Chapter 4: Fall of the Valkyrie
Even now, as he's thrown onto the Grid arena, sector N-17-10, he can't believe it, deliberately refuses to accept the harsh reality that the Quorra he knew is no more. It never occured to him just how fragile programs can be. After all, they are a code. A personalized series of ones and zeros with human-like shape and… feelings and… will. He shakes his head. All it took was a few minor changes in the lines. It's so common on the outside, using programs to our advantage – after all, that's their sole purpose – but in here, it's a whole other story, messing with his head. They look like people, they talk like people, and they, mostly, act like people. How are they not people, then? Because they can be changed so easily with proper knowledge, be repurposed. Their personality is just the image of a few computer-generated characters. One inconspicuous glitch and…
User Sam versus Black Knight.
He thinks it ironic that Clu isn't here to watch the match, but he's got other important things to do, doesn't he? Killing Sam's father, taking over the world and such. That's got to take some time.
He looks at the horizon and his eyes wander in the clouded black sky until they find what they were looking for – the white pillar of light leading to the portal. It's still open…
He swears to all the gods and deities that when he gets out of here, he will never drop another laptop again.
Round 1 – Disc Wars.
Quorra wastes no time. She doesn't even let him try to explain or, at least, speak his last words. Funny how only a few nanocycles ago, she had no problem with him holding her hand. She wasn't ordered to protest, he figures. She grabs her disc – a circle of bright orange – and takes her best shot. It's spot on, but Sam manages to evade and take his own disc. He waits as the irritatingly shiny round object bounces off the transparent walls and back to Quorra. They stand still.
The ISO is confused. The purpose of a battle is to compare your strength to your opponent's and prove your worth by their defeat. Those are the rules. Every program knows the rules, and obeys them in order to survive. This one is different; he doesn't throw his disc or fight back in any other manner. It's rather mystifying. She frowns; her circuits tell her to destroy the adversary in battle, but this is no battle. This would be murder. Is murder good? She has to check.
"I'm not going to fight you, Quorra," he says, sounding confident enough.
She tilts her head to the side in question. This isn't right. There's a loud boo sound multiplied by thousands, crashing into the glass cage from all around them, urging them to provide the promised diversion.
"Believe it or not – if you even can believe in this effed up state – you're my friend."
According to her operating system, murder is allowed, if necessary, which is the only permission she needs. She moves fast, her steps barely audible; a stealthy killer. He has to admit she is good at what she can do, and if he had the time, he would wonder who taught her so well, and when. It could have been twenty user years ago. It could have been a day.
Still running, she throws her disc at him, and while his only option is to deflect it, the Knight attacks, tripping him up. He doesn't expect this and his back hits the ground. At the same moment, the gravity shifts. He's been down this road before and would have handled it if he had had the chance. He curses under his breath as his knees tackle the ceiling, which is surprisingly hard, for a bunch of ones and zeros; this is one of the times he wishes his father hadn't designed the Grid so perfect. Fortunately for him, his opponent also fails to notice the shift in time. How is that even possible? She should have had it calculated a while before then. What's going on in that system of hers?
All of his instincts scream at him to go help her up and make sure she's not hurt – damaged – as he looks up to lock onto the source of the hoarse cry, sprawled on the ground, her face twisted in a painful grimace. He tries to resist, but nevertheless, in a few seconds he's stumbling over to her, hoping the gravity doesn't shift back to normal anytime soon.
Before he can examine any potential injuries, however, Quorra kicks him away and stands up, breathing heavily. She looks enraged.
Another shift is announced. They take one last look at each other, daring, turn around, and run as fast as they can. This time, however, the direction of the pull changes in the middle of the battleground, and both duelists find themselves stuck on opposite sides of it.
"So much for getting through to her," Sam mutters, disgruntled. A disc finds its way to the target. Jump! Run! Look up! Block it! The crowd is cheering. Suddenly, behind Quorra's disc dashing towards him, another one emerges.
Gravity shifts back to normal and Sam's awkward attempt to avoid being hit by either half of her disc ends up with him on his back. "Not again! So what, he teaches that trick to all of you guys now? Or was it Rinzler who taught you how to do it? You know, when this is over, I'd appreciate it if you told me, because honestly, it's kinda cool. What do you say, huh?" he says as he gets up on his feet clumsily.
Quorra pauses at the mention of Rinzler, a bewildered expression on her face.
Rinzler… Rinzler… Rinzler…
Maybe it's not too late. Maybe he still has some influence on her. He starts to walk closer to her slowly, imaginary fingers crossed. "I'm not gonna give up on you, Quorra. I know you're still in there somewhere. You're better than that. More advanced, I guess."
"Well, it's up to you, but if you let a douche like Clu take over, then you're not the girl I thought you were."
He reaches out his hand to her. "Come on, Quorra. We don't have much time."
Without warning, she hits him in the chest, and then again, and again, giving him little time to recoil or defend himself. The glow of her circuits brightens. Her eyes light up with immense fury and hatred. For whom, he doesn't know. He didn't do anything, except being rather fond of her! Rather…
More and more hits fall on him, cutting him, taking his breath away. Again and again and again.
He tries to imagine the real Quorra. What is she like? Brave, innocent, curious, childlike. Free of the bonds of pride or the burdens of his reality. Knowledgeable. Dedicated. Respectful. Wise. A little silly and awkward at times, but always lovable.
The program before him posesses no such qualities. It doesn't fill him with courage and admiration like Quorra always did; much the opposite, in fact. This is Quorra no longer. He's fighting the Black Knight.
Again, again, again. It's getting tired, but remains relentless. Finally, it knocks him to the ground and straddles him, breathing heavily, clutching the neckline of his armor, its disc in one piece again and ready in its other hand. Sam's disc slips away, forgotten.
Derezz! Derezz! Derezz!
The Knight gets ready to inflict the final blow. Sam closes his eyes in hopes that in a few seconds, he'll wake up in his apartment, shake his head, tell himself he needs to stop playing videogames and get a life, and go feed the no doubt already barking Marvin. Then Alan will show up, asking him whether he had found anything at the arcade. He will say no.
There's blood all over her hands; blood of a user. A salty teardrop makes its way down her cheek, falls and melts with the red sea.
User Sam 0:1 Black Knight
Author's Note: Man... my own fic just about broke my heart right now. Well, I did want it to be a tragedy, didn't I. *shrugs* Anyway, it's finally over! This "oneshot" ended up in being a fourshot and good lord, I really thought there would be more for a while. Bonus points and maybe even a yummy chocolate cookie to anyone who finds out what "sector N-17-10" really means. ;)
As always, notify me if you see any errors, since English is not my native language. (Be nice, though, please; my little heart doesn't take critique too well, even though it really, really tries and knows it's only good for you.)