|Fanfic: "Through a Diamond Sky" part 9 of 14|
on Monday, March, 05, 2012 2:49 AM
Kanna was only a half-step behind Tron when they emerged from the elevator. The gang, never more than a group of thugs united by a thirst for energy, could not make an organized counterattack, sometimes fighting each other in the hallways or fleeing like startled bits in the face of a Recognizer.
As the suffusion gun ran directly off one's energy supply, Kanna had to be careful with her shots. Somehow, she had a greater energy reserve than she really should have. By now, the effort of firing the gun should have tired her out. She told herself that her fear for Herd drove her, forcing her to reach even deeper within for the strength she needed. Yet, she knew it wasn't entirely true.
The floor seemed to vibrate as they charged ahead, heading to where the disk storage room.
“There!” Kanna shouted, pointing to a large room with clear walls stacked high with libraries of disks. She took one step forward and the floor shook again. It was only by the grace of Tron's inhuman reaction time that she did not pitch forward in to the gaping pit of energy and certain de-rez below.
He pulled her back by the wrist. “The energy bridge must have a sensor on it. Without the right permissions, it deactivates.”
“How do we get across? I don't even see a way to - .”
A barrage of shots rang out, and Tron barely managed to dodge them pulling Kanna out of the way, ducking into a narrow alcove behind a stack of data blocks.
Tron looked up and saw the source of the attack – Finder drones. These were simple utilities, tube-shaped and the size of a Program's leg. They were often deployed in secure archives or in restricted sectors. Some of them were used as trainers on the Game Grid, integrated into obstacle courses. If someone without authorization walked into a room with a Finder, the slightest movement would trigger it, sending out debilitating and potentially lethal energy shocks.
The Baron had a half-dozen crisscrossing the gap. Out of habit, Tron reached backwards to draw his absent disk.
“Kanna, stay perfectly still,” he warned. “Your future depends on it.”
Tron analyzed the Finders' patrol pattern. He would have to time this flawlessly, or he would fall to his destruction.
Three...For the Isos.
Two...For the Programs.
One! For the Users!
Racing out from his hiding place, he focused his remaining energy on his speed and agility. Diving and dodging between blasts, he scrambled up the data blocks like a makeshift staircase, stepped backwards to the edge, and made a running leap.
His hands clasped around the Finder that passed by. Swinging his body, he used the momentum to vault on top of the drone. A picosecond later and he would have been struck on both sides by incoming fire. The finder itself was barely large enough to balance both feet, but he waited, balanced, and jumped, grasping the second, repeating the sequence.
The third flew lower. He sprang off, did a flip in the air, hit the fourth with both hands and used it like a trapeze to swing to the fifth, crossfire passing over his stomach and under the small of his back.
He crouched as much as he dared on the fifth, the movement causing the third and sixth to lock on his position. He made one more leap just as the two Finders vaporized the one he stood on. He grasped onto the sixth and let it carry him over the gap, dropping down by the bridge controls. He slammed the panel, shorting it out, and the bridge was forced into the on position.
She ran at full speed across the bridge, running the gauntlet of blaster fire as she and Tron accessed the disk room.
“There must be a hundred of them here!” Kanna said with dismay.
Tron walked up to a disk on the far wall, and pulled it down, caressing it like the old friend it was. “Maybe so, but I'd recognize my own anywhere.”
By the time they reached the second floor, Kevin's condition had deteriorated significantly, and he was leaning on her.
“Jordan...over there.” His voice and breathing were distressingly ragged as he pointed to the doorway of what looked to be a storage closet.
She pulled him inside, and he waved his hand, sealing the door.
“Kevin, you've got to -”
He pulled away from her and slid to the floor, sitting against the wall. “He's not far..”
“Neural link. What were you thinking?!” she blurted out.
“It wasn't intentional ...just is. A lot of things here...are like that.”
A piece of a User's soul is given to their Programs, bringing them to life...We're still not sure if it's something unique to the two of us...I've got part of his life in me and he's got part of my life with him. That was how Clu phrased it. Okay. More philosophy than she was comfortable with, but there wasn't much choice but to accept “what is.”
“Kevin, I'm not a programmer. I can't rewrite reality like you can. Give me an office building to plan or a rifle to shoot – those I understand.”
“You are still a User, Jordan. Remember that. The Baron doesn't know what you are, either.”
The only chance she had of saving her husband was to save Clu, and since Kevin was in no shape to keep fighting...”Stay here. Do whatever you can with those magic tricks of yours, but stay safe. I'm going after Clu.”
She gave him a quick kiss on the forehead, readied her rifle and charged.
Things were not going well for The Baron. His forces were in disarray, the User was loose, the Iso prisoners were rioting. Alarms screamed and warning lights flashed. He still had one last subroutine to run, however. His throne folded away into the floor, he stood on the dais where it once stood.
“Melodia,” he said to his lieutenant. “Turn the input to maximum. I need power – as much as I can absorb.”
“What do you plan, Baron?”
He pulled two disks from his back – identity displays with identical faces. “Since Flynn and Clu will not comply, I will simply download their functions instead. Why serve the Users when you can become greater than one?”
Melodia looked vaguely sick at the notion, her green lines blushing bright purple fear for a picosecond. “Baron...this isn't -”
“Silence, or you'll be next on those racks!”
“Y...Yes...Baron.” She didn't see a way out, and the Baron had no plans to stop and every plan to kill her for non-compliance. Engaging the transfer and the Baron pulled his disk, sandwiching it between the two stolen ones as the light engulfed him. He hefted it to the vaulted ceiling, awaiting both the power and the upgrade.
It may have been his plan of last resort, but if it worked, he would truly be unstoppable.
Download in progress...1%
Download in progress...2%
With his disk back in hand, Tron felt fully back online. The Finders were destroyed in nanoseconds as he dodged their fire and smashed them with well-aimed throws.
Kanna had found the controls to an internal communications system and broadcast through the network. “Attention, everyone! The disk room has been breached. Repeat: the disk room has been breached! Everyone, grab your disks.”
She ended the dispatch as soon as Tron came back into the room and quickly found Herd's disk hanging amid the rows of Iso prisoners. As she did, she also saw Tron taking down two more disks. Strapping his own to his back, he brought up the identity displays.
“Okay, Got Shaddox's disk, but what is hers doing here?”
“There's a second User here, and it looks like she's either a captive or...”
“A second User?” Kanna wasn't sure she heard that right.
“She's Flynn's counterpart. Hopefully, she's causing them trouble.” Tron glanced at Shaddox's disk in his left hand and saw it was flickering ominously. “Come on!”
A decompiler rack was normally a swift end, but a very painful one. These corrupted modifications were anything but swift, but matched their Old System counterparts in for pain,. Two technicians in the room worked the enormous control console. The room itself was semi-circular with a door on each side.
The three prisoners on the wall were flickering from white to deep purple, weakening with each Nano as the energy bled from them , flowing into the tubes in the floor and up to The Baron's dais. The viewport was sealed closed because of the download in progress.
As if on queue, both of those doors opened. A suffusion blast rang out and struck one as a disk cut the air and slicked the other through his chest. Both shattered into pieces and dissolved away.
Seeing the shooter, Tron brought up Shaddox's disk and pulled back his hand, but before he could fire...
“Tron, hold your fire!”
“Stop the drainer! Hurry!”
He did not need to be told again – User or not. Tron ran over and yanked a lever. The drain halted, but the three figures did not move. All of them looked unhealthily grey, circuit lines flickering a sickly purple.
“Herd!” Kanna ran up to her counterpart, cupping his face in her hands. “Herd, please! Can you hear me? Wake up.”
Tron grabbed her shoulder. “It's too late. We got here too late...”
She turned around and rushed for the control panel on the other side of the room. “Maybe not.”
Everything about the panel looked like some kind of game controller, and Jordan wasn't even sure where to begin. Damn it! The most promising of the lot looked like some kind of Tower of Hanoi puzzle, and the display read Power Distribution.
She started to work the dials and saw how the power rings flipped between nodes. Tron ran up to her. “What are you doing?”
“This looks like a puzzle Kevin keeps on his desk. I think it controls the energy flow,” she said, pointing to the panels. “If I can get all these rings onto the opposite node, it might change these things from drainers to chargers.”
“A beam of energy can always be diverted...” Tron said, as though he heard it from somewhere. “All right, give it a shot. In the meantime, this is yours.”
He snapped her disk back into place and a bizarre feeling swept over her. Flashes of information, knowledge, and patterns played across her eyes. She could see the building's layout, the network of power grids beneath her feet shooting throughout the complex. The control panel's dials and panels suddenly made perfect sense.
Surreal, yes. Useful – definitely!
“It's working!” Kanna said. She ran over to the other control panel, and helped work the controls she couldn't reach. “Diverting power now!”
The last of the rings fell into place on the opposite node. The room began to shake and the draining racks glowed a hard green.
Once the pain started, he had blacked out, retreating into himself. Pain, he had endured before. The Grid was dangerous and his “magnificent” creator was away from the Grid more than he was on it. He shut down from the terror, the memory in his spark that was and was not from him.
In the darkness, he pretended not to hear it.
The voice was a little more firmer. Clu...respond.
Nope. He was offline and staying that way. Better than coming back and finding himself still on the decompiler rack, being ripped apart a pixel at a time.
He had a feeling of being grabbed by the shoulders and an insistent pull. Clu, this is an order, not a request. Respond!
He came back online with a gasp. “Flynn?”
Yeah, pal. It's me – your User, remember?
“They've got me on this decompiler rack, and it's taking me apart a piece at a time! You are not forcing me to -”
Clu, listen to me. You are not going to die. We're too good looking to die, okay? Now, wake up. I'll need your help. Here's the rest of the plan...
Steeling himself, Clu cracked open his eyes...
There was someone standing in front of him, touching his face and chest as if examining him for wounds. It took what remained of his dimming energy to focus his eyes. He could make out blonde hair and an athletic, hourglass figure. She felt his arms, looking for a release mechanism for his bonds. “Hold on, Clu.”
Clu found himself thinking that if his input was glitching, he could do much worse than imagining a gorgeous female-designated touching his circuit lines. His self-diagnostics, though, told a different story. His optics focused, and he recognized her. “Jordan? I'm alive?”
He was cut down, and all but fell into the arms of his rescuer. Still a little delirious from coming back from the edge of de-rez, he grabbed Jordan and pulled her into a kiss.
Jordan was too stunned to respond as her brain locked up and did a good imitation of the Space Paranoids kill screen.
Her husband's Program was kissing her, capping off the convoy of completely batshit things she had seen and done since getting hit with Kevin's illegal science project. She wanted to shove him away, but her her brain was not sending the necessary signals to her arms.
Tron fortunately intervened by grabbing his colleague and pulling him away by the shoulder. “For crying out loud, Clu! She's a User. Show some respect!”
Up until that point, Jordan really hadn't seen the resemblance between Tron and Alan, but the look of extreme annoyance and offended dignity on Tron's face was just the proverbial last straw. She cracked up laughing.
“Is she broken?” Kanna asked timidly.
“I'd say so,” remarked Shaddox.
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.