Fanfic: "Through a Diamond Sky" part 8 of 14
on Monday, March, 05, 2012 2:43 AM
Matrix Blaster was the lesser-known “sister” of Space Paranoids. It marked a dramatic departure from the top-down format common to games of the era, featuring primitively-rendered 3-D corridors and a “duck/reload” function. The game also kept track of accuracy and used those scores to dial up or down the game's difficulty as well as offer the chance for cooperative gameplay. Other games had the primitive start of one of two of these features, but Matrix Blaster integrated them all to create far and away the most sophisticated shooter on the market.
The first one hit the arcades the day Jordan Canas's divorce papers were filed. Hip deep in college paperwork, sleeping in someone's garage with little more than the contents of her old footlocker to her name, and getting hassled by her ex-husband's lawyer, she desperately needed a goddamn rifle range. She lost track of how many quarters she poured into the machine at the laundromat and really didn't care. When her usual machine was broken and she was desperate for her fix (finals week, and the ex had just shacked up with another floozy), she walked into an arcade named Flynn's with a mission, plunked in a quarter and got the top score, leaving a half-dozen slack-jawed bystanders.
She didn't know at the time whose score she beat.
Rifle in hand, stalking down the featureless corridors, Jordan steeled herself. All or nothing, one life, no continues, and a horde of very real enemies with live ammo.
Shots whizzed past her. Blanking out all thoughts other than the task at hand, she fired back, her targets shattered into piles of gleaming and dying cubes with every hit. She didn't dare spare a glance over to Kevin. If she did, it might distract her from what she needed to do, which was clear the area and get the hell out of there.
When the guards came back to Tron and Kanna's cell, they saw her with her back to them, her body partly hiding their view of the Grid's champion as if in mourning.
The larger of the two grabbed her violently. “Come on, Iso. Your turn.”
As soon as she was on her feet, her foot slammed into the circuit line on the guard's foot, and her elbow slammed into the guy's gut. His partner tried to pull her off him.
Ignoring the very awake and pissed-off security Program who was on his feet. He may not have been at full strength, but he didn't need to be. He fought his way through many of Sark's thugs on less power.
With User-kind, there are many issues and philosophical debates over the taking of lives and under what circumstances it is acceptable. There are debates about violence, acceptable and excessive force, and the rules of war. To Tron, there is little philosophy and no debate. They are threat - threat to him, threat to System, threat to Iso, threat to User. Where a User or Iso has a picosecond's hesitation before delivering lethal force, he does not. His directive – defend the System from threat - is as much part of him as shell and spark. During combat, all matters unrelated to directive are forgotten.
The one behind him, he knocked backward with a spinning kick, followed by a vicious flurry of blows to the one at his front, trapping him against the wall and giving no quarter. It was over quickly as Tron smashed his fist into the other Program's throat with full force, shattering him like glass. He turned to face the other opponent only to hear the sound of a suffusion gun.
Kanna held the gun at firing position with the other guard reduced to fading voxels on the floor. She searched among the flickering pile for what she needed. “I've got his control rod and permissions,” she said, handing it to Tron. “Looks like we can open every cell on this floor.”
“Good..” He nodded to the suffusion rifle. “Do not hesitate to use that if we are under attack.”
Kanna nodded. “I understand.”
“We'll get Herd out,” he said. “First, however, we free the rest of your people and find out where they've taken our disks.”
The Baron himself was waiting for them, watching them from his throne room overlooking the torture chamber. There were only two racks in this particular one, no doubt one of several that surrounded the throne room. His eyes centered on Clu's, and he grinned greedily, holding up two disks, nearly-identical, right down to the pair of faces on the identity display.
“Seems there'll be an opening for a new Administrator soon,” The Baron said. “The User's not complying, so I'll burn them all and make him watch until he begs.”
“He'll never surrender to you, Baron,” Clu said.
“And how would you know, hm? Do you really know your User as well as you think you do?”
“I know because as soon as I'm free, I'll de-rez you myself,” Clu said defiantly. “And compared to Flynn, I can be downright patient.”
“A lot of bold talk for a script about to become obsolete. Guards!” The Baron said.
As soon as Clu got a look at those racks, something deep and profoundly terrifying jolted through every circuit on his shell. Something in him knew about these, and not just from the junk data of his creator's memories. That part knew the pain, the feeling of being dissolved pixel by pixel. He was so struck by the terror that all his bravado drained right out of him.
“Start with the Administrator first – bleed 'em dry!”
Clu struggled, he twisted and thrashed wildly in the Hogs' grips, cursing at them in hex code, ASCII, and even a few of Kevin Flynn's more colorful User expressions.
In the end, it didn't matter. They chained him on the rack next to the Iso. Herd was stoically looking into the distance as though he could see the Void. “Don't act so glitching brave, Iso. This will break you, too.”
“I know, but I'll do this for Kanna. I'll do this for our future,” Herd said.
Clu didn't get the time to snarl a snappy remark because that's when the switch was thrown and the world dissolved into indescribable agony.
Racing down the halls, Tron and Kanna opened cell doors and shouted to the trapped Isos to free their fellows or carry those who could not stand. Resource Hogs who tried to challenge them fell to Kanna's gun or Tron's prodigious fighting programming, or fled in terror at the sight of overwhelming number of their former prisoners.
The Isos were not programmed with the directive to defend, but they picked up techniques and ideas with alarming swiftness, grabbing hunks of stone, fallen weapons, and improvising crude rods and cudgels from junk debris. As they did, the fight moved from the prisoner bin on the fourth level and spilled out into the third floor with their training arenas and storage bays. The third level was also where the Hogs had their recreation areas and quarters. Many were caught off-guard as the riot took them by surprise.
Alarms sounded, lights flashed, the whole complex had degraded into chaos. One of the Isos, a smallish male with cobalt-blue hair used the opportunity to access a map.
“Tron, Neric has found our disks!”
He jogged over to the terminal. “Good. Where are they?”
Neric looked up. “It's on the floor above. The Baron has a trophy room, full of traps. It's also...” He shuddered. “You will have to bypass the drainer racks.”
“That's where they have taken Herd, then!”
“Kanna, please be careful,” Neric asked. “We can secure this level and the way out, but we don't have enough people to do that and go up there to take on the Baron directly. One or two can go up and disable the traps while another group grabs our disks.”
“You'll come with me, Kanna?”
She nodded. “Until the end, Champion.”
“Kanna, you needn't use my title, especially given the circumstances.”
She looked a little stunned to hear that, but it seemed Iso nature to adapt with an alacrity that put even Users to shame. Kanna readied her light-gun. “Lead the way, Tron. I will follow.”
On the other side of the third level, the scattered Hogs seemed to be running right into the path of Kevin and Jordan's shots. Instead of attacking in groups, they ran and fired erratically, making it hard to predict enemy movement or return fire. It also made it hard to dodge.
“Jordan, over on the far end – make a run for the lift. I'll be right behind you!”
She didn't need to be told a second time. Laying down cover fire, she made a break for the lift and jammed the button, starting the short but agonizing wait for the doors.
Kevin was running fast to try and catch up, not laying down fire, just running. As soon as he got to the door, he spun around. “Keep covering me.”
He bowed his head and touched the wall. Jordan saw him muttering what looked like some incantation, but clearly heard, “One, three, five, seven...”
The shockwave of light was so bright it would have blinded her on the other side. A wall of white light cut off the hallway in front of them, and the one to the right, leaving only a single point to defend.
“Keep firing. I'll need to concentrate.”
Nice trick. Wonder if I could learn that one, she thought as she shot down two more Hogs before the lift doors opened. She all but pulled him into the lift, the doors sealing shut behind them.
As the lift began to move, Kevin's legs buckled out from under him and he dropped to the floor with a groan. Dropping by his side, she turned him over to check for injury. His face was ashen, and he was clutching his chest.
“Kevin? Kevin, are you injured? Can you hear me?”
“Jordan...it's Clu. He's dying.”
Jordan remembered what happened when she was on the Game Grid with Clu, and Clu's mentioning of a “neural link.” “What...Kevin, if one of you dies...?”
He didn't have to say anything – just nod.
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.