Tales from the Grid

By THECURSOR

I own nothing

Patrol

System Monitor Crix had patrolled the Grid for his entire operational life, just like his parent programs and their parent programs before them. There was a family legend that his parent programs were the direct descendents of the very first anti-virals written and installed by Flynn himself. No one knew more about the keeping the Grid secure than Crix. No one. Not CLU, not anybody.

So when he saw a defunct program driving a vintage, custom programmed light cycle in the worst sector of the city, Crix took notice.

"Where did you get it?" He said, squeezing the Defunct's smelly arm.

"I told'ya," The Defunct said, "it t'was gifted ta me."

"You seriously mean to tell me that somebody pulled over in an alley and tossed you the operating baton to a vintage second generation light cycle?" Crix laughed, a low threatening chuckle, and the five or six deputy officers laughed with him, "Man, why can't I be that lucky?"

"It's truth."

Crix snarled in disgust at the loathsome creature. When a program's functions are either removed or reassigned, they became defunct. Loathsome and desperate, they usually begged for spare data on the streets, mumbling about protocols that no one ever cared about.

But sometimes… sometimes they got so hungry for data that they went rogue. They'd do horrible things, even de-rez entire program families, just for a few pixels. Somewhere out there was a program without a lightcycle and if this defunct was responsible…

"Monitor Crix?"

"Not now!" Crix said with a snap, he regretted his tone almost immediately. The junior deputy was standing in the doorway of the interrogation room with a horrified look on his face. The kid was barely two uploads old. "I mean, what is it?" He muttered.

"System Security is here," The rookie whispered, "They want to see the defunct."

The entire room slowed to a crawl. Crix and his deputies look at one another with unmasked concern. What did CLU'S guards want with a lowly defunct? "Tell them to go away,"

"They told me you'd say that, they said they want to see you anyway."

Motioned to his deputies and leaned into their ear, "Take him to the back door, unlock the firewall and wait for me to come get you." Crix pointed a single finger between the Defunct's glazed eyes, "I think you're scum but nobody deserves a visit from System Security, we'll continue this later."

And then he went, moving through the crowed hallways of Anti-Viral Security, past dozens of programs and protocols until he reached the menacing glares of Jarvis and the six sentries that traveled with him.

That sent a wave of disgust through Crix's coding. Jarvis didn't actually need the protection of six sentry programs but he used them anyway, just so he could look important.

This was just one of the many little improvements that CLU's regime had introduced over the cycles.

And there was nothing Crix could do about it.

"Salutations, Programs, how can I help you?" He tried to sound as polite as possible, burying his contempt with duty and etiquette.

"You're holding a defunct program."

"Perhaps, I'm holding a lot of programs tonight."

Jarvis snarled at Crix's obvious petulance and he imagined a small, furry creature. A hideous rodent described in data files on the human world. What were they called…

"You and the other System Monitors have funny ideas about the way things are supposed to be. Your functions don't align with our mighty leader's glorious vision." Jarvis leaned very close to Crix and started whispering in a low threatening voice, "In fact, I continue to hear rumors that you and your men are using your lofty position to spread a system wide revolt."

Crix continued to smile, continued to hide how much he wanted to strangle Jarvis and de-rez every Black Guard on the Grid. "I assure you, sir, that the System Monitors are only interested in peace and justice for all programs."

Jarvis scoffed.


When Crix had a spare moment he slipped away, returning to the back firewall where his deputies were still hiding, still holding the nervous little Defunct.

It was against his nature to release any program from quarantine. To Crix, once you crossed the line, you served your time. No questions asked. But these days, things were different.

"Let him go." He ignored the brief swell of pride as his men almost refused the order. Good boys, he thought, never let a perp walk away. But still, orders were orders. "I said cut him loose."

The senior deputy removed the Defuncts restraints while his junior officer opened the back firewall. Things had gone very wrong in the Grid if a System Monitor felt more loyalty to some defunct dirtbag than System Security. But things had been that way for a long time.

And if they were ever going to change, programs like Crix were going to have to pick a side.

If he got caught, Jarvis would have him repurposed or worse, remove his functions and turned defunct. It didn't matter. Anything was better than CLU's madness.

"It was a gift." The Defunct said as he hesitantly stepped through the firewall, "I swear."

"I know kid," Crix muttered, "Cause today is your lucky day."

"It was a User." The Defunct said as he walked back onto the Grid, "I saw him. With my own two eyes. A User, they're real."

Crix closed the firewall.

The End