Is Carth alive? Yes, yes in fact, she's alive! I know my last two attempts to write a fic sort of…died, but I took special precautions to make sure this one would not! See, I started writing it in November, and have almost six chapters finished already! So once I'm past the fourth-chapter curse I'm sure to finish the rest of it!
Anyway, I hope you like my story. Things happen in it. Happy Valentine's Day.
Notes: I hope you can figure out this is an AU. Nothing else should surprise you, then. These box things () denote that English is being spoken instead of French. Various chapters will contain scenes and lines from CL episodes for purposes of atmosphere, and while I currently don't know how to denote them, I would like to make clear that any passages you recognize are very not mine and absolutely Moonscoop's. Also, I don't own CL as a whole.
"Hey, Einstein! Watcha doin'?"
"Typical Einstein, always so mysterious. What kind of stuff? Homework stuff? Materialization stuff? Dirty stuff?"
"Well, if you have to know, I was working on Aelita's materialization earlier, but I hit a stumbling block. I'll take care of it tomorrow, but for now I'm just exploring the code of the supercalculator."
"Right now I'm taking a look at the mechanics of the Return to the Past. I wouldn't dare change a letter of them, but look at how complex they are…"
"Complex? More like complete gibberish! But you're a genius, you have to understand this. I wouldn't doubt that you could magic up something even better, like a Return to the Future! That would be awesome. I wouldn't mind being eighteen for a day."
"Odd, I can do a lot of things with a keyboard, but I can't do everything. This isn't as easy as flipping a switch back and forth! It would take me years to code anything that huge, considering it was even possible with the Return to the Past to work off of, which is just as well because I don't think we're equipped to deal with the temporal repercussions of such a thing. What I'm really trying to do, right here and right now, is figure out what exactly happens to us when we're going back in time."
"But why? Why does it matter? XANA attacks, we stop him, you push a button, we go back, it never happened. We've been doing that since last November and nothing's gone wrong so far."
"But doesn't it interest you at all? Leading scientists always assert backwards time travel is impossible, and yet this computer can do it to an extent! But why do only those who've entered Lyoko retain their memories? Why can we only travel back over very short periods? And why does anyone that's died remain dead?"
"You're asking me like I have the answers."
"I'm thinking out loud, Odd! And by the way, you're wrong in your wording. If we can remember it, it definitely didn't not happen. Then the question is, what happened to everyone else's memories? What happened to that whole timeline?"
"Again, Jeremie, why does it matter?"
"…I hate to admit it, but now that I think about it, you're right. It hasn't had any effect on us yet, and Aelita's materialization is more important right now. Besides, this is as far as I can go. Whoever created the supercalculator, they locked this up tight."
"Who do you think created the supercalculator?"
"I can't even begin to guess. Someone crazy…but a genius, definitely a genius."
"Hey, uh, I better get going. I promised Ulrich and Yumi I'd help them decorate for prom, and I figure I better get over there before Sissi decides to help them in her own special way."
"Help? Is that what she's calling it now? Hah! Tell them I'm coming later…I just want to take some time to talk to Aelita. I haven't said anything to her all day."
"Oh, should I leave you alone, then?"
"Shut up! Just say hi to them for me."
Ghosts in the Machine
A Code Lyoko Fanfiction
They Won't Find You Here
It was a beautiful day at Avenshire Academy.
The secondary school was far enough away from even the outskirts of Dublin not to be affected by any of its urban atmosphere. If ever there was a picture of rural, wild Ireland in the mind's eye, even in the midst of a bitter chill, it could be found in the flat blue sky, only sparingly strewn with thin lines of clouds, and the lush green hills, which shielded the sudden flatness of the school grounds from the fierce November winds. Even the school building, a tall, spired stone work like an overlarge cathedral, would only attract notice in the way it seemed to be a part of the natural landscape, as if it had once been as small as the trees that surrounded it, and had grown right out of the ground into its current state.
The one lonely road that lead out of Avenshire's valley was not usually very well-traveled, especially not in the middle of a Saturday, but the military caravans didn't have any reason to keep this pretext. There were forty-five of them at the school gatekeeper's last count, all idling in single-file, and at the rate they were coming another twenty could arrive by nightfall. They were large, bulbous creatures, like heavily armored buses, crisp except where they were punctured by large dents. There were no windows on them, except in the cab, where a driver in camouflage fatigues could be seen sitting and looking straight ahead, with one hand on the wheel and the other on his FAMAS rifle. If any noise could be heard in the cargo holds, it was drowned out by the sound of forty-five thunderous engines. The noise was not as old as the hills or the school, but had existed for such a time that nature had swallowed it as a part of itself, just as it had the old building.
The caravans drew a winding black line to the parking lot, which, along with a gymnasium and a dormitory, framed the school's still, grassy quad. There was only one car in the parking lot, a lone caravan parked right in the middle, but the lot was far from empty. Large white canopies, which sheltered rows of cheap folding tables, covered almost all of the other spaces. There were large white signs fixed to every canopy, which each had messages written in French and English. "INSCRIPTION/REGISTRATION," read the sign to the left of the caravan, and "SOINS MÉDICAUX/MEDICAL AID" read the sign to the right.
A large crowd of people stood under the tents. Most of them were wearing jeans and T-shirts, a select few under large red smocks, and were mumbling nervously among themselves in voices too low to assert themselves over the caravan engines. A few among them were dressed in religious garb. There were two fairly young men, who were dressed in priests' cloaks, and about twenty middle-aged women in sweaters, long skirts, and religious medals. A much smaller crowd stood right behind the back of the caravan, which was sealed with two black metal doors. Most of this crowd wore scrubs and carried medical equipment, but four of the men, who stood in front of the aid workers, were dressed like the bus drivers, the only difference being the Irish military insignia on their caps. Another man, dressed in black, stood in the middle. He had "UN" emblazoned in white on his jacket, and he was the only one in the parking lot that was smiling.
The four Irish military men had their slender Steyr AUG rifles pointed right at the cabin doors. Some of the medical staff looked a bit unnerved by the weaponry, but they didn't dare say anything. This was, after all, standard procedure, something they'd already done five times that day.
As the noise of the engine died, the caravan driver opened his door and jumped out of the cab, rifle in hand. He walked silently past all the crowds, including the four men with the guns, and approached the metal doors. He pulled a key off of his belt and, with care and precision, undid one bolt after another. The crowds all looked up at the noise, but waited in silence until the last lock was undone and the man had pulled the doors open.
The man in the UN jacket stepped forward from the rest. As he yelled "Bonjour!" into the cabin, smiles flew onto the faces of all but the military men.
There were forty people, all civilians, crammed in the cabin of the caravan. Most of them were sitting on benches constructed in two rows, but as there was only so much room on these, several were sitting in the aisle between the two rows, and one woman lay across the front of both the aisles. They were old and young, male and female, rich and poor. There were two tiny babies on a mother's lap, a wizened old couple, one large family with six children, and a lone man staring at the wall. They were sitting on piles of suitcases, and most of them were wearing multiple coats under multiple blankets, which made them all look like small cocoons. None of them spoke – they were either squinting against the sudden brightness or staring straight ahead, shocked that they could see the light at all.
"Sorry for the light," the UN man continued in Irish-accented French. "But look at it this way. If you can see the light, the darkness is over. Yes, you're here! Welcome to Avenshire Academy, just outside of Dublin, Ireland!"
Several sets of eyes went wide in the cabin. A few of them started whispering among themselves. The UN man caught a few snatches of the conversation. "Ireland? How did we get to Ireland?" "They never told us we went on a boat!" "We're staying in a school?" "Look at the sky! And the grass…the grass is still here!"
"Yes, you're in Ireland! I wouldn't lie to you." No one laughed, so the UN man went on. He motioned toward the crowds by the tents. "These gracious sisters of the Sacred Heart, as well as their faculty and students, have opened their campus to shelter and accommodate you until such a time as more permanent housing can be located." Three of the sisters nearby waved, even though, with the metal doors open, none of the people in the cabin could see them. "There is more than enough room for you in the building–"
Everyone's eyes had grown wider and wider as the man's words had registered in their heads, and now there was a loud shout as many of the people in the cabin stood and cheered. Men kissed their wives, mothers hugged their children, and old men shook their heads and smiled. Those that did not get up sat in motionless, subdued silence, obscured by their blankets and coats.
"Yes, yes…so, the staff will register you and help you get comfortable." His voice grew more and more grave as he continued to speak. "Good luck, and a good night's rest to you. You're safe now. They won't find you here."
The UN man stepped away from the doorway, right to a waiting muffin and bottle of water – his job was over until the next caravan was allowed in. A large man in a white T-shirt and a red smock replaced him immediately. Far from the UN man's clipped tone, he spoke with a heavy Jamaican accent and gestured as he talked. "Alright, everyone get in groups. If you are with someone, families, friends, get out and get to them now. No pushing, I see you pushing, you'll all get out!"
People did, of course, push anyway in their haste to leave the cramped cabin. When they had all gotten out, they were screened and patted down by the military men, a process that took almost an hour. Once that was over, they lined up by their chosen groups, amounting to about fifteen clumps in all. The Jamaican man stood in front of them then, still yelling. "Everyone good?"
There were some muttered answers. "Alright!" he said in response. "Time to go!" He waved the line forward to the first tent, which was staffed by several men and women. Three of them were the middle-aged, smiling sisters, while the rest were bored-looking teachers. The tent was flanked on either side by Irish military men. The first seven groups were diverted to different staff members, while the rest waited in their line, dropping their bags and chattering excitedly among themselves.
The first group of the seven, the only one in the line that had been silent since the cabin doors opened, was sent to the station furthest down the row. This station was staffed by one of the bored teachers, a ginger-haired man in his twenties who was not wearing a red smock. When he heard footsteps approaching, he looked up from his silver laptop to see two indistinct piles of cloth. He knew that the taller one was male, as he had a grey beard, and could hazard a guess that the shorter, long-haired one was a girl of about Avenshire age. The man was wearing two coats, three hats, and a tightly-wound scarf. He toted two suitcases and a backpack. The girl by his side also had a backpack and a suitcase, and wore one coat, two hats, and a scarf that was tied around her mouth.
The man gulped, and hesitated a moment before starting his conversation. "Uhm…" He moved his finger around the mousepad of his laptop. "Be-on-venue ah Avenshire," he fumbled, looking right at his screen. "Comb-o…tappletoo?"
[It's alright, don't hurt yourself,] the man said in flawlessly accented English. [I'm Jean-Pierre Delmas, and this is my daughter, Élisabeth.] He put a hand on the shoulder of the girl by his side. She had dropped her suitcase, and was looking down at her arms, which were folded across her chest. She muttered "Sissi" from behind her scarf, but not with any volume or intent to be heard.
[Oh!] The man looked up, visibly relieved. [Cripes, you're the first people I've 'ad all day that can speak a decent bit of English. 'Ad this one old lady that kept trying, failed miserably of course…]
"Maybe this would be a better conversation in French," Jean-Pierre Delmas continued, catching the man off-guard again. [It's been a long journey, and we would like to get inside.]
[Right, right, right…] The man looked back down at his computer, and tapped away. [Delmas, Delmas…father and daughter…ah, where are you in from?]
The man's eyes widened. [Billancourt? Bloody hell, that's the first I've heard that today.] He hesitated. [Any documentation survived?]
[I have a French driver's license, and her birth certificate.] Mr. Delmas fished them out of his wallet as he talked – this was not the first time he had had to produce them.
[Alright…] The man took the documents, typed some information on his computer, and then returned them. [Right then. Your number is 404-7, and hers is 404-8…] He fished some papers out of a nearby printer and gave them to them. [Remember them, because you'll need them. You're a family, so you've been placed in a classroom on the Language level, Room 404. The sheets have all the instructions you need…] The man started suddenly. [Wait, did you say your name was Delmas?]
Mr. Delmas didn't answer, but both his and his daughter's faces darkened. The man did not notice, and went on. [You're that guy from that-that school! What's it called, the one on the telly...E-something. With the b-]
Mr. Delmas glared daggers at the man, stopping him mid-sentence. Despite this, he calmly folded his identification paper and placed it in his pocket. [Thank you for your help, sir. My daughter and I will find our own way upstairs.]
Before the red-haired man could say anything else to them, Mr. Delmas grabbed Sissi's shoulder and escorted her away. They joined the groups moving up the quad path toward the school building, shuffling with the weight of their suitcases.
"The nerve," Mr. Delmas muttered to himself as he walked. "The next time I see one of those nuns…oh, his name better be on this paper…"
He grunted in exasperation, took a breath to calm himself, and turned to his daughter. She had hardly spoken all day, not since the caravan had entered the queue to enter the school that morning. His eyes and grip softened, weakened by concern.
"It's a relief to be out of the caravan, isn't it?" he said, trying to reassure her. "Just a few more steps, a few flights of stairs, and we'll have a room, and some warm beds to sleep in."
"A room, a bed," Sissi said back. She was muffled by her scarf, but still had a mocking tone in her voice. "That's what you say every time. They never have beds. It's always blankets on the floor."
It occurred to Mr. Delmas that a blanket had been what he meant by a bed, but he didn't want to tell his daughter. "It's a lot nicer here than it was at the public shelters, Sissi. Maybe they'll have beds for us. I wouldn't put it past the nuns."
Sissi didn't answer him, or even react to him. She had pulled her scarf away from her face, and was glaring across the quad at the squat dormitory building. There were no students near the caravans, but there were boarders, all about Sissi's age, leaning out of almost every window and spilling out the front door. They were all lolling in their pajamas, anything from shirts and sweats to boys wearing only underwear. Most of them were gaping, whether at the caravan arrivals or at the line of people filing into their school.
"I wonder what the students are going to do now that we're here," Mr. Delmas said, perhaps a bit too loudly. Sissi started and shivered, but didn't respond. Instead, she wrested her way out of her father's grip, leaving her bags behind her, and started running toward the dormitory.
"What? What is it?" she yelled across the field to the students. "WHAT IS IT? WHAT ARE YOU STARING AT?"
"SISSI!" Mr. Delmas was too far away to see their reactions, but he wasn't standing still – he was running up after her, panting from the effort. Before Sissi could say anything else, he grabbed her from behind and pulled her off the grass, back to the path, and toward the school, leaving their luggage behind. They stopped underneath the awning that led into the front hall, as the exhausted Mr. Delmas could not take the squirming, screaming girl any further.
"Sissi," he said, the harsh disciplinarian slipping into his voice. "Sissi, what was that?"
"Let me go – let me go!" Sissi shoved her elbow into her father's face, a blow he just narrowly avoided. "Don't make me stay here! I want to go home! I want to go home!"
Mr. Delmas pressed his own arms against his daughter's shoulders as hard as he could, immobilizing her against a column. "Elisabeth, calm down!" He put extra emphasis on the hated name. Sissi was shocked into silence – she stopped moving, though she still looked indignant. "I know you're tired, I'm tired, we're all tired–"
"They were looking at me," Sissi said, with a world of hurt in her voice. "Why do they still have a school? Why did we have to leave, and not them?" She paused, taking in the look of blank horror on her father's face. "Why, Daddy?"
Mr. Delmas was silent for several seconds, long enough for his face to soften. By the time he spoke, he looked very tired, and quite powerless. "Sissi, I don't…" He shook his head, and took a different direction. "I know you're upset, and those children weren't being the most polite, but you can't have outbursts at these people just because you're angry. They're here to help us. We're very lucky, you know. They'll feed us, give us a roof over our heads…"
"I don't want to be lucky," Sissi said, shoving one of her father's hands away. "I want to go home."
Mr. Delmas's face became grave. "If you're talking about Kadic," he said, almost at a mumble as if she couldn't hear him, "There's…there's nothing we can do. Kadic can't be our home anymore. But we can find a new home here, or somewhere else safe. We have to move forward, Sissi. It'll all be for the best."
Sissi didn't say anything, but she didn't struggle, either. Mr. Delmas clapped his hand back on her shoulder, and looked down to her level, trying his hardest to smile. "Come on. Let's go get the bags."
Sissi looked to the side, up at the school, as if contemplating her answer. Mr. Delmas didn't give her the time to have a choice. He took her hand and took her back to where the bags lay, right in front of the dormitory, which looked empty and still, as all the students had been ordered inside.
By the time they got back to the awning, another caravan had been opened, and they could hear the UN man's voice echoing across the flat campus. "Good luck, and a good night's rest to you. You're safe now. They won't find you here."