A/N: I've been watching the Matrix too much. That, and I've been listening to Celine Dion. Dear god, please help me. Some of those songs, I just go "THAT'S TIANNA, RIGHT THERE. I'MA GO WRITE SOMETHING SOOPER SADZ NOW BASED ON THIS."
On an unrelated note. Oh, Tianna, how your viewpoints are fun to write.
I had fun writing this chapter. However, I'm a little iffy on how it turned out. Writing in a limited third-person point of view has its drawbacks, as everything is slanted in one perspective and can create rage in "That's not how they'd be like!". So, a little disclaimer: this is in Tianna's point of view. This does not necessarily reflect on what other characters are truly like.
Tianna's character sheet is finally colored and what-have-you. Links are on my profile.
Edit (IMPORTANT!): I reviewed this chapter a few days after posting it and discovered I'd disclosed some information in the scene with Sam that I had added in to the rewrites. While I have them semi-written, I haven't posted them, and therefore I acknowledge the possible confusion this could cause. Bear with me here; instead of rewriting this chapter, the next chapter will review the scene and clarify things, since I have yet to publish those particular chapters in the rewrite.
76. The _ causes contractions of the ventricles of the heart.
A) Vena cava
B) AB Node
C) AV Node
E) Air pressure in the lungs
Tianna suppressed a yawn as she circled the correct letter. It was midterm time in Kadic, with the first semester coming to a close in a little under a week. She had been pulling late nights to study – which would be an odd occurrence for the program, except that she had not been studying for her academics. Instead, she had spent hours and hours researching different forms of psychological torture. While X.A.N.A. had not called her back to work on Sam, she still wanted to be prepared for the next session.
It had been a little over two weeks since the first, fun-filled session in the replica. X.A.N.A. had been relatively quiet since then, and she had been able to maintain a normal schedule befitting of a normal, teenaged student. Detention went by without a hiccup as she spent two hours each evening with the LYOKO warriors, although talking was not allowed and she had yet to make any progress on that front. At least they don't seem to suspect anything from me, aside from perhaps questionable associates.
The police had never returned to Kadic, either. Somehow, Tianna realized she had slipped detection on the security cameras, in the sense that they had not noticed her disappear after the power outage. When she realized her mistake several days later, she had hacked the police database and edited the footage accordingly. The hunt for Sam continued, albeit with little to no progress.
Her only remaining obligation laid with Talyn, then. She paused in her testing to bite the eraser of her pencil – a nervous habit she had observed and decided to pick up on. Talyn had not been in contact with her since the day she left the complex, and she was curious as to when he would decide they should meet. Not because she wanted to see him again, she told herself, but because it was the last remaining obligation she had before she could focus solely on her mission once again.
Several tests later, she found herself sitting in the cafeteria, alone, with her lunch. A notebook lay open in front of her, and she put on the pretense of studying for her afternoon classes. In reality, it was a jumbled mess of technical notes and observations. With her head bent over it, she looked like any other student in the cafeteria. Her eyes, however, looked up at the table of LYOKO warriors, who were sitting a few tables in front of her.
They appeared as normal as they often did, though that was what tipped her off. She wondered if anyone else had picked up on it: for just losing one of their friends, they did not appear as distressed or upset as one would expect. In fact, they had reverted completely back to normal. There was no hint that they were even attempting to act normal for the sake of coping with the loss – it was too normal.
So they must have decided that X.A.N.A. is definitely the culprit. But I'd have thought they'd have a little more tact with reacting to it. It's only been a few weeks. She scowled, as her mind drifted to wondering if this was how they had acted when she first disappeared. The thoughts rested in the back of her mine, and curdled in the simmering emotions she generally tried to keep under control. Let me look at this way: now I can actually get true footage of the warriors acting normal without her. But… I need something to really push her buttons. What, though?
The question rested in the more prominent part of her processing center as she worked towards a solution throughout the afternoon. She had several ideas by the time detention rolled around, but none of them included the opportunity that suddenly landed on her lap. Jim was their "jailer", so to speak, and often read a book or a magazine during the two hour period. That day, however, the room was a bit warmer than usual, and he had fallen asleep on his chair; his head had tilted back, and a somewhat snore escaped him every few seconds.
She had assumed her studying position, and had retreated into her mind. Aelita's presence at the side of her table took a minute to register, and she snapped her head up in a startled fashion when it finally did register. The pinkette offered her a small smile, and clasped her hands in front of her.
"We're studying for the math midterm tomorrow," she said quietly, and pointed to the group clustered around a table behind her. "I noticed you're studying, too. Would you like to join us?"
A replacement. If Sam feels replaced by someone she doesn't really know, it would hit her hard. The answer she had been looking for had finally walked up to her. Yet… a small whisper snaked through her mind. Especially if she feels replaced by Odd….
She realized she had been staring at Aelita. "Oh! Sure, I guess. Can't hurt."
While she collected her things, she reflected on her thoughts. The latter might be hard to pull off – and not just because it would be hard on me. No, I won't focus on that yet. Focus on integrating, and the rest will come naturally. She refused to acknowledge what would be the quickest path to torturing Sam simply out of self-preservation.
"I don't know how you understand this stuff, Jeremy," Ulrich was saying as she joined the table with a chair she had dragged over.
"It looks like Latin to me," Odd said in agreement, before the group noticed her presence.
"Hi." She smiled weakly as she sat down and set out her own book and notebook, before flipping to a fresh page. "Calculus, right?"
"Right." Aelita sat back down. "Jeremy and I are already ready, but we've been helping these two. We've got some practice problems, if you want."
"That'd be helpful." She began copying the problems down in her notebook. Math was a particularly easy subject for a program, but she left a few problems unanswered and a few answers off by one or two on purpose. "How've the rest of your midterms gone?" she asked as she worked, in an attempt for idle conversation.
"Pretty good," the pinkette replied. "Haven't they, Jeremy?"
"At least, for us, they have."
"Hey!" Odd froze as Jim let out a particularly loud snore. After a moment where he continued to sleep, he continued, "We can't all be as smart as you, Einstein."
Tianna's brow rose in feigned confusion. "Einstein?"
"That's our nickname for our resident genius," Ulrich said with a grunt, as he pushed his practice paper away.
"Ah." She laughed quietly, and handed her paper to Aelita.
Odd stuck his tongue out of the corner of his mouth, in a slightly comically way, as he worked. "Great, even Ulrich's beating me at these questions? I thought math was your worst subject."
"I get tutored."
"Or so he thinks." Jeremy passed him back his paper, with the majority of the answers circled in red pen. The brunette groaned.
"Hey, you're pretty good at this, Amelia," the pinkette remarked as she handed her back the paper with only a few of the answers circled.
"Detention has made me study," she replied with a small grimace, before she picked up her pencil again.
There was a brief silence as the group exchanged glances – detention was the one reminder of what had happened that had yet to go away. She decided to remain oblivious as she continued working on the problems.
"At least we have break coming up," she continued on. "And I imagine none of the teachers will want to stay to force us into detention."
"Speak for yourself," Jeremy said with a chuckle that seemed just a bit strained. "We're all staying here for break."
"Oh?" This was news to her. "Not going off to visit family?"
"We've got some friends coming back to Paris to spend some time with us," Aelita replied, as Ulrich looked uncomfortable for a minute.
Yumi and William. This can't bode well, for several reasons. She kept her studious façade up as her mind worked through the options.
"I wish I had somewhere to go," she murmured, partially as an afterthought when silence threatened to befall them all again. "Downside to actually living not far from here."
"At least you don't live on campus," Odd said, before he held up his paper triumphantly. "Done! Finally."
"Do you want to do the honors, Aelita, or shall I?" Jeremy asked, with genuine amusement, now.
Tianna furrowed her eyebrows as she looked up. "He can't be that bad, can he?"
Odd gave her a lopsided smile. "Nice to see someone has faith in my abilities."
"I wouldn't particularly call that faith," Ulrich said as he turned back to the group. "More like disbelief."
"I suppose I'd understand if I had more classes with him." Privately, she was glad she did not. She glanced at Jeremy, who had taken to correcting the math problems. "How's it look?"
"Well, I'll put it this way." He adjusted his glasses. "Odd, if you past this year, you will prove my calculations wrong."
The blond groaned, and thudded his head against the table. Without thinking, as the situation was nostalgically familiar to Tianna, she reached out and patted his shoulder. As soon as she was aware what she was doing, her hand froze, and she partially retracted it.
"I'm sure you can find some tutors to help you for next semester," she managed out as she set her hand back on her calculus book. Her eyes flicked around the group briefly – they did not seem to have noticed anything – before she looked back down at her questions.
"Careful Amel—" Ulrich started, but Odd interrupted him as his head popped back up.
"Is that an offer?"
She swallowed. "I don't know if I qualify for that position."
"I'll take any help I can get," he said, and gave her wide, pathetic eyes. "Please?"
His disregard for Sam's disappearance is sickening.
Her pencil paused in its scratching as she recoiled slightly. "You've got two smart friends right here, don't you?"
All of them are.
"We mind as well be speaking another language when we try to tutor him," Aelita said with a giggle.
I don't care if they know think she's in a similar situation with William – this is crazy. These people are way too happy-go-lucky. Humans are so… weird. Heartless.
"I'll… consider it," she finally conceded. Only because it will help my own interests.
Of her own volition, she decided to visit Sam after detention. It's to keep X.A.N.A. from breathing down my neck, she told herself. No one was at the factory, and she slipped into LYOKO without a problem. Instead of rewiring a scanner, she merely landed in the original digital world. The ice sector was her sector of choice, and she aimlessly wandered through the silent area until she reached the transport tower.
She floated up to the second tier and summoned the console. After changing a few files, she dismissed it and promptly dived off the platform. For a moment, she sailed through the blue and white lines of code, before she spotted the underside of a platform. Her perception changed and she was no longer falling down, but climbing up onto that platform. A simple, quick transportation program had spirited her away to the other replica without the hassle of going through the digital sea and the internet.
Leaving the tower, she found herself in the sector-five-like replica. The blocks formed a walkway for her, and led her to their prisoner. Sam was still in the same position Tianna had left her in, although her jailer had tightened its tentacles, as if she had tried to fight.
"Well, well, look who's back," Sam spat as she spotted her.
"Hello, to you, too." Tianna did not bother summoning a console. She had a feeling Sam would refuse any videos, so she planned only to speak.
"What'd you come here for today, huh? Gonna show me some more fake videos?"
She sighed, and clasped her hands behind her back. "I'm only here to talk, Samantha."
"Sam. It's Sam. You know that, so stop trying to act all righteous."
"If you prefer Sam, then that is what I will call you."
"What'd you like to be called? 'X.A.N.A.'s pet'?"
"Tianna is quite fine, thank you."
"I dunno, 'pet' seems to fit you well."
She glanced around the room, and clicked her tongue. "How do you like your accommodations?"
"I never want to see the color blue again," Sam deadpanned.
"Isn't it strange, though, that they fit to your every need?" Tianna began to leisurely pace in front of her.
"I wouldn't exactly describe these as ideal. Ideal would be letting me go."
She paused, and chuckled. "Fair enough."
"How long have I been here?"
Tianna considered revealing the truth, but thought better of it. Removing Sam's sense of time was too important.
"There isn't much of a way to tell in here, is there?" she finally said. "Without the need to eat, drink, sleep, or exercise… without a sun and a moon telling you when it is day and when it is night… time seems so… strange, doesn't it? You can't even use breathing to count the seconds properly, since the only reason you emulate breathing is because you are used to it, and not because you need it. You start to forget, and the jumbles up the whole counting aspect."
Sam was silent for a long moment. "What's happened to my body? Is it all right?"
"You don't have a body when you're in LYOKO, Sam."
The girl attempted to jump forward, only to be held back by her jailor. "What did you do to it?"
"I did nothing. When you are virtualized onto LYOKO, your body becomes nothing but lines of code. There is no physical remnant on Earth. It's why, if you fall into the digital sea, you are erased from both worlds." She shrugged. "What you consider as the human parts of you – your brain, for instance – are nothing but the renderings of the transfer. Here, you are on the same plane as me. Lines and lines of code forming a program, which forms a projection. Your brain is nothing but the processing center, and your memories, your emotions, your 'human' aspects are nothing but what your processing center has to run on."
"I am nothing like you," she hissed.
"Are you not? Here, we are both programs. Our origin is different, but we are still intelligent. We fight for what we believe in. We struggle with the aspects that our human forms bring. The only difference there is that I know how to revert to my programming in both forms. I know how to treat my 'brain' as the processing center it is. You have the reverse."
"I have a real life."
"What is 'real', Sam? For you to so easily be rendered as something digital – a program, just like me – makes 'real life' seem so… phantasmal. Whimsical. You only believe you are still human because that is all your processing center knows."
She sputtered. "You lie."
"I ask you, again, why would I lie?" When she did not reply, Tianna continued. " X.A.N.A. and I could have easily wiped your code, changed it and corrupted it to fit our 'evil plans', as you call them. That would certainly give weight to your argument. But we didn't. We chose to keep you in this form."
"So, what, you could torture me? I hate to break it to you, but there is no pain on LYOKO."
"I am well aware of that fact." She chuckled. "You have been rendered as an AI, just like I have. You can learn, you can process information and choose a course of action. Technically, there was no logical reason to do anything to you. We could simply provide you with the facts, let you process them, and see the logic."
"You keep saying that, but you're just wasting your breath."
"You will find, Sam, that X.A.N.A. doesn't do anything unnecessary. X.A.N.A. is a perfectly logical creature, just as you are or I am. You simply need to move past your base programming – those human-like qualities that have led you and many other humans in that phantasmal 'real life' to countless, unneeded, trying situations – and see the simplistic logic of the program you currently are."
"I won't be a program forever. Once I devirtualize, I'll be a human again. And you'll see just how resilient we humans are, despite our 'illogical shortcomings'."
"I don't think you understand, Sam." Tianna held back a Cheshire grin; she had been waiting to break the news to her. While it would involve partially revealing her location, it would still shake Sam to her core. "If you devirtualize, your code will simply merge into the mass of the internet."
"You… But… T-That can't be right. I just have to lose my life points and I'll be back on Earth."
"Did you never question why you could not be virtualized directly into a replica of LYOKO? The simple answer was that the super computer was not connected to it. The complicated answer is that because the super computer is not connected to it, one's digital rendering must pass through the internet – the digital sea – and have the correct security to pass into the replica. I virtualized you directly here, Sam. You passed through the digital sea."
There was complete silence for a solid minute. Even the ever-changing blocks made no sound, as there was no need in their programming for them to make any. She waited for the inevitable explosion as she watched Sam's face contort into a myriad of emotions.
"You… you hypocrite! You just preached choice and how X.A.N.A. had done nothing to me and how he was so good and now here you tell me you wiped my human body from existence? What backwards logic do you believe in where that is… is… logical?"
"A body can be rebuilt. The code is out there. But you, your freewill – your 'mind', as you call it – is still intact. We did nothing to that. Can you honestly say we wiped you from existence when what makes you be you still exists?"
"Yes! You erased my human body! I was a human! I am a human! I'm not you!"
"Are you? You, who willingly jumped from human to program every time you virtualized, who enjoyed the world and the 'superpowers' that came with being a program – you are still a full human?" Tianna paused, and looked her in the eye. "You lost your humanity the first time you were virtualized, the first time you became a program. You became nothing more than lines of code that could be rendered in two different ways."
"You took the choice of which I wanted to be away from me!"
"You took the risk of losing your human rendering each time you virtualized onto LYOKO, when you waged an illogical war with a program who only wanted to do the logical thing."
"Your logic is flawed."
Tianna stepped back. "Perhaps, in a sense. The logical thing to do with you would have been to wipe the remnants of humanity from you, to unburden you of them. Strange how X.A.N.A. chose not to."
Sam opened her mouth – and closed it. Ahh, there it is. All the time you've spent in here, thinking, you've been wondering why you weren't just controlled. And now, everything I've just said, has planted more seeds of doubt into your mind, of what is real and what isn't. Of what is logical and what is illogical. You're going to start questioning yourself when I leave you alone. And that, dear Sam, is what will get you in the long-run.
With no further words left, she turned on her heel and clicked out. As she readied herself to return to Earth, a small thought snaked itself into the forefront of her mind: I'm starting to believe what I'm saying.
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