After that Astra never reached more than 70%, but she was happy with how hard she worked. Though her frustration still grew.

She had been working there for about three months by the time something really unusual happened. Everything before that were meetings with the team and Alan and Sam Flynn, meeting him had been interesting! Astra loved his mischievous nature though most of it was put toward pulling the odd prank on the IT team or ENCOM security. She gave him ideas for them from time-to-time. He took to those heartily! And, daring, every now and again Trevon and her would join in on them. Meeting Quorra was interesting as well. She was so sweet and seemed new to everything! Though she didn't know why. She could tell the young woman was doing her best to mask it however. Astra thought maybe since she didn't have any knowledge on programming, she didn't understand much of ENCOM's mechanics.

Other than the meetings and odd prank and visit from Trevon, there wasn't much else going on. She had invited Riven and Dev for a trip to the local club for some dancing, but neither wanted to come. She was a bit put out by that, but she understood. She went with her one other acquaintance in the city, having just moved here before applying to ENCOM, and had a lot of fun! Her friend found a date halfway through however and she left with him before Astra was ready to leave.

When she told Trevon about it and how she stayed a few hours later and went home alone, he berated her! It was obvious he cared, and her eyes softened as he yelled at her. But she was really surprised when he offered to go with her the next time! Saying she needed the protection. She shook her head and smiled and accepted. He seemed to calm after that.

But this day… Trevon appeared from behind her magically, like always, and looked at her screen over her shoulder. He was curious, as was she, over the most recent system error. It wasn't like a normal bug, yet it wasn't a virus either… Though that thought only came when Astra delved further into it, it seemed she was the only one to have spotted something off about the situation… Other than Tron… But he wasn't online at the moment. She wondered about that.

"What're you doing?" Trevon asked, his hot breath upon her neck as he leaned in closer.

She suppressed a shudder and kept working, a light blush upon her cheeks, but that was all, she was far too engrossed in this error. "Locating exactly where this error came from… It didn't spring up from the Grid. I know that. I… Look! It's happening again, from the same section… Let me locate it…" She trailed off as her hands flew across the keys.

"There! Wait a minute… This error, it's not an error at all! It's masked as one! I think we're being hacked!" Astra locked eyes with Trevon in fear just as the lights went out!

Astra squeaked in surprise and nearly jumped out of her seat, if it wasn't for Trevon's hand heavy upon her shoulder. "Everyone! Remain calm!" Trevon called out authoritatively as screams and shouts died down.

Then, the lights came on, on all of the computers only and Astra typed away. Searching…

"What's the status of the Grid?!" Trevon seemed scared though it barely showed. Astra only knew because of an odd feeling that came from the tone of his voice.

"Online and undamaged!" Astra said, followed by. "Backup generators are all online and running!" From Dev, and. "It looks like the power for the whole block has been taken out!" from Riven.

"Damnit!" Trevon said and stood, turning to leave quickly. "I have to go! Do your best to isolate that breach!"

Astra could only nod determinedly and set to work on her computer.

"What the hell is going on here?!" Sam Flynn came barging in with Alan close on his heels. Alan had some words with Trevon that no-one could overhear, and nodded as Trevon ran out of the room, flashlight in hand.

Astra stood and answered. "We've been hacked! Along with the city's grid! Our entire block has been blocked from power! I'm isolating the breach now!" She said as she got back to work.

"Who discovered the breach?" Alan said calmly as he walked over.

"Astra did! The Guardian's at work!" Riven winked.

Dev rolled her eyes.

"You did?" Alan asked Astra as he stood from behind her.

"Yeah." She said half-heartedly as her focus was on isolating the breach. "Trevon was with me when I did it. It was just before the lights went out... There!" She said happily. "I've isolated the breach! Closing it now!" It didn't take her long to find out, there was another with equal or better skills than her on the other side… "It… It's not closing! Every attempt I make is being thwarted!"

Dev's voice rang clear as more murmurs and worried gasps and sounds came from the other programmers. "There's something coming through the breach! Wait. Make that many things! The Grid is under attack!"

Alan stood and looked at Sam. They exchanged a nod and turned to leave. "We'll help the best way we can. Keep up the work! We need you!" Alan said as they left.

Astra could only nod. And then, she noticed it. "They're Programs…" She all but whispered. Then shouted. "They're Programs! Not errors! Guys! They're invading the System with Programs!" She got back to work, hearing a very few worried words, as though they knew something she didn't. But she herself was scared for these Programs. "Guys! Please don't just take them out! Isolate them!"

She heard a few words of approval and Dev popped her head up from her cubicle. "You're more concerned about them, aren't you?" She was one of those who gave a "yes".

Astra looked up at her and nodded. "All of the Programs, on both sides, yes. Though the System needs to be saved, it can take more of a hit then them." She said to her with determination and heart.

Dev smiled and nodded and got back to work.

The sound of furious typing filled the area from beneath countless fingers as they flew across various keyboards in an attempt to block out, and save the system from the onslaught happening within. People were rushing about, servers checked, equipment shut down...

It was chaos.

Astra had never felt more alive.

As the flurry of activity rushed about her, she focused on her skills for isolating invading Programs and putting up firewalls, but it wasn't enough. Through the turmoil, she heard the head of the department's voice ring loud and clear, a command, a beacon in the whirlwind of activity and noise.

"I need every server up and running and everything else, DOWN! Take us offline to the world! Make sure NOTHING can get in! I don't care what it takes!" The young woman, about 30 in age, shouted over the din. She had reddish medium length hair put into a tight bun a the nape of her neck and a strong build. She was the one that ran the department, though Alan and Sam claimed to do that too. This was the first Astra had seen her in action.

That was when Astra got an idea. "Mrs. Hawthorne! Servers 10 and 11 aren't being used! If I can re-rout their power to the other servers, we could get an advantage with the power boost!"

"Then do it! Go!" Mrs. Hawthorne shouted back and pointed for the door.

Astra nodded and got up from her terminal and ran down the hallway to the stairwell which took her up to the main server room. The one she had seen when she entered had been for the new System being developed, these ones, held the Grid, Sam's special project, and, it seemed, all of ENCOM's.

She rushed there and found the servers, only to hear a few others failing! She quickly pulled a few plugs, flipped a few switches, and re-routed power from Server 10 to Servers 1 and 3, then from Server 11 to Servers 2 and 4. "There." She said, wiping her brow. "That should do it." She smiled and rushed downstairs.

As she did, a thought occurred to her. How was Tron doing? Would he survive this attack? Her heart skipped a beat. His presence was just as much with her as was Trevon. She would be devastated if he were to be… She stopped herself from thinking it.

Hurrying back to her terminal, she soon found the attack was centred on Sector 1! Her eyes widened and shouted. "I'm putting up a firewall around Sector one!" Her specialty, what earned her the title Guardian in University. Her eyes narrowed and she took that extra diverted power and put it right up around Tron Tower! Though she wouldn't have known unless she were in the Grid. That was where the attack was headed. "Firewall up!" She said and a few sounds of relief filtered through the room.

"Good job newbie! But we're not out of this yet!" Mrs. Hawthorne said as she directed more orders to the others.

Astra was focused on keeping that firewall up and closing the breach to the System, but she wasn't alone! More people worked with her this time! They helped her with closing that breach, and around them, the sound of their computers straining against the onslaught rang in their ears.

It was then that Servers 8 and 9 went down and the System began to lag! All that had been in there were a few unfinished games and, unknown to her, unfinished buildings, but it made her heart stop all the same.

Through the haze she heard herself shout. "Servers 8 and 9 are down!"

Riven gave a low growl and Dev swore. Mrs. Hawthorne didn't take it delicately either. "Everyone! I want you ON THAT BREACH! NOW!" She shouted and the team worked harder than before!

This is not good. Astra thought as she worked hard to maintain the firewall that was slowly fading despite her efforts and on the breach, but her attention was more on the breach than anything at this point.

Come on… We just need a little more time. I wonder what could be going on in there… Her mind drifted as she briefly recalled her favourite book: Flynn's - The Digital Frontier: Mapping the Other Universe. She wondered what it must really look like on the other side of the screen, her mind thought up various different scenarios and images as she worked, somehow… She found herself feeling more and more attached to this particular system and the Programs within it… But the firewall's constant deteriorating kept her from thinking too far into that.

Just as she thought her wall would collapse and the system itself slowed to an unbearable crawl, the servers jumped to life and loud cheers could be heard from behind her. Her wall had been stabilized, for the time being, as energy rushed through the system.

"We've successfully breached the city's power grid and re-routed power from four consecutive blocks around us. No main facilities have been compromised." Riven reported to Mrs. Hawthorne. A feeling of anxious victory filled the air. They weren't out of the water yet…

"Good work Riven! Now, I thought I said to focus on that breach! Get to it!" Mrs. Hawthorne barked.

Riven looked pleased at first and then whipped and quickly got to work, Dev snickering at him as he sunk back into his cubicle. "Don't take it too hard Riven. Mrs. Hawthorne's just harsh."

"Don't think I know that?" He grumbled back.

Astra decided to pipe in. "The Grid would be a goner if it wasn't for that extra power."

He seemed to brighten at that because she heard a muffled. "Thanks." A beat after.

The burst of power they received wasn't enough to sustain Astra's wall forever, and it wasn't enough to heal the damage already done by the constant barrage from the invading Programs. Though she fought with all she had to keep it up, within minutes, it came down.

A dismayed expression overcame her features as she stared at her screen for a moment, fingers positioned above her keyboard. "No…." She whispered, hoping beyond all hope that it had given them just enough time to fight off this invasion.

Quickly, she snapped-to and got back to work. If her wall was down, she was going to find another way to help out. Eyes narrowed with determination she stood up. One more person helping with the breach wasn't going to help the situation at this point in time, they already had enough people on that, what they needed were the dead servers back up and running. "Mrs. Hawthorne!" She called as she stood. "Permission to go get those down servers back online?"

The head of the department looked shocked at her, but nodded after a moment of thought. "That will take some of the lag off the System. We'll need you back here pronto when you're done!" She shouted.

Astra was running out the door again as the sound of furious typing, rushing about, talking and shouting fell away from her ears. She was determined to get the System back up and running!

Hastily, she made her way to the worst of the dead servers in the main server room. Smoke poured from the vents on the sides, scorch marks visible around the edges. The RAM is most definitely gone, the power supply likely fried… It will need to be replaced. She prayed there was nothing else wrong. Grabbing up a screwdriver from a cabinet beside her, she pulled the server out from its resting place and opened it up. Smoke filled her vision as she raised a hand to waft it away. This is a mess. She thought with a grimace as she analysed the damage.

The CPU had been fried too… It was clear when she removed it and saw burn marks on the bottom. But it wasn't the source of the smoke. To the left, the power supply was hot to-the-touch and black lined the vent in the back. It would take a bit more time to replace.

Somehow, the invasion on the Grid had taken up so much power, that it was literally draining the servers dry. She was just glad that nothing else had been damaged, and from where she stood, there seemed to be no smoke coming from the other server.

Thank goodness. She thought as she pulled out the parts she needed from another locked cabinet nearby and started replacing the damaged hardware.

She had just finished replacing the RAM when she was startled by a voice beside her. She hadn't expected anyone to notice her working on the servers with all of the attention being so focused within the System itself, so when she lifted her head from her work to see her boss standing beside her, she was more than a little surprised and appreciative. Things must be picking up a little within the System if she's here… She must have the same worries as I do.

"What's the status of the servers?" Mrs. Hawthorne asked in that stern voice of hers.

A frown etched upon Astra's mouth as her gaze returned to the server in front of her and she gestured over the damaged parts. "It's not as bad as it could have been. The RAM, CPU, and power supply are fried, but there is no damage to the motherboard or other hard to replace core components. However, the power supply was the hardest hit… It was almost as though the System was trying to pull more power than it should be capable of sustaining…" Her frown deepened, concerned, as she shook her head. "All of the activity going on within it is really taking a toll upon the servers."

She reached beside her to pick up the processor and power supply off the shelf and held them both up for Mrs. Hawthorn to see. "The other one doesn't look anywhere near as bad and I should be able to have it up and running in no time. I've already replaced the RAM in this one, it's the power supply that will be the hardest to replace… I feel a bit awkward asking this of my boss, but, would you like to help? With the two of us working together, we'll have these servers up in half the time."

Mrs. Hawthorne chose the power supply, and together they started to work on getting the parts installed.

"Thank the Users we got the power back when we did..." Astraica spoke as she worked. "If we hadn't, more would have went down, and that would have spelled disaster for the System." She paused. Users? I'm starting to sound like Trevon! Her eyes widened with surprise as she laughed quietly. Though there was a certain, rightness, to the sound of it, now that she said it. "I've been around Trevon far too much… I'm starting to sound like him!" She shook her head, eyes glittering. "He's always ready to gloat every time Tron beats me to a system issue." A fond smile spread across her lips at the thought before being replaced by a frown.

Mrs. Hawthorne only chuckled at that, distracted by her job fixing the Server.

Speaking of Tron… How is he? Astra wondered worriedly, her hands slowing in their work. I wonder how he's holding up against this onslaught. He can't be erased by now, he's too good… She nodded, firm in her belief. I would miss him dearly if he were to be… She stopped that line of thought right there.

The way he challenges me every time a new big system issue comes up, it's almost as though it's on purpose… Like he's testing me. She laughed inside her mind and a wry smile touched her lips as another thought occurred to her. Or he enjoys it! She resisted shaking her head for the second time, her smile turning genuine, warm, at the memories of being challenged by Alan's Program again and again.

The pleasant memories didn't last long however, as her thoughts took a different direction, and once more, a frown tugged at the corners of her mouth. I never checked to see if he was even fighting alongside us… What is he doing within the system? With this many invading programs and issues, the servers going down… Her hands paused completely in their work as a worried frown pulled at her lips and she realized that she really was worried about Alan's Program. I hope he's alright…

Returning to her work, she spoke without lifting her gaze, her hands slow moving, yet sure, as she installed the processor. "Hey… When you get the chance, could you ask Alan if his Program, Tron, made it through this? I know it sounds weird but, I'd just like to know he's ok…"

Mrs. Hawthorne looked up at that with an incredulous look directed at Astra and opened her mouth to speak, but Astra beat her to it.

Realizing that she was sounding altogether far too sentimental over a Program, she was still unsure anyone here would share her beliefs, despite how they talked about Programs, she raises her chin a notch and her stance changes as she tries her best to cover it up. "To lose such a superior Security Program would be a great loss to the system. I've never seen any other that can match him."

And I wouldn't have anyone to challenge me like he does. Her mind added for her.

Mrs. Hawthorne only shook her head at that, a firm decision in her mind as she went back to work. "I'll ask him when we're out of this hell hole." She stated. "Now, let's focus on this!"

Looking up from her work, Astra nodded to her boss in gratitude, a small smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "Thank you." She was more grateful for the small request being accepted than she'd realized to be possible. Relief spread through her as her mind set at ease and she turned towards the servers again. Her boss was right. They needed to focus on the task in front of them. And it was nice to have something to take her mind off of the subject…

The CPU and power supply now firmly in place, they closed up the server and turned it on.

Smiling with satisfaction and hope, she turns to Mrs. Hawthorne. "This should help the System significantly… I only hope it's enough. There is still one left to go…" She said as her smile faded away and she returned her attention to the server in front of her.

Just as she pulled the second server from its place she heard the alarm go off! Her boss stood up in a flash and headed for the door. Once there she turned and pointed at Astra. "Get that server running and head back IMMEDIATELY!" And she was gone.

Astra wondered what that alarm meant! It couldn't be good, but she got to work and quickly had the Server back online in a matter of minutes. Standing, she rushed for the IT room which was in even more chaos than before! Above the din she thought she heard. "They've taken Tron Tower!" But she had no idea what that meant.

Sitting back at her cubicle, she heard a. "Good, you're back! Focus on your firewall again! WE NEED THAT UP AROUND SECTOR 1!" Mrs. Hawthorne barked.

"Yes Ma'am!" Astra shouted back as her fingers flew across her keyboard. The two servers being back up indeed made the System a lot faster! Her wall was back up in no time and the situation seemed to come to a standstill!

They fought for what seemed like hours against this invasion when, finally, above the din a chorus of "Breach closed!" sounded from the section, including Dev who had been working on the breach!

"Thank God!" Mrs. Hawthorne breathed in relief and then a stern look overcame her features once more and she pointed to them. "Get on quarantining those Programs! Make sure none is hurt or left! I want this System safe!" She barked. They listened.

It wasn't long before the attack died down, with the breach being closed. And soon the Grid was back to being the peaceful place it was before… But it needed a lot of work to fix the damage done… And… The Programs lost would be gone forever. That was how she thought… A reinstall just wouldn't be the same. But for the most part, those Programs really were lost. They were mostly old Programs Kevin Flynn himself had taken from ENCOM way back in the 80's and put on the Grid. Their backup files were likely long gone.

She shook her head, tears threatening to spill forth, as she surveyed what damage she could. It's worse than I thought... Her expression crumpled as her eyes scanned over the data on her screen. There was so much... Her heart panged with fear. I hope Tron made it. He better have or... She shook her head. I don't know what I'll do... Her tone was sorrowful within her mind.

It was then that a sad tone echoed over the room. "Damage report!"

Astra sat straighter and called to her boss. "About an eighth of the System." Her voice trailed as her eyes lingered upon Mrs. Hawthorne. She looked devastated… Though she hid it well. Rising from her chair, she walked over to her, hesitant to place a hand upon her should in comfort, but in the end, the fact that she looked like she needed a kind word won over. With a gentle and quiet voice, she spoke. "It's going to be alright." Nodding once, she released her hand from her boss's shoulder and continued. "We'll have the system restored in no time."

Somehow, it was in her eyes, that haunting look… As though someone dear to her had died, that shook Astra to the core. She understood… She thought about Tron, and what she would do without him around, and suddenly something more burst forth from her lips before she could even think on it. "I'm sure all of the important Programs to you are still there or backed up." Adding a little more quietly, she whispered as she turned away to return to her terminal. "I'm sure."

It wouldn't be until early in the morning the next day before someone found Astra, asleep at her desk. She saw that look in her boss's eyes, and whereas she probably would have done this anyway, that look only increased her incentive to stay. Working until the early hours of the morning, one problem after another popped up on her screen, tempting her to fix the next in line as she slowly ran repairs, when she promptly fell asleep in her chair, head resting upon her arms on her desk, pink coat strewn around her shoulders. Two windows were open upon her screen… One with a list of Programs who were salvaged within the system, her cursor hovering over a single name: TRON-JA-307020, and one containing the massive amount of repairs that she had done overnight. It was so infinitesimally small compared to the damage the system had taken… But at least, it was a start.

On the Grid, Tron Tower had been defaced. A large symbol decorated it along its middle facing every side. The name Infinitas left on Program's lips from the ones they had been fighting. (For an image of the symbol check out Astraica's Deviantart profile!)