The World That Ends in Fire – Chapter 28


The trip to the Lightning Planet was like being strapped to a rocket that was fired through a blender before it exploded into a fragment of razor sharp rainbows. Hanna felt as heavy as lead while at the same time pieces of her felt like they were flying away at the speed of light.

Time lost its meaning after the first hour of the trip, or it may have been the first millisecond. The difference between the two was largely irrelevant because it wasn’t until they landed on the Lightning Planet that coherent thought returned to anyone on Hanna’s team.

“Can’t say I was ready for that,” Laura said, as she picked herself up off the surface of the Lightning Planet. “I either need to start doing more drugs or never touch them again ever.”

“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem,” Kimberly said. “I don’t know if I’ve got any internal organs left for the drugs to affect after that trip.”

“Pull it together folks,” Kalia said. “That was the easy part. Now we’ve got the real challenge to tackle.”

“Where are we?” Simon asked. “Aside from the obvious that is.”

“We have rough maps from the surveys that were done via the crystal telescopes,” Laura said. “And it appears that by some miracle my tablet survived that crazy trip.”

“Shouldn’t we be at the Tokyo anchor point?” Kimberly asked.

Around them the Lightning planet spread out into a broad field that was devoid of vegetation or structures. The ground glowed with a pale yellow light and the light within it ebbed and flowed in what looked like cloud patterns, despite the fact that it was contained with the solid surface beneath them.

“That’s odd,” Kalia said. “It’s stable here but look out there.” She pointed in a wide arc towards the horizon.

Or rather towards the edge of the Effect Zone.

The area Hanna and her team landed in was remarkably static in contrast to the land around it. Outside the perimeter of the Effect Zone stolen from Tokyo, the geography of the Lightning Planet was an amorphous mass of rising hills and crumbling cliffs that fell into yawning chasms.

Hanna watched as a hill to the north of them rose to become a needle thing spire which melted away, the substance of the spire falling to the east like a rain of flower petals.

“Something tells me we’ll be a lot happier if we stay within the Effect Zone here,” Hanna said.

“Yeah, there might not even be breathable atmosphere out there,” Kimberly said.

“That raises a good question,” Simon said.

“Don’t ask it,” Kimberly said. “Seriously, I’ve already thought about it and you don’t want the answer clogging your brain now. Not while we still have a job to do.”

“What does she mean?” Kalia asked Hanna in a whisper.

The context of the conversation clued Hanna into her friends thoughts and when she pondered them and performed a simple experiment, she was inclined to agree with Kimberly. She considered not telling Kalia what she’d discovered but that felt like a betrayal somehow. And she was reasonably sure Kalia would work it out on her own in a minute or so anyways.

“I don’t think there’s breathable atmosphere here either,” Hanna whispered.

“What? But we’re talking,” Kalia said.

“That just means there’s a gaseous medium capable of transmitting sound,” Hanna said. “The spectroscopy we did at Mauna Kea didn’t show the presence of any Earthly matter here. If we’re breathing anything, it’s pure exotic matter.”

“Is that healthy?” Kalia asked.

“For humans?” Hanna said. “Probably not. Which is the topic we probably shouldn’t be dwelling on at the moment.”

“Do you two need to get a room?” Simon asked, seeing Hanna and Kalia conspiring in whispers. “Or are we going to get this job done?”

“We need to make sure we’re in the right place,” Hanna said, blushing and feeling irrationally guilt at having been caught.

“Oh, I’m pretty sure we’re in the right place,” Laura said. Her eyes were closed but she was looking around their immediate area was an open mouthed look of surprise.

Hanna closed her own eyes to bring up her ability to perceive exotic matter. She had them closed for two seconds when it occurred to her that she was already seeing exotic matter all around her. Somehow the trip along the Lightning Planet’s anchor rope had changed her on a fundamental level.

A moment after that thought went through her head, Hanna’s vision adjusted and she saw structures and people begin appearing around her. The people looked human in shape, but they were formed from darker shades of the same pale light the planet emitted. The buildings were the same, but they were rendered in enough detail that Hanna could make out the signs written in kanji. It was like looking at a moving sepia toned picture.

“What is this?” she asked, forcing her eyes to stay closed.

“It’s Tokyo,” Laura said. “Except none of its real.”

“The people are starting to notice us,” Kalia said, a note of rising concern in her voice. “And now they’re starting to change. That’s not a good thing.”

“Same plan as last time?” Simon asked.

“Yeah, light ‘em ladies!” Kalia said.

Hanna breathed in, drawing on the energy underneath them and discovered that there was far more power at his fingertips than she could handle.

Torrents of lightning burst from her eyes and mouth and fingers and chest. She managed to get most of the beams angled upwards where they only discorporated the tops of the nearest buildings.

“Is everyone ok?” Hanna asked between trembling coughs.

“You missed us but what was that?” Kimberly asked.

“Don’t try to channel energy attacks here,” Hanna said. “There’s too much of it.”

“Then I guess we do this the old fashioned way,” Kalia said.

Hanna opened her eyes and saw the images of people and buildings mixed with the empty world they’d arrived on. Several of the “humans” had grown talons, wings or other decidedly non-human appendages. Those were the ones who were running at them. What Hanna found strange though was that there were people running the opposite direction.

She didn’t have time to reflect on the uniqueness of Lightning Planet creatures fleeing rather than fighting though because a handful of them were all too eager to fight her specifically.

Hanna didn’t have Kalia’s incredible body control. She couldn’t do high flying kicks like the Army woman could or even dodge and weave with maximum efficiency like Simon could. All Hanna had was reflexes and a desire to not be hurt. And, to be fair, superhuman strength, speed and endurance.

When the first of the altered people tried to swipe at her, Hanna jumped back from the blow. She’d thought she could make it a few feet but nerves and whatever passed for adrenaline in her new body wanted her farther from danger than that. Her leap carried her soaring through the air for a hundred feet, which was good from the perspective of avoiding unnecessary pain or an untimley death but bad from the perspective of staying with her team.

Kimberly and Laura made similar mistakes and wound up behind the translucent outlines of the buildings on the translucent blocks of the Effect Zone.

In leaping away from the obvious danger, Hanna landed in a group of other Lightning Ghosts, who immediately either scattered (1/6th of the group) or began to shift to an inhuman form (1/6th of the group) or stood still in seeming shock (2/3rds of the group).

One of the Lightning Ghosts was quick enough and close enough to slice at Hanna with a hooked claw. Hanna froze, panic gripping her heart from the surprise. Before she could picture herself being decapitated though, Kalia was there.

The Army woman had followed Hanna’s leap with one of her own and had arrived just in time to kick the quick responding attacker through one of the nearby building’s walls.

“Sorry, did you want to dance with him?” Kalia asked. “I should have asked before I cut in like that.”

“Never ask,” Hanna said. “You never have to ask, ever. And thank you.”

“No problem,” Kalia said. “How about you figure out what we need to do here and I’ll focusing on kicking anyone’s butt who tries to distract you?”

“I love that plan,” Hanna said. “Just buy me a minute or two. I want to try somethings.”

“A minute to save the world?” Kalia asked. “You’ve got it boss!”

Two more Lightning Ghosts launched themselves at the pair of women, but Kalia caught one of them in mid-flight and used it to batter the other away.

Hanna focused on the energy flowing around her again. Exhaling, she tried to force out as much of the charge that had built up inside her as she could. It was like trying to exhale a swimming pool out of her lungs though. The more she breathed out, the more there was.

“We’ve got too much power here,” she said.

“Can’t say that I’m complaining,” Kalia said as she sidekicked one of the Lightning Ghosts into a building across the street, through the walls inside it and out the far end.

“Give me your hand,” Hanna said offering her left hand out, open palm up.

Kalia clasped Hanna’s hand and a charge that jangled every nerve in Hanna’s body passed through her.

“Don’t try to pull in any energy,” Hanna said. “Just try to breath it out.”

Hanna followed her own command and felt her control over the energy raging within her stabilize somewhat.

“Now, release it upwards,” Hanna said and fired an energy beam from her free hand into the air. Raw power gushed from her, splitting the sky and exploding in a continuous roar of thunder that drove back even the most aggressive of the Lightning Ghosts.

Kalia’s bolt joined Hanna’s and the shockwaves from their combined force began to shatter the buildings around them like an unleashed hurricane.

Most of the Lightning Ghosts had not only stopped attacking but had turned to rapidly flee the area of the two thunder goddesses. Most but not all.

One Lightning Ghost remained behind. He looked like an elderly Japanese man, and he was advancing quickly rather than fleeing. Once he saw he had their attention he began jumping and waving his hands in a near universal gesture for Hanna and Kalia to stop what they were doing.

Hanna cut off the flow of energy she was venting into the sky and took Kalia’s other hand to cease the experiment. As she did the old man jogged up to them and rested with his hands on his legs. Then he knelt down and bowed to them, placing his head on the road they were standing on.

“<Please, don’t destroy us!>” he said in normal, perfectly pronounced, Earthly, Japanese.