He wasn’t sure what he had been expecting when it came to meeting Flynn. Surely all programs had, at one point or another, wondered what it would be like to meet their User in person. Though now, watching him, Clu figured that even though he hadn’t expected this. He couldn’t keep his eyes off his User. Flynn spoke almost theatrically, and his body language corresponded to it. Wide sweeping motions of the arms, leaning against those who sat next to him. It was all slightly overwhelming.
Each time Flynn brushed his shoulder against his, for example, Clu felt a rush of warmth. Not quite unlike an energy transfer but...entirely different.
In contrast to his User, of course, he found himself sitting rather stiffly in this ‘pillow hell’. He couldn’t exactly help it. He was so used to sitting around places in the outlands, with only hard rock to support him, and his tank’s chair which while not ramrod straight, had not exactly been the epitome of comfort. This never-ending couch was entirely different, perhaps the softest thing he’d ever encountered. And no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t relax. It didn’t help either that Bit had long since left, (he felt only a little hurt, honest,), because in the time he’d been gone apparently it’d grown a healthy wanderlust. It made sense, it must be better to travel freely than be trapped in a tank for centicycles at a time.
He sat to the right of Flynn, the actuary Ram sat on the other side of his User in the corner and then Tron and Yori followed.
Flynn moved his hands out wide, “And then I was just back in the seat in front of the terminal,” He snapped his fingers, “Just like that! And there was a printout of the proof I needed all along!”
“And back here in the system, all of the I/O towers lit up- and it was...I don’t know how to describe it.” Yori glanced at her partner.
“Beautiful.” Tron said simply.
Clu blinked rapidly, trying to process all the wealth of information he’d been given in the short amount of time he’d been re-rezzed.
He shyly glanced at his User, “How...how did you even manage to get the data during all that chaos?”
“Oooh, he’s right, Flynn, how did you?” Ram asked.
Flynn frowned, his eyes darting to the floor, “I’m not sure...one second I was jumping into the beam and the next I was in the Laserbay. I must've done something, but I’d be lying if I told you exactly what I did.”
Clu bit the inside of his cheek. Memory loss was never pleasant.
“I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about it before.”
“Well, maybe you should start thinking about it.” Ram teased, flicking the side of Flynn’s face. He pushed the hand away with a scoff.
“This is all so much. ” Clu concluded after a moment of silence. His voice, of course, was much flatter than the emotions he was actually feeling.
“Yeah, no kidding.” Flynn said.
Tron’s eyes stared steadily toward’s Clu. Clu felt a wave of unease wash over him, not too dissimilar to that of a Red spotting him.
“And what about you, Clu? I’m sure you must have stories to tell.” The security program asked.
The unease suddenly became heavier, and Clu scolded himself silently as his circuits momentarily flickered to a disgruntled mustard yellow before becoming their more proper yellow again.
“Yes...well. While your story of defeating the MCP only took place over a few microcycles, my...journey through ENCOM was composed of a few cycles .”
Tron narrowed his eyes before Yori put a hand on his shoulder. The suspicion made sense, he supposed. He was still a hacker. And Tron was apparently the best security monitor...ever. Still…
Flynn cut through the slight tension, “C’mon, don’t sweat it man, there’ll be plenty of time to swap stories.”
Flynn raised an eyebrow, “Hey, how about I show you up to your apartment?”
Clu silently mouthed the word ‘apartment’ to himself before nodding again.
Flynn looked to the other programs, “That alright with everybody?”
They all gave small variations of ‘yes’, and Flynn got up, pulling Clu with him by the arm. It startled the program, a strong rush of warmth spreading through the contact. He couldn’t help but wonder if this was what the Users’ sun felt like. Then Flynn practically dragged him across the room to the elevator.
Tron watched them go with a slight furrow in his brow. As soon as the elevator doors shut, Yori turned to him with a small smack to the shoulder.
“Must you do that?” She asked, exasperated.
Yori and Ram looked directly at each other and then back at him with matching ‘are you serious’ expressions.
“Security monitoring- You were security monitoring Clu!” Ram said with a snort.
“I can’t exactly turn it off- and he’s a hacker-”
“He’s Flynn’s program!” Yori shook her head.
Ram undocked his disk to spin it idly between his hands, “To be fair. Tron did security monitor Flynn too, when he met him.”
“Of course I did. We were in The Games . And he knew Alan_One’s name. ”
“In hindsight…” Yori said absently to herself before saying, “Even so, you were being especially ‘glare-y’ at Clu. And you seemed so good with him when he rezzed in.”
Tron sighed, “Yes, “I'm aware. I’m sure I’ll get over it. I honestly wasn’t even trying to be-”
“Scrutinizing?” Yori said at the same time as Ram said, “Squinty?”
Tron rolled his eyes, “Both. I suppose. It’s in my code, I can’t help it.”
“Just don’t scare him off, ok?” Yori said, amused, “Anyway, I should go- I want to get something from my workspace.” She ran a hand over Tron’s jaw before standing up.
“Don’t get into any trouble while I’m gone.”
Tron smiled while Ram replied, “Define ‘Trouble’?”
Yori laughed airly as she exited HQ. When she was gone, Tron sighed. She was right, of course, they both were.
Ram scooted over to sit next to him, drawing a leg up onto the couch. “So… how are you?”
“How are you? How’s the, uh, aside from glaring at our new friend- security monitoring?”
Tron blinked, a bit of a smirk crossing his face, “It’s fine, I suppose- Why are you asking right now?”
Ram leaned on him, getting his face close to him, then whispered to him as if he had some grand secret to tell, “Trying to keep you from brooding.” He leaned back, “Now come on, tell me stuff.”
Tron huffed but still said, “It’s fine. For the most part…” He glanced at the exit and the elevator, “Don’t tell anyone about this yet, but I’ve found evidence of MCP loyalists still hanging around. Planning something.
“You don’t wanna tell them, but you’re telling me?”
“I trust you to be reasonable and patient.” Not that Flynn and Yori couldn’t be those things, but whatever way they’d react- good, bad- he didn’t need the extra stress. Especially since he wasn’t sure where they were or what exactly they were planning. Yet .
Ram hummed, thoughtfully, flipping his disk between his hands, “Clu seems pretty patient.”
“You want me to tell him?” Tron asked incredulously.
“No, I didn’t say that!” He paused, eyes narrowed in thought, “It’s just an observation.”
The hacker had waited out their entire story- even the parts where they'd accidentally gotten side-tracked. Tron could at least acknowledge that.
“I suppose,” He relented, “But enough about me, what about you?”
Ram looked about ready to argue the deflection, but let it go, smiling, “Oh little ol’ me?” He put a hand to his chest, circuits brightening. They both chuckled before Ram seriously said, “Well. Flynn presented me with lots of...options of work to do.”
“Is that good or bad?”
“Well, he didn’t give me a specific task just ‘ have fun with it, man ’. And just kinda left me with a bunch of budgeting, scheduling, I don’t even know it’s a bunch- I’ve got like ten different datapads I’m bouncing between.”
Tron raised an eyebrow, “But are you?”
“Am I what?”
“Oh,” Ram grinned fiendishly, “Absolutely.”
Then he sobered, “It’s not the same as before. I’m a different program now. But I‘m enjoying it. Maybe a little too much.”
While that conversation had been happening, Clu and Flynn had been in the elevator together. Flynn had been explaining the setup of HQ: everyone had their own floor, free to alter as they like, etc. Clu found himself content to simply let him talk. Without the buffer of the other programs, the fear of messing up in front of his User was strong. This was his User. Would he ever get used to it? He desperately tried to remember how their conversations used to be- always so slick with the convenience of his ability to talk to his User without an I/O tower.
Speaking of which, there was still a slight echo in his earpieces, which was not helping with his stress at all.
The elevator dinged, signaling they’d arrived.
“Awright!” Flynn clapped him on the shoulder. It occurred to Clu that the warmth was like the exact opposite of the Red guard’s lances, especially in the way it spread.
“All you gotta do now is just press your hand against the door. It’s registered just to you, unless it’s an emergency, no one should be able to barge in without permission.”
Clu did as he said. The doors slid open with a quiet hiss. His User stepped forward into the room enthusiastically. Clu hung back for a nano, before letting out a quick breath through his nose and stepped in.
He found himself surprised...it was so big- just as big as the ground floor. It made sense, but he had expected it to be smaller for some reason. The layout was actually pretty similar to the ground floor. There was a small bar area to their right, and a couch across from it (although it was not nearly as big as ‘pillow hell’, not in the slightest.). Across the room to the left of him, there were also two doors, presumably one for the bedroom and the other for the fresher. It all seemed like so much. Was this really all his?
“This is just the base template,” Flynn said, gesturing around them, “Let me emphasize again that you’re free to change it however you like. I mean, you should see what Yori’s done with her and Tron’s place. I don’t really understand half of it but, wow, I mean- It’s just. Yeah.”
Clu found himself still taking in their surroundings. Flynn rocked on the balls of his feet.
“It is ok, right?”
Clu drew his gaze away from their environment to look at him, “Of course, sir. It’s all just a little...overwhelming.”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry. I keep forgetting myself.” Flynn raised an eyebrow, “Why do you keep calling me ‘sir’? I know for a fact I never programmed an ‘address as’ command for ‘sir’.”
Clu’s circuits flashed, and he turned his head away, “No particular reason, sir.”
Flynn gave him a lop-sided grin, “You don’t have to call me that, y’know. Not if you don’t want to.”
Clu stared. It was a suggestion. Not a command. “We’ll see, sir.” He said, experimentally adding a teasing layer to his voice.
“Well, I know you are capable of it, at the very least.”
That was true, he had called him ‘Flynn’ back at the rez-in pad. To be completely fair, he was in utter shock and awe at the fact Flynn was there in the first place. And he’d just been brought back from the dead. Perfectly reasonable explanations for the slip.
“So, uh, yeah, anyway. These are your new digs, man. If you want I could even get you a proper bookshelf-” Flynn frowned, “Oh right. Actually, I’m not sure if those novel files you picked up actually survived completely? They weren’t exactly a priority”
Clu frowned as well at the guilty tone, “Well considering the MCP ripped me apart-” He clenched his hands, “It’s a wonder you even brought me back together in one piece, to begin with, sir.”
Flynn’s eyes got a certain sharpness to them, “‘ Ripped Apart ’ doesn't even begin to cut it. He didn’t even add your functions to himself, he just-” Flynn cut himself off, “Let’s just say I had to go digging through a few systems to recover you accurately.”
Clu supposed that he should be freaked out by the explanation. Talking about his own death of all things. Yet it didn’t quite faze him.
“Oh, god, I’m an idiot.” Flynn groaned, “That’s probably the last thing you want to be talking about. And you probably need some well-deserved sleep.”
The User put his hands on his shoulders and squeezed to the elevator, mumbling out a ‘goodbye’. Clu watched blankly as the elevator doors slid shut. Well...that was something.
Flynn had been right though, he did feel tired. It seemed to be a more emotional exhaustion. He looked to the bedroom door. A real actual bedroom. He’d never properly had one before.
This was Too Much. Instead of heading to the bedroom, he walked backwards towards the couch. When he bumped into the back of it he pushed himself over it. Landing was a small thump. He stared at the ceiling. A smooth ceiling! Not a rock ceiling, not an open sky. Just a regular ceiling. Imagine that.
He closed his eyes and sighed. Then he opened them again. Everything was completely fine. Absolutely.
Flynn leaned his head against the elevator wall. How could he be so stupid? You don’t just talk about someone’s death like that. Not that he had much experience- people didn’t rise from the dead that often after all- but he had never been so rude when talking to Ram!
This was different! This was Clu! His program! A whole person!
Clu. His program. Who he had failed. How ironic that Clu had been the one to try and apologize for dying .
Perhaps if he’d done the hacking at a more reasonable time, with a few more hours of sleep under his belt-
He shook his head. The past was the past. He needed to focus on the now. He was trying to be chill for Clu’s sake. Flynn was his User, after all, that was supposed to be the order of things. He just had so many questions...
Clu must’ve been staring at the ceiling for at least a centicycle now. He couldn’t sleep. How could he? He had so many questions…
A ding sounded from the elevator door and he jumped from his seat. Then he shook his head and recomposed himself. “Come in.” he furrowed his eyebrows, wondering if that would actually work due to the way the elevator worked.
Luckily the doors opened and Yori walked in, “I do hope I’m not bothering you.”
“No, no. It’s alright, I wasn’t doing anything.”
He walked casually to the bar, gesturing for her to follow. Energy. He needed energy. He looked through the cabinets grabbing a glass then turned to her and held one up.
“No thanks, I’m good.”
He nodded and proceeded to fill it up before walking to the counter.
“What can I help you with?”
“Well, that depends, how well can you keep a secret?”
Clu couldn’t help it, he smiled like a madman, a rare type of smile for him, (and perhaps the first one so far after being rerezzed) “Are you kidding? I’m Flynn’s program. And I’m a hacker. Two birds, one stone.”
Yori laughed, “Point taken. Anyway, speaking of Flynn. I’m actually designing a series of- how do I put it?- ‘Exercises’ To help strengthen and better control his User powers. We’ve already talked about it actually, but, I wanna keep the exercises under wraps until they’re ready.”
User powers. They had been intriguing to hear about when the group had told their story.
“And you want me to help?”
“You have a unique perspective. I think you could help evaluate what would actually help Flynn rather than hinder.”
Help rather than hinder.
“Alright. Let me at it.”
After spending about an hour in his room, Flynn finally found himself too antsy to just keep doing basically nothing. He’d gotten some stuff done, but it wasn’t anything actually important, and his eyes were tired from looking at line after line of text on his datapad. (He could do that in the User world after all.)
Then he’d just decided to go back to the ground floor, maybe see what everyone else was doing. Part of him wished the elevator was as slow as the elevators back at ENCOM. Those blasted things really gave a person an opportunity to think. Or perhaps inspect the electronics under the button paneling. Which he had definitely never done during his early days working for the company.
As the elevator doors opened, Flynn found a mild sense of panic as a disk flew past the doors. He reacted on instinct, drawing his own disk, wildly analyzing the room before him.
Tron and Ram were standing across the room from each other. No one else. Which meant that-
Flynn redocked his disk, watching silently. The two programs seemed not to notice him, locked in an intense stare. And then Tron threw his disk.
The way that disks traveled was captivating, the way that light trail followed behind them, how the very fabric of reality seemed to bend as a disk sliced right through it.
Ram knocked the disk back to Tron with a skilled block. Tron caught his disk without even flinching.
Flynn didn’t like to think about how long the two programs were in The Game Grid . He’d been in there for barely a microcycle and the very thought of the place still made him feel...odd. And yet his two friends who had both been in there for much longer were playing a very simplified version of Disk Wars , it seemed.
“Uh, are you guys having ‘ fun’ in here?” He asked, sarcasm lacing his voice.
Ram jumped at the sound of his voice, turning to him with a small smile, eyes sparkling. Tron only raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, us? No, never, we’re no fun.” The actuary rolled his disk between his fingers.
Flynn stepped out from the elevator, “Funny. If you’re not having fun, I would suspect you were trying to kill each other.”
“You never know. We just might be.” Ram said with a smirk.
“You’d already be dead now, if that were the case, Ram.” Tron had docked his disk, walking from across the room as the three of them gravitated back towards the bar.
“I’m genuinely insulted by that statement. You don’t think I could last long against you?”
Tron hummed, “Well…”
“Well, we’re not going to test that out.” Flynn cut in evenly, pointing a finger at both of them. If there was ever a day they had a battle to the death, it would certainly not be today. “What the hell are you doing throwing disks at each other anyway?” He paused, “And inside of all places?”
Ram laughed nervously, “We were just. Well, to be honest, we were bored.”
“Bored.” Flynn said flatly, “So you decided to resolve this by playing around with your disks? Of all things, why that?”
The two programs looked at each other. There was a clear silent conversation going on there, one that Flynn wasn’t invited to. His eyebrow twitched.
Finally, Ram turned back to him, “If it weren’t for the whole ‘threat of death’ part of it, Disk Wars was actually quite fun, you know.”
“So you two were just planning to play and hope you didn’t kill each other?” Even Flynn could see that was a stupid move. And he was Flynn.
“We were being careful.” Tron reassured.
“I don’t doubt that.” Flynn replied, not feeling reassured.
“Actually, we were hoping to ask a favor of you.” Ram spun his disk on one finger.
Flynn smirked, the tone of voice Ram was using was awfully familiar to him. One he himself used all the time, actually. Sly and probably going to bring up some crazy idea. Alan would probably detest whatever Ram was about to say if he were here.
“Lay it on me.”
“Well. We were thinking maybe you could write us up a small Disk Wars space behind HQ?”
Flynn blinked, “You’re serious.”
Ram shrugged, a wide grin stretched across his face.
“Do you two not have any, like, I don’t know trauma around this?” He looked away as he said it, feeling awfully like the hypocrite he was.
“Does it matter?” Tron inquired.
“...No.” Not this moment, at least.
The two programs then looked at him hopefully, Ram more visibly so than Tron, who only barely concealed it, aside from the way he intermittently tapped the side of his leg.
“I’ll see what I can do.” Flynn conceded, a hand running over his chin.
The two of them silently cheered. One of Tron’s bigger grins spreading over his face.
“But!” Flynn held up a hand, “I’m not sure how much I can do in here.”
What he could program from the inside vs the outside was debatable afterall, he was still working out all the details of it. Not to mention that of all the games from the Game Grid they could’ve chosen to ask about... Disk Wars … He never programmed that one. Hell, he didn’t even know about identity disks until being digitized, let alone programming a whole game about it. Then again, this opportunity could be good, both for the enjoyment of his friends and in the development of ‘ Tron’ . The video game, that is.
“Of course.” Tron said smoothly.
“Let’s go out back, and we can work out how exactly we’re gonna set this up.”
“Do you want to take a break? You look tired.”
Clu snapped his head up from the datapad he’d been looking at. They’d settled over on the couch, talking over what would work with the prospect of User powers. Yori was actually fairly easy to talk to, even if he couldn’t exactly keep up with her when it came to the more complicated simulation-talk. With a note of satisfaction, he even found himself able to relax more. Not as much as what he’d seen with the other programs, but it was still progress.
“I’m adequate.” He said, clipped. He shook his head at his own tone.
Yori smiled, clearly not believing him.
He sighed, then said, “I’m always tired. And on a technicality that means for me, I am. Adequate.”
“Ah, yes,” There was a certain spark in her eyes that told him that she’d accepted a challenge, one that Clu didn’t even issue in the first place, “If we’re working on a technicality- that may have been true before you were rerezzed. So while tiredness was your most regular state, you have no way of knowing what your ‘new normal’ is yet. It’s only been barely a millicycle, Clu.”
He blinked rapidly, and then said mostly to himself, “Barely a millicycle.” He shook his head in slight disbelief, “Feels like it’s been at least a full cycle by now.”
Yori laughed lightly, “You really can be just as dramatic as Flynn. If a little subdued.”
Clu looked away, “Do you really think so?”
There was a pause, and then she said, “He really isn’t that hard to talk to, you know.”
“ I do know. ” Clu snapped, circuits flaring, and then ran a hand down his face, “Users, I’m sorry. It’s just...I do know. Due to our situation we were in frequent contact, I’d hazard a guess and say even more so than most programs. It’s why it’s so frustrating.”
Yori frowned, and got up, moving from her spot on the couch to sit right next to him.
“Clu,” She said slowly, “I don’t know you that well yet,” A touch of humor leaked into her voice, “Though I have a feeling we will.” She reached out, touching his shoulder, “But, you’re the first program to meet your User. It makes sense there would be some adjustment.”
“For the both of you. ” Yori smiled ruefully, “Haven’t you noticed how nervous Flynn is around you?”
“...is he nervous often?”
“More often than he lets on.” She rolled her eyes, “Though sometimes he’s a bit too foolhardy to realize he should feel nervous.”
A hint of a smile crossed his face, and his thoughts shifted, “Aside from Flynn, your counterpart- Tron, he’s a bit…”
“Oh I would apologize for him, but I’ve made a point of trying to never apologize for things I’m not responsible for.”
“That is incredibly smart.” He also appreciated the honesty.
“Thank you. I will at least offer you my condolences when it comes to him- I do think he’ll ease off. It might take some time of course, it doesn't help that he’s stubborn.”
“Is everyone in this group stubborn?” Clu mused.
“That depends,” Yori raised her eyebrows, “Are you stubborn?"
“Dogged and relentless, actually.” His circuits flared brightly.
Yori was about to say something when a loud ‘ BANG ’ sounded out from across the room.
“What the…?” Clu jumped up, instantly reaching in his code for his staff baton- Which still wasn’t there, delete it, and-
Yori put a hand on his shoulder, “It’s alright, I think it’s just the boys doing something stupid.”
She walked over to the wall from where the noise had originated and put her hand against it. A section of the wall derezzed, forming a window. Clu walked after her, peeking behind her as she surveyed the outside.
Sure enough, the ‘boys’ were outside doing something. They were all staring up at the window now, all looking alarmed. The most obvious was Ram, whose mouth was wide open.
He turned to Flynn and then frantically said, “I thought you said my disk would bounce off the shield!!”
“It did bounce off the shield, it just bounced off the shield and into the building!” He answered arms spread wide.
Yori and Clu glanced at each other and leaned out the window. Right below the sill was Ram’s disk, stubbornly stuck into the wall. Yori shook her head in exasperation before wiggling out the disk and letting it drop. Ram ran forward, only just catching it before it hit the ground.
“What in the world are you doing?” She questioned.
All of them managed to look chagrin.
Flynn pointed at Tron and Ram, “It was their idea!”
“It was your shield.” Tron shot back, a playful grin spread across his face.
“That answers absolutely nothing.” Clu whispered. Yori glanced at him, and she nudged him with her shoulder, sending a wave of amusement, humor, all in good fun to him.
“I don’t care whose fault it is, I just want to know what you’re doing.” And then quietly she said to Clu, “And if I need to do damage control.”
He let out a small noise of amusement.
“ Disk Wars. Or at least, we’re trying to.” Flynn called up to her.
Disk Wars… if he recalled correctly that had been one of the Games. Clu felt a little annoyed at the idea of the game. To even begin to play you had to have basic disk throwing skills; a skill he did not have. And that was only one of his objections.
“Well, try not to destroy HQ while you’re doing it!” Yori replied with a bit of a chuckle.
“No, no, I think we should take a break anyway.” Tron said, “I think it’ll be better for Flynn to try coding it on his end.”
Flynn scoffed and shook his head, throwing up his hands in defeat.
Clu took a step back from the window, feeling out of place as the conversation continued. How was he supposed to fit in without breaking the dynamic all of them had?
Though he seemed to have least built up a rapport with Yori, he still felt like he was an intruder. And he was, wasn’t he? That was exactly what a hacker was.
He refocused as Yori turned to him.
“Damage control?” He asked wryly.
“Oh, not this time, I think. I’m still going to go down there and make sure they’re alright.”
She put a hand on his shoulder and smiled brightly, “Do try and get some sleep, this time around?”
Clu shook his head, bewildered as she left towards the elevator. He had never told her that he hadn’t slept.
He turned back to the window and leaned on the sill, the programs below had already left. His eyes were drawn to the ‘shield’ that they’d talked about. It was parallel to the building itself, and was semi-transparent, a blue color. Much preferable to red. He turned his head away as unwanted memories loomed in his mind.
“Oh, you would have been so much better than me in this situation.” He said aloud.
Only silence answered back. That was fitting, of course. Most ghosts didn’t reply back.
He looked over his shoulder to the inside of the apartment, back to the bedroom door.
“I really should get some sleep, shouldn’t I?”
“ Yes! ”
Clu whirled around as Bit flew through the window.
“Heya, buddy. I was afraid you’d left me to the gridbugs.”
“ No! ”
Clu raised an eyebrow, and leaned against the sill, arms crossed, “Oh really, I don’t know, most friends don’t leave their friend in such an unfamiliar situation, do they?”
The Bit hovered in the air, unsure before it’s glow got a little dimmer and it said somewhat remorsefully “ No… ”
Clu sighed, then smiled thinly, reached a hand out to it, “I accept your apology.”
“ Yes! ”
Clu petted his polyhedron friend, thoughts far away.
“You do like them, don’t you?” He turned his head slightly to the floor to indicate the other programs...and User.
“ Yes? Yes! Yes! Yes! ”
“Do you think they’ll like me?”
“ Yes!! Yes!!! Yes! Yes!!- ”
“Alright, alright, I do get the idea, Bit.”
He was quiet for a moment and then said softly, “I did miss this, us talking...I know it’s relatively not a long time for me, but for you, it was much longer wasn’t it?”
“ Yes… ”
“Well, we don’t have to worry about being separated again, alright? I have no intention of dying again anytime soon.”
“ Yes! ”
He paused, as a thought occurred to him, “Actually. You’re someone I could look to advice for right now, Bit. After all, you’ve interacted with them all- perhaps you could help me on that front.”
“ Yes!!! ”
True, he would have to phrase all his questions so they could be answered with only ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but it turned out that spending so much time with a Bit could make a program very skilled at that. And if you knew the Bit well enough you could even veer into questions that didn’t have to be answered that way. Though, that really was a matter depending on how well you could interpret it.
Tron stared at the cube. Then he looked at Yori. And back at the cube.
“Well?” She asked.
“Well...it’s. Definitely...a cube.”
And it was. A cube made of smaller cubes; a plain gray color. Very unremarkable, especially considering it was something Yori had made.
They were sitting in their apartment now, as the downcycle had started to begin.
“Well, that’s definitely not the most thrilling opinion you’ve ever had about my projects before.” Yori replied teasing and a little miffed.
Tron took the cube from her hand, turning it over. It looked the same on all sides.
“It might help if I knew what it was.”
“Oh, well, but that’s just no fun, is it?”
He looked to her, smiling then, putting the cube on the table. They bumped their foreheads together.
“It’s been a long microcycle.” Tron said, eyes closed.
Yori brought her head away from his, derezzing her cap, hair falling to her shoulders. She then took his helmet off and threw it across the room.
“Was that really necessary?” Tron asked with a chuckle as he stared at where it had bounced off the wall and onto the floor.
“You have no right to judge me for being dramatic.” She cupped his jaw with her hand. He hummed lightly in response.
He looked down back at the cube, “You’re just going to keep me in suspense on what the cube is?”
“Well now that you’ve suggested that-” Tron laughed aloud, and she continued, “But I’m afraid it might be a little underwhelming if it does work.”
“Nothing you make is underwhelming, Yori.”
“Oh you flatterer, you over exaggerate.”
“Never.” He replied, eyes sparkling and circuits flashing.
She leaned back with a bemused sigh, “Aside from that. I’m curious, Disk Wars? Don’t you get enough of that anyway? I'd have thought you’d just want to relax.”
“It was a mutual want between Ram and I.” Tron replied obstinately.
“You dragged Flynn into it?” Yori laughed, running a hand through her hair.
“I wouldn’t say dragged. ”
Yori smirked, running a hand down a circuit line on his arm, leaving a trail of purple. Tron raised his eyebrows and grabbed the hand, clutching it tightly.
“I love you, but not this downcycle.”
“Hmmm, Usually I get more time to tease you before you realize what’s going on.”
Tron put the cube on the table in front of the couch and proceeded to plant a foot on it as well.
“Anyway,” He said, “If you really want to know, I do enjoy the game. Somewhat.”
He would never admit aloud the sheer vicious joy he had when it came to slaughtering Reds in The Games. The satisfaction of it. The thought of the feeling horrified him. Mostly.
There were just things you didn’t talk about after you’d been in The Games. And he certainly wasn’t going to worry Yori about those things. Especially now that Ram was back, a fellow participant of it to commiserate with. And when it came to Ram, he had enjoyed Disk Wars most when they were able to practice; usually training the novice programs.
“Well, I suppose you could use some more hobbies.”
Tron squinted at her, “There’s an accusation in there, isn’t there?”
“Oh, absolutely!” Yori threw back her head and laughed loudly.
When she was done she looked back at the cube on the table, and then at her counterpart.
“I’ll tell you one thing. Clu actually helped me with the idea of that,” She pointed at it, and then at him, “ And he most definitely noticed you were being suspicious.”
“He told you that?”
“In less words than that, yes.”
“I think I already said I was going to try and be better about it.”
“Oh, I know. It’s just…”
“I think he’s going to fit in nicely with us.”
Ram liked the quietness of the ground floor when no one was there. And during the downcycle when everyone was in their apartments it was the perfect time to appreciate it. He was currently laying flat in ‘pillow hell’.
Ram had changed a lot of his habits after rerezzing. He was not opposed to admitting that. Which ones were changed simply because he was no longer in The Game Grid vs simply being alive again was sort of hard to pin down. This habit, though, was definitely due to both.
Having trouble sleeping. Ram had learned to be a light sleeper in The Games . Which led to the difficulty of starting to sleep to begin with.
So he spent as much time as possible not sleeping until he would exhaust himself. It wasn’t healthy, no. But no one else had caught on, not yet. And well...they were all entitled to their secrets occasionally. Even Flynn, despite the fact there was an entire name for their initiative to keep him from doing that exact thing.
And speak of the devil, there came Flynn’s voice drifting from the elevator.
“...why do we have to come here again?” The tone was a hushed whisper.
Ram sat up to get a better view of the User and- Well. Program was more accurate.
It wasn’t Flynn, the yellow circuits made it obvious. It was Clu along with Bit.
“Are you bringing me somewhere specific?” He asked the Bit in an exasperated tone.
“ Yes! ”
“All I said was that I couldn’t sleep and now you’re taking me somewhere that is presumably not a bed, unless-” Clu squinted inquisitively as his eyes finally landed on Ram. Ram gave a small wave. The hacker squinted even more as he turned to the Bit.
“Did you bring me here because of ‘pillow hell’ or because of him?”
The Bit bobbed up and down in the air, and Clu let out a long sigh. Ram only shrugged.
“Did you bring me here because of ‘pillow hell’?”
“ Yes!! ”
“Did you bring me here because of him?” He gestured to him.
“ Yes!! Yes!!!! ” The Bit chirped a little too enthusiastically and then zoomed out of the place before Clu could respond.
His eyes fell half-lidded and he muttered something to himself that Ram couldn’t hear.
“So…” Ram started slowly, “Can’t sleep?”
“Yes.” Clu looked like he didn’t exactly know what to do with himself. Arms stiff at his sides and yet a slight fidget in his fingertips. “And it appears I’m not the only one with that problem. Which is probably why Bit-” He gestured lightly with one hand, barely moving it from his side.
Ram felt a niggle of worry in the back of his mind. Clu was hard to read. Stiff body movements and that dry voice of his- such a disparity between him and Flynn, who Ram thought he could read pretty well, aside from the odd culture differences. At least they had one thing in common, they were both weird, a slight eccentricity to them.
“That’s probably because I’m a little notorious about not sleeping,” He chuckled to himself, thinking of all the times the Bit had bothered him in the middle of the downcycle, “I push it off- But hey, we all gotta sleep eventually, even with energy and after all, even Users sleep.”
Clu’s face tensed and he said, “Tell that to Flynn.”
Ram blinked. That was a joke, it had to be. And so he laughed- albeit a small laugh, but a laugh all the same. A small little smile crossed Clu’s face, only barely there.
“Y’know that is true, if you wanted to talk to him, he’s probably still up.”
Clu looked away from him. Ram frowned and sat up, sitting criss-cross applesauce (He needed to ask the User about that one,) “Alright we don’t have to talk about him. Got it.”
He patted the ground, an invitation. The hacker’s eyes flickered before he cautiously walked over and sat next to him.
“So, sleeping difficulties.” Ram said, getting the conversation back on track.
“You’re pretty lucky, actually. When I was rerezzed Flynn hadn’t accounted for any energy loss. I was out for microcycles .” Clu raised his eyebrows, a silent ‘go on’, “So he compensated for you. You think maybe it was too much and that’s why you can’t sleep?”
Clu made a small noise of acknowledgment, turning his head to one side, “That could be a possibility.” Then he paused, seeming to consider something. There was a great reluctance in his next words, “It’s more like whenever I close my eyes, I feel like…” He trailed off staring at the ceiling.
Ram’s light-lines flared, “Like you’re never gonna wake up again?”
Clu’s head snapped back to him, eyes wide.
“Do you feel anything when you think of your deresolution?” He asked bluntly.
Ram took a nano to consider his answer and recover from the shock of the question, “It’s difficult to say. I feel- Well, I feel everything and nothing about it.”
“And everytime you swear you’ve got a hold on the feeling it slips through your fingers?”
The two stared at each other. Clu understood. He really did. And he’d only been back for what was going to be a microcycle when the upcycle started.
“If you don’t mind me asking, how did yours go?” Ram’s voice was quiet just like back in the cells at The Games if he was talking about something he didn’t want the guards to hear.
Clu clenched his jaw, “Rather quickly, but far too painful. Like a Red’s lance, but a thousand times worse.” He sighed, his voice tired, “I couldn’t stop screaming- Yours?”
“Slow. A chunk of my side was gone. I just. Faded.”
And they both paused, reveling in the silence. Then the laughter started. It was out of nowhere, no reason at all for it, but it happened anyway. Ram’s laugh was only mild but seemed roaring in comparison to Clu’s. After a while, Ram laid back in ‘pillow hell’. Their laughter left behind a pleasant warm feeling in the air.
“You, uh, you went to outside systems right?” He asked when a stray thought about it popped into his brain.
“Were programmed here but functioned in another system for a good portion of my runtime.”
“And the MCP-”
“Oh, of course, an ever considerable host.”
“Ever considerable- I wish.” Clu’s voice was even drier than normal. Bitter.
Ram winced. They’d all suffered under the MCP, but Clu had had the ‘honor’ of being personally killed by him.
As much as bonding over their trauma seemed fun, this was still Very Heavy conversation to be having as only acquaintances. What was a safe topic Ram could talk about? The conversation he’d had with Tron popped into his mind.
“So, what’s it like being a hacker?”
He seemed surprised at the question, “Well. You don’t have to ask permission from anybody- no sysadmins or-” Clu’s pursed his lips for a moment, “monitors- I’ve found myself going places and doing things most programs wouldn't. And! And- no information is unretrievable. If it’s there, I will find it. ” The determination in his voice was clear, but after the words left his mouth he looked like he half-regretted saying them.
“I suppose it can be. But it’s not about fun. Or. At least it wasn’t. Now though…?”
“Hey, don’t worry, we’ll find you something to do. I had the same problem.”
“Actuarial work seems like it’d be a lot more easy to find things for.”
“I guess. Hey, maybe you could put Tron through his paces when he’s not busy.”
“Well if you’re so interested about hacking, maybe I could teach you a trick or two.” The hacker deflected.
Ram rolled over onto his front, “Are you serious?” He craned his head up at him.
“If you’re serious.”
They lapsed into silence. Companionable silence. Ram could do companionable silence. Clu’s ever rigid posture had lessened a little, but his eyes kept darting back to the elevator routinely.
“He’s not scary, trust me.” He reassured.
Clu didn’t respond. Eventually, Ram thought that maybe he was just ignoring what he’d said.
“It’s not him I’m scared of.” His face had a distant look on it.
Clu stood up, and nodded at him, “Thank you.”
He wanted to ask ‘what for’, but he got the feeling he wouldn’t get an answer anyway. He watched the hacker go to the elevator. And after that conversation, it seemed sleep was finally beckoning to him.
Flynn was kinda in love with the fact that he could just rez-in his lightcycle casually in his HQ apartment. Perhaps it was the fact that it would be absolutely insane to haul his motorcycle all the way up to his room in the Arcade, to which he’d modeled his HQ room off of. There was some underlying hilarity about it all that just tickled him. He also maybe should get some sleep soon, if his thoughts kept going down this path.
Working on a lightcycle was also extremely different from working on a motorcycle. Code; it was all about code. And it turned out that since he never thought about programs keeping up maintenance in their cycles when he programmed them, there were no proper tools to even begin to resemble the process that he was familiar with. He could do with a wrench or something. No doubt that would be something he could whip up later. Regardless of that, he was making his way through tinkering just by the seat of his pants and more than a little bit of his User powers.
He just wanted to go fast. Or more accurately, faster. Some inane desire of his he’d had since childhood. Whether this desire being enabled was good or bad was still to be determined.
He leaned back from his current work, standing up from the couch, stretching. He ran a hand through his hair, (what was the point of wearing a helmet in HQ anyway?), satisfied with his current progress.
“God, I love my life.” He said genuinely to himself. It was a foreign feeling.
“That’s good.” His own voice echoed.
Flynn jumped like a cat, swirling around to face his elevator door. There was Clu, leaning against the door, arms crossed.
“How the hell…?”
Clu’s eyes looked to the floor, “Sorry, just wanted to see if I could get through the door, sir.”
Hacking, of course. He should’ve guessed, really.
Flynn opened his mouth to say something, but Clu’s attention had been stolen; by the lightcycle. Flynn turned slightly behind him, to look at it, as if it had changed in the single minute he’d looked away from it. And then it hit him. Yellow. Even after getting a new baton, it still rezzed in yellow. Yellow like Clu.
“Huh, that’s something, isn’t it?” He gestured to it with a thumb, “Guess that’s finally an answer on the paint job.”
Clu walked forward, standing a few steps behind him, “The system is probably reading you as a hacker. Likely due to me being in the system prior and my lightcycle...” His surprise was clear, an almost awe to it.
“That’s exactly what I was thinkin’, nice catch.” He smiled ruefully, “I’ll fully admit that the code for the color matching is a little wishy-washy. Never even imagined how they’d be used in the system rather than just a game. It’s ridiculous, you know. For some reason Ram’s cycle can never decide to rez-in green or red. Sometimes it flickers like a Christmas tree. Gotta be a bug in there somewhere when it comes to that.”
Flynn took a step closer to Clu, who shifted slightly at the motion. He raised an eyebrow at him, and then thought back to when Yori had come down after their attempt at Disk Wars. She hadn’t said much to him on the matter, but apparently she’d actually gotten him to talk to her some. Flynn could do enough talking for the both of them, but that wasn’t the point. Getting Clu to actually talk would be the key to this situation.
“Speaking of colors, I’ve actually been wondering about that; the reasons why different programs have different circuit colors. Don’t know if you have any insights on that?”
Clu looked him up and down, “Surely you could ask anyone besides me.”
“But I didn’t.”
“Touche.” Clu rolled his shoulders, fingers dancing across his crossed arms, “Well. It can be a little vague, to be honest. There’s the difference between Blue and Red. Often the Blues are referred to as ‘User-believers’, I’m sure you’ve already heard that before. And Reds as MCP loyalists...It’s less due to that than the fact that Blue was formerly the default color of the system until the takeover of the MCP. Before that there were no negative connotations of the color red here in the ENCOM system.”
He walked closer to the lightcycle, a semi-hesitant hand reaching out to trace the glossy shell of it, “Yellow is usually consistent when it comes to programs who didn’t come into the system through...appropriate channels.”
Clu’s head turned to him, a little bit of a smirk shadowing his lips, “Hackers. Or viruses.”
Flynn was taken aback, “Wait, hold up. Viruses are like. Program- programs? Like. People?”
“Yes, sir.” Clu’s hand drifted off the lightcycle with a flourish, resuming its position by recrossing his arms, “You were expecting them to be more like User viruses, then? You’d have to ask your system monitor about it but I’m fairly sure that malware can sometimes be the closest to a proper User illness. Program viruses on the other hand are like, hm, ‘program-programs’. Though...they can infect regular programs as well...so perhaps they’re not completely different from User viruses.” He paused, pondering the idea for a moment.
“So I take it that I should try to avoid any viruses.”
“Most of the time yes. But I wouldn’t be so quick to judge a book by it’s cover, sir.” He took a long look at his own circuits, “Either way, there’s also other colors that can be consistent. Green for example are usually medics...or military programs.”
“Like the tank programs.” Flynn's voice was dull, the memory of Ram's death still sour in his mouth when it came to tanks.
“The ones driving them, yes who are green colored. Turns out if the driver has a different color the tanks will match them, actually.”
“Huh, there is a lot of nuance to this that I didn’t realize there was.”
“Oh things can never be easy, sir. Though I’m sure there’s programs who know better on the subject than I. A tower guardian, maybe?”
Flynn snapped his fingers at the thought of the tower guardian, “Speaking of- How did you even manage to get around with the towers all being hijacked by the MCP?”
Clu’s face went slack, disbelief written all over it, “You mean you don’t know?”
“Well it would help if I got a, ha! Clue about what I’m supposed to know.”
Clu’s eyes fell half-lidded at the pun, “Very funny, sir. Anyway I...well…” He reached his hand up to his helmet, and pointed to where it met his ears, “Do you see these?”
Flynn took a step closer to him, a little delight running through him when the program didn’t show any negative reaction. The helmet piece, which upon first glance only just covered his ears, seemed to actually be reminiscent of…
“Earpieces…?” He wondered aloud, “You could hear me through these?”
Flynn paused, thinking of back to when he was coding Clu. It. It made sense. A lot of sense actually. He’d had to do some jumping through hoops he wouldn’t have done with any other program.
He made a grabby motion with his hands, “May I see?”
Clu looked at his hands, a slightly exasperated look crossing his face, before he slowly took off his helmet, his hair flying free finally.
Flynn let out a laugh at the sight, “ No way , man. You have the Panic cut!”
Clu winced, running a hand through his hair, a wild wonderful mess of a haircut, “Is that what this is?”
“Yeah, kinda embarrassing actually, I was freaked out about my games going missing and I needed something I could control- but it is what it is. Or was. I guess.” He looked idly at the helmet, but then looked at Clu suspiciously when he winced again. That was odd.
He continued, carefully observing his reaction, “But you know, I bet if you really wanted to you could change it. Fancy program stuff, after all.”
And there was another wince. That was weird.
“What...what do the earpieces actually do?” He looked back at the helmet. It would be rather silly if just these were what made him be able to communicate with him.
“Ah, well. I guess sir, they just make things more clear . When hearing you. Without them, it’s like. Oh, how did I put it? Like hearing everything if my head was in a pool of energy.”
“That. That implies you’re hearing me right now as if I were still on the other side of the screen.”
Flynn tossed the helmet back to Clu, who caught it without fumbling. He put it back on quickly, sighing quietly in relief.
“Yes, actually sir...but not quite. It’s like. An echo.”
“That’s gotta be annoying.”
“Annoying or not, it could be useful. And that’s the priority.”
“Of course,” Flynn replied with a hint of humor, wondering how exactly it was his voice that was sounding like that, even though it wasn’t really his voice, “But just because it’s useful doesn't mean it has to be uncomfortable.”
He held out his hand, “Here, let me see your disk, I’ll see if I can make it better.”
Clu stared at his hand, and then slowly reached for his disk, slowly passing it to him. His hands were shaking slightly. Flynn took it, ever careful. This was the second time they’d done this; him giving him the disk. It was incredibly special, this action.
He then kicked his lightcycle gently, it derezzing in a flash, the baton clattering to the floor, gesturing for them both to sit on the couch.
There was something nostalgic about looking through Clu’s code. And also not, considering he’d spent a considerable amount of time stitching the poor program back together. There were also the differences between looking between the code on a computer screen vs looking at it on a disk. There was no reason for it to be different, not really. But it was. But not really. It was hard to explain. It was something Flynn was only beginning to make sense of. If he ever could.
His eyes occasionally kept flickering back to Clu, who was seemingly trying to not sit close to Flynn. And he was failing. Miserably. It looked like he was unconsciously leaning towards him, and then when he noticed he was he’d straighten back up again. He was actually pretty sly about it too, but it was pretty obvious after the tenth or twelfth time.
“Everything ok over there?”
“Mmm. Sure it is.” He raised an eyebrow.
Clu squirmed under his gaze, “Well it’s just…” He looked rather frustrated at himself, “You’re so...so…”
“A needle pull and thread?”
“Nevermind- I’m so what?”
Clu looked absolutely mortified, “You’re so warm. ”
Clu’s circuits flashed, a tinge of pink embarrassment at the edges, “Like what I’d imagine you Users’ sun to be like, I suppose. I’ve never felt so-” He wiggled his fingers, “I don’t know. There’s no good way to explain it.”
Flynn’s eyebrows furrowed, and he looked to the disk he had in his hands. He focused, not using his hands to pick through the code, only what qualified as his ‘User powers’. It was an odd feeling, not unpleasant.
The disk glowed brighter, and Clu shivered.
“Is that ok?”
“...Yes, just unexpected, sir. But I can take unexpected.”
“Alright, now that I know I can do this hands-free, c’mere.”
“What?” Clu looked at him as if he’d grown a second head.
He raised his arm up, gesturing with a single finger. Clu eyed him warily. Then he scooted over to him, unsure of what to do. Flynn didn’t care, only wrapping his arm around his shoulders. Clu shook slightly at the motion, circuits flaring where the User was touching him.
“Why don’t you get your feet on the couch and just. Y’know, chill with me.”
Programs at least must have no bias over putting their feet on furniture because Clu did as he said, leaning solidly into Flynn’s side. The User smiled, before going back to his work on the disk.
It didn’t start at first, but as time slowly ticked on, a sort of feeling came from the spot where Clu was touching him. He got distracted, looking at the program. There was definitely. A feeling. Something. It was- Contentment, Happiness, Fading Nervousness, Contentment, Happiness-
Flynn realized with a start that this was an energy transfer. Something programs did, something he hadn’t been able to do. It had been one of those cultural differences, leading every program aka Tron, Yori and Ram, to try it with him. And it did nothing for him, absolutely nothing. It was just something he had accepted, and from what he knew it wasn’t something that programs did all the time, so it wasn’t like he was missing anything that would leave him an awkward position. Probably.
This was different.
Flynn glanced at him, and realized that Clu had fallen asleep. His breathing was slow and even.
He smiled, finishing off his work on the disk before placing it to the side, and leaned fully back into the couch.
Sleep sounded like a good idea, actually.
When the upcycle came, it was usual for the group to join in HQ, each with their own respective glasses of energy before the microcycle could really get started. This microcycle was just like any other, of course, with Flynn being late, Yori noted. This was not unusual, in fact, she’d be more worried if he’d come down earlier rather than later. Despite that, something had set Tron off, by the way his shoulders were tensed.
Yori raised an eyebrow at Tron as his eyes once again flickered to the elevator door. She looked to Ram, who swirled his glass, energy spinning, who gave her a slight nod. He had noticed too, then.
“Everything alright?” She smiled at him.
“It’s nothing.” He dismissed.
“You’re not worried about Flynn being a little bit late... er ?” Ram gestured to the elevator door with his glass.
“No.” Tron took a sip from his glass, “I’m not worried. Not yet.”
“Right.” Ram said skeptically, “Sure.”
“It’s fine. They both need sleep, I’m sure. That or they’re still talking.” Yori proceeded to finish off her drink.
“Oh, did Clu actually wind up going up to Flynn’s?” Ram asked with a tilt of his head.
“Did he?” The security monitor echoed.
Yori only smiled in response. Tron’s face somehow looked even grumpier.
Ram laughed, light and melodic, “It is a little weird not to have him shuffle in and say ‘good morning’, isn’t it?”
“Such an odd User saying,” Yori mused, “I assume it must be shortened from ‘I wish you to have a good morning’. At least.”
“What even is a morning?” Tron finally got out of his rut, “Why do they need so many words to describe one microcycle- day, anyway? Morning, afternoon, night?”
“I believe it’s due to their sun.” Yori tapped the countertop, “That’s what the solar sailor sims would get power off of if they were actually built in the User world. Solar energy. Sun energy. But the sun doesn't stay in one place and-”
Ram shook his hands, “Too early for science.”
“It’s never too early for science.”
“Too early for me.” He had a grin he was struggling not to show.
“Math is not too far off from science.” Tron said point blank, “And you...you do lots of math.”
“I do, huh?”
“You do.” Yori said.
“Huh, well you got me there.”
There was a beat of silence, and they all inevitably looked towards the elevator. It was a little odd to not have Flynn come down yet, knowing he was in the system. Odd, but not bad. Considering the circumstances.
Clu shot up from the couch- The Reds, the MCP- His breathing was labored, he was- He was…
He was okay. He was alive.
From behind him came a slight groan, and Clu turned, still slightly frantic. Flynn rubbed his eyes as he sat up, and then looked at him, concern wrinkling his eyes.
“That didn’t feel good.” He said, voice rough.
“Did I hit you?” Clu’s concerns shifted instantly.
“No-” He shook his head, “I felt. I felt that- You were terrified.”
If Clu’s face paled. He had transferred his emotions in his sleep. A flurry of curses welled up in his mind, but he held his tongue. This wasn’t ideal.
“Hey, it’s fine. I get it.” Flynn reassured, he reached forward, grabbing Clu’s hands and tugging him back onto the couch. Warmth spread through the touch, ever soothing. Then in response, Flynn jerked his hands back, and stared at them, wonder in his eyes. Had he done it again? He wasn’t meaning to transfer anything.
“I’m sorry, I’m not trying to do that, sir.” His shoulders tensed.
“Are you kidding? This is incredible.” His voice was gushing with astonishment.
“Getting a flood of negative emotions is incredible?” Clu’s voice was extremely flat.
“Yes, well, No, not the negative part but the- Just getting it to begin with. Users don’t...we don’t do this. And.” He held up his hands, “I’ve tried it with the others- We couldn’t do it.”
Clu contemplated the new information, looking out the windows behind the couch, the system a glorious sight.
“Do you think it’s because you’re my User, sir?”
“That’s my first guess. My second guess would be something about the way you’re able to communicate with me? But that’s kinda eh.”
Speaking of communication. The echo was gone. Flynn really had fixed it. Clu said as much aloud.
“Of course I fixed it.” Flynn said a little snobbishly, “I’m one of the best programmers out there.”
“Could you still- Could you still talk to me in the system?” Clu flipped through his processes. Usually he could feel the connection. It definitely felt like it was in status rather than just being not there at all. The memory of the way the connection had snapped and left him empty was still unpleasant to think about.
“Well, I hadn’t exactly tried it yet but-” Flynn furrowed his brows, and his circuits flashed, “How about this?”
And there was the echo, Clu's own circuits flared brighter. The User nodded to himself, satisfied.
“Anyway, about the energy transfer-” Flynn continued, “We’ll have to figure this out as we go I think. But this is really radical, don’t you think?”
Clu huffed, “I’m not sure that’s how I’d put it, sir. But sure, I suppose.”
“What, c’mon? You’re not a little bit jazzed about this?”
“I think you are. You’re just deflecting .” Flynn paused then, his eyes darting away from him, “Ah. Yes, I see the irony in that. Well, anyway.”
He snapped his fingers, “We should go downstairs, grab a glass of energy and then maybe-” He grinned, “Maybe I could hook you up with a lightcycle and we can go drive , how about that, man?”
Clu blinked. And then he smirked.
Tron walked up slowly behind Clu as the program stared at the rez-in pad. The hacker and his User had spent most of the microcycle speeding around in matching yellow lightcycles. Then, of course, the User had to leave and go back to his own world. Flynn had given Clu a rushed explanation of why, silently apologizing in between the words that he couldn’t stay longer. After all, Flynn had spent most of the time here this time prepping for Clu.
Now the hacker was still staring at the spot where Flynn had disappeared. It was possibly a little worrisome.
He walked up to his side, only a slight flicker of Clu’s eyes showing he’d noticed. Tron wanted to warn him not to do anything he’d regret. Wanted to say he’d keep an eye on him. Usual security monitor threats. Instead, he said, “Was it everything you expected it would be?”
Clu’s head turned to him, eyes carefully looking him up and down, “No.”
Tron expected him to continue, say something else, but he stayed silent.
“I imagine it was difficult.” Tron said after a moment.
“Difficult is one word for it.” He glanced back to the pad, “I might’ve had it easier than other programs, actually.”
“To meet your User…” Tron trailed off, eyes distracted by the yellow circuits. A distinct chant in his mind of wrong, wrong, wrong . He needed to stop that.
“I suppose the biggest problem would be holding him up on a pedestal.” He twisted his mouth, “I have a feeling it’d be an even worse problem for you.”
Tron curled his lip, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Clu shrugged, “Idolizing someone so strongly is only going to make it worse when they mess up or fail.”
Tron furrowed his eyebrows. The Users were supposed to be- but then again Flynn was... but Alan_One-
Something like a smile crossed Clu’s face, “I did die, even with Flynn, remember?”
Tron squinted at him, thoughts still flying through his mind. Clu shook his head, amused.
“I think I’m going to head back in- Could use a glass of energy.” The hacker started walking towards the exit.
Tron paused, glancing back towards the path. Idolizing, indeed.
He followed the hacker, getting up to the exit before he tripped . That wasn’t exactly something he did. And there was nothing to even trip on, or, there was nothing he was supposed to be able to trip on, at least.
He glared at the ground. A thing, electric, yellow tripwire. His head shot up like lightning, straight to look at Clu.
The hacker looked back at him innocently. “Sorry, thought I’d take Ram up on the offer to ‘put you through your paces’.”
Tron blinked. Of course. Of course Ram would suggest that.
Flynn’s smile was wide, his hair frazzled, and cheeks flushed as he undigitized. He shot up from the chair, swaying on his feet, because it was easy to forget the brief dizzy spell that resulted from the transfer process.
“Good time?” Lora asked, amused as she walked up to him, Alan following her, smoothing some of the hair out of his face.
Flynn batted her hands away, “You guys have gotta get in there .” He rocked on his feet “I’m not kidding, you have to-” He let out a ragged breath, “You have to come with me.”
“Alright, I think someone needs to cool down after that round.” She said, amused.
“I’m serious.” Flynn frowned.
“Well you can tell us about how serious you are, after the high wears out.” Alan snorted.
Alan raised an eyebrow. Flynn crossed his arms, ready to pout before shaking it off.
“I’m serious Alan, you’ve got to- You have to meet Tron- meeting your program- it’s not like anything that I’ve experienced before. It’s. Wonderful.”
Alan did a double-take, “Wait a second, ‘meet your program’, Flynn-”
“Oh, right, ha. I might’ve rerezzed my hacking program, Clu. Sorry, I didn’t say or anything, I wasn’t even thinking. But! But, obviously, the others in the system knew, so that’s fine-”
“ Flynn. Too many words. Calm down before your mouth falls off.” Lora punched his arm playfully. He rolled his eyes.
“If I have to drag you guys into the system, I will.”
Lora laughed lightly. Alan’s eyes seemed to find the floor the most intriguing thing he’d ever seen.
Flynn smirked. He had a feeling he’d just caught Alan.