Worsties to Besties (Pt 1)

Summary: Tron is suspicious of RAM and their intentions. He decides to follow them into the city one night after they sneak out of the base and is surprised by what he finds.

Tron did not trust RAM.

Ever since Beck had dropped the mangled program on his doorstep some cycles ago, Tron viewed them with suspicion. There was something off about RAM, beyond that they were missing half of their head while still managing to walk around perfectly fine. Beck didn’t seem to mind much - the two hit it off almost immediately. But Tron was reticent to trust so willingly, especially when RAM’s backstory had so many holes. According to Beck, RAM had been a rising star within the Games - an undefeated light cycle racer that played for the Occupation. This Tron had verified. But, as RAM insisted, their participation had not been willing. They were forced into competing, and only once they realized how cruel the Occupation was turned on their own team and escaped. Forced participation certainly not unheard of in the Games. Indeed, too many programs were lost to it each cycle, made to compete until deresolution. But Tron had never heard of a member representing Clu being forced to play against their will.

He knew for certain that RAM wasn’t their real name. Flynn had included “Ram” on a shortlist of restricted names, out of respect for their lost friend. It was impossible for this program to have been deployed with that name. Yet when Tron pressed them, they claimed it was the only name they had ever known. What’s more, RAM had barely reacted to his name. They hadn’t even cared. He had experienced many reactions to his identity - awe, excitement, fear, disgust - but never outright apathy.

Tron knew that most of these gripes would seem petty to other programs. But it put him in an extremely dangerous situation. RAM had seen his face. They knew the location of his base. The two had avoided interacting for the most part. Tron tolerated their presence most of the time, and RAM seemed incapable of masking their contempt for him under snarky quips whenever the two did happen to speak.

Until Tron could figure out what to do about RAM, and whether he could trust them, he ordered them to stay at the base. If their story was to be believed, it wasn’t like anything was waiting for them in Argon City anyway. But a few cycles back, he had caught them sneaking out during the period he would typically spend recharging in his medical pod. That wasn’t simply suspicious - in his eyes, it was a glaring red flag.

That brought him to the present situation. In a club called Terminal, Tron stood at the edge of a sea of programs. Being in the open around such a large crowd made him uncomfortable. Any one of the programs around him might turn him in to Clu if they knew who he was. But, under a helmet that masked his entire face, he blended in with the crowd and could enjoy the anonymity of being yet another patron of the club.

Tron had tracked RAM through the faces and the noise and found them chatting up some basic by the bar. Their companion’s red circuits denoted her allegiance to the Occupation, though the patterns suggested she was a low-ranking member of the black guard, at most. Still, an Occupation member was an Occupation member. And RAM was sidling up very close to her.

The two appeared as though they were close. Intimately so. RAM put a hand on the woman’s waist and pulled her towards them, eliciting high-pitched giggles from the guard whose face was beginning to turn as red as her circuitry. Tron watched as they kept whispering secretively to each other. Each time RAM’s lips would brush against the skin on her cheek just next to her ears. Even in different circumstances, Tron never understood how anyone could feel attracted to an Occupation member. He could hardly stand Beck’s waffling about that commander Paige. The flirting he was witnessing now genuinely nauseated him to watch.

That is if I was flirting. Tron had his doubts. He had recently intercepted information that suggested the Occupation had increased efforts to ingratiate themselves within Argon City’s local scenes - using facilities like nightclubs as a gateway to gather intelligence about notable citizens. He had been tailing RAM from afar for a few cycles now, and he had seen this behavior before. They would approach a program, typically an Occupation member like tonight, and flirt with them for a while. It was a different program each time, but the outcome was the same. After some back and forth, RAM would suddenly excuse themselves and disappear into the crowd.

It would have been a brilliant setup for a clandestine intelligence network. After all, what better way to hide your activity than to blend in and perform it in plain sight? Sitting close and mimicking intimacy would easily allow for the exchange of information while minimizing the risk of prying eyes and ears. One would seldom want to interrupt what appeared to be a private moment. But all of this was speculation of course. If he wanted to confirm his suspicions, he would need to witness concrete proof of RAM’s deceit. Something like…


It was a quick, slight movement, but RAM had brushed their hand along the leg of their companion and grabbed something with the guardswoman. That was what he had been waiting for. He had finally seen the exchange for himself. It all but confirmed Tron’s suspicions.

RAM was a spy working for Clu.

A surge of anger rushed through his circuits. Tron was upset about the betrayal, of course, but also at himself. He felt foolish. Allowing RAM into his base in the first place was a mistake. He should have known Beck’s story about the Occupation’s star player turning dissident was too opportune a setup. Not that RAM had been providing much useful information as is. They seemed to be your standard meathead - an inconvenience to have around, it first seemed. Now he was convinced their presence was something far more sinister.

Tron slunk back into the sea of programs. He had seen enough. Now all he had to do was wait.


RAM left Terminal not long after the exchange. They weaved through programs until the crowds began to dissipate, walking in the direction of one of downtown Argon’s residential districts. Tron knew that neighborhood well - the Occupation had recently razed all the buildings to make way for the construction of more of their useless, opulent towers. They had displaced residents for what would only amount to a glorified storage facility. But, in the eyes of Argon’s Occupation leader General Tessler, they served two purposes: First, they effectively destroyed community ties, breaking up its residents' ability to organize or seek support from one another. Second, and most importantly, it would look good when Clu visited.

The thought stirred another rush of rage within Tron’s system. He would end the Occupation, no matter what it took.

Tron shook his head, returning to the present. He couldn’t let his emotions get in the way right now. At the moment, the construction site presented a perfect opportunity. The area was deserted during this time of the cycle. He could think of no better place to stage an ambush.

If RAM was trained to be aware of their surroundings, they were terrible at it. Tron had no trouble tailing them from the shadows, watching as they weaved their way through the construction area. They seemed to be wandering almost at random. Tron knew the site was situated at the edge of the city, along a sheer cliff. A dead drop site, perhaps?

Suddenly, RAM stopped in their tracks. Tron quickly crouched behind a half-finished wall. Had they spotted him?

“Ah, crap,” RAM muttered. They looked out over the cliff and sighed. Crossing their arms, they began to tap the side of their helmet, as though they were trying to urge a sluggish machine to work.

“Thought for sure I’d remember this time,” they muttered to themself. “Still too many holes.”

RAM turned around and began to head back in the direction they came. Tron held his breath and waited.

Just a few more steps…


It was almost too easy. RAM noticed his presence on their blindside a moment too late. Tron caught them by surprise with a swift blow to RAM’s exposed jaw, followed by a low sweep that knocked them off their balance and sent them sprawling to the ground. They were, quite literally, knocked down before they knew what hit them.

As he stood over them, Tron was grateful for the modulator in his helmet muffling the panting as he struggled to catch his breath. The damage Dyson has wrecked on his code was immensely unpredictable. During some cycles, he was able to operate relatively normally for a while. For others, it was a struggle to drag himself out of the makeshift healing chamber. Frustratingly, today was veering towards the latter.

At the very least RAM didn’t put up much of a fight. The smaller program was splayed out along the gritty pixels of the construction site, struggling to regain their bearings.

“WHAT the… Tron?” RAM sputtered, shock evident in their tone. “What the fuck?”

He stared down at them, face still hidden by the darkened helmet. “Your game is up, RAM.”

“WHAT game?” RAM shouted. “What are you talking about?”

“I’ll ask the questions. You will give me answers. No more lies,” he put a boot to their chest and pressed down. “Let’s start with an easy one. Why are you sneaking around behind my back?”

RAM scowled and pushed him away. “Did you seriously just punch me in the face over sneaking out?” RAM was fuming. “I’ll tell you why. I get bored! It’s boring sitting around in that cave alone all day. You’re always disappearing for ages - not that you ever talk to me anyway. Besides, what’s the big deal? Beck can come and go freely —“

“You’re not Beck,” he snapped. “I trust Beck. I don’t trust you.”

Though he couldn’t see it below the opaque glass of their helmet, he could tell RAM was rolling their remaining eye. “That sounds like it’s your problem, not mine!”

That just made Tron angrier.

“Do you have any idea what situation you’re in, program?” Tron glowered. “I’m accusing you of selling us out to the Occupation, and the only response you can sarcastically throw at me is one that confirms you were sneaking behind my back?”

“W-Wait, I—“ RAM stammered, desperately searching for some excuse, but Tron cut them off before they could continue.

“Enough,” he glowered, the modulator in his helmet distorting his voice into a snarl. “Did you really think I wouldn’t catch on to your little charade?”

“Charade? Stop talking so cryptically and just tell me what’s going on!” RAM shouted as they tried to scramble to their feet. But when Tron took a step closer, they froze.

“I’m talking about your deception. That you’re a spy.”

“Spy?” RAM’s eye widened, visible as a surge of panic sent a shock through their system. “No, no! Wait, wait, slow down! Are you talking about what I was doing at Terminal? I was just— ugh! Okay, look!”

RAM took a deep breath, trying to compose themself. “Listen. Okay. I was… chatting up that program so she would let her guard down. I was sweet talking her, you know? I don’t know who she is. I was only doing it so I could…” RAM slowed down as they heard themself speak. “Steal… her baton…”

Tron stared at them. This was not the excuse he expected.

“You flirt with random programs,” he said slowly. “To pickpocket their light cycles?”.. Hearing it out loud, RAM must have realized how ridiculous it sounded. They visibly winced.

“… You could put it that way, and it would be correct,” they sheepishly replied.

Tron felt his eye involuntarily twitch. He couldn’t believe what this bit-brain was saying.

“Why?” he asked.

RAM looked down at their feet, suddenly preoccupied with nudging the loose gravely pixels at their feet. “I crash them a lot and have no money. And… It’s kind of fun….”

Tron opened his mouth, then closed it again, at a loss for words.

“I mean, look at it this way, it’s cheaper than buying them new each time-“

“RAM, stop talking,” Tron said. If his visor was down, he would have pinched the bridge of his nose to try and ward off the oncoming headache they were ushering. This was a pathetic excuse.

“Do you think I was deployed yesterday? You show up out of nowhere, lie about your past, lie about your name, sneak around for clandestine meetings with strange programs. I know what you are. A poor excuse for a spy.”

RAM immediately opened their mouth to begin stammering again, but Tron had had enough. He removed the identity disc from his back and clicked it on. It came to life with a low hum, emitting a cold glow against the shadows. RAM’s eye grew wide and they threw up their hands.

“Wait, wait, wait! Slow down!” RAM shouted, taking a step back. “Just hold on! Use your brain here! Why would I derezz my own teammates in the Games and risk getting derezzed myself if I was a spy?”

Tron took another step forward. “Clu would sacrifice a lot more if it meant getting closer to me.”

“Okay, wait, hold on!” RAM was in full panic mode now. “I hate the Occupation more than anyone else! Why would I ever sell you out?”

He felt his eye twitch again. “I doubt you hate them more than me,” he replied dryly.

“No, really! Just! Wait for a second okay,” they let out a frustrated sigh. “Please, Tron, give me one more change. I’ll tell you the truth. About everything.”

Tron said nothing. RAM took his silence as a sign to continue.

“L-Look, the truth is… I have no memory. I can barely remember anything from before I was shoved into the Games. And I can prove it too! Just let me show you my identity disc-“

“If you go to grab your identity disc, I’ll kill you faster than you can sputter out ‘wait’.”

RAM grimaced. “Fine! Take it yourself. You want definitive proof, I get it. You'll find it there.”

Tron had his doubts about the claim. So he ran the scenarios in his head, weighing his options.

First, he considered survival. He stood to lose little by getting rid of this program. If they truly lacked any connections to anyone throughout the Grid as they claimed, no one would come to investigate their disappearance. Beck might be upset, but he knew that displeasure would fade if he asserted RAM’s deception. And if they were a spy, it would certainly send a message to Clu.

But on the other hand, a part of Tron felt sickened that he was considering killing a potentially innocent program. That gave him pause. He had been running for so long, just trying his best to survive - had that really pushed him to the point of depravity that he would destroy a program that was possibly innocent? He always had a strong sense of justice - it was hardcoded into him by Alan One thousands of cycles ago, in a system far from here.

He looked back at RAM again. Though their eye had disappeared behind the darkened glass of their helmet, Tron could tell they were staring back at him.

Tron gritted his teeth. “Turn around.”

Relief briefly flashed across RAM’s face. Quickly, they complied. With his own blazing identity disc in one hand, Tron reached out and removed the disc from their back with the other.

“Don’t think this will immediately change my mind,” he warned. “Memory playback can be altered.”

“I’m not showing you a memory playback,” RAM replied with a hint of exasperation. “I want you to open up my disc and look at the platter.”

While he still didn’t trust RAM, Tron felt comfortable assuming they were not a threat while unarmed. If their response to being ambushed was an accurate reflection of their skill, RAM lacked the proper combat training to pose much of a threat.

“If you make any sudden moves, I’ll derezz you,” he said.

RAM nodded and slowly turned to face him, hands still in the air.

Tron cut power to his disc and returned it to the holder on his back. One eye still on RAM, he slid his thumb along the edge of their disc and opened it with a soft click. He twisted the two halves in opposite directions to reveal the shimmering inner platters that composed the entirety of a program’s life, experience, and identity.

RAM’s disc looked very, very odd.

The platters had two parts. One controlled the physical aspects of a program, their appearance, combat and operation privileges, and similar data. That was the half of Tron’s own disc that he gave to Beck, allowing his protege to use on his unique white suit. The other half was the memory disc, where a program’s every experience could be written to and read from, along with information containing the primary functions they were programmed for.

RAM’s physical disc was damaged, as expected. A large scratch cut through the silvery plate, spanning from one edge to the other. It was likely an artifact reflective of their extensive head trauma. The only surprise there was how minimal the damage to the platter was relative to how severe it appeared cosmetically. Considering RAM was able to physically get around with relative ease, the damage was just that: cosmetic, not crippling. In better circumstances, he might have remarked that RAM must not have had much going on in their head to begin with.

No, the more surprising reveal was RAM’s memory disc. The first word that came to mind while looking at it was warped. A normal memory disc emitted an even, unbroken white light from its surface. But RAM’s had a strange greenish discoloration, strongest at its edges. More shocking, its shimmering surface was littered with tiny holes. Little pinpricks of black, where no light could be emitted.

Tron’s helmet retracted, folding neatly back into his suit. He looked back up at RAM, searching for any hint of deceit. They were staring back at him, the usual smirk that seemed perpetually etched into the corners of their mouth nowhere to be found.

“You have disc rot,” he said flatly.

“Incorrect,” RAM replied. “My disc was rotted.”

“By who?”

The question made RAM’s face darken. “By the Occupation.”

Tron continued to look at them in silence. RAM took it as a sign to continue, words now tumbling out of them in an anxious stream.

“I don’t remember much. But a long time ago, on the outskirts of Argon, there was a light cycle accident. Cause an awful explosion, and I was caught in it. I don’t know why, but a dispatch from the Occupation was waiting nearby.”

RAM paused, taking a moment to steel themself. “For some reason, they snatched me up. Maybe because, despite losing half my head, I lived. Whatever the case, it was enough to turn me into a science experiment.”

“A lot of stuff happened. I don’t remember most of it, but… they messed with a lot of my code,” RAM reflexively shuttered. “Rotted my disc to wipe my memory. Stripped me of my name, my life. Gave me a new name, or more accurately a label — Recursive Amplified Multicapacitor. I think they wanted to turn me into some kind of weapon, or soldier. Whatever they wanted, I thankfully failed to live up to those expectations. When they finally realized I wasn’t going to be useful as a tool, they dumped me into the Games. Surprise, surprise, my old light cycle skills hadn’t rusted away. So they found a new use for me - propaganda tool to make the Occupation look good. Make them look cool. My system was so raddled at the time, I barely knew what was going on. I just did what I was instructed. But eventually, I started to catch on that my opponents in the Games weren’t exactly on equal footing with me. They were cannon fodder. I was the canon.

“Eventually, I built up the courage to end things. I figured derezzing was a better fate than being a puppet. Lucky for me on the day I went turncoat, our Renegade was nearby, ready to snatch me out of certain death. And now, here I am.”

The two fell silent, and Tron looked back at the damaged platters once more. Then, he snapped their disc back together.

“That's why you didn’t react when I told you who I was,” he remarked quietly.

RAM peered up at him, eye flashing as a pulse of electricity surged through their circuits. “Among other things, yes. No need to be conceited.”

Tron hummed, amused by their response for reasons RAM didn’t quite understand. They seemed to finally catch on.

“Am I… supposed to know who you are?” RAM asked, shifting uncomfortably.

“Hm,” he offered them the restored identity disc. “In some ways, yes.”

RAM hesitated for a moment, before slowly taking their identity disc back. They turned it around in their hands thoughtfully for a moment before reattaching it to their own holder.

“RAM,” Tron said, his voice softening. “I’m sorry this happened to you. Flynn never intended for us to be able to modify each others code like this”

“It’s okay. Not like it was your fault I got scrambled,” RAM shrugged, not quite sure how to handle the sudden change in tone. “But… Um… who is ‘Flynn’?”

Tron tried not to look too pained over their sincere question. They weren’t lying about the memory loss, that’s for sure. “I just have one more question. Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

RAM went quiet, taking the time to consider his question. “I didn’t think it would be a good idea to advertise I was in such a vulnerable state. Plus, I didn’t know I could trust you. Still not sure about that, honestly!” It was Tron’s turn to nod. “That’s… reasonable.”

“See? I’m not all brain damage up here,” RAM tapped on the side of their helmet. “I can be smart. I thought I was doing a pretty good job at hiding my memory loss.”

Tron cast a skeptical look in their direction. “You have some striking gaps in general cultural knowledge. But, you could be worse.”

“Thanks… I think?”

An awkward silence followed. RAM shifted uncomfortably on their feet, while Tron

Finally, he cleared his throat. “I want to apologize for harming you.”

“Heh,” RAM’s usual smirk once again returned. “Saying it out loud, I can’t exactly blame you. It helped understand pretty quickly why you were so suspicious of me. My story is an odd one. But please don’t do it again, I don’t have much of a face left, you know.”

Tron gave a dry smile that RAM returned, followed by silence again.

This time it was RAM’s turn to speak. They cleared their throat. “So. Now that we’re on better footing with each other, what should we do no-“

“Right there, that’s them!” a voice yelled.

The two programs froze.

Tron could hear the loud footsteps of two programs approaching. Judging by the sound, they were not far off — and rapidly approaching their area.

There were other programs on the platform.

Part 2

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