Chapter 1: Beck, Crumpled At Tron's Feet
“Everything – everything but my name,” he murmured, and finally looked from the data projected over the disc clenched in his hands to the body crumpled at his feet, its eyes blank, void of everything that had once made it Beck as fiery tones seeped further and further into the circuits.
Once was an oversight; twice meant he was compromised.
Energy regulation defective, self-repair offline, patch acceptance and compatibility restricted, combat subroutines diminished – how could he have been so foolish as to think, even for a moment, that his ability to detect Clu’s malware hadn’t been the first thing to go?
The implied other time this happened is pure conjecture, but I will be very surprised if “The Stranger” is not about Beck discovering that he’s not Tron’s first attempt at training himself a replacement. That said, I expect to be jossed by the end of the week. Let's call this drabble AU either way.
Post-airing of "The Stranger" edit: THERE, WHAT DID I TELL YOU? XD
It was halfway through dinner that Sam noticed he wasn’t the only one staring; that while his eyes kept wandering between Alan and Lora, wondering whether they still fought over his dad’s absence sometimes, wondering which one of them would notice first, Roy was watching him.
Maybe it was just those tired old dog eyes of his, but he looked like he’d been watching for a while. And maybe it was the stubborn-wearied-stubborn loyalty in them, so different from Alan’s steadfast faith and Lora’s wistful acceptance both, that made Roy the one to quietly, brokenly ask.
“He’s dead, isn’t he?”
“Programs have beds?”
“You’ve known that since your first visit.”
“Given everything I’ve seen since, I figured the hideout had them for the sake of dad’s sanity. Like the pig and string beans.”
“Nope, they’re for sleeping. And interfacing.”
He eyed the luminous bedding. “With the lights on?”
“Sam. Do you want a dissertation on the complexities and energy drain of compressing centuries of memory to a manageable file size while retaining a fully rounded personality, or a practical demonstration of the bits and the bytes?”
“Rhetorical question. Just say ‘take me, Quorra, hack me hard’.”
Chapter 4: Bruce Boxleitner with his dog
“You are the ugliest creature I’ve ever laid eyes on,” Tron told the ‘dog’ fondly. “If we’d crossed paths in my system, I’d have beaten you into stand-by mode and taken you apart one function at a time, to see what makes a bug like you tick.”
Marvin cocked his head, whuffed.
“Things are different where I’m from, you know. It’s not an ecosystem full of biodiversity. You’re either program and ally, or bug and foe.” A stern look, then he grinned and mussed Marv’s ears. “But you’ve been tamed. You fight for the Users. And that makes us allies.”
“– computer program, you said, not sister!”
Sam’s face was red as a Recognizer. “That’s ’cause she’s not –”
“I am. If Alan and Lora are like your parents, then I must logically be like your sister. Why do you insist on being inconsistent?”
Alan quieted, suddenly teary-eyed. Lora smiled.
“That’s very sweet, but be careful who you tell that to. Brothers and sisters don’t usually kiss like... that.”
“So, Kevin...” Alan stammered. “He didn’t fornicate with a computer?”
“But Sam does,” Lora quipped.
“With a program,” Quorra corrected brightly.
Lora took in Sam and Alan’s expressions and promptly cracked up.
Chapter 6: Tron's Hands, One Disc Held In Each
Yori remembers the first time she saw a disc, remembers the sense of violation. A row of Reds, marching triumphant into a previously free domain, all of them cracked open to grant Master Control access where only the Users were meant to reach.
“It’s a weapon,” Tron had realised, and pulled her deeper into the safety of the shadows.
“It’s a weapon,” he repeated, face tight and hands trembling, when he returned from captivity for the first time and she wrapped her arms around him only to find that thing. His voice was hard. “And I intend to use it.”
“It feels lighter here,” Tron once confided to her, when Flynn’s world was new and spirits were high. “Flynn’s not my User, but Alan-1 entrusted me to him. If his greatest friend makes it so, I’m sure it’s no longer a blemish to him.”
Yori had kissed him, another gift from Flynn, and Tron’s newfound peace had made the disc sit more easily between her own shoulders. While the User walked among them, the intimacy of sharing code and memory was a blessing.
Now the User is gone, Reds swarm the city anew, and Tron bears two tyrants’ wounds.
Inspired by the observation that only red programs and Game Grid prisoners wear discs in the 1982 movie. Also because I GUESS THIS FRANCHISE WASN’T TRAGIC ENOUGH YET.
Chapter 7: Bostrumite!Quorra and Rectified!Sam
“It’s the season to be jolly...” Sam lilted, barely audible above the whirr of his disc as he sauntered through the ruins. “Or I think it is. Hard to keep track nowadays.” He raised his voice, kicking a piece of junk data to voxels. “Nice place you got here. Looks like someone took a tank to the interior, though. No – first a virus, then tanks, right?”
Quorra shot from the darkness, a shrieking green-lit shadow. Sam whirled and parried, but her disc came down and down until the violent red of Sam’s circuits blinked out, until only blood was left.
“There are so many reasons I should hate you, and so few why I shouldn’t.”
“None of those were good enough reason before this.”
“You freaks of nature deserved everything you got for taking my father away from me.”
Quorra tightened the bandage; Sam’s voice cut off in a fractured whine. Then his disc beeped on his back and he screamed through his teeth, writhing.
Quorra belatedly evened out her breathing. “Once you’re fixed, I’ll forget you said that.”
Sam laughed hoarsely. “Users don’t break, Quorra. Can’t fix what ain’t broken.”
She hoped he was wrong, for both their sakes.
(Okay, I'm pretty sure they were Recos, but tanks are more amusing to think about.)
People are always expecting him to be more vengeful.
Hardly surprising. Publically ousted, company usurped, career ruined. And then Flynn unsubtly fictionalized his ruin, turned it into a best-selling franchise. He’s done his jail time, but the true punishment lies in the tale of Tron, Yori, Clu and the MCP – in the indelible tie to his name, remembered not for corporate theft but for tyranny, death matches and ‘Ram! Nooooo!’.
The casual cruelty of it is staggering.
The accuracy, though...
Ed understands how little fiction there is in it. And how grateful they should all be for the happy ending.
Chapter 9: Tron Files about Radia, Arjia City, and Arjians
“They wouldn’t take no for an answer. Radia, please explain to your followers that I cannot do anything unless Flynn commands it.”
“I will. I’m so sorry, Yori. Were you hurt?”
“Tron arrived before it got that far.”
Yori’s gray laser control uniform was a dark omen amidst Arjia’s silvery-whites.
“They’re growing impatient. I feel like such a fool now for sharing my suspicions before Flynn confirmed them.” Voice low, grave: “Surely Flynn wouldn’t teach us so much of a better world, his world, if he didn’t mean to take us there someday?”
Yori sincerely wished she knew.
Chapter 10: Satellite Image of Cities in Abraxas-Yellow
“Abraxas” Mode Is KILLING Me
That’s one scary simulation you’ve cooked up, ISOlatedThinker. Never took you for a Z-pocalypse prepper.
I’m full of surprises. So, what do you think?
That it’s a good thing you’re on our side. You and ISO.exe. It keeps slaughtering me and never even drops the smileys.
Anyone else have better luck?
We were afraid of that.
Look on the bright side: with a program like that, there’s a Nobel Prize waiting in your near future.
I’ll pass. She’s shy.
Chapter 11: Sam Finding the Keys Still in the Door to Flynn's Lab
Drag marks carved into the floor tiles?
A door behind the Tron cabinet?
Underground rooms and corridors, like a store-cellar or a Cold War bunker or an abandoned speakeasy?
Sure, why not.
But the sight of keys still stuck in the door, crusted over with age, almost made him come undone.
How long had he searched for even that much of a clue, a sign, a goodbye? How long had he clung to that futile hope, resenting Alan and Lora for showing more or less of it than he needed at any given moment and encouraging the Flynn Lives people to share it with him?
Hidden doorways and elaborate underground complexes and mysterious signals from disconnected numbers: second-rate spy novel stuff. But his heart leaping from his chest at any sign of life where it shouldn’t be, at every unexpected guest, each box of mementos found at the back of a drawer – moments like that had shaped and shaken the foundations of his reality for far too long.
It had been so long since he last felt like this, he’d almost convinced himself he’d moved on.
This had better be good, Sam thought, and grabbed the door handle.
Chapter 12: "WHAT!! DO!! TEENS!! LIKE!!!"
Porn, free stuff, memes, cats.
Weren’t you in a meeting?
I’m liveblogging it. The question was: WHAT!! DO!! TEENS!! LIKE!!! But Hardington doesn’t want my answers to anything today.
False alarm! Willa is on my side today. She says hi.
Our boss doesn’t know the word meem/mem/meemee/mehmeh/mehmee/meemay. Any of them. :(
Willa says let’s have dinner and a LAN party to restore our tarnished nerd cred.
Radical. I’ll stock up on laser pointers.
For making cat videos.
You’re the best.
Chapter 13: A Very Very Visible Computer Failure
Flynn snorted; the line crackled. “C’mon Alan. Their programs are so badly coded they had a nervous breakdown. What else are people gonna think?”
“People-schmeople. Nothing says this wasn’t an unfortunate coincidence. I’ll enjoy Dillinger Systems’ humiliation when it’s well-earned.”
“I stand corrected. You’re exactly the man I thought you were. It’s awful.”
“For all we know it could have been sabotage!”
Flynn shook his head. “Yanno, if I didn’t happen to know better, I’d think you’d berate me for suggesting it even if it was to avenge your oppressed countrymen and fallen brother-in-arms. And that’s just sad.”
Bit seemed permanently stuck in NO-mode, a ludicrously bright red here in the real-world rain better suited for plastic toys than a living thing, while Jordan in her soaked pajamas and slippers looked ready to kill it with her frying pan.
Not how Flynn had pictured this occasion. Guess that’s what he got for leaving a tagalong computer-alien circling his toddler while he went to grab one of the fancy fluffy towels from the bathroom. Only the best for good old Bit…
And judging from the look Jordan gave him, endless explanations and permanent relocation to the couch for Flynn.
Don’t be fooled. This is a gateway to Good End! Jordan is going to call in sick to work the next day to process the bombshell blitz Flynn drops on her tonight, thereby not dying in that car crash, and not leaving Flynn to grow obsessed with the immaculate birth of the ISOs and their possible potential for raising the dead. Not to mention simply not leaving him alone with his bad ideas and worse impulse control. She makes Flynn fess up to Lora and Alan, together they make actually competent decisions across the board, Clu doesn’t go rogue, everyone lives happily ever after. *NOD*
Chapter 15: Bit Lost In Ikea
Sort-of sequel to the previous drabble.
“That’s the funniest-looking lamp.”
“And it talks!”
“That’s no lamp. It doesn’t even shine.”
“It’s a novelty lamp. Like lava lamps.”
“Even the lamp doesn’t think it’s a lamp, ma.”
“If it’s not a lamp, what’s it doing in the lamp section?”
“BIT! There you are!”
Bit shot from its lampshade perch.
“GOD ALMIGHTY, IT’S FLYING.”
“Radical! I don’t care what it is, ma, I want one.”
Flynn snatched Bit up, grinning maniacally. “Magnets! All the new flying robot toys have them! This is just a prototype, but expect’em in stores soon!”
And he fled.