Jarvis was obsequiously wheedling in his ear about the cycle's system statistics. When the urge to manually derez him became too strong, CLU reminded himself that Jarvis couldn't entirely help it. The poor bastard was only two generations of code removed from Clippy, the Microsoft Office assistant that $Flynn had used for word processing functions and had imported into the grid in a shining example of User cruelty.
Jarvis *was* a useful scheduling program, even if he was only tolerable in infinitesimally small doses. Still, now was not the time CLU wanted to spend listening to Jarvis' further attempts to ingratiate himself. Exactly two paces behind CLU, off to his left, was Rinzler. He knew that without looking. Of course he would be there, unless CLU ordered him elsewhere.
It had taken the lives of many repurposed programs, but CLU had finally found a way out. A tiny passageway off the Grid to send a signal to the world beyond. A string of numbers reaching out to the User $Alan_Bradley- $Flynn's memories of the man were strong. He would come. He would come and open the portal.
The message had been sent a millicycle previously. CLU knew that was hardly any time at all in the User's World, but his code felt frayed, and there was only one thing that would soothe it.
"Thank you, Jarvis." CLU turned and inclined his heavy black helmet at the other program. "You are dismissed."
"Lord CLU, if I might.." Jarvis started, only to quiet at CLU's raised hand.
"Another time, Jarvis. Go downtime for a bit." Beside him, Rinzler's low growl thrummed. "Now."
Jarvis cast an accusatory look at Rinzler before bowing and quickly retreating.
CLU's personal cache was lit with a soft golden glow. With a heavy sigh, he let his helmet fold itself back and ran a nice deep tub of defrag.
His heavy black outer code peeled back as the tub filled with iridescent polygons. Aside from the surface of the fluid, not a single reflective surface could be found in his rooms. He couldn't bear to see the face of the god who betrayed him every time he walked past something.
With a sigh, CLU set his disk on a nearby stand and sank into the defrag. "Rinzler, come."
The other program padded silently to the edge of the tub and CLU reached up. Only he was keyed to remove Rinzler's helmet and with a single touch it slid back, then the black armour it was a part of. "Join me."
He watched his favourite warrior set his dual disks in the holder and slide into the tub, straddling him in the shimmering fluid. He was a singularly elegant bit of code.
There were no hard edges in Rinzler's face- his features were soft and sweet, and if it weren't for the feral orange glow in his eyes, he would look like some User's diary program or Pretty Pony Creator software.
Even his fans in the arena had no idea what he was truly capable of. But CLU knew.
"Tron." He whispered as Rinzler rubbed his cheek against CLU's, growl throttling down into a purr. He raked a wet hand back through Rinzler's hair. "Such a good boy."
Even after CLU had perfected the batch file that would allow him to repurpose the Grid's programs to their optimal usage, he couldn't bear the thought of using such a crude method on something as perfectly coded as Tron had been. Instead, he had lovingly handled every character in the other program's code.
Tron had not understood at the time, that it wasn't torture that CLU was doing to him. He was saving him. Sometimes, in his downtimes, CLU could still hear the screams. But Rinzler understood, though, after he had been reborn. The Users didn't deserve him, and his faith in them would have only corrupted him to the point of deletion.
Bound to CLU as Rinzler, Tron was free and safe.
CLU fisted his hand in Rinzler's hair, pulling his head back so he could study his face as they moved together.
$Flynn had noted that Tron was reminiscent of the User who had created him, $Alan_Bradley. Had $Alan_Bradley served $Flynn with the same devotion that Tron had? With the same devotion Rinzler showed in every line of his code now?
Rinzler's soft lips pulled back, a show of teeth and an inarticulate string of noise as CLU thrust up sharply into him. "Are you a good boy, Rinzler? A good program?"
Rinzler could only nod, his ability to verbalise long since written over with a vocabulary of throbbing growls that only CLU could translate.
"Of course you are." Maybe, soon, he would meet Tron's User, and he would thank him for this gift arching above him in the glowing fluid.
And then he would break $Alan_Bradley, just like he would break $Flynn.