Chapter 63: The End of It All
I just want to say: thank you all for staying with me for over a year. Thank you for being patient with my writer's block and with my three-month hiatus. Thank you for being there when I felt too inadequate to continue this story. Thank you for reviewing and telling me what you liked and hated about my story. Thank you for giving me ideas when I needed them. Thank you for being there when I needed the confidence to continue writing.
So without further ado, I present to you the final installment of Code Lyoko: Super Soldier.
The three of us went up the elevator to the scanner room where we saw Aelita crying in Jeremy's arms. Odd and Devlin were staring at them, tears in their eyes. I walked up to them and quietly asked, "What happened?"
"Franz Hopper's dead," Devlin whispered into my ear so Aelita couldn't overhear.
I didn't bother offering my condolences or saying I was sorry. When my parents died, people would come up to me and say how great they were and how sorry they were that they died. I hated how fake it sounded, the pity in their eyes when they talked to the poor orphaned girl. They didn't know what to say or do around me, just do all the standard things that TV and movies taught them.
I thought Aelita would hate it too, so I didn't bother to say anything.
None of us could eat the next morning, not even Odd. Jeremy was rocking back and forth in his chair, and I was picking at my food.
"Odd, do you want my croissant?" Aelita asked, holding it up.
"No, I got my own," Odd replied. "Besides, I'm not that hungry."
"Yeah, me neither," all of us said in cadence.
Yumi then walked up to us, all smiles. "Hey, guys. Today's the day, I guess. You ready?"
"Yeah, I guess," Odd said dejectedly.
Yumi beamed at him. "Well, let's go and shut down the supercomputer."
At the Factory
We walked out of the elevator into the heart of the supercomputer, a behemoth of black machines with orange circuit boards running through it. It almost looked like towers.
Jeremy walked up to the power source and unlocked the lever that would shut down the supercomputer. "Well, it'll be all over this time," he said. "Do any of you want to say something?"
Devlin was about to say something when Yumi interrupted him. "We've had our share of ups and downs: hours of detention, hours of glory. The seven of us have gotten used to life with Lyoko; now it's time for a new life without it. Come on, Jeremy."
That was a pretty good speech, but it didn't make me feel better. Sure, I hadn't been on Lyoko nearly as much as the others, but it would still be weird not having to worry about XANA attacking the world every other day.
And then the full reality hit me, making me choke. No more virtual fights. No more saving the day. No more being part of a group. Sure, I had my doubts in the beginning, but now Lyoko was a drug I couldn't live without. It made me feel special and important, like my life was more than just being a test subject and being a verbal punching bag for bullies.
It made me a hero, and most importantly, it gave me wonderful, amazing friends and I couldn't imagine my life without them.
Without Lyoko, our group was nothing.
I hadn't been the only one hesitating. Jeremy's hand had been wavering over the switch. "I'm sorry, but I can't," he said.
"What, are you out of your mind?" Yumi demanded to know. "What's wrong with you?"
"I can't shut it down."
"You can't, Jeremy, or you won't?"
Jeremy put a hand to his head. "I don't know."
"Look, it's very simple: we destroyed XANA, and now we have to shut down this horrible machine." Yumi turned to the rest of us. "What are the rest of you waiting for? Tell him!"
I was looking down at my feet like everyone else. It seemed I wasn't the only one who didn't want to shut down the supercomputer.
"What is wrong with all of you?" Yumi asked.
Her tone of voice made me furious. "What's wrong with us? What's wrong with you? Have you seriously forgotten that Lyoko is the thing that brought us all together? How can you be so callous that you can just shut down the thing that made us friends?"
Yumi looked at me, shocked, and then her face morphed into anger. "I know that! I just thought that after all the hell XANA put us through, we'd shut down the supercomputer as a team! Why are you of all people so against it?"
"Maybe we should have a vote," Jeremy interjected, trying to stop us from fighting.
"Yeah, sure, why not," Yumi mumbled.
"Who votes for shutting down the supercomputer?" Jeremy asked. Yumi raised her hand (what a shocker). No one else did.
"I think we need some time to think on this," Devlin said diplomatically. "I mean, we just defeated XANA yesterday. It seems a little too soon to just shut down the supercomputer now."
"I agree," I said, calming down. "We'll think it over and then decide on a meeting time. It seems fair enough."
Back on campus
I was walking with Jeremy and Devlin to the outside vending machine when we spotted Yumi there with an open can in her hand.
I honestly didn't feel like talking to her right now, but after all we've been through together and today being what it is, it seemed right to talk over our differences and call a truce.
Yumi noticed us and narrowed her eyes at me before turning away. "I'm not in the mood to talk."
"It's me who wants to talk to you," Jeremy said. "I wanted to explain to you why I voted against shutting down the supercomputer."
"I'm not in the mood to hear that either." Yumi stood up.
"Do you remember me when I first came here?" Jeremy said quickly. "The big brain of Kadic, straight-A computer genius and not one single friend. I discovered Lyoko and everything changed for me. I became a hero who could save the world."
"Did you expect us to keep playing superhero until we were eighty?" Yumi asked caustically. "It had to end sometime."
"I know, but I don't want to lose what we've got together; our friendship. Our friendship is directly linked to the supercomputer. If we shut that down, I'm afraid we'll also shut down our friendship."
Yumi's hardened expression softened considerably. I took that chance to explain myself. "I'm kind of the same way." Yumi looked at me.
"To be honest, I was hesitant about Lyoko. It seemed dangerous, especially when I had that disease when coming out of the scanners. But the more I got on it, the more I discovered about myself, I realized how amazing it was and what incredible friends I got along with it. It was like a dream. I always knew it had to end, but when it came down to it, I kept imagining us breaking apart and losing our friendship. Lyoko is the glue that kept us together, and seeing it get shut down is way too painful for me."
"You took the words right out of my mouth." Devlin gave me a one armed hug. "But you forgot one thing: without the supercomputer, we'd still be at the mercy of the project. Seeing the haven that helped us defeat it get shut down is too much for me."
"I understand," Yumi said softly, smiling slightly. "Lyoko means a lot to me too. But it does have to end, and I believe our friendship is too strong to shut down."
It was after gym class, and I was dead tired. I was sitting on the bench near the science wing, throwing my head back and just lying there and enjoying the sunshine.
And then I heard, "Hey, Carter." I looked up to see Odd standing over me, blocking the sunlight.
"Hey, Odd." I made room for him on the bench. "What's up?"
"I heard what you said to Yumi from Devlin," he said as he sat down. "You really meant all that?"
"Well, yeah, why wouldn't I?"
"You never really said anything like that before."
"Dude, what I said was cheesy. It'd be embarrassing if I said something like that all the time."
"So what are your reasons for not wanting to shut down the supercomputer?" I asked him.
"I was afraid I'd miss it."
"The fighting, the adventure, the heroics, all that fun stuff. Without Lyoko, life's going to be awfully boring." Odd smiled into the distance, no doubt reminiscing about all the cool stuff he could do on Lyoko.
"Having more time for your friends and music and sports doesn't exactly seem like such a boring thing."
"Funny; Ulrich said the same thing during gym," Odd noted.
I looked at my nails nonchalantly. "Did I forget to mention all the fun dates you could have with your girlfriend?"
"Again, Ulrich said the same thing."
"…Okay, that's kind of creepy. By the way, why did Ulrich vote against shutting down the supercomputer?"
"He likes being a hero."
"I figured. Someone like Ulrich would like that."
"What's the supposed to mean?" Odd huffed at me, all ready to defend his best friend.
"It means that's his personality. He likes being the superhero and saving the damsel in distress," I explained.
"Is the damsel Aelita or Yumi?"
"It's usually Aelita. Why do you say Yumi?"
Odd thought for a moment. "Well, sometimes Ulrich has to save Yumi during XANA attacks. I don't think you were around for them, though."
"Or I was on Lyoko. Speaking of Lyoko, I am going to miss one more thing on there," I admitted.
"Oh, yeah, what's that?" Odd inquired.
I smirked at him. "I'm going to miss seeing you in your purple cat costume."
He blushed furiously. "Are you trying to embarrass me?"
I patted Odd's check affectionately. "You were so adorable in that," I cooed.
"Damn it, Carter!"
"Della Robbia, stop acting like a nitwit and go to the principal's office!" Jim's voice roared at us. We turned to see him glaring at the two of us.
"How'd he find us?" I muttered under my breath. Odd stood up and said, "I'll see you later after I get chewed out by the principal."
I already knew why Aelita didn't want to shut down the supercomputer. Last night, she told me tearfully that there was a chance that her father was still on Lyoko. It was a long shot, but I didn't tell her that as I held her crying form.
I also didn't tell her how impossible it would have been for Franz Hopper to come back to the real world. Where would be live-the Hermitage? It was a decrepit haunted house. And where would he work? He fell off the face of the Earth years ago. He wouldn't be able to care for Aelita if he was still alive.
My train of thought was interrupted when I saw Sissi being dragged by her father to the infirmary. "No not the infirmary, you have to go to the factory!" she was screeching as they went past.
I turned to see Devlin behind me. "She found out about the supercomputer," he stated.
"I thought she was over trying to find out our secrets."
He shrugged. "She was probably just curious. Anyway, we have to perform one last return to the past."
I looked around to see Yumi and Ulrich by the woods, holding each others' hands and looking into each other's eyes. I nudged Devlin and pointed it out.
"Well, it's about time," he said as the world went white.
Back at the factory
"Who's in favor of shutting down the supercomputer?" Jeremy asked with the heart of the computer right behind him. Everyone raised their hands, even Aelita.
Jeremy smiled and Devlin began to sing softly, "Even if we lose our rights, we ain't got nowhere to go/ we will always have each other even after we all go."
Everyone looked at him, surprised. Oh, right, they didn't know Devlin could sing.
As they stared at him, I took his and Odd's hands and squeezed. Odd, understanding, then took Aelita's; Devlin grabbed Ulrich's hand, who in turn took Yumi's. And to finish the chain, Yumi took Jeremy's hand, and with the other he grabbed the lever.
Devlin's voice grew stronger and louder. "And even if we lose our cool, and there's things that we don't know/ we will always have each other even after we all go."
Jeremy pulled down the lever, and the bright yellow and orange lights of the power source faded. The great tower went back into the ground and closed up, revealing the XANA eye logo as it closed itself off. The light went off in the room, and it soon became cold, with our breaths puffing out white clouds.
And still Devlin sang, "So even if we lose our rights, we ain't got nowhere to go/ we will always have each other even after we all go. And even if we lose our cool, and there's things that we don't know/ we will always have each other even after we all go."
Remember a long time ago when I said I was going to use an Orange song for one of the chapters? This is what I had in mind. It's called "Each Other" by Orange.
I can already tell a few reviewers will complain about Odd and Carter not confessing their love for each other. As I have pointed out, they are teenagers. They know next to nothing about love, so why make them say it? It's a lot more fun when its ambiguous.
As for my next story, Soldiers of the Evolution, I don't know when I'll start writing it. Probably when Evolution's over. I hope you look forward to reading it.