Follow a leisurely dinner, the race was on. It just wasn’t a race that Hanna, Dr. Tishone or anyone other human had a part in.
On one side of the race was the Kraken, lumbering towards the field of building sized domes which covered most of the area of the ruins of Berlin. It’s progress was amazingly rapid for a beast its size but even so there were kilometers to cover and significant destruction which the Lightning Wyrm had left in its wake.
The other competitor in the race was the Lightning Planet. As the Kraken trudged towards Berlin, the Lightning Planet began to slow rapidly as it approached the point where it would reverse course and begin its return journey towards the Earth.
“So the Kraken and the Wyrm had a bit of a disagreement,” Hanna said. “But if the Kraken’s not a fan of the domes why didn’t it rise out of the sea earlier?”
“I have a better question,” Kimberly said. “Where the hell did it actually come from? Something that big wasn’t just swimming around in the Baltic. Somebody would have noticed it long before now.”
“Well, it’s got to be made of exotic matter too right?” Hanna said. “So why couldn’t it have appeared the same as the Lightning Wyrm did. One minute no monster on the scene, the next boom, giant beast from the deep.”
“The difference is the Wyrm appeared right after the third collision,” Kimberly said. “We’ve got an event we can tied that to.”
“That is kind of funny I guess,” Hanna said. “I mean, we didn’t get any creature like that in Tokyo, and Buenos Aires didn’t even get the crystals, much less a giant monster.”
“That sounds like the kind of question that could lead to a clue,” Kalia said.
“Yeah, I’m not sure how to find the answer though,” Hanna said. “We’d almost need pieces from both of the creatures to study to find out what the differences between them are.”
“NATO is reporting that the salvage operations are turning up a wide variety of creature parts floating in the sea,” Laura reported.
“Hah! Told ya!” Hanna said.
“Told us what?” Kimberly asked.
“They float! The Lightning Wyrm isn’t as dense as it should be!” Hanna said.
“See if you can arrange for any of the parts to be shipped here,” Dr. Tishone said to Laura. “While we’re waiting on that we’ll have to piggyback on the research that the French teams will be performing.”
“What do you think you’ll be able to find from the monster bits?” Kalia asked.
“I’m hoping we’ll be able to isolate the exotic matter and start interrogating it to determine its properties,” Dr. Tishone said.
“What if the pieces are just the terrestrial matter that’s left over though?” Hanna asked.
“It’s possible, but I don’t think that’s the case,” Dr. Tishion said. “When the Kraken bit into the Wyrm’s head it drained off what looked like a stream of exotic matter and that left the Wyrm’s head to crumble into ash and dust. I think any of the parts that we collect should have some of the exotric matter still woven into them.”
“That won’t do much to answer why the Kraken waited until the moment is did in order to strike,” Hanna said. “We need to understand how it’s different from the Lightning Wyrm.”
“Maybe the forces in the region can blast some pieces off it?” Laura said.
“They couldn’t be that stupid,” Dr. Tishone said.
“There are people talking about organizing a strike right now,” Laura said.
“Oh lord, get me the General on the phone,” Dr. Tishone said. “I’ve got to stop those idiots.”
She swept out of the command center and closed the door to one the small offices that lay at the back of the communications area.
“Why would anyone want to attack that thing?” Hanna asked, “It just saved us.”
“That might have been accidental,” Kalia said. “I mean it wasn’t like it decided to pop up in Berlin and deal with the Wyrm while the city was getting wrecked.”
“Ok, so it’s not the biggest fan of urban living, still, what’s the best case scenario in attacking it?” Hanna asked. “Either your weapons are effective and you’ve just killed the one thing we know of that can destroy the Lightning Planet monsters, or your weapons are ineffective, in which case we have a giant monster that’s angry at us, and there’s nothing we can do except send it chocolates and live virgins.”
“Oh no, Hanna run!” Kimberly said. “Unless you’re volunteering that is?”
“Shut up you,” Hanna said and poked her housemate in the ribs.
“Ladies? We have observations to set up for do we not?” Dr. Tishone asked.
“Already taken care of,” Kimberly said. “Without the crystal filters, we’re blind until the Lightning Planet reaches apogee, but, since we know when and where that should be, everything we’ve got is pointed in that direction.”
“That’s good,” Dr. Tishone said. “But I want you ready to run some very fine orbital calculations as soon as we get the data. We’ve got three data points on where the Lightning Planet and the Earth have interacted the most strongly and two data points on where the Lightning Planet was sighted when it reached apogee. We might be able to work out from there where the Fourth Collision point will be.”
“That’s a lot of calculating,” Kimberly said.
“I think we can do it though,” Hanna said. “Is JPL on this too?”
“Yes, and others too,” Dr. Tishone said. “I want you to have our answers in as soon as possible, and with solid documentation to support them. We’re going to pool our resources with the world’s space agencies and try to come up with a consensus answer. Whoever wins, gets to not be in the zone they predict the collision to occur in.”
“I like that prize!” Kimberly said.
Putting together the calculations ate up the time that remained until the reappearance of the Lightning Planet. As it turned out though, the Kraken didn’t manage to arrive in Berlin until an hour after the Lightning Planet returned, so in a sense it lost the race, though that turned out to be a victory for the astronomers that were observing and measuring the exotic matter based heavenly body.
“Ok, these numbers are all over the place,” Hanna said. “The results we’re getting are nuts.”
“I really want to say this looks like the kind of sloppy measurements I was doing in High School,” Kimberly said. “But there’s too many good people to be doing work this terrible, so something else is up.”
“Tell me what you’re seeing?” Dr. Tishone said.
“We know the velocity of Lightning Planet’s orbit seems to change dramatically for reasons we’re not yet sure of,” Hanna said. “When it’s going outwards, away from the Earth, it seems to move faster with a steady acceleration each second until it nears its apogee, then it begins slowing down dramatically. Once it reaches apogee, it then begins to accelerate back towards the Earth but at a much lower acceleration that on its outbound trip. ”
“In the measurements we took before and after its second appearance, that movement profile held true. It was the one thing we could definitively say about the damn thing,” Kimberly said.
“And that’s changed?” Dr. Tishone asked.
“Yes,” Hanna said. “It was moving as we expected when it came into visibility.”
“And before then too, according to the reports we’ve seen from the crystal equipped telescopes in San Francisco and Beijing,” Kimberly said.
“It went through apogee and started coming back just as the calculations predicted, and then it didn’t,” Hanna said.
“It’s not coming back?” Dr. Tishone asked.
“Oh, sorry, no. It’s coming back,” Hanna said. “In fact it’s coming back faster than ever before.”
“It didn’t gain velocity right after apogee though. For about ten seconds it was following the normal pattern we’d worked out for it,” Kimberly said.
“And then it just started to pick up speed, accelerating a lot faster than what we’ve seen before,” Hanna said. “It’s like something was reeling…it… in.”
Hanna stumbled on the last words as she watched everyone arrive at the same conclusion that she had.
“Laura, what’s happening with the domes in Berlin and Tokyo?” Dr. Tishone asked.
“No specific activity being reported from either site,” Laura said.
“Check with the teams that are monitoring them via crystal enhanced optics,” Dr. Tishone said.
“Oh wow, I don’t even have to, they just sent in a report,” Laura said. “Noticeable uptick in the luminosity of the streams of light emanating from each dome. It corresponded with the Lightning Planet’s turn around.”
“Guess we have a clue what the crystal domes are for,” Kimberly said.
“Yeah, now all we need is the ‘why’ and ‘how’,” Hanna said.
“Can you use this new information to refine your collision prediction model?” Dr. Tishone asked.
“I think so, but depending on how the crystal tethers work, the orbits are going to get complex,” Hanna said.
“Call in whoever you need,” Dr. Tishone said. “I’m going to try to convince the powers-that-be to evacuate a larger region outside each of the Effect Zones. With Berlin and Tokyo as active sites now I don’t think we want to take any chances.”
“Berlin may not be an active site for much longer,” Laura said. “The Kraken arrived at the Effect Zone a few minutes ago and it’s tearing the domes out of the ground and eating them.”
“It’s eating them?” Hanna asked. “What’s happening to it when it does that?”
“It looks like it’s absorbing the streams that came out of each of the domes,” Laura said.
“Is that a good thing?” Kimberly asked.
“I don’t know,” Laura said. “But I hope so because it just scooped up the last of the domes and then disappeared.”
Hanna looked at the main display and saw a view of the city of Berlin. It was empty, devoid of monsters, devoid of crystal domes. Just empty, like a battlefield from which the war had moved on.