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Chapter Text

"So when some of the sentries started clearing out, I decided to investigate. Dumb, I know, but-"

Whatever words Beck might've whispered were drowned out by the tide in Tron's ears. He blinked down at his feet. There was something there, alright. Something he'd only seen once before, in passing.

Something unlike anything else on the Grid.

"You were right to bring me, Beck," he breathed gruffly.

"Well?" Beck pressed. The beta was behind him, peering periodically over his shoulder. "What is it?"

Once more, Tron paused to survey the scene. He sent out a second scan and was only slightly satisfied by the sense of security it provided. Eyes inscrutable, he knelt next to the puddle and put a single finger against it. The strange liquid yielded. It was sticky, and hot, not at all like the cool voltage of energy. The colour was all wrong, too. It was both brighter and blacker than energy, or even the Sea.

Feeling somehow sacrilegious, Tron brought the finger to his face and found his features reflected within. Up close the colour was even more mystifying. Red, like the circuits of Clu's occupation, but not. More old, more ancient.

More alien.

And yet, just as deeply unsettling.

Files opened and a rush of memories flooded to the surface of Tron's processes. Flynn had been all sorts of clumsy, accident-prone, and downright reckless... but invincible all the same. Even at his worst, he'd never produced more than a drop or two at a time. But now, there was just so much...

A shudder wracked Tron's frame and he pulled away. Realizing that Beck was watching him, he recomposed himself. Perhaps he'd been silent for too long, because Beck's next question was tinged with concern.

"Please tell me you know, and that it's not another one of Tesler's chemicals. I don't know if I could deal with that again."

At first Tron didn't know how to answer him. His gaze left the puddle to follow a pair of scarlet prints. From a sentry? Or its victim? Hunter or prey? Past that, the fluid dwindled into droplets, too tiny for most programs to notice. The trail rounded a corner and disappeared. A sudden compulsion pushed him to his feet.

Slowly, Tron spoke.

"I have a hunch..."