DISCLAIMER: I'm only borrowing them to play with a while...


Fuck this shit! It wasn't to happen like this! Another bullet slammed into the brick wall beside him, pelting him with minor debris as he and Alan ran through alleyways and side streets, hoping desperately to lose the hunters after them, dodging bullets as they went. Beneath the desperation of their situation, he felt a mild relief that they were wanted alive rather than dead.

He leapt over a chain link fence, pausing only long enough to help Alan over before the older man grabbed his wrist, dragging him into a ridiculously narrow hole in the wall, ducking into a derelict doorway just moments before the black ops assassins chasing after them ran past their unlikely refuge.

Alan remained motionless for several long minutes, barely breathing as he kept a hand over Sam's mouth before dragging him further into the darkness of the alleys, twisting through the maze until, finally, Sam recognized where they were, and he moved forward past his mentor to unlock one of the side doors to the old arcade, where everything started.

It was dark inside, dusty plastic sheets still covering the machines, and windows covered in dirt and grime, just as he had left it a year and a half ago, after his first and last visit to the Grid. It looked like nothing had been disturbed since then, and for that, Sam was relieved. They could hide here for a time.

It was one of the last places they had to run to.

Alan kept them away from the covered windows, sticking to the inky shadows, and Sam was still stunned that the older man was still with him, helping him get away and survive. Not that Sam ever doubted Alan's support; he just hadn't been expecting his mentor and surrogate father figure to be so fit and so quick! The man was in ridiculously good shape for his age!

He was also more sneaky than Sam had anticipated.

At any other time, the ninja abilities would be freaking him out by now, but Sam didn't have time to freak out, not with the damned government on his ass.

It had been such a mistake, everything, all of it. The world wasn't even near ready for his dad's miracle, and now it was gone. Quorra was dead, one of the first to die after Dillinger's coup.

He still wasn't sure how that slimy bastard had managed to hack through his security and find his files on the Grid or Quorra's genetic make-up that allowed him to a foray into the realm of bioengineering and medicine. Quorra had allowed them to make great advancements in everything his father had told him about (bio-digital jazz, man), in only a few short months, and now she was gone.

Sam didn't think he'd ever forget the sight of her sightless eyes staring at him, blood dripping from the bullet hole in her forehead.

That had been only yesterday, although it felt like so much longer. He wasn't really sure how much longer he and Alan would be able to keep running.

"Sam, show me how to get down to the lab." Alan's gravelly voice cut through his reminiscence and Sam blinked, focusing back on reality. This wasn't the time to lose himself in his own head, he had to keep his focus. He led Alan to the ancient Tron console, shifting it out of the way to reveal the hidden door he'd stumbled on, opening it to show his mentor the stone staircase going beneath the building.

Alan stared into the darkened stairway, almost indistinguishable from the gloom of the abandoned arcade they stood in. The older man nodded once, eyes cutting to glance around them sharply, and Sam could almost hear the gears turning in his surrogate father's head as he planned.

"Alan?" It was barely a whisper, but his voice seemed far too loud. "What are you thinking?"

"Help me unplug all the machines. After that, we're turning the power on."

Confused, Sam frowned but he moved to comply with Alan's orders, confident that the man knew what he was doing. He trusted Alan with his life, literally, this time, and if Alan was prepared to risk possible detection to bring about whatever it was he was planning to save their asses, then he would obey without question.

It only took them about an hour to secure the building so that anyone looking in from outside couldn't tell that the place was even wired for electricity, so when Alan flipped the switch in the switch box, there was only a very hum, barely audible in the gloom surrounding them.

"When you told me about the Grid, you said your father explained that time moved differently there, that hours spent in the Grid was only minutes here." Alan moved towards the back of the building, opening a fairly hidden door to reveal a supply closet. He started digging around in it, and Sam could only stare, confused. He had no idea what the other man was planning. "The computer he used down in the lab was pretty advanced considering its age, which doesn't surprise me."

"Where are you going with this, Alan?"

"Can you use the computer down in the basement to reverse that aspect of the Grid? Make it so that hours here is only minutes there? Seconds, even?"

An idea, a suspicion, warily crept into Sam's thoughts, but he couldn't reason it out yet, not without more information from his mentor. "Maybe, um, probably. I managed to bring the time difference to a more equal footing within my first couple of months at Encom."

"Good. Head down and get started. I'll finish things up here and keep a watch out."

"Seriously, Alan, what's the plan?"

Sam had already started for the secret entrance of his father's lab, but he froze as Alan met his gaze squarely, the steel in his eyes sending a shiver down his spine.

"You're going back to the Grid."

A/N: New idea that kinda hit very vividly, so we shall see where this goes. This absolutely DEMANDED to be written, much to the dismay of my regular readers, I'm sure, who are waiting for me to update my other stories. Still working on it, guys, but please let me know what you think of this!