Welcome to the Grid, Arty: Chapter 3: Finding Tron
Even on the smooth terrain of the streets, Artemis found it difficult to follow Quorra and Sam. Their white light lines blended into crowds, and the sleek buildings looked identical from street level.
“Wait up,” he called. “I’m not really used to this.”
Sam and Quorra stopped.
“What are you used to? Being chauffeured? Riding Bentleys?” Sam asked sarcastically.
Yes, actually, Artemis thought. You’d think that was a punishment, the way he said it.
He caught up to the others and started walking with them at a slower pace.
“I wasn’t used to the Grid either, last time,” Sam admitted. “All I wanted was my dad back, and I rushed into everything.”
Artemis understood the feeling. The three years while his father was missing had been the loneliest years of his life.
“Over here,” Quorra said. She stood at the entrance to a large building that was mostly open.
“Nice place,” Sam said. He looked at the many lightcycles, helicopters, jets, and light runners in various degrees of repair. “How do we get one?”
“How about you ask?” Quorra said. “I’m not exactly popular with other programs.”
“All right. What’s your name again?” Sam asked, turning to Artemis.
“Arty,” Artemis replied, giving his only nickname.
“Arty, you stay here with Quorra. I’ll see if I can rent us a jet or some bikes.”
“So, Arty,” Quorra said. “That’s kind of a strange name. How’d you get it?”
“My father calls me Arty,” Artemis answered.
“Oh, yeah. You’re a user, your parents give you your names.”
“Where did you get your name?” Artemis asked. He watched Sam talk with one of the mechanics.
“I chose my name, but most programs have theirs within their code.”
“Huh. There’s a lot to learn about this place.”
“That’s what I like about the world of the users,” Quorra said. “No matter how much you learn, there’s always more to know.”
“Don’t I know it,” Artemis said.
“Do you read?”
“Yes, often. Although I tend to find my information on the Web.”
“Who’s your favorite author? Mine’s Jules Verne.”
“I prefer reading scientific journals,” Artemis replied. “Einstein’s theories are interesting, despite quite possibly being outdated.”
Amazing. I didn’t realize she could be so intellectual. He began to outline his findings.
Sam jogged back carrying a baton with white lightlines. “Had to haggle a bit, but he let me borrow this jet.” He pulled the baton out lengthwise, and a streamlined jet formed, large enough to carry all three of them. “Get in!” Artemis stepped in gingerly, having just seen the jet form from thin air. Quorra entered eagerly and climbed into the seat above them.
Sam sat at the controls. He brought the plane up smoothly, almost silently. Artemis observed the scenery from the second seat in the cockpit.
“Sea of Simulation, this way,” Sam muttered. He turned the plane in the direction of an expanse of shimmering, pulsing energy that flashed with light.
As the jet curved through the air and began to scour the beach, Artemis noticed other aircrafts near the city. Upside-down U shaped vehicles with distinct feet at the bottom, covered in red light lines, headed toward the jet.
“Red means Sentries, right?” Artemis said. “There’s a small fleet of red-lined crafts headed this way.”
Sam turned the jet and made it dive.
“Recognizers!” Quorra said. “Headed this way!”
“Don’t shoot,” Sam said. “We’ll try to get them on the beach.”
He landed the light jet and tossed the baton to Artemis.
I could leave. But I don’t have Sam’s disc yet. If I can snatch it, I’ll be out of here.
Sure enough, the Recognizers headed to the beach, beaming spotlights from their underbellies.
The tiny, cubic grains of gray sand twinkled as the blinding lights grew closer.
“Stop right there, programs!” a voice boomed from the leading Recognizer.
“No thanks,” Sam said. He pulled out his disc and ran in a zigzag pattern across the beach.
Quorra pulled out her disc and threw it, attempting to hit the leg of a Recognizer. The disc flew far, but not far enough, and it returned to her hand.
“Can you fly that?” she asked Artemis.
“If I can start it,” he answered. He separated the baton and the jet formed. Quorra beat him inside and climbed to the turret as he finally reached the controls.
Quorra began firing at the receding Recognizers, and succeeded in drawing the stragglers back to the jet.
The jet took off, and Artemis pushed it to full acceleration and shot after the Recognizers. Quorra continued to fire, aiming for the legs of the crafts. When hit there, the Recognizers crash landed.
Sam still ran across the beach, but he was slowing down. The jet dove and skimmed the sand, caught up with Sam, and allowed him to jump in.
“Nice flying,” he said. “Now let’s take out the rest of those Recognizers.”
Artemis nodded and swung the jet out and over the sea. He circled back and behind the fleet.
Quorra picked off the Recognizers with the lightjet’s weapons.
Now Artemis had to concentrate on keeping the plane in the air. It wasn’t so different from the Cessna, as long as he didn’t think about the logistics of it. The jet’s fire took out the Recognizers one by one and the sentries inside evacuated.
The stretch of beach was coming to an end where the city docks extended out over the sea. The docks were industrial size and even had hangars.
Among the structures of the docks, Artemis spotted a few moving lights in the rough shape of a torso. It was hard to be sure, but they seemed to be part of a tall program’s lightlines. As he strained to make out the details, Artemis accidentally tipped the plane down.
“What are you doing?” Sam asked, snapping Artemis back to the task at hand. “Nose up or we’ll crash.”
Artemis tipped the plane back upright, but as he did so, lost track of the shadowy figure.
“I think I saw a program down there with white lightlines,” Artemis said. “But not many lines showing.”
“Let’s go see them,” Sam directed. “Land on the docks.”
Artemis touched the plane down neatly and handed the baton to Sam.
“You’re a great pilot, but I’ll take that for now. Where did you see the program?”
“This way,” Artemis said. He walked over by a stack of materials.
Sam and Quorra quickly outpaced him and ended up almost to the pile when a bright, sleek shape shot out from behind it.
A black and neon motorcycle circled Sam, Quorra, and Artemis, its rider deftly maneuvering the strange terrain. The rider was the mysterious figure Artemis had spotted, who did indeed have very few lightlines, but those he had were white. The program’s face was obscured by a full-face helmet, not unlike a motorcycle racer’s.
“Tron!” Sam shouted.
The rider braked hard and stopped abruptly.
He disembarked and walked over to Sam.
If Artemis thought Sam was muscular and tall, this program made him look like a cat compared to a panther. He was at least six inches taller and seemed to have been carved like a Renaissance sculpture.
“You sound just like your dad,” the program said.
“So you know him,” Sam said. “That proves it. You are Tron.”
The program nodded and his helmet snapped out of existence, revealing a man’s face, chiseled but weary. He had seen many things, few of them good, and the traces of pixelly scars proved it.
“Tron,” Sam repeated, softer now. “Last time I was here, you were one of the reasons I even survived. I never got to thank you.”
“We know you fight for the users and the Grid itself,” Quorra said. “Clu’s tainted half this world--”
“He tainted me as well.” Tron said.
“--and Sam found a way to fix it. But we can’t finish it before the portal closes. We need you to help.”
“Show me how it works.” Tron said, a smile lighting up his face.
“First we have to find some Sentries,” Sam said.
“There’s some back there if we hurry,” Artemis said.