So I finished the next chapter within a month! YEAH! I was hoping to get this story a little bit further by the Fourth of July, but that seems pretty unlikely at this point. My bad. Anyway, this chapter is kind of short (for me) but I've been working on making things happen faster, trying to speed up the action. I know I usually take forever describing a bunch of stuff that's not important, so I'm working to condense it a little right now. As for this chapter, a lot happens, trust me. I hope you enjoy it! I'm fairly certain I replied to all of the reviews I got for chapter 5, but forgive me if I didn't. Now, without further ado, I give you Chapter 6!
P.S. I would like to thank DarkHououmon for all of the help with this chapter and the entire story. Go read Fall right now if you haven't already!
Fading: Chapter 6
Odd squinted as he walked into the guy's bathroom. He hadn't expected the lights to be so bright at 5:15 in the morning, and they aggravated his already pulsing headache. Speaking of which, were people supposed to get headaches from a lack of sleep?
He shrugged the thought off and stepped into the shower, knowing he had to hurry if he wanted to be dressed before anyone else came in here. Anyone with a brain would tell the principal if they happened to see all the bruises. He had been using his shield a lot more often, so only his legs and back had bruises, along with a few on his shoulders and arms. Either way, though, it wasn't normal. He turned the water on, wondering briefly if he should take up a sport to explain the injuries just in case.
Hot water cascaded down his body, massaging his aching muscles: the one upside to showering early. No one had used the hot water yet. Odd almost felt like closing his eyes, but he knew he might just fall asleep if he did that. He had only gone to bed four hours earlier thanks to a late night Xana attack. It was the fourth attack this week. No one had any idea what the targets had been, but the towers had always been deactivated pretty quickly.
At least he had gotten his extra credit history paper finished the night before.
Fifteen minutes later, Odd stopped outside his dorm. Ulrich wasn't supposed to be up yet, but Odd could hear him talking to someone. Catching his name in the conversation, he put his ear to the door.
"-he's not a very good teammate on or off Lyoko ever since that happened, and if you ask me-"
Odd narrowed his eyes, ready to listen for more, but the door creaked as he leaned against it. Instantly there was shuffling inside, and Odd opened the door only to see Ulrich sleeping in his bed, earplugs in, his phone on the other side of the room.
Odd bit his lip. He wasn't sure if he wanted to "wake" Ulrich up and tell him he had heard everything, or just go along with it. Then again, Ulrich had been about to say something. Maybe he'd hear the rest of the conversation if he waited. Besides, he had a feeling he already knew what his roommate had been about to say.
Odd lay down on his stomach, trying to avoid the bruises on his back. Kiwi, of course, just had to climb on top of him and make that decision useless. He swept his dog off of him with a light jerk of the elbow and curled up on his side, grateful at least for another hour of sleep.
"Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter, meaning it's used to send signals from one cell to the other."
Odd scribbled down the vocab word in his Psychology notebook before immediately going back to doodling on the edges of his paper.
"It also works as a reward system. In an experiment, lab rats pressed levers to increase their dopamine levels and came back to press the levers over and over again. Certain substances such as cocaine and amphetamines increase dopamine levels, which is why these drugs are so addictive."
Odd sighed and started drawing a lab rat with some cheese, wondering when this lecture was going to be over. Not five seconds later, his cellphone buzzed in his pocket. He fished it out as discreetly as he could. SOS XANA. Great, another attack. At least he was skipping class this time rather than sleep.
The Psychology teacher paused to take a breath and Odd raised his hand. "Ms. Lincoln, can I go to the bathroom?"
She nodded, and Odd left. Aelita, Yumi, and Ulrich were jogging toward the forest by the time he got outside.
"Any ideas what the attack is this time?" Yumi asked.
Right on cue, a series of heavy footfalls reached their ears. "Sounds like we're about to find out," Ulrich said, getting into a fighting stance.
The tangled undergrowth in front of them seemed to explode as a large man in a business suit burst through. The eye of Xana flickered in place of his pupils.
The four kids scrambled backwards, Ulrich in front.
"You guys get to the factory; I'll take care of this guy!" Odd said, taking up his usual role as specter distraction.
"No, I'll take him," Ulrich said, stepping halfway in front of Odd.
"You'll be a better asset on Lyoko, just go!"
Odd had learned not to argue when Ulrich used that tone. There wasn't time anyway. With that, the three of them took off in the other direction, making a wide loop around where Ulrich was fighting the specter. Odd darted down the ladder behind the others.
The sound of skateboard wheels on concrete faded away as he realized the hidden dialogue behind Ulrich's actions. He didn't think Odd was strong enough to take that guy, so he sent Odd to Lyoko instead.
His face flushed with anger at the thought. So Ulrich really did think he wasn't doing a good job fighting against Xana. Odd slammed his foot down and back, propelling himself through the sewers faster than he had ever gone before.
Ulrich would soon know otherwise.
Jeremie started talking the second the elevator doors opened. "The tower is in the Desert Sector. Xana bypassed our defense shields somehow."
"I'm not sure how long Ulrich can last against that specter, so we have to hurry." Yumi added.
The three of them materialized in the Desert Sector a minute later. Odd took a deep breath, despite the fact that there was no air on Lyoko. His headache was gone and the bruises no longer bothered him every time he took a step. He was beginning to love coming to Lyoko for at very reason.
"The tower should be just ahead of you guys," Jeremie said as he got their vehicles ready.
"Got it, Einstein. Any monsters around?"
"I see three tarantulas guarding the tower right now. It's in a canyon."
"I'm thinking aerial assault," Odd said. "We can ambush them from above."
"Sounds like a plan to me," Yumi agreed. Aelita hitched a ride on the Overwing with her, and Odd got on his Overboard, climbing to the top of the canyon easily.
Each took their place around the rim of the canyon, picking a tarantula to attack.
Lasers filled the air before any of them could make their shot. Odd summoned his shield to protect himself a second too late, and the blast hit him in the abdomen.
Yumi crouched down, tossing both of her fans at her tarantula. One of them hit its mark, and Yumi jogged over to help Aelita with her monster.
Meanwhile, Odd was still trying to get a good shot at his tarantula from around his shield, which wasn't working very well. He let go of his shield and got down on his knees, trying to steady his aim.
His last laser arrow arced through the virtual air and hit the monster head on, but not before another two enemy shots could hit him.
A few stumbling steps backwards and he had regained his balance. "Ten life points, Odd." Jeremie warned him.
Odd looked over to see that Aelita and Yumi had given up their aerial advantage, trying to get rid of the last monster. Aelita looked up at him for a second, eyes widening.
Odd gasped as another laser hit him in the back, devirtualizing him.
Back in the scanner, Odd rubbed his head, taking a few deep breaths before getting out. Either he'd gotten used to being rematerialized again, or the effects had worn off, but it didn't hurt as much anymore.
Clenching his fists, he walked over to the elevator. First to be devirtualized again, no wonder Ulrich thought he was a pathetic Warrior. He pounded the 'up' button a little too fiercely.
The embarrassment only fueled his determination to prove his roommate wrong though, and he didn't bother stopping to chat with Jeremie. There were more important things to do.
"Odd, what the heck are you doing here?!" Ulrich shouted, dodging a pipe that he had already been grazed with a couple of times. The specter had gotten to the factory, but Ulrich hadn't let him get to the elevator.
"Thought you'd like some help!"
Suddenly, Ulrich was seeing stars, trying to figure out how he had let the specter hit him in the head.
Odd got in the way, dodging another swipe. A well placed kick and the specter was at least momentarily taken care of. Odd grabbed Ulrich's under the arms and started dragging him out of harm's way.
Odd jerked his roommate a little further and ducked. Electricity hummed in the air, giving him an even greater incentive to avoid the specter.
He grabbed a piece of rusted rebar and swiped at the specter's legs only to hear the clang of metal upon metal as the specter blocked it with his own weapon.
The specter swung down hard.
Now it was his turn to be on defense. The shockwave traveled down his arms, ripping the rebar from his hands. He took a second to gape at the way his piece of steel had broken in two.
Unfortunately, his enemy only needed a second to lash out an electricity charged kick, catching Odd in the jaw.
Odd stumbled backward, suddenly unable to feel the left side of his face.
The specter charged at him, and he barely had time to get out of the way. He turned around and took a few steps back, only to find that the specter had disappeared.
Ulrich was just standing back up, considering that Odd had only been fighting for a grand total of twenty seconds. "I'm guessing Aelita deactivated the
tower, huh?" He asked, rubbing his head.
"Guess so..." Odd brushed the rust from the rebar off his hands looking around to make sure the specter was really gone before they both headed back down to the Jeremie's level.
"Was it me, or was that thing tougher than usual?" Ulrich huffed, nursing a few injuries other than his already growing headache.
"You could say that, yeah." Odd said. He didn't want to sound weak, but if Ulrich had thought the thing was tough, he figured it was safe enough to agree with him.
The elevator doors opened just as Aelita and Yumi were climbing back up the ladder.
"I'm beginning to think Xana's up to something," Jeremie said, turning the command chair to face the others.
"Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. A bunch of little attacks, and suddenly he decides to throw a specter at us," Yumi agreed.
"Maybe that was what he's been building up to. That specter was pretty strong," Ulrich said.
"Speaking of which, how did the specter fighting go?"
"I'll live," Odd said, letting out a breath. "What about you, Ulrich?"
"Yeah, I think I'm g... Odd... Are you bleeding?"
Odd followed Ulrich's line of sight and looked down in confusion to see a large splotch of dark red on his shirt.
The others watched in concern as he rubbed the fabric between his fingers, his hand coming away stained with what was most definitely blood. "Um..." He lifted up his shirt, beginning to realize that, whatever wound was underneath, it stung... A lot.
A ragged spot of red stood out like a stop sign against Odd's much paler skin, where people normally punched to knock the wind out of their opponents. The edges of it looked almost... charred. It wasn't very deep, but it certainly wasn't just a scratch.
"The specter must have gotten you." Ulrich said, getting a closer look. "How did you not notice you were hurt?"
"Actually that's not uncommon." Jeremie said, also getting up and coming closer. "Adrenaline releases chemicals that suppress pain, making it easier to keep fighting in life or death situations. Evolutionary mechanism," he explained.
"But it does hurt, right?" Yumi asked, narrowing her eyes.
"Yeah... Now it's starting to," Odd said.
"Yup, the adrenaline's running out." Jeremie said.
"Uh huh," Odd nodded, his voice quiet. The others probably assumed he had gotten hit with a particularly nasty electrical attack from the specter, which would explain the burn marks, but Odd knew better. The specter hadn't given him this wound at all. He stared down at the blood, trying to count how many times the tarantula on Lyoko had hit him there. Three... It had been three, right?
"Jeremie, he's not going to bleed out, is he?" Aelita asked.
"No, it doesn't look very deep."
"So we can just take him to the nurse?"
"Yeah, we'll just ask for a giant band-aid," Odd snorted, trying to act normal.
"I'm going to say no to that..." Jeremie said.
The others looked at him as if he had just said that Sissi was a nice girl.
"I don't know about you guys, but it looks kind of suspicious to me. What are we going to say, he fell out of a tree?"
Everyone but Odd shrugged.
"So what do we do?" Yumi asked.
"A return to the past." Jeremie went over to the computer and tapped a few keys.
"Are you sure?" Aelita couldn't help but be confused. They had spent so much time trying to keep Xana from becoming stronger, it seemed like a waste to make a return trip and do just that.
"If we don't take Odd to the Nurse, which we can't, it'll get infected pretty soon. I'm fairly certain no one here knows first aid, am I correct?"
There was a collective group of sighs, followed by nods. Jeremie started up the process. "I'll set it back far enough so that we can actually get some sleep."
The second he pressed the enter key, Odd had to bite his lip to keep from gasping aloud.
All of a sudden it felt like every nerve had gone on fire, but it only lasted a moment or two before everything was wrapped in white.
Odd stared at the blinking cursor on the screen. The heading in the corner of the document started off with his name, then the date, followed by the subject: Extra Credit Holocaust Paper.
What in the world just happened? He could have sworn he had been somewhere else only a few moments ago, but he couldn't think where. Or what, for that matter.
He scrunched his eyes shut, starting to want some Advil.
It was at that moment that Ulrich walked into their dorm and light from the hallway spilled into the room.
"So is that gaping hole in your stomach fixed?"
Odd blinked at the computer screen. "What hole?"
"Ha, very funny," Ulrich snorted.
"No seriously, what are you talking about?"
"You're hilarious, Odd." He grabbed his wallet and walked out the door. "I'll be at the movies with Yumi," He added over his shoulder.
Odd was left, as confused as ever, looking down at the keyboard. He sighed and started typing up his paper for what he didn't realize was the second time.
One in the (freaking) morning and he was still awake. No matter which way he turned, his aching body and even more aching head refused to let him drift off.
At one point, his tossing and turning had gotten him so tangled up in his blankets that he hadn't been able to stop himself from falling out of his bed. He barely held down a surprised yelp as his already bruised back hit the floor hard.
That was the last straw. With a quiet groan, he stood up, glancing over at Ulrich to make sure he was still asleep. He put his shoes on and opened the door, stalking down the hallways with the ease of a cat.
Moonlight washed everything in an ivory glow, making it easy to navigate through the forest. The sewer, on the other hand, was an entirely different story. It was nearly pitch black down there, and Odd gave up on using his skateboard in favor of feeling his way through the tunnels. Finally, his hand rested on the bottom rung of the metal ladder, and he scurried up into the moonlight as if a hoard of Xanafied rats was chasing him.
Footsteps echoing eerily throughout the empty factory, Odd soon found himself in front of the supercomputer, searching for Jeremie's notes.
There were supposed to be here in worst case scenarios, and Odd found them in compartment of the command chair he hadn't known existed until now.
Thirty minutes and one migraine later, Odd finally had it figured out. He set up an automatic virtualization program and nearly jumped down the ladder as he hurried to get into the scanner in time.
The pressure behind his eyes melted away as the doors closed and the procedure started. He let out a contented sigh as he felt the bruises disintegrating into meaningless pixels that he could no longer feel.
There was a tingling sensation in his fingertips, and when he opened his eyes, the serenity of the forest sector greeted him. Not a monster in sight. Perfect.
He sat down and laid back, stretching on the ground like a cat curled up in the sun. He closed his eyes again, knowing that he would be coming here often.