The World That Ends in Fire – Chapter 20


Hanna never imagined that the sight a barren wasteland without a giant monster rampaging in it would fill her with dread. Granted wastelands by their very nature can be unsettling but after weeks of living in the ruins of Tokyo and a near continuous video feed from Berlin, the sight of a city reduced to millimeter high rubble had lost its ability to shock her. Watching the display that showed Berlin in its current state though, she couldn’t get over how wrong it looked without the Kraken in it.

The loss of the crystal domes was somehow easier to accept. They’d never looked natural and the dull grey bubbles didn’t offer much in terms of beauty to make a compelling landscape.

“Do we have any recordings of the Kraken vanishing?” Dr. Tishone asked.

“Yes,” Laura said. “We had almost all of the surveillance drones targeting Berlin and the Kraken specifically.”

“Play back one of the feeds then,” Dr. Tishon said. “Let’s see it at one eighth speed, starting from ten seconds before the disappearance.”

Laura dragged one of the video files to the central view screen and scaled down the playback speed.

“I wish we had a closer camera,” Kimberly said. “It’s hard to make out what’s happening to it.”

On the display, the Kraken finished draining the energy from the last of the crystal domes. and there was a blur of yellow light which passed over it. When the light faded the Kraken was gone.

“Find some other recordings,” Dr. Tishone said. “I want them all played back together at 1/32nd speed.”

Laura threw another pair of video windows up onto the central display. The Kraken was revealed from another high altitude vantage point and a daring one on the ground.

“It looks like the energy is rising upwards,” Hanna said. “Let me do some quick calculations.”

“You’re thinking the light rays are heading towards the Lightning Planet aren’t you?” Dr. Tishone asked.

“It’s a pretty big target in the sky, so it’d be hard to miss it but, yeah,” Hanna said.

“It looks like the transporter beam or whatever it was it pointing in the same direction as the lights from the dome was in the earlier shot,” Kimberly said.

“Why would the Kraken go to the Lightning Planet?” Kalia asked.

“Maybe it didn’t chose to?” Hanna said. “Maybe once it consumed enough of the Lightning Planet’s exotic matter it didn’t have a choice. It just got sucked up.”

“That would be awfully convenient if the the right amount of exotic matter just happened to be all of the domes that grew in Berlin,” Kimberly said.

“Unless the amount needed for transport is the same as the amount the Effect Zones need to serve as planetary anchors,” Dr. Tishone said. “Do we have the total area of the Berlin domes compared to the Tokyo dome?”

“We do, they’re roughly the same,” Hanna said. “Berlin’s square yardage was about 2% less than the Tokyo dome.”

“That’s suggestive but we’re still far away from any conclusions,” Dr. Tishone said.

“We don’t have evidence, but we’ve got a lot for deduction to work with,” Hanna said. “Each time the Lightning Planet has collided with the Earth it’s left behind an Effect Zone. In the case of Tokyo, we could be seeing what a fully formed one looks like. We interfered with the crystals but not on a large scale and not enough to prevent them from fulfilling their basic function.”

“What about the regenerating tissue in the cadavers?” Kimberly asked.

“I don’t know about that yet,” Hanna said. “Maybe a side effect? The exotic matter seems to replicate terrestrial matter, or at least it did when it made the crystals grow. Maybe when it came into contact with the complex structures in the dead cells it replicated them as well?”

“Why only dead cells though?” Kimberly asked.

“Maybe all the living ones got transporter beamed away,” Kalia said.

“All the people from Tokyo and Buenos Aires and Berlin are on the Lightning Planet?” Kimberly asked.

“No,” Hanna said.”We know the people in Berlin were there after the third collision. We saw them.”

“Right, but what about Tokyo and Buenos Aires?” Kimberly asked.

“Who knows.” Hanna said. “Maybe they’re alive up there, but I’d tend to doubt it. I don’t think human cells would enjoy being converted to energy all that much.”

“What’s the Lightning Planet’s velocity now?” Dr. Tishone asked.

“It’s still closing on the Earth but it’s speed has slowed,” Laura said. “Slowed from what it was after the turn around. It’s still traveling measurably faster than it was previously.”

“That makes a horrible kind of sense,” Hanna said. “The Tokyo dome is still intact and we have no idea what’s happening with Buenos Aires.”

“It looks like there’s no streams of light from the Buenos Aires Effect Zone,” Laura said. “I just got the report from the team there.”

“A defective Effect Zone?” Kalia asked.

“That might be exactly it,” Hanna said.

“What are you thinking?” Kimberly asked.

“Picture this,” Hanna said, “A rogue planet shows up and starts slapping the Earth around. The first time the Earth isn’t ready for it and so Tokyo get flattened. The second time though the Earth’s ready to repel the alien force that’s try to colonize it or whatever. The Lightning Planet tries to shove another thumbtack into the Earth and the Earth pushes it away.”

“Ok, and so for the third collision the Lighting Planet drops off a giant brute to make sure the crystals can form successfully,” Kimberly said.

“And then the Earth decides to send in a brute of its own!” Kalia said. “Go Earth!”

“That’s suggesting the planets have a previously unobserved consciousness?” Dr. Tishone asked.

“Not necessarily,” Hanna said. “There could be natural processes that trigger each of those events. The Earth could have undergone some kind of change due to the presence of the crystals in Tokyo for example which led to it being more resistant to the formation of future Effect Zones. When the Lightning Planet passed through the second time, the Lightning Wyrm might have been woken up by the resistance the Earth offered and so on the third trip through it was ready to transfer over as soon as it came into contact with terrestrial matter.”

“And the Kraken then responded to the presence of foreign exotic matter?” Dr. Tishone said. “It’s a workable hypothesis, but what does it tell us?”

“If I’m right, I think we can expect further giant monsters at the next Effect Zone,” Hanna said. “Maybe even more than one depending on what it takes for them to transfer between worlds.”

“I think if you’re prediction is correct, we’ll also see more Earthly monsters appearing too,” Kalia said. “If the Kraken was the only one on the planet, it doesn’t seem too likely that it would have been waiting at just the right spot at just the right time to catch the Lightning Wyrm.”

“We don’t know how they detect each other,” Dr. Tishone said. “It does seem probable that you’re correct though. The Lightning Wyrm didn’t seem to be able to perceive anything outside the Effect Zone, or about a kilometer away from itself after it left the zone.”

“It also didn’t seem to have eyes, whereas the Kraken did, so we should probably be careful for now about making guesses concerning their abilities,” Hanna said.

“We do know some abilities which will have to be common to any giant monster though,” Kimberly said. “We know they’re going to be all but indestructible to modern weapons and that they’re made of some ultra-light ultra-strong material which floats and which they can renew at will.”

“They also don’t appear to have any weak spots,” Kalia said.

“Except for getting their heads ripped off by a Kraken,” Hanna said.

“We only have one data point to draw on for that, but there does appear to some differentiation in their bodily areas,” Dr. Tishone said. “The Lightning Wyrm apparently died when the Kraken drained it of energy, but the Kraken only drained the head of energy. The rest of the pieces of the Lightning Wyrm had enough of the exotic matter left in them that they didn’t disintegrate into ash.”

“I think it’s more important than ever that we figure out where the next Effect Zone is going to manifest then. Even if some Earthly monsters show up to help us out again, we don’t want anyone in the vicinity when the battle begins,” Hanna said.

And so they got to work. Dr. Tishone shelved the two other highest priority projects she was spearheading in order to work with Hanna and Kimberly directly.

Constant reports from the observation of the Lightning Planet kept them painfully aware of how little time they had, to the point where Dr. Tishone suspended her edict for required sleep and rest breaks. None of them could sleep anyways but as the second days ticked over their work was noticeably slow. Still though, they pressed on. To do otherwise was to consign millions to their death and no one at the Mauna Kea observatory could accept that.

“It’s going to be Hong Kong,” Hanna said after the last of the calculations completed. “We’re the third team team done and everyone is coming up with the same outcome. It’s going to be Hong Kong.”

“How do we evacuate a city that size?” Kimberly asked.

“Quickly, I hope,” Dr. Tishone said.

“There’s going to be mass chaos,” Kalia said.

“I can’t blame them,” Hanna said. “Everyone watched Berlin die. No one wants to be a part of that themselves.”

“At least this time they have a chance,” Kimberly said. “The poor Tokyoites didn’t even know what hit them.”

“And the Berliners got to see it all too clearly,” Kalia said.

“The question is where do you put all those people?” Kimberly asked.

“China’s a big place,” Kalia said. “But this is going to hurt even them. And what happens the next time. The more major cities we lose the harder it’s going to be for people to carry on.”

“That’s going to be the next focus of what we do here,” Dr. Tishone said.

“Finding homes for the displaced people?” Kalia asked.

“No,” Dr. Tishone said. “Finding something we can do to drive any future Lighting Monsters away, or force them to stay on the Lightning Planet during a collision.”

The effort to evacuate Hong Kong met with phenomenal success but even so it wasn’t able to save everyone. Some didn’t want to go, despite the peril. Others though were just too slow.

In a sense it was the death of Tokyo that killed Hong Kong. Without the tether from the Tokyo dome, the Lightning Planet wouldn’t have arrived for its fourth collision with Earth as early as it did.

Hanna and the crew at Mauna Kea watched a giant form that appeared to be a headless human with a jellyfish skirt for a lower half of its body land on Hong Kong as the fourth collision between the two planets occurred. It began its rampage immediately and raised huge crystal towers with a wave of its colossal hands.

Seeing another city being ravaged by a monstrous force tore at Hanna heart. It wasn’t something she could get used to. It wasn’t something she wanted to get used to. She forced herself to keep her eyes open so that she could collect the information she would need to fight the monsters. She’d  just managed to steady her nerves when her ice cold veneer was shattered.

From outside the observatory came an unearthly cry that rattled the concrete of the building and Hanna right down to her core.

She’d been correct about Hong Kong being attacked during the fourth collision. She just hadn’t considered that there could be more than one new Effect Zone, or that when the second Effect Zone of the fourth collision appeared she’d be caught at the dead center of it.