|Through Broken Eyes
Author: Ridyr PM
A story in Rinzler's words, moving from one moment to another until he commits his final act as himself.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Adventure - Tron/Rinzler & Clu 2 - Chapters: 58 - Words: 60,456 - Reviews: 179 - Favs: 49 - Follows: 42 - Updated: 08-09-12 - Published: 02-12-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6736424
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The ISOs knew things.
They used to have a way of looking at me before they fell beneath my disc, like they could see something I couldn't even if they weren't always smart enough to know what that something was. They used to look at me like they could sense the intangible, like they knew better than the rest of us.
As if we were transparent to them.
They looked at me, and they knew me.
They knew Clu.
They looked through the programs they met, saw us like we couldn't see each other, looked straight through us whether we wanted to be looked at or not.
This one is no different.
I knew her for what she was as soon as I touched her. That she lived in the first place is an abomination. What Clu implied he was going to do with her is even more appalling. I don't understand how he could touch her that way, let alone look forward to doing so. I don't understand why shock or horror or hesitation or some reevaluation of his circumstances did not cross his face immediately when I brought her to him.
Look at this thing that I found, Clu.
Why is it even alive?
But he didn't care that she was alive. He didn't care what she was at all. He covered that repulsive little patch of circuitry on her arm so he couldn't see it and then touched her hair and smiled at her.
She didn't want to be touched…
Filter (emotional) failure—
Why even now -as I am walking away- does it make me so furious to have seen the pleasure he took in her discomfort, this freakish product of the sea, this female who is not even a female, who is not what we are? She is not a program. She is one of them, and she should have died a long time ago.
. . . But she didn't.
She didn't and now she is here beside me, looking at me out of the corner of her enormous gray-blue eyes, studying me. Looking at me as only her kind can look. Seeing what she should not be able to see, sensing what she should not be able to sense as I lead her to the bridge.
ISOs know things.
She can see me.
Stop looking, you walking virus. You ISO scum .
DON'T LOOK AT ME.
I don't want to know what you see.
I do not want to know what I am.
. . . Because what I am is unstable. Clu doesn't see it. No one sees it. But I am collapsing.
NO. I'M FINE.
System failure: 12% failure—filters (emotional, memory) compromised…
But I'm not.
I can't stop turning that over in my head. I'm not fine. I thought about it while Clu examined my captive. I thought about the name that makes no sense. I thought about the search that will not stop running. I thought about the warnings, the errors, and I thought about how he never even looked at me, how he saw nothing but he wanted to see, nothing but his perfect, raging, single-minded soldier.
I tried to tell myself to ignore it.
I have to ignore it….
But my filters are failing.
I can see what he is doing, what he's ignoring. And I am beginning to understand that there are so many cracks that I couldn't see; cracks I can see now. Cracks it is too late to fix.
They have been building up for so long, becoming deep and twisting fissures. I have been breaking.
I am broken…
NO. DO YOUR JOB.
FIND THE USERS.
Like Clu said. Just like he said. The only thing he said to me when I brought him this prize, this creature which shouldn't exist. I must do as I was told, and "Take her upstairs," was his one, useless command. "Take her upstairs, and FIND THEM."
….What do you think I've been doing….
This thought was met with pain at the time. His programming is still strong. The punishment is strong.
The pain I receive for understanding myself is strong.
Questioning him is forbidden. Knowing myself is forbidden.
Initializing search query: directive—
Clu is strong.
And I am weak.
She can see that. I know she can. The ISOs see everything.
STOP. STARING. AT. ME.
But she doesn't stop. She speaks, instead. Her voice is low for a female. Even. Calculated.
"He won't need an enforcer when he gets out, you know. Not one that was designed for in here. He'll get rid of you, too."
My sound roars in my ears.
"And he's not going to win when he gets out. It doesn't matter how great his army is, it won't be enough. The users are better than him."
That command is turning into a reflex… an echo. Users, users, users….
We don't need users.
They left us….
"You could save yourself, you know," she continues, "He'd never catch you if you ran."
MEMORY SYSTEM FAILURE—WARNING-WARNING-
For a fraction of a nano, and no more, her words cut into me; cut me deep. In that instant an image of a dark room flashes in front of my eyes. There is a window. Outside it is cold. A city in the distance is burning and sparking and falling… or is it a city on a view screen? Either way it collapses and spins away as I turn on my heel, as the memory turns its back on what was before it.
ERRORERRORERRORERROR—RESTRICTED MEMORY—ATTEMPTING REDACTION—
Systems failing . . .
He'd never catch me if I ran.
I WILL NEVER RUN.
I will never run away . . .
…There is something wrong with me. There is something wrong with me and she knows it. She looks at me warily.
Leave me alone.
But she doesn't.
"You're . . ."
"You're…." her voice is cautiously curious now, brighter, a tone that suits her, "corrupted."
That error hurts….
I can feel myself grimace, twisting my face that no one sees. Agony, everywhere, pain in waves through my head for thinking. . .
I take it out on her.
I will hurt you, too….
I tighten my grip in her arm till she gasps and yank her along beside me at a more rapid pace than before. The elevator pad is not far ahead. Soon I can put her away, this ISO freak. I can put her away and be done with her, her and all the things she sees; throw away her and her slicing, cutting words . . .
Get rid of her before it is more than I can take, before I twist her arm right off of her body or derezz her right here in this hallway, punish her for all of her looking, all of her seeing, all of her knowing… punish her for existing….
Her kind were born to be slaughtered.
Even the word is foreign, too weird and too twisted and too wrong when it is applied to them.
All ISOs are wrong.
And here, under my command, even as these thoughts form a cacophony in my head, this one has the gall to keep talking.
"What's wrong with you?"
Wrong with me. What is WRONG with me, she is that blatant. What's wrong with me, she asks.
I will tear you to pieces- leave me alone- there's nothing wrong with me… Clu made me perfect—ERROR ERROR ERROR-
The response in my head is utterly incoherent, a jumble of words all piled over the top of one another. My sound grows louder, like a muffled scream.
Her eyes flicker back and forth, and she looks at me almost as if she considers this to be a viable reply, turning her head very slowly. The hallway we are in is dark but for one band of orange along the floor, a single guildelight. I imagine that she is met with nothing but her own reflection in my helmet in this darkness, and it pleases me.
But no. No, it can't be that simple.
She must see something else.
Her expression turns to alarm, and she leans away from me as much as she is able. I tighten my grip till it seems certain I will sever her arm with nothing but my hand, or electrocute her out of sheer desperation, just like that guard I shouldn't remember.
She looks truly frightened, now. At last.
But she speaks again, comments again on what she senses, on what only an ISO can see, chooses to be both stupid and brave.
"You're old," she says, and there is hollowness in her voice, a sort of quiver.
It has been a fraction of a cycle since I first woke to Clu's voice, nothing more. But I did not come from nothing. I do not know the story that this body, this jumble of code and pixels, has to tell. I do not know who I was, do not remember what I did before I was repurposed into what I am.
Though somehow, I am sure it was important. . .
MEMORY SYSTEM FAILURE—
Another glimpse flashes in front of me now, another fragment, this time of broken arches and a soft glow, of a white disc, and the strangest feeling, the word "Arjia" echoing in my head far too loudly, till the noise of it is painful. The image is blurry and faded and makes no sense, and I feel pain so severe it is as if the first layer of pixels is being peeled off of my body when to try and focus on it more closely.
How can remembering hurt so much?
I do not like this ISO girl. I do not like what she makes me see, do not appreciate this agony.
I'd rather not know.
I am so good at denial. Clu made me that way. Clu made me . . .
Clu didn't MAKE anyone….
Almost as if she hears the thought in my head, something in my demeanor now makes her recoil. My captive digs her heels into the floor, tries to pull away, tries to stop me, tries to look me in the eye.
But she doesn't. Suspicion is suddenly clear in every feature, in her every gesture, in the rate at which her chest rises and falls with her cycling, in the increasing attempts to pull away from me. I do not scare her like I do the others. It is more than that. She is fundamentally disturbed by my presence.
The elevator is ahead of us, and she is frantic now. Desperate. She tries to pull away more violently than before, and still she tries to look at me, to see my face.
"You're not from here," she whispers.
What is that supposed to mean—
But she's right. My entire system is screaming, screaming back to those words. Her ISO eyes are seeing, perceiving what they shouldn't, tearing holes in breaking circuits, endangering fragile lines of code.
She will tear me apart… and I am sure that she knows it. She must know it.
You are going too far, ISO.
She deserves whatever Clu does to her…
This has nothing to do with Clu.
… But everything has to do with Clu…
I am still processing this thought as we step onto the elevator pad. Immediately, it begins to rise beneath our feet. She tries to hurtle herself over the side before it rises too high, but only succeeds in tripping herself, falling to her knees. I jerk her back to her feet. There is something disgusting about her being down there.
Something almost as disgusting as her existence in general.
I can lift her to her feet with one hand, but I have to pivot towards her, really look at her, to ensure that I pull her up on her feet but not into me. She is just skilled enough to know how to use her own momentum to her advantage, and I wouldn't be surprised if she were to use such a moment to push us both to the ground and me over the edge of the platform. Keeping her at a distance is an option I absolutely prefer.
As she rises, however, she is afforded a look at the small pattern of circuits on my chest. This seems to disturb her.
. . . It disturbs her immensely.
All at once her eyes widen, so full and staring that her eyes seem to consume the whole of her face they are so large. Her jaw drops open, just slightly, and she freezes, stiffening like an accessory caught in the middle of a disc battle, absolutely helpless. She blanches, indicating a temporary failure of some system or another, and I can almost feel her circuits growing a little cooler against my palm. She looks at me with more horror in her eyes than I have ever seen.
Her expression is one of absolute dread.
Why are you looking at my chest like that?
This is not normal fear.
This is not how a frightened program looks. This is not the expression I have been shown by so many on the game grid, or the look I have seen in the coward's eyes of Jarvis. This is something else. Her eyes are filled with terrible understanding… not of her position, but of something else. Something I can't see for myself.
It makes me so angry I can taste it, like burning circuits, like raw power.
WHAT DO YOU SEE?
I can just stand here and watch the resistance draining out of her like code from a leaky conduit. Where a moment ago there was defiance, a confidence in what she could sense, and a curiosity for what she could not, now there is only desperation. Whatever it is that she knows, it has taken all of her footing, all of her security away from her.
Her lip quivers once or twice before she is finally able to speak.
"No," she says; her voice faulty and uneven and stunned. And then her cold eyes flick up to mine. Through the helmet, she somehow finds my gaze.
"Clu did this to you."
"Please, listen to me. This isn't what you were programmed for."
OF COURSE IT IS. I know exactly what I was programmed for.
…Search query (directive) initializing-
Her voice is hurried now, urgent, as if she is racing the elevator pad beneath us, trying to outrun its rising.
"Everything he's told you is a lie. I know who you are, I promise you, Clu lied. He didn't make you. Kevin Flynn didn't make you. Your user's name is Alan-1, remember? He made you to help us—"
But at that moment I cut her off.
I cut her off by throwing my weight against her with every bit of strength there is in my body, sending her flying towards the edge of the platform. That name… it's like a jolt of electricity straight to the back of my head. It burns down every circuit, breaks through every weak point and every filter, burning like a live circuit inside of my head.
And I can't think. I can't stop thinking. I can't make sense of the mess in my head…
ERROR ERROR error WARNING
SYSTEM FAILURE: MEMORY FILTERS, EMOTIONAL FILTERS- UNATHORIZED FILE ACCESS: FILE NAME: 'SourceCode' ALERT ALERT ALERT ALERT ALERT ALERT ALERT—
WARNING WARNING ERRORALERTWARNING—
Analyzing i/o feed: "help us…", "Alan-1" ERROR—
I serve Clu, I SERVE CLU SERVECLUSERVECLUSERVECLUERROR—
I swear I can hear someone screaming inside of me.
But he's not making any sense.
AUTO SHUTDOWN RESPONSE ENGAGED—
ABORT ABORT ABORT ABORT—
MANUEL REDIRECT ENGAGED: INITIALIING MANUAL REDACTION—
REDACTION FAILED: SYSTEM FAILURE (memory filters) AT 98%-
Error. . .
Not now. Not now. I am so close to finding them. I can feel it. Not now . . .
I have to get control.
The ISO is barely hanging on after the shove I gave her. She has managed to catch the edge of the platform with the toe of one boot, her other leg swinging freely over the abyss. The only reason she isn't dead at this moment is because I have let her live.
Because I have a command to follow.
Because Clu wants her alive.
I am still holding her with one hand around her upper arm. My grip, which is tight enough that I can feel pixels grinding together in her arm, is the only thing standing between life and death for this abomination.
Needless to say, I have her full attention.
With full and absolute apprehension in her eyes and a scream caught in her throat, she looks back at me, and at last, she says nothing.
The fact that I cannot speak has not changed, but she understands the rumbling snarl I'm emitting just as well as words. The ISOs know, when they are willing to listen, and right now he has no choice.
She understands exactly what I say to her in my head, perhaps not in so many words, but with perfect clarity despite that. She understands that she has been rejected. She understands that she has made an enemy she will not survive.
She regrets what she has seen of me.
I will NEVER help you.
She fears what I am.
… I will DESTROY you. When Clu is done with you.
When he has ruined you.
She fears what I have become.
Then I will break you into a thousand burnt up little pixels, and when we have taken their discs-
When Cu has taken their world…
I will slice them to pieces. I will make you watch while I cut them down into fragments so small there is nothing left but blood.
Then everything I was made for will have been done.
Only then will Clu be finished with me.
Only then will my usefulness run out.
Only when the users are dead. When they are a sticky mess of fabric and two stray discs and a puddle of hot, red blood and whatever else they're made of.
That's when Clu will kill me.
That's when it will finally be over.
Emotional filter failure: 100%
Something -power sludge or something- is leaking from my eye. I can feel it, warm and wet, racing down my cheek, running down the face I can't, won't, ever see, running past the agonized grimace I know my expression has pulled itself into.
The ISO is absolutely broken, too.
She is looking at me with this horrible, twisted expression, and every shred of fight has gone out of her, and meanwhile I am shaking so hard I might just lose my grip on her despite myself. Every last pixel in my body is screaming, and I can feel circuits rupturing. I'm burning from the inside.
I am full of smoke and sparks.
I have to shake my head to clear it enough to function at all, a grating gesture that is I've almost forgotten from disuse. After all, the faceless don't have expressions, why should they have motions, too? Outside of a nod in place of the words "yes Clu," that is.
"Yes, Clu," is all I am good for.
. . . And I will be good to the last.
I pull the ISO back onto the pad. She does collide with me for a moment, this time, but she is too dumbstruck now to use it to her advantage. She only sways on her feet for a moment before resigning herself to standing quietly beside me.
When the elevator pad levels with the bridge, when we are greeted with the sight of derezzed leftovers of the guards, with Sam Flynn up ahead holding Jarvis by his neck and holding the creator's disc in his other hand, she is still right there. Right there beside me, totally immobile, looking so shell-shocked it's as if I've thrown a light grenade at her.
But I'm fooling myself, thinking she can really be subdued with her user-hero standing in front of her with his prize.
Even as I throw her aside, dismiss her like the corrupt bit of byproduct, of trash, that she is, looking so angry and so determined as I'm sure I must look, so ready to win with my discs, my two discs aimed to kill, the truth is that she is not done with me.
I can be broken just a little further.
There is one more thing, one last thing which is holding me together, which she can take. And she does. In the next few nanos, she does.
The ISOs always do.
Author's note: All my thanks to Cyberbutterfly for her in-depth reviews and editing efforts on this chapter, and to Jax Solo and Sharinganavenger as well for their help with the first draft.
Here's hoping you all enjoyed reading this one as much as I enjoyed writing it. :)
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