Nothing happens without cause. If Yori has learned nothing else in her runtime, she is at least certain of that much. Events might not always have rhyme, but they are never without reason. There exists some form of causality between the if and the then – no outcome has ever sprung spontaneously into being. Fate and chance and happenstance might be acceptable to most, but Yori is a program of facts and figures and data. She's always believed – always – in the wisdom of the Users, but blind faith and the anticipation of miracles don't make a simulation run. Prayers do not keep Solar Sailers in motion.
Sitting and waiting and folding one's hands to beg for Flynn's return do not save the Grid.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is the third law. (Elementary physics says a groggy voice in her processors, one that she misses fiercely.) The Occupation and the Resistance have been toeing that simple rule for some time, now, each one attempting to counterstrike every maneuver of the other. If this were an equation, neat and orderly and mathematic, the destruction of Argon would be met with some equivalent devastation. Rebellious programs would topple one of the Admin's strongholds, discs held high, and they'd win. They'd stand against the Occupation as equals in number and strength and might.
But Yori has learned many things in her runtime. There is no such thing as coincidence is only one such fact.
Life doesn't always play by the rules is but another.
Standing before a collection of ersatz programs, some of them still nursing wounds from the fall of the city they'd always called home, Yori can't help but wonder if their forces will ever be a match for CLU's. Even as she speaks and gestures and plans, the future feels like a hollow promise. The Administrator has more raw power than anyone here. He can bend the will of programs, strip them down to their basest components and build them back up to suit his own needs. Willpower can only go so far against an enemy like that. So many have fallen already – close friends and programs she's hardly known alike. Flynn himself.
She hears herself falter in the middle of re-assigning mission groupings. A sea of curious eyes fix upon her, but all Yori can think is that Tron is dead. The Grid's greatest warrior. The program they'd all pinned their hopes upon. Her bondmate.
Words are failing her. He'd been dead once before, of course, crushed and brushed aside by Sark's carrier ship as if he were nothing more significant than a gridbug. She'd been so sure of it then, and had gone so far as to steel herself for her own pending demise. Leave me alone. Flynn's face, earnest and pleading as he looked for a way out while she accepted the inevitability of the end. We've failed.
If Tron could be Repurposed, what chance did anyone else stand?
[Chin up, boss.] Yori's eyes focus, drawn back to reality by the ping she feels more than hears in her processors. Of course it's Ram, offering her a reassuring half-smile even as his brows are drawn in concern. There's a reason why he acts as her right hand program, her second in command, despite the fact that leadership has never suited him well. Optimism is lacking, these microcycles. She'll take whatever spark of it she can find.
The rest of the assignments are doled out smoothly. Yori keeps her head held high.
"And remember," she says just before her audience filters out into the rest of the base, "we might honor seniority, but there are no ranks, here. Each one of you is important, and we won't make progress unless we're working as a team. Whatever your function was before – you're members of an uprising, now." A few of the newer recruits elbow each other and grin. "So let's get to work."
The meeting room has always been small, but it feels even smaller now that it's just about full. Some of the programs had to sit on the floor when there were no other seating surfaces available. They'll have to think about expanding, soon.
The thought should make her more pleased than it does.
"You alright?" asks a softened voice beside her. Ram knows it's better to wait until the room has cleared a bit before questioning her about the cracks she'd allowed to show before. She nods and smiles tiredly, and he touches her arm and sends her a pulse of gentle reassurance. Canting his head slightly, he adds, "I think someone wants to speak with you."
Yori looks up from the files she'd been rearranging on her datapad. Most everyone has left, by now, save for a pair that seems to be lingering.
Beck's injuries might have slowed him down, but they've yet to stop him completely. This is the first meeting he's sat through in full without having to be lead back to the makeshift medical area in a state of inoperable fatigue. That's a good sign. It means that Paige was allowed to stay, too. The duo has been all but inseparable since their arrival, something that cannot be a product of Paige's medical knowledge alone. She supports him even now, shouldering his weight as they make their way to where Yori and Ram are standing.
The sight makes something in her core twist.
[I'll let you guys talk.] Ram pings along with one last brush of support against her circuits.
Beck's jaw is set in a determined clench as he approaches, a sharp contrast to the pained look pinching at the corners of his eyes. "I'm okay," he mumbles to Paige, who only rolls her eyes but refuses to let him go. Yori can't help but smile to herself. Stubborn to the last. How familiar. He leans back against the edge of a nearby tabletop but doesn't sit in a more convenient chair. Paige continues hovering beside him.
"Hey, Paige," it's Ram who speaks first, breaking the film of silence before it has a chance to seize up. "Do you have a nano? I've got a couple questions about that patch technique you were showing everyone a little while ago, if you're free to head back to the medbay."
Initially, she doesn't say anything, merely stands there with a hand still firm on Beck's shoulder. But then she sighs, nods, turns on her heel, and departs with Ram behind her. Someone must have pinged her, either Ram or Beck, and Yori feels as relieved as the medic's patient looks. When they're alone, Beck's posture slumps a fraction.
"I keep forgetting she used to be a medic," he sighs, pushing a hand through his hair. "I'm grateful for everything she's doing, but it's not like I'm about to derez on the spot or anything."
"She cares about you," Yori offers, voice edged with sympathy as she sets her datapad down and moves to stand in front of the (former) mechanic. "I think it's the only reason why she's stayed."
Beck shakes his head.
"I don't think she ever really believed in the Occupation," he admits. "She told me, once, about what happened at the facility she used to work at. I think she wanted to believe that Tesler had her best interests in mind, but I don't know if she was ever really convinced."
"You thought you could recruit her," she prompts as though it's a revelation, but she isn't the least bit surprised when Beck's circuits flush a light shade of pink.
"Sort of, but there was… it was… is… complicated." Yori can't contain a small laugh. His blush darkens. "I-I'm just glad she made it out of Argon, that's all. She's a good ally to have." The pinkish tinge seems to fade all at once. "I guess Tron was wrong about her, in the end."
In an instant, the mood between them turns heavy, as though the air itself is burdened with Beck's words. Yori's processors feel cold.
"He talked about you, sometimes," Beck says quietly. "Everyone knew you – your designation, at least – but Tron… he missed you. A lot."
The ache in her core is back in full force.
"Beck." A whisper, no more than a sigh, like she doesn't want to shatter from the force of her own voice. "Can you tell me what happened?"
Breath shudders through his airways, shivering like a Light Cycle engine on startup.
"I don't remember much," is his first confession. "Paige says it's normal, some file corruption after trauma." He sounds apologetic, and Yori doesn't quite have it in her to tell him it's alright. "Tron, he… he disappeared all of a sudden, a dozen or so microcycles before Argon… before it burned. Before CLU burned it down." The anger there is unmistakable. She can almost feel its heat, like blue-green flames reaching for her arms and legs. "I went to his hideout for training, and he was… gone. The place looked like it'd been turned upside-down, there was glass everywhere, voxels…" Beck winces, whether from the memory or his current pain, Yori cannot be certain. "I didn't know what to do. I went back to the garage after I went through the base, room by room, like if I just kept looking I'd find him complaining about something like he always was."
He tries to laugh but it sounds flat and wrong around the edges. A sound that doesn't fit in this space.
"I didn't know who to talk to, either," Beck continues. "Able was gone, Tron was gone, and nobody else knew the Renegade had been me all along. So I kept doing what I'd been doing – missions Tron set up for me." Bitterness, now, acrid and regretful. Yori wants to comfort him but she doesn't know what to say. She does what Ram is so much better at; she touches his arm and sends him a feeling of warmth and understanding. He leans into the contact and closes his eyes for a long moment. Even when he opens them again and nods and breathes carefully, she doesn't take her hand away. "I thought if I followed the plans he'd been working on, maybe I could figure out where they took him. I knew it had to be the Occupation, because he could've fought off anyone else. I was handling it okay, figuring out how to do it all my own, and then… then CLU showed up."
These are the blanks she can fill in. The intel has circulated around various factions of the resistance movement by now, the plans and schematics of how CLU managed to mobilize a destruction fleet of that size in such a short amount of time. Not that the knowledge will do them much good. The waste has already been laid.
Law number one: an object in motion will stay in motion unless it is acted upon by an outside force.
But what force could ever hope to halt an object like that?
"Paige told us about how she found you in Argon." The words catch in her throat liked they're as spiked as the facets of a negative Bit. "She said that a program gave you the wound on your chest, a program they call—"
"Rinzler," Beck finishes coldly. "I know. I already know." He pulls away from Yori's touch and curls in on himself in a direction that's angled away from her. She doesn't see the tears when they slide down his cheeks, but she sees the droplets of energy that land on his knees as he hunches over. "I should've been there. If I'd gotten there earlier, I could've… I would have stopped them. Pavel, Tesler, Dyson, whoever it was, they got Tron and they turned him into that monster, and I didn't do anything about it."
There are certain things, Yori decided a long while ago, that you're better off not believing. Sometimes you need to focus only on what's in front of you and not get caught up in everything happening on the peripheries. It's not willful ignorance, it's prioritizing. If she were to pause and take stock of the totality of her situation, it would end her. The Grid is falling apart. Flynn and Tron, two beings who matter more to her than anything else, are as good as dead. Her User is absent and oblivious.
The sum of the forces enacted upon an object is equivalent to the object's mass multiplied by its acceleration. Law two. Yori is small in stature and mass but she knows how to move. How to keep moving. And when she slows, there is always a force to urge her onward. Ram. Beck. Hope.
"It isn't your fault," she says at last, finding his shoulder again and laying a hand there. "They would have taken you, too, and that wouldn't have done anyone any good, except for CLU. I don't know what Tron told you. I don't know why he chose you, but I believe in him." Believe. Not believed. (Some elements can survive on their own, but they hold onto their partners all the same.) "And I believe in you, and I believe in what we're fighting for. I know Tron. I know how stubborn and headstrong he is, and I know he wouldn't want you to give up just because he isn't here to fight beside you."
Somewhere Ram is shaking his head, urging her to take her own advice.
"I just wish I could've done something. Anything."
"I think you did," Yori murmurs, rubbing her thumb along a light-line that crosses his bicep. "According to Paige, Rinzler – Tron… he let you go. He put down his discs and he told her to run, and to take you with her."
Beck lifts his head and looks at her with a meek side glance. Yori pulls him into an embrace. He's tense at first, uncertain as to whether this is acceptable or awkward, but he gives in quickly, looping an arm around her and leaning heavily into her shoulder.
"He's still in there," she says, echoing Ram's statement from the edge of Argon's smoldering rubble. "I know he is. We'll find him. We'll get him back."
Somehow. Some way. There is no alternative she will accept.
Yori decides that although it might be difficult, she will believe in that outcome until her last breath.
Tron is out there, and he needs them. But there are programs that need her here and now, and one of them is clinging to her like he's afraid of letting anything go ever again.
She can't say that she blames him, and so she holds him just a little bit tighter.
The thing about elements and programs alike is that they can break from the cluster they've spent a lifetime attached to and they can survive. They can form new bonds.
They don't have to go it alone.
The uprising has only just begun.