|Fanfic: "Through a Diamond Sky" Part 13 of 14|
on Monday, March, 05, 2012 3:27 AM
The Iso settlement had taken heavy damage, and many losses, but the survivors were quick to begin the work of cleanup. Tron was working on carrying some debris out of a road in order for repairs to get underway. Clu was using his debugging subroutine on a collapsed aqueduct, removing the blockages so that energy began to flow again.
Shaddox and the Users were in conference with the settlement's leaders, planning out the rebuild – and the sector's future development. They looked over the display of the sector pulled from Shaddox's disk.
"Well, now that the Hogs have left the sector, the best way to keep them from coming back is to allocate a designated settlement around that power node," Shaddox said, pointing out where the Resource Hog base used to be. "I'd say it's a fine location for a new colony. That will also solve the trouble we are having with overpopulation in Zeta sector."
"We would not be adverse to integrating our people in a limited fashion; more colonies like Arjin City, Shaddox," Maya said. "Perhaps if Iso and Basic become neighbors, we'll be able to understand each other better."
Jordan raised an eyebrow. "So long as whatever's left of that base gets demolished."
Kevin shrugged, and put an arm around her waist. "Couple keystrokes and it's gone, babe, but anything you want put in its place?"
She grinned. "How about an arena, like the one in the city? Lazer tag nights...obstacle course. I still remember enough of the bunkers at Fort Sherman to come up with a really spectacular one."
Kevin's eyes lit up and his face split into a grin. "Marry me."
"I know. Smartest idea to date."
"You're almost out of the hole you've dug, Tiger," she said, biting back a chuckle.
"How about using that parks and rec building you sketched out on the living room table? Give the town more options to mix and mingle."
She had to do a double-take at that. "You liked that one?"
"I like most of them! You're as bad as me with the drawing and sketches all over the place." He turned to the assembled Programs. "You should see our house back on the other side – between my computer parts and her drawings..." He glanced over his shoulder. "Excuse me a second."
Melodia was somewhat glad to be ignored. She was standing knee-deep in the energy fountain, but the buzz of power lost most of its appeal. They had relieved her of her suffusion gun, at least. She also noticed the last of the green tint had bled from her circuitry along with most of her augmentation. She was just an ordinary Program now, albeit one without directive or purpose
ISO = VIRUS read the crude graffiti on the ruined sculpture.
At the time, she looked the other way. The sector belonged to them – the gang, The Baron, her...Not to the Isos, who were invaders on a System by and for Programs. By the time she realized how glitched The Baron was, it was almost too late.
What a bit-brain she had been.
She picked up a discarded stone and began hacking away at the graffiti. At least she could try and remove one mistake before her inevitable de-rez.
"Melodia, right?" The voice startled her midway through chipping away the "V." She turned around to see Kevin Flynn, The Creator himself, approaching. She dropped the rock with a splash and was about to get down on her knees when she stopped her.
"None of that, now," he said. "I know I'm great, but not quite that great."
She was trying not to shake. "I'm ready," she said.
"For de-resolution. I'm flawed...glitched. I let myself get hooked on power. I've destroyed some of your creations and served The Baron. I even argued for him to de-rez your Champion. I can't even remember my directive."
"If that's the case, then why did you turn on him? Just curious."
"At first? Fear of you. But your presence, your actions, and those of the ones loyal to you...made me doubt, made me re-think what I was doing and what I'd become. The more I thought about it..." she shook her head. "It wasn't what I wanted to be."
"You could have saved yourself a couple times, you know," he pointed out. "Just ran out in the confusion. I did tell you to run."
She forced herself to look up. Like most citizens of the Grid, she had a certain image of the Users and the Creator in particular. That image was very much at odds with the reality – a smiling, somewhat scruffy-looking male-designated that seemed little different from an off-duty game script. "I'd done so many wrong things up until that point. If I was going to get myself de-rezzed, might as well do it for the right reason."
"Are you interested in doing the right thing, Melodia? Think this over. You saw yourself how easy the wrong path is. You've seen the benefits of it. You saw how much fun it can be."
"It's...very hard to let go of all those thoughts. It's still tempting, all that power... but I've had my fill of it and it wasn't enough. Somehow this..." She indicated the half-erased graffiti. "Feels better than power. Is that a glitch, Creator?"
"I'd say it's anything but a glitch. Doing the right thing can be just as addicting as a power pool." He reached out and brushed his hand over the remains of the graffiti, wiping it away as though it never was. "I've got an alternative sentence for you – if you're interested."
"And here I thought it would be simpler to de-rez me."
"I like doing things the hard way. Still interested?"
"State your command," she said, bracing herself.
"I want you to go out to the cities, the Iso settlements...everywhere from Tron City to the Outlands. I want you to find the Programs and Isos who would be in the most danger of falling like you did. I want you to use that pretty voice of yours and tell them about your mistakes so that they don't do it themselves. And I want you to look after them – keep them away from guys like The Baron. Think you can take that on?"
"Good. I'll be keeping an eye on you. Now, I think Torin can put you to work on the cleanup." Clasping her on the back, he guided her out of the pool. "Go and sin no more."
As Melodia walked away, Jordan came up behind him, arms folded. "Lora warned me that you are the world's hardest man to stay mad at."
He held up his hands. "Guilty. Anything else she warn you about?"
She looked around as if it all was finally sinking in. "I walk into the arcade thinking I'm going to bust you with your pants down, and I end up taking the most life-threatening, amazing, and crazy trip of my life. It's worth it to you?"
"It's worth everything. We have billion-dollar satellites shouting into the void in the hope we're not alone. Meanwhile, here's life, right under our noses every time we switch on a computer. It would change everything..." He sighed. "You didn't get the introduction to it that I would have liked to give you, but I'm glad that you did find out."
"Did you try to tell someone?"
"Gibbs figured it out, actually, but then he had his stroke. Passed away before I could show him. Lora? I'd trust her with my life, with Sam, with the keys to my Ducati. Her bosses in DC? Different story."
Kevin sighed. "Tried to tell him, but his exact words were, 'Flynn, you're the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, with a wife and a child. Quit smoking that shit.' The only way he'll believe this is if I knock him out and drag him in here."
She pinched the bridge of her nose. "Yeah, that's Alan. We love him anyway."
"You've only seen a glimpse of how far this wonderland goes. The simplest of Programs blows the Turing Test to atoms. The Isos? There's so much about them that I'll never understand, even if I had centuries to play around in here. I didn't know they could reproduce until today!"
One arm wrapped around her waist as the other gestured around the colony, to the dim cliffs of the Outlands, to the coruscating lights of Tron City in the distance. "Despite the danger, despite everything, this world is something I have to be part of. This is bigger than me, bigger than the company, and..." He sighed, letting go of her. "Don't make me choose between this world and you, Jordan, because..."
"I don't want you to choose," she said. "Because this is where you belong. You need to be here."
Kevin blinked. It was rare event for him to be stunned to silence, but Jordan managed it. He stepped away, making a show of getting down on one knee. "Jordan Canas, share both worlds with me. What do you say?"
She had to snicker. His real-world proposal was looking across the bed and saying, "Crazy idea; let's hit City Hall and get it out of the way before the kid arrives." It suited her fine, actually. So, she knelt down to look him right in the eye, grinning. "On one condition; hide something like this from me again, and I'll kick your ass."
"Deal. Your pattern's stored now, so we can come here any time we're free. Encom's working on those correction algorithms from the outside while I'm working on them from in here. It's slow going, but once a third set opens up..."
"It will depend on how old Sam is at that point," she cautioned. "And whether we can make sure the truly hazardous elements are dealt with first."
"C'mon, a world that's one big video game? What little boy won't love that, especially one with half of my genetics? Besides, we introduce him to Herd and Kanna's little girl – playmate his age, maybe..."
Jordan chuckled. "You have a point. So, we still have the equivalent of a couple hours before we have to get back. Any non-life-threatening wonders you want to show me?"
"Plenty, but there is something I want to try..." He gave her a positively filthy smile as he slid a finger down the thickest circuit line on her back.
It felt like the best deep tissue massage invented, radiating down her back and into her arms with a pleasant tingle. She gasped, struggling to keep her composure. "Oh, that feels...I take it this is a two-player game, Mr. Flynn?" She retaliated by finding the node just under the hem of his jacket, right above his rear, and pressing the flat of her palm into it.
She was rewarded with his eyes rolling back and a muffled groan. "You'd be right, Sergeant Canas. I've got a replica of the arcade on the City outskirts – complete with a duplicate of that couch."
Jordan raised one blonde eyebrow. "Race you, Tiger."
Three nano-cycles later, the Users returned to their own world, the console readout in the central processing unit verifying the pair of Users had safely left the system. Two figures watched the fading light of the portal from their vantage in the central processor,
"Alan-1 and Lora-3 bundled you and Yori together, right?" Clu asked.
"On the old system, yes," Tron said. "And should Lora-3 ever come to the Grid, she'll have my profound thanks."
Clu leaned back in his chair, feet on the console. "You realize 'Alan-1' and 'Lora-3' didn't have a glitching idea what they were doing. All they needed were a set of Programs with complementary functions. They're out there, completely ignorant of you and her. Doesn't it bother you, man?"
"No. Eventually, we'll work out the calculations and they'll come here like Jordan did."
"Then there's Jordan. She and their offspring seem to be half the reason why Flynn can go cycles without checking in. I understand needing to interface and blow off excess energy, but the whole idea of getting bundled just seems to be a Resource Hog in and of itself."
"Clu, I hope someday you'll find out. Maybe Flynn will create partners for you, maybe you'll find that perfect complement to yourself somewhere in the System. When you do find that someone, you will want to spend a lot of time with them. Their functions will augment your own, your spark will call and theirs will answer. You will be stronger together than you ever were alone."
"Even after seeing Flynn and Jordan, and how marvelously imperfect Users are, you still believe in all that Guardian superstition?" Clu said with a sniff.
Tron scowled hard. "You're too recent a version to have lived through Master Control, and be glad you never did. In my darkest cycles, when I thought the Users abandoned us, the thought of Yori kept me fighting."
"You had doubt?" Clu found this very interesting and swung around to put his feet back on the floor, grinning. "Mister 'I fight for the Users' had doubt back in the day? Stop the print spooler, I've heard everything!"
"Clu..." Tron's voice lowered in warning. Avatar or not, there were some lines it was unwise to cross. "I fight for the Users. By extension, I fight for every life on this system. That is my function, my directive. Your function is to act in Flynn's place, to be strong where he is weak, and to be here when he can't be. You've been created for a great purpose, and as long as you serve the Users, I'll fight for you, too. Flynn and Jordan have gone home. It's time for me to get back to mine. "
Turning on his heel, Tron took measured strides to the elevator leading to the cycle bay. Clu looked out over the Grid's expanse and the lone, indigo tower.
I wonder how much more efficient they would be if they weren't bundled.
It didn't matter. He had his own project to work on. The tower's elevator had over a hundred floors above the surface, but at least a dozen below. And the last of those basements was Clu's alone. He had been given far more leeway than any other Program in modifying and maintaining the system. He could divert roads and energy rivers. He could plan out new settlements and demolish those that had become obsolete. The thrill of shaping perfection in landscape and architecture was a massive challenge for any Program to undertake.
Yet, he was not just another Program. He had all of his creator's drives; the need to experiment, the need to play, the need to test the limits of his capacity and then find ways to surpass the limitations.
The presence of Jordan-User and the time he spent with her was like both ends of a rod weapon; useful, painful, deadly, and effective all at once. Her aggression and focus counterbalanced Kevin's relaxed attitudes. She was as stunning as the most well-crafted Armory Siren with her ample chest and hips. Clu had to admit that she was everything Kevin said she was and more, but his User was stretched between the worlds and not able to focus properly on either. Clu had been the one training her for the Grid's life, showing her his world and its potential. He showed Jordan its glittering cities and its vast wastelands. They fought its dangers through The Baron's base.
Had she been a Program...
But she wasn't and he was. He was "demigod" among Programs, but still a simulation; a perfect copy of an imperfect User. Every reflective surface told him this. Every time he heard his User's name reminding him that no matter what he did or what perfection he wrought, his User would get the credit and glory while his only pride would be the knowledge that he carried out his directives brilliantly. That would be the ultimate reward for any other script, of course.
He was different and so his rewards would likewise be different. Kevin Flynn was not the only one who kept secrets from those closest to him.
The subbasement had a decompiler rack salvaged from the ruins of The Baron's headquarters. Ostensibly, he had ordered it destroyed. The truth was that the old torture rack had been destroyed – and re-shaped into something with far more interesting potential.
He turned to the two silent System Guards at the door. "Bring in the first prisoner we got from the Resource Hog gang."
This was far more merciful than de-rezzing them, correct? Every Program would have a place, a purpose, a function. Like millions of puzzle pieces, they would all fit into a greater whole.
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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.