Notes: This was only supposed to be a little drabble. It sort of took on a life of it's own, though. Hopefully, this will be the first in a series of random bits of Tron's lengthy memory. This shouldn't be something that gets updated regularly (unless I'm smacked over the head with inspiration for it like this one), since these are sort of like companion pieces to The Story Still Currently Known As Antivirus. I've got scores of ideas for them (some of them inspired by writing this piece, as little bits referenced around this one). I'm not going to put them in chronological order, which is going to bug me a bit I'll admit, but I am going to do my best to have accurate time notations for reference, so I hope I don't make things too confusing for everyone.
I have no words to explain the whole bag thing. It just sort of happened.
Also, I apologize in advance for the ending of this "drabble", the coincidences referenced will be worked into future memories, because I think they're funny, and the ending refused to cooperate into a different form to accommodate it.
Clu may seem strange in this one, but, well.. he's supposed to? This is before the ISOs and everything started really going downhill, so he's (hopefully) …. mostly normal.
Cyberbutterfly, I hope this doesn't disappoint, concerning your encouragement about its existence.
Obligatory Disclaimer: 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.
Everything's still looked over only by yours truly.
Attaching memory file time code
plus 253.68696 cycles
"... What is this?"
There was a a rather large bag held by a long strap in one of Tron's hands. At least, he assumed it was a bag; its shape, zippered pockets, and the presence and attachment of the long strap were all similar to an item positively identified as 'a bag' which Flynn had brought with him to the Grid on several occasions, despite the unfamiliarity of this new item's particular shape, color, or construction material. It rustled as he moved to offer it back to the amused User, and Tron was momentarily sidetracked from completing the motion by compensatory calculations in regards to the odd shift of weight from within. This led into a string of several other calculations, one of which was a perhaps misguided attempt to estimate the item's contents, considering his still very limited database of knowledge about items from the User world.
Flynn chuckled for a moment at the baffled, but typically intense scrutiny with which his friend regarded the object, "It's a diaper bag."
"A diaper bag?... A specialized bag, then, made of diaper?" Tron attempted to integrate this newly gained knowledge into his previous assessment, assuming 'diaper' was the proper name of the slick, noisy, light green material. There were several shaped arranged with intent on the bag's surface: a yellow circle and crescent, a small black circle off-center within the yellow circle, near the base of an orange triangle, with another triangle pointing in the opposite direction arranged by the outer edge of the crescent; perhaps they were also made of diaper?
Kevin Flynn laughed helplessly for a full two minutes.
Eventually, he managed to wheeze out an explanation, "It's meant to hold diapers, it isn't made from them. Oh, man..."
Tron just stared at him, visual cues of confusion traded for a moment for a look that almost spelled out in text format what he thought of the User's mental faculties.
The User burst out laughing again.
While Flynn was still getting a grip on himself, Tron decided to do some individual investigation into what, exactly, a diaper is. Already familiar with the mechanics of the bag's closure from a previous instance of information exchange 114.2289 cycles previously, he carefully gripped the zipper pull between his thumb and forefinger, and pulled.
He did not find what he expected.
He knew what these were.
He picked up one of the several books within the bag; it was thicker and larger than previous books he'd encountered, but the presence of a spine, cover, and pages were already tagged as criteria for a book, along with a secondary note that color, texture, and size can vary widely. He showed the book to the User, expression wavering between frustrated confusion, and self-doubt.
"This is a book. I already know this, you've shown me on several occasions. Is it, also, somehow, a diaper? If so, could you explain the criteria for a diaper? I... don't understand."
Seeing the traces of upset beginning to form in Tron's posture, and knowing just how badly it bothered the program to admit any form of defeat, even if it was a simple inability to understand an unimportant fact, the User took pity on him.
"You're right, Tron; that's a book. A diaper is... underwear worn by really young Users, or I guess really old ones, that can't control... uh, their body's... waste disposal... functions," he paused to run a hand through his hair. If he didn't know better, he would almost say Tron had staged this, to get revenge for laughing at him. "You remember the talk we had about User energy consumption, right? What am I saying – I've seen your memory files, of course you do. It's not as, ah, efficient as program energy consumption, so there's some waste byproducts. A diaper collects any accidental attempts to dispose of that... waste, so they can be, um, contained, and properly disposed of, without causing a lot of pain or... discomfort." The User finished with a gusty sigh, hoping that he'd explained everything in a way the program could understand.
Tron watched him thoughtfully for a moment, before eventually asking, "If the bag is intended to facilitate the transportation of diapers, why are there books inside it, instead?"
Flynn shrugged casually, "I needed to carry the books, but I didn't have anything else handy at the time, so I just used what I had. Sorry, man, it wasn't supposed to mean anything; I've just been meaning to show you these books for a while. That's all."
Tron nodded absently at this explanation, making a note to ask what 'handy' meant, the next time it came up in conversation. For now, though...
"I have more questions."
"Okay, shoot, " Flynn shrugged, then elaborated after the brief startled look he got for the comment. "I mean, go ahead." The program's composure returned as he filed the new explanation away.
"Given your thorough knowledge of diapers, are you one of the Users that must wear a diaper? May I see it, so that I can add a visual description to my information criteria? What is the nature of the discomfort or pain caused by these accidental waste disposal attempts? I have never experienced something like what you are referring to; is there any way I can help? May I wa-"
The program stopped speaking abruptly, perplexed by Flynn's hands held tightly over his mouth.
"Just- just stop talking for a second, okay?" The User's face had changed colors rather drastically as Tron spoke, at first almost as pale as a program, before suddenly shifting rather heavily into the red spectrum. He waited, obediently silent.
Eventually, Flynn removed his hands.
"Man, if I didn't know better I'd say you were doing this on purpose. I don't wear a diaper, but Sam does; he's still too young to control that sort of thing completely. He's learning, though." Parental pride distracted Flynn for a moment, but not for long, unfortunately for him. Tron was still watching him expectantly, but quietly. "As for your... other questions, I think they'll have to wait for another day."
Tron just looked at him, still silent.
It took an uncomfortably silent, long time for Kevin Flynn to realize that he'd asked the program to be silent for a 'second'. Not a picocycle, or microcycle, or some other Grid-based unit of time, but one based in the User world.
A second out there was almost seventeen minutes in the Grid.
… He needed a break, anyway.
Flynn had almost forgotten Tron waiting out the second of silence, absently manipulating the local coding, when the program's internal chronometer clicked over.
"-tch? Doing what? Perhaps wh- … if, you bring Sam to visit? All right, then." Tron smoothly caught up his queue of replies, Flynn jolting away from the interface he'd at, somehow expressing disturbed amusement at his friend.
"Tron, you're something else, sometimes."
"Nevermind." Flynn laughed.
Tron watched him bemusedly for a moment, before gesturing slightly with the book in his hand. "You said you've been meaning to show me these for a while?"
"Oh, yeah," Flynn remembered himself, gesturing to the book. "You're always asking about Sam – and don't try to argue with me about that, 'cause you just barely did it – and when he can come to the Grid. He's a bit too young for that still, but I thought of the next best thing." He gestured excitedly at the end, pantomiming opening the book. After translating the meaning behind the User's flailing, Tron opened the book.
Images, page after page of them.
Tron stared at the first six images in turn, saving them to his memory, before looking back up at the User. "A User image file?"
A proximity notice activated in one of his inputs, and a glance over Flynn's shoulder visually confirmed the gold lightcycle approaching the pair. Tron extended one of his most basic scans, greeting the approaching program with an acknowledgment of existence that somehow managed to contain a reflection of his happiness to see his friend, and excitement over something new to learn.
Flynn smiled at Tron, somewhat impressed by his reasoning out a fairly accurate explanation for the photo album. "You've got it, man. They're mostly pictures of Sam, but I stuffed a few others in there – I think they're vacation photos. I thought you'd get a kick out of them." He shrugged, then finally noticed the gold lightcycle as it pulled to a stop a short distance from the two.
Clu's riding helmet retracted, and he spared the User and fellow program a tight, but genuine smile. The administrative program glanced at the diaper bag, then at the usually serious security program still holding it, and considered the scene. Amusement loosened his smile, his eyes never shifting from Tron examining the books as he spoke to the User.
"Welcome back, Flynn. I've compiled a list of upgrades to the system for you to approve. Three sectors sustained damage during your absence, as I'm sure Tron told you; they have been repaired. The site set aside for the Simulation Dockyards was found to be unsuitable, when an energy spring was unearthed during initial structural coding. I built an energy transfer station and club there, instead; it seemed inefficient to waste the resources. I'll have to show it to you; you'll have to write programs to run it if you like it." Clu flicked his gaze over to Flynn at the mention of the Shipyards, but otherwise didn't comment on the sudden tension in Tron's now intently focused download of the photo album. Abruptly, he tossed a baton to the User, and nodded his head back toward the city proper, eyes almost spelling out the advisability of letting the security program have time to himself.
Flynn caught the baton, and stared at Clu for a long moment, some distant part of his brain registering the rather eloquent look his program was giving him, and which program he had probably learned it from. He glanced over at said program, then nodded, and pushed back any inquiries he would otherwise have made about a certain troubled female program, and rezzed in his lightcycle.
Tron processed but didn't register the User's farewell, but did manage another basic scan to acknowledge the two look-alikes' departure, faint reassurance tinting the contact only one of the two could feel, in response to the fond worry he'd identified in an administrative status update request.
Tron's tension, and the thoughts behind it, were slow to leave.
Eventually they did, though. It wasn't accompanied by a sigh or otherwise demonstrative gesture of returning ease, since there was no one around to see it, but each byte of distracting information made putting that issue aside for later resolution all the easier.
He continued to flip through the pictures.
It took longer than Tron expected to save the images to his memory, but he had two theories as to what caused the time discrepancy. One was the time involved in carefully turning the pages; he couldn't scan the book like a regular file to determine its stability, so he was cautious about the data's integrity. The second was the occasional stall he experienced, staring perplexedly at this image or that, with neither Flynn nor Clu readily available to answer his queries. The system administrator's knowledge of the User world wasn't to the same level as Flynn's – it had been larger at his creation, but many pieces of information had been deleted or archived by the program himself to improve his available memory and streamline his processing for the high-level coding he performed regularly – but it was still rather expansive.
He'd found himself a slightly raised slab of rough data to sit on halfway through the book, and now used it to temporarily store the book, while he reached into the bag at his feet for the next.
There was something... attached, to the outer cover. It was colorful, and significantly smaller than the new photo album; It's length and width were roughly halved that of the album's, but it wasn't even a tenth as thick. He stared at the thing, tilting the album it was attached to slowly by degrees.
Just before ninety degrees, the outer cover of the – book? - swung out, and pulled the rest of the thing downward to freedom with the almost-ripping sound of adhesion giving way, no longer able to bear the shifted strain put upon it.
Tron set the photo album aside for now, and stared at the small, colorfulbook in his lap.
The front cover was an image of a short – their outward appearance registered several indicators of an interface registered as 'female' by Users, with the exception of one pertaining to torso contours – with blonde, very curly hair, and protective coverings that looked more like User clothes than the Gridsuits typical of programs. The female User's pants – or perhaps they were a variant – were particularly bizarre; they were made from an excessive amount of extra material, enough that the material creased and folded, and flared away from her body, and bypassed any connective 'seams' between her legs in favor of connecting as one, oddly large, protective covering over both.
The little User was poised halfway through the threshold of a very small building with an angled roof, situated amongst several green and brown objects he eventually connected to items in the photos he'd been viewing, but didn't know the name or function of yet. A somewhat large portion of the cover image was corrupted with a thin layer of something dark and... odd smelling. Tron paused to consider the resilience of his coding in regards to potentially a User virus, then determined that the dark something wasn't spreading over the image, and one of his more sensitive, and more direct, sensors would offer up a clearer and more elaborate assessment of it.
He held the book up closer to his face...
...and licked it.
'Unknown substance, viscous and adhesive properties recognized.' '… Non-threat.' 'Origin – User world, specifics unknown.'
… He licked it again.
As a consequence of further data-gathering, the image was restored, though he couldn't decide what to make of the new information. Three brown, fuzzy beings; They weren't dressed like Users, so he was naturally inclined to view them as programs, though admittedly unlike any program he could recall ever meeting. Maybe they were glitching... really glitching; it would also account for the sizing discrepancies.
There wasn't much more he could figure out without some outside assistance, so he opened the book, and began integrating the images and text into his memory. During this process, he queued up a list of clarifications to request at his next appropriate interaction.
What was the strange, sweet corruption that been affixed to the book? Why were these images so different Were the small User's pants a variation, like the diaper bag was to a bag, or something new entirely? Were the three brown programs new, or glitched, and what were their functions? What was the definitions of the words 'Goldilocks','forest', 'cottage', 'bear', 'porridge', 'breakfast', 'papa, 'mama', 'baby', 'growled', 'cried', 'gobbled', and 'stole'? Were there additional, User definitions to the words 'hot', 'cold', 'hard, 'soft', 'ran', and 'up', or were the missing definitions degrading his attempts to understand their meaning? Was there a purpose behind putting the User into storage in a large, black, rounded container, and what was that orange substance depicted beneath it? What were the tools the User, and then the programs used; they looked similar to batons, but also very, very different. Were these depicted occurrences common in the User world?
Tron very nearly crashed himself with his growing confusion, and fixation on trying to figure it out.
Eventually, though, he shut down the pointless processing, and set the book aside for the next photo album.
Kevin Flynn was running late.
His last trip to the Grid hadn't been long ago at all, less than a day, but Clu's 'list of upgrades to the system' had been massive. Just glancing over the different projects and okaying them had taken more than half his remaining time on the Grid. The different upgrades and projects had been poised to take effect; he could feel on an instinctive level an almost-trembling to the system as districts of housing, hangars and garages for persistent – non-baton – vehicles, and other structures were allowed to write themselves into existence. While the changes were still rezzing in, Clu took him on a tour of the sectors that had been damaged; since all the work had already been done seamlessly, though, he could only offer praise and encouragement, before they turned off toward the new energy transfer station.
Clu had designated the club portion of the station #007FFF – Azure – which had seemed counter-intuitive until he'd stepped inside the yellow-circuited, sleek black building.
He understood completely now, and had a new level of respect for his program's flair for downright artistic architecture.
As he set to work writing in some staff for the building, Kevin and Clu traded ideas about potential add-ons and upgrades for the building. By the time he was finished with the last program – altering his physical attributes from his own self-image to a young man with skin and eyes like dark chocolate and a shockingly white mohawk, exaggerated but similar to some random punks he'd seen on his last trip to New York or maybe Europe – the User and administrative program already had one upgrade on Clu's list of already approved system upgrades.
He couldn't wait to try the pools out on his next visit.
Writing in enough programs to see to the facility as it was, as well as it's scheduled update, hadn't left him with much time left before the portal closed...
… and he still had to get the photo albums back from Tron, who was in almost exactly the wrong direction.
He pushed his lightcycle into high gear for the security program's last location. He'd been just on the outskirts of the city...
… in a spot that apparently had been scheduled to be built in.
By the time Clu took pity on the User's less than stellar sense of direction and pinged a locational query at the program, Kevin was actually getting a little worried.
They turned a corner and saw Tron down the street, sitting on a freshly written curbside, books settled all around, engrossed in the last few pages of the final album.
"Tron! You've gotta wrap it up, man!" the User yelled, completely ignorant of the fact that basic audio communication wouldn't carry far enough to reach the program yet.
Amused by his User's obliviousness, Clu took pity on him again, and with a look, pinged Tron with a textual transcript.
Immediately, Tron locked gazes with Clu, and suddenly became all motion. He shifted the last book into a one-handed hold, eyes once again fixed on the last few pages as he scanned them in, while his other hand rapidly deposited the other books within the diaper bag. He took a moment to flick to the next page, data integrity caution abandoned for the moment, and kept scanning while slipping the bag over his shoulder as he'd seen Flynn do many times before. The next page turn was managed by wind resistance as the security program somewhat awkwardly retrieved and cracked his baton with a leap. He rode his lightcycle toward the two with no hands on the steering for the last page, which led to the whole cycle wobbling ominously when he finally put the book away and zipped the bag shut.
Tron spent nearly half the ride toward the portal trying to pass the bag over to the User, who seemed stuck between worrying about dropping mid-exchange, and not reaching the portal quickly enough. There was no time for Tron's many questions; he couldn't ping the User, and Flynn probably wouldn't be able to hear him over the wind in his ears at the moment.
… He'd ask Clu about them after Kevin was gone, then.
Unfortunately, after Kevin was safely transmitting away to his own world, Tron discovered Clu was just as uninformed as he was.
He was in the process of drafting a reminder to ask about them next time, when Clu invited him to try the newly functional Azure.
The reminder closed without saving, though coincidence would eventually see some of his questions answered.
Not the one about the sweet corruption though, sadly.