The Boy in the Computer - Chapter 62 - SepticAbzies (2024)

Chapter Text

"Jérémie is forced to stay at Kadic alone over the holidays in order to keep an eye on XANA, to everyone's disdain but the AI's."

Episode 62: Distant Memory

(Based on Distant Memory)

"This surgery...didn't work either?" a young eight-year-old Jérémie Périn asked from his hospital bed.

His parents' following silence spoke volumes. As a result, the boy turned over so that his back was facing the two adults behind him, tears stinging his eyes.

"Oh, mon chéri," he heard his mother's attempt at comfort.

But he didn't let her continue, "You promised. You guys said that it would only have to be one surgery. But this is the fourth and there's still some bad stuff that managed to slip by!" He'd been holding this back for the past month. He remained optimistic, because he trusted his parents, but this was the last straw.

It had been one month since his initial diagnosis, and he was still sick. Everyone told him that it'd be a slow recovery—because cancer was serious—but they only promised one surgery. Just one. Not four.

"Jérémie..." Michel placed what he hoped was a comforting hand on his son's shoulders.

"I just want to go home..." the boy sniffed back his tears. He had been in the hospital since that day he passed out on the playground.

Sophie entered his vision—having moved to the other side of the bed—and sat down on the edge next to him. "We're sorry we weren't able to keep that promise, but sometimes the medical staff can't do anything. Dr. Toussaint has done everything he can, but the tumor just doesn't want to die." She began stroking his hairline. "The plan now is to call other, more experienced doctors for help. In the meantime, you'll be put on chemotherapy."

He didn't know what that was, but right now, he was too upset to ask.

"Unfortunately, to do so," Michel continued, "we're going to have to pull you out of school."

"So I'll be...stuck at home...?" Jérémie did not like the sound of that.

"Just until the tumor is gone," Sophie quickly replied.

"And when you get better," Michel vowed, "we'll take you all around the world. Wherever you want to go."

The boy finally turned back to his father, still sniffing back his tears. "You promise?"

"We promise," they both said simultaneously.

And he believed them.

Tears ran down a 16-year-old Jérémie Belpois's face, as he remembered that his parents would likely never be able to keep that promise. He wiped the tears away with his blanket, Mister Pück nestled into his neck for comfort, before glancing up at the ceiling.

Fortunately, his friends were more than willing to step in and fulfill that promise themselves. They just needed to wait for XANA to be defeated first.

But today...that's right. Today was the first day of Christmas break, which meant his friends would be gone for the next two weeks, with their families for the holidays. He was staying here, having nowhere else to go, but he promised to see the others off later. Two weeks at Kadic alone...

Jérémie didn't actually want any of them to leave, but he knew perfectly well that keeping an eye on XANA was more important than his feelings.

Later that morning, Jérémie was walking with his friends towards the front gates. Aelita, Odd, and William all had their suitcases with them. Yumi and Ulrich had their school bags (though not filled with school stuff). He had just told them about his nightmare.

"What?" Yumi asked in surprise. "You're still having nightmares?" She thought that after he regained his memories thanks to his parents, they'd have disappeared after a while.

"Yeah, they keep coming back every now and then," Jérémie softly explained, "and they're all the same. But don't worry; they're not as bad as they once were." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Aelita's unsure expression, so he added, "Really, Aelita, I'm used to them by now."

"It's not your nightmares I'm worried about, Jérémie," she replied.

"Is this about my choice to stay here for Christmas break again?" he asked, catching her drift. "I told you that it's no big deal. I'm just staying to keep an eye on XANA. If I need backup, Yumi's staying in France for the holidays this year, so she won't be far away. There's no need to worry."

The pink-ette was blunt, "I don't care about XANA! I just don't like leaving you here all alone. I'm going to tell my parents that I'm staying here."

"No, you're not!" he argued back, crossing his arms and ignoring the resulting pout on her face. "You guys should spend the holidays with your families, not worrying about me. Trust me, I'll be fine..."

Yumi frowned at him in concern, as the group stopped walking, having reached the front gate now.

"At holiday time," Ulrich commented, "my father is like a bear sitting on a bed of nails. There's just something about seeing his parents that makes him more stressed out than ever, which makes my mother hysterical. I think I'd rather stay here."

"Yeah, me too," Odd had a small pout on his face. "My sisters drive me nuts. Last year, they locked me in the toilet room all night just because they thought it was funny..."

"Really?" Yumi asked, feeling sympathetic. "That's worse than what Hiroki's ever done to me! I thought they were older than you, Odd!"

"They are," he shrugged. "And they're a lot bigger than me, too, with the youngest being your and William's age. So you can see my problem..."

Ulrich turned to William, "What are you doing for the holidays, William?"

"My parents aren't really ones to celebrate Christmas the commercial way," William explained, "so things aren't exactly going to be festive, but rather more religious."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Odd replied, sympathetic.

"It's alright," it was William's turn to shrug. "It could be worse. No relatives are visiting us this year, so it'll just be us. Nice and quiet."

Aelita nodded at something up ahead, "Hey, Ulrich, isn't that your father's car over there?" The others turned to where she was looking.

It was his father's car. It was parked on the side of the road. Barbara was waving at them from the front passenger seat, while Walter was standing next to the open driver's door, glaring at them.

Ulrich sighed, already exhausted and needing a break from his parents, "Well, the show must go on. See you soon, everybody."

Odd gave him a high-five, "Be strong, buddy!"

"Good luck," William said.

Ulrich put his hand on Jérémie's shoulder, as the blonde said, "I'll text you every night. Promise."

The brunette started walking away, as Yumi added, "It's not that long. Just two weeks."

"Try and have some fun!" Aelita called out.

Ulrich crossed the road as another car—a taxi—pulled up by the gates.

"That's our ride," Odd said. "C'mon, 'Lita. We've got planes to catch."

Aelita picked up her suitcase, "Jérémie, are you sure that you–?"

He didn't let her finish. "Go on now, hurry up. I won't be all alone," he forced a smile. "I've got Kiwi for company, after all."

The pink-ette didn't look very convinced, but she relented anyway, "Okay. Goodbye for now." She waved and started walking to the taxi. Odd was on her heels, but he took a few steps before stopping.

He addressed Jérémie, "Oh, speaking of Kiwi, whatever you do, do not feed him any cheese. It gives him gas. And trust me, it's more powerful than Aelita's Energy Fields."

Jérémie laughed as Odd walked away, "Thanks for the tip!"

The Stern car and the taxi both took off, as a rental car pulled up. In the driver's seat was James Dunbar, returning from a business trip himself. William grabbed his own suitcase, "That's my ride. I'll see you guys in about two weeks."

"Bye, William," Yumi said as the elder boy walked over to where his dad was waiting for him.

"So long!" Jérémie replied.

Pretty soon, William had also left, leaving Yumi and Jérémie as the last ones left.

Ulrich was staring out the window, sitting in the back seat as the car was filled with an uncomfortable silence.

Walter looked at his son in the rear view mirror, "I see you're still hanging around with that gang of good-for-nothings."

The boy immediately snapped back, "And I see you forgot your happy pill again."

"Ulrich!" Barbara immediately scolded.

But he had a retort for her as well, "I'll be nice when he is to my friends!"

His friends were off-limits. He didn't care about being berated by his father, as long as his friends remained untouched in his lectures.

In contrast, Aelita and Odd were in the back of the taxi, and the pink-ette had just called her parents to let them know that she was currently on her way to the airport.

Her mother chose to turn it into a conversation, "I really want to meet your friends, angel. They seem very nice."

"Oh, yeah," she replied, happy. "I really like them a lot. They're my good buddies."

Anthea was very approving. "I'd especially like to meet that pen pal of yours, the boy with the blonde hair and glasses. I get the impression that he likes you."

Aelita smiled as she blushed, while in the background, she heard Waldo mutter in the background, "Not on my watch..."

Still by the school's front gates, Yumi turned to leave, "I'd better go too. Our grandparents are coming here this year, and I promised Oka-san I'd help her clean up."

Jérémie waved goodbye, "Okay. I'll see you later." He then turned to leave as well, but he stopped when Yumi spoke again.

"Jérémie, are you sure you don't want to spend the holidays with me?" she asked. "I'm sure my parents will understand. I can just call them and tell them."

He forced a smile, "No, I'd just be in the way. Besides, I could use some time alone..." But he hated being alone. Right?

Yumi nodded in understanding. "Well," she held up her cellphone, "if you need anything, you know my number."

"I know. Have a nice holiday."

Yumi then left too. And now Jérémie was truly alone.

Jérémie walked across the empty courtyard, letting it sink in how he was all by himself now. Everyone else had gone home, save for Jim and three other students. The teacher was currently in the rec room with the other kids, but Jérémie didn't really want company right now, so he headed for the dormitory building instead.

Kiwi was asleep on his bed when he entered his room. He softly smiled as he sat down and gently rubbed the dog's belly, grateful that he at least had Kiwi's company. Kiwi opened his eyes a bit when Jérémie stopped his petting and instead picked up Mister Pück—the doll made for him by Mrs. Ishiyama.

A six-year-old Jérémie Périn was sitting with his mother at the piano as she played. "Wow," he commented. "How are you so good?"

Sophie giggled. "Well, it's like math," she told him. "Let me show you."

He watched her fingers as she expertly played her favorite piece, 'Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman'.

Meanwhile, behind them, Michel was sitting on the couch, contently grading papers.

Jérémie gently massaged Mister Pück's face with his finger, before sighing and letting the doll hang off the bed.

He hadn't played the piano since his diagnosis, but he wasn't sure he was willing to start again. It reminded him too much of his parents.

Aelita was still on the phone with her parents, looking thoughtfully out the window as the taxi drove to the airport. In the background, Waldo was whistling the tune of 'Brindisi' (also known as 'The Drinking Song', from the opera La traviata), while Anthea was rambling about their plans this holiday break.

She hadn't realized her mother had stopped talking until she asked, "You're rather quiet, Aelita. Is anything wrong?"

"Uh, no, i-it's nothing," she replied. "Sorry, I was just thinking of something else. Continue?"

"Mm-hmm," Anthea replied, knowingly. Aelita didn't have to see her face to know that her mother was smiling.

But the woman continued to talk anyway.

Meanwhile, the Stern car was stuck in a traffic jam. The cars around them were beeping loudly and incessantly. Barbara was killing time by reading a fashion magazine, as Ulrich looked out the window.

Meanwhile, Walter was rambling too, "You've disappointed me again, as usual, Ulrich. I thought, after the talk we had in October, that you would try at least to make some kind of effort!"

In the car next to them was a young girl. She was making funny faces at him, and Ulrich smiled.

But Walter remained unaware, "Instead, there's been no improvement at all. Plus, all those unexcused absences."

Ulrich laughed at the girl's funny faces.

But Walter thought that was aimed at him, "And you find that amusing...?", his anger quiet but tense.

Ulrich just sighed as he rolled his eyes. He stopped caring about his parents a long time ago. He honestly was only going home this break because his grandparents' letter mentioned that they were excited to see him.

Jérémie was lounging on his bed, reading 'Viking Legends', with Kiwi curled up at his feet, when his laptop screen lit up and a sound clip started playing. It was a song on the piano, and it was familiar. He looked up from his book, curious.

Wait...was that 'Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman!'? The song his mother used to play on the piano at the Hermitage?

It was...but why was it playing now? He was nowhere near his laptop.

He got up and walked over to his laptop, frowning at the screen as the music continued to play.

A chat window opened, showing Jérémie's virtual avatar as the user and a photo of Michel and Sophie as the person (or people, rather) on the other end. Jérémie pressed a key, closing the media player window, as he looked at the screen with concern.

A message appeared. 'Jérémie?'

His parents...they were trying to contact him!

"Papa? Maman?" He promptly sat down and started typing his response. "'Where are you?'" He sent his message, and immediately received a response.

'Expecting you here in the virtual world. We've prepared a special surprise for you.'

"'A surprise? What kind?'" He sent his new message.

Only for his laptop to suddenly make a fizzling sound. The screen froze, turning blue and glitchy. He pressed a key twice, but it did nothing.

"Are you kidding me?" he asked to no one in particular. "Great. I can't respond with my laptop all bugged up like this..."

As he swiveled around in his chair, he got an idea. Snapping his fingers in realization, he then got up and crossed his room to his door. When he opened the door, Kiwi sat up, ready to leave with him.

"No, Kiwi, stay here," he said, before closing the door behind him.

Yumi walked into the living room, where her father was reading a newspaper at the table. She was on the phone with William, "I offered, but he refused. Said he didn't want to be a bother." They were discussing Jérémie.

"Of course he did," William replied, before sighing. "Well, it's his choice. You'll check in on him, right?"

"Every day. I promise," Yumi said, before hanging up. She then sat down and began dialing in Jérémie's number.

"Yumi?" her mother called out from the kitchen. "Could you please give me a hand in here?"

"As soon as I'm finished calling my friend!" she called back. Knowing how lonely Jérémie felt without the others around, and how he'd never voice it aloud, she would always worry about him.

Akiko stepped into the doorway, not happy, "Your phone call can wait. I need you to help me right now." She banged her broom on the floor for emphasis. "If not, I'll never finish all the housework in time!"

"But Oka-san," Yumi reminded her, "don't you have a whole week to do it?"

"Yes, and as usual," Akiko replied, annoyed, "your father's not going to lift a finger, so a week may not be enough!"

"Huh?" Takeho looked over the top of his newspaper. "What did I do this time?"

Yumi groaned, not having any choice, before standing up and went to join her mother.

Jérémie's idea was the factory. The supercomputer wouldn't bug up, nor could anyone trace the connection (especially XANA).

He emerged from the lift into the lab and immediately ran over to the monitor. The chat window with his parents was already open on the screen. Furthermore, they had sent him a message while he was gone.

'There isn't much time.'

"'Not much time for what?'" he typed his response.

'Here are the coordinates, along with the access code—one use only.'

A map window opened, showing that the coordinates led to...a Replika? One they'd never visited before, that superscan hadn't picked up yet, and the access code was probably to blame for that. It indicated a strict level of secrecy.

'See you in a minute, mon chéri.'

"See you in a minute, mon chéri," Michel said.

Jérémie smiled back, "See you in a minute, Papa," as the scanner doors closed.

Jérémie opened his eyes and exhaled. This was his chance to see his parents again, probably the only one he'd ever get. And he had already chosen to take it. Using the access code they gave him, he set up the delayed virtualization before climbing down to the scanner room via the side ladder.

Once he was inside the scanner, he muttered, "See you in a minute, Papa, Maman," before the doors closed.

Light quickly engulfed him, and he felt his body de-pixelize, before reforming in mid-air. He landed safely on the ground of the new Replika the coordinates had led him to.

It was not a copy of any of the sectors that Lyoko was comprised of, but a brand new world. It was a volcanic continent with dark maroon-ish ground. It had many volcanoes, lava rivers, and pits. The landscape was dotted with many towers, but none of them had halos (when towers on Lyoko had no halo, it meant that they were completely dead). The Digital Sea below was the color of lava, and the sky was pitch black.

Was this really where his parents said to meet up? This place felt too...dark.

On the platform in front of him, however, was a dome consisting of yellow energy. He had seen that before. That was...

"Is that a–...a Simulation Bubble?" he asked himself.

That was probably their surprise. Knowing this, Jérémie ran up to the bubble and cautiously stuck his arm inside, followed by his whole body.

His eyes closed and hands out in front of him, Jérémie walked through an invisible wall and into a forest landscape. Startled, he fell onto his knees. After quickly recovering, he looked up and saw the Hermitage, this time void of any overgrowth from the surrounding nature. It was his childhood home as if he and his parents had never left.

He quickly got to his feet and walked up into the building. The closer he got, the more he could hear his mother's tune playing from inside. It couldn't be...

Jérémie slowly, cautiously entered the house, seeing it exactly how it was in his memories—no mess. And no evidence of his diagnosis either: no medicine, no medical records, nothing. It was an idyllic picture of how his life would be if he never had that tumor.

Sure enough, in the living room were his parents. Sophie was playing the piano, like he figured, while Michel was reading from the marked Carthage book. "Papa? Maman?"

They both immediately stopped what they were doing and craned their heads in his direction.

Tears stung his eyes as Michel got to his feet and joined Sophie at the piano. The woman held out her arms to welcome her son into a hug, "Jérémie."

"Papa! Maman!" He ran straight into her arms. Michel joined the hug from behind.

"We've got so much catching up to do," Michel said. "And there's so little time."

Tears streamed down the boy's cheeks as he felt the warmth of their embrace. He missed them so much, and now he could finally be with them again. However short a time it would be.

"I thought you guys were lost in the network!" he sobbed.

"Lost?" Sophie explained, "No, mon chéri. When XANA destroyed Lyoko, we managed to escape." She and Michel both pulled away, but lingered close. "We have information to give you."

"We should be safe here," Michel added. "We created this world as our safe haven, so to speak. Here, we can hide from XANA while also keeping an eye on you."

"But we can discuss that later," Sophie cut in. "First, we wanted so much to hold you in our arms again."

"How did you–?" Jérémie began, but they cut him off.

"Later," Michel insisted. "We only have enough energy to keep this Simulation Bubble standing until it falls. So let's make the most of it."

"What do you think of your 'surprise'?" Sophie asked the boy.

"It's fantastic!" Jérémie smiled, feeling emotional. His smile was also real, as opposed to his fake one earlier when his friends left. "Everything is the same as before as my diagnosis!"

"We thought you'd like it," Michel said. "This bubble will allow us to do many things together, son, like spending an evening together at last."

"We know it's not Earth," Sophie added, "but it's the best we can do given our circ*mstances."

Jérémie shook his head, still smiling, "It's okay. I don't care. As long as I'm with you."

A couple hours later, Yumi finished helping her mother with the housework. For today, anyway. Tomorrow was a different story. She entered her room, her phone to her ear, as the tone on the other end just kept ringing. "Come on, Jérémie," she muttered. "Pick up, will you?"

No answer.

Yumi lowered her phone, the call now ended, as she looked at the screen with concern. Why wasn't he answering?

With a battle cry, Hiroki suddenly lunged out from behind a cabinet, looking ready to fight his sister using martial arts. She flinched at the jumpscare, but quickly managed to recompose herself.

"Hey, what are you doing in here?!" she asked him. "Get out!"

"Calling Ulrich?" he teased.

"Mind your own business!" she snapped. "Do I ever tease you about Milly Solovieff?"

Button pressed. Hiroki frowned, blushing, "Shut up!", before running out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Finally alone, Yumi dialed Aelita's number, only to find it busy. Remembering that the pink-ette wasn't alone in that taxi, she dialed Odd's number.

"What's up, Yumes?" he asked.

"Odd, I think we have a problem."

Still on the phone with her parents, Aelita was paying careful attention to Odd's call from Yumi. Her mother was still talking to her, but she was being phased out.

"For how long?" Odd asked, before pausing to hear Yumi's answer. "His phone battery just might be dead. Think you can go over and check on him?" Another pause. "Okay. Keep us posted. We'll call the others." He then hung up.

Aelita mouthed to him, 'Jérémie?' He nodded. She then turned back to her parents, "Um, Maman? I'm sorry, but my flight home may be delayed. I forgot my laptop back at my dorm, and I, uh, need to head back real quick to get it."

The taxi driver looked at them in the rear view mirror, and Odd nodded at him. With that, the taxi driver performed a U-turn.

It was Waldo who responded, "Your laptop wouldn't have blonde hair and glasses, and be named 'Jérémie' by any chance, would it?" He sounded as if he already knew the answer.

She blushed, "Um...maybe...?"

"Don't worry, angel," Anthea reassured her. "We understand. Your father and I were in love once, too."

"You were?" Aelita asked, raising an eyebrow in amusem*nt. "With who?"

"Each other, of course!" her mother replied.

And her father added, "Who else? Call us back when you have your 'laptop' with you, okay?"

"I will," the pink-ette said, before hanging up.

Odd turned to the taxi driver, "Sorry about this, sir. We'll tip you extra for the trouble."

The man just waved him off.

The Italian boy then dialed a number on his phone. "Hello, Adele? It's Odd." A pause. "Uh-huh. Oh, sorry, Pauline. Hey, listen. You think you could ask Elizabeth to tell Marie to say to Louise that she should let Papa and Maman know that my return home will also be delayed?" Another pause. "What do you mean, 'tell them myself'? Hello?" Odd frowned before hanging up. "Nothing like sibling loyalty."

Aelita let loose a subdued giggle.

The Stern car was still stuck in heavy traffic. It was not moving, bumper-to-bumper. Ulrich was still looking out the window, wishing he was anywhere else but here.

Walter honked the horn, "Oh, this traffic's horrible! It's still not going anywhere!"

Barbara flicked through her magazine, "Getting all tense won't get us there any faster, dear."

Ulrich's phone rang, and he quickly answered, "That you, Aelita?" He went quiet as he listened to her explain the situation. "You sure?" he whispered. Another pause. "You're right. Something must be up." Another pause. "Okay. I'll let him know and we'll meet you-know-where. Anything is more fun than this."

He then hung up, put his bag over his shoulder, took his seatbelt off, and opened the car door. His parents looked back at him in shock as he got out of the car.

"Ulrich!" Walter demanded. "Where are you going?!"

"To get a little air and stretch my legs," he replied. "Besides, I'll get there faster if I walk. See ya!" He shut the door, leaving his parents in shock.

Ulrich walked between the stopped cars before reaching the sidewalk. Once there, he began running to the factory, his phone to his ear.

"William! Jérémie's not answering his phone! Meet us at the factory!"

"Okay, I'll be right there," William replied. "I just need to tell my father first."

The two were stopped at a gas station. His father was currently inside, paying for gas and drinks for them both. Knowing he had to hurry, William chose to reach into his bag and pull out a pen and notepad. After quickly writing a note, he ran back towards the factory.

'Sorry, Papa, something very important just came up. Meet me back at Kadic. Sincerely, William'

He wasn't too far away. If he hurried, he would get there in no time.

Michel was sitting in the armchair, while Sophie and Jérémie were both sitting on the couch. The boy was in the middle of them both, pensive.

"No," Sophie was saying, "as long as XANA still exists, we can't rematerialize ourselves. But once it's gone, we'll send you a patch for your special materialization program via the supercomputer. What was its name again?"

"Code: EARTH," Jérémie replied. "And we'll be ready for it."

"Yes, of course," Sophie commented.

Michel leaned back against the armchair, "By the way, how's your fight with XANA progressing?"

Why would they be asking for an update?, Jérémie asked himself. Like XANA, his parents could observe the group whenever, and as its creators and the ones responsible for it being on the loose, they were always keeping an eye on XANA. They said so themselves in their encoded message, the one they sent to the group following the original Lyoko's destruction.

But the boy answered anyway, acting casual, "We're currently hunting it down on the network, thanks to our virtual ship, the Skidbladnir."

"The 'Skidbladnir'?" Michel chuckled, as Sophie giggled. "What a strange name..."

Jérémie frowned, "But you both know that name. It's in the Viking Legends book that you used to read to me before I went to sleep..."

They both turned to him with wide eyes. "Yes, of course," Sophie scrambled to save face, "the Skidbladnir! How could we forget?"

The boy was asking himself the same thing.

He frowned at them both, before lowering his gaze down to his hands resting in his lap. How could they forget about the Skidbladnir? How could they forget that they were the ones who suggested a virtual ship in the first place? Why would they ask about all that when they were always watching XANA in case they needed to step in?

How could they forget...what they said to him all those years ago...?

"Is something wrong, mon chéri?" Michel asked him. Yes, something was wrong. Very wrong.

"Why did you two ask me to come here?" Jérémie asked, his happiness gone. The more he thought about it, the more it made sense.

"Because we wanted to see you," Sophie answered. "It's been such a long time."

"It's dangerous," he shot back. "XANA could attack at any time. And if a tower's activated, I can't return to Lyoko quickly from a Replika...especially without the Skid."

"Not as long as we're with you," Michel told him.

Not to mention, they weren't completing each other's' sentences, like they normally did. They shared a virtual form and a mental link, after all.

Jérémie's frown only deepened, before he stood up and walked to the window, "You know, when I said that everything was the same as I remembered it, I meant it."

"We're glad you like it," Sophie replied, she and Michel carefully watching their son's every move. "We wanted you to feel as if you were back at home."

The boy shrugged, "It's true. Everything is here. Nothing's missing. Because you guys are perfectionists. Except...one thing's been bugging me..."

How could they forget...?

"Oh? What's that?" Sophie asked.

He turned back around to face, his glare piercing their very souls. "You shouldn't have recreated the Hermitage."

Michel and Sophie glanced at each other. "But...we don't understand," Sophie replied, confused. "The Hermitage is our home."

"Besides," Michel added, "you said you didn't care as long as you were with us."

"Yes, I did," Jérémie's heart was aching with betrayal. They forgot! "And I still mean it! But when you told me that I'd have to do chemotherapy, you both promised to take me around the world! Remember?! I was upset because it meant that I'd have to be removed from school! That I'd have to stay at home until I recovered!"

He tried to gauge their reactions. Both of them seemed to be surprised that he would say such a thing.

But he continued, "You two know better than anyone that I hate being locked up! If you really were perfectionists, you'd have remembered that promise and recreated, say, a beach or a ski lodge instead of the Hermitage!" He began to back up, "That is...if you two really were my parents..."

It really pained him to think about that, but this being a trap was the only thing that made sense.

The two adults made a move to stand up. "Jérémie," Michel warned.

But he kept backing away, towards the front door. He held out a hand, as though that would ward the two imposters off, "Stay away from me, XANA!!"

Michel and Sophie's images began to slightly flicker, both of them frowning. Still keeping an eye on them, Jérémie opened the front door and turned to run out, only to be greeted with the frightened face of Aelita.

"Oh, Jérémie! At last!" she exclaimed, grabbing his wrist. "We need to leave right now! You're in danger!"

Yes, he was. This was all a XANA trap, but that access code was 'one use only'.

Hence why he was shaking his head, "Nice try, XANA! But you can't trick me anymore! I know that all of this is your doing!!" His fear level was rising more and more with each passing second. He had to get out of here, and he was here by himself.

The eye of XANA flickered in Aelita's eyes—he was right; it was the Clone, not the real Aelita. That was too good to be true.

"Hello, Jérémie," the Clone greeted him, lowering its gaze into a sinister smile. Its grip on his arm tightened ever so slightly.

He immediately began struggling, "Let me go, XANA!"

"It's no use fighting, Jérémie," the Clone warned him. "I've got you now, and I won't let you slip by so easily."

It twisted his wrist, forcing him to bend over and cry out in pain. Then, with a backwards swing of his free elbow, he managed to break free a little. Struggling, he then swung his leg across the floor, sweeping XANA-Aelita's legs out from underneath it and surprising it with his dexterity.

The Clone collapsed while Jérémie seized the chance to flee. Recollecting itself, it signaled the door Jérémie escaped through to the false Michel and Sophie, "What are you waiting for? After him!"

The two imposters frowned, their images flickering.

Yumi knocked on Jérémie's door. Hearing no response, she entered, "Jérémie?"

The room was completely empty, save for Kiwi, who was curled up on the bed, sleeping.

She closed the door behind her and walked over to the laptop, where the screen was still frozen. Seeing the chat window open, she read, "'Expecting you here in the virtual world'? 'We've prepared a special surprise for you'?"

Her eyes widened in realization.

Jérémie looked behind him over his shoulder as he ran through the forest. The two imposters were chasing him, but as they ran, their images flickered and distorted, morphing into black spectral forms and then large, black wolves—much like the ones chasing Pück in that series of particular nightmares (thus indicating that he was Pück here). XANA-Aelita laughed as it ran behind the wolves.

The wolves quickly caught up with him, and one of them jumped up and landed in front of him, forcing him to stop. Now trapped on both sides, he could only let XANA-Aelita catch up with them.

"Impossible to escape! This bubble is your prison!"

Jérémie backed away as the three enemies drew closer to him, right into the invisible wall of the bubble.

"So give up!"

So he had reached the boundary. But he was virtual, right? He could still escape.

"Alright..." he smiled, as the Clone patted the heads of the two snarling wolves. "You win, XANA."

Jérémie got down on his knees, closed his eyes, and placed his hands on the wall of the bubble. The Clone looked at him in confusion as a low hum began to surround them. There was a flash of light, before the invisible wall rippled, grass kicking up into the air.

"NOOO!" XANA-Aelita cried out, as the Simulation Bubble shattered.

When he opened his eyes, he found himself back in the Volcano Replika, though he had never left. He would've been relieved had another realization not hit him in that moment.

He still wasn't safe, and it wasn't because of the fact that the Clone, in its Aelita mask, was still behind him, with two unfamiliar, large turtle-like monsters on either side of it (who must've been acting as the imposters, and then the wolves).

XANA-Aelita shook its head as it readied two Energy Fields in either hand, ready to fight.

The taxi stopped right outside the front gates. Aelita and Odd both got out, their suitcases in hand, and ran onto the grounds. Odd called out behind them, "Thank you, sir! We'll be back in a few minutes!"

When they reached the park, the two cousins stopped in their tracks when they saw Yumi run across the path in front of them. "Yumi!" Aelita called out.

The elder girl stopped, surprised, but quickly recomposed herself, "Oh! Odd, Aelita, it's just you guys! We need to hurry! Jérémie virtualized himself onto Lyoko!"

Aelita and Odd shared a confused glance, as the Italian boy asked, "What? Why would he do that?"

"His parents asked him to," Yumi gravely revealed.

Aelita raised an eyebrow in curiosity.

Once the trio were in the factory, they were able to read the rest of the conversation on the lab monitor, no glitches required.

'There isn't much time.'

'Not much time for what?'

'Here are the coordinates, along with the access code—one use only. See you in a minute, mon chéri.'

"I've got a bad feeling about this..." Aelita muttered, as she immediately began researching where those coordinates led, as well as how legitimate that access code was. Meanwhile, Odd and Yumi began debating who was actually talking to their friend.

"XANA's pulled this one on us before," Odd reminded them of the fake Michel incident.

"But what if it was Michel and Sophie who contacted Jérémie?" Yumi wondered.

"I highly doubt that Michel and Sophie would risk this with their own son," Aelita cut in. Up on screen, a map window opened, with Jérémie's yellow arrow being traced to a place none of them had seen before. "The coordinates lead to a new Replika."

"What about that access code?" Odd asked.

"It's legit," the pink-ette replied. "But 'access code' is not really accurate. It's more of a code that allowed Jérémie to virtualize directly to the Replika without the use of the Skid."

"Is it really 'one use only'?" Yumi asked.

Aelita sighed, "Unfortunately, yes. In order to reach Jérémie, the rest of us will have to use the Skid." She turned to her friends, "Head for the scanners. We're all going in right now. Hopefully, Ulrich and William hurry up..."

With identical determined nods, the two climbed down to the scanner room via the side ladder.

She sent Odd and Yumi first, needing to set some things up concerning the Skid. Given how a person at the monitor was usually needed, she had to quickly program a way to temporarily connect the lab interface with her star bracelet.

She selected their ID cards one by one, "Transfer Yumi, transfer Odd!" Their avatars began loading. "Scanner Yumi, scanner Odd!" Once they were finished loading, she pressed 'Enter'. "Virtualization!"

Right as their green arrows appeared on the holomap showing Sector Five's Arena, the lift doors opened, revealing the last two members of their group. William and Ulrich were both catching their breath, like they had run all the way here.

"Perfect timing, you two," Aelita told them, turning back to the monitor. "Head straight for the scanner room. Jérémie is in big trouble."

"Sure," Ulrich crossed his arms, "but how about a little rundown?"

"Does that matter?" William asked him. "Our friend needs our help!"

"I'll fill you in on the way," Aelita replied, her eyes glued to the screen as she typed away. "Now get going. The Skid will be departing in just a few minutes, and all of us need to be on it."

"Huh?" Ulrich was confused.

But William wasn't, as he quickly pressed the 'down' button to close the door.

Aelita typed in a few more commands, before bringing up the delayed virtualization program, including the timer and hers, William's, and Ulrich's IDs. Once she started the timer, she climbed down the side ladder, where William and Ulrich were waiting for her in two of the scanners. In no time, the doors closed by themselves and all three of them were engulfed in light.

Their bodies reformed in Sector Five's Arena. Odd and Yumi were waiting for them, the passage already opened.

"Good to see you guys again," Yumi commented, as Odd and William shared a quick side hug. "How was your vacation, Ulrich?"

"Short," the samurai replied. "Good to be back though." And he meant it. "Now how about that rundown? Where's Jérémie?"

"Somewhere on a new Replika," the geisha revealed to them.

Ulrich and William shared a surprised glance. "A new Replika?" the knight asked.

"Yep," the cat said, shrugging. "He's always gotta be different, doesn't he?"

"We need to hurry," the angel cut in, approaching the open passage. "We've already wasted enough time. Let's go!" She then ran into the doorway. The others were hot on their heels.

Jérémie was quite literally fighting for his life against XANA-Aelita. Being pushed into the Digital Sea would lead to permanent deletion. Plus, without the Skid as a relay, if he devirtualized here, he wasn't sure if he'd reappear in the scanners back on Earth.

The two strange lava monsters were just standing around, watching the fight and waiting for orders.

He jumped back to avoid two Energy Fields thrown at him, before blocking the next three with a force field. The Clone then lunged at him, aiming a flurry of kicks at him. He, with an immense amount of luck, barely managed to avoid every single one.

It reached out to grab his wrist again, the one with the transwatch, and it succeeded. It was quick, but with a powerful squeeze, it broke his transwatch—destroying his only access to his wings—before throwing him down onto the ground. He landed painfully on his back. It quickly positioned itself over him, with one foot trapping his right arm to the ground. He used his left hand in an attempt to free himself, to no avail.

The Clone leaned down so that their faces were just barely touching. It gently stroked his cheek with a smirk that the real Aelita would never wear, "Destroy all the Simulation Bubbles you want. It doesn't matter. You lose no matter what."

"Not yet," Jérémie muttered, before using his leg (both still free) to kick the Clone from behind, catching it off guard. He then grabbed either side of the Clone's face and used his power of Creation in an attempt to defend himself.

He wasn't sure what would happen—the intent was to hopefully destroy the Clone once and for all—but it caused memories of him with the real Aelita to fill the Fake's mind.

Thus telling XANA what a real friend was.

And it was evidently too much for the AI, as the Clone immediately jumped back, off of him, as if he had just burned it.

Jérémie got to his knees, exhausted from two uses of his Creation power back to back. But he was determined, "It doesn't matter which of my friends you change into, XANA. You can never be them!"

He then turned and ran away. Once his back was turned, the Clone began to glitch out, cycling through all six masks, thus preventing it from pursuing the elf. XANA knew what this meant: the other five Lyokowarriors had been virtualized and were likely on their way here.

The Clone—still glitching out—turned to the two monsters still waiting nearby and ordered, "After him!"

The monsters promptly began to chase after Jérémie, despite him being long gone by now, as the Clone jumped off the edge. With all six virtualized, and unwilling to devirtualize Jérémie just to stabilize the Clone, XANA had to think of something else.

But it would be ready for them.

Aelita had some trouble getting her Digital Code to go through. There was a firewall that she had to bypass first, but once she did, the entry portal unlocked and opened for them.

The Skid emerged from the Digital Sea (with the appearance of lava), only for the group to be greeted with an archipelago of constant erupting volcanoes, with craters, rivers of lava, and seemingly dead towers dotting the region.

"Um, Aelita?" Odd carefully commented. "I don't think the term Replika is accurate here either."

"It's not," the angel explained, as the five surveyed their surroundings. "'Replika' as we know indicates that it's a copy of one of Lyoko's existing sectors. This is a brand new world!"

"Could this world be based off a prototype of Lyoko?" Yumi asked.

"No. According to the Périns' video diary," Aelita explained, "the prototype of Lyoko is a small island called XANADU that only exists in three-dimensional renderings within the supercomputer's database. It's not a place we can visit, nor does it look anything like this."

"In that case," William asked, "any guesses as to what this place is?"

"No idea." Aelita could hear a faint heartbeat against her sensitive ears. "But if we get out of this, you can guarantee that I'll be doing some research."

She positioned the Skid just beyond the boundary of the world, before disembarking all five of them. They teleported down to the ground below, and while the other four glanced around, Aelita created a hexagonal-shaped force field around the Skid to protect it.

Once that was done, she turned back to the front, "Alright, let's hurry and find Jérémie. He has to be here somewhere."

The group took off, only to be stopped when two red wireframes appeared in front of them. The wireframes turned into two strange monsters, large-sized with turtle-like shells (more of the monsters currently chasing Jérémie).

"Uh-oh!" Odd exclaimed. "What are these things?"

"No idea, but be careful!" Aelita warned. "We don't know how many lifepoints their attacks can take away!"

In its front, underneath its eye of XANA, was a laser emitter. One used that emitter to charge up a laser and fire it at the group. The five teens all managed to dodge it, but the shot destroyed a rock behind them. The other monster used the emitter to charge up something else.

It turned out to be a spray of lava, much like the Hornets and their acid.

William barely managed to avoid the attack. "Well, Odd? Any ideas for a name yet?"

"Yep! Volcanoids!" Odd replied, before leaping up to dodge more lasers. "Woah! XANA's sure having a party here!"

Yumi stepped in front of him, both fans drawn, and began blocking lasers. "For sure! But it's screening its guests! It left a couple of bouncers at the door!"

Aelita leapt behind a rock, using it as cover in order to use her enhanced senses to find Jérémie. Meanwhile, Ulrich unsheathed both katanas to block lasers beside the geisha, while Odd returned fire.

William turned into his ball of light form before snaking his way towards the monsters. He managed to get behind them, and climbed up onto the back of one before assuming his human form, his Zweihänder in hand. He promptly stabbed the Volcanoid's eye, and jumped off to avoid the resulting explosion.

"Nice job, Will," Odd commented, taking cover behind his roommate. "So they're just like any other monster."

"Meaning they can be destroyed," Ulrich added, before Super Sprinting up to the second. "Triangulate!"

He and his two clones surrounded the Volcanoid. While it was pondering over which Ulrich to shoot, Yumi leapt up and threw a fan at its eye. The weapon hit its target, destroying it.

With both enemies destroyed, the five regrouped. Aelita turned to their general left. "It took me a while to find Jérémie, but he's in this direction. Apparently, he's hiding."

They couldn't blame him. They didn't like this place. Something was off...

The five ran in the mentioned direction together, quickly running into an area filled with numerous volcanic rocks. They halted in their tracks once more when they spotted two more Volcanoids patrolling the area. Yep, Jérémie was definitely here. Otherwise, XANA wouldn't be searching for him in this area.

Odd shared a knowing glance with his cousin, and whispered, "Let's go." He was worried; he had a vision the moment he was virtualized in Sector Five, and he couldn't get the image, the warning, that something bad would befall Jeremie today, out of his head.

Aelita nodded, and he took off, running towards one of the Volcanoids on all fours. Once he was close enough, he leapt into the air and fired three Arrows. Two hit their target, which was good enough, resulting in a destroyed monster signaled by an explosion.

Meanwhile, the angel activated her wings and formed an Energy Field, before throwing it at the second Volcanoid, destroying it as well. From up here, she also had the vantage point of seeing where Jérémie was. Once she spotted that blonde hair and white suit with blue highlights, she let slip a relieved smile, and flew over to him. She de-summoned her wings upon landing.

"Jérémie!"

But he leapt out and tackled her against a nearby rock, his eyes blazing with fear as he readied an energy bolt in her direction.

The other four had fortunately caught up by now. "Woah, easy, Jer!" Odd exclaimed, both hands up in a surrendering position. "It's just us!"

The elf glanced over at them, and released Aelita upon seeing the light colors of their suits and the whites of their eyes—all of which were devoid of XANA's emblem. He was safe now, no longer forced to defend himself, all alone, in an unfamiliar land. And he seemed to have processed that, but the fear remained.

Yumi took notice. "You okay, Jérémie?"

He started shaking his head, "No. No, I'm not. You guys shouldn't have come here."

"Yes, we should have," William reminded him. "We'd never leave you to defend yourself, whether your parents are here or not."

"But this place..." the elf's fear was multiplying by the second, "was not created by my parents. XANA tricked me. It trapped me here using my parents' faces. It is a safe haven, but not for humans. It's for XANA! This is where it lives now!!"

This place was an antithesis to the peaceful world of Lyoko. This Volcano Replika was meant to be a paradise for XANA.

No wonder things felt off here, the others realized. And the heartbeat she was hearing here, Aelita came to understand, was the AI's. This was its home now, now that Lyoko had been destroyed and then re-created by its enemies. All the security—the access code, the firewall, the superscan not having picked it up—was all for XANA to protect itself.

An strangely familiar voice sounded from behind them, "That's right."

The six teens all carefully turned around to see a humanoid lava elemental being. It was their size, with a glowing red eye of XANA on its forehead, above its red human-like eyes. When it spoke, its mouth opened to reveal an opening with the appearance of a volcano mouth.

The Lyokowarriors were all on edge.

"What are you supposed to be?" Ulrich asked, both hands slowly moving towards the katanas sheathed on his back. "An updated form for the special Clone or something?"

The lava being just smirked. "No. The Clone, I have realized, is flawed. It can only transform into copies of you six, and only if your virtual ID is not loaded in. I had to call it back and activate this vessel prematurely in order to complete my objective."

"So you're XANA," William commented. "But only the Clone is able to talk to us."

"This body is superior to the Clone!" the lava being retorted. "I am a multi-agent system, yes, but I must occupy this body using my central core. Hope is not lost for you all; destroy this vessel while active, and you will permanently delete me. But good luck in succeeding. Now," it produced a large lava sword, "Jérémie, let's see you escape me now."

The boy immediately began to back up, fear completely taking over his body.

"I don't think so!" Aelita stepped in between them. "You'll have to go through me first!"

XANA simply approached her and devirtualized her with one stroke of its sword. It hummed, "Too easy."

Four Volcanoids then appeared, surrounding the other four.

"Take care of them," the AI ordered, and the Volcanoids opened fire. Meanwhile, XANA kept approaching its target, with said target taking a step back with each step the AI took forward.

Ulrich Super Sprinted up to a Volcanoid, dodging fire, and jumped onto its head. He stabbed his katanas into its eye and jumped off before it exploded.

William used his Zweihänder as a shield, which Odd was hiding behind before stepping out and firing a trio of Arrows. All three Arrows hit their target, before a second Volcanoid also exploded.

The knight was suddenly hit in his shoulder by one of the remaining two.

Aelita's voice cut in from the lab, "Careful, William! That's fifty lifepoints you just lost!" So she was able to make it back to Earth. That was good news.

"So their shots are just as powerful as a Megatank's laser," Odd muttered. "That's good to know."

One of the Volcanoids fired a shot of lava at Ulrich's feet. The samurai used his speed to dodge it, only to run right into a second shot of lava from the other monster. He was devirtualized instantly.

"Go help Jérémie!" Aelita urged. "Quickly!"

Yumi used her fans to shield herself from the Volcanoids' shots, "You can't materialize him?"

"No. It's the same deal as the Clone," the pink-ette explained. "As long as XANA is within five meters of him, I can't interfere! So it's up to you guys!"

The cat used his shield to block some lasers, "We'll need some taxis first, Superstar!"

The AI and its prey were just getting farther and farther away from them. So XANA's tactics here were working.

"Coming up!"

The three vehicles appeared near the remaining trio. Odd and Yumi both jumped on to their respective vehicles and took off, but just as William approached the Overbike, he was shot from behind by a Volcanoid, devirtualizing him.

With that, Jérémie no longer had the assistance of William's light powers, Ulrich's speed, or Aelita's wings to help him escape what XANA felt was his fate.

"Shouldn't we take care of the Volcanoids first?" Odd asked Yumi.

"The first priority is getting Jérémie back!" Yumi replied, before accelerating.

"Right! Here we go!" Odd sped up as well.

At this point, XANA had backed Jérémie up to the edge of the platform. The two both heard Yumi and Odd approaching.

The AI growled. "Manta!" The Black Manta flew up from underneath the platform. XANA pointed at the two teens, "Attack!"

The monster flew towards Odd and Yumi.

Yumi warned, "Watch out!"

The two weaved to dodge the Manta's lasers, but it just led the two farther away from their friend.

Said friend reached for his transwatch on instinct, hoping to fly away. But he stopped when he remembered that the Clone had broken it earlier. The elf glanced up at the AI's new face and saw a knowing smirk—XANA clearly remembered this too.

"You wanna leave so badly?" it asked him, readying its sword to deliver an energy slash. "Be my guest."

Odd and Yumi both drove past, still being chased by the Manta. Trembling with fear, he called out to them, "HELP!!"

"Jérémie, no!" Aelita cried out to him, just as afraid as he was.

"He's too far away, Aelita," Yumi told her friend. "You have to bring him in now!" She ducked, narrowly avoiding a laser.

"I told you! I can't! XANA being so close to him is messing up the program's coding!"

XANA then fired said slash at him, pushing Jérémie over the edge. He screamed as he fell towards the Digital Sea, knowing that his wings wouldn't activate to save him this time.

On the AI's face was a jubilant expression, knowing its victory was imminent now.

Jérémie casted a final fearful and sorrowful look at his two friends, who had finally flown up above him, but it was too late.

He hit the surface, leaving only a column of energy rising up from the place where he had just disappeared in his wake.

"NOOO!!" Yumi cried, as she and Odd watched the light erupt.

"Jérémie!!" the cat's heart erupted with agony.

They were too late. Odd's vision had come true...

Ulrich and William were both speechless as they were unable to rip their eyes away from the screen.

"It can't be...!" the knight muttered.

"H-He's gone..." the samurai couldn't believe what he was seeing.

"No, no, no!" Aelita exclaimed, stressing out by the second as she attempted to input commands in hopes of locating the elf and somehow bringing him back. "This can't be happening! Not Jérémie!"

Aelita couldn't see the following due to her pooling tears, but Ulrich and William could.

On the screen, Yumi's green arrow quickly moved to XANA's red square as she gave out a battle cry.

"That does it!" Odd's green arrow joined her. "This is really going to cost you, XANA!"

The Black Manta and remaining two Volcanoids pursued them both, all shooting at the two teens. Yumi jumped off her Overwing, throwing a fan. XANA, however, simply blocked her attack before stepping aside to avoid her vehicle.

But it did not attack her back. It instead remained at the platform, as an intense silence filled both worlds.

"What's it doing now?" Odd asked, probably to Yumi (on the Replika, she just shrugged in response) as a quick silence followed.

The geisha then spoke up, "Aelita, it looks like XANA's waiting for something..."

The grief in Aelita's voice was palpable, "I don't know..." she sniffed, tears falling down her cheeks, "but without Jérémie, it's all over..."

Ulrich just wordlessly placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, tears stinging his own eyes.

On the holomap, the Manta continued to circle the area, while the two Volcanoids joined XANA at the edge of the platform.

The pink-haired girl's heart felt heavy as she tried to wipe her tears away. Odd and Yumi were still virtualized, after all, and the Skid was out of its hangar. She still had a job to do.

Suddenly, there was a beep, and all three heads looked back at the screen. "Wha...?" she adjusted the earpiece. "What is that?"

"What is what?" Odd asked, as he stopped the Overboard.

"I'm getting a signal from the Digital Sea," she revealed, a realization coming to her.

"What is it?" William asked, he and Ulrich leaning closer to the screen, as if that would help them understand it all better.

So that's what XANA's plan was. "I think I get the picture now..."

Two white spheres suddenly emerged from the Digital Sea, one with a green aura and the other purple.

Yumi ran up to the edge of the platform, "Huh? What is...?"

XANA cut her off, "Victory!"

The holomap showed the spheres rising towards the platforms above.

"What are those things?" William asked.

But Ulrich recognized those spheres. Their white icons were familiar to him, "Aelita, are they...?" He couldn't finish, but he didn't have to.

Aelita understood his thought process, "Yep. That's what I thought. I should've guessed..."

Everything made so much more sense now.

The spheres flew up above the level of the platform, right in front of XANA and the two Volcanoids. The monsters charged up their lasers.

"Fire!" the AI ordered.

And the Volcanoids opened fire at the spheres, forcing them backwards with every hit.

"Aelita, XANA's trying to destroy two brightly-lit bubbles!" Yumi reported. "What do we do?!"

"Protect them!" Aelita's voice here held a tone of urgency, sharply contrasting to her grief before. "Those bubbles are Michel and Sophie Périn!"

Jérémie's parents...no wonder XANA wanted them destroyed.

The purple sphere—Sophie—floated down to rest on top of another platform, while the green one—Michel—remained in the air, weaving right to left and back in order to dodge lasers to the best of his ability.

Yumi summoned both fans, "I'll handle XANA."

"Good luck, Yumes!" Odd boxed the air, "I'll go and do a number on those Volcanoids!"

The cat then swooped by the enemies on the Overboard and fired, destroying one.

Meanwhile, Yumi ran towards XANA, but the enemy spotted her without any difficulty.

XANA lunged at her. She threw both fans, but it simply leapt over them, jumping over her and landing behind her. She managed to catch her fans in time to use them both to block its sword.

While the remaining Volcanoid kept shooting at Michel, Sophie made her way across the platform and released an unconscious Jérémie onto the ground before flying away.

Odd noticed, "It looks like they dropped something off..."

Aelita sounded relieved, "They did! It was Jérémie!"

The Volcanoid continued to fire at Michel, while the Black Manta opened fire at Sophie as she attempted to make her way back to her husband.

Jérémie sat up and held his head. He remembered being thrown into the Digital Sea, but his mind was blank after that. He glanced up and spotted the purple sphere being hammered by the Manta's lasers.

"Maman?"

He then looked up and saw the green sphere drawing fire from the Volcanoid.

"Papa, watch out!" the boy cried out, reaching out for his father in concern.

"Laser Arrow!"

Jérémie's attention was drawn back to the purple sphere. Odd flipped over the Manta, shooting its eye as he leapt over it, before landing back on the Overboard, with the monster exploding behind him. Sophie was now safe, at least from the Manta.

The elf smiled at his friend, grateful.

"It's great to see you again, Prince Charming!"

Odd then flew towards the remaining Volcanoid. Sophie was making her way to the edge now, trying to slip past the monster's sight. However, Michel was shot, and he dropped down significantly, his green glow beginning to dim. As did Sophie's, as her sphere began to crawl along the ground.

"Michel and Sophie are losing energy!" Aelita snapped. "Take out that Volcanoid, darn it!"

"We're doing all we can, Superstar!" Odd replied, as he flew past the Volcanoid. It turned its attention to him and opened fire.

Yumi jumped over XANA's sword swing, before lunging to attack, but the AI ducked, devirtualizing her on the way.

It then turned its attention to the sky and smirked, watching Odd fly around the Volcanoid and shooting at it. XANA swung its sword, firing an energy slash at the cat from behind, knocking him off the Overboard and devirtualizing him.

The Volcanoid went back to shooting at Michel, who had joined Sophie on the platform.

He was the only one left, Jérémie realized. He had to do something. Knowing this, he ran up to the Volcanoid and formed an energy bow. But the arrow he fired missed its target. XANA concentrated and, using its own version of Creativity, formed volcanic rock around one of Jérémie's legs, preventing him from moving.

XANA leapt up again and landed on the other platform, the one Jérémie's parents were hovering over as their collective energy continued to drop.

The two parents unsteadily made it to the edge of the platform together, but XANA quickly caught up with them.

Jérémie desperately reached out to his parents, "No! Get away from them!"

Concentrating hard, he combined his power of Creation and his power of energy manipulation to freeze XANA in a block of blue energy—Petrification. Since this was his first time using it, the strain quickly hit him.

Fortunately, his parents didn't protest. Instead, seeing this as their chance, with one final burst of energy, the two spheres regained a little of their light and managed to topple over the edge, before flying down into the Digital Sea, vanishing into it.

Only then did Jérémie let the exhaustion take over. He freed XANA involuntarily, but he was relieved. His parents were safe now.

XANA turned to Jérémie, furious. Still trapped, the boy weakly smiled in victory. Mad with rage, XANA devirtualized him with an energy slash.

It then turned to the Skid. It could still damage the group's only way to travel to its Replikas.

However, the moment it did, Aelita used the remote-control piloting program to have it dive below the Digital Sea as well, bringing it back to its hangar.

Only then did XANA break down, slamming the blade of its sword into the ground, enraged and spiteful.

"NOOOO!!!"

Jérémie was sitting on the floor when his scanner doors opened. Waiting for him were his friends, besides Aelita, who was busy bringing the Skid back to its hangar.

"Saying you gave us a scare is an understatement, Prince Charming," Odd commented, relieved that his friend was okay.

"Sorry," the young genius softly replied.

Yumi held out a hand to him, and he took it. She helped him to his feet, before quickly engulfing him in a hug. "Are you okay?" XANA trapping him with his parents' faces, then dying, then being saved by his real parents, then watching them almost die to XANA—that would take a toll on anybody.

He sunk into the girl's touch, "I am now." Now that he was no longer trapped on that Volcano Replika, he could truly relax. He was back on Earth, safe with his friends.

Odd joined the hug, as Ulrich commented, "Well, we know know someone else who's gonna be really happy to see you." Yeah, a certain pink-ette. "Let's go see her now."

As the five made their way to the elevator, William added, "I just hope she tells us what she figured out earlier, because honestly, I have no idea what's going on."

The six teens were back in Jérémie's room, with their respective bags and suitcases at their sides. Aelita and Jérémie were lounging on the bed, Odd in the desk chair with Kiwi resting in his lap, and Yumi, Ulrich, and William all sitting on the floor.

Only there did Aelita explain it all. "It's actually pretty obvious."

"There she goes again..." Odd gently rolled his eyes.

"What? It is," the pink-ette calmly retorted. "When Lyoko was destroyed, Michel and Sophie weren't spread out over the network. They managed to escape."

"You mean to say that they disappeared on purpose?" Yumi asked.

"Yep," Aelita confirmed. "And they've been hiding in the network ever since they first shut the supercomputer down a decade ago, hence why they knew what the network looked like and suggested a virtual submarine to us. Lyoko's destruction let XANA figure this out, which is why it's constantly trying to throw Jérémie into the Digital Sea all the time. It knows that's the only way that could get its creators to come out of hiding."

Jérémie, their son and one mutual weakness.

"In order to destroy them," Ulrich realized.

"That's right," the pink-ette said.

"But why them?" William asked.

"As long as my parents are alive," Jérémie quietly replied, "they'll always be XANA's biggest threats."

"And our friend XANA knows it," Aelita added.

"What about the Volcano Replika?" Ulrich asked. That was the name they had decided to use, for simplicity's sake, despite 'Replika' not being entirely accurate. "What do we do about it? It's where XANA lives now, after all."

"We'll have to do more research, obviously," the pink-ette replied, "but it's likely just like our Lyoko. That is, run by a supercomputer. We destroy that supercomputer, we likely destroy the Replika. But we have to be careful. XANA's plan today failed, so it knows it made a mistake in leading us to its new home."

"So it'll step up its game in defending it from now on," Yumi finished. Aelita nodded.

"Not to mention, it said that its lava body was a prototype," William reminded them. "Today's fight will probably allow it to be perfected."

"That too," Aelita couldn't deny that.

"Well, that sounds all fun and dandy," Odd sat up straighter in the chair, "but before we blow XANA away for good, why don't we exchange presents now?" He reached down into his suitcase and opened it.

"We said we'd wait 'til after break," Ulrich amusedly reminded him.

Odd produced a large stack of gift-wrapped boxes from his bag. Shrugging, he replied, "Yeah, I know." He retrieved the top one from the stack, "Here, Jer, this one's for you." Being between them, Aelita handed the gift over to Jérémie before taking the second one in the stack, as it was for. "Since XANA made us come back earlier than expected, why wait, right?" He then handed out the rest of the gifts to Ulrich, Yumi, and William.

Jérémie's gift was a rubber duck, "Thanks, Odd, but, um...what am I supposed to do with it?"

"Anything at all!" was the Italian boy's response. "That's what makes it fun, don't you think?"

Aelita checked out her gift, a fork with a spoon on the other end, while William unwrapped his gift, a pizza slice plushie.

"Yumes, would you be willing to take Kiwi in for the holidays?" Odd asked.

"Sure," Yumi replied. "You figured that Jérémie's not a good enough sitter?"

"No, he's fine," Odd shrugged, before whispering, a hand cupping his mouth, "I just know something that he doesn't."

Realization came across Yumi's face, as she and Ulrich just sat together against the closet in peaceful silence.

"You guys aren't opening your presents?" Odd asked the two, as he started unwrapping the gift he got from William.

"No," Ulrich replied. "In Japan, you never open a present in front of the person who gave it to you." He looked at Yumi out of the corner of his eye, and blushed as she smiled and winked at him.

Jérémie was holding a large book of poems as Aelita wore her fluffy, pink scarf and matching mittens—both gifts from each other.

"Thank you, Jérémie!"

"You're welcome," he replied, a bright smile on his face, a real one. "I'm glad you like it. And thank you for this." He held up the book she got him.

"No problem, but that's not all," she said, smiling underneath her scarf. "Look inside the front cover." She quickly added, "Sorry, Yumi, but this is a gift he needs to open now."

Yumi just shrugged with a smile, as Jérémie opened up the book, only to reveal what looked to be a train ticket.

Judging by Odd's knowing grin, this was what he knew that Jérémie didn't.

"'Depart from Paris, France'," Jérémie read. "'Arrive at Zurich, Switzerland'..." He turned his confused gaze to Aelita, "What is this?"

She was still smiling, "Exactly what it looks and sounds like. After I told my parents that I'd have to miss my flight in order to come back for you, they resorted to me coming home by train, and they bought you a ticket too. You're spending the holidays with me."

"But I don't want to bother them..." He looked and sounded unsure.

"Oh, it's no bother at all," the pink-ette told him. "I didn't have to ask them, and they wouldn't have bought you the ticket if they didn't want you there. We'll give you the guest room. It's right above the boiler room, so you'll never get cold at night."

He leaned in closer to her, "What about XANA?", as he hugged the book closer to his chest.

She let him lean his head on her shoulder, "You know, I'm sure that XANA could use a vacation, too."

Yumi and Ulrich smiled at each other, before leaning on each other as well.

"If you say so," Jérémie muttered, before looking out the window. He went quiet.

Aelita gently nudged his side, before softly asking, "What'cha thinkin' about?"

"My parents," he quietly replied, not taking his gaze off the window, as the sun shone through. "When they saved me, even in their virtual form...I could feel their presence...like they were holding me in their arms..."

Knowing they still loved him was enough.

The Boy in the Computer - Chapter 62 - SepticAbzies (2024)
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