TRON's been reconfigured, but CLU can't risk having his memories return.
The coup had been necessary, and while the fight with Tron had not been unexpected, he hadn’t thought it would end so badly. Attacking Tron himself had been pure, unplanned reflex. Tron’s howl of pain had jerked him back to reality, the red fading from his vision and a cold sense of dread collecting like mountain mist in the pit of his stomach.
He hadn’t meant to hurt him. Not like that. Tron was necessary for keeping the Grid in order. He was a comrade if not exactly a friend. Something like panic gripped his heart, only relaxing its hold as Tron- out could- drew a shallow breath. Clu exhaled deeply, the rush of fear and adrenaline escaping with the carbon dioxide.
“You’ll be all right,” Clu promised, carefully replacing replacing Tron’s data disk and letting him settle on his back. The clatter of boots against pavement alerted him of the guards’ return.
“Sir...I’m afraid we lost him.” There was trepidation in the program’s voice, but there needn’t have been. He had, after all, all the time in the world. Clu nodded and stood, carefully easing Tron’s head to the ground as he did so.
“That’s all right, he won’t get far. Set up a perimeter to watch for him, then send the troops into the city. It’s more important to get things in order here first.”
“And the traitor?” the guard asked, training his weapon on Tron’s shattered face.
“No, no,” Clu stepped forward and gently pushed the barrel down to point at the floor. “No, he’s not a traitor,” he said kindly. “He was simply playing for the wrong team. There’s no need to derez him.”
“Sir,” the guard responded, sounding more than a little confused.
“Take him up to the medical bay and see he’s well cared for. We’re going to need him later on.”
He watched as four guards improvised a stretcher of their hands and arms- one took his shoulders, another his legs, two more held up either side of his body- and bore away the last hero of the Grid. After a moment Clu followed them. He still had one more thing to do.
Yori, as anticipated, was not happy to see him.
“Clu,” she demanded sharply, “what’s going on? I registered an altercation in the courtyard and something’s happened to communications. I can’t contact Tron.”
“Who?” Clu asked, taking hold of her forearm. She wrenched away.
“Stop it, Clu. I know you know what happened. What aren’t you telling me?”
He watched her as she shouted, traced each syllable on her lips. It was true what they said about women being beautiful when they were angry.
“You’re so beautiful,” he mused aloud, reaching to smooth back a stray strand of hair. Not for the first time he felt a coil of envy twist in his stomach. Still, Tron and Yori were- had been- perfect for each other, a complimentary pair. However, if he let them stay together, they’d only cause more trouble and he didn’t want to hurt either of them even more.
“Clu.” Now she was really angry. But, he realized, that was only to mask her fear. Fear of him, or fear for Tron, he wasn’t sure.
“Yori...” he took her hands, the regret in his voice holding her captive far better than any physical restraint. He squeezed her fingers tightly, feeling heat and energy radiate from his own.
“He’s gone,” Clu told her honestly.
“What?” She squinted, searching his face in vain for a hidden meaning, a way to blot out what he might say. Orange had already crept as high as her elbows. “No. No, he can’t be gone.”
Blue-white light burned brightly up and down her uniform and Clue clenched her hands more tightly. She cried out at this. Relaxing his grip, he slid his hands up her arms to circle her biceps.
“He’s gone,” he repeated softly. “There is no Tron.”
Orange flooded her boots, her leggings, her coat and dress, but the necklace-like insignia across her collarbones burned stubbornly blue. Tears welled up and spilled over as he pulled her close and put his arms around her.
“I’m sorry, Yori,” he husked, meaning every syllable. “So sorry.”
“No,” she whispered, begging for a lie. All he had to give her was the truth.
Leaning in, he kissed her lips. Although the thought had crossed his mind- taking Yori for himself, raising their daughter as his own- he’d shoved it aside. A perfect system was not one in which he stole another man’s family. There was no need to rob her of all her happiness. He wouldn’t steal that. But there was no reason he could not try to earn her love for himself. There was no passion in the kiss, no romance to flood it with heat and desire. It was cold and comfortless, a widow’s kiss; a second-hand goodbye from a husband who was no longer present to deliver it himself.
He held her a moment after they’d broken apart. Eyes dazed and swimming in tears, she just stared at him, unsure what had just happened. The collar of her dress gleamed a warm amber against the white fabric.
“He’s gone, Yori. I’m sorry.”
Collapsing against him, she broke down and wept. Regret weighted his gut as he stroked her hair, trying to be soothing. Surely a heart-broken Yori had no place in his perfect system?
“Tron’s gone,” he murmured into her ear, “but you’ve always had a thing for Rinzler.”