Chapter 1: V1.3
Argon burned around them. A thousand fires reached high into the dark sky, singeing the bellies of recognizers and lightjets alike. Programs screamed, running for their very lives. Some were still in control, trying to herd the panicked masses to some semblance of safety, but most just ran as far as they could, trying to escape the destruction.
And Paige couldn't blame them. Not when she was half-carrying, half-dragging Beck over the rubble. Like the idiot he was he'd come to her rescue and gotten himself nearly derezzed; voxels dripped from open wounds on his chest like a defragging rain, leaving a macabre trail behind them. She forced herself not to look down at it, not to follow the white of his suit down to the stump of one leg, the edges still raw and sharp, still glimmering in the blue firelight around them.
Like an idiot, he'd covered her and paid the price. She grit her teeth, hitching his arm higher over her shoulders and trying to ignore the feel of his wounds under her other hand. She could fix them later. If they could just get to safety, then--the thought was cut off by another explosion, another bomb dropped onto Argon's once bustling downtown. The ground rumbled, unsettling her footsteps. She stumbled, Beck's destroyed leg grazing the ground. He gasped, remaining foot stumbling Paige grit her teeth, trying and failing to ignore her screaming fear circuit. He couldn't derezz here. They had to get back to the Outlands, back to Tron--
"Stay with me, Beck. Come on!" He didn't answer, and the circuit beneath her hand felt cold. His other lines were dimming, flickering and threatening to go out. She shook her head. "You don't get to die on me, no-bit! Hang on!" She shouted, voice catching in her throat and breaking like the pixels of his now useless half- leg. He didn't respond, didn't even groan, as his head lolled against her chest. A sob caught in her chest, the smallest of hiccups escaping her vocal system. If they could just reach the Outlands. If they could just get back to Tron...
"Stay with me, Beck. Please."
She kept walking, the heat of Argon's fires nothing against the chill inside of her.
The base in the Outlands was quiet, elder User retiring for a sleep cycle and Quorra quietly in her room. Reading, probably. The younger User, however, SamFlynn, paced by the largest of the balconies and watched the constant storm. He was energy in motion, anger and frustration and helplessness.
It made Tron's core ache. Quietly, the old program stepped up, floor dark beneath his feet.
"It wasn't always this way, SamFlynn." Sam turned, watching Tron walk up beside him to look out over the raw stone of the Outlands. The old program--older than all the others on the Grid--had been silent all through dinner, only explaining that he'd survived Clu's coup and made his way to Flynn a thousand cycles later. Sam had taken the explanation, too uneasy around his now-old father to really question much, but he deserved the truth.
They all did.
"What, Dad wasn't always this..." Sam scrabbled for the right word, hands twitching and curling around themselves. Tron nodded.
"He fought back at first. But when every move gave Clu more power, more ammunition to prove that Users weren't as powerful as we'd all believed, he retreated." Tron said quietly. Sam just snorted.
"He stopped fighting."
"Yes. But the rest of us didn't. There was...rather sizable Uprising a few hundred cycles ago." To say the least. Sam peered at him, but Tron kept his eyes away from the User. "We fought from the start of the Coup until..."
"Until its leader was taken from us." From him. The thought twisted in Tron's core, and he took a breath to steady his processors.
"Things were getting difficult. We were still outnumbered, and we needed recruits. Badly. So, we split up. We both thought covering more ground would be the most efficient way to overthrow Clu."
"What happened?" Sam asked quietly. Tron closed his eyes.
"Tron! I have your apprentice! If you want him to see another cycle, submit to repurposing!"
"Clu happened. He captured Beck, the leader of the Uprising. Gave me a choice: join his army, or watch Beck die."
"But if you're here, then..." Sam's eyes widened. Tron nodded, more an incline of his head than anything, and opened his eyes to watch the glimmering city, and the bright light of the portal to the east.
"Beck chose for me."
A thousand voxels on the floor. Gasping for breath trying to cool overheating processing units and clear damaged visuals. Beck, helpless and still at his feet, their backs to the sky. Clu stalking towards them both. Stand up and fight Tron doesn't give up never has never will.
A shove, sudden and sharp. Right off the platform.
Gone. Clu overhead, Beck screaming white and teal fading to orange and red a purring sound that stuck in his audio receivers and never faded. Failed. Another dead friend.
"He sacrificed himself for me." Tron sighed, grasping his hands tightly together. Sam frowned, ducking his head.
"I wish I could have met him." The User said quietly. Tron turned his head, steel blue eyes tired as he said,
"You already have."
"What?" Sam asked, stunned. Tron gestured to the city, and the Grid Quorra had pulled him from.
"He goes by Rinzler now."
Sorry not sorry. Also yes; these are generally going to have Uprising as a major part. What can I say? I'm fond of the show.
Chapter 3: V2.3
Sam is more beta than he realizes, and history has a tendency to repeat.
"Still say we should be taking the fight right to Clu." Sam griped from the front of the Solar Sailer. Behind him, Tron turned from the empty skies to the young User, taking in the tense set of his shoulders. It reminded him of a certain Beta, and he had to smile faintly.
"The only way to win, SamFlynn, is not to play." He stated firmly, but not so loudly that Flynn and Quorra just down the stairs could hear. Sam still turned, a petulant frown on his face.
"Who told you that?"
"Your father." Tron replied, stepping towards Sam to rest by the railing. Sam rolled his eyes.
"And you bought it?" He stated more than he asked, as if he couldn't believe the once great Tron would give into "zen" so easily. Tron snorted, shaking his head.
"No. I've always favored the more active approach."
Even when he couldn't use it. Sam still relaxed a bit, pulling himself up to stare at the portal in the distance. Silence fell between them, broken only by Sam's breathing, and Tron was content to let it be, but there was a question nagging at his processor and he needed to know for sure.
"If you fail to return home," Tron broke the silence by asking, eyes on the portal in the distance, "Alan One will come looking for you?"
"He'd call Lora and Jet and they'd all come looking, yeah." Sam replied, head tilted. "Why?"
"...I was told he'd abandoned this place." Tron said quietly, too quiet for Flynn to hear. Sam blinked once, twice, then shook his head with a pained expression twisting his face.
"I don't think he ever knew it existed, man. But when I get out, I'll tell him about you." He leaned against the railing, Grid-wind ruffling his short hair. "He'll come visit."
For a long moment, Tron was silent. Alan One, on the Grid? Face to face with his program who failed his every directive? The thought was core-freezingly terrifying. And yet...he longed for it. He longed for someone who knew what they were doing in a way the Flynn family streak of headstrong rashness never could. So he nodded slowly, hands still behind his back.
"Once Clu is gone."
"That's the plan," Sam agreed, reaching up to clasp Tron by the shoulder. "But to tell you the truth? If he heard half of what I have, Al would tear Clu to pieces with his bare hands if he came in here sooner. He's protective that way."
Tron just smiled tightly. Perhaps Flynn saying he was like his User hadn't been so ridiculous after all.
The thought was killed by the roar of a lightjet overhead, and a familiar helmeted head soaring beside a Recognizer as the sailer's sails folded, their course corrected to slide them into a massive Rectifier. Clu's forces had found them.
Beck had found him.
History, Tron thought as the four of them quickly moved below deck, seemed doomed to repeat itself on this system.
He still wasn't sure if he liked that or not.
still not sorry. If Alan doesn't get on the Grid during Ascension, there will be some very angry squeaking.
also noticed something during the rewatch of Legacy for this timeline. They never go over how Tron became Rinzler in any of the canon media. It's implied he was repurposed (either directly through Clu, through another gift like Dyson's, or the mobile repurposing unit during Terminal) but we never get canon confirmation either way. Makes one wonder. That much is for sure.
Chapter 4: V3.1
A different sort of Renegade...and a different sort of Mentor.
"It's not going to be easy, you know," Her companion said firmly, modulated voice quiet. Mara shook her head, peering up through her visor at the half-destroyed statue that still lingered above the game field. It was still too easy to remember the way Beck had screamed as the Sentry had derezzed him, erasing a cycles-old friend into nothing more than a pile of voxels and a disk put to the Sea.
"I know it won't," was Mara's reply, her voice firm, "I know there's going to setbacks. I know that...that other programs may be derezzed before we're done here," Like she and Cutler had almost been. If Zed hadn't blown through the docks when he did, they'd be in Occupation custody. Worse than derezzed. She took a steadying breath, eyes still on the hunk of golden code ahead.
"I know that I may lose everything, and we may not even make any difference," She clenched her fists, remembering how Able had had to hold Bodhi back just a cycle after Beck was gone, how the pair of them had been nearly as close as a Bundle...and now Bodhi's anger was going to get him derezzed. She couldn't let that happen. Couldn't lose another friend.
"But I know that we have to try, or every program that we've lost will be gone for no reason." She looked down, head bowed. "And not just Beck. All the programs that didn't make it this far. Tron, too. He didn't get derezzed for us to stop without even trying." She raised her head, turning to her masked companion. The female-designate's pattern wasn't Argon's broad stripes and tiny accent lines, but rather Old Server complicated, teal on dark gray instead of black. Like the suit in Able's office, she stuck out, but then, this wasn't going to be subtle. This was going to be loud.
Mara could do loud.
Her companion didn't seem convinced. With a quiet sigh, she walked away, leaving Mara in the light as she ducked into a nearby alley way. But as she stepped into the shadows, the program turned back and derezzed her helmet with a handful of quiet clicks. Wavy pale hair covering a scarred white eye, Yori turned, contemplated Mara and the city streets, then almost smiled.
"Not yet. But you will be."
My kingdom for a Tron/Yori reunion in Ascension. ...and a mention of Uprising in general but MEH.
"I was wondering where you'd wandered off to," Beck said quietly, lowering himself to sit beside her. He moved with the awkward shifting of a wounded program, and Paige's core twisted sharply. She'd done her best, but knew intimately where every scar rested under his blacks. Knew the jagged mark that connected new and old code at the base of his knee. Knew the handful of slashes across his chest--as if someone had tried to carve Tron's emblem off of him--and knew the vibrant blue circuitry at his wrists. She forced herself to look away, to watch Argon's still burning horizon instead of him.
It was easier and harder at the same time. Beck she had saved. Argon and the thousands of programs? She could only hope that someone better had saved a good deal of their number after what Clu's forces had decided to do.
What perfection was to be found in destruction? Those programs weren't ISOs, threatening the Grid. They were just...misguided. Afraid. Desperate for change. For a way to survive that didn't involve running for their lives as their homes collapsed around them.
Like she'd been.
No program would ever live in Argon again. The three of them--Two Renegades and the angriest System Monitor on the Grid--would have to leave the husk behind, too. Move on to another city and try to get it right. Try to fix what had become so very, obviously, broken. Beck watched her, brown eyes concerned and warm in the same pico. Eventually, Paige spoke.
Fire everywhere programs scream Tesler derezzed at her feet Argon burns and Beck burns with it he is dying derezzing in her hands make it stop Users please she'll believe if he lives please don't leave not again no no no--
She shook her head, grip tightening on her knees.
"Don't ever do that again."
Silently, Beck reached over to squeeze her hand. When she looked up, he smiled softly at her, that same warm smile that had drawn her in in the first place.
"I won't leave you, Paige. I promise."
She leaned in, pressing her forehead to his. She closed her eyes, taking in his presence. He was stable. He was still functioning. That, she thought, was good enough
When she opened her eyes, she was alone. Beck lay still and silent on the cot next to hers, half-sealed wounds glimmering in the dim light. She sighed, reaching out to put a hand on his arm. He slumbered on, hibernation mode undisturbed by her wishful thinking or her touch.
"You're right. I won't let you."
gratuitous, not entirely fluff. Because certain plots aren't behaving and are annoying. Argh writing. Why.
Chapter 6: V2.1
Dreams cannot replace lost time, and the living cannot replace the taken.
["I don't like it." Tron says, arms crossed over his chest. Beck, elbow deep in bike code, just grins.
"That's what you say about all my plans."
"And how many of your plans end up with you blowing something up?"
"...Okay, fair point," Beck admits, sitting and resting his elbows on his knees. "But you know we need more programs involved. Zed and Mara are doing great with spreading the word, but they need to know that Tron is still in this fight. Besides," He lays back down, reaching into the engine. "It's not like this is the first time I've run a solo mission."
"It's the first time you have when I wasn't in range to back you up. Are you sure you're ready for this?"
"Guess we'll find out." Beck says with a smile.
Tron still cannot shake the feeling that something's going to go wrong.]
Tron had never been fond of Flynn's "zen" approach, but sitting beside his friend and staring out at the city in the dark was familiar.
And so he sat, legs folded beneath him and hands on his knees. Flynn didn't look up, didn't break his stance, and the distant silence stretched between them. When Flynn had found him wandering the Outlands, lost and hurting and so very alone, there had been yelling. So much yelling and betrayal and no way to understand why Flynn hadn't left. Why he hadn't fled the Grid entirely instead of staying and hiding in its darkest corners.
It had been easier to think that his old friend had simply turned his back on all of them, then to realize that he just hadn't been able to make it out. That he had been as trapped in Clu's web as the rest of them. He still didn't want to believe it now, almost five hundred cycles later. The silence was still awkward, still off-putting with only the near silent sounds of Flynn's breathing to break it. Outside, a storm gathered but did not break. Tron City glimmered.
Tron himself bent his head, closing his eyes. To say that he and Flynn were still friends would be an overstatement, but Quorra wasn't here and he needed to talk to someone. Beck had taught him that simply stewing on things wouldn't be good for him. His voice died in his throat once, twice, three times as the words caught. Finally, he sighed and simply said,
"I...dreamed of Beck." He all but whispered. Flynn turned his head, old eyes soft.
"How long has it been?"
"Two hundred and sixty cycles."
And yet the loss was still just as fresh. Maybe it always would be. Tron nodded.
"Too long. We shouldn't stay here."
Their usual argument--why Flynn lingered, why Tron and Quorra didn't take the Grid by storm with what was left of the Uprising--was interrupted by the sound of the lift. Flynn took it as a sign that the discussion was over, but Tron, ever vigilant, turned to watch as Quorra made her return. Her triumphant return. Tron's core hitched, freezing up as Quorra made her way to Flynn's side. Was that...?
"We have a guest," Quorra said reverently, quietly. But where Flynn didn't believe, Tron simply stared. Not for the first time he wondered if something internal had given way, because that was a face both familiar and not. Young, with hair that seemed beyond control, and a look on his face that Tron knew well.
"Sam?" Flynn finally said, lights turning on beneath his feet. The young program--User--nodded, blinking rapidly.
SamFlynn. Flynn's son.
Unable to watch the reunion, Tron turned away, back towards Tron City in the distance, and closed his eyes.
nope still not sorry. and still not done, either. muahaha.
Chapter 7: V4.1
A different choice, something so minor, can change everything.
["--I made a promise to you all and I intend to uphold it. Combatant 3, you will be rewarded with your freedom."
Shock alarm no no this isn't happening--
"Which means for you, Combatant 5..." So far above them, lording over their heads, Tesler laughs and shakes his head. "At the end of the next cycle, you will face public deresolution in Argon Square, where I will take pleasure in erasing you bit, by excruciating bit."
The crowd cheers for their great general. Tesler raises a hand, declaring the match to be over. Cutler opens his mouth, but Beck reachs out, grabs his arm.
"Cutler, listen to me."
He glances at the platform rising from the armory, carrying a squad of Blackguard and Sentries to cart them away. He turns back, speaking quickly. "Head southeast out of the city until you hit a Spire. 67 degrees--you won't miss it."
"What are you--"
" Someone has to continue the fight." Beck smiles tightly, pulling away as the sentries are on them. Cutler's arms are wrenched back behind him, wrists hitched together, while another pair grabs Beck and begin to pull. The young program fights, twisting and turning until he can get a look over his shoulder, calling over the roar of the crowd. "Cutler! Tell him--" Beck yells, nearly wrenching himself free of his guards. The sentry doesn't have it, and with a firm whack of his staff knocks Beck to his knees to be dragged away easier.
"Tell him I'm sorry!"]
Tron shut down the display, looking at Cutler across from him. The young program was hunched over, arms crossed across his chest. Beneath his dark fingers, the ISO-Band flickered on and off like a switch. One, two. One, two. Tron closed his eyes.
"So. Beck chose you," He said quietly. Cutler grimaced, looked out the window and away from Tron.
"Looks that way." He replied, more echo than proper vocals. "Feels like he made the wrong choice."
Handing Cutler back his disk, Tron was torn between agreement or refusal. Beck had had potential, something in his code that had put him leagues above nearly every program in Argon without him even knowing it. Cutler had battle experience--they didn't give those bands out to just any program in the Wars--but it wasn't the same. Pacing to the window, Tron looked out at Argon. Without a champion, the city would fall completely to the Occupation. Clu's rule would continue. He had to get Beck out somehow, but how...
"He's not just a mechanic, is he?" Cutler asked suddenly. Tron turned, contemplated him for a moment, then inclined his head.
"Not entirely." He hedged.
"I saw him run across an energy wall--he's a Monitor."
"At least partially."
"He doesn't know, does he?" Cutler asked incredulously, as if he couldn't believe someone didn't know their main directive.
Tron shook his head. "No. He thinks he's just a mechanic." Would die thinking that. Clenching his fist out of sight, he turned back to Cutler. "Beck isn't to be executed until the next cycle, correct?"
Cutler blinked. "Yeah?"
"That means you've still got time to get to him." Tron said, eyes cold and firm. "You haven't failed." Cutler blinked again...then seemed to understand as a slow smile spread across his face.
With his shoulders held high once more, the young program made for the door. Tron watched him go, then shook his head.
"Cutler." Halfway out the door, Cutler turned back and blinked inquisitively. A corner of Tron's mouth quirked up; young programs. Honestly. "Don't get caught this time."
still here still poking at these even if season two just isn't behaving omg why aren't you working with me aaarrrggghhh
Chapter 8: V3.2
There's more than one way to reskin a program. Mara decides to take the road most traveled.
"You know," Zed said, voice muffled by the parts above Mara's head, "This Renegade is really--"
"Zed, stop." Mara groaned. Zed hadn't taken too well to the Renegade, or even the idea of her. He didn't know that Mara was her, of course, or he'd be even less fond of the idea, but having to hear him badmouth her and not be able to fight back...it wore on her, like a bad read. She huffed out a sigh. "I told you, we're just going to have to agree to disagree about the Renegade.
Can we please stop talking about it?"
"Oh, sure, yeah. It's just that he's causing a lot of damage."
"He?" Mara yelped, almost braining herself against the bike before she could roll out and peel herself from the support board. Zed nodded, gesturing over to the wanted display she'd simply walked past on her way in. Kicking herself for missing something so obvious--Yori would have put her on the ground for that--Mara took a very long look at the now doubled in size display along the Garage wall. Beside the dark gray of her suit was a black suited male-designate with red accent lines, broad white stripes...and a T-emblem glowing on his chest.
The mark of Tron.
"It's weird, though. Bodhi took one look at the thing and just smirked. It was...weird," Zed continued, shaking his head. Mara's core hitched; Bodhi. Of course. Why hadn't she thought of it before? He and Beck had been all but bundled and they'd both latched onto Able's rare stories of Tron and his heroics. With Beck's stabilizing influence gone, and Mara herself missing more shifts than not, Bodhi wouldn't...she stood, core going cold as she scanned the garage. Link, Copper, Dash, Ray, Able himself...no red lines. No Bodhi. Frag.
"Zed," She breathed, hud derezzing into her emitter, "Where's Bodhi?"
"Dunno," He replied with a shrug, "Didn't show up at shift-start."
Without a word to him, or to Able, Mara ran.
Someone called out for her to wait, but if anyone tried to pursue she soon lost them on the highway, bike eating the road beneath her. For a nano, she contemplated seeking out Yori, asking her mentor for help. Bodhi wasn't trained the way she was, but if he was as mad as she thought, then...the thought was driven away. In the time it would take for her to ping and find Yori, Bodhi would get into Grid only knew what kind of trouble and--
There was smoke. Coming from the harbor. With a curse between her teeth, Mara gunned her bike as fast as it would go.
There were no soldiers left functional when she got there, to a loading dock on the far edge of the harbor, where bright blue fire from burning code lit everything around Bodhi, standing tall in the center of piles of red-lined cubes.
Mara's core lurched. She forced herself to take a steadying breath, activating Yori's borrowed Old-System Grays before she stepped around the corner.
"Do you have any idea what you've done?" She asked quietly. Bodhi still jumped as if he'd been shocked, whirling around with his disk in hand. She kept walking towards him. "What Tesler will do to find out who did this?"
"Do you think I care?" He hissed, with all the rage and pain she knew he carried in his core. She frowned behind her helmet as he continued. "It's because of him that Beck is gone--they have to pay!"
"Look," She began, hands out, "I'm sorry about your friend. I really am. But this?" She gestured to the mess of burning bikes and cubed sentries, the heat from the energy blaze sending warnings up her processor. "This isn't going to bring him back. All this is going to do is get more programs derezzed."
"More soldiers derezzed," He spat in reply, glaring at her with cold eyes. Behind her helmet, Mara frowned. Fighting him to the ground hadn't worked. Talking wasn't working. He was going to be stubborn.
Fine. Two could play at that game.
"And more sent here to replace them." She settled her hands on her hips. "Random guerrilla tactics aren't going to save anyone, program."
He scoffed at her, giving her a look that screamed she had no room to talk about that. And she really didn't. Definitely not after blowing up the fuel tower. And yet...she turned her gaze to the airspace. What would Beck have done in her place? Would he have taken Bodhi in, working with Yori? Or would he have sent Bodhi away, tried to keep him out of the fight?
It didn't matter. Beck was gone. It was just her and Yori now. She looked back down, looking at him.
"Not alone, at least." She said quietly. He blinked at her, and before she could stop herself, Mara folded back her helmet. He stared, disk dropping to the ground by his feet.
"Hello, Bodhi." She smiled tiredly. "I think we need to talk."
What little glimpse we get of Bodhi in canon-Uprising shows he's forward, impatient, and reckless. A Bodhi without the friend he's closest too? A Bodhi with nothing to lose?
That's a program destined for trouble. Beck would undoubtedly be proud.
Chapter 9: V2.4
All began in the Sea, and so all shall end.
Except, perhaps, for them.
The skies between Tron City and the Portal were nearly always clear. Spires floated above the sea, Flynn liking the visual and simply never doing away with it. Tron had hated it once, thought they offered too much cover, too many blindspots.
Now, a thousand cycles after he first saw them, he finally found a good use for them. Turning so sharply that the Guard pursuing him smacked hard into Grid-stone, Tron banked hard to resume his position in guard by the three seater, core lurching in his chest. Quorra's reckless flying had kept them safe for almost all of the flight, but Sam's gun was jammed. Clu was spinning behind them, rolling between the helix-shaped edges of their lightwall. An engine was out, smoking. They were falling, falling, losing altitude in the eternal storm around the Portal.
Clu kept shooting, even as Tron closed in.
There was no choice here. He had to accomplish his directive, no matter the cost.
"Flynn! Go!" Tron yelled, pushing all the power he could into his jet. Flynn shouted after him, Sam called his name in what could only be panic, but he had other things to be concerned with. Quorra pulled them forward, pushing the jet as fast as it would go on a single engine. He'd have to trust her to get the Users home. He had bigger concerns.
Like keeping them from getting shot down before they could reach the Portal. If they could reach it at all.
They had to reach it, or everything, everyone, that had been lost, would have been in total vain.
Tron pulled up on Clu's side, shifting his grip on the controls to ram right into him. Red lines blurred behind him, he risked a glance over his shoulder--Beck.
Red lines and that clicking purr, but a still familiar stance. He was in perfect position to shoot Tron down, and yet--
"Rinzler!" Clu shouted, "take the shot! Finish the game!"
"Beck!" Tron yelled.
No verbal response. As far as he was aware, Rinzler had never spoken. And yet...the red-lined program shook his head then banked hard, pulling over Clu's canopy to roll into formation across from Tron.
Over Clu's head, Beck raised his helmet. For a split moment, a nano in a thousand micros, his lines flickered from Occupation Red to the bright blue-tinged white they'd been so very long ago.
He met Tron's eyes.
Nothing needed to be said.
Tron moved at the same instant Beck did. Caught between their jets, Clu yelled in anger and fear. His voice was echoed by Flynn's shout, a loud "No!" that split the darkened skies like a crack of lightning, just as the three lightjets collided.
Tron was beyond caring. He was falling, down towards the toxic Sea. So was Clu. So was Beck, body limp and reaching towards the remains of his jet as he fell. Then he flipped, grabbed his spare baton, tried to take off--Clu collided with him.
Tron shook his head, shifted into a dive, but it was too late. Clu had taken the baton and was already taking off in pursuit of the Flynns and Quorra.
There was nothing he could do them any longer.
But maybe...maybe he could still save Beck.
He dove, the Sea coming closer and closer, centimeter by centimeter as he reached out, struggling to grasp anything, anything at all--
He grabbed Beck's wrist. The Sea rushed up to meet them.
Impact. Dark water all around them. A flicker of blue-white in the deep.
System shut down. Blackness.
When awareness returned, Tron was staring up at the storm, the forked lightning, the spires. They moved--no, he did. He was being dragged clear of the water. He turned his head, caught a glimpse of red circuits.
The young program startled, dropping him to the dark sand. Tron rolled to his feet, reached out--
Reintegration hit with all the force of a Light Tank. They both stumbled, and Tron fell to his knees. This would be his end, he realized with a chill down his spine. His friends were derezzed, his user had abandoned him, and he had failed his directive too many times to be of any use to SamFlynn. But he would not let this be the end of Beck.
"I know you're still in there, Beck," He gasped, trying to struggle to his feet. "The repurposing can't have taken all of you. Fight it!"
Beck stood on the beach, tiny circuits flickering between white and orange. White and orange and red a dozen flickers in the span of a nano. Tron tried to stand, tried to walk over, but he stumbled again. Fell to his knees. A dozen warnings blared across his display; low energy, failures in his frame, critical system damage. He silenced them all, working past the pain.
"Fight it, Beck!"
And Beck stared at him, even as he fell to his hands and knees. The Grid was going dark around him, system taking command to save his miserable existence. He looked up, eyes on Beck's hunched over frame. If he could just reach--
[Emergency shutdown activated.]
He fell. It all went black.
01110010 01100101 01100010 01101111 01101111 01110100
Reboot took all of three nanos, but his display said it had been closer to a full cycle. SamFlynn crouched above him, concern clear across his face as he reached for the old program.
"Tron--are you okay?"
Tron didn't answer, too busy scanning the beach for Beck as he rose to sit. It was empty except for another program--no, a User--standing further down the shore, tense and wary. No Beck. He looked around, frame protesting the idea of standing before he could even begin.
"Where is..." He trailed off. SamFlynn just looked confused.
He stood on a frame that protested even the tiniest of movements, but turned on his heel and scanned every pixel of the beach. It was dark, nearly pitch were it not for the glow of the portal in one direction and the barest hint of the capitol in the other. But it was only Sam beside him, and the User shook his head as he pushed himself to his feet.
"You're the only one here, Tron," He said quietly, but not unkindly. Tron shook his head, hands trembling at his sides. NO NO NO NO NOT AGAIN NOT TO--
"Beck!" He called. The only sound to return was the echo of his own voice, and the ever constant pulse of the Sea.
Not pictured: Tron's breaking heart at "Same team, remember?" because heaven help me, I will die on the hill of paternal!Tron.