The World That Ends in Fire – Chapter 22


Hanna awoke. Or returned to life. It was hard for her to tell the difference between the two. She was aware, instantly, as she opened her eyes that time had passed. She had no memory of the time which separated her from the horror of being broken and helpless in the shadow of a war between titans, yet she was aware that those events were well in the past and that she was no longer on the flooded street.

Opening her eyes did little to answer her questions though. Above her there was a grey, metallic ceiling. There were machines around the simple steel bed she lay on, and while she recognized them as medical equipment, they confused her. Heart rate monitors, IVs and blood oxygen sensors were normally attached to the patient, but none of them were connected to her at all.

There was a low, beeping alarm though, which within moments brought a pair of young men into the room. From their uniforms, Hanna recognized them as US Navy personnel, which suggested an answer her question about where she was. When she paid attention to it, she could feel the steady rocking motion that confirmed her suspicion that she was on a floating craft of some kind.

“What happened?” she asked, surprised to find her voice strong and firm.

“Quite a lot,” Cary, one of the medical techs said as jotted down a series of notes. “You were recovered from Hawaii. You’ve been asleep since then. The doctor has been paged but I need to take a few measurements before she sees you. Is that ok?”

“What measurements?” Hanna asked. The longer she was awake the better she felt. Staying in bed seemed silly as a result, but she’d worked with enough doctors and other professionals to know that sometimes it was just fastest to give them the data they were looking for, even if everything seemed fine.

“Blood pressure, temperature, eye…responsiveness,” Cary’s pause in naming the last test worried her, but she felt good enough that it didn’t send her into a panic.

Which seemed odd.

When Hanna thought about what she’d been through, it felt like she should have been experiencing profound trauma still. She’d almost died. When she poked tenderly at those memories though, there was a sense of distance from the events. As though they were old news being read from a faded book.

That didn’t strike Hanna as particularly comforting. She remembered snapping at the observatory, of how her mind started to dissociate from the events that were occurring. She remembered that, but the emotional pull of those events was lost, or at least diminished to where she could review what had happened without being drawn back into the maelstrom of fear she’d been sucked under by.

She let Cary administer his tests, while Jacob hooked her up to the various medical equipment.

“Why didn’t you have this on me before?” she asked.

“I’m afraid we can’t say m’am,” Jacob said.

“Don’t worry, she’s cleared to know what happened to her,” Dr. TIshone said, standing in the door to the small cabin where Hanna was resting.

“If you could explain it then m’am,” Carly said. “Cause I don’t think we know the first thing about it really.”

“That’s not comforting,” Hanna said. Then Jacob raised her arm to put the blood pressure cuff on and she noticed something that seemed very odd in terms of waking up in a hospital bed, even one on a ship at sea. “Why am I still in the clothes I was wearing at the observatory?”

“There’s a lot to go over Hanna,” Dr. Tishone said. “Before we get into any of that though, tell me how you’re feeling.”

“Happy to be alive,” Hanna said. “And surprisingly ok. How long was I out for?”

“Two days,” Dr. Tishone said. “I have a few other questions for you now. First though. do you see anything strange in this room?”

Hanna paused before answering that. The question invited careful analysis of her environment but the fact that Dr. Tishone asked it at all should tell her something Hanna thought.

“It looks like I’m on a ship,” Hanna said. “I’m not used to medical facilities on Navy vessels but nothing looks particularly out of place for what I’d expect to see on one.”

“That’s good,” Dr. Tishone said. “Let me do a few tests on you and we can get down to bringing you up to speed on what’s occurred.”

“Ok, but what about the others? Did everyone make it off the island ok?” Hanna asked.

“Not everyone,” Dr. Tishone said. “There were people we left behind in the observatory. We believe they were killed in the initial attack that hit the building.”

“That’s terrible,” Hanna said. “What about the people who made it to the vans though?”

“That’s more complicated,” Dr. Tishone said. “Here, I’m going to shine a light into your eyes. Let me know if it’s too bright.”

“Ok,” Hanna said and watched as Dr. Tishone brought a penlight up to perform the exam. In each eye, the penlight was bright enough to make it impossible to see past it but it never approached a brightness level that caused any discomfort.

“Well that’s interesting,” Dr. Tishone said. “Blood pressure it fine too, as is your oxygen level.”

“So I can get out of here?” Hanna asked.

“No, I’m afraid you can’t leave this room for a little while still,” Dr. Tishone said.

“Why? I’m fine aren’t I?” Hanna asked.

“We’re trying to understand that now,” Dr. Tishone said. “Here, let’s start with the obvious.” She handed a mirror to Hanna, angling it so that Hanna could see her own face.

Three blue lines, luminescent and throbbing in time with her pulse, painted a mask across Hanna’s eyes and ran down each side of her face to meet at her chin before traveling down the center of her neck and separating at her collarbone, one thread continuing down her chest while the other two split to travel down each of her arms.

That wasn’t what caught Hanna’s attention though. What captured her gaze were her eyes. Or rather the gray crystal orbs where her eyes should have been.

“What happened to me,” she asked in a slow, quiet voice. The answer that sprang instantly to mind was also the one she rejected with the greatest fury. She wasn’t an alien. She hadn’t been taken over by something from the Lighting Planet. That wasn’t possible.

“We don’t know,” Dr. Tishone said. “You and the others from Mauna Kea were affected by something. We need you to work with us in discovering what it is and what it means.”

“Wow,” Hanna said, struggling to take in the new upset to her world. “I’m going to need a minute here. This is unbelievable.”

“Certainly not what you signed up for when you petitioned to work on your PhD with me is it?” Dr. Tishone asked.

“Yeah, I was kind of hoping to do science, not become it,” Hanna said.

“I don’t know how much of an advisor I can be for you in this,” Dr. Tishone said. “But believe me when I say that I will be here for you. For all of you.”

“The others? Did the same thing happen to Kalia and Kimberly too?” Hanna asked.

“Yes, and to Mr. Garcia and a few others too,” Dr. Tishone said. “Kalia and Simon have both woken up already and I believe I’ll be having this same conversation with Kimberly soon too.”

“So, we ended up in comas thanks to whatever happened?” Hanna asked.

“Not exactly,” Dr. Tishone said. “Up until a few minutes ago you were encased in blue crystal cocoon. It was close to skin tight, so we could see who you were  and that you were respirating somehow, but apart from that we couldn’t break you free of it.”

“Couldn’t risk breaking us free or just couldn’t break the crystal at all?” Hanna asked.

“Couldn’t break the crystal with any reasonable amount of conventional force and couldn’t risk what applying greater forces to it might do to you,” Dr. Tishone said.

“When did this manifest?” Hanna asked, gesturing to her face. She hadn’t noticed it before but the blue pulsing track lines extended down to her palm and split to run up to the end of each of her fingers.

“Your eyes have been closed since we found you, so I can say in regards to them, but the lines on your face were there when we found you,” Dr. Tishone said.

“You said Kalia and Simon were awake already, were they cocooned too?” Hanna asked.

“Yes. Both of them. Kalia was the first one to awaken, or be freed from the cocoon I guess.” Dr. Tishone said. “Just as with you, some change occurred that we weren’t able to monitor and the crystal cocoon crumbled away to dust in seconds leaving only a tiny amount of residue behind.”

“It was exotic matter then right?” Hanna asked.

“Yes and no,” Dr. Tishone said. “We’re using ‘exotic matter’ as a catch all term for any matter which behaves in a manner we can’t predict yet. I think there are variations in what we’re seeing though. The crystal cocoon you were in manifested both a different color and different properties than the crystals in the domes. I’m not even sure it’s quite accurate to call your cocoon ‘crystal’ since we know so little about it still.”

“By different properties than the domes, do you mean there were no energy threads leading from our cocoons to the Lightning Planet?” Hanna asked.

“That’s correct,” Dr. Tishone said. “But also that the cocoons seem to have regenerated and strengthened living tissue rather than destroying it like the Tokyo and Buenos Aires Effect zones did.”

“The Effect Zone!” Hanna said. “I almost forgot! What happened there.”

“We won and we lost,” Dr. Tishone said. “It just depends which of the new Zones you’re speaking of. And that’s lead us to our current problem.”

“The Lightning Planet’s orbit has changed, hasn’t it?” Hanna asked.

“Yes, we’re due for another collision in only two days. It’s speeding up rapidly now.”