The World That Ends in Fire – Chapter 29


In the wake of the thunder chorus that Hanna and Kalia unleashed, the ghost echo of Tokyo was silent. At their feet a single Lightning Ghost lay prostrate, his words echoing in both their ears louder than even the thunder they’d summoned. Hanna didn’t understand Japanese, but she could recognize it when she heard it spoken, and the last place she’d ever imagined she would hear it was on the surface of a planet that wasn’t even composed of the same matter as the Earth.

“Did he just ask us to stop?” Kalia asked.

“It looks like that’s exactly what he wants us to do,” Hanna said.

“Since when could the Lightning creatures speak?” Kalia asked.

“I’m going to guess since a few weeks ago, when they plowed through Japan,” Hanna said. “They must be quick studies.”

The Lightning ghost repeated his words without raising his head from the roadway.

“He wants something more I think,” Kalia said. “Any guess what he’s actually saying?”

“He’s begging us not to destroy them,” Laura said as she landed behind Kalia. Kimberly and Simon joined her, landing from city block long leaps behind Hanna. As a communications tech, she wasn’t required to speak multiple languages, but it didn’t hurt her resume that she’d learned how to on her own time.

“Tell him that we’re not here to destroy anyone,” Hanna said. “We’re just trying to save our world.”

As she spoke the Lightning Ghosts who’d fled in terror began to peek out around the corners of buildings, to watch what Hanna and her team were doing.

Laura translated Hanna’s words and the the Lightning ghost spoke again.

“He says there’s a lot we need to talk about,” Laura said.

The Lightning ghost said something else and Laura answered it with a simple “Ok”. Hanna watched her reach out to the Lightning Ghost. Rather than helping him to his feet feet though, she simply touched the tip of her fingers to his outstretched hand. Hanna saw a jolt of energy pass between the two and the Lightning ghost’s form shifted to resemble Laura’s instead of the old man the ghost had appeared as.

“Thank you,” the ghost said, standing up, “This configuration will allow for a more efficient transfer of information.”

“What did you do?” Hanna asked, concerned for Laura’s safety.

“My pattern now contains as partial copy of Laura’s pattern,” the ghost said. “As hers contains a partial copy of mine.”

“What are you?” Kimberly asked.

“A person, though of a different material nature than you own,” the ghost said.

“What does that mean?” Kalia asked.

“He used to be like us,” Laura said. “I mean, like a normal human. His whole species was.”

“What happened?” Hanna asked.

“We don’t know,” the ghost said. “There was a great calamity and our world was transformed from one of stable matter, to this state. Some of us, maybe even all of us, were converted as well. It’s hard to tell, we have had only brief periods of consciousness since the transformation.”

“But you’re conscious now and you look like Earthlings in an Earth city?” Hanna asked.

“We have found a pocket of stability, and with it the echoes of the patterns it once carried,” the ghost said.

“So you’re not the spirit of an Earthling?” Kalia asked.

“We have some memories of Earth, but they are not our own,” the ghost said. “Because of that I can say that I am very sorry for the damage which has been done to your world. It was not of our doing and we cannot prevent it from occurring again, even though we do benefit from it.”

“How does the Earth being destroyed and people dying help you?” Kalia asked.

“This world is unstable. We are as well,” the ghost said. “We cannot hold shape or form or sentience on our own, but from your world we have taken stable material and patterns, elements which our bodies can be grounded with. Thanks to that, and to the templates of memories we have absorbed, we have order and coherency once again. For so long, we haven’t been ourselves, or anyone, just fractured awarenesses within the world matrix.”

“Millions of our people have died,” Simon said. His voice was low and calm. Too low and too calm. There was anger woven through each syllable he spoke and a desire for vengeance fueled as much by the frustrated helplessness that humanity had been gripped by as by the massive loss of life which had occurred.

“In us there is the echo of their lives,” the ghost said. “We are a memorial to them.”

“No, you’re ghouls who’ve stolen everything from them,” Simon said. “There weren’t any bodies left so you took the only thing that remained. We should destroy this place for that alone.”

“It won’t bring our dead back anymore than smashing their tombstones would,” Laura said.

“It’s not about bringing them back,” Simon said. “It’s about honoring their memories, and not allowing some inhuman creatures to make off like grave robbers.”

“There’s a better way to honor their memory,” Hanna said and turned to the ghost. “You’re going to tell us how we can cut the tether that binds our world to this one.”

“We don’t have that kind of power!” the ghost said.

“What can you do then?” Simon asked.

“In our present state, we can change, as you’ve seen,” the ghost said. “We are a part of the great Meta-Matrix of the our planet, so these forms which we wear now are not the same as what you would call bodies.”

“You said ‘in your present state’, what would cause your state to change?” Hanna asked.

“When our world finishes merging with yours,” the ghost said. “The learned among us believe that we will exchange our current forms for true material presences again.”

“And how is that going to happen?” Hanna asked.

“I do not understand the particulars,” the ghost said. “I believe it involves our planet ridding itself of the energy it carries so that we can transition to being fully stable material beings once more.”

“Wow did you pick the wrong planet to crash into then,” Kimberly said. “I don’t that we have one person out of eight billion who qualifies as ‘fully stable’.”

“I can foresee a bigger problem, for all of us,” Hanna said. “You said the endgame that your scientists expect to see is that this planet will collide with Earth and deposit the extra energy its carrying into the Earth so that your can solidify right?”

“Yes, I believe that’s what they’ve said,” the ghost said.

“And did they say where this extra energy was going to go?” Hanna asked. “I’m guessing if it could be vented out in this layer of spacetime that this planet wouldn’t have the problem that it does.”

“I don’t know what you mean?” the ghost said.

“Oh, damn, you’re not thinking what I am are you?” Kimberly asked.

“Depends,” Hanna said. “Are you picturing the Earth becoming a worldwide game of the ‘floor’s made of LAVA!’? Because, if so, then yeah, I’m thinking exactly what you are.”

“What do you mean, ‘lava’?” Kalia asked.

“It’s the heat,” Kimberly said. “We don’t have any measurements we can base this off of except for the destruction radius of the existing Effect Zones, but if those are formed from tiny and brief contacts, then the amount of energy a sustained collision could dump into the Earth could possibly be enough to liquify the planet.”

“How are your people going to feel about living in molten rock once they get nice solid bodies back?” Hanna asked.

“We will burn,” the ghost said, a quiet despair fissuring his voice.

“It doesn’t have to be like that though,” Hanna said. “We might be able to sever the last tether here. If we can do that your planet won’t be able to bounce back towards Earth. You can sail off into the cosmos, safe and sound.”

“I’m sorry but we won’t be safe,” the ghost said. “Without a source of stability to draw on, this oasis of calm with fall apart and we will return to the mindless chaos which we drifted in for aeons.”

“He’s lying,” Simon said. “This is just a trap to delay us. If we don’t get the anchor broken before the bounce back, they’ll have another chance to form more Effect Zone’s! And from the sounds of it, we can’t defend against many more than we already have!”

“He’s not lying,” Laura said. “They’ve passed through two other worlds, and been slung off into the void both times. I don’t know how long they spent drifting in the space between the worlds, but I don’t think the history of life on Earth is long enough to cover it.”

“She’s been corrupted,” Simon said. “Whatever he did to look like her, it could have affected Laura’s mind too.”

“Maybe,” Hanna said. “Or maybe we’re being forced to choose between condemning a sapient race to oblivion vs. losing the world as we know it.”

“Is there really a choice?” Kalia asked. “They can’t live on a molten Earth any more than we can.”

“Except we don’t know that the energy transfer would melt the world,” Kimberly said. “There’s enough total energy in an Earth-sized object that if it was used as a matter to energy conversion bomb the explosion would be more powerful than a supernova.”

“So not even the Little Green Men on Mars would be safe,” Hanna said. “And we’re the ones who get to make that decision. The five of us.”

“It’s too big,” Kimberly said. “How can we chose to kill a world to save our own.”

“We have to,” Simon said. “Sometimes sacrifices have to be made.”

Hanna looked up at the sky above them, searching for answers in the stars as an untold number of humans had done before her. The difference for Hanna was that when she looked up she saw her answer gleaming right at her in all its silvery brilliance.

“Sometimes you do, but if you’re clever and brave enough sometimes you don’t,” Hanna said. “I think we can do it. If we’re willing to take one hell of a risk, I think we actually save everyone! Come on guys, let’s go capture us the Moon!”