A/N-this began as a comment thread with the very talented Cameron_McKell...
It all started so innocently. Nothing but good intentions from everyone involved, even tangentially. And following those good intentions was so easy; because if their intentions were good, then the results achieved and the means used to do so must also be good. And so it began, as one by one they went…treading the digital primrose path to destruction.
Once there was a User. One of Encom's brightest—if little recognized—young programmers. He was careful and methodical in his coding; writing each line deliberately and afterwards checking to see how it would function together before test-running it.
Alan Bradley was developing a new type of security monitoring program; one that would police every program in a system, for the Users—not just a system program, or a corporation. Because people were inherently good, he believed. If you told someone that something that they cared about had something going wrong with it; they would listen and try to find some way to fix what was wrong.
And if some of that idealistic belief was ingrained in the way he coded…well, that wasn't a bad thing. Nothing that would ever lead to any type of problem or harm….
Once there was a User. One of Encom's brightest young programmers.
No, this is a different story.
Kevin Flynn was talented, with flashes of inspiration that led to all night coding sessions and leaps of technological design. And because he did so on computers at his job; his work was stolen and hidden from him.
It took him time to prove himself. When he did so, he had not only proven his work and himself; but he had learned of new worlds, and met new friends. Friends that showed him so much of their world; that he created a new world for them and invited them to join him in it. A 'digital frontier'; a place for new discoveries to be made. A place for miracles to occur.
It was hard to keep his life in the User world, and give the digital world the care and attention that it needed. So, he created a digital partner; a version of himself to try to care for the amazing digital world. But the digital world still needed him, and his User family and life needed him; little things were slipping past his notice and being left undone while his digital partner tried to keep the system growing towards perfection.
And then the miracle occurred. Spontaneously occurring new digital life, with all of its complexities. The pressures grew ever more difficult to manage. His partner was coming to him with problems, worries, complaints. He had faith that it would all work out; it would just take a little more time.
After all, there had been a miracle. If he was a little distracted, a little over-excited and enthusiastic about it; that wasn't a bad thing. It wasn't like it would cause any harm…
Once there was a miracle. Several of them, actually.
They used the name 'ISO', and grew in number. They were free; free to choose their own paths. But no place, no function had been made for them. Everyone else had a mission. There was no room.
So they tried to make their own places, their own room. They created and chose their own functions; and things seemed to be going well.
However, if you crush two living things together where there are only enough resources for one; neither one will survive without outside assistance. There was someone who could help them both with that; they just needed his attention.
They could be patient. They would wait, and use what was available until then. There was no reason to push to have their needs noticed. It wasn't as though waiting would cause any harm…
Once there was a program. He was a special program; a digital copy. Codified Likeness Utility.
CLU. He had been created to be the system administrator of a new digital world; a world where the programs who inhabited it walked with their User. He was to create the 'perfect system' and 'change the world'. It was a function to be proud of; and CLU was determined to do so, fulfilling his User's wishes.
It was not an easy function, and it only grew more difficult when new programs appeared on the Grid. New programs that had no programmed functions; yet had all of the requirements of the Basic programs that already inhabited the system. A system with limited resources. It became harder and harder to keep everything in balance to sustain the system; leaving no time or resources to allot to perfecting it. It needed for the User to either find a way to ensure more resources—more energy and processing power—or for harsh decisions to be made regarding who would be allowed to function and thereby deserve a share of the resources that were available.
When waiting for help, asking for help, and pleading for recognition of the problems failed to cause the User to deal with the issues; CLU decided that he would ask his User one more question…Was he still to create the perfect system? After all, what could it hurt to ask? It wasn't as though CLU would choose to do something to cause anyone harm….
Once there was a program.
No. Again, this is a different story.
Tron was written to be a security program. To police and protect the system that he functioned on. To fight for the Users. And he believed in the Users; and that they cared about the programs and their system. He fought as hard as he could to keep his system free. When he was captured and imprisoned, he fought to keep hope alive; he fought to believe and to never give up.
His faith was rewarded; and he not only was set free, but he met a User and freed his system. It was a good feeling, to know he had fulfilled his function. It was thrilling to have met and become friends with a User. And when his friend came back, telling him of a new world, a new system to protect…he agreed to do so.
He was proud to be chosen to protect a young and new system. There was no other system like it; no other system where a User walked amongst programs. Over time, he became close friends with the User. They worked together often, and soon they were joined by another program…CLU. Together, they were creating an incredible place for programs to live.
And when things began to change, when problems began to happen…he went to his friend the User with his worries. When he was told not to worry, that everything would work out fine...he believed his friend. After all, he was a User. He must know more about the system than the security monitor did; and if it was a problem, his friend would be spending more of his time dealing with it. No program would fail to pay attention if he pointed out things going wrong with something …so how could trusting his friend's judgment cause any harm…?
Once there was a program.
Yes, this is a different story. Dyson was a security program for the system he lived in. There were many other security programs, but he had worked and trained hard to be one of the best; and now he was the second in command to the head security program for the entire system.
There were many challenges involved in his job, and he met them all without flinching. Even when it cost him an eye and damaged and scarred his code. But he wasn't perfect afterwards, and needed the User to heal him. Several other security programs—veteran programs like himself—began to ask that he speak to the User about repairing them all. They had fought for the system and the User; it only seemed right to ask for help.
And when the User did not answer them, Dyson turned to the system administrator; who promised to repair them all. Surely this would help him and the veteran programs that functioned under him. How could that cause anyone any harm…?
There were only good intentions. No one ever meant any harm. Alan Bradley, Kevin Flynn, the ISOs, CLU, Tron and Dyson…they only meant well. How could such things lead to anything bad? And so they linked their arms together without knowing it; and stepped onto a path paved with good intentions, and lined with digital primroses.
"This is hell," Flynn said, his voice bleak.
He was staring blankly out the window of their hideout; eyes not seeing the dark landscape of the Outlands beyond. From where the hideout was located, it was impossible to see even the faintest glow from the lights of Tron City. That suited Flynn just fine. The darkness seemed to match his despairing mood.
There was the faint sound of footsteps behind him, as Quorra came closer to where he stood.
She had gone to the city earlier, like she had been doing for cycles. Curious for news, hopeful of word of the few remaining ISO enclaves, eager to find something that she could do to help. There had been so little reward for the risks that she took; so few opportunities to help, and—over time—so few ISOs remaining to help.
The news that she had returned with had been crushing to them both.
The last of the ISO enclaves had fallen. Quorra's people, the miracle…gone. Perhaps one or two still functioned; hiding as best as they could, for as long as they could. Not enough, however. There could not be enough in hiding to lessen the horror of an entire new digital race being wiped out. The reports all confirmed that the final refuge for the ISOs had fallen to CLU's BlackGuard, led by CLU's personal bodyguard and enforcer, Rinzler. The enforcer had risen from obscurity, his origins unknown, to take his place by CLU's side. Cunning, deadly, and merciless the program was a dark and terrifying spectre; silent save for a low growling noise—described by more than one program as the sound of half-derezzed voxels being scraped together—which only served to make him more frightening. The sound of something 'growling' was not meant for the Grid…it was meant for large predators in hot, dense jungles; or lonely forests. Not for his digital frontier; it was never meant to be heard here.
There had been more news, as well. It had been quite some time between this latest trip to the city and the previous one.
The program known as the 'Renegade' had been derezzed. The strongest symbol to keep hope alive in programs; to keep the resistance to CLU's rule from crumbling under the unrelenting pressure—gone. Rumors had suggested that the Renegade was really Tron...after all, who else would wear THAT identifier circuit pattern on their chest? When derezzed, however, the Renegade had been proven to be a mechanic. A very brave and determined mechanic…but not Tron.
Flynn had thought…had hoped—begged the universe, actually—that the Renegade was Tron. That he had not run away to let CLU kill his best friend in the Grid. That Tron had lived past that millicycle; if only until now. It had proven itself to be a fruitless hope; one that was now dead.
Dead, like Tron. Dead, like the ISOs. Dead, like his dream of a digital frontier; a new way to 'reshape the human condition'. Dead…like his chances to ever see his son again. All dead.
"Flynn," Quorra said, her voice quiet but with a touch of confusion in it. "I have studied every text that you have here. None of the descriptions of the User concept of hell written by Dante or the other Users match the Grid…. How can this be hell?"
Flynn closed his eyes; trying to hide the pain that her words had brought to him this millicycle.
"We make our own hells, Quorra," he said wearily. "And they are rarely what we had in mind…"