There were three programs waiting for them when Hex and Tron arrived. They'd passed through several tunnel passages before coming upon this place: it was a large, domed room with bright lighting running up it's arched walls. There were no other adornments.
The three programs who stood waiting each had different circuitry colors, their helmets hid their faces. The shortest of the three, a female from her body's curvature, had yellow circuitry. Both the programs flanking her were male, one with green circuitry and the other with blue.
The female program–a renegade, Tron thought–lifted an arm to point at Tron and spoke, her voice terribly distorted by her helmet. "Identify."
Hex stepped forward and patted Tron on the chest. "This here is Beck! He's asked to join us."
"Remove your helmet," the renegade demanded.
"N-no!" Tron said. "I'd rather not show my face. To anyone."
"Without identity, there can be no trust," the program with blue circuitry said.
"And no joining the Resistance," the green one said, with a slightly malicious tone.
"Silence," the renegade ordered, and the other two obediently shut their mouths. She cocked her head to one side thoughtfully, and said, "You should know, if I decide that I cannot risk allowing you to join, I cannot allow you to leave either. You will be derezzed, if that is the case."
"I am aware of that."
"And still you refuse to show your face?"
The female program folded her arms, and turned her head to look at her two companions in turn. She then glanced back at Hex. "Take our guest out for a while; my companions and I will discuss this situation. You will have our verdict within the megacycle, Beck, be it one way or another."
Tron jerked his head in acknowledgement, taking two steps back before turning around and following Hex back into the wide passage. He glanced back surreptitiously, just in time to catch the yellow program as she knelt down and touched the floor with the tips of her fingers. His view was then abruptly blocked by a grey, pixelated wall that rapidly formed across the opening. She's a hacker program, he realized.
"Who is she?" he asked aloud.
"I'm afraid I really can't tell you anything," Hex answered apologetically. "Not until your status is determined."
Tron mentally shook his head at Hex's capacity for understatement. The success of most of his plans hinged on joining the Resistance; but, if they chose to refuse him entry he would be forced to reveal himself much earlier than he would have preferred. His ideal was to keep his identity a secret until it proved to be more of a problem than a solution.
"So, Beck…what do you do? I mean, what kind of program are you?"
"What?" Tron hadn't really payed attention to what his companion was saying.
"What's your designated purpose?" Hex clarified.
Tron considered lying and saying he was a mechanic, as the real Beck had been. However, if he was admitted into the Resistance, then it would prove a problem when they found out he didn't know a thing about repairing light bikes. "I was written to be a security program," he said instead.
"Really? That's incredible! I didn't know any of the security programs had escaped Clu. Did you…know the Creator?"
The tone in Hex's voice was akin to an eager child. Tron felt something inside him stir; an old feeling, an old memory. He remembered the child-like awe he'd felt towards Users, so long ago. "I saw him. On occasion." Which is true enough. At least three cycles passed between each of Flynn's visits.
"Where were you stationed?"
"Then you served under Tron!"
The way Hex said his name–with such reverence and admiration–made Tron's guilt that much worse. He knew all too well he'd become an icon to programs who desired freedom, and it was a painful reminder of how far he'd fallen. So, how could he tell the truth now? Revealing that Clu had so corrupted Tron as to have stolen his very identity and turned him into a ravenous beast, would be too terrible. The truth would destroy all the illusions, all the fantasies that Tron was an infallible hero. And that could very well crush the revolution at its heart.
"What was he like?"
Tron, lost in thought, had to drag his mind back to the present so he could answer Hex's eager question. "What was he like?" he repeated, somewhat taken aback. "Tron was…he was a quiet, serious program," he replied slowly. "Very focussed on his duties, but he would take a break sometimes and participate in the Games."
It should've been be easy, describing himself as he once had been. But after all these cycles, it was hard to remember himself as anything else than a monster.
"Ever since I was created," Hex sighed, "I wanted to be a warrior. See, I'm a maintenance program–designed for fixing things, not fighting. Tron was my hero; he was everything I wanted to be. I left my home in Purgos and came here to Tron City during the Purge, for the single purpose of joining the Resistance. I wanted to make a difference; I wanted to fight for the Users. I wanted to be like Tron."
Tron swallowed hard and opened his mouth, but no words came. However, he was saved from having to think of an answer by the crumbling away of the wall which had been blocking the doorway.
"Looks like they're ready for us," Hex said, turning.
Giving a single, jerky nod, Tron followed behind into the domed room again. If he'd had a heart, it would've been pounding furiously with anticipation.
The three programs stood before them just as they had before, their black helmets hiding their faces. After a tense moment, the renegade girl spoke.
"The decision has been made, but first I will ask you again: do you still refuse to remove your helmet?"
Tron's voice was firm with determination when he answered. "I do."
"Very well. Here is our decision: your life will be spared, but because you refuse to reveal yourself, you will be guarded and monitored at all times. If you show any signs of betrayal, you will be terminated."
The security program breathed a discreet sigh of relief. "Thank you," he said. He could live with having a guard.
Unexpectedly, the three impassive programs retracted their helmets, so Tron got his first look at their faces. The male with the green circuits had a narrow, pinched face and down-turned lips, looking as if he were completely dissatisfied with the world. The blue program was less expressive, coming across as more deep and thoughtful. Tron thought that he looked slightly familiar, but thought little more of it. As for the girl––
Tron collapsed to his knees as his head exploded with intense pain. An agonized cry left his mouth before he could bite it back, and he could dimly hear Hex's voice asking him what was wrong. Tron writhed convulsively on the floor; never before had he experienced such torturous pain, not even when his body had been sliced by Dyson's blades.
Then, as abruptly as it had come, the pain was gone. Slowly, Tron's pain-numbed circuits began to feel again, and he became aware of gentle hands on his chest. Opening his eyes, he saw her face.
"You…I…I remember you…" he whispered hoarsely.
"Shhhh. Yes, I know," the girl responded. "I've removed the memory hack. I don't know why, but your coding must have resisted some of the effects of my programming so that when you saw my face, it triggered a backlash. Don't worry, it's gone now."
"Why?" Tron demanded angrily, raising himself onto one elbow. "Why did you block my memory?"
"I told you back then, I had a very good reason. This was the reason," she answered in an irritatingly reasonable tone. She made a wide, sweeping gesture with her arm. "I had to protect my Resistance."
"Wait…you…you're the leader of the Resistance?" Tron asked, truly shocked. His anger was momentarily forgotten.
She smiled. "I am. My name is Rezz. Oh, and…welcome to the Resistance, Beck."