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Fic: "What They Needed" 4/5

on Tuesday, January, 03, 2012 4:25 AM
Part 4 – All that Is Visible

When she pulled him away from the sea's edge, she feared that he would de-rez at any moment and leave her alone again. Grieving for him once was horrible, but to grieve a second time after learning the truth?

She put the staff back on her belt and pulled out the baton. Capable of manifesting any one of many vehicles on the Grid, none of them would be exactly right for the purpose. Fortunately, she was designed to tweak existing objects and simulations.

It was almost like that first day and the I/O Tower, creating transport. She ended up with a hybrid – light-cycle cabin in front and a flat bed in the back. Quickly checking her surroundings to make sure no one else could see them, she dragged his inert body into the back of the vehicle. The last thing she wanted to do was fight off one of Clu's followers or some Program who wouldn't understand why she was trying to save "Rinzler."

The embittered fighter in her would have thought it best that he de-rezzed. It was more likely than not that there wasn't anything left of the Program he was after so long. He had been Rinzler longer than he'd been Tron, enemy longer than guardian. Maybe he would wake up and de-rez her for her foolishness. It would serve her right and be a fitting end to hundreds of cycles spent in forlorn effort.

One look at his face, relatively unscarred, but twisted with pain, destroyed that notion quickly. She lost track of how many cycles she spent grieving, how many System Guards she fought in his memory, how often she stopped caring if she lived through a mission or not because she hoped de-rez would mean that she'd see him again in the void. If their positions were reversed...

No, not "if" - "when." It had been a very long time since their struggle against Master Control, but she remembered those dark cycles. Master Control deemed her too "useful" to be de-rezzed, so Sark's drones drained her of life and power until she could only carry out orders mindlessly, speaking in monotone numeric code. Then he came for her, reached out, and pulled her back.

Abandoning him was not an option.

The tower itself had a small power pool in its basement, one of the few things that still was untainted here. She got as far as she could with her vehicle, but still had to drag him an agonizingly long way down the ramp. The disturbing way he was flickering overclocked her into near-panic.

"Hold on just a little longer, please."

Her circuits were screaming with pain by the time they reached the edge of the pool. Yanking one of the disks from his back, she examined it and scowled at the orange coloring. Worse was all the disgusting input that she got from it.

One did not work as Flynn's right-hand woman for a few hundred cycles and not learn a few things about re-purposing, re-programming, and re-shaping. She saw bits of the twisted code, the overrides and hideous corruption, and barely kept herself from screaming. To use one of Flynn's words, she was pissed. A very tempting fantasy ran through her processors about skewering Clu on her lightstaff.

Tron's labored breathing snapped her out of it. He still hovered between function and de-rez as if uncertain about what path to take.

Users...
Ironically for a Guardian, she had long lost her faith in them – especially Kevin Flynn.

She could do precious little to correct the incredible glitches holding together Tron's code. It was done over hundreds of cycles, torn down, rebuilt in a hurry, held together with just enough patching to keep it operational.

"How are you even functional at all?" she murmured in wonder.

Putting the disk aside for now, she tore off a piece of her ragged Guardian robes and soaked it in the pool, the indigo scrap glowing faintly. He was cut in several places, bleeding out data. She had to know just how bad the damage was. She sighed and de-rezzed his gridsuit.

At one time, she had known his body as well as she knew her own – every sensitive circuit line, every curve of rendered muscle. His face had little damage, probably because the helmet was needed to maintain the illusion that the Grid's champion was de-rezzed. The rest of him was less fortunate. Like his code disk, he was covered in scarring, evidence of wounds suffered, then patched up hastily so he could be sent out on another "mission." Yori hadn't thought it possible to hate Clu any more than she already did.

Focus on the now. She reminded herself. Focus on him.
His head in her lap, shoulders propped up on her legs, she trailed the cloth over his wounds. His circuit lines were still faint, but they were at least a clear blue-white now. Just when she had begun to think that he was completely offline, she felt him stir.

"Shhh. You're safe. Tron, you're safe," she assured him, dropping the cloth and assuring him with her words and touch. "It's just me – it's Yori. I won't hurt you. I can't hurt you..."

He probably didn't have enough power to process her words, but she kept speaking anyway. She spoke about the Tower, about how she had spent so long alone that she thought she would blue-screen from the isolation. As her words poured out, so did all the things she forced herself not to feel for so long.

"I thought you were gone. I've tried so hard to carry on the fight. I've tried to rebuild, and I've tried..." Her voice caught. "If I'd known, then I would have done anything to bring you back."

Her eyes were blurry now, stinging with tears. It was one of those mysteries that even baffled Flynn – how Programs could cry. She blinked, and they started falling uncontrollably. She grasped his limp hand in hers and hoped, willing him back to life.

He gave off a strange whirring as he breathed, but when her hand clasped around his, the whirring faded out and his lines flickered white.

"That's it," she said. "Keep breathing."

Yori leaned forward and lightly kissed his broad forehead, traced his square jaw with her fingers, willing him not to fade.

"I never stopped loving you. I kept fighting when you couldn't, but...but I've been alone so long. I can't keep fighting alone." Tears struck their joined hands, wetting the space between their fingers. The thin filigree of circuitry on his fingers began to glow a steady, bright white.

If he heard her, he gave no sign. His lines were stronger, but the rest of him seemed to be fading. Yori felt a chill down to her source code. She had begged him to stay, but it wasn't enough.

Whispering an incantation that she had turned her back on so long ago, she looked up to the digital sky and invoked a power she had long dismissed as uncaring, ignorant, or both.

"All that is visible," she whispered. "Must grow and extend itself into the realm of the invisible..."

She had no idea if the Users could hear her or not. She just knew that, for both their sakes, she had to try.

Throwing back her head, she gasped and pulled energy from the deepest part of herself, pouring it into him. It was a desperate move on the part of a Program, but if it de-rezzed them both, so be it.

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.
 
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