(Disclaimer: I don't own "Tron". I'm just a fan. The plot for this story was written by me, but it is based on the "Tron" and "Tron Legacy" characters and plotline, which of course belong to Disney. Any quotes from the "Tron" or "Tron Legacy" films which are used in this story are strictly in homage to the films.)
The silence had a vacuous roar, compared to twenty-one years of a constant electronic hum and the thunderous calamity that had stilled it.
At first there was only the steady pervasive ring of darkness, infinite stillness, clinging all around him. He had no awareness of a body, self, form, no idea where he was, nor any notion of how many minutes, cycles, lifetimes had passed or were passing.
...so this is death… he thought. And the nothingness answered him with nothingness.
But then he heard the discordant buzzing. Heard it, long before he felt it, a strange current seeping up from underneath him, sparkling like electricity up his spine. Or at least, where his spine was in life. It was painful, almost. It seemed a lot like what de-resolution should feel like for a program, except that it somehow brought an awareness of form once again, rather than the lack of it. And it brought vision, as gray wispy shapes resolved into view against blackness. He blinked. Clouds drifting overhead, tinged by a soft blue glow came into focus. Finally the buzzing resolved into a distinct sound, a familiar sound. A droning, constant, rhythmic sound...waves,...followed by the awareness that the sound was coming from nearby.
...The Sea of Simulation...
Confusion threaded through his thoughts and drummed as steady as the sea. He tried to comprehend where he was, having accepted that apparently he still in fact was, at least in some form, though he was uncertain of much else. Reaching a curious hand up to his face was mostly reflex, but the instant he moved, it was as though his nerves had been asleep for a thousand years and were all waking at once…fierce agony, burning, aching, cramping, finally subsiding to leave only tingles in the hand and fingertips. Leaving his arm very still, he moved his toe slightly, and the same excruciating sensations repeated, tearing all through his leg and foot. Apparently every first attempt at movement was going to bring this same reaction.
...Oh yeah,…this is gonna hurt like hell, isn't it?…
Summoning his determination, he sat up suddenly…only to hear his own voice screaming as he fell back down on to his side convulsing in agony. He felt like his body had been turned into a live wire, and this pain was worse than anything he'd ever experienced.
After some time, he realized he'd been holding his breath. Releasing it, he lay there panting instead, as the pain finally subsided into dull prickly tingles of electricity. He felt weak, but with great effort he placed a palm onto the cool surface and very slowly raised himself up to sit, vertigo rushing through his head with the change in movement. At the back of his skull was a strange echoed whispery thrumming, and it seemed to resonate through his entire head every few seconds. Then this too subsided, and he looked slowly around him, blinking in the dim light, trying to discern where he was.
Following the sound of the sea he stared until his eyes adjusted, and then he could see the water's edge in the grayish darkness. His mind lurched with questions.
How is any of this still here?...
How is the system even still online?...
And where is the light?...
He sat staring off at the darkened sea, then finally decided to stand, though it took him a few tries to do so. It was then that he looked down to notice the glow at his feet, boots now illuminated with a stripe of glowing bluish-white.
...Huh...well there's some light…
A glance up from the boots to his legs revealed a pair of riding slacks he hadn't worn in two decades. The jacket now rebooting itself with a stripe of light down the front was one he'd long since retired as well. Another surge of reflex and his hand reached over his head to his back…still no disk. Yet he stood there, apparently alive again, wearing the clothes he'd worn when he'd first arrived. All the questions echoing in his head combined into one which repeated
Baffled and still slightly disoriented, he reached to scratch his beard only to find there wasn't one. In its place was only a light scruffiness. He'd just begun trying to wade through that newest addition to the already confusing train of thoughts when he glimpsed sudden movement off in the distance to his right.
Steadying himself he turned, squinting in the darkness, then saw the silhouette of a program doubled over on the ground. The very next sound was a howl of pain. He strained in the darkness to see the figure, but he recognized the voice instantly. It was identical to his own.
His muscles felt like lead. Moving very slowly, it took him what seemed like ages to put one foot in front of the other and finally make it a few yards down the shore. By the time he reached the program, Flynn could see a steady bluish white glow beginning to emanate from the identity disk on the back of the jacket, a jacket which was identical to his own. The pants were identical as well, as were the boots. He walked slowly around the figure who lay hunched it's side, eyes closed, wincing in pain, then he stood staring down into a younger version of his own face. His jaw tightened, and when the gray blue eyes finally opened to stare up at him in shock and confusion, he spoke.
" Yeah, … no fun, is it? You're not gonna' want to try to stand up anytime soon."
He stood watching as the mirror image of himself silently came to terms with the agonizing process, slowly sitting up, wincing again, and finally speaking in an unsteady voice.
Wide eyes still looked up at him in confusion. The querulous voice was devoid of it's former arrogance. Instead there was just a hint of fear. But then a soft oddly naïve smile swept onto the features, as though the two of them had just finished a ride at the County Fair.
Right then Kevin Flynn finally lost his patience, along with what was left of the rest of his Zen, throwing his arms up in the air in complete furious incredulous exasperation.
"CLU ! … Wh- ... what the -… NO! … Man,… no! … it's NOT 'over'!…."
His very surprised replica stared back at him, looking even more confused, almost hurt. For a moment he felt guilty at his outburst. But not that guilty. He had a right to vent.
"…I mean,… yeah – okay in one respect it is…but- …no, … just- … Clu, what in the flying wide-open hell made you DO all that?…"
He stopped pacing back and forth, and spun around to face his bewildered doppelganger, stammering and gesturing wildly as he tried to give voice to his intense frustration.
"…okay, well,…yeah…maybe I made you do all that, indirectly,…sure… because I programmed you…. but,…but,…I never told you to just-…just-…and then to -…oh Jesus H. Chr- "
Flynn bit back his words, and growled in abject frustration, literally shaking his fists in the air, then stood there quietly fuming, trying to reign in his temper. It was clear to him now that two decades of suppressing his angst and his anger with constant meditation hadn't really served as much of a healthy purpose as he'd thought, aside from keeping him alive in a state of emotional suspended animation.
Clu still stared at him, and finally answered with a twinge of hurt in his solemn voice, "I did everything you asked. I thought… it was what you wanted."
Flynn stared incredulously at him, and shook his head, exasperated, flinging his arms wide.
"WHAT?…NO-ooo, Clu…!…It wasn't what I wanted, man, not at all!… What I wanted…was,…was to get my life back,… and for Sam to –"
Pausing again, he ran a hand through his disheveled hair. He could see Clu just wasn't getting it. And this frustrated him even more. He exhaled a sigh, walking a few steps away, trying to calm himself, trying to order his frenzied thoughts as he fought back anger, desperation, bitterness, and then he turned to face Clu again.
"Look,…I know this is….this is my own fault…right?…and, I created you, and,… you're really kind of like a… a, a, …child,… in a sense,… a very brilliant one, yeah, but … you gotta understand, -"
He stopped speaking again, then stared up at the still darkened platform not far above on the hill - the portal. Emotions once again surged in him, spilling over. He stomped back towards Clu, stopped, and pointed up at the portal where his son had disappeared into the user world.
"… that WAS my child, Clu!… My actual child!…I brought him into the world!…the user world!…my flesh and blood, man!….my son!…he came here to find me!…to find me, after twenty-one freaking years and now he's gone!…and I'm still here…or,…or,…we're still here, rather…"
Flynn paused, exhaling in defeat as he let his hands drop to his side, "…and I have no idea if I'll ever see him again… or how to get out of this godforsaken place!…."
Clu stared at him, then lowered his eyes to the ground, silent. Flynn resumed pacing, then stopped and spoke again, in a voice somewhat less loud but no less urgent.
"…and it's …it's not just about Sam,… but Quorra, …and, all the ISO's….all the programs - ….what you did to them was wrong, Clu!…wrong!…and there's nothing I put in your programming that could have told you to do it - any of it! Maybe it was my failure to teach you, but - ... but, no , man, ... no ..."
Flynn stopped again, stood with his eyes closed, calming himself. Then he finally looked back at Clu, whose face now registered every form of remorse there was.
"… no. It's not over, …Clu. Because we have to fix it. We have to fix you, and me, and the Grid, … and fix Tron - assuming we find him- …and… we have to find my son. And I don't know how we're gonna do all that, but I do know you're gonna help me."
Clu looked back up at him, his features rife with contrition and so many questions unspoken. But he only voiced one, with eyes that conveyed the same hopefulness his creator so desperately wanted to feel right now.
"…in the user world?"
Flynn stared at the program for a moment. Reborn and removed of his previous status as overlord, Clu really was very much like a child, albeit a very brilliant and errant one. Gone was his previous vitriolic anger and defiance, and now this new Clu was so much like the old Clu, ... the way he'd been when Flynn had first created him. Whatever had happened to his Codified Likeness Utility during the reintegration, it had certainly changed him, and Flynn was taken aback by it, disarmed even. As the frustration began to leave him, suddenly in his thoughts was the echo of a phrase he hadn't heard himself utter in decades ... no problems, only solutions ... and he shook his head slowly.
"No, Clu, … well, … yeah, … maybe…eventually. Assuming we can get back there. But first, … first we're going to start right here. There's a lot of damage we have to undo."
Clu's only reaction was a slightly sheepish nod, like a mischievous kid who knew he'd been caught. Then Flynn extended his hand to him.
"Gimme' your hand."
Clu looked at him curiously for a moment, then finally grabbed hold of the hand, and Flynn slowly pulled him to a standing position, after which Clu lost his balance almost instantly, reeling with vertigo. Flynn steadied him with an arm to his shoulder, and gave a knowing nod.
"It's alright,…'just part of it. It'll pass. "
Clu shook his head and blinked, trying to get his bearings. Flynn released Clu's shoulder and shook out his own arm, the muscles reacting with strained tiredness after having lifted Clu's weight.
"… jeez, man, you're as heavy as me. Getting a bit too old for this…"
Clu blinked again, as his balance and vision stabilized, then he just stared at Flynn quizzically, studying his face. "You, … we're ,… 'old'?"
Flynn stared at him a second, then suddenly realized that somehow, in the process of whatever had happened, he now was most likely the same age as the young man who stared back at him. How, he had no idea. He sure as hell didn't feel that young. But as he touched a hand to his stubbly chin, fingers wandering up smooth, youthful skin, sure enough he found a brow which was far less wrinkled than he'd expected it would be. Then he looked down at his hands, and chuckled almost giddily, shaking his head. This was just plain unreal.
"No, … buddy, I guess not. At least, … not anymore."
But Clu wasn't even paying attention, instead looking down at his own clothing, perplexed as he traced the single stripe of light down the front of his jacket and then stared at his boots.
Flynn watched him for a moment, then a brief flash of lightning accented the clouds, grabbing his attention. This gave rise to an idea, and he slowly knelt down to one knee, placing his palms to the ground, focusing his thoughts. ...Let's knock on the sky…
A second later, he looked up to scan the horizon, feeling a rush of relief when he saw the familiar bluish glow appear over the tops of the angular hillside. The lights of Tron City were restored. Releasing his fingertips from the ground, he smiled. ...I guess some things will never change...
With a chuckle, he stood, looked at Clu, then nodded in the direction of the restored city lights.
"Come on…let's find our way back."
Flynn turned, motioned for Clu to follow, and the two slowly made their way along the craggy ground of the darkened beach. Once they reached the top of the hillside an elaborate glowing labyrinth of trails was visible, the familiar paths which led into the city.
After walking for quite some time, finally they stepped off the back trails and onto the illuminated city walkway, where they were met with the astonished, confused stares from a group of programs which was passing by on foot…programs which then all took off into a panicked run and fled in all directions.
Clu stared at Flynn, who simply chuckled and kept walking.
"It's okay, Clu…they have no idea what's happened - not that I do either, but,… they probably think there's two of you now. Ha - looks like you got yourself an identical twin,… brother."
Clu smiled, considering the word. "Brother…"he mimicked proudly, and thought for a moment, then looked questioningly at his creator, "..and,…when we go to the user world?…will we still be, then?…"
"First things first, Clu…we gotta' fix your world before we fix mine…"
Flynn paused, realizing what Clu meant, then reached to pat his living likeness on the back.
"…but, yeah, Clu, …brothers. We're always on the same team,… from now on."