Chapter 7: Virtualization!
Chapter 7: Virtualization!
The freight elevator door opened up, revealing the scanner room. Odd, Aelita, and Yumi wasted no time in clambering into their scanner pods. This very act was so practiced, so well performed, that it was routine. Still, each of the warrior children felt a new kind of unease as the doors slid shut. They were locked within their scanners with new knowledge: They could no longer keep their secret by returning to the past. That one tiny detail left a pang in their hearts, and echoed like the sound of the scanners lighting up. A few seconds later, and they were each gone, their bodies transmuted into code and data.
Three bodies began to be constructed, hanging about a meter in the air above ground level. Starting with a wire frame, the rest of their form filled out. Once their structures had been completed, the three kids fell to the earth, landing on their feet. Looking around, they saw they had been virtualized in the forest sector of Lyoko.
"Any idea where the activated tower is, Princess?" Odd asked Aelita. She kneeled down, closing her eyes and feeling the ground with an open palm. Aelita meditated like this for a moment, before straightening up and answering.
"I can feel the pulsations, but they're really soft. They're leading to the mountain sector."
"So we need to find a way tower," Yumi stated. "You know where the nearest one is at?"
Aelita nodded. "I set our virtualization coordinates near one, just in case."
She pointed to the right of the group, where a tower stood tall, about five hundred feet away. It rested by itself on a peninsula, hovering above the digital sea, the edge of Lyoko.
"Then we better get a move on," Odd commented, gesturing nearby. "Because here comes X.A.N.A.'s welcome wagon!"
Sure enough, a squad of hornets were flying in, weaving in and around the trees. Meanwhile, eight small monsters were approaching from the ground. These ones had about six spider-like legs, a single red eye, and a body about the size of a man's head, emblazoned with the eye of X.A.N.A.
"Man, I hate kankrelats!" Odd complained, rolling his head around. "So lame!"
When the young man started paying attention again, he realized that Yumi and Aelita had already begun charging in without him.
"This is no time to be playing around, Odd!" Yumi called out. A kankrelat began charging up its laser from its single red eye, and fired. Yumi responded by flipping into a handstand, dodging over the laser and the monster with a cartwheel. Upon landing behind it, Yumi tossed one of her war fans at the creature, cleaning slicing it in two. As she caught the weapon, she couldn't resist a small grin.
Behind Yumi, another kankrelat had finished charging its laser, and fired upon her back. At the last second, Aelita swooped in like a guardian angel. Her hands glowed with the pink energy field she had learned to weaponize, blocking the laser. With a small grunt, she fired the ball of energy from her hand, blasting the monster to oblivion.
"You should follow your own advice, Yumi," the pink angel half-chuckled. A single laser heralded the arrival of the hornets, blasting forth right for Aelita. Another figure came from nowhere, standing between the girl and her attacker. Odd crossed his arms, forming a purple shield of energy. Upon contact, the laser fizzled out harmlessly.
"Laser arrow!" the boy cried out enthusiastically. He pointed his fist at the hornet, firing a single projectile, striking its mark right in the center of the eye of X.A.N.A.
"Bullseye!" Odd cheered, pumping his fist. "Looks like we've all got each other's backs, huh?"
"That's the only way we're going to win," Yumi commented as she unfurled both her fans, standing back to back with Odd.
"We're Lyoko Warriors," Aelita proclaimed with confidence, backing into formation with her friends. "Now let's save the world!"
Three battle cries became one as the children charged out in three different directions, each one brandishing a different tool of war, but all with the same weapon of conviction.
The Doctor crawled through the ventilation shaft as quickly as he could, the echoes of multiple bodies panging on metal drowning out the monstrous growls of the possessed school principal. The Time Lord finally came to a dead end, a grate blocking the path to the freedom of the factory's ground floor. Pulling out his sonic screwdriver, he hastily went to work removing the tiny bits of threaded metal holding the grate in place.
A couple seconds later and four tiny screws plopped onto the floor on the Doctor's opposite side, followed immediately by the clanging of the grate itself. The Doctor struggled to throw himself from the vent, falling out head first. Just as he was about to pull his legs free, a dark, shifting hand clenched his right ankle and squeezed with inhuman strength.
"AAAAAAAGH!" the Doctor howled in pain, his body convulsing as electricity coursed through his body, emanating from principal Delmas.
He needed not withstand the assault for very long. A moment later and the principal released the Doctor, reflexively grunting in pain himself. Ulrich had caught up from behind and struck principal Delmas between the legs. As the Doctor recovered, Ulrich received a foot to the face, sliding back down the shaft to the sound of a sickening crunch.
The Doctor straightened himself up, taking a moment to adjust his bow tie. In the time span of a thousandth of a second his eyes scanned the room, observing every element, every detail, and every iota of visible matter. Old conveyor belts scattered with odds and ends stretched across the floor, wall to wall, while machine hands connected to various portions of the walls and ceiling, hovering just above the belts. On the far side of the room stood a single shutter door, for loading and unloading. Within another fraction of a second, the Doctor devised a plan, or at least something that could vaguely resemble a plan.
A second later, and principal Delmas jumped from the air vent, tearing the metal edges apart as he went. The possessed principal looked up at his prey, but the Doctor was already hard at work on a piece of machinery, ripping open a casing, rewiring the device, and applying a bit of sonic to it. Delmas began to charge, but stumbled, knocked off balance.
"Hiyah!" Ulrich shouted as he slammed a pipe over the man's head, blood dribbling down from his deformed nose. "Whatever you're doing, hurry up!"
"Got it!" the Doctor cheerfully exclaimed, pointing his modified device up at the principal. It vaguely resembled a gun, but more blocky.
"GRAAAAGHRRR!" The principal regained his footing and charged at the alien. He placed a single hand on the conveyor belt that separated himself and the Doctor, ready to leap over and accost his target. At the very second, he froze in place. Other than the shifting shadow of his body, principal Jean-Pierre Delmas was completely still. Ulrich let out a sigh of relief.
"What did you do to him?" the young man asked his elder, approaching. He held his nose to stem the bleeding, but gave no indication that the pain bothered him.
"Just a little bit of brilliance," the Doctor replied, showing off his invention. "It's called the Little Doohickey, mark II. Twice the o in its name for twice the power. I made a similar little device back in the science lab the first time I was attacked with your little friend. It's sort of like pushing pause on the electrical signal between the specter and the human host, freezing them in place. Wait, that's a terrible metaphor. Forget it; it's nothing like a pause button. It's more like shutting off the power while leaving the connection. This model's got more juice than the last one, should be able to hold him there indefinitely."
The Doctor handed the gun off to Ulrich almost without even paying attention, before invading the principal's personal space. He looked the man over from top to bottom, mentally noting all the details of the possession he could sense. First the Doctor poked his chest, then his outstretched finger. He rubbed his finger against his thumb, as though checking the consistency of some kind of dust.
"What are you doing?" asked Ulrich incredulously, as the Doctor took to deeply sniffing the principal's hair.
"Analyzing his condition," the Doctor replied offhandedly, as he took to licking his patient's shoulder. "With a full understanding of the condition, I should be able to create some manner of a cure. Something to give people immunity to possession by these electronic specters rather than simply paralyzing them."
Ulrich watched on at this most bizarre spectacle, eyeing the Doctor with great incredulousness. The Doctor had moved on to scanning his captive using his sonic screwdriver. Once he came up to the man's face, the Doctor focused his examination on the principal's eyes.
"Hmm," he mused, as he observed the flickering man's pupils. "Very curious."
"What is?" Ulrich asked, sidling up next to the two grown men. "If you're talking about the mark in his eye, that's the mark of X.A.N.A. It shows up on just about everything it influences."
"No, it's not that," the Doctor replied, squinting his own eyes as he picked up the details. "It's something less physical. Something more… Emotional. The look in his eyes, it's pure, undiluted hatred."
"That makes sense to me," the Doctor's young companion shrugged. "X.A.N.A. seems to hate humanity. It wants to kill everyone, after all."
"No, that's not it. Well, yes, it is, but it's not. Yes, but it goes so much deeper than that. I can tell; it does hate humanity, but consider this: Why do the people X.A.N.A. possess keep coming after me, ignoring you and your friends, its longtime enemies? This thing, this computer program, seems to harbor a special loathing for me specifically. Even sentient computer programs shouldn't have such a strong emotional response to anything, and yet this X.A.N.A… It harbors a hatred so pure… I've only seen that kind of hatred from one other creature in all my centuries of life. In all the millions and billions of years and the thousands of planets I've traveled to…"
The Doctor continued staring into the depths of the principal's, and therefore, X.A.N.A.'s, eyes. In a single instant, the Time Lord's true age seemed to spill over onto his face. His brow creased with the lines of age and stress. His hair looked to drain of life. His healthy skin appeared to sink in, showing his bones more prominently. Most telling were his eyes. The Doctor's eyes had seen many untold horrors. They had beheld the genesis of entire worlds as well as the death of entire galaxies. Now as he stared into the eyes of his past, he seemed older than ever before, and for just one single fleeting moment, the Doctor looked afraid.
"Doctor!" Ulrich shouted, shoving the Doctor.
"Oy, that's rude you know! What's so importa-Oh. That's really very not good."
Ulrich forcibly grabbed the Doctor's head and forced him to focus his gaze on the principal's hands. Slowly, they began to crackle with energy just as before. The power built up, coursing through the principal's entire body. His arms began to tremble, and all at once the enthralled principal broke free of his paralysis.
"RAAAAAAAGH!" he roared, causing many of the smaller machines in the factory to shake. Ulrich pointed the Little Doohickey and pulled the trigger, but to no avail. Whatever principal Delmas had done to break free, it was permanent.
The Doctor rushed over to a nearby control panel and went to work on it. With expert precision, he went about tearing the thing apart, changing wires around and modifying the existing equipment.
Just as Delmas began to leap over the conveyor belt, still positioned with one foot and hand atop it, Ulrich kicked a lever. In an instant, various machines roared to life, electricity coursing through their wires like blood through veins. With a humming sound, the conveyor belts began to travel their endless loop, throwing Delmas off-balance. He tumbled to the floor, rolling over twice before standing back up without a scratch.
"Aha! Got it!" The Doctor pulled out a little joystick, like one would see on an 80's arcade game, and began to fiddle with it. The various machine arms in the room moved in response. One of the stronger, more dexterous machine arms grabbed the wild and snarling principal as he charged toward the Doctor.
"Grah!" his voice echoed as he was stolen away. Using his new toy, the Doctor restrained the principal and lifted him up ten feet into the air.
"I knew devoting those five years to mastering crane games were a worthwhile venture!" he beamed proudly.
The Doctor and Ulrich stood together, staring up at the captured principal. The Doctor continued to smile, but Ulrich, blood still dribbling from his broken nose, could only frown as he kept his pipe at the ready to attack.
The principal stopped struggling, opting instead to stare at the Doctor. The two matched glares, the Doctor's face turning sour. He didn't like the way the creature looked at him, that much was true, but that wasn't what bothered him so much. Lots of monsters and people in the universe didn't like him very much. No, what bothered the Doctor was how the possessed principal seemed to calm down. Like he wasn't yet defeated, still with an ace up his sleeve.
"I doubt I'm going to get much information out of an electronic specter, seeing as how you're just a shadow of the bigger program, but what the heck, nothing ventured, right?" the alien clapped his hands together. "So why do you want to extinguish humanity, eh?"
The principal continued to stare blankly at his captors.
"No good, eh? How about this one then: How did a human design something as marvelous and complex as you?"
"And why do you hate me so much?"
The Doctor's questions went unanswered.
"Well, I tried," the Doctor sighed, shrugging as he turned to face Ulrich. "Not that I really expected much more than this."
The word caught the attention of them both. Ulrich and the Doctor looked up at the source of that sound. It was principal Delmas.
"Yes, I'm the Doctor. What of it?"
"Time Lord…" The Doctor felt a wave of hatred wash over him as he bathed in the gaze of Delmas, though the man's expression never changed. Energy once again surged through the principal's hands. With only a small bit of effort, he contorted in just such a manner as to barely be able to lay a single hand on the machine that kept him restrained. The energy flowed through it and a moment later, it released him.
Ulrich and the Doctor's eyes widened as Delmas landed perfectly on his feet. In a hurry the Doctor went back to playing with his joy stick, only this time something was wrong. The machinery didn't move to his command.
Principal Delmas lifted a single finger, pointing it at the Doctor. Crackling electricity poured throughout the wires and machinery in the room, and the robotics obeyed his silent commands: They arched toward the Time Lord.
"Energy field!" Aelita skillfully dodged a laser fired by one of the hornets as she flew through the air. With the flick of her wrist, a bubble of pink energy engulfed the monster, obliterating it.
"Hiiiyah!" Yumi blocked the laser from one of the kankrelats with a single fan while simultaneously hurling her second weapon at her attacker, neatly bisecting it horizontally.
"Laser arrow!" Odd leapt up to a tree, pouncing off the side acrobatically as he took aim at the last monster, a single hornet. The hornet ducked down, causing the attack to narrowly miss, before flying off.
"Great job, Odd!" Yumi chided playfully. "Looks like you've got the worst performance this trip!"
"Hey, at least I scared it away!" Odd sulked.
"I don't think that's why it's flying away, Odd." Aelita pointed out. The hornet was flying toward the thin strip of land that isolated the way tower from the rest of the forest mainland. Aelita flew off after it, her hands glowing with energy.
She threw one orb of power, but the monster silently evaded, causing Aelita's attack to harmlessly strike a tree. The creature flew over the peninsula, exuding a caustic green substance. Aelita tossed a second orb, striking the monster dead on, but by then the damage had been done.
"Aw maaaan! How are we going to cross this?" Odd complained. "That stupid hornet slathered the only way to the tower in acid! I mean, Aelita is fine, but what about us-uuuuuuuh! Aaaah! Yumi! What are you-Hahaha! This is awesoooooome!"
Yumi stood in a meditative stance, her mind completely focused on Odd as he was lifted through the air against his will. Using her telekinesis, she concentrated on moving her friend over the danger, now that there were no monsters in the area.
"WOOO!" Odd cheered as he approached the tower. Then Yumi unceremoniously dropped him, and he fell flat on his face, much to the amusement of Aelita.
"Oooow! What was that for?"
"Now I just need to find a way across myself," Yumi contemplated.
"Don't worry, I'll carry you across," Aelita offered. She took to the air.
Yumi let out a cry of pain as she was struck in the back. In an instant her body broke apart into frames and pixels, vanishing into the air. A single kankrelat stood right behind her, a single holdout from their skirmish. It had emerged from behind a single large tree, taking the best cheap shot it could find.
"Yumi!" Aelita cried out.
"She'll be fine," Odd reassured. He gestured for his friend to enter the tower. "She can help guard Jeremie. We've got to focus on getting to the activated tower in the mountain sector!"
Aelita watched as Odd entered the tower. With a single sigh, she shot a death glare at the monster that defeated Yumi. It would have felt so nice to blast it, but it wouldn't be worth it. Lives were on the line, she had to move quickly. Another second passed and the princess of Lyoko disappeared into the tower with her friend.
Back on earth, in the scanner room, a single pod opened, exuding mist. Yumi's crumpled form lay at the bottom in a heap. The young woman clenched a single fist in frustration.
She pulled herself up, using the doorway of the scanner to support herself. Slowly but surely, she regained her strength bit by bit. Stumbling a bit at first, she made her way to the freight elevator. By the time she entered, Yumi could stand without any support. With a sigh, she punched the control button. With a groaning and creaking, the door slid shut.
When the door opened again, she had found herself in the computer room. The ride gave her the time she needed to reorient herself, so she was able to confidently stride into the room without problem.
"What happened?" Amy asked. "I thought you were fighting on that… Virtual thingy."
"Yeah, well, a monster got a cheap shot on me. Is Jeremie alright?" Yumi examined her friend, still catatonic in his chair.
"He's fine," Rory assured. "I've been giving him regular examinations. His condition hasn't changed, and we've got no way of knowing how much processing his mind has left, but strictly medically speaking, he's fine."
Yumi let out a sigh of relief. "Good. I take it you're a doctor, then? That must get confusing, hanging around the Doctor."
"Nurse, actually," Rory corrected. "But I've got years of experience and medical training. More than the Doctor himself, actually."
"I take it he's not that well versed in medicine then?" she asked. Rory gave a nervous laugh and scratched the back of his head.
"Yeah. That and… I was talking in general, too." He looked quite uncomfortable. Amy smiled coyly. Yumi furrowed her brow, thinking it all very strange, but she didn't get the chance to ask.
"AH!" Jeremie catapulted upward. Suddenly he was conscious and sweating profusely. His heavy, gasping breathing threatened to throw him into hyperventilation.
"Jeremie!" Yumi held his shoulders to comfort her friend. "It's alright Jeremie, breathe easy. Breathe easy!"
"Give him some space, give him some space!" Rory ordered. Suddenly he was in his element. A few moments later and he had Jeremie calm.
"Where is everyone?" the young boy asked, holding his chest. He was still breathing hard.
"Your evil computer attacked," Amy answered. "The Doctor and Ulrich ran off to deal with your possessed principal, while everyone else got virtualized to fight."
"Oh no! Aelita and the others need my help!" Jeremie shook his head and in an instant he made a full recovery. He took a moment to read the details on the supercomputer's monitor, tapped a few keys to change the information he was viewing, and then analyzed that as well.
"Looks like they're in the mountain sector," Jeremie commented aloud, adjusting his headset. "Aelita! Aelita, are you there?"
Oh Jeremie, you're awake! Thank Heavens! It's just Odd and me right now, Yumi has already been devirtualized.
"I know, she's with me right now. How are things?"
Not good. Since you were out, I didn't have the time to locate the tower before we virtualized, and I couldn't upload our vehicles either. We're still a long way from the activated tower, and X.A.N.A.'s throwing an insane amount of monsters at us, just like last time! I think he's been saving all his strength for these large scale attacks, Jeremie!
"Not to worry, Aelita. I'm sending reinforcements."
"Reinforcements?" Yumi asked, her pitch increasing. As she spoke, her fear caused her to talk very quickly. "But I've already been devirtualized, and Ulrich is nowhere near us! Who are you planning to send?!"
Jeremie turned his chair to the right. Amy and Rory stood together and met his gaze at once. The young boy smiled. Amy returned the look with an ecstatic grin. Rory didn't seem bothered one way or the other.
"What do you say? Ready for a trip into Lyoko?"
"I get to fight monsters with cool weapons and superpowers? You bet I'm ready!" Amy practically hopped toward the elevator, Rory in tow.
"It's not the craziest thing I've ever done," he commented as his wife nearly dragged him along. "Besides, I can't let anybody else get hurt, can I?"
Yumi followed the duo into the elevator, showing them the way. She pressed the right button, and moments later the group finished their descent. Once in the scanner room, Amy and Rory stepped out.
"Just hop into one of those scanners. One person per pod. Once Jeremie runs the program, you'll be virtualized onto Lyoko. Good luck!" With those instructions given, the young Japanese girl began navigating back to the computer room with Jeremie.
"See you on Lyoko, then," Rory smiled. Amy kissed him.
"See you on Lyoko, idiot."
The two each stepped into a scanner. Meanwhile, Jeremie heard the elevator door opening back behind him, heralding Yumi's return.
"We're all set to go, Jeremie!" she called out cheerfully.
"Here we go then! Transfer: Amy. Transfer: Rory." Jeremie's fingers went tapping away across the keyboard, setting the keys ablaze like a raging fire. As he did, two blank i.d. cards populated on the monitor. Down in the scanner room the doors to the two occupied tubes slid shut, locking their users within.
"Scanner: Amy. Scanner: Rory." A light began to sweep up and down, taking note of the two's bodies. As it did so, a wireframe model of each occupant was composed on Jeremie's monitor.
"And here's the finale!" Jeremie let out an excited cheer as his right index finger dramatically collided with the enter key. "Virtualization!"
A bright light flashed within each of the scanners and suddenly Amy Pond and Rory Williams no longer existed on earth as flesh and blood.