-a Tron: Legacy story-
by K. Stonham
first released 30th December, 2010
He sank into the Sea of Simulation, dragged down by momentum and guilt. Deeper and darker he went, until at last he gave it all up, surrendering to the inevitability of deresolution, glad he had at least been able to do one last good thing as himself.
He gave up, and for an instant he flickered out.
Tron did not.
He spasmed, then thrashed. No. No, he wouldn't give up! That was Flynn up there, and Clu. He would not let Flynn down again, and he would not let Clu destroy anyone else the way he had Tron. Not Flynn, not Flynn's son, not the Iso girl.
Casting away the weight of Rinzler's helm, Tron swam upward, toward the world. He broke through the surface and took a moment to orient himself.
It wasn't hard; the light of the Portal shone high and away and so very near.
Determined, he swam for it.
And just a moment before he reached the jutting island shore, his vision went white. The world rang like a bell, and Tron rang with it. It felt like-
He surprised himself by onlining again.
The shore was dark under his fingers, the still surface dark behind his heels, and Tron felt better than he had in thousands of cycles. He lifted his head, blinking, and pushed himself up.
Looking up, he saw the dark sky. His breath caught.
The Portal was gone.
"No!" Clu couldn't have gone through!
Frantic, Tron tore to his feet and ran to the mount that led to the sky.
He climbed for what felt like a hundred thousand cycles, knowing that no matter what had happened he might never know. Deresolution left traces for only a few milli-cycles before the voxels disappeared into the ether. If Flynn had won and left, and Clu had been justifiably derezzed, Tron might never know. He couldn't blame his old friend if he never came back to the Grid he had created.
At least... at least...
His thoughts ran in cycles as he endlessly climbed, until he realized he was at the platform.
It was empty and dark, the bridgeway to the Portal itself withdrawn on both ends.
Clearly, he thought, someone hadn't wanted to be followed. But had it been Flynn, or...?
Sense reasserted itself. If it had been Clu who had gone through, he would have taken thousands of other programs with him to conquer and correct the world of the Users. A few would have been left to guard the Portal from this side. Therefore, it must have been Flynn and his party who had gone.
Clu was derezzed.
Tron fell to his knees in relief. He hadn't done much, been completely insufficient as a Security program, but maybe his last act, turning on Clu, had bought the pair of Users and their Iso companion enough time to defeat Clu and escape back to their own world.
Closing his eyes, he sighed. "Well done, Flynn," he said.
"Well done yourself," someone said behind him.
Tron spun and stared up unbelievingly at the User.
The User smiled at him. "Greetings, program," he said, offering a hand.
Unthinkingly, Tron took it and was pulled to his feet. "But didn't you-" he asked, glancing at the dark Portal in confusion.
Flynn shook his head. "Sam and Quorra went through."
"You gave her your disc," Tron said, half a question and half a realization.
Flynn nodded. "That world needs her more than it needs me. So," he added after an instant's thought, "does Sam."
"But he's your son."
"And he knows where I am if he wants to see me," Flynn agreed.
"Clu?" Tron asked.
Flynn looked serious. "Reintegrated," he said.
"And you're not dead. But the energy wave-"
Flynn shrugged. "Elementary physics. Two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time."
"Right," said Tron, as he did whenever Flynn made one of those User statements that surely made sense to him, but not to anyone else in the Grid. He took a close look at his friend, and was puzzled by what he saw. "You're sure you're all right?"
"Never better," said Flynn with a small smile. "Come on."
"Where are we going?"
Looking around the small, simple domicile, Tron remembered being here before. No-Rinzler had been here before. With Clu, not Flynn.
Double vision threatened to overwhelm him for a moment.
Flynn looked up from where he was picking up a few scattered objects, and his expression turned to one of concern. "Hey, you okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, just a little..." Tron shook his head, shaking it off. "I'm sorry," he said finally.
"What for?" Flynn stood and walked closer to him, silver apple in hand.
"For not being strong enough."
"Tron." The User put a hand on his shoulder. "It's not your fault. It's mine... all mine." He looked out the great bay window toward the distant Grid, and his face was grim. "I made Clu. I should have known better." A regretful expression quirked one side of his mouth. "I made him in my image, and I forgot something. To err is human."
"To forgive is also human," Tron pointed out. Flynn had given him the full saying once, a long time ago, when they'd talked about programs and Users and how Users also had Users... maybe. Sometimes Tron felt very lucky to be a program; he'd always known the Users existed. Apparently they had no surety for their own "god."
"Yeah." Flynn looked pensive for a moment, then shook it off. "Come on, let's get this cleaned up. Tomorrow we find out what that surge did to the Grid, and see what we can do to fix the mess."
Tron nodded and moved to help. It was a fast clean up, and afterward Flynn used his User powers to create the type of food he was used to. It had been a very long time since Tron had eaten at his friend's table, and as always the food was strange. Good, but decidedly strange. He used the opportunity to covertly observe his friend.
Flynn was... "growing old," as he'd put it once. Something Users did that programs did not. He looked a little like Dumont now, gray and bearded. And one day, Flynn had explained, he would be no more. End of line. Not that programs didn't get derezzed, but they didn't do so without cause: injury, accident, the Games. Deletion by their User.
Flynn drank from his glass of energy and Tron did the same, thinking. If injured, Flynn's body didn't voxelate. He bled. That was how, in the Disc Wars Tournament, he'd realized that Sam was a User: the blood. "Will she be all right in your world?" Tron asked. Flynn looked at him. "The girl. She won't bleed like a User."
Flynn nodded. "She'll be fine."
"How can you be sure?" In that world, Flynn had told him, Users were like programs themselves.
Flynn smiled. "ENCOM's a pretty damn powerful company. Sam will have all its resources at his disposal. Once he drags Alan into it... they have nothing to worry about."
As always, Tron felt a small twinge of... something, at the mention of the User who had created him. He'd come with Flynn to this new system of his own choice, with ALAN1's blessing. He and Yori-
The User food went down hard and sideways.
"Do you remember Yori?" he asked, staring at the table.
He could feel Flynn looking at him. "Yeah," the User said.
The shock, and anger, was palpable. "What. Happened."
"Rinzler couldn't-I couldn't do it," Tron said. "Not even when-" He swallowed. "Clu did it instead."
"And said you were a disappointment." Flynn's tone made him look up. "And after that..."
Tron stared. "How do you know that?"
"I... remember." Flynn looked into the distance, eyes unseeing.
"You have Clu's memories?" Tron asked, putting down his fork.
"Apparently," said Flynn. A rueful smile. A half-snorted laugh. "I wonder which of ours are worse, yours or mine?"
"At least you didn't actually do the things you remember," Tron said.
Flynn quirked an eyebrow. "Didn't I?"
Kevin Flynn ran a hand over the leather spines of his books. He'd made them for Quorra, wanting to teach the young Iso about the world he'd come from. Wanting to give her dreams and cover his own failure. He'd succeeded so much better with her than he'd ever dared hope. And Sam... Sam would take care of her out there.
His fingers stopped at one of her favorites. Mark Twain. With a smile, he pulled it from the shelf.
His smile faded as he looked at the closed door of the bedroom where Tron lay offline. Yori...
He'd thought the two of them would be together forever, the digital world's version of Alan and Lora. When Clu had reprogrammed Tron into Rinzler, one of the first tests he'd given his new dog had been Yori's execution. Tron had failed that test, and what Clu had done afterward had been ugly.
Ugly memories. It was a miracle, another one, that Tron didn't seem to hold Kevin responsible.
If... if Sam ever came back, he could restore Yori from a backup. From inside the Grid it was beyond a User's powers. From outside, though, it was another matter. But Kevin didn't want to give Tron false hope; he would wait, and see what Sam could do.
A thud from the guest room caught his attention. Kevin crossed the room and knocked on the door, opening it slightly. "Tron?"
The program was sitting up in the bed, one hand fisted in the sheets, the other rubbing at his eyes.
Programs and Users might not bleed alike, but they both cried.
"You okay, man?" Kevin asked.
"It's nothing," Tron said. "Just a bad dream."
And Tron, Kevin knew with all the certainty fatherhood had ever given him, had scads of bad dreams lined up and waiting. After a moment, he hefted the book he still held in one hand. "When I first brought her here, Quorra always slept better if I read to her first." He'd first done the same for Sam after Jordan had died. It had helped his son too.
Tron looked dubious. Kevin shrugged. "Can't hurt to try," he offered.
Tron sighed. "All right," he acquiesced. He looked at the book curiously. "What is that?"
"A book, man. Older User tech." Which in the past had led Kevin to wonder if writers created worlds the same way programmers did, but if so it had been something beyond his ability to explore. Tron settled back in his bed as Kevin entered the room and sat on a chair, paging open the book.
"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain," he read from the title page. "Chapter one. Scene: The Mississippi Valley..."
"We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars," Kevin read softly, caught up in the story in a way he hadn't been for years, "and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened. Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they happened; I judged it would have took too long to MAKE so many. Jim said the moon could a LAID them; well, that looked kind of reasonable, so I didn't say nothing against it, because I've seen a frog lay most as many, so of course it could be done." Kevin smiled at the thought, and for a moment wished that the Grid could have had stars to add to its beauty. "We used to watch the stars that fell, too, and see them streak down. Jim allowed they'd got spoiled and was hove out of the nest." His smile slipped off his face at that, and he glanced up at Tron only to realize that the program had finally fallen offline.
Slipping a ribbon into it to mark his place, Kevin closed the book and quietly stole from the room, leaving the door open just a crack in case his friend needed him again.
He set the book not back on the shelf, but on the table instead, ready to be continued later.
How long had it taken, he wondered, to help Quorra over the genocide of her people?
Well, what better way to make up for what he had done to this world?
Looking out his balcony at the glowing Grid, Kevin was suddenly inspired in a way he hadn't been for twenty years.
Stepping outside, past the firewall and the pool, he knelt, touching his hand to the bare surface of the world.
Waking to a new cycle, Tron found himself alone in Flynn's guest room again. He breathed a laugh. Flynn had been right about the reading; Tron had slept, dreamless save for a faint tingle of sweet electric current. It had felt almost like Yori had somehow been with him.
Rising, he went in search of his host.
Flynn wasn't in the domicile. Instead Tron found him outside, sitting cross-legged on the ground, contemplating something before him.
"Flynn," he said.
"Sleep well?" his friend asked. Just another one of his odd User words for things.
"Very," Tron admitted. "Thank you." Walking forward, he saw what Flynn's body had been blocking from his view. "What... what's that?" he asked, kneeling.
"That's a flower," Flynn said. It glowed blue, hugging low to the ground. Five graceful planes, tapering to points, arched from its center, where a cluster of gold lights hovered. As Tron watched, it wavered, then a cloud of white motes spiraled up from its core and drifted on the winds.
"Seeds," Flynn said, his face aglow in their light. "Where they land, new flowers will grow."
"It's beautiful," Tron said. He looked at his friend. "You haven't made anything like this in... years," he said, using the User term.
"I know," Flynn said. He was smiling. "I think it's time both of us got back to our original purpose, don't you?"
Tron looked at him, at the User who chose to interact with programs like none other before. At the friend who had invited him to this system, to make a paradise for programs. At the person who had saved him.
"Yes," he said.
Author's Note: Written the day after seeing Tron: Legacy, from a dream, with a nod to palomino333's excellent story "My Name Is Tron." I highly recommend reading it. Also a brief wink in the direction of the film "The Flight of Dragons." Graciously edited by both halves of Toothycat and my Wonderful Husband.