A/N: Fifteen years ago, I was a wee child who enjoyed that weird but lovable show Code Lyoko. One binge-watch of nostalgia fifteen years later, here we are. Writing fanfic for it. The newer perspective gave me a lot to consider; stuff I wanted to see properly resolved and/or explored like Anthea, Project Carthage, or William's plotline. Evolution…wasn't satisfactory in that regard. The novels had flaws, but were quite good, and if you haven't read them, you should; they were never released in English, but some fans worked on a translation, and they can be found as a PDF online.
This draws heavily from the novels, Code Lyoko Chronicles, by which I mean I've rewritten them to be more in-line with the show's events; a proper Season 5-esque sequel.
Some scenes will be new. Some scenes will be different. Some scenes will be similar, but I'll do my best to avoid direct quotes (except in cases of exposition…especially technology exposition) and to add something new to them.
Disclaimed: I don't own Code Lyoko, Code Lyoko Chronicles, or any of their characters or events, and I am not making profit off this work. Please don't sue me, I don't have money.
The night sky was speckled with innumerable stars. A light breeze wafted through an open window, just barely kissing the curtains and making them whisper. The room beyond was neat, orderly. Rows of books lined mahogany bookshelves. An L-shaped desk faced the window, with a wheeled chair nestled into the corner. On the desk was a humming computer, its screen bright and alert.
The door opened, and a blonde man entered, a cup of steaming coffee in one hand. He went straight to the chair and sat, posture perfect. He took a sip from the cup, put it down, and, resting his fingers on his keyboard, began to type:
Tonight, it will have been ten years since I met her, and I've decided the time has come to tell our story. To reveal the incredible facts we witnessed together; Yumi Ishiyama, Ulrich Stern, Odd Della Robbia, and myself, Jeremie Belpois.
He nodded. That was a start. He knew, it he wanted this published, this dedication would likely have to be excised. In fact, almost everything would have to be altered. Names, places, ages, even the setting, would need to be butchered and changed to avoid drawing unwanted attention. An autobiography reimagined as fiction.
But the story in these copies would remain true. They were to be private copies, hand-delivered to those mentioned. Though others, like William, had also been present in their adventures, and had joined the ranks of those he considered friends...it felt right to single out the ones who'd been with him from the beginning.
He resumed typing.
And Aelita, naturally.
Not one day has passed that I've not thought of you, Aelita. This story is for all of my friends. But it is above all else for you.
His throat closed up as he finished that sentence. Aelita. His first love. Even now, after all this time, there was a special chamber in his heart, reserved only for her. She'd purchased it for herself when they were children, and still lingered there now.
How things had changed.
Goodness knows if you're still listening...
ACT I: The Underground Castle
Thomas O'Neill was not having a good day. At thirty-one, he'd seen his fair share of difficult cases in his work as member of Middleton University's IT Department. A laptop some idiot spilled water on and then put in a freezer. A laptop with bedbugs crawling all over the insides. But he'd seen nothing like this.
About a week ago, a young woman brought her laptop in, tears of frustration practically spilling from her eyes. It had been infected, she'd explained, by some virus preventing her from accessing the Internet. Fortunately, her professors were understanding of her situation, but the college student was being killed by needing to walk to the campus' computer lab to work. He'd given the appropriate soothing comments, warned her that it would take them several days to get to it, as they were swamped with work-which she'd grudgingly accepted-and taken the poor machine away to be looked at later.
If only he'd known. Whoever had crafted that virus must have been some kind of genius, because Thomas just couldn't get rid of it. Every anti-virus, firewall, debug, and counter he'd tried had all been effortlessly repelled. He'd even tried calling his ex-girlfriend, a veritable magician with computers. She'd returned the laptop today with an astounded "I've never seen anything like this, Tom. It's beyond me."
Thomas pressed his fingers into his forehead, trying to stave off his throbbing migraine, and stared at the laptop's glowing screen miserably. He could try wiping the computer, but...somehow he felt the virus would either stop that or survive it. Strange, to consider it alive, but that was really the impression he got from it: adaptable, ruthless, and living.
Still, it didn't seem like he had any other choice, so with a sigh, Thomas reached for the phone on his desk to give the customer the unfortunate news. He'd certainly do his best to transfer all her data, of course, but that would take even longer. He made a little bet with himself: On a scale of one to ten, how unhappy is she going to be, and how much am I going to get yelled at? Hmm...six? She was desperate, but she also understood about our workload...
Suddenly, a beep from the laptop stopped him short. He gave it an absent glance, then did a double-take. Swivelling in his chair, Thomas tapped at the keyboard rapidly, scanning the screen with full focus. His disbelief grew. Somehow...the virus was gone, all on its own!
Nonsense, Thomas thought to himself, who would go to the trouble of creating a virus as deadly as that, then have it self-destruct?
He pondered a moment longer, then ran a scan just to double-check. No, it wasn't a trick to let his guard down...the virus really was gone. Puzzled, he sat back and laced his fingers, frowning slightly as he tried to think of an explanation.
Finally, the young man shrugged. Well, whatever the reason, it had made his job a lot easier. He started dialing the phone again, this time to deliver good news, and thought no more on the matter.
In the network, rushing away from the laptop, a fragment began its search. It had no name and no memories. It had needed to go to the Internet, and that prison had been so constricting. But it was more important to hide there until the time was right, and so it had waited, confident in the protections around it.
It knew very little. It did not know how long it had slumbered, only that the time had finally come to emerge. It did not know who it was, only that it was desperately lost and alone. But it also knew it was just one piece of a greater entity. If it could find the rest of itself...it would find those things it had lost. It would be whole.
It knew they were out there, somewhere, other bits and pieces of itself. But the places it would be scouring were huge and fathomless. It would take a long time to search them. And if it were to be thorough, it would need an eye.
Yes. That was something. That, it somehow knew, was what it needed most of all.
Warmth. Laughter. Kisses being pressed to her face. A voice, loving, reassuring, whispering sweetness. Mommy.
Giggling, she pulled away from Mommy's kisses and opened her eyes. They were outside in the snow, playing. Mommy had chased her around and scooped her up. She blew raspberries into Aelita's stomach. It tickled. She shrieked in laughter. Mommy's eyes crinkled as she smiled.
"Let me go!" she squealed. "Let me go! No more!"
"Oh? But you're so cute, my darling. I just wanna eat you up!"
"Well, if you promise to behave, I suppose I can let you go…"
As soon as Mommy put her down, Aelita launched herself at her legs, delighted at her cleverness. Gotcha now, Mommy!
But Mommy suddenly disappeared, and Aelita hit the snow face-first. Her cheeks and nose and forehead stung from the impact. Sniffling, blinking watery eyes, she sat up and looked around. The snowy field in front of their house was suddenly deserted.
The loud baying of wolves reached Aelita's ears. Fear spiked through her. She turned to see several of the creatures approaching, their amber eyes glowing.
Aelita woke with tears on her cheeks. She gasped, one hand clawing at the sheets tangled around her. Rather than warm and cozy, protective of the cold winter's night, they felt suffocating. With a mighty kick, they came off. She sat up, shivering, the familiar weight of Mr. Puck in her other hand doing little to calm her.
She rubbed her eyes. It had been months now since XANA's death, and these dreams still hadn't died. They weren't the nightmares her friends had-the ones where they were transported back to a time of fear and attack-though those sometimes occurred. Mostly, Aelita dreamed of her father, or her mother, or people she did not know, people who must have meant something to her once upon a time. She dreamed of the places and things she'd lost. Sometimes she could recall them upon waking, and clung fervently to these fragments of memory; sometimes she couldn't, and mourned yet another loss.
That wasn't the whole of her amnesia, though. Once in a while, she even forgot things that had already happened. The week before break, she'd forgotten that her father had died, and asked about the anti-XANA program. Her friends had gently broken the news to her, and she'd gotten the joy of reliving that, and...
What was wrong with her? Why hadn't her memory returned? Why did it sometimes get worse?
Why don't I even know if my own mother is alive or dead?
Aelita started at a knock on the door. Shaking, she touched her face, checking for tears or a runny nose. All clear. Good. She called, "You can come in!"
The door creaked open, and a kind face poked inside. Jeremie's mother was blonde like her son, though going gray at the temples. She wore a conservative blue dress that matched her eyes. "Aelita, dear, breakfast is ready."
She forced herself to smile. "Alright. Let me get dressed and I'll be right down."
Mrs. Belpois smiled back and left. Aelita sighed and looked about the airy room she was staying in. Like that first time, the Belpois' had invited her over for the holidays. Christmas, to be specific. She hadn't wanted to spend the holidays alone (even if Yumi wouldn't be far) and had once again been happy to accept. But Aelita hadn't anticipated how painful it would be, to be among a happy little family when her own was gone. Every time she watched Mr. Belpois working with his son at a computer, or Mrs. Belpois laying out a fresh plate of biscuits, hollow misery and envy twined in her gut, and she would avert her eyes.
She didn't belong there, not really. What was she to the Belpois? A friend of their son's, certainly, but not a girlfriend or daughter-in-law or anything that made her part of them. She and Jeremie liked each other a lot, but...she didn't want a relationship now. Not while her father's death still shadowed her heart.
Aelita sighed, pushing those negative thoughts and feelings away as she put on a pretty pink dress. While it had been oddly cold all year, the Belpois' house was nice and toasty, with a big stone fireplace in the living room. She could step on the wood floor barefoot, as she was now, without her toes freezing.
She stepped into the hallway with a silent, ghost-like tread. The guest room she was staying at was right next to Jeremie's. He was waiting for her-a cute little thing he did, escorting her to breakfast like a gentleman-and leaning against the ugly floral wallpaper. My mother picked it, he'd told her. She has terrible taste, but it makes her happy, so Dad and I don't say anything.
What wallpaper would her mother have picked out?
It took all Aelita's strength to muster up a smile. "Good morning."
"Good morning." His head cocked to one side. "Aelita...are you alright? I could hear you thrashing about next door."
She flushed. "I'm sorry, did I wake you?"
"No, no, I was up already. Were you having a nightmare about…" He looked around the hallway and lowered his voice. "XANA?"
She looked at his concerned face and felt something in her give way. Her feelings were too ugly to share, but her dreams-she knew she could talk to him about those. "No. It was about my mother."
Sympathy washed over his features. "Ah. A good dream, then?"
"Yes. ...No. Both good and bad. We were playing in the snow, and then...I lost her again."
He laid a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. Silence draped like a heavy cloak on their shoulders.
Finally, Aelita dared to whisper, "Jeremie...do you think she's alive?"
He opened his mouth. Paused. Closed it. "I don't know," he said honestly.
Aelita nodded, because what other answer could he give? He would never lie to her about that. But she was so tired of not having anything of her past. Just a doll and a shutdown supercomputer and an old house…
The Hermitage. She hadn't set foot in the Hermitage since her father's death. His ghost haunted the rooms, barricaded the entrance hall. It was a tomb, not just for him, but for all the sadness in her life. Lyoko. XANA. The men in black. Disturbing it would, she feared, resurrect them.
But what else would she find if she could bring herself to look? This wasn't the first time she'd wondered that. It was, however, the first time she didn't immediately shy away from the idea. She flinched, a little. But then she examined it. Studied it. Weighed it.
If I went back to the Hermitage, would I find more about my past there?
Would I find something about Mommy?
She'd always listened to her intuition. She knew Jeremie wasn't one to put stock in dreams or hunches; he liked certainties, facts, data. Aelita personally believed there were times you just couldn't know everything, times you had to take leaps of faith. Wouldn't returning to a place of sorrow, in hopes of finding joy, be that same thing?
Finally, feeling as if she were about to step off a cliff, she gave voice to the idea that had slowly been eroding her will for months. "I want to revisit the Hermitage when we get back from break."
He blinked. "Why?"
"I want to look through it again, for information about my mother. And my father too." Pain lanced through her at the thought of him, as it had for months. It was slowly dulling, but when would it stop?
"I know it's silly, but-I still feel like I don't know him all that well. Some of my memories feel weird, like I'm remembering wrong, and there's so much I don't know. Like my birthday, or his, or how he met my mother. Maybe...maybe there's a photo album, or some of my mother's belongings, or they had friends we don't know about. Something we missed."
A warm hand took hers and squeezed. She looked up into Jeremie's smile. "Of course we can go back and look. I'm surprised you didn't ask sooner, to be honest."
She exhaled, relieved. "I was...afraid you guys wouldn't want to revisit a place tied to Lyoko." I didn't.
"Well, I don't know how the others feel, but I'm sure they wouldn't mind helping you. I certainly don't. And while a lot of scary things happened, a lot of good ones did too. We met you, for one!"
A little laugh bubbled out of her throat. "Yes, I'd certainly call that good!"
And with the laugh, the heaviness on her seemed to lift away. She let go of Jeremie, feeling more revitalized. "C'mon, let's go to breakfast, then call our friends to make arrangements."
The end of break couldn't come soon enough.