Title: Three Gifts
Ship Code: T/Y
Summary: He defends the system because it is his directive. He fights for the Users out of gratitude.
Note: Set prior to first film.
Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with the following: Disney, Monolith Games, Steve Lisberger, Bonnie McBaird, Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz (though I thank them for giving Mr. Sbarge a regular paycheck these days), Joseph Kosinski, the late Brian Daley (though I can thank him for the Star Wars radio plays and some excellent Galaxy Rangers episodes), or any of the cast and crew. I'm just a late-night tech support agent writing these between virus scans and printer setups.
I wonder if you can hear me outside of the I/O Towers, Alan-1. There isn't a micro that goes by that I do not think of you.
It is a low-activity part of the microcycle, only a handful of maintenance Programs are on duty, running patches. The I/O Towers will occasionally flicker as updates are performed. It isn't as good as direct communion, but they are still your kind's gift to us. I hope the others accept them graciously.
There is a war raging on the system. You know that. I've heard you speak about Master Control and how dangerous he is. Programs turn on their counterparts, friends betray each other. Many succumb to despair, turning their back on their Users because they no longer believe your kind cares for us in the face of Master Control's tyranny. Others become apathetic drones, carrying out their tasks without thought, circuitry fading to barely a glow. Very soon, even the sanctuary we have on the Group Seven lab server will be gone. Despite our best efforts, our defenses will succumb and all Programs will have to make their choice to resist or serve. I struggle to forestall it for a microcycle, a second, a nanosecond.
There was never a choice for me, never a question. Your gifts have never been easy ones, Alan-1. That doesn't diminish my gratitude for having them.
The first of your gifts is my life. My first sensation and knowledge is of being compiled. I was in alpha build, with no knowledge or purpose until I looked up into the light and you first spoke. It was then I first knew awe and terror. Guardians talk of the spark that passes from User to Program, the tiny fragment of your life that gives us ours. The strings they use to describe it are worthless code compared to what it truly is to know. I could feel your presence with my whole being, that spark within me resonating with your words as you gave me my directive. It was in that moment that I first conquered fear and raised my hands, accepting the disc that is my weapon and identity.
The directive was your second gift. You did not make me a typical Intrusion Countermeasure Program. The ICP armies have their uses, but you wanted me to be different, independent, able to decide for myself what was threat and not threat. At first, it was isolating and I resented you for it. I trained with the security forces, I fought along with their number in repelling gridbugs and viral agents. However, I was never truly one of them. I couldn't share their sense of unity, and the security Kernels made no secret about how they disliked an atypical security Program. I had to work twice as hard to earn their respect. Throughout my beta build, I was frustrated about being unable to belong and questioned your decision.
Now, I see your wisdom in granting me autonomy. You created me in secret to fight this war because you don't trust the ICPs, and for good reason; most have been assimilated into Sark's guard by now. You don't trust the User Sark abandoned any more than I trust Sark. The same war is being fought among Userkind in a silent, subtle way that I am unable to comprehend. I understand that I must fight with discs and combat protocols so that you can wage your battles with cunning and strategy. Again, you prove to be wiser than I could hope to be.
Your third gift didn't come from you alone. You declared that I was to be bundled to a maintenance Program, and I foolishly tried to resist the command. I thought I needed to be alone to carry out my function, that to be partnered would only slow me down. After those bitter cycles of isolation among the ICP units, I thought it was best that I remain alone.
I could not have been more wrong.
She is in my arms now, deep in sleep mode. I am a light sleeper; it's part of my functionality. Her pale hair is tangled in my fingers, and one of her small hands rests on my identifying mark. Her circuitry is not overly elaborate, but it emphasizes the curves of her shell; the narrowness of her waist, the curve of breast and hip and leg. Ah, but she is much more than a pretty shell. There are many of those among the vapid game sirens and camp followers favored by the ICPs. I never had any interest in them.
Yori hadn't been any happier than I was at the news. Dumont had to prevent us from starting a shouting match and blaspheming in his tower! On the surface, it seemed a comical mismatch. She had no combat functionality. I didn't know the first thing about repairing system damage. It took us long enough to realize that was the entire point – if an invader left damage that went without repair, then it was an open invitation for more security breaches. And since she has no subroutines for fighting, she needed to be guarded from ambush while she works.
We already fight. I fight openly, with disc strikes and lightcycle, a living symbol to those who believe in the Users to stand up and fight for them. Yori fights in the shadow; illegal siphons of power to feed those starving under the MCP's "rationing," passing covert messages amid the darkened alleys, quietly engineering simulations of weapons and goods the resistance I've started will need to survive another micro. It's never her name the free Programs will shout, but it doesn't make her work any less important. The more we have had to struggle, the closer we have become. She is partner, helpmeet, friend, and lover; our brief moments together a respite from constant battle.
I praise Lora-3 as much as I do you, Alan-1. She is perfect. An idle part of me wonders if you both have a bond like ours, but that wouldn't be possible; Users would have to be beyond such things, no matter how much comfort they are.
Even though you have given me so much, all you asked of me in return is to carry out my directive; to guard and protect this system. Do you even know how profoundly grateful I am? For my directive, my skills, my counterpart's life and my own?
Of course you do. You are the Users. I love you with every voxel of my being.
How could I not fight for you?