Fanfic: "Through a Diamond Sky" Part 6 of 14
on Monday, March, 05, 2012 2:24 AM
Coming back online was anything but pleasant, but it beat the alternative.
“He's waking up, Kanna.”
“Thank the Creator! Tron, can you hear us? It's Kanna and Herd – from the settlement.”
Tron was still very weak. He coughed, tried to sit up, failed, and grumbled a few hexadecimal strings unfit for mixed company. “Where are we?”
“The prisoner bin for the Resource Hogs,” Herd said. “I...I had to stabilize your energy, Champion. They did something to you.”
“They have decompiler racks – torture devices from the Old System. They've modified their function, but...not the pain they dish out.” He looked around. “Where is Flynn?”
“He was taken elsewhere, I'm afraid,” Kanna said. “The Baron must have realized what he was and...Certainly, the Baron can't hold him. He's the Creator. He can't be -”
“He's powerful, certainly, but not invulnerable,” Tron warned. “Even I don't quite understand his limitations or capabilities.”
Herd and Kanna looked to each other, worried. If the Creator couldn't help them, then who could? Kanna hung her head in sorrow, and Herd grasped her hand.
“You're bundled,” Tron said.
Kanna nodded. “Yes, we are. We came out of the Sea on the same cycle. I had just emerged, looking in awe at the world around me, and when I looked backward, I saw a hand reach up from the Sea.”
“She pulled me from the Sea,” said Herd. “The first sight of my new world was her face and knowing that I wouldn't be alone in this life. Together, we decided our 'directive' would be to explore this world, to see everything in it. That's why we became scouts.”
Again, for all the differences – Program, User, Iso – the similarities were just as striking. He spared a brief thought for Yori as he tried to gather the energy to sit up.
The forcefield lowered and two female-designated guards marched in, grabbing Kanna by the arm. “Your turn on the drainer, Iso scum.”
“No!” Herd said, standing up and twisting the guard's arm, only for the other guard to jolt him painfully with a shock rod.
“If he's so eager, then take him,” the other guard said, rubbing her arm.
“I'll go willingly. Just leave Kanna and Tron alone.”
The guards looked at each other and shrugged. “For now, why not?”
The pair of them started to drag Herd out of the cell. Kanna bolted to her feet, horrified and helpless to stop them.
“Kanna, guard our future. No matter what. You will survive with it. And take care of Tron. He'll need your help, too.”
She squeezed her eyes shut and nodded.
The guards marched Herd out of the prisoner bin and down the long, dark halls.
“Your future?” Tron asked, unsure what the reference meant.
Kanna hung her head, hiding her face in her thick, dark hair.
Okay, Kevin realized. He was facing the final boss, and the Baron laid it out for him like a Saturday Morning cartoon parody.
“Anything's negotiable, Baron. ” he said, adopting the tone of voice he had to use in the boardroom when some shark in a three piece suit thought he was Lee Iacocca.
The Baron took that as a statement of surrender. “The sector then? Everything in it?”
“Ah, but you want something, you have to give something. Why should I give you the keys to the sector? Assuming I really can. You did manage to overpower me, after all.”
“You want your life? You want your pretty world that we Programs can never see? Well, you give me what you want and leave – never come back. I get this system, and you just sod off. Build a new one if you want.”
“You're assuming a lot, Baron,” Kevin said neutrally. His concentration was directed elsewhere, on the coding and assembly of the shock collar. Since it seemed to work by disrupting a Program's power signature, it was just as effective against Users (unfortunately). Undoing the locking mechanism would be easier, but too obvious. He needed to disable it. For that, he needed to keep the Baron talking. “So how did you manage to assemble all this under my nose?”
“Simple,” the Baron said, glad got the chance to monologue. “Recruit from the scripts who want more power. This place is wild, un-formatted, even by you. Spend a few cycles gathering power, building a base of operations, far enough outside the City and its System Guards, but not too far...”
Adding appropriate “uh-huhs” and “I sees” to the otherwise one-sided conversation, Kevin latched onto the structure of the collar's disruptor mechanism. Almost there...
“So, we're armed, and we're ready, and if we have you, then...” The Baron might have shrugged, but with shoulders like that, it was hard to tell. “Well, I don't think you're all that powerful. Little better than an Iso, really.”
“Really?” he said. “Well, Mr. Baron, you're still being very steep in your demands and not giving a lot of reasons for me to follow them. What if I like the system? What if I'm already planning to stay here?”
The Baron scowled, his massive bulk pulling itself out of the chair and staking over. “You're stalling, User.”
“So what if I am? What makes you think I'd leave the sector in your hands? Once I'm out, I could reformat your whole sector. Hell, the whole Grid!”
The Baron pulled Kevin up by the neck. “You could, but you'd kill dozens of your precious Isos. You'd kill Tron. Even the most rudimentary Sector Guard is willing to de-rez himself for the cause, per his directive. However, their directives get a little hazy when the lives of non-combatants are involved. So, where is your directive focused, Flynn?”
Fuck. Programs needed to breathe to keep from overheating, but they could go without air for longer than a User could, and the Baron's grip had cut off his airway! He struggled, tried to think of code, but instinct and fear were taking over. Just as he thought he was going to black out...
A contingent of guards marched in the room with two prisoners, both slumped over. The Baron all but tossed Kevin to the side, where he landed ungracefully to the floor, sucking in sweet air and trying to figure out his next move.
“Two more prisoners.”
The pair of goons blocking his view stepped aside, and if Kevin didn't think his situation was perilous enough, it just got worse. They were holding Clu and Jordan.
Jordan was getting a fast education in the politics, setup, and danger level of the digital world. She also was starting to agree with Kevin about how utterly strange and unexplainable this place was. Not to mention how utterly freaking dangerous. The horrible pounding in her head echoed through the places on her body marked with circuitry.
Her father didn't talk about Korea or World War II, aside from acknowledging he served in both and saw action. Her grandfather didn't talk about either World War. Both of them got looks on their faces when certain questions were posed, looks any military brat knew to mean “shut up and don't bother Daddy.”
She had come in just on the tail end of seeing her husband being choked by this...thing that looked human enough, but wouldn't be able to move in the real world for all his bulk, tossing him aside once the guards came into the room with her and Clu. Clu looked disturbingly like a broken doll – eyes open and completely blank, circuit lines a dull white, slumped over like a puppet with its strings cut.
She glanced at Kevin, who was rubbing his neck, asking silently if he was okay, which he acknowledged with a single nod. Thank goodness he was alive, and relatively fine!
The head of the brute squad handed the Baron their disks. “The female recovered from the suffusion blast sooner than we anticipated, Baron. We can't seem to analyze the disk, either. Her energy pattern almost reads like an Iso's, but she's not marked like one.” To emphasize the point, the guard holding her left arm twisted it so the Baron could look at her bicep.
The Baron put Clu's disk aside. “That, I'll want to keep.” He looked squarely at Jordan. “Well, now. What to do with you? State your directive, Program.”
In the Army, they taught you that, should you become a prisoner of war, the only thing required to give one's questioners was name, rank, service number, and date of birth. Somehow, Jordan doubted that any of those analog-world procedures would work here.
So, she decided on the other course of action – lying through her teeth.
“I am an experimental security Program, assigned as honor guard and assistant to Administrator Clu,” she answered in what she hoped was her best cross of computer and newly-minted Private.
“She's...new to the system Baron. I brought her myself,” Kevin elaborated.
“Experimental?” The Baron said. “Interesting.”
“Well, it's not like I'd leave him without an escort,” Kevin elaborated, gesturing to his unconscious double.
“Not like it did you all any good,” The Baron said. “Tell you what. I'll let you and the pretty one share a cell. Meanwhile, for every full minute you refuse my demand, I drain one of my prisoners to de-rez. One of the Isos first, and then the esteemed Administrator.” He nodded to the guards to take Kevin and Jordan out of the room.
As soon as they left, The Baron turned to his lieutenant. “Melodia, de-rez both the Iso and Clu. That experimental security Program of his will go after them.” He tossed her a control device. “That's for the collars. They make another escape attempt, hit the green button. That'll blow their heads off.”
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.