Welcome to the Grid, Arty: Chapter 12: Tesler
The group found the elevator, continued up the base, and finally reached a room with an expansive view of Argon City, so high up the programs were invisible.
Ironic, how programs that are invisible here are even more so off the Grid, Artemis thought. Maybe this General likes it that way.
“Where is he?” Beck didn’t bother to be quiet.
“Over here,” Paige said. She led the group to a black, oval-shaped chamber inside the room.
A bulky, tall program with a long, squared face stepped out of the area.
“Oh, Paige,” he said with some form of concern in his voice. “What have they done to you?”
His red lightlines flowed off his shoulders onto a cloak.
Paige stepped back.
General Tesler smiled grimly. He shook his cape back, revealing large hands that glowed like firebrands. “I’d hoped I wouldn’t need to do this,” he said. “But it seems my right-hand program needs discipline.”
“Scatter!” Beck said, just as Tesler thrust out his hands and launched them in straight lines at the small group. Artemis dropped to his hands and knees so he wouldn’t be hit. Tron leaped straight up, flipped in the air, and landed to the side of Tesler’s deadly hand.
Beck deflected one of the hand-missiles with his disc and knocked it in a direction that protected Paige as well.
The hands rebounded and angled back at Beck and Tron.
“These aren’t a part of you, right?” Beck said.
Tesler was caught off guard and didn’t answer.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” Beck slashed at the trail of yellow light connecting the hand to Tesler and displaced a few cubes. The hand didn’t derez.
Artemis understood. The hands’ power comes through Tesler. Separate them, and they turn off.
Sam left the shadows and threw his disc. It arced, rebounded off a wall, and struck one of Tesler’s arms with more force than a melee strike.
Paige and Quorra looked at each other for a long microcycle.
“Let’s catch up later,” Quorra said.
Paige nodded. They rushed in to Tesler while he was focusing on the others. Limited to using his feet, Tesler was easily knocked off balance by Quorra’s nimble movements and Paige’s quick strikes.
The arm-weapons stretched and redirected at Sam.
Sam managed to knock away one of the hands, but a badly-timed dodge caused the other to angle around and trap him like a trail from a lightcycle.
Artemis, recovered from his humiliation, wound up and threw his disc again, and nearly sprained his arm in the process. The disc ricocheted off the wall and lodged itself in the arm blocking Sam.
Sam grabbed the disc, pulled, and severed the hand. Tesler’s arm retracted.
Paige attempted to grab Tesler’s disc as he retracted the wounded arm, but with his arm free, he elbowed her and forced her to retreat.
Tron and Beck now approached Tesler. Sam tossed Artemis’ disc back.
“Nice throw,” Sam said.
With only one threatening hand left, and six attacking him, Tesler seemed beaten already. As the group approached to surround him, Tesler threw out his arm, swung it, and tried to get a grip on one of his attackers. He caught Paige’s arm as she sheathed her disc.
Where his hand touched her, Paige’s arm began to desolidify. Cubic fractures appeared and spiderwebbed out from the general’s molten-iron grip.
“No!” Beck shouted. He broke the formation and struck furiously at Tesler’s arm.
Paige cried out in pain as the damage continued to spread.
Quorra joined in attacking Tesler’s arm, threw her disc, and caused enough damage for him to retract it.
Tron ran for the disc, dodged Tesler’s attacks with his retreating arm, and finally managed to grab Tesler’s disc.
Tesler shouldered Tron down and prepared to grab his head.
Four discs flew through the air and cut through Tesler’s remaining arm weapon, then arced back to their owners. While Tesler looked disbelievingly at the pile of cubes that until recently had been his arm weapon, Tron threw Tesler’s disc to Artemis.
Artemis broke the security encryptions and fixed Tesler’s code. He repaired some damage and replaced rewritten functions with their original sets. Once the recoding was finished, he ran up to Tesler, slightly out of breath, and clicked the disc into place.
Tesler arched his back and groaned as his lightlines changed to white. Is it my imagination, or are his hands regrowing? Artemis and the others scrambled away as Tesler’s hands returned, but the general didn’t seem to be able to attack. His eyes rolled back and he fainted, hands no longer white-hot, but still large.
“Time to go?” Sam said. “Before he boots up again?”
“Sure,” Beck said. “Tesler will be hurting a lot less programs without Clu’s influence and upgrades.” Paige looked back at the program who’d lied to her and kept her fighting innocents for so long, then followed the group to the elevator.
We did it. We actually did it, Artemis thought as they left the building. They fixed the code of a few guards on the way.
The others seemed excited too. Paige and Quorra talked and caught up on something since they’d met before, while Sam pulled stunts on his lightcycle.
Artemis pulled up by Tron and Beck. “So, we did it. What’ll happen next?”
“There are many programs out there who aren’t free from Clu’s influence. Beck and I know how to fix them now, but it will be a while until the Grid is back to normal.”
“I should have asked you this earlier,” Beck said. “Was that lightjet from the garage in Argon?”
“No,” Artemis said.
Beck sighed. “That’s good. If you borrowed it from Mara, she wouldn’t be happy you lost it. Hopefully you won’t be in trouble.”
“How do you know the programs at this garage?”
Beck smiled. He took one hand off the bike’s controls to pull out his disc and pop something off the back of it. Instantly, the white lightlines and armor rezzed into a black program with blue lightlines that looked like almost any other program on Argon’s streets.
“I’m a mechanic for my job. You didn’t think I was always Tron’s double?”
“I don’t know this world as well as the other one. You seemed pretty good at being a freedom fighter.”
“You’re lucky we aren’t in a populated area,” Tron said. “You would have been spotted. Don’t switch discs again.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Beck said. “It’s less of a big deal now that we’ve fixed the generals’ code.”
“Dyson’s still vicious,” Sam said. “Are you sure you’re up to the task of fixing the rest of the Occupation?”
“Definitely.” Beck and Tron said.
“And don’t count me out either,” Paige said.
“We’ve got about an hour left,” Artemis said. “So let’s go back to the other city, return the bikes, pay for the jet, and get to the portal before we’re stuck here.”
“All right,” Sam said. “Let’s head for the docks. We’ll take a boat.”
The group drove out to the docks, where they dismounted the lightcycles and found a boat they could use.
“I think I’ll stay in Argon,” Beck said. “Goodbye, Users.”
Paige leaned comfortably against him. “Argon’s my home now, too.”
“We’ll visit,” Quorra said.
“Thank you for your help,” Sam said. “Bye!”
“Goodbye,” Artemis said.
Tron, Sam, Quorra, and Artemis climbed into the boat and waved to Beck and Paige until they were lost in the distance.
As they rode across the sea in the lightboat, Artemis thought about everything they’d done and seen. This world’s amazing. So different from our own, but with some of the same problems.
Soon they’d docked in the main city, where they climbed out and rode the lightcycles back to the garage. Sam collected the batons from Artemis and Quorra, then walked into the garage to return them.
Though Artemis couldn’t hear what was said, the program in the garage did raise his voice at Sam when he tried to explain the missing lightjet. Eventually, the argument calmed down, and Sam left without being reported to the Red Guard.
“How did you get out of that one?” Quorra asked. “He was really mad.”
“I told him I was the Son of Flynn. When that didn’t work, I told him the baton was somewhere in the streets of Argon, and if he hurried, he might find it.”
“Well, at least you didn’t bluff,” Quorra said.
They walked back through the streets and found an entrance to a gondola-like Solar Sailer. The box compartment attached to a large, hexagonal sail that carried the vehicle swiftly along a line to the portal.
“You know,” Sam said to Tron, who’d accompanied them through the city, “Alan would love to see what’s happened to his greatest creation.”
Tron nodded solemnly. “Thank you, but the Grid needs me. I’ll work on fixing the programs that are still repurposed, and once that’s done, I’ll keep watch like I always have.”
“Still, if you ever want to see the world outside the Grid,” Sam said.
“I’ll know to ask you when you return,” Tron said. “And I’ll keep fighting for the Users, no matter what.”
“Thank you,” Sam said.
As the solar sailer docked at the floating island that held the portal, the sail folded inwards and allowed the group to disembark. Sam and Quorra stepped into the storm of bright light at the end of the bridge.
“Come on, then,” Sam said.
Artemis followed them and waited in the beam of energy. Sam removed his disc and thrust it into the light, which grew blinding as the disc hovered there.
Tron watched as Sam, Quorra, and Artemis disappeared into the light, then left on the solar sailer. He’d do what he promised Sam.
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