Ch.3 What Heralds
What should have been a trouble free and educational trip through a local forested area for students to breath in nature, to see the importance of biodiversity in their ever industrialized world. Mrs. Hertz and all but one of the attending students soon found out would not be the case. Amid their investigations into fungi, plants, small insects, and even a few furry and feathery critters had swiftly and loudly took a sharp turn into utter madness. A student, the latest one to enroll into the Academy, had wondered off away from her normally attentive vision and off a good seventy feet away deep into the untamed flora of park. The elderly professor, who'd been at Kadic for years, had never once been in such a situation which put her into a maddened rush to seek the source of such a cry of help as if life depended on her to locate it. She had just been correcting a student for mislabeling a snail and a slug in their drawings when the dire call echoed past the main mass of the class. She and almost all of the rest of the field trip attendees headed off through brambles, shrubs, and small saplings until the clearing came which beheld the missing enrollee and an injured person of unknown origins.
The science instructor knew what to do immediately and phoned in the incident, with evidence of a head injury of the other and shock induced state of the one known as Aelita Schaffer needing expedient attention. The call went through to emergency services to which after she stayed by the young girl and did what she could to calm her down. After many attempts by her and another student that knew the girl had come to no avail, Mrs. Hertz did the one thing she knew how to do for her grandkids when they were afraid of lightning. It wasn't a textbook maneuver, but she couldn't just stand by and do nothing as these were her students and responsibility, it was in her job description to assist when needed. In this particular case she wanted to do more than the regular, ignoring the rather panicked pleas of the Japanese student to take her back to the school.
Mrs. Hertz gently scooped up the terrified teenager and cradled the poor thing, slowly rocking back and forth as she whispered calming words she did for her grandkids. It seemed to work fast enough as soon the sound of chattering teeth abated and she could feel the young student's hand clasp on to her lab coat with eyes still wide with horror only barely regaining a half lidded state as the adrenaline wore off. The ambulance arrived fifteen minutes later and by that time the student with strange pink hair had gone into a momentary sleep as her body recovered from the distress to which was alien to her senses. She had given a few glances at the unconscious boy whom the other students she had instructed to arrange him on his back and check for any life threatening exterior injuries, thankfully finding none.
The trained professionals took over once they were on site, bringing a gurney over for the unidentified male and a blanket for Aelita to whom Mrs. Hertz would escort herself once she was awoken by the paramedic’s checkup.
"She's good to go, nothing I can see indicates anything has happened other than a bruise on her forehead. You said you heard a scream? Was it from this student of yours by chance?" the blonde male paramedic asked as he flashed a light into Aelita's pupils which contracted upon testing.
The older woman nodded, "Yes, I'm quite sure the kind of cry we all heard belonged to her, the octave was too high to be his. Speaking of which will he... be alright? I don’t know where he came from but until she’s ready to talk about it he’ll be the only one that knows what happened here?" she noticed the still comatose kid being hauled away by the other two medics on scene.
"I'm not sure, but he'll be in good hands with unit 4. They've handled cases like this, so no need to worry. Now, how about we get you two over to the vehicle so I can do one last check before we give her a clean bill of health? Shall we?" he asked as he packed up his gear and motioned for them to follow.
Aelita's eyes stayed glued to the forest floor as they rose together, she didn't even try to speak much less walk voluntarily. Yet she showed clear cognitive capability and that was a good sign, so the professor answered for her as she coaxed her legs into movement with Yumi assisting.
"Will she be okay Mrs. Hertz?" Yumi asked out of concern as she held the girl's cream colored hand closest to her.
Walking in unison, "As a member of the faculty at Kadic College you have my word I will do all that is needed to ensure she's healthy and safe. You can bet my job on it." she winked her best to instill confidence in the raven haired student, "Even if it gets me fired for this..."
After they reached the emergency vehicle parked partially on the road, the trained professional sat Aelita onto the ledge of the care giving compartment. Going about looking for anything worse he might of missed, coincidently a squad car pulled up with the police going to the other medics first with their charge in his state. Mrs. Hertz and Yumi observed with great relief as nothing immediately popped up, it seemed as if fate spared the new student any harm beyond a bruise. Though before given the okay could be given, Jeremie appeared from down the road as he came walking down the sidewalk. At first he couldn’t figure out why there were emergency vehicles near the forest. Once he saw Yumi sans the A.I. given flesh, he hurried on over and ignored Mrs. Hertz initial queries into his earlier whereabouts.
The elder coughing into a hand as he seemed to hesitate to touch Aelita all the while looking over himself for damage, "And just where were you Mr. Belpois?! Did you skip the field trip to fool around on your computer again? Why I have half a mind to suspend you with everything that's happened! The last thing I need is two students being inspected by the paramedics!" she spoke with a harsh tone though she went largely ignored once Jeremie took heed of situation.
Quickly noticing how the other girl turned away from his gaze, "Yumi?! What happened?" huffing as he had started to sweat a little from anxiety.
Denied any fast response, Jeremie decided he’d have a talk with her later as his primary concern was seeing to the issue at hand. Setting down his newly weighted backpack with the laptop he journeyed back for, he cautiously raised a hand and laid it over her shoulder. He could see she was exhausted as if she’d been running for an hour, recovering from emotional exhaustion of some kind if he analyzed her stoic appearance. She was for the most part unresponsive to his presence as if he wasn’t there and he could understand that, but what he didn't was why.
“Don’t worry she’ll be right as rain, health wise after a good night’s rest.” The emergency worker told the group as he started to stash away his gear bag and instruments within the recesses of the ambulance.
Feeling some sense of contentment, he turned to the elderly professor who fumed at his complete ignorance to her scolding and threat of punishment for putting himself in harm’s way by leaving the field trip.
"What happened to her?" his eyes were dead set on finding the answer even if it went against the typical level of respect any Kadic student should have for their superiors. Emboldened by his friendship with the new student that even Mrs. Hertz knew started off the get go, she huffed and decided to let the insult go this once. She had once or twice been in his shoes to happen up on a friend who’d fallen ill or been in an accident, her years told her how to respond.
She lifted her glasses up onto the bridge of her nose and took a deep breath, "I'm sorry Mr. Belpois, no one knows what happened unfortunately. She somehow separated from the group and was found next to an unconscious boy whose been taken to the hospital already, all anyone heard was... a scream and likely from her. I’m sorry she went through whatever it was, but the best thing we can do is be brave for her." she gave a concerned sad look at the zoned out student who was given a small cup of some kind of electrolyte liquid she barely touched, “When she comes out of this, she’ll need friendly faces.”
"She... wandered off..." he looked back to the short raven haired girl who returned his inquisitive gaze with remorse.
"I didn’t believe she’d go off on her own like that. When she screamed…” she visibly shook like a wave of goosebumps washed over her, “She left the class and... I'm sorry Jeremie, I honestly thought she was a couple trees away from me!" she said apologetically before grasping his left arm in a way which conveyed her own self hatred for not being there to watch over the vulnerable girl.
Knowing she was not told to be or was Aelita’s caretaker, he bit back an impulsive response knowing when he left the poor A.I. that she’d be fine for a moment. Under that assumption there was no need to be angry at Yumi over what was likely XANA’s doing, and knowing it there was a reason and purpose trying to harm them in many ways than they’d initially see.
Jeremie took a seat next to Aelita opposite of Mrs. Hertz and held her left hand with a soft touch while rubbing with his thumb along her wrist to try and get her back into activity. Mrs. Hertz took it as her time to leave seeing as the paramedic had nothing else to give and already gave the green light for her to return back with the rest of the class thankfully. Knowing the other students needed her guidance as they were no doubt shaken by the event, the elder woman left on her way to corral the cats and give an account to the police who’d probably need answers.
Yumi hung round out of both guilt and love for Aelita, taking up a few feet behind the two once the class passed by and the driver of the medical vehicle had received another call to leave off to. It was a very quiet walk in solitude that even Sissi and her goons dared not to break, in fact, Yumi noticed how far ahead they were and the few second took the primadonna to be taken at Aelita as if in some form of pity. With Odd and Ulrich soon to hear about the incident, the day was far from over for the group five.
Aelita had been taken to the infirmary to rest for the remainder of the day under the nurse’s supervision after the report had been made to the Principle, as well as a small note from the ambulance worker. Begrudgingly, Jeremie parted from the new girl and joined with Yumi as they made their way to the cafeteria, in silence as the two said nothing to each other from acquiring their meals to sitting down to eat. Whether it was out of conflict of interest or the clinging residue of the situation Aelita was in it did not matter at the time. Once the other two boys joined them, Jeremie had begun to make grunting noises as if he started to put puzzle pieces together and coming to amazing revelations. He had yet to even look at his computer to verify if there was even an infected tower at anytime of the day, but his analytical mind went to work with scenarios nonetheless. He gave his arch enemy the rope so it would inevitably hang itself, XANA was pragmatic in its vile deeds and knew how to take long routes to achieve its mission.
As Odd and Ulrich began to finish eating in the air of uncertainty which pervaded the cafeteria, Jeremie went through his backpack. Looking for the device which would eliminate half of what he figured was the case as lunch neared its end. Yumi on the other hand maintained her quiet, seemingly enthralled with the bland food served on that day almost as if forced to. They may have a near sibling relationship with each other, but anything to do with Aelita made him an almost immoveable object to any outside connection or interaction. He was a smart kid she knew that much of him, but even he was still human and prone to such tendencies as they all were when someone important was involved in a bad day.
Ulrich and Odd gave sideway eyes to each other unsure of what to ask or if to even try. What text warnings they received from Yumi earlier were not all that welcoming or pleasing to read. Under the vanilla lights of the mess hall and the afternoon sunlight coming in through the windows, Odd was the first to say anything even if he risked a confrontation before thirty of the other students in the room.
"So uh... how you holding up buddy?" he chuckled nervously before stuffing a spoonful of potatoes into his mouth.
Not a single word or a reaction from the boy prodigy as he typed away and sorted through the archive data flow from the supercomputer.
Ulrich tried his hand, "We got word of what happened, is... she okay?"
It earned little more than a twitch of the blonde's eyebrow as he continued to otherwise ignore the questioning.
Odd shrugged before swallowing the mash in his mouth, "I'm sure the princess is fine, after all she's been through way more than a surprise on lyoko you know? Right Einstein?!" he quipped happily as he recalled the many adventures which even they almost sold their lives dearly for to stop the twisted program that sought to end the world and themselves.
Jeremie snapped, slamming his laptop shut and putting his forehead into his hands which rubbed the flesh vigorously if not so rough it reddened the skin in contrast to his pale features. Others took notice nearby and peered over their shoulders for a moment before going back to their meals, seeing the smart kid going into some kind of conniption fit which suited his weirdness, he had a reputation of having as it were. Ulrich put down his utensil and pushed his tray to the side, he knew when trouble was starting and it would likely put Jeremie in hot water with the lunch lady soon enough if he had a moment.
"Jeremie, look things happen alright? Aelita's in safe hands with the nurse and whatever happened thankfully didn't cause any worse than what’s happened before. So calm down and tell us what you think attacked Aelita and that other guy alright?!" he lived up to his last name and carried each word with power and restraint.
With a deep breath that died out into a long drawn out sigh, Jeremie rose his head up and glared at his friends.
Furrowed eyes, "Nothing."
"Nothing what?" Odd asked.
"Nothing was detected on LYOKO, no tower was infected, no XANA attack at all!" he fumed, "Nothing that leads us to know what happened to her until she tells us herself... if she even remembers it at all..."
The three were taken aback, never had they been assaulted by the evil menace without a tower activated. This meant that unless XANA figured out a way to send out offensives without using a tower, this was the real world that scared Aelita into a zombie-like state. A notion which was not stomached very well with the heroes all too well as they only ever came under assailment by the dastardly demon of the virtual world.
"And you double checked?" Ulrich kept going at their organizer and only non-fighter in the group.
"Yes, six times to be sure... diagnostics show that no tower had been taken over nor active since the last attack!" he spat giving a hard look at the laptop beneath his elbows.
"So that just means we need to educate her on our home even more right? I mean what could have spooked her so..." Odd tried to make light of the event only to receive a sharp kick to the shins by Yumi.
She bore at him in dislike, "That other person I texted you guys about, well... they were electrified by something and it was powerful enough to knock him out. Aelita's scream must have scared off the attacker, who also seemed to have bashed the guys head into a tree. He was bleeding Odd!"
The spiky haired teenager winced as he visualized the rather brutal method XANA had taken if it was the source to begin with. Hoping it was some random hobo with a stun gun or something, the usually jovial kid kept his lips shut after which and let the others talk.
"When has anyone been attacked by a tazer or anything like that in the middle of the forests in France Odd? Think of it, it's a calling card to you know who and this manner of trying to pick off Aelita is bad." Ulrich added.
Jeremie rubbed his eyes under his glasses, "I don't get it though, he has a virus in her and if something happens to her than he goes with her too! Why try to go after her like this? Why even include that other person? What's the plan, the motive, is it a scare tactic with some convoluted meaning behind it to make her less safe out of lyoko?!"
No one had any further comments to add, they had so little to go off of without Aelita's personal account which they were sure Principle Delmas would receive first dibs on before them for the school's records as well as the police. A squad car had already shown up and two officers were in his office, at least from what they saw from the cafeteria's windows. It would be a long day for the four before Aelita would probably be able to see them in a more stable condition, and it pained them to endure the absence of the computer software in human form. Oddly enough though, beyond their sights, Sissi had taken to sitting alone in a table far in the corner of the lunch room having removed her two followers to have peace. She eyed the group wearily as she ate a simple fruit cup and drank a glass of tea, the scream which ended the field trip abruptly had shaken her down to the core which also further rooted her belief in some secret clandestine cult that Ulrich was a part of. Bolstered by what sadly happened to the new girl, Sissi was determined from then on to figure out what was going on. She'd play her cards right and slowly, knowing she might stumble on something big and complex further down the road. It would be worth the wait for her to finally get an edge on Ulrich and free him from the grasp of his unworthy friends.
Nurses Office End of Classes
The air felt heavy, smelling of bleach and fragrant flower scented cotton linen, both which stung and comforted the sense of smell. The ruffling and shifting of papers moving not even a walk away echoed in the quiet space, the soft blue and whites of every surface from the ceiling down to the reflective tile floor. Something about it all felt familiar in a way, fresh from memory of recent that elicited pleasant feelings of intrigue and curiosity. Beneath, gracing the skin of the palms and legs was the sensation of paper thin bed sheets much like a typical spread with a semi soft mattress below.
There was a name for the surrounding confines, some kind of logical explanation for the coinciding evidence which demanded a title as rightly should. Thoughts were what drove contemplation, contemplation became understanding, understanding gave rise to awareness which permitted any creature to survive in an otherwise brutal world. The real physical world of star dust and energy of existence, it was not a simulated reality of binary coding. That was it, the real world, being able to breathe in a gaseous mixture dominated by oxygen which comprised the atmosphere.
The chilly air churned by an overhead duct poured from the air conditioning which supported a comfortable environment in the room. Only one room was made to be this cold and for medical purposes. This was the nurses office, it all fit together perfectly from the smallest speckle in the drywall ceiling panels to the glass cabinet just barely within view to the right. Small bottles and supplies sat in an well organized rack, little boxes of cotton products and latex gloves took up the lower sections.
It all came too as eyelids shut just once before the existence of life spurned Aelita into the waking world. She drew in a deep breath and groaned as she sat up, using her arms to prop herself up to get a better view of the room which hosted her. Everything she thought of just then flooded out of her like a rising cup from a container of water, poked full of holes and losing all the liquid quickly. She felt rested in a way yet it was not as pleasant as when she awoke in her own bed, in fact her head seemed to feel rather off as if something fluffy sat within her skull.
"Whe... where am I?" she rubbed her forehead out of no reason and touched a numb spot where a patch of gauze had been taped into place.
The school’s nurse Yolanda removed herself from the paperwork regarding the very patient, "Hmmm? Oh you're awake? That’s good, how are you feeling?".
The woman in a white lab coat stood up from her roll away chair and desk, then walked over while removing the stethoscope from around her neck. She happened upon a bewildered student who seemed lost in her own mind, a common symptom of emotional trauma which was the result of what mysteriously happened to her on the field trip to the woods. Yolanda couldn't fathom what must have occurred and only which Aelita could explain besides the unknown boy who had been taken to the hospital with a police escort. Deciding any digging would jeopardize her patient’s health and sanity, she played off anything to do with the memory recollection and treat the girl as she would any other case.
"I... I'm... I'm not sure, I don't remember anything or why I'm here." Aelita continued to grope away at the gauze patch as she tried to feel the bump underneath which the nurse had applied a numbing agent onto the swelling.
Yolanda took a seat next to the bedside and began the normal routine of checking vitals, "Well I'm sure everything will come back soon enough, now tell me are you feeling any dizziness, nausea, headache, or anything else I should know?"
The warm touch of the woman’s fingers immediately drew Aelita's attention as she felt the cylindrical item with a light probing into both her ears, "No, I don't feel ill, but... I feel like... I'm floating. I'm not sure how else to put it." the nurse then popped the cap off the tool and disposed it before stowing the device into a coat pocket.
A small digital thermometer was placed into her mouth after Aelita heard the order to open, "Just let it sit there while the machine works. You've been resting for a few hours, you're probably experiencing the sensation of a relaxed mind and rejuvenation. It must feel like when you take an extended power nap and feel groggy after which. In an hour or two you'll be back to normal.” The small plastic box the nurse held beeped twice and the probe was removed, “If you feel anything off, any pain at all please come see me at any time. I believe the staff will assist you when my office closes for the night. So don't be afraid to ask for help. Now, take a few deep breaths and slowly exhale." repeating what she did with the first object, she then equipped the stethoscope and pushed the chrome pad onto the student’s chest.
"What happened to me?" Aelita asked after the pulse was taken with a few deep breath exercises.
Yolanda slid off the ear pieces and drew out a notepad with a pen as she jotted own the numbers, "I'm afraid I don't know any more than you do. You were brought to me to be taken care of, simple as that. I wish I had more to say."
With no further information to aid in her understanding Aelita felt a pinch of irritation, "What do you mean you don't know? Who knows then? I... I was somewhere... on the campus premises and... and then nothing..." she trailed off as the aggravation deflated.
"Please lean off the edge of the bed I need to test your reflexes?" the subconsciousness of the pink haired teenager followed the instructions quietly and without resistance.
Watching as the school nurse extracted a strange tool and softly tapped the tendon of the knees which bore small marks as if she scraped them on concrete, "I'm not a psychologist I'm afraid Mrs. Schaffer, so I cannot help you beyond physical injuries or a viral infection making you sick. You'll receive better help from the school's Psychologist Counselor Mr. Hans. Please do see him if you wish to know more. I'm sorry I cannot be of any more assistance than this." she answered and took a few more notes down giving the feeling of being detached from the confusing distress Aelita couldn’t make sense of.
Feeling guilty as she nearly gotten angry at the nurse for not knowing what was beyond her station logically she apologized, "I... didn't mean to be pushy, I'm sorry.", her mood soured.
Looking away from the clipboard, Yolanda gently swayed her head, "Worry not Mrs. Schaffer, in your case it is perfectly understandable. Now let's check your patch real quick before I let you go, does that sound good to you?" she waved away the troubled air around Aelita and continued on her last item on the mental list to do.
After all was said and done Yolanda gave her permission to leave seeing the bruise no longer expanding, "Oh and by the way your friends are outside waiting for you. Make sure you get a good meal but nothing too heavy. Stay safe Mrs. Schaffer!" she waved goodbye to her newly discharged patient before going back to her desk.
"Thanks..." she nodded and made her way to the door, her friends were outside and their names and images came to the front of her mind and with them comfort.
Once her hand touched the door’s handle, her haze of the world around her lifted away almost as like the same way she felt coming to Earth for the first time. She blinked a few more times as the others appeared waiting on the benches outside the office, they were all busy doing something yet they were there for her. Soon all four sets of eyes locked onto the angel from LYOKO, smiles and the look of awe decorated their faces. Jeremie had been the first to jump to his feet and come up to her, no one said a word yet with concern flickering in the way they moved.
As she stepped out of the room and let the door close behind her with a click, Jeremie grasped her right hand carefully as he smiled. Ulrich and Yumi both were side by side behind the blonde teenager though they restrained themselves from committing to any physical contact. Odd on the other hand lightly patted her left shoulder with a grin that broke the air around the five, he was always the joker who’d keep things jovial. The greeting soon became one huge group hug, still wordless the combined embrace spoke louder than any verbal language could accomplish.