Chapter 1: First track
Category: Tron, Tron Legacy, Tron 2.0
Summary: 10 shorts inspired by a shuffle meme prompt. Take iTunes (or similar), set to shuffle, take 10 songs and write a short in the time it takes the song to play. References both films, the Tron 2.0 universe, and the fusion of them I have in my head.
Disclaimer: I'm not the Mouse, and I'm not Monolith. I'm just tech support.
1. "Alone (Waiting in Limbo)" - Dynamix II
Despite what he tells himself, and said to Yori, his identity is still an unknown parameter. He was created by Alan-1 and then forgotten. He was taken to this isolated world by Flynn and given new parameters, new functions. It was a test to see how far a Basic could grow and adapt. He, Clu, and Yori were the vanguard.
But Clu proved how far a Basic could go. Yori, in her own way, did as well. He was captured, broken, and twisted, his own evolution stunted.
When he sighs, it sounds too much like Rinzler's tinny whir.
2. "Extreme Ways" - Moby
He had always prided himself on keeping an orderly, lawful life. Valedictorian at high school, fifth in his class in college, Eagle Scout, and not even a traffic ticket to his name.
But the rumors were disturbing. Dillinger had all but cut Gibbs out of his own company. Master Control was running unchecked, and Encom had high-level government contracts. In theory, they could be O'Brien and Big Brother years ahead of schedule.
So that's why he was sitting in a dingy arcade with Lora's ex and willing to go along with this wild scheme. His program, Flynn's penchant for trouble, and Lora to keep them from throttling one another.
Lora brandished the keys. "Shall we dance?"
And his "orderly life" was over.
3. "18" - Moby
It was really over. Twenty years of waiting, wild theories, and bitterness.
All that horror and sacrifice, and still no real answers. But the Ducati twists and turns up the Mulholland hills, over to his favorite cliff. Quorra's arms are around his waist, her head on his shoulder.
She is the last thing his father ever fought for. Not him – her. Funny how easy that is to accept, how little bitterness he feels about it. They are the last to hold the legacy, and the first to change the world once they figure out how.
Today isn't the day to change the world. Today is the day to watch a sunrise.
4. "Lift Off" – Star One
It slowly dawned on Flynn that it didn't just think it was happening.
Video games were lethal here? The friendly guy in the next cage was insurance software? Belief in "Users" was a religion?
Everything was lit up in brilliant threads of neon light, information paths like freeways, ideas and code literally breathing and alive. Yeah, it was crazy and deadly. It was still insanely beautiful.
5. "Machine Language" – Dynamix II
"Stop executing escape routine!"
Jet was breathing hard, his body moving unnaturally fast as he armed the sequencer. Rolling out of the way of the first disk, he blocked the second shot and sent his own disk firing back at the ICP's head. It struck.
Boom. Headshot. It...he dissolved into voxels.
The Y-amp he'd loaded allowed Jet to jump crazy-high onto a set of moving blocks and keep sniping. He designed these kind of mazes, he didn't fight for his life through them!
He had to find Ma3a, Dad, an exit...
6. "Oil" – Moby
"C'mon, is that even legal?" Sam shouted.
He dodged the incoming shot and fired back. Don't think - just act.
"Rinzler" was this cross of Darth Vader and Scorpion. All black mask, all moves that were far too fast and too smooth for a human to pull off.
Dodge, duck, fire. From his pod, Rinzler climbed up walls and did flips. The crowd went wild.
Fuck you. Sam silently argued with the crowd. Rinzler was still software, and he was going down.
The next shot flew through the air, and Sam almost didn't see it coming in time. He leaned back in what seemed to be bullet time, and the sharp edge scraped his arm.
Blood landed on the floor.
7. "Easier to Run" – Linkin Park
Once the adrenaline wore off, the implications set in. If Programs were sentient beings, and the world of the computer was just as real as the one he lived in, then what did that mean? To reformat a hard drive was like nuking a city. To delete a program was to take a life.
Every time he had coded a level, every time he compiled a sprite, what was he doing? The ICP programs were just doing their jobs. They were soldiers protecting the system, and he killed them by the dozen – sometimes up close so he could see their faces. Crown, Popoff, and Baza were once humans, and now they...weren't. The official reports said they tried the digitizer and didn't survive it.
Jet knew better. When he closed his eyes at night, he saw the shocking contrasts and eternal night of the System and the lives he had to take.
Is that what you saw, Uncle Kevin? Is that why you ran away?
8. "Still Here" – Information Society
He hadn't wanted to think about the implications during his first trip into the system. Surrounded by enemies and unarmed, the last thing he wanted to think about was the idea that computer programs were sentient. Because if he dared to think about it that way...
He launched the protocol into cyberspace in a moment of grief. Kevin was dead. Sam was left behind. Jet was in pain, and Lora was dying. It threatened the world three times over. Nuking the digital world so that it would never pose a threat again seemed like a great idea.
But that was before he saw what his protocols were doing. That was before he came to face the Program that honored his face and saved all their lives that night. Alan did not have the luxury of denying it anymore.
This wasn't the world Kevin died in – it was the world he died for.
9. "Dream Within a Dream" – Dreadzone
The sterile-looking home decorated in bluish-white and overlooking the Outlands was nothing that Lora would have associated with Kevin's style.
The place was trashed, like someone had marched through here with intent to destroy and deface whatever it could. Not knowing what else to do, she started cleaning up the shattered glass...
No, not glass. It looked like glass and felt like it in her fingers, but it was not glass. There was a small apple sculpture in several pieces. She gathered them in her hand and fitted them together, imagining the pieces reconstructing themselves into a whole again.
As if by magic, they complied, and she spun the newly-recompiled object in her fingers, examining her own reflection in the surface.
Getting up and dusting herself off, she placed the apple on what looked like a cup warmer and went searching through the broken remains of the house. Maybe she could put it all back together a piece at a time. Maybe something would make sense after all...
She heard a voice behind her, gravelly with age, but unmistakable. "Hello, Lora."
She jumped to her feet (still surprised her reaction time was that of someone younger) and turned to see the ghostly image of Kevin – much older, much sadder, but still unmistakable.
"If you're hearing this recording, then I'm sorry..."
10. "Together in Electric Dreams" – Human League
Encom Chairman and Wife Vanish: Suicide Suspected...
Jet put the paper aside. "It's...unnerving to read it. I mean, I know my parents aren't, but..."
"They'll make wise guardians for the system," Quorra said. "Flynn always said they were wiser than he, and he was very wise."
"He learned it the hard way," Sam said with a wry smile. "And while they're taking up for him in there, I'm going to have to change things out here. If...If I'm gonna change the world, then I'm going to need help," Sam admitted, putting his hand out.
Quorra clasped her own around it. "Affirmative."
Jet smiled shakily, then put his own hand on theirs. "I've got your back."
Sam laughed nervously. "Thanks. Let's get out there. Let's start changing things."
Chapter 2: Track 2
1) Information Society, “Walking Away”
Neither of them got a choice in their destiny. Wasn't that the essential human quality? Well, she wasn't human, but something between synthetic and organic life. And it's not like she could go back. Not any more.
The stories of glittering cities were twisted to nightmares. There wasn't a single Program that showed a shred of decency or goodness. From the thousands chanting on the rectifier in brainwashed unison to the thousands literally cheering for his blood in the arena. Even the great hero of the system was nothing more than digital Darth Vader, held back only by some vestige of old code. The final blow was when his father finally paid for his belief in Programs with his life.
Sam looks out over the water, the SD card in hand, and wonders whether to throw.
2) Daft Punk, “Nocturne” (T: L soundtrack)
Ma3a has ruled the Encom system since her initialization, successor to Math Assistants One and Two. But she knows she is different. She does not leave her dock, yet she sees; the lights of the districts, the output of system processes, the lives under her care, outward to the Internet and the small portals to the User world. All worlds, all lives, User and Program, connected on many levels, but only by the thinnest of bonds.
Thorne does not attack just her system, he rips the bonds, leaving gaping wounds, corruption, death. She can do little but weep.
3) Disturbed, “Ten Thousand Fists”
The Uprising began in Argon, a remote and obscure city. It began with an even less distinguished mechanic, just out of beta with all the foolishness that implied.
To remove the head of the leader's statue was not just an act of protest. Because Clu is avatar of the creator, it is an act of blasphemy. No one believes this Renegade is the legend he masks himself as, but they hear the message, that the spark of the Grid's Champion can live on in an anonymous citizen; in someone like them.
Their User has abandoned them. Their avatar is a monster.
They have only themselves.
4) Linkin Park, “In Between”
A Program's core directives aren't alterable, short of full rectification. Sure, they can take on new functions, assimilate new data, but their primary function never leaves them.
Tessler ordered his troops to evac the city, but Paige “let” her communicator get broken and ran into the streets of Argon to try and save civilians – once a medic, always a medic. How could Clu do this? Wasn't he supposed to be building the perfect system – one without a User's arrogance and blundering ignorance, one by and for Programs?
She curses Flynn for the fiftieth time since reaching the makeshift shelter. The Renegade's last decision gate was to push her out of the way of falling debris. Despite dragging him here, despite her old medic's coding, she could not save him.
She knew all along that the Renegade was that silly mechanic. His last act before de-rez was to place his disc in her hands.
“I trust you, Paige.”
She can't trust herself.
5) Poe, “Haunted”
It was a terrible life on the run. Things weren't easy before the Purge. The tension was a sharp-bitter taste in the air during those final days. Flynn tried to patch things. He tried to make things right. He was wise and good and wanted best for all, but Clu only wanted a “perfect” system, even if it meant standing alone over nothingness.
Anon found her, escorted her before she knew how to fight, dropped her in the Outlands where she found the Creator and he took pity on her. She insisted on going back, learning to fight. She found others of her kind. For a while in Argon, she and Ada teamed up. Ada was a game fighter, not a top ranked one, but enough to give her a foundation.
Anon died in the Outlands. Ada died in Argon. Many more died in Bostrum. One by one, the lights were snuffed out. She remained, despite a deep wish to join them. But the Creator demanded she live and learn at his feet. She would change the world, he said.
There is no world anymore. She lives because of the Creator's will.
6) Daft Punk, “Rectifier” (T: L soundtrack)
The virtual server was a maze of twisty passages and identical corridors with unmarked doors. All along the walls were cells where dozens of people slept in stasis pods.
“What are they doing to these Programs?” Mercury asked. Her rods were out and lit, anticipating trouble.
“Not Programs – Users,” Jet said. “The Wraith are all Users.”
Mercury shuddered. That just made this worse.
“F-Con will launch this thing from a cell phone if they have to. No system will be safe. That's why we need to crash it.”
The com system overhead activated. “You can run all you like across my ship...you can run and run, but you'll only die tired.”
The stasis tubes cracked open and the sound of clattering surrounded them.
7) Oingo Boingo “Just Another Day”
The war had been going on long before anyone realized it was a war. The opening shot was fired when he was still a young man, all tweed suit and thick glasses. It started when his anger at one too many missing programs, one too many things not adding up led to coding the first independent system monitor.
It escalated with a six-felony night and Master Control turning the building's defenses into deathtraps. Lora had come so close to asphyxiating in the server room when the CO2 blew in through the air vents. He narrowly dove out of the way of a mercenary's bullet (and has a scar on his shoulder that aches when it gets cold). He saw the countdown to nuclear war that was narrowly averted when his software brutally shut the MCP down.
He knows damn well his friend did not crack up and vanish. He knows Ed Dillinger Sr. isn't dead (and best to keep Dillinger Jr in a place where he can be watched). He knows that there are few he can trust (Thorne's betrayal taught him not to trust more). He knows he hasn't seen the last of F-Con or those like them. He can see the pieces, but he cannot see the board.
He knows Sam and Jet will not have a choice other than to join the fight, though. That's why he has to make sure everything is in place for when they do.
8) Pink, “U + Ur Hand”
OK, sleaziest bar in this cesspit calling itself Purgos. Four Resource Hogs thinking they were going to have a hot little interface party with her and the latest rookie.
So what if the latest rookie had a little extra circuitry on her upper left arm? Not a problem as far as Mercury saw. But she did have a problem when the biggest of the Hogs decided to get a little too “friendly.”
Quorra whirled around with a precision strike to the guy's groin circuits – must have picked that up from her User pal, but the guy doubled over nice. His buddies pulled suffusion guns, she and Quorra pulled batons – much better suited in close quarters.
Oh, it was on - just the way Mercury liked it.
9) Scissor Sisters “I Can't Decide”
In truth, he can't glitching stand Clu. That over-serious killjoy probably would have de-rezzed him a long time ago, when he was a different script and his hobbies were a bit more dangerous. Oh, it's likely Clu knows damn well what he is, and that just makes the game a little more fun and a lot more deadly.
Zues likes his games, and his fun. It's the deadly he'd rather do without.
He gives Clu the red carpet treatment when he comes to End of Line, only sporting. He tries not to seethe too much, tries to tell himself to save that poison he plans to spike the drink with until the time is just right. He tells his DJs to make themselves scarce – it will simply not do for the “Liberator” to know they share a mind due to a failed rectification. He'd hate to lose good talent.
So, when his doorman sends the signal, he straightens his coat, twirls his cane, and forces his finest fake smile. Someday, he'll have the upper hand.
10) Sarah McLaughlin, “World on Fire”
The loss and bitterness was like carrying a heavy hunk of pixel stone for so long that one forgets the weight. There was so much to hate, so much to grieve, so much anger and shame.
Abandoned by her original creator, brought with the others to this new world as a refugee only for the Users to abandon them again. Only to lose her beloved, her friends, her status, her purpose. She sought de-rez for a long time, then accepted her continued existence as a bitter penance.
The tower was rebuilt first. Her robes restored like her faith.
Nothing will restore all of of what was lost. Nothing will make up for the cycles alone and the many names now carved into the Tower's memorial wall as Programs now come – at first in ones and twos, now in groups and in pilgrimages. Many to ask questions and receive a Guardian's benediction. Others to reach out to each other and their new Users.
Tron puts his arm around her waist and actually smiles. They are a mirror of this world – beaten, torn apart, broken, scarred, rebuilt...but for the first time in cycles, there is hope.
Forgiveness feels better than she expected.
1. Doing it Right
It was perfection in its blank slate. Just a bare-bones OS, the laser software, and him.
And on the first day, there was light. On the second day, the land was separated from the sea.
With a deep breath, Flynn breathed in the darkness and potential, seeing the code in his head before it compiled. It was almost dancing creation into existence, a sweeping gesture created an island, separating it from the blue silver of the Sea (junk code and organic matter from the arcade trash). Wave his hand in a long smooth gesture and a wide plain formed. A quick sweep upward and a mountain rose in jagged pixels.
The new deity of the system laughed in joy.
Rinzler hears the crowd, but they are just atmosphere, irrelevant data and noise. He has become perfected in forcing out the noise. It's merely a drumbeat to follow...one...two...three...block, fire, dodge.
The impossible by human physics somersault he performs off the pixel-glass changed the beat of the crowd's cheering momentarily, but he wanted that. Never skip a beat – never a wasted move. One...pull back left hand with disc, throw on two, watch first enemy shatter to nothing on three.
Four, pivot on heel and five, block. Back to one as the second opponent's disc shatters. He doesn't bother glancing at their distraught face, keeping up the deadly dance as he spins and launches his disc.
The dance is over.
3. The Game of Love
If he wants to be honest with himself, he still feels he didn't earn his good fortune. He is anything but flashy, flamboyant, and charismatic. In his darker moments, he wonders if she didn't just pick him because he was just the “safe and sane” man who was more interested in fidelity and starting a family. The long separations don't help his doubts, but he loves her too much to hold her back, and she would never think of ripping him from his duties, either. They both owed Gibbs and Flynn that much.
For the third time that evening, he listens to her voice mail, glass of scotch in hand. It's past midnight on the East Coast. She's in for another round of treatments. She wants to stop, to give up. He can't give up on her. It's selfish and painful, and triggered the nastiest argument they've ever had (thank God they never argued like that when their son was small).
“Alan, I'm sorry. It was the pain talking. I'll go back to the doctors again...”
A envelope of folded, yellowed pages from Gibbs's personal notes is stuffed into the back of Digital Frontier; laser data, equations, correction algorithms.
It's their last chance.
There is a celebration when Ma3a is returned to her dock. The citadel is lit up in bright colors, the damaged ziggaurats are patched, and bright geometric fireworks explode in the air. Programs toast with glasses of clean energy, and there is once again laughter and celebration.
The Encom system was badly damaged, but it will rebuild, it will be stronger than before. And they have many to thank for it – some who did not live to see this cycle. Thorne broke many things, but not her people's spark, and more importantly, not their trust or their faith.
As the dock closes around her, she cannot help but feel a pang of sorrow. Her freedom is gone, but her vision is restored.
She can see across the many lines, across the many systems, see the thin and fragile bonds connecting this world with the User one. It is beautiful to behold, indescribable with words or strings.
But she focuses on a dim light far away, a dark system her vision cannot pierce.
5. Television Rules the Nation
Before him are hordes – a willing army of rainbow circuitry. He stands on a dais at the front, hands sweating, heart racing, and wanting to be anywhere but there. He never thought he would actually wish for a Z-Lot invasion or an incoming raid of DataWraiths.
And he isn't alone – he's just to the right of Uncle Kevin who is all big smiles and wide eyes and grand dreams. Just as youthful as the day he went away (abandoned them?), wearing a big thick cloak like Thorne and gold circuits like Ma3a.
The crowd below is chanting in worship, and Jet can just make out the word.
Kevin slaps an arm around his shoulders. “Isn't this great? Isn't this perfect?”
Jet wakes up from the dream retching.
6. Face to Face
The four of them are probably unstoppable if they work together, at least by Sam's estimation. Quorra, he trusts, though he hasn't known her long (but running and fighting for your life with someone tends to speed things up). Jet's...changed, but still got the crazy loyalty. Must be a Bradley thing. Mercury is the closest to a wild card (she's a Program, after all, and they do not think the same way as humans), but so far so good.
So, when faced with yet another lightcycle arena in yet another cesspit of the system, he's feeling pretty good about his odds. The opposition is a bunch of Resource Hogs – lots of bluster and brute force, but the brains of a rock.
His cycle speeds in tandem with his team, and when Jet and Quorra speed off opposite directions to corral the Hogs, Mercury flashes him a big grin.
“Try and keep up,” she teases before gunning the engine.
7. Solar Sailer (Ki:Theory Lay Our Bodies Down Remix)
It's End of Line.
Grimly they ride to the battlefield, cycles in tandem. How often as kids did they pretend they were doing exactly this, ten speed bikes becoming lightcycles in their minds?
Reality is a bitch.
There are scores of desperate, angry, corrupted Programs and who knows how many DataWraiths waiting for them. Leading it all is Master Control 2.0 himself. At stake is the fate of two worlds; interconnected, interdependent, and yet one is too much of a secret from the other.
But their enemies can no longer count on their sorrow and division.
They are Users, and united. And Master Control will pay.
8. Revolution 909
It's a flagrant violation of curfew by the citizens of Argon, probably triggered by the Jolly Tricksters gang and that damned Renegade. The epicenter of it is on Center Street, packed wall to wall with lightcycles and transports. Bands play music as people dance in the street under the headless statue of Clu. (no one bothered to recompile it, and Tessler actually likes that monstrosity headless, though he'll never admit to it).
His jets are in a flyby pattern, tanks at the ready. He could crush this with a single word and he knows it. But as the Renegade's popularity is proving, an iron grip will only cause the city to continue slipping through his fingers.
“Shall we destroy them, General?” Pavel's sneer manages to transmit through audio. It's impressive, actually.
Tessler sighs. My administrator, right or wrong conflicts with guard the citizens yet again.
“Not for now,” Tessler says. “We wait.”
9. Something About Us
They were bundled not by chance, but by decree of their Users. It means they didn't know each other at all before they were made into a unit. At the time, it seemed arbitrary and illogical. And even after their forced bonding, they were thrust into battles and resistance.
Being bundled to a system monitor can't be easy for her. She went from a peaceful life compiling simulations to sneaking in alleys, eavesdropping on important conversations, sabotage and illegal power reroutes. Yori insists she's fine with it, but Tron sees her exhaustion. As she crashes to sleep mode in exhaustion, he is still awake and too alert.
He praises the Users for compiling her and for her presence in his life.
He questions the Users for why they chose to put that burden on her.
10. Harder Better Faster Stronger
Fighting through a ship full of rectified Programs? Been there, did that
Fighting through a ship full of DataWraiths? That was Jet's department, not his.
Fighting through a ship crammed with both? Yeah, that was going to be a problem.
The girls had a higher kill count so far. He knew why Quorra had to be so quick and lethal. Mercury actually laughed as she was fighting, lashing out with quick strikes of her shock rods, sweeping the legs out from an ICP, doing a backflip off one of the walls (Was she taking lessons from Rinzler or something?!) before stabbing a shocked Wraith in the back and taunting the rest to charge her.
Jet's strikes were slow, and he was working some kind of mojo on Mercury and Quorra to mitigate wounds while Sam channeled whatever User power he had into making his strikes harder and faster.
Tank, two DPS, and a healer. Well, shit. This really was a bad video game.
This one came about after going to see laser Daft Punk at the Science Center. I figured "why not." Maybe a all-Journey one will have to be next.
Chapter 4: All Journey edition
Last round was Daft Punk, but it ain't a Tron film until Journey starts blaring over an arcade sound system.
1. Separate Ways (Re-recorded Version)
The arcade came back with a thrown switch – trapped in the eighties like a fly in amber. It explained everyone's life perfectly – grinding to a halt in 1989, his life included. Everyone just threw plastic over it all, let the dust accumulate.
He pushed aside the old Tron game and into the hidden passage. He didn't notice the lack of dust in the passageway, the key in the lock that was too shiny to be twenty years old. What he did find was the old laser, the old lab, and all the answers he never wanted to have. Every question answered just added five more – like cutting heads off a hydra.
His father dead, all Isos but Quorra dead, the digital world a traitorous hole he has little interest in redeeming. After all, his father believed in those AIs the most, and look what gratitude it earned. He took the only thing worth saving. Maybe they'll change the world. Maybe they'll just make a dent in it. Maybe it won't matter at all.
2. “Don't Stop Believing”
Sitting together on the Solar Sailer, they were out of danger for the moment. Maybe they could pull this thing off after all. Straight run for portal, jump out, and snipe that eight-bit asshole wearing Dad's face from a safe distance.
Sam caught himself sneaking peeks at Quorra. She was from this place, but at least she wasn't a program. She was that last piece of a miracle, and sure, he had questions. Questions weren't as important right now. They talked while his dad sat like some old monk, hopefully oblivious to the conversation. She had a lot of romantic ideas about his world, he found out.
“It's how I imagined a sunrise to be...”
It hit him. She had never seen a sunrise, or had real pizza, or walked in the actual surf of an ocean. The concepts just didn't translate. She'd spent how long being hunted down like vermin, never a chance to have fun? Put a few things in perspective. The place was a crazy, shitty world, but she was in it.
“Aw, trust me, there's no comparison”
She leaned in. “What's it like?”
He wasn't good with words. “Warm...radiant...beautiful...”
3. “Edge of the Moment”
The disc recording played and Tron watched, still stone faced and betraying nothing. The female-designated Program used a staff that had been “appropriated” from a system guard to cut down attackers with suicidal viciousness.
“She knew how and where to hit Tessler's latest super weapon,” Beck pointed out. “And she was less than happy to see me.”
“Did you ever catch her name?”
“No, she was pretty single-minded. When she found out that...well, that I wasn't you, she wasn't interested in volunteering any information that wasn't about the weapon. I don't think she cared if she lived or de-rezzed.”
“You think she's on our side?”
Beck scowled. “She's not on Clu's, but I don't think she believes in the User, either. And when she left, she said that if you were alive, she had a message.”
Tron closed the display. “What message?”
Beck shrugged. “She just said 'Always.'”
4. “Send Her my Love”
If he wanted to be honest, really honest with himself, he never got over Lora. There were other lovers, other friends, sometimes with benefits – Jordan, of course, but also Diane, or Eric, or even that fun, yet regrettable, fling with a couple out in Phoenix. Hell, they were just college kids, and everyone knew it was never going to work out in the long term. Yet, with her, it was a meeting of the minds. He knew he could tell Lora anything, no matter how crazy or world-changing, and she'd be able to keep up.
He wonders if she's happy. If she and Alan stopped at Jet or ended up wrangling a small army. He wonders if she ever rebuilt the laser, or came back from DC. He also contemplates sadder possibilities, that maybe things with her and Alan fell apart over long separations, or that one or both of them died. Maybe she hates him. Worse,maybe she no longer remembers him.
5. “Wheel in the Sky”
Flights to DC are common for him Flights to LA are common for her.
He's got Encom. She had the Shiva rebuild. They both have their charity work, and the boys, the memory of Flynn and Gibbs. Duty – always duty. They get a few moments here and there before they have to part again.
This is no way to keep a marriage, and neither of them like it. Still, there is always duty – his to Encom, hers to science, They've talked a lot about walking away from one to support the other, but neither one is willing to destroy the lifetime's work of the other. Life is never perfect, and it often means swallowing bitterness and soldiering on.
The plane taxis up to the arrivals gate, and already he is smiling. A week – they have a week.
6. “Castles Burning”
The trick to surviving, Gem found, was to make sure you never stayed loyal to anyone but yourself. After a while, she could smile while sending the damned to their messy de-resolutions. The point was to be the last beautiful thing they'd see. If there was a recruit with a little potential, keep an eye on them. Escapees never lived long, but sometimes they did a little damage on the way to their deaths.
Zues taught her the art of the deal, and he pays her in luxuries and a little freedom to be his eyes, as he doesn't leave the End of Line for fear of capture and worse. Sometimes, she will lure a prisoner to the End of Line. Sometimes, she will let them pass through so they can tell Zues what they know, and maybe they'll have something useful to add to the information trade before they are discarded.
There is no fighting Clu, not in the long run. But so long as the dissidents have a glimmer of hope, then the trap needs to be in place. A Siren is the creature that lures, that ensnares, that survives by feeding on the doomed.
It's all about the illusion, the pretty smile.
It's all about a single word – Survive.
7. “Trial by Fire”
He has run the gamut; from his early days, just out of beta and under the oppression of a dimming system and the pressure of abandoning his faith, which only made it stronger. His prayers in an I/O Tower were confirmed by the wonderful sound of his creator's voice and the thrumming power of an upgraded disc in his hands.
To seeing a real User – foolish, careless, knowing nothing, but well-intentioned and willing to fight. They fought – and they won. The Users were good.
But then Lora-3 abandoned Yori. Alan-1 gave him up without protest. Flynn was just as careless, and ended up abandoning the Programs when the Isos proved more like User than Program.
And in his darkest hours, trapped in rectification, he prayed for intervention that never came. The Users were cruel.
He believed he had no more faith in Users. But when Users returned, and he could see his creator's eyes and hear his voice again, he could not help remembering how wonderful it was to have that faith.
8. “Turn Down the World Tonight”
Flynn's abandoned home in the Outlands truly was beautiful, even with all the obvious vandalism done to it. Alan was calculating how to repair the damage, but he was easily distracted by his wife shifting position in the bed next to him.
Yes, they'd fooled around like a pair of newlyweds in Flynn's old bed – and didn't feel sorry about it.
“Stop thinking, Alan,” she said.
“How do you know I was thinking?”
“Um...how long have we been married? I know you. You think too much.”
He turned over and propped up on his elbow. “This place...I didn't....It explains a lot. And you're right...it's changed us. No pain in my back or my wrists, or...”
She kissed him – always an effective way to get him to stop thinking and shut up.
“Maybe we could stay,” Lora suggested.
“We've always thought that. Maybe it's time to look at what we want.”
His answer was to pull her in a little closer.
9. “Forever in Blue”
I'm going to find that “Jordan Dana Canas” and kick his ass!
He was all well and ready to do it, too. The arcade was packed, beer and soda flowing. Regulars and curious onlookers were all ready to place their bets on the video game match-up of the decade; virtuoso Kevin Flynn versus the mystery patron that could beat him at his own game.
Standing in front of Matrix Blaster, light gun in hand, a hush went over the crowd as the doors opened and in watched the challenger.
He was expecting a teenaged boy – not a thirty-ish tall blonde with a great chest in a blue tank top and hip-hugging acid wash jeans. She strolled up, took the player-two gun, and inserted her quarter, giving him a cool nod.
Oh. I'm in trouble...
10. “Only the Young” [Re-Recorded Version]
What's a Flynn without a Bradley to be their compass?
What's a Bradley without a Flynn to kick them out of their doubts?
The thing Kevin Flynn hyped up in his books was that a Program was constrained by their directive, and humans had free will. The reality was the lines between choice and directive, between human and Program, were as blurry as an oil slick on wet pavement.
They always had more directive than choice. Sam was heir to the throne and Jet would be his compass. The two of them would both be the Master Users of the digital world, shaping it with wisdom and compassion to bridge the gaps between human and Program. They spent so much time focusing on the flaws, resisting their destinies, and fighting fate instead of trying to work with what they'd been given, embracing directive on their own terms.
A smile and a nod, and they're back on their bikes, Quorra and Mercury behind them, riding off into the Outlands.
Chapter 5: 10 more - happy 35th
Ten more shorts - Happy 35th anniversary of Film #1!
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Us and Them” - Pink Floyd
Ram wanted an ordinary runtime. Go to his job, tell the Users the truth – not what they wanted to hear. Go home. Maybe take a long walk. He wasn’t bundled, and that was about the only complaint he had about his runtime - it was sometimes a little lonely. But he had friends and work, and directive, so it was a minor complaint.
Rkleinburg brought him in for an upgrade, which saved him when his insurance firm was overtaken. He started to calculate the odds that any of his fellow scripts survived, and then broke his train of thought, deciding he really didn’t want those odds anyway.
He’d been approached in the park while on his morning run – handsome male render. Game fighter. Called himself “Bastion.” Red circuitry should have been a tip-off, but he hadn’t known what it meant at the time. Bastion jokingly challenged him to a race, and Ram knew it was a sucker’s wager, but there was little harm in it. It was a surprise when he could actually keep pace on the track with Bastion.
And every microcycle, he’d go to the track and hope to see Bastion, and Bastion was there, hoping to see him too. Most of the time, it was friendly...or maybe a bit more than that. They’d talk about the best mixtures of energy, music, art, sometimes the stupidity of Users. Ram was halfway through a great story about the User who tried to burn down their own house for the insurance payout, got himself caught in the fire, and his surviving relatives tried to sue the insurance company for added audacity.
Bastion listened, but then asked. “Ram, why are you still a Blue, then?”
“Yeah, you still believe in them. I’m a Red. I’ve walked away from that. We don’t have to grovel for them. I don’t have to be killed and rebuilt for their entertainment all the time. Sark’s been good to me. Made me his chief lieutenant. We could use a script like you, running the odds for us.”
“Users are silly, but...wait, what are you talking about?”
“There’s a revolution. We can handle ourselves. We don’t need them.”
“No, but maybe they need us!”
“That’s the whole point. We could be giving the orders instead of taking them. Stop thinking like a slave, Ram. Join us.“
Long story short, Ram refused the offer. Which was too bad, because he had thought of Bastion as his friend. Maybe they could have been more than that, too. Bastion visited sometimes. Kept making the same offer. Sometimes added himself to the deal.
Ram knew he couldn’t take it, especially how Bastion’s boss treated Ram’s fellow inmates, but the temptation was still there.
“I Have the Touch” – Peter Gabriel
Things were going great.
He was CEO of the vanguard company in computer development. Books, talk shows, speaking tours. People whispered his name in reverent tones or cheered it when he walked in the room in one world.
In another, he was Creator, a virtual god and benevolent despot over all he surveyed. Best security monitor in the world on his left, virtual avatar on his right. His Rome was thriving, teaming with life, both Basic and Iso and aside from some rough spots, things were going well. Once it was ready, he’d rewrite the rules on both worlds.
Yeah, he wished Jordan was here to share it.
He had a wonderful little boy, great friends (Man, Roy and Alan...it was too bad Roy was never going to see what an awesome guy he coded. But when Alan got a look at Tron...Oh, that was going to be worth the price of admission). His personal bank accounts totaled more than the GDP of a third world country. He was rich, handsome, successful...
Then why was he in the middle of this big party held in his honor, looking out over a cityscape that looked no different in digital or analog, and wishing he was back in his old arcade? Why did he feel trapped? Lonely?
Flynn pushed it out of his head, put on a smile, and grabbed another beer.
FM – "Unbreakable"
It became a taboo after Clu came to power. Never talk about the ones you lost. Never say their names, never talk about the times you had together. Do your best to delete them from memory and never mention them. To talk about the de-rezzed meant you’d be next. It was an illogical conclusion, but one that seemed to keep the living alive.
It’s a sign of insurrection to say the names. It’s the seditious element that carves the names and disc symbols of the de-rezzed on the walls of Argon so that others can remember. Tron Lives, but too many more have died.
So, when Mara and Zed faced the incoming army, it looked like all was lost. They’d de-rez either way.
And Zed was the one who broke the silence – just a ping, inaudible to any outside his unit in the garage.
Mara answered with a nod. Bhodi.
Discs activated. Time to join them.
“Horsepower” - Justice
Seth Crown was ready. In fact, he wanted this more than anything.
He had looked down on them from the catwalk – armies of Wraiths under his command. Whatever had been done to them in the simulators worked like a charm. They bowed on command, fought in unison, never talked back, and knew he was the one in charge. They’d march in, take everything he asked them to take, dominate the digital world so Crown could rule the analog one. Sure, Popoff could have a share. She earned it. Baza was too cowardly to be anything but a problem. Once they didn’t need him any more, Crown was going to make sure he was too dead to talk.
It was great, but only the start. Shooting them in, wave after wave. They worked just like planned – everything from state secrets to credit card numbers exposed. Media feeds hijacked. Stock market could be played like a video game. But that stupid Bradley kid – rich, white punk who did nothing all his life but ride daddy’s coat tails – was putting up quite the fight against them.
That’s why he was itching to take the fight to the damn kid personally. He had visions of blood in mind – lots of it. Crown wanted to choke the life out of Jethro Eugene Bradley and was going to enjoy every picosecond.
And after that? Nothing standing in the way between him and virtual godhood.
“Run with Us” - Lisa Lougheed
Quorra thought she would be alone. She had long resigned herself to that idea. Her people gone, her cities burned. While her master, the Creator, was a kind man, he was also too broken to be much comfort. And while Yori stayed for a time, Yori’s anger eventually drove her away from them.
Sam Flynn was the first in a very long time to try and understand, to see her the way her own people did. He was glad to stay with her, ask her how she felt, admit he needed her help. And he shared her grief and horror when their Creator sacrificed himself so they could be safe.
And more came. Her people could never return, but there was still a fight left in her, a directive to change the world. Alan-One and Lora Prime taking her in. Tron restored from corruption, and Yori slowly overcoming the pain. There was Sam’s friend Jet, and Mercury – the strange, aggressive Program who admitted she couldn’t understand Quorra, but was still going to fight to the de-rez to defend her if it came down to it. Even Paige returned from hiding, sadder, wiser, angry at having been deceived, but willing to forgive and asking to be forgiven.
Oh, there was still danger. The digital world had more enemies than ever. The Grid still needed rebuilding. It was dangerous, dirty work. Her people and their song would likely never return. But she was free and the directive remained.
Change the world.
And together they would.
“Immortals” - Fall Out Boy
“Ever think it was gonna be like this?” Jet asked. They were driving a stolen lightjet with a masked circuit identifier into enemy territory. A faction of Clu loyalists were rallying behind one of his better enforcers. And with the Seeker they managed to hijack, the danger level went from crazy to batshit crazy.
“Nah,” Sam said with a shrug. “Figured it would be dangerous.”
Nothing like the Flynn sense of humor to break the tension. “Seriously? You’re a glutton for punishment, and you drag me along.”
“Didn’t see you complaining or protesting...much.”
Casual conversation – it was a classic way to distract from thinking about just how stupid the thing you were about to do actually was.
“Coming in on sector three-three-zero, landing just outside of what’s left of Beryllium. And Sam? This sure beats a Saturday night in front of the TV.”
Sam flashed one of his mile wide grins. “Time to be immortal.”
“Burn it to the Ground” - Nickelback
While most of the Rinzler code had been purged, there were parts that would never go away. As Rinzler, he felt little but the desire to break enemies on his master’s command. When he was a young script, before The Grid, he killed quickly, efficiently. It was nothing to take pleasure in. He detested Sark’s enjoyment of pain and destruction then, marked it as the thing that made them different.
And this is the primary (though by no means only) reason Mercury is both the script that he understands best and annoys him the most. She smiles when she kills, twirling the Rod in her hands, delivering a painful de-rez with her strikes. She has no corruption to blame for it. It’s simply her.
“I’m up to a dozen. You?”
“Twenty. You’re slow.”
Mercury scowls at the “slow.” He knows she considers it the kind of insult that would get a lesser script jabbed in the chest. Maybe she’ll try.
Three quick strikes, and three more corruption soldiers lie dead. “Three in one pico. Top that, tough guy.”
Impressive – but he won’t admit it.
“Sisters Are doing it for Themselves” - Eurythmics.
“Never send a man to do a woman’s job, no?”
Eva Popoff, in or out of cyberspace, was crazy for power and incredibly smug. She could transform at will now – masking her real appearance with a disguise subroutine that made her look almost human until she discarded it to reveal her corrupted form underneath. This was still the woman who tried to murder her husband and her son and imprisoned her to try and destroy the world she gave them – and her human identity - up to protect.
“Don’t look at me that way. You are same as me. Neither of us are human any longer. We are something bigger, something better. Your mastery of sight and my drive? We will conquer. I have left you little choice in the matter but to cooperate.”
She wasn’t kidding. “Little choice” meant her forces had Jet, Alan, Tron, and Yori captured. Mercury, her last line of defense, was still missing.
Lora’s eyes narrowed and she felt the tingling in her fingertips and the rage build. She may not have been entirely human anymore, but she was more than capable of meeting Popoff’s threat with her own challenge. Popoff didn’t know this world and its rules like she did.
“You aren’t dealing with them, Eva. You’re dealing with me.”
“Try” - Pink
Quorra’s eyes got wide, and when they got like that, it made Mercury nervous. Because it was usually followed by some question she really didn’t want to answer. Wasn’t her fault. She wasn’t human or Program, and spending most of her runtime in a glorified prison probably didn’t help her in the long run when it came to understanding difficult subjects.
Mercury looked back into her drink.
“You’ve been intimate with a User?!” At least Quorra knew how to keep her voice down and not announce it to the whole damn bar.
Mercury nodded. She looked over her shoulder. Jet was talking to Sam over in a corner. Maybe the same conversation. She’d seen the looks Quorra and Sam gave one another. Little too familiar. Probably was the same conversation, judging by how Jet was blushing and studying his boots.
Quorra followed it with the inevitable. “What was it like?”
Now that was a very good query. Physically? Amazing – all that wonderful energy, the contrast of skin against shell, and the difference in sensation. Emotionally? Tougher call. Mercury had never been good with those. Add the time dilation issues, the differences in their life spans, the fact that he was a User (and hated that fact) and willingly conceded all control to her, placing his whole being in her hands. The knowledge that while they could love and live in the moment, the future always too many variables to calculate.
“Be careful,” she warned. “On some level, it’s always going to hurt. But I wouldn’t trade a moment.”
“The Book of Love” - Peter Gabriel
Really, they shouldn’t have survived the events that brought them all together.
Truth? They really didn’t. At least the people they were didn’t survive, and that wasn’t so bad. The people they were had nothing but duty and work and debts and all that did not matter.
Lora looked amazing – more beautiful than ever. She still had Ma3a’s gold and white robes, but the gold mask she had worn was reduced to a gold headdress. Jet was on her left, Mercury on her right. On his end, he’s been outfitted in similar robes, but somehow didn’t feel as ridiculous and nervous as he did as a young groom. And his escorts were Sam and Tron.
Their children. All of them. Fitting.
Yori and Quorra waited for them at the dais. Finally, their family was...well, it was not whole, but it was close enough. Yori was outfitted in her ceremonial Guardian robes and miter. They too were restored.
“All that is visible must grow beyond itself and extend into the realm of the invisible. Today, we ask the permission of those greater than Users to see and authorize this bundling, this renewal of a bond...”
Yes, doing some more screwing around and melding the continuities in my head. Lora's fate being the one big difference in the canons is that she was killed (and merged into Ma3a) in 2.0, but alive in Legacy. So, how do you write around it? Well, I more or less go with "both." Yes, there's an explanation as to how and why "both." I'm working out the details in a longer fic right now. Could use a beta for it when finished.