Tron opened his eyes to a different world. The terrain around him was obviously damaged–he could see areas where the ground was derezzing and crumbling away. He didn't know what had happened, but it must have been devastatingly powerful for it to cause a surge strong enough to bring him back up to the surface. Looking across the expanse of the Sea, he could perceive that the portal was closed and Clu's command ship was nowhere to be seen. What did that mean? Had Clu succeeded in transporting himself and an entire force of his loyal Black Guards into Flynn's world? Did Flynn escape?
The Sea of Simulation lapped at his feet, whispering softly, while his body reclined on a rough surface of digital rock. Groaning softly, he rolled onto his stomach and pulled himself further onto the shore.
He was still alive.
And he was also still in control. He could feel Rinzler inside of him like a wild beast raging to be set free, but now their places were reversed. He was Tron again, not Clu's pet killer.
But along with his freedom from the terrible prison of his own mind, came the burden of a thousand cycles-worth of memories of being Rinzler. He remembered it all down to the last detail, and it sickened him. He scraped his hands against the gravelly ground, tortured by the knowledge that those hands had murdered thousands of innocent programs, even…
"Expect your training to a long, difficult road, Beck. Before victory, there will be setbacks. Many of them."
"So when does the training start?"
Tron and his young protégé were racing through the Outlands on their lightcycles, dodging outcroppings and pits. Both of them had their bikes' light-walls activated, leaving bright glowing trails in their wake.
"Right now!" Tron answered as he came alongside the younger program's bike. "So try and keep up."
Beck accelerated and turned his bike into a wide curve, forcing Tron to turn with him.
"Don't rely on your light-wall," Tron advised. "Learn to control me without it!"
He switched off his own light-wall, and Beck followed suit. They wove in and out, dodging obstacles, one gaining the lead and then the other, as Tron continued his lesson. "Dominate with momentum! Anticipate!"
Beck took the lead again, and glanced back to ask, "Like that?"
Tron shook his head at the juvenile error. "Eyes forward," he reprimanded.
A large butte in their path forced them to split away from each other, and for a few moments Tron lost sight of Beck. When their paths converged again, Tron blind-sided the other program with his cycle before zooming ahead.
"This isn't a game, Beck!" Tron shouted…
Tron shook his head, as if that could drive away that old memory and the grief which came with it. Beck had been such a strong-willed program, but at the same time lacking in self-confidence. It had taken a lot of convincing to get Beck to even agree to take on the mantle of Tron, and much more effort to train him. Tron remembered the first pep-talk he'd given the young mechanic, about rising above his programming and becoming something more.
He bitterly realized just how foolish he'd been back then.
No matter how much training he'd given Beck, it hadn't been enough. The boy just hadn't had the strength, the reflexes, the reaction time that had been hard-wired into Tron's coding. When the inevitable confrontation had occurred, Tron remembered Beck's first words.
I never thought I would have to fight you.
Tron pulled himself up onto his knees and placed the palms of his hands against his ears, as if it could block out the voices in his mind.
Tron, fight it! It can't end this way! Beck's voice, filled with pain an desperation.
Finish him, Rinzler. Clu's voice, cold and triumphant.
You don't have to do this, Tron.
Tron could still feel Beck's code spilling over his hands.
"Forgive me," he whispered hoarsely. "I'm so sorry, Beck."
It was well within Clu's capabilities to be sadistic and cruel; Tron had found that out the first time he'd been captured. The methodic torture that had nearly killed him and left him permanently scarred had been inflicted according to Clu's orders.
Many cycles later, after his recapture and repurposing, Tron's first task as Rinzler had been to seek out and destroy Beck. That boy had been the only remaining program to know for sure that Tron was still alive, and Clu wanted to be certain that problem was rectified.
It had been a long battle, because Clu liked a spectacle. He hadn't allowed Beck to die until he was practically torn to shreds, and could no longer even lift his disc to defend himself. Only then did Clu give Rinzler the order to end it.
Even up to the moment he was derezzed, Beck had pleaded with Tron, begging his friend to fight the repurposing. But only Rinzler had heard him, and Rinzler hadn't cared.
Rinzler listened only to Clu.
I am tainted.
He could never escape the past. He was a murderer.
Is there nothing left?
I destroyed it all, with my own hands.
Tron reached back and pulled both discs of his back. He stared at them for several long millicycles, torn between the desire to destroy himself and the knowledge that doing so would simply be running away from responsibility. He could feel Rinzler pounding on the inside of his skull, protesting wildly against any suicidal act. If only to be rid of that abomination, Tron would gladly stab himself through the chest with his disc. But he still had a responsibility; it had been his since Alan-1 created him.
I am…I was a protector. At the very least I can try to protect the Grid against Clu's forces, even if I can never absolve myself of my crimes.
"Flynn," he said aloud. "I promise you, I won't fail you again, old friend."