Title: "What They Needed"
Notes: Title comes from the Journey song "What I Needed"
Disclaimer: I am not, nor do I represent, the Almighty Mouse.
Part One - Red
He is confused.
He is lost.
He is broken.
He is a traitor.
He is imperfect.
When he saw Flynn again, it was like a power surge had traveled between them, and in those prolonged micro-cycles, he remembered everything. The pair of disks on his back burned, fighting with one another for control. There was no time to process, only to act.
He threw himself at Clu in a suicidal charge. Like before, it did little other than slow the wicked Program down, but it bought those precious nano-cycles. Clu pitched him off the light-jet and into the sea. After that was coldness and pain. Clu had a low-level synch with him at all times. Some of it was a leash to control him. Some of it was a way to derive pleasure from the kills, but Clu was...inventive...as always when to came to ways to exploit it. Through that link, he felt Clu's last gasp of anger and frustration before the shockwave hit, and he felt nothing more.
He had betrayed the Users. He had betrayed Clu. He failed in both directives. His memories were glitched, his code a mess.
"Don't look at me like that," Clu said, the cocky grin never leaving his face, spinning an identity disk on his fingers. "You're an old Program...archaic. Imperfect, but don't worry. I've got big plans for you."
He jerked against his bonds, but they wouldn't give. Pixels leaked from the many wounds covering his body, especially the jagged gash crossing his chest. Any other Program would have de-rezzed long before this. "Delete yourself, Clu! I didn't bow before Master Control, and I'll de-rez before I bow before you."
Clu chuckled at that, that low and gravely voice that was too much like Flynn's for anyone's liking. "You say that like I'm giving you a choice. Besides, no one knows you're here. The walls have a mute function. Scream all you want, and no one will hear you."
He narrowed his eyes. "You claimed to serve the Users, as I did. You claimed you would protect this system..."
"No, my programming is to make the perfect system. And there is nothing more imperfect than a User." Clu leaned in. "Think about it. Does Alan-1 even know you're here?"
He couldn't control the involuntary shiver that went through him, the momentary flicker of his circuitry lines. "Of course. Flynn would have told him."
Clu laughed. "Flynn did no such thing. Alan Bradley has forgotten all about you. You're alone, Program. There's no User to save you...just me." The identity disk made another couple spins atop Clu's outstretched finger. "Don't worry, though. I'm going to re-make you. You'll forget him. You'll even forget Flynn." Clu leaned in and whispered in his ear. "You'll forget everything except me."
The second disk snapped into place over his own, and the burning began.
Rinzler considered himself to be merely an extension of Clu's will. Clu was perfection, and all Programs would accept that or de-resolution. There was always a part of him that was trapped deep within, watching with horror and unable to stop himself from carrying out Clu's orders. Clu could silence that part, make him "perfect."
Wide blue eyes...men, women, and small Isos that had not come from the sea, but were something Flynn called "born." There was one of the smaller ones...male...scooting away on the floor away from the decaying forms of his progenitors, looking up with fear and grabbing a broken piece of masonry to try and throw. The Iso never got the chance as the first disk severed the child's arm and the second split his chest...
Worst of all, it wasn't just executing Clu's political enemies with targeted assassinations. He killed for entertainment, for the pacification of the loyal subjects of Clu's regime. He was their sadist, their focus, their champion...
The chanting of the crowd. They had come to see slaughter and would be disappointed otherwise. The crowds did not matter, though. Clu did. And Clu wanted to see his enemies crushed. Give them a little while to fear. Give them a micro-cycle of hope, because that was how Clu liked it. And the Grid's citizens channeled their hate and fear of their fellow Programs into it. Some of them practically overloaded in the stands as he walked in. Destruction to the traitor, destruction to whatever individual impulses and rebellious urges they wished to hide from Clu's eyes. He was walking condemnation, horrible death to all enemies of perfection.
"Rinzler! Rinzler! De-rez!"
It was in the games where all else was silenced, where the world narrowed to destroy or be destroyed. Here, that disobedient glitch could stay mostly silent. Here was the closest he felt to perfection.
It was only now, too late, that he understood the imperfection Rinzler hated, but could never truly silence. It was the voice of who he was, buried beneath Clu's corruption. That identity had been offline for so long, he barely recalled his own file designation.
The freezing data, poisoned long ago on Clu's orders so that new life could not come from it, closed over him, and all sensation was gone. He was aware of energy and sensation leeching from his body, and of gradual, numbing calm.
My name is not Rinzler, he thought defiantly, certain it would be the final thought he would ever have. My designation is Tron. I guard the System. I fight for the Users.
If this was de-rezz, then he was ready for the nothing that followed, especially if it took "Rinzler" with him.