>> This story is not meant for copyright infringement.
>> Thanks sent to DeviantArt member "WunderChivo" for inspiration
>> All content related to TRON series are © of Disney Studios
Superheroes on the Game Grid
It was a rather gray morning in Centropolis, as most people's residences had begun to recover from a serious power outage during the night. One such resident, Lorraine Jett, had nearly thrown a tantrum coupled with her own elastic powers, having lost a ton of text for a presentation she wanted to show to the city's mayor.
But today, things were about to blow that loss out of the water.
The phone rang in the kitchen of her apartment, and Meredith, her flying dragon partner, reported that the caller ID was no one other than Ms. Jett's brother. Running to the phone to answer it, and putting it on speaker for Meredith to hear, Lora began in a tired voice, "What is it, Alan? It's 7:10 AM, and I was up till 1 AM working on that presentation when my PC crashed!"
"I'm sorry to hear that, but we have a bigger issue. I just got an email from two people with the last names Bradley, and their first initials match ours!"
"C'mon, what's the big deal on that? They could be Adam and Lois, or Alex and Linda."
"No, I have a feeling that it's bigger than that. They're from some tech company in Los Angeles, and want to talk to us immediately."
"Why? What's it about?"
"They said that, having heard about our powers, want to try something with the tech they have there. It was already demonstrated by accident in the '80's by someone named Flynn."
"Fine, I'll come, but how do I get there?"
"Los Angeles is in this state, isn't it? The both of us can just drive
er, bike there. Meet me at the Library on Walker Street, and come by yourself. Sorry, but Meredith might scuff things up at where we're headed, just in case she's listening."
"That's okay," The pink hovering reptile answered. "I have better things to do."
Still in her PJ's, Ms. Jett hung up the phone, got dressed, and raced for her motorcycle in the parking lot below. She figured that there wouldn't be any time to eat with a mission this urgent on her hands. But then again, just how urgent was it?
When Lora arrived to meet her brother, she noted that he was wearing a light green work shirt with a nametag and brown corduroys, having not seen him wear anything other than his heroic costume in a while. "You look nice, Alan. Is that your F.I.N.D.R. uniform?"
"Sort of, now let's go before someone notices." Her brother brought the subject straight to the point.
Together, the two motorcyclists revved out of the familiar sights of Centropolis, and veered left to a coast-side highway. Lora craned her head backwards and stretched her neck slightly, seeing the familiar skyline of the city grow farther and farther away, until they had passed its city limit sign. She'd never given it much thought in where Centropolis was, just that it was within a few miles north of San Francisco, and it was obvious that they'd cut through it to reach LA.
The trip led on through San Francisco in just under half an hour, only rounding some blocks and of course traversing the Golden Gate, but the distance after that was much, much longer. It wasn't very clear what extra towns the Jett siblings had passed then, but it took many southwest miles to reach LA. Fortunately, though, it was only 1:50 PM when they made it.
It wasn't hard to find what they were looking for, since a huge hi-rise office building stuck out from everything else like a sore thumb. Alan smiled and said, "I bet this place is a lot like that research facility in Colorado,"
"Or maybe it's just some kind of mass technology industry. But the question remains: Why do WE, of all people, need to come here?" Lora asked with a curl of her eyebrows.
"That's what we're here to find out."
The two continued their ride towards the ENCOM facility, and parked where the "Bradleys" said they should: At a delivery parking lot with what looked like a massive vault door set into the wall. Dismounting and climbing a set of stairs, Alan being in front discovered what looked like a video communication device. Its only features were a button, a camera, a speaker/microphone, and a tiny LCD screen. He held down the button, and began, "This is Alan Jett, and my sister is with me. Did you want to see us?"
Nothing appeared on the miniscule monitor, but the vault door gave a loud clacking sound, then groaned open like the jaws of a resting monster. Apparently, when the door was opened, no one was in the corridor behind it.
"This is weird, why isn't there anyone to meet us?" Lora rubbed her chin while still in civilian attire.
"Maybe they're running behind. Either way, we should probably go inside," Alan pondered as well.
The hallway they entered was completely white and gray, like a hospital's, except the lights weren't dull 12 x 8 inch rectangles, they looked more like diamonds. And as Lorraine peeked through a few windowed doors, it felt like this place had been doing some heavy technological work for a long time.
The sterile-looking corridor dead-ended in front of an elevator, and the first thing Ms. Jett said when they were inside was, "Er...what floor are we supposed to go to?"
"I think it's in the basement...no, it's the 4th floor," Alan's finger hovered over the large array of buttons, before landing on button #4. The lift rose faster than either of the siblings had felt in any elevator before, and opened into what resembled a hi-tech research lab.
Lora called out first, "Hello? Anyone home?" But no one answered. Alan tried the same, but still no response came. In curiosity, the Jett siblings followed a metal catwalk across the cold-lit room. It led to a set of stairs that climbed a story or two to an ancient-looking computer at the end. But what confused the two was what was opposite that terminal: A metal plate propped up on a couple of cinder blocks sat in the center, and a complicated-looking machine glared from the opposite end of the platform.
"What the flying hell is that?" Alan couldn't keep from running a profane word.
Lora slunk towards the device and rubbed her right hand over its tip, deducing, "It looks like a laser, but the positioning for it looks...odd. What would they be using it for?"
"And what's more, where are those Bradley people?"
"Maybe that computer over there has some useful info. But we should probably be careful with this laser if it's pointed right at that terminal," Ms. Jett's expression grew suspicious.
They advanced towards the outdated computer terminal, Alan flipped its rocker switch, and the first thing on-screen was "IF YOU ARE READING THIS, IT MEANS THAT WE RELOCATED TO A NEW PLACE. I'M SORRY IF WE MISLED YOU, BUT YOUR REAL OBJECTIVE STARTS BY MAKING USE OF THAT LASER. YOU'LL SEE WHAT I MEAN FURTHER AHEAD. GOOD LUCK. A. BRADLEY."
"Dam, they're gone. But if we need to use this laser, how do we know what it does?" Lora simply frowned.
Alan started clicking away on the PC's keyboard, knowing this old stuff from the base he was born in. The last 10 tasks on what looked like a to-do list, all dated from 2012 were
1. Maintenance Check #1132049
2. Full Distribution of Encom PC 16 completed
3. Repair Laser from 3-story fall
4. Call Mr. Flynn over his share of company stock
5. Transfer program Y to flash drive
6. Create MMO version of TRON game
7. Remind staff to track down and delete "Epsilon" virus
8. Maintenance Check #1132050
9. Pack all luggage for trip to Washington
10. Write messages and calibrate laser.
Then he searched for a description of the laser and its function, and came up with an alarming find: This laser could turn any object into digital matter and send it into a computer's hard drive or servers. While interesting to a man of science like Alan Jett, this still scared him as well.
"Oh my god, if we turn this laser on, we get turned into binary code and sucked into a computer!" The blue-clothed Jett sibling cried as he tore away from the PC.
"What's bad about that? It sounds exciting to me!" Lora smiled.
"But...I don't get this whole scenario. If those 'Bradleys' didn't really need us, why did they ask us to come here in the first place?"
"Hmm...Maybe because they wanted us to do something that we'll find if we turn the laser on."
"Well, if you say so, but I have a bad feeling about this," Alan sighed as he returned to the terminal's monitor.
In the laser's description window was a link to its main control software, and in that was an icon that showed a small window saying "Laser aperture clear?" and two buttons labeled "OK" and "Cancel". But Alan's finger hovered over its mouse button, and he said, "Why don't you go first?"
"Okey-dokey, see you on the other side. *chuckle*" The elastic blond stood in front of the laser. Her brother counted, "3...2...1," hit the button, and within milliseconds, Lora gave out a high shriek. Alan jerked around and gasped as her entire body was being broken down into wireframe pieces, stripped of its human color, then vanishing entirely. He gulped, breathed heavily, stripped his civilian attire for his heroic costume just to be safe (hiding it under the desk as well) and hit the mouse button again.
Alan sprang in front of the laser, shielded his eyes from the oncoming beam's light, and felt himself losing feeling in his feet upwards. When his vision was broken down and vanished from white wireframes, he fell comatose for a few seconds, then rematerialized in what looked like the same exact room, but somewhat darker.
"What the heck?" Alan looked about for a second. But that problem was pushed out by the next thing: His sister wasn't here!
Following the way they came in before, Alan hoofed it out of the building, and noticed that the whole environment was about 60% darker, complete with nighttime sky and thick storm clouds. Was this the real world, or some alternate reality that used the laser as its entrance? And that was when he turned and saw Ms. Jett perched on a small bench on the street's sidewalk, studying that her clothes had remained the same. Alan glanced at his, and the same result arrived.
"So, where are we now, older brother?" Ms. Jett asked after glancing at the blue-clothed man.
"I think we've just zapped ourselves into what might be Microsoft's birthplace or Bill Gates' secret lair, just a guess," He threw off some wacky suggestions.
Just then, a loud rumbling sound shook the whole area, as if a helicopter was just about to take off. Lora elongated her neck around the corner, looked up, and tried her best to hold back a scream as a very bizarre vehicle started coming down on the road. It looked like a red and black upside down "U" with intricate features on every surface. Pieces of the pavement sank downward to make room for its horizontal cabin to be level with the street. Two red-glowing figures exited the craft, holding black rods acting like flashlights looking for something...or someone. Returning to normal shape, Lora hastily addressed her brother, "We have company, and they don't look friendly. Let's go!"
Alan tapped into his superpowers and grew high enough to be level with one of the buildings, allowing his sister to reach the top. She stretched both hands to grab Alan's shoulders as he returned to normal size, and with that, they were both on the rooftop. They ran swiftly under cover of other buildings' shadows, but that didn't last too long. The strange vehicle had already become airborne again, and soon followed the pair side-by-side. Then it suddenly stopped, a grappling hook shot right in front of Ms. Jett's face and latched to a higher building's wall. One of those red-clothed figures zip-lined across the cable, and stood right in front of them, a black helmet shrouding his or her face.
"You don't belong here. Come with me or be destroyed, programs," A raspy computerized male voice buzzed to them.
"Programs? We're not programs, we're humans!" Alan retorted in defense.
But that man didn't listen, the vehicle turned 90 degrees so its cabin faced the building's side, and he shoved the two into it. Another of his type slapped strange steel bands onto their arms and legs, and clamps locked the Jetts' feet to the vehicle's floor.
"Hey! What do you want with us?" Lora struggled against the clamps and shouted to one of the guards. Neither Alan nor his sister could use their powers. Somehow the limb bands were cancelling them out, but in a different way that in the real world.
No one said a word in the cabin, not even the 6 other prisoners. Lora studied their clothing, and noticed that everyone who wore it all were black-colored with bluish-white lines breaking them up in a way similar to computer circuits. What kind of world was this?
The vehicle stopped on a wide sterile platform, about 7 yards from a huge, stadium-like structure. The former's cabin lowered to the ground, where 3 more of those red guards were waiting. The middle one advanced towards the 8 prisoners and seemed to be evaluating their statuses. The first 3 were stated as "Approved", but a 4th one with a black eye and some kind of intricate tattoo had the evaluation "Games".
Alan stared as the other two guards carried that prisoner off as he struggled and cried, "No! I don't want to die!" They vanished into the stadium soon after. After the next two were "Approved" as well, it was the Jetts' turn. The brother just held his breath in wait; the guard looked him up and down, and droned, "Games". Lora wanted to say something, but had no words planned. Her evaluation was the same as Alan's, and too soon, the same pair of guards dragged them off towards the stadium.
However, when they thought they were going straight into the stadium, instead Alan and Lora's feet were clamped once more to a platform, which this time descended several stories below ground as an elevator, stopping in a similarly dark and featureless room.
The two siblings glanced side to side, and noticed 4 coffins set in the room's corners opening up, and unexpectedly 4 white-clad women emerged and proceeded to their location. They looked the two over for a moment, then their index fingers suddenly sprouted small white lights, almost like the flame from a cigarette lighter.
Having a gut feeling of what these girls were about to do, Lora immediately took off her regular clothes and retracted the heroic suit beneath her own skin, as disturbing as that would've been to a human's eyes. Still, they sliced off about 2½ inches of her blond, semi-rubbery hair, so that now she had an almost tomboyish haircut. Then the pair of female programs in front of Lora turned off their little lasers and advanced towards a blank wall on her side. Alan was not so quick, and the two girls on his side immediately set about ripping the fabric of his heroic bodysuit with their lasers, prompting him to protest, "Hey, watch it! That's the only costume I have!"
But before either of the Jetts could do anything, like Adam and Eve discovering the sense of nudity, two of the women pushed individual buttons in their wall sections, causing new black bodysuits to intricately form like pixels around Lora and Alan's bodies. Then what looked like drawers slid out from the same walls, and with them came pieces of hi-tech armor plating. The women picked up those pieces and fastened them to Lora and her brother, one at a time, adding more features once in contact with their bodies. Lines on them began to glow in different colors, much like those on the vehicle. Finally, a column in front of the prisoners rose from the floor, holding two flat circles with the centers cut out.
As that happened, a computerized female voice announced, "Attention programs, each of you will receive an identity disc. Your future mental and physical progress will be imprinted on it. If you lose your disc, or fail to follow your orders, you will be de-rezzed without any further notification."
The 4 "tailors" grabbed these discs, moved towards the Jett siblings backs, secured them in place with a click, and one of the women whispered in Alan's ear, "Do what you can to survive in the games. It will not be easy," Then she and her 3 partners returned to their wall-mounted caskets, and appeared to fall asleep. Lora and Alan were now free, and followed the only path out of the room to whatever awaited them at the end.
The elastic sister looked at the armor she was just given, and noticed that not only did its lines glow in a lavender light; the armor itself resembled a blend of her old and new heroic costumes. A red visor even mimicked her domino mask. Alan, too, noted that his new suit looked like the one he just lost.
The corridor dead-ended in a glass-lined chamber with more recently suited prisoners, some recognizable from that vehicle on the surface. A third set of foot clamps locked them down, as annoying as that felt to both of the siblings, and the chamber began to rise as another elevator. Alan looked to his left, and spotted a peculiar female "program" whose costume glowed with a pink light, along with similar restraining bands on her arms and legs. She also wore a helmet somewhat like a motorcyclists', but fitted with a communications headset. Alan and Lora checked, and found that they too had radio earpieces. That pink-glowing woman spoke softly to the Jetts, "You got caught by the guards too, I imagine?"
Alan nodded, "Yes, and hardly anyone told us what's going on here, let alone where we are. I don't suppose you'd know either."
"I'm not surprised, they don't tell you anything except what your purpose is. By the way, I'm Jane, Bubblegum Jane," she replied.
Stifling another giggle, Ms. Jett replied, "Let me guess: are you an elastic superheroine like me in the real world?"
"Yup, and we still are, if it wasn't for those bands. In fact, I heard the guards say that their leader decides when they're on or off. They know we have superpowers, so they want to regulate our abilities for use in the games. In other words, once the games start in the arena, the bands will turn off."
"Really? If you're interested, my power is size-changing. I can grow up to a small skyscraper's height, and shrink to that of a picnic ant's," Alan turned his head in an excited manner. "My name's Alan Jett, and the blonde is my younger sister, Lora."
"Nice to meet you; and here's one more tip: We won't be fighting together, the system randomly picks an opponent for one program alone, so...well, good luck to you when we get there," Jane added seriously.
The limb-bands started beeping, and when the 3 prisoners looked at theirs, they appeared to be counting down from 10, which meant they'd get their powers back in 10 seconds.
The elevator started to break apart into individual casings, and when the bands' timers read "0", they arrived in the arena separately. Lora was face to face with a furious program, Alan with a timid one, but it wasn't clear what Jane was up against. Lora watched as her opponent removed his disc and clenched his hand around it, causing its outer edge to glow white. In curiosity, Ms. Jett did the same, and at that very moment, the female announcer voice called, "Combatants, initiate."
The opposing program threw his disc right in Ms. Jett's face, but quick thinking prompted her to stretch out of the way, making the disc ricochet back to his side of the playing area. Then Lora threw her disc like a Frisbee, and tried to do the same, but instead she aimed too low and one hexagonal tile of the playing box shattered like glass. The disc shot back into her hand seconds after.
"So that's how it works, huh?" She thought. Lora tried elongating herself all the way over to the other side of the arena, but the bands somehow wouldn't let her. Instead, she glued her feet to the floor and made a slingshot out of her upper body. With the disc loaded, Lora made a clear shot right at the tile where her opponent stood. She could hear his screams cutting out like a jammed audio program, followed by what sounded like a crystal chandelier falling and landing hard on plastic.
The voice announced, "Combatant 2, victory."
Meanwhile, Alan felt confused as to how to take out his opponent. Deciding to spare the poor program's life, against the rules of course, Alan grew some ways, and smashed a hole in the ceiling of his arena with his Identity disc. From up above, he could see his sister's booth sliding along to interlock with another, and Alan knew that he'd have to break her out somehow, or else this game would never end.
Checking that the bands were still inactive, Alan grew to about 8' 5" tall, and jumped several disc arenas to reach his sister's, She saw him overhead, but before Alan could bust the ceiling open, something shook the structure and dropped them both inside. Now they were face to face with "Combatant 10, Malakai", as the announcer stated. He had bright green circuitry, and what startled the Jetts more was that he had TWO discs in one!
Malakai made his first move by performing a ninja-like stunt and throwing one disc at Alan's head, then the other towards Lora's gut. Alan shrank down by 2 feet, then swiftly returned to normal, while Lora performed an elastic back-flip, both dodging the discs. When the Jett siblings tried to fight back by tossing their discs, they simply bounced back with a metallic clang as Malakai's collided with theirs.
Then the green program charged straight for his two opponents, and fought them with both the 2 discs. "This isn't fair, we can't win if he has 2 discs and we just have 2 together!" Alan quipped to his sister. After advancing backwards, Malakai tossed one of his discs into Ms. Jett's stomach again, but this time it simply shot back in behind him from the elasticity of her body. Her brother, however, received a nasty cut on his un-shrouded face, and at that very moment, Malakai stopped, put his discs away, and looked at how his opponent's skin bled.
"You...you are not programs at all!" Malakai almost stammered in a strange pitch-shifting voice.
The green program looked up to some kind of floating structure, and called out, "These combatants are USERS, Epsilon! What must I do with them?"
A distorted female voice sounded from loudspeakers, "Bring them to me, Malakai."
The fighting box broke in half and ascended to whatever that structure was. It lined up with a door in its front, two red guards emerged and grabbed the Jett siblings by the shoulders, and Malakai followed behind. Ahead, another program clad in black robes lined with hellish red circuitry turned around, and its helmet retracted out of sight, revealing its face to be that of a woman's. A small symbol glowed on her chest: "ε", so there was no doubt that her name was Epsilon.
"So, you two are users?" Epsilon coldly asked the Jett siblings.
"Yes, we are. Actually, we aren't exactly NORMAL users," Alan spoke first.
"Oh?" Her thin black eyebrows lifted up.
In demonstration, Lora Jett immediately knocked over one of the guards by a fast extension of her arm. Her brother quickly shrank then back in just seconds.
"I see, that's very impressive," Epsilon somehow felt disinterested now.
"So why do you want to use us for these games? And what's your purpose in this...computerized world?" Lora widened her eyes.
"Oh, the biggest purpose of all. I am the ruler of this world!" The red program started laughing in a near maniacal-way. "And as for you two, I wanted you to come here thanks to those powers I knew you had all along! Those bands you have are designed to make sure you can't cheat with them, nor can that Jane girl."
"Wait a minute...2 people with the surnames Bradley, that email I received from them was fake! You lured us here!" Alan yelled.
"That's right, and now you two are right where I want you to be. Look out the viewport." Epsilon rubbed her hands together. The Jett siblings followed Epsilon's order, and noticed that they were headed towards a new arena, shaped differently than the previous one. Then the vehicle soon dropped in and landed on its glassy surface, and Malakai, his leader, Lora, Alan, and three other guards exited that vehicle.
One of the guards brought out what looked like a thin rectangular capsule, which opened to show 4 smaller black rods. Epsilon and Malakai picked up theirs from the left, while the Jetts grabbed theirs on the right.
"Have you ever played Light Bikes before?" Epsilon sinisterly asked.
"No, but we ride motorcycles in the real world. I have a feeling that this will be very similar," Alan replied.
"Good, this should be easy for you, then."
Malakai stepped away from the group and called out to a crowd of more programs perched in bleachers above, "Greetings, programs! As you have seen over several cycles, we again have USERS with us! But they aren't normal ones, no; they have abilities very new to this world!"
A wave of gasps, oohs, and aahs rolled from the spectators, and Malakai continued, "Yes, and now we shall see how useful those abilities will be in this next game of Light Bikes!"
Epsilon and her henchmen turned away from the Jett siblings with their rods in hand. A platform rose up from the arena floor, and 3 more contestants were on it. Jane was among them, and according to the scoreboards on both ends of the arena, the other two programs on their team were called "Dormeuse" and "Xenotrope"*, the former female and the latter male. Epsilon's team consisted of Malakai, and three other programs called "Vance"** "Trinoid" and "Zarvox"***
Jane leaned towards the Jett siblings, and said, "I've done this game before, just watch us first and do what we do."
The 3 programs turned away, jumped forward into the air, held out their black rods, and amazingly, motorcycle-like vehicles that matched the colors of their costumes appeared out of thin air. Watching that performance carefully, Lora and Alan did the same, and in an instant, they were riding futuristic motorbikes as well. They found a prominent button on the left handlebar, and pushing them caused their vehicles to begin generating a rippling beam of light behind the rear wheel.
An unfamiliar male voice buzzed in Alan's earpiece, "This is Xenotrope to Alan, do you copy?" "Loud and clear, go ahead," Alan called back. "We have to use the lower levels of the arena to stop the opposing team. Got that?" "Affirmative, Xenotrope. Alan out."
Lora's eyes shifted to the left in their sockets, and saw that program Zarvox was making a swift right turn to ram right into her, memory disc in hand. However, that didn't stop her from dipping downwards below the arena floor before that program could hit her bike, and she popped out on the other side in seconds flat. Another hard right, and Zarvox was swiftly reduced to glassy pixels.
Malakai veered his bike towards the program Dormeuse, but the trace left by it kept her from escaping one of Malakai's discs. She didn't even see it hit the back of her neck, and within nanoseconds, both she and her vehicle were gone.
Alan let go of his still-moving cycle, grew a few inches, and sliced the head clean off of Trinoid. Then he curved left and drove over an elevated speed-boosting marker. Vance tried to attack his opponent head-on with his cycle and disc, but Alan was a few inches overhead with his bike. Vance cried, "No! No! Don't kill me!", but Alan didn't want to show any mercy this time if Epsilon was in charge, so with his advantage in height, Mr. Jett's disc sliced clean through the program's head like a cutter to pizza.
Now only Epsilon and Malakai were left on the enemy team.
Xenotrope swirled his bike round and round on a curving spiral track that led below the arena, and Malakai followed. The former quickly did a three-dimensional U-turn by jumping out onto the top level and turning around quickly. He expected the green program to crash into the lower walls, but found that Malakai was too smart for such a trick, and simply followed Xenotrope's bike, disc in hand. "Can't we talk about this?" Xenotrope protested in a modulated plead, but the green armored program did not listen, and thrust that program right off his bike with a nudge to the side and ramming one of the discs into it. Gone in a flash.
As all of those programs vanished one by one, the audience cheered and whooped at the effects of how they did so.
Just before the Jett siblings were about to lose hope in winning, Jane's voice pinged in Lora's radio, "I know how we can get out of here. Pull up to my bike and I'll tell you there." "Copy that, Jane," Ms. Jett replied. She followed the order and carefully drove up next to Bubblegum Jane's pink-glowing cycle, both moving in the same direction without a twinge of difference. The latter's rider stated, "Use your disc to cut off the restraining bands on my arms and legs, but be careful!"
Gripping the donut-shaped device from her back and clenching it in her left hand to activate the cutting edge, having hooked her right hand on the bike's handlebar, Lora put out as much effort as she could to saw off those steel restraints, and to her surprise, they came off easily like a sharp kitchen knife to the skin of a sausage. She repeated this process on the other three, and then Jane suddenly turned on her bike's brakes.
"What is that user doing?" Epsilon quipped to her green-armored lackey.
"I do not know, master," Malakai turned his head to his red leader.
Alan caught sight of what the two girls were doing, and carefully sawed off his own bands with his discs, then Lora followed suit herself. All 3 of them stopped their bikes and "deactivated" them with the rods; putting them away for later use in their pockets. The crowd booed as they did this.
Jane walked slowly towards the Jett siblings on the arena floor, and explained quickly while the remaining two bikers were slowly revving towards them, "Now that we aren't restrained anymore, I can use my own powers to break us out of here. Watch!"
The glass visor over Bubblegum Jane's helmet retracted, she touched the arena surface so that her posture was on all fours, and everyone in the whole arena watched with open mouths as the pink and black heroine's form morphed like silly putty into an entirely different vehicle. It had four wheels, and a compartment for two people, like two massive formula 1 racecars welded together. A glass and metal hatch opened, revealing two chairs and controls inside.
Immediately, Lora and Alan hopped into Jane's new form, the hatch closed, and a front-mounted cannon fired two projectiles at the arena wall, blowing a wide hole in it. The computer voice cried, "Breach detected in arena wall. Combatants must not leave arena or will be subject to de-resolution." But all 3 of the heroes ignored that question, and the new vehicle revved straight out of the stadium in a burst of brilliant pink light.
"Where are you taking us?" Lora inquired first. Their savior's voice beeped through a speaker on the living vehicle's fully-functioning console, "To my apartment downtown, we can talk fully there."
The pink organic human-vehicle hybrid stayed its course as it drove its companions to a dark, but faintly glowing city a few miles away from the arenas. Guards were patrolling in towers overhead, but they didn't see the out-of-place transport whiz by on the city's entry bridge. Finally the Light-Car screeched to a halt in front of a tall circuit-lined skyscraper with a pentagon-pyramidal top. An elevator was embedded in one side, which appeared to ride one of the glowing circuits.
Lora and her brother climbed out of the living vehicle, which quickly re-assumed the form of a woman, and all 3 of them filed into the lift. Jane pushed a triangular "up" button on the back wall, and soon the ground started shrinking, allowing the sky to take control. Lora quipped to the other two, "What kind of a world is this if it's inside a computer? Why is there no sun if it's a digital simulation?"
"Well, it's as light as the inside of a computer server case can get. It always looks like nighttime and stormy, doesn't it?" Jane nodded at the question.
A progress bar on the elevator's control panel eventually reached 100%, and that transport quickly opened with a ding, opening to a fancy-looking penthouse apartment. "Well, here we are, home sweet home," The Jetts' companion entered first and looked back.
Alan and Lora were told to sit down, and did so upon a futon, while Jane took a chair between them, a coffee table, and what looked like the holographic equivalent of a flat-screen television, sitting on a wall plinth. Alan asked first, "I sense that you know a lot more about this place than we do. Have you been here longer than us, Jane?"
She stood up again and started pacing back and forth, "Yes, I have. For...what year is it now back out there?"
"2019, ma'am," Lora stated.
"Then I've been trapped here for 7 years. There's...this portal way out there in a barren part of this world somewhere I've forgotten." She moved towards a device below the TV, and placed her memory disc on it. The TV flashed on and showed what looked like black and blue video recordings. She felt tingly sensations in her head, knowing that she was now replaying her own memories on-screen. "Out there, I'm an elastic superhero working for the government, and hardly any villains have been able to stop me. But this day, 7 years ago, my supervisor, Wade Charleston hooked me up with some research corporation. They wanted to use me as a test subject for the world's first teleportation experiment," The videos fast-forwarded to what she spoke of. "But instead of simply going from portal A to portal B, their computers caught something called the 'Epsilon virus' and I somehow wound up here."
"Wait a minute, the corporation we just came from managed to delete that same virus before we got there, and that nutty program is called Epsilon as well. Does that mean..." Alan tried to put the pieces of this mystery together.
"Yes, that program is not a program at all, she's a virus. No program in this world has ever been insane as Epsilon. I heard rumors of a different kind of program who wasn't that insane, just driven to achieve perfection. And from what some important guy said in the past, the portal can only stay open for 8 hours."
"So I guess we have our new priorities laid out for us now. Stop, and if needs be, kill Epsilon, and make it to that portal in less than 8 hours, yes?" Lora guessed with her hands on her knees.
"I believe so, and we'd have to do it fast before Epsilon knows we're here. The problem is that although I know how to reach the portal, I've never known how to take down a virus in this world. Derezzing an enemy program is no problem with my identity disc and powers combined, but I have a feeling something different would happen if any of us tried the same with a virus," Jane looked up at the ceiling.
"We've got our work cut out for us, then. Mmm...I say we figure out a way to make an anti-virus from what we have, but the question remains: How to do it?" Alan rubbed his chin.
"We'd have to find some program who knows how to neutralize these kinds of threats, and we need to know what makes Epsilon tick. I do know some things about his accomplices, though. Judging from the green circuitry, his lackey Malakai is obviously a military program who stole another program's disc for his own use. That wacky voice of his has corruption written all over it," Jane explained after returning her disc to its default position.
"If we somehow catch that guy alone, maybe we can worm a thing or two about Epsilon out of him. But he's always by Epsilon's side, so...wait, what am I saying? We can just nab him with our powers! Derp!" Alan clunked his head with his fist once.
"THAT sounds like a plan!" Lora nodded to her brother.
The 3 heroes made a triple-hi-five, and returned to the lift soon after. But their rejoicing was short-lived, as when Alan looked out the glass walls of that elevator, they noticed several red guards and 3 of those strange flying machines docked on the road below. Jane pushed the button to go back up, and they huddled together back inside.
"Now what do we do?" Lora whispered to Jane.
<<TO BE CONTINUED>>
* "Xenotrope" is the name for my father's Macintosh's main hard drive, "Dormeuse" a nod to Terry Dowling's PC game "Sentinel Descendants in time"
** "Trinoid" and "Zarvox" are two MacinTalk Text-to-speech programs
*** "Vance" is a reference to Robert Vance, the digitized tech pioneer from Batman Beyond
Wade Charleston is a play on