Chapter 6: Into the Rabbit Hole
Chapter 6: Into the Rabbit Hole
"Pardon. Did you just say that your father built this here computer?" the Doctor asked, patting the large machine with his left hand. His eyes narrowed on Aelita in both confusion and fascination.
"Yes," she nodded. "I know I don't look it, but I'm technically twenty-two years old. Ten years ago, my father virtualized me on Lyoko and shut down the supercomputer in order to protect us and his work from a group of men in black suits. He made everything here in regards to something called Project Carthage. We still haven't figured out that mystery, but…"
Aelita's head dropped as her tone became somber. Evidently, she was recalling an event that was painful. In unison, her friends gathered around her. Ulrich and Yumi each placed a hand on one of her shoulders, while Jeremie lifted her chin. He gave her a warm smile, while Odd gave a goofy one. This inspired Aelita to continue.
"His name was Franz Hopper. He sacrificed himself to save me from X.A.N.A., but now there are so many questions left we don't have any way to answer. What was Project Carthage? Why did my daddy create X.A.N.A.? Now that you're telling us this is all alien technology, we're further from the truth than we've ever been."
"Well I wouldn't say that!" exclaimed the Doctor, full of cheer.
"And why is that?" Yumi asked.
"Because now you've got me! So now in no particular order, we've got to figure out how Franz Hopper had access to Time Lord technology, disable the Temporal Perception Field, destroy this X.A.N.A. virus once and for all, and finish up your science curriculum. What do you say, will you accept my help?"
The Doctor held out his hand to the Warriors, once he finished pacing around them and raving like a madman. The kids exchanged a few looks between one another.
"What the heck? I'd rather have you with us than against us," Ulrich resigned.
"It'll be nice to have the extra help, that's for sure," Yumi agreed.
"You already know my answer! Let's kick X.A.N.A.'s butt!" Odd shouted, pumping his fist in the air.
"I'll never get a better opportunity to learn about my father," mused Aelita. "It wouldn't be very smart to decline."
Jeremie stared hard at the Doctor and his companions, measuring them up. Amy stared right back at him, playfully. Rory smiled with genuine sincerity. The Doctor's lips hung barely parted. He gave the boy genius a wink before adjusting his bowtie.
"Alright, what've we got to lose? I mean, it's not like we can fight against you at this point." He took the Doctor's hand, giving it the firmest shake he could.
"Aaaaah YEAH!" Odd literally jumped for joy. "X.A.N.A. won't know what hit him!"
Laughter filled the computer room as each of the kids broke down, expressing their happiness with their newfound ally. Amy and Rory chuckled a bit, while the Doctor joined in the festivities himself. He looked like such a goofball, waving his wooden pipe around.
"Actually Doctor, I've been meaning to ask…" Rory jumped in at the first break in the celebration. He pointed at the Doctor's hand. "What's with the pipe?"
"I smoke a pipe now," the Time Lord replied smugly, holding it in front of his lips. "Pipes are cool."
"Nooooo ya don't," Amy chastised. "And no they aren't."
"All the best professors smoke pipes, Pond. Seeing as I am the best…" He straightened himself and fixed his posture, as if to emphasize his importance.
"You don't smoke, Doctor."
"Sure I do. Let me show you." The Doctor placed the pipe up to his lips, but sputtered the second the object brushed against his skin. Gagging and heaving, the man dropped the pipe to the floor.
"That's evil… Pipes are evil!" he wheezed, kicking the thing away. The Doctor wiped his nose and snorted, as if banishing some foul substance from his presence.
"Did we really just agree to an alliance with this guy?" Ulrich groaned. Odd was laughing hysterically on the floor.
"I'm sorry to say we did." Yumi held her forehead, as if staving off a headache.
"I think he's kind of charming, actually," Aelita smiled.
"We're in for the long haul now. No point in looking back." Jeremie adjusted his glasses and swung his chair around to face the computer monitors. "Time to get serious, guys."
"I'm always serious, aren't I? It's always work, toil, doing this and that, running around everywhere, saving everyone-"
"Seriously, there's a lot of running involved with this one," Rory interrupted, gesturing to his best friend.
"Right, point is, I'm always serious. Move aside, let me see what's going on." The Doctor moved in toward the computer, not that anybody was in his way, and read over Jeremie's shoulder. His eyes darted around between monitors like a cat watching a laser pointer, taking in all the code, all the script, every last bit of information and processing it at a speed possible only for a Time Lord.
"Oh, now this is interesting…" The Doctor breathed. "The base code of the Lyoko world. So many zeros and ones, so incredibly complex. There's no other program like it on earth."
"Unfortunately, there are too many others just like it out there," Jeremie informed. He sat up straight and spoke to the Doctor as though he were the teacher giving a lecture. "Once X.A.N.A. escaped to the Net and started taking over other computers, it began expanding its influence even further by making Lyoko replicas. More towers means more power over the earth. We've been trying to take them out, but there's only so much we can do. We have to keep up the façade, not to mention eat and sleep. As a multi-agent computer virus, X.A.N.A. doesn't have to deal with any of that…"
The Doctor nodded. "Clever boy, you are. Not just any human could manage all this, much less keep it under wraps. And you're so young. Ooooh that's what I love about you humans! Always so full of surprises! But we're missing the obvious answer here. You said that X.A.N.A. is a multi-agent program, right? A simple seek and destroy program, if it's sophisticated enough, could easily track down all traces of X.A.N.A. and eliminate it from existence! There, problem solved, you're welcome!"
"Actually," Jeremie responded, actually happy for the first time since the Doctor had found his way into the factory. "I've been working on exactly that! The only problem is that X.A.N.A. is too intelligent. It's been masking itself from my own multi-agent anti-viral program. If only I had a sample of-"
"X.A.N.A.'s baseline coding would allow the program to effectively locate it anywhere, regardless of any masking or proxies it uses to defend itself!" the Doctor exclaimed. "You are exceptionally clever, aren't you Jeremie?"
"Heh… Well… I don't like to brag, buuuut…" Jeremie blushed as he scratched the back of his head.
"Ha!" Odd interrupted, stepping forward. "Einstein's too modest, but I'll shoot straight for him! He's a regular genius-nowait! A suuuuuper genius! Yeah, that's it! By the way, what are we trying to get again?"
"X.A.N.A.'s baseline code," Aelita explained, placing a hand on Odd's shoulder. "X.A.N.A. is a multi-agent program, spread out across the entire Net with consciousness wherever it has influence. That means that all those servers are linked by-"
Aelita stopped, seeing the blank expression on Odd's face as he struggled to understand even a fraction of what she had to say. Pursing her lip for a moment, she thought of a different way to communicate to him.
"Imagine X.A.N.A. is a tree. We need to find its roots, then destroy the tree from there."
"But if this evil computer virus is spread out all over the Net now, then how do you suppose we find its base code?" Amy raised a good question. Good thing Jeremie had an answer to it.
"X.A.N.A. originated from this supercomputer. Logically, its base code should still exist, even if in some fragmented form. Maybe in the deepest depths of Lyoko's core. The only problem is… Where? And related to that is the issue of finding it in time, since we can't use the return to the past anymore."
The situation presented was indeed a dire one. Odd lulled his eyes downward, lost as to what he could say. This was all out of his field. Ulrich kicked the ground, frustrated. When he thought about it, he didn't have any satisfying answers, and that made him angry. Yumi closed her eyes, brooding on the subject. Suddenly, there was illumination in the darkness of her mind.
"What if we don't need to go looking for it at all?" she posited, throwing her hands out. Her friends all looked confused. The Doctor looked eager to hear what she had to say.
"Jeremie, do you still have that code that Aelita brought back from the core of Lyoko? The programming that you haven't been able to decipher yet?"
Jeremie's eyes widened as his heart sank. Realization hit him like a ton of bricks. Of course! With the new revelations, it made perfect sense! Jeremie had been able to decipher all the other coding because it was written in a human computer language, but now that they knew what they did...
The young boy wasted no time. In less than five seconds, the coding was up on display for all to see. It was so strange, just as he remembered. So alien.
"Doctor, you said that this machine and part of its programming are of extraterrestrial origin, correct? What about this here?"
The Doctor leaned in, studying the new code that ran up and down the computer screen. His eyebrows lifted up a bit. Almost subconsciously, he pulled a pair of glasses from his jacket pocket and applied them to his face.
"No doubt about it. That's Time Lord coding right there. Notice how it alternates, fades, reappears, moves around. That's the coding taking all possibilities into account. It's coding that exists simultaneously in the past and the future." The Doctor folded his glasses back into his tweed jacket, looking distant as he did so.
"Then you can read it, right?" Ulrich sounded hopeful as he asked, but something about the way the Doctor looked wasn't very reassuring.
"Fact of the matter is, I can't. Woah. That's not something I'm used to hearing myself say. Still, this level of programming is impressively clever. Nothing short of brilliant, even by Time Lord standards. I wouldn't even know where to begin."
"What? No! Nonononononononono! You're the only one that can read this language; you have to be able to decipher it!" Jeremie's very tone quivered as his hands shook in place.
"But you're amazing with technology, Doctor!" Amy exasperated. This discovery was simply unbelievable! Completely cockamamie!
"Well I'm sorry Pond, but there are others out there that are better than me at some things, and this happens to be one of them! Whoever devised this code is nothing less than the greatest computer genius in all of time and space!"
"I'd like to put that to the test." Odd stepped forward, crossing his arms. His eyes carried a determination that was unreal, and completely ridiculous given their circumstances.
"Uh, Odd, I hate to break it to you, but when it comes to computers, you're a wet match in a dark cave," Ulrich playfully insulted.
"No duh, but I'm not talking about me. I've got complete faith in Einstein." Odd smiled, elbowing Jeremie in the shoulder.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I already failed at this, Odd." Jeremie spoke to his friend like he was a child that needed to be let down easy. Odd was a crazy dreamer that way, sometimes.
"Pfft, that's just because you don't know the language, but I'm sure that with the Doctor's help-"
"I like your attitude, Odd, but that wouldn't work," the Doctor interjected. "Galifreyan, the language of my people, can't be taught to humans. The power in our words is vast and beyond comprehension. There was a time it could reduce empires to rubble and burn stars. It can't simply be taught."
"Our daughter knows Galifreyan," Rory interjected.
"Yes, but River's a special case," the Doctor explained, his hands moving about as they always did when he began talking. "The language was imparted to her psychically, and since she's got bits of Time Lord DNA, she was able to handle it."
"Is there a way you can transfer the language psychically?" Aelita stared down the Doctor. Her eyes were similar to Odd's, only whereas his determination was optimistic and happy, hers was cutting. The Doctor hesitated, though only for a second.
"Then I say, as long as Jeremie is fine with it, we do it." Yumi joined her two friends in staring down the Doctor. Ulrich silently stepped forward as well. They were all unified, pressing down on the Doctor. It took guts to coerce one of the most powerful beings in the universe.
The man looked down at Jeremie, staring him in the eyes. "If I do this, there's a very real chance your mind will burn up. Human brains weren't made to hold the information of a Time Lord. Are you sure you want to try this?"
Jeremie stared back, blankly. His hands trembled, and he gulped. A nervous bead of sweat came rolling down his nose. Fear had overtaken him, but all he had to do was look back to his comrades, and his resolve was reinforced.
"I'm certain. It was my own stupid mistake that awoke X.A.N.A. in the first place. This is our best shot at taking it down for good." With a deep breath, the boy's trembling ceased. He had accepted whatever may happen.
The Doctor observed the child for a few seconds, unmoving. Scrutinizing the boy's determination, checking for all the physical signs. A moment later, the Doctor reeled back, his childish energy returning to him in an instant.
"RIGHT then!" he shouted, his words reverberating throughout the computer chamber. He clapped his hands together, then brushing them at high speed. "And to think, I swore I'd never do this again. Ooooh, I'm so terribly not looking forward to this. Geronimo!"
In a single brutish motion, the Doctor slammed his forehead into Jeremie's. In that instant, their mind's melded together, and information came pouring from one brain, ancient, raw, and powerful, into another-young, but skilled and strong. Images flashed before the young boy's eyes at a speed greater than time itself: great moving celestial bodies, the vast cosmos, space and time.
The Doctor reeled back, clasping both hands against his forehead. "Ooooow ow ow ow ow! I hate that!"
Amy sighed. Rory simply shook his head. The rest of the Lyoko Warriors gathered around Jeremie, speaking words of comfort and asking if he was alright. They received no answer.
Jeremie sat in his computer chair, limp. His expression was blank, his body unmoving, but his eyes were alight with the fire of a thousand burning stars.
"What happened to him?!" Yumi cried out.
"Is he going to be ok?" Aelita was barely able to ask as she grabbed onto his shoulders.
Ulrich glared, his fist clenching, before he took a stance. "If you hurt him, I swear I'll hurt you a hundred times worse."
It wasn't a threat. It was a promise.
"I did exactly what I said I would," the Doctor reassured, still rubbing his head. "The entire Galifreyan language is a tremendous amount of information to process, and even the cleverest human mind is limited. His brain is still processing all the information. It might take a while before we know if it really worked out or not."
"And what happens if it doesn't work?" Odd inquired. "I mean, I know we already agreed to the risk, but I really don't want to see Einstein go brain dead."
"Oh, not to worry about that," the Doctor offhandedly mentioned with a smile. "That was a test. I wanted to see how committed you all were."
"Rule one: The Doctor lies." Amy commented to the group. She had her own sly smile.
"Well, I didn't lie that there was a possibility that his brain would burn up, that much is very true. However, there was no way I would ever knowingly made a decision that could pointlessly kill a child. I set it up so that if the stress on Mister Belpois's mind gets too much to handle, the information would just suppress itself. Nothing to worry about. Now all we have to do is wait. You're welcome." The Doctor gave that same smile, so childish, so sure of himself.
Everyone jumped in shock, twisting around to see the source of the sound. The door to the freight elevator had been utterly demolished! Standing there, breathing heavily, body flickering, was a middle-aged man with a gray beard, glasses, and a sweater. His pupils were missing, replaced with an all too familiar insignia.
"X.A.N.A.'s possessed principal Delmas!" Aelita shouted.
Principal Delmas let out a monstrous roar as energy began to gather in his hands. He focused immediately and intensely on the Doctor.
"Right then, time to run!" the Doctor immediately rushed off to a nearby vent, shouting out. "It's coming after me, so I'll displace myself!"
The Doctor slid into his escape hatch, just barely avoiding the bright yellow bolts of energy from the possessed principal. With another unearthly cry, the principal followed after his prey, moving so quickly as to leave behind a trail of after images.
The Lyoko Warriors all sprang into action. Like a well oiled machine, they each went after their jobs without needing to be told what to do, even if Ulrich was barking out orders.
"Aelita, setup a timer for the scanners! I'll go help the Doctor!"
Ulrich jumped into the air vent himself, following closely behind the principal. Odd and Yumi wasted no time in heading for the freight elevator, while Aelita went to work tapping at the main keyboard. A second later, and the scanners were set with a timer to virtualize three people. She turned back to face Jeremie, his body now convulsing ever so slightly.
"It was your stupid mistake that saved my life, too."
She leaned in and gave Jeremie the slightest, tiniest kiss. She felt as though sparks flew. Her heart was suddenly racing, and Jeremie stopped moving, almost as though he were offered some small measure of comfort in his catatonic state.
Then she was gone, heading down to the scanner room with Odd and Yumi.
"We'll stay here and protect Jeremie!" Amy called out, hoping her voice reached everybody. She picked up the nearest object she could find, a long piece of scrap metal, and took guard on the boy's right side. Rory kneeled in front of him, and pulled out the medical kit he had on him at all times, just in case…