Most programs unfortunate enough to find themselves in the final round of Disc Wars only lasted a few desperate and painfully brief nanocycles before being cut down by Rinzler. This current round was different and the crowd wasn't calling their champion's name anymore. Instead of the constant screams for another derezz, the arena was silent. No one had ever lasted this long in a game. The match was unprecedented, almost unbelievable; it wasn't Rinzler who held the throng's attention tonight but his opponent, and far below the battle, a few quiet, lonely spectators began to hope.

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Normally Rinzler welcomed silence. Around him, programs were always filling the air with nervous, unnecessary noise. But during the games things were different. He revelled in the stadium's chanting and enjoyed the echos that reverberated around him. He was performing for all of these programs as much as he was performing for Clu. Their dual approval helped remind him that he was both perfect and powerful. And in this pit of freedom, the liberty of movement was release from the tightness that built up in his mind when he was forced to be idle.

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[He also did this for himself.]

[He was fighting for himself.]

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The program he'd been matched against almost approached his equal in combative functions. It surprised him slightly and he didn't know why, but he didn't care either. Anything outside the confines of his personal arena held no immediate importance. His world was narrowed down to this moment only.

But if he'd had the personality, he would have found it strange, because hadn't he had a hand in eliminating anyone that could have posed a potential risk to the Administrator?

The thought was trivial and he didn't bother processing it. Instead he enjoyed the novelty of facing off against a program with legitimate skill.

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[It had been too long.]

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Of course there was never any question who was going to be the victor here. Rinzler always won. It was simply the way things had always been and would continue to be. It was part of a higher plan; Clu's status quo. No deviations were permitted.

The other program seemed to know this reality too, and there was no denying that he was nervous, but he didn't let the terror immobilize him or lock up his functions. Distantly, Rinzler approved. To do otherwise would render a combatant useless and unable to effectively execute their run times. Those types never made it to the final round and they weren't even worth his attention. During the Purge he'd leave the weaker, frightened ones to the Black Guard. Rinzler was only interested in those that could run, or better yet, fight.

And even though this opponent held promise, it didn't change the fact that Rinzler still ruled these games. There were moments sometimes where he doubted even the almighty Clu could beat him. He ached for the opportunity to be proven wrong, to challenge the Admin; testing violence against violence, but Clu never seemed interested in awarding him a fight though there were intervals where the need to exchange blows nearly threatened to cripple him.

His attention was dragged back to the games by virtue of the Administrator's control of the environment. By the way the gravity was being manipulated, Rinzler could tell Clu was impatient, but whether the impatience was directed at him or this other resilient program, he didn't know. Nor did he care, really. All that mattered was catering to Clu's mercurial demands. Still, the Admin had never been so temperamental before, and couldn't seem to make up his mind. The directional shifts were coming more frequently than normal, and in some cases would even reverse mid-rotation, leaving both combatants unable to anticipate where they needed to be. This left the two on near equal footing; both having to adjust at the same rate. The other program was doing well too; and adapting with as much grace as could be expected.

The additional challenge pleased Rinzler. He was tired of purposely making the final round more complicated for himself. To curb his boredom and give the crowds a better show, he would often focus on being artful instead of efficient. The programs that had been tricking down to him these last few cycles had been too fragile and unsuited for his games, and it offended a part of him who rebelled at the idea sometimes.

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[There should have been more to the games.]

[This wasn't how things were should have been happening.]

[He deserved better opponents.]

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But this current warrior was acceptable and Rinzler almost found himself smiling as he threw his discs, watching the other program dance away. The motions felt practised, like the two of them had done this before. It was possible the other Basic was enjoying himself too, and it struck Rinzler as being right, in a way.

Better than the programs who pleaded with him in the end.

It was a better way to face deresolution.

Parrying a particularly brutal ricochet, his opponent made a small pleased noise as he sent Rinzler's disc spinning wildly, and taking advantage of the temporary opening, threw his own weapon.

The angle was poor, and Rinzler was disappointed at his adversary's miscalculation. The action did leave him enough time to fetch his own disc though, which was still bouncing around the level. So, in the second arc of an impressive front flip, Rinzler snatched the thing out of the air. The acrobatics weren't necessary, but he indulged because he knew they were impressive.

Out the corner of his eye, almost too late, he caught the glow of an enemy weapon shooting closer.

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[Threat detected.]

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His opponent's disc was rebounding off a side wall, and it very nearly severed Rinzler's arm. Only through another twist – this time very necessary – did he save the limb. Looking up, he saw the weapon be caught effortlessly behind the other program's back.

The combatant grinned, and sounding breathless, said, "Learned that one from you."

Behind his mask Rinzler frowned. The statement was false – never mind ridiculous – he'd never trained anyone. Besides, there wasn't anyone to train in this system. The Black Guard fell under Jarvis and Clu's supervision, and what wasn't covered there, rectification had already care of.

Rinzler decided he was done playing; it was time to end this. So sacrificing non-vital routines, he rerouted energy to newly prioritized functions and thereby cut his run times by half. His active programing became leaner, and it made him faster, more brutal, less concerned with the costs it had on his higher cerebral processes. It was an ability he doubted many other programs had, being one of the few true security programs left in the system.

As if sensing the internal change within his enforcer, Clu decided at that moment to complete a gravitation rotation that had up until then, been only half initiated. Barely thinking, Rinzler moved with the change, and flowing from one attack to another, threw himself forward, somersaulting through the air. The other program tried his best, but in the end he was no match for Clu's monster, and when Rinzler landed behind him, things were over.

Rinzler's disc pushed forward and breached the program's back, spreading cracks of light from the point of impact. Pulling his disc out in a sharp movement, Rinzler let his opponent fall forward.

In a normal Basic, the collision should have sent the program spilling into countless pieces across the arena floor, but this one came apart more slowly.

Impassively, Rinzler stared down at what remained of his opponent, waiting to see if the situation would call for another finishing strike. There wasn't enough of Rinzler left to understand that the Basic below him was a different, more complex breed, something that should have been familiar to him but wasn't.

With some difficulty, the program at his feet rolled onto his back, and Rinzler let him. The combatant was still fraying around the edges, and the cracks were still growing across his body. It was unlikely that his threat level would have risen past its current mark.

The program looked up at him, his smile pained but still somehow benedictive. He licked his lips before offering a baffling but almost friendly, "Well, you got me." The program grimaced, pausing, and then added softly, "Hey it's okay. You did your best."

The message made no sense to him, and Rinzler couldn't parse the forgiveness. He hadn't been trying his best, but at the same time he simply was superior. Clu had made him a perfect machine of efficacy and fluidity. He was a program unmatched on this entire Grid, everyone knew it.

So what was this program saying then?

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[Incompatible.]

[Threat level: No threats found.]

[Run scan again?]

[Incompatible.]

[Threat level: No threats found.]

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Rinzler was at a loss, and since Clu would not interrupt the games, the enforcer knew he would receive no further directives. He would simply watch the program fade slowly, then.

"Keep fighting okay?" the combatant said, almost whispering the words.

Rinzler didn't respond. He didn't know how. He lacked the parameters.

Of course he would keep fighting. It was the one thing he excelled at; it was what he'd been built to do. Once the other program was gone, the next interim would pass, and then soon Rinzler would be here again facing off against his next hapless victim. Then he would do what he always did, what was expected of him, what he had to. He would fight. And then he would win.

The cold voice of the Siren who oversaw the games cut through the buzzing in Rinzler head, and the silence of the stadium.

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Final round. Combatant 7: Deresolution. Victory: Rinzler.

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And as one, the crowd stood and screamed.

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. Author's note: I find this site's reformatting of my story's style a little (a lot) cumbersome. To see the original format check my personal site, or to see a closer approximation, check Archive of our Own - both of which are linked in my profile.
To access any Tron material, the password is: "Grid".