|Fanfic: "Through a Diamond Sky" Part 10 of 14|
on Monday, March, 05, 2012 3:03 AM
Download in progress...90%
The throne room began to shake and the energizing beam flickered. “Melodia!” shouted The Baron. “What is going on?”
“There's been an override on our power systems. I'm...I'm locked out!”
“Who's locked us out, some of the glitching Isos?”
The door slid open, and a lone figure strode through. Kevin's eyes never left The Baron's, and a suffusion rifle was held at the ready. “This is your last chance, Baron. Stand down.”
“Forget it!” she said. She threw the control rod aside and blasted it, disabling the network of prisoner collars. “I've seen the readouts. He and that 'security Program' we put him with wiped out half of our guards on the second and third levels.”
“Coward! Traitor! He's nothing.”
“And I'm not stupid.” She threw down her suffusion rod and held up her hands. “Not what I signed on for, Baron.”
The Baron sneered and drew a ball of energy into his hand, pitching it at her. She shrieked and ducked...
Only for the ball itself to halt in mid-air and curve slightly before smashing harmlessly into the wall.
“Get out of here!” Kevin said.
Melodia nodded and ran for the door. The Baron made a quick gesture with his hand and fired again. Kevin couldn't react fast enough. She was levitated two meters off the ground, clawing at the air and struggling as if being crushed by an invisible hand.
The Baron's face twisted into a sneer. “You're quite the disappointment, Melodia. All those pretty things I gave you. All that power, and you repay me with this?”
It was obvious he was going to de-rez her, but Kevin was having none of it. Not another death if he could help it – not on his system! He pushed out his own hand and began counting by threes, imagining a giant hand pulling her out of The Baron's grip. The Baron reacted by pushing more energy into his efforts, circuit lines flashing with the effort.
“Let. Her. Go.”
The Baron sneered and pushed harder, tightening his grip. Melodia's circuits started to flicker and a purple blush washed over her – energy drain and threatened de-rez.
Fuck this. He thought of a giant fist smashing it into The Baron's enormous gut. The Baron flinched with the impact, and Melodia was hurled against the wall, slumping to the floor, offline – but alive.
Kevin saw it out the corner of his eyes. The large monitor above the console with the readout. Download in progress...91%
“Missing something, mate?” The Baron taunted, brandishing a pair of disks.
Crap – he should have figured that was the real intent behind getting both him and Clu. Deciding the direct approach was best, he brought up the suffusion gun and started firing. While Programs needed large energy stores to keep firing, Users did not have the same limitation. Unfortunately, the blasts seemed to deflect around the energy field The Baron stood in.
“My directive is power – as much as possible. I assimilate both your disk and the Administrator's. I get the system even without your approval.” The Baron grinned. “'Course, it doesn't seem like much.”
The Baron put both disks in one hand and lifted the other, pulsing rings of green energy surging from the chamber. Kevin hit the deck, but the rings were still powerful enough to give him a mild electric shock. Attacking directly wasn't working, but there was always a way to disable a shield. He looked up and saw his best bet – four glowing nodes circling the top of the chamber. And just like any game, there was a pattern to the rings.
Four...three...two...one. He counted a second pass of the energy pulse to be sure. Four...three...two...one. GO!
He popped up long enough to fire a quick shot, and the first of the nodes shattered. Unfortunately, that just made the whole room shake harder as the power distribution destabilized.
Download in progress...93%
Clu was in the lead, Jordan only a half step behind. The Iso scouts flanked Shaddox, and Tron brought up the rear, watching for any danger that might sneak up behind them.
“Flynn plans to distract the Baron while we evacuate his prisoners,” Clu said. “The most efficient way to deal with this would be to blast it with a few of our Recognizers, but he likes doing things the hard way.”
“Your method would de-rez dozens of innocents, Clu,” Tron scolded. “Sometimes the 'efficient' method isn't the right one.”
As they ran past a view port, a huge shadow passed by.
“What was that?! Kanna asked.
“That, little Iso, would be reinforcements. I told the System Guard before we left that if I wasn't back in five nano-cycles, to send out enough firepower to level a city.”
“We'll have to find a way to contact them, Clu. We don't want the Users caught in the crossfire,” warned Shaddox.
“The I/O node in the disk room was internal-only,” Kanna said. “We'll need one capable of transmitting to an outside channel.”
“Third level,” Jordan said. “Kevin and I passed a communications console on our way to the elevators. It's near the hangars.”
“Any User powers that might help?” Shaddox asked.
“I'm not an expert in computers the way my husband is, but I can somehow 'see' the structure of this complex in my head. Other than that? I can shoot, I can fight, and if it travels on land, I can probably drive it.”
“Let's hope that's the skillset we need,” Herd said.
Download in progress...95%
Trying to stand in here was like trying to walk on a carnival ride. Three nodes were down, and Kevin took aim at the fourth. Unfortunately, he wasn't quite fast enough to dodge the energy pulse, and it knocked into him at full force, knocking him to the ground. His muscles tightened and twitched painfully.
By some bizarre stroke of luck, his hands just clamped tighter around the suffusion gun. The best he could do was fire blindly. He missed the power node by a country mile, but one of his blind shots struck the control console on the far wall.
“You bloody...” The Baron's circuit lines blushed fire-red. At least the pulses stopped, but now The Baron was back to hurling bolts of pure power. His abused body screaming with pain, Kevin managed to dodge the first two, but he knew he couldn't keep it up forever. A quick glance at the smoking console gave him an idea. He made a run for it, keeping his eye on The Baron's hands as he summoned another digital fireball to hurl.
One...sixteen...twenty-seven...sixteen...five! It wasn't the most graceful dodge; falling to the floor was only half-deliberate, but The Baron's anger got the better of him and the console was a smoking ruin.
The shield was still up, but the energy supply was cut and there was no way to recover the download.
“User or not, you'll die for that!” The Baron roared.
Kevin was able to divert The Baron's next blast harmlessly into the closed viewport, causing the shield to shatter and the virtual glass to break., but unless he was able to shatter that last shield generator and then get The Baron to drain much of that energy he'd spent cycles absorbing without getting killed in the process...
Only solutions...He couldn't afford to think of “if.” Not if he wanted to stay alive long enough for Jordan and the others to get out.
The floors were vibrating, the alarms were going off, and the hallways were scarily empty as they all made their way to the hangar. The hangar itself was vast and mostly empty.
“Looks like they took what they could – every Program for himself,” Tron said, looking around the bay.
“Not everything – look!” Herd pointed to the large shadow in the back corner. The Resource Hogs' stolen Recognizer sat, powered-down and abandoned on the farthest end of the bay. “We might be able to use that as a transport to get everyone out of here.”
“The Hogs had the right idea. We can't waste time. Anyone who can escape should do so on their own power. Anyone too slow -”
Tron was about to scold Clu again, but Jordan beat him to it.
“You may look like Kevin, but you aren't much like him. I know him, and I know his priorities. We get everyone we can on that Recognizer and haul ass.”
“You think you can drive one of those?” Clu asked.
Kanna interrupted them. “I've got the channel open, Administrator.”
Clu strode up to the I/O console and made contact with the System Guard. “Recognizer number 314, this is Administrator Clu. Respond.”
Jordan began to have second thoughts when she looked again at the Recognizer. Sure, she had driven almost anything shy of a tank when she was stationed at Fort Sherman, but she had no idea what she just volunteered for. Still, if Kevin couldn't be leading this charge, it was on her.
“What is your next command, User?” Herd asked.
“Herd, you and Kanna grab your people and get everyone aboard that thing. Shaddox, go in with them.”
“All right,” Clu said. “I've told the System Guard to assume formation. They can't get into firing range due to the valley, but they can surround the caldera and block the way out.”
“Then it's time for the three of us to give Kevin some backup,” Jordan said. “Move out!”
After the party split, Kanna started to open an internal channel to signal the evacuation. Midway through the reconfigure, her circuitry flushed bright blue for a moment and she cringed, as if with pain.
“Kanna?” Herd asked. “Are you all right?”
“I think I am...” she said. “But with all the energy I've been expending...”
“Our future? Is it?” Herd dreaded the prospect.
“It's coming...and very soon,” she whispered.
The final shield generator burst into useless voxels, but Kevin was breathing hard, sweating, hurting all over, and not sure how much longer he could hold out. He was powerful here, but certainly not invincible.
Without his protective shield, The Baron no longer needed to stand on his dais. He had expended a great deal of energy, already noticeably thinner than when he started the battle, but still very large and very powerful. His massive bulk moved slowly, but steadily.
Raising one hand, he used his power to pick Kevin up in the air like he had with Melodia earlier, suspending him in an invisible, suffocating grip.
“You may have stopped the download, User, but I still got a touch of your power. I've got all the energy I can absorb from the network here. You are strong, but I am stronger. I will have it all. I will shatter you like an errant bit and display your cast-off voxels to the entire Grid!”
Kevin kicked air, summoning his will and energy to release the grip, but it was like fighting off the love child of Darth Vader and Baron Harkonnen. The suffusion gun clattered away uselessly.
A shot rang out, striking The Baron in the back. It did little more than piss him off further, but the shock caused him to hurl Kevin against the wall. He impacted hard, tasting blood as his ears rang.
Melodia was still crawling across the floor, but she had grabbed her gun. She fired twice more, succeeding only in wounding The Baron as energy leaked from holes in his chest. The Baron turned away from Kevin to deal with his traitorous follower. Melodia was already drained from The Baron's earlier attack, her green circuitry dimming. She wouldn't survive another round.
Battered, bruised, in so much pain he could barely move, and certain it would be the last thing he would ever do, Kevin reached out and willed the Baron to halt, pulling backward with all he had. The enormous Program growled and clawed like a caged bear.
“Melodia, run. I...can't hold him back...for long.”
She staggered to her feet and ran out the door, leaving him alone with the beast. With her gone, Kevin let go, trying to brace himself for a last stand, mentally saying farewell to Jordan and Sam, and hoping they'd understand.
Clu was already looking woozy as the three of them ran back to the elevators. Kanna's message had gone out, so they were running counter to the crowd of former Iso prisoners headed for the hangar bay.
“He's trying to hold off The Baron, but it's not going well,” Clu admitted.
“We'll get there in time,” Tron said firmly, as though no other possibility was to be considered.
They looked at the controls. “First floor is locked,” Clu said. “Needs a control rod or -”
“Or a User override,” Jordan said, putting her hand on the control and forcing down anything but the strange data that seemed to be dumping itself directly into her brain. The elevator lurched upward in fits and bursts, shaking as it did.
They emerged on the top floor. Fortunately, the only thing on that level of any importance was The Baron's throne room. The door opened onto it and Tron's disk flew for The Baron before the doors were fully open. The edge sliced cleanly through The Baron's left arm, midway between elbow and wrist. His severed arm broke apart with a crash as it hit the floor, and the pair of stolen disks with it.
Screaming with pain, The Baron turned to the elevator, incoherently swearing in numeric code as he shambled towards them, sticking out his stump as it sparked energy like a snapped light-cycle rod. Clu made a run for it, dodging the lumbering, wounded Program and scooping up his disk and Kevin's. He fired, and the disk only glanced off The Baron, hitting him straight in the back in what should have been a fatal shot.
“Clu, get Kevin!” Jordan shouted.
Her first three shots nailed The Baron in his chest. Energy leaked out the way blood should have, but it did not seem to phase him. Her fourth shot hit him straight in the head. The effect was like sticking a lit M-80 inside a watermelon, flying pixels everywhere, but the headless body still lurched forward. “The hell?!” she exclaimed.
“He's absorbed so much energy that his shell keeps running long after he should be de-rezzed,” Clu said, snapping Kevin's disk back into place. “He's going to blow!”
“Clu...” Kevin had to be helped to his feet. “Clu, get everyone else out of here...He'll take the whole -” He didn't get a chance to complete that statement. Tron was on one side, Clu was on the other, half-dragging him to the elevator as Jordan used the stun setting to try and keep the headless body staggering back.
“Together, my friend, or not at all,” Tron said firmly.
They reached the lift and Jordan pulled back her gun and sealed the doors. No sooner had they engaged the lift than an explosion rocked the complex. Jordan touched the walls, by now used to the odd sensation of input.
“Good news – no more Baron or top floor. Bad news – this place is going to literally crash around our ears.”
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.