Rating: M (dub-con)
Summary: Mercury needs to see this unknown factor that has stepped into the picture, either to ally with him or to destroy him. ("Missing Scene" for Tron 2.0)
Disclaimer: Jet and Mercury are creations of Monolith Games in conjunction with Buena Vista Entertainment. The universe itself is owned by Disney and created by Mr. Steve Lisberger. None of the above would likely approve of this.
Note: Author uses a cross of 2.0 and Legacy canons. This assumes the events of Tron 2.0 happened several months prior to the events of Legacy.
Her directive was to serve Ma3a. Since Ma3a was docked to her port and could never leave it, Mercury acted as eyes, ears, spy, protection. Sure, she was compiled by Alan-1, but had been kept in reserve. She had been awakened and rezzed to the system by Guest, a mysterious entity who spoke through the I/O nodes in garbled words and static.
Help Ma3a. Defend Ma3a. Destroy all threats to System...
She had her combat protocols, but she wasn't an instrument of brute force. That was the task of ICP units and the Kernel. They were crude, heavy things of digital muscle and simple directives. If they helped Ma3a, then she sided with them. If their directives conflicted with Ma3a's continued operation, they would be destroyed. Even the Kernel had only the vaguest idea of what her true directive was. To maintain her cover, she worked the Game Grid, passing herself off as a not-so-simple gaming script. News, gossip, rumors all filtered through the Games like a web browser. Programs let down their firewalls and caution when they were caught up in the passing excitement of a disk match or a lightcycle race.
She heard about the Z-Lots, the corruption sweeping her server, and about "Master User Thorne." That's why she was making her way to the ICP Tower, ostensibly to talk about one of the Spoolerserv ICPs with a penchant for high-energy wagers. What she was really there for was to listen to what was being said out of the Kernel's earshot.
While she was waiting in the Kernel's office, a pair of the hulking brutes brought in a strange script they blamed for the corruption. The prisoner was male-designated and broad-shouldered, but more compact in his limbs than the bulky ICP configurations. His armor had a bizarre configuration; black background with thick circuit lines encasing him from boot to jawline at the front and up to the middle of his head in the back. Despite the extent of covering on his head, he wore no helmet. His spiked hair rendered in a dark shade not found on other Programs.
Funny, he didn't look like a Z-lot. His circuit lines were a clear blue, like hers. He didn't speak like a Z-lot, either. His answers were, to put it mildly, bizarre. A creation date of 1982? Hah! A script that old would show it.
"You have been accused of spreading a viral agent through the system," said the Kernel gruffly. "What is the intended goal of this sabotage?"
"I'm not responsible for that virus!" he insisted. Mercury had to sniff. Sure, you're not. And that's what all the Trojans like to say...
The Kernel was just as disbelieving as she was. "Enough! Who is your User?"
The unknown script seemed thrown by the question. "I am a User!"
"Blasphemy!" shouted the Kernel. "Regulars, put the prisoner in the Bin. "
"Wait, you can't do this, I'm a User!" The stranger banged futilely against the forcefield as the Kernel walked away. "Find Ma3a. I'm trying to help her."
That got Mercury's attention. Maybe Alan-1 and Guest sent her some backup after all. Though why in the Void he would try passing himself off as a User? There was only one report in the whole of cyberspace of a User coming to their world, a story so ancient it was reduced to Tower Guardian legend and considered mildly ridiculous. As a creation of Alan-1, she certainly knew the legend, but she was as skeptical as anyone else about it having any truth.
The Kernel wasn't as slow in the processor as many of his subordinates, but he was still single-minded. "Let the log file show, prisoner refused to cooperate and is considered incompatible. Schedule him for immediate de-resolution."
She knew she had to intervene somehow. Users knew she couldn't guard Ma3a alone with the damn virus crowding the sector, and if he was de-rezzed, she would never know this new player's true intention.
Player...that gives me an idea.
"Kernel," she suggested. "Put him on the Grid." All the better for me to watch him if he is telling the truth, and all the better to send him to the Void if he's not.
The Kernel was like many of his troops. The appeal of ironic punishment and an entertaining show was too good to pass up. "The Grid? Interesting proposition."
"I guarantee it'll be a race you won't forget," she said with a wicked smile.
The Kernel waved over one of his more competent flunkies. "Take them to the staging pit."
She saw the stranger look up to the window of the Kernel's office where she had been staying, searching for the one who intervened on his behalf.
Don't thank me yet. If he couldn't handle himself, or was lying about Ma3a, it was just a different kind of de-rez sentence. Mercury didn't much care either way.
After the second race, they finally allowed him to rest. His "accommodations" were vaguely like one of those capsule hotels he stayed in when he went to a developer's conference in Japan. At the time, he was just out of college and freelancing, so it wasn't like the contracting company was going to pay for a decent hotel anyway. The room was tall enough to stand in and wide enough to fit the bed. Dim light from an unknown source was enough to make out shapes, but not much else.
Jet wasn't sure if this was a good thing or not. He was bone-weary, even with the energy ration he downed and rest would probably be a good idea before being sent out into another round of lightcycles. He'd barely survived that last round. On the downside, the small cubicle with its silence and its thin bunk gave him too much time to think. He felt jittery, unbalanced, his mind running faster than his lightcycle, and just as unable to brake. The glowing patterns on his body flickered like a bug zapper and seemed to buzz faintly like one, too.
The only way he could make sense of what was happening was through a brief contact with Ma3a through the I/O Grid, Byte's monotone sarcasm, pilfered emails, and old bedtime stories. The last item on the list was the most dreadful to think about. He still had the toy Solar Sailer on his bookshelf along with his developer's awards, action-figure likenesses of his parents perched on its deck. Uncle Kevin's stories always were too fantastic to believe. Now, Jet had to wonder how much he left out for the sake of six-year-old ears and whether his disappearance had anything to do with this world. If he came here in 1989 and met with foul play...
You're next, Jet. It's just a matter of time.
He lay on the bunk and closed his eyes, too exhausted to move but too tense to rest. Breathe in...breathe out...don't think...
He had just succeeded in reaching the not-quite-awake stage when he heard something snap and felt the sensation like a mild electric shock dangerously close to his chest.
"Don't move. You will answer my questions, and you will not try to fight back. If you do, the Rod Primitive is a painful way to de-rez, and no one will query too hard about your outcome." the voice sounded like the femme fatale in a bad detective movie processed through a synthesizer.
Jet nodded furiously in agreement.
"Good." The electrical shock sensation abated. "Ma3a has a lot of enemies, especially now. It might not be worth your while to help her."
"Too bad," he hissed. If he was getting killed, might as well be for the truth. "I'm helping her anyway."
"Who really sent you?"
Jet dared to crack open his eyes. It was definitely a woman (or at least a female Program) in the room with him. With the cubicle so small, she was half in bed with him already. All she seemed to be carrying was her lightcycle rod, which she had snapped in two and was using as an improvised shock stick weapon. Her circuit pattern was as elaborate as his was, lit in the same blue-white. Her face seemed more human than most of the Programs he had seen, but her "hair" was the same turquoise as her circuit lines. She seemed deadly and cold, an Amazon made of ice and electricity. Wisely, he decided not to see if first impressions were accurate. Everything here was either trying to kill him or run away from him.
"Ma3a sent me. I swear," he answered. "I'm here to help her. I've been fighting off the virus, but the ICP units mistook me for the cause when they couldn't identify me."
Those shock sticks came close enough to be painful and Jet bit back a curse. "What do you know about 'Master User Thorne?'" she asked.
"Nothing," Jet answered. "I know of a J.D. Thorne, but he's Encom's security director. I had to help him fix his hard drive last week." Never mind that he was a game developer and not helpdesk. To Thorne, just about everyone was a flunky.
Her eyes narrowed as she looked him over, assessing him in a way he couldn't name before pulling away her lightcycle baton, sealing the sparking halves, and placing it back on her hip. Her hand centered on the thick-lined blue panel on his chest. When her fingers splayed over it, a different kind of shocking sensation spread outward from it. The contact made him gasp as nerve endings from his chest to his fingertips lit with relief, like having a deep tissue massage everywhere at once.
She climbed on top of him, straddling his hips. The position would be indecent on his side of the screen. Leaning in so her face was millimeters from his, she chuckled low. "You don't have any of the virus in you. The ICPs really should have checked for that..."
"What the fuck?" he blurted out. Okay, he normally didn't have to resort to language like that unless the boss came in insisting they shave three weeks off the beta-testing or Sam had another 'great idea.' His heart (or whatever replica he had in this digital body) began to pound. "Look...look. Who are you?"
She became serious, almost apologetic, as she leaned in and cupped his face with one hand while the other gently traced and scraped across circuitry patterns he had previously assumed were a form of identification or merely decorative. More of those indescribable feelings began a slow burn through his body. "I think we're on the same side," she explained. "I want to believe you're here to help. I want to believe you. You must understand, though, how dangerous entrusting permissions to the wrong script can be."
"Yeah, that got me into this mess," he said. What was she doing to him, and why did it feel so good? Without being entirely aware of what he was doing, he reached up and began to mimic her movements, touching the ladder-pattern of lines on her sides, and feeling a ghost of the same sensation in his body. What was happening to him?
"Ma3a needs your help. And you'll need mine," she said, her hands caressing the energy meridians that crossed his body. "Let me give you a chance at surviving the next round..."
It felt good...better than good. Energy was flowing into him and all the tension was flowing out. Electric warmth circulated in his body like blood and breath. It wasn't like the quick and furtive patch routines he had been surviving on, racing through them like checkpoints. It resonated in places he didn't know could feel.
"What are...?" He couldn't even speak coherently.
"You're so tense that you'll burn yourself out. And living on energy patches isn't good for your system in the long-term," she said by way of an explanation, stretching out and putting more of her body into contact with his. "Relax."
Oh, God...the feel of her body against his; every point of contact sent renewed pleasure through his whole being. His rational brain tried to figure out how this even worked – the energy meridians of this digital body transmitting sensation in a similar method to the human nervous system, but somehow amplified a hundredfold. Of course, his rational brain was also screaming that this was entirely, utterly wrong. She could still whip out that rod and kill him after all.
He pushed aside his fear and analysis. Whatever she was doing, it was fucking incredible and just as sane as anything else in this world of half-remembered stories and surreal terror. Greedily, he reached up and raked his hand into the Program's hair, pulling her into a kiss. Now it was her turn to gasp with surprise, and Jet couldn't help feeling a little smug. About time he managed to shock someone here.
"Users..." she breathed, when they broke apart, her eyes like electrified sapphire. "You feel so...different. So..."
Silencing her with another kiss, his free hand was exploring the equally Byzantine pattern of circuitry on her back, including a short, thick line right between her shoulder blades that almost caused her to jump off the bed when he placed the flat of his palm across it. The pleasure resonated in his chest in a strange, telepathic-style connection, their joined energy in a complete circuit – flowing, looping, no start and no end.
The circuitry on his hands fit the lines on her neck like they were designed for one another. The aura of their joined bodies glowed brightly enough to be blinding, but it wasn't painful like it would be in the analog world. His hips arched up as she pushed down – unable to stop, unable to hold back from the touching, the energy, the life, the release...
The sensation was too much, the feeling too intense. His entire body felt like it was tearing itself apart and reassembling from the sheer power/pleasure/touch. The woman gave a shuddering cry as Jet's own vision went to white-out.
When he regained consciousness several minutes (hours on this universe's clock) later, he felt calmer, more settled. Whether it was the energy he shared with his strange visitor or just being resigned to the realities of the world he found himself in, he didn't know.
And before this, how long had it been since you got laid, Jethro? drawled an inner voice that sounded a little too much like Sam's for his liking.
Okay, so it was this world's idea of sex. With a sentient computer program. And he still had no idea what her name was. Fine. Just one more surreal aspect to the insane situation he found himself in, something to process when –no more allowing for "if" - he got back home.
When he was called, he marched into the data stream and onto the Grid.
The announcer called out for the third and final challenge. "Welcome to the light-cycle racing finals. In this double-elimination match, Jet and Lan are squaring off on one side of the arena, while Mercury and 2-D are on the other side. The winners will meet in the middle..."
Pulling his cycle baton, the light-cycle rezzed into life beneath him. He was ready this time.
He'd survive. He'd find her. They'd find Ma3a and his father. All that stood in the way right now were three light-cycle cars and four arena walls.
On the other side of the arena, Mercury rezzed up her own cycle. She wasn't used to apprehension, but felt it anyway. Her encounter with Jet was supposed to have been a straightforward interrogation, but her curiosity got the better of her. No resource would be spared in protecting Ma3a, not even calculated use of her own shell and energy.
She had been hoping to break down Jet's guard, get him to reveal his true origins. Things just went too far. Worse, he truly didn't feel like an ordinary Program, not even an infiltration script. He burned too brightly, he reacted strangely.
And the kiss...that was part of the legend, the Lost User's final gift.
Cast her to the Void, maybe she really had seduced a User. And if Ma3a had anything to do with this...
2-D thought he was hot stuff, but she had her own mission, like always. Help Ma3a. Defend Ma3a. Destroy all threats to System...
She reached her decision gate. Pulling over a missile power-up, it integrated into her cycle, but she wasn't about to waste it on 2-D. Gunning her cycle into top speed, she fired for the observation tower, ignoring the shocked announcer.
"Jet, do as I say, and don't ask questions," she said over the comm. "Hurry, and make your way to the grid arena. Escape the arena by using the ramp made of debris. Do it now!"
Doubling back, she made a run for the ramp, sailing up and over the side of the arena wall. No more time for games. She just hoped Jet could follow.