Fanfic: “Tron: Invasion” (Tron 2.0 adaptation) Chapter 4
on Tuesday, December, 13, 2011 6:06 AM
Program Integration Sector 23.6.2
Network ID: Lab Server 3
Scanning for corruption
Sectors 1-7, 224-256
ICP countermeasures deployed
Status of Threat (Yes)
Status of (Jet)52.41 (Threat)
This was the kind of day a security Kernel dreaded the most. Sectors were collapsing left and right due to the viral attack, and all of his countermeasure tactics were failing.
“Kernel, we've lost contact with section five beta. The exit port autoexec has been completely cut off.”
“Incompetent scripts!” He scolded his subordinates. “We were given our directives and our function to fight off viral attacks and infiltrator Programs. Send more countermeasures to deal with the threat.”
“We can't – not until that autoexec is fixed. The good news is that our transports arrived to quarantine safely. We are currently scanning all Programs arriving for signs of viral infection.”
“Derez the survivors if we have to. This server is not to crash on my watch, and I will take no chances.”
“Kernel, a survivor named Romie reports that there is some unknown Program sent by Ma3a herself trying to help the survivors.”
“Make sure this 'Romie' is quarantined. And this unknown factor could be a User for all I care. Ma3a means well, but I'm the one in charge of the server's security – not her. I want this unknown facto detained or de-rezzed. Preferably the former so I can interrogate him first.”
Jet followed Byte through the server maze, jumping over the tentacles and broken areas.
“The exit port is this way, User.”
“It's Jet, Byte. And I still don't understand why Ma3a brought me here.”
“She did not impart that knowledge to me, only said that I was to help you in whatever way I can.”
They came to what looked like a broken road, ending in a cliff just too large for Jet to jump – nor could he leap high enough to grasp the edge. Byte, of course, sailed over it with ease.
“Follow me,” Byte droned.
“I can't get over that cliff. It's too high to jump. Anything I can use for a boost?”
“If you were a Program, I would suggest downloading a Y-amp subroutine to increase your jump height. Unfortunately, you are not...”
Jet pulled the disc from his back. “On a Program, what would they do with the subroutine?”
“Install it on the disc. The disc contains much of the auxiliary code for a Program, including subroutines.”
“Then maybe I can alter my settings.” Jet sat cross-legged and pulled up the display. It looked like his face, floating above the triangle-in-triangle shape located in the disc center. Scowling, he turned the display slightly and a circular display with slots manifested.
“Subroutine install. It would seem that you have the capacity after all.”
Jet touched a part of the display. “Hey, what's this? I got this from Romie when I loaded him on the transport.”
“That is a subroutine – a Y-amp to be exact. Without intending it, Romie gave you the means to escape.”
“This code looks...strange. Like some of the gaming scripts I was working on. Let's see...” With his finger, he dragged the subroutine into one of the slots on his disc, then closed the display. Jet fastened the disk to his arm and felt a jolt, like something was walking on his spine. The moment passed soon enough.
“Here goes something,” he said, stepping backward, and making a running leap for the wall. To his shock, he vaulted the distance easily, landing on the ledge above. It took him a second to process it. In the real world, that wouldn't have worked at all.
“It looks like you not only uploaded the Y-amp subroutine, you were also able to make it more efficient. Perhaps the calculations Ma3a made about Users were accurate after all. Come, this sector will soon be a total loss.”
Jet followed Byte, still not entirely convinced this was completely real. This looked like some kind of video game nightmare. Two viral scripts blocked the path ahead. Jet pulled the disc and made two quick strikes, silently apologizing.
“Quick,” Byte warned. “Search the core dumps for permissions or subroutines.”
Jet shuddered. “Loot the bodies” was a traditional aspect of gaming, but his stomach (or what passed for it) soured when he realized he was doing it for real. He snatched up a blue permission chit and an unknown subroutine spike and kept going.
“This way!” Byte guided him into a place that looked like it was made of glass and steel. Jet shuddered – it looked like an office building after an earthquake – shattered glass, broken consoles, chairs and tables upended and glowing fibers of what probably passed for paperwork scattered everywhere.
“This is the Infiltration Countermeasure dispatch tower.”
“ICP units? I guess the virus would have them on full alert. Maybe we can help them.”
“Or maybe they will mistake you for the source of the corruption,” Byte warned. “You are an unknown factor, and your energy readings do not fit the parameters of any known Program type.”
“One way to find out,” Jet said as he started walking as silently as he could towards what looked to be an office. From inside, he could hear voices. Like all Programs, they had that odd electronic distortion, though these were even more prominent than usual.
“That's the last transport out of the sector. Anyone left behind is on their own.”
“There was a report from the pilot. There's some kind of unknown Program that is running around the system.”
“One of the Z-Lots?”
“No, his circuit patterns would make him seem otherwise.”
“We can't take chances, especially as we're under siege. Z-Lots can eat my disc. Anything not a Z-Lot gets taken to the Kernel for questioning. If there's one thing I hate more than viral code, it's unauthorized intrusions. Nothing but trouble.”
Jet sucked in a breath. This was going to be a lot harder than getting past Encom's night-shift security or breaking into the school's server room after hours with a forged key card. Still, he had a good idea of the basics when it came to sneaking around where he shouldn't be.
Deep breath, crouch beneath window height, and move as slowly as you dare. Jet crept past the window and flattered himself against the opposing wall. His hand brushed a door's panel and it slid open. Taking the opportunity as it presented itself, he ducked inside.
This was an office with three worker Programs, dressed in light-striped tunics and simple gridsuits. One of the males looked up.
“I don't recognize you. State your designation.”
“Uh...Jet. I was uploaded shortly before the virus hit. I'm trying to get to the exit port.”
“You and everyone else,” the Program said. “But the autoexec is broken due to the viral attack. No one can cycle the power stream. Get too close, and it'll fry your circuits. The best we can do is hope the ICPs hold the line.”
“How many others are trapped here?”
“About a dozen or so, Program. We're probably doomed.”
“Is there any other way to cycle it?”
The Program shrugged. “Sure. If you want to risk your source code crossing a Z-Lot infested lower circuit and then manually configure it. All of the data bits are shut off.”
Jet sighed. “Guess I take the risk. Byte?”
The glowing little shape rested above his shoulder. “I told you this was a bad idea.”
“Look, I know we have to save my father, but we have to save ourselves and as many others as we can.”
One of the other Programs looked at him quizzically. “What are you anyway?”
“I'm here to help,” he said, checking a map on the wall and downloading it into the disc. “Just...tell the ICPs that if they ask.”
He opened the door and started towards the lower hallways.
One script looked at the one who spoke. “Who was that, Cornelius?”
“Probably some unauthorized warez trying to gain access. With the directions I gave him, he'll upload himself right to the Kernel's office.”
“But what if he is trying to help?” asked the other. “His circuitry isn't that awful green. He's wearing an Encom pattern.”
“I never judge a script by his circuit lines,” Cornelius said, sitting back in his chair. “Let the Kernel deal with him.”
The office was more of a maze than the corrupted sector. Jet ran through the staircases and twisted hallways, growing increasingly frustrated at all the dead ends.
“This is the third time you have passed this archive bin. You are lost,” Byte snarked.
“Yeah, I am,” Jet grumbled, sitting on a data block and sighing, tossing his disc in the air idly. A green email cube was floating in the archive bin. Curiosity getting the better of him, Jet pulled it out and read it.
To: AlanBradley @ encom.com
From: PatrickMcDonough @ encom.com
No, the Flynn kid's latest stunt didn't harm the game servers. We should just be glad the pranks are just harmless fun. We both know that Mackey and Dillinger Jr plan for these things, and they're ODF the opinion that there's no such thing as bad publicity.
Why would you think Jet's involved with those stunts, anyway? He also hasn't so much as breathed a word about Sam Flynn since I hired him. I realize the kids knew each other since they were in diapers, but college has a way of growing kids apart. I don't even recognize half the people I went to high school with. You mentioned he's got an “attitude problem,” but I've never seen it. He does solid work, takes on overtime, shows up when he's asked, and keeps his head down. I'd say your boy grew up when you weren't looking. The only concern I had was that he asked to keep his name off the Space Paranoids Online project. We hit a compromise, but any idea why the kid wouldn't want to sign his name to his work?
Jet sighed. “I told you, Patrick. Space Paranoids isn't mine, and it's not right to put my name on it – lead programmer or not.”
Of course, the mention of his godfather's famous game mixed with the situation he was in now was an awful combination. Half-remembered old stories and too many hours on video games, theories his mom talked about that still flew over his head, and passages of the Digital Frontier all clamored for attention and made it impossible to think.
Leaning forward in frustration, something caught his eye. “Byte, there's a hole here, or some kind of hidden passage. Let me...” Pushing the block aside revealed a crawlspace.
“That does not look promising.”
“And you have a better idea?”
Byte went silent. Jet took that as permission to crawl into the cramped tunnel.
There was no light in here aside from the soft glow of his circuitry lines. Fortunately, it was a short tunnel. The bad news was that it opened up to nearly a sheer drop. There had once been a data block storage area here, but the damage took out the bridge that once crossed the chasm. There were piled of abandoned blocks just seeming to float in the air with no support. Jet was able to climb down to one and was pleasantly surprised to find it held his weight.
“Unreal. Well, guess I'm jumping across.”
He wasn't a thrill seeker or into extreme sports, aside from whatever Sam could talk him into. Looking down? A very bad idea. Holding his breath, Jet made the first jump and landed on an archive. He knelt down, and then made a second leap. Good. A third leap and he was across. It led to another door, and when he opened it, it led up a ramp to a locked door. Unfortunately, when he put his hand on the panel, a part of the sigil on his arm glowed red. He was missing the permissions to unlock it. Looking around, though, he saw another crawlspace, immediately to his right. He ducked down and crawled into the next room.
This was another room full of data blocks and equipment storage, contraband from the looks of it. Jet pawed through the bins, snatching a few falsified permissions and useful-looking subroutines. Yes, it was wrong to steal, but he hoped he could be forgiven under the circumstances.
“Halt! Do not execute escape routine!”
Jet turned around to see five Programs with builds that the NHL would envy. They wore bulky armor that looked like riot gear and their circuitry was bright red.
He raised his hands. “I'm just trying to get out of this place. I have to find -”
“Kernel,” one of them said, pressing an earpiece. “We found the renegade Program. De-rez on sight?”
“No, I want him brought for interrogation.”
Two of the countermeasures ran up to him and held his arms. Jet made no effort to resist. He wasn't necessarily proud of his encounters with LAPD, but he at least knew the drill. “I'm willing to go peacefully, but I'm searching for Ma3a and my father.”
They roughly pulled him out of the room and down the hallway towards the security office, but halfway there...
“Surrender to the corruption!” Z-Lots – over a dozen of them. They started to toss their exploding goop at them, balls of it exploding on impact.
“Scatter!” ordered the countermeasure.
The pair holding his sides let go and split off, trying to fight. At least Jet still had his disc. He pulled it out and began firing, ducking behind the shield of an ICP. One of the ICPs in front was struck with the corrupting ball and collapsed, its form twisting as the circuitry began to change.
Jet stood up and let the disc fly. There wasn't time to think. The world around him seemed to narrow as he leaped into the fray. Using his disc as a melee weapon, he trusted the strange routines and the combat protocols Ma3a had somehow given him.
When it was over, his suit was covered in green-yellow blotches. Out of the five countermeasures that arrested him, there was only one that hadn't de-rezzed, and the corruption was creeping through his circuits. Jet dropped to his side.
“Hold on, there's got to be something...”
“I...I was wrong about you. But you are infected, like me. It will not be long.”
Jet shuddered. This was more extensive than the last time. He was covered in this gunk. Was there a shower in this place? “Let me try...” He put his hands on the square node located at the mid-chest. A confusing tangle of images blasted through his mind. He could see the code behind his eyelids, and it was decaying too fast to do much. He imagined pulling the corrupted pieces into himself and instantly regretted it. He didn't see his circuit lines go all yellow-green, nor did he see it bleed out of the dying Program. The corruption became just another inert ball of code that Jet cast to the side. Forced to quit the effort, he was breathing hard by the time the trance was broken.
What just happened?
The ICP was still fading out, flickering like a fluorescent tube on its last legs with the smell of ozone in the air. “Thank you...whatever you are,” he said weakly. “At least I will return to the Void a free Program.”
“I don't know what else I can do.”
“You're not responsible for that virus. Here's the permission set for the power router. Take it and go. If there are others, take them with you...”
Before Jet could say anything more, the Program hissed and glowed brightly a final time before fading out entirely. Jet noticed the sigil on his arm glowing brightly and completely. He had full permission, but at a terrible cost.
Running into the office, he looked at the broken paneling. “What a mess!” He wiggled under it, pulling out burned components, and rerouting wires. It wasn't going to be a very good repair, but it certainly was a repair. The panel came back online and he cycled the power. The exit port went live, glowing bright white. He also saw Byte float over to it as if waiting for him.
Jet left the office, went down the ramp, and stepped through.
The world turned red – red walls, red floor, columns of bright red numerical patterns flowing up and down across the room.
Jet soon realized he was surrounded and cornered – again. Byte was nowhere to be found. The countermeasures soon had his wrists bound with energy rope, his disc confiscated, and several nasty-looking light-pikes poking into his back. “Look, I can explain.”
“Explain it to the Kernel, Waerz. We're not interested.”
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.