Author's Note: Alright, this is the first chapter of Part 2 of Back to the Grid. Which is so long over do I am so freakin sorry about that. I won't make excuses, it just wasn't happening. But I hope that changes. I probably won't be submitting these chapters as quickly as I did with Back to the Grid but I do want to finish the story. I've already gotten through most of the second chapter and I've written a bunch of notes of ideas and such and yes. I hopefully will be able to finish this story in a timely manner.
Anyway! I have changed a few things, or tried to. I read through Back to the Grid and didn't like how I wrote/handled some of it so I'm trying to adjust and figure out how to write again. So there may be some inconsistencies but I'm trying to keep it all together enough so that it's not glaringly obvious and I am rambling.
ON WITH IT ALREADY YES?
And Back Again
The Grid was a mess.
Or at least, where he was at it was.
Sam had returned to the Grid after briefly conversing with Quorra, made his way through the empty replica of his dad's old arcade, out the doors, around the pillar column and came to an abrupt stop still awkwardly holding the unconscious Siren in his arms.
The first ten blocks or so were all still in tact in every other direction but the one he was facing, the one that lead towards the city. He could see it from here, fractured coding, the buildings lit up in all of the wrong places, rubble and codes littering the ground, even a few piles of pixelated programs with scattered and dimmed identity discs.
Sam glanced down the other streets, quickly scanning the ones to his left and right, behind him, before his eyes darted back to the road straight ahead.
"What..what happened..I was only gone for-" he cut off, a white-blue lit lightcycle approaching from the direction of the devastation, weaving around the scattered bits of code and program remnants.
It didn't take long for the lightcycle to reach him, pulling just to the side in a stop ten feet in front of him. He heard his name called in a slightly distorted voice through the rider's blacked out helmet, and only realized he recognized the rider when he sat up, four all too familiar panels lit up on the program's sternum.
"Tron?" Sam asked, his feet glued to where he stood. The blacked out helmet retracted smoothly to reveal the security program's face, expression a mixed look of both urgency and relief.
"We need to go. You can't stay here."
"No time," Tron cut him off, expression turning more serious, "We need to go."
"But what about-?" Sam started, remembering the weight in his arms. He lifted the Siren just a bit to indicate what he meant, watching Tron's eyes shift down to the woman clad in white and narrow for the briefest moment, before shifting back up to Sam.
"We can't take her with us, there isn't enough room," Tron answered after a moment. Sam could tell he still wasn't pleased with the Siren, not that Sam could blame him. Honestly he could go a day without getting hit in some way or another.
"I can't just leave her here. I know what she did was..well, I can't just leave her here," he sighed, not breaking eye contact with the security program.
Tron appeared to take a moment to consider this, eyes focused on Sam's until suddenly glancing behind the User. "Put her in Flynn's Arcade. It's not the safest place to be right now, but it's safer than leaving her out here."
Sam nodded quickly before turning around, darting for the double doors he'd just come out through.
After setting the Siren down gently on the floor inside, well, gently enough, he was still his share of annoyed with her, he jogged back out of the arcade to stand over next to the lightcycle.
"So what happened? Why is there even more damage than before? And all the way out here? Why isn't it safe here?"
Tron only shook his head briefly before leaning forward on the lightcycle, the back attachment detaching to retract back into the lightcycle's back end. "I'll explain when we're somewhere safer. Get on."
"Can these even fit two people?" Sam muttered as he moved over, throwing his leg over the back behind Tron and sliding on, only now realizing he was in his normal attire instead of the Game Arena battle suit; jeans, shirt, jacket, shoes, no lights on his clothes and a disc on his back.
"Hold on," he heard Tron say, wrapping his arms around the program's waist just barely in time before Tron's helmet reformed back over his head as he revved the engine and took off down the street to the Arcade's right. Sam tightened his arms a bit more securely, flushing slightly at resurfacing memories before shaking them out of his thoughts. Not the time for that. "Why is it this is the second time we've actually met and the first thing you've said to me was the same thing both times," Sam half yelled jokingly just over Tron's shoulder, trying to get his voice to carry over the Grid's wind racing by.
He couldn't see the security program's face, but he got the distinct feeling that he was smiling.
Sam didn't recognize the streets they were on, but not too long into the drive he couldn't really even focus on them, not with what was happening.
Programs were derezzing each other, at least some of them were. Many more were wandering with a lost look on their faces aimed towards the sky, and Sam knew without having to look himself that they were looking in the direction of the Sea of Simulation.
The portal, he thought automatically, fingers tightening just slightly.
Tron's helmet angled back towards him just slightly at the increased pressure, but returned to looking straight ahead, speeding up the lightcycle just a bit more.
It wasn't until they started getting into the larger masses of programs in the streets, on the sidewalks, that they saw one of the tanks.
The giant nozzle was just starting to appear from behind the corner of an upcoming building on the corner of an intersection at the end of the second block ahead. Tron leaned down more towards the lightcycle's handle bars, drawing Sam's attention first to the program, before his eyes darted up and he squinted against the wind, spotting the Tank coming into view.
Sam quickly leaned down as well, pressing the side of his face into the security program's shoulder on the side of his disc, tightening his grip around Tron's waist and the lightcycle more securely.
They sped toward the Tank that was heading for the middle of the street's intersection from the right, the lightcycle speeding up noticeably, the building and pedestrian program's lights becoming more of a blur. Sam didn't get much of a warning, only the dip of the lightcycle tilting left shortly before suddenly dipping right as the tank's wheels and green circuit lights suddenly swam into focus in front of his eyes, about a foot away from his face. Eyes widened, breath lodged in his throat, heart beating a mile a minute, arms and legs tightening uncomfortably around Tron and against the lightcycle, it felt like time slowed to a crawl as they barely passed by, before they finally sped past the large machine.
Tron leaned back up, just slightly to nudge back into Sam, which was just jarring enough for Sam to come back to himself. He leaned back a bit and looked over his shoulder for a moment, trying to remember how to breathe.
"That was close," he yelled back over Tron's shoulder. The helmet tilted towards him again briefly before the security program focused back on the path ahead. Sam didn't let up his hold.
The world seemed to literally jump, or jolt back into focus, and he found himself standing in front of a much cleaner, much darker version of Flynn's old desk computer. A quick glance around the room confirmed that Sam wasn't in the room, and another glance down at himself also confirmed that he'd apparently arrived all in one piece.
He didn't waste anymore time looking around, there would be time enough for that later, if he made it out in one piece, and instead hurried out the door to the main room.
Where the woman in white was starting to stir just ahead on the floor, not too far from what looked like the only way out of the empty arcade replica. Her eyes gradually opened as she sat up on her hands, a slight look of surprise crossing her face before her attention darting over to the other presence in the room.
"..User," she said quietly, eyes narrowing with possibilities.
Alan didn't have time for this. He needed to find Sam.
"Where is Sam?" he ventured to ask, hands fisting at his sides.
The woman in white, who's name he wasn't sure he even wanted to know, only stared at him for what felt like a solid minute, before slowly, and with an inhuman sort of grace, lifted herself up off of the floor. Her head angled slightly towards the double doors to her left.
"Gone. Probably with the security program," she finally spoke, eyes slanting back towards the User on the other side of the room at the end of her sentence.
Alan wasn't sure what to make of the look on her face. It didn't look like it would lead to anything good, though.
"He'll come looking for you," she continued, lifting her head slightly in his direction, "It would be best if you traveled with me until you are reunited, unless you want to wind up derezzed. It's become a war zone out there."
Alan narrowed his eyes, considering his options.
I don't know anything about this place. I don't think I should trust her, not after what I saw, but then again, I don't have to trust her to learn from her, and the faster I do that the faster I can find Sam.
"...Alright, fine. But will you help me find Sam?"
The woman smiled, something sly behind her eyes, "I will. But in return, you will help me."
Alan rose an eyebrow, crossing his arms over his chest. "And what do you want?"
The woman turned to face him, a slight smile still on the edges of her lips. "He travels with a program, but not just any program."
"A security program, you said."
"Yes. The best the Grid has ever known. But not too long ago he was entirely different. Corrupt. Repurposed. Dangerous. He derezzed programs, almost derezzed Sam in the Gaming Grid."
Alan's back straightened a bit, jaw clenching slightly.
The program's smile widened just a bit.
"He acts like he's functioning fine now, but I know better. He's still just as dangerous as before. And he's alone with a User. His enemy."
"With Sam," Alan confirmed more than asked, the thought putting him on edge. "So the sooner we find him, the better. What's the name of this..security program?"
Now her smile was completely visible, and sent a chill up Alan's spine.
The User's eyes widened.
They turned into what looked like a back alley somewhere near the outer edge of the city, slowing to a stop about halfway down behind one of the large buildings. It reminded Sam of the living quarters they'd hid out in the last time he was here, and it was just as quiet.
Tron waited for Sam to dismount before doing so himself, picking up the lightcycle baton after it collapsed back into itself and sliding it back into the holster on his thigh, walking up to the door shadowed under a slight overhang on the back of the building shortly after. He set his palm briefly onto the door before it splintered into pieces and retracted, revealing a dimly lit white hall inside.
Sam didn't have to ask. He followed.
He kept close as they walked down the hall, turned right halfway down and started making their way up the multiple sets of stairs. "Couldn't we have just taken an elevator? I know I saw one on the floor three staircases ago," Sam quietly groaned, he felt like talking any louder would, well, be too loud in the quiet atmosphere.
"The energy lights of a working elevator would draw too much attention. This sector may seem abandoned, but it's too much of a risk," Tron continued to walk as he spoke, eyes focused ahead.
"But I didn't see any-" Sam started, but stopped just a moment after Tron did, watching the security program's lights dim until they were completely out, turning halfway towards Sam and raising an eyebrow.
"..Oh. I didn't know programs could do that," he answered a little sheepishly, returning to following Tron as they continued to walk up the stairs, staring a little in fascination as his circuitry lit back up. A couple of his fingers twitched with an urge to touch the circuitry lights, before memory stopped him and he clenched his hands briefly before letting them hang loose at his sides.
Right. Don't want a repeat of that. ..At least I don't think. I would at least need his consent. I'm not going to just jump the guy. Program. Tron. I don't think I even could jump him. He's Tron for heavens sake.
"..Tron?" Alan half whispered, once he finally got his mouth to work. "You've got to be kidding me. The program I wrote all those years ago?"
"The very same," the program replied with a pleased smile, tilting her head a little to the side. "He's not what he once was, he could very well be dangerous to Sam. Maybe even the most dangerous, given how skilled he is with a disk. And the last thing we want is a derezzed User on the Grid."
Alan's arms had uncrossed at some point, but his fists were still clenched, even tighter than before. If he thought about it that way, and what she said was true, then his own program really could be as dangerous as it sounded. Then again, he probably shouldn't trust everything she said, just like he shouldn't willingly trust her. Either way, finding Sam soon seemed like the best option, and he'd need her for that.
"Then what are we wasting time here for? Let's go find them."
"It will be faster if you run a search for Tron. You did create him, after all," the program continued with a smirk, eyes a little eager.
Alan thought about it for a moment, eyes eventually glancing around the large room before kneeling down and setting one of his palms flat on the floor, focusing on the spot.
If this 'Grid' is basically just the inside of a computer then as a 'User' I should just be able to-
Coding surfaced beneath his hand, setting the skin of his palm aglow in a gentle white light, his eyes widening momentarily before narrowing again in focus. The program in white was staring in a mix of wonder and fascination.
Alright. Time to get to work.
He knew Tron's coding like the back of his hand.
"Here," he said a short while later, pointing to an orange-blue mixed dot on the edge of a zoomed out map of the part of the Grid they were on, the white program having moved to stand closer, leaning over a bit to take a look.
"They're not fair," she said as her eyes traced the route before she turned, making her way back over to the double doors. "Shall we go?"
Alan closed the display and stood back up to follow. He didn't need to be asked twice.
"What is this place?" was the first thing he asked after the door rezzed closed behind him, eyes roaming the sparsely decorated room. A chair or two here, a table there. There really wasn't much. Well, aside from the breathtaking, panoramic view of the city through entire glass wall on the left. He could see most of the damage from here. Less buildings were standing compared to before, but for the most part it didn't look too bad. Down in the streets was probably an entirely different matter.
"Temporary living quarters."
His eyes glanced back to the security program as he spoke, pulled from his thoughts, and raised an eyebrow. "A safe house?"
Tron gave a brief nod, moving past him to stand over by the door they'd come through. Sam hadn't noticed the small panels on the wall before. "I have a few throughout the city that I have managed to get in strategic locations."
Strategic? "It looks a bit empty though," Sam commented, eyes glancing around the room once more to emphasize.
Tron raised his hand up to the small top panel on the wall, pressing it slightly with his palm. Streams of light shot out and spread throughout the wall, moving to the others, the ceiling, even the edges of the floor. Glowing designs tracing into the flat surfaces in few shades of blue and purple, making the room aglow in a beautiful display of intricate, colored lines.
Sam stared around, turning in place as his eyes roamed and traced the designs, jaw hanging open slightly. "I don't remember ever seeing anything like this the last couple times I was here."
"Someone I once knew taught me how to do it."
Sam turned back to look at Tron at the security program's soft tone, eyes taking in the softer expression on his face.
"Someone you 'once' knew?"
Tron's face shuttered after a moment, eyes shifting to look up at the intricate designs on the ceiling shortly before glancing over to the view of the city. "..It was a long time ago."
"..What was her name? Or his name?" Sam gently ventured to ask, not wanting to pry but somehow still dieing to know.
"Her..name was Yori." Tron's eyes softened again briefly before he blinked a couple times, straightening his back and reaching over once more, touching the panel and retracting all of the blue and purple intersecting lights. Sam watched the lights disappear, deciding it wasn't quite as painful to see as the look on Tron's face. It still made something in his chest twinge at the sight, like the light was taking Tron's openness in that moment with it. He finally got to learn more about the security program, something his dad had only ever really mentioned once or twice, Yori, and he wasn't really sure what to do with it. His dad never went into detail about her either, mentioned her name once or twice when retelling the part about the Solar Sailor, but he never mentioned who she was, or apparently who she used to be with, or..
..what happened to her?
Movement caught his attention and his eyes shifted back down to the program, who was watching him with an intense look that Sam couldn't quite make out, but the program's eyes darted to the side as soon they met Sam's.
"..There are some weapons I managed to collect while I was in the Gaming Grid," Tron started, moving past Sam over to the back wall, not looking at him, not facing him. His body somehow too stiff, his voice too calm. He raised his hand again to touch a hidden panel, revealing an also hidden compartment in the wall, the cover splintering before derezzing back into the wall like the room's door had.
"There isn't much, but there should be enou-" Tron cut off, Sam having moved to stand behind him, raised his hand and set it gently on top of Tron's on the wall, curling his fingers between the program's.
Sam opened and closed his mouth a few times before finally getting his voice to work. "I'm..sorry. About Yori."
Tron's fingers twitched, before slowly closing down over Sam's, lacing their fingers together tightly.
"I don't know what happened, and you don't have to tell me. But I'm sorry.." he finished quietly, watching Tron lower his head.
"..Gridbugs, of all things, in the older system. I wasn't there, I was.." he trailed off, tightening his grip a little more, his other hand clenched into a fist. "I was fighting in another sector, and she went out in a Solar Sailor near where the MCP had been defeated to collect information on some of the damage that had been caused during the battle, so it could be repaired later. She..went alone. I should have-" gone with her. Tron cut off. Sam could see his jaw clenched tightly.
He squeezed Tron's fingers a little tighter, the light circuits on the program's hand intensifying at the contact, shifting to a light shade of purple. Sam could feel the current running into, up through his hand, the energy, but it wasn't the same like when he himself was releasing energy on the way to the portal, and the pulse..the feeling behind it felt entirely different. It was painful somehow, like little shocks pulsing through his fingers, tinged with what he thought pain would taste like, even though he wasn't using his tongue to taste anything. Like when people say 'it tastes like purple.' You can't actually tastes colors, or feelings, but here, who knows, maybe you could, if they were intense enough.
And if I can feel that much, he's probably in more pain than I can imagine right now.
Tron squeezed Sam's fingers once more before slowly uncoiling his own and slowly letting his hand fall back to his side, lifting his head, turning it slightly to look back at the User over his shoulder.
Sam slowly let his arm fall as well, but kept their fingers loosely intertwined, staring at Tron's profile. Tron didn't move to separate them either.
"..Thank you, Sam Flynn." The program said quietly, a slightly smile tugging up the corner of his lips.
Sam just stared at him a moment before letting out a cross between a sigh and a huff of a chuckle, raising an eyebrow a little playfully.
"Just 'Sam', remember."
Tron's eyes softened a little, his smile growing just the smallest bit.
Suddenly Tron's circuitry flared and his eyes went wide, back going rigid as his teeth ground together, half landing into the wall while quickly releasing Sam's hand.
"Tron, what-" Sam started urgently, eyes widening as orange light started flickering into the blue, taking an automatic step back as it quickly spread through one of the program's arms, fists clenched against the wall.
Sam started to reach over before Tron jolted, sliding down the side of the wall and landing on his knees. "Stay-" he tried to force out between his teeth, his voice distorted with obnoxious crackles, a low rumble starting from somewhere inside, an all too familiar whirring sound. "Stay-..Back-..ed- ode-..Corrupte- Co-" the crackling increased, his voice fading in and out between the awful sound, the orange light spreading up through both of his legs.
"Tron-" Sam started, but was cut off by the door to the room suddenly splintering before derezzing open, both eyes darting over and widening in surprise at their sudden company.
"Sam. Get away from that program," Alan said firmly, coming into the room, "It's not Tron anymore."