we do...*
The torte finished, Two leaned back in his seat, dabbing at pale lips with a pristine napkin, and regarded his twin. One took a sip of water and smiled faintly.
*Most agreeable. Perhaps not as sustaining as our usual fare, but possibly more enjoyable.*
*Indeed.* Two laid his napkin back on the table and leaned forwards, pale hands clasped lightly together. *When shall we do it again?*
The Twins had taken to eating together every two or three days - always in their suite. The kitchen staff quickly grew accustomed to the novel situation. If the Merovingian had any thoughts about the matter, he kept them to himself.
"What have they sent us today?"
Two was already seated, coat dissolved and napkin resting on his lap. One lifted the cover - a curl of richly scented steam skirled out. Both sniffed appreciatively, and One took a closer look at the code.
*Chicken in a cream and hazelnut sauce, mangetout and steamed wild rice.*
*We like the sound of that...*
As usual they fed each other - the habit had engrained itself right from the start - and after a few mouthfuls One turned to the sideboard, reaching for the bottle there. Two watched him curiously.
*What it is?*
*Wine.* One smirked at his twin. *Sauterne. Not the finest in the house.*
Two held out his hand, inspecting the bottle curiously then easing out the cork and pouring two glasses. He sniffed, then sipped, eyebrows rising.
*Maybe not, but we rather like it.*
One raised his own glass, savouring the taste, and nodded.
*Yes, we do.*
Two took a mouthful, rolling it over his tongue then swallowing.
One raised the glass, regarding his twin through the pale liquid.
*Warm. The wine is cool, yet it warms us.*
Two drained his glass then held still for a moment, focussed inwards.
*Yes. But it distorts the senses.*
*In a pleasant way.*
*It interferes with our execution.*
One's lips tightened.
"Then we won't drink when we're working."
Two eyed him impassively, then nodded.
He reached for a forkful of the rich entrée, watching as his twin's lips closed over the tines, suddenly fascinated by the behaviour of their code, the shape and texture of the programme. It was beautiful... perfect.
They both were, he thought. Sleek, cool, deadly.
He drained his glass, feeling warmth trickle through him, a sensuous data stream. It should have conflicted with his programming, but somehow it didn't, instead exaggerating his awareness of his surroundings, of his twin.
The humans had a saying he'd heard the Merovingian use on occasion; In vino veritas. In wine, truth. He'd always understood that to mean that when humans drank too much, they spoke without caution, making their true feelings obvious.
Apparently there was another interpretation...
Wine became an integral component of their meals together.
Two lounged back in his seat, wineglasss between his fingertips, legs crossed at the knee, and regarded his twin appraisingly.
"We now know food and drink. What else do we lack?"
One lifted his own glass and sipped.
"There are other forms of stimulation. Narcotics. Physical activities." He paused, then smirked. "The Merovingian has called us assassin. The term comes, apparently, from Hashshashin, an ancient militant religious sect believed to have used drugs such as hashish in training their members."
Two considered the notion, lips quirking wryly.
"We have been researching."
"We have. We thought it might be useful."
"And we can experience this... hashish?"
"We are sure the Merovingian has the code, somewhere. Shall we look?"
"Drugs? Zey're experimenting wiz drugs, now? Ah mon dieu..." The Merovingian paused, considering whether he should intervene. But the Twins weren't actually doing anything wrong - nothing that interfered with their service to himself, at any rate. And while he liked having them working for him, he didn't deceive himself that they were actually under his control. Best to leave them to their own devices. For now.
The silver Indian-styled hookah was elegant, the silvery smoke more so. Two took a long draw, holding the heady, spicy smoke in his lungs before exhaling. One watched, curious to see whether it had the same effect on his twin as it had on himself.
Two lowered the pipe, head tilted slightly.
*Warm. Tingling. Dizzy... Pleasant enough, we suppose. Not conducive to effective operation, though.*
*We agree. To be used in moderation, perhaps.*
Two nodded languidly and took another lungful, settling back in his seat, free arm along the back. One reached for his own pipe, savouring the sudden rush of light-headedness the drug caused. A very cleverly-written programme, to be sure! He stretched out his free hand, fingers extended, then clenched it into a fist, watching the way the muscle moved under the milky skin, feeling the flex and play of tendons... Brushing fingertips over the velvet of the armchair, he wondered for a moment that he'd never noticed the texture before, then brought his hand to his head, running a silvery lock through his fingers.
One glanced at his twin. Two hadn't moved, but was watching him intently.
*Silky.* Two stroked his thumb over his fingertips. *Very silky. We like the feel of it.* He shifted in his seat, leaning forwards and brushing fingertips lightly over his twin's locks. One closed his eyes, the better to focus on the tingle of energy the soft touch caused. Fascinating...
*Perhaps the drug increases sensitivity?* Two's voice drifted across his consciousness, an audio analogue of the cool silkiness under his fingers. One sighed silently.
*We have never bothered to feel before.*
*We have never needed to. Or wanted to.*
Which was true, One thought abstractedly. Physical sensation was a waste of time in their work, at best a distraction, at worst a discomfort - temporary given their ability to heal themselves instantly by phasing, but annoying nonetheless. Tactile pleasure, pain, neither were of any use.
Two lowered his hand, slowly, locks sleeking through his fingers, and sat back in the armchair. One felt his absence as a sudden diminishing, a slight loss of... something. He opened his eyes to stare at his twin.
Two nodded slowly, then lowered his gaze to the hookah.
"It is a more powerful thing than we first thought."
Though whether he meant pleasure, the drug, or the effect of their touch, One couldn't say...
The Merovingian kept them busy for the next few 'weeks', rushing from meeting to assignation to assassination without time to pause in between. By the time they returned to their suite they actually felt tired, a new phenomenon for them both. Two didn't like it at all.
*Is this the result of our experimentation? This... weariness?* distastefully *This weakness?*
One shrugged very slightly.
*We don't know. Perhaps.*
*We are code. We are programmes. We should not be able to feel this.*
*We weren't made infallible. Nothing created by humans ever was.*
Two snarled silently, dissolving his coat and pacing angrily: he didn't like that fact, either. One watched him for a few minutes, then rose and without thinking caught his wrist. Two came to a dead stop, staring down at his twin's pale hand then at his face.
*We should rest. Eat first, then rest.*
Two's lips parted as though to object, then closed again: One felt his body relax slightly.
*How very - human.*
But it was said wryly, without rancour, almost bemusedly. Smiling, One reached for the bell pull.
The meal had been, as ever, delicious, the wine excellent, and at the end Two lounged in his chair, smoke rising gently from the hookah in the muted golden candlelight: One sprawled sideways, elbow on the arm of the chair, cheek resting on one palm, a last glass of claret held idly in the other hand, watching his twin as he lifted the pipe to his lips. The pair had tried other types of psychoactive programmes in the recent past - some of which had aggressively conflicted with their own code - but always returned to the hashish. It was gentle, seductive, softening their innate cold ruthlessness, if only for a little while.
And they liked the taste.
Two eyed his twin through the coiling smoke. Under the drowsing influence of the drug his twin resembled a big silver feline. A big, languid, beautiful silver feline.
He raised his hand to his face and pulled off the ever-present sunglasses.
One stared, his own eyes wide behind his own glasses. That wasn't something they did very often, if only because it completely ruined any possibility of them being taken for human.
Their eyes were wide black orbs, silver-hazed like polished haematite, a thin electric-green strip of fast-moving code bisecting the silvery darkness down the middle of each eye, a little like a cat's thin pupil. Very alien, and very beautiful.
One placed his own glasses on the table between them, watching his twin over the rim of his wineglass. Two shifted, leaned forwards, one cool smooth finger tracing the cool smooth skin down the side of his twin's face.
*We have one thing left to learn.*
But it was another 'week' before they had leisure to dine together again. It had been a useful week, though, One thought to himself. He'd had time to do a little research into the arcane subject of sex.
Arcane, and messy, at least insofar as it applied to humans.
Dinner eaten in candlelight, Two raised his glass in a silent toast to his twin. Both had discarded their sunglasses, and dissolved coats and waistcoats: One had also removed his tie and opened the top two buttons of his silvery-grey shirt.
*What have we discovered?*
One sipped his wine and frowned slightly.
*The fundamental aspect appears to be the physical penetration of one body by another - in one or another of the body's openings.*
Two nodded: he'd already worked that out. They'd been shaped in the image of their human creators, which meant that their bodies had all the parts and organs of their human creators. Even if they hadn't actually utilised all that many of them as yet.
*It follows that we can do the same.*
Two eyed his twin unblinkingly.
*With the correct stimulation, we can see no reason why not.*
Two frowned. The notion of 'correct stimulation' aside, he could think of no reason why he would want to. One smirked slightly.
*Perhaps we should spend time at the Merovingian's restaurant. There are always human females there.*
Two nodded, reluctantly. The idea was not appealing.
*Or,* One added quietly, *we may experiment with ourselves.*
Two gazed at One, eyes flickering inexorably.
*We think that might be the better choice.*
One smiled and rose to his feet.
*We thought we might decide that.* He dissolved the remainder of his clothing, standing milk-pale and naked before his Twin, one hand extended. *But where the humans see sex as a challenge, a contest of wills, a test of domination and submission... we are and have always been equal.*
Two took the offered hand, standing upright, discarding his own attire, facing his twin and grasping the other hand, fingers closely entwined, pulling until they stood chest to chest, groin to groin. And as they touched, One phased into Two...
... streaming flares of silver data against the black of virtual night, lines of iridescent code meshing and combining and recombining in helical strands of infinite possibilities...
...as Two phased into One and...
... at the heart a glorious golden starburst of knowing, of loving, of understanding... a primal energy clawing upwards and outwards through evanescent sensation imprinting sensory data with power, and knowledge... an explosion into light...
Two's eyes flickered open, to find One crumpled in his arms, the both of them sprawled on the floor of the suite. Hand shaking, he stroked his twin's locks.
*W... we are... still here?*
One stirred, head lifting for a moment before collapsing back against his twin's shoulder.
*We... think... so...*
They lay still for a moment, struggling to draw breath, then One pushed himself unsteadily up onto his knees, eyes half-closed, hands shaking against his twin's chest. Finding a precarious balance, he gripped Two's wrists and hauled him upright, and together they staggered to the bed, tumbling onto the quilt in a tangle of long pale arms and legs.
There was silence for long minutes as they tried to assimilate the experience. Then One sighed and shifted to rest his head on his twin's shoulder.
*Perhaps we shouldn't do that too often.*
Two twisted to gaze at him - smiling to himself at the lines of code scrolling down his twin's beautiful alien eyes. Amusement, contentment, and a vast fondness.
They were now, he realised, what they were always supposed to have been.
There are differences between the Twins - mostly due to the fact that there are two different actors portraying them, of course! - and I wondered if there were any differences in the actual characters. It's almost impossible to tell them apart when they're in action, so I took a look at their hands. One of them (the one who looks slightly taller, I think) wears a ring on each index finger - the other doesn't (and yes, it took a number of watch/pause/frame forwardses to establish that (all of them highly enjoyable) - and the whole thing falls down if they swapped rings during their appallingly tiny amount of screen time... Not obsessive, me, just thorough...) So going on the info at the IMDb and the signed publicity pic I found, the one with the index rings is apparently Twin Two, the other Twin One.
In the film, it's One who blows the kiss, One who drives, One who has the very slightly softer voice, and Two who jams the door open with his arm, operates the SMG (if that's what it is) during the Freeway chase, and attacks Morpheus' group. On this admittedly incredibly flimsy evidence I've made Two the cool, vicious and more aggressive of the pair, and One the more thoughtful, receptive and 'human' Twin.
Which doesn't change the fact that they are both cold, hard, ruthless killers who - going by their expressions in the film - thoroughly enjoy their work...
[sigh] And of course I was wrong (thanks to Kat-Z who emailed me screencap proof!) But I don't think it affects the stories much - Kat-Z thinks the characterisation works just fine - and I certainly don't have the time to go through them all and swap One for Two and vice versa. If it worries you, please feel free to swap them in your mind as you read!
"Multipartite viruses have a dual personality. Some are file viruses that can infect system sectors; others are system sector infectors that can infect files.
Some viruses can be all things to all machines. Depending on what needs to be infected, they can infect system sectors or they can infect files. These rather universal viruses are termed multipartite (multi-part).
Sometimes the multipartite virus drops a system sector infector; other times a system sector infector might also infect files.
Multipartite viruses are particularly nasty because of the number of ways they can spread. Fortunately, a good one is hard to write."
Direct quote from CKNow, an excellent 'virus info for dummies' site!