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 Fanfic: Tron Invasion Chapter 13 (Part B)

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Fanfic: Tron Invasion Chapter 13 (Part B)

on Sunday, October, 06, 2013 3:46 PM

They rezzed up their cycles, Romie on the back of Mercury's, but keeping them on slower speeds as to look out for traps. Grimly, they continued through the wasteland that once was a thriving residential sector. It was a short drive to the transport station past shuttered up shops, along streets that should have been thick with traffic.

When they got to the station, they saw it – a massive Recognizer. Four stories tall, conforming to no analog-world version of physics, with a wide, blocky pair of legs and even thicker top with an almost comically-small cockpit “eye” on top. The Reco itself was ivory-colored with bright gold trim.

Jet halted in his tracks. “That's trouble, isn't it?”

Mercury shook her head. “For once, no. Recognizers are used as security vehicles, but older models like this Type Five are repurposed into civilian transports. Ma3a must have sent it. Look, it's her colors.”

It was one thing to hear about them in an eccentric godfather's stories, or to program endless variations of them for Space Paranoids Online, but to see one face to face was something impressive, intimidating, and mind-blowing all at once. “I'm used to those things being...” He shook his head. “Never mind.”

Leading up the loading ramp were at least a hundred Programs, carrying little more than the discs on their back and a bag of possessions as they filed in slowly. It reminded Jet of crowded airports and the dingy ferry terminals he sat in during a trip to Seattle., but there was a creepy lack of conversation aside from hushed whispers. A triad held hands. Two female-designated Programs hugged. A male and female rubbed the back of a second male who stared endlessly at the red doom on the horizon. A male in a coat decorated with elaborate circuitry that carried himself like he was high-status passed over a flask to another male-designated who was dressed shabbily. The shabby one sipped and passed it back, giving a weak smile of gratitude.

Jet and his companions took their place in the back of the line. A male-designated in some type of uniform approached them, ignoring him and Romie and speaking directly to Mercury. “Mercury? While I'm sure a lightcycle champion isn't immune from this chaos, we're not going to just -.”

Jet tensed up, thinking there would be trouble, but Mercury pulled off her disc slowly and opened the display to her Agent's identification in its center before replacing it on her back.

It must have been the equivalent of flashing an FBI badge because the crewman's eyes got wide. “You're Ma3a's agent? I didn't think Group Seven actually existed.”

Mercury nodded. “She likes keeping her eyes and ears hiding in plain sight. Unfortunately, these two conscripts and I might be the last agents Ma3a has for this server,” Mercury said brusquely. “The only hope these Programs have is at Ma3a's dock. We're coming aboard.”

The crewman all but saluted. “I'll tell Captain Cally right away. We're getting everyone we could evacuate from the sector onto this Recognizer, and we're headed straight for there. But where are the ICP units? Are they making any progress against the viral attack?”

“No, and the Kernel's blown his stack, it looks like. He's been killing civilian Programs evacuated from the fallen sectors against Ma3a's orders and bits to bytes the viral outbreak isn't the only reason communications lines got cut, seeing as the ICP channels still work. It's worse than we thought,” she explained. “How quickly can we get to her citadel?”

“No faster than ten minutes. I realize that will cut it short with the reformat, but this is a Class Five Reco. It's designed for capacity, not speed.”

“Then let's hope we're not going to fend off a boarding -”

That's when they heard it – explosions sounding in the far distance. Worried onlookers gasped and pointed to the sky. The hazy red reformat wall was approaching, but ahead of it were a squadron of light-jets, their butterfly wings glowing an ominous red. Far on the horizon, a tall office building exploded into glittering cubes and orange-red flame. Frightened gasps and screams spread through the crowd.

“Get everyone aboard that transport now!” Mercury ordered.

Programs screamed and began scrambling up the ramp, the crewman running back to warn his fellows about the situation. Mercury looked over at Jet and Romie, activating the suffusion gun. “We may have to buy them some time. Get ready.”

Jet activated his rifle and Romie pulled his disc. The three of them ducked for cover behind a ticket booth and a trash can, giving each other grim nods. The sounds of bombings came ominously closer. The line of Programs boarding the Recognizer was getting shorter, but not outpacing the pace of explosions.

The turnstiles, ticket counters, and narrow stairwells created an advantage for the three defenders as ICPs came flooding in. The panicked crew behind them were herding frightened civilian Programs up the ramps and onto the Reco.

Jet sniped for the middle of the crowd to slow them down. Romie fired short bursts with the disc and the scatter-shot pellets from Mercury's suffusion gun took out enemies who ventured closer. The ground shook and parts of the ceiling came down. One large chunk de-rezzed an elderly female-designated that was too slow in reaching the ramp.

Jet felt a sudden, sharp pain in his hand, but it gave him an idea. Glancing up, he saw a heavy support beam, already damaged by the bombing. With a little luck...

“Merc, Romie – fall back!”

They did as asked, still firing, bringing up the rear of the queue. Jet concentrated, finding that small part of viral code he had quarantined away, and willed the remains of the corrupted code into his palm, throwing it as hard as he could. The viral grenade hit its target and exploded. Hunks of pixel-stone and simulated metal crashed between the stairwell and turnstiles, crushing a dozen ICPs and cutting off the approach.

“Hurry, Jet! Get aboard!” Romie shouted, gesturing him to follow them up the ramp and onto the Recognizer. Not even a nano after he was aboard, the hatches sealed and the huge, awkward-looking craft sailed effortlessly into the sky, hitching one of the remaining beams and speeding away.

Jet sagged against one of the walls, breathing heavily. He looked around at the inside. This area was obviously a cargo hold, stacked with thick, cubical data blocks like the one he saw at the processing area, but it was also crammed with people – Programs. (Did the difference matter anymore? No.) They were of all sizes – a short, thick one, another tall and skinny. A muscular one that towered over Jet was sitting glumly in a corner while a slender, petite one tried to comfort him.

“They're going to follow – the light jet bombers, at least,” Romie said. “They have a short range, but they don't need transit beams.”

The sounds of bombing still could be heard outside the thick walls. “Get me to the bridge,” he answered. Oh, he was tired. He didn't even know where he was drawing strength from. It just had to be enough. “Maybe being lead programmer of Space Paranoids Online can do some good.”

They climbed up the ramps. The Reco had definitely been retrofitted – it resembled a passenger ferry more than the military transports he coded up. Programs sat on the benches, the floor, the ledges on the wall where he had once coded in weapon racks and armor berths. All of them looked up as the trio passed by – some with fear or despair, some with the faintest remains of hope. One old man in thick robes held the hand of a younger woman and two younger men as they prayed.

“In shell and code, the Users make us. With spark, they give life. With directive, we have purpose. We serve faithfully, and may they protect and guide us in return...”

Jet shuddered. He wasn't sure if God existed, much less cared, but all he could do was pray in return. Help me save them.



There are over a dozen classes of Recognizers that have been used in the Encom system over the years. Starting out primarily as enforcement and capture vehicles, obsolete models were converted to packet transports, carrying freight and passengers throughout the system. Their great height, long range, and immense bulk made them very effective at carrying large loads, and they moved surprisingly fast, though their movement defied most laws of User physics and their speed was still greatly inferior to smaller craft like frame relays, email transports, and light-jets. Nor is are their armament, armor, and shielding a match for the immense ICP battleships or virtual servers that approximate the size and appearance of floating cities within this world.

The Class Five was always a transport; designed for troops, now for passengers. The bridge was located, as usual, in the sensor “eye” at the top. The great horizontal mass beneath consists of six decks, each about a hundred meters long by a human's measure, each deck approximately five meters high. Five decks are for cargo and passengers. The sixth consists of equipment necessary to power the capture devices and engines held in the straight vertical legs, each as tall as the horizontal is wide. It is the slowest model, with a maximum capacity of 1800 passengers and 100 crew. It can fly with a minimum crew of ten. This one flew with approximately seventy-five crew and 1500 passengers.

Mercury's agent access got them into a lift going to the cockpit, and it opened on a steely-eyed captain who was trying to man the control stick. The engineering station had a short, stout Program barely out of beta manning it, eyes wide and staring at the decaying voxels in shock. Two fading piles of digital remains were mute testimony to the fate of the radio operator and navigation officer.

The captain looked up, relief on her face, but she didn't leave the steering column. “Cally. Captain of this vessel. You three must be Ma3a's agents, though I didn't expect you to be one, Mercury. Guess it's true about her having eyes everywhere.”

Mercury nodded. “Status?”

“The weaponry was dummied out when this was turned into a transport, and those light jets are in firing range. Backlash from the shielding killed off the vanguards at the cost of several crew, but we're helpless against the rest. Rest of the crew is working all over the Reco trying to keep her flying.”

Mercury looked over at the shell-shocked beta at Engineering. “Keep the shields working. Jet, can you get the weaponry? I'll check the radio, see if we can get a line to Ma3a.”

Jet was already over at the inactive weapon control panel. “Working on it.”

The captain looked at Mercury incredulously. “Didn't you hear me the first time? The cannons aren't -”

“Jet can handle the weapons,” Mercury explained, hoping she wouldn't have to get into details they didn't have time for. “He's got a talent for these kind of things.” The Reco's command deck lurched.

“I've got the cannon on the right shoulder.” Jet said. He looked distressingly pale, clammy skin and flickering circuitry. “Romie,” Jet said. “I'll need you to take this one.”

“A cannon? Are you -?”

“Serious. Yeah. I can talk you through it.”

“I...I know basic defense, but nothing like -” Romie couldn't even finish the sentence, looking up at Jet., trying to say more, but failing.

The first shot hit, and the Reco deck shook.

“Shields are holding,” the engineer said, “But they're down to thirty percent.”

Jet was still trying to fend off the shakes, but tried to keep his voice as steady as possible as he worked the second console. “Whatever we used to be? Doesn't matter. You heard Mercury. We're Ma3a's agents now. We got a bunch of Programs on this Recognizer to save.”

Romie was still a little shaky about the prospect. “You think I can do this?”

“Yeah, you can. All in the wrist,” he joked weakly, projecting a confidence he didn't feel. “I also got the primary turret online. Put the headset on, and we'll do this, okay?”

Romie paused, checked the readout with the jets closing in and the reformat right behind. Seeing no other option, he nodded.



Down in the hold of the Recognizer, the lights flickered and dimmed to thin emergency lights in the floor as power was shunted to essential systems. Through the back, thin-winged light-jets, a dozen of them, closed in ominously, opening fire.

The first shots hit and the refugees screamed. Some crowded to the back. A bundled pair held each other, certain it was the end.

The Recognizer, seemingly helpless, continued along its path, but the large craft would stand no chance at outrunning their pursuers. A second shot hit. A third. The thick shielding flickered and showed signs of failure...

And then a shot – not from the jets, but from the Reco itself! One of the pursuit craft de-rezzed in a shower of sparks. Three more followed.

The deck erupted in cheers.




“Five down!”

“Means seven to go. And shields are five percent. Any more shots and we're going to have casualties on the lower decks,” Jet warned. His stomach twisted. He could play this level in his sleep - when it was a game.

He swung the cannon around and a lucky shot nailed two of them in one blast.

“They'll swoop in for another pass. Time it so that they're crossing the second bar of your screen before you fire.”

Jet fought off a wave of nausea and dizziness, dark spots dancing in front of his eyes. He was pushing himself to breaking and knew it, but he had to keep going, or everyone on this ship was going to die.

No more stories. No more games.



On the lowest passenger deck, in a darkened corner, a refugee script huddled among the crowded deck, feeling chills as his systems seized and his rendered muscles ached. He told himself it was just the stress, the ten microcycles without shelter, trying to outrun the Z-Lots as they overtook his sector, the ICPs as they enforced their massacre in the guise of quarantine. He didn't have the right permissions, but he slipped past in the confusion.

Starving and desperate, the last energy he drank was from a broken conduit two sectors before reaching the station. It looked and tasted foul, but he was flickering out and he had to keep going. There was no other choice, but he had felt ill ever since, harder to keep walking, going on sheer willpower. Surely, his Users had answers. Surely they knew how to help. His head and his abdomen throbbed and a sudden movement from the Reco lurched him forward. He was on his hands and knees, and he vomited.

The vomited energy was yellow-green.

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 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.
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 Fanfic: Tron Invasion Chapter 13 (Part B)