Well, here's another fic from the depths of my head. Don't know what spawned this, since I wrote it and finished it a while ago, but it's been sitting in my computer for ages. Finally decided to post it, though!

For EXE, this fic takes place in the game 'verse with one glaring exception. Internet City is present in this fic because it snuck in and I rather liked having a setting I could visualize properly. Otherwise, there's no mention of crossfusion or any other anime-only items (unless another one snuck in that I don't know about). It's set after the end of Battle Network 6; pretend the Hikaris moved back to Akihara after the end of the game.

I'm not entirely sure about the usage of Japanese honorifics; I heard them in my head as I was writing but how they came out is a bit awkward-sounding. The rule I settled on was that the EXE characters used them pretty much all the time but Lyoko characters would only use them when actually talking to EXE characters.

For Lyoko, this fic starts during Season 2 and goes way AU from there.

Also, I realize I bounce back and forth between using hit points and life points. This was intentional; the Lyoko characters will use life points because that's what they've always used. Likewise, EXE characters will use hit points because that's what they use. If I screw up and have the characters using the wrong term, feel free to let me know!

Can't think of any other notes for right now, so on with the fic!

Code Lyoko and Rockman exe belong to their respective owners. I do not seek any monetary compensation from this work; I'm just doing this for fun and for the reviews.

At the time, it had been a standard day.

Lasers scattered on the dusty tan ground, red beams that impacted without a mark on the false virtual landscapes. The air was filled with grunts, cries, and catcalls, three figures darting amongst nonhuman creatures while a fourth figure huddled behind some rocks. The monsters were the source of the lasers, aiming at the two boys and single girl that evaded most of their attacks with ease. The few shots that got through their defense were brushed off as if they didn't hurt. The fourth figure, another girl, was rarely the target of the attacks, though she just as rarely made herself a target.

The boy in purple, purple-streaked blonde hair sticking straight up on his head and tail flicking agitatedly behind him, dodged another laser with a laugh. "It seems like these guys all go to the same shooting range!" As if to mock them he whirled around, an arrow streaking from the back of his cat paw and hitting one of the monsters with deadly accuracy. It exploded into pieces and vanished.

"Don't get so cocky, Odd," the other boy, this one in brown with a yellow headband, cautioned. He deflected a few bolts with his katana to punctuate his words and darted close to a square-shaped monster. His blade made no mark on the monster and he was forced to retreat once more.

"What? So they can't aim. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy." Odd grinned and flexed his claws, taking advantage of a nearby rock face to gain a height advantage over a crab-shaped monster. He shot a few arrows at the odd eye shape on top of its shell, missing with all but one. The one hit the eye dead center, causing the monster to stagger and explode like the other.

The girl in a kimono top and leggings snorted, plucking a fan from her yellow bow and throwing it at the block monster that had repelled the brown-clothed boy's attack. It turned into a glowing chakram, whirling through the monster and returning to the girl's waiting hand. "You two are just as bad as ever. Ulrich, stop joking around and get rid of some of these monsters! We have to get Aelita to the tower before XANA tries something stupid."

The girl behind the rocks nodded, dust covering her pink and white outfit and scattering in her pink hair. "Yes, Yumi. If we don't hurry then XANA's attack will wipe out the school."

Ulrich charged forward once more, this time hitting his target directly in their eye-shaped weak point. Another crab monster shattered into pieces. "Aelita, now! Go on!"

It had been just another day in the virtual world of Lyoko. Strange as it would seem to an outside observer, events were playing out in a pattern that had been repeated many times before. This time had been expected to be no different.

It was a shock, then, when Ulrich's charge was towards a monster that was two close to the edge of the desert terrain. When it exploded, the shockwave threw him too far in the wrong direction. Flailing hands missed the edge by fractions of an inch. It was over before anyone could even cry out. Ulrich vanished into the shimmering surface stretching beneath the whole of Lyoko, the Digital Sea.

As all three left on Lyoko knew, the Digital Sea was the boundary of Lyoko. It marked where the virtual world ended and the rest of the online network began. A fall into it was the equivalent of death, as the victim would be integrated into the rest of the network. A human who fell into the Sea could never be retrieved. They could never return to the real world.

What Yumi, Odd, and Aelita didn't know, however, was that such a fall was not the end. They would grieve, search fruitlessly, and move on, recruiting another to fill a hole left in their ranks. They couldn't know what would await Ulrich at the end of his plunge.

The first thing Ulrich was aware of was waves lapping at his feet. There was no wet sensation to accompany this, however, something it took him a moment to realize was odd. He stayed where he was for a while longer, wondering how he'd gotten to this odd place, before he finally ventured to open his eyes.

A round face greeted him, a globe within a globe of shimmering water, eyes on the inner globe taking on an odd watery quality. He blinked up at it, wondering just what the heck his friend Jeremie had gotten him into this time, when the odd creature tilted its head and spoke in a soft tone.

"Uh, sorry, but I don't speak Japanese," Ulrich replied, recognizing Yumi's native language immediately. He pushed himself up, gazing out at the shimmering water before him, and realized that he was still in his Lyoko outfit. The odd grid he was lying on wasn't anything like Lyoko, however, which had him stumped until he finally remembered what, exactly, had happened.

"Oh, yeah," he said quietly, recognizing the Digital Sea. "I must have washed up out of it. Where am I?"

The creature pulled at him with tiny hands, barely as tall as he was while he was sitting down, and he turned his attention to it. It looked almost like a child, if a child was dressed in a white shirt with blue limbs and a water-filled globe for a head. There was an odd emblem on its chest, a circle with a multicolored wavy line. It spoke again, its voice still soft and gentle, though Ulrich could definitely tell that it was asking a question.

"Sorry," he said again, shrugging helplessly. "Still don't understand. I must be somewhere on Japan's network, though."

The creature tugged at him once more, its face scrunching up in impatience, until Ulrich clambered to his feet, hand going to rest automatically on the saber at his hip. "What do you still want?" he asked exasperatedly, though at the same time he was relieved. Since he was still a digital entity he figured he was on the Internet. If he was in Japan, he thought he knew what the friendly creature was. "You're a Navi, right?" It was better than one of XANA's monsters or a Virus, he thought with relief. He knew what Navis were, artificial intelligences that were almost always paired with a human Operator, he'd just never expected to meet one quite like this. His school's network hadn't been upgraded to the point of needing Navis yet.

The creature grinned, nodding enthusiastically. "Navi," it repeated in its soft, musical voice. "Naaaavi."

Ulrich smiled at it. "Well, we're getting somewhere. My name's Ulrich," he told it. "Ulrich. What's yours?"

"Ulrich?" the Navi repeated thoughtfully. "Uuuulrich."

"Uh-huh. And you?" Ulrich pointed at the Navi pointedly. It looked at him for a moment before grinning.

"Aquaman," it said slowly, enunciating carefully. It tugged at his wrist, dragging him forward a few inches, at the same time saying something incomprehensible.

"Well, Aquaman," Ulrich mused, looking back at the Digital Sea for a brief moment and pondering his options. He was well aware of what had happened, as well as what was likely to not happen. There was no point in hanging around at the edge of the Sea hoping pointlessly. "Take me to your leader."

Aquaman didn't take Ulrich to its leader. Rather, it dragged him through several different areas that he couldn't make sense of, areas that were as diverse as the other Navis he encountered. Some areas were plain with grids for floors, while some were near-mirrors of areas in real life. Connecting them were nondescript corridors with no discernible entrances or exits to the various areas, although Aquaman seemed to be able to navigate with ease.

Finally they got through to one area that looked like a giant city, buildings stacked on top of buildings in layers and layers of civilization. Ulrich almost thought he was back in the real world, except instead of people wandering around there were countless numbers of Navis.

"Um, where are we going?" he asked Aquaman as the Navi continued to drag him. It said something in its melodic voice, giggling at the end, but it didn't budge one inch from its course.

Ulrich ignored the odd stares from the Navis around him, focusing instead on the road ahead of them. He was surprised, then, when a gold Navi stepped into their path, speaking inquisitively to Aquaman. The childlike Navi grinned and drew close to Ulrich, sighing something happily.

The gold Navi looked at Ulrich next, saying something to him. He had a golden chestplate, gloves, helmet, and boots, while the rest of him was covered in a black bodysuit. His symbol was three triangles stacked in a pyramid in a black and gold background.

"Sorry," Ulrich sighed. "Still don't understand."

"Oh, you're a French Navi?" the gold Navi said, startled. "Oh my, it's so unusual for a Navi to wander out of their country without a translation program installed."

"It was an unplanned detour," Ulrich explained, freeing his hand from Aquaman. "I've guessed that I'm in Japan, but where am I, exactly?"

"I'm Glyde," the gold Navi introduced. "You're in Densan City's Internet City, the pride and joy of our public network. This place mirrors a real-life shopping center, though on a much grander scale. It will be very hard for you to get around without a translation program, though. If you'll give me a moment I'll ask my Operator if we can be generous and offer our assistance."

Aquaman looked up at them inquisitively, a hand near its mouth. It asked Ulrich something, but the brunette just shook his head.

"Yaito-sama says that she doesn't have time for deadbeat Navis," Glyde said apologetically. "However, she says that I can escort you to a friend of ours. Perhaps he can offer his assistance."

"Thanks, that'd be a help." Not that Ulrich knew how translation programs would work on a human that had been virtualized into the network. "I'm Ulrich, by the way."

"And what is your Operator's name?" Glyde asked curiously as he started in a seemingly random direction.

That was a pickle. Ulrich thought furiously, trying to think up a plausible explanation, only to have Aquaman pounce him and settle onto his shoulders. "It's, ah, complicated. You see, I don't have an operator." Better to start with the truth, he decided. It wasn't like he could fake having an operator anyway.

"You're an independent Navi?" Glyde looked intrigued. "That could be interesting. We'll see what Netto-kun can do for you, but without an operator or a PET there might not be much."

They walked in silence the rest of the way, Ulrich observing everything and wondering how he was going to pull this off. He thought back to his friends and wondered if they'd try something stupid to try and get him back, though he knew it was futile. Only one of them had ever fallen into the Digital Sea before and it was only thanks to quick action and a lucky program that Yumi had been retrieved. If he hadn't been gotten back by now, Ulrich thought despairingly, his friends never would be able to get him.

It was best to make what he could of his situation. At least he could try to pass himself off as a Navi and he wasn't defenseless. He'd read about Navis before and about the viruses that permeated the Internet. If he was careful and stayed within areas that had pretty powerful firewalls, he would be okay.

He was purposely not thinking very far beyond that. He didn't want to think of the lonely years ahead of him, trapped in the virtual world and cut off from his friends. He didn't want to think about the grief his parents would feel when they learned that he wouldn't ever be coming home.

"According to Yaito-sama, Rockman is through here," Glyde said, coming to a stop near what Ulrich guessed was a shop. "He and his operator, Netto-kun, will be able to assist you."

At least Ulrich recognized the honorifics Glyde was using. He'd gotten an earful from Yumi when he'd called her "Yumi-chan" once, teasingly. He'd been very, very sure to never make that mistake again.

"They won't be able to understand me, though," Ulrich protested, realizing that Glyde was going to leave him.

"Rockman has a translation program installed, don't worry. He'll be able to speak to you. I must return to my errand, however. It was very nice to meet you, Ulrich, and I hope you manage to return to your network soon." He bowed, then said something kindly to Aquaman. The childlike Navi pouted but clambered down from Ulrich's shoulders, tugging one last time on his hand. It grinned and departed with Glyde.

Left alone in a sea of strangers Ulrich could only wonder just what the heck he had gotten himself into. With nothing better to do he shrugged and entered the shop, spotting a blue Navi immediately. He was alone aside from a green creature that the former human recognized as a Mr. Program, personified programs on the internet tasked with running specific programs. This one, he mused, must be a shopkeeper Program.

"Excuse me," Ulrich said to the blue Navi. His bodysuit was a deep blue with light blue stripes running down the side, his helmet, gloves, and boots a much lighter blue color. When he turned around Ulrich could see his emblem, a red circle split into halves on a black background. "Are you Rockman? I was just with a friend of yours, Glyde, and he said you could help me."

"French?" the blue Navi asked, surprised. "Yeah, I'm Rockman. What can I do for you?"

Ulrich rubbed the back of his head and looked around. "Well, I'm an independent Navi that's way out of his usual stomping grounds. Glyde said you could get me a translation program, but it might be tricky since I don't have a PET." He knew what a PET was, the handheld device in the real world that stored all of the Navi's data and served to link the operator and Navi.

"Hrm. Usually for a translation program the data's installed onto the PET and the operator has to enable and disable it," Rockman mused. "Without a PET… I wonder if Papa could help you."

"Your dad?" Ulrich guessed, wondering how a Navi could have a dad. Then he wondered if maybe he meant his operator's dad.

"Uh-huh. Papa works at the Science Labs with Navis, maybe he can figure out something. You can't just speak French everywhere. Plus it's dangerous for independent Navis. Virus attacks have been on the rise." Tilting his head as if listening to someone Ulrich couldn't hear, he nodded. "Yes, Netto-kun. What's your name?"

"Ulrich," the brunette replied. "Can Netto help?"

"He said yes. I'll take you to the Science Labs. Papa will be glad to have an independent Navi."

"What do you mean, have? I don't belong to anybody!" Ulrich said fiercely.

"Of course not," Rockman replied, motioning for Ulrich to follow him. They exited the building and set off across the city. "I mean, if you're willing, Papa might be able to get a lot of good data on independent Navis."

"If I'm willing, huh?" Ulrich asked skeptically. What if this mysterious scientist found out he'd used to be human?

"Right. Papa would never dream of doing something so invasive against your will. He treats Navis just as if we were humans."

That was a relief. Ulrich kept his hand on his saber as they ventured through the city, leaving behind public shops and passing what looked like private businesses. After a while they came upon one that looked just like any other, but this one Rockman turned into without hesitation.

Inside was a pair of guards. One look at Ulrich's escort, however, and they waved him through. Ulrich thought this was rather odd but thought nothing of it, still following Rockman through the twists and turns until they arrived in an area that was made of a plain blue floor and scrolling computer code.

"Papa?" Rockman asked. He then said something in Japanese that Ulrich couldn't understand, only picking out his name. After a moment where Ulrich heard nothing Rockman said something else.

"Well?" Ulrich wanted to know, impatient.

"Papa says that he should be able to install a translation program. He just wants to analyze your data first so he can fit it in properly without damaging your core programs. Is that all right?"

Ulrich nodded, hoping that he wasn't making a big mistake.

A tube materialized in front of him, the glass hovering above the black mechanical base invitingly. "Then please get in there," Rockman requested.

The former human stepped onto the plate, trying to ignore the sinking feeling in his gut as the glass lowered. The world wavered for a moment before stabilizing and Ulrich realized that he wasn't looking out onto a blue field anymore. He was in a glass tube in what looked like a laboratory, a middle-aged human with brown hair and glasses standing next to a child that, if Ulrich had to guess, was his son. The younger boy also had brown hair, though it was tied back with a blue bandana sporting Rockman's symbol. He was wearing an orange vest with a white long-sleeved shirt under it, black shorts, and orange shoes.

"I take it you're Netto," Ulrich guessed, eyeing the child.

The elder said something that Ulrich couldn't understand, going over to type at a keyboard. The younger just stared at him, making him feel slightly uncomfortable.

After a few moments and an odd tingling feeling somewhere in his head Ulrich felt dizzy and shook his head, leaning against the glass for support. "Ugh. Whatever you're doing is making me feel like I gotta throw up."

"Can Navis throw up?" the child asked.

"We don't really eat here," Ulrich mused. "So, I guess not." A second later he blinked, then looked at Netto. "Hey, I understood you!"

"The program's been successfully installed," the older man replied. "I'm sorry I couldn't introduce myself earlier. I'm Yuuichiro Hikari, the scientist in charge of the Science Labs. This is my son, Netto. You're Ulrich, right?"

Wordlessly the former human nodded.

"It's quite interesting that a Navi like you managed to get way out here. You say that you're independent?"

"No PET," Ulrich agreed. "I was created by a kid named Jeremie as a project," he invented on the spot. "When he was done he let me loose into the Internet. I haven't been here long. Actually, when Aquaman found me, I'd wandered off a cliff into the Digital Sea." Which was pretty close to the truth, actually.

"What do you plan on doing now that you're here?" Netto wanted to know.

Ulrich shrugged, glancing away. "Dunno. Rockman mentioned that virus attacks were getting bad so I think my best bet is to stay somewhere that viruses can't easily get to. Internet City seems pretty nice."

"Are you going to try to get back to France?" Doctor Hikari inquired. "We could try to help you find Jeremie."

It was a spot of hope that wouldn't do much good, Ulrich thought. "He didn't want me," he lied, stomach clenching. Jeremie was a good friend and he had no doubt that, to a Navi, he'd have made a great operator. "He wanted to make a Navi that was truly independent and he did. I was too independent and he told me to never come back." He reminded himself to breathe, even though as a digital body he found that he didn't really need to. He just had to make Netto and Doctor Hikari believe him so he never had to explain it again. "He told me that once I was gone he'd destroy the PET. Really, I can't go back."

Dead silence greeted him after he finished, and he coughed uncomfortably. "So, thanks for the translation program," he said awkwardly. "Can you send me back now?"

Wordlessly Doctor Hikari pressed a few buttons. The world wavered again and once his vision cleared Ulrich found himself back in the virtual world. Rockman was wearing the same stunned look that his operator had sported, but he shook himself out of it as soon as the former human appeared. "Ah, so you want to go back to Internet City, then?" the Navi asked weakly.

Ulrich supposed, a few days later while he was darting up a building in Internet City, that at the time the bare facts of the situation hadn't sunk in. He was running, now, to try and escape those facts, despite the odd stares his light trail was getting. His Super Sprint, he decided in the part of his mind that was still rational, wasn't a common ability in Navis.

Not like he cared. At the moment he was trying to outrun the emotions that had finally caught up with him.

His first realization, after three solid days awake and no food, was that he wasn't human anymore. He'd kept thinking of himself as human, treating his jaunt in the Internet as only one more venture onto Lyoko. Even though he'd known that he wouldn't be able to go back to the real world, he hadn't felt it, not really.

His second realization, while he was careening against the pull of false gravity, was that he was completely alone in his predicament. There was no Jeremie chattering in his ear, trying to cheer him up and assure him that he was still human and that he would get home, eventually. The link that he'd had with the other boy had been severed upon his fall into the Digital Sea.

He reached the top of the building and balanced on the edge, calculating at a glance the angle he could launch from, how much force it would cost him to turn in midair, what sort of damage he could expect upon landing from such a high point.

And this thought process, one that took a fraction of a second, led him to his third realization.

Even if he was able to go back, he'd never be the same.

Decision made, he crouched and leapt, twisting around and landing on a nearby ledge. He had barely touched simulated concrete before he was airborne, flipping again and righting himself in time to land on another ledge.

He'd noticed the change only a short while ago. He'd been hanging around an online message board, craving a bit of normal human contact but unable to figure out how to access the messages. The forum took the form of a room full of blackboard-like pushpin boards, hundreds of them arranged in neat rows according to topic. When Ulrich had attempted to read the boards normally, however, blank white pieces of paper had greeted his bare eyes.

It hadn't been hard, not really. The past few days had been spent patrolling the borders of Internet City, observing the Navis coming and going and figuring out how to find the links to the outside. To a true Navi the links probably were obvious but to Ulrich, it had taken hours of watching before he'd picked up on the trick.

He'd simply reached out and touched the paper on the board. It had opened immediately, something that had never happened on Lyoko. The only one, back then, who had had power over raw data was Aelita. The humans in the group could no more have opened a file in Lyoko than fly on their own. The fact that he even considered that he could told him more than he wanted to. The message hadn't even been anything special. It had been written by an 18-year-old college student asking for a study partner for a test. Ulrich had closed the message and raced out.

Now he was careening towards the ground at speeds that had his gut clenching in fear, but he didn't even blink as he hit and rolled a few times until his energy was spent. Other Navis looked at him, whispering behind their hands, but Ulrich didn't care. He knelt on the ground, catching his unneeded breath.

When he couldn't hold back his tears any longer he raced out of Internet City altogether, taking refuge in an area he later learned was the computer network of a traffic camera. He didn't leave until he couldn't summon another drop.

Two long weeks after his arrival in Japan's network had been spent almost exclusively in Internet City. Ulrich liked to keep to the rooftops, where there were far fewer Navis than on the streets and offered him the most privacy. Only rarely had he ventured beyond the firewalls and challenged the viruses of the internet, well aware of the limitations of his current situation. If he lost all of his life points in a battle, he would be deleted. No operator meant that he had no way of recharging his life points in a dire situation, nor could they be recharged at all. Any life points he lost were gone for good.

If he were honest with himself, he only risked his neck because he was so bored. Figuring out the tricks to being an internet entity wasn't entertainment so much as a survival necessity, and he'd quickly given up on message boards when they made him more homesick than happy. Solitude wasn't really the best way of dealing with his situation either, but he didn't want to integrate himself into Internet society either. Doing so felt like he'd given up on being human, something he wasn't ready to do yet.

He hadn't run into Rockman again during his trips around the city. It was such a large place that it wasn't really surprising; just like a real city, random encounters were much less likely to be repeated. He saw Navis of all shapes and sizes, only a few of which he'd exchanged words with. Instead he'd kept to himself and trawled the rooftops, observing but not really feeling like he was part of this world.

Many stories above the pavement was a place he considered his. His rooftop was on the highest building in the commercial area, not easily reached by even those Navis who could fly. He'd found it on his rooftop jaunts, this out of the way rooftop on what looked like a deserted building, and so here was where he'd begun to gather what few things he could in a virtual environment. Mostly he was interested in news stories, craving details on the world he could no longer interact with, clips he'd gleaned from brief visits to one of the many areas where headlines poured into Internet City. Literal fountains of raw data sprouted up at common meeting points in the city, and one only needed to dip a hand or other limb into the simulated water. On his rooftop he'd gathered his news clips, though at the moment all he could do was place them in a general pile in one corner.

Two weeks, long weeks, passed before Ulrich met Rockman again. The former human was making his daily trek to the news fountains when Navis began screaming. Instinct kicked in, protective instinct honed by countless numbers of XANA attacks, and before Ulrich was aware of any conscious thought he had his katana drawn and was running towards the source of the screaming. He rushed into the plaza, news fountain scattered into digital rubble, and deflected a cannon bolt back at the turret mounted virus. Somehow, a dozen Cannon viruses had appeared in the once-peaceful plaza, accompanied by the yellow-helmed viruses that Ulrich recognized as Mettaurs.

He wasn't aware of the progression of battle. He never was, not really; his body moved and reacted on its own, while his conscious mind registered only briefly and sporadically. He couldn't afford to think, not when thinking more often than not resulted in his losing precious life points. Back on Lyoko, when he'd had the luxury of knowing that a fatal hit wasn't really fatal, he hadn't had to focus so much. But now…

The battle had been mercifully brief, him and Rockman working together to eliminate the viruses that had somehow worked their way past Internet City's powerful firewalls. At the end he'd taken only two hits, though how many life points he had left was a mystery. Unlike on Lyoko, each hit shot burning pain from the impact sites, pain that lingered and distracted him as he tried to stay alive. The pain wouldn't fade for another few hours; it was one more reminder of the fact that he was a part of the virtual world.

"Thanks for the help," Rockman grinned, his weapon folding back out of sight into his right glove. "It's lucky you were here!"

"It was no problem," Ulrich shrugged, sheathing his saber once he was sure no threat remained. He hid his winces as he moved his injured limbs, not wanting Rockman to worry about him. With the fountain out of commission his next stop for news was a few blocks away, a distance easily traversed when he went at super speeds.

Rockman's hand on his arm stopped him. "Hey, have you been okay? I saw the hits you took. Netto-kun wants to know if you need any help."

The human frowned. "I'm fine. It was just a few hits." Hits that he couldn't recover from, but it wasn't like that could be helped.

"Come on," Rockman urged, tugging on his arm. "Papa's been worried about you, too. It wouldn't hurt to let Papa look at you, right?

That was how Ulrich found himself back in the Science Labs, though this time he wasn't transported to the real world. Instead he spread his arms and allowed a red beam to scan him.

"Well," Doctor Hikari's voice echoed around him. It was the first time since Lyoko that he'd heard a voice like this, and it startled him until he was once again used to voices appearing out of thin air. "It looks like you've taken quite a bit of damage since the last time I saw you. Don't you have any self-maintenance programs?"

Ulrich shook his head. "Not that I know of. Jeremie was more interested in my combat capabilities."

Doctor Hikari hmphed. "We'll just have to see about that. Do you mind if I install a basic restoration program? It'll automatically recharge your hit points over a set period of time."

"I don't mind at all!" And what a relief it would be, knowing that he could heal any damage he'd inevitably take. "Is there a way you can let me check my life points, too?"

"You can't do that already? No matter, it'll be simple to do. Just wait one moment."

It was one more means of surviving in this virtual world. Now all he had to do was wave his hand in a specific manner and a status window would pop up, showing more than just his life points. It allowed him to perform a few simple tasks that would normally be left to an operator, like enabling or disabling installed programs. Not that he had many programs installed, but it was a nice gesture.

Another function of the status window, he found after a few days, was the ability to make and receive phone calls from other Navis. He'd been quite surprised when, while organizing his data bits on his rooftop, Rockman's face had appeared and invited him to hang out. Without much else to do he agreed.

He'd found out then about one thing that made his whole situation much more bearable. Playing soccer against Navis that had no qualms about using their particular powers was nothing like playing in the real world. Rather than crying foul, he used his Triplicate ability to show them why he was the top scorer in his class. After the game he got many Navis' phone numbers and standing invitations to join them any time he wanted.

And it was thus that he fell into a sort of routine. He wouldn't ever forget who he'd been, but he could make a new path for himself separate from his identity as a Lyoko warrior. He didn't count on the fame he'd garner as an Independent Navi living in Internet City. Word spread about him, the samurai Navi who each day would visit the news fountains and play soccer in the stadium. Soon he found himself the subject of many interested visitors and one particularly persistent frog Navi who kept trying to get an interview with him. He didn't like the attention; his life wasn't a circus or a show for the enjoyment of the casual viewer.

Thankfully his chosen rooftop was well out of the way and he hardly had any visitors. He had a place to go that was away from all of the curious Navis that would want to poke their noses into his life. With Rockman and Doctor Hikari's help he was able to transform his space into something more than a cluttered roof. Virtual bookshelves to store his newsclips, a short table, chairs, all of this helped him to feel as if, even on the vast network, he had this space to call his own. It was a small comfort, but it didn't help to completely dull the loneliness he felt.

He still missed his home. He still wished he could return to the real world, wished he could ever forget that a human could ever be virtualized onto the network. But he could make his situation bearable.

Well, how was it? Look forward to the next chapter eventually! If you liked the honorifics, let me know and I won't edit 'em out of the rest of the fic. If you want to reserve judgment, let me know as well.