Chapter 1

Back to the Grid

The wind was whirring around him, the waves of light from the portal blinding his vision. "DAD! I'M NOT LEAVING YOU!" he yelled at the top of his lungs, trying to make it out over the rush of sounds. But something was wrong. CLU wasn't there, Quorra wasn't there, just his dad, yelling something at him. It should have been 'TAKE HER', but it was something else, something shorter that wasn't reaching his ears. His dad's mouth was moving but there was no sound, at least none that he could hear.

"WHAT? DAD! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" he shouted back, and saw his dad repeat the words, but still heard nothing. What was he-

Sam jolted awake as the alarm clock went off with more, and increasing, clarity than 'should be legally possible'. He reached up desperately, eyes unfocused and refusing to stay open for more than a millisecond before having to blink repeatedly, like a newborn child, as he found the source of the wailing sound and quickly, albeit ungracefully, slammed his hand down on top of it, shutting off the alarm clock and burying his face back into his pillow.

A moment.


Before he shifted, gave Marvin, who was curled up on the blankets a few short warning nudges before throwing them off, rubbing his face with a hand as he slowly sat up and rose unsteadily to his feet. He started moving about groggily, shuffling in the bathroom's general direction, his t-shirt twisted uncomfortably to his form and boxers half as disheveled as his hair. "What a weird dream.." he mumbled to himself.

He had a long day ahead of him.

His whole day at the office went by in a blur, his mind almost entirely elsewhere. It'd been about a month since he and Quorra had left the Grid, and he'd had his fair share of strange dreams since, but this one had felt different somehow. More important, more urgent, reminding him, nagging at a memory he couldn't but his finger on. Or maybe it was just because his 'dad was trying to tell him something,' as ridiculous as that sounded.

"I'll..leave the rest for Alan Bradley to explain," he'd said at some point, taking his seat off to the side from where he was standing at the head of the meeting table, Alan giving him a brief look of exasperation, but complying to the young CEO's whims. Really, Alan didn't have a problem debriefing the rest of the way. Years of having to be idle on the sidelines had built up something in the man, and although no one else could see it, Sam had known the man long enough to notice the smallest hop in his step when he got to take charge, the smallest of Alan's guilty pleasures. At least, that's what Sam made of it.

"As our new..CEO was saying, OS12, despite it's being leaked on the internet," a pause to give Sam another brief stare, amusement hidden in his eyes, "has made it's fair share of profit for Encom. We will be going a head with..."

Sam had stopped paying attention. He'd tried for a good solid five minutes at one point. What was he trying to say..He thought to himself, gaze unfocusing on the glare near the middle of the table. What was it..

Before he knew it, the boardroom's members were dispersing out the doors, chattering and murmuring idly between each other as the room slowly emptied. He hadn't even noticed the jittery man that had made his way to his side.

"-old game."

"What?" Sam asked, attention snapping to the jittery employee standing nervously to his right.

"I asked if-if we were g-going to try and refor-format the Tron games for the u-upcoming gaming systems. They were a huge hit after all," the more frail-looking man said, anxiety apparent in his tone and posture.

"...Tron," Sam almost missed himself say, eyes distancing back to his dream from early that morning.

He quickly rose from his seat, ignoring the man in oversized glasses as he rushed out the double doors of the boardroom, missing Alan's slightly confused expression as he walked with new purpose in his steps. Tron. Of course! That's what the old man was saying, the young Flynn thought to himself, hurrying his way past groups of more of Encom's employees to the elevator.

In his head his fathers' urgent expression was replaying, his mouth now moving with the audio filled and missing word supplied. But what did his dad want him to do with Tron? Was Tron even still alive? He remembered hearing his dad mumble something along those lines when they were in the Grid, but with all the commotion that was going on and the hurry they had been in, he never really got the chance to stop and think about it.

It was now that the memories came back, now that he remembered the impression of the small action figures' plastic form against small and softer hands. A gentler time, a more simple time, before the day everything changed. Once, that figure was all he had left, the most solid reminder of a promise, a hope, and he still had it, sitting on his shelf in his new apartment. It didn't light up like it used to, and he didn't grip it with desperate hands like he once did, but it was still there, and he still treasured that last gift of his childhood hero.

Sam pulled out his cellphone as he reached the parking garage, pressing the second speed dial on it as he made his way to the old Ducati. "Yeah, Quorra, it's me," he spoke after the other end of the line had picked up, "I'm heading to the arcade. I need you to meet me there."

"Sam..I don't think this is such a great idea," Quorra said, a disapproving look plastered on her face. She hadn't been back to the Grid since either, too engulfed with the 'real world' and all of its distractions. It was harder for her at first, being in an entirely new place, knowing nothing of it until she found it out from Sam. After a week, Google had become her closest companion. She said she missed it at times, missed the way certain things felt in the Grid, looked, along with the fact that it was where she'd lived her whole life. But, as she'd put it after a great deal of thought, "That place isn't for me anymore. There's nothing left for me there. Besides, Flynn wanted me here, and I want to find out why."

"It'll be fine Quorra. ..Probably," Sam replied, fiddling with the laser for a moment before returning back to the desk, adjusting the portal's time frame.

"That's exactly what's worrying me! You don't know what's happened to the Grid since we left. You don't know what's happened after the reintegration..You could be walking into a death trap for all we know!" she persisted, setting her hands stubbornly on her hips.

"And for all we know I could be walking into nothing but blank grid space," he insisted, letting out a quiet sigh as his eyes softened at the ISO. "Look, I know it sounds crazy to go back like this, but I'm going."

"Why are you going back, Sam? You've barely done anything down here since we first arrived," she asked, expression now lighting up with open curiosity. "Why go now? What's got you in such a hurry?"

With a final few lines of coding, Sam hit a key and said, "I've got a feeling. Keep an eye on the portal for me!"

"A feeling? Sam! Wait!"

But it was too late. The laser had done its job, and with a flash of blinding light he was in the Grid.

Well, more like the old arcade's basement, but it was definitely in the Grid. The lack of color, the darker grays that painted the room and the objects inside. This time around he was already dressed in the form fitting suit, the lights a dim and constant glow illuminating the small room. He wasted no time making it up the familiar yet unfamiliar stairs and down the hall, pausing at the double door entrance to slowly crack one open and take a peak through the sliver at the world outside. Not making that mistake again. Sam pushed the door the rest of the way open and stepped cautiously outside after seeing no motion in immediate sight, walking slowly out into the street as he had done in a rush once before.

"Nothing seems to be different from the last time I was here," he mumbled to himself, almost relaxed until the search light from above surrounded him. "Crap! Forgot to look up!" The street around him turned to blocks and parted away, down, leaving him standing on a lonely pillar, hand raised above his head to try and see past the light as the Recognizer lowered itself to him. Sam cursed aloud to himself as the guards stepped forward, and all he think or say was, "Man, not again!"