Author's Notes: I should have posted this months ago, I have been far better at keeping my readers over at Code Lyoko Veterans updated than those on . I have stopped writing The Forewarned. This episode is an incomplete, rough draft, and represents the last of the work I will do on this story. I have some good news, however, to go with this disappointment: the reason I halted work on The Forewarned is that I have a bigger project in mind. Although I love CL, there are some fundamental things about the show that simply don't make sense. As a person governed by logic, I could tolerate those oddities in stories I read, but not in what I myself write. Furthermore, I have a grander vision of Lyoko and CL as a whole than what even MoonScoop created. Thus, I have started work on The Horizon Chronicles. This is a complete, radical rewrite of the Lyoko Warriors first adventure. And I mean radical... name changes, personality changes, a Lyoko that a) looks different, and b) isn't even called Lyoko anymore... anyway, I have my work cut out for me. The more threads of the story I try to 'fix', the more the overall plot frays. But I think it can be done. Furthermore, The Horizon Chronicles will be written for those who have never seen or heard of Code Lyoko before. The characters and settings will be built from the ground up in the text. And the last note, particularly relevant for my readers: I won't be posting any parts of the story until I have the remastered seasons 1-2 complete. I won't be posting as I go. I'm doing this to motivate myself, to make sure my own interest in the story is what is driving me, not my desire to post the next section. As for those of you who liked The Forewarned: the name is going away, but the plot isn't. :) Although The Horizon Chronicles will be very different from classic CL, the plots will be compatible; the plot arc of The Forewarned will form the second half of the Horizon Chronicles series. So below you will see the last of my work on The Forewarned, and the last of my work for at least six months to a year. But hopefully, I'll be back, with something that will blow this away. :)
by James May
The sun hangs over the grassy sports field in the late morning. Students file out of the gymnasium, all dressed for P.E. Arriving on the field, they cluster around Jim, with his clipboard in hand and whistle around his neck.
Jim glances down at the clipboard, reading off the pairings for the day. "Teams one and five on the far field! Teams three and four on the second field! Teams two and - six, you're on the near field. Let's get moving!"
The assembled students spread out, some jogging to their assigned places, others walking slowly, talking.
Ulrich walks quickly through the others. Two of the boys behind him mutter something about the 'pink twins.' He rolls his eyes. Those two had quickly become the focus of the bored, gossiping underclassmen at Kadic. 'It's going to be an interesting game…'
He and a few others split off, walking to a swollen, bulky bag lying on the grass. Ulrich arrives first, pulling open the drawstring and extracting a classic, black-and-white soccer ball. He kicks it once experimentally, then tucks the ball under his arm and walks towards the rest of team two, already on the playing field. For today, the grassy field has been divided into three sections. Small orange cones dot the perimeter of each, and serve as makeshift goalposts.
Odd, over at the left forward position, is stretching energetically on the ground, reaching for his toes. Aelita is standing at right forward. Sissi stands right next to her, whispering something quickly in Aelita's ear. Seeing Ulrich approach, she falls back into position, their lone defender. Emily stands in the small goal wearing goalie gloves, knees bent and ready to go. She had grown over the last few years. Straight As, as always; but she has also become a good athlete, and a particularly strong runner. Although still as sweet as Aelita, she had gained Sissi's flare for socializing, and an inner fire rivaling Yumi's - and that fire is put to good use on the sports field.
Ulrich takes is place at center forward, dropping the ball down and trapping it under his foot. The other team stands in a circle on their half of the field, like a football huddle. They split, walking to their positions calmly. Erika moves swiftly, with purpose, arriving opposite of Ulrich. Like everyone else, Erika wears full a full athletic outfit, with her straight slivery-blonde hair pulled firmly back in a ponytail. She looks like she means business. Also a junior this year, she arrived in Kadic along with the influx of new students. Thin but strong, her serious, powerful, and cool nature had earned her both respect and dislike almost from the moment she arrived. She never did anything halfway, whether in the classroom or on the sports field. Ulrich sizes up his opponent, smiling slightly. This was going to be fun.
Romain takes his position at forward. "Ready, Odd?" he calls lightly.
Odd springs up to a standing position, bouncing on the balls of his feet. "You betcha I am!"
Having grown since 9th grade at Kadic, Romain is an ever-present, friendly face at Kadic. He played as Jim in Odd's old short film, and has since played a part in many videos at Kadic, made by many different students. Steady and dependable, there's hardly a student he doesn't get along with.
Their defender is Shane, another new arrival at Kadic academy. He is tall and lanky, with short brown hair, slightly spiked in the front. His grades are decent, and he is fairly athletic. Although relaxed and generally not talkative, he can be surprisingly generous, from community service to assisting younger boarders at Kadic with homework.
Holly stands inexpertly in goal, gloved hands raised, as if expecting a ball to come flying in at any moment. She is short, and has wavy, light brown hair. Although she is not very athletic, it is not for lack of trying. She arrived at Kadic a week after the term started, part of the chaos surrounding the flood of new students.
Taelia slowly takes her place. She makes eye contact with Aelita, then looks away. Both girls look slightly awkward, and somewhat on edge. Taelia, of course, knows nothing of her past connection to Aelita and the gang, the secret that was revealed, then buried once more. It has been three years since then, and she looks it: taller, more mature. Her personality is defined by her parents' death. She is serious, formal, and follows rules to the letter. To those who do not know her well, she is cold, and even condescending, judging of others. And after Taelia's arrival at the beginning of the year, more than a few students drew a connection between her and Aelita, much to the annoyance of them both. Questions and rumors abound floated around the school wildly for the first few weeks, and only died down somewhat as school got into full swing. Already uncomfortable because of their hidden connection, Aelita further disliked being constantly compared to someone so utterly different from herself. And Taelia, having been alone her whole life, was unsettled seeing Aelita constantly pointed out to her, attending classes happily with her friends, a portrait of what she had never been. Under other circumstances, the two girls could of gotten along well enough. But the ever-present reminders, jokes, and stories from their peers created tension between them. At Kadic, Taelia dived headfirst into her studies, devoting herself to her classes. She didn't look to make friends, but she slowly found a place she belonged. She studied with other students, focused peers like herself, and they all mutually benefitted. And although she retained her all-business nature, she treated them as equals, and they became acquaintances - 'friends' being just a shade too strong. Taelia learned long ago to keep her feelings wrapped up, and she isn't about to stop anytime soon.
Ulrich checks over his own team. Odd gives him his signature grin and thumbs up. A quick nod and slight smile from Aelita. Sissi smiles, kicking one leg into the air, her approximation of 'ready to go!' Emily raises a gloved hand and arm into the air from back in goal. Ulrich faces Erika, whose posture alone indicates she is ready. Ulrich takes his foot off the ball, rears back, and launches it into the air.
Fifteen minutes into the game, everyone is playing strong. Neither team had scored, despite their best efforts. Erika dribbles up the field towards Ulrich. On the miniature field, she has to find a way to get around him. Keeping the ball close, she maneuvers right, then left, trying to work her way past Ulrich. She closes, giving a tiny shove and spinning back to her right. Ulrich responds in kind, blocking her path solidly. She withdraws slightly, deftly passing the ball away. Romain receives the ball along the sideline. As he fields the pass, Odd flies in, knocking the ball up into the air. Every pair of eyes on the field tracks it's course. It lands behind Erika, in front of Shane. He brings the ball under control and turns for a pass to Taelia on the far flank. Aelita steps in, deflecting the pass and sending the ball bouncing off the field into a neighboring game. Shane goes to retrieve it.
Everyone takes advantage of the break in the action to rest. Odd and Romain stand together on the far side of the field, tired but enjoying themselves. It had been a good, fun game so far. Like at all schools, P.E. activities are met with varying levels of enthusiasm by students. On the other fields, games progress haphazardly, with half-hearted dribbling and passing occasionally interrupted by sudden spurts of action. On field one, everyone was engaged, each for their own reason. Ulrich and Erika had played hard, two competitive players facing off. But there was no fouling, nothing malicious between them. Odd and Romain were both enjoying themselves. Odd would charge in, dribbling wildly, trying to find a weakness in Romain's steady defense. Romain would take the ball and counterattack, but Odd would just manage to knock the ball away in time. Aelita and Taelia were an even match in skills as well as looks, waging a battle of their own along the other sideline.
Shane returns with the soccer ball, and the game resumes. He throws it in to Taelia, who gets behind Aelita and dribbles quickly downfield, Aelita right behind her. Sissi comes over to help. Sensing Aelita's energy, and not a big fan of Taelia herself, they work together and pin her against the sideline. Taelia tries to center the ball to Erika, but it rebounds off Aelita's leg and back against her own before landing out of bounds. Satisfied, Aelita retrieves the ball as Taelia drops back without a word. Aelita throws in, getting the ball to Ulrich. He tries to find a way past Erika, dribbling and spinning like she had minutes ago. He almost slips by on the right, but within moments she recovers and catches up, stopping him again. Aelita cuts in and forward past Taelia for a pass, and Ulrich sends the ball to her. Moving quickly, Ulrich dodges left around Erika, trying to get open again.
Aelita dribbles upfield as fast as she can, knowing Taelia is right behind her. On the small field, she is running out of space. She doesn't have the right angle for a shot, and looks over to Ulrich. Despite his efforts, Erika runs right with him. Then, Odd catches her eye. He breaks away from Romain, sprinting, cutting towards the goal. Aelita smiles. Why not? Before Taelia can reach her, she kicks the ball up into the air, towards the goal. It's a crazy shot, flying towards the left side goal-cone. Will it go in? Holly dives desperately - and then Odd flies in, leaping headfirst. He meets the ball perfectly with his forehead, knocking it back on course towards the right side of the goal, and it flies between the two cones for a score.
"Odd the Magnificent strikes again!" he crows, jumping up without a scratch. He and Aelita share a triumphant high-five as they return to their side of the field. Shane goes again to get the ball. Emily comes out of goal, and for a minute the team celebrates together.
"You see that!" Odd calls to Romain.
"Watch out Odd, the next one I shoot might have your name on it!" yell Romain in return, joking.
Shane returns from behind their goal and tosses the ball to Erika, who dribbles it up to center field. Done celebrating, Ulrich, Odd, Aelita, Sissi, and Emily takes their positions again. Erika boots a pass over to Taelia, and she squeezes past Aelita, then centers the ball to Erika again. Romain swings down on the far flank, and together they make another push towards team two's goal.
Aelita quickly changes out of her gym clothes in the locker room. All around her, dozens of girls are doing the same, donning their school clothes once more. The fastest among them are already heading for the exit. Taelia Serrano tosses her gym shirt onto the bench, one locker over. As always, they both just mind their own business. Erika walks over to the pair, all dressed out, with her white bag over her shoulder.
"Good playing," she says, addressing Taelia. Her voice conveys neither warmth or malice, just respect of ability. "You too, Aelita," she adds, as she turns towards the double doors leading out of the changing room. Taelia and Aelita instinctively glance at each other, and stiffly get back to their changing. Taelia finishes, then slams her locker shut and heads towards the locker room doors. Aelita throws her gym clothes into the locker, then closes the pressed-metal door. She maneuvers her way through the confined space between lockers, cluttered with clothing, backpacks, and classmates still dressing out, pushing the double doors of the locker room wide open. They spill open into the interior of the gym, and various girls talk as they make their way to the doors leading to the outside world on the far wall.
Spotting Taelia only a couple dozen paces ahead, Aelita sighs. Maybe she can give another go at stopping this, before it gets any later in the year. It was only a month and a half in… but 'the pink twins' was making it a lot longer. It wasn't really Taelia's fault… but aside from that, couldn't she stop being so cold all the time? It certainly wasn't helping. She many not care about her bad rap, but it was bad for both of them - and Aelita cared. She needed a truce… she could ignore with the gossip, but not Taelia herself..
"Hey, Taelia, are you busy at lunch?"
Taelia stops walking, but doesn't turn around. "And what if I'm not?"
Here goes. "I wanted you to come-"
Taelia sighs, cutting her off. "Save the olive branch. I don't want one."
Aelita stiffens and shakes her head. Fine. "Taelia - what is your problem?"
Taelia turns to face her, taking the question seriously The other students walk around them as they head for the far door. "My problem… well, I've got plenty, most in math - and a few that aren't. …my 'problem' is that I didn't ask to be part of your group." Her voice rises a fraction. "The whole school loves you, and you know what? I don't want any part of it. I didn't ask to be your shadow, and I won't let a few harebrained freshmen turn me into one."
Tamping down her temper, Aelita says, "you know, that would be a lot easier if you would just drop it for a second and stop going it alone. I don't care about those idiots."
"Good, because you shouldn't. And neither do I. Talk to you later." With that, Taelia resumes walking for the door. Aelita drops back. She was impossible. 'And if she's going to be that way, I'm better off like this…' Aelita walks through the double doors, and out onto the concrete. On the far side of the concourse, Sissi waves a hand, talking with Yumi and Michelle, another student. Aelita smiles, and turns towards them. Halfway there, she casts a glance back over her shoulder. Taelia is sitting on a bench outside the gym, math textbook open and an open binder on her lap. 'Could that have been me?' she wonders, as she continues walking. 'No. She may look like me, but I would never be like her.'
Yumi strolls across the campus at noon, walking towards the cafeteria. Outside, there is already a crowd gathering, eager to eat. A dozen students stand in a tight cluster around the door, and two dozen more loiter nearby, talking in groups while they wait. More students are arriving every minute. Normally Odd could be found at the head of the cluster, banging away on the door, but not today. He, Ulrich, and Patrick stood in a cluster off to the side, talking. The others are spread out across the area.
Yumi walks towards the boys as Odd rambles on about their soccer game to Patrick. "Uh, yeah - Sissi was actually pretty good. I think she and Aelita enjoyed taking on Taelia." Odd pauses, getting back to his main story. "Anyway, right after that, Aelita gave a perfect cross, and I headered it right in! Holly dove too early." He slows down a little. "I kinda felt bad for her. I didn't celebrate too much, did I?"
"Odd the Magnificent may have been laying it on a little thick - don't worry about it, it's fine!" Ulrich laughs, seeing Odd's distraught face. "Odd, this is the third new student you've fallen for this week!"
"Hey, I have not fallen for her!" Odd says angrily. "I just felt a little sorry for her, that's all!" He pauses. "Besides, uh, you and Erika were having tons of fun duking it out over there, I - I bet you two -"
"Oh, come on, Odd," says Ulrich, stiffening. "That's a low blow, don't you think? And a desperate one at that."
Yumi had heard enough. "What's a low blow?" she asks seriously, walking up behind Ulrich, dropping a hand on his shoulder.
Ulrich jerks involuntarily, startled. "Uh, n - nothing."
Yumi continues staring at him seriously for a moment, but can't hold it for long and then cracks up laughing, almost doubled over. Patrick and Odd join in.
Ulrich stands in the center of of the group, throughly embarrassed. "Hey! You guys can really - Yumi, you can be a real pain some times, you know that?" He jabs her shin with his foot.
Just then, the door to the cafeteria is thrown open, and students begin piling in for lunch. Odd immediately straightens up and runs for the door.
"Hey! That's not fair!" He gets caught in the crowd, and despite his jostling is forced to wait slowly for his turn to enter. Patrick also joins the crowd hungrily.
Yumi straightens up to see Ulrich, looking downcast. "Come on, let's go get something to eat." She smiles and extends a hand.
Ulrich looks up, and gives her a small smile in return. He takes her hand tightly in his, and they turn towards the cafeteria.
William grabs his tray from the back of the cafeteria and heads over the to their usual table. Most of the group is there, although Jeremy, Emily, and Theo haven't arrived yet. Aelita is sitting at the end, stirring her soup wistfully. William sets his tray down next to her and takes a seat.
"Hey Aelita, what's up," he says cordially, raising an eyebrow and smiling.
"Ah, nothing much."
"Cat got your tongue?"
"William, not now."
"C'mon, tell me," he presses, smiling wider and giving her shoulder a little nudge, then another.
She relents, a small smile breaking through. "Alright, alright… it's just Taelia-"
"'Pink twins' getting to you already? C'mon, you've had it worse than a few underclassmen with shoddy one-liners."
"No, it's not really that-"
"Good. I've been teaching them some better ones, and I didn't want them to go to waste."
"William!" Aelita tries to keep a stern face as she glares at William's wildly grinning one.
"Shh, keep your voice down, you'll attract them!" he jokes.
Aelita raises a fist to smack him.
"Hey, hey, no hitting," he says, mock-seriously, holding up a finger like one would for a pet.
Aelita lowers her fist - then jabs him with a rabbit punch to the arm the moment he looks away.
"Ow…" William rubs his arm, but grins. "See? Hitting something just feels good every once and awhile."
She rolls her eyes. She isn't about to be baited back into last week's conversation.
"So, what were you saying about Taelia?"
Aelita sighs. "I was saying that we met again today."
"Did something happen at the soccer game today?" William asks casually.
"Stop playing sly William, you have inside information," says Emily, appearing behind them both with a tray. "Scooch."
William and Aelita slide down the bench to make room, and Emily joins them, setting down her tray.
"So what was that going on between you and Taelia?" she asks. "I saw you both after gym."
"Nothing, just my last stab at playing diplomat. She isn't bothered by our little 'involuntary relationship' - as long as I stay away."
"She seems lonely," observes William.
"Lonely? She likes it that way." says Emily. "Did you see how she treated Naomi in science? She uses people. No wonder she doesn't really have any friends - just her study group. Anyone who isn't useful to her, she can't be bothered to care about."
"Unlike us," says William nicely, taking the edge off her rant.
"Bet on it," Emily says, resting her head on his shoulder for a moment.
Aelita smiles, watching them. They really were happy together. A testament to the new William… Aelita sighs, taking a bite and looking down the table at Ulrich and Yumi, who seem to be sharing a moment, laughing together. Farther down, Patrick, Odd, and Sissi are talking. Theo is absent - he must be at a different table. Where was her boyfriend, anyway?
Right on cue, Jeremy walks through the cafeteria door, a full twenty minutes late to lunch. His laptop case tangles under his arm as he picks up a tray, gets his food - one advantage to coming to so late: no line - and walks towards the table.
He spies Aelita, but there isn't any room left, and so instead takes the final seat at the very far opposite corner, next to Odd.
"Hey Einstein, you get me anything?" Odd asks in way of greeting, patting the bench seat and squeezing in to admit Jeremy, who unceremoniously begins chowing down.
"Talk later Odd," Jeremy mumbles through a full mouth. Of all people, Odd can understand the need for food.
"You'd better hurry," says Patrick, glancing down at his watch. "What were you doing?"
Jeremy chews for a few seconds and swallows down his mouthful before speaking. "I, uh, needed to stop by the office after class. A letter from my dad got mis-mailed, they had it in the office for me to pick up."
Patrick nods, smiling. "My mom sent me tons of letters in 6th. Parents worry to much sometimes."
"Or not enough," interjects Odd before Jeremy can respond, winking and twirling his fork, to the amusement of everyone. The conversation dives into a recounting of Odd's greatest misadventures as the end of lunch approaches. If he was right, then he'd just bailed out Einstein. If not, no harm done.
After another ten minutes, they all rise from their seats and walk for the door. Outside, they all split off towards their respective classes. Odd watches, though, as Jeremy angles towards Yumi and Ulrich. Yuppers, he was right… Odd spots William and Aelita, talking off to the side.
"Hey William! Aelita!" Odd calls and beckons them over, and then begins walking towards Jeremy, Yumi, and Ulrich.
Jeremy turns away from Yumi and Ulrich just in time to see Odd arrive, with William and Aelita in tow. "Oh - good timing, I was just -"
"I know," says Odd.
"Hmm," says Odd. He squints at Jeremy, pretending to be thinking hard. "A week's dessert says that you've been working up in your room, and that you've found a new quantum computer for us. True or false, Einstein?" At the mention of Odd betting dessert, all heads swivel his way - but a moment later, Odd's betting habits are the last thing on their minds. Everyone faces Jeremy expectantly.
"How -" says Jeremy, flabbergasted.
"Because you, good buddy, can't lie," says Odd, grinning ear to ear. "That's a week's -"
"But I didn't bet!" protests Jeremy.
"Uh, Jeremy - I hate to break it up, but don't we have something more important to be talking about?" Ulrich says, stepping in. "Uh… we do, right? Just making sure," he adds quickly.
"Sorry," says Jeremy, and he turns away from Odd, shifting back into presentation mode. "Yeah, we do. I was up in my room, working on my computer. During class, I was thinking that we should expand our search from just the local newspaper - how much stuff do they really cover, anyway? I figured the Internet was a better place to look. So I was doing some web searches - Google, scientific magazines, recently published research papers, just the quick stuff. Sure enough, I found another quantum computer; this one's in Canada."
"A third one?" says Yumi. "I didn't think we were due for a mission for… well, awhile longer, at least. It's only been, what, two or three weeks?"
"Sure beats fighting XANA every other day," points out Ulrich.
"The sooner we go, the sooner we can get back to school," says Aelita, upbeat.
"Should we meet up after class again?" asks William.
"That's the plan," says Jeremy. "We'll meet in park. Drop off your bags and then we'll go right over. Sound good?"
"See you all there. One for the team?" asks Ulrich, putting his hand out, palm down. Yumi's hand drops on top of his, then Aelita's, Jeremy's, Odd's, and William's large hand on top. They were the Lyoko Warriors. As one, they all pull their hands away. The meeting concluded, they gather their things, and split off once more to attend afternoon classes.
The rusted manhole cover slides back, lighting up the steel-runged ladder that gives access to the sewer below. Two girls and four boys climb down, and the manhole is sealed once more, leaving only the half-light of the sewer. They set off down the walkway in a pack, riding one after the other in the diffuse light afforded by the tunnels. At the factory, they board the aging cargo elevator, which disappears down the shaft. Jeremy steps out at the control room, and the heavy door closes shut behind him. The others continue descending, and arrive at their final destination: the scanner room.
In Sector 5, the platform screeches to a halt at the Skid hanger, and disgorges its five passengers. They move at a jog across the nondescript blue floor and come to a halt at the boarding platform, where they assume an 'x' formation. At a command from Jeremy, they all disappear. The Skid's small thrusters power on, lifting it up and maneuvering it clear of Sector 5. With only a slight pause, it enters the quantum sea, leaving Lyoko behind.
Aelita was in the cockpit, monitoring the Skid as she sends it into a vertical climb towards the surface of the sea. They'll break through the surface in three, two, one… they emerge - then immediately, a deafening crunch and a screeching, grating noise piece the cockpit, and the whole ship shudders. The instrument panel in front of her lights up as she grabs the twin sticks - she barely registers hear Jeremy shouting something over the comm, mingled with the startled voices of the other occupants - and cuts the thrusters, putting the heavy virtual vessel in a split-second freefall before the anti-grav kicks in, suspending the Skid mere meters above the virtual sea. Sound returns to the world as her mind takes back over from instinct and the 'adrenaline rush' fades. She manually cuts the alarms and warning lights in the cockpit, and shakes her head to refocus her thoughts… she had hoped never to hear that noise again, the piecing screech as the Skid was toppled by a mortal blow from the Kolossus, with her inside…
"Aelita, are you all right! What's happening!" Jeremy's voice breaks in.
"I'm all right - Jeremy, we're still here!" Aelita calls back.
"Whew!…" Jeremy sighs in relief.
"Everybody all right now there?" Aelita calls down to the NavSkids.
"Still here, Princess," comes Odd's voice, rattled.
"I'm alright!" says Yumi, rubbing her shoulder.
"Check me off." Ulrich.
"…it's a good thing this things have harnesses," calls William. A distant clunk is heard as he replaces his blade along the side of the NavSkid, as it had been jarred loose by their entrance. "Good to go."
"What just happened?" asks Jeremy.
"I think… we just hit the ceiling," says Aelita, looking out the cockpit window.
Outside, the light is dim. A few brown, uneven columns rise from the sea. Not far past them, the low light quickly fades to darkness. The twisted columns support an earthen-like ceiling, looming over their heads and extending into the far-off blackness all around… were they in a cavern?
"Lights," Aelita whispers in an instinctively low voice, turning on the floodlights positioned across the Skid. The bright beam above the cockpit cuts a hole in the darkness, reveals another rocky column, and at the very edge of it's light, the wall of the cavern far beyond.
"Well, this is different," says Ulrich, peering through his viewport. "Talk about dark…"
"Jeremy, it appears we're in some sort of cave, or cavern. Do you have anything?" asks Aelita.
"Give me a minute, I'm having trouble pulling up a map. The computer's being stubborn. Cameras…" Jeremy pulls up the automated camera feed and looks over the scene, beams of light highlighting the scattered columns in the darkness. "Wow, you guys weren't kidding."
"Yeah, about as gloomy as they come," says William.
"What now?" asks Yumi.
"I'm… not sure," says Jeremy. ""That was quite a collision. The shields are down to twenty-six percent, but they did their job. Hull integrity all reads green. It may take awhile, but they'll recover." Pause. "I still can't get the mapping program to access the layout files, something isn't meshing quite right."
"I don't see much prospect for exploration," says Odd, commenting on the scenery.
"Besides, I don't see a fall being a lot of fun…" says Yumi warily, the sea right below.
"I'll get to work on the AI interface, can you guys… just sit there?"
"We'll just hang out for a bit," says Ulrich wryly.
"Jeremy, transfer the mapping protocols to me," says Aelita. "I'll play around with them while you work."
Odd stretches restlessly in the confines of his NavSkid as the minutes tick by. Total silence… the normally inaudible hum of the Skid whispers in his ears, at the very limit of even Lyoko-enhanced hearing. Was that the shields recharging? No, more likely the hum of the two Einsteins' brains churning… how could they work in this silence? Odd's foot brushes the pod's side, producing a small bump. He knocks it again, this time deliberately. Hmm. Experimenting, he touches the front of the NavSkid's interior with a single claw, drawing it down across the surface. Darn, no screech. 'Wait, why would I make a screech if nobody else can hear it? What about…' He raps the side of the pod with his knuckles. Again, harder. Could Ulrich or William hear him? What if they were rapping on their pods, wondering if he could hear them, right now? For the thousandth time, Odd mentally laments the tiny windows on the NavSkids. He longs to break the silence, but finds himself unable to do so in the utter silence that envelops him. Hurry up, Einsteins!
A pleasant pinging sound rewards her latest attempted permutation. "Jeremy, I've got it," Aelita calls cheerfully. She vaguely hears Odd exhale a massive breath from below, audible even over the comm system.
"Great job!" Jeremy exclaims. "Now let's take a look…" Once again he prompts the mapping program, and mercifully it interfaces, displaying the cavern.
"Hmm. It's a cavern, no doubt about it. Not much to see… it looks the columns and cavern walls don't go much beneath the surface. There aren't any more chambers like this one I can see; we got lucky coming up right here." He pauses. "Aha, here we go!"
What've you got, Jeremy?" asks William.
"Tunnels, and lots of 'em. They extend up through the ceiling. And they just seem to go on, and on…"
"Cool, you guys up for some spelunking?" asks Odd.
"Spelunking?" asks Ulrich incredulously, putting extra emphasis on the second syllable.
"C'mon, you don't know that word? I used to go all the time with my uncle! …nobody? Yumi, Ulrich, William? Aelita, Einstein?" The Skid is silent for a moment.
"You guys really need to get out more," he grumbles.
"We get out plenty," retorts Jeremy. "We just don't… spelunk?"
"You can't say 'spelunk,'" says Odd, irritated. "There are spelunkers, and they go spelunking, but you don't spelunk… wow, that is weird isn't it - and hey, wait a minute! Is it possible Odd the Magnificent knows something you don't?" he exclaims with a jolt. "Ha! You're slipping, Jeremy!" There is a collective eyeroll as they all imagine Odd doing a victory jig in his NavSkid.
"Back on task," says Jeremy, "we now have some tunnels to explore. So yes, some spelunking to do. Anyone up for a chance to stretch their legs?"
"I think it's safe to assume your answer is 'yes,'" says Aelita, smiling, before Odd can answer back. "Will the Skid fit in any of the tunnels?
Jeremy manipulates the wireframe map awkwardly, trying to gauge size. "You might be able to squeeze a little into some of the larger crevices, but you wouldn't get very far. The tunnels constrict pretty tightly in places, and twist their way up through the rock. Some areas level out higher up - but there's no way the Skid would get there. You'll have to park here."
"How do we get out?" asks Yumi. "There's no place to disembark, and I'm not crazy about going for a swim. I've done it once, and I'd rather not do it again."
"I second that," agrees Aelita. "Not to mention that there's no place for a tower," she adds.
"Hmm… "says Jeremy, mulling it over. "Let's try this… give me a second, I'll need to make a quick trip to Sector 5… alright, programming tower." A pillar of light shimmers next to the Skid, revealing a wireframe that quickly resolves into a familiar Lyoko tower. Hovering in midair, the tower's roots hang just over the sea. "Dock away." The Skid attaches to the tower, and Jeremy activates the it; the tower radiates green light, dispelling the immediate darkness like a candle in a dark room.
"Okay, now for the tricky part…" Jeremy calls up their vehicles, outside the Skid. On his keyboard, he begins entering coordinates. This one would have to be manual… Two decimal places? Three, just to be safe.
Only Odd, positioned on the right side of the Skid, can see their vehicles appear. "Uh, Jeremy, are you thinking what I think your thinking?" he asks, all trace of bravado done from his voice.
"Congratulations, my spelunking friend, you get to be the guinea pig. Don't make any sudden moves!"
"Hey wait a sec-" Odd's protests are for naught, and he disappears, reappearing right above his OverBoard.
"Whahao!" cries Odd, sticking out his arms to balance himself. He quickly recovers and gains a normal stance on the board. "Ok, that was seriously not cool!"
In the control room, Jeremy takes his finger off the keyboard, one keystroke away from transporting Odd safely back aboard the Skid. He had the utmost trust in his friend's balancing abilities - but it's always better to have a plan B. Jeremy wasn't about to let anything happen to his friends.
"Hey, you made it, didn't you? Alright, who's next?"
Ulrich appears outside, landing in the seat of his OverBike with a thud. Odd flies past him in a lazy arc on his OverBoard, warming up, and Yumi drops down onto the OverWing.
In the cockpit, Aelita enters her own teleport command. "Disembarking."
She appears upright, but immediately inverts as gravity takes ahold, plunging downward like a high-dive gymnast. She activates her wings, pulling up gracefully over the sea. Suddenly enjoying herself, she gracefully spreads her arms wide like a second set of wings. The black sea reflects the green light cast by tower as she skims over the surface. Having indulged enough, she pulls away to meet up with Yumi, Odd, and Ulrich next to the Skid.
"Uh, Jeremy, I don't have a vehicle," points out William from below.
"Need a ride, William?" says Ulrich. "Trust-fall, Lyoko style."
"No need," says Jeremy. "William, stand still." Jeremy enters the command. 'I'm pretty sure towers are solid on top…'
William finds himself balances precariously on the top of the tower. His sword throws him sightly off balance, but one good look over the edge at the sea below and he hurriedly compensates.
Ulrich pulls up beside the tower. "Taxi?" he says humorously as William throws a leg over the seat and mounts up. "Where to, Jeremy?"
"There's a few tunnels…" he says, examining the map. "The closest one is a couple hundred meters to the Skid's right."
"Let's stick together," calls Yumi from her OverWing.
Jeremy nods. "Agreed. Fly safe."
The pack of three vehicles - and one angel - peels away from the Skid, and searches the cavern ceiling for the opening Jeremy indicated. As they get father from the Skid, it becomes difficult to see, and their eyes strain to locate the crevice. Finally, Odd's keen eyes spot the entrance, and they all disappear inside.
The OverBoard's thrusters flare as Odd leads the charge into the tunnel. The tunnel corkscrews into the rock almost vertically, and Odd grips the front of his OverBoard to keep ascending. Behind him, Yumi does likewise, gripping the handlebar with both hands. Ulrich levels off slightly and spirals around the perimeter of the tunnel to keep gaining altitude. Only Aelita doesn't appear to be having trouble, and she flits about overhead, waiting for the others to catch up.
Jeremy codes away from the control room, building an interface between himself and the AI, while keeping tabs on their excursion. Hmm… still trying to get through the tunnels. But if there's a passage, it has to lead somewhere, right? The Skid was on standby, docked to the tower. It's shields hummed away, rebuilding the energy lost during the crash. In all likelihood, it would still be regenerating by the time they got back to Lyoko. True, they were potent, but the recharging period left something to be desired. Maybe when he had the time, he could toy with the generator flow rate. Another item to his list of improvements.
Yumi followed the contours of the tunnel as it weaved to the left and right, but never enough to level out. Her arms felt numb from maintaining their grip on the handlebar. What she would give for Aelita's wings… The tunnel walls had steadily expanded as they went up, and were now so large the Kadic science building could be wedged in, with room to spare - a far cry from the tiny entrance. Crevices the size of classrooms pockmarked the walls, and where the tunnel occasionally slanted to the side, massive stalactites the size of SUVs loomed.
"Aelita, do you read me?" calls Jeremy. "I'm ready with the interface program. Have you guys had any luck?"
"Nothing much to report," Yumi hears Aelita reply. "The tunnels gotten bigger, but we haven't actually found anything. It just goes on and on. I'm not sure we should go much higher… wait, I think I see something - hold on a sec." Aelita zooms ahead, easily outstripping the vehicles and passing around the next bend. "There's more light up here, I think there's an exit. Jeremy, can you tell us what ahead?"
"It looks like tunnel opens up into another cavern. It's big - other than that, I can't say."
Encouraged, they venture on. Ah, finally! The tunnel walls suddenly drop away, and they find themselves in another cavern. And Jeremy was right on the sheer scale of the space. Forget classrooms, the entire campus could fit in here! And there's more light. Where was it coming from? It didn't seem to have a source, and yet every surface in the cavern was lit by a dim yellowish light that casted no shadows, giving the room a flat appearance. Gigantic rock protrusions stretched from one distant wall to the other, like high-tension wires - albeit, the diameter of a schoolbus. Dozens of them extended across the room at precarious angles, a flying hazard if there ever was one. A smattering of oversized stalactites hang from the ceiling, far above, and the corresponding stalagmites clutter the ground. Here and there are massive holes in the floor, entrances to other tunnels like the one they just exited.
Yumi slows quickly and maneuvers off the side of the gaping hole that was their exit, coming to a halt over solid ground with Aelita and Odd. Ulrich's OverBike finally emerges as well and set down, rolling to a halt by Aelita.
"This place is… huge," says Yumi in wonder.
"See anything interesting?" asks Jeremy.
"Just a really, really, really big cave," says Ulrich. "There are stalagmites the size of trucks. But if you were hoping for a tower or data interface, you're out of luck."
"Alright, then I think it's time we have a word with our sponsor," says Jeremy, cracking his knuckles. "Be on the lookout."
He pulls up the program… hopefully it won't give him as much trouble as the map. All the indicators read green; he has a secure connection - but to what? The interface can receive audio, video, images, text, or any other format he could possibly need… but he wasn't getting anything. 'Okay, then. I'll knock first. …what do you say to an AI?'
Hesitantly, Jeremy types the timeless greeting: Hello?
Or than was the plan; all he got out was 'he-' before his screen was filled with 1s and 0s, and his headset filled with an ear-splitting crackling. He whipped off the headset, massaging his ear. Well, it was using binary, that was a start. The text window is filled to the brim with digits, and more whizz by as the scroll bar along the side rapidly shrinks to a tiny point. Jeremy plugs the ever-increasing block of numbers into a binary translator, and mercifully, the hundred-and-counting pages of raw binary into assembly language. Better… Looking over the code, Jeremy realized what was happening: he was literally getting a copy of everything the AI was thinking and doing; it was a window into the 'mind' of an AI! It was amazing… he could spend months looking over all of this! But it didn't do him any good for having a simple conversation. Jeremy set up a program to capture the stream of data, then got to work on the hard part: teaching.
Jeremy enters the following on his console: - hello?
All he got back in response was a long chain of binary that translated to: Directive: AcceptData.
He sighed. This was going to take some time. He keyed the mic transmitter.
"…hang tight, you guys. This could take awhile."
After half an hour of back and forth, the AI could finally comprehend him, and produce a legible response. It wasn't that it couldn't think; it simply couldn't communicate those thoughts.