The World That Ends in Fire – Chapter 23


Having two days until the next time the world might end felt like a luxury to Hanna.

“Where can this ship get us to in that time?” she asked. Only the knowledge that the vessel she was on was in motion and was bringing her somewhere important, anywhere important, was enough to let sit still on the recovery bed she was confined to.

“Anywhere we need to go,” Dr. Tishone said. “We’re going to be meeting us with the USS Nimitiz later this afternoon. From there we can fly to anywhere in the world we need to go.”

“I’m confined to this quarters till then?” Hanna asked.

“I’m afraid so,” Dr. Tishone said. “The Navy and several of the advisory panels suggested that modified humans need to be studied before we accept you as being the same persons you were.”

“That’s irritating from my perspective, but I understand the need for caution,” Hanna said. “I presume you’ve done tests on Kalia and Simon already though right? How did those turn out?”

“So far no signs of psychological abnormalities but there are substantial changes in physiology,” Dr. Tishone said. “And that opens the door to all sorts of possibilities.”

“We could be anything couldn’t we?” Hanna asked. “Somehow whatever affected us saved us from dying on Hawaii but that could just mean we’ve been turned into bombs or something.”

“That possible,” Dr. Tishone said. “Our ability to even study what’s happened to you is limited and the chaos that’s consuming the world isn’t helping there at all.”

“What happened with the other Effect Zones?” Hanna asked. “And for that matter what happened to Hawaii?”

“Well, there were three Effect Zones,” Dr. Tishone said. “So we’ve got some new data to work with there.”

“Do the other teams think they can calculated how many Effect Zones there’ll be next time?” Hanna asked.

“That’s the hope,” Dr. Tishone said. “We didn’t have enough of the pattern to work from last time but even so we still managed to save most of Hong Kong.”

“They got the city evacuated in time?” Hanna asked.

“As much of it as they could. There’s serious issues in the surrounding provinces but those are being dealt with to some degree,” Dr. Tishone said. “The city itself is in complete ruin though.”

“Crystal domes?” Hanna asked.

“None, fortunately,” Dr. Tishone said. “The monsters that fought there wrecked almost everything but the Earth friendly ones managed to destroy the three that came from the Lightning Planet.”

“What happened to them?” Hanna asked. “The Earth friendly monsters?”

“Disappeared in beams of light that shot towards the Lightning Planet,” Dr. Tishone said.

“That is really weird,” Hanna said. “Why are they doing that?”

“Still unknown,” Dr. Tishone said. “But the victorious ones in Hawaii did the same.”

“So Hawaii is ok?” Hanna asked.

“It’s not an active Effect Zone,” Dr. Tishone said. “In fact there’s no sign that an Effect Zone ever completely formed there. No crystals and no circle of pure destruction. That said however, Mauna Kea still suffered enormous damage and there was a substantial loss of life.”

“How did we survive then?” Hanna asked.

“I hate to keep saying ‘we don’t know’,” Dr. Tishone said.

“I appreciate the honestly,” Hanna said. “And I appreciate that you’re taking the time to fill me in on all this. I know you have important things to be doing.”

“Hanna, you are the important thing I need to deal with right now,” Dr. Tishone said. “In so many ways. Personally, I’m responsible for what happened to you, and professionally, you are the most interesting thing to have come out of this whole catastrophe. The science that’s locked up in your little finger could propel us centuries forward in our understand of the universe.”

“It feels weird to be science now,” Hanna said. “Especially with how insane everything has been.”

“You’re not an experiment, or a lab rat,” Dr. Tishone said. “The professional in me hopes that you’ll be willing to take part in the tests we can come up to help understand what’s happened, but the woman in me sees the woman behind those strange new eyes. Whether you’re the Hanna we  knew or some new creature doesn’t matter. We have to treat you as a person, and that’s the end of that story.”

“What if I suddenly go all ‘Bzzt! Zzzrp! Must! Destroy! World!’ though?” Hanna asked.

“Then we treat you like a person who’s suffering from a mental disorder, not like a machine we found an excuse to take apart into pieces to discover how it ticks,” Dr. Tishone said.

“Thank you,” Hanna said. “And by that same token, I know that it’s on me to be as honest as I can about anything that starts going weird in my brain. If I start getting a ‘Kill All Humans’ vibe running through me, I’ll warn you as fast as I can. If I can.”

“Let’s hope none of that becomes an issue,” Dr. Tishone said. “We don’t know what caused these changes in you but I do have a guess if you’d like to hear it.”

“A guess? Not even a hypothesis?” Hanna asked.

“It’s not testable, at least not in any ethical or practical manner,” Dr. Tishone said.

“That’s fine, if nothing else it might make for something to watch opportunities to test for,” Hanna said.

“You, Kimberly, Kalia, Simon, and several others survived the destruction of the battle in Hawaii and wound up in crystal cocoons as a result. We’ve received similar reports of people being cocooned from Hong Kong and the outskirts of Manila. In each case there was one similarity that stood out to me; you were all hit with tissue or fluids from one or more of the giant monsters that were battling in the areas.”

“You think the cocoons were solidified monster blood?” Hanna asked.

“I think they were a lot more than that,” Dr. Tishone said. “Once we have the chance, we can see about properly testing you but it’s likely that your body was affected in a similar manner to Kalia, Simon and the others who’ve woken up.”

“They all have these lines on their bodies and whatever happened to my eyes?” Hanna asked. “And speaking of which, why can I see you perfectly with eyes like this? In fact, why can I see you perfectly at all? I’m not wearing my glasses!”

“The cocoons seem to have modified your bodies for more than improved health,” Dr. Tishone said. “Strength, speed, endurance. In the people we’ve tested so far, those capabilities are off the charts and still growing.”

“I’m strong now?” Hanna asked. “How strong?”

“We’ll need to test you to find out,” Dr. Tishone said. “Kalia and Simon have demonstrated some amazingly levels of physical capability though.”

“Amazing as in ‘Olympic weightlifter class’ strong or something else?” Hanna asked.

“Amazing as in: after lifting the heaviest weight set we could put together on the ship, Kalia was able to bend the largest steel weight plate in half,” Dr. Tishone said. “And we believe she’s getting stronger the longer her body has to adapt to the changes.”

“That’s unreal,” Hanna said, trying to fit that development in with the giant monsters that were roaming the planet.

“Exotic might be a better term for it as it is quite real from what I’ve observed,” Dr. Tishone said. “Which brings us to one of the few things we do know about your condition; whatever else happened to you, you are now a carrier for some form of exotic matter.”

“How can you tell?” Hanna asked.

“A few methods, but primarily because we inspected the others who are awake with an enhanced crystal lens and they all show signs of being suffused with exotic matter particles,” Dr. Tishone said. “Apparently you won’t need that sort of lens anymore though. If you close your eyes for long enough, you should start seeing the radiant light from the exotic matter around you, and in you as well. Again this is a trait which the people who are awake now seem to share.”

Hanna closed her eyes to test Dr. Tishone’s claim and brought her hand up in front of her face. After a second or two of darkness, she saw her hand glowing in a pale blue light in front of her.

“I can see. Through my own eye lids. That doesn’t make any sense,” Hanna said.

“Apparently your body glows at different levels of intensity in different places.,” Dr. Tishone said. “The eyelids are very dim, which may explain why a stronger source like your hand can shine through them.”

“Am I even human anymore?” Hanna asked.

“In every measure that really counts? Yes,” Dr. Tishone said.

“So what happens next?” Hanna asked.

“That depends on you,” Dr. Tishone said. “If you want to, you can stay here. There are more experiments and calculations that you can help with than I can count. Some of those who have awoken have decided to pursue that course already. Hawaii left them injured in ways that the exotic matter couldn’t heal.”

“I think I know what that’s like,” Hanna said. “I had an out of body experience while we were running to the trucks. I don’t know how or why I feel as together as I do now in fact.”

“Different people absorb stress differently,” Dr. Tishone said. “Know that if you choose to stay here, there is no shame, no cowardice, and no dishonor in doing so. You’ve already been incredibly brave. I can’t ask more from you than I already have, and I’ve probably asked too much as it is.”

“What’s my other option?” Hanna asked.

“You can come with us to Manila,” Dr. Tishone said.

“What’s in Manila?” Hanna asked.

“Another Effect Zone,” Dr. Tishone said. “An active one. The Earth friendly monsters lost the battle in Manila and it’s covered by a crystal dome, like the one in Japan.”

“Oh god,” Hanna said. “Are there Lightning Planet monsters still there?”

“No,” Dr. Tishone said. “The surviving monster that setup the domes fled into the Pacific and vanished. Our last sonar trace of it was one hundred miles to west of Manila, heading away at high speed.”

“So what are we going there for?” Hanna asked.

“We have experience with the Tokyo Effect Zone,” Dr. Tishone said. “So we’re going to see if we can find any similarities in the Manila Dome that will let us destroy both of them!”