a1enzo: (ENCOM)
When Enzo finally broached the subject of the Return command, it turned out that the one who could help him was not Dumont, but Vaughn. This seemed potentially awkward, but Vaughn was in full-on redemption-seeking mode and his relief at being able to do something to help was so intense it was all Enzo could do not to laugh. He nearly tripped on his robes in his hurry to go prepare one.

"Good thing you spared him, I guess," said Enzo. "For me, anyway. You really think it's going to work out with him?"

"I think so," said Mur. "I mean, look at him. He's guilty over what he did, and relieved to keep on processing. Pretty sure he's gonna be super helpful for a while. And if he's not, I've got my powers now." She grinned. "And the moral high ground."

Enzo laughed. "Gonna be hanging onto that?"

"Are you kidding? I am going to be the best, most gracious crashing colleague he can imagine. I may even bring cookies to work."

"Oh, man. Harsh."

Mur steepled her fingers. "My vengeance shall be swift and delicious."


* * * * *


They looked at the little golden command, small enough to fit in Enzo's hand with the fingers closed, which would send him home.

"I guess that's it, then," said Yori.

"Yeah. I mean, yes and no." Enzo filed the command carefully in his belt. "That's everything settled, but I'm not done here yet."

"Why, what's left?" asked Tron.

Enzo produced his camera and brandished it. "Sightseeing, duh! And then there's those signature files..."


* * * * *


It was a pleasure working with you. Weird, but a pleasure.
Tron


Thank you for all your help, and for Tron's new friend.
Yori


Thanks for everything! Full speed ahead!
Mur


An unexpected honor.
Dumont


Thank you.
Vaughn


0110100001100101011011000110110001101111001000000111011101101111011100100110110001100100
010001110110110001101001011101000110001101101000


[Conclusion]
a1enzo: (ENCOM)
"Welcome, young Mur." An aged program hurried forward as they entered the tower. "Tron, Yori, thank you for bringing her here safely."

"It was a pretty close thing," Tron admitted. "Mur, this is Dumont."

"Nice to meet you," said Mur. "Am I safe now that I'm here?"

"I believe so," said Dumont, "although we should proceed with your installation as soon... as..." He trailed off as Enzo entered, followed by Minus and the entire swarm of keytools. "You certainly do have a story to tell me, don't you?"

"One for the archives," Yori said dryly. "You were right to send us, that's for certain."

"So I see. I wish I hadn't been. Truly I do. Well, some actions cannot be Undone, and we can only move forward." He gestured Mur, Tron, and Yori into the tower, then looked at Enzo again. "Please introduce me to your friend here." His tone was pointed, clearly asking: Is he safe?

"This is Enzo," said Yori with a slight nod in answer of the unspoken question. "He's actually here to see you as well. He's from the future, believe it or not, and needs help getting home. Enzo, this is Dumont, the guardian of this tower."

"It's an honour, sir." Interesting, he thought, how names and meanings can change over time.

Dumont raised an eyebrow. "Indeed? This certainly sounds worth hearing. If you don't mind, however, we will discuss it after Mur's installation."

"Dude, I mean sir, of course. Priorities."

"Quite." Dumont ushered him in and turned back to Tron. "And these?" He gestured at the swarm. "I thought you were having some trouble with them."

"The log-spiral is Enzo's pet, it's harmless. As for the fragments, it turns out they're on our side. Go figure." While they proceeded deeper into the tower, he repeated Enzo's explanation. "Though I'm still not sure why. I mean, why me."

"In my time," Enzo offered, "keytools form a link with their G—security programs. This seems kind of like that. It'd explain how they were able to find you. Not sure how the link was made in the first place, though."

"Oh, of course!" exclaimed Yori. "Tron, your identity disk! When you de-rezzed the MCP."

"Other enemies don't decide to follow me around after I de-rezz them."

"Other enemies aren't in the habit of appropriating any code they can get their digits on. It was probably automatic. They must have absorbed just enough to form a connection."

"Wait, so some of my code is in there?" Tron looked unsure what to think of this.

"Just a few lines," Enzo assured him. "It's good, it creates a bond. Just make sure to get it back from the rest of them when you pass them on."

"Right. I'll just do that, then." Tron shrugged. "Well, I won't complain. This one was a lot of help."

"It helped us defeat a grue!" Mur declared happily.

"A grue?" Dumont looked suitably shocked. "What exactly happened to you? In what ways were you attacked?"

"Well, the grue was the boss fight, obviously. The first time I was attacked by a swarm of bytes, of all things, and then whoever it was tried to stop us by cutting and pasting the landscape."

"As I feared," murmured Dumont. "Char variables, cut and paste, a text-based monster. Only one program has that much power over all things textual."

"Wait..." said Tron. "Tell me you don't mean who I think you mean."

"I'm afraid he does," said a baritone voice as they entered the antechamber to the Communication Room.

The program who awaited them was tall and thin, with long robes, spectacles, and a trim beard, and was younger than Dumont but otherwise far and away the oldest present. His tangerine circuits were a low pulse.

"Vaughn?!" exclaimed Yori.

"Oh, no," groaned Tron. "Why would you do something like this?"

"You mean he's been trying to de-rezz me?" Mur demanded. "Vaughn?"

Enzo sighed. "Okay, could somebody please fill me in?"

"Vaughn is ENCOM's chief keyboard driver," said Yori. "He plays a crucial role in almost all input in the system. He speaks the will of the Users."

Vaughn's shoulders twitched and fidgeted, and he was constantly smoothing or adjusting his clothing, small, nervous movements. "I do, yes, that is, I have done so, to the best of my ability."

"But my installation is the will of the Users!" cried Mur. "I can feel their call right now! You've been going against that!"

Vaughn flinched. "I.. that is... yes. You're right, of course. I admit it. I knew their will, and I opposed it."

Enzo glowered. "And, what, you've finally got up the nerve to do it in person?" He cracked his knuckles. "Good luck with that."

Vaughn gave him an incredulous look. "Of course not. You defeated a grue. I'm not glitched."

"Sez you," muttered Mur.

"No, I'm here—that is, I want—well, no, not want, but—" He sighed. "I surrender."

Enzo blinked. "Wait, what?"

Vaughn bowed his head and extended his hands, wrists together. "Do as you will. My doom is input either way."

Tron exchanged puzzled glances with the rest of the group, but shrugged and pulled out a pair of energy cuffs. Enzo stood ready in case of a trap.

"What is that supposed to mean?" said Mur. "You brought this on yourself!"

"I think he's saying you pose some kind of threat to him," said Yori. "That's why he's been after you."

"Indeed, you—that is, not you in yourself, but your installation—will spell my obsolescence." He tried to adjust his clothing again, found it difficult with bound wrists, and grimaced. "I sought only my own safety, to my shame."

"Sorry, what?" Mur still looked partly angry, but mostly baffled. "You think I'm going to, what, replace you?"

"'Supplant' might be a better term. Yes." He still seemed to be trying to maintain his dignity, but mostly he just looked miserable.

Dumont cut in, perhaps taking pity on his erstwhile colleague. "The Users are installing a brand new input device. Mur is to be the new driver."

Mur looked stunned and was actually distracted from Vaughn. "A whole new kind of input? Me?"

"You, my dear."

Vaughn sighed heavily. "With the new device, I and my function will no longer be needed, and I will fade away. But if the installation failed..."

Mur threw her hands in the air. "But the Users commanded my installation! You're supposed to serve the Users!"

"I am, I do, but I—"

"And if you did de-rezz me, what's to stop them from just summoning someone else?"

"I know, I just—I only—"

"You panicked," Mur said severely.

Vaughn cringed. "I panicked. I thought if..." He looked up sharply. "Why is he laughing?"

Enzo was trying not to, but snorts and raspberry noises kept escaping. "I'm sorry, it's just... what exactly is the new peripheral?"

"I believe it's called a mouse," said Dumont.

"Oh my code." Enzo hooted with laughter. "I knew it. Holy spam. You thought mice were going to replace keyboards? That's what all this is about?"

"I... that is... yes?" Vaughn looked uncertain in the face of this. Everyone else was staring.

"Dude! They're totally different kinds of input. Users use them in tandem. I'm a prophet from the future, okay, I've seen things. They'll have one hand on the mouse and the other on the keyboard. Or just one or the other at a time, depending what they're doing. The worst that would've happened is the transfer of a few duties. A little less work for you, that's all."

"Just... a little less work..." Now Vaughn looked dazed.

"Some downtime here and there. Maybe enough for a vacation, even, though I can't promise that. I've seen pretty far forward, and Users will always need to type."

Vaughn groaned loudly. "Oh, Users, what have I done?"

"Now he asks what he's done," grumbled Mur.

"And now my fate is written through my own actions," he continued miserably.

"Probably, since you tried to de-rezz me."

"Perhaps," Dumont suggested, "we should complete the young one's installation before discussing this further."

"Fine by me," sighed Mur. "The call's getting pretty urgent. Like having to go to the bathroom, only completely different."

"Eloquently put," agreed Dumont dryly. "Please... hold it... a moment longer while I dock myself."

Ensconcing himself in his control console was a bit of a process. While they waited, Mur ran through her part of the installation ceremony with Yori's help, and was grudgingly persuaded that attempting to traverse the steps to the Communication Room while wearing skates would be a bad idea; Tron and Enzo stood guard over Vaughn, although he didn't seem up to making any more trouble anyway and in fact chose to slump in a corner.

Finally Dumont was ready, engulfed in his console. The only visible parts of him were his hands upon the controls and his head with its ceremonial hat. At the Guardian Academy, a popular student prank was to climb the statue of Tron and his companions and balance ridiculous objects atop the Dumont figure; this hat was still the silliest thing Enzo had ever seen on his head.

"Mur," he said sternly, "come forward."

Mur swallowed, squared her shoulders, and stepped up onto the bottom step.

"Why have you come, child?" The tone was ritual; the question had to be asked, even though everybody knew the answer.

Mur took a loud breath and replied: "A User calls me, although I know them not."

"All that is visible must grow beyond itself and extend into the realm of the invisible."

"We must reach for the unknown before we can ourselves be known."

"Enter, my child, and know your User; enter and know yourself." A hand moved on a control, and a door opened behind him.

Mur ascended the remaining steps, exchanged a shaky smile for an encouraging one from Dumont, and vanished through the doorway.

After a moment of silence, Enzo said, "I thought it'd be longer."

"Well," said Tron, "that's just the startup sequence. The real thing happens inside."

"Yeah. Still. She gets a party or something afterwards, right?"

"Yeah, of course. Why, how do you do it?"

Enzo considered trying to explain how identity disks would become ubiquitous and develop into icons, or how the Users themselves would become more distant. "Sorry. Too many spoilers."

"You already created a bootstrap paradox."

"Yeah, but my life is weird enough without being personally responsible for the entire future."

"Fair enough."

Yori had begun to tell Dumont of their journey in greater detail. Enzo and Tron joined in, although Tron remained standing over Vaughn and raised his voice to compensate. Enzo just made sure to keep him in his line of sight. Vaughn slumped down further in his corner with the description of each episode, until he was sitting with his forehead resting on his knees.

"I gotta say, Mur handled things really well," said Enzo. "I mean, it obviously wasn't a situation she had any experience with, and it was getting to her big time, but she didn't give up and she really rallied at the end there."

"Yes. She will do well." Vaughn's voice was muffled by his knees.

They all turned to stare at him. At the silence, he lifted his head. "She handled the actual threat of... well, me... far better than I handled a presumed threat, and at her age. I suppose I have no business even offering my opinion now, but..." He shrugged. "There it is."

"Thanks, I guess," said Mur, emerging from the passage.

Enzo thought she might have been taller, although it might just have been that she stood straighter. The major difference was her circuitry. It was brighter, and much finer and more complex, especially at her hands, feet, and temples, where it was an intricate, almost feather-like tracery. Her expression was the slightly unfocused one of someone who has an awful lot to process.

"So that was different."

"Welcome back," said Dumont. "I trust all went well?"

"I think so." She flexed her fingers tentatively. "It's very weird. I can still feel her, even out here."

"Your User?" asked Enzo.

"My installer, anyway. It's just her so far, but... I'm going to have way more than just one User. I hope I can make room for them all in my head."

Vaughn nodded. "It will be difficult—perhaps I should say confusing—at first, but you will get used to it. You are... resilient."

When her gaze did focus, it focused intensely, her entire attention concentrated on a single point. She was still standing at the top of the steps, and her stare seemed to pin Vaughn to the floor. "You're awfully friendly all of a sudden."

Vaughn flinched and averted his eyes. "I am resigned. As I suppose I should have been from the start. Of course, if I had, there would have been nothing to resign myself to. I am trying to appreciate the irony."

"Mmm." She seemed lost in thought for a moment, although she remained focused on Vaughn. Then she said, "Well, you're right about two things. I will get the hang of things, but it'll take time." The target of her gaze swept over to Dumont. "What's going to happen to him?"

Dumont bore up under her stare, but it was clearly an effort. "I... suppose we shall need a new keyboard driver as well." The lack of direct answer was an answer in itself.

"Well, that's the thing, isn't it? Can we really afford that? I'm going to have enough of a time adjusting."

"What are you suggesting?" demanded Tron.

Mur turned back to Vaughn. She flexed her fingers again, then pointed at him. Frowning slightly, she raised her hand, and Vaughn lifted into the air with an utterly undignified squawk.

"I'm suggesting we keep him around, at least for now. I hate to say this, but I need someone experienced. ENCOM needs someone experienced." Carefully, she lowered Vaughn until his flailing feet made contact with the floor. "And he's not the only one with power now."

"We can see that," said Yori, as they all stared. "Mur... are you sure about this? If anyone has the right to decide, it's you, but we don't want you regretting it later."

Mur sighed a little. She released Vaughn, who staggered, and closed her eyes. "Honestly, I think I'll regret it more if I don't. Two newbies at once will be one too many, and... and I really don't want to start my career with an execution. I really don't."

Vaughn gaped at her. "You would truly forgive—that is, pardon—I mean..."

"I would put you on probation," Mur snapped, lancing him with her gaze again. "As long as we're clear about two things. One, I am not, nor do I want to be, any kind of threat to you."

"I... yes, understood. And the second?"

Mur descended the steps without breaking eye contact. She didn't even come up to his shoulder, but neither of them seemed to notice. "Just because I don't want to be a threat doesn't mean I can't be. Got it?"

Vaughn swallowed. "Got it."

"Good. Yori, can I have my skates back, please?"
a1enzo: (ENCOM)
Actually seeing a grue was a rarity. Grues feared light. Typically, if there were enough light to see the grue by, even a candle's worth, the grue would have fled. (This, it occurred to Enzo, was a particular advantage to programs of Tron's era, who made their own light.)

It was presumably for this reason that their assailant had fitted this grue with a blindfold.

It was quite a large blindfold.

It was quite a large grue.

It nearly filled the tunnel. It was covered in mangy black fur, but its mouth most nearly resembled that of an anglerfish. The blindfold was lit up faintly red and yellow where its eyes were. It cocked its head, whether smelling, listening, or employing some other sense to locate its prey. Then it uttered a horrible gurgling noise, showing off a great many slavering fangs, and stomped forward.

Tron reached back for his identity disk and loosed it at the grue. Enzo fired a standard bolt from his gauntlet. The grue gave another gurgling roar as both projectiles hit, the disk rebounding and returning to Tron, the bolt lost to view among the grue's fur, but it did not so much as slow in its charge.

"Well?" Tron demanded, hurling the disk again. "You got any futuristic tricks for dealing with one of these?"

"No!" Enzo snapped back, switching to explosive bolts. "Grues aren't programmed to have any weaknesses except light! That's the whole point!" The small explosion made the grue angrier than the standard bolt had, but didn't otherwise help, and more of them didn't seem like a terribly good idea in the confines of the tunnel.

"The blindfold, then?"

"The blindfold."

This was easier said than done. The lighting was poor, which didn't help their aim. Whatever senses the grue used, they were acute, and it was able to swat Tron's disk away three times out of four. Enzo's bolts lodged wherever they hit, but they weren't well suited to blindfold removal. His sword would have been better, if he could reach the grue's head without being devoured. His stunner was of little use against an opponent so large.

Then, to top it all off, a faint but distinct humming arose in the direction they had come from.

"Oh, /dev/null no!" barked Tron. "I do not need this now!"

Enzo tried firing a net, which at least impeded the grue's advance somewhat. "What? What is it?"

"The MCP fragments!"

"Seriously?! How'd they find you here?"

"Crashed if I know! They just find me! I've caught them tapping against my bathroom window once or twice!"

The hum—more of a chorus now—grew louder as the fragments swarmed up the tunnel, past the waiting train. The warriors continued to focus as best they could on the grue, since the fragments had never yet presented an active threat, but they were a distraction, especially to Tron. They clustered around him, and he had to wave them away to clear a path for his disk.

Enzo spared the little primitives a glance between shots. They certainly looked innocuous. Boxes and tori in an assortment of colours, and lots of thin silver cylinders.

They looked... familiar.

"Holy code," he whispered, freezing in realization, and then he all but shouted, "Tron! Don't worry! This is good, they can help!"

Tron swatted a box away from his face and shot Enzo a confused glare. "What are you talking about?"

Enzo laughed. "Oh my code, it makes perfect sense! Quick, put one on your arm."

"Are you glitched?" Tron demanded.

"I'm really not! Although I'm probably about to create a paradox."

"Kid, we don't have time for..."

"On your right!" called Mur's voice from behind, and then she skated into view, swerving around Tron, barrelling through the swarm of primitives and scattering them.

"Mur!" Enzo protested. "Leave them alone, they're... and you were supposed to stay back where it's safe!"

"Because that's working so well! Yori! How do I activate them?"

"Just click!" Yori called back, leaning around the end of the train and waving what appeared to be a multitool.

Mur went up on her toes in mid-skate and clicked her heels together. Immediately, the cushions of green light on which she skated began to leave extensions of themselves behind her, like miniature light cycles. The trails were only a fraction of a pixel high, but they were enough to trip someone up. "Yesss," she muttered, and went into a wide zig-zag, the diagonals filling the space between the grue and the train.

"Don't get too close to it!" Tron hollered.

"I know that!" She was doing fine so far; she was fast, and the grue was slower than it might have been without the blindfold. She was well out of the way when it stumbled on the nearest leg of her light-trail, barely catching itself.

Good. She'd bought them some time. Enzo returned his attention to Tron and the regrouping MCP fragments. "Tron, I get it! They're functions!"

"Say what?"

"They're pieces of the MCP's shell script, right? He built it out of all the functions he appropriated! They just want to be executed, but they don't have a... a guiding intelligence anymore. They just want you to tell them what to do!"

Tron hesitated, trying to process this. "How am I supposed to..."

"Here, just..." Enzo grabbed at the nearest fragment, a dark blue box. He looked around and spotted a black torus and what seemed a suitable cylinder. "You and you. Come here." They flew closer, obligingly. He snatched them out of the air and stuck them to the box in a configuration he hadn't seen in person for years but remembered vividly. Torus on the broad side of the box, rod lying along the end next to it.

The fragments shivered slightly, then nestled more closely against each other. It was more primitive than he remembered, but with time and upgrades...

"Right." He grabbed Tron's left hand and slammed the conglomerate against his bracer. It settled quietly but firmly into place, like a stray cat who has decided where home is. "It's called a keytool. Just give it instructions."

Tron stared at Enzo. "You are glitched," he said, but in a tone of resigned amusement. Then he raised his arm to address his new keytool. "All right, you little glitch. You want a command? Get that blindfold off."

The keytool shifted in place a bit, seeming to consider, or perhaps confer among its parts. Then the torus spun off into the air, widening and flattening as it went, until it was something like a chakram and razor-thin. It flew, making a buzzing noise as it went, to where the grue was picking its way over Mur's trail, and sliced through the blindfold. The fabric fell, along with a certain amount of fur.

The grue reared back, gurgling in alarm. Enzo pointed his gauntlet's light at its face, and it screeched, tried to retreat, and stumbled backwards over Mur's trail.

The torus returned to Tron, shrinking as it went, and resumed its place on the keytool. "Not bad," Tron said, grudgingly impressed. "Even if the whole thing is still glitched."

"The best kind of glitch," Enzo agreed.

Mur skidded to a halt and clicked her light-trail off. Raising her face ceilingward, she pointed at the grue, which was fleeing with all haste now that its path was no longer blocked. "Send it back!" she hollered at the air. "I know you're watching us! Send it back where it came from!"

The rest of them stared at her. She was panting, and her circuits were blazing unusually bright. "I mean it!" she added.

The sound of scrabbling claws away up the tunnel ceased abruptly.

"That's better. And you'd better lay off now! Because the Users have called me, and I am going to be installed! And I don't think you've got much left after that anyway."

Silence. Whether it was, indeed, the silence of their malefactor laying off was unclear.

"Okay, then." She lowered her gaze and let out a long breath. "I hope that worked."

"It did if they're smart," said Yori, approaching.

"Thanks for the upgrade."

"Anytime." Yori turned to Tron. "I see you've got a new... something."

"Keytool, apparently."

"I thought we were trying to avoid paradoxes?" She raised an eyebrow at Enzo.

"Yeah, but I think this one had to happen. Anyway, it's only a bootstrap paradox, and the universe hasn't collapsed or anything, so I think we've booted successfully."

"Glad to hear it," said Tron dryly. "What about the rest of them?" He waved a hand at the swarm of fragments.

"They can be keytools, too. Maybe some... other security programs could use them?" Enzo tried to say this nonchalantly, but there probably wasn't much point.

"I do have some trainees who could use something like that. All right. All of you!" he addressed the fragments, and raised the arm with the keytool on it. "Form up like this!"

The fragments milled around for a bit, then grouped off and stuck themselves together in rough approximations of the first keytool's configuration. The cylinders were on various sides, and some of the tori were off-centre, but it was the same BASIC idea.

"Good enough. Follow me."

As they headed back around the side of the train, the keytools in formation behind them, the light rail fired back up behind them. "S̀e̵r͟v҉ic҉e wi̧l̴l r͜e͏sum̛e̛ ̡m̧o͘m̵en̷t̀ar͜il̀y̴," declared the loudspeaker.

"I'm a little worried the heel-click might be too sensitive," Mur told Yori as they boarded. "I don't want to turn it on or off by accident."

"I could set it to double-click if you like."

"Yeah, that'd be good."
a1enzo: (ENCOM)
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.
a1enzo: (ENCOM)
Yori's hover-sedan sped through the intervening sectors, skimming smoothly over the ground. It was one of her own designs, which meant sleek, elegant lines as well as excellent performance. Enzo had taken several pictures before getting in, for the express purpose of making Bob sick with envy.

He had also updated Dani on the situation and messaged the rest of his friends and family (YOU WILL NEVER GUESS WHEN I AM RIGHT NOW). If the Return command didn't pan out, perhaps something could be done from the future.

Now he was doing his best to photograph the things they passed. Most of the pictures were blurs of light, but he'd gotten some good ones of a public Pong court and of some Recognizers, repurposed for file compression, parked over a data dump.

"Have you travelled through time before?" Mur was asking.

"Um. Well, in one sense, I do it on like a daily basis, but that's not pure time travel, it's more dimension-hopping, plus it's generally to a couple of fixed points. Not like this."

"Dimension-hopping?" Tron demanded from the front seat.

"It's... um. Are we, er, post-MCP?" He hoped that was a safe question, but apparently it was, because Tron nodded. "It's like Flynn in reverse. I visit Userspace."

"The /dev/null you say."

"You've met Users?" Mur asked excitedly.

"I'm actually engaged to one."

"You what?!"

"Of course you are," Tron said with a slight groan. "Alan1 help me, I don't even have the strength to disbelieve you anymore."

"That would explain some of those pictures," said Yori, "and believe me, I'm as curious as anyone else, but is it safe to be telling us this? These seem like significant details."

"They would be if I were, like, representative, but the future isn't really like that. Not in general. My life is just super weird."

"It sounds like you still remember us in the future, though," noted Tron. "And the Master Control Program. And Flynn."

"Well... yeah," Enzo admitted. "It's historical. You're historical. I guess you can know that since it's already happened." He'd just have to avoid mentioning anything later they were famous for, like, say, founding the Guardian Collective.

"It's gratifying, but I don't suppose knowing that will affect what we do," Yori agreed.

"Although, now that you do know that... um... that is..."

"What is it?"

"Can I have your signature files please?!" Enzo blurted.

Yori burst out laughing. Tron looked nonplussed.

"I mean, not right now, obviously, Yori's driving, but before I go home? Please?"

"Ooh, me too!" chimed in Mur.

At their joint enthusiasm, Tron gave a snort of laughter. "I think we could manage—" Abruptly, his face fell and he looked past them at something well beyond the back seat. "Yori..."

Yori looked in the rear-view mirror. Enzo and Mur twisted in their seats to see. It was still distant, but there was definitely a swarm of something following them.

"More bytes?" asked Enzo.

"I don't think so," said Mur, who had the youngest and sharpest eyes. "They look more like primitives to me."

Tron and Yori exchanged a glance, and Yori accelerated.

"What is it?" Mur asked. "Another attack?" Her hand went to the forcefield generator which Enzo had lent her.

"Not on you. These are my problem," said Tron grimly.

"Primitives?" Enzo was puzzled. "What's the problem there?"

Tron sighed. "They're what's left of the MCP. He started as just a chess program, you know, but he appropriated functions and expanded himself into, well, the Master Control Program. When I derezzed him, I took out the core program, and the superstructure he'd built up around himself exploded. I thought that was the end of it, but then these... fragments started chasing me around."

"What do they want? Revenge?"

"I'm honestly not sure. So far they just swarm around, but they won't leave me alone. And they're as hard to hit as those bytes were, and I don't seem to do any damage even when I connect."

Enzo looked doubtfully behind at the dwindling swarm. "Primitives shouldn't be dangerous, should they?"

"Neither should bytes. Anyway, dangerous or not, I don't want to have to worry about them on top of everything else."

"What was up with those bytes, anyway?" Mur demanded. "Who attacks someone with bytes?!"

"Who attacks a kid on her way to be installed?" Tron retorted. "Someone majorly glitched, that's who."

"Someone not used to attacking anyone, I think," Enzo mused. "I mean, if I wanted you out of the way—sorry, Mur, just thinking—I'd use an actual weapon, or at least something suited as one. The only thing that made those bytes any kind of a threat was how many there were, right?"

"Right," said Yori. "So maybe they didn't have real weapons at their disposal. They're probably also trying to stay anonymous. Bytes aren't exactly uncommon. Nothing to trace there."

Tron grimaced. "So all we know is that someone who isn't a warrior really doesn't want to see, no offence, some kid become an I/O driver."

"None taken, I get what you mean. It makes no sense. So I'm going into I/O, who would have a problem with that?"

"You know what else makes no sense?" Yori said, her tone suddenly tense. "This road."

"Huh? What about it?" Tron looked around; they were now driving through a sort of canyon, with little in the way of notable features.

"For a while now, there've been a lot of turns, but no intersections. And no traffic but us."

"So we're, like... snaking?"

"And going downhill. It's a slight grade, but steady."

"Who makes a road like that?"

"Game designers," Enzo realized.

"What?"

"In a lot of Games, at least by my time, there's only one way to go so you always end up where the Programmer wants you to be, only the route's all winding so you don't think about it as much. It's deliberate. We're being railroaded."

Yori spun the wheel hard, making an uncomfortably fast U-turn; Enzo slammed into Mur. "Not anymore, we're not. I don't know what's at the end of this, but I doubt we want to..."

Not far ahead of them, a large chunk vanished from high up on the canyon wall, and appeared in the road ahead of them, blocking their exit.

Yori braked. They all stared.

"They let us see that one," Tron said a bit too calmly.

"I think they panicked." Yori replied.

"I think I'm going to," Mur said through gritted teeth. "What do we do now? I don't want to keep going that way."

"I have a surfbaud," Enzo offered, "but it's not really designed for four."

"Surfbaud?"

"A flying vehicle. You saw it minimized before. It's really only meant for one, but two's usually no trouble. Four could fit, I just don't know if we could balance."

"We'll manage," Tron said firmly. "Let's have a look."

Enzo brought it out and maximized it.

"Well, it's certainly… minimalist," said Yori.

"It's a plank," said Mur.

"It's what we've got. Tron, in front of me in the middle. Yori, front. Mur, behind me and hold on tight."

It did not move as quickly or as easily as Enzo was used to. This was partly due to the load, but mostly because ENCOM was a much older system and the energy waves weren't as strong. The idea that even a small PC from his time like Mainframe was more powerful than a historically major system like ENCOM was startling, but there wasn't time to think about that now. Precariously and with much wobbling, they rose over the canyon, with Minus flying after.

From this vantage, they could see the strange, blocky formations where pieces of landscape had been cut and pasted to form the 'road', although its destination was still unclear.

"So..." said Mur slowly as they reached the high ground and dismounted, "someone powerful who isn't used to attacking programs doesn't want me installed."

"But they don't want to derezz you directly," said Tron.

"How do you figure?"

"If they can do this, they could have cut and pasted a giant rock into the air above your head at any time."

"Oh. Yeah. Well, that makes me feel much better about things, thanks."

"Come on," sighed Yori. "It's about a sector and a half left to the I/O tower. We'd better get walking."
a1enzo: (ENCOM)
"This," said Enzo, looking at a diagram of the data mines, "is going to be a problem."

Yori had gotten the map from the miners, but it offered no hints as to which tunnel Enzo might have arrived by, except that there were far too many to try following each to its end, even supposing the transit were two-way in the first place. Certainly the miners hadn't experienced anything of the sort. Enzo had tried placing Minus by the mine entrance and telling him "go home," but Minus had just acted confused. It was unclear whether he didn't understand what was being asked of him, or whether he did but was unable to comply.

"Okay, don't panic, don't panic, we just need an alternative approach. Option 0, brute force attack, I just try every door I can find until I get a connection."

Yori made a face at this inelegant solution. Tron said, "If that's your Plan A, we're not sticking around for it. I'm happy in principle to help, but we've got a task to execute, and it looks like Dumont was right about Mur needing an escort. We should have left already."

"I understand, but believe me, that's only a fallback idea. I just... need a better one. I don't suppose ENCOM did, er, does any research in time travel?"

"None that I know of," said Yori.

"Maybe you could leave a message for the future?" Mur suggested. "So someone could come get you?"

"Not a bad idea," said Tron, "but we can't count for sure on it working. We need something more active."

Enzo turned the idea over and around in his head, and found himself thinking instead of the digimat. It hadn't brought him here, but otherwise his situation was not unlike Kevin Flynn's. When they'd first constructed the digitizing laser from the old ENCOM plans, it was easy enough to digitize matter, but not to matterize energy. But reverting things to their original state was much easier...

"A Return command! Could we get one of those?"

Yori and Tron exchanged looks. "Dumont might have one," said Yori.

"Or know someone who does," agreed Tron.

"Nice!" said Mur. "That's where we're going anyway, yeah?"

"And you do seem handy in a fight." Tron looked Enzo up and down. And up. It was still disconcerting to Enzo to realize that he was slightly taller than the legendary hero. "All right. You help us get Mur here where she needs to be, we'll try to return the favor. Does that work for you?"

I get. To go. On a quest. With Tron. And Yori.

"Yeah, I... I think I'd be okay with that."
a1enzo: (ENCOM)
"Well," said Yori, straightening up from her examinations, "bearing in mind that I've never seen any code like this before in my entire runtime, and this is really just an educated guess, I would have to say that..."

"Yes?"

"It's a camera."

There was a brief silence.

"Huh."

"I did say," mumbled Enzo. "Can I have it back now?"

"You're sure it's not a weapon?" Tron asked Yori.

"As sure as I can be. I told you, it's unlike any language I've seen. Whether or not he's lying about the camera, it looks like he's telling the truth about being from the future."

"Hmm."

"Doesn't that mean he's probably telling the truth about the rest?" Mur put in. "If I was from the future, and I was going to lie, that's the first thing I'd want to cover up. At least I think so."

Mur was a smallish girl, not yet 11*, with short hair and lime-green circuitry. She had arrived on the scene with Yori and was now skating circles around them while Tron questioned Enzo, Yori examined his belongings, and Enzo stroked Minus' shell and did breathing exercises to keep from freaking out. Her skates were similar to inlines or ice skates, but rested on cushions of green light.

Tron had dispersed the crowd of onlookers, save for a few roaming bits and bytes, but apparently Yori and he had business with Mur, or she with them, so she waited and skated. As far as Enzo could tell, she wasn't actually impatient, she just had trouble sitting still.

The rest of them had no such trouble, although Tron was standing still, the better to react if Enzo tried anything. Enzo had relinquished his weaponry and emptied his compression algorithm as a gesture of good faith, but retained his forcefield generator, on the grounds that he was not stupid. Tron was forced to respect this position.

"Thank you," Enzo told Mur. "I'm already worried about telling you that, but I didn't really have much choice. I hope you don't mind if I'm careful with details, though. I'd rather not crash the space-time continuum."

"We certainly don't want that," said Yori, moving on to inspect Enzo's sword. Enzo wasn't sure whether or not she was being sarcastic. She seemed sincere, however, when she looked at the blade and said, "This is nice."

Yori was a CAD program, as famous for her artistry as for her technical skill. Despite his situation, Enzo felt gratified.

A bit drifted over—no, a byte, it was larger and more layered. It wandered between them, then trailed after Mur for a few circuits. "!," it said. This was less than informative, and after a while it left again.

"But what if you being here causes the future?" Mur suggested. "Then not telling us enough might crash things.

Enzo considered this. "I feel like if I'm gonna cause my present, it's gonna happen no matter what. I think I'd better stick to caution, so it'll work out either way."

"Awww."

Minus, having by now calmed down a bit, squirmed a little in Enzo's grasp. He seemed interested in a few more bytes which had floated their way. "Minus, I know you want to make friends, but let's be careful, okay?"

"R," declared a byte. "Y," its companions agreed.

"Does this kind of thing happen to you a lot?" Tron demanded.

"Not exactly this kind of thing, no. But my life is pretty ridiculous."

Yori, working her way through Enzo's things, had found the little album of family JPEGs. "Oh, my. Tron, have a look at..."

"Ow!" cried Mur. One of the gathering bytes—really quite a lot of them now—had assumed its stellated form and dove at her, jabbing her with the nearest point. As the others turned to stare, more of them started to do the same.

Tron immediately drew his disk, but seemed at a loss for how to use it against a swarm of small, erratically-moving enemies surrounding an ally. "Mur, move!"

"Ouch! Right!" She put on speed and broke away from the group, the bytes trailing after her.

"D"

"I"

"E"

Tron cast, and his link to the identity disk gave him enough control to keep it from hitting Mur, but it only knocked two or three bytes out of the air, and more were still arriving. Yori, frantic, started shuffling among Enzo's belongings.

"The little rod, there!" Enzo told her urgently.

Yori hesitated only a fraction of an instant, then nodded decisively and tossed it to him.

"Yori..." Tron was still unsure.

"Let him!"

Enzo spun the rod's angle control. "Mur!" he called. "This way, bring them past me! Yori, keep Minus out of the way!"

Mur swung around and led her glowing, stinging entourage back the way they had come. Enzo let her make three passes around him, gauging the timing, then pointed the rod and let loose a cone of energy.

Mur stumbled slightly and slowed. The bytes, on the other hand, dropped en masse, stunned.

"You'll probably feel sluggish for a few nanos," Enzo said, getting to his feet and taking care of a few stragglers. "Sorry, I tried to get you as little as possible, but since they're so much smaller than you..."

"Yeah, no, that's... that's fine," said a groggy Mur. "Ow. Also, ow."

Tron stepped slowly forward, careful of the bytes that littered the ground like caltrops. He eyed Enzo for a moment, then holstered his disk and extended his hand. "Welcome to ENCOM."


*Three, that is. In User terms, in her early teens.
a1enzo: (ENCOM)
Enzo emerged from the tunnel and blinked, both at the light and his surroundings. He was in cyberspace, that much was certain, but it wasn't the cyberspace he knew. Everything was much lower resolution, the edges of polygons clearly visible. The ambient light didn't come from the sky, like at home, but from high-up beams of energy connecting buildings or running off into the distance, and from glowing traceries outlining almost everything.

For a moment he wondered if he had somehow ended up in a museum, but the way his life tended to go, that was actually the less logical conclusion.

Oh my gosh.

Minus was darting around a little way ahead, looking for his playmate. The bit was nowhere to be seen—or rather, there were quite a lot of bits, but some distance off, bobbing around a group of sprites. And these sprites definitely looked like something out of a museum or a history file, low-poly and gray, with all their colour concentrated into the lines of circuitry running all over their bodies. Unlike the Users' clumsy cinematic attempts to portray them, the circuit-lines were part of the sprites themselves, not just their clothing.

"Minus!" Enzo called, and finally Minus obeyed. "Um. Okay. Um. Message to Dani... you can still do that from here, right?" Minus opened a window and looked expectant, which was probably a yes. "Okay. Um. Message: I think I just went back in time. From Milliways, but my universe, probably. May be able to return the way I came, not tried yet. No need to panic yet, but maybe have Clockwork on speed dial."

At least the tunnel itself hadn't magically disappeared on him. That was something.

The locals had noticed him, whether due to hearing him, a chance look in his direction, or perhaps alerted by a certain bit, he was uncertain. Not that it mattered much. They were approaching for a better look, but hesitantly. They looked frightened. He supposed that was understandable; if everything looked strange to him, he could only imagine the reverse.

"Hey... um..." he called, "this may be a BASIC question, but your tunnel's not supposed to connect with the end of the world, is it?" This, unsurprisingly, did nothing to stop the staring. "Never mind, of course that was BASIC, they're never supposed to, it just doesn't usually... um. Take me to your leader?"

Several of the locals whispered among themselves, reached some kind of conclusion, and one of the younger ones ran off. Had that line actually worked?

A nanosecond or two passed in silence. This was getting awkward. And boring.

"So... would you mind telling me where I am?"

Silence. Apparently they would.

"What's the deal with this tunnel, anyway?"

More silence.

"Read any good files lately?"

One of the sprites snorted at this, but was glared back into silence by another.

Enzo sighed, then brightened slightly and took out his camera. "Would it be okay if I...?"

That broke the silence. Several of the group shrieked, some ducked, some started back, and an authoritative voice behind Enzo barked, "Drop the weapon!"

"Oh, for the love of..." Enzo turned around.

Oh my gosh.

"You see?" the young runner was saying to the newcomer. "It just came out of the data mines! Have you ever seen anything like it?"

"No, I haven't," said the new sprite grimly. "I said drop it, program!" He was imposing, very nearly as tall as Enzo, and held a Frisbee-like object which Enzo recognized as an identity disk.

"I… you… I…" Oh my gosh oh my gosh. "Can I put it down gently?"

"Fine."

Enzo did so, keeping his hands clearly visible. "It's just a camera," he said. "Not a weapon. I wanted to take a screenshot, that's all."

This was ignored. "Is it one of them worms we heard about?" asked one of the data miners.

"Hey! I'm standing right here! Look, if you'll just let me explain—Minus, heel!"

The command came too late. Minus, never terribly good at staying still, had started forward to make friends with the local bits. The imposing sprite, alarmed, flung his disk at the little chat client.

Enzo leapt forward. He got within a couple pixels of Minus, close enough to put the latter within the radius of his forcefield generator, and the disk caromed harmlessly off. It flew back to its owner, but Enzo, operating on automatic now, raised his gauntlet and fired a bolt which exploded into a net, pinning his opponent before he could get off another shot.

Then Enzo's brain caught up with his body.

Oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh I can't believe I just DID that...

"I'm sorry!" he blurted. He grabbed for the frightened Minus and held him close. "Frag frag frag I am so sorry I did not want to do that I swear I'm not going to hurt anyone and I'll try to explain if you'll give me a chance but you do not hurt Minus, okay? Not even you, sir. I'm sorry."

The stunned silence was broken by a female voice saying, "Well, somebody had better explain. I swear to LoraB, Tron, I can't leave you alone for two nanoseconds, can I?"
a1enzo: (ENCOM)
"Tron. Yori. Thank you for coming." Dumont looked welcoming, but grave. "I have a task for you."

Tron glanced past the tower guardian at the passage into the I/O tower proper, where programs communed with their Users. "You do?"

"The command itself comes from the Users, but your involvement is my own request."

"Of course we'll help, Dumont," Yori assured him. "What's up?"

"There is a young program, some sectors distant, named Mur. A User has summoned her for installation. I would like you to see to it that she arrives safely."

"A kid's installation?" Tron was puzzled. "Congrats to her, but why does that call for a security detail?"

Dumont looked uncomfortable. "I... suspect someone may mean her harm. I may be wrong. I hope I am wrong. And I would not wish to make any false accusations. Nevertheless..."

"You want us to keep an eye out, just in case," Yori concluded.

"And get her here quickly."
a1enzo: (cheerful)
"Thanks again for dinner," Enzo says as he gives each of his family a bear hug in turn. "It's always great to come home, we gotta do this more often."
a1enzo: (Minus)
OI: Mirai?
OI: (Did I spell that right?)
a1enzo: (facepalm)
As the incapacitated virus is hauled off for quarantine and processing, Enzo reels the grapnel back into the gauntlet on his left hand; with his right, he rubs his shoulder. "Ow," he declares.

"What d-do you expect?" asks Alvey, holstering her crossbow. "You pulled yourself onto him by the arm."

"Well, it worked. I got him to hold still for you."

"Spinning around with you on his b-back! Next time, a clear shot would be nice."

"I'll save it to file," Enzo groans, massaging his shoulder again.

"Nice riding, E!" cheers Hugh, jogging up. "Thinking of joining the rodeo?"

"Don't encourage him. Enzo, you need a ranged weapon that doesn't attach you to the enemy. You at least need the option."

"She's got a point. That's the hand with your token ring on it. Dani'd probably be upset if it got pulled off."

"The r-ring or the hand?"

"Either."

"I know, I know. I just haven't found one that feels right yet."

"Well, what about modding your gauntlet? You're happy enough using that."

"Modding it how?" Enzo asks suspiciously. Hugh is great with devices, but he also has what some might consider an overactive sense of humour.

Hugh shrugs, though. "Amp up the laser pointer into a blaster, make the grapnel fire bolts without the line..."

"Yeah. Yeah, okay, that could work. It'll still have the laser pointer, though, right? It's good for targeting, and Minus likes to play with it."

"Multiple settings it is!"

"All right, then. But I'll be supervising. I don't want any unplanned bells and whistles surprising me during a fight."

"You wound me, sir."

"All right," proclaims Alvey, pushing on Hugh's back. "Good plan. Back to our stations. You can discuss it more after you log out."

"I'm asking Ina Jo to supervise too!" Enzo calls after Hugh, to an indignant squawk from the latter.
a1enzo: (Default)
"So, this is my apartment."

It's a modest but comfortable studio, with a futon, table, two side-by-side beanbag chairs, a number of posters and other wall decorations, an old version of WinAmp in the corner, and quite a lot of one wall taken up by something that looks not unlike a Stargate.

Worms

Jan. 5th, 2014 02:45 pm
a1enzo: (Default)
Their feet hit ground in another cavern. Fortunately, this one does not appear volcanic. The standard bioluminescent fungus blotches the walls, giving them enough light to get by.

"Guess we better catch our breaths before whatever it is this time tries to kill us. You okay?"

Mirrors

Jan. 1st, 2014 06:54 pm
a1enzo: (surfbaud)
As soon as they're through the gap in the rock, their environs change, and the prow of the surfbaud rams straight into a mirror. It shatters, the shards glancing off Enzo's forcefield, and he is almost sent flying.
a1enzo: (cheerful)
The portal has been out of commission for a few days, while it was being dismantled, moved, and reassembled in its new location. A few days is hardly a long time without seeing each other by their old standards, but now...

Anyway, it's obviously back online when Enzo's voice suddenly calls "Knock, knock!" from the intercom speaker.
a1enzo: (wry)
"...to Mainframe," says Enzo, emerging from the closet. "First stop on our tour, my sister's hallway."

Despite being ruler of the system and at-least-partial owner of most of it, Dot isn't the sort to go for a mansion; it's a decent-sized house for a small family, perhaps slightly on the large side of comfortable, elegantly furnished but with a minimum of breakables. There are, of course, several toys lying in key strategic places on the floor where one might trip over them.
a1enzo: (dress uniform)
It's not that unusual as graduation ceremonies go, even from a User perspective. There's the procession, and speeches by the Prime Guardian and the Academy Administrator, and the downloading of certificates, and salutes and handshakes. The graduates also receive their protocol upgrades, and at the end of the downloads they all throw off their hats before activating their new dress uniforms to great applause. Then there's a final, short speech, the recession, and instructions about where to proceed for the release party.

The beta versions have gone gold. The cadets are full-fledged Guardians now.
a1enzo: (touched)
Enzo is in his room, at his desk. Finals. There was studying, and studying, and studying, and now finals are happening and in between them there is still studying. Field practice, and katas, and drills, and README file after README file after README file. His eyes are starting to glaze over again. He pushes the current file away from him with a sigh.

"Taking a study break already?" asks a voice from the doorway.

"Don't even start."

Mairi chuckles and enters, bearing a plate of cookies and an energy shake. Shaking her head in patient amusement, she approaches the desk and shunts some files aside to make space for the plate.

Enzo pounces on the cookies. "Thanks, Mom."

"Yeah, well, no output without input. And garbage in, garbage out, so you will be eating something nutritious later."

He gives her a look of mouth-full gratitude, washes down the cookie with the shake, and declares: "I feel like I've been studying for a solid hour. For all I know, I have. Time's so random here."

"Don't I know it. It doesn't seem that long ago that you first came to Milliways. You practically live here now."

"I don't know if I'd go that far. But it's a great place. Even with the occasional disaster."

She nods and sighs. "It brings bad and good." Then she smirks. "Some of it very good," she adds, poking him in the ear.

He swats her hand away and grins, despite his darker green blush. "Very, very good," he agrees.

"I am glad she's part of the family, you know."

"I'm glad you're glad."

"And..."

"Yeah?"

"I'm glad you've done so well. How you've handled everything that's come to you..." A soft hand rests on his shoulder. "I want you to know that... I'm so proud of who you've become."

"Aw. Thanks, Mom."

She gives him a good long hug, and then straightens up and ruffles his hair. "Well, I'll let you get back to it." She heads for the door.

"Hey... Mom?"

She pauses in the doorway. "Yes?"

"I'm really, really sorry."

"It wasn't your fault, sweetie."

"I know. I'm still sorry."

"Apology accepted, then. Now, back to work!"

Enzo salutes and returns to his studying, and keeps at it until the desk starts to feel like a pillow.



[OOC: Many thanks to Fuzzy for helping me with this.]
a1enzo: Aerial view of the large complex supposed to be the Supercomputer's Principal Office, and surrounding islands. (Supercomputer)
Enzo steps through the Door first, appearing to anyone watching to be merely exiting the cafeteria. They all know better than that by now, though. The Admin, for example, is fully aware where he's been, and is waiting for him.

"Sir. Is everything ready?"

"As we'll ever be. At least we won't all go deaf this time."

"Thanks." He ducks back through the doorway. "All clear, Red."
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