PLEASE READ THIS AUTHOR'S NOTE IF YOU ARE AN AVID READER OF THIS STORY
wooow sorry I didn't mean to take two weeks this chapters actually been done for about three weeks but this was a real bitch to write because I'm bad at transitions in stories (ex. the beginning, the climax, the finale) I have the middle parts down and can type those in a day. But I'm having trouble with the next chapter and have a grand total of two paragraphs typed up. Again, it's another transition chapter (you'll be able to tell what type of climax it is by the end of this chapter) but if I get rolling and keep up with the momentum, I should be able to type it in a few days. SHOULD BE. It's not my forte, though, so that's not the case.
tldr: I hated typing this chapter and I hate writing the next chapter which I can't seem to start. Which means I'm not positive that I can crank out another chapter by next week. I'm going to make it priority, though, instead of playing skyrim.
Fingers crossed that I will, but just a warning. Reviews inspire and motivate me:)
"What-What was that?" Hervé squeaked out, later alone in his room that he shared with Nicholas, who was currently out.
The boy frantically thought about what he heard on the other side of that door with Sissi this afternoon. Hervé had been so embarrassed after that moment he totally forgot about Sissi and went straight to his next class to think. The voices, sentences and noises he heard behind that door were etched so hard into his skull that attempting to do a simple math assignment proved to be impossible.
All this time, Hervé believed that Aelita was with Jeremy, and Ulrich with Yumi. So that means they never were together? Or when their significant other wasn't around they could fool around? Even if the others in their group were missing, Hervé never thought that Ulrich and Aelita were like… that… together. Nicholas would be so heartbroken, because here he thought that he would be the one Aelita chose after Jeremy and Odd.
It didn't even cross his mind that chances are; people were… doing that kind of stuff at this place.
Hervé messed up his already wild hair with his fingers, stressing over this social situation. Things were so much easier when he ducked his head and hid behind his glasses. He couldn't believe that he heard that with Sissi. The brain wondered for a moment how the girl was taking Ulrich being in that kind of relationship with Aelita.
Deciding that the homework he was hoping to do wouldn't get done tonight, he switched off the light early and headed for his bed.
"I think we should think this over more…" Aelita worried. "Don't you think this is a bad idea? We shouldn't just jump on an easy solution and endanger more lives than were already taken."
"Well when would be a better time?" Ulrich responded, trying to keep his temper under control, "When we're dead and there's no one left to fight XANA?" It wasn't working too well.
Aelita shot him a look from across the room. Currently, they were in their separate beds. Ulrich had already grown accustomed to his new roommate, and after she fell asleep he was even planning on sneaking over to her side of the room once again. 'It was for her' he would try and reason with himself.
Earlier Ulrich had shared his plan that maybe they could recruit new members to the Lyoko Warriors, namely Sissi and Hervé. Aelita had nearly choked on her lunch when he spit that one out. The boy explained how good it would be, but Aelita seemed in a daze the rest of lunch, and most of the day for that matter. Ulrich gave her the time to consider the idea, since it would be a big and potentially dangerous step to fighting XANA. Just tonight, as they were lying in bed, had she begun to share her thoughts.
"Listen," Ulrich started, sitting up to lean on his elbow and look over at the girl. "It's just Sissi and Hervé. No one else needs to know. If they don't agree, we do a return trip, and it can go back to just the two of us. But do you really think we can survive another XANA attack with just us two, and XANA bent on destroying us?"
Aelita chewed her bottom lip, from what Ulrich could make out in the darkness. Having thought about this all day, she could see Ulrich's point very easily. But the more dominant side of her that didn't want any more casualties fought hard.
"We would need time to train Sissi-if she agreed-and just having to do that makes us vulnerable." Aelita reasoned, not wanting to voice her actual worries.
Ulrich saw through her attempt, however, by the way it sounded like she was about to cry. Deciding that he needn't have to wait for her to fall asleep, he got up to climb into Odd's bed with her. Aelita, already expecting this, easily dug her fingers into his shirt and buried her face in his chest when he was comfortable.
Then the boy spoke. "Sissi won't get hurt, it's okay. You won't get hurt either, and I won't, and Hervé won't." He soothed her with his words that they both knew couldn't be guaranteed. "And we still have William's clone with the upgrade-"
"No." Aelita said sternly, but was muffled by his chest.
Ulrich leaned back, looking at her face. Thankfully she hadn't shed any tears, but she still looked upset. Only a little more angry than sad.
"We need to take the upgrade off of him and leave him be," she told the boy, looking him dead in the eye. "You saw last time he had the upgrade how easily more attention was brought to him."
"Well, maybe the upgrade got him more attention, as in; he didn't seem like a total idiot anymore." Ulrich responded back hotly, his fingers unconsciously curling around the girl's waist that he still held.
Aelita scrunched up her nose, poked Ulrich in the chest with her finger and curtly replied, "We're just lucky no one seemed to notice anything different today." Aelita's expression softened. "We need to play things safer, Ulrich."
The gentleness of the girl's voice brought up guilt in himself for being too quick to anger recently, and he brought Aelita to his chest again, burying his nose in the princesses' hair. "I'm sorry, really I am," he mumbled sincerely, "just… think it over. We can take the upgrade off and that's really what you think will make things easier, but you have to admit he really saved us today."
Aelita sighed into his arms. Ulrich was putting a ton of emotional things on her. She knew that he didn't mean to, and Aelita would prefer that he did come to her about these things, but it was enough that her love and two best friends had just recently died. The girl repeated in her head that he was going through the exact same thing as her at the moment, the only thing Ulrich was doing differently was moving on, and trying to plan things for the future.
The more Aelita had considered Sissi and Hervé to become a part of the Lyoko Warriors during the day, the more it seemed like a good idea. That or the only option. She was having trouble differentiating between the two. Would she really allow the two, if they agreed, to sacrifice themselves? And what about William? Even if he wasn't a real being, nothing deserved to be treated like a punching bag for the specters like Ulrich was suggesting. Plus if-or when- the real William came back, it would be bad to leave a lot of trouble for him that the upgraded clone could create.
The pinkette held back tears from the decisions that demanded answers that she wasn't willing to give out. Close in between the two teen's bodies, Aelita clutched the items of her fallen friends, wishing she had Odd's sense of humor, Yumi's strength, and Jeremy's love right now.
In the midst of her silent thoughts, Ulrich had heard Aelita's breathing become even and slow, telling him that she had fallen asleep. The lull of her rhythmic breaths lured him into his own dreams as well.
"Just go up there and do it!"
"I don't see why it has to be done like this."
"She likes you more, direct speaking is harder for anyone to avoid, and this was your idea in the first place."
Ulrich sharply looked at the pinkette next to him in the cafeteria. Being it was Sunday, there weren't any classes for the day. That meant the two remaining Lyoko warriors avoided everyone for the morning, until they knew it would be unhealthy to skip another meal in a row and joined the rest of the student body for lunch. Currently, both were sitting side by side, facing Sissi's table with semi-eaten trays forgotten in front of them.
The principal's daughter kept glancing up, and her cheeks stained red in embarrassment. They assumed it was because Aelita and Ulrich continued to stare her down, while making little whispers of conversations between each other on how to invite Sissi in on the group. Hervé was sitting next to the girl as well, but he didn't notice the two watching the table, more absorbed in a chemistry book. It had been decided beforehand that Ulrich would lead Sissi away from the brain, inviting Aelita to swoop in and corner him.
Ulrich crossed his arms moodily. "This seemed like a better idea yesterday," the boy sighed. Ulrich stood, ignoring the gazes of the girls that weren't getting over the other day's newspaper picture, and strode to Sissi's table.
The girl looked up at the approaching footsteps, and wasn't very surprised to find Ulrich stood directly in front of her line of vision at the foot of the cafeteria table. Hervé also glanced up, locked eyes with Ulrich for a split second, and buried his nose back into the book to avoid the more popular male.
"Hey Sissi," Ulrich said as pleasantly as possible. "Would you like to go out to the park for a walk right now? I've wanted to ask you something…" Ulrich didn't mean for it to sound like he was going to confess his love, but he knew there would be no way for her to decline if it was worded like so.
Sissi's eyebrows shot up, and for a moment suspicion crossed her pretty features. It melted quickly until her usual, cocky air returned.
"Of course, Ulrich darling," Sissi said a little louder than necessary, "I would love to go for a walk with you through the park." Ulrich cringed at both the tone of the girl and whispers of people that had heard. When had he cared so much about others opinions?
It didn't matter. Both Lyoko warriors knew that she would be like that, therefore it was a better idea to be away from others when they invited her.
Aelita watched from her seat as Sissi and Ulrich walked out of the cafeteria doors. Her sights zeroed in on Hervé. The part where Ulrich said that Hervé would be a good addition to the team surprised yet pleased her. When the brain had attempted to comfort her during a breakdown, she accidentally begun to trust him, despite previous things he did last year. Her companion was probably thinking that it would be a good idea for someone to work the supercomputer in their place.
After she could no longer see the boy and girl outside of the windows, she made her move. The girl stood up as discretely as possible to not gather attention, and quickly made her way to take the seat directly across from Hervé.
Looking up in annoyance at yet another disturbance, his green eyes widen when he saw the kind girl that was part of the group that he hated and envied at the same time. Hervé's book was forgotten on the table after his hands went limp. He leaned back a little in his chair and mentally prepared himself for whatever the girl could possibly want to say to him.
Aelita analyzed him and gauge what her words should be. She must have sat there staring at him longer than she thought because he voice shook her from her gaze.
"Have you been feeling better since yesterday?" Hervé asked stiffly, but concernedly.
Her face softening from the serious mask, she nodded with a slight smile. "I just… wasn't having a good day. And Ulrich wasn't with me…" she trailed off, feeling bad about not telling the complete truth. Aelita had to remind herself that she could tell him everything if he joined the group. 'At least the atmosphere isn't as stiff now,' she thought.
The pinkette cleared her throat and rubbed her cheek, flinching at the pain of her invisible bruise. How was she supposed to go about this? Aelita didn't think this far ahead, she thought the words would just come to her. Maybe talking to people about joining a team of heroes that has a very high chance of getting you killed was a more difficult thing to talk about than she anticipated. Her anxiety just rose by the second.
"Hervé, Ulrich and I… we-we would, um, do you t-think," Aelita began, becoming more scrambled as the word tumbled out. 'Dammit,' she thought bitterly.
The brain sat patiently, though, even leaning in to hear her words better. The girl's eyes would no longer meet his, and the flinch from moments ago concerning him. Hervé knew that this was a big thing they were discussing.
"Does this have to do with the disappearances?" Hervé interjected between her pause.
Aelita heart hammered harshly at the correct accusation. Her eyes snapped to connect with his, staring into them. The chatter of the cafeteria seemed to mute, the air around them thick with tension.
Hervé knew he was right.
Aelita managed to slowly get out, "Will you and Sissi meet me in the park tonight?"
As he nodded solemnly, not questioning why Sissi was to come, more interested in the answers that may be provided, the noise seemed to return to their senses. Just as loud as before.
The pinkette's expression fell back into her indifferent mask that she arrived with, nodding a farewell to the brain. She noiselessly scraped her chair away from the table, quickly making her way to the doors that would take her back to the boy's dorms, hoping Ulrich would be there soon as well.
Sissi had immediately tried to latch onto Ulrich's arm while they were still just outside of the cafeteria doors, hoping that if someone were to glance out, they would see her claim on the boy. He quickly unlatched her hands from his arms with as much patience as possible, remembering her kindness over the previous days that was making this worth it.
Sadness crossed her features at his actions to push her away, but she reluctantly kept her hands to herself afterwards, trailing behind and letting him lead her to the park. If he didn't want it to be a romantic walk across school grounds, why else would he have her out here?
Just as the girl's annoyance was about to get the better of her and she would begin to demand answers, her crush turned sharply to face her. Due to the suddenness of his actions, she subconsciously took a step back and became very aware of their surroundings. They were in the woods connected to the school, at least 100 meters away from another living soul.
"Me and Aelita want you to meet us here tonight," he bit out before he could chicken out.
Sissi's delicate eyebrows rose at the request. A few beats of silence later, Ulrich knew he needed to elaborate more.
"The situation… it's something we think you and Hervé can help with. And we need you."
"You-need me?" she stuttered.
"And Hervé," he quickly continued. "It's… it's about what our groups been up to these years."
The raven haired girl mulled over the information. Wasn't some of their group missing? Was this a part of that? But then she realized that this would be the time to get all the answers she could want. If it was so important, it had to satisfy all her inquiries.
With a sly smile that was borderline flirtatious, she happily nodded to his question.
While the rest of the day seemed to stretch on forever for the two anxious black haired teens, the Lyoko warriors wanted much more time to prepare.
Ulrich had decided not to bring up William to Aelita for the day, in hopes she would forget the program was still installed on the clone. He may have also done it to lighten her load as well, after watching the girl gnaw her nails in Odd's bed for hours that day.
Besides, more demanding things needed to be covered by the time dinner had rolled past and it was about time to meet the two hopefully new members of the team.
As Ulrich and Aelita slowly made their way the agreed destination, the boy could feel the shaking of the girl's fingers as she desperately held onto the back of his jacket. Had they been in their room, he would have hugged her tightly and not let go. But since they were outside, even with no spectators, he ignored her and kept them moving forward with his hands in his pockets.
"Maybe we shouldn't do this-"Aelita whispered from behind Ulrich.
The boy cut her off with a sigh. She immediately snapped her mouth closed, knowing that voicing her concern was just making this harder for the both of them. Ulrich stopped walking and looked back at her, sadness coating his complexion instead of anger.
For a moment, forgetting that they were in public, he brought his hand up to gently rustle it in her hair for comfort. Aelita leaned into the soft touch, letting it calm her, before all too quickly it was taken away. Looking up at her companion's face again, she saw something that hasn't been around for nearly a week.
He had a small, lopsided grin and his eyes were sparkling and kind. Ulrich knew that this was going to help, and everything would be better.
Aelita managed a small smile back, her heart lightening enough for her hands to stop shaking. "When you're going through hell, keep going."
With a confused tilt of his head, Ulrich answered, "Where did that come from?" To which he only got a shake of the head in response. The boy's hand came up to scratch his hair, but flinched when he came in contact with his wound from yesterday. Aelita reminded herself to check that when they got to the factory.
The two of them walked just a little farther into the trees, coming to where the manhole lay, to find their invited guests. Hervé noticed the two's arrival first, perking his head up from what seemed to be an intense conversation with Sissi. It was hard for any of them to see the other's expressions through the darkening sky, but both Sissi and Hervé seemed to be anticipating what was next.
Sissi turned to look at what caught the brain's interest, just as the Ulrich and Aelita walked up to make a sort of circle.
"What is this about?" the principal's daughter demanded, "Girls shouldn't be out this late." The other three teens saw a pointed look towards Aelita, implying she didn't want the other girl there.
Ignoring Sissi's remark, Ulrich simply said, "Look down."
With confused expressions, the two looked down to the center of their little formation to find a rusty manhole cover that had a very slight stench oozing from the holes at the top.
Hervé nose wrinkled at what he knew the more popular teen was implying. "What's this about?" he repeated his companion's question.
"We can't talk about this here," Ulrich gruffly said, kneeling down to remove the lid to the sewers. The Lyoko warriors had become accustomed to the smell, and in fact if the sewer stopped smelling like it did, they would have a hard time adjusting.
"Do you honestly expect us to go down there?" the raven haired girl nervously mumbled, cautiously looking down the pitch black hole.
"Yes," Aelita responded for Ulrich, who had done most of the interacting thus far. "If you want answers, follow us," she said, climbing into the manhole after her companion.
After a disbelieving shared glance, Hervé climbed after Aelita, and Sissi followed.
To their relief, the bars of the ladder weren't totally disgusting to the touch, and appeared to be used often- therefore to some degree; clean.
At the bottom of the ladder waited Aelita and Ulrich, the first on a scooter and the latter with a skateboard under one foot. In his hands he held one skateboard and another scooter, slightly outstretched.
"Take your pick," Ulrich invited.
Another skateboard was behind a pipe in the wall, with purple flower decals on it. Aelita was on a blue decaled scooter and Ulrich a green rimmed skateboard. The offered scooter was pink and white, and the skateboard in his other hand had a dog on the back.
It was rather easy to tell whose item was whose from the people in their group. Sissi quickly took the skateboard, leaving Hervé no other choice but to opt for the pink scooter.
As we were prepping ourselves to leave the bottom of the ladder, Hervé decided to ask, "What about that last skateboard?" knowing that he could handle a skateboard better than the embarrassment of riding a pink scooter.
"That's not an option," Ulrich harshly bit out. Suddenly he snapped his board forward to begin their trek, leaving the other three in the dust.
"Sorry," Aelita murmured sadly to the two, but mostly the startled Hervé.
The pinkette lead the way through the sewers on their transportation, stifling a smile at their scrunched up noses when she glanced back.
After a short, uneventful, and quiet ride through the tunnels, Sissi spoke up.
"I don't know why I'm doing this. What's the point?" she complained. Aelita barely managed to make out a shaking in her voice, though, indicating her anxiety. "I could just tell my father you guys know something about your friends' disappearances."
If Aelita hadn't known Sissi was the one that brought them food when her and Ulrich were barely eating, she would've sent her back to the dorms and done a return to the past. Instead she grit her teeth and berated Ulrich's decision to add her to make herself feel better about this situation.
Just then, they turned the last corner and found Ulrich standing under a different ladder in the dim lighting. To their relief he seemed to have blown off steam by himself.
Coming to a stop and stuffing their devices behind the pipes, Ulrich nodded at them and lead them up the ladder, sliding the heavy sewer door open for them at the top. Ulrich turned and kneeled at the top, and then he grabbed Aelita's hand to assist her politely, afterwards reluctantly took Sissi's as well when she offered hers. Since he was already on a roll, Ulrich grabbed Hervé forearm and yanked him up, knocking the brain's glasses on the ground accidentally.
"Fresh air! Finally!" Sissi grumbled and dusted off imaginary dirt from her jeans.
Hervé grumbled and picked up his glasses after regaining his balance. Sliding them up his nose, his eyes widened behind the frames at the sight of the old abandoned factory that was a few miles from Kadic.
"Hey!" Hervé cried out in realization. "This is Stone's and Della Robbia's love nest!"
Sissi gave him a look that said, 'you're still on that?' with a hand on her hip. "They're cousins, dork."
Hervé shot the girl a glare, knowing what he saw a year ago.
"Well," Ulrich called, already halfway across the bridge with Aelita, "come one then!" not having heard the brain.
Thankfully, the moon was bright enough so that Hervé didn't trip to catch up. Meanwhile Sissi took her time, analyzing the building, doubt etched into her pretty face.
Ulrich and Aelita entered through the giant, open doors of the factory and got to the edge of the platform as the raven haired teens reached them. Both Lyoko warriors grabbed one of the four available ropes and jumped.
"Wha-!" Sissi spluttered, quickly looking over the edge. The two easily landed on their feet after sliding down the ropes like pros.
Hervé took a nervous step back, whispering, "Not again."
"Grab a rope and come down!" Ulrich commanded.
Sissi tentatively grabbed a rope, pulling a little to check the durability. She held on tight with both hands, gulped when she looked down, and took the leap. Sissi closed her eyes tight, but the ride was over much faster than she anticipated. Ulrich had to physically grab the girl before she hit the cement after realizing the girl had shut her eyes.
Watching Sissi have some trouble making down, Hervé stuttered, "I-is there a-another way-y?"
After adjusting Sissi, both Lyoko warriors exchanged a glance. Aelita smiled slightly, and Ulrich looked up with a large grin as well.
The brain groaned and slid a hand down the side of his face. Very gently, as if it would bite, he grabbed the rope, remembering the last time he was required to go down it with Nicholas. Working up all his courage, he jumped to wrap his legs around the rope, clinging to the scratchy material, and he went… nowhere.
"You can't hang on that tight, Hervé!" Aelita guided. "You need to go down the rope!"
"I'll fall if I don't hang on, though!" he argued.
"That's the point!" Ulrich barked.
Hervé swallowed again and reminded himself not to close his eyes like Sissi did. He hoped what they wanted to talk about was good. In very light amounts, he slackened his legs' hold on the rope, and found himself going down much slower than the other three. And that pleased him.
When he was just a foot from the ground, he released himself from the rope and landed on his feet. Hervé patted his chest and head to make sure everything was already, and then breathed a sigh of relief.
Suddenly Ulrich clutched his stomach and burst out laughing. Hervé cheeks stained red in embarrassment from the other boy's chuckles. Sissi was covering her smile with her hand, already over her experience.
Aelita glared at Ulrich as they lead the new members to the elevator. As the door slid open, the pinkette commented, "I would stop laughing, Ulrich. Jeremy told me how your first time was."
The teen's laughs stopped, and he sent her a look that said she better make like Jim and not talk about it. Hervé and Sissi's interest peeked though, and Sissi began to giggle for a different reason, obediently getting into the elevator with the brain. "What was Ulrich's first time like?"
Aelita smiled at the innocence and friendliness of Sissi's question, and replied with, "let's just say that Ulrich has a fear of heights."
"Get over it," he grumbled, punching the red button to bring them down.
Instead of continuing to laugh over the light-hearted conversation, Hervé and Sissi staggered at the roughness of the lift that the other two were used to. Exchanging a worried glance, Hervé piped up, "Are you going to tell us why we had to come here? And are you sure this is safe?" He eyed the top of the elevator that appeared to be bent at an odd angle with a hole at the top.
Aelita softly smiled at him. "Yes, it's safe. And… well, we'd rather show you," she answered as the large elevator doors slid open.
Sissi and Hervé's jaws went slack from the sight of the enormous computer interface connected to the wired ceiling at least 25 feet high. A large holomap that the two new members didn't even think was invented yet took up the center of the room, with a strange symbol that looked like a ball with four wings.
Hervé's glasses were slipping down his nose at the shock of seeing such an amazing piece of technological work.
Sissi tilted her head every which way and mumbled, "Whoa…" walking out of the lift first.
Hervé suddenly turned on the Lyoko warriors with an angry expression. "This is what you guys were hiding? A supercomputer?!"
"Not just any supercomputer," Ulrich retaliated. "A quantum supercomputer." Although the teen didn't know what it meant still, it sounded impressive and made the brain's jaw go slack again.
Aelita shot him a look that she knew he had no idea what he was talking about, then walked out of the elevator after Sissi, the boys following.
"What is all of this? Why are you showing it to us?" Sissi snarled, turning on the two Lyoko warriors as Hervé kept whispering to himself, 'so many questions.'
"First things first," the princess remembered, going to the panel on the wall to the first aid kit. She grabbed Ulrich's arm with her available hand and led him to the computer chair to sit, opening the kit on his lap for convenience. Only when they saw Aelita start inspecting Ulrich's head like a nurse while he obediently sat did Sissi and Hervé take their attention away from the impressive room.
"What's wrong with him?" Sissi worried.
"A specter threw him into the wall," Aelita answered, finding slight wetness in the place his head was hit, and a hiss of pain from her companion. Fumbling to grab the disinfectant while holding pressure on his wound, Sissi quickly came up and reached for what she assumed the girl was searching for, handing it to Aelita. Hervé came up to the last available spot crowded around Ulrich.
"What are you talking about with a specter?" Sure he had heard of them, but only in fictional works.
The pinkette dabbed the medicine on with her fingers, ignoring Ulrich's groans and fidgets. Withdrawing her hand, she wiped off the slight blood with a towel from the kit. Sissi and Hervé's faces contorted with shock and paled at the sight. Deciding his knuckles would be healing properly from here on out, she left the scabbed hands alone.
"Well…-" the princess tried. Her mouth opened to continue, but no words seemed to fit that would both answer his question and not make them freak out.
"First things first," Ulrich declared. He snapped the kit closed and gently set it on the keyboard, as to not press any delicate buttons. He grabbed the cloth from Aelita's fingers, and used the not blood stained side to bring it up to her face and softly wipe off the make-up reapplied from this morning. The girl flinched, and her eyes went downcast as the two new members saw her dark purple bruise staining her face.
Grabbing her chin- but not hard enough where she could escape if she wanted to- he tilted her head so the two could take in the full sight with the glow from the computer screen.
"This is proof so that you know that we aren't lying when we tell you our story," he advised.
Ulrich had both raven haired teens get comfortable, sitting against the wall while Aelita took the computer chair-facing them of course although she ached to turn around and continuing working- and Ulrich stood standing in front of all of them.
He explained everything. Beginning with Aelita's story, how she was trapped in the supercomputer, Jeremy materializing her, and who she really. Next he described where the princess was trapped, going into detail what Lyoko was but depended on Aelita to jump in with technological details mostly for Hervé's sake. Lastly, he came to the subject of XANA. He tried to explain the evilness of the program, and how it attacks the real world through the towers on Lyoko, and only Aelita can deactivate them to save the world. Aelita interjected details that he would forget as he talked nonstop.
Finally, Ulrich thought he already said everything to the best of his abilities- but not too in detail as to not scare them too harshly. His mouth was dry and his throat hurt, and by now it had to be midnight. Sissi and Hervé had yet to ask any questions or say anything at all of that matter.
At last Sissi uttered, "XANA…?" she chewed her lip, looking down.
Hervé stood quickly, and clenched his fists until the knuckles turned white. "You two expect me to believe all this? Sure you have a supercomputer, but there's no way you can be transferred into it. Materializing a human being? Impossible!" He threw his hands into the air, yelling accusations at the two. "Where's the rest of your group? Huh? Did they betray you? Did you betray them? You had to get rid of them?" he mocked.
"Hervé!" Aelita called, trying to calm him by standing from the chair and reaching her hands out, but suddenly the girl cried, "Ulrich!" when her companion roughly grabbed the collar of Hervé's flannel and raised his fist.
"Take that back!" Ulrich advised loudly, ignoring Aelita's small hands attempting to bring his fist down. Sissi got into it as well, trying to detangle the samurai's fingers from the brain's shirt.
Instead of the usual fear Hervé would display in this type of situation, he instead locked his jaw and narrowed his eyes, staring straight at Ulrich's raging face. "Where. Are. The others." He demanded, the embarrassment of being told to believe such a ridiculous story fueling his adrenaline.
Ulrich's own eyes narrowed. Despite wanting to rearrange this guy's face, he knew that they needed his help. If Ulrich told the truth, that would probably scare them away, but if he didn't give into the demands of this person, it wouldn't get them any farther to adding them to the team.
"Where are they?" Hervé repeated, with less force as Aelita finally got Ulrich's fist down and the hold on his shirt was loosened. Ulrich glanced at the black-haired girl's expression, seeing her look up shyly, wanting an answer as well.
"Where-"the brain began again but was cut off by a sigh from the other boy. Ulrich completely released him; bringing one hand up to run through his hair. He felt Aelita still clutched his other hand, weaving their fingers together for comfort that he found settled him further.
"They're dead." He answered. Both their faces melted in horror. "XANA killed them. That's how dangerous and serious this matter is. XANA takes lives, and only we know and can take action to save people."
Aelita's hands shook, and his thumb absentmindedly rubbed the back of her hand that was locked with his. Ulrich looked down at the laced fingers, letting his hypnotic rubbing ease his anxiety. He no longer wanted to be here, with Hervé and Sissi. He wanted to take back what he said, go with Aelita and defeat XANA by themselves.
Normally, Hervé would be uncomfortable with their close gestures, and Sissi furious, but all this information was staggering.
"D-do we get proof?" Sissi asked tentatively after a long silence. "I-I mean more than," she gestured with her hands the supercomputer.
Aelita sighed, removing her hand from Ulrich's warm one. "You will only be shown more proof and initiated if you join wholeheartedly." The samurai was impressed with how strong her voice sounded.
"You mean in the scanners?" Hervé questioned, anxiety creeping up into his voice.
Both Lyoko warriors nodded solemnly, Aelita looking the brain dead in the eye and Ulrich with Sissi. If the atmosphere was tense a minute ago, they were drowning in it now.
"Well, uh, what happens if we don't agree?" Sissi started, her voice getting more confident as she went. "I think my father would be very interested in this." Aelita's disinterest and Ulrich's smirk knocked her off guard, the confident little smile she had sliding down her face. Seeing that she wasn't about to intimidate them, she quickly made up for it by reverting to her actual fear. "I mean, what if we get hurt like you two or… worse?"
"I forgot to mention," Ulrich replied. "You've both already been here before," the two raven haired teens looked at each other, "but only Hervé can remember."
The popular girl was lost. "What do you mean I've been here before? I would've remembered this!" while Hervé also voiced his concerns of never seeing this.
"Hervé has been to the factory, though. And the reason why you don't remember is because of 'Return to the Past'." Ulrich explained.
"Return to the Past?" Hervé inquired, already having an idea where this was going.
"It means that if you two don't want to join our cause, we will press a button and go back to the past where you won't remember anything." Aelita elaborated.
The brain gave a harsh swallow, but felt as if he knew his answer. Sissi as well looked stricken- as if she was going to faint- and there was hesitance, but her mind seemed made up.
"Since… I don't want my memories taken- if you really can do that- and… and I would do anything for Ulrich," the boy in question wrinkled his nose at her pathetic attempt to flirt at a time like this, "I-I'll help you guys," Sissi confessed, bringing her hands up to nervously run her fingers though her hair nervously.
"S-same," Hervé stuttered. "But if any of this turns out to be false or too much to handle, I'm out."
"It's not that simple, Pichon," Ulrich said sternly. "You can't get out once you agree. If you tell someone, return to the past will work on the person you didn't go through the scanner, but not on you, and that's not an option if we can't trust you not to do that all the time."
Hervé could really see where Ulrich was coming from. It would make things unnecessarily nasty if this artificial intelligence was as bad as they were making it out to be. But his scared nature wanted to get the better of him. Should he show himself that he wouldn't be in the Lyoko warriors shadow anymore? That he would be one of them doing great things? Saving the world? Could he even agree to risk his life to do those things when he had enough trouble as it was to slide down the rope earlier?
The other three waited for Hervé's answer patiently, Ulrich and Aelita knowing that it was a hard decision. Unconsciously, Aelita's fingers sought out her companions again for comfort, interlocking them again.
"I…" he began before clearing his throat and starting again. "I'll join fully."
The pinkette gave out a breath she didn't know she was holding, squeezing Ulrich's hand. The boy look at her and gave out an airy laugh. The strain of not knowing their responses and not be fighting XANA alone anymore was fading, leaving the two elevated.
"There's so many things to do," Ulrich started, "You two need to know how to fight to defend yourselves, and we need to exchange numbers in case of emergencies and-"
"Wait," Sissi interjected. "I have a question." The two Lyoko warriors glanced at Sissi, to see her staring at their conjoined hands. "Have you two been sleeping together?"
Aelita sucked air in between her teeth sharply while Ulrich began having a cough fit, both their cheeks flaming red. The boy withdrew his hand as quick as he could, rubbing the back of his neck with it. Hervé nodded as well, wondering the same thing. Thinking that the raven haired girl had caught onto their sleeping in Odd's bed together somehow, Ulrich was quick to make up for it.
"I-it's for c-comfort. That-that's it. Nothing else." The boy was obviously flustered talking about the subject of his feelings, but he saw it as the only option as to tell the truth, show as little emotion as possible, and not piss off Aelita.
"Ah," Sissi remarked, eyes going downcast at the answer but didn't ask for more details to their relationship, not liking the awkwardness that hung in the air. Although it had been confirmed, Sissi didn't want to think Ulrich wouldn't be 100% hers one day, because the thought was bringing tears to her eyes.
Aelita attempted to change the subject, "how about we send them through the scanner tonight?" Although she couldn't see outside and wasn't close enough to the calculator to tell the time, she knew it must be getting pretty late. "You bring them to Lyoko and I'll work the controls."
"No way," Ulrich immediately shot down.
Aelita's dainty eyebrow rose to challenge him, crossing her arms. "And why not?"
"What if XANA attacks while we're on Lyoko and you're here by yourself?"
"Then I'll bring you back, alright? Ulrich, how else are we supposed to train them otherwise? Someone needs to be on the supercomputer or at least in the real world now that-"she stopped talking suddenly. Ulrich immediately understood, but the two on-lookers took a second before realizing she was thinking of Jeremy.
"Fine," Ulrich bit out moodily. "Any trouble and you send me back." He gave Aelita a hard look before gesturing to Sissi and Hervé to follow him.
"I can't believe I've been here before," Sissi mentioned, following the boys to the elevator again, having trouble believing it all. It felt like an action movie. She looked at Ulrich to smile, but the recent confession left her with a bad taste in her mouth, and instead looked down at her feet.
"By the way," Hervé begun as they saw Aelita hop onto the supercomputer chair and the lift doors slid closed. "I know Sissi has some experience fighting… but I don't have any. Why me?"
"You're second in our class, after Jeremy. We need someone to run the supercomputer while we fight." Hervé's interest level peaked, and a smile spread over his face.
"That means I don't need to go into the scanner?" he hoped.
Ulrich smiled deviously. "Oh no, you don't get out of it that easily. Jeremy's job may have been to run the supercomputer, but he still went to Lyoko when he needed to. Plus, you won't remember anything if we did a return to the past if you don't go to Lyoko."
"Wow," Hervé grumbled. "Give me another reason."
"You won't be able to be possessed by XANA anymore if you go through the scanners," Ulrich added, liking the surprise on the brain's face as the more popular boy gave him another example of why this would do him good.
Hervé gulped when the elevator opened again on another floor, only in this room there were three coffin-like scanners that had cords coming out of them every which way. Sissi even appeared to take a step back.
Ulrich put one hand on each of their backs, pushing them forward.
"Tell me when you're ready," Aelita's voice crackled over a speaker in the ceiling.
First, the samurai guided Sissi into a scanner, telling her to stay put. She nodded fearfully, hands shaking. Hervé looked like a wreck when Ulrich guided him to the second scanner.
"It's… it's not going to h-hurt is it, Stern?"
Ulrich pushed him into the scanner, "No, not at all. In fact, if you stay still, Aelita may manage to get all your limbs there."
"Ha ha," the speaker deadpanned overhead.
Hervé throat went dry as he watched Ulrich get into the last scanner, the doors of his own sliding closed, a fan blowing up from below him.
"Transfer, Ulrich. Transfer, Sissi. Transfer, Hervé," Aelita's voice said from a speaker in the machine.
Could he back out at this point? Hervé's stomach had butterflies practically spilling out of it. The fan pushed his hair up along with ruffling up his flannel.
"Scanner, Ulrich. Scanner, Sissi. Scanner, Hervé." The brain's glasses were being pushed up, but it didn't matter because by this point the boy had closed his eyes tightly and hoped he would survive.
"Virtualization." His black hair stood straight up from the huge surge of energy coming up from his feet. Even through his completely closed eyes he could see the blinding white light coming from the machine around him, and he then he felt nothing.