Notes: It's me again. I debated on whether or not to work on the next part of "Sleep Mode Beauty", or get the foundations of my other ideas set up, and you can see what conclusion I came to. I feel pretty good about my rate of writing so far. About a day and a half, I think. I know I won't be able to keep this up (these have been my days off, and I've got work tomorrow), but I'm hoping to keep a steady pace at this. I'll probably switch over and work on "Sleep Mode Beauty" next. I apologize if this chapter is a bit confusing. If you have suggestions to make it better, please feel free to let me know.
The title is just a placeholder until I can think of a better one, suggestions are welcome, though they might not make sense until more story is out.
As always, I'm without beta.
I realized I didn't post a disclaimer in SMB (need to fix that), so I'll make sure to post one here. I make no money from this, and own none of the copyrighted characters/locations/etc. This is merely a flight of fancy written down for individual amusement. I only hope for a tenuous hold on my own plot ideas, but even then I'm pretty sure I have no rights. Oh well.
There were a lot of things about his life that Kevin Flynn regretted.
He wished he'd paid attention to the warning signs sooner, and stopped Clu's destructive schemes before they could escalate in the way they did.
He wished he'd told Alan about the Grid; he could have helped him shape the digital frontier, or at least known where to look for him if – when things went horribly wrong.
He wished the other ISOs were still alive, so Quorra wouldn't have spent so many cycles feeling hunted and alone; solitude and inaction had never suited her nature, and the fact that she was forced into it by necessity only made it worse.
He wished he hadn't brought Yori over to the new system so soon; her programming had had no purpose here, yet, so, already half mad from the driving need to do something that didn't exist in the system, she'd thrown all of her purpose into the resistance, and as such had been one of the first derezzed.
He wished he could have rescued Tron; one thousand cycles of his friend needing him, and he'd done nothing to help.
He wished the Sea of Simulation hadn't been poisoned, stifling new life before it even had the chance to form.
He wished the Grid had stayed a safe haven for programs to be happy, instead of the seat of a tyrant, 'correcting' or killing whomever he saw fit.
He wished Ram hadn't been in that lightcycle match; he might have been stuck on the Game Grid for a while longer, but the actuarial program had been skilled enough to have survived until the MCP was gone, when he could have returned to helping Users plan for their futures.
He wished Jordan had taken the scenic route that fateful day, so Sam wouldn't have had to grow up without a mother.
He wished Sam had never found that secret path in the arcade, so he wouldn't have to know the pain of finding his father, only to lose him all over again.
He felt as the energy pulled Clu to him; there's so much of it whipping around them, it's a wonder it hadn't knocked him flat on his back. His own eyes stared back at him, filled with so much anger, hate, hurt, and... maybe even a little frustrated confusion. He'd always been able to read that face, or so he'd thought.
He understood that he couldn't change the past, and that several of his many regrets were utterly out of his control, but still he wished he could have marked a couple of regrets off his list before the end.
The hurricane of energy was inside him now, like Clu, and it's unstable, it's too much -
With the Rectifier looming so closely, the coming explosion – it didn't feel like it could be anything else – would be able to take at least one thing off his list for him.
- and he goes supernova.
His last blip of thought was that maybe it's not just one thing taken off his list, but three.
He was falling.
He was sinking.
Damage had been sustained, contained within the suit. Within acceptable parameters for continued deployment.
He'd had to stop him, fight for the Users. He needed to – ... a blank. Where was he? It was dark, vague shapes of rocks drifting past him. No, he was sinking. He already knew that... remembered it? There was something... else, in here with him. A malevolent presence.
Proximity alert on rock formations. Stability... low. Combat effectiveness dependent upon scenario. Escape utility... higher. Noted. Virus detected. Proximity... inconclusive. Scanning for virus origin... Complete. Origin – current liquid suspension. Suit system seal at optimum efficiency, possible entry point – Identity Discs, not present, current threat to unit... negligible. Error. Virus identified, threat to system. Virus deresolution prioritized. ...Error. Coding signature recognized – Administrator CLU, cross-reference unit upgrade 787 coding signature, confirmed. Administrator CLU deployed virus. Identify Friend/Foe conflict, virus. Virus defined foe, CLU defined friend. Error. IFF protocol conflict, ...CLU. Attaching memory file time code minus 2.428 microcycles. Analyzing...
He could feel the virus flowing over him, looking for a crack to sneak into, corrupt him. He was already corrupt, though... He had seen to that. He had poisoned the sea., too; corrupting and destroying in his quest for perfection. It wasn't perfect, though. None of it. Too much death, and... He started to remember. Horror and shame. What had he done?...
Analysis complete. IFF protocol defined CLU... foe. Error. IFF protocol conflict to primary imperative 'Obey CLU'. ...Primary imperative, 'Fight for the Users'. Error. Primary imperative conflict, 'Obey CLU', 'Fight for the Users'. Attaching memory file... all. Analyzing...
Sorrow. So much of it... Everyone he cared for... Flynn was the last. Had he made it, this time?... He had taken his spare baton, to pursue them. He was still dangerous. Could he get there in time to help?... Try to make something right, not fail again?... So much pressure at this depth. ...How had Flynn described moving through water?
… Complete. IFF protocol defined CLU foe. Primary imperative 'Obey CLU' defined... corrupt. Corrupt file quarantined, and deleted. Linked imperatives to unit 'CLU' quarantined. Error. Imperatives unable to be deleted by unit, insufficient privileges, irreparable damage possible to unit function. Seek system administrator for removal. Error. Seek backup system administrator. Corrupt imperatives successfully quarantined, removal temporarily prioritized to lower value. Advisory, water pressure increasing. Damaging pressure imminent. Scanning memory for solution... Found. Engaged.
Swimming. Kicking, pushing the water down to propel himself upward. 'Equal and opposite reaction'. ...Where had he heard that before? Thoughts, processes drift through when they should be steady. ...Why? There is... a wall, insidehim. Keeping something out, or him in? ...There's a way around, though... Memory files are shared between, so he searches, curious and wary of what he might find.
Unknown process detected. Scanning for hostile intent.
So different here, on this side. Clear, organized. In comparison, he is broken, scattered. He remembers when he became this. He -
- had been there, caused it. There was so much –
He had stayed behind.
To protect Flynn. To fight for the Users.
Unknown process shares primary imperative. Scan complete, no hostile intent found. Tertiary imperative active, 'Protect the Programs'.
Fight for the Users. Defend the System. Protect the Programs. Yes. There were others, though...
Unit registered to... three. Unknown process origin... query?
Origin? He was here, had been for... so long. He was from another system, though. He'd been created there by his User, Alan-One.
Alan-One. ...His User. Yes. Unit Rinzler's User.
Rinzler? Who was that? He was Tron...
...Error. Unit identity Rinzler. Unit identity Tron. Unit identity... conflict. Attaching memory file time code... minus 1543.148273629 cycles. Analyzing... Complete. Unit identity defined TRON JA-307020.
He was Tron.
The surface was close, now. He could see the distorted glimmer of lights: the reflection of his own back at him, blue-white, the Rectifier, red-orange, the faint glow of the city, cyan, and the portal, white.
He needed to get there. Help them, if he could.
CLU had followed them. Sought to destroy them. CLU was a foe.
There wasn't enough time. He wouldn't be able to reach them in time to help.
He broke through the surface of the water.
There was an explosion, a shockwave. It crashed into him like a real wave.
His mind whited out.
He was floating.
The Grid had been made on its current computer. In all that time, it had never been moved, or turned off.
There had been power outages, though; times when the Grid went dark. In the User world, these sometimes lasted as long as several days. Inside the Grid itself, though, there was a moment where everything would flicker and go dark, just briefly, and then... it would light up again, though not every program would always come back the same, or at all.
The passage of time outside was simply nonexistent inside.
The first Transfer in the history of the Grid happened shortly after the first Reintegration. Far to the east of TRON City, there was a massive explosion and shockwave that erased all evidence of the Rectifier, and caused the Sea to burn. In the city, the shockwave's effect was slower, more subtle, but just as profound, though they wouldn't fully finish without a restart. Just when it seemed that the Sea would calm, though it still glowed faintly from within, the clouds parted.
Lightning streaked across an empty sky, branching and forking and increasing, until the sky was a blanket of blinding white. Thunder shook the system to its core, while a howling cacophony of wind battered wildly from every direction at once. A strange... sensation overtook everything else, unlike anything the programs, new and old, had ever known.
All but one.
All at once, though, the sky was dark again, and the clouds drifted back. It grew quiet. Everything felt... unreal, delayed. The programs began to murmur amongst themselves, wondering... fearful.
The entire system flickered, shuddered. There was a sound, at first almost too high to hear. Its pitch began to drop slowly. It was almost buzzing. The lower it went, the slower the buzzing became. The sluggish buzzing fizzled out, and took the sound with it.
The system went dark.
'Transfer Complete' the screen read.
Sam pulled the memory drive free, and slipped it around his neck. It settled as a comforting weight there, slightly warm from the massive amount of data that had just been transferred to it. As modern as the memory drive was, it was a good thing it had been empty; the Grid had just barely fit. He gathered up his things on autopilot, and turned off the ancient computer that even now wasn't that far outdated.
The Grid. An amazing, impossible place. The site of so many of his favorite bedtime stories as a child. The adopted home of his childhood heroes. It was almost magical; the power and possibilities of the place. It was a programmer's dream come true.
The Grid. An abandoned, dangerous place. It had been neglected in its infancy. He'd done the math: his father would visit and build for a few hours, and then disappear for years of Grid-time. It was an incomplete place, left in the hands of a handful of programs woefully ill-suited to trying to make it work.
So his father had made Clu, and it had worked, in a way, for a while. There was still a lot of time and opportunity for things to go wrong... and so eventually they did – the Purge. The Basics had felt neglected and abandoned, scared, and therefore easily controlled. Clu had taken advantage of that. Calling them Basics and the ISOs 'Miracles' probably hadn't helped any.
He couldn't help but wonder if his father had ever mentioned World War II to the programs.
Sam sighed. They'd been vulnerable, manipulated.
Brainwashed. Some of them literally.
The sound of a soft purring echoed through Sam's mind.
He had to help them. Somehow.
His fingers ghosted over the memory drive briefly. Firstly, though, he wanted to show Quorra the sun. He had to talk to Alan. After that...
He had a lot to think about, and even more to do.