|Fanfic: “Tron: Invasion” (Tron 2.0 adaptation) Chapter 6|
on Thursday, December, 15, 2011 3:33 PM
Note: This chapter rated Teen for Mercury's "interrogation" techniques. I wrote a rough draft of this in the form of "Retrograde,"available on fanfiction.net
Her directive was to serve Ma3a, and like all Programs, Mercury had never needed to question it. After all, she had a long legacy to live up to and perpetuate.
Since Ma3a was docked to her port and could never leave it, Mercury acted as eyes, ears, spy, protection. Even the Kernel had only the vaguest idea of what her true directive was. Sure, she was compiled by Alan-1, but she had been kept in reserve for the last few cycles, in stasis on a USB drive. She had been awakened and rezzed to the system by Guest, a mysterious entity who spoke through the I/O nodes in garbled words and static.
Help Ma3a. Defend Ma3a. Destroy all threats to System...
She had her combat protocols, but she wasn't an instrument of brute force. That was the task of ICP units and the Kernel. They were crude, heavy things of digital muscle and simple directives. If they helped Ma3a, then she sided with them. If their directives conflicted with Ma3a's continued operation, they would be destroyed.
To maintain her cover, she worked the Game Grid, passing herself off as a not-so-simple gaming script. News, gossip, rumors all filtered through the Games like a web browser. Programs let down their firewalls and caution when they were caught up in the passing excitement of a disk match or a lightcycle race.
She heard about the Z-Lots, the corruption sweeping her server, and about "Master User Thorne." That's why she was making her way to the ICP Tower, ostensibly to talk about one of the Spoolerserv ICPs with a penchant for high-energy wagers. What she was really there for was to listen to what was being said out of the Kernel's earshot.
While she was waiting in the Kernel's office, a pair of the hulking brutes brought in a strange script they blamed for the corruption. The prisoner was male-designated and broad-shouldered, but more compact in his limbs than the bulky ICP configurations. His armor had a bizarre configuration; black background with thick circuit lines encasing him from boot to jawline at the front and up to the middle of his head in the back. Despite the extent of covering on his head, he wore no helmet. His spiked hair rendered in a dark shade not found on other Programs.
They strapped him to a decompiler rack – an “interrogation” device that was used more for casual sadism than obtaining useful data. Despite her directive to dispatch threats, Mercury almost felt sorry for the trapped script...almost.
The Kernel's lieutenant pulled out a data roll and unfurled it, reading off the information. “Query Index 224-C. Unauthorized use of resources. Program quarantined in connection to spreading virus. User is unknown.”
The Kernel marched up to his dais and activated the control console. Mercury sighed. She had a pretty good guess on how this would end. The Kernel was a lot of things, but merciful and willing to listen were two things he certainly wasn't.
“State your origin,” the Kernel snarled.
“Look, you're making a big mistake,” the captive argued.
“Mistake?!” The Kernel pounded the console with his fist so hard that even his veteran subordinates jumped back nervously. “Reveal your creation date before I disassemble your code one operation at a time.”
A jolt of power shot through the machine and the prisoner twitched and let out a cry of pain. “I...I was born in 1982.”
Funny, he didn't look like a Z-lot. His circuit lines were a clear blue, like hers. He didn't speak like a Z-lot, either. A creation date of 1982? Hah! A script that old would show it. The Kernel kept up the questioning and the prisoner's answers were, to put it mildly, bizarre.
"You have been accused of spreading a viral agent through the system," said the Kernel gruffly. "What is the intended goal of this sabotage?"
"I'm not responsible for that virus!" he insisted. Mercury had to sniff. Sure, you're not. And that's what all the Trojans like to say...
The Kernel was just as disbelieving as she was. "Enough! Who is your User?"
The unknown script seemed thrown by the question. "I am a User!"
"Blasphemy!" shouted the Kernel. "Regulars, put the prisoner in the Bin. "
"Wait, you can't do this, I'm a User!" The stranger struggled futilely as the Kernel walked away. "Find Ma3a. I'm trying to help her."
That got Mercury's attention. Maybe Alan-1 and Guest sent her some backup after all. Though why in the Void he would try passing himself off as a User? There was only one report in the whole of cyberspace of a User coming to their world, a story so ancient it was reduced to Tower Guardian legend and considered mildly ridiculous. As a creation of Alan-1, she certainly knew the legend, but she was as skeptical as anyone else about it having any truth.
The Kernel wasn't as slow in the processor as many of his subordinates, but he was still single-minded. "Let the log file show, prisoner refused to cooperate and is considered incompatible. Schedule him for immediate de-resolution."
She knew she had to intervene somehow. Users knew she couldn't guard Ma3a alone with the damn virus crowding the sector, and if he was de-rezzed, she would never know this new player's true intention.
Player...that gives me an idea.
"Kernel," she suggested. "Put him on the Grid." All the better for me to watch him if he is telling the truth, and all the better to send him to the Void if he's not.
The Kernel was like many of his troops. The appeal of ironic punishment and an entertaining show was too good to pass up. "The Grid? Interesting proposition."
"I guarantee it'll be a race you won't forget," she said with a wicked smile.
The Kernel waved over one of his more competent flunkies. "Take them to the staging pit."
She saw the stranger look up to the window of the Kernel's office where she had been staying, searching for the one who intervened on his behalf.
Don't thank me yet. If he couldn't handle himself, or was lying about Ma3a, it was just a different kind of de-rez sentence. Mercury didn't much care either way.
He was aching all over, trapped in this video game nightmare, he had no way to contact anyone, still didn't understand why Ma3a did this to him, and had no clue as to where his father was or even if he were still alive.
And I thought the time Sam talked me into breaking and entering the college's server room was the worst day of my life. That ended with a broken foot, a bad case of road rash, and an arrest record. Of course, Sam would never in a zillion years believe this.
The Kernel's forces herded him into a small room where several glum-looking Programs sat on fold-out benches. Some were blue, others lined in green or red. At the far end of the room was what resembled a bank teller, surrounded by a thick forcefield Jet assumed to the the local equivalent of bulletproof glass.
“Newbie, huh?” A green, female Program looked up.
“Yeah,” Jet admitted, accepting the spot she left on the bench by scooting over. “The Kernel sent me down here.”
“You and most of the scripts here. The Game Grid is where you win your freedom or de-rez trying. A few have sadists for Users that send them here as a directive. So, what's your story?”
“The Kernel mistook me for a virus. I tried to tell him, but...”
“Caught in the crossfire? Better than my story. I was the product of a Denial of Service attack. My User wasn't the smartest one on the Grid. Rest of my fellows got nailed by the ICPs as soon as we hit the server.”
“So you're a...” There probably wasn't a polite way to put 'hacking Program' or 'malware.'
“I'm not sorry about it. Name's Bonnie.”
“Oh, hi. Name's Jet.”
“Well, Jet. Wish I could make you feel welcome and all, but it's a short, brutal runtime here. You'll need to get your lightcycle rod from Wolfgang, and then Elmer will show you the grid lines. After that, it's play until you die.”
An announcer voice called out. “Programs Bonnie, Mac, and Zook enter Light Cycle Arena One.”
“Guess that's my call,” Bonnie said. “Victory or crash.”
“Good luck,” Jet said.
Bonnie and three other Programs trudged to the data stream and vanished.
“Hey you,” shouted the Program behind the forcefield that Bonnie identified as “Wolfgang.” “Quit idling and grab your lightcycle rod.”
Jet walked over to the window and picked up the rod. It felt oddly cool in his hands. In the analog world, he would have called it eighteen inches long and made of black ceramic. It seemed to be two pieces fit together, but Jet couldn't tell how – or if- he could separate them.
“Now, data stream's on your left, walk down, make an immediate right. Don't delay. Elmer will handle your training.”
“Elmer” turned out to be a countermeasure Program that used his light-pike as a cane. He was missing a leg and his chest sported gashes that nothing human could survive, looking like hunks of code carved out of his body. From his hovering perch, Elmer glared down at Jet and the other two rookies.
“Listen up, conscripts. You've been sentenced to the Game Grid. Here, you will receive the standard, substandard training necessary to rez up your cycle and not immediately crash into the wall. We want you to at least put up a decent show before you're turned into shattered pixels. Put up a really good show, and you might win your freedom. Fail to follow commands, and you will be subject to immediate de-resolution...”
As the crippled Program went over the rules, Jet was struck with a cold feeling of deja vu. The rules were just like the old Tron game he had been playing before he got zapped, albeit with lethal stakes. In fact, if he dared to think about it...
“Did I ever tell you boys about the Game Grid?”
“Only about a million times,” Sam had said with all the worldly wisdom of six years old.
Jet was trying hard to fend off sleep. No way he was going to admit he was tired . The whole point of a sleepover, especially one at the arcade, was not to sleep. “Tell me about the lightcycle races! That's my favorite part of the story.”
“Well,” Kevin sat down on the floor. “Lightcycle races are the most popular form of entertainment there. The arenas are always packed and everyone cheers on the color of racer they want to win. Now, the bikes themselves are beautiful and really fast. If I drove that fast on my Ducati, I'd have every cop in the county on my tail. And those cycles can't brake, either. They can slow down a little, but not very much. And they leave walls of light in their wake. The trick to winning a cycle race is to trick your opponents into crashing into a wall or into a cycle trail.”
“But that's not how you won it,” Sam said, reciting a story he knew well. “You saw the other guy crash and glitch up the wall, then you got out of there with Ram and Tron.”
“Am I telling the story or you?”
Sam raised an eyebrow in a remarkable imitation of his dad.
“That was just the first race I won,” he said. “And the cycles have upgrades now. The basics are the same, but technology just makes it better. Soon, there'll be 3-D cycle matches. I'm working on those.”
The phone in the next room started ringing. “Aw, crap. I have to get that.” Getting up, Kevin ducked into the next room.
“My dad's just teasing us, you know,” Sam said, lying back on the sofa. “There's no such thing as a world inside the computer.”
“I know,” Jet said with a tired sigh. “But wouldn't be cool if it were true?”
“You're such a dork, Jethro.”
Sam got a face full of pillow as an answer. When Uncle Kevin came in three minutes later, there were two boys jumping on the sofa, two ripped pillows, and feathers everywhere.
“Conscripts, rez up your cycles!”
Jet saw the other two grab the rod with both hands and stretch out, the cycle appearing out of nowhere and speeding off. When the cycle rezzed to life, it clicked - an honest-to-God lightcycle! It was sleek, beautiful, fast, blue, and his.
All of the stories...all these years part of me wanted this to be true... It is true! The delight was almost enough to forget the dangerous circumstances.
Back home, he had a BMW that he sunk about a year's paycheck into, tweaking the engine and the chassis, imagining it as one of these. The one time he actually dared Sam into a dangerous stunt was when they were both just out of high school, the summer before they went their separate ways for college. The race had been transcendent, speeding through the empty back roads in the industrial district, accelerating past sixty, past eighty, past a hundred. The wind flew around him, and he felt like part of it. Despite the speed, time seemed to slow down and he half-imagined he was flying. Sam was trying to gain on him, but Jet had been able to coax just a little extra speed. Twisting over the roads, under overpasses, around bridge pylons, and across railroad tracks, it was freedom, it was indescribable...It landed them both in jail once LAPD caught up to them, but Jet didn't regret it a bit.
This made his BMW feel like a half-dead seventies-model Honda.
Jet saw Crow, the yellow cycle, just off to the side. Crow twisted the cycle and tried to cut him off, but Jet saw it a split second before he fell for the trap. Accelerating to top speed, making a quick turn, doubling back,and riding the thin line between Crow's cycle trail and the wall. He had to time this just right...
Lightcycle trails extended only for a limited distance, shrinking as the rider moved ahead. With barely a pixel to spare, he turned and just missed the retreating edge of Crow's trail. Doubling back, he started to charge Crow head-on.
“I'll take you out, warez.” Just like the stories, the communication radio was meant for team coordination, but usually used for trash talk.
“Not if I take you first.” Jet accelerated and didn't flinch as the gap narrowed – the proverbial game of chicken.
A flash of red crossed his vision, and Jet narrowly avoided crashing into Frog's trail. Crow, however, was not so lucky. With a shriek and a sound like breaking glass, the yellow trail vanished entirely.
The audience started to boo and hiss – either Crow had been the one favored to win, or Frog's tactics were considered bad form.
“Nice one, Program,” Frog jeered.
Jet slowed down to the lowest speed possible and twisted away from Frog's path.
“That's right, run.”
Frog sped up and made a charge to cut Jet off at the pass again. Jet kept his speed low, making twists and turns that looked like he was trying to avoid Frog's trail and attempts to cut him off.
And then he sped up and made a sharp right turn. The audience let out a gasp, then began to cheer.
Frog realized it too late. “What the -?”
What looked like attempts to dodge out of the way were merely a series of feints, an elaborate trap that locked Frog into looping back on his own trail. With a shriek and a sound like a bug zapper, Frog de-rezzed.
“Grid One victory goes to blue racer.”
A transport ring appeared and Jet sped over to it. It dumped him out on the next grid.
The second grid had more walls, and a few speed patches. Red slowed you down and green made you accelerate. He pushed all other thoughts aside and let time dilate. Just like playing a game, just look for the patterns...Fortunately, his opponents were just as interested in killing each other as they were him. Trevor and Bonnie were dogfighting in the center. Sk8 was still off on a far corner.
“Bonnie, that you?”
“Yeah, it's me.”
“How about we team up? Nail these losers.”
Bonnie veered off and Jet made a quick perpendicular turn. Jet matched her speed. Trevor rocketed past them and tried to cut them off. Jet easily avoided the obvious trap, and Bonnie rode between Jet's trail and Trevor's.
“I'm turning and going to give you some space. We rocket ahead and force him into the -”
And then Bonnie pushed a button on her console. A t-shaped spike blocked the road, and Jet was going too fast to avoid it.
“What the -?” in the process, he slammed the control console, activating a button that looked like a shield. He broke through the spike and kept going. “What the hell, Bonnie?”
“Win or go offline,” she said sharply.
The buttons on his console – five of them. Shield, spike, missile, turbo, and a fifth that went unlabeled. The shield button was now dull and useless. Damn – so much for thinking there was anyone here not trying to get him killed.
He rocketed ahead, overtaking Bonnie and Trevor both, heading straight for the wall. Making a sharp turn, he cut them both off and kept going
The wall crept up in his vision - feet away, inches away. Cutting it so close his tires shrieked in protest, he snapped two left turns and was rocketing along the wall. Trevor's shield blasted through his trail, but it wasn't enough to avoid the wall. The explosion and debris from his cycle shot backwards and crashed through Bonnie's windshield.
De-rezzed. Down to him and Sk8. Sk8 was rocketing toward him and Jet saw something firing towards him – missile. Snapping back, Jet made a dodge and let the blast take out a section of his trail. Accelerating, he fired the missile blast and took out a section of wall, creating an obstruction in the trail. Twisting, he headed for the opposite wall, making like he was running.
Sk8 burned through his tricks – turbo to catch him with him on the opposite side of the arena, a wall spike that Jet made a switchback to avoid. Finally, Sk8 engaged the shield. One use to blast through the cycle trail, no good against the wall. Jet was counting on it. If this didn't work, he was toast.
Neck and neck they ran, speeding across the arena. Jet engaged the spike, and Sk8 dodged it, laughing...
Laughing until he reached the debris Jet blasted loose with his missile.
There was a shriek and a crash.
Grid two victory.
But it didn't feel like a victory...just another temporary respite. He was already shaky and breathing hard. How long could he keep this up?
As champion, Mercury was placed in the box seat with the Kernel to watch the elimination matches. Her eyes narrowed as she watched the games.
“He's good,” she muttered.
The Kernel was more skeptical, folding his arms. “Nah, just a lucky turbo junkie.”
“No, he's the real thing. Speed isn't how he wins. Feints and traps, tricking his opponents, that's how he's winning.”
“You sound impressed.”
“I am. Been a while since I had anything other than those two-bit Trojans and kiddie-scripts to take on. What can I say? A girl gets bored.”
“Heh,” the Kernel said. “It was your idea to put him on the Grid.”
“Fine. Grid four, double elimination. Winner takes all. I want to see what he's made of.”
“I'll arrange for it right away.”
She turned on her way out, calling over her shoulder, “Oh, and Kernel? Give my opponents some downtime before sending them in. I want them all at their best.”
After surviving one more round of racing, the portal took him back to the staging pit. Wolfgang doled out flasks of something that was the color of Mountain Dew under a blacklight and tasted...green. He wasn't sure if it was a good idea or not to drink it, but was too thirsty to care and downed the whole thing in two gulps. After that, two guards marched him to a cell.
His "accommodations" were vaguely like one of those capsule hotels he stayed in when he went to a developer's conference in Japan. At the time, he was just out of college and freelancing, so it wasn't like the contracting company was going to pay for a decent hotel anyway. The room was tall enough to stand in and wide enough to fit the bed. Dim light from an unknown source was enough to make out shapes, but not much else.
The aftermath of his adrenaline rush left him bone-weary. Rest would probably be a good idea before being sent out into another round of lightcycles. He'd barely survived that last round. On the downside, the small cubicle with its silence and its thin bunk gave him too much time to think. He felt jittery, unbalanced, his mind running faster than his lightcycle, and just as unable to brake. The glowing patterns on his body flickered like a bug zapper and seemed to buzz faintly like one, too.
He turned the lightcycle rod over in his hands. By now, his brain had caught up with the basics, but even those spun off into more questions. Why him? What was his father and Ma3a really working on? Who was that “Master User” that seemed to be behind the virus? Who wanted to hurt his father, anyway? And did this so-called “digital universe” have anything to do with what happened to Uncle Kevin?
The last item on the list was the most dreadful to think about. Jet still had the toy Solar Sailer on his bookshelf along with his developer's awards, action-figure likenesses of his parents perched on its deck. Those stories always were too fantastic to believe, even if part of him secretly wanted it to be true. Now, Jet had to wonder how much was left out for the sake of six-year-old ears. If his godfather came here in 1989 and met with foul play...
You're next, Jet. It's just a matter of time.
He lay on the bunk and closed his eyes, too exhausted to move but too tense to rest. Breathe in...breathe out...don't think...
He had just succeeded in reaching the not-quite-awake stage when he heard something snap and felt a mild electric shock tingle across his chest.
"Don't move. You will answer my questions, and you will not try to fight back. If you do, the Rod Primitive is a painful way to de-rez, and no one will query too hard about your outcome." The voice sounded like the femme fatale in a bad detective movie processed through a synthesizer.
Jet nodded furiously in agreement.
"Good." The electrical shock sensation abated. "Ma3a has a lot of enemies, especially now. It might not be worth your while to help her."
"Too bad," he hissed. If he was getting killed, might as well be for the truth. "I'm helping her anyway."
"Who really sent you?"
Jet dared to crack open his eyes. It was definitely a woman (or at least a female Program) in the room with him. With the cubicle so small, she was half in bed with him already. All she seemed to be carrying was her lightcycle rod, which she had snapped in two and was using as an improvised shock stick weapon. Her circuit pattern was as elaborate as his was, lit in the same blue-white. Her face seemed more human than most of the Programs he had seen, but her "hair" was the same turquoise as her circuit lines. She seemed deadly and cold, an Amazon made of ice and electricity. Wisely, he decided not to see if first impressions were accurate. Everything here seemed to be trying to kill him.
"Ma3a sent me. I swear," he answered. "I'm here to help her. I've been fighting off the virus, but the ICPs mistook me for the cause when they couldn't identify me."
Those shock sticks came close enough to be painful and Jet bit back a curse. "What do you know about 'Master User Thorne?'" she asked.
"Nothing," Jet answered. "I know of a J.D. Thorne, but he's Encom's security director. I had to help him fix his hard drive last week." Never mind that he was a game developer and not helpdesk. To Thorne, just about everyone was a flunky.
Her eyes narrowed as she looked him over, assessing him in a way he couldn't name before pulling away her lightcycle baton, sealing the sparking halves, and placing it back on her hip. Her hand centered on the thick-lined blue panel on his chest. When her fingers splayed over it, a different kind of shocking sensation spread outward from it. The contact made him gasp as nerve endings from his chest to his fingertips lit with relief, like having a deep tissue massage everywhere at once.
She climbed on top of him, straddling his hips. The position would be indecent on his side of the screen. Leaning in so her face was millimeters from his, she chuckled low. "You don't have any of the virus in you. The ICPs really should have checked for that..."
"What the fuck?" he blurted out. Okay, he normally didn't have to resort to language like that unless the boss came in insisting they shave three weeks off the beta-testing or Sam had another 'great idea.' His heart (or whatever replica he had in this digital body) began to pound. "Look...look. Who are you?"
She became serious, almost apologetic, as she leaned in and cupped his face with one hand while the other gently traced and scraped across circuitry patterns he had previously assumed were a form of identification or merely decorative. More of those indescribable feelings began a slow burn through his body. "I think we're on the same side," she explained. "I want to believe you're here to help. I want to believe you. You must understand, though, how dangerous entrusting permissions to the wrong script can be."
"Yeah, that got me into this mess," he said. What was she doing to him, and why did it feel so good? Without being entirely aware of what he was doing, he reached up and began to mimic her movements, touching the ladder-pattern of lines on her sides, and feeling a ghost of the same sensation in his body. What was happening to him?
"Ma3a needs your help. And you'll need mine," she said, her hands caressing the energy meridians that crossed his body. "Let me give you a chance at surviving the next round..."
It felt good...better than good. Energy was flowing into him and all the tension was flowing out. Electric warmth circulated in his body like blood and breath. It wasn't like the quick and furtive patch routines he had been surviving on, racing through them like checkpoints. It resonated in places he didn't know could feel.
"What are...?" He couldn't even speak coherently.
"You're so tense that you'll burn yourself out. And living on energy patches isn't good for your system in the long-term," she said by way of an explanation, stretching out and putting more of her body into contact with his. "Relax."
Oh, God...the feel of her body against his; every point of contact sent renewed pleasure through his whole being. His rational brain tried to figure out how this even worked – the energy meridians of this digital body transmitting sensation in a similar method to the human nervous system, but somehow amplified a hundredfold. Of course, his rational brain was also screaming that this was entirely, utterly wrong. She could still whip out that rod and kill him after all.
He pushed aside his fear and analysis. Whatever she was doing, it was fucking incredible and just as sane as anything else in this world of half-remembered stories and surreal terror. Greedily, he reached up and raked his hand into the Program's hair, pulling her into a kiss. Now it was her turn to gasp with surprise, and Jet couldn't help feeling a little smug. About time he managed to shock someone here.
"Users..." she breathed, when they broke apart, her eyes like electrified sapphire. "You feel so...different. So..."
Silencing her with another kiss, his free hand was exploring the Byzantine pattern of circuitry on her back, including a short, thick line right between her shoulder blades that almost caused her to jump off the bed when he placed the flat of his palm across it. The pleasure resonated in his chest in a strange, telepathic-style connection, their joined energy in a complete circuit – flowing, looping, no start and no end.
The circuitry on his hands fit the lines on her neck like they were designed for one another. The aura of their joined bodies glowed brightly enough to be blinding, but it wasn't painful like it would be in the analog world. His hips arched up as she pushed down – unable to stop, unable to hold back from the touching, the energy, the life, the release...
The sensation was too much, the feeling too intense. His entire body felt like it was tearing itself apart and reassembling from the sheer power/pleasure/touch. The woman gave a shuddering cry as Jet's own vision went to white-out.
When he regained consciousness several minutes (hours on this universe's clock) later, he felt calmer, more settled. Whether it was the energy he shared with his strange visitor or just being resigned to the realities of the world he found himself in, he didn't know.
And before this, how long had it been since you got laid, Jethro? drawled an inner voice that sounded a little too much like Sam's for his liking.
Okay, so it was this world's idea of sex. With a sentient computer program. And he still had no idea what her name was. Fine. Just one more surreal aspect to the insane situation he found himself in, something to process when –no more allowing for "if" - he got back home.
When he was called, he marched into the data stream and onto the Grid.
The announcer called out for the third and final challenge. "Welcome to the light-cycle racing finals. In this double-elimination match, Jet and Lan are squaring off on one side of the arena, while Mercury and 2-D are on the other side. The winners will meet in the middle..."
Pulling his cycle baton, the light-cycle rezzed into life beneath him. He was ready this time.
He'd survive. He'd find her. They'd find Ma3a and his father. All that stood in the way right now were three light-cycle cars and four arena walls.
On the other side of the arena, Mercury rezzed up her own cycle. She wasn't used to apprehension, but felt it anyway. Her encounter with Jet was supposed to have been a straightforward interrogation, but her curiosity got the better of her. No resource would be spared in protecting Ma3a, not even calculated use of her own shell and energy.
She had been hoping to break down Jet's guard, get him to reveal his true origins. Things just went too far. Worse, he truly didn't feel like an ordinary Program, not even an infiltration script. He burned too brightly, he reacted strangely.
And the kiss...that was part of the legend, the Lost User's final gift.
Cast her to the Void, maybe she really had seduced a User. And if Ma3a had anything to do with this...
2-D thought he was hot stuff, but she had her own mission, like always. Help Ma3a. Defend Ma3a. Destroy all threats to System...
She reached her decision gate. She verified her missile power-up was loaded, but she wasn't about to waste it on 2-D. Gunning her cycle into top speed, she fired for the observation tower, ignoring the shocked announcer.
"Jet, do as I say, and don't ask questions," she said over the com. "Hurry, and make your way to the far side of the grid arena. Escape the arena by using the ramp made of debris. Do it now!"
Doubling back, she made a run for the ramp, sailing up and over the side of the arena wall. No more time for games. She just hoped Jet could follow.
Jet was busy with Lan's attempt to try and force him into a corner that he almost didn't get the message., but he did hear the word “escape” and thought the idea sounded fine by him. Snapping his cycle around, he made a run for the center. Lan, for his part, just kept trying to find a way to gain onm him.
Fine. Jet engaged the spike, forcing Lan to make a sharp right turn while he hit the red patch that slowed his cycle to “merely” highway speeds.
Far side coming up.
Now, he was dealing with both Lan and 2-D on half the arena. This place was a broken mess – Mercury's rampage left obstacle piles everywhere and in random spots, and he still couldn't see the exit.
A nasty bunch of twisted pseudo-metal and stone was dead ahead. Either this was it or a dead end. He gulled it up to full speed, his two opponents trying to follow him in.
“Into the maze? You crack me up, Warez.”
Jet ignored it and concentrated on the road. Left, right, left again. There was a crash behind him as one of his foes met his end. Jet slowed his cycle as the tunnels grew darker and the turns tighter. The whole thing ended at what looked like a steep incline. This was either the way out of the way dead.
He took the risk. Gunning the engine to get maximum leverage on the steep ramp, he sailed upward until it reached the top of the wall and over.
I'm out! Bracing for impact, though, he realized the lightcycle was dissolving right under him. He didn't even have time to swear as he hit the ground so hard the wind was knocked out of him. Luckily, nothing was broken, but he was definitely going to feel that in the morning.
Managing to pick his head up, he saw the strange woman that had...well, that came to his room last night.
She smiled wickedly. “Yes, I am. And you're not half-bad yourself.”
She helped him to his feet and into an alleyway. “You mentioned Ma3a? Well, my User sent me to help her.”
Seeing as Ma3a was his father's project, Jet tried to allow himself some hope. Maybe his father had... “Who is your User?”
She shrugged. “I don't know. Goes by the name of Guest.” Looking around, she gestured for him to follow. “We should get out of here.”
“How did you...” Jet had a lot of questions, certainly, but only one he could voice right now. “How did you know I could hold my own out there?
She chuckled. “I didn't.”
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.