|War Takes the Refugee
Author: Ridyr PM
Quorra and Ada (Uprising), still on the run from the violence of the ISO wars, encounter a lone sentry in the abandoned apartment where they're hiding and are faced with the decision of whether or not they should allow an enemy to go free.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Angst - Quorra - Words: 2,846 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 1 - Published: 02-01-13 - Status: Complete - id: 8968569
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A Tron female character ficathon fic
Written For: Grey_sw
Era: Betrayal/Evolution, Pre-Uprising
Genre: action, drama, gen
Warnings: some violence, references to war an canonical genocide
Summary: Ada and Quorra, still on the run from the violence of the ISO wars, encounter a lone sentry in the abandoned apartment where they are hiding and are faced with the decision of whether or not they should allow an enemy to go free.
Title: War Takes the Refugee
"Quorra," Ada's voice was impatient, "Quorra, come on!"
Quorra didn't respond. Instead she shook her head, still bent over the broken baton, kneeling over it with it laid out on the floor. She was elbow deep in code, so desperate to repair it even with the sounds of recognizers now coming closer to the darkened windows, and more and more voices adding to the shouting, nervous cacophony of programs on the street below. The dingy, lightless, colorless room had once been a nice apartment, but that had been before the sea, and before the war, and before the purge that had turned peaceful opposition to Clu's mounting powers into the guerilla faction that now waged war in every broken street and every lifeless colony. This place hadn't been lived in since before She and Quorra had become fugitives and refugees.
Ada always told herself she shouldn't think like that. She knew Quorra certainly wouldn't tolerate it if she were to voice that opinion out loud. But what better word was there to describe them at this point? They had been entrenched in the abandoned apartment for six milicycles, low on power but afraid to leave for fear of being recognized as ISOs, and now the recognizers had come anyway. They had come with their sentries and soldiers to interrogate, to derezz . . . the recognizers followed them everywhere. They chased ISOs like starved gridbugs chase life signs in the outlands, determined to destroy every last one and everything they loved, everyone they loved, including the budding resistance. Ada knew that Quorra didn't want to leave their latest shelter yet, didn't want to pick up and disappear again when they had been settled so briefly, that she was desperate to regroup and recuperate. Quorra would love to fight them all off if she could –Ada was sure of that—but she knew a losing battle when she saw one, and so she ran.
Or at least, she had been running. Up till now. Now she was consumed by that broken baton.
"Please Quorra," Ada urged again, and Quorra shook her head just as before.
"No," she said. Her tone was harsh, but her low voice was heavy.
"We can fix it later," this time Ada tried to sound encouraging, but to no avail.
Quorra really did snap at her this time, standing up and balling her hands into tight and shaking fists at her sides, holding them there as she spoke except to gesture once at the baton.
"This is our last baton, Ada. If we can't even fix this we, we— I'm not going out there without a way to fight them."
She pressed her lips together tightly when she was done speaking, and gave Ada a look that seemed hard at first but looked vulnerable the longer she looked back at it, and then she bent down by the baton again.
Ada sighed, moving from the doorframe she had been clinging to. She kneeled beside her friend, who was plunging her hands back into the code display that hovered over the baton.
"I'm tired of just . . . running," Quorra sighed, "Our friends are out their dying, and I'm just sitting here hiding like a, like a malfunctioning bit."
"We're hiding," Ada corrected. There was a long pause, and though Quorra glanced at the woman beside her, she seemed to be more or less intent on ignoring Ada.
"They're my brothers and sisters too, you know."
Ada added this with uncharacteristic softness in her voice, her accent a lilting echo and little more when spread over such quiet words. Quorra bit her lip and did not look up, but her hands shook around the baton-code she was still rearranging.
"And I wish," she continued, "that there was more that I could do too, but you and I both know that there isn't. We have to stick to our own mission."
Quorra's expression hardened as she stared into the maze of code in front of her; bright, enormous eyes narrowing.
"Find Flynn," she said. Ada nodded.
"Or Tron. If either of them is still alive then they're the best hope that we have."
Quorra sighed and dropped her hands; the baton's code no less jumbled than it had been before. It was, however, now leaking sour green pixels. She tugged at her gloves absently while she spoke, pursing her lips were her brows knitting worriedly beneath her off-kilter bangs.
"And if neither of them are alive, I guess we'll just . . . survive."
She looked up at Ada at last as she said this, and the other ISOs tightened her grip on her friend's shoulder and smiled. Quorra smiled too after a moment. They were each of them the only thing that the other had left, but in its own lonely way, that was comforting.
The sounds of a battle were pouring in through the weakened, violence-worn walls of the apartment now. The voices from the street apparently belonged to the resistance fighters, for outside discs were singing, programs screaming, tanks were trundling along with a heavy continuous roar, a low level hum punctuated by the dull but ear-splitting bang of artillery fire. One loud, close explosion shook the apartment building, the code shivering for a moment to nothing but a wireframe around them. They grabbed for each other as the floor faded beneath them, and shared a look of wide-eyed terror.
"We should go," said Quorra.
"Forget the baton," affirmed Ada.
They jumped to their feet, the structure of the building around them groaning sorrowfully. They scrambled to the door and tumbled out into the poorly lit hallway. The precious little ambient light there was a medical green, pretty on its own but somehow sterile, somehow discouraging in that setting. They made it as far as the staircase.
The sentry that emerged from the doorway to the stairwell was female, her face entirely covered but for her lips, which were pressed into a hard line. Her disc was in one hand, a lightsword in the other. She was tall and broad, easily the same height as Quorra but thicker and obviously stronger, though the rate at which she recoiled spoke of frightening agility.
"IDENTIFY," she barked.
Beside Ada, Quorra stiffened, eyes going wide as only Quorra's eyes could, black-lashes frames making them look somehow bigger than they already were. The sentry stepped closer, a harsh orange beacon in the dim hallway like a gash in a circuit, like a wound.
She lunged forward suddenly, and tugged down on Ada's sleeve, very nearly cutting into her arm with her disc.
The sentry stiffened, and there was no doubt in Ada's mind that she was pinging her colleagues.
"BACKUP REQUESTED," she shouted then, voice hollow and grinding, "TARGET IDENTIFIED. BACKUP—"
She was cut off by Quorra slamming into her.
"Quorra!" Ada shouted after her friend —her only remaining, living friend— but it was too late. A blur of white and orange, the sentry and the ISO tumbled through the doorway and onto the stair landing, then then down a flight of stairs and into the ground floor stairwell. Ada found herself looking down on them as Quorra drew her disc and –to Ada's horror—pressed it to the sentry's neck. The Sentry, on the other hand, had dropped both of her weapons several stairs away.
This was not the first time they had encountered a sentry. This wasn't the first time that one of them had been forced to choose between derezzing an enemy or being derezzed themselves, but there was something different about this particular scenario, something horrible and repulsive and familiar. Maybe it was that the sentry was alone, maybe it was that's he was disarmed. Maybe it was that she was scared.
The sentry's face was hidden still, but her lips were parted and trembling and she was swallowing hard, throat quivering beneath the hot blade of Quorra's disc. Quorra's hand was shaking, and her circuits were glimmering, but Ada could not see the look on her face from where she was standing, could not see that she was grimacing and terrified and angry and more ready to kill than she had ever been in her life, or might ever be again.
"Quorra, don't," Ada said. She tried to sound stern, but her voice was shaking. It was a plea instead of an order.
Quorra didn't shout the word exactly, but there was a mix of desperation and resentment in her tone that Ada had never heard before, and she was struck by a sudden panic: struck by the fear that Quorra had finally snapped like so many survivors did, that she would fall into the endless darkness of vengeance and rage that so many of their surviving friends had already been lost to.
"Because we have to be better than them," Ada replied.
Quorra did not remove her disc. She hovered over the sentry still for a long moment, stiff backed and circuits flickering, increased cycling evidenced by the hard, fast breaths that she sucked in from between her teeth.
Then, all at once, her shoulders fell, and she hung her head.
"Ping the rest of your unit," she ordered. Her tone was at once resigned and venomous, but her voice was low and quiet as if she was having trouble with the words; as if they tasted too sour to stomach.
"Tell them to cancel the order for backup. Say it was a false alarm."
"FALSE ALARM," the sentry yelped obediently. Quorra frowned, but stood and stepped away from her while the sentry scrambled to her feet, a blur of orange. Ada released the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding.
Then the sentry struck Quorra.
She used the side of her fist, coiling her arm up by her ear and then swinging wide to drive her hand into Quorra's temple. Circuits flickering, Quorra immediately collapsed. Ada screamed, and half ran, half tripped down the stairs to her companion's side.
The sentry turned to run, shouting "TARGET IDENTDIFIED, HOSTILE ISOs, TARGET IDENTIFIED—" as she went. Across the stairwell from where she had left Quorra lying was a door, and she was charging towards it and the unsympathetic swarm of sentries and soldiers beyond.
Ada's circuits ran cold. She knew with sudden certainty that there would be no way out, no second chance, if the sentry made it out that door. She would be heard, and no matter how fast they ran (which would not be fast at all if Ada had to drag an unconscious Quorra) there would be no escaping. Not this time.
She knew it deep in her code: if the sentry reached that door, they would die.
In that moment Ada understood something: that there comes a point in war when even the bystanders have a choice to make, when the line between refugee, civilian, and soldier blurs to an incomprehensible area of no man's land as opposed to a definitive boundary; when violence becomes little more than a symptom of reality and morality a fragile construct, and when the concept of surviving starts to taste so much sweeter than the concept of retaining innocence . . . when one's family is in danger and the consequences of protecting them and avenging them are nothing compared to the promise that they can be defended, that they can be saved, that they might live. She understood that there is a point when the hopes and aspirations and scruples of even a moment before suddenly melt to nothing more than a jumble of senseless words, when the desperate will readily contradict themselves and that it will seem worthwhile to do so.
Ada reached for her disc.
Quorra lay in a crumpled heap on the ground beside her, eyes half closed, staring at nothing. The sentry was almost across the landing, almost out of reach, almost to the door outside of which an army was waiting to cut them both to pixels, to reduce them to glittering shattered piles of data that would always seem more beautiful to them than any ISO would alive. Ada didn't stop to think. She threw her disc with urgent, uncalculated aim and all the force she could muster at the sentry's back. It hit her just below her disc port.
A disc-shaped void appeared in the woman's back and she stiffened, circuits flickering and a dull, repetitive glitching click pouring from her mouth in what was probably intended to be a gasp or a scream that her broken systems could no longer support. Pixels crumbled from her back, leaking from the wound the disc had left. For just a moment, Ada could see straight through the woman to the door beyond, and could see that her internal circuits were not orange at all, but blue. Then she collapsed, shattering in every directing and breaking into pixels as she hit the ground, each limb breaking ad scattering until there was nothing left of her but orange and black and blue fragments clattering across the floor, and Ada knew they were safe. Already Quorra was rebooting at her feet.
Ada kneeled, catching her disc as it ricocheted back to her and placing it on her back again before picking her friend up, pulling her to her feet with her hands under Quorra's arms.
"Let's see if there's another exit," she said, still-groggy Quorra nodding in reply. She seemed somehow transfixed by the broken remains of the sentry at the foot of the stairs, but she let Ada drag her away. What choice did they have except to follow each other when they were each the only one the other had left? They'd had something like a family once, but they had been derezzed or had disappeared a long time ago. It was up to them now, the two refugees, to keep running and running and running, to kill or be killed and stop asking questions about whether that was wrong or whether that was right. It didn't matter anymore if it was.
Or at least that's what Ada told herself as they ran away again down another hallway, what she was still telling herself as they escaped the building, as they crept down back-allies and ran till their legs gave out through the messy leftovers of battles already fought and behind the lines of the guerilla skirmishes that were taking place on every other street. That's what she told herself as they left the city limits and took shelter in the jagged landscape of the outlands where they hid for another half a milicycle in cramped quarters against a cold rock.
This is war, she told herself, we have to defend ourselves.
Defend their few remaining brothers and sisters. Defend each other: two lost and fleeing refugees looking for an end to the violence that kept pulling them in, no one to rely on but each other. They had a right to defend themselves and it was only right that they should use whatever means were necessary in the face of all of this carnage. Better a dead soldier than a dead refugee, a dead civilian, a dead stray . . . right?
Yes, of course they were right. Of course she had been right. It was a comfort to her in that cold, cramped place to tell herself that and she did, over and over. She had done the right thing. The only thing she could.
We're still better than them, she reassured herself, remembering the scattered fragments on ISOs in the streets, the broken ruins of Arjia and all the horrors of the purge . . . the broken sentry spilled across the landing in that abandoned apartment stairwell.
Of course we're still better.
End of Line.
Author's note: Many thanks to my friend Natalie for editing this. :)
Also, I just want to make a note on the setting for this story: We know from the canon that programs do have user-like housing accommodations, but we don't know a great deal about what that usually looks like in the new system. Instead of distracting from the character's actions by trying to express what I think a grid apartment looks like though, I decided to just keep it open ended.