The World That Ends in Fire – Chapter 25


The dome was gone but the anchor remained. Even as the glorious firebird vanished in a stream of light, transporting up towards the Lightning Planet’s looming presence in the sky, Hanna saw the threads of light that had run from the dome pulsing with fresh energy.

“Is anyone else seeing what I am?” she asked.

“Manila’s gone,” Simon said. “It’s like it was flattened after the big fight. Maybe after the dome went up?”

“That’s not what she’s talking about,” Kalia said. “It’s the anchor ropes. They’re still here.”

“But those came from the domes, didn’t they?” Kimberly asked, lifting Simon and dragging him away from the edge of the Effect Zone.

“Apparently not,” Hanna said, walking deeper into the ruins of Manila. Getting caught in a tug of war with the dome should have made her more cautious but after weeks of working on the fine details of an intractable problem, she understood why Kimberly had punched the dome in the first place.

“Maybe they did,” Laura said. “I spent a lot of time watching the live feed from Berlin. The anchor ropes here are different.”

“Yeah, they’re dimmer,” Kalia said, looking up into the sky with her eyes closed like Laura was.

“Not just dimmer, but fewer too,” Laura said.

“Berlin was a collection of hundreds of smaller domes,” Hanna said. “Could that be why it had more anchors?”

“The Tokyo dome was brighter than this too though, at least in the last feeds I saw from it,” Laura said.

“Maybe some of the threads burned away when the Phoenix lit the dome up?” Kimberly said.

“That would make sense,” Hanna said. “Except why are we seeing any anchor ropes at all? Berlin didn’t show any after the Kraken ate the domes there.”

“That might be because of our equipment m’am,” one of the communication techs who’d accompanied them said. “We’re not seeing any active exotic matter at this site anymore.”

Hanna opened her eyes and blinked a few times to adjust her vision back to normal.

“Those streams of light don’t show up on the crystal enhanced optics?” Hanna asked, pointing at the anchor ropes that led to Lightning Planet.

“We’ve got clear skies here in both normal and augmented vision,” the tech said.

“So we might have been missing these all along,” Hanna said, turning the idea over in her head.

“That means the question is; what are we going to do about those things?” Kalia asked, walking up to stand beside Hanna.

“And what does this mean for dome in Tokyo,” Kimberly asked, putting Simon back down on the ground.

“That’s a good point,” Laura said. “We got rid of the dome, but we didn’t come up with any kind of repeatable process that we can try on Tokyo.”

“Maybe you did,” Dr. Tishone said from the video comm link.

“All we managed to do was get ourselves stuck. It was the giant monster that took care of the dome and freed us,” Laura said.

“No, I think I know what she means,” Hanna said. “The Phoenix didn’t show up until after we started attacking the dome. In fact not until after we started to dump a lot of the dome’s exotic energy into the ground.”

“You think we summoned it?” Kalia asked.

“Maybe,” Hanna said. “Or maybe something even simpler. Us fighting against the dome may have been like chumming the water for sharks. Put enough exotic energy into the Earth and a giant monster will show up looking for lunch.”

“So what does that make us?” Laura asked. “Chopped fish?”

“No,” Kalia said. “We’re the spotters.”

“Spotters?” Kimberly asked.

“We go in, find the targets that need to be hit and then call in their position to the heavy hitters,” Simon said.

“So far the targets haven’t exactly been difficult to spot,” Kimberly said.

“Not to us,” Hanna said. “But that might actually fit. Think of the Kraken. It waited until the Lightning Wyrm hit the Baltic before it appeared.”

“Think of the Lightning Wyrm itself,” Kalia said. “It didn’t seem to be able to see anything outside of about a one kilometer range on its own.”

“But it had some kind of agenda,” Hanna said. “When it left Berlin it was traveling somewhere it seemed.”

“I  wonder what the world looks like to them?” Simon asked.

Hanna thought about that but Kalia got to the answer first.

“Oh that’s so simple isn’t it?” she said. “Just close your eyes.”

Hanna guessed what Kalia was thinking but closed her eyes anyways to confirm it.

In the light shed by the remaining anchor ropes, Hanna could see a faint outline of the devastated land around her. Her vision extended well into the remains of Manila but outside that everything faded away to shadows and darkness.

“So that leads to the next question then; how can they even find each other to fight if they’re as blind as bats?” Hanna asked.

“Bats aren’t actually blind…” Simon started to say.

“Yes, I know, figure of speech,” Hanna said. “The point is they’ve got to be able to see farther under some circumstances right?”

“Maybe it’s not circumstances,” Kimberly said. “Maybe it’s things.”

She was looking up, so Hanna tried to follow her gaze to see what Kimberly had spotted. There was nothing particular in the sky that seemed out of place though so she spent a few moment tracking her eyes around looking for the detail that she was missing.

“I give up, what kind of things?” she asked feeling like she was missing the obvious.

“Umm, that,” Kimberly said, pointing up at the spot Hanna had been searching for the last minutes.

“But there’s nothing there,” Hanna said. “Aside from the…”

She was an idiot. She knew she was an idiot but Kimberly had to drive the point home anyways.

“Yeah, aside from the Lightning Planet,” she said.

Hanna had grown so used to studying the giant orb of doom that sometime in the last few weeks it had ceased to be an unusual sight for her.

“Wow, so I’m not blind as a bat, I’m just dumb as one,” Hanna said.

“You’re not dumb,” Kalia said, putting her arm on Hanna’s shoulder. “I didn’t get what she was looking at either.”

“I, uh, still don’t quite follow,” Simon said.

“The Lightning Planet is thousands of miles away from us, and we can see it just fine,” Laura said. “So it’s not a case where our vision is limited by range.”

“Of course not,” Simon said. “I mean that thing’s huge. We could probably see it from Mars.”

“Except that we can’t see it at all normally,” Hanna said, ideas bubbling up in her brain. “Not with normal eyes viewing normal light, but with their eyes…”

Her words trailed off as she dropped to her knees and started digging.

“What are you doing?” Kalia asked.

“Validating a hypothesis,” Hanna said, her hands tearing swaths of compacted earth away with each swing.

In moments she had burrowed down to where the hole was deeper than she was tall. Then the burrowing stopped.

“What did find?” Kimberly asked.

“Take a look down here,” Hanna said.

At the bottom of the hole, there was a pale blue radiance.

“Ok, I don’t know what to make of that,” Simon said.

“I think I do,” Hanna said. “The giant monsters that have been fighting on our side? Maybe they didn’t show up when the Lightning Planet arrived. Maybe they’ve been here all along. Maybe they’re as much Earthlings as we are!”

“How is that possible?” Kalia asked,

“They’re exotic matter right?” Hanna said. “And exotic matter is normally out of phase with regular matter. We don’t even notice a gravitational effect from it. So what’s to stop the Kraken, and the Phoenix, and the rest from living peacefully on Earth with us never noticing them?”

“I’ve got a related question,” Kimberly said. “Why have we been thinking that this is the first time an exotic matter planet has ever collided with the Earth?”

“Do we have a record of another catastrophe of this scale?” Laura asked.

“Several,” Kimberly said. “We call them ‘extinction events’.”

“But we know the cause for some of those, don’t we?” Laura asked.

“We have strong evidence for some of them, yes,” Kimberly said, “But new evidence is always a good reason to go back and re-evaluate old hypothesis.”

“So, you’re saying that we’ve had an exotic planet sitting inside the Earth all along?” Kalia asked. “How do they two of them pass through each other?”

“Maybe they’re not the same kind of exotic matter?” Hanna said. “Dr. Tishone pointed out that we’re using that term to mean ‘everything with magic properties’, when we could very well be dealing with a number of different types of exotic matter here, each infuriating in their own special way.”

“What does that mean for us though?” Simon asked. “We still have to figure out how to break those anchor ropes don’t we?”

“Umm, guys?” Kalia said. “What anchor ropes?”

“The ones that are still leading up to the Lightning Planet,” Hanna said.

“That’s what I mean,” Kalia said. “Take a look up there. They’re gone.”

Hanna climbed out of the hole and gazed up at the sky once more. It was clear of any lines leading to the Lightning Planet from anywhere around them.

“How did that happen? Where did they go?” Kimberly asked.

“The Phoenix!” Hanna said, more light bulbs turning on in her mind. “That’s why the Earthly giant monsters are traveling to the Lightning Planet!”

“Wait, so they destroy the domes here and then they follow the anchor ropes back to their source and destroy what?”

“The anchor on the other end!” Hanna said. “When the planet’s collide, the Lightning Planet creates an Effect Zone on Earth. Maybe the same kind of zone is made on the Lightning Planet too! The Lightning Planet is leaving a piece of itself here, and it’s stealing a piece of the Earth at the same time!”