Jul. 5th, 2016

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."


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Enzo Matrix

September 2016

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