Fic: What They Needed 3/5
on Tuesday, January, 03, 2012 4:20 AM
Part 3 - Purgatory
The first sensation he was aware of was that of touch. The cold of the poisoned sea was gone, and he felt this heavy, inert sensation over his entire body. Unable to move or otherwise respond, Tron half-wondered if this nothingness was the void that Programs dreaded.
Though he was a Program of great faith, that faith had been shaped by unfortunate fact. There was no unity or organization among Userkind, especially on the Grid; just a single, flawed User who made a world, then left a monster to govern it. There were no answers to his silent cries – only Clu's laughter and Clu's orders, and the liberties of pleasure and pain blurred into irrelevance.
Clu had bound him to the re-purposing rack. A good performance at the games always made Clu excited and ready for a little game of his own. Rinzler was the Program all feared – and Rinzler feared Clu.
"Ten Programs in row. You always were great."
The pain would come, it always did. Clu smacked the baton against his palm. Through that link, Rinzler could feel Clu's impatience and anger. "But you hesitated, Rinzler. The little compound interest Program with the big eyes. You hesitated."
The baton jabbed into the base of Rinzler's spine and the power jolt traveled across his body painfully. Rinzler tried not to scream. Clu did not like screaming.
"Hesitate..." His speech processors were minimal at best, reduced to echoing words, especially the words of Clu. He did not require speech. It was an imperfection.
"I tell you to make it good for the crowds. Let them cheer, let them channel their anger and hate for their fellow Programs into you. It keeps them divided, keeps them from challenging me, especially since I can't blame the Grid's decay on the Isos anymore."
"Hate..." The small, imperfect part of him spat out the word. That part hated Clu, hated the Games, hated Rinzler. That part needed to be rectified.
Clu's hands were a mockery of gentle as the all-concealing helmet and gridsuit de-rezzed, leaving him exposed and vulnerable. This was necessary. Clu would not have done it if it were not. Clu was perfect and he was not.
Clu's fist smashed into the side of his cheek. It always began that way. Clu would use the baton, his hands, his feet. He would rip out the twin disks and painfully re-construct Rinzler's faulty code.
And when it was all over, Rinzler would collapse to the floor, leaking data from wounds not sustained in the ring, the treasonous glitches burned out of his circuits and that imperfection silenced until next time. Clu would eventually send a patch Program to undo the wounds, restoring his armor and helmet. Afterward, Clu would say nothing, and act like it never happened.
He had a designation because Clu willed it. He had function because Clu willed it. He was only an extension of his masters' will from his body to his source code. And someday, he would be perfect.
The memory of hands on his body made Tron shudder. He did not want to awake to another session with Clu, especially not now after he had recovered some shards of his original programming. He didn't want to forget that he had been something other than Clu's favorite weapon.
In the silence and darkness, he waited for the void, waited for the dissolving of his code into the nothingness he deserved, never to be re-used or returned. No User could forgive him for trying to kill one of their kind and no Program would forgive him for the casual atrocities he performed as Clu's slave.
Instead of the nothingness he wished, he could feel the sensation of hands cupping his face and a faint trickle of power. One of those phantom hands stayed on his jaw while the other drifted toward his chest, tracing a long-obsolete circuit line.
With a gasping, whirring breath, Tron made the horrible realization that he had not de-rezzed at all. He was helpless again, unable to move, unable to fight. Other sensations followed – coldness on his lower back. He wasn't wearing his gridsuit or armor.
Tron thought he heard something, but his audio processors weren't online, and it just sounded like so much distorted garbage. Trying to will himself to move didn't seem to work. His shoulders were slightly elevated and resting on something, but he didn't know what.
The hands just went to his shoulders, trying to hold him, trying to keep him pinned. He tried to struggle and fight back, but he didn't have enough power! His processes flared with terror at being completely at the mercy of this unknown captor. Exhausting what little strength he had, he went limp with a strangled whirr. The same audio, light and soft, assured him with words he could not understand...
But it had been so long since there were hands on him that did not involve a fight to the death or one of Clu's brutal "corrections." Tron wanted to brace himself for the inevitable pain, yet resigned himself to the knowledge he would not have the strength to do so.
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.