Fanfic: “Tron: Invasion” (Tron 2.0 adaptation) Chapter 2
on Tuesday, December, 06, 2011 4:37 AM
Rating: Teen (language, violence, suggestive situations)
Disclaimer: the Mouse owns this universe, Mr. Lisberger created it, and Monoloith Games did much of the rest.
Summary: Twenty years after their iconic CEO vanished, Encom is a company in trouble. The mysterious head of F-Con knows its secrets all too well. When F-Con makes its move, cyberspace is threatened by the Users, and only a pair of them can stand against the onslaught. After the Betrayal and before the Legacy, there was the Invasion.
Note: This is mostly an adaptation of Tron 2.0, with a few tweaks to make it Legacy-compliant and a few more tweaks as added by author. It's part of my “Endgame” scenario.
Encom Lab Server 3
Laser testing RAID array
Subject: **Virus Alert**
Unfortunately, not everyone has updated to the new virus protection software and as a result, an unknown virus type has corrupted many systems on Group Seven lab server.
We're working on the problem right now. Until further notice, do not download or upload files to the central source code server. We are doing our best to quarantine the virus, but its aggressive nature is making it extremely difficult. It's really unlike anything we have ever seen before.
Thank you for your patience,
The next thing he was truly aware of was that he was on his back, staring up at a dark ceiling in a room that seemed to glow turquoise (no visible light fixtures, the walls themselves were glowing). Jet reached up for his face, feeling for his glasses, and blinked when he couldn't find them. Strange – things didn't look blurry, nor did he get the eyestrain headache he would expect without them. Pulling himself up, that's when he got a good look at his arms.
His jeans and button-down shirt were gone. In its place was something that looked like spandex or vinyl, striped with lines of blue-white. A large patch,vaguely triangular in shape, took up most of his chest. “Ma3a? What did you do?!”
Jet scowled at the lack of an answer. Was he just having one of those dreams brought on by falling asleep at the keyboard after a peperoni pizza binge and seventy-two hours of straight coding? If that was the case, it was bizarre and realistic even by those standards.
“So you are a User. Fascinating.” A voice that sounded like it was processed through an old Moog startled him out of his thoughts. Jet swiveled his head, looking for whoever spoke. The only thing in the room with him was an object that looked like a floating crystal paperweight, glowing from the inside with the same shade of blue as was on his suit.
He was not sure whether to answer it back. The little glowing paperweight continued to speak, its shape pulsing from smooth to spiky with its vocal cadence. “Well, User, now that you've been digitized, you can think of me as your tour guide to this world inside the computer...”
Jet pinched the bridge of his nose, too confused to piece together a coherent sentence. There was something...familiar about this place, like he'd seen or heard about it somewhere.
“There are a few crucial functions you'll have to learn if you hope to survive if you hope to survive the System,” it said.
'Survive' sounded ominous, but a lot better than the alternative. If nothing else, he needed to figure out what in the hell was going on! His 'tour guide' flew into a socket on the wall and a door slid open. Cautiously, Jet stepped out into what seemed to be a main room. It was circular in shape, the walls and floor glowing gently. About a half-dozen people, dressed in the same strange combination of skintight, neon-striped spandex were working on terminals. Some were talking among themselves with worry.
Jet walked up to one that was crossing the room. “Excuse me, can you tell me what's going on?”
The man looked at him strangely. “You must have been offline for cycles, Program! Six more sub-directories on this server have been compromised. The corruption managed to slip past our scheduled scans – obviously an inside job.”
Jet cocked his head. “Sorry, I've just been...transferred here.”
“Your User must have been trying to move you to a protected area ahead of the attack. You're probably still disoriented from the transport. At least we're holding our own, but I don't know for how long.”
Jet started piecing it together. The last things he recalled clearly before waking up here was his father gone, the lab a mess, and trying to pull up the security records only to find a massive virus had hit Encom's email servers and had corrupted the security files.
Inside the computer, though? The Gibbs-Lisberger theory said that parallel worlds were a mathematical possibility. That's why the Shiva laser was constructed in the first place...Okay, theory proven. Somewhere from his eternal reward, Old Man Gibbs was dancing a jig. As for the rest? Well, he considered himself to be pretty good about “roll with it now, details later, panic last.” That had been a pretty effective method when he had found himself roped into whatever wild idea Sam wanted to pull off.
“Anything I can do to help?”
“Yeah,” said the other man. “Head to the archive bin in the other room and download the correct permissions to run the firewalls. We'll probably need an extra hand if node seven collapses.”
The “archive bin” seemed to be little more than a glass box with small glowing shapes in it – green squares, yellow spheres, triangles of blue – all about the size of his palm. He grabbed one at random, the blue triangle, and felt something pull into him. At least, that was the best way he could describe it. A circular pattern on his right forearm that was curiously dark before had a small section light up. Curious, he grabbed another, and the same pulling sensation happened, along with another lit patch. He grabbed a third and looked carefully in it, seeing a circle of blue and white, some sections dim and others lighting up. As the third's contents seemed to drain from its shell and leave a tingling through the circuits on his arm, Jet “saw” a third section light up.
Standing up, he walked to the nearest door. Part of the sigil on his arm lit blue, but one section lit up in red. The door remained closed. Rummaging back through the bin, he pulled out one that looked to have the correct section and absorbed it. Placing his hand on the panel again, all the sections lit up and the door slid open.
So that's how it works. Collect the right set of keys, open the locks.
The little glowing paperweight floated to just over his shoulder. “Archive bins contain permissions, emails, and subroutines. Permissions are used to access other bins, activate I/O nodes or open locks. Emails and subroutines will probably not be as important.”
“Reading data meant for others is considered bad behavior on the System, and I doubt the User world views snooping any more favorably.”
Jet rolled his eyes. “What do you know about the 'User world' anyway?”
“I am Ma3a's assistant, and she sees all at Encom – including Users. I find your kind to be quite insane. Ha ha ha.” For something that spoke in monotone, the “tour guide” was amazingly sarcastic.
He made a show of rifling through the bin some more to ignore his 'guide's' sarcasm. What was that old gaming adage? 'Take whatever isn't nailed down and then check for loose nails.' Speaking of games, the floating shape reminded him of something...
“So, what are you exactly? A bit?”
“A Bit? Hah!” said the shape. “I am a Byte. Ma3a would not send a simple Bit to perform a Byte's job. Let me tell you, Mister!”
Jet looked up. “Okay, can you take me to Ma3a, then? I've got a lot of questions to ask her.”
“Yes. She has requested your presence at the I/O room. She has an urgent message for you.”
That got Jet to his feet. “Urgent? Well, I hope she explains to me what's going on. Lead the way.”
He was lead down a short hallway into a small room. Byte explained further. “Among Programs, communication with one's User is to be done in private, and it is highly ritualized. Seeing as you are a User, and we are in a state of emergency, we will dispense with the usual formalities. Communication between Programs on the system takes place at public I/O nodes.“
“How will I know if someone's calling me?” As if in answer, Jet was suddenly struck with a feeling like a phantom tug on his arm and an overwhelming sense to go beyond the door.
“That is how.”
Jet walked forward, the door sealing shut behind him. The room itself was nothing special – just a raised dais lit with a small white circle. He took a step toward it and the room lit up with elaborate mosaics of color and light, the dais in the center becoming a solid column of white light. Pulled along by the odd compulsion, Jet stepped into the light, and was surprised by the fact that it wasn't painful to his eyes.
Connecting to I/O Tower...
Jet saw a strange figure in the column of light with him, appearing as a woman in a long, flowing golden gown and an elaborate gold mask. Jet never thought something so surreal could be that beautiful. “Alan-2. It is good that you have arrived safely.”
“Ma3a? Is that you?”
“Yes,” she said. “Though you are seeing me only in projection. My influence is limited, but I will offer support and help as I can.”
He blinked in disbelief. “So, I'm really inside the lab server? And did you do this to my father?”
“Alan-1's location is unknown to me. He is no longer inside the Encom Tower. Unfortunately, security cameras for Lab Three were corrupted by the viral attack two minutes before Alan-1 vanished.”
Jet shuddered. That couldn't be good. “Just great. Tell me about this virus. I've heard the other people...Programs...talk about some kind of attack.”
Ma3a opened her hand, a small green cube floated above her palm. Hesitantly, Jet touched it and felt the information literally download into his mind.
A cloaked humanoid figure, riddled with yellow-green fissures all over what gray skin could be seen towered over the terrified Program brought before him. The guards were just as twisted as their boss – their circuitry lines lit up in the same color, their faces and shells decayed by signs of corruption.
“Please...” the undamaged script begged. “I...I don't understand what you want -”
“You have permissions I require,” the monstrosity bellowed. “State your directive!”
“I'm just a simple email courier. I'm behind on my deliveries this cycle.”
“I know what you are and what you will become.” What could generously be called a hand slipped out from under the robe, generating a cloud of sickly-colored energy.
The guards snatched the hapless email script. “No! No...What are you...? No!”
The cloud surrounded the email Program, the blue of his circuitry lines bleeding away into the corrupted yellow-green.
“The Users have forgotten you. Only I remain.”
The vision ended and Jet almost fell over. “What was that?”
“That was the last transmission our security scripts were able to transmit before they were derezzed.” The white light surrounding them began to flicker.
A voice boomed through the complex. “Code alert. Corruption has breached firewall. Attention!”
“There is not much time. You must be synchronized with an identity disc before proceeding further.”
“A disc? What do I need a disc for?”
A blue ball of light above her other hand “A disc is your identifier and primary tool in the system. Everything you do or learn will be imprinted on your disk. Without one, you will be considered a rogue element and subject to immediate deresolution. It will also serve as your primary defense against the corruption. A subroutine with rudimentary combat protocols has already been uploaded.”
Something about this was unreal and too real – familiar and strange all at the same time. He reached out and took the disc from Ma3a. Something jolted through him and his circuit lines flashed bright silver for a moment before fading back to blue-white.
Ma3a's image began to waver as the light around them sputtered. “The corruption is spreading. Save yourself while you still can!”
The light sputtered and went out entirely like a spent candle. Jet clutched the disk in his hands, feeling its cold, almost ceramic, edges.
He ran out of the room and the scene was pandemonium – Programs running in panic everywhere as the sickly yellow corrupted scripts threw blobs of green goo around. The goo hit and let out small explosions. One Program was clutching what remained of her leg as tentacles of green-yellow twisted up her body. She crumbled into nothing before Jet's horrified eyes.
The Program he had been speaking to earlier was on the floor, crawling away from two attackers. “Get away from me!”
His reaction was almost like being in a trance, muscle memory he never had. The disc left his hand seemingly of its own accord and struck the first one in the chest. Jumping out of the way of a pile of green goo hurled his way, the disc was recalled to his hands like magic.
He struck again. Over and over, hurling the disc, striking, dodging like a strange dream. See the patterns, feel the patterns...
The last of the invaders crumbled to voxels, but it was too late. There was only one surviving Program, and he was already flickering ominously, one arm shattered like glass and it looked like part of his stomach was gouged out. In his remaining arm, he held a permissions sphere.
“The corruption has overtaken us. Save...save yourself. Evac shuttle in the next sector. Take my permission.”
“Hold on. Is there anything I can do? Do you have a first aid kit or...or something?”
The wounded Program flickered blue and sickly yellow green as its appearance began to decay. The circuit lines glowed brightly for a final nanosecond before the Program faded away like it never was.
Jet grabbed the permission and downloaded it into his arm. There wasn't time to panic, process, or scream – just run.
The walls around him were crumbling and sickly-colored, or covered with corrupted tentacles like a bad Japanese movie. Several frightened and wounded Programs were trying to run away. He passed by one who saw one of his fellows start to turn, and saw the other Program deliver a killing blow with an improvised stick weapon. Other bodies...shells...were yellowing and decaying, lining the halls with victims in one moment, gone the next.
He finally reached the evacuation shuttle – a small, flat barge that was filling up rapidly with terrified Programs. One that looked like a smallish, bald man was shouting behind him. “Romie? Romie? Where are you?” When he got to the shuttle, he looked among the occupants. “Oh, no. He didn't make it!”
“Who's Romie?” Jet asked.
“My second bundled counterpart! We already lost our Aida a sector back, then we got overwhelmed by these Z-lots. He told me to run, and now...He was so young. So many cycles left...”
“Get on the transport. I'll try to find him. Which way?”
The Program pointed to a hallway that was covered in corruption to the point where only the ceiling remained untouched. Steeling himself, Jet ran forward.
“Wait! What are you doing?!” Byte asked, still hovering over his shoulder.
“We're gonna save who we can first,” Jet answered, racing forward.
He didn't have to go far – three Z-lots had a blue Program chased up a set of blocks – trapped.
“Surrender to the corruption!” they taunted. “Embrace your Master User!”
Jet hurled his disc in a warning shot, forcing the Z-lots to turn their attention to him. A nanosecond later, he was regretting the decision. He dodged the first attack, but not the second. It hit him in the shoulder like a paintball pellet, stinging but not actually hurting. He fired back, striking the first, and swinging around so that the next shot landed close to the second, the explosion shattering it to pieces. The third came up behind him, and Jet whirled around, disc in hand, and sliced from shoulder to hip. It dissolved in a screech.
The blue-lined Program hopped down from the blocks. “Thanks for saving me. You...” He gasped when he saw the growing patch of sickly green on Jet's shoulder. “Oh, no!”
Jet knelt. The fight took his mind off it, but now the infected patch burned. He closed his eyes and he could see the corruption in his mind's eye, a patch of green trying to dance along the edge of a double helix pattern. If he were in any frame of mind to process it, these visions would have unsettled him. Now, he mentally tried to find all the pieces of it and assemble it into a ball, then store the ball away in quarantine.
When he opened his eyes, the corrupted patch was gone, and in his hand was the not-quite formed ball of green code which he tossed aside.
“How can you do that?” the rescued Program breathed. “You're not supposed to be able to -”
Jet chose the shortest explanation he had. “Ma3a brought me to help.”
The Program seemed to swallow hard, not sure what to do next. “I'm Romie. Did...did Marco make it to the shuttle?”
Jet took Romie's arm. “Yeah, he did. Let's go.”
They ran back through the twisted corridors. By now, the transport was almost unstable due to the number of terrified Programs that were crammed onto it. Jet shoved Romie ahead. “Get on board.”
“But there won't be room for you!” Romie protested.
“Byte, is there another way out?”
“Yes, there is but -”
Jet shoved Romie on the transport. “Go!”
As Romie boarded the transport, he slipped something into Jet's hand. “Thank you.”
The transport took off, soaring into the vast digital sky. Jet opened his hand to find a red, pyramid-shaped object.
“I was about to say,” Byte droned. “That we will have to pass through the power coupling and security program base, meaning that we take our chances with both the Z-lot invasion and the Infiltration Countermeasure Programs.”
It's an entire universe in there, one we created, but it's beyond us now. Really. It's outgrown us. You know, every time you shut off your computer...do you know what you're doing? Have you ever reformatted a hard drive? Deleted old software? Destroyed an entire universe?"
-- Jet Bradley, Tron: Ghost in the Machine on why being a User isn't necessarily a good thing.