Chapter 4- The Dream (8.18.07)
“Come on, Ulrich! Hang in there!” Aelita called.
Everyone had low hopes. Ulrich had been out cold for ten minutes, and again his heart beat was starting to get lower. Of the four, Yumi was the least composed. She was sobbing quietly into her hands. Aelita, Jeremie, and Odd wanted to do the same, but were in shock, unable to move.Suddenly a second beeping came from Jeremie’s laptop. Jeremie quickly opened it. “XANA’s called off the attack! The tower just deactivated itself!”
“Then why is Ulrich still unconscious?” Odd asked, for once not willing to joke.
Jeremie’s triumphant smile faded. He didn’t know the answer. They could only expect the worst.
Ulrich had never felt better in his life. He felt strong and full of energy compared to when he had been in the hospital bed, his strength slipping away. But then he saw something to change his state of mind completely.
A man with graying hair and round-rimmed glasses was walking toward him. Ulrich had seen him before. Where had it been?
Then he remembered. He had seen this man last as a polymorphic specter of XANA. This man was Franz Hopper.
“Hello, Ulrich,” Franz said, speaking with the voice that had haunted his dreams for the past few weeks. “I have been waiting for you to come.”
“Am I dead?” Ulrich asked fearfully, afraid of the answer. Then he remembered that Franz was eternally virtualized in the Network. Wasn’t he?
“No, you are not,” replied Franz. “But you are not alive either.”
Ulrich was puzzled. “Either I’m alive or dead, right? I can’t be both? Or none?”
“You are merely having a dream,” replied Franz. “This was the best way I could contact you without XANA interfering. But your body is currently giving off the impression that you are dead.”
Ulrich understood, but at the same time he was even more puzzled than before. Franz, seeing the same puzzled state on Ulrich’s features, said, “Your mind has simply left your body.”
Ulrich jolted at the thought. The last time this had happened, XANA had taken control of his body on Earth. “Do you have a reason for contacting me? And giving me dreams for the past few weeks?” That have tormented me ever since, he silently added.
“Oh yes. I do. I would not simply remove your mind from your body just for my pleasure. Although XANA probably would have.”
This got Ulrich to thinking. “Does this have to do with your localization on the Network, and your rematerialization?”
Franz nodded. He made a choice right then, that he would not tell Ulrich his secret. The boy would have to find out for himself.
The doctors had all filed out of the hospital room. All was quiet, except for sobbing. Ulrich’s heart had stopped beating 10 minutes ago. It was impossible that he was alive.
Yumi was in shock, no longer able to cry. From the time the doctor had come over and told the four that Ulrich had passed on, Yumi had not made a single movement. Aelita was quietly sobbing into Jeremie’s sweater, not able to look at the hospital bed where Ulrich lay, unmoving. Odd, like Yumi, was also in shock. None of them had expected Ulrich to be the one XANA would attack and kill.
“It should have been me,” Odd finally said, his voice cracking. “It should have been me. Ulrich gave more to the group than I ever did.”
“Except your jokes,” Jeremie’s muffled voice said.
“But why Ulrich, Jeremie?” Aelita asked, barely audible. “Why him? Why not you or me?”
“XANA has to have a reason,” Odd said hoarsely. “But was it just to eliminate one of the Lyoko Warriors? Because that’s a weak reason. If he really wanted to eliminate one of us, he would have done so years ago. Do any of you realize that it’s been more than two years since we discovered XANA?”
“XANA did it because he’s evil,” Yumi said, finally showing signs of life. “But this is low, even for him. Attacking someone while they’re weak and helpless is completely evil.”
“XANA’s an Artificial Intelligence. He can do almost whatever he wants,” Aelita said, her voice choking. The group fell quiet.
“But why me?” Ulrich asked. “Why did you choose me to take this message, and not Aelita, your daughter?”
“Oh, there is a reason for that. There is a reason for everything. But I’m not sure if you can handle the answer.”
Ulrich looked at Franz with even more puzzlement. ‘It isn’t a simple reason, like my mind and body being able to handle the strain or something?”
Franz shook his head.
“But can you tell me?”
Franz shook his head again.
“Why? Is it ‘can’t’ or ‘won’t’?”
“It’s more of the shock that might come to you if I do tell you,” Franz replied. “Your mind might not be able to stand the shock, and it may separate from your body completely. Right now, your mind is connected to your body by a connection weaker than a hair.”
Ulrich looked surprised. He hadn’t expected to separate from his mind completely. But he was willing to take the risk. “Franz, I’ve come this far. All my friends probably think I’m dead now. And I’m probably not going to get another chance to talk to you.”
Franz pondered this. Then he sighed. “All right, I’ll tell you, since you’re so persistent. Like your mother,” he added quietly.
“It’s nothing. Now, listen closely…”
Odd blinked. He could have sworn that Ulrich had moved. “I think my eyes are playing tricks on me. Ulrich just twitched.”
Jeremie looked surprised. “Odd, it’s impossible he moved because he’s…”
“I know,” Odd said, quickly cutting Jeremie off, chancing a glance at Yumi. She was staring blankly at Ulrich’s bed, and didn’t seem to have heard.
Then she gasped, pointing at Ulrich. Ulrich was blinking his eyes. Aelita gasped, not sure if she was seeing things. Jeremie’s jaw dropped to about his ankles. Odd stared at Ulrich with a face made of stone, his eyes wide.
Ulrich sat up. “Are you guys okay?”
Jeremie suddenly picked up his laptop and, in one swift movement, held it threateningly over Ulrich’s head. “Why did you take control of Ulrich’s body, XANA?”
Ulrich looked shocked. “I’m not XANA! Jeremie, don’t you dare hit me with your laptop! Unless you want me knocked out again!”
Yumi gently removed the laptop from Jeremie's hands and set it aside. “I know it’s him.”
Jeremie looked surprised. “But how?”
Yumi glanced at Aelita. “Female intuition.” Aelita nodded in agreement.
“Are you sure?” Odd asked. “May I remind you that last time your ‘female intuition’ was wrong about whether Jeremie was a polymorphic specter?”
“This time they’re right, Odd,” Ulrich said. Everyone turned. “Because I know your feet still smell like a fresh pile of manure.”
Everyone smiled. Yumi rushed over and hugged Ulrich. Odd turned to Jeremie and said, “Better launch a Return then, Einstein? There’s absolutely no way we can explain to doctors why a boy came back to life after his heart stopped ten minutes ago.”
Aelita glanced at Odd. “Since when are you serious? Did XANA do a mind swap and switch you and Ulrich’s minds?”
“No,” Odd replied. “And once was enough. Do you know that Yumi’s-”
Yumi cut Odd off. “Shut it, Odd. May I remind you that I had to sleep your body? I don’t know how you manage to sleep with a-”
“My feet are fine, thank you very much, Yumi,” Odd said.
“Oh sure,” Ulrich said sarcastically, rolling his eyes to Yumi. “And to think we ever thought you could find a cure for your feet. Einstein, how much does amputation cost?”
“Actually, I think the doctors will do it for free after they smell Odd’s feet,” Jeremie replied.
After that, no one could breathe from laughing.