Rinzler dreams. He has never met another program who dreams (or, at least, one who admits to dreaming). And he has never told Clu about the dreams. He doesn't know why he dreams. He is only an attack dog of a program. A very, very good attack dog, but nothing more. But dream he does, occasionally.
The dreams come more frequently and last longer now. It began after he fought the user, Flynn's son, in the stadium. The flashes of dream, of a the light shining off a man's glasses, or the touch of an uncalloused hand, or the feel of a heart beating under his palm, are now expanding, becoming fuller narratives. In the dreams, he wraps his hand around the hand of a man who looks hauntingly familiar and says, "I will make this world safe for you," and pulls the other man out of the communications tower, heart swelling with pride that his user has come to visit him.
Rinzler doesn't understand why he would be dreaming about a user. Clu has been quite clear about how awful the users are. And Clu is his master.
When Kevin Flynn returned from his first visit to the Encom system, he vowed that the next time he went in, he was taking company, and he bullied Alan Bradley into going with him. Alan had, finally, given up finding ways to put Flynn off. Flynn was so insistent about this, that Alan knew that all he could do was delay the trip, not cancel it. And so he found himself standing inside a large circular room, staring at another version of himself, one that did not wear glasses and carried an air of such confidence about himself that Alan was, frankly, a bit intimidated. And then they shook hands for the first time. Alan never figured out how to describe the instant connection. Years later, when Flynn recreated Clu for the new experimental system, he had tried to talk to Flynn about that moment of meeting, but it was clear that Flynn did not have the same connection with his program that Alan did with Tron. And, though Alan had met other programs that he had written over the years of visits, he had never had that same connection.
But though the connection features prominently in his memory of that first meeting, he knows that at the time he was more aware of being scared (oh my God, had he actually let himself be dematerialized!) and off-center (he was inside the computer system!) and made rather uncomfortable by his double's awe at meeting him. The double who looked like he would never have tried to deny Flynn's desire to make this crazy trip, also looked at Alan as if he was God, not just a programmer. And Tron had taken him by the hand and led him out to visit the rest of this strange world, proudly introducing him to those stopped to talk with on their journey.
Alan doesn't remember how many times he went back, both with Flynn and by himself. He cannot count the number of times he and Tron conversed via the communications array while he was outside the system. But he knows exactly when Tron stopped calling him. It was the same night that Kevin Flynn disappeared. (Probably into the new system, he knew, but he couldn't have explained that without sounding even more out of touch than his defense of Flynn had sounded.)
Rinzler flies with Clu and the others, chasing the fugitives as they flee for the Portal. He knows that Clu suspected him of aiding their escape, but he does not know why. He protects the system; he protects Clu. And protecting Clu is protecting the system. Isn't it?
He hears Clu's order to fire, and he sees the man from the dreams smile and phantom hands come to rest on each side of his face and hears, "You know, I'm not all that special," and he himself replies, "You are my user." And he disobeys the order, turning to race down toward the water, outrunning the larger ship, turning a pincher maneauver that he and Clu perfected both on lightcycles and in flight against Clu. He knows, once again, which side of this battle he chooses. He breathes, "I fight for the users," and tries to destroy Clu.
Later, as he sinks into the waters, he pushes his sense of self into his body, correcting the code Clu's guards had corrupted so long ago, and thinks of his user, wondering if Alan thinks of him.
Alan watched Sam and the girl ride off on the bike, and wondered what had happened to make Sam so suddenly decide to start throwing his power around at Encom. It reminded him of the change in the young man's father, when he had returned from his first trip into the system. And, if he was going to get stuck being the Chairman of the Board, he might as well take a look at the company reports before Sam turned the world upside down in the morning.
Alan hadn't spent much time in his office recently, having learned that if he wasn't there, Mackey and Dillinger wouldn't try to find him, but he did still have an office in the Encom Tower. It was large (larger than it need to be, he sometimes thought) and surprisingly comfortable (the board might have taken control away from him twenty years ago, but they hadn't tried too hard to force him out). Alan sat at his desk, typing the commands needed to access the board records, when he decided to do something that he hadn't done for months, and tried, once again, to contact Tron. (He had tried, hourly, at first, then daily, then monthly. For the past decade, he had tried once a year, on the anniversary of his first visit.) He entered the command in one window and then opened another to pull up the minutes for the most recent board meeting, grinning at the memory of the chaos Sam had caused.
He had read the first paragraph when his computer pinged.
Tron sinks, energy concentrated and returning to himself, and then swims, heading for the Portal. He feels the shockwave when Flynn and Clu merge, and continues his journey, unsure of what else to do now. He feels the connection as Flynn's son and the Iso girl leave the grid. His lips quirk, remembering Alan once saying that Tron's purpose was to monitor all traffic in and out of the original Encom system. He remembers that he came here to help Flynn build something new, but clearly the imperative to monitor hasn't been wiped away. He finally reaches the edge, and pulls himself from the water.
He hears the call from his user.