Title: A Brother's Shadow's
Summary: At six years old, the knowledge he has a brother is a gift. Twenty years later, it is more of a burden than a gift. Either way, it's still an honor.
Note: Happy 10 year anniversary, Tron 2.0!
Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with the following: Disney, Monolith Games, Steve Lisberger, Bonnie McBaird, Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, Joseph Kosinski, the late Brian Daley, or any of the cast and crew. I'm just a late-night tech support agent writing these between virus scans and printer setups.
December 21, 1988
It didn't snow in LA, but it was unusually cold that night regardless. It was well past bedtime, and he wasn't supposed to be up, but Jethro couldn't sleep. His mom and dad were in Washington DC, and were supposed to be there, but bad weather delayed their flight home to LA. School was out already for winter break, and even Sam was with his grandparents and would be through Christmas.
After trying to sleep and failing, he got up and sneaked out of his room, down to the living room with its view overlooking downtown Los Angeles, reflection of the Christmas tree's bright lights reflecting in the glass. He sat on the window seat, curled in on himself and hugging his knees for balance. Looking up into the sky and just wishing Mom and Pop were there with all a child's belief that wishing could make it happen, and the smarts he inherited from his parents knowing it wouldn't make a bit of difference. It was one thing to feel alone and small – that came with being...well, he turned six a half hour ago if the VCR was right. It was another to know your parents would miss your birthday.
The TV was on in the other room. Mom and Pop were having Uncle Kevin babysit. They told him he got sad over the holidays, especially without Sam around to keep his mind off it. It seemed a little confusing as to how Christmas could make adults sad, but he wasn't going to object to some time with his godfather.
"Supposed to be in bed, Jet." Hearing his godfather, he knew he was in trouble, but couldn't make himself care.
"Can't sleep." He hugged his knees a little tighter. "When'll my parents be home?"
"Booked on the first flight out as soon as they can de-ice the runway. And your mom wouldn't be happy if she caught you out of bed."
"I know," he said, continuing to stare. "What are you doin' up?"
"Perk of being a grown up – later bedtime. I know your dad's gone over that with you."
Jethro nodded and conceded defeat, swinging his legs off the window seat and shuffling toward the stairs, looking over his shoulder with every second step.
"Y'know what?" Kevin said. "Changed my mind. I can't sleep, either. Come over here and sit down with me." He gestured to an overstuffed sofa, and sat down in it, gesturing for Jethro to sit next to him. Covering them both with a blanket, they both sat in the dark, but Jethro noticed his godfather was being kinda strange.
"What's a'matter? You're too quiet."
"Time of year's a little hard. You're missing your mom and dad. I'm missing Sam...Well, and your Aunt Jordan. She really liked Christmas – even LA ones. Nothing you need to worry about, kiddo. We'll just be lonely together, okay?"
"That's the spirit, Jet." He ruffled the boy's hair. "Just...make the most of it."
Jethro knew about Aunt Jordan, Uncle Kevin's wife and Sam's Mom. She died before he was two in a bad car accident. He knew what she looked like from pictures. He knew she used to be in the army, that she helped design the Encom Tower, but not much else. It was a Bad Thing to ask more questions about her because it just made Uncle Kevin sad.
"Sucks that they're missing my birthday."
"Yeah, does suck." There was something strange about the way Kevin said it, like he was only half there, but he had one arm around Jethro's shoulders. Jethro was pressed into his godfather's side to get the best use of the blanket, and it was nothing more than two guys being lonely together which made lonely not so bad. They stayed that way for a long time listening to the sounds of the city – traffic in the distance, a helicopter overhead, the ticking of the clock, the sound of the TV playing yet another corny Christmas special, and faint buzz of the electronics plugged into the house until Jethro started drifting halfway between sleep and wakefulness,
That's when Kevin shifted position. "Hey, before you konk out on me? Got something for you. Wanna see it now or wait on it?"
Jethro cracked open an eye. "If you wanted me to wait, why'd you ask?"
"Geez, kid. No mistaking you for anyone other than Lora's. Okay, sit tight. I'll be right back."
Kevin got up and went out the door, coming back with a shoebox. He turned on the standing lamp next to the sofa for a little light. It was wrapped in cheap, bright yellow paper. "I know the wrapping paper's awful – only non-Christmas stuff the drugstore had. This isn't 'Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas.' You may have been born on Winter Solstice, but that's no excuse."
Jethro tore off the wrapping paper and opened the re-purposed shoebox. Tearing through the packed wads of newsprint and tissue paper, his small hand clasped around something made of hard plastic. He pulled it out and put it on the table. A more through search of the box (made by inverting the papers onto the floor) revealed the second.
He put them under the light. They were dressed in funny clothing – skintight like a wet-suit, painted with that glow in the dark paint stuff. The male action figure looked like he had armor on, and the female one had some kind of robe.
"Action figures? What cartoon are they from?"
Uncle Kevin laughed. "No cartoon. That's what Programs wear. That's what people look like on the other side of the screen."
Jethro inspected the patterns closer. The man's suit had hardly any white striping at all – dots at mid-shin, four more on his stomach, a "T" shape at his chest. The woman's outfit was more elaborate –white striping on her arms and legs with a thick line like a scoop-neck and a upright-pointing triangle on her chest.
"Look at their faces a little bit. Remind you of anyone?"
He picked up the male figure and held it in the light, squinting in the dark of the room and the brightness of the reading lamp. He tilted it just right, seeing the broad forehead and the shape of the chin and nose. When the connection was made in his head, he picked up the female one and got a look, squinting to see the blue-painted eyes and the gentle half-smile on her face.
"You made action figures of Mom and Pop?!" Jethro didn't know whether or not to laugh.
"No. I made action figures made of Tron and Yori. From my stories, remember? They just happen to look like your mom and dad for the same reason you look like a little of both of them. You see, he was made by your dad. She was made by your mom."
Even being six (and new to being six), he could still make the connection. "He's my brother?! And I have a sister, too?!" The action figures were thrown back into the box. "When can I meet 'em?"
"Hold on there, tyke. 'Brother and sister' might not be the right..."
"But if dad made him and mom made her, then...Jack at school has a brother from his mom's first marriage and sister from his dad's second marriage."
"They're not human. They're different. Humans do things a lot differently."
"But they're real? Somewhere out there?"
"Somewhere in there," Kevin reminded him. "Programs aren't the same as us. They're...different. In a lot of ways."
"But I'll still get to meet 'em right? You told 'em about me?"
"Easy there, Jet. Yes, I've told them. And someday...someday, you and Sam both will be able to go there. Promise."
"This is the best birthday gift ever! Thank you!" He hugged his godfather.
Kevin laughed. "I know the action figures are cool, tyke."
"Not the action figures – a super-cool brother and sister. I'm not alone. And I'm gonna meet 'em someday. That's the best gift ever!"
** 2.0 **
March 3, 2010
The archaic packet transport sped along the transit beam, along its pre-determined course towards the open Internet. What was done was done, and what was done was terrible. The EN-1282 was collapsing in virtual flame behind them, taking its handful of Resource Hogs and hardy holdouts into oblivion...Including I-No.
He condemned hundreds to death, including a friend, to potentially save billions. If this was the power of a User, then it was overrated and terrible. Thorne reveled in this power, his godfather embraced it with enthusiasm. Jet was disgusted with himself – and with them.
He held what so many had died for in his hands – the contents of an entire early 80's archive could be contained in the single archive bin aboard. Laser control protocols, emails dating back to Encom's "Golden Age," fragmented audio files...
And the crown jewel of it all looked like a little white ball decorated with intricate blue circuitry. It felt blood-warm in his hands, and holding it up to the light revealed the faint "T" tetromino identifier mark. There was no dust or sand in cyberspace, or other excuse he could use to explain away the sting in his eyes, or tightness in his throat and stomach, even if he was just imagining it due to his altered body. It was one thing to have little plastic action figures sitting in a treasured place in his apartment with the developers' awards, hear the stories and legends, to have a child's fantasies of a heroic brother in a world somewhere just out of reach...
But to know he had a brother, that he was very real, and lived up to all of it. To actually hold something that should have belonged to him...
He'd been over this with Mercury. A Program lived, on average, for about five or six years. Tron was coded nearly thirty years ago. Long gone, long dead, nothing more than legend and this near-forgotten upgrade that never got applied, and the reality of it hurt in a way Jet couldn't quite process.
How could you miss someone you never even met?
"Jet?" Ma3a put her hand on his shoulder, startling him back to the present.
"Oh. Sorry. Just...thinking again. Seems a little unreal. I heard the stories, but...guess it never hit me until now."
"Tron was a legend...and not just on your side of the screen. If Kevin Flynn did one thing right, it was in telling the whole world about him, even if he had to disguise it as just a story. And...I don't think my dad ever really understood what he did when he coded him."
The thought of his father, now kidnapped and held hostage by those crazy F-Con people planning who-knew-what didn't help matters. The fact their last conversation was yet another stupid argument, and his last words to his dad were sarcastic, flippant dismissal of his father's concerns just twisted the knife more. And here he was, trapped in cyberspace, literally a world away from anything he could do to help. "Tron was as much his son as I am, Ma3a...and probably a better son, too. I've done a lot of screwing up, and I've got to make things right."
"Perhaps you compare yourself unfairly. Users and Programs operate with different parameters," Ma3a reminded him.
Jet took one last look at the inert code. You were my father's first son - his best son, I'll never meet you or Yori. I'll never get to ask all those questions I wanted to ask since I was a little kid. But what I can do is keep going, keep fighting, try and rescue our dad and be a brother you'd be proud of on either side of the screen. I just hope it'll work.
"Doesn't matter," Jet said out loud, putting the code back in the archive bin reluctantly. "If Guest is right, that Tron upgrade code is the key to taking down Thorne and saving every Program in the world."
And if you see I-No? Tell him I'm sorry.
** 2.0 **
Notes: Since it's now the 10 year anniversary of Tron 2.0, I'd be remiss not to post at least a small slice of life fic. One of the things that works wonderfully if you're doing a 2/0/Legacy patchwork? The spin-off comic says Flynn (apparently) went nuts and vanished. And I-No, a Tower Guardian on an old mainframe, says that Tron vanished shortly after the events of the first film. Even more suspiciously, the in-game emails say it was on Flynn's orders... (Yeah, tell me the Legacy writers *weren't* stripping it for parts.) Anyway, since many Tron fanficcers (including myself) go with a paternal bent to the Alan and Tron dynamic, the question came to mind of how things would work between the sons, especially in a post-Legacy/post-2.0 scenario. What six-year-old little boy wouldn't find the idea of a superhero brother to be the best thing ever...and what 20-something thrown into kevlar and spandex finds it ain't what it's cracked up to be?
I've also been scratching my head about what exactly would happen if Jet met either of his "siblings," especially as Programs likely don't have the same social conventions humans do. Well, that and the fact that, given a Legacy-compliant scenario, Tron's not in the best place mentally...