skye_writer: Cropped cap of Tron in the film TRON: Legacy. (legacy tron)
[personal profile] skye_writer
Title: The Outpost
Author: [personal profile] skye_writer
Rating: T
Characters/Pairings: Original characters, Tron, Sam Flynn, Quorra, Ed Dillinger, Jr.
Wordcount: 1800 words approx.
Summary: No one knew where the virus came from. By the time they noticed it, it was too late. The Grid's factions put their differences aside and built a haven in the Outlands--the Outpost. Time passes; the Grid's programs survive. Then the Portal opens again, bringing Users back to the Grid, and what happens next may change their world forever.
Warnings: No warnings for this chapter.

PART ONE: INCUBATION


CHAPTER FOUR: THE MEETING


They were met by a pair of basic sentries before they even completed viral checks at the northern gate. Sam and the others looked taken aback, but the Nameless had been expecting this. Axel and Edis were not the types to waste time.

“What’s going on?” Sam asked as they were ushered out of the quarantine chamber. “These guys look like Clu’s—”

“They’re not,” the Nameless said. “A truce was brokered two cycles ago.”

“Oh.”

“The Council will see you now, Users,” said one of the sentries. “They have many questions for you.”

“I could say the same thing,” Sam said quietly.

“The Council’s meeting?” Rho asked the sentry. “I thought their next meeting wasn’t until three millicycles from now.”

“Emergency session,” the sentry replied. “Closed to the public.”

Rho didn’t do a good job of hiding her disappointment. The Nameless felt relieved, however. He took Rho by the shoulder and guided her down the corridor towards one of the messes, away from the guards and the Users and any remembrance of his past. They had things to discuss.

“Nameless,” one of the sentries growled. “The Council wants a mission report. Come with us.”

His hand dropped to his side. He glanced over his shoulder at them. “Axel and Edis can have my report later. I don’t think—”

“Axel and Edis requested your presence,” the sentry replied. “Do you defy their will?”

The Nameless clenched his jaw. The scar on his face throbbed, as it often did when he grew angry. He could tear these sentries apart without any effort. He could take a lightcycle, run away—

No. He was here for the good of the system. If he had to spend a little time telling the Council what they didn’t want to hear, so be it. He would just have to hope Sam and the others would keep their mouths shut about who he really was.

“We’ll talk later,” he said to Rho, who nodded. She still looked disappointed, but that wasn’t his problem right now. He clasped her shoulder briefly, then turned to the guards. “Let’s go.”

ooo


The Outpost Council was comprised of seven members, including Axel and Edis. In addition to the Outpost leaders, the five remaining programs included one loyalist from Clu’s army, one rebel from Axel’s faction, and three neutral programs who had not taken sides in the war. It was as close a balance as they could achieve, and every program was respected by the Outpost’s residents to some degree or another.

The Nameless stood in the center of the Council chambers, the sentries at attention to his right and left, and Sam, Quorra, and Ed just behind him. He had finished giving his report on the mission to Tron City, including the loss of Stihl and Rho’s reckless behavior.

“Thank you, Nameless,” Axel said from his position in the center of the Council bench. “It’s a pity about the loss of Stihl; we can’t afford to lose many more sentries these days.”

“With all due respect, Axel,” snapped Conin from two seats down, “reckless sentries are not why we are here.” Conin, a former lieutenant of Edis’, often voiced his impatience, and the Nameless knew he had very little respect for Axel at all. Axel had done nothing to deserve it but be on the wrong side of the war, at least in Conin’s eyes. The Nameless did not hold him in high regard.

“What of the Users, Axel?” Conin asked.

“Yes,” said Atana from the far left, her voice almost dreamy. “The Users.” She craned in her seat to get a better look at them. The Nameless repressed an urge to move and block them from her view. Atana was a devout believer in the Users, and he knew she thought they would hold all the answers to their plight. “What have they to say about all this? Stand aside, Nameless, let them speak.”

The Nameless raised his eyebrows, but stepped to one side as instructed. He glanced back at Sam and the others, all of whom looked uncertain. The Council, on the other hand, looked expectant.

This was not going to end well.

Sam stepped forward, into the Nameless’ view. He rubbed the back of his head, then sighed. Silence followed for several interminable moments. “We had no idea this was happening,” he said at last.

Only Axel and Edis remained calm at this pronouncement. Atana looked aghast, and the other two neutrals appeared shocked. Conin and Eckert, the rebel lieutenant on the Council, were in agreement for once; their expressions were thunderous but unsurprised. A babble of conversation began, but was stopped short by General Edis.

“Order,” he called over the din, and the Council fell silent as one. Edis glanced among his peers, then down at Sam Flynn. “It surprises me little that you had no knowledge of this. You Users always have your minds on other things, it seems.”

“Greater concerns than we are privy to, Edis—” Atana began, but Edis only had to look at her to cut her short.

“But it has been three cycles,” Edis continued. “Three cycles, and all we have built has been destroyed. Had it not occurred to you, son of Flynn, that the Grid might require your attention?”

“There’s—I didn’t—” Sam stammered. Edis had not raised his voice, but his displeasure was palpable.

“There’s a dilation of time,” Quorra said, stepped forward to stand beside Sam. “My name is Quorra. I’m a program who escaped to the User’s world with Sam. There’s a dilation of time between their world and ours,” she repeated. “One cycle here is only about seventeen millicycles out there. Only a fraction of a User’s cycle has passed for us since we left. We accessed the Grid and opened the Portal only a handful of micros ago out there, and when we return only a few more micros will have passed. Time here moves more quickly than in the Users’ world. Sam’s right when he says we had no idea about the virus. We’re here to help now. I hope that’s enough.”

“Hardly,” Conin spat. He peered at Quorra. “What manner of program are you?”

“I don’t see how that’s relevant,” Quorra replied calmly. The Nameless was impressed. He knew what she was. He remembered that much. She was standing up to one of her old (and possibly current) enemies with hardly a bat of her eye.

“It’s not,” Axel said. “If we could get back to the matter at hand… The virus has brought this system to its knees, Users. We realize you have only been here a short while, and must leave sooner than any of us would like, but what sort of a plan do you have? Can the virus be stopped, or even turned back? What are you going to do?”

Sam and Quorra exchanged an uneasy glance, as if neither of them knew what to say. One look at the Council bench told the Nameless how anxious they were for answers, and how likely it was one of them would start making demands. Someone had to say something, and soon, or else—

“We need to study it before we can form any plan,” said the third User, Ed. He stood a little behind Sam and Quorra, but didn’t flinch when the entire attention of the room fell on him. “If we don’t understand how this virus works, we can’t do anything to stop it.”

“We know how the virus works,” said Haibt, one of the neutral programs. “It uses programs like us to spread itself throughout the system.”

“All right,” Ed replied coolly. “Can you tell me what part of your code it exploits to spread itself? Or how it spreads in the landscape out there—”

“The Outlands,” Quorra provided quietly.

“—the Outlands, all right, without any programs to facilitate its movement?”

Haibt’s lips tightened, but she said nothing.

“Be that as it may,” Edis said, “we cannot risk you catching the virus yourselves. If you spread the virus to the system’s base code, you will doom us all.”

“If you don’t let us study it, then you’re already doomed,” Ed replied simply, spreading his hands. “It’s that simple.”

Edis gave him a look that might have shaken an ordinary program, but the User seemed wholly unaffected. “You do not understand our problem, User,” Edis said, his voice low but perfectly audible in the large chamber. “Users have never faced a problem of this magnitude—”

Ed shook his head. “We have viruses on our world, too. We only stop them if some people risk themselves to find a treatment and a vaccine.”

“A vac—what?” The whole Council looked rather confused, but to see that expression on Edis’ face was rare indeed.

“A vaccine,” Quorra said. “It’s a preventative treatment Users use to stop viruses from spreading, by offering an immunity to a disease that might cripple or kill them. It’s… possible”—she glanced at Sam and back at Ed—”that we might be able to create one for the virus here. But, as Ed says, we can only devise such a treatment if we are able to study the virus.”

“You insist on this, then?” Axel said. “Risking yourselves and putting the system in danger?”

The three of them exchanged a glance, and then Sam turned back towards the Council bench. “We do.”

“It’s essential that we begin the study as soon as possible,” Quorra added. “We will have to return to the Portal before it closes.”

Edis sighed. “But of course.”

Axel spared him a look before returning his attention to the Users and Quorra. “We have light jets that can make the journey in an eighth millicycle. That leaves you half a millicycle to conduct your study. Will that be sufficient time?”

The three shared a moment of hushed conversation that the Nameless was certain only he could hear.

“How long is a—”

“Millicycle’s about eight hours,” Sam explained. “So that leaves us—”

“Almost four and a half hours,” Quorra said. “It’s closer to nine hours than eight. I… did some calculations.”

They turned as one back to the Council. “We’ll make it work,” Sam said. “Thank you.”

“Very well,” Axel said. “The Nameless will serve as your escort and security, if he has no objections?”

The Nameless shook his head. He had security work within the Outpost, but he was certain Axel and Edis would let Halix know what was what. His conversation with Rho—for he knew she would want answers after what she heard in the city—could wait until after the Users were safely returned home.

“Then I declare this meeting of the Outpost Council dismissed.”

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