|Fanfic: "Through a Diamond Sky" Part 11 of 14|
on Monday, March, 05, 2012 3:08 AM
The Isos were good at organizing and efficient about moving in a unit. Trying to run was almost impossible without stumbling, but they all moved as fast as they dared. Herd volunteered to lead the evacuation, leaving Kanna and Shaddox to secure the hangar. Waves of black gridsuits and unique patterns of white lines streaked by. Maya and Torin themselves brought up the rear.
“That's the last of us accounted for,” Torin said. “We've lost twenty lives to the Hogs that we know of, and the number is likely to increase.”
“We mourn our lost and fight for the living, then,” Maya said. “Herd, there are eighty-nine of us, not counting Kanna and yourself...”
“Five more, Maya. A Basic named Shaddox, Administrator Clu, Tron, Creator Flynn and...” He had to take a breath, still not quite believing it if he hadn't seen her himself. “Flynn's counterpart.”
“A second User?” Maya was astounded.
Herd nodded. “Radia's prophesies and Ophelia’s calculations worked.”
“And how do you plan to get us all out?” Torin asked. “Make off with the Recognizer they stole?”
The floor around them was already shaking, but it lurched ominously, support beams de-rezzing and the ceiling collapsing in right behind them.
The lift opened on the third level, and they all stumbled out. Tron was the only one who seemed able to keep his feet and run, despite the earthquake conditions. The rest of the party had to settle for bracing themselves against the wall every few nanoseconds.
“Explain to me,” Clu grumbled. “Why we take out the boss and this place decides to go into cascade failure?”
“This place was so shoddily put together that it may as well have been made of cardboard.” Jordan answered. “That, and he was sucking up so much power to fight off Kevin that he overloaded the power network.”
Kevin was still a little unsteady, but had recovered from “exhausted, banged up, and wind knocked out of him” to “able to stagger and sorely needing a few Tylenol.” He was bracing himself against the wall and trying not to fall behind much. “I burned up a lot of power fighting the guy off. It'll be a while before I can manage anything impressive.”
“Like getting us to the escape point?” Tron said, gesturing to a collapsed hallway.
“Crap. And no way around. Jordan, your gun. Hand it over. We'll use that to blow a path – provided it doesn't blow us all to hell first.”
Jordan found it a little hard to part with her weapon. Still...”Let's hope we don't run into trouble.”
With a little concentration, Kevin reconfigured the internal power supply to overload. “Hit the deck!” Pitching the suffusion gun as hard as he could manage, it lodged in the center of the rubble and let off a deafening explosion, opening enough of a path for them to cross through in single file.
Finally, they reached the hangars and the massed crowd of Isos, who parted like a vast sea for the Users and their elite Programs. Kanna stood by the Recognizer's sealed boarding hatch. “Thank goodness you're here! They've locked down the Recognizer and none of us can get around the permission requirement.”
“I can get around it,” said a female voice as she ran into the room. Melodia no longer had her bright rainbow hair, and her circuit lines barely had a trace of green on them. Her suffusion gun was strapped to her back, and she was clearly drained as she wove her way through the Iso crowd.
With the place literally exploding around them, no one was going to waste time arguing or trying to hold her back. Melodia made her way to the front and put her hand on the Recognizer's controls, opening the hatch as the boarding ramp rezzed into being. “Hurry!”
The Isos ran aboard in twos and threes, hurried along by the pair of Users, Clu, and Tron. The explosions were coming in greater frequency, and part of the roof collapsed, forcing Tron to race over and pull one of the survivors out of the debris field. Unfortunately, three others were not so lucky.
Kanna was among those coming aboard, and she looked visibly ill, her circuit lines flashing and her face pale. Herd's hand was on her back as they made their way into the cargo bay.
Tron made a quick sweep of the bay before coming back. “That's all the survivors – come on!”
Clu and Jordan ran up first, but Kevin stopped to grab Melodia's wrist. “You're coming, too.”
Melodia shook her head as though she didn't quite understand what Kevin was saying, but she decided to obey. The three of them were the last to get aboard the Recognizer.
Jordan was already at the control grip with Clu when the three of them arrived. “I take it this is like the economy-size version of Space Paranoids?”
“You'd be right. Handles the same way.”
"Looks like all that laundry money I blew has a use after all," Jordan said sarcastically.
“What is she doing here?” Clu said, pointing to Melodia. “Helped us or not, she's still one of those Hogs.”
“We can argue this when we're not all in danger. I have enough left to get this thing underway...I hope.” He knelt in the center of the bridge, willing power through the inactive circuits like hot-wiring an old car. The Recognizer lurched into life and lifted off the floor. “OK, engine's cranked. We're good!”
“Hold on!” Jordan said, twisting the stick and pushing forward.
They cleared the hangar bay on the heels of a belch of virtual flame as the bay caved in. The aftershock sent the Recognizer lurching forward and to the left Jordan swore loudly as she compensated. Behind them, the entire caldera was lit up ominously, the crust of digital land above collapsing into the pool of energy below.
“We're not out yet,” Clu warned. “The cascade failure is still running, and valley is going to be even harder to navigate. I'll take the radio and at least tell the System Guards to expect us.”
“Creator!” The bridge door opened, and a breathless Iso woman ran in. “Creator, it's Kanna. Something wrong, and we don't know what's happening to her or how to stop it!”
The Iso woman stepped aside and Herd guided his counterpart onto the bridge. Her circuit lines alternately brightened and dimmed in a random pattern, and she was almost doubled over with pain. Tron, who wasn't manning one of the Recognizer's battle stations, helped to steer her over to Kevin and guide her to a half-sitting position.
“Keep driving, guys,” Kevin yelled over his shoulder. “I've got this.”
“I'm sorry, Creator. I didn't want this to happen right now, but...”
“It'll be okay, Kanna. Nothing to be sorry about. You're injured?” He gently rolled her to the side to take off her disk and bring up the diagnostic.
She shook her head. “Not injured. But I expended a lot of power, and now our future...”
“Future?” Kevin asked. “What do you mean by 'future?' The diagnostic came up. Kanna's power readings were frankly weird, and he was trying to make sense of the readouts.
“Herd, you and she kept talking about it in our cell. I wasn't able to process what the two of you meant,” Tron admitted. “We need to know. Her life could depend on it.”
Herd bowed his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. “We were...We returned to the Sea, to give thanks for our lives. While we were there, we...experimented, trying out new ways to share our energy with each other. Something incredible happened. Within her shell, a new spark is developing, part hers and part mine – our future.”
“She's pregnant?!” Kevin blurted out. There was no way in hell he heard that right, but if that were the case, the readings he was getting made a frightening amount of sense. “Herd, give me your disk.”
Herd complied, and Kevin stacked them so that the readouts were one on top of each other, blending like a 3-D image. Sure enough, the data clusters and information he was reading matched up. There was a second reading in Kanna's shell, and the form it took inside the disk readout was like the blurry ultrasound pictures he and Jordan stashed away in Sam's baby book.
Tron looked up. “I suppose you know what they're talking about, because it still makes no sense to me.”
“Programs are rezzed to life fully formed, and I thought the Isos were the same, but looks like they're more like Users than I thought.”
The Recognizer shuddered as Jordan glanced off one of the cavern walls. “Sorry, folks. The thing handles like a cargo truck with a bent axle.”
“It really sucks in downtown traffic,” Kevin called over his shoulder. “Jordan, we've...we've got a woman in labor over here.”
“What?!” she said, swinging the control stick to try and “leap” the Recognizer over an obstruction. “Don't look at me, honey. Probably a good thing you missed most of the screaming and yelling. Sam inherited my stubborn streak.”
“I'll...handle it. Keep driving.” Crap. Something tells me all those workshops, books, and classes we took to prep for Sam are not going to help here.
The Recognizer jolted again, and Kanna turned pale, whimpering. Herd took one of her hands, sending in what comfort and energy he could.
Tron may not have understood what was going on, but he did recognize pain and fear. He put a hand on Kanna's shoulder. “You're in good hands, Kanna. Take it easy.”
“We're almost out of the valley,” Jordan said. “Hold on...” The Recognizer suddenly lurched sharply to the left. “What the -?!”
“What's going on?” Tron shouted.
Jordan didn't dare look over her shoulder. “Looks like those Hogs didn't leave the valley after all. We've hit an ambush!”
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.