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Fortunately, they didn't have to walk the entire distance; it was only a few microseconds before they reached a more populated area, although those microseconds were very tense. Every so often a pit would open in the ground ahead of them, and once the cut piece was indeed pasted in the air and crashed to the ground, but not directly over them, and none of the pits appeared quite close enough to stumble into. It seemed Tron was correct about their enemy's reluctance to act directly, or perhaps they simply didn't want to harm anyone but Mur. Just in case, they all stayed close together, with Mur riding the surfbaud.

It was just as well Mur was riding; she was looking tired from the stress alone. As they neared civilization, she grew even more tense: "What if someone else gets hurt 'cause I'm nearby? I don't want that on top of everything else!" But the halfhearted cut-and-paste attacks petered out entirely, and they were subjected to nothing more than the perplexed stares of the programs they passed.

"All right, no more delays," Yori declared, making for a gold-limned archway. "This may not be travelling in style, exactly, but it's direct..."

* * *

Enzo sat, feeling awkward, trying to make himself small. Besides his different appearance, he was easily the largest program on the subway. While this was often the case, at home he didn't attract nearly so many stares.

He wasn't sure whether the company he kept was helping or not. Tron and Yori belonged here, but they were celebrities, and their assurances that 'he's with us' didn't really help him blend in.

On the bright side, no one was looking twice at Mur, even with Minus cradled for comfort in her hands. It probably didn't make any difference to their situation, but it was one less stressor for her.

"N҉ex̡t ̀stop͜,̛ ̷I͜n̴pu̕t̵-̷O̸ut͏p̵ut T̛o̶wer a̡nd̛ ̸Po͞w̸e͟r Re̕g͝ųl͝at́o̶r," announced the loudspeaker. "D͞oor͢s w̡i̶ll̴ ̕open ͟o̷n̸ the ̕l̡ef͝t."

The four of them sat up straighter in their seats, ready to depart, when suddenly all the lights went out and the train screeched to a halt. Programs yelped and fell against each other.

"What gives?" Enzo demanded.

Yori checked the window. The train car was still dimly lit by the passengers' own circuitry, but the usual faint glow from outside had gone along with the interior lighting. "The light rail's out. The power's been cut."

"Three guesses why," muttered Tron.

"Pl̛eás̴e r͢e̴ma͞i͟n ̧calm.̸ S̀e͜r̀vi̛ce wiļl ͟be r͜esto̸re͜d ̵s̛h̡o͏r̡t͢l͜y̡," crackled the loudspeaker.

From somewhere down the tunnel came a roar and the unmistakeable (to a veteran Gamer) thud of enormous footsteps.

"So much for not endangering others," said Mur through gritted teeth.

"They didn't crash the train," Yori pointed out.

"Oh, well, good for them!"

"They're probably counting on us coming to the rescue." Tron gave the others a meaningful glance.

"I hate when they do that," said Enzo. "Let's go."

"Mur, Yori, you stay here," Tron ordered. "Safety in numbers is probably your best bet right now."

Mur nodded miserably, hunched her shoulders, and hugged Minus close; he stroked her hand gently with a few tentacles.

Yori winked at Tron, then, while he shoved open the car's emergency door, she raised her voice. "Everyone, while Tron handles things, I'd like you to meet our friend Mur. Why don't you all congratulate her on her soon-to-be-successful installation as your newest I/O driver?" As Tron and Enzo left, nervous laughter rose and several passengers tried to coax Mur to smile.

Enzo switched on his gauntlet's flashlight, and the two made their way forward along the side of the train. They reached the front just as the source of the giant footsteps became visible up ahead.

"Oh, crash it," muttered Tron.

"I've never seen one in person..." whispered Enzo. You didn't, usually. But the artists' impressions in his Game classes were close enough for recognition.

It was a grue.

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Enzo Matrix

September 2016

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