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"Greetings, Programs!" (working title)

on Saturday, September, 08, 2012 12:20 AM

Ram said there's something different about him. I wouldn't know. I haven't spoken to him. Besides the fact that his cell is two down from mine and the forcefields can make it difficult for sound to travel, I don't care to get to know the new ones. What would be the point? They'll be gone soon enough. And I've watched too many friends de-rez to willingly seek out that type of masochism any more.

Ram and I only became friends because it was difficult to avoid. At first I tried to ignore the sociable, talkative program, but I found he'd go on whether I acknowledged him or not. At least striking up a conversation would stop his monologue about risk factors and premiums and liabilities-- whatever those are anyway. And as he kept returning from his matches, we grew close.

Ram is bright, amicable, but a bit unfocused. He believes in the users and isn't willing to say he doesn't-- which is why he's here. But beyond that, he hadn't given it much thought. The more he heard about my ideas, though, the more enthusiastic he became about freedom. He's never been the type to lead, but I don't mean that in a derogatory fashion. He's the best kind of companion a program could have fighting at his side-- loyal and hardworking, not to mention good to talk to and cheerful. More than once he's pulled me out of a dark moment.

Then there's this new guy. From what I've been able to gather, he is indeed somewhat strange. Ram says he got a bit or two confused by the transport process, which might explain why at times I have the feeling his coding has gotten crossed. It's just his way of talking, as if he doesn't quite understand what's going on. I can't decide if that makes him lucky or not.

In his usual way, Ram has already befriended him. I haven't figured out if Ram just hasn't learned his lesson yet, or if he can bounce back easily, but he always speaks to the new ones. There was another one earlier, and I can tell that one's not long for this world. He's not a fighter at all. He believes in his user, but I don't think he even understands what the stakes are for doing so. Those are the programs who may make me the saddest of all-- at least the openly-defiant ones know what they're dying for.

Both of the new ones are out for a match, now. The strange one being different is why Ram thinks we'll be seeing him again. That happens so rarely, and sometimes it's only due to luck. I'll believe it when I see it.

We could use “different” right about now. Something's got to give. I can't stay here forever while this system gets darker every day. I know what my user wants me to do, and I want the same thing. At this point I don't care that I'm still in beta. Cut off from my user, I probably can't get the final updates before this Master Control goes down anyway. I may not have his guidance, but I'm resolute on what I'm going to do all the same. I just need to find a way to get out of here. Ram has already said he'll help me, and I know his word is good.

The guards again. Do they never let up? I was in a match not that long ago. Who will they have us de-rez this time? What kind of sport is this, that they'll lead us willingly to destroy their comrades? Do they truly feel that they themselves are safe?

The red-circuited ones, the ones who work for Sark and the MCP, are the enemy. But I know some of them are the desperate ones who are merely trying to save their own lives by not dissenting, and I hate to de-rez them. They're programs, the same as Ram and I. But it's a fight for our lives out there, and if I don't get out of here and do something, how many more of them will there be, who in trying to save their own lives, lose them instead? Me, I'd rather die for freedom than live for that tyrant.

The lightcycle game. Well, this I can do. And I can try to protect Ram as well. He's a skilled rider himself, but I'm better, and we all get by with a little help from our friends. And it seems he was right after all, because as we enter the lightcycle holding area, there's the new guy, the “different” guy. Ram exclaims over him joyfully, and I have to say, it does make me glad to see that he's survived at least this far, though I don't forget the fact that it's unlikely he'll walk out of here when this is all over. I wonder how he is on a cycle. I can try to cover for him too, as long as he's at least good enough to help himself out a little.

Alan?” His voice is incredulous as he stares at me. What does he know about my user? Who is this guy? Ram is entirely too trusting. Something different about him. Survived his first match. Has he been sent from Sark?

“Where did you hear that name?” I want to know. His story had better be good. I don't trust him.

“Well, that's your name, isn't it?” My name? My name?

“The name of my user.” Which you well know. The question is, what are you trying to get me to reveal?

“I'm... from a user who knows Alan,” he says, moving to his place in line. And how does he know who his user knows? Ram is right-- if the guy's not duplicitious, his coding is looped.

“He was confused in transport, Tron,” Ram reminds me from my other side. The new guy interjects immediately.

“Yeah, but I'm starting to remember all sorts of things. Like, my user wants me to go after the MCP and take him down.” If this Flynn was sent from Sark, the best thing to do is keep my mouth shut. But there's something in his voice... an anger, a resolve... that I know all too well. And it seems genuine. And would a spy really speak this openly of mutiny? Sark hates me, but he knows I'm not that obtuse. I pause a moment longer. He's different, I remember. “In what way?” I'd asked Ram. And he said, “I don't know, but he seems like he could do things.” We need a change. The longer this goes on, the less and less I have to lose. I take a chance and spit the words out.

“My user wants that too.” After a beat, I dare to look over at him. He's looking at me, too, and we stare each other down. There's something in his eyes, a fire I see in few other programs. Ram is right: this one is unusual.

As the announcement to prepare for transport to the cycle grid blares out above us, I push all of this out of my head. I can think about Flynn and his user, and my own, later, but right now I need to be focused on this game and nothing else; distraction equals death. But before I clear my mind, I allow myself the thought, I hope you're not playing me false. For more reasons than one.

And then we're racing toward our opponents, and riding for our lives, and I forget everything else. For the users.

I keep an eye out for Ram and Flynn, and then I see Flynn and his opponent headed for the wall at breakneck speed. He's going to crash. I catch my breath and steel myself-- there's no way I can get there in time-- when Flynn turns his lightcycle at the last second. His opponent isn't so lucky, and slams not just into the wall but through it, creating a gap. A very gutsy move. Once again I think how this Flynn isn't like most programs.

“Gold Three to Gold One and Two: I'm getting out of here and you're invited.” He doesn't need to ask twice. This is my chance. He may be treacherous, he may be leading us right into a trap, or he may be simply a program whose user wrote in a little too much hubris and we'll get nowhere. But it's a chance, and I'm going to take it. As Ram and I follow him through the crack in the wall of the lightcycle grid, I hear his voice again, the first words I hear in freedom, the first thing to start this new day in the rest of my independent life.

“Greetings, programs!”


Usual caveats: most of the dialogue and events are from the film, etc. The rest is mine.

What do you want? I'm busy.

Program, please!

Chaos.... good news.
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 "Greetings, Programs!" (working title)