Sheer determination and spunk were what it took to convince Kevin Flynn that she was the candidate to be his eyes and ears on the grid. Showing even the legendary game designer a few coding tricks had been the clincher. When she first saw the code for the project - she was head over heels in love with this new world. The programs, even as lines of syntax, seemed to come alive to her. When Flynn described just that, it clicked and she knew without a doubt she had to be the one. The one that would pave the way on the grid for more users.
She wasn't sure she'd have a chance when she applied. Female programmers often get overlooked because they aren't as aggressive as their male counterparts. It's not a fault. It just comes from not being the squeaky wheel. People just don't notice you when you're quiet. Being in her late 20s, she decided she just couldn't be the quiet type any longer.
She also worried that her blond hair in a pixie cut and short waif-like frame would be a drawback and get her labeled "ditz", "shrimp" or worse yet "kiddo". Despite her quiet demeanor and stature, she could give a look with her bespectacled hazel green eyes, that would kill from all the way across a room when anyone tried to look down on her or those she cared about. And she had to use that look when she got comments about her all black attire. People didn't get how much she wanted this, and looking the part of being on the grid was only one facet.
Today her hard work paid off.
Crossing the 'bridge' between the real world and the grid is as incredible as it is terrifying.
She gives the thumbs up to Alan, who gives a reassuring smile and activates the laser. Knowing that she is being converted bit by bit to a digital form makes her mind scream about everything that could go wrong. Being aware of existing in two different spaces for a few seconds is the most disconcerting thing she's ever been through.
When she is in one piece again, her breath comes in ragged gasps and her hands feel the contact of the desk. But everything is like it's in a black and white movie, only with a blueish tinge. Putting her first two fingers on her other wrist, she lets out a sigh of relief to find a pulse. Shakily she gets up from the desk and looks around. Her legs still seem wobbly as her knee high boots make contact with the floor.
Flynn had said the grid was very different, but so far - not so much. It just looks like a version of his office. She tries to brush aside the disappointment as she makes her way to the exit. Stepping out, her breath is taken away by the beauty of Tron City. The incredible buildings with glowing circuits are so different, yet so familiar. It feels like home, even with her first glance into this world.
Her eyes are drawn upward to the skyscrapers in their dizzying heights. The vast distance sets her a little off balance, and she stumbles just as she hears two motorcycles pull up. Whipping her head forward toward the sound overwhelms her and she goes down to the pavement with an embarrassing "Oof".
A hand covered in black light suit reaches down to help her up, she gratefully accepts before straightening her tunic and short cropped blond hair.
"Are you OK, User?" and "Where is Flynn?" two voices ask, and it feels like a barrage of questions is about to start.
To head them off she holds up her hands, "One question at a time, gentlemen. First, I think I am OK. Just a little overwhelmed. Wow, you two really do look like twins to your users… Anyway, as for Flynn, well, he sent me."
"Why?" one demands.
"He knows he can't take care of his son and the grid at the same time. Flynn just lost his wife a short while ago and Flynn is all little Sam has now. He's tried so hard to do both and to run Encom, but he's realizing each thing is a full time job in itself. I was the applicant that had the vision and skills closest to Flynn's."
"More expressions that make no sense. Users..." the one with the square jaw, bright blue eyes, and slicked back hair and wearing the black motorcycle jacket, white t-shirt and jeans grumbles.
"You must be Clu. I've really been looking forward to meeting you, since I first saw you in the code!" she offers a hand, but he hesitates and lets the gesture fall awkwardly. She plunges on despite being a little hurt, "Flynn has told me so much about you. He's very proud of you and knows you've had a hard task. What expressions did I say that don't translate well? I'll explain or won't use them," she offers.
He waves her off, but she takes note at his annoyed expression. She'll have to learn the lingo here as quickly as possible to keep off his black list.
She makes a guess from the glowing T on his chest, longer face, deep set brown eyes, and military style haircut, "And you must be Tron! I've also heard much about you!" Automatically her hand goes out to him - old habits die hard, and he graciously accepts. "Sorry, I have so much to learn. What's the protocol for greeting someone here?"
"No worries, User. How should we refer to you?" Tron tries to smooth things over.
"Oh... yes. I'm Kris. Kris Talegaard. I know Kevin Flynn used his last name here. But I'm more comfortable with my first name, if that's OK with you two."
"Good to meet you Kris," Tron says warmly.
Clu just glowers and Tron chides, "Clu, lighten up a bit. Let's get Kris to headquarters."
Taking out a slender cylinder, Clu sprints as a sleek futuristic motorcycle appears, and he takes off in a huff.
"Whoa... he just pulled that stick into halves and a motorcycle formed out of nowhere!" Kris exclaims absolutely ga-ga.
"You've not seen a light cycle before?" Tron queries and notes the shy negative shake of her head. Ever the gentleman, Tron offers, "I assume you'll need a ride." Her eager expression brings a warmth to his sober demeanor, so he hands the baton to her. "Hold it out in front of you, and pull it apart."
As she does and the cycle starts to form under her she squeals with delight, "Oh my God! That is so awesome!"
"Knowing Flynn, he didn't send you with a map. So, you'll have to let me drive. We'll get you your own cycle at HQ," he unabashedly climbs on in front of her and lets his helmet form around his head. "Hang on tight!"
"Don't I need a helmet?" she asks, feeling silly.
"Activate it, by thinking the helmet command. I'm surprised that Flynn didn't tell you these things. Don't hold it against the programs if they call you a beta," he instructs.
It takes a few tries, but her helmet finally flips up and she hangs on around his waist and locks her hands, "I've ridden a few motorcycles before, so I won't be a beta for the riding part," she says trying to cover for her noob-ness.
"Good. You'll need it here," Tron seems relieved as he revs up the cycle, takes off down the street and puts it into high gear streaming a light ribbon behind them. "Do User motorcycles do this?" he motions behind them and yells above the whine of the engine.
Laughing good naturedly, she admits, "Show off. No, they don't. And yes, it's pretty darn cool. Users must love the speed as much as programs do."
"Then we'll have to show you the games," Tron shares.
"I'd love that!"
"Let's get you a disk first thing," he directs and they lean together as he turns a sharp corner.
At headquarters Kris can't stop touching each circuit, out of fascination. Every surface is so pristine and shiny - no fingerprints or dust. "You don't have circuits to provide your light in the User world?" Tron asks, politely pointing out that it's not standard behavior.
"Light comes from the sun, moon or light fixtures there. This is much more elegant than our solution." She clasps her hands in front of her to keep from touching everything.
Tron introduces her to Dyson (a short, muscular, sharp faced, hawk eyed program sporting a goatee), and the rest of the battalion, and to Clu's assistant Shaddox (an imposing but handsome ebony skinned program with a close trimmed beard).
Dyson volunteers to help her find her way to New Program Compiling for her disk and help her with integration.
"So what's it like to be a User and create programs?" his curiosity gets the best of him as they walk together.
"Well, I don't know what to compare it to here, yet. But I love the thrill of seeing all those characters in the source code come together. Most software I've written before has been long term projects, and to see the programs work together to make it function is what I live for," she reminisces.
"Y...You see our source code?" Dyson's voice rises several octaves and he stops in his tracks. He has difficulty speaking as a blush burns his cheeks. Calm and collected can no longer describe him.
"Well yes. How can we write programs otherwise? For this system - I haven't seen as much as I should..." then she notices Dyson's expression.
He squeaks, "What?"
"Well, if it makes you feel any better. Flynn was really proprietary about his code. He only let me take a peek at Clu's source for a few moments."
"Don't bring it up around him. EVER. I mean it." Dyson's voice drops with his staccato command.
Unable to stop herself before the words leave her mouth, "What? I was impressed."
Dsyon covers his eyes, "User, you need to learn some tact and a thing or two about a program's privacy."
"Sooooo...it's like seeing him..." her eyes go wide then her hand goes to her mouth in embarrassment. "Oh, my. I'll keep my source comments to myself. Sorry. The real world is, uhm, quite different in that respect. I'm actually a very reserved gal. I have a lot to learn...Oh ghads that sounds bad too...I think I'll just shut up now."
Dyson had just regained his composure, but that last remark before she started to turn beat red just got to him. A fit of laughter overtakes him, that he can't get to subside for several microcycles and it drags Kris in too. When their laughter calms he admits, "Kris, having you around will never be boring. Let's get you a disk before they come looking for us and find us derezzed from the giggles." He opens the door for her and she quickly steps in, hoping to leave her discomfort in the hall.
A formally dressed female program with lovly tanned skin and large jet black eyes greets them. She's quite a bit taller than the two of them, but she moves with a grace that Kris envies. With a raised eyebrow she inquires, "So dear Dyson, what did I just miss? I've never seen you so red before. You were practically glowing."
"Ruby, it's not fit to repeat," he tries to sidestep her question.
She tries Kris. "What ever you said, tell me so I can see him like that again. It's so dull back here in this rarely used department," Ruby begs.
Dyson gives Kris a pleading look.
"Ah...no. I was just repeatedly embarrassing myself." Kris sees the disappointment in Ruby's face, and wishes she could have shared. The program seems like she'd be fun to get to know.
Ruby sashays over to select a disk from a cabinet. Dyson is entranced with her every move, even when she takes Kris's arm and guides her into another room.
After Ruby shuts the door she asks "Now, hon what is your function?"
"User. My name is Kris, by the way."
"It's a privilege, User Kris," Ruby perks up. "My predecessor assisted Flynn with disk installation. Will you require armor or a different uniform?"
"What did Flynn wear here?"
"His casual user look would not suit you, even if tailored to your form."
"Hmm. Do I have to decide now, or can I come back later? I'd like to blend in, instead of sticking out." Kris hopes to have more time to think.
Ruby assesses Kris's tunic, leggings and boots. "This will suffice as your default look, but you can add others later. I would recommend minimal circuitry with your current attire."
Kris notes the delicate circuitry on Ruby's outfit and realizes Ruby's exquisite taste in fashion, "I'll defer to your judgment."
"Prepare for installation." Ruby attaches the disk to Kris's back. There's no pain, but it does seem to scramble her brain for a second before her vision returns to normal.
"Installation complete. Now for the fun part." Ruby winks, then lifts her finger and it begins to glow as bright as a welding torch. "Stay still User Kris."
Ruby brings her to a mirror to watch the progression. She starts drawing a diamond shaped set of small circuits just under her collar bones.
"It tickles!" Kris tries hard to resist moving.
Ruby continues small blue highlights on the back of her shoulders down the back of her neck, on each hip and the soles of her boots.
Kris inspects the work and gives her thumbs up approval, "Sweet! Thank you!"
Ruby whispers to Kris, "I could read your lips through the window. Dyson is so straight-laced. It was precious to see him laugh and blush. I'm glad there's someone who can do that for him. Let's see what he thinks of you now."
"Ruby, didn't you see how he looked at you?"
"He always does. But he won't go beyond that," Ruby dismisses it and directs her back out to the lobby.
With fluid movements that show off Kris as if she's a tempting product for sale, Ruby asks for Dyson's opinion and gently nudges Kris to turn around, "What do you think?"
"You do the very best work, Ruby. Perfect choices as always," he responds admiring Kris, but then fixating again on Ruby.
When they are safely down the hall, Kris decides to bring it up. "Dyson...I couldn't help notice how you look at Ruby. I know it's not my business, so tell me so if you want me to butt out. But I think she likes you, too."
"Nah. A program like her? She'd never go for a security program like me. She flirts with everyone. It's just in a siren's programming."
"Don't sell yourself short, ok?" Kris encourages.
"I thought you said you were reserved..."
"Point taken." Kris makes a zipping motion over her mouth.
Meeting them at the corner, Tron takes over the tour so Dyson can get back to his duties.
Heading up to the command center, Tron checks with Kris, "Are you ready to help us take on the challenges we face here, or do you need some time to adjust?"
"I don't know. Part of me wants to see the grid and get comfortable here first. And part of me just wants to jump in with both feet right now," she admits.
"So you're really planning to stay?" he inquires.
"Yes. Part of the reason I was the best choice to come to the grid, is that I have no attachments back in the real world," she confides.
Clu's voice cuts in from behind them, "The User world is not more real than this one."
"Clu..." Tron grumbles.
"You have a valid point, Clu. Very well. I'll refer to where I came from as the User world." She turns to face the still sullen lead program, "I know we got off on the...I mean we didn't have the best first meeting. But I'm here to stay Clu. I want you to know you can depend on me." She purposefully offers her hand to shake, "Truce?"
He stares down at her outstretched hand. "Truce," his answer seems in conflict with his petulant manner.
She uneasily fiddles with her sleeve, "Ok then. Let's get started."
Chapter End of Line