Testament

/

You don't write a will when you're thirteen years old.

When you're Jérémie Belpois, you don't have much by way of material possessions to bequeath to anyone, anyway. You did a lot of clearing out before you left for boarding school and your room back home is pitifully empty, a burial ground for relics of your childhood. Crayon scribbles your parents have kept from when you were five. Junior chemistry sets. Two boxes overflowing with Lego. Empty chocolate wrappers and dust bunnies given free reign over the space beneath your bed. Blissfully normal things.

It's been tough lately, you know that, but it's one inconsequentially normal thing that hammers it home to you on one attack-free day. You've just run (jogged, walked... crawled) the one-hundred metres and you're slumped on the warm asphalt catching your breath, when Hervé Pichon beside you, sweat dripping down the sides of his face, wheezes "I'm dying", and in one boy's melodramatic declaration the truth hits you like a heatwave, a succinct epiphany of everything you have always known.

The one hundred metres won't kill you. Scaling school roofs to get your laptop back might not even kill you. But some way or another this fight against XANA will be the end of you.

And then... what then?

Hervé recovers his breath. So do you. Your heart beat slows, your breathing evens out; your body knows that it's safe in this present moment.

In the grand scheme of things, you are dying.

/

You don't have a will to write.

You have the next best thing.

You stay up late that weekend - nothing new, the only variable being the specific purpose for the late night, and how much work you get done - compiling everything that has ever made you useful into one stack of papers two inches thick. The basics, all the just-in-cases, extra notes handwritten as afterthoughts in the margins. It costs you far too much money and the scrutiny of the receptionist to use the photocopier but soon you have three copies, one for each of your friends.

/

They stare at you in disbelief. Mourn their plans for the day as they traipse after you to the factory.

(How do you expect us to remember all this junk?"

"I don't understand any of it!")

Maybe in the beginning you would have agreed. Now, you trust them because you have no other choice and you know they will learn this, will take what's left of you and imbue it into themselves with every fibre of their being.

You don't think they could understand, except Yumi, perhaps, whose scrutiny you pretend not to notice as you hunch over the keyboard. You are brisk and matter-of-fact as always as you go over the codes and the programmes as though you yourself are discovering them again for the first time. They want the basics but they need everything - they need the contents of your mind, the ability to understand rather than simply do. They need to be able to sit where you are now, in this chair, and utterly replace you - to think, adapt, invent, reprogramme.

You're not a natural teacher; frustration mounts, tempers flare. You hate yourself for failing to be useful. You need to be useful long after you are gone or this will be the end of all of them.

/

The attack-

A man in a black suit becomes black smoke and you are slammed into cold metal; there is pain and then pain like you've never felt as electricity surges mercilessly through your body and you are screaming, screaming agony and all your worst fears are confirmed-

You wake up when it's over with an ache in your head as your friend's concerned faces swim into focus and it's with a dull sort of surprise that you realise you're still alive.

This time.

/

It's quite fun in the end, the second time around. You enjoy the triumph flooding their faces with each bit of progress. Ulrich's astonished disbelief, the hesitant "Did I do it...?" and his grin as you nod, Odd stealing your glasses and playing the part as he types away. Yumi rests her hand lightly on your shoulder with a quiet thank you that says more than anything else could and Aelita's hand brushes against yours. These are the moments you want them all to remember.

That night, you sleep a little easier.

/

You don't write a will when you're thirteen years old.

You leave a pile of messily written papers instead, with your own handwritten notes in the margins, and you hope that it's enough.