OKAY. I'M ALIVE.
I apologize for the disappearing act! I have finally finished up the massive fan fiction project I had undertaken over the last two years, so now I will return to updating this story (and my other minor projects) until completion, even if there are gaps between updates. :) Thank you so much for your patience. On with the story!
Quorra has some issues and then Rinzler has some even bigger ones.
Also: NO THE PAIRING IS NOT ALAN/TRON Ahahahaha. God, no. There's kind of hinting at the end of this, but I don't think you'll catch it. (No, it's not Amy/Rinzler.)
Warnings: descriptive violence, mild language, alternative coupling, original characters, dark themes, SPOILERS for Tron: Legacy.
Disclaimer: Tron © Disney. I only write this mess.
It was after eleven by the time he got home. Sam had taken his bike in and enjoyed the sharp wind that hit him on the ride back. It was almost enough to shake the deepening sense of exhaustion that was constantly tugging at his brain lately. He was working longer hours than even he was used to; he'd survive it, though. He had endured a lot worse.
By the time he reached his apartment, however, Sam wanted nothing more than a hot shower and the comfort of his bed. Quorra usually went to sleep around ten, so Sam tried to be quiet when he opened the door and tiptoed inside.
He was surprised to see Quorra sitting on the couch—her feet tucked under her legs and looking poised in one of his father's meditation poses—alone. She had a pile of magazines beside her, but it was unclear if she had already read them or had merely brought them over to attempt to read and hadn't gotten that far yet.
"Hey!" Sam said, smiling when Quorra turned toward him at the sound of the door opening. He shrugged his jacket off and put it on the hook by the door. "Sorry I'm late. Had to fix some of the dangling ends to the virus block prototype Amy and I were working on."
It was actually going places, which was a huge relief. Amy was actually pretty decent at the coding. The major problem they both had to tackle was the fact that the Virus seemed to be self-evolving. Sam theorized it was because the Virus had become part of the Sea, which had proven to go beyond the normal programming spectrum they were used to dealing with. To fix the Virus, they had to somehow outmaneuver that self-repairing sequencing.
"Just got a call from Alan before I left the lab, too," Sam said, dumping his backpack onto the dining room table. He had given up on the suit and tie get-up lately as he worked in ENCOM's basement. "He's still running more intricate scans on the ENCOM systems. Man, I really hate to imagine the Sea actually reaching out like Tom and Amy suggested, but it's our only lead."
"Hmm," Quorra hummed. She was oddly quiet.
Sam paused at the mouth of the kitchen and considered the absence of conversation.
Turning slowly, Sam saw Quorra staring at him with a level look. There was no clear emotion there, but Sam could see how stiff she was holding herself.
"…I know that look," he said. He tried not to feel defensive, which he always ended up being when he was at a loss at the charges placed against him. "What'd I do wrong?"
Quorra finally blinked. "You did nothing wrong."
"Oh… that's good?" Sam said, heart beating a bit faster. Why was she staring at him like that? It was starting to weird him out.
"In fact, you've been doing nothing," Quorra said, colder. Well, there it was.
"Wait, what?" Sam asked, startled. He moved closer and tried to understand the accusation. "What do you mean? I was working all day on the Grid and the Virus situation."
"Yes, you have," Quorra said, still stiff and unbending. She met his gaze with blazing blue eyes. "And you have been neglecting other things."
Most quasi-boyfriends would take that as a hint that he had been working too much and not spending time with her personally. But somehow, Sam doubted that this was a normal-boyfriend-girlfriend fight conversation.
"…I need more of a hint than that," Sam said at length. He sat down carefully on the other end of the couch. He was actually beginning to feel nervous under Quorra's never-wavering glare. "Are you lonely? Do you want to help me at the office…?"
"This isn't about me!" Quorra suddenly shouted.
Sam froze. Quorra's silent sulking had finally bubbled over. He had never seen this in her before, not really, but whatever she was frustrated over was clearly important.
"Actually, no, perhaps it is," Quorra said, drawing in on herself more. She glared at him boldly, however, even as she shrank into the oversized t-shirt she was wearing. "More specifically, it's a part of me that you seem to have utterly disregarded!"
At first, he was absolutely confused over what she was talking about.
Then, it hit him like a ton of bricks to the face.
"The ISO case," he breathed. He sat back, eyes wide. "Shit, Quorra, I'm sorry."
They had been working on Quorra's condition, or rather the ISO case his father had died to protect, for weeks before running into this new Rinzler mess. They had dropped the ISO investigation without any real chance to place it aside neatly for a calmer day. Sam had just assumed it was all right to shift focus, since it wasn't like Quorra or the ISOs were going anywhere.
The look on Quorra's face told him that it was not all right, in fact.
"I know you are busy trying to fix the mess that Rinzler and CLU left you, but Sam, I have nothing but being an ISO," she said, voice heated. "Your father died trying to get me out of the Grid for you to continue to work on his dream—what I am—and you haven't even thought about it at all, have you?"
He had thought about it in passing, but he couldn't deny that it had taken a back seat in light of other catastrophic events. Sam tried to stop a wall of irritation rising in the back of his mind, since he knew it wasn't Quorra's fault, any of it. "Quorra, you know we have to make tough choices about this. Yeah, I know, it's not fair to ignore you or the ISO situation—," he started to say.
"Situation!" she snorted, turning her head away.
"—but come on, Q, this is a matter of life or death practically!" he exclaimed. He leaned forward to get her to look at him again. "The Grid is falling apart, that Virus could spread out into the world grid if the Sea suddenly decides to flare up and out again, and frankly, that's a bit more important than a lot of things right now." He glared. "Including my father's dreams."
Quorra opened her mouth to speak, rearing back physically, but she stopped herself. She glared right back at him and could not yet hide the flash of hurt on her pale face. Shoulders hunching, Quorra shut down and looked to the side, chest heaving silently.
Frustrated solely at himself, Sam pondered how he had screwed this aspect of his life that quickly. He floundered for a moment, trying to figure out how to fix this, but there was little he could offer her. He couldn't just drop the Virus case. Not now.
"I didn't mean to make you upset," he finally said. He ran a hand through his hair and looked out at the pitch-black skies over the dotted cityscape.
He just kept screwing up. He was too harsh towards Rinzler. He was too suspicious of Amy and Tom. He had hidden all this for too long from his only remaining father figure. He was too damn critical of himself more than half the time. He couldn't…
He couldn't be as good as his dad. Not like this. No matter how much it felt like he was trying.
"I have one purpose. I used to protect your father, or at least, learn what I could from him," Quorra said, her eyes shining with pain as she gazed out at nothing. "But now he's gone. All I have left is what I am physically. I don't understand this world. I understand the threats you're trying to fix…" She exhaled sharply, almost like a laugh. "But I don't know what to do with myself in the meantime. I have no worth besides what's inside me. I have no point besides mapping out what he couldn't!"
Sam found himself drowning a sense of confusion and a faint sense of horror. Quorra couldn't actually believe that—that she was just an ISO? Just a science experiment?
"No… no, Q, that's not…" he tried to say, but the words didn't come out quick enough.
He had no idea what to say, not to that. Quorra took his silence for something other than internal confusion and dismay; she looked away from him and seemed intent to curl away entirely. Sam couldn't let her think that what she said was true.
He practically lunged across the gap between them and grabbed her hands that had been locked around her knees. Quorra looked up at him surprised and Sam took a deep steadying breath.
"You're not useless," he said, gripping her hands tighter. Touch always helped translating his feels to her, he had learned. He shook his head. "You're more than an ISO. So much more."
"What can I do, Sam, besides try to achieve what your father saw in me?" Quorra asked, eyes sad now. "How can I be the saving grace he spoke of if I do nothing but sit around the apartment? I can't help you fix this Virus. I can't do anything."
Sam drew her closer, making sure she was listening to him without any chance of misunderstanding him. "We're going to come back to this, Quorra. You know that."
It didn't matter if it was next week or next year—Sam Flynn was going to achieve his father's last dream. More than that, he was going to help his closest friend achieve hers.
"I'm… impatient," Quorra said, eyes pinched. At least she admitted her faults, Sam thought to himself.
"No. You're impossibly patient," he said, chuckling. He squeezed her hands. "Welcome to being human, though. Out here, it's ridiculously unfair."
Quorra looked down at the carpet. "It is," she agreed.
It wasn't fair to her. In fact, Sam knew he only knew a faint idea about how unfair this was to Quorra. She had no where to go except with him. She had no power, no other friends, no trust in her own abilities to adapt to this new world alone. She had only ever had one destiny in mind, and that had been the ISO project. Other than that…and she was without purpose.
Sam closed his eyes briefly against the wave of exhaustion—both emotional and physical—as he realized just how badly he needed to fix this now. Quorra was more than a damn computer miracle. She was Quorra. She was…important.
And now he just had to make sure she knew that and held onto it, even as they struggled to balance their different responsibilities.
Opening his eyes, Sam saw Quorra watching him, waiting and desperate. He wondered if she knew he needed her just as much as she needed him.
"Come to work with me tomorrow. I could use the company," Sam said. He grasped her shoulder. "And when we eventually go back to the Grid, I'm definitely going to need your help."
Quorra's brow was still worried and she bit her lip.
"…That, I can do," she said, looking up to meet his eyes with the same heart wrenching honesty as ever.
Sam smiled. "That's how to think about it."
Coming home at six in the morning only to have a brief goodbye with a half-asleep boyfriend who then left for his own twelve hour shift at ENCOM left Amy in a bitter mood that six hours of sleep could not fix. She really should have been up earlier than noon, but she was so tired. She hadn't been able to grab the nap at work she should have taken. The noon wake-up call was her own decision, because no matter how tired she was, she still had responsibilities.
Like, living responsibilities.
Rinzler had adapted to living with them to the point where he was all right to be alone a few hours. He usually slept late anyway, so he had spent (from what Amy had estimated) only three hours alone. She was grateful they had shown him how to watch television and she was even more grateful for the TV's decision to play cop shows all day. Rinzler would spend hours staring at car chases. Hours.
While he vegged out, Amy tried to get her act together. She stumbled through making them brunch (Rinzler had also luckily learned to use the fridge for meals when she wasn't there; Amy had learned to leave at least three cheese sandwiches for him when he wanted one).
"Want mac'n'cheese?" she called out into the living room.
Rinzler didn't even twitch. Amy sighed; at least he wasn't drooling.
She turned the volume down a little when she planted a bowl of noodles in front of the computer program. Rinzler did give the bowl his attention. They had learned he liked cheesy food, though that wasn't healthy in the long run. He did enjoy vegetables, but…
They needed to restock their supplies. Amy never liked grocery shopping when it was just her and Tom, but they had never had a reason to shop for long periods of time in mind. Now that they had Rinzler to keep fed, she figured it was about time she had a grown-up moment and start planning future meals.
However, she realized her dilemma as she finished her own lunch (Rinzler, after burning himself twice on food before, was paranoid about it being hot and took a long time to eat anything cooked)—she had no one to watch Rinzler while she shopped. Tom was at work and she was pretty sure Sam was comatose from sleep deprivation at this point too. Alan was still working himself the last time she saw him, and there was no way in hell Amy would allow that Amazonian program, Quorra, to watch Rinzler alone.
Amy peered at her houseguest nervously. If he noticed the scrutiny, he never showed it. He was very tolerant of their nervousness. He almost ignored them when they didn't speak to him directly.
She didn't know what to do right away. He was okay with being on his own in short bursts of time, but she didn't trust his inability to handle the most basic of human dilemmas yet to leave him alone while she was a train ride away. He was gradually learning, sure, but he was still very dependent on her and Tom.
She also didn't like how sickly he was, even as they approached the four-week mark since he had come to their world. He had never had an attack or anything, but it kept Amy up at night imagining what would happen if he ever did. What if he deteriorated, or got hurt, when they weren't home?
It made her feel dreadfully helpless and she was not okay with that.
She made her decision once she put away their dishes. Rinzler had started to go back to watching television (he preferred that to reading; his attention span was hilariously short), so he didn't pay her much heed when she walked up beside the couch.
"Come're, Shakey, we're going out," she said, heaving her messenger bag's strap around her shoulders. She saw Rinzler glaring at her abruptly; he really didn't like nicknames. "Don't give me that look. You've reached the nickname stage, that's a good thing."
"My designation is Rinzler," the program said, not quite in a snarl.
Amy sighed. "Ah. No Tron today?" she asked, almost to herself. Instantly she knew it had been the wrong thing to say, because Rinzler's eyes narrowed and his body twitched quite visibly. Amy held her hands up in defeat, because she knew he would be unresponsive if she asked him questions like that now. "Jesus, okay, sorry. Get your shoes."
A lot of Tom's clothing didn't fit Rinzler properly, but it was nothing a belt couldn't fix. He didn't look quite right in the baggy t-shirts, but until they went clothing shopping, this would have to do. Amy shuddered at the idea of taking the program out to Wal-Mart.
Rinzler didn't seem interested in leaving the apartment, ever. He only did so when they took him to the lab when both Tom and Amy had to go in. The few times they had taken him there, they had been picked up by one of Flynn's drivers. Amy could hardly wait to see how Rinzler would handle the subway today…
With some reluctance, Rinzler grabbed his sneakers at the foyer entrance and brought them to the couch. Amy watched with patient humor as he methodically went through the process of placing each shoe on each foot—then pausing to stare at each appendage as he adjusted to the sense of the shoe on his flesh—before he went back to tie each shoelace. He always moved slowly and carefully, as if he were anticipating an emergency that would force him to remove the shoe quickly.
Amy hid her smile as he went through this process. She had hoped he would get better with his sensory issues, but he was taking a longer time than Quorra had, according to Sam. She felt like she should have done something more to help, but Rinzler's problems weren't something she could just sooth away. He needed time.
And practice. It was almost funny—almost—when Rinzler hesitated twice over one of his shoelaces trying to tie them. His knots were always loose and lopsided, no matter how much he tried. Maybe they should have invested in Velcro first.
"You're hopeless," Amy said out loud, endeared. She smiled, though, especially when Rinzler peered up at her with squinted eyes, as if he couldn't decide if he should get mad over her comment. She offered her hand and helped him to stand.
This would be a long day.
Rinzler still did not like elevators, so they took the stairs. All the way down ten floors. That left both the hacker and program terribly out of breath, which sent Rinzler into more of a nervous state as he had to deal with his body-doing-things-he-didn't-understand. Amy forced herself to be patient, channeling Tom's philosophy that they had to respect Rinzler as an "adult" but yet still understand he was learning essentially everything that a child would. Amy thought that was highly unfair to her as a teacher, but it wasn't like either she or Rinzler had much of a choice in any of this.
After resting a bit, they got to the street and Amy felt her own panic bloom as she realized she had to keep a close watch on the man beside her as they traveled. Rinzler was not one to wander far the few times they did go outside, but he was easily startled. As they headed toward the transit tunnel, Rinzler was eyeing every passerby with either curiosity or unease. Amy hid a smile; once he learned human manners, this would be something to look back on and laugh about.
Rinzler, despite being spacy and somewhat helpless with the most basic of tasks, was highly suspicious of anything he deemed "unknown." He froze at the entrance of the tunnel stairs, and once she stopped to look back at him, Amy was amused at his cat-like hunched shoulders. Maybe leaving him with Ruggers alone was a mistake, if he started to pick up cat mannerisms over people ones.
"What?" he demanded as he stood at the top stair, eyeing the darkened passage with suspicion.
"It's the transit tunnel," Amy replied, patient. She motioned with her hand. "Come on. We can't walk all the way to the store. Don't you have transit systems in the Grid?"
It took a bit more cajoling, but Rinzler eventually inched his way down the stairs. He wrinkled his nose at the smells and seemed uncomfortable in the darker lighting. Amy wondered what sort of thought process he had over those sensory changes; he must have been either very confused or curious. Probably both, she realized.
They got about fifteen feet from the ticket gate when Amy heard a subway car approaching on a distant track. She didn't think anything of it—until Rinzler literally jumped in the air and backtracked all the way to the wall.
Amy turned, surprised, but flinched when the shrieking subway car made a full entrance and the entire underground was filled with metallic screeching. She was forced to see Rinzler's reaction fully. He was staring out at the subway tracks, eyes larger than they had ever been, and every muscle visible was tensed in abject fear.
Oh. Oh, crap. Amy exhaled sharply and tried to ease the frightened program off the wall.
"It's the subway," she tried to say, having to shout over the noise. She got closer to the program, who was visibly unsettled. "It's okay." The last thing she needed was him to run away from her in the crowd.
Luckily, he didn't run toward the exit. Rinzler grimaced and stiffly edged forward along with her guiding arms, eyes continually on the tracks. "Noise," he mumbled. He winced when another train came screeching in closer.
Sighing, Amy tried to keep pushing him along. "I know, sweetie. It's okay. I won't let it hurt you," she said jokingly over the cacophony of noise. Oh, she hadn't thought this through well. She just didn't have the money for a cab and he had been afraid of buses too…
"You are smaller than I am," Rinzler replied, shocking her with his irritation, his indignation. That was certainly a new emotion! The mere fact that he had shot a quip back at her was… well… good.
Amy snorted, deciding not to make a fuss about it, though she was definitely going to tell Tom and Sam about it later. "Yeah, and that's saying something, isn't it, midget?" she goaded. She tucked her arm through his and forced him to keep pace with her as they walked along the tiled floor toward the gate. "Come here. I hate slow walkers."
Rinzler was incredibly reluctant about moving closer toward the trains, but Amy's firm grip seemed enough to keep him from bolting. They were lucky that the next train to come flying in was the one they needed to take. Rinzler went even paler as he shakily followed Amy's lead by stepping onto the train. Amy guided him aboard and smiled encouragingly at him even though he didn't quite meet her eyes. He was too busy staring at the ceiling and the indifferent Seattilites ignoring him in turn in their seats.
They sat by the doors, so Rinzler would know where the exits were. Amy thought he'd like that, but that didn't stop the very-visible tremors that coursed through him as the train lurched and carried them forward. It wasn't a long trip, thankfully. Amy merely kept her arm through his and tugged him closer whenever he flinched.
At the next stop, Amy hustled the stiff program out the door and onto the new platform. They climbed the stairs to the surface probably a bit too quickly, but Rinzler seemed to relax considerably once they were out in the sun again.
"See, Rinzler? You're alive! You did it!" Amy said once they hit the sidewalk. She grinned and bumped into his stiff shoulder gently. "We should put another gold star on your progress chart, if you had one. Tom won't let me get one for the kitchen."
Rinzler sent her a side-glance to end all side-glances. He knew she had just made fun of him, but he didn't know how. "You say strange things," he accused as they crossed one last street to get to the right strip of stores.
Amy grinned in response. "Here's the food store," she said, pointing up at the store. She guided them to the motion doors. "Stick close. I ain't running around Seattle looking for a lost program."
It was one of the cheapest food stores in the area and the food wasn't actually too horrible. The store was always busy, but at least it wasn't crowded inside, which was good for Rinzler. Rinzler looked around with wide eyes, the same expression he always wore when encountering a new environment. He had only ever been to ENCOM and their apartment, or outside buildings, so being inside a new one must have been a strange experience for him.
Amy grabbed a hand basket and led them through the isles. She didn't want to spend too much time there, since she didn't trust her luck or Rinzler's patience. Rinzler trailed behind her as they walked, looking everywhere and almost disappearing into his borrowed t-shirt and jeans. They really needed to take him clothes shopping, but Amy felt like making Tom endure that later.
"You like spaghetti. And macaroni. We can't always eat noodles though," she explained as they moved slowly down the isle, Rinzler still staring at the ceiling. "You didn't like the meatballs, huh?"
Rinzler spared her a moment to make a face. "Disgusting." He really did not like the concept of dead-things-we-can-eat.
Amy rolled her eyes. Vegetarians. "Thanks. You sure know how to flatter a cook's ego," she murmured. She picked up another brand of spaghetti that was cheaper. "Alright. No meatballs. We're getting lunch meat for me and Tom, though."
It was an odd compromise, but it was working for them all. Sam had offered monetary support to take care of Rinzler, but both Amy and Tom refused. It wasn't a real charity case, but the main reason was because Rinzler was ultimately Amy and Tom's responsibility. They had let him loose unto the world, Amy thought sadly, and now they had to face the consequences.
It could have been worse, those consequences. Amy smiled to herself as she browsed, her mind elsewhere. They were semi-officially hired by ENCOM to work on a very important project to save the life of someone that, well, Amy felt connected to personally. Rinzler was slowly, slowly adjusting to the real world, but he wasn't going crazy and killing anyone. Maybe he was getting better. Maybe they were doing this right.
Amy held up a box of rice and went to ask her quiet companion what he thought about it when she saw him.
Rinzler had stopped a few yards back and was staring out at nothing. He was swaying on his feet and seemed either lost in thought or like he had just remembered something immensely important.
"What's wrong, Rinzler?" she asked, surprised. She slowly put the rice box down.
Her surprise did not remain surprise for long. It morphed into full out concern when she saw Rinzler shaking that she could see it from all that distance away. She was not convinced the program would not suffer from seizures, so for a solid second, she thought he was.
Do not panic, she told herself as she immediately headed back over to the program.
"Rinzler?" she asked. She held back a gasp when Rinzler sank down, his hands going out to grab onto something and in the process, he knocked over an entire row of boxed pasta. "Hey, stop that! What's the matter?"
The moment her hands grasped his arm, however, she clearly saw his face. It was lined with pain, his eyes clenched shut, and the tremors were worse. He was breathing loudly and each breath was ragged. His knees wobbled and he sank down lower.
Amy stood over him, and for a full second, didn't know what to do. It only occurred to her that they had better leave then. The dull sound of the shop's radio buzzed overhead like insects humming.
"Come on, Rinzler, we're leaving," she said quietly, reaching out. She grabbed his shoulders, which moved all too easily under her guiding force. "It's okay. We're leaving, right now."
She dragged him toward the front, but the weight of the basket hanging on her arm reminded her that she still had food to buy. Holding back a frustrated groan, she hurried them over to the self-check out and all but threw the items through. They only got a portion of what they needed, but Amy didn't care about that now. She bagged the three items without care and left the coin change in the tray as she hurriedly grabbed hold of Rinzler again to guide him to the door.
"Rinz? Rinz, look at me," she said, trying not to let her fear enter her voice. She clutched him close to her shoulder as they marched through the front doors. "You're okay. You're alright."
She had no idea what was wrong. He was shutting down again and it wasn't just mental. He could barely stand and Amy was dragged down every time his knees buckled. His eyes were sharp and bright, but it seemed only then that the red lines in them were noticeable. It could have just been Amy's panic, but it seemed like the blue in his lips and under his eyes was worse.
They had to get home. Now. Amy physically drew him closer and tried to surround the program when he seemed to lean into the touch. Maybe the touching grounded him. Amy grimaced and tucked his head closer to her shoulder.
"We're almost home. Just keep with me, okay?" she said, voice catching as they walked down the stairs to the tunnel again. "I'm sorry, buddy."
The ride back was tense and horrible and Amy desperately wished calling Sam for a ride would have given them quicker results than taking the metro. She didn't want Rinzler outside any longer than necessary. Something about being there triggered him. It could have been the lights, or the sounds, or the people, or…
Or all of it. Amy clenched her teeth in internal brief self-hatred when she realized this whole thing was her fault. She should have just let him stay home.
She should have just let him stay in the Grid.
Getting to their apartment took less time because Amy took a risk and forced them to take the elevator. Rinzler didn't react to it, which was not a good sign, but Amy couldn't imagine being able to carry him and herself up the stairs. Three minutes later, they were falling in the door and Amy finally could catch her breath.
"No more shopping, okay? I won't drag you out again. We're home," she said hurriedly. She dropped the shopping bag without a thought. "I'll make you some hot chocolate. You liked that last week, right?"
The program shoved past her into the room and made a beeline for the couch. Ruggers growled when Rinzler went past him, but thankfully didn't swat at the program. Amy hastily shut the door.
To her surprise, Rinzler spoke.
"Why?" he demanded, stunning her. He stumbled into the couch and fell onto it, as if his legs had finally stopped working. He sounded so desperate. "Why so much noise? Why is there no Grid here?"
Amy winced as he curled up on himself. She moved over and slowly knelt down next to the couch. She didn't know what to do to help him. Rinzler ignored her, his whole body shaking like a leaf.
"I can't feel—I can't feel anything. But I can. I can feel everything all at once." He whimpered and curled up against the couch, his hands grasping at the back of his skull. "My head."
Amy sat on the floor in front of him and could not believe the drowning sense of guilt and helplessness that kept her prisoner.
"…I'm so sorry, Rinzler," she said, chest burning. "This… is all my fault."
If they hadn't messed around with that stupid dare, if they hadn't kept the theft a secret, if she hadn't brought her laptop to ENCOM, maybe… maybe he wouldn't still be in pain. Maybe… that would have been better for him. To just… fade away in his own world.
Now, he was forced to die slowly in an alien world. Amy closed her eyes.
He was dying, wasn't he?
"I should never have taken you out of the Grid. I know it's a bad place, but…" she said. When she opened her eyes, Rinzler was looking at her. "This world… isn't for you."
It could have been killing him and they didn't know. The Virus, if it was still active in the real world, could have been what was making him twitch and cringe in pain. Even if it wasn't something lethal, what if Rinzler couldn't go the same path as Quorra and assimilate? He was already damaged, psychologically as well as emotionally. This was… too much to put on him.
"Savior," Rinzler said, startling her. He looked at her strangely. "You saved me."
Amy grimaced. "It was an accident, Rinzler. I didn't save you," she said quietly. "I was just lucky."
Rinzler almost mimicked her expression. "Why?" he asked, voice dipping into desperation. "Why did you break into the Sea?"
This was their longest conversation to date and that was sort of depressing. Amy rubbed the back of her head, exasperated. "I didn't do it, Rinzler. I… I was just there at the right time," she said.
It was the mysterious Sea that did this. Whatever work Kevin Flynn had made… it had turned a computer into something more. It created it's own connection to the Internet, and that was mildly terrifying, because if it could do something like that, what else was the Sea capable of?
There was a distinct pause. Amy looked up and saw Rinzler was staring at her from his horizontal position. However, there was something off about his eyes. Amy recognized what happened, but before she could ask, Tron spoke.
"I wanted to find Flynn. I wanted to go back where I came from," he said, speaking in his soft, broken voice. "I wanted to go home, so badly." He closed his eyes, agonized. "I have failed Flynn. My only friend. I have failed."
Amy floundered for a moment. "No… no, Rin—Tron. You didn't fail Flynn, Tron. You fought back," she said. She sat closer and tried to be a reassuring presence. She had no idea what was reassuring to the program. "You're going to get better. You're going to survive."
"I failed," Tron repeated. He opened his eyes and the gray irises were slightly dilated. He looked ready to cry. They hadn't yet encountered that bodily function with him and Amy wasn't prepared to handle it without back up.
"No. Stop saying that," Amy said, frowning. "I promise you, we'll get through this. Me, you, Tom—and Sam and Alan. We'll fix this." She hesitated when she went to reach out to touch him; maybe it was a bad idea. "You're going to be okay, Tron."
It didn't matter if Quorra didn't trust Rinzler or Tron. Sam, Alan, Amy and Tom convinced each other that it was the right thing to do. They could do it, but only if Tron/Rinzler tried, too.
Amy then realized that even if it killed her, she'd make sure the program did try. She could not live with herself otherwise and she doubted the others could either.
"A User's promise is always kept," Tron suddenly said. His eyes were squinted in pain, but he did spare her a brief look of honest confusion. "You speak for many, though."
Amy sighed quietly. "We're all here for you, Tron," she said. She finally reached out and gripped his shoulder. "We're not going to leave you to do this yourself."
Something dark crossed Tron's face. "My name is Rinzler," he said, twitching.
Every time he said that, it broke her heart just a little more.
"Okay," Amy agreed at length. She smiled sadly. "Okay, Rinzler."
He curled up on the couch, but did not dislodge her hand. Amy sighed and leaned against the cushion in silent support.
They just had to be patient.
End Chapter Seventeen.
Next, Tom and Rinzler have a chat and then Alan gets a phone call.