Summary: Jet Bradley lived in a world of computers, his entire life was built around them, but the idea of electronic beings living within them was one he never comprehended, not even when he finds himself smack in the middle of it.
Author: Sakura123 (weber_dubois22)
Characters: Jet Bradley, Sam Flynn, Alan Bradley, Kevin Flynn, Quorra, Mercury, Clu 2.0., Others
Pairing(s): Standard canon pairings implied or actual. Their not the focus of the tale, however.
Disclaimer: Tron/Tron: Legacy and all things related are property of Steven Lisberger, Bonnie MacBird and Walt Disney Studios (and some other guys I'm probably forgetting but can't care to remember).
Author's Note: This AU combines elements from TRON 2.0, TRON: Betrayal, TRON: The Ghost in the Machine, and TRON: Legacy. So depending on my execution, this isn't going to be a "paint-by-numbers-insert-character-here" story in which a new character simply follows the primary ones through the same scenarios and end result, it will be different (and mostly influenced by "2.0" and "Machine"). Whatever I didn't like about Legacy or Betrayal will ultimately be left to the wayside or reconfigured into something to serve the purposes of this AU storyline.
ONE: Puzzle Pieces
By time the night came there was only one thing little Jethro Bradley was painfully certain of: He hated bedtime. He really, really hated bedtime. Especially when he was in the middle of trying to complete a 1,000-piece puzzle. It wasn't even half-way completed, not according the reference photo on the box.
All he had was a big brown spot, which he assumed was the ground below the hot air balloon. "Jet," His father, Alan, strolled out of the darkness of their hallway, looking tired and worn out from work. Jet glanced up from the cardboard pieces scattered across the carpet at his father, expression set firm in defiance. "Bedtime, buddy," He said. Jet considered his options, what few he had, realizing he would either appeal to his father's mercy successfully or grab hold of something and refuse to be moved. Adjusting his glasses, Jet sat up so that he was sitting on his legs. "Can't I stay up a little longer, please?" Jet asked. "I'm almost finished."
Alan glanced at the puzzle pieces on the floor verses the corner piece his son completed, he was far from completing the entire thing. It was his duty as a father not to laugh, however; Jet was a terribly sensitive kid, quick to anger and slow to forgive. "Afraid not," Alan stepped further into the living room, mindful of the puzzle pieces on the ground as he attempted to step over them. "You can finish this tomorrow, maybe Sam could help you," He suggested, kneeling down to his level. Jet huffed in objection. "I don't want Sam's help. I can do this by myself."
"Oh, I know," Alan assured. "It was just a suggestion."
"Well, I don't need any suggestions," He paused, brow creasing with contemplation. "Are you sure I can't stay up a little longer?" Alan grinned at the flux in his son's mood, he nodded his fervently as picked the pieces off the floor. "Yeah, I'm sure," Was his reply. "Growing boy like you needs his rest and your mother would have my hide if I didn't put you to bed."
Jet shrugged. "Well, that's fine by me, as long I don't get intro trouble."
This time there was no stopping the chuckle from escaping, Alan reached over and gave his son a playful shove. "Oh, believe me, buster, you'd be in trouble. Your mom doesn't play favorites when it comes to punishment." He surveyed the carpet with a sigh. "Give me a hand with these, will ya?"
"Yes-huh, she does," Jet argued. "One time, I told her you let me eat ice cream after eight and she didn't punish me at all." There was a strange hum from his father as he readjusted his own glasses. "Is that right?"
"Yup," He replied. "When can we stay here?"
"When she can get a day off, I guess," Alan sighed.
A moment of silence passed between them before the conversation resumed. "How come we can't live like Sam?" Jet said.
"How do you mean sport?" Alan stopped fiddling with the puzzle pieces to regard his son; in any other situation he would've grinned at the serious expression his face, but he knew where this was coming from. His son was getting tired of living in two places at different times. "I mean, it's not like I don't like visiting, but, I wanna- you know-" Jet shrugged. "Live like Sam does; I wanna, I guess, have one house?"
"And that's a perfectly reasonable want, Jet," Alan assured his son. "But, you know if I we could, we'd all live under one roof. As it stands, we can't right now, because-"
There was a look on Jet's face that clearly indicated he wasn't coping with the answer he was given. In fact, he was sure he wouldn't have believed such a statement had it come from Lora Bradley herself. Why did parents make things more complicated than actually had to be? It was all so simple: mom needed to move back to LA and then they could all live together. "-her job is very important, kiddo."
"More important than us?" Jet interjected. Alan looked a little taken aback by the question, so much in fact that his glasses slipped down the bridge of his nose. His expression became very serious; Jet ducked his head a little when his father's hand came down on his shoulder, commanding his attention. "Now you listen to me, Jet. Nothing is more important to your mom than her family. It's why she took the job in the first place. As soon as she gets the chance, she will come visit, all right? Huh?" Jet maintained a small frown as his father attempted to assuage his worries. He couldn't promise she would stay home when she came, it would be unfair to both his son and his wife, but he could try to make some peace in the fact that he wasn't alone in hoping she did.
"Yeah, sure," Jet mumbled.
"Alright, now, let's get this puzzle back in its box so you can get to bed," Alan said. As much as he objected to the idea, Jet obliged to his father's request and helped the old man clean up his mess. The carpet was the picture of department store quality once they were finished, Alan set the box on the coffee table. He turned to face Jet, whose expression was not a happy one. Regardless, Alan maintained his position. "Let's get you to be-" His sentence trailed off at the sound of furious knocking on the door.
Almost immediately, Jet was off and running for the door, a big no-no and punishable by parent-law. Alan didn't bother calling out to him, instead he used the length of his legs to his advantage and made a hasty exit from the living room. He overpowered his son's eager little legs in no time at all, blocking his path the door. "Bedtime," He repeated for the umpteenth time.
"Jet, if you do not get up those stairs right this second, consider yourself grounded for all eternity!" His father proclaimed.
"You can't do that, that's not fair!" Jet protested. There was no verbal response from Alan, just the simple swinging motion of his arm and a look that could most certainly kill. "I'm telling mom when she gets back!" Jet hollered, hurrying up the stairs. Alan huffed dismissively at his son's feeble proclamation, knowing Lora wouldn't do a thing to him when she heard about this.
Kids, he mused, opening the door. Was I that bad when- Alan grunted in surprise when the door bumped his shoulder and Kevin came marching into the foyer like a man on a mission. Oh, God, it was a too late for Kevin's shenanigans, what did he want at eight o'clock in the evening? Kevin looked about the room, confused as to where Alan might have gone when a simple look over his shoulder revealed his friend's position. "There'd better be a good reason for your being here, Flynn," He complained. "I just got Jet to go to bed-"
"No you didn't!" Jet bellowed from his bedroom. "I'm still up! I'm not asleep!" There was brief pause followed by footfalls approaching the doorway. "Hi, Uncle Kevin!" All that could bee seen of Alan's eight-year-old son was the arm sticking out of the doorway, waving up and down in greeting.
"Hey, little man!" Flynn greeted with equal enthusiasm. "Go to bed."
"Okay!" Jet retreated into his bedroom and wasn't heard from again. Alan stood in silent shock at the compliance of his son, pretending not to notice the wholly amused expression on his partner's face. God, preserve me, that kid is going to kill me. "Is there something you need, Flynn?"
Flynn grinned like a man riding a high, curls bouncing as he nodded head. "You better believe it, man," The ECO of ENCOM chuckled. "How've been, Al? Feels like ages since I've seen you."
"Flynn, you saw me yesterday," Alan deadpanned. "If that counts for ages, then-" He shook his head. "What do you want?"
Flynn motioned with his finger for Alan to follow him. Alan did so reluctantly, knowing if Kevin went any further into the house there would be no getting him out by conventional means. Then there was Jet to consider; he knew the boy would be back down just so he could visit his "uncle" Kevin and stay out of bed (knowing Flynn wouldn't support his authority). Kevin flopped down onto the couch, a goofy smile playing on his lips. Alan remained upright, choosing to look authorative as he folded his arms across his chest and stared him down over his glasses. "Okay, so you know about my little side project?"
"Your "digital frontier" or "grid"?" Alan responded. "Yeah, I know of it. Why?"
Kevin snapped his fingers. "I've cracked it, man! Blew a hole right in the center of the puzzle, like you wouldn't believe."
There was a split second where Alan found himself wondering if he should get excited or not, it certainly felt like he should with the way Kevin was acting, but he hardly had any details to generate the same level of enthusiasm his friend was exuding. "How so?" He said.
"I don't know exactly, but it's incredible," Kevin gushed. "Isomorphic algorithms, their nothing like what the scientists would have you believe they are!"
"Now, wait a minute, Flynn, what-"
"Everything and I mean, everything, we thought to be true has been turned on its head with this discovery. And quantum teleportation? I've got the answer to that problem at the tips of my fingers," Kevin raised his hand so his palm was facing Alan.
"Flynn, you just said a whole lot of nothing," Alan groaned. "So you discovered the answer to quantum teleportation and isomorphic algorithms?" He shrugged. "Where's the proof? And why are you being so vague?"
"Well, that, my friend, is for me to know and you to find out. You still have Lora's baby pager?" He asked, reclining against the cushions of the couch. Alan scoffed. Did he still have it? Of course he still had it, the confounded machine never left his side after that little incident at the supermarket. "Yeah," He turned his hip, revealing the compact messenger clipped to the waist of his jeans.
"Good, keep that with you at all times," Kevin rose from the couch with a sigh. "Sleep with it, if you have to."
"What the hell for?" Alan felt the words escape him before he had a chance to rethink them. Jet was sure to have heard that and Lora would have his hide if she found her son throwing around profanities he wasn't supposed to know. Kevin grinned, shoving his hands into his pockets. "It's surprise, man," Kevin chuckled. "You'll know as soon as I'm ready to show you." Oh, well that was helpful, Alan thought dryly.
The two men headed out of the living room and back down the hall, the awkward silence that hung between them lingered until Flynn had his hand on the doorknob. He gave his friend that secretive, Cheshire cat smile of his. "I can't wait until you see it, Alan. You're gonna love this place."
Alan patted the man on the shoulder as he ushered him through the doorway. "Sure, I will, hotshot," He stated. "Get outta here and go home to that son of yours." As the door closed, Alan barely caught the dumbstruck look of realization on Flynn's face. Kevin was down the stairs of the art deco residence and on his bike quicker than a fox over a hill. That man had to get his priorities straightened out one day. He couldn't leave Sam like he used to and there was only so much your parents were willing to do before that open door closed in your face. "Jet, didn't I tell you to go to bed?" Alan turned to face his son. Jet sat crouched on the stairs, dressed in his pajamas and holding a little action figure. The Yori action figure, he noted with a resigned sigh. "Can't sleep?"
Jet shook his head.
"Alright, let's go watch some TV," Alan yawned, heading down the hall toward the living room. Jet was quick to follow; he stepped under the path of his father's arm and was rewarded with a hand on top of his head. Lora used to do it all the time when he was a baby. She would sit up with their little boy until he teetered off into sleep, knowing it never came easy for him.
Alan continued to practice the method, only instead of lullabies or stories, he used the television. Father and son flipped through the channels for a good half hour before finally settling on Scooby Doo Where are You! Alan managed to maintain a state of awareness long enough to watch his son doze off into dreamland, and wasn't before long that he joined him.
The morning arrived in what felt like moments to Alan. He opened his eyes, greeted by the glow of the morning shining through the curtains of the living room windows. Shifting slightly, the programmer took a moment to survey his surroundings, tongue rolling lazily around in his dry mouth as the events that transpired last night reemerged in his head. A twinge in his lower back let him know it was hurting, the same could be said of his neck.
Slowly, he raised his right arm to rub his neck, his left arm was still pinned under Jet. The boy lay with his back against his arm, arms crossed with one leg propped up on the couch while the other dangled over the couch, foot planted firmly on the floor. The boy had a talent for winding up in the weirdest positions in his sleep. Alan's eyes finally found their way over to the clock hanging above the television, taking note that the box was still on and tuned in the cartoon station. The time was exactly 7:40am. Oh, man, he was late for work and Jet would be late for school if he didn't wake him up.
Pulling his arm out from behind his son, Alan gave him a firm shake. "Time to get up, kiddo. You're gonna be late for school," He said. There was a whine from the half-sleep boy as he sat up. "Can't I just go to Flynn's?"
"Not until after school," Alan yawned. "God, I'm beat."
"Does that mean we can stay home?" Jet hoped, still rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "Not a chance." Alan yawned again. He nudged his son good-naturedly, ignoring the irritated look it got him. "Get going." Jet climbed off the couch, mumbling nonsensically as he continued to rub his eyes. As strange as it was, school didn't bother him as much as he liked to act it did, he just hated the hours and hours of sitting around. He was eight, he should know better than to act like a five year old who needed to be Velcro'ed to his seat, but there times he wanted to run around just to peeve his teachers off, all whilst blowing off antsy steam.
Climbing the stairs, Jet made his way down the hall toward the bathroom. In a manner that inspired no haste, Jet went through the motions of grooming himself, making sure all of the vital parts of his body smelled moderately nice before throwing on some clothes he wasn't quite sure he wore already. School materials stuffed in his backpack, Jet trudged down the stairs, perking up a little at the smell of burnt toast and melted margarine.
"Okay, you've got your stuff?" Jethro watched with bewilderment as his father tended to his kitchen mess with a suitcase in hand and a piece of toast in his mouth. They slept past their regulated waking hour and now Dad was running late for work for the second time that week.
"Yes, dad, everything's in my backpack," Jet mumbled in resignation. Alan didn't seem to hear him, he was slipping and sliding from one counter to the other, putting dirty dishes into the dishwasher and putting food back where it belonged. "You've got lunch?"
"Yep, that's in my backpack too," Jet deadpanned. "Dad, can I go now? Sam said he was gonna meet me at the bus stop and I don't wanna be late." Alan stopped in mid-step to regard his son, damn if he didn't look like his mother when she got annoyed with him.
Setting the jar of peanut butter back on the counter, Alan removed the toast from his mouth and smiled. "Yeah, sure," He said. "Watch yourself out there. Don't stray too far out into the roads, alright?" Jet nodded in complete understanding as he hurried toward the back door. "Have a good day at work!" He hollered over his shoulder.
If he had stayed long enough in the house, he might've heard his father chuckle "yeah, right." As it stood, Jet was in far too much of a rush to get away from the house (he didn't wanna be late for school). His bike lay haphazardly on the ground, a couple feet away from the garage across the way. Picking the bike up off the ground, hurried down the driveway until there was enough momentum to get him going. He glided down the vacant street, admiring the familiar sights of his neighborhood, throwing the occasional wave to someone he knew or one of the kids dashing for the bus stop.
When his momentum slowed, he began to pedal with haste, enjoying the speed generated by his legs. He directed himself up onto the curb once he reached the busy intersection at the end of his block. Turning the corner, he laid eyes on the bus stop. There, waiting on the other side of the bench, was Sam Flynn. Sam was only a year younger than he was, yet, he was surprisingly mature for his age. He didn't whine or complain whenever Jet beat him at game of Monopoly or checkers, he just retaliated with good old fashion violence and a rematch that usually had Jet wondering if he cheated to win.
Jet's parents worried over the fact that he never befriended anyone on their block besides Mr. Stetson, but Jet was comfortable with only two friends as his confidants. It made for less work and there weren't a ton of names to memorize. Jet reached the bus stop as the yellow vehicle was approaching, Sam flashed him a wicked grin. "Hey, Jet, wanna race the bus?" Sam greeted.
"Hey, Sam, why not?" Jet replied. "Follow me," Sam pushed away from the bench as he turned his bike toward the next intersection, he was pedaling across the street before Jet even got his own wheels turning. He followed Sam's lead down the sidewalk, the drone of the bus driving him to move faster. They would have a good head start on the bus while it was waiting to pick kids up. He rode up so that he was practically riding alongside Sam on the narrow pathway. "So, your dad came over to my house last night," He began as if they had been in the middle of a conversation.
"Yeah, I know, I saw him leave and come back," Sam shrugged his shoulders. "He said something about wanting to talk to Alan." Alan was always just "Alan" to Sam, never his uncle. He saw Alan more as a friend than anyone tied to him by blood and part of Jet was a little irked by this. Flynn was Jet's godfather at the request of his mother, he always treated him like part of the family, like an "uncle", because he wasn't so sure what a godfather did exactly (no had explained that to him yet). "What did they talk about?" Sam asked.
Jet shook his head. "Beats the heck outta me," He replied. "Uncle Flynn was going on about quantum leaps or algo-rhythmic something or others. I really wasn't paying attention."
"Yeah, dad never tells me anything when I ask him about work. He just uses that "maybe someday I'll tell you all about it" line on me all the time," Sam grumbled, mocking his father's gruff voice.
"Man, I hate it when they do that. It's not we don't already know what their talking about, we just need a little clarification," Jet huffed. Sam nodded in agreement. "Do you have PE today?"
Jet shook his head. "Nah, I've got dance today. Ms. Marlowe is showing us how do the Charleston." A forlorn look crossed Sam's features while Jet looked beside himself with frustration. "You're lucky, man. Coach Vickerman is definitely gonna have us jumping over the vaulting horse today."
"Yeah, well, I'd rather be jumping over a stupid box than trying to do a two-step. That's girl stuff," Jet complained.
"My dad taught me how to do a two-step for my birthday last year, so it's not girly," Sam rebuked. "Your dad dances too doesn't he?"
Jet grinned. "No, my dad's got two left feet," He said. "Mom always danced though."
"Is she still in Washington?" Sam asked, knowing he was treading into touchy territory. Jethro nodded slowly.
"Huh," Sam decided to say no more on the matter. They arrived at school five minutes ahead of the bus, Sam hobbled off his bike, tripping on his shoelaces as he swung his leg from over from the other side. He had been in such a rush to get the bus stop in Jet's neighborhood that he never bothered to tie his shoes and a pack a lunch (which probably sat on the counter if his dad hadn't already eaten it). Jet coasted to a smooth stop in front of the bike rack, he climbed from off the bike, pulling the chain out from the opening in his backpack as he did so. "Where are you eating for lunch?"
"The school cafeteria, I don't feel like eating outside today," Sam replied as he bent down to tie his shoe. Jet surveyed the schoolyard as students fanned out from all directions, unloading from the bus or their parents cars. The feeling of withdrawal hit him, he really didn't want to be here today, he wanted to be playing games at Flynn's. "I'll see you inside," He mumbled, hoisting his backpack higher up on his arm. Sam grunted by way of response, distracted by his present duty.