Tron: Remption Part One
An illustrated novella, picking up where Tron: Legacy ends.
Written + Illustrated / Jon Wesley Huff TRON REDEMPTION PROLOGUE He let himself be carried deeper into the dark waters of the sea. Grainy, incomplete pieces of memory stuttered through his head. Memories of how the sea used to beâ€Ś how it used to sparkle below him as he sailed above it. As quickly as the memories came to him they dissolved into random electric patterns. Even now his own mind betrayed him as it attempted to stifle his own memories below the new identity that had been crafted for him. He no longer had the strength to fight the violation. He barely had any strength to move. Breaking through the cycles of reprogramming had been mentally exhausting enough, but the aerial battle as he tumbled and fell into the sea had sapped the last of his energy. He looked down at his hands as the blue energy lines of his uniform flickered weakly. Is this how it ended? Would his light simply fade away as he dissolved into the sea itself? Just as he resigned himself to oblivion, a bright white light enveloped him. He cried out in pain as he was 2 blinded by its brilliance. He felt the sea quiver around him. Without truly understanding why, he felt some energy return to him. The energy lines of his uniform flared for a brief second before returning to a healthier sustained glow. He forced the questions out of his mind as he kicked his legs and clawed at the water above him. His strokes were frantic and desperate. Heâ€™d been given a second chance and there was no way he wasnâ€™t going to take it. After what seemed like an eternity (how far had he let himself sink?) he burst through the surface of the sea with a great splash. He laughed despite himself. Even the electronic buzz of the voice synthesizer in his helmet could not disguise the raw joy he felt. The light of his uniform began to fade once more, the brief surge of energy consumed. He lie on his back and let the current carry him. He laughed again as he lost consciousness. His name was Tron. He fought for the users. And no one would ever make him forget that again. TRON REDEMPTION PARTo1 Tron looked out over the city from his apartment. A Solar Sailor was launching from the docks, ready to ride the data stream across the barrens. Below him, the programs swarmed over the walkways and courtyards. The bright multi-colored glow of the populace of the Grid swarmed in the coutryard below him. A light show of green, blue, orange, red, purple and yellow greeted him as he gazed upon the city he had sworn to protect. Though still vibrant and alive, he could no longer deny that the streets seemed emptier. After the Master Control Program had been overthrown, a steady stream of new residents had arrived on the Grid. Kevin Flynn had been a big supporter of the Programming Department at ENCOM and their output had increased. They’d doubled the size of the city to accommodate all the new programs. But something had changed. The influx of new programs had started to dwindle. Plans to expand the Grid Games stadium had been postponed and Kevin Flynn’s visits became less frequent. The last time Kevin was preparing to leave the Grid, he said he needed to talk to Tron about a proposition. A bold new adventure awaited them both, he said. So now Tron waited for the user’s return. But with each passing cycle he grew more impatient. “Alright, that’s enough. You’ve used your ‘looking wistfully out the window’ time up,” Yori said as she grasped Tron’s hand in hers. “Now it’s time to stare lovingly at the program you love.” Tron smiled faintly. “Well that’s easy enough,” Tron said, his smile brightening a little further. “Hm. I don’t know, I’m still seeing a lot of ‘wistful’ in the eyes.” “Sorry, can’t help it. You of all people know that.” “Oh, don’t I know it. I just wish Flynn could have kept his mouth shut if he was going to wait so long to tell you what he was planning.” Yori turned away from Tron, surprised at how angry she sounded. “He just should of known better. All this talk of some grand new adventure. He had you hook, line and sinker.” “I’ll admit I’m intrigued. It’s been so different without the MCP. Sure, there’s the occasional outburst of violence but it’s nothing one of the standard system monitor’s can’t handle.” “Oh, I know – the Grid is just a little too boring for you these days.” “Not everything about it is boring,” Tron said as he gathered her up in his arms. “That’s true, you still have the games to compete in,” Yori said playfully, but he wasn’t going to take the bait. Tron was just about to formulate a witty reply when the walls around him started to darken. “What is this?” he said as the purple-hued walls turned to the deepest black. “Secondary blocks re-established,” Yori said in a strange electronic voice not her own, her clothes darkening along with the walls of the apartment. “No, not now. Don’t take this one. Not this one!” Tron yelled as he grabbed Yori and tried to hold her as tightly as he could. He wouldn’t let go. He couldn’t. But all his effort was wasted. Yori’s body shattered into a thousand tiny cubes in his arms. His own voice seemed far away as he yelled her name over and over into the black 3 TRON REDEMPTION void that had surrounded him. He was still screaming it as he awoke on the jagged rocks of the Outlands. “You’re okay now,” said a voice to the left of him. Tron turned his neck to see who the speaker might be. It was a female program with long red hair swept back into a pony-tail. She had the physical appearance of someone in their late teens or early twenties (in User terms, as age did not manifest itself physically on the Grid) and slightly pale skin. Her large green eyes stared at him in concern. “Where?” was all the response Tron was able to muster. But the jagged black rock that surrounded him at least gave him a partial answer. He had washed up on the shores of the Sea of Simulation in the Outlands. “Please, be still. You’re on the northern shore. Though I can’t imagine how it is you got here. Now, let me get a proper look at you.” The young program ran her hands over Tron’s helmet, looking for a release switch. “It won’t open—“ Tron started to say in protest, before he heard the clattering shuffle of glass on glass as the helmet unlatched and then folded backwards towards the base of his skull before derezzing until needed later. It shouldn’t have been possible. Clu had deactivated Tron’s ability to remove his helmet as he didn’t want the general populace to know Tron was still alive. But Tron was no longer under Clu’s control. He was no longer Clu’s pet assassin “Rinzler.” The young program let out an audible gasp. “Is it that bad?” he said, his own voice sounding strange to him without the vocal distortion of the helmet. The young girl smiled. “I won’t lie, it’s not great. But that’s not why I reacted the way I did. Even under all the damage… I recognize you. I know who you are. You’re Tron. You’re… you’re actually you.” “That’s who I used to be.” “And so who are you now?” the girl asked. By habit, Tron reached backwards to grab one of his identity discs. But those had been lost during the battle on the Rectifier. And they weren’t really his anyway. “That’s a very good question. I’ve got one of my own. Who are you?” The girl blushed with embarrassment, her pale cheeks glowing red. At least this deflated the sense of awe that had filled her eyes and made Tron uncomfortable. “Oh, I’m so sorry. Ren. My name is Ren.” “Nice to meet you, Ren. And now, might as well get it over with…” Tron forced himself up to his feet and then knelt beside a tidal pool. The site that greeted him was, in fact, “not great.” Two jagged scars—one on other side of his temple—marked where Clu had made his crude first attempts at rewriting his programming. His face was a warped, pixilated mess of digital information that quivered and pulsed, seemingly on the verge of deresolution. “Well, there goes the modeling career.” Tron hit the button to rezup his helmet once more. “I know it looks bad, but don’t worry. It just so happens that I know one of the best repair programs on the Grid. Can you walk?” “Yes. Yes, I think so.” Tron said, taking a few careful test steps before striding confidently once more. 4 TRON REDEMPTION “Great, the camp isn’t far.” Tron and Ren grasped the side of the dark, jagged Outland rock as they made their way up a low cliff wall. For a moment, Tron turned back towards the Sea of Simulation. As far as he could see there was open sky around them. It felt different. Wrong. But his memory was still so incomplete; returning in fits and starts. Even then the events he was remembering were from the distant past. More recent events were more difficult to recall. They were just vague impressions of a battle. Then hitting the water. Then awakening on the shore. “Come on, not much farther now,” Ren said. Tron pushed his thoughts aside and concentrated on the task at hand. He lifted himself up over the cliff to join Ren on the plateau above. High above them, on the top of an humungous mesa of black rock sat the camp. It glimmered in the darkness like a beacon. Small dwellings made of white metal surrounded a central energy pump. The pump pulsed with blue light, energy lines flowing outwards from it to the dwellings and to a few satellite watchtowers and battlements. “Impressive. But it’s not exactly hidden. How did you escape Clu’s notice?” “There’s a natural energy spring under the mesa, so it was the best spot to build. And for whatever reason, Clu never bothered us. I guess we weren’t much of a threat.” “I thought you said we were close,” Tron said with a smile. “We are. If you’ve got the right equipment.” Ren pulled a small baton from a holster on the side of her leg. Tron recognized it as one of the precursors of the multi-purpose weapon/tool that programs across the Grid used. Ren pressed a series of buttons and arcs of light emanated from the baton, criss-crossing and forming into the outline of a large circular disc before solidifying into a anti-gravity platform. “Nice.” 5 TRON REDEMPTION “It’s an older model; mostly defensive and tooloriented. But it gets the job done. Hop on.” Ren steadied herself on the floating disc. Tron jumped up on the disc to join her and once they had achieved a good equilibrium, Ren pushed down on the pedal and sent them rocketing towards the camp. “You said Clu doesn’t view you as a threat. What sort of camp is this?” “Well, as far as he was concerned we’re just a band of individualists and loners; programs who grew dissatisfied with their primary function or chaffed under Clu’s rule. Just a band of programs who decided to live off the Grid.” “Wait a minute. You keep referring to Clu in the past tense. Is he…” Tron’s words trailed off as the disc set down at the edge of the camp. Ren looked at him with with concern. “How long were you out? Clu’s gone.” Before Tron could properly react to Ren’s words, programs from the camp were already surrounding and greeting them. “What have you got here, Ren?” said a female program who had briefly stopped pushing a hoverbarrow full of black rock, her round face filled with a warm smile. “Oh, just another stray washed up on the shore, Grava,” Ren said, returning the smile. “Or at least that’s what I thought at first. You might recognize the name, it’s—“ “I know who he is,” said a stern-faced young program named Modin as he strode up towards Ren and Tron. “You faced off with a friend of mine in the games. He never had a chance against Clu’s favorite lapdog. Isn’t that right, Rinzler?” The crowd gasped. Grava and the rest of the camp-dwellers backed away slightly. Ren looked at Tron in confusion. “Rinzler?” Ren had heard the name. Everyone had heard the name. How many programs could tell stories of those they held dear, sacrificed for the bloodlust of the throngs that gathered in the Game Grid? “It’s alright, Ren. You’ve never seen the Games. You didn’t know.” Modin unsheathed a baton from his hip-holster. Unlike Ren’s, it was a newer model. A blade of vibrant green emanated from it. Before either Ren or Tron could protest, Modin had launched himself into the air to attack Tron. Tron pushed Ren out of the way and instinctively reached for the identity discs on his back. But they weren’t there anymore. They’d been lost in battle… somewhere. Tron darted away from Modin’s wild swings. The electronic hum of its blade buzzing in Tron’s ears the few times it came near to him. “Please stop. I don’t want to hurt you.” Tron kept dodging Modin’s advance. He was still exhausted—his energy nearly depleted—but even at half his full strength he was skilled enough to dodge the young program’s reckless attacks. Still, the attack was beginning to wear him down even further and it needed to end. Tron could hear Ren’s screamed protests as she begged Modin to stop, but Modin clearly wasn’t interested in listening. As Modin sliced through the air with a horizontal left to right swing, Tron gracefully ducked below the sword. As the sword neared the end of it’s arc, Modin left himself open for an attack and Tron took his shot. With all the energy he could muster, Tron landed a leaping upper-cut squarely under Modin’s jaw. Modin’s head snapped back and his whole body was sent shooting backwards through the air. Modin landed with a dull thud on the hard black rock of the mesa, his baton skittering across it’s surface. Tron 6 TRON REDEMPTION crouched over Modin, ready to strike again if necessary, but his attacker had been knocked unconscious. “Enough!” bellowed a voice from the far end of the central courtyard of the camp. The crowd parted as the program made his way through them, and Tron realized he must be the leader of the camp. He had the appearance of a wizened elderly man, his long white hair and beard cascading down onto his tunic. The energy lines of his clothes glowed a brilliant blue. “Jaren, thank the Users you came,” said Grava. “We’re under attack.” “We are not,” said Ren. “We’re the ones attacking.” Grava looked at Ren with steely eyes and was about to chastise her when the program known as Jaren spoke once more. “That does seem to be what I obvserved,” he said. Ren has brought this man into our camp. Like all who come to us, he will be accepted with open arms.” “Not him!” yelled Modin, who had regained consciousness and was grasping for his baton. “Yes, him,” commanded Jaren firmly. “He’s not even this ‘Rinzler’ character anyway,” said Ren before turning to Tron. “Show them.” Tron hesitated a moment. It still felt strange, the thought of even being able to open his mask. But with a mental command his helmet slid away and revealed his true face. The crowd gathered around them was silent. Jaren’s icy-blue eyes grew wide with wonder and started to glisten. “It’s you. Tron. You’re Tron,” Jaren said. Tron did not answer. The moment of quiet reverie was interrupted by a defiant scream. “Traitorous murderer!” Modin screamed, once again ready to run Tron through with his energy blade. But before Modin could advance very far an identity disc hit the ground before him, sending a shower of blue sparks over him. Modin recoiled in fear. Tron followed the disc as it returned to Jaren’s hand. “I said enough, Modin. Now stop before you get yourself derezzed.” Modin sneered at Tron one last time before turning around abruptly. He threw his baton down in rage, and it skittered across the courtyard as he stalked away from the crowd. After a moment of stunned silence, the crowd began to murmur. “Maybe we should continue our conversation inside,” Ren offered. Tron agreed and Jaren lead him to a domed dwelling not far from the main courtyard and the main energy pump. It wasn’t particularly large, but it was filled with monitors displaying maps of the Grid. Icons (that must have represented some sort of personnel movement) moved across the maps in clusters of red or green. At the center was a large table. “You’ll have to forgive Modin. I think sometimes the anger is the only thing that brings him any comfort these days,” Jaren said as he watched Tron studying the map screens. “There are a lot of holes in my memory, Jaren. But not enough that I don’t know what I was. If anything, I’m hoping Modin will one day forgive me.” Tron did not turn to look at Ren or Jaren, but the undercurrent of pain in his voice was palpable. “Speaking of which, let me have a good look at you,” Jaren said, silently motioning for Tron to sit in one of the chairs. Ren took a seat a few down from Tron. Tron felt a pang of sadness at how she now regarded him. She had tried to stop Modin, but it was clear her initial admiration had now given way to something more careful and guarded. “So what’s the verdict?” “I’ve seen worse and I’ve seen better. Severe trauma to the surface. Most likely from some kind of data bore. If I don’t miss my guess, it looks like they’ve tried to physically force code into your original programming. I’d wonder who could do so vile a thing if I didn’t know the answer.” “Clu.” As Tron spoke the program’s name, his face flashed into his memory. That face. What was he forgetting? And then, he remembered. How could he have ever forgotten? “You said Clu was gone. What happened to Flynn? Or his son? Did they make it?” Ren and Jaren did not respond, but looked at each other, hoping that the other person would know the right way to respond. “As you’ve probably figured out, this camp is a 7 TRON REDEMPTION lot more than just loners trying to escape life on the Grid,” Ren said looking around her. “The fact you have some kind of command center in the middle of your town was a pretty big tip off. But that doesn’t answer my question.” “I know. I’m getting to that, trust me. The camp acts as a hub for a number of resistance groups all across the grid. But there’s even more than that. Jaren and I, we’re part of a group that has been waiting for the Users. We maintained a look-out station hidden in the floating spires that surrounded the portal to the world of the Users.” “So we had two of our members there observing the portal when it suddenly burst to life. They were also there, reporting to us, at the end,” said Jaren. “The end,” Tron repeated. The open skies across the Sea of Simulation. He’d known there was something wrong with the sight. The portal was gone and so were the floating spires of rock that surrounded it. He suddenly feared the worst. “The last transmission from our observers said Flynn somehow absorbed Clu into himself. Everyone in the Grid knows what happened next. An explosion unlike anything I’d ever seen… the work of the Users to be sure… filled the skies over the Sea of Simulation. It took Clu’s command ship, the portal and all of the surrounding area with it. Flynn sacrificed himself to save his son.” Tron remembered the flash of white light that gave him the momentary power boost as he descended into the Sea of Simulation. Perhaps it had been Flynn’s final gift—however unintentional—to him. “And a female program, Quorra. He saved her too. At least, we think they made it through the portal,” said Ren. Tron was silent. He tried to process the reality of Flynn being gone. He found himself unable to do it. Suddenly, his mind was flooded with memories. His hands started to shake. Ren glanced over at Jaren with concern. “Perhaps that’s enough for now,” said Jaren. “If you give me your identity disc I could try looking at your coding and see if I might be able to repair what Clu has done to you.” Tron was silent for a few moments more. He willed his hands to stop shaking, fighting the overwhelming sense of grief and guilt that accompanied his newly regained memory. “It’s gone. They’re gone. They weren’t even mine. Not really.” “What do you mean?” “The discs I used in the Grid Games as Rinzler. They weren’t my real discs. They were just… relays. My real identity disc is in a vault in Clu’s main base back in the city. He wasn’t able to hack it directly so he set up some sort of system that relayed information from it to my two discs. I don’t really understand how it worked completely. I just remember Clu showed it to me one time. It didn’t mean anything to me then. I didn’t know I was the fallen enemy he was gloating over.” Tron tried to choke back the growing rage inside of him until it was just too much. “I need to—“ “Go ahead, we understand,” Ren said softly. Tron bolted from the room as quickly as he could and nearly ran into the crowd assembled around the command center. He brushed his way past them and made his way for the part of the mesa that seemed to be the most devoid of buildings and the programs that filled them. He stood at the edge of the mesa, looking out across the black expanse of rock before him. Beyond that, the Sea of Simulation sparkled in the night. Even farther beyond that lie the city. He stared at the lights of it shimmering in the darkness for a long while, simply trying to quell his feelings to a manageable level. But he fell to his knees as he remembered the last time he saw his best friend’s face. He was flying, upside down, above him as Flynn tried to make his escape in a 3-Man Light Jet. Flynn looked directly at him and though a pane of glass and some distance separated them, Tron could read his lips clearly. Tron, what have you become? “I don’t know, Flynn. I don’t know,” he whispered, finally able to answer his fallen friend. “Are you asking the Users for guidance?” Ren asked. Tron hadn’t even heard her approach. “No. That’s not… not really for me.” “Really? I used to ask them all the time. No one ever answered, of course. But it was... comforting. I’m sorry to bother you. I just thought you might want some water.” Ren handed Tron a large cup full of glowing, energy-infused water. “No bother. Probably good timing, in fact. I was just about to wallow in some guilt. I’m not sure that’s going to do anyone any good right now, least of all me. As for the Users… I guess having met Flynn and having worked with him so long…” Tron let his thought trail off. He looked at Ren and wondered how to phrase his next words. She said she and Jaren belonged to some sort of group (cult?) dedicated to the User’s return. He hadn’t wanted to offend her ideology. “It’s okay, go ahead,” Ren said with a patient smile. “Well, I suppose I realized that the Users were capable of incredible things. This whole world for instance. Flynn created every nook and every cranny of this place. I remember when he first told me about the idea of creating a new, better system. I thought he was crazy. ‘I’m creating a new world, man, and I want you to be a part of it.’ The way he said it, too. Like he was saying ‘I’m cooking dinner and I want you to come’ or something. But that was Flynn.” “I wish I could have met him. Jaren did, once.” “I wish you could have met him, too.” Tron stared down into the nearly empty cup and watched the water swirl around, throwing reflections of light onto the sides of the cup and his helmet. “But that was the thing about Flynn. He was brilliant, but half the time you wondered if he really knew what the hell he was doing. Sometimes he’d just come right out and say he didn’t. He never was com8 TRON REDEMPTION fortable with the worship. And don’t even try to call him the Creator.” Tron smiled as he remembered one instance where a particularly zealous acolyte had finally gotten on his last nerve. Look buddy, don’t take this the wrong way but get a hobby, man! The poor program had looked so crestfallen and Flynn had felt like a complete bastard for it. He apologized and agreed to do a few seminars about the world of the Users for a group the zealot had started. He hated every minute of it, but in the end he felt a real responsibility for the Grid and the programs that populated it. “He was far from a perfect man. But he was a good man,” Tron said. Ren smiled and looked towards the city as well. Tron saw her eyes suddenly fill with fear. He joined her gaze and saw the source of her concern. Three Recognizers were approaching. Although they were still a good distance away, the orange lights that surrounded their distinctive frame gave them away. “I have to sound the alarm!” Ren yelled as she ran towards the nearest watchtower. But the guard on duty had already seen the approaching ships and had activated the warning system. Tron ran back into the camp with Ren. Modin was rallying the people of the camp for the emergency. He was standing on a raised platform addressing a crowd of about thirty programs that was growing by the second as people scrambled from their dwellings. “Take a baton. Even if you’re a pacifist you can still use it as a defensive measure. We have three Recognizers incoming. We’ll wait for Jaren’s signal to actually launch any sort of attack. Diplomacy first, got it?” There were nervous shouts of agreement as programs grabbed a baton and ran to a pre-determined defensive position. Modin saw Tron and Ren from the corner of his eye. He strode up with a baton in his hand. Ren tensed, ready to try to defend Tron from him if it was needed. But Modin just handed Tron the baton. “Let’s see if you’re as good at derezzing them as you are innocent programs in the Games,” he said. Tron took the baton without a response. The weight of it felt good in his hand. “Although frankly, I think it’s just as likely you’re some sort of spy. Bit of a coincidence that after all this time someone from the city finally takes an interest in us.” “Is there a Light Jet programmed in here?” Tron said, ignoring Modin and turning to Ren. Maybe I should take one out there. Give myself up. Modin’s right. Not the part about me being a spy, of course. At least I hope I’m not. But this does seem a little too coincidental. They might be coming for me.” “And they might not,” Jaren said, emerging suddenly from the main control center. “You’re too valuable to us in a fight, if it comes to that. Let’s see what they do first.” Jaren touched his palm to a large panel on the command center and it derezzed before their eyes, taking any proof of their involvement in the resistance with it. “I thought Clu was gone.” “He is, but his destruction left a hole in the leader- ship of the army he had amassed. A lot of it was destroyed when his command carrier went up, but not all of it. Now the more prominent generals left behind are fighting each other for control.” Jaren looked up towards the sky and Tron heard the familiar electronic throb of the Recognizer’s engines seconds before he felt the blast of air from their exhausts. They were hovering above the camp menacingly, in a clear show of superiority. “Remember, “ said Jaren, “no show of force from us until we know what they want.” The air over the main energy pump was suddenly filled with crackling red light. Energy lines formed in mid-air, circling and crossing and darting off at sharp angles before coalescing into a partially transparent image of a giant, floating head. “Show of force, Jaren? Don’t make me laugh,” the image sneered. “Jex,” Jaren whispered as his eyes grew steely and his jaw tensed. “Who else? Since my forces could utterly destroy your rag-tag group of pacifists, nobodies, washouts and user-lovers with ease, you’ll be happy to know that I’m not here to do that. Unless I have to.” “What do you want, Jex?” “That’s General Jex, to you Jaren. And I would think it’s obvious. Starts with a T and ends in a Ron,” Jex said with a smile. “He’s certainly… merry about his work,” said Tron under his breath. “Oh, I have reason to enjoy my job today, Tron. But it’s your lucky day as well.” The camera zoomed out on the holographic image to show Jex’s full figure. In his hand was a disc, the ring of which was glowing a vibrant blue. Tron’s eyes grew wide. “Is that—“ “Yes, Tron. This is your disc. Secured from the vaults of our former high lord and master. One of the benefits of being… hmmm… actually, what should I call myself. Lord General? High General? No, how about... Master General? I like the ring of that. In any case, I offer you a trade.” Jex’s eyes flickered with a steely intelligence. Tron knew his casual, almost playful tone hid something harder and utterly deadly. “He’s not interested in anything you have to say!” Ren yelled out, drawing a sharp look from both Tron and Jaren. “Oh, I hope that’s not the case young Ren. You see, all I ask is for a conversation. A conversation for your identity disc, Tron. What do you say? And before you respond, I should note something. If you don’t agree to my terms I will end each and every program on that mesa.” Jex’s words fell on the crowd heavily. Despite their defense plans, they all knew that what Jex said was true. So few of them had any sort of combat training or experience. Even the relatively small group of troops on the Recognizers could wipe them out. If they did manage to survive, it’s likely more troops from the city would come. “How do I know that’s my disc? How do I know 9 TRON REDEMPTION you won’t derezz everyone here once I’m out of the way?” In response, Jex tilted the disc horizontally, and a holographic image projected from it. It was Tron’s face. As it used to be, at least. In truth, Tron didn’t need the disc. He’d resigned himself to never seeing it again. But if there was even a chance of saving the camp he’d have to take it. “As for whether I’ll derezz the camp anyway; I’ve known about this camp for a very, very long time. If I wanted it destroyed I’d have done it long ago.” Tron stared at Jaren and Ren. Jaren simply looked away from his gaze, unable to tell him he should go with them, but too torn by his duty to the camp to tell him he shouldn’t. Ren shook her head no, her eyes wide and pained with concern. “All right, Jex. You want to talk, let’s talk.” “Excellent. I knew you’d see it my way. Mostly because I didn’t leave you with much of a choice,” Jex’s image said before blinking out of existence. The middle Recognizer descended onto the courtyard. The center section lowered itself down the length of its legs as it touched down. It’s under-carriage slid downward to reveal Jex and a cadre of Black Guards and Sentries behind him. Jex looked triumphant as he held Tron’s disc up like a trophy. “I’m ending this now!” screamed Modin as he leapt towards Jex, seemingly coming from out of nowhere. He’d climbed the tower of the energy pump as the others were occupied in their conversation with Jex. He grasped a katana made of energy as he lunged downward. The Black Guards were already moving to shield their general. “Modin, no!” screamed Ren. Tron simultaneously unholstered his baton, formed it into a flying disc like Ren had used earlier and threw it at Modin. It hit the program square in the chest, interrupting his leap and sending him flying sideways. Jex laughed at the sight of the young program sprawled out on the smooth, reflective surface of the courtyard. Modin’s eyes were full of hatred, not just for Jex but for Tron as well. “I knew you’d betray us,” he said. “I’ve seen you fight,” said Tron. “He was trying to keep you from being derezzed, you idiot,” said Ren furiously. “Well, if we’re done…” Jex said, beckoning Tron to step into the Recognizer. Tron glanced back at Ren and Jaren one last time before stepping into the Recognizer. As the under-carriage started to slide upwards Jex looked down at Modin. “The adults are going to have a little conversation now. Be grateful I have more pressing priorities, program. Be very grateful.” The Recognizer ascended into the air to join the others but they did not move from their position over the camp courtyard. “How could you let him do that?” Ren asked Jaren bitterly, even if she knew there had been little choice for any of them. “It’s up to Tron, now. But if I had to put our trust in any program, he’d be the one,” Jaren said as the exhaust from the Recognizers sent his white hair twisting around his face and into his eyes. “What do you think Jex wants with him?” “Nothing good, Ren. Nothing good.” To Be Continued... 10