Hanna was in the Kimberly’s room the next day when the blue cocoon around her housemate crumbled away in a rainbow shower of dust.
“I’m alive?” Kimberly asked.
“Yes, you are,” Hanna said. “How do you feel?”
“I feel fantastic, I…I can feel my toes again!” Kimberly said. “But, Hanna, what happened to you?”
The changes to Hanna’s features were too obvious for her friend to miss, even after the trauma of a multi-day coma.
“The same thing that happened to you,” Hanna said and handed Kimberly the mirror that Dr. Tishone had left in the room. “Here take a look, and then take a breath, I know you’re going to have a million questions. I did.”
“I don’t know where to even start,” Kimberly said. “What happened to us?”
“I’ll give you the short form; we were splashed with blood from one of the Earthly giant monsters, and that locked us in cocoons while our bodies were repaired,” Hanna said.
“And that changed us into this? What is this?” Kimberly asked, angling the mirror to follow the blue lines that spread down her face and neck. Like Hanna, she returned to looking into her own eyes though, equal parts fascinated and horrified by the smooth grey crystal orbs they’d become.
“We don’t know,” Hanna said. “If you want my guess, we’re some sort of mini-hybrid-giant monster.”
“We’re monsters?” Kimberly asked, touching the pulsing lines on her face.
“Not exactly,” Hanna said. “Psychologically, you’re still you. Physically though, you’re a lot more now.”
“What do you mean?”
Hanna lifted a metal disk from the floor. It was large and wide and bore the words “50 LBS” stenciled into it in white.
“Are you going to have me do reps with that?” Kimmberly asked.
“Sure, here catch,” Hanna said and crumpled the metal disk into a ball before tossing it to Kimberly who caught it easily.
“The tinfoil prop proves what exactly?” Kimberly asked.
“Drop it on the floor,” Hanna said.
Kimberly did and the bang of fifty pounds of compressed steel hitting the metal flooring of the ship made both women jump.
“What the hell?” Kimberly asked.
“You’re different now,” Hanna said. “I wish we had more time to go over all of the details, but there’s a plane leaving in thirty minutes and I think we both need to be on it.”
“This is insane,” Kimberly said.
“Yes it is,” Hanna said. “And that’s why I’m going to spend twenty nine of the next thirty minutes answering any question you have. Then I’m going to need you to decide whether you want to go with us and test out what we’ve become or if this is where you get off the crazy train and get back to the number crunching and science that we’re actually trained for.”
“You’re serious about this?” Kimberly said. “This is real?”
“I wish it weren’t but yeah, this is as real as it gets,” Hanna said. “I’m sorry its coming at you so fast. I at least had a day so far to take it all in so I got my screaming all out and done hours ago. You decided to be a sleepy head though, so you get the abbreviated version.”
“Then bring me up to speed,” Kimberly said. “What do we know so far?”
Twenty seven minutes later, Kimberly had her answers, and she and Hanna raced to the transport plan where Kalia, Simon, Laura and a team of non-hybridized researchers and support staff were waiting for them. Hanna looked around for Dr. Tishone but their leader was stuck in a planning session with the team of technical advisors the UN. That meant the burden of keeping people focused was going to fall on Hanna’s shoulders but even with her new found super strength she wasn’t sure she’d be able to hold up well enough.
“You made it!” Simon said as he hauled a pallet of equipment into the transport.
“Sure,” Kimberly said. “I mean the last place in the world I want to be is near one of those creatures again, so flying right towards an active Effect Zone is the most sensible thing in the world right?”
“I’m glad to have you with us,” Kalia said. “It feels like we’re flying off to war.”
“I thought that’s what you were trained for?” Laura asked.
“We train for a lot of things we don’t like doing,” Hanna said. “Is that kind of it?”
“Yeah,” Kalia said. “Also the army’s training is surprisingly minimal on how to fight creatures the size of a mountain.”
“Apparently the answer is ‘have them pick on someone their own size’,” Laura said.
“I like that idea, but the gameplan is to not have to deal with any creatures, big or small,” Hanna said. “We’re going to see what we can manage to do about an unprotected crystal dome. We should have a day until any new guests from the Lighting Planet come to visit and hopefully we’ll have their likely arrival spots calculated within the next two hours.”
They were still in the air when the official prediction for the next Effect Zone locations came in.
“Delhi, Chicago, Tehran, Johannesburg and Ryekyavik ”, Hanna said. “Those are the ones we’re pretty sure are going to be hit. There’s a possibility for two to three other locations as well.”
“Shouldn’t we be at one of those sites?” Laura asked.
“There are massive evacuations underway, and even as strong as we are now, I don’t think we can fight the giant monsters,” Hanna said.
“We’re going to try to help them though, our military forces I mean,” Kalia said. “We’ve got troops and equipment waiting outside the likely area of the Effect Zones. When the Earth monsters start fighting back, we’re going to give them what support we can.”
“But our military weapons can’t even damage the Lightning Planet monsters,” Kimberly said.
“The military assault doesn’t have to destroy the alien monsters,” Simon said. “Just distract them enough for our home team to get in some good shots.”
“That sounds insanely dangerous!” Kimberly said.
“It is, but nobody wants to see another Berlin happen,” Kalia said.
“Here’s to hoping that Team Earth will score a total win this time,” Hanna said, “But even more important is that we figure out how to destroy these domes. They’re consistently what the attacking monsters are intent on creating and consistently what the Earthly monsters target for destruction as soon as the battle is done.”
“And then the good guy monsters disappear,” Laura said. “I think we need to be careful that whatever’s making them disappear doesn’t do the same thing to us.”
“Agreed,” Hanna said. “This isn’t the mission for doing crazy stuff. We have to understand the experiments we undertake so that there’ll be some hope of replicating the process on the rest of the domes.”
They landed near the Manila dome three hours later and began setting up their command center and lab spaces immediately.
“Any news from the Japan team?” Hanna asked Dr. Tishone once the video link was established.
“Nothing exciting yet,” Dr. Tishone said. “Although we did manage to talk them out of calling in a nuclear strike on the dome.”
“I hope that wasn’t too hard, I mean we haven’t seen nukes have any effect on these things so far,” Hanna said. She couldn’t blame people for growing desperate though. She felt like the world was resting on her shoulders and she was crumbling under the weight. From what she read on the Lightning Planet Research forums she wasn’t alone either. Those feelings were being echoed by almost everyone involved in researching the Lightning Planet’s behavior. There was just too little time and too many questions left.
Hanna forced a slow breath out. Even if their efforts weren’t going to work out, they had to keep working the problem before them. More and more that was looking like their only chance of survival.
“Hanna, come check this out,” Kalia said. “We can get through the dome!”
“Switch me over to the portable video comms,” Dr. Tishone said. “I want to see this too.”
“Is this dome more brittle?” Hanna asked as she strapped on a video headset and let Kalia pull her towards the vast dome that rose over the ruins of Manila.
“No,” Kalia said. “It seems to be the same as the dome over Tokyo, but we can kind of short it out.”
“Short it out?” Hanna asked. “How did we discover that?”
“I may have gotten a little frustrated and punched it a bit?” Kimberly said.
“And what happened?” Hanna asked.
“The dome shattered!” Kalia said. “Where she hit it, and out to about a ten foot by ten foot section of the wall, it just crumbled to pieces.”
“And it’s not regrowing?” Dr. Tishone asked.
“It is,” Kalia said. “But not when we position ourselves in the path of the growth.”
“Let me see this,” Hanna said as they got to the dome.
Simon replicated Kimberly’s stunt. One punch and a giant portion of the dome flew to pieces like candy glass. As long as he stood in the hole that he made, the dome was held off from regrowing.
“Stay there for a moment,” Hanna said as she shut her eyes.
When her new vision kicked in, she was temporarily blinded by the radiance coming off the dome. Her eyes adjusted quickly though and she was soon able to see the yellow radiance from the dome where it met a blue aura that was shining from Simon. The energy from the dome was swirling around the sides of Simon’s aura and being sucked in and converted as she watched.
“We hit the jackpot here!” Hanna said. “Maybe.”
“What do you mean?” Dr. Tishone asked.
“Something about us, the ones affected by the monster blood from Hawaii, we seem to be antithetical to the energy that’s powering the domes.”
“Can you destroy it?” Dr. Tishone asked.
“There might be a problem with that,” Simon said. “I think I stayed in here too long. I’m stuck.”
“Get him out of there,” Hanna said and reached into the swirling clash between the auras to try to yank Simon free.
Crushing a metal plate into a ball had been childishly easy. Pulling Simon out of the dome’s embrace was not.
“I don’t get it,” Hanna said. “I can’t budge him! I’m pulling as hard as I can and nothing’s happening!”
“Not nothing,” Kalia said. “Look, the hole in the dome is getting wider!”
“Then let’s pull harder,” Kimberly said and joined Hanna in trying to tear Simon free.
“We didn’t even make it ten minutes here and we already got stuck in a monkey trap,” Kalia said as she wrapped her arm around Simon’s midsection and threw herself into the effort of dragging him free.
“You’re not moving but you’re starting to throw out a lot of exotic light,” Laura said, “And the dome is crumbling farther out.”
“Can they destroy the whole thing like that?” Dr. Tishone asked.
“I don’t know, probably not,” Laura said. “We’re looking at a ten kilometer diameter to coverage area of the dome. Even with all four of them pulling the breech is only about 100 meters and it’s growing slowly now.”
“Probably not a good idea to try going in further is it?” Hanna asked.
“It probably wasn’t a good idea for me to punch this thing in the first place,” Kimberly said. “I should lose my scientist card for that.”
“Yeah, everyone knows the proper protocol is to poke things with sticks first,” Hanna said.
“There’s got to be an answer to this,” Kalia said. “I can feel us moving slightly I think.”
“I don’t see you moving,” Laura said. “But the harder you push, the more energy I see pouring into the ground.”
“Is that a good thing?” Simon asked.
“I don’t know, but does anyone else feel that?” Kalia asked.
Hanna noticed the rumbling in her bones that grew more intense each second as she struggled against the grip the dome had on her.
“That’s not an earthquake,” Kimberly said.
And she was correct.
The monster that burst forth from the earth did so directly in front of them and within the confines of the dome. The titanic beast was in all senses worthy of the “giant” part of “giant monster” but to Hanna’s eyes it was beautiful.
Above the ruins of Manila, a bird of rainbow flames rose and in its wake the alien dome was utterly consumed.