Welcome to the Grid, Arty: Chapter 2: The Grid
One side of the room was open and gave a great view of a neon and black futuristic city.
Like the cities underground.
“This is the Grid,” Sam said. “My father’s life’s work.”
“Your father created a whole world?”
“More like he found it,” Quorra said. “And led the programs he created.”
“So this is inside the computer. A physical form of digital space?”
“We’re the digital ones,” Sam said. “You’re quick. Maybe you can help us.”
“He broke into the Encom skyscraper. Why do you think he’s going to help fix the Grid?”
“Well, I do have extensive computer knowledge,” Artemis said. “I may be able to help.”
“We’re not exactly coding at the moment,” Sam said. He led Artemis and Quorra out to the balcony and grabbed backpacks from a wall hatch.
“Put these on,” he ordered.
“Let’s wow this user,” Quorra said.
“Any people like us,” Sam gestured to Artemis and himself. “We’re not programs.”
“What about her, then? She’s not a User?”
“I’m an ISO - an Isomorphic Algorithm,” Quorra answered.
“A digital being,” Artemis said.
“Yep!” Quorra gave him a big smile, latched the backpack onto him, and pushed him off the edge. Sam jumped off behind them.
That was unexpected.
Quorra activated the chute on her backpack and four blue wings with cell-like patterns slowed her fall.
“Your turn,” she yelled up to Artemis.
He slapped his back, trying to find the switch, and eventually activated his chute. Sam dove and did the same, pointing out to the city.
Soon they were in a more controlled glide and Artemis could finally speak again.
“So, there’s someone called Tron you’re looking for,” he said casually. “Tell me about him.”
“Is this a good time?” Sam asked.
“Very well. I can wait until we land.”
Eventually, Sam and Quorra straightened out and glided into a walking start on the city streets. Artemis was less fortunate. Despite his efforts to focus a bit more on his physical talents, he came to a stop a few meters behind Sam and Quorra, flat on his face.
“You coming?” Sam asked. “Thought you wanted to hear about Tron.”
“I do,” Artemis said. He caught up with the other User quickly. Quorra scouted ahead and looked for danger.
“Tron fights for the Users, but he got lost when we last left the Grid. If we find him, he can help restore order in the Grid,” Sam explained. “Oh, yeah. He’s a security program.”
“Don’t forget about the portal,” Quorra said.
“Oh, and we have to do it before the portal closes or we’ll be stuck in here until someone stumbles on the access to the Grid like I did,” Sam said.
“How long do we have until the portal closes?” Artemis asked.
“About eight hours, give or take,” Quorra said. “But if worst comes to worst, only Sam has to get out in time so he can come back and get us.”
Artemis had started to regret revealing himself. Sure, I’m inside the programming and learning Encom secrets. But there’s time pressure and I never meant to get myself wrapped up in saving a world again.
“Look,” he said. “Why don’t I just leave for the Portal now? You may continue as you wish, but I never asked to see this place.”
Sam smiled grimly. “Feel your back.”
Artemis fumbled and eventually managed to remove a frisbee-sized disc with a glowing blue-white edge from his back.
“I have a disc. So what?”
“Thing is, you don’t have my disc,” Sam removed a similar disc from his own back. “My disc is the key out of here, so without it, you’re stuck. I have a feeling your talents will be useful, so you’re staying in the Grid until we leave.”
“Or we decide to send him back,” Quorra added.
“Yeah, true,” Sam answered. “So for now, you’re with us. Got it?”
Artemis nodded and replaced his disc. My talents, he thought ruefully, might be the only way out of here.
As the group walked into the city, they fell silent. They began to pass people with similar suits and light lines.
“Programs,” Quorra said. She tugged on one of her armbands, covering something hidden beneath it.
Hmm. She’s either got a nervous habit or something hidden right there.
Initially, all the programs looked much the same to Artemis, besides male and female forms, but as he kept observing, he noticed different light line colors, designs, and hairstyles on each program.
One program noticed and walked up to them. He pulled out his disc and activated a sharp light line on its edge, then threw it at the group.
Quorra pulled out her own disc and threw it, intercepting the attack. She caught her disc as the attacker’s clattered to the ground.
As the attacker hurried to reclaim his disc, Quorra shouted “Take cover!” and Sam pulled out his disc.
Artemis took cover behind a glowing outcropping. In this type of situation, he would have taken cover anyway. His combat skills were pretty limited.
Quorra and Sam approached the attacker with their discs out.
“If you don’t want to be derezzed,” Sam said, “you have a chance now to leave. Stay and attack us, and you’ll be cubes before you see the discs move.” Derezzed? Artemis peeked out from behind the wall.
The program sheathed his disc. “I’ve got better bytes to crack,” he said. He turned to walk away. His lightlines, Artemis noticed, were a jarring orange-red.
Sam leaped over, wrestled the program’s disc from his back, and tapped it. The disc lit up with a hologram of the program’s face.
“What are you doing?” the program asked fearfully.
Sam paid him no notice. “Repurposed, never new programs,” he mumbled. Strings of code scrolled through the center of the disc as Sam located some extra lines and deleted them.
He scrolled through a long stream of images, then returned the disc to the program’s back.
The program collapsed, and his light lines brightened into blue-white. He stood up shakily. “User,” he said.
The program blinked and said, “So you’re not going to derez me?”
“No, what’s done is done,” Sam said. “I’d appreciate it if you would keep on the lookout for Tron, though.”
“All right. I’ve heard he was captured by Clu and never seen again, but there’s rumors that he’s Rinzler.”
“Well, look for Rinzler, then,” Sam said.
As the program walked off, Sam grinned at Quorra. “It worked!”
“Of course it did. You’re a User.” She shoved him playfully.
Artemis waited until the danger was past and returned to Sam and Quorra.
“What happened there?”
“Sentry. Leftover from Clu’s regime. I took out the ‘repurposing’ in his code and left the rest. He shouldn’t be attacking any more programs or ISOs now.”
“So, programs are linked to their discs,” Artemis mused.
“Yeah. Don’t let anyone take yours,” Quorra said.
“Is that what you’re planning on doing to every program?”
“Only the ones Clu repurposed. That’s one down, several million to go,” Sam said. “I’m just glad the method works.”
“Are you expecting to delete the code like that from all those programs in under 8 hours, and get back to the portal in time?” Artemis said.
“No. That’s why we need Tron. He’s the best fighter we have, and the smartest non-ISO program. If I can teach him how to remove that code from programs Clu corrupted, the job will be done quick on our end. Here, it’ll be more like a month.”
“That’s assuming you can find him, and he’s in any shape to fight and learn.” “He’ll be fine,” Quorra said confidently.
“I have two more questions. Where are we headed, and what is ‘derezzed’?”
“First one, we’re not entirely sure. Second one, derezing, or deresolution, is dying. Breaking down into bits and pixels,” Sam said.
“Honestly, Sam, do you have cubes in your head?” Quorra said.
“Hey!” “Last time we saw Tron, it was when your dad was flying us over the Sea of Simulation. Stands to reason we could at least start looking there,” Quorra explained.
“By all means,” Artemis said. “Let’s stop standing around, shall we?”
“We need bikes or a jet,” Sam said. “Is there a garage nearby?”
“This way,” Quorra said.