Blast into the Past
Chapter 25: Sacrifice
Aelita runs through the mountain sector as fast as her legs will carry her. She can hear the violent shots of a Creeper hitting the ground just behind her - mere inches from where she'd just stepped. Losing the over-wing was a set back for Yumi and herself, but neither complained, since they both knew the importance of what the young genius was up to instead of re-issuing it. Yumi could confidently say she'd rather Jeremie take his time so there be no bugs of error in Natsumi's re-patched file. Aelita would have to agree.
Yumi settles a few feet behind the Lyoko princess so as to protect her better against surprise attacks. They've definitely had their fair share so far; losing their over-wing to a pack of terrible Crab's and - not being able to see them -, but hearing the roaring cry of Manta's up high but still a little further ahead. It was clear XANA did not want the girls arriving to the tower so soon.
The Creeper appears out of nowhere and nails Yumi in the shoulder; knocking the Japanese acrobat off her feet, however, not for long. Aelita stops to check on her friend, but Yumi waves her off with a confident smile. "Go on, Aelita; I'll hold him off!"
The pink-topped girl nods, that a little hesitantly, but continues on anyway. The creeper shoots around Yumi and towards Aelita again - thinking her the easier target of the two, or at least, the one who was more important to get rid of. The whole mission would be shattered if she were de-virtualized at such a critical time.
"Jeremie, have you made any progress yet? It's getting a bit crowded here on our end; I think Yumi and I walked into an ambush."
There's a brief silence on Jeremie's end. He clears his throat; this being the first thing he's actually said since he'd virtualized Odd nearly fifteen minutes ago, now. "Odd should be almost there, Aelita. I've just finished cracking one of the thirty-seven codes that were wrong in Natsumi's profile."
"That sounds like an awfully big number," Yumi points out with a drenched coldness in her voice. She whirls in a circle and vents all of her built up frustration into the force of how hard her metal fan slices into the XANA symbol on the Creepers face. Yumi has enough time to take a step back away from her harmful strike against XANA's minion and she stares at it as it explodes into a thousand little fading pixilated pieces.
"Yeah, for anyone else, a big number is right… Myself, on the other hand, should have the entire program up and running in just about an hour or two. Future-Jeremie's email was very useful." Jeremie boasts proudly while he scrolls through more text in the file.
Yumi turns back towards Aelita and sees that her friend has made quite a distance between them. "Cut it to an hour, Jeremie, and then I'll really be impressed."
The blond boy smiles. "You've got it, Yumi."
Aelita halts suddenly; the ground skidding beneath the souls of her boots. She can hear Yumi catching up behind her, but she's more focused on the three manta's flying towards them from up ahead. They had heard the monsters calls a few minutes ago, and Jeremie confirmed they were there after seeing them on his screen in-between typing up the new codes (however they were so far ahead that he told them to keep going and to not worry about it yet).
"We've been spotted by the Flying Manta's," Aelita points out to Jeremie, who glances back up to the screen to see how many the two ladies have to face. "Is Odd nearly here?"
Jeremie shifts between screens and spots Odd's little purple dot icon dealing with a small mess of his own. "He's taking care of a couple of hornets down the way from you two ladies. You've got three Manta's ahead of you now and two more circling the tower. Do you think you guys can manage for a bit by yourselves?"
Aelita is startled when a colorful metal fan veers in front of her and clashes with one of the Flying Manta's. Striking the target perfectly, the creature explodes, and Aelita's dark green eyes follow the fan as it turns all on its own and retreats back to Yumi's possession.
"Do you doubt us?" Yumi jokes half-heartedly and takes her spot again beside Aelita.
"Not at all," Jeremie sighs; suddenly reassured.
The last thing Jeremie hears before his screen changes is Aelita's, "Energy field!". Ulrich's cell phone avatar blinks across the screen and Jeremie answers the call between two pounding heartbeats. It's been a while since he's spoken to Ulrich and he'd be lying between his teeth if he said he wasn't worried about his slightly older friend.
"Boy, Ulrich, It's great to hear from you and know the entire crew is all alright," The blond genius adjusts his ear-piece so he can hear Ulrich a little better. He could swear there's an almost echo in the background.
"I wouldn't throw any parties just yet, Jeremie," Ulrich sounds hushed, now. There's a strain in his voice that Jeremie can instantly recognize. "Do you want the good news or the bad news first?"
Jeremie hunches his back bitterly. There was already too much weight on his shoulders. "Well, I've been on a roll so far, so go ahead and give me the good news first."
"Natsumi is okay. She's here with me right now."
"That's great news, Ulrich!" Jeremie shouts; excitingly pumping a fist into the air. The silence on Ulrich's end causes him to sigh, "... That means the bad news is really bad, doesn't it?"
"Well, yeah, I would think," Ulrich says. "Fortunately I got Natsumi and myself a good head start away from the zombies before they came after us again. They know that we're here, though. Their circling us."
"Where is 'here', Exactly?"
"The big blue play-tunnel outside of the Kadic Pre-School; in the playground," The young German boy has tucked himself in the center of the tube to keep himself better hidden. Natsumi has her back pressed against his chest and Ulrich's free hand is holding tight against her mouth to keep her crying quiet since the zombies are roaming and waiting directly outside of the tunnel; probably waiting for some sort of noise or small movement. "We're safe until one wrong move signals to them that we're in here."
Jeremie holds his fingertips in the opposite hand and squeezes. A nervous habit he'd picked up thanks to Aelita picking it up from her father when she was young and he was stressed out all too often. "That's all of the bad news, right?"
"Not quite," Ulrich grunts due to a shooting pain in his left arm. It's the one he'd cut and fractured just in the last couple of days, and just a few minutes ago he realized he was starting to lose feeling in it. He softens his grip against Natsumi's mouth and observes the long cut along his forearm. Natsumi looks, too, and even though she was so young, she already knows that it's definitely not a good looking cut. It was white, red, and puffy. "Maybe Odd was on to something when he suggested I clean this cut on my arm... It's infected, Jeremie. I'm starting to lose all feeling in it."
"What does that mean?"
Ulrich sighs and loosens his grip around his young daughter. She doesn't move much, but lays her head back to rest it on his shoulder. He's glad she doesn't really understand what "infection" means yet, or what it could mean in the long run. She's scared enough as it is. "... It means I can't confidently say that I'd be able to last through another round of zombie play-time; at least, not all by myself."
"Ulrich, I-I don't know what to do to help you," Jeremie stares at the screen baffled. Ulrich is clearly asking him for help, (something he never does) and yet there's no one around for Jeremie to send for him. "If I leave now, no one will be able to re-write these codes; and Yumi and Odd are still on Lyoko helping Aelita get to the tower."
Ulrich was afraid Jeremie might say that. He grunts and sits up from leaning against the inside of the rounded tunnel because it was starting to make his back hurt and he has enough problems as it is. He turns to look out of one of the ends of the tunnel and sees that the zombies have begun circling them; like vultures who are prepping to swoop down from the skies and pick the skin from their pray. He feels goose bumps rise up on his skin just thinking about that.
Jeremie taps his index finger on one of the computer keys a few times in silence before he hears the scraping of a high-pumped boot against the Factory's cement flooring. He turns instinctively and sees that Sissi has sat down on the ledge around the core of Lyoko's hologram. She has her head drooped down into her hands and looks to be bored.
"Uhm. I don't know if it would help much, but… I could send you Sissi?"
The girl mentioned overhears and lifts her head from her hands to looks curiously over to Jeremie.
"Yeah, Odd brought her over here to make sure she wouldn't get hurt. I don't think I need to fill you in on how he's been feeling about Sis-" He stops when he realizes that at some point during his not-finished sentence, Sissi had stood up and walked over to stand directly beside him. She's eyeing him delicately and definitely invading his personal space. "-Uhm, well... Anyway, she's here."
Ulrich pauses briefly. "Send her this way."
"What?" Few things have been constant in the life of Jeremie Belpois: One he could always count on was Ulrich's distaste and definite disgust for Sissi Delmas. (Same could have been said about Odd a few days ago, he supposes.) He doesn't quite understand how Ulrich would find comfort in Sissi heading out to help him against XANA-fied zombies?
"Sissi has followed me around enough to have had picked up a few Pencak Silat moves. At least enough to get her here and Natsumi back to the Factory if I don't make it."
"If you don't make it? Come on, Ulrich, this is about our ten-thousandth XANA attack! We've never not made it." The young genius doesn't like the hovering doubt in Ulrich's voice. It's like his older friend has already given up.
"You know I'm going to keep fighting, Jeremie. I'm just… I'm being realistic. I don't have a lot of feeling in my hand and I can hardly move it; I sort of need my hands to fight." Ulrich can't help but think of all the times his own father told him that dreaming and hoping were weaknesses. He would tell Ulrich that always being realistic was a well respected necessity. Despite their… strange father-son relationship, the young German boy hopes that his father made it home alright and wasn't hurt or frightened by the zombie attack. His mother, too.
Jeremie sighs and tries to pretend that Ulrich, his long-time friend, isn't talking about dying.. "Are you really sure? About me sending Sissi?"
"Yeah, I'm sure… And then, uh… apologize to Odd for me about it later, okay?" Ulrich chuckles lightly and looks down to see that Natsumi has her eyes open and is looking up at him. He smiles to her, and actually feels a confident warmth when she smiles back at him.
"I think I'll save that dirty work for you, good buddy," Jeremie grins. "… Be careful, okay, Ulrich?"
The connection closes after that and Jeremie moves his fingers to anxiously fool around with the ear-piece cord. He twirls it around in his fingers and contemplates what damage would be done if Sissi became their lifeline for this important mission. He glances at the computer screen and see's that Odd has finished fighting the flying Hornets and is now on the running slope towards Yumi and Aelita… Well, at least there's that, he thinks to himself.
"Sissi," He turns towards her in his computer chair. She looks to him and he knows she's giving him her full attention. Of course the blond had mentioned Ulrich's name quite a few times during their conversation and she might have also over-heard that he needed her help… She's actually probably more than willing to help, (she always has been), and he would never hold that against her. He says to her, "-Ulrich is hiding out with Natsumi in the big play-tunnel in the Kadic Pre-School park. He needs your help to get them out of there and back to the factory."
"Ulrich really needs my help?" She asks. Her hands cup and rise up to and against her chest.
"Yeah, Sissi. He really does." Jeremie half-sighs.
The dark-haired girl nods; her eyes falling to the floor. "Well, then I'll go and help Ulrich however I can, but… When Odd comes back from... Leon? Lyob...? Well, when he comes back from that other world, tell him that I'll be back for him."
"Uhm. Okay?" Jeremie raises an eyebrow curiously at Sissi's request before turning back to his computer. He spins back around to face her not a second later; "Sissi, this isn't an act, is it? You've really moved on from Ulrich for Odd?"
Sissi's eyes doze off to the cold, cement floors that cover the factory floor. She nibbles at her bottom lip before looking back up to connect with Jeremie's frosty blue eyes. "Sometimes I think I was more in love with the thought of being with Ulrich, who... Who was handsome, thoughtful, and the big soccer star, and less about being with someone who loved me, too." She admits, "It's different with Odd. It's not the thought I've fallen in love with."
Jeremie's eyes widen when Sissi subtly implies that she's now in love with Odd. He can't seem to find words and so he just nods to her; slowly.
She nods her head back. "So… The giant blue tunnel outside of Kadic Pre-school, right?"
"You've got it. I haven't been outside the Factory for a couple of hours, now, so I'm assuming it's only gotten worse out there. You need to be quiet and keep yourself out of view. Cut through the forest, do not take the public sidewalks… Most importantly, Sissi, just be careful," Jeremie turns back towards his computer and hears Sissi's light steps as she heads for the elevator cabin. "… Odd would kill me if anything happened to you."
The teenage girl halts sharply; locks of her dark hair swooshing in front of her and her shoulders straightening from the abruptness of Jeremie's statement. She peaks back over her shoulder at the young genius and even though he's not facing her, she still smiles her thanks; almost happy he wasn't looking, because there may or may not have been tears in her eyes when she blinks.
Yumi falls to her back; a hand securely holding tight against the fresh wound on her right side. She doesn't feel pain on Lyoko, but the severe cut to her ego from being hit by a flying manta is pain itself. She hisses through her teeth and sits herself up. Aelita is straight ahead from her, maybe ten or twenty feet, dodging attacks and trying to have a moment of free time to summon up an Energy Field ball.
Yumi is cut off when she's hit again - with a surprise attack from a sneaky creeper unexpectedly slithering up from behind a boulder and shooting her in the back. She grunts and is pushed forward from the pressure of the hit, but has enough time and strength to tumble away from the next one the creeper shoots her way.
"Yumi, you only have ten life-points left!" Jeremie's voice is heard suddenly. She gets that he's worried, but she's painfully aware of the terrible job she's doing and doesn't need him to confirm it. " - Aelita is being chased away from the tower, you have to get back to her!"
The Japanese teenager stands; beautiful metal fan tightly grasped in her hand. Her eyes slim as she glares at the creeper who'd just stolen twenty of her life points. "I'm on it, Jeremie, but first I have to get a word in with my new friend here."
"Don't get too formally acquainted, Yumi; there's two more creepers waiting behind the same boulder he was hiding behind," Jeremie studies the icons on the screen. He shakes his head bitterly, "If there's anything XANA knows, it's how to form a good ambush."
With a hard thrust, Yumi swings her metal fan towards the creeper who had previously attacked her. It gets close - so close that the Lyoko warrior assumes it's a sure thing - but another creeper shoots it away; her only weapon falling backwards and out of Yumi's sight.
Now all three of the creepers are lined up in front of her; each one roars and prepares for an attack. Yumi is mid-turn and about to run away from the monsters, when: "Laser arrow!"
Odd jumps from the top of the tall boulder the monsters had been hiding behind and shoots off two laser arrows from his paws; nailing two of the creepers and leaving just one behind. He lands only a foot in front of the middle one - the last one standing - and doesn't flinch when the other two explode into dozens of pixilated pieces.
"I heard someone over here needs some saving?" Odd jokes; looking over his shoulder at Yumi, who is both surprised and relieved that her friend had arrived just in time.
"Do you plan your entrances ahead of time, Odd? Or do they really just happen?" She laughs and takes a step back to pick up her flowered metal fan that had landed there previously.
"A good guy always needs a good entrance," The cat resembling boy says just before pouncing and doing a mid-air back flip over the creeper. He shoots off another laser arrow and nails his target, the last of the three predators blowing up and dissolving before their eyes.
Yumi steps over to Odd and offers him a hand to help him up. "Where's Aelita?"
"Jeremie said that XANA was backtracking her away from the tower," Yumi answers him; a little sourly. If only she hadn't gotten tied up with the creepers, they could have almost been there by now. Although she knows that was probably XANA's intention, it doesn't make her feel any less guilty. People were counting on her, after all. "She couldn't have gotten too far."
"She hasn't. Aelita is hiding in a cavern a little less than a mile north of you guys," Jeremie says. "I suggest you get going. I just heard from Ulrich and he's going to need all of the help he can get. The sooner the better."
Yumi's back stiffens. Odd notices. "What happened? The last time I heard from him he was going to try and push William to try and break XANA's hold over him."
"Ulrich's plan worked, Yumi. He has Natsumi there with him," Jeremie says with a small smile. It feels good to know where Natsumi is again. Once he finishes de-bugging the codes, he's going to need the little girl with him at the factory.
Jeremie types in a few codes and issues the overboard.
Odd watches it materialize with furrowed eyebrows. The last time he saw his best friend he was beaten and bruised and now Jeremie's telling them to hurry because Ulrich needs some serious help? Something wasn't settling well for him. Especially now that Odd knows that if he lives through this entire mission, someone else might not. That could mean Ulrich. "What's so wrong that Ulrich needs our help?"
Jeremie takes a deep breath; stretching out his lungs until they hurt. He didn't want to mention the seriousness of Ulrich's need for assistance until he really had to, so as to not distract his friends from what needed to be done. If they hurried Aelita to the activated tower, then Ulrich would be fine. Ulrich will be fine.
"Jeremie." Odd isn't going to let it go. The demanding tone in Odd's voice is one that Yumi does not recognize and it worries her - what does he know about Ulrich's condition that she doesn't? How worried should she really be?
The younger boy slouches in his chair a bit. "Ulrich and Natsumi are surrounded and trapped at the park. Also, Ulrich is worried he's losing all the feeling in his arm and can't fight the zombies anymore."
Odd lets his head fall between his shoulders; wishing he hasn't been right about Jeremie not telling them something about what was going on with their friend who was all alone and hurt. He can't help but feel guilty for leaving Ulrich, but if he hadn't, Sissi and her father would have been zombie-chow by now. Ulrich had more of a fighting advantage than Sissi would have.
"Jeremie, de-virtualize me! I have to go back and help him!" It would be a worthy sacrifice for Odd to save his best friend and his daughter.
"Don't be so reckless, Odd. The best way to help Ulrich now is to get Aelita to the tower so she can deactivate it," And before Jeremie can stop himself: "Besides, I just sent Sissi to go help him-"
The tall-haired blond breath halters and his eyes widen considerably. "Y-you did what?"
Jeremie curses himself under his breath for being so dumb. "Look, Odd, Ulrich needed help and she was the only one I could send. She's enough to get Natsumi here so we can finish this mission once and for all."
"She doesn't know how to fight, Jeremie! She's going to be ripped apart out there! How could you be so-!?"
"Odd, shoot me."
Odd whips his head around to stare at Yumi curiously. "Do what?"
"Shoot me. I only have ten life points left; it would be stupid for you to be de-virtualized and me to stay here with so few life points," Yumi reasons with a steady, calm breath. She shoots her friend a fake smile. "I can save them."
"That's not your sacrifice to make," He shakes his head and steps away from the girl. "It should be me, I-I already... It should be me."
Yumi steps up to him and cups his large trembling purple paw into both of her hands; bringing it up so his knuckles are pressed up against her forehead. She holds it there. "Shoot me, Odd. It'll be okay."
A/n .. Oh no, I'm starting to slip into old habits and not update this story! Don't worry, I've already started the next chapter.. It's going to be a good one! We're almost there, guys! WE'VE ALMOST REACHED THE END!
So much has happened since I last updated. In order of the most important; I'm engaged, I'm living with my new fiancee, and.. I got a new computer! What stinks, though, is I had chapter 2 and 3 re-vamped and so I lost those and have to start over. :s So I'm definitely just thinking I'll finish this and slowly work on making the previous chapters better.. I CAN'T believe Evolution is over! They give me CL, they take it away.. They give me CL, AND THEN THEY TAKE IT AWAY. Blegh and still no Ulrich/Yumi kiss? What is wrong with the world?!
I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone who still reviews this! I'm so shocked by how many reviews I still get for this daily despite how long it takes me to update and how long it's actually been going! You people are fantastic. Code: Lyoko has always been one of the best fandoms I've had the honor of being a part of. :]