|Fanfic: "Through a Diamond Sky" Part 12 of 14|
on Monday, March, 05, 2012 3:15 AM
The Recognizer's movements were compromised already with an inexperienced driver at the controls, and emerging from the valley, they ran smack into a gauntlet of tanks and snipers. Individually, the shots would do little against the Recognizer's armor. As a group, and against an ill-maintained craft, the stood a good chance of disabling it.
"Clu, can you signal the System Guards?" Tron asked.
"Those null-units shot the radio!" Out of frustration, he kicked the panel, which fell to the deck with a clang and exposed the fried power distribution. "I'll try a bypass."
Jordan didn't dare look away from the controls. Their choices boiled down to the following; try to dodge the shots while steering something the size of a four-story building (improbable at best) or blast right on through the blockade.
"Guess we're running the gauntlet," Jordan said.
Gunning the engine to full, she pushed the lever forward as hard as she could. Shots glanced off it, the gyroscopic stabilizers were shrieking and sending up all kinds of warnings, and the tanks she rocketed past turned around and began pursuit.
"Jordan, keep trying to outrun them," Tron said, activating the weapon controls. "Melodia, do the cannons work?"
"They do," she said.
"Best news I've heard this microcycle." Lining up the sights on the weapon control, Tron fired and the first of the stolen tanks was blasted to bits.
Kevin literally had his hands full.
Kanna was still half-sitting on the deck, trying to breathe as she gripped her and Herd's fused disks with one hand. Herd was gripping the other edge of the disks as Kevin reached inside the code. The circuits of both Isos flickered erratically.
"Deep breaths, Kanna. Herd, you too. I don't need either of you passing out." Both hands were reaching inside the 3-D display, arranging and piecing together the third piece of the puzzle that was insistent about joining the Grid in the middle of a firefight.
It was like programming with a gun to his head and a deadline, and with the beating he had taken today, it was tempting for him to pass out. His fingers flew across the code. His eyes glazed.
Deep breaths, Flynn. If you can't hold it together... His eyes slipped shut for a second and he could feel it – the little glimmer of life. He had created and healed enough Programs to sense that mysterious element that they called 'spark' and Users called 'soul,' but he had never encountered one without the layers of shell and source code.
It was astonishing, amazing, and humbling all at once.
"There it is," he breathed, astonished by the discovery. "I found the baby. Let me give it a gentle -"
The deck lurched beneath them, jolting him out of concentration. Damn it! A glance over his shoulder and he saw the problem – even without their base or The Baron, the remaining Resource Hogs were bent on taking them all to the Void with them. He moved his body to block their view of the monitor.
"We just hit some obstacles. They'll take care of it." Kevin positioned himself again and sucked in a breath. "Keep your thoughts on the kid, all right?"
On his final trip to Encom's servers, the old Guardian Dumont was just as full of advice and well-wishes as Gibbs had been the day he took over Dillinger's office. All that is visible, must extend beyond itself into the realm of the invisible. All comes from the Void, and all returns to it. At the time, it seemed like fortune-cookie sayings, and Kevin only gave half-an ear to it. Now?
He reached in again, clearing his mind of even the numerical sequences he used as a focus, reaching into the Void with his mind and heart as his fingers seemed to move of their own accord. In that darkness, he found the tiny spark and pictured pulling it into his hands, in awe over what he was actually seeing – a miracle on a miracle.
"Hi, kiddo," he said quietly. "It's time to come out now."
Cradling that little light, he gently pulled it out from the Void and into the world.
Clu pulled himself out from under the controls. "We've got radio back – somewhat. He opened the channel. "System Guard, this is Administrator Clu. We're under attack. Respond!"
"Administrator?" asked a static-garbled voice. "I...you. The line is -"
"We're five clicks from the valley entrance. I thought I told you to guard the exit."
"You...capture the fleeing Hogs...taken on a lot of prisoners, Administrator."
"Hurl them off the top deck if you have to, but get over here!"
The problem with running the gauntlet is that you are guaranteed to get hit. The problem with getting hit is that sometimes one of those hits gets lucky. Sparks shot out from a nearby panel and part of the power conduit de-rezzed.
"That was the repulsor unit," Melodia said, running over to the power distribution. "We're not going to be able to lift ourselves. I'm trying -"
"Trying to sabotage us," Clu snarled.
Melodia ignored him, her slim fingers working the power node configuration. "Re-routing power to something that might help."
Jordan halted the Recognizer. "Crap. Dead-end." The valley entrance was fully collapsed. "Without the repulsor, we can't jump it."
"Power boost to weapons," Tron reported, sending out a scattered volley of fire that took out a chunk of valley wall and five tanks with it. "Thanks. Needed that."
Melodia staggered across the shaking deck of the wounded Recognizer, over to the radio. Clu tried to shove her out of the way, but not before she opened a channel.
"Attention all Resource Hogs. This is Melodia. The Baron has been de-rezzed, putting me in command. I order all of you to stand down. Repeat. You will stand down."
"Mel...?" came the voice over the radio, still more static than coherent audio. "What -"
"Stand down. As in 'stop firing!'" she barked.
The radio chatter was full of static, but the division started as soon as she stopped speaking.
"User probably...that craft."
"Destroy that Reco! Have it all!"
"I destroy you!"
"No, I'll have it all!"
The Hogs didn't stand down, but they did turn to fighting amongst themselves. Melodia stepped aside, and went back to the engineering station without another word, pointedly not looking anyone in the eye.
Two large shadows passed by the monitor and firepower began to rain down on the valley. "What are those?" Jordan asked. "More trouble?"
A voice called over the radio. "Administrator...status."
Clu said. "The System Guard finally pulls their heads out of defrag. We've been rescued."
The squabbling remainder of the hogs were quickly destroyed or captured by the three System Guard Recognizers dropping into the valley, cannons firing. A collective sigh of relief passed over the occupants of the bridge...
Followed by the faint cry of an infant.
Kanna was still half-lying on the deck, Herd kneeling next to her and holding her hand. Kevin was on his feet and holding a small bundle, looking too stunned to utter words. Jordan, Tron, and Clu left their posts and moved in.
Kevin moved over a flap of cloth. A small infant looked up at them with infinitely blue eyes, the hexagonal marking of Iso next the to designation of female on her tiny arm. "It's a girl," he said shakily, not quite believing it himself.
Jordan couldn't even breathe. She leaned against Kevin's shoulder to get a better look. "Oh, my God...It...she..."
"Yeah," Kevin said shakily. "She's smaller than even Sam was..."
Clu scowled uncomfortably and took a step back, but Tron's curiosity got the better of him. Cautiously, he touched the child's open palm. The little Iso responded by clasping her hand around his finger. "Fascinating..."
Herd let out a nervous sigh. "She seems perfectly formed, but so...small."
"The Isos are self-replicating?" Clu said nervously. "Like viruses or...or gridbugs?"
"No, Clu, more like Users," Kevin explained. "I told you about Sam. Well, he's...he's a lot like this at the moment. But give it some cycles and..." Kevin handed the infant back to Kanna, who cradled it close. He then shook Herd's hand. "You're in for it, man. Sleepless nights, 3AM feedings; totally worth it, though. Congratulations, both of you."
Clu turned away, making a show of going back to the radio console. Tron didn't fall for it, walking up behind him.
Clu turned around, dropping his voice. "Viruses self-replicate. Gridbugs self-replicate. The Isos crawling out of the sea unbalance things enough already. Doesn't this...? Don't you see how dangerous this is?"
Tron shrugged. "Flynn's not worried. Jordan's not worried, so I won't be."
Clu was practically scraping his jaw from the ground. "And...and that's enough for you?"
"Yes. I trust the Users. I also trust Herd and Kanna. They have more than proved themselves today. There is no sign that 'baby' can infect a Program, no indication that it can damage code, or otherwise harm anything. We fought off a horde of corrupted Programs today, and they did a hundred times more damage than a single Iso."
"But if they can replicate -"
"It makes them no different than they were when they came out of the Sea." Tron folded his arms, smiling. "She's merely another reason to defend and perfect the Grid, another reason to carry out our directives. What could be more perfect than that?"
It's an entire universe in there, one we created, but it's beyond us now. Really. It's outgrown us. You know, every time you shut off your computer...do you know what you're doing? Have you ever reformatted a hard drive? Deleted old software? Destroyed an entire universe?"
-- Jet Bradley, Tron: Ghost in the Machine on why being a User isn't necessarily a good thing.