A/N: Whoops, forgot that I hadn't updated the fic here. Rectifying that now.
I Owe You A Love Song
26 – The Escape
The ground shudders and leaves fall on Anon's head. Quorra clings to his arm until the shaking stops and tentatively lets go.
"Earthquake?" she says. "Never felt one before. Kind of boring, actually."
He shrugs and continues leading the way to the nearest unmarked town.
Quorra is no closer to avenging the deaths of her fellow ISOs now than she was a couple weeks ago. Neither Anon nor the outdated Monitors they run into know the real reason behind the formation of the Vice Squads, though one did say she saw the Captain of the Guard review activity logs.
"It's in two days," she says while they sit at the bar in a tavern. "I should be in there already. Zuse's Plan B, remember?"
Anon pats her shoulder.
"He'll be there," she says, hand gripping her glass tightly. "We sneak in, take him out while we still know where he is."
Anon tilts his head and she sighs, thunks her forehead against the counter. "I don't know how to plan these things. Zuse promised he'd do it. I'm just there to kill him."
While contemplating asking for another shot of crude energy she tunes into the surrounding conversations. Most are about the Vice Squads, "Zack Attack", and the millennial celebrations. A few - one - are about the war minister's activities that require "energy, now."
"I barely have enough to distill and sell here," Eckert replies. "Stop siphoning off all the supplies and losing them to the thieves and I might have some to sell you."
"He won't be pleased," the Basic says. His visor wobbles as he abruptly moves off the counter. "Just wait until I report this to him."
Eckert waves a dismissive hand at him and turns away.
Quorra nudges Anon and nods to the departing Basic. "Come on."
She tosses a few Argon bits on the counter and the two slip out after the Basic. He takes a long path through the woods, dragging an old wheelbarrow of half-filled containers. She wonders what the energy's for. The Grid's army has been hoarding energy lately; surely the war minister has a surplus to leech from.
When the Basic stops in front of a rock formation she signals to Anon, who hurtles forward, grabs the Basic by the neck, and shoves the program against the smooth side of a boulder. Quorra advances, beam katana in hand, and shoves its white edge in his face.
"Where's Clu? Talk!"
His mouth opens but says nothing.
"Anon, jog his memory."
Anon obliges, whacking him upside the head. The Basic's eyes roll back and he collapses on the ground. Quorra stares at him and then up at Anon, who hangs his head in apology.
It doesn't feel like it. Whoever he was he was her best chance to track Clu down. Back to square one, with no way to sneak into the unfamiliar city to find the war minister. "Maybe... maybe next time..."
She's so tired. She flings her katana to the ground and leans against the rock formation. It hums under her hand and circuits lace into the stone. Shocked, she jumps back as a chunk of stone slide away, revealing a hidden entrance and stairs going down.
"What is this?" she wonders. "Is this where he was going?"
Quorra picks up her katana and looks over her shoulder. "Come on."
Her jaw slacks at what she finds at the bottom of the stairs.
"Screw the earthquake," she says while Anon squeezes out of the stairway.
At the end of the massive cavern is a sleek black structure, accented with red-orange circuits. That's where Clu has to be. Between them and the structure are seven unimpressed Black Guards.
"Ready?" she asks, beam katana in hand.
Anon nods and hurls his disk at the nearest Guard.
She missed fighting alongside Anon. They weave around the Guards, disorienting, slicing, and slamming the soldiers into submission. She distracts a Guard until Anon punches his disk dock, then whirls around and stabs another in the shoulder. The last one staggers away, presumably to sound the alarm, but Anon's disk knocks him out.
They weren't quiet but Clu doesn't emerge. Disappointed that he's not here she nevertheless decides to investigate the building. She taps on the touchpad next to the sealed doors and it flashes red. Anon nudges her aside and puts his fist through it, making them open to a shallow set of stairs going down and around. With Anon at her back she descends, two at a time, until she reaches the bottom.
She freezes as Dread Pirate Paranoid looks up while shielding Tron's body. They stare at each other in disbelief.
"Quorra?" he finally whispers.
She throws herself across the room into the User's arms.
"I must be dreaming," Paranoid - Kevin, that's his real name, says. "No way this is really happening."
"My thoughts exactly," she says, searching for the circuits to deactivate his collar. "After this is over you need to tell me everything."
"So do you," he replies. "Right now we need to get this damn collar off, take Tron, and get the hell out of here."
Her fingers slow at the mention of her onetime friend. "What happened here?"
Kevin sighs. "The Rectifier. The reason why everything happened."
"What does it do?"
"It rewrites your code, your DNA. Clu wanted - look, there's no time. We need to take him and leave before Clu finds out what happened here."
She redoubles her efforts. "Leave and go where?"
"If we're lucky, to someone who can fix him."
"But he's... dead."
"Not quite. Ever heard of the Isolated Thinker?"
"Then Jarvis wasn't just talking out of his ass." The collar's circuits darken and the lock fails; Kevin yanks it off and tosses it aside. "Can you carry him?"
Anon nods again and carefully lifts Tron's body.
"So what are we doing?" Quorra asks Kevin while he starts shutting this so-called Rectifier down.
"Finding the Isolated Thinker and hoping he can give us a miracle."