Rating: PG, or PG13 for some language
Pairing: None yet, but no slash and all canon except for 2, one only implied.
Summary: Two months have passed since Sam returned from the Grid. When the digital world attempts to reach out to him again, Sam finds himself forced to face the hatred and distrust he feels for the Programs his father cared for so strongly.
Author's Note: This is unfinished, and there'll probably be a new intro once I get a chance to finish it up and amend the beginning. Just wanted to get some of it out there for you guys to read. :>
Not much more was said on the way to the portal tower, though when Sam marveled at the level of reconstruction that had been made to it, Tron seemed to take pride in expressing how they had managed - all without the Creator's instruction - to get the city back up and running, almost as good as it had been before. Tron still held a lot of influence over the other Programs even without System Administration power. After he'd pulled himself out of the Sea of Simulation, he explained, he'd joined with a group of the insurgents C.L.U. had previously been set bent on rectifying and derezzing. Some had taken to his reappearance easily, happy for their Champion's return. Those that had recognized him as C.L.U's right hand had taken a little more convincing. It had taken the recapture of the CPU tower at the heart of the city - under Tron's leadership - before he had earned his place back as the unofficial Admin, the role he'd served in the small time between the Grid's initial construction and C.L.U's creation as the official System Administrator. Since then, he'd been overseeing the reconstruction until only the tower remained. His only frustration with the process was that even with his memory of Kevin's original designs, it was impossible to rebuild it the way it had been before. The Programs were unable to comprehend the aesthetic sensibilities of the Users. Even Tron himself, who'd been Flynn's confidant for years before the fall couldn't get his programming around the fluid, sweeping lines, and as such they came out looking more like physical manifestations of an 8-bit representation of his father's ideas. It had a strange, retro charm, though, that Sam mildly joked would have been appealing to "gamers" his age.
"He returned the Program's second identity disk once they had finally neared the portal. The trip there took only an hour or so in the Grid's disjointed time, and Sam was glad to see that the only structure not rebuilt was C.L.U's rectifier. In it's place, he could see an I/O tower far below, something Quorra had explained was akin to a Cathedral in the User world. It's connection was dark, unfortunately, a sign that there was no way for the Programs to reach out to their creators. Tron, it seemed, had had to make use of a tower in Encom Grid he'd visited in his search for Sam instead.
As they approached the base of the beam, Sam felt a small level of trepidation beginning to creep into his chest. It hadn't sunk in that they were going back to the place he'd last seen his father - where he'd seen his apparent death. He found his feet feeling heavy, and irrational fear of what he'd see washing through him, and when he paused, Tron glanced back at him. No words needed to be spoken - the Program's expression seemed to show a similar heaviness. For a moment, Sam felt a stab of anger. What right did he have to dare feel the way Sam did? He had been part of the reason things had turned out the way they had in the first place. But then the look on Tron's face changed as he glanced over his shoulder at something not yet in Sam's line of sight from his place at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the platform.
He looked back at the User, nodding his head over his shoulder. "Come look, Sam. On the platform, we set up a memory display of the Creator."
He furrowed his brow in confusion, his feet moving before he thought to tell them to do so, and when he neared the apex of the stairwell, he found to his surprise that he was looking up at his father, standing tall atop a digital pedestal.
It took him aback for a moment, a second of surprise before he realized that in fact he was staring at a frozen memory from Quorra's discarded identity disk, set into a socket in the dais.
"Whenever we found C.L.U's disk, the final memory of Kevinflynn was disheartening. We'd searched for him for cycles, and many believed he had escaped back to your world before the tower was destroyed. Some didn't believe a User could have been derezzed, but most of us felt...lost. When we found Quorra's disk cycles later, we decided to set it here, where it happened. It helped. It comforts us to have him here, watching while we finish working."
Same stared up at his father's aged, smiling face, the playful expression seeming to defy the hurt he felt. He fought the tears he felt threatening to come to the surface, but seeing the monument - the tombstone raised over a digital grave - was more then he could handle and he failed. He whispered a hoarse greeting to the holographic statue, wiping the tears that rolled down his cheeks with the back of his armored sleeve. The memories were hard enough to deal with yet, but seeing his dad standing in front of him brought it all boiling back to the surface as if the healing he'd done since returning home hadn't even happened.
"I'm sorry, Sam. I know it's little consolation, but if I could go back and undo it all, I would." He glared back at the whispered apology, met Tron's sad gaze only with silence, and turned to walk away. He had little desire to accept an apology from him. Tron could keep his 'sorries' to himself.
He heard the Program following after him silently as he entered the beam and when he turned to cast a final glance behind him, he found him watching the User patiently. He turned his back on him once more with an indignant grunt, lifting his disk above his head and letting it lift from his fingers. And then he was gone in a flash of light, his sight clearing to reveal himself back in the basement office in the arcade.
Quorra stepped into his field of view, her curious look turning to concern when she saw his expression, and she stepped closer, pressing her hand against his chest worriedly.
"Sam? What happened?"
He shook his head, wiping his tears and letting out a deep, cleansing sigh to calm himself now that he was safely back home.
"Nothing. I'm fine. Just give me a minute." He stepped over to the computer, ducking below the desk and following the trails of chords before he found the single phone line leading to the jack in the wall. He pondered leaving it there and leaving the Programs to their fate. He had no doubt it wouldn't take long for the open connection to be found and exploited by the nasty things that lurked on the internet. But then, when he saw a flash of the monument to his father in his mind's eye, he gave in, tugging the chord out of the wall. Kevin Flynn wouldn't have wanted that. It would make Sam no better then C.L.U.
"What are you doing under there?" He looked up at Quorra as she crouched down near him, trying to crawl into the small space with him. He smiled back at her as he slid out to meet her.
"Just disconnecting the phone line. The Grid isn't secure enough to stay connected to the internet. I told Tron I'd help them upgrade their security, but they have to stay isolated while I do it."
"So the meeting went well?" He shrugged at her hopeful gaze.
"I guess you could say that. I still don't know if I trust him as far as I can throw him, but I'm giving it a chance." She smiled eagerly, pleased to hear that maybe things had returned to normal inside her home world.
"That's wonderful, Sam!"
"Yeah, I suppose. Come on, I need to make a call and I'll never get through down here." She chased after him, catching up to his side and latching onto his arm as they ascended the stairs, grinning up at him despite his inability to feel her optimism.
Once they were out in the open where he could get a clear signal, he dialed a familiar number, leaning against the street lamp outside the arcade as he listened to the ringing tones. Seconds passed before Alan's voice answered politely in his ear.
"I've got a favor to ask."
"Well hello to you too, Sam. Did you fix it?" He smirked at the old man's affectionate snark.
"I can't quite tell. I was wondering if you could come take a look at it for me. You wrote it, so I trust you'd be able to find errors in the code better then me."
"You really are determined to pick those computers clean, aren't you?" He shrugged though the man couldn't see it.
"Mostly just this one. It's got the most interesting Programs I've found yet." He glanced at Quorra as she leaned in to listen, a mischievous smile on her face. Since coming back to his own world, she'd taken a shine to the old programmer. She'd always been fascinated with the Users in Flynn's stories, and meeting the Creator of Tron, the Program who had once liberated the Grid from tyranny, had been amazing to the naive Iso. It was like watching a child meet a hero of legend.
"Alright. I'll come by after work, Sam. Should I meet you at the pier?"
"No, it's at the old arcade."
"Really? I didn't know there was anything there but old games." He couldn't help but laugh quietly.
"No, there's more. So, meet you there?"
"Yeah, I'll see you in a couple hours."
"Alright, see you then."
"Hi, Alan!" Sam cringed at the shout in his ear, but on the other line, the old man chuckled.
"See you then, Sam. Tell Quorra I said 'Hi" back." and the phone went dead.
Sam eyed the happy woman at his side, smiling down at her expectant look.
"He said Hi back. I think he likes you." She grinned broadly at him, pleased with herself.
"Yeah. Maybe he's just glad to see me settling down for once." She giggled happily to herself, her eyes crinkling at the corners in that cute way they did when she grinned, and Sam found the upset he'd felt minutes before easing slightly.
"So...you're going to take Alan to the Grid?"
"How is that going to work? Are you going to tell him 'Hey, stand in front of this great big laser'?"
"I...didn't have that part figured out yet, actually. He'll never believe us if we try to tell him. He'll think I'm pulling his leg. I have to show him. And that means tricking him in. I kind of feel bad about having to."
"Well, why do you?"
"Tron's coding is damaged. Apparently C.L.U's rectification isn't completely erased. If I'm going to help him at all, I want to know it's really Tron and not C.L.U's dog I'm talking to."
"What if he doesn't agree to reprogramming? Wouldn't it just be easier to have Alan rewrite his coding from out here?"
"If he doesn't agree to it...I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. And it was easier to rewrite the code from inside the Grid. Normally something like that, finding the damage and fixing it, takes hours out here. Dad did it for you in only a couple of minutes, Grid time. Besides, Alan should get a chance to see what all this was for. Upgrading the Grid will be easier with two of us working on it, and he deserves to see what he helped make. It'll blow his mind. Or give the old fart a stroke." She stared wide-eyed at him before realizing he was joking and gasping at him, slapping him playfully on the arm.
"Ow! Ok, ok, don't abuse me! Come on, let's play a game while we wait."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A couple of hours and 15 games of Pong later, Sam heard the front door to the arcade open behind them and he turned to find Alan poking his head in. He shouted out to him, waving him over, and the programmer smiled and walked over. They all stood together, Alan watching as Quorra beat Sam again and gave a cheer in victory. The game safely won for the honor of the Iso's (she seemed to take the games a lot more seriously then he did, though that stood to reason) she turned, hugging Alan in greeting.
"We have a surprise for you!" Alan eyed her curiously, a sly smile crossing his face.
"Yeah? What's that?"
"We know what Dad was working on, the project he wanted to show the world before he went missing. It's on the old computer. Come on, I'll show you." The interest he got was instantaneous and when he started towards the hidden door at the back of the arcade, the man followed after.
He held the door open for Alan to go first, sharing a nervous glance with Quorra before they followed him after. He'd spent the entire time they'd waited and gamed planning how he would get him into the Grid. They would have to go in at the same time, he knew. Even a minute's delay in their world would leave Alan stranded in Tron City for an hour Grid time. If he saw Sam go in first, there would be no convincing him to follow. He was smart enough to know not to stand in front of a high-powered laser beam, even with the promise that he would come out fine on the other side.
"Hey, Alan. I was wondering. How did that last doctor visit go?"
"Huh? Fine, I guess. That was two weeks ago. I just had a cold. Why?"
"Nothing wrong with your heart?"
"I'm not that old, you know." He grinned innocently at the man as he followed him into the dusty old office. "Good God, Sam. Did you not clean the place up before you started monkeying around with the computer? This much dust will kill a computer, you know that."
"Naw, I didn't think it would hurt to look through it for just a little while. The terminal is over there." He tried to put himself between Alan and the digitizer, hoping he wouldn't get too curious, and the jittery tension he felt rose.
"I really think you should clean this place up before we do anything. Otherwise you could cause more damage then good."
"Ok, that's fine, just look at this real quick while you're here. It'll take hours to dust up and I want to get this fixed now if I can."
Alan sighed in frustration, conceding defeat for the time being and turning to the terminal as Sam walked nearer. "Fine." He watched Sam's fingers type in the necessary commands until the whine of the ray powering moaned around them, drawing his attention away for just a moment. It gave Sam the chance he needed to grab the man's shoulder as it seemed to dawn on Alan he'd seen the large device sitting in the back of the room in the past, and before he had a chance to voice his question, the younger man had pressed the button to activate the machine.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
To say that Alan Bradley was shocked when he found himself standing in the dark atmosphere of the Grid would have been an understatement. He shouted, lunging back and turning to view the entire room.
"Welcome to the Grid, Alan."
"Sam, what the fuck? What? Wh-?" he stammered wordlessly as he lost the ability to form a coherent thought. Sam held his hands up placatingly, the worry that he had literally just given his surrogate guardian a heart attack still not far from his mind.
"Calm down, Alan. You're fine, I promise. This is what Dad made."
It took a moment for Alan to finally get his breathing under control. It took him a moment longer to get over the confusion and for his curiosity to take over. Sam smiled at him and wasn't at all surprised when he got a chiding glare in return.
"What is wrong with you!"
"Come on, I had to do it this way. Admit it, you wouldn't have believed me if I told you."
"I don't even understand, where are we?"
"We're in the computer, in the basement of the arcade."
"I'm not kidding, Sam."
"Neither am I. Come on, I'll show you. There's someone you should meet, you won't believe this."
"It gets 'better'?" Sam grinned again as he led him out of the office. He noted with amusement when Alan seemed to register the armor he wore, eying him up and down dubiously. "And what the Hell are you wearing?"
"The local fashion, apparently. It wasn't exactly my choice, trust me. But you get used to it."
When they stepped out onto the streets, he paused to give the sensory overload Alan felt time to subside. He watched the waves of emotion pass over his face as he took in the sights and sounds, like a blind person seeing for the first time. Shock, Confusion, Awe, Curiosity. He finally settled on a combination of the latter two, a smile crossing his face only to be replaced with an amazed gape before returning all over again.
"Sam this...I...How did...Oh my God!" He chuckled at the whispered amazement, leading him through the crowd to the curb.
"You think you're alright now? Like I said, you need to meet someone, and we'll have time for you to gawk later. If things go right, we'll be spending lots of time here."
"We're not stuck here are we? How did we even get here in the first place?"
"We shouldn't be. I was here a couple of hours ago, before I called you. I have someone's word that we're safe, free to come and go as we please."
"You'll see. Come on, we can talk on the way, I-" both turned as they heard shouting and then a scream nearby, and Sam placed himself instinctively between Alan and the small crowd that instantly began forming not far away. None of the attention was on them, but Sam's earlier distrust overcame the excitement he felt for showing his friend around. Alan certainly wasn't dumb. He realized instantly that Sam was on high alert for reasons he wasn't saying.
"What is it?"
"I dunno. Stay behind me." Of course, telling the older man to stay behind him and actually having him listen were two different things. He'd helped raise the boy, and parents didn't usually make a habit of using their children as shields. Before long, his curiosity got the better of him, and he matched pace with him as they approached the source of the commotion cautiously.
Managing to get through the crowd to investigate the source of the commotion was a futile effort, however. Too many Programs stood too close together, and Sam grunted in frustration, glancing over at Alan, who simply shrugged as he stood a safe distance back from the pushing and shoving. He didn't see the point in getting crushed and jostled in the middle of a mob.
Sam pulled away from the crowd, rejoining Alan's side to watch with interest from a distance, taking solace in the fact that whatever had happened had obviously ended as quickly as it had begun. Any real danger would have scattered the crowd to the streets in an attempt to get away. Still, it had made him jumpy enough that he wondered once more whether it had been a smart idea to bring the aging man after all.
"Come on. Not much need for us to be here right now. Let's get out of here." He moved to retrieve the baton from his thigh, intent on activating a lightrunner to carry them both. Alan wasn't exactly a motorcyclist. He looked at it curiously and seemed about to inquire about it before he found himself nudged from behind, sent stumbling a few paces into Sam.
He turned to protest to find the culprit already gone, and Sam realized it was one of the white guardsmen he'd seen hours before at the tower moving into the crowd to help disperse it. Another seemed happy to take his place, however, grabbing the User by the arm and beginning to instruct him in vacating the area before stopping short and turning him around bodily to stare at his back where the absence of an identity disk was immediately apparent, looking strange to those who's ways of life revolved around them. Alan snarled out a protestation, trying to pull his arm away, and Sam stepped in, putting himself between the two.
"Out of my way, Program. You, where's your identity disk?"
"He doesn't need one."
The threat in Sam's tone drew the guard's attention again, and this time he focused on him fully, an obvious recognition crossing his face.
"Samflynn. My apologies, User. I didn't realize it was you."
"You know who I am?"
"Yes, all security forces were briefed on the possibility of your return to the Grid."
"Security Protocol Tron, of course, the Commanding Program." Sam nodded, eying Alan out of the corner of his vision as the elder stepped closer.
"Did he say 'Tron'?"
Sam ignored the question for the time being. It wasn't a conversation he felt like having just yet if he could avoid it. Instead, he gestured behind them at the quickly-thinning crowd.
"What happened here?"
"A viral infection, it seems. They've been cropping up across the Grid since word of your return. It started off in small numbers, but they've been increasing as time goes on." Sam wouldn't lie and say he was surprised. But to see that they had gotten in already, were causing this much fuss, reminded him how drastically different time was between Cyberspace and Userspace. It had already been over five days on the Grid since he'd left. Still, for it to have gotten in before he disconnected the Telenet, it had to have already gotten in by the time he'd come back.
"I guess it's a good thing I insisted on getting you here so quickly, Alan. Where is Tron? I need to speak with him."
"He left for the Outlands a few cycles ago. He believed he had found the source of the infection and was going to try and cut it off. We were instructed that should you return while he was away to give you this."
The guard handed him a small hexagonal map, instructions on how to get to the sector Tron had been headed for. The Program made sure to cover his bases where he could, it seemed. "Good programming, Alan. Come on, we need to hurry."
He wasted no time in activating the lightrunner this time. Alan gave a surprised bark, stepping well back of the manifested vehicle, and only stared at Sam in shock when he told him to get in.
"Alan, come on. This system isn't well-equipped to handle a computer virus. We need to hurry."
"Oh, you've got to be kidding me." He clambered into the passenger seat, floundering for a safety belt that wasn't there before Sam handed him the map and sped away. By the time the guard had remembered the User still didn't have an identity disk, they were too far away to hear his shouts.
Alan didn't like Sam's driving at the best of times. Teaching the boy had been a nightmare he didn't want to repeat. The terror he felt as they sped along was only made worse when they were riding in a vehicle made of light that had no real safety features. More then once, he found himself shouting, or hiding his eyes behind his hands. A few threats of bodily harm were thrown in for good measure, and Sam simply laughed them off, remarking that he would have hated the lightcycles.
Once they had left the bright streets of the city behind and found themselves in the dark, rocky terrain of the Outlands, their course straightened out enough that Alan was able to relax and silence filled the cabin of the runner. Sam took the map from him, correcting their course, heading for a distant point on the horizon that seemed to stretch on endlessly before them.
"Sam, how did you find this place?" He didn't answer for a long moment, wondering if he wanted to share the memories floating in his head. They were difficult enough without having someone pick his brain and play 20 questions with what they found inside.
"It was when you got that page. When I came back to the Arcade and found the computer, I tried to get into the system. The normal way, I mean. That big thing in the back of the office was how we got here. I didn't realize at the time the computer was set up to control it. Pressed a few buttons and 'zap!' here I was."
"Back of the-...wait, was that the digitizer?"
"I think so. I tried to find more information on it at the office, but it's pretty old, so there wasn't much information left on it. That's the name I found for it, though."
"That's what Lora was working on before she left Encom. When it didn't yield any useful applications, the program was phased out. Your father tried to convince the board to keep it on, but they were tired of putting that much money into something that wasn't paying out.
"Lora? You mean 'Aunt' Lora?"
"Yeah." Sam laughed to himself.
"Small world. How is she doing by the way? She still up in Washington?"
"I guess. I haven't talked to her in a couple years. She still sends Christmas cards, though." Sam smiled consolingly at the older man. He knew whether he said it or not, he held a proverbial flame for the woman. It was quaint - but a little sad - how he was still waiting all these years later for his "sweetheart" to come back from where she'd gone. They'd always intended to stay together, but as with all things, life had a way of getting in the way of the best-laid plans.
Something he had learned from his father.
"Alan, look. Before we go too much further, I think you should know. Things here are...well, they look nice now, but I've got my doubts. When I came here before, the first time, it wasn't a good place to be. One of Dad's Programs had taken over. It was like something out of Gladiator. Me and...well, we managed to "delete" the rogue Program, but the guy I'm taking you to see was one of his soldiers. They corrupted his programming to force him to do what they wanted. At least, that's how he tells it."
"Wait, ok. I'm confused. Do you really mean those people back there are programs? As in a 'computer program'?"
"Yeah. They're 'Programs,' we're the 'Users'. They sort of see us as royalty or even Gods. But anyway. I need you to fix this Program. He was Dad's favorite, and he's the one that runs the show for now. He acts like he's on our side again, but his programming is still corrupted. I can't trust him until he's fixed."
"What sort of Program is it?"
"It's your Tron." Alan's eyebrows quirked behind his glasses in a surprised, intrigued expression as they shared a look.
"I thought I kept hearing that name. So...how do I fix it from in here? Wouldn't it be easier from out there?"
"Not necessarily. Dad showed me how. I'll show you. But when we get there, I need you to stay back until I say. He doesn't know I'm bringing company. I don't know how his corruption will handle another User here. We weren't very welcome here the first time."
"Your dad? So he's here?"
Sam was quiet for a long time. He hadn't intended to let it slip, and hadn't caught it when it had. There was no taking it back now.
"Where is he?"
"He's..." he held his tongue when he felt his voice catch in his throat, frowning at himself.
"He's gone, Uncle Alan." He felt the man watching him and he cursed himself for letting his emotions show, even to him. He refused to look back.
"Pretty sure. Saw it happen. He let it happen so...so I could escape."
"I'm sorry, Sam."
He drew in a long, shuddering breath and sighed it out heavily as the quiet returned. It was a stifling, uncomfortable silence, though. He couldn't take the tension for long.
"I always wanted to tell you, but..."
"I wouldn't have believed you." He nodded with a bitter smile. "I can understand why. I'm still pretty sure I'm going to go back up the rabbit hole anytime soon. This is hard to take in."
Sam laughed softly at him, his lighthearted jest easing a little of the tension.
"You're lucky, you old fart. You don't have to fight in the arena that was here before. I don't want to hear you complain once."
On the horizon far ahead, Sam saw a soft glimmer of light, flashes that danced and twisted around one another. Bright pinpricks of light swirled, flew and arched in the sky, bright white and a pale, sickly yellow-green. Alan leaned forward intently, focusing on it as Sam changed course quickly to meet it and triggered the switch to deactivate the lightrunner's bright glow so they could go in hidden. He hoped it wasn't a futile effort.
"What is that?"
"That's where we're headed. Looks like we got here just in time."
The dancing lights came up fast, focusing quickly into two forms that sparred in the darkness, a trio of disks flying through the air. Sam swerved behind a cluster of digital boulders, deactivating the runner and ducking behind. Unfortunately for Alan, he forgot to warn him beforehand, and he tumbled back once his seat was gone, landing hard on his backside and grunting in pain. Sam shushed his growled shout, handing him the spare baton he'd carried since the leaving his father's hideout the first time he'd been on the Grid.
"No time, here. If this goes sour, take this, press the buttons here, and just think of the 'car' and it'll appear for you. That beam of light in the sky there is the way back home. If something happens to me, go there. Quorra will make sure the portal doesn't close. But for now, just stay here."
He ignored Alan's shout as he raced out into the open, pulling his disk and activating his lightcycle at the same time. The figures froze for an instant as he neared, giving him enough time to strike, the disk arching through the air before being deflected at the last second by the yellow-green combatant. He caught it as it boomeranged back towards him and leapt from the cycle, sheathing the baton as it disappeared and rolled to his feet at Tron's side while the other Program paused to assess the new situation.
"I told you I would be."
"You were right."
"Yeah, well I'll say 'I told you so' later."
He didn't like the way the security Program was breathing, panting and gasping as if short of breath. He wasn't surprised that he seemed to be having a hard time against this new type of threat, but that didn't mean he was happy about it.
"What the fuck, another noob? That's alright, I'm gonna pown you two so hard!"
"Good God, are you kidding me? Who wrote you, a 12 year old?"
"He's been talking like that the entire time. I don't understand a word of it."
"Don't worry. You're not missing much." He lunged to the side as the Program tried to drive it's disk into his chest, bringing his elbow down against the back of it's neck as it stumbled forward. But it caught itself quickly, rolling back to it's feet and flinging it's disk through the air even as it ducked between Tron's own punches, twisting to send a kick into the center of his body mass.
Sam deflected the disk as Tron fell back hard, gasping for air as he tried to stand. The viral Program giggled cruelly, leaping from it's crouch to throw it's shoulder into Sam's stomach, flinging him back to the ground.
By the time Tron had managed to pull himself to his knees, it was doubling back to attack again, giving a flying leap, determined to land firmly on his back before he'd had a chance to fully recover. Sam lunged again, his hands slamming to the ground palms-down before he flung them in the air, and with the gesture, walls rose from the ground, surrounding the Program and creating a barrier between the recovering security protocol and the virus. It crashed violently into them, tumbling to the ground, and Sam focused again, his face pinched in a look of concentration. With another gesture, the walls closed down on top of it, forming a nice, neat, transparent little box that left them free to watch as the spry little creature rose and screamed in rage, throwing itself against the sides of it's enclosure.
"Are you alright?"
"Yes, thank you. Where did you learn that?"
"Quorra explained a little of how my Dad did the things he could. I thought I'd give it a try."
They stood and watched the Program as it lashed out inside the box, thrashing and struggling to break free. Sam smirked at it as it shouted threats and expletives at him, muffled though they were.
"What do we do with him now?"
"Depends on where it came from. If it started off as an ordinary Program that was infected, we can try to heal it. If it's the source virus, we just delete it."
The Program began smashing it's disk against the walls as Sam walked closer, knocking on the outside.
"I'm going to need that disk if you don't mind."
"Fuck you, you fucking faggots!" He rolled his eyes and sighed. Kids did not need access to the internet, let alone the education needed to write code.
"That wasn't a request. Sorry if it sounded like one."
He watched the virus continue to smash against the side of the box for another moment before stepping clear, focusing again, and watching as it's next strike was met by a small hole in the wall that closed down around it's arm at the last second, trapping it's hand - disk and all. Startled, it began screaming more violently, trying to get free of the hold. Sam simply hooked his arm through the safe inside of the disk and yanked it free before letting the arm slip back inside, the hole sealing up once more.
"By the User, it's noisy..."
He hummed as he accessed the Program's data, scrolling through the series of code and information he found. Finally, he spied the file name and nodded to himself, recognizing it from the anti-virus databases at Encom.
"Trojan. We delete it."
"It's a Trojan. Think of them as virus spies. They act like something you want and once they're in, they go nuts.."
"Tron nodded before turning back to eye the virus as it continued to thrash around futilely.
"So, how do we get it out long enough to derezz it?"
"I'll...get back to you on that." Ok, so maybe his Plan A had it's faults. He'd have to come up with a Plan B.
“You'd better get back to me soon. I think it's infection is spreading.”
Sam followed his eyes, realizing that he had failed to notice the way the ground at it's feet had begun to glow the same sickly color as it's circuitry. Pixels deteriorated before his eyes, crumbling and eroding the ground beneath it until it had left divots and holds where it stepped. When it realized where they were staring, the expression on it's face shifted into a wicked grin and it lunged, placing it's hands flat against the wall. They glowed brightly for a moment before the box wall around them began to mimic the color, decay spreading outward faster and faster until it began to crumble the enclosure around it.
A loud crash was Tron's reply as a white beam of light came slicing down, shattering what was left of the structure from behind. The virus spun in surprise and the light came down again, crashing down into it's head violently. The blow struck just right, the body of the Program derezzing as it's pieces scattered across the landscape, leaving Alan standing and shouting in shock as he jumped back.
“Ah, shit! I killed him! Oh, no!”
“Good job, Obi-Wan Kenobi. That was the point. I thought I told you to stay hidden.”
“I got bored...” he stared down at the glowing baton in his hand, which had manifested itself into a fairly effective sword. He dropped it as if disgusted with it and it clattered to the ground, deactivating and returning to it's normal offline configuration. “I just killed a man...”
“No you didn't. You derezzed a virus. You deleted it. You do it every time one shows up on your desktop. I promise, it's fine.” Sam couldn't help but glance nervously from Tron to Alan even as he tried to reassure the older man. While it took his friend a moment to snap out of his horrified stupor, the same could not be said for his Program.
Tron stood transfixed, his expression indiscernible behind his helmet. When Alan finally looked up, staring back, he gave a timid wave as if unsure what to make of being the sole focus of his attention.
When he finally responded a second later, Tron's voice was a mystified whisper. The only thing he could seem to say was the reverent moniker by which he knew his Creator. “Alan-One!”
“Uh, yeah. Alan, this is Tron. Tron, meet...Alan-One...”
The Program didn't seem to know how to react. He stepped closer a pace, halted, lifted his hand as if to offer it in greeting before pulling it away again. Finally, he seemed to come to a decision, dropping to one knee and making a gesture with his hands in front of himself before drawing his disk and holding it out at his Creator, his head bowed in a strange semblance of piety.
To his credit, Alan didn't seem to know how to take the display. He didn't know whether to take the offered disk, his hand reaching out for a moment before withdrawing. Sam noticed – as absurd an observation as it was – that they were both left-handed. Their gestures seemed to mirror each other even more then he might have noticed had they not been standing together for him to see.
“What do I do...?”
Sam shrugged. He honestly hadn't the foggiest. It certainly wasn't something he'd seen before, though he remembered the gestures Tron had made as he'd dropped to his knee being made by other Programs, the day he'd gone to the End of Line club and his father had followed, putting a stop to the fight that had broken out. It reminded him strangely of the way worshipers would cross themselves when standing before an icon in a cathedral. With the awkward way it looked, he wasn't entire sure Tron knew what he was doing, either.
“Tron, man, stand up.” Haltingly, he did as he was told, mumbling a soft apology but still offering the disk to Alan, who stared at it.
“I guess you want me to take that...”
“Do you not remember? To speak to our User, a Program offers our disk to the I/O Beam when we're called. Perhaps it's been too long.” Alan looked confused and Sam shook his head, trying to see through the helmet.
“Tron, you know, things are really different in our world. We never get any little disks from our computers when we 'talk' to Programs.”
“Oh. Kevinflynn never explained much of your world. Well, a little, but...still, not enough.” He could hear embarrassment in his voice.
“Honestly, it's a two-way street. Alan looks just as lost as you are.” He was glad to see the joke set him more at ease as he gave what might have been considered a laugh had it lasted longer then a single grunt. Alan shook his head, his confusion no less then it had been despite the mutual understanding of their shared cultural shock.
“You sound...really...a lot like...” Sam knew the question forming in his brain. It would have been hard for him to have missed the voice coming from the helmet even through the persistent growl, and he obviously tried to figure out how to word the thought. Tron nodded in realization, a soft, wordless acknowledgment filling the air, and they watched as the helmet retracted, folding in on itself, and finally disappearing into his suit to give Alan his first look at a much younger mirror image of himself, save for the half-mask and black hair where Alan's had been brown before it had gone silver. He had an understandable moment of surprise, though he had obviously suspected something of the sort because of the recognition of Tron's voice.
“It seems a common trait among Programs is a resemblance to the User who wrote them. Though...it appears there may have been changes over time that did not change in me. The same thing seemed to have happened to Kevinflynn...” Alan seemed fascinated more then anything, pushing his glasses further up his nose as if it would make any difference. He shorted at Tron's confused observation.
“It's called age. Most 'Users' would stop it if we could, believe me. What is-...?”
He gestured at his own face in curiosity to the mask Tron wore, and the Program reached up hesitantly, pulling it off, though it was obvious it made him extremely uncomfortable.
Sam had seen injuries similar to the one he had, but Alan was unprepared for the sight of the scarred coding that left a pixilated crater where the Program's eye had once been. He gasped and covered his mouth in the same instant, trying to hide his horror. He couldn't hide the sickly shade of green he turned.
“That's why I brought you here...You know his coding better then anyone. I was wondering if you could fix it.” Alan shook his head, unable to look away from the damage though he hated to stare.
“I wouldn't know how to start!”
“I could show you that part. Dad showed me. It's just if...Tron agrees, of course.”
Sam felt uneasy for the split second the Program hesitated, but then he glanced down at the disk still held in his hand and lifted it up in offering once more.
“I would like that, yes. There is a lot of bad coding I would be happy to be rid of.”
Alan still seemed lost when it came to the disk held out to him, and Sam reached out obligingly, activating the interface and scrolling through memories and data until he reached the core coding, simply lines and lines of text that scrolled up when he flicked his finger across the surface of the hologram like the touch screen on one of their touch-screen computers. White text mingled with the bad red as understanding shone on Alan's face, and he finally reached for the disk, holding it up to his face and manipulating the speed and direction of the scroll, getting a feel for the thing. Still, he shook his head distractedly, lost in that look Sam recognized when he had a project to do.
“I think I could do it. But this could take hours. I'd have to pick through this line for line and make sure I didn't miss anything.”
“Flynn's hideout is not far from here, if you would be more comfortable there. Sam knows the way.”
“Tron, I mean hours. It's not a simple thing to just go through line for line and rewrite code. I worked on your programming for months before it was completed. Even then, there have been years worth of updates.”
“That's alright, Alan. Time is different here. Hours on the Grid are only minutes in our world.”
“Won't Quorra have noticed our disappearance by now?”
“She knows. She's making sure we don't get stuck here.” Sam laughed at his confusion. “This is her birthplace. She's a Program. A special kind of Program.”
Which was about the point Alan's patience wore out and the information overload became too much for him. He snapped at Sam, throwing the hand that wasn't holding the disk into the air in frustration.
“Dammit, Sam, just start the-...car-thing. And so help me, if you don't answer every single one of the five million questions scrambling my brain into mush right now on the way, you-...you're grounded!”
Sam simply laughed.