A field trip is generally a time where teachers try and get students to learn, and students try to do anything but. As Mr. Icharo looked over his students as they walked along the halls of the Tokyo Consumer Electronics Show he could readily pick out the troublemakers. One such was Usagi Tsukino, who had been on the school's unofficial watch list since first year. The girl was the epitome of a blond, dozing off in class, barely passing important exams, and generally being clueless about subject matter being discussed.
The young girl next to her, however, was the pride of the school, Ami Mizuno. The young, blue haired girl was every teacher's dream come true. She was polite to a fault, knowledgeable, and always eager to learn more. How the two had wound up as friends, none of the teachers ever guessed.
In fact, it was Ami's suggestion that the class visit the CES to see the newest developments from companies around the world. She said that not only would it be good for Mr. Icharo's science class, but also a chance to learn more about foreign culture as many companies represented would be from overseas.
Too bad Mizuno's friends, Tsukino and the tall brunet Makoto Kino, seemed not to be drawn by the amazing technology that was around them like Ami was.
"All right everyone," Mr. Icharo called to his class, "Our next stop is an American company that is displaying their latest medical technology involving…" He studied the small guide in his hands and continued, "Medical lasers and A.I. controlled surgery. Keep up everyone."
Ami's smile seemed to increase as the class entered a large area with the company logo hanging above the entrance.
A TRON/Sailor Moon story
Part 1: UPLOAD
Note: Sailor Moon was created by Naoko Takeuchi and licensed by DiC in the U.S. while TRON is owned by the Disney Corporation. I claim ownership of neither, but use them in this humble tale for the enjoyment of the readers and fans. Brought to you by the letter Delta, and the number Pi.
Jethro Bradley, or Jet to his friends, looked out at the audience for the latest demo and couldn't help a smile as he saw the school girls file in and take seats. Normally he wouldn't be doing anything with ENCOM's medical research branch, but they wanted to use Ma3a to run the small scale display. Since the A.I. was his father's baby, and Dr. Alan Bradley couldn't leave the U.S. because of the ongoing legal battle with fCON Industries, Jet had been asked to tag along as support for the Mathematical Assistant version 3a.
Jet certainly didn't mind as the girls over here were very cute, even if they were three years younger then him. Throw in the fact that this was the home of anime and Jet was on the plane before the rest of the team.
Plus he needed something, anything, to get his mind off all the weird things that had happened to him and his father over the last year.
As he leaned back in the desk chair next to Ma3a's terminal, he noticed one of the schoolgirls had a palmtop computer out and was rapidly typing as her eyes danced across the equipment in the demo bay. He watched her for a moment and figured her to be at about 90 words per minute, one handed at that. He chuckled as he thought about what this girl's reflexes would be like in Space Paranoids 3D, then realized that he didn't want to know because it would only hurt his ego.
He turned back to the terminal when the digital voice of Ma3a buzzed in his headset, "What is it?"
Ma3a's readout scrolled a massive amount of code down the screen and the synthesized female voice answered, "I'm picking up some anomalous signals in the system. I think we have two hackers attempting to look into our files."
Jet pushed up his glasses and leaned over the keyboard, "Can you back trace the intrusion while I dump them?"
"One is from a wireless modem, I'd guess nearby our physical location. But the other is the one that bothers me. It feels like a search worm of some sort, but there is something about it."
Quickly, Jet's hands danced across the keyboard as he set up a partition to contain the intruders. Launching a dozen security programs against them seemed to help, and Jet took a moment to examine the code of their new friends. The one from the local wi-fi connection was very complex, but seemed to be a simple snoop and scoot program, someone just looking for a peek at ENCOM's tech without any hostile action. The other program was not so benign and without the barrier that Ma3a and Jet were building around it could do major damage to the structure of the system.
Jet quickly waved the project leader, Dr. Wilson over, "I think we have a problem, Doc."
The older man looked down at the tech and grunted, "What is it now, Mr. Bradley?"
"I think we better call off the demo for now. I have a lot of problems cropping up in the server at the moment and I don't want to risk running the program until it's fully debugged."
The doctor looked at the monitor with a note of disgust and asked, "Is there a problem with the system itself? We have reps here from a dozen Far East concerns; I do not want to lose face with this crowd."
Jet rubbed the bridge of his nose and answered, "The system is fine right now. Ma3a and I have the problem contained, but if it gets loose…"
"Firstly, Mr. Bradley, you need to stop talking as if that ghastly program of your father's is alive," Wilson chided the young man, "Secondly, as long as the system is ready, and your problem is contained, then I have no problem with going forward. We have tested this in the lab hundreds of times, and if we want to keep money coming in after the fiasco with fCON we need these investors. Get ready to run the program."
With that the doctor left Jet and began to make his presentation.
Jet lowered his head and muttered to the terminal, "Keep a tight lock on the bug, Ma3a. We are on our own here."
"I wish I could, Jet," Ma3a's voice said, "but the seeker is working around my partition to attack my subroutines directly. I think it's looking for something, possibly laser algorithms."
That instantly drew Jet's attention and he began to type furiously at the keyboard.
In the audience, Ami sat with her very special palmtop computer open. She was truly impressed with the high level of technology the American company was showing today, and had decided to use the almost magical nature of her Mercury computer to scan the equipment. As a superhero in disguise, she found that any information could be turned into a weapon, and had developed the habit of scanning every new bit of information that passed her way to catalog in the almost limitless crystal storage drives of her alter ego's tool. And since she herself was interested in the medical application of the ENCOM system, a company that was famous for its use of lasers and computer design, she found herself deeply enthralled by the demonstration that was starting.
Too bad her fearless leader Sailor Moon, known as Usagi in her human form, was fast asleep on her shoulder.
Ami watched as the new surgical laser began a simple procedure on a human mock up, impressed with it's precession in a very delicate situation. As the demonstration proceeded, she glanced down at the Mercury computer and saw that the laser was controlled by an A.I. level program, and she found herself enthralled by the complex code that her computer could detect in the fast running server staffed by a young American only a few years older then her.
She looked over to the, by her standards, handsome young man and saw that he was typing furiously with sweat beginning to show on his brow.
Back at the terminal, Jet found himself with his hands full. Not only was the demo running now, but his intruder had broken loose and was diving into Ma3a's core memory.
"Pull the plug, Ma3a," he urged into his headset, "We can't risk it getting too deep."
The A.I. responded, "I can't, the demo script is locked up and the worm is going after my restricted memory partition."
Jet felt a cold hand run down his spine and he whispered, "The correction algorithms for digitization."
"I think so."
Jet stood, and as calmly as he could walked over to Dr. Wilson and whispered into the older man's ear, "Doctor, we are about to have a fatal error in the server. You need to pull the plug on the demo right now so I can shut down the works until we can get Ma3a back to my father."
"Go sit down and mind your video games, Mr. Bradley," Wilson sneered, "I am conducting the business of the company here." He was about to say more when Ma3a's synthesized voice crackled over the demonstration area's speakers.
"Security failure. Laser activity in the Medical Bay. Overrides failed, please evacuate the bay."
Jet brought his hand up to his headset and called, "Ma3a, what's happening?"
"It found what it's looking for, but it triggered the program. The medical laser is being tuned for digital scanning now, and I can't stop the procedure. Alpha level protocol active."
Jet grabbed the doctor's arm and said, "Now you have to pay attention. Alpha gives me the right to order you to evacuate right now. What's happening is top secret, and if you don't want your ass in the unemployment line, get these people out now!"
"Laser activity in sixty seconds."
Wilson took the hint and began escorting people out of the area while Jet dove back to his keyboard to try and override the virus. At forty five seconds he gave that up and ran over to physically pull the power cord out of the medical laser, but he found that it was an industrial cord that needed to be screwed in.
At thirty seconds he was working the coupling as fast as he could, but found that someone had misthreaded it and the cursed thing wouldn't budge.
At fifteen seconds he heard the familiar whine of a servomotor moving to aim the laser. He looked up, expecting the laser to be aimed at him but instead saw it facing out into the demo area's seating. Fortunately most of the people were already out of the bay.
Ten seconds remained, and he pulled out his pocket knife. In a desperate attempt he tried to pry the plug out, but his simple blade was meant for more delicate work on the inside of a computer box, and bent on the heavy duty fitting.
Five seconds left, and he looked up to see the young blue haired girl with the amazing typing speed push one of her classmates, a girl with long blond ponytails out of the way of the coming blast.
At one second, Jet locked his eyes on the blue haired girl and whispered, "I'm sorry."
An intense prismatic beam shot out of the reprogrammed medical laser, striking the girl. For a moment, it looked as if it had done no damage save to freeze the girl in place. But to the horror of the young blond on the floor, the laser continued to strike out at her friend as a grid of light appeared across her body. With every flash from the laser, one of the grid boxes across the schoolgirl vanished, leaving only a ghostly outline in its wake.
The beam continued its work, and soon the last of the grids were empty. The beam discontinued in a flash of light, and Ami Mizuno was gone.
The shout came from Jet, the blond girl, and a taller brunette that was helping her to her feet. Jet ran back to his terminal to make sure the procedure went all the way through, but was grabbed by the shoulders and spun around to face the tall girl again.
And boy did she look pissed.
"What have you done to Ami?!"
Japanese may not have been Jet's first language, but the menace in the tall girl's voice was clean in any tongue.
He managed to speak, "There's a problem with the system. Your friend may be alive, but digitized. Please, let go so I can try and help her."
"Makoto," a soft voice whispered. Jet looked past the girl holding him to see the blond, tears in her eyes, walk up and place a hand on one of the brunette's strong arms. "He says that Ami may be alive. Please let him help us."
Fighting down her anger the girl, Makoto, released Jet and took a step back, "All right, Usagi."
Jet nodded his thanks and dropped into his chair, turning to face the terminal again as he spoke into his headset microphone, "Ma3a, it looks like it's happening all over again."
ver. 2.3 Verified///
Ami blinked as she became aware of her surroundings once more. She found herself standing in a dark room, or rather it seemed dark. The walls were pitch black, but there seemed to be soft blue lighting emanating from the line where wall and floor met. Looking further she saw that the floor immediately around her was inlayed with three wide blue circles, one outside the next.
It was when she looked down that she saw that not only were her surroundings different, but her apparel had changed as well. In place of her shoes and school uniform was a blue bodysuit of some kind that hugged her form tightly. Over her feet were a pair of heavy looking boots and on her arms were gloves that ran up to her elbows. The entire outfit was trimmed with a pattern of blue lines and nodes, topped of with a circle of blue on her chest that was divided into three wedges.
She reached up and tried to take off one of the gloves to get a feel for the suit, but she found no seam in the garment. She tugged at her arm, and was shocked that instead of fabric pulling away from her skin, she felt the pinching of her fingers directly. Forcing down a wave of panic, Ami took an experimental step and the sound echoed strangely, almost with an electronic distortion to it.
"The digitization seems to have left you disoriented," a monotone voice said from behind her, and Ami whipped around, drawing every ounce of instinct she had developed as a hidden hero for love and justice. Scanning the room, she only saw a floating geometric shape hovering against one wall.
It glowed with a blue white light, and suddenly pulsed as the voice spoke again, "If you will follow me, Ma3a has sent a contact signal to the I/O port. Apparently, someone is trying to connect to you from the real world."
"Real world," asked Ami and found that like her footsteps, her voice had gained a bit of distortion. "What do you mean, and what are you?"
The glowing construct seemed to drop slightly as it replied, "I am a Byte, and by the real world I mean the real world. Please follow me."
The geometric construct floated away and down a corridor off to the side of the room, leaving Ami alone in a rare confused state.
"The real world," she spoke softly to herself, "meaning that this is some other world. And that thing called itself a Byte and mentioned an I/O port." She looked back down at herself and began to see a pattern in the lightly glowing details of her new skin. "Circuitry," she realized, "This is circuitry, and a byte is a packet of eight bits of information. This world is like a giant computer." She began walking after Byte, hoping that whoever was trying to contact her from the 'real world' knew what was going on.
She walked down the path Byte had taken, running her hands along the perfectly smooth wall. As she did, she found one more piece to her new ensemble, a strange buckler attached to her shoulder. It was a disk with layered circles on its surface like the pad she had awoken on, and in its center was the three wedged symbol that also adorned her front. Touching it with her opposite hand, she found the odd armor came off instantly and fit comfortably into her hand.
"Byte," she called out to the floating construct, "What is this?"
The glowing shape stopped and replied, "That is your Disk. Please be careful with it as it is your primary means of attack and defense. One strike from it and I would be instantly de-rezed." With that, Byte floated on, but that answer did not satisfy Ami as she caught up and continued.
"So it's a weapon of some sort?"
"Correct. If you throw it and it makes contact with a program, they will lose cohesion and de-resolution. You must be careful with its use as it will ricochet off walls and other solidly coded constructs."
Ami blinked at the explanation. She looked over the disk and realized that the object would operate much like Usagi's, as Sailor Moon, magically charged tiara in action. She placed the disk back on her shoulder and hoped that the numerous, and often ridiculous, training that she and her fellow Senshi had gone through would give her the basic skills to use the disk. She had seen Moon use her attack many times in many forms, and decided that her powerful memory would be put to the test to recreate her friend and leaders actions.
Presently the pair arrived in a new chamber, this one much larger and open. Ami looked up to see a clear, dark sky with beams of light shooting into the heavens far away. Ahead of her, a long stretch of walkway extending out over a pool of softly glowing liquid. She knelt before the strange fluid and reached out to touch it, but before she did, she got the first good view of her new appearance in the pool's reflection.
Her new blue second skin hugged her body even closer then her magic sailor suit when she was powered up, and she saw that the digital boots, gloves and her disk made her seem to be a futuristic knight in glowing blue. She found comfort in the color, as it closely associated with all the good she had done in her alter ego. Finally she took in her hair. It had for the most part remained the same, bright blue in a short cut, but there were sparkles all across her head and when she brought one free strand forward to investigate she found that the hair had changed into a kind of micro fiber that glowed like her armor.
"Excuse me," Byte's voice startled her and she looked back up at the construct, "but a User is waiting for you to contact them. Please hurry to the I/O node."
Standing again, Ami walked along the walkway to where Byte floated next to a simple sphere with an attached dial of sorts. She reached out and touched it, and it spun in space until the dial opened into a monitor of sorts.
///Accessing I/O grid///
/"Ms Mizuno, are you there?"/
Ami watched the monitor as an icon of a spinning triangle appeared on the screen and a voice seemed to resonate out to the node. She almost took a step back but kept her hand on the node, seeing it as a lifeline back to her world.
In as strong a voice as she could muster Ami answered, "I'm here, but I'm not really sure where here is. Who are you?"
/"My name is Jet. I'm the technician that was trying to shut the laser down before it fired. I'm here with your friends now, and I'm going to do everything I can to get you back. But there may be a few snags with that."/
Ami nodded, unsure if the young man on the other end of the connection could see her, but taking a moment to organize her thoughts. She began simply enough, "I'm inside the computer, aren't I?"
/"Yes. The laser was reconfigured by an outside hack when they were trying to steal some of my father's research from Ma3a, an A.I. that helps with high level computations. The hacker accidentally triggered the digital scanning and transfer software, and you were hit and stored electronically inside the server. Welcome to the club."/
"This has happened before?"
With a smirk in his voice, Jet answered, /"To myself, my father and before us my godfather. Look, we don't have a lot of time, so I need to tell you what you need to do from your end. I've isolated the server so the virus that got the algorithms needed to return you to the real world can't escape. As a User, you have a lot of power inside the system, so you can probably track it down faster then I can. I'll send you some help, and you can go look for the data, and hopefully get it back."/
Ami let go of the node and shook her head, taking in what she had learned.
"Please follow me to the routing platform," Byte intoned and began to float away.
Ami followed, thinking to herself, I'm inside a computer, and this is all real. Jet said that this has happened before, and he's alright. Add the fact that I have a hidden power…
She stopped and considered this for a moment. Did she have her power? Would the magic that transformed her into Sailor Mercury work inside this digital realm? Putting her hand behind her, she triggered the mental command to retrieve her transformation pen from subspace, and crossed the fingers of her other hand. With a flick of the wrist, she felt the familiar and comforting weight of the pen in her palm, and for a moment considered transforming right then and there.
Pulling the pen out in front of her, she found that it too had changed slightly. A circuit pattern now adorned its surface as well, and it pulsed with power in her hand. The small crystal on its top that held the symbol of her alter ego was now free floating a few millimeters above the pen, spinning slowly.
She sighed and returned the pen to it's storage as she followed Byte, I can't call for that power just yet. I have no way of knowing how the magic will work in here, and Jet may still be watching. Better to hide Sailor Mercury until she's absolutely needed.
Ami found her walk at an end as Byte led her into a chamber with another glowing circle on the floor. A soft column of white light reached up into the digital sky. She walked up to the platform and could feel the pull of the energy, and figured that this was the routing platform Byte mentioned.
"Where will this take me?"
The floating construct pulsed his answer, "To main memory where Ma3a has sent your help. Once you arrive she will find you and help you find the intruder. For what it's worth, good luck and may the Users watch over you."
Ami stepped onto the platform, recognizing an almost religious tone to Byte's farewell. She gave the small construct a smile as she felt the light begin to tug at her body and with a rush of power the scenery around her changed.
She found herself stepping out of the beam of light in a new location. A large city like landscape spread out before her with glowing lines of many colors pulsing along the walls. Around her was the bustle of a city as well, but carried out by people dressed similar to herself in glowing neon. She looked around to see people carrying packets, talking in small groups, or hurrying about other business.
She stepped off the platform and wondered at the sight, and in her musing was caught off guard when a hand landed on her shoulder.
"Are you Ami One?"
Spinning in place, Ami faced another blue clad female. She was taller by a head, and stood with an air of confidence with her hands on her hips. Her outfit was similar to Ami's, but no symbol adorned her larger chest. She had a serious expression on her angular face, and her head was topped by swept back spikes of digital blue hair. Slowly, Ami nodded her answer to the woman's query, and was rewarded with a small smile.
"I am Mercury," she told Ami, "And Jet told me that you are a User like him. I'd welcome you, but I know we have little time. We should head out at once to find the correction algorithms so you can return to your own kind."
Ami blinked, "Mercury?"
"Yes. I am Version 8.7 to be precise. Why do you ask?"
"No reason," the girl quickly said, and looked away to hide her surprised eyes for a moment. To travel to a world inside a computer was one thing, to find a person, or rather a program, that used that particular name was quite another. Ami knew that there were a number of reasons a program could be named Mercury, and hoped that the coincidence was of little importance, but that didn't help her from feeling a little thrown off by the meeting.
"I'll lead us to the main memory core, and from there we can begin our search," Mercury said, turning to leave. Ami followed behind noticing the elaborate patterns on her new comrade's back. She also noticed that unlike her, Mercury seemed not to have a disk, instead there was a short rod attached at her waist above her posterior. Ami guessed that this could also be a weapon or tool of some kind, and hoped that if they were to run into trouble that the older looking woman was skilled in combat.
Then again, they were inside a computer, and even as a Sailor Senshi Ami was not the front line fighter of the group. Without her friends and teammates to back her up, it looked like it would be up to her and a digital doppelganger to find a way out.
///END OF SEGMENT///