on Tuesday, October, 23, 2012 9:13 PM
Playground school bell rings again
Six-year-old Sam Flynn was glad the day was over. It was his first day back to school since his father had disappeared without a trace—he’d been doing his schoolwork at home for more than a week--and it had been as bad as he had been dreading. It wasn’t that anyone was malicious about it, but the constant questions from the other children, and the condescending kindness of the teachers and administrators, as well as the forced visit to the school counselor to find out how Sam was feeling, was just too much for the first-grader.
And then there had been the media. Just leaving the house that morning had been a circus, as Sam’s grandparents had tried to sneak him out the back door while Alan attempted to field the reporters out front.
As soon as Sam was back home, he ran to his room, curled up on his bed, and cried himself to sleep. He desperately wanted his dad.
Rain clouds come to play again
About a month later, Sam sat at the window, leaning on the sill with his head on his arm, as the rain beat into the ground outside. There’d still been no sign of his father, and even the police were starting to give up hope with no leads to go on. There had been no evidence to indicate what had happened, and no sign whatsoever of foul play—Kevin Flynn’s Ducati had been found still parked outside the arcade, but the lights in his office there weren’t on and no fingerprints or other forensic evidence had been found in the arcade’s private areas that couldn’t be attributed to Kevin, Alan, or the other employees. Employees had given statements that yes, they had seen Kevin arrive that night, but none of them had seen him leave. And all their stories matched up. It was as if Kevin Flynn had simply vanished into thin air.
Even the media had finally given up and stopped camping out on the Flynns’ lawn. The secret looks Sam’s grandparents gave each other were getting longer and longer, and more and more despairing. The school counselor was still prying, and Sam was still refusing to cooperate. He didn’t need to talk about it. He needed somebody to get his dad back.
“Sam?” His grandmother’s voice came from behind him. But young Sam wasn’t in a mood to talk to anyone right now. His emotions and stress level stretched to the breaking point like an old and overtuned violin string, Sam slammed through the screen door and sought his bike, his grandmother’s alarmed cry of his name echoing behind him. It wasn’t the first, and wouldn’t be the last, time he’d zoom off on his bike in a misguided attempt to escape this reality. He didn't even notice the rain.
Has no one told you she’s not breathing?
Clu sat sideways in the captain’s chair of his command ship, legs flung over one of the chair's arms and the other biting painfully into his back, deep in thought. Once again his mind was on Kevin Flynn. The user was out there, Clu was certain of it. Surely Clu would sense it if his own user were dead. The pair were almost like one person, considering that Clu’s creation had just about been a splitting off of Kevin Flynn’s own self.
Clu snorted. Almost like one person, indeed. There was always that caveat: I’m a program. That automatically made Clu “less than” in the eyes of the Grid’s inhabitants. Clu was the system administrator, but the other programs would always defer to Flynn’s word over Clu’s own if the user was around.
“Well, as I live and breathe!” was an exclamation Flynn used sometimes. Yes, Clu thought, therein was the rub. Flynn was human. Clu was not. He did not breathe, he did not bleed…he did not live, not the way Flynn did. It wasn’t something Clu could ever forget, always in the back of his mind. The two of them were practically the same, only not. Flynn was something more, simply by virtue of what he had been created as. It wasn’t fair.
But all the same, Clu was expected to do a user’s job: keep order in the system. Didn’t Flynn notice that the two of them were not on an equal level? How could he not? So how could he think Clu ought to do an equal task? No, this wasn’t fair—wasn’t right—at all, Clu thought, once again vindicating himself.
Hello, I’m your mind giving you someone to talk to
Kevin Flynn was meditating again. It was a way to escape the painful reality he had to face: he was trapped here, his son and outside life lost to him, his creation gone astray, the Grid in chaos. Heavens, what a mess. And Flynn hadn’t the first idea of what to do about it.
He spent his days rattling around in this silent hill-dwelling, alone with his thoughts. No wonder he turned to meditation: it was a way to get away for stretches of time and rest from having to try to think his way through this nightmarish fiasco. Every plan he came up with seemed like it would fail. He didn’t know if there were factions of programs out there who were willing to try to fight Clu--he was too isolated out here. And he couldn’t risk going out there to try to find out, making himself visible, unsure of who he could trust. At least there was one thing to be grateful for, being on the Grid: there were no such things as headaches. Otherwise Flynn was certain he’d have a massive one, constantly. No, sometimes it was better just to clear his mind and forget for a while.
If I smile and don’t believe
Soon I know I’ll wake from this dream
Maybe this wasn’t even real, Flynn reflected. It certainly seemed like the stuff of nightmares. Maybe soon he’d wake up, slumped across his desk, as he’d done many times before when he’d worked too late at the arcade and fell asleep where he sat. It was never fun—he could feel that he was getting older by the stiff neck and back he’d have when he woke—but at least all this would be done with. He’d go home and apologize to Sam-- “sorry, kiddo; your old man lost track of time again.” And next time he was in the Grid, he’d remember to say ‘thank you’ to Clu for all the hard work the program was doing in Flynn’s absence.
Yes, perhaps that was it. It was all a dream. Surely he could will it to be so. That was easiest, probably wisest. Just stay here, where he had nothing to be afraid of, nothing to worry about, where no news reached him and for all he knew, this whole thing had blown over by now, and wait to wake up.
Rinzler floated in the Sea of Simulation. No, Tron. There was no Rinzler anymore. It rent Tron’s heart to think that there ever had been in the first place. He’d returned to consciousness here after his fall… maybe a millicycle or so ago? Less, perhaps. The first thing he saw was the gentle white glow in the water around him, a color he hadn’t associated with himself in a long time. Thank St. Isidore, he’d gotten something right finally, in so long. Unfortunately, that relief was short-lived, considering that it was necessary at all. Tron couldn’t bear to think about it. It was utter cruelty that he’d forgotten who he really was for so many centuries of cycles, yet now he could remember in brutal stark detail everything he’d done during that time. The only way he could deal with it without losing his mind completely was by not really thinking about it. It didn’t happen. It didn’t happen. Oh, please, please, for the love of all that is right and beautiful in this system, someone come and say it didn’t happen. Tron clenched his hands into tight fists—a user would’ve drawn blood from fingernails digging harshly into palms—as a wave of pain coursed through him. It couldn’t be true. He wouldn’t believe it. Surely he couldn’t be capable of such things?
Don’t try to fix me, I’m not broken
Hello, I’m the lie living for you so you can hide
Clu knew he had to make sure Kevin Flynn never escaped this system. In here, Clu had a fighting chance. But if Flynn got out, Clu knew Flynn could just delete him from the outside, or try to change his coding. Clu wasn’t about to let that happen. There’s nothing wrong with me! You’re the one who changed! Clu still couldn’t believe how Flynn had begun working against him. “You will create the perfect system,” Flynn had instructed, and Clu had dutifully agreed. That was what he had been created for. Now Flynn wanted to change the rules around. And you would think Clu had been the one who had done something wrong.
“I did everything you ever wanted!” he shouted at Flynn. Left unsaid: Why did you turn against me? Why did you split away? We were friends. We were supposed to work together; you were my user…
And all those cycles when Clu had covered for Flynn, had run things here while Flynn went back off to his own world, a place Clu could only wonder about.
“I have responsibilities there, Clu,” he'd tried to explain. You have responsibilities here, too! Clu had wanted to scream. But you’re leaving them all to me! You’re the one who’s supposed to be in charge here, not me. You run away, escape this place, and I’m the one who has to hold it all together, some dim copy of you, knowing everyone would rather you were here to do it yourself and they only put up with me because they have no choice, because you left me in charge while you went away to do who-knows-what… and I’ll never know, because I had to stay here. I’m not you. I can’t be you.
And now Flynn wanted to run away again, and leave Clu here alone again? No, not while there was still energy coursing through Clu’s circuitry.
Sam Flynn pressed desperately against Quorra’s restraining arms. All he could see through the tears welling in his eyes was his father, bathed in an unearthly glow, pulled Clu slowly, inexorably, back toward him. Sam knew what was about to happen. He was going to lose his dad again, this time forever. He fought Quorra. He had to stop this. He had to save his dad. But she was strong and continued to hold him back.
“It’s what he wants!” she yelled, her own face anguished, trying to make him understand. Sam’s eyes locked with his father’s one last time.
“Goodbye, kiddo,” Flynn said softly, a pain so great filling him that he couldn’t even cry. He’d longed for so long to be with Sam again, and finally it had happened, and now this… The last thing he saw before Clu crashed into him and obliterated everything he knew was his own son, grown into someone to be proud of, disappearing with Quorra into the portal and safety… With his last breath, he silently willed Sam not to be sad.
Suddenly I know I’m not sleeping
Hello, I’m still here, all that’s left of yesterday…
Tron’s tortured haze of mind was suddenly cleared by a bright flash of energy above the Sea, and he saw the surface of the water above him whipped into a frenzy by the shock wave. Knowledge hit Tron, he didn’t know how: He’s gone. At first he wasn’t sure if that was referring to Clu, Flynn, or Flynn’s son, but then understood it was all three. And there was realization too: as much as he tried to pretend otherwise… yes, all of this was real. All of those horrible things had truly happened. He, Tron, had caused pain and misery and furthered corruption, even though it wasn’t by his own choice. But he couldn’t dwell on that, as much as it hurt, as harshly as the reality slammed into him like a fist into his midsection.
Now it was over. Now Tron would have to find his way to the surface, and see if he could somehow pick up the pieces, if there was some way to move on. Was there still a Grid up there at all? Or would he have to start over from scratch? He couldn’t know until he got there. Were any other programs still alive after that tremendous explosion? Would more Isos emerge from the Sea some day?
Tron would have to lead them now, and try to rebuild this place, create a better world, do it right this time. He would have to be in charge now, so it was his duty, as well as his restitution. He was the only one left, and the only one who would remember those who’d gone before, as well as the mistakes that must not be made again.
His decision made, Tron became a flurry of motion, kicking to the surface of the Sea. He could make all of this right again. He had to.
Post tenebras, lux...
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