We Are Pilots
"Be back in thirty-"
Quorra looks up from her tablet in time to see the door slam shut. Marvin trots over to it and sits next to her shoes, expecting Sam to return to take him along. When Sam doesn't open the door and whistle for him Marvin reluctantly joins her on the couch. She smiles and scratches behind his ears as she continues going through her inbox on the ENCOM Slate prototype. She glances at the clock on the upper right hand corner of the screen as she flicks a notification to the trash icon and expands the next message.
9:19 PM. Knowing Sam she'll expect him to come back at least fifteen minutes late.
The next several emails all concern ENCOM's upcoming appearance at E3 to promote their highly anticipated reboot of the iconic TRON arcade games for the major video game consoles. She drains a box of apple juice and tosses it on the glass coffee table as she skims the contents; the last one is from Eileen, one of the main game designers, and it's asking Quorra again if she can join them since they have a leftover exhibitor's badge and she assisted them in the early stages of development. She's not sure if she belongs there with the development team, though.
"'Waste not, want not'," she reads out loud to Marvin. "Do you think I should go?"
Marvin responds with a yawn and crawls closer to her, shoves his head under her arm and whines. She realizes she'd stopped scratching him behind the ears at some point and laughs quietly as she resumes petting him.
It's 9:43 PM and she's immersed herself in a Science article when the doorbell rings. She lifts her eyes from a detailed breakdown and analysis of the next generation of tablet computers, frowning; who'd stop by at this hour? Marvin jumps off the couch and scampers across the floor, barking while furiously wagging his tail; curious now, she gets up to answer it.
"You can call me Alan, you know," he says.
She blinks at him owlishly while Marvin sits at Bradley's feet. After a moment, when he leans to the side to peer over her shoulder into the apartment, she realizes he's waiting to be invited inside.
"Sam's not here right now," she says, closing the door behind him.
"Why aren't you with him?"
She shrugs, ignoring the implication. "He, uh, he's meeting someone. Said he'll be back soon."
He nods rather than press the issue. She shifts from foot to foot, unsure of what else to do - she still feels very awkward around Tron's User, the man Sam sometimes teasingly calls "Dad" - and after a drawn-out moment turns around to go back to the couch. She hears Bradley follow her into the living room and the tap-tap-tap of Marvin's claws as he runs over to jump up on the couch next to her.
Pretending to be interested with whatever's on the tablet's screen doesn't make the pronounced silence better; she glances up every few seconds to see Bradley rock back and forth on his heels, hands shoved in his coat pockets while he stares out the sliding door to the Los Angeles skyline.
Very awkward. Sam, where are you?
"So," Bradley suddenly says. "How's the prototype working out for you?"
"Well...the new keyboard design's better," she says, "but the pre-installed browser's taking up too much RAM."
"Been telling Ed that but he insists on increasing the RAM capacity, not stripping the browser down."
"Won't that raise the price?"
Quorra wonders if that's why Bradley's here tonight. It's not the first time Ed resisted making changes to his projects, but it took a bit of office gossip, Wikipedia, and a longer explanation from Sam to understand that Ed's problem isn't just pride. If that's the case then why does Bradley want to talk with Sam about it? What can Sam do to make Ed back down - oh. Maybe Bradley wants to talk with both Sam and her, and have her talk Ed into modifying the source code to have it meet ENCOM's new set of goals.
9:48 PM. Sam's late again, but he'd have texted her by now. If he's ignoring the notifications she programmed to remind him to get to the portal before it shuts down again she's making his life a-
Marvin suddenly lifts his head off her lap and cocks his head towards the door. She looks up at the door as well while purging her inbox of spam, and then hears the faintest echoes of footsteps and muffled voices in the hall. It must be Sam.
"...only an hour. Nothing's gonna happen, I swear."
"Besides, you picked them yourself. Pretty sure they can monitor the Grid without you breathing down their necks-"
Wait, what? He didn't.
"Oh no," she murmurs at the sound of keys jangling and glances nervously at the very oblivious Bradley. "Why'd it have to be tonight?"
Marvin jumps off the couch and bounds over to the foyer, stands at the door and wags his tail while the door unlocks. It cracks open and Sam sticks his head inside.
She gives Bradley another look; he's turning around and taking a step towards the short hall connecting the foyer and the living room. Glancing back at Sam she sees someone standing behind him and her heart starts pounding. She clutches at the Slate with shaky fingers, trying very hard not to predict how the scene will unfold.
This is bad, this is bad, you should've told me you were bringing him here. Why'd you have to do it tonight? Why didn't you tell him earlier about me and the Grid?
The Slate suddenly slips out of her grasp and lands on the floor. She hastily picks it up and notices that Bradley's looking at her instead of the people in the foyer. Sam can't see him, though, since he's herding Marv away from the hallway and inevitable freedom while talking with Tron. She narrows her eyes at his attire, wondering where else she'd seen that leather jacket.
"...name's Marvin but I just call him Marv," Sam is saying. Marvin looks at Tron and makes a low conflicted growling sound. "Hey, be nice. He's not gonna hurt you."
Quorra leans forward and back, trying to catch Sam's attention without tipping Bradley off. She partially succeeds; he gives her a half-wave as he sheds his jacket, says, "We're only gonna be here for ten minutes, then it's In-N-Out. Want us to bring you back something or-"
She thinks her heart just stopped beating. Sam's face pales as he slowly turns to Bradley. From her angle she can't see the look on Bradley's face as he stares at Tron but she can imagine the expression on it.
"Alan. Uh. What are you doing here?"
"Never mind that, who the hell-"
"Now wait, this isn't-"
"Explain to me right now what-"
Bradley pulls himself up short. Tron slowly moves around Sam to face his User fully, and it's like Flynn and Clu all over again, except they're not at the portal and nobody's after Flynn's master disk. Quorra shivers through the déjà vu and struggles with the temptation to bury her head under a throw pillow and hum to herself until everything goes away. Instead she sits on the couch, watching the potential train wreck in motion happen before her eyes.
You should've told him, you should've told him, you should've told him, you should've told him.
"What did you call me?" Bradley asks, and he sounds oddly faint.
"Alan-1. That's who you are. My User."
"What? Your User? How do you even know my-"
"Okay," Sam says, looking like he'd much rather be on the Tonight Show than explaining Tron's uncanny resemblance to Bradley. "Um. Look, I can explain-"
"I haven't used that name in decades. How the hell-he looks exactly like me. How is that-this is impossible-"
"It's not," Quorra hears herself say, bailing Sam out of hot water for a few seconds and earning Bradley's undivided attention. "It's very possible, Mr. Bradley-sorry, I mean, Alan. It's...I don't know how to explain."
Sam sighs and tosses his keys on the counter. "I'll do it." He walks around the counter into the kitchen and makes a beeline for the fridge. "Sit down. It's a long story and you're gonna need a beer."
"How can I? I don't...someone just tell me what the hell is going on. What are you hiding from me? Is this some kind of-tell me this isn't some Oedipal thing-"
"Definitely not Oedipal, I hope. Look, I'll tell you everything. Everything, I swear. Including..." Sam grips the fridge door handle but doesn't pull on it. "Including that night at the arcade."
Quorra finds herself staring at Marvin, who sits at Bradley's feet and looks up expectantly. When the older man does nothing to pet him or give him a treat from the glass jar on the counter he gets up and trots over to her. She strokes the top of his head while glancing at Tron, who looks torn between utter awe for his User and concern for the current situation. The look reminds her of how she felt when Sam first brought her to ENCOM Tower, and she suppresses a smile.
Bradley slowly takes a step back from Tron while Sam retrieves two bottles of beer, pauses, and puts one back. The hiss of the bottles opening is an incredibly loud sharp sound cutting through the awkward silence. She starts tapping on the Slate's darkened screen with nervous fingers while watching Sam hand Bradley a bottle and gestures for him to sit on the loveseat. She glances at Tron, who looks a bit lost; as soon as he meets her gaze she pats the empty spot next to her and he moves to her.
"Welcome to the User world," she says quietly while he slowly sits down, keen eyes darting between her, Sam, Bradley, and Marvin. She reaches over and touches the sleeve of his jacket, feeling the smooth worn texture. It smells familiar. "Where'd you get it?"
"It was Flynn's."
Bradley twitches at the name.
"Found it at the safe house," Sam explains as he sidles into the middle of the living room. "Among other things."
He grips his beer tightly, not quite looking at Bradley. She looks at Tron and marvels at the uncanny resemblance, at how much more Tron and Bradley look like each other than did Flynn and Clu.
"So," Bradley says roughly, "what the hell is going on?"
Quorra watches Sam carefully as he rubs at the label on the bottle, frowning. Then he looks up, meets her gaze, and then glances at Tron as he clears his throat.
"Remember the night you, Dad, and Lora broke into ENCOM back in '82?"
Author's Endnote: This was originally posted to the Tron Kink Meme at LiveJournal from January 1st to February 26th. Not sure why it took me until the end of October to finish cleaning it up and post it to FFN but now it's done. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it.
And don't worry, this is not the end.