Ulrich, Odd, Jeremie, and Yumi were all sitting in science class, watching Ms. Hertz explain how to use the new scales they had gotten for the lab. Odd was doodling in his notebook, while Ulrich daydreamed. Jeremie was scrawling code into his notebook, while Yumi decided to pay attention. After all, someone had to make sure they passed science.
"So, as you can see, these scales are very sensitive, so be careful," Ms. Hertz cautioned them, just as the bell rang. "We'll pick up here tomorrow!"
The class filed out, with Jeremie still scrawling away.
"Come back to Earth, Jeremie!" Odd said, waving a hand in front of his friend's face. "What's up?"
"I just thought of something, so I want to go try it out," Jeremie said, putting his notebook away in his backpack. "Anyone want to come to the Factory with me?"
"Ulrich!" they heard across the schoolyard. It was Sissi, and she was coming on fast.
"Run!" Ulrich hissed, eager to avoid Sissi at any and all costs. They ran, scooting across the open yard and into the woods, scurrying to the manhole that led to the Factory.
"That was close," Jeremy remarked as they entered the elevator.
"I agree," Odd said, giving Ulrich a nudge. "Sissi's still got it for ya, huh?" he teased.
"I'd love it if she lost it," Ulrich muttered. "I don't like her!"
"But doesn't your heart pound just a little bit harder every time she comes around?" Odd persisted, putting his hands on his heart and fluttering his eyelashes.
Yumi smirked. "Yeah, it probably does. . .with fear!"
Everyone burst out laughing as the elevator came to a stop and the doors opened.
"Anyone in their right mind would be afraid of Sissi!" Ulrich said, dropping his bag in a corner. "Although why she has to pick on me. . ."
"Well, haven't you heard?" Yumi asked, smiling. "She says that you're just too cute!"
Ulrich could feel himself blushing.
"Okay, it's official, there's no accounting for taste," Odd said, smiling.
"That's it!" Ulrich said, launching himself at Odd. "You're gonna pay! I'll tell Sissi that you're the one who likes her!"
"No!" Odd cried, horrified. "Anything but that!"
"Ah, Ulrich, if you tell her that, you'll manage to scare her away for good. She'll probably run all the way to Timbutku," Yumi said, breaking the tension.
Everyone burst out laughing, and Ulrich, laughing too hard to fight anymore, called an end to the battle.
"Will you guys quiet down?" Jeremie demanded. "I'm trying to contact Aelita."
"Sorry, Jeremie," Ulrich said. "We just had to cut up a little."
"Well, do it somewhere else if you're going to be that noisy, okay?"
"Okay, okay," Odd said, going to where Jeremie was sitting. "So where's Aelita at?"
"I don't know, I haven't gotten hold of her yet," Jeremie said, sounding worried. "She's not responding to me at all."
Everyone got quiet while Jeremie searched. He was beginning a second round when they heard it.
Clang clang thump.
"What's that?" Odd wondered. "Where's it coming from?"
They listened for a moment with no other sound than the computer running.
Thump clang thump thump clang thump thump thump.
Thump clang thump thump thump clang thump clang.
Thump clang thump thump clang clang thump thump.
Thump clang thump clang thump thump thump thump.
"If I didn't know better, I'd say that was binary of some sort," Jeremie said, sounding surprised.
"Binary?" Ulrich said, sounding very worried. "What is it saying?"
Jeremie listened as the sequence began to repeat itself. "H--E--L--P. It's saying 'help!' Hang on, I'll tap something else out."
Jeremie began tapping, and the clangs and thumps stopped, as if listening. The clangs and thumps resumed, almost frantic.
"What did you tap?" Yumi asked.
"I tapped 'Who are you?' Here's the answer!"
Everyone was quiet while Jeremie listened, and he gasped as the clangs and thumps stopped.
"Well?" Ulrich demanded. "Who is it? Is it XANA?"
Jeremie shook his head. "Aelita."
"Where?" Odd asked, sounding worried. "How can she make noise here? She's in Lyoko!"
"I'll ask her where she is," Jeremie said, beginning to tap. He finished, and then listened. The message ended and then began again.
"S--C--A--N--" Jeremie said. "N--E--R. Scanner? But how?" he asked, sounding very perplexed.
"Let's go see!" Odd said. "If it's her--"
"Then I want to know how she did it," Jeremie said, sounding excited.
All four kids crowded into the elevator and headed down. The clangs and thumps were louder, and they zeroed in on the only scanner making noise. Jeremie hit a switch to open it, and steam poured out. Everyone leaned in close to see inside--
Aelita, a full-blown, in the flesh Aelita, fell out of the scanner and onto the floor. She lay there a moment, breathing and staring up at them. Slowly, her breathing slowed and she got to her feet.
"At last," she said. "I've been trapped in there forever! Do you know how long I've been pounding?
"How--" Jeremie squeaked, too surprised to say anything.
Aelita smiled. "I'm still not sure. I began playing with the virtualization program while you were all at school, and suddenly, I was in the scanner! I never realized how small those things are until I was in it!"
"Do you remember what you did?" Jeremie asked, taking out his notebook.
"I sure do, I had plenty of time to think about the last code I entered while I was in the scanner. Here's what it is. . ."
Jeremie and Aelita were involved in their technical talk for close to an hour before Ulrich reminded them both of how time was passing.
"It's almost dinnertime, and Yumi has to get home, too," he said, pointing to his watch. "You guys can talk on the way back to school."
"Dinnertime?" Aelita said, sounding confused. Her face lit up as the truth dawned on her. "You mean eating? Food?"
"Yeah, that's the central idea, so let's go!" Odd said, grinning. "I'm hungry!"
"Oh, I think I'll call my folks and tell them I'll be late tonight and eat at school with you guys. This is a celebration, after all," Yumi said, smiling. "I wouldn't miss it for the world."
Everyone, especially Aelita, was looking forward to her first meal.