FANDOM: TRON: Legacy
SUMMARY: The flip side of Recursion or what Sam is doing during all of this.
PAIRINGS: Sam/Quorra, some allusions to vague Tron/Flynn.
WARNINGS: Language, angst. Copious amounts of Alan (though does that need a warning?)
SPOILERS: Um, for Tron and Tron: Legacy
FEEDBACK: Would be appreciated
THANKS: To amet because she encourages me way too much & for beta-ing.
Author's Notes: As stated in the previous fic, this story runs concurrently to events in Recursion. You don't have to have read one to understand the other though hopefully having read both will give you a better understanding of where everyone is right now. There's another story coming, of course and possibly a longer one.
The first time Sam sees his Dad after the explosion, he flinches.
When Quorra asked him what he thought about tinkering with the interface, shaving a few years off the old man as they put him back together, Sam had been enthusiastic. Sure, why the hell not? After a thousand years trapped on the Grid, away from everyone and everything he loved, watching his creation run amuck, it was the least they could do for Dad.
He just isn’t prepared for the visceral reaction he has now to that face, seeing in it not the warm, kindly features of the man who raised him for the first happy years of his life, the father he has sorely and desperately missed. No, instead it's Clu he sees, smirking and cruel, in the smile that brightens his Dad’s face, arms opened to welcome him because Hey, kiddo, been awhile. Again. It’s hard to take in the apology, the sincerity, and downright wonderment in his father and not take it as a trick, a means to get him to lower his guard and then find a way to make everything hurt.
That Clu has been dead and gone for a year now makes no difference. His echo remains, taunts and shifts in the dreams sometimes Sam has, the ones where all his frustration mounts, when he feels his own failures, the need to make things right, to reclaim his father and – nothing. Not perfect. Users are not perfect and sometimes things take time. Failed, failed, failed again. You’re not doing so hot these days, are you, Sammy?
Things are different; this isn’t the Grid. It’s a block of clay, waiting for someone to shape it, waiting for life to take hold. Waiting for Kevin Flynn and though he can see Tron lurking in the background, giving them the appropriate space for a reunion, Sam wishes for a third party, for back up because seeing that young face again, so like his own, exactly like Clu (the brother he never knew, never wished for), Sam reacts in an inappropriate, human way, one that hurts them both.
Sam flinches and being Kevin Flynn, the ever observant, the genius and Creator God, being his /Dad/, Kevin notices and his arms fall away empty, his smile hollowing out.
In hindsight, running a Fortune 500 company is not as glamorous as it’s made out to be.
The Ducati growls as Sam Flynn revs it while idling in traffic, aware that the cop in the far left lane is eyeing him, getting ready for a possible chase and once upon a time? Sam would have given him just that. Would have kicked the bike into gear and jumped through all this congestion like nobody’s business, left the boy in blue over there eating dust. Now…Now he has to remind himself that those actions could land ENCOM in the news and while it’s not something that Alan would turn a hair over, Sam’s trying to be a little more conscientious. Build a little more trust with some of his wary shareholders, none of whom will be thrilled to see their boss splashed all over the morning news in a high speed chase.
Mostly though he likes to keep everyone around him guessing; had enjoyed the way their heads had swiveled, all those suits gawking at him during the last board meeting when he sauntered into the boardroom decked out in biker leather with a plan to put ENCOM back on top of the software market within six months. Gawked and then glared when he’d propped his feet up, not his smoothest move ever but listening to people wrangle over what looked like common sense supported by hard fact? Not the most scintillating morning he’d ever spent.
For someone who liked to check in with his company once a year, board meetings are becoming a little too regular and he’s already told Quorra that if he starts wearing anything resembling a suit or talking about the bottom line, she needs to just put him out of his misery. Send him on a virtual vacation or yanno, a real one. Bad enough that he’s started carrying two phones these days, one personal and the other, mostly ignored, for business. Alan’s the only one from the company he wants to talk to and he can reach Sam any time he wants; Sam likes to be a little more choosey when it comes to who else gets his time.
Besides, that ten minute long voicemail message including bits of Star Wars and Doctor Who? That was pretty rockin’ if Sam did say so himself and anyone who could sit through it might deserve a call back. Might but probably not.
Sometimes Sam thinks it’s almost a good thing his Dad isn’t around to see what his company has become. They’re working to change things, he and Alan, to undo some of the damage but there are more suits to contend with than he thought, bean counters that are less interested in innovation and more interested in their profit margins. Doesn’t seem to matter to them that ENCOM’s greatest successes came from risks, from the video games his Dad had created on a whim, to amuse himself if no one else. Or that operating system no one had counted on revolutionizing well, everything.
The company’s become too big, inertia pulling at all those dreams Kevin Flynn had for it, the ones Alan’s tried to impart to Sam when his Dad hadn’t been around to do it himself. It’s grown into a shell, innovation almost a dirty word or worse, a rote one, mouthed by people who are more interested in packaging again and again what works, with few changes, anything so long it continues their comfortable life style.
So Alan aside, nobody at the top is particularly thrilled to see Sam take over the company. Intrigued, yes. Thrilled, hell no. There’s been more than one subtle hint that he could just go back to his once a year visits, shack up somewhere with his new girlfriend (and that irritates as much as it amuses him, watching them try to reduce Quorra to some insignificant bimbo), and let things go back to status quo. Let them try and sideline Alan and all his projects, everyone of which Sam has cheerfully green lit while shooting down others. He’s not interested in entitlement; the company’s his, has been for years and now Sam wants to see what it can do.
He’s not sanctimonious or self-sacrificing enough to think it’s to give something back to the world, that’s a nice bonus. It’s a lot simpler than that. He wants ENCOM to grow, to make all those changes and realize his father’s dream but more than that, he wants to the tech to keep evolving, to stay cutting edge because the more that happens, the more there’s a chance that maybe he can do for his Dad what they did for Quorra.
Quorra’s cautioned him not to get ahead of himself, that it might be years, and he’s not stupid enough to be ungrateful for what he’s given. Not anymore than he’s meek enough to twiddle his thumbs and accept that this is all he can do for his Dad. That having found each other again, Kevin Flynn is consigned to gathering dust on a hard drive in a hidden room. It’s not right.
Some days it feels like it won’t ever be right again.
“To what do I owe the pleasure of your presence?”
Sam rolls his eyes, leans in the doorway of Alan’s office and watches as the older man looks up from the paperwork on his desk. “You say that like you don’t see me every day.”
“Most,” Alan agrees, “Now. Still, it’s ten in the morning. I wasn’t expecting to see you for another four hours or so. Weren’t you the one to say anything before noon happens to other people?”
“I did. I really did. But then I realized it’s more fun to throw everyone here a curve ball. There were no less than five secretaries that dropped everything to chase after me with coffee. I’d ask what happened to women’s lib but two of them were guys.”
Lurching off the door, he kicks it shut behind him, listen to the glass rattle and makes it a point to turn around and wave to the entire office full of cubicles he can see from the large windows. Employees are gawking at him, peering at him from around and from where they’re half-standing because omg, Sam Flynn is here, oooh! There’s probably about a million AIM messages that are going off at once – what’s he doing here, what’s he thinking, is Mr. Bradley about to deliver some new order, and dude, doesn’t that guy shower? Who cares, he’s cute right?
He’s totally tooting his own horn with the last one but Sam’s seen some of the looks he’s been given, isn’t dumb enough to ignore the fact that even in a ratty t-shirt and worn jeans, the fact that he’s Mr. Flynn with the company resources at his disposal will make him attractive to someone out there.
The little jerk-twist he gives to the rotating drum is vicious, the pristine blinds covering the windows shutting out the minor commotion he’s caused by, yanno, just existing. As soon as it’s closed, Sam drops down onto the sofa lining the walls, so much like the one in Dad’s old office at the arcade and he knows that’s on purpose.
“So Alan? Really? A fishbowl office?”
It’s an old joke, Alan chuckling despite that and it serves its purpose, gives Sam a moment to rub at his tired eyes and gather his wits.
Alan gets up from his desk, kindly and a flash of concern behind his eyes as he raises his hands in front of him, a little wave. “They keep putting me in here. I moved my things a time or three, missed the old cubicle but they seem to think because I’m Chairman of the Board, I should be away from the rest of them. To tell you the truth, I think I make them all nervous.”
“You’re the man with the plan. Can’t imagine why you wouldn’t.”
But Alan shakes his head, hands in his pockets now. “I’m just the man carrying out plans,” he corrects Sam, “Maybe a little less in the know than even I like.”
They’ve also been through this a time or several in the last year and truthfully, Sam knows he can’t put off telling Alan the whole truth forever. He can try but sooner or later one of them is going to crack and it’ll either come out or they’ll have a falling out and – Sam can’t stomach that idea. Can’t bear the idea that Alan might go away as well, having lost (though starting to regain) one father and the idea of the other going away leaves him cold.
He can’t seem to figure out how to initiate Alan into things, how to even start because hey, remember all Dad’s ideas about people living inside computers? Not just video game material and Dad? Totally not dead, just very digitized these days. Our relationship’s kind of rocky on a lot of levels still and I could really use the advice, Alan. Oh and my girl? The one you and Lora keep inviting over for dinner? She started life as a computer program – surprise!
“You know me, International Man of Mystery.”
“I think that’s Austin Powers. I know we made sure that your teeth are in better condition even if you and Lora fought like hell over the retainer.”
Sam grimaces, rubs his jaw, “Retainers aren’t sexy and I’d thank you to keep that tidbit of the past to yourself. I have a rep to maintain. How is Dr. Bradley? Still clinging to the hallowed halls of academia? Think she’d want her old job back?
“Here? She’ll laugh in your face,” Alan says, grinning now, “Lora is fine – a little annoyed that you haven’t brought Quorra back over to the house like she’s asked. Finals week at Stanford is coming up soon though so expect a renewed assault on that front.”
“Something to look forward to.”
The laughter subsides and it’s awkward, Sam already able to predict what’s coming next and that Alan’s waiting to see if Sam will spare him the embarrassment of having to ask. It’s difficult, especially when Sam just wants to soak in Alan’s steady presence, wants so desperately to believe that he could talk to Alan, tell him his problems and have Alan make things right. As if that’s in Alan’s power and though Sam /knows/ Alan would love for him to believe that, if only to make the effort, it’s an unfair burden to place on the older man’s shoulders.
“So. I heard there might be some invoices and contracts I need to sign,” Sam rubs his hands together, lets his elbows hang off his knees.
Alan gives him a skeptical look. The excuse as far as excuses go is beyond lame and they both know he can do better. They both know Alan can and has before, have things couriered over; can bring them over to Sam himself. It’s not like he’s that hard to find. For other people, maybe but not for Alan Bradley.
“Seriously, Alan, I need to work. I’m here, shouldn’t you just indulge me?” Sam gives him a puppy dog look, expecting another laugh but instead Alan’s gaze is piercing, studying him.
ENCOM has started to become an escape, away from the hours spent at home tweaking coding so that the space he has set up for his father and for Tron won’t crash down around them, away from the dreams that have started keeping up him up despite the hours and hours of coding that threaten to make his eyes bleed. Being here is calming, steadying; sometimes damn boring but at least with the pretense of doing his “job,” Sam can almost pretend he’s not letting everyone down again.
This was so much easier before he started really giving a damn again.
“Tell you what,” Alan says, straightening his tie, “How about we go out to brunch and we go over the lists of some of those projects you were interested yesterday, figure out what you want earmarked, and maybe by the end of it, you can tell me why it looks like you haven’t been sleeping too well?”
Sam leans back against the sofa, smile softening, rueful now, “Because Alan, I haven’t.”
It’s not the Grid he goes to when he visits Dad and Tron. It’s nothing like the Grid at this point in time, more of a proto-space, an empty data stream full of potential and not much to show for it. Dad’s taking his time this go around, trying to get it right or so he says. It all looks pretty haphazard to Sam, the buildings shadows of the ones that had dominated the old Grid. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing, the beauty here in something newborn, still trying to find its legs and lacking all the sleek, dangerous feel of a predator, something cold and heartless.
The old City had been an amazing accomplishment from the outside, a pinnacle – at least until you got street level and smelled the fear, the awareness that everyone was always watching, that programs were disappearing, and nothing was being done. Sam goes back there sometimes in his dreams; that cool world of blue and white, aware of Gem’s hand in his arm and the clack of her heels, a malicious light in her too large eyes as they stroll forward.
’This is perfection,' she says in those lingering dreams, twirling her umbrella as a storm rages, programs skittering past, ducking into buildings and alleyways.
’Comes at a terrible price,’ Sam observes, watching as a red guard walks up to a wandering program, a pulse beam leaving a perfect hole where once there had been a face, an afterimage that shatters, splintering into a million pieces.
’The Creator did not think so,’ Gem says in that musical tone of hers, smile tipping her full lips.
’My father never wanted this,’ Sam says, the denial fierce and instant rounding on her, infuriated because that only seems to amuse the Siren more.
’You think so?’ Her lips move but it’s not her voice that says them, rough and masculine and so familiar.
Her face shifts, form growing larger, brighter and all at once it’s not Gem clinging to him but Clu, smiling at him as if he’s done a marvelous trick. It’s his father’s face, smooth and free from his worries, eyes crinkling at the corners, proud and benign were it not for the darkness shadowing his expression, an edge that tells Sam all the difference in the world.
’But is there a difference?’ Clu wags a finger at him, as if hearing his thoughts. ’You’re the child of his body and I – well, I came from his mind. Who knows him better?’
’You’re not him.’
’But Sam, I am part of him. He said so himself, didn’t he? I’m part of you, too. Now. Like we really are brothers and isn’t that something? Tell me, I was always a little jealous of the time he spent with you, all those times he left us to go running back to the outside. Doesn’t it make you a little jealous to know I had him all those years and I was all. He. Thought about?’
The rage that accompanies those words is fearful, using his weight to swing Clu around, leg kicking the program’s feet out from underneath him. Clu does nothing to stop him, laughing as he falls on his back, the rain falling around them in heavy sworls. Sam’s hands close around Clu’s clothing, lifting him up a little then pushing him back against the ground hard. It’s not enough and his fists taken on a life of their own, pulling back and then –
Sam freezes, Kevin Flynn’s grizzled, aged face staring back at him, so disappointed, so hurt. ’Oh kiddo. I thought you were so much more than this.’
“You’re crying again.”
Sam starts, jars into waking as lips move against his ear, a low murmur. Quorra’s arms tighten around him, pull him back against soft curves and warm skin. His heart races, the taste of bitter and rainwater thick in back of this throat, slumping before turning into Quorra’s embrace. Out here, Quorra smells vaguely like wildflowers and candy, the former program addicted to different scents, trying out one and then another until sometimes Sam can’t help but sneeze and sneeze. They both find that funny and it’s almost a joke these days when Quorra overdoes it, a reminder of simpler times.
Before he started having nightmares. Before he brought Dad back and started on this crazy quest to bend reality to the way it should be.
“Bad dream,” Sam says tersely, pointlessly as they both know what it is, Quorra having been witness to this one too many times before.
Her lips graze his cheek, move against his jaw and over his ear, hand squeezing the back of his neck, working at the kinks he hadn’t realized were there, eliciting a little huff of sound. Quorra knows and Sam is so grateful that for this one instance, with this one person, he doesn’t have to explain or throw up a wall.
“Little brother likes to chat,” Sam says.
“You’re not brothers and Sam – he’s derezzed. Gone.”
The denial is instant, brooks no argument, not that it will stop Sam.
“Is he? Sometimes it feels like he never really left. Like I’m going to turn a corner on the Grid and there he’ll be. Dad feels the same, I can tell.”
“He left a stain on all of us but you can’t let him have this much of a hold on your thoughts. The only thing left of Clu is bad memories. “
Quorra says this, finds confidence in the knowledge that she – they (because the three of them had a hand in Clu’s final demise – Quorra, Tron, and he) removed Clu’s program, eradicating it strand by strand. That alone had taken months, the program having upgraded himself so many times since Kevin Flynn’s initial creation that the coding was more aggressive than they had counted on, single-minded as it sought to wrap around and unite with what was left of his father.
Quorra says these things, tries to offer what comfort she can because they’ve already achieved step one of the Undoable – restoring Kevin Flynn, even if it’s only in a virtual sense. The hope that imbues her, just like the hope of being able to make it out here in the first place, must make everything else seem so possible. Sam sees it more as a step, a slow one towards their ultimate goal, keeps his eyes trained there because after those first few giddy days of knowing that Dad was back, that Sam could visit him and that they could talk, spend time together, it’s no longer enough. He wants the option of both, wants his father to be able to choose to come and go, not linger as an electronic spirit, cut off from those who loved him on this side. Sam wants to see him here, in sunlight again, wants to see him walk up to Alan with a ’Hey, how you doing, buddy?' and watch the whole world explode.
Sam wants so much and in that respect, maybe he is no different than Clu, only willing to play by different rules, able to see that line he shouldn’t cross, blurred as it is.
Fingers curl around his cheek, nails lightly tracing and Sam moves, rolls Quorra onto her back so he can lean down to kiss her properly, gratefully with the full awareness that Quorra keeps him grounded. She keeps him sane and proves that there are miracles yet to believe in.
He wishes that were enough.
His father lives.
Even with the ghost of Clu trying to come between them at every opportunity, Sam still experiences the most profoundest sense of awe each time he crosses over, finds his father hard at work because this is not something that should be. It shouldn’t be and it is. In his mind, he knows that Kevin Flynn is strands of coding, some of which are not identifiable even to Quorra, ever changing even without their help. Strands of coding and numbers, the outward identifiers of a computer program, one that is beyond their ken to unravel just yet but what he sees is the man. The human being. It’s there in his eyes when he glances up from the marble floor he’s contemplating, eyes brightening at the sight of his son striding in, Tron at Sam’s shoulder. Clu’s eyes had been dead, empty of anything except malice and an ever present hunger. Voracious, rapacious, as Quorra would say, the words a new toy for her to play with and dissect, like the hundreds of books now starting to line the bedroom, stack upon stack, his lover engrossed in three or four at once and somehow always keeping them separate.
Kevin Flynn lives, he thrives or as much as he can in this space, staying busy. It’s that shadow that Sam sees behind his brightest smiles, the one they all carry now, that Sam wishes to banish.
“Sam, you’re just in time,” His dad waves a hand at him, Sam still thrilling when it finds his shoulder, squeezing. “Maybe you can be more helpful in offering an opinion than our friend over there.”
Tron crosses his arms, eyes rolling, “I offered a helpful opinion, Flynn. You just didn’t like it.”
Flynn makes a face and there’s an ease between them that’s sometimes difficult to witness, Sam aware of how hard it is for he and his father to talk about things that don’t concern building or reconfigurations to this new Grid, aware that back home there’s an older man with Tron’s face who has spent years mourning a friend who isn’t dead. His father hasn’t asked about Alan, not since the Solar Sailer back on the other Grid; his father doesn’t ask about the outside at all beyond Quorra, shying away from the topic in such a way that leaves Sam helpless. Infuriated because floors are great, dirt’s great, but outside there are people waiting for Kevin Flynn, missing him. Loving him.
“I don’t think a disco ball’s gonna work with these floors, Tron,” Sam says, with as much airiness as he can manage, watching the security program blank then look exasperated all over again.
Dad hoots, the sound reverberating against unfinished walls and the floor he’s now prodding with his foot. The sound is deep, joyous and it brings a smile even to Tron’s features, his exasperation ebbing and the look he shoots Sam isn’t annoyed but relieved. Pleased.
“I will never understand Users,” the security program deadpans.
“Oh, I think you understand sometimes a little better than you let on, “ Dad snickers, hand slipping to Sam’s arm, wrapping an arm across Sam’s shoulders in a hug that’s over with too quickly, the loss more cutting when his father lets go, “I think I’ve screwed the angles here. Something doesn’t look right but our friend over there tells me it’s geometrically sound – as if that’s a selling point.”
Sam casts a quick eye over his surroundings, wants to be helpful but – “Looks like a floor to me.”
There’s a flash of something, almost disappointment that disappears, Dad rubbing the back of his neck, sheepish now. “Maybe I’ve just been staring at it too long. Something seems off.”
“So take a break,” Sam says. “We could – take a walk.”
It comes out tentative, aware of the chasm opening between them again. Dad likes to bury himself in his work when something’s eating at him and something has been since they reconstituted him. He knows this from Quorra and Alan, from the little he remembers from his own childhood, feels the way his father is easing back and that terrifies Sam. Like if he lets it go on too long, Kevin Flynn will fall into another rabbit hole and Sam won’t get him back.
“A walk? Sure. We can take a walk. “
His father sounds as uncertain as Sam does and for some reason this spurs Tron into action, coughing though his voice is firm. “If you two have things under control, I’m going to take a look around, perhaps contact User Quorra. I believe she has a system upgrade for my perusal.”
It’s as close to a polite bowing out as a program can manage and the gratitude for it is nearly overwhelming, Sam nodding and scratching the side of his nose. “Yeah, sure. Just give her a ping. She’s reading but I’m sure she won’t mind the interruption.”
Tron takes that in stride though his father looks like he wants to call the program back, watching him go with a wistful expression that Sam doesn’t understand. It’s only after Tron’s disappeared, something else seems to occur to his father, amusement suddenly back.
“Won’t mind the interruption? Is Quorra sick? Or did you just want Tron to go that badly because that doesn’t sound right?”
Sam chuckles, “House of Leaves is frying her brain. Danielewski is brutal.”
The look his father gives him is blank and Sam shakes his head. “After your time. I’ll get you a copy. You’ll probably dig it – for all the reasons Quorra’s banging her head against it.”
“Ah. Well. Shall we?” Dad gestures in the opposite direction, towards a hole in one of the unfinished walls.
Things are a little harder without Tron’s steadying presence, Sam aware once more of all those things he wants to say and can’t. It’s like Alan all over again but so much harder, the stakes feeling so much higher.
“Looks like things are coming together here,” Sam manages when they pass under the shadow of an archway, this one finished and connecting to a high rise that looks like the old ENCOM building.
“Slowly but surely,” his father agrees, “Can’t seem to make up my mind on a few of the details but the city’s coming along.”
“Kind of big for two people, isn’t it?”
“You sound like Tron. He’s worried about that, too.”
“Maybe he’s got a point. Program’s got a good head on his shoulders or so I’ve been told.”
“So he does,” His father nods, though the agreement feels like more of an afterthought, sounding almost trapped as his eyes shift from Sam then away again. “How’s Quorra adjusting? Books aside.”
There’s a script to these conversations lately, one that Sam is coming to despise but he obliges in some instances, refrains from pointing out that if his father made more of an effort to be in contact, Quorra would be happy to tell him all these things herself. The conversation drifts, more comfortable (for his father), safer as it meanders but all Sam can do is compile list upon list of things he wants to say, that he needs to get off his chest.
He makes a start of it or tries to when they pause near an energy river, a new addition to the park area his father has been working on for cycles now, more animated now that he can point out to Sam something he is pleased with. It’s like listening to a story, Kevin Flynn always knowing how to put the right spin on things, making even the most mundane details interesting due to his enthusiasm. Sam’s missed that, wishes he’d spend the next few cycles making a hundred more rivers like this if it brings him this sort of happiness.
It gives him the courage to take advantage of a lull, reaching down to pick up one of the rocks dotting the virtual landscape, turning it over in his hands and marveling at the texture and weight of it, how real it seems.
“So I’m thinking of talking to Alan,“ Sam says, darting a side glance at his father and wishes he hadn’t, the smile still there on the other man’s face but there’s a frozen quality to it that’s painful to behold.
“About this place, about what’s going on here. About you. Don’t get me wrong, Quorra and I are managing things out there but having another level head and programming genius on hand would be great for all those just in case moments.”
Sam gives his father credit; he’s calm, calmer than Sam himself can claim to be. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea, sport.”
The look his father gives him is pitying, makes Sam bristle despite the hand that finds his shoulder, squeezing again, comfort offered but not accepted. “Sam. Sam, I’m dead. Out there, I’ve been dead for a long time. Stirring up the past again –“
“You’re not dead,” Sam insists, pleased that his voice doesn’t crack, doesn’t get louder, “You’re missing and there’s a huge difference. There’s a whole group of crazy people who think you’re going to come blazing back like the Second Coming and Alan … Alan’s never given up on you.”
“No. No, Alan never would but it still wouldn’t be right to do that to him. To interrupt his life again after throwing it into so much turmoil.”
“Don’t you even care that there are people out there who miss you, who are still mourning you?” Now his voice raises, the hand on him starting to slip before it clutches at Sam’s sleeve with a more dogged determination.
It’s Alan he’s thinking of now. Alan and Lora, telling stories about his father as they made dinner for him, with laughter that was always bittersweet. Alan who helped him with his homework and tried to offer advice that Sam wouldn’t always take, who insisted that ENCOM should follow the vision that Kevin Flynn had set out for it, and who still grew misty whenever anyone reminded him of his friend’s disappearance. It’s never been said but sometimes Sam thinks that Alan is waiting, so certain that one day his old friend would walk back into his life, was waiting as patiently as he can for that.
It isn’t fair.
Kevin Flynn’s face is worn, eyes ancient, as old as he remembers them being on the Grid. “Of course I care but Alan’s not ready for that. He’s not ready for this. It would only hurt him.”
“You mean you’re not ready for it.”
There’s a pause and then his father tips his head in acknowledgement, a short nod. “Fair enough.”
“Dad, listen –“
“Sam,” his father’s voice strengthens, becomes stern as he takes a step closer, “I’m asking you to respect my wishes. Leave Alan out of this. I’ve done enough to hurt him.”
“I’ve done enough to hurt all of you.”
The damnable thing is that Sam can think of nothing to say to that, choking on his anger, on the frustration that makes him want to yell and yell, some old fear causing him to hold his tongue.
He won’t return to see his father for three days; work has been hell, you see.
The Flynn boys are stubborn, Quorra likes to say, mouth pushing the words just so and Sam is his father’s son in every respect. ENCOM becomes more familiar territory, it’s plexi-glass walls and sterile décor a haven. He hasn’t started wearing a suit but Quorra has taken to showing up around here more, usually to drag him out to lunch or to double team with Alan just to get him out of the labs. She turns more heads than he does these days, a leggy dark shadow in stylish leather and high heels, peering at everything going on around her, stopping to talk to employees. They don’t know what to make of her, Mr. Flynn’s girl, who knows more than any of them, who still speaks with the excitement of a child but despite how odd (sometimes alien) she seems, many of them come to like her. To tolerate her presence and with her own security pass, Quorra will occasionally joke that she wants her office next to Alan’s so she can see Sam more often.
Alan loves her, takes her by the arm and likes to show her around, making jokes about stealing her from Sam if his wife would allow it. They act like old friends, have since that first moment Sam brought her home, and if Alan finds anything strange about Quorra, he never says. Just takes it in stride and is grateful that that this one doesn’t have safety pins through her nose.
That Sam loves her, almost painfully, that’s something else, taking comfort in her presence, in the way she reaches out to tug on his ear or nudge him with that knowing smile. Quorra won’t let him sink, reminds him that Kevin Flynn has to be worked around, brought around, and that in this case, he’ll have to be the bigger User and maneuver around him.
’It’ll totally mess with that Zen thing he likes to pretend he has,’ she observes sometimes, ’But he’s not always the best judge of his own happiness.
Sam tries to keep that in mind, redoubles his efforts and reaches into the depths of his company, the resources he has at his disposal. Reads brief after brief with Quorra and Alan (who still doesn’t have a clue what they’re looking into, just happy to share the interest) and the programmers at ENCOM? Have a lot of ideas, draw on even more from outside sources.
“The old man would flip his lid if he could read through some of these,” Sam says without thinking one day, Quorra stepping on his foot under the table.
Alan smiles, a little watery, too fond. “He would. Your dad? He loved knowledge, loved new ideas. Used to tell me he tried to picture in his head all the components broken down, what they would do, what they could do.”
The older man takes off his glasses, smiles charmingly at Quorra. “Kevin could be pretty fanciful at times. Still, some of the best ideas this company ever had ran off those fancies. “
“Like Tron? From what I heard, you had a hand in that,” Quorra says.
Alan blushes, color rising as he shoots Sam a look. “Someone’s been telling tales, I see. Well, I –“
There’s a knock at the door to interrupt them, the door already swinging open before Alan can really call out and with it some of the humor escapes from the room.
Edward Dillinger, Jr. puts Sam in mind of a lizard, pale and furtive as he adjusts his glasses, laptop tucked under his arm. His eyes dart quickly around the room, lingering on Quorra longer than is necessary before Alan clears his throat.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Dillinger says in that cool, disaffected voice of his, before bobbing his head, “Sam. How are you?”
Alan bristles, the way he always does when this happens. For some reason, Dillinger’s gotten it into his head to press whatever advantage he thinks he has, always polite, unfailingly so but Sam is never Mr. Flynn the way he is to most of the company. Instead, it’s been Sam from day one, as if they were old school friends, a deliberate bait that Sam answers with one of his own.
“Eddie! How are you, man?” Sam calls out, cheerful and nonplussed because hell if he’ll let the Lizard King see him sweat.
There’s a faint flinch and Sam revels in how much that digs under Dillinger’s skin, the personal loathing that works both ways given their parents’ histories and the way Alan had been treated by the earlier board.
Still, the man recovers quickly, Sam will give him that. “Working,” Dillinger says, eyes shifting to Alan then the stack of files on the table, “I don’t suppose you’ve have the chance to look at my latest brief yet?”
“It’s all in the pile, Eddie,” Sam jumps in before Alan can, “We’re just going through upcoming projects right now and hey, I trust you made those changes I asked about last time, right?”
“Some of them,” Dillinger says, “Though I think you’ll find, Sam, that some of them aren’t expedient. “
“To the bottom line – Oh. Yes. I forgot, we’re working on the experimental now and not the tried and true.”
“Mr. Dillinger,” Alan barks, starting to rise.
“S’okay, Alan. Eddie’s got a point. I know the change has been hard but I’m hoping that ENCOM can rise to the challenge. Be a shame if we couldn’t.”
“Of course. Well. I’ll leave you to it though Sam – I think you’ll find I corrected a couple of the proofs you suggested. I’m sure you don’t mind. In the interests of being experimental and flexible, that is.”
The nod he gives the room is more vacant than those pale, grasping eyes reveal, Quorra’s foot nudging Sam’s again, before Dillinger lets himself out again.
“That man –“ Alan fumes.
“Relax,” Sam says, “He probably heard the three of us were sequestered and wanted to see what was going on. It’s probably driving old Eddie crazy, having me in the office and working on things. Makes it a lot harder for him to plot in corners.”
And Dillinger does plot, makes subtle insinuations in board meetings, and continually brings up questions about what ENCOM should be pursuing whilst trying his damnedest to put it in the form of an academic exercise. Just a friendly little debate amongst equals, all in the name of good, clean growth, right?
“He shouldn’t be here.”
“What should I do? Fire him for existing? For having the wrong last name or by association? There was a time when people would have gladly done that to you or to me,” Sam shakes his head. “I won’t stoop to that. Besides –“
“Besides?” Alan asks, still infuriated, trying to control it and attempting to offer Quorra a smile when she reaches out to pat his hand.
“He’s a good programmer. His ideas are – interesting. I hate to sound like him but it seems stupid to waste a good resource.”
“I don’t like it. I don’t like it and I think he’s trouble.”
“Probably but let’s play it by ear and see what happens. So who’s next, Q?”
Alan doesn’t understand and Sam doesn’t think he can, not without the whole story. No one understands what’s going on in his head these days outside of Quorra and it worries her that he’s willing to play these games to get further ahead, to reach his goal. Worries and much as he hates to admit it, it’s a family trait and that Clu? Is probably laughing his ass off in whatever digitized hell he’s ended up in.
Sam knows what he wants. Knows it and is willing to do what it takes to make it happen.
If he has some celestial User, Sam figures he (or hell, she) can’t expect any less of him.