The wasteland that had once been Manila glistened in the light of day. Bits of metal and glass that were ground into the flattened terrain shone in morning sunshine but to Hanna’s new eyes the landscape was nothing more than a field of empty darkness.
“This place is dead,” Hanna said.
“Yeah, I don’t think anyone survived the battle here, much less the aftermath,” Kalia said.
Hanna paused at that and looked around the desolate field in front of her, taking in the destruction from a new perspective.
“I need to stop hanging around in graveyards,” she said, feeling like the millions of ghosts she couldn’t see were glaring at her for forgetting them. “What I should have said was that this Effect Zone seems to be offline.”
“We should find out if that’s true for the other Effect Zones,” Kimberly said. “Just because the Kraken and the other monsters teleported up to the Lightning Planet doesn’t mean they were successful in destroying the anchors on the other end.”
“We know one Effect Zone that’s been left alone since the beginning,” Kalia said.
“Yeah, Tokyo was left as it was for weeks,” Hanna said. “And there haven’t been any giant monster attacks there from either side since. Why?”
“We’ve been assuming that the Earthly giant monsters are fighting to keep the alien monsters off our planet,” Kimberly said. “What if they’re just defending their nests, for lack of a better term, and Tokyo doesn’t have any native monsters to defend it.”
“Anything’s possible,” Hanna said. “But the Kraken took a long trip inland to stomp on Berlin. Maybe it was particularly annoyed by the Lightning Wyrm but if so, why would it have warped to the Lightning Planet afterwards?”
“Better wifi reception there?” Simon suggested.
“I have another question,” Kalia said. “How come the alien monster that won the fight here didn’t stay around to defend the dome from us?”
“Maybe he swam off to find another site to anchor?” Kimberly said.
“Or maybe he was trying to protect the dome by not drawing attention to it?” Hanna said.
“It was ten kilometers in diameter,” Laura said. “That’s kind of hard to miss even for something as blind as our giant monsters.”
“Maybe not,” Kimberly said. “All of the energy the dome was channeling was being fed upwards wasn’t it? We didn’t get a chance to dig underneath before it got wrecked but maybe it’s not all that visible from beneath. In the Exotic-o-vision spectrum I mean.”
“So, the Earth monsters can’t see the domes because they’re exotically dark from below but the alien monsters show up like beacons?” Hanna said. “We can’t test it, but it fits what we know so far.”
“That’s not true!” Kalia said. “We can test it I mean! We just another active dome. We can dig unto the dome in Tokyo and see how it shows up.”
“That’s true,” Laura said. “It doesn’t even have to be us. The research team there can use one of the crystal enhanced binoculars to check it out.”
“That will let us know if the alien exotic matter is still active,” Kimberly said, “But so far we’re the only ones who can see the Earthly exotic energy emissions.”
“We’ll have to split up and head to each of the Effects Zones,” Kalia said. “Buenos Aires, Berlin, Hong Kong, Hawaii and Tokyo.”
“We’re not in this alone,” Hanna said. “There were fifty two people who survived Hawaii thanks to being cocooned in crystal. Some of them chose to sit out any further field work, but there are others who are already heading to Hong Kong and the impending Effect Zones. All we need to do is tell them what to look for and what to do if they see an active anchor rope.”
“And what, exactly, are they supposed to do in that case?” Laura asked.
“You said when we were struggling against the dome that it looked like we were funneling energy into the ground, right?” Hanna asked.
“Yeah, it was like there was a laser drill at your feet that was growing bigger every second,” Laura said.
“I wasn’t trying to do anything like that,” Hanna said. Everyone else nodded in agreement. “So maybe it was the energy that we were absorbing from the dome that was seeking to ground itself out.”
“And that helps us how?” Simon asked.
“I think I get it,” Kalia said. “We were dumping a ton of energy into the ground. Exotic energy. The same kind that draws the Earthly giant monsters. They can’t see the dome because it’s like a laser, all the energy is radiating away from them. We took that light and started beaming it right back at them though.”
“Yeah, so the Phoenix was floating around down there and went ‘huh, looks like something bright is up there, and what’s this I see? A giant alien dome? Not on my planet buddy!’ Then she came up and annihilated it and went to pick a fight with the critters that dropped it here,” Kimberly said.
“So if we go back to Japan, we can repeat that same trick there and get our local bruisers to take care of the Tokyo dome that they’re missing? I think I’m liking this plan,” Laura said.
“What’s the flight time to Tokyo look like?” Kimberly asked.
“A little over four hours,” Kalia said. “We can get there just before the next Collision.”
“Let’s go then,” Hanna said.
“Is the research here going to be ok?” Simon asked.
“We’ll leave most of the team here,” Hanna said. “This site is powered down as far as we can see, so there’s not necessarily much we can do with it. We’ve got six other teams of five who can be sent to the other Effect Zones, but I want us to stay together for Tokyo. It took four of us last time to wake the Phoenix up. If Japan’s monsters are farther away, or asleep or something, I don’t want us to fall short and be stuck in the dome when the next collision occurs.”
“If we’re going to do anything this crazy, I definitely want you all by my side too,” Kimberly said.
“Can I volunteer to try punching the dome alone next time?” Simon asked. “We don’t know that we needed all of us pulling on it to wake the Phoenix and I feel like an idiot for putting you in danger.”
“You outrank me,” Kalia said. “I thought that meant you were smart enough to delegate things like this?”
“If I was that smart, I’d be someplace a lot safer than this,” Simon said. “But no, I’m precisely dumb enough to be here, so you all might as well take advantage of that.”
“Once we get some down time I plan to take all sorts of advantage of you,” Kimberly said. “But until then, I say we repeat the experiment just as we did it before. We’re already changing one big variable by moving it to a different location, with a different dome, let’s not throw too much chaos into the mix if we don’t have to.”
“That’s all stuff we can decide on the plane,” Hanna said. “Dr. Tishone can facilitate our transport into Tokyo. We’re going to need to get there fast.”
Four hours later, Hanna was standing inside a perfectly good airplane and looking out at the Japanese landscape as it blurred beneath them.
“When I said we needed to get there fast, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind,” Hanna said to Kalia, whom she was strapped to.
“By the time we landed at an airport and drove out here we would miss the next Collision,” Kalia said over the roar of the wind from the open doorway. “It was this or put us on a missile and fire us here.”
“Is there still time for the missile?” Hanna asked.
“Don’t worry,” Kalia said. “I’ve done plenty of tandem jumps before. It’s going to be fun!”
“It’s not the jumping I’m worried about,” Hanna said, wishing that she could clutch onto Kalia. As the less experienced of the pair though, Hanna’s place was in front of Kalia (and therefor on the opposite side of the parachute Kalia wore – in Hanna’s mind that simply meant that if the parachute failed she’d be able to provide some cushioning for Kalia when the two of them went splat on the ground).
“The landing won’t be bad at all,” Kalia said. “I promise. Ready?”
“Not really, but I don’t think I ever will be, so we might as well go,” Hanna said as Kalia walked them to the door.
Jumping out of the plane was such a bizarre act that Hanna’s mind didn’t even fully process it. She also missed the brief period when they were in freefall. It may have been the successful opening of the parachute that convinced the feral area of Hanna’s brain that she was going to survive and that forming new memories was worth the effort. Or it may have been Kalia’s whoop of joy. In either case, the sight of the deployed chute above them brought Hanna’s heart rate down to a lower number than her altitude and she noticed that the experience really wasn’t as bad as she’d feared it would be.
With a practiced hand, Kalia steered them towards the area by the side of the Tokyo dome where a team was waiting for them. The fall felt gentle and strangely comfortable up until they were within about hundred feet of the ground. At that distance Hanna’s mind registered a familiarity with how high they were and how fast they were descending and decided that some adrenaline plus a strong burst of “Fight or Flight” anxiety was the perfect cocktail to ensure that things went well.
To her credit, Kalia was prepared for this and managed to land just as gracefully as she guided them down. When they touched down it felt like they were feather light despite the speed they contacted the ground at. A moment later when chute was fully down and they were unbuckled from each, Hanna turned to Kalia with a disbelieving look in her eyes, a silent question on her lips of how it could have been that easy.
“We’re super strong now remember?” Kalia asked. “Our own body weight is trivial compared to what our legs can support.”
“So you knew it was going to be like that?” Hanna asked.
“I guessed it would,” Kalia said. “In fact, I’d bet we could have jumped without the parachute if we needed to, but I figured that wasn’t an experiment we needed to run this time.”
“I think I love being like this,” Hanna said, recovering her breath from where she’d left it on the plane.
“If there’s still an Earth to skydive to after this is done, we should go up again,” Kalia said. “I think you’ll enjoy it a lot more next time.”
“I am so there!” Hanna said. “I don’t know why, but I wasn’t even thinking of what we could do with these new bodies.”
Kalia laughed. “You spend a little too much time in your head I think. We’ll have to work on that.”
“If we survive all this, I’ll happily spend a month thinking of nothing at all,” Hanna said. “For the time being though, we’re all going to need our thinking caps on.”
“Wow, that was fun!” Kimberly said, as she and Simon touched down.
“Anytime you want to fall with me, I’m here for you,” Simon said with a cheesy smile.
“Ahhhh!” Laura said as she approached the ground, followed by a “Huh” when she set down more easily than she’d anticipated.
“Super strength is awesome, isn’t it?” Hanna said.
“We don’t have a lot of time before the next collision,” Kimberly said. “If we’re going to take down the dome, we should get to work on it now.”
“Agreed,” Hanna said. “Let’s find the site coordinator and make sure they’ve clear away the personnel and resources like we suggested.
The site coordinator was an older Japanese woman, who had cleared not only the area where Hanna and her team landed but also the entire perimeter of the dome. She was hopeful for Hanna’s team’s success and had various crews waiting for both the appearance of a giant monster and for the destruction of the dome.
“Ok, so we’re all in on this right?” Hanna asked. “Anyone is still free to back out if they want?”
“I think we hashed that over enough on the plane,” Kimberly said. “I’m in.”
A chorus of agreements with that sentiment came from the rest of the team.
“Ladies first then,” Hanna said, gesturing to Kalia who’d won the multi-round game of rock-paper-scissors for the right to the be first to smash the dome.
Kalia stepped forward and wound up for her punch but when she let it loose, her first traveled faster than Hanna’s eye could follow.
The Tokyo dome noticed the blow though. A four hundred meter section of exploded inwards with the impact and the yellow light of the exotic matter flared as bright as the sun for second.
Without prompting, Kimberly grabbed Kalia’s right arm, Simon grabbed her left, Hanna wrapped an arm around her waist and Laura grabbed onto Kalia. Then they all pulled.
“We’re making progress!” Kalia said. “It feels like we’re moving more.”
“We’re still stuck on the edge of the Effect Zone,” Hanna said. “We’re not actually going anywhere.”
“But we are pulling the dome apart!” Kimberly said. “Look, it’s still falling away.”
“The hole is a lot bigger than in Manila too,” Laura said. “I guess having all five of us help was a good thing.”
“We’re stronger now too I think,” Simon said. “I can feel the energy coursing through me. It’s like I can direct it too.”
Hanna struggled to pull Kalia free from the dome’s grasp and felt what each of the others was saying. Struggling against the dome, even putting all her strength into it wasn’t as tiring as it had been in Manila. Part of that seemed to be that she’d gotten stronger but the rest felt like it came from being able to channel the domes energy down into the Earth consciously.
“Keep pushing!” she said. “We don’t know how much it’s going to take to wake up the Tokyo monsters.”
For ten minutes the team strained at their task and each second more of the dome fell away.
“This is taking longer than Manila,” Kimberly said.
“But we’re accomplishing more than we were at Manila,” Hanna said. Almost a kilometer radius from the point of Kalia’s punch on the dome had crumbled away and the Earthlings seemed to be winning the struggle.
Twenty minutes into the fight they were still pulling the dome apart but a dread event was becoming a certainty.
“We’re not going to beat the collision,” Kalia said.
“Looks like that’s true.” Hanna said. “If this turns out to be a terrible idea, you all have my apologies.”
“Nope,” Kalia said. “We got into this on our own, no apologies needed.”
“As dumb as this seems, it actually feels really good to be doing something about these stupid domes,” Kimberly said. “Even if we get squished here, I think we made a difference.”
“Does anyone else feel like the energy we’re dumping into the ground is starting to flow away even faster?” Laura asked.
“Yeah, it’s like a big battery is gobbling it up or something,” Hanna said. “Or maybe we’re getting better as we do it?”
“I don’t know, but everyone brace for impact. The Lightning Planet is like ten seconds away,” Simon said.
“Hell with it,” Hanna said. “Let’s pull this thing completely apart then. On three!”
“One,” Kalia said.
“Two,” Kimberly said.
“Three!” Hanna said and together they all pulled at the energy that was holding them in place and which seemed to be anchored to the edge of the dome.
The roar that greeted their combined effort began with the shattering of the dome as it fell to pieces at a hundred kilometers an hour.
Then the roar of the Lightning Planet’s collision with the Earth drowned out the destruction of the dome.
Next came the roar of the twenty Giant Monsters which the Lightning Planet deposited at its best and oldest anchor as the terrible army of alien beasts joined the fray.
The final roar however was new and unexpected.
It was the roar of a giant monster to dwarf all other giant monsters. A truly massive lizard beast with coal black eyes and blue fire burning along its spiny back.
When it roared the Earth shook with a cry of exultation.
Japan was not undefended. Not at all.