With arms folded, and a cynical look in her eyes, Yumi Ishiyama stared intently at Jeremie Belpois who had some sort of twisted smile on his face. It wasn’t like him…no matter how angry at Odd he was, he wouldn’t be casting an eerie, chilling smile.
“Hold it, Odd!” Yumi suddenly said. “I’m not too sure of this.”
Yumi watched as Jeremie’s face lost the smile it held and instead registered worry. That was a bit more realistic for Jeremie in a predicament like this. But she still wasn’t sure. Something wasn’t right about the way he had been behaving all day.
“What’s wrong with you?” he questioned, his voice suddenly changing from the dull, lifeless voice to one of a different nature. He was trying to get her to trust him. “Look. It’s Jeremie, Yumi.”
That sentence set off more alarms in her head. Since when did Jeremie refer to himself in the third person? And what’s more that peculiar smile once again resided on his face.
“Look, we’ve gotta get moving.” Ulrich started. “What if Lyoko does get erased, huh? Have you thought about Aelita?!”
The truth was, she had. Multiple times. Part of her was wondering why she was questioning Jeremie but her gut told her something was wrong. She had learned to trust her instincts…they had never steered her wrong and she wasn’t about to make the same mistake she had done many times before.
Jeremie’s face once again lost that smile and, for a brief moment, he seemed like Jeremie again. “Look, you’ve gotta believe me. But if you have any doubt, let Ulrich and Odd be transferred before you.”
Yumi again just stood there, studying him. He grew more impatient…or was that nerves she saw. Was he nervous of her?
“Come on, Yumi,” Ulrich urged, not understanding her hunch that something was amiss. “The more time we spend here the more likely XANA is going to succeed!”
“No!” Yumi said. “Something’s not right.”
“Please Yumi,” Jeremie tried to plead, but he didn’t do a very good job. Yumi saw right through him. “Aelita’s in danger.”
With a frustrated sigh Ulrich walked out from behind her. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but I’m going to help Aelita.”
“Stop!” Yumi commanded as he reached the elevator. “Something’s not right. Can’t you see?”
“Yumi, why are you so against going to Lyoko to save Aelita?” Jeremie questioned. His eyes narrowed into tiny slits. “XANA has cloned you once,” he hissed. “Is it possible he has done it again?”
A shocked looked came across her face. What? That was absurd! She was the real Yumi! “What?!”
“So far you’re the only one who has seen those supposed ‘inconsistencies’,” he replied, forcing a startled look from Odd and a suspicious one from Ulrich.
“And how would you know that? None of us has told you anything!” Yumi spat back, trying to keep Odd and Ulrich on her side. Now she was positive that something was terribly wrong.
“I heard you talking while watching Odd and Ulrich in gym class earlier,”
“But I wasn’t anywhere near you!”
Odd looked from Yumi then to Jeremie, now not sure who to believe. Yumi was right…Jeremie was acting strange. Even Ulrich admitted that earlier.
But Odd also saw the worry on Jeremie’s face. He was worried about Aelita. And maybe he was right. Yumi didn’t seem to be acting too much like herself either. Was she trying to break their confidence in Jeremie so that XANA could get rid of Aelita? That seemed to make more sense to him. After all, if XANA had somehow gotten to Jeremie, why would he be so eager to get them to Lyoko to help Aelita?
Yumi, meanwhile continued her stare-down with Jeremie, studying his every move. He continued to stare back, his smile causing her to shudder involuntarily. She glanced at Ulrich, then at Odd. She could tell by the looks on their faces that they were losing their trust in her.
Ulrich took another step toward the elevator. Yumi turned all her attention on him. “Ulrich, stop! Don’t go.”
He turned and looked at her as did Odd and Jeremie. They didn’t understand. Jeremie then turned to Ulrich. “Aelita said something about seeing a circular sphere in the midst of the Polar Region. Perhaps XANA used a guardian to imprison Yumi - again - and sent us her as a way to keep us from helping either of them!” Jeremie accused.
Yumi put her hands on her hips. “That’s ridiculous,” she shot. “I’m the real Yumi!”
“I’m not so sure,” Odd replied, walking up by Ulrich.
Yumi became frustrated that they were questioning her. Then again, she couldn’t exactly blame them either…Jeremie was instilling their doubts about her inside their heads. But why?
The doors to the elevator opened. Odd and Ulrich turned and stepped inside. Yumi saw an almost sinister smile spread across Jeremie’s lips…not one of relief.
“Odd, Ulrich, wait!”
“Listen XANA,” Ulrich replied, keeping his back to her. “I’m not going to let you destroy Yumi…or Aelita, or the rest of Lyoko for that matter!”
“Nice try,” Ulrich interrupted.
“To the scanners,” Jeremie instructed. “I’ll start the process.”
“What about -” Odd started.
“Don’t worry.” Jeremie assured, walking toward the supercomputer.
Yumi sprinted toward the elevator as the doors began to close. She didn’t make it. Odd and Ulrich were cut from her view as the doors came together.
Before she even had a chance to react, she heard an evil-sounding snicker from behind her. Turning, she saw Jeremie looking at her, but his face was twisted, distorted. A sickening smile resided on his face. Then it hit her.
He wasn’t Jeremie.
“XANA!” she shouted. The smile widened as he turned back to the screen. Yumi, likewise turned and began to pound on the closed doors. “No!” she shouted but it was no use…they were probably already in the scanner room. She tried to hit the elevator button, but it would not respond.
“Don’t bother,” XANA hissed in Jeremie’s voice. “You can’t help them now!”
In a blind fury, Yumi ran at him, her fists clenched tightly. She was not about to let her friends be destroyed. XANA merely smiled wickedly at her before raising his hands, almost as if to say his farewells to her. Immediately following, she felt arms encircle her. Turning around wildly, she saw Jim holding her tightly…too tightly. He looked strange; his skin had a green tint to it and his eyes were pupil-less. Yumi struggled against him.
“Jeremie, we’re in position,” she heard Ulrich’s voice say.
“Alright. Get in. I’m starting up the process,” XANA told him. Yumi let out a series of yells as Jim squeezed her tighter and tighter. She felt her strength drain away.
“Jeremie, what’s going on up there?” Odd asked, hearing Yumi’s cries.
“Nothing,” XANA responded in annoyance. “Just getting rid of the menace. Now get into the scanners!”
“No!” Yumi shrieked as best as she could manage. “Don’t!”
XANA turned and glared at her but said nothing. It was actually quite intimidating to see such an evil look on Jeremie’s face but the thought didn’t linger on her mind too long. Her energy was draining…and she didn’t know how XANA was doing it. She felt like she did on the mission that XANA sabotaged the devirtualization program and she was hit. But that didn’t make any sense to her. That happened on Lyoko, not earth.
Suddenly she heard the sound of the elevator doors opening. The weirded-out Jim and XANA both turned. Yumi looked as best she could and couldn’t stifle her gasp when she saw who was coming out.
“Yumi!” the new Jeremie shouted when he saw the predicament she was in.
“J-Jeremie?” she asked weakly. “W-what’s happening?”
“XANA’s trapped you!” he exclaimed.
Yumi didn’t quite get what he meant by that statement, but she was loosing the energy she had to focus.
“Let her go, XANA!” she heard Jeremie command, but she knew that it wasn’t going to work. XANA had the upper hand right now and he knew it.
Much to her amazement, however, she felt Jim’s arms pull away from her and then felt her whole body smash against the laboratory floor. Immediately she scrambled to her feet and stood next to Jeremie as if he were her protector. She turned toward him. “Odd…and Ulrich! They went to the scanner room! We’ve gotta save them!”
An evil snicker was heard in front of them. Both Jeremie and Yumi turned toward XANA.
“Too late!” he scoffed. “They’re already stepping into the scanner now!”
Yumi’s eyes went wide and she turned back toward Jeremie.
But he was already gone.
Quickly turning back, she saw Jeremie launch himself at XANA, fighting to get at the supercomputer to stop his two comrades. The cruel smile on XANA’s face widened as he sent a jolt of electricity at Jeremie who stumbled back under the blow and ultimately fell against the place where the holosphere should have appeared.
Yumi’s eyes narrowed as she followed Jeremie’s example, only this time she was aiming directly for the demonic entity. He, however, wasn’t fazed in the bit. As if she were nothing more than an annoying fly buzzing around his head, XANA made a backhanded gesture, throwing Yumi against a wall.
Without so much as a glance at either of them, XANA turned back and faced the supercomputer. His symbol flashed repeatedly on it and apart from the overall structure of the machine, Yumi saw nothing familiar about it.
“Ready to go?” XANA asked in Jeremie’s calm voice.
“Ready!” came Ulrich’s voice.
“Ulrich! Odd! No!” Yumi cried out, but it was obvious the only ones who heard were XANA and Jeremie.
“Transfer: Odd. Transfer: Ulrich.”
Jeremie attempted another rush at him with Yumi right behind. Without even turning toward them, XANA summoned “Jim” back who immediately grabbed Yumi while a long coil of wires wrapped around Jeremie. Both immediately began to yell.
“Scanner: Odd. Scanner: Ulrich.”
“Stop!” Yumi cried out again, struggling to free herself. XANA turned back toward her and with an sinister smile said: “Say goodbye.”
Before either could do anything, XANA hit a key on the keyboard. “Virtualization!”
A loud beep came from the supercomputer. On it, Jeremie saw Ulrich and Odd’s virtual models finish filling. Immediately following a blood red light emptied the models and the word DELETED flashed across the screen multiple times.
Jeremie knew at that moment that XANA had accomplished part of his goal. Now he was coming toward him and Yumi to finish the job. Glancing over at Yumi, Jeremie saw that she had ceased struggling against “Jim” and instead stared blankly ahead of her, her eyes fixated on the screen of the supercomputer. Small drops of water began to well up in the corners of her eyes…something rarely ever seen from her.
XANA took a step toward Yumi as he allowed “Jim” to drop her on the ground. She didn’t even try to get up.
“Aelita!” Jeremie screamed out desperately as XANA closed in on the last of the Lyoko Warriors.
Aelita studied the Guardian, trying to see inside but unlike the previous Guardians she encountered, she was unable. Something was definitely wrong.
As she gazed deeply into the monster, a strong force suddenly threw her back along with the sound of her name. Jeremie? He was in trouble!
Doing the only thing she could possibly think of, she kneeled down and put her hands on the Guardian. Opening her mouth, she let out a series of notes with all her might. The Guardian began to tremble underneath her touch.
She kept singing.
Suddenly the Guardian exploded. Blinding white light engulfed her as she slumped to the ice path, thoroughly exhausted. Glancing up she could only hope that she wasn’t too late.
Yumi couldn’t believe that Odd and Ulrich were gone. She refused to believe it even though she knew it was true.
Why didn’t I see before? Why didn’t I try harder to turn their doubts of me back at XANA? I failed and now they’re gone!
She glanced up to see XANA standing over her, still resembling Jeremie and couldn’t help but shudder. Everything seemed surreal now. Nothing felt real. She glanced over at Jeremie, the real Jeremie, and saw his lips moving but she couldn’t hear what he was saying. Slowly she glanced back up at XANA and didn’t even flinch when his hand raised up high in the air.
Jeremie shouted at Yumi to move, but she seemed in a trance of some sort. He knew she was thinking about the other two, and he understood, but now was not the time. If XANA killed the two of them off as well, there’d be no one to save Aelita nor the rest of the world. She was turning her back on them…
Suddenly, before he realized what was happening, XANA screamed and his figure shimmered out of existence as did “Jim”. The wires trapping Jeremie broke apart and the next feeling he got was of being flung back through the tunnel.
When he realized what was happening, he looked up from out of the scanner. Running back to the elevator, he tapped his hands impatiently against it as it carried him to the lab. Finally, what felt like hours later, he arrived at the lab. Sprinting as hard as he could, he picked up his earpiece.
“Aelita! I’m back,” he said into it. “Where’s-”
“Yumi’s the only one I see Jeremie!” Aelita exclaimed. “I don’t know where Odd and Ulrich are!”
A tear slid down Jeremie’s face and Aelita looked on stunned. “Jeremie…what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”
“Aelita…” Jeremie started. “Odd and Ulrich are…gone. Forever.”
Aelita’s eyes widened. “You mean XANA-?”
“Yeah,” Jeremie interrupted, not wanting to hear it himself. “I’m bringing Yumi back. Can we talk later?”
Aelita nodded gravely before disappearing off the screen. Jeremie immediately began the process for rematerializing Yumi.
He bowed his head when he realized that never again would he need all three scanners.
As soon as Jeremie got into the scanner room, Yumi was already back on earth. She had slumped out of the scanner and didn’t even attempt to stand up. Running over Jeremie helped her to her feet and, before he realized what he was doing, hugged her tightly.
“Yumi…I’m so sorry!” he choked out the words. Tears fell freely from his eyes. Yumi, however, said nothing and she felt stony under his grip.
He recoiled and glanced at Yumi’s face. No emotion was betrayed anywhere. She didn’t cry, didn’t whimper, didn’t sigh.
“We can try to find them,” Jeremie whispered softly to her. “There’s always hope.”
Yumi didn’t even turn to him nor acknowledge what he said. He was going to do it whether or not she went along…after all deleted files can sometimes be found. “Come on, Yumi, let’s get you back home.”
As soon as Jeremie led her three steps from the scanners, she immediately collapsed to her knees. As Jeremie reached down to help her up, sobs began to rack her body. Jeremie kneeled down beside her and stared at her awkwardly for a moment. He wanted to comfort her but he wasn’t quite sure how.
Without much consideration of how she would take it, Jeremie wrapped his arms around her again and immediately knew he shouldn’t have. Yumi stiffened and the sobbing stop. She glanced up at Jeremie with tear-stained cheeks, a sort of determination in her eyes.
“He will pay,” she hissed maliciously. “I will make sure of it.” She abruptly turned to Jeremie, a wild look in her eyes and her hair fell messily upon her face.
Jeremie stared at her, stunned. This wasn’t the Yumi he knew.
From that moment, he knew that she would never be the same again.