The World That Ends in Fire – Chapter 17


The creature lay quiescent for the better part of a week in the ruins of Berlin. Only two occasions arose that disturbed its still vigil within the dead city.

The first was when a team of NATO backed researchers tried to venture into the ruins to collect data.

As with the other Effect Zones there was a sharp line between the ruined expanse of Berlin and the unaffected areas around it. With the first two Effect Zones, that line had been drawn instantly as the cities were destroyed. The line inscribing the circumference of the third Effect Zone was etched by the slower process of a series of continuous lightning strikes.

Within the area, the gray crystals had grown in abundance until they eventually formed a series of domes, similar to the one which covered the Tokyo Effect Zone. In Berlin the domes were smaller though and more distributed around the affected area.

The creature waited at the innermost point within the domes, a patient guardian ready to strike at anything that might harm them. Anything including a research team which dared to venture within its terrain.

Hanna and the others were watching the live feed from the team as the scientists, military personnel and the team’s support staff crossed the border of the Effect Zone. The creature stirred the moment the first human entered its terrain, but it didn’t strike right away.

It wasn’t until the team made the first attempt at scraping a piece of crystal off of one of the smaller domes that lightning flared in the creatures giant maw.

The order to retreat traveled at the speed of light  but it still failed to reach the team in time.

After that another airstrike was called in, to no noticeable effect. The creature reacted to the detonations of the heavy munitions but neither it nor the crystal domes were affected.

“That was an expensive lesson,” Dr. Tishone said. “We bartered a research team and we learned so little about the creatures reactions. I told them we should have sent in the drones first.”

“How much does this set us back?” Hanna asked.

“Given that we’re not making progress on discovering how to destroy that creature, I’m not sure we can be set back much further,” Dr. Tishone said.

“We know the technique the crew in Tokyo used against the dome there though don’t we?” Kimberly asked.

“Yes, we just haven’t figure out how to weaponized it yet, or if it’s as viable path to pursue even if we can,” Dr. Tishone said.

The crystal dome over Tokyo was impenetrable to explosive force, except in areas where the demolitionist first rigged a series of high voltage lines which could carry large amounts of A/C current. Within the area enclosed by the wires, the dome’s forcefield was disrupted and conventional forces were able to shatter the crystal structure.

Unfortunately the team at the Tokyo dome had yet to discover a way to prevent the opening from resealing itself. Inserting steel or concrete tubes had given promising initial results until the regrowing crystal dome had proven to possess enough shear force to slice through the tubes.

Modifying that approach and applying it to the creature seemed fraught with peril on a number of fronts, most noticeably that the domes were only briefly being destroyed, and briefly destroying the creature wasn’t a goal anyone was interested in pursuing.

The second time the creature stirred from its rest was when another group of people violated the sanctity of the Effect Zone.

The second party to enter the Effect Zone were neither scientists nor military personnel. A charismatic preacher from America’s Bible Belt, had flown his congregation to Europe and made a pilgrimage to Berlin, leading the authorities on a series of chases as they circumvented checkpoints designed to keep people out of the ruins of the city.

The authorities stopped pursuing the zealous worshippers when they crossed into the Effect Zone though.

The world was able to watch the live broadcast of the congregation’s fate thanks to the preachers faithful video production crew.

“These angels have come to lay low the sinful works of man and raise up a new kingdom,” the preacher proclaimed to the people who looked to him for guidance. “We should not fear them, but welcome them. We who are pure, we who have upheld the one holy scripture. We do not need the protection of this corrupt and debase world. Our purity and our righteousness will be our shield.”

The preacher lead his tearfully joyous congregation into the shadow of the creature where they began exclaiming their faith in a chorus of loud and certain voices.

They died, burning in lightning, before they could finish.

After that, no one else was quite so willing to venture in personally to disturb the creature, no matter how much faith they had or of what variety it was.

“Why is the creature killing us?” Hanna asked.

“Have you met us?” Kalia asked.

“No, seriously, it wiped out the research team, but it did that after they messed with one of the domes,” Hanna said. “That could have been a sign of the domes having a vulnerability we’re not aware of and the creature being reactively protective so we wouldn’t find it. But why wipe out of the religious….”

“You can call them ‘nuts’,” Kalia said. “Anybody who messes with something like that is definitely in the crazy category.”

“Hanna’s got a point though,” Kimberly said. “They might have been irritating, but they weren’t exactly threatening.”

“Again, have you met any actual humans?” Kalia said. “Cause that thing certainly hadn’t. They started making a lot of noise. How was it supposed to know what they were doing?”

“But they were so little compared to it,” Hanna said.

“So are mice compared to humans,” Kalia said. “How do most people react to finding a mouse in their house?”

“So we’re basically vermin to that thing?” Hanna asked.

“That’s a reasonable metaphor size-wise but it may be true in other ways too,” Dr. Tishone said.

“It’s afraid we’re going to nibble on its toes?” Hanna asked.

“That’s not the real danger which a mouse poses to a human,” Dr. Tishone said. “A mouse can be deadly to human due to the even smaller creatures it brings into play, from fleas to things like the Hanta virus.”

“So we need to go War of the Worlds on these things?” Kimberly asked. “Because I think germ warfare is the one option we haven’t tried yet.”

“That’s only true because long and exhausting debates are still raging over its use,” Dr. Tishone said.

“Please tell me the ‘don’t use super bugs’ coalition is winning,” Hanna said. “I’ve been having nightmares about how badly wrong things will go if that genie gets out of the bottle.”

“So far, saner heads are prevailing, but we’re talking to people whose sole purpose in life is to protect their nations and the people within them and they’re faced with a foe that no weapons on Earth can even scratch,” Dr. Tishone said. “These are desperate men and women and reason is only going to convince them for so long.”

“If the human race is going to go extinct, trust me, we will take down whoever we can with us,” Kalia said.

“That’s kind of insane,” Hanna said. “We’d be dooming ourselves just to get revenge on creatures that might not even be affected by the germs.”

“You might not have noticed this, but our species isn’t exactly the nicest of animals on the planet,” Kalia said. “We’re the dominant species largely because we will straight up murder any other creatures that try to take that spot from us, and we’ll use any trick, no matter how ugly or unpleasant to do it.”

“So what if that thing is the dominant species on the Lightning Planet?” Hanna asked. “Where does that put us?”

“Basically right where the mouse is when it looks up and sees the human staring down at it,” Kalia said.

“We do have one advantage over the mouse in that scenario though,” Dr. Tishone said.

“We’re not compelled to eat cheese?” Kimberly asked.

“In a sense, yes,” Dr. Tishone said. “So far the creature has evidenced no complex behaviors. It may be larger and more powerful than even our mightiest machines and weapons but it’s possible that we’re vastly bigger than it when it comes to intellect.”

“That doesn’t seem to be helping us at the moment,” Kalia said.

“Yes, well, that’s the central problem with reason,” Dr. Tishone said. “It is wonderful for providing answers and solutions given enough time, but very often that time is simply not available.”

Time ran out for them, in a sense, the next day when the creature stirred once again.

“Why is it moving now?” Dr. Tishone asked.

“The domes,” Hanna said. “The last one finished forming an hour ago and the Lightning Planet just rose over the horizon in Berlin.”

The crystal enhanced drone that provided a live feed to the Berlin Effect Zone showed cords of yellow light streaming from the top of the crystal domes.

Hanna and Kimberly had been able to work out the position which the threads were streaming towards. It wasn’t the Lightning Planet directly but it was the position the Lightning Planet would occupy when it made its expected turn around later that day. Somehow they were targeting the future position of the planet but displaying activity only when it was currently visible within the sky above Berlin.

With careful, ponderous, earthshaking steps, the creature ventured forth, at last, moving out of the Effect Zone and heading north.

The NATO military forces had prepared for that, and responded the moment the creature began to move. Ground troops, air forces and ships at sea all sprang to life and their highest state of alert.

The area around Berlin had been evacuated the first day that the creature appeared but with the beast on the move, additional evacuations were called for. Ground forces tried a number of approaches to slow down the creature’s progress from enormous deadfalls, to waves of tanks firing from reinforced locations, to nuclear landmines.

Though valiant, the efforts barely accomplished anything.

The creatures footsteps collapsed some of the hastily constructed deadfalls and easily withstood the impact of falling into the others. Any tanks that came within a one kilometer range of the creatures were incinerated by lighting and any that were beyond that limit were simply ignored. Even the frightful and toxic force of a nuclear blast under the creature’s foot failed to stop its advance.

“There’s nothing we can do to stop that thing,” Kimberly said.

Hanna wanted to argue with Kimberly but she couldn’t. She didn’t have the answers yet, she didn’t understand how a creature like the one, that was tearing a swath of destruction through Europe, could exist without anything to counter or oppose it. It was invulnerable, and yet it had impossibly fearsome defenses too. Those didn’t make sense together. If nothing could hurt the creature, then it had no reason to possess the ability to destroy things on the scale that it could.

The NATO forces fell back, and then fell back further, taking terrible losses to slow the creature by a few minutes at most. Even those few minutes bought lives elsewhere though, and so the order to disengage was held until there creature was almost at the shore of the Baltic Sea.

It wasn’t until the creature came within sight of the ocean and the assembled naval forces were able to waste an unreasonable amount of ammunition on failing to destroy or even delay it that the orders for a full retreat were finally given.

The best weapons the human world had to bring to bear offered no deterrent to the creature’s progress.

It stepped into the Baltic Sea, uncontested and apparently untouchable, and that was when the sea boiled over.

From the depth rose an equally massive monster.

The creature from the Lightning Planet roared and spit electricity into the sea but the Kraken that towered before it didn’t flinch. It wrapped tentacles that were a kilometer long around the Lightning Wyrm and dragged the creature under the surface of the waves.

The humans were out of the fight. The Earth was not.