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03 August 2011 @ 11:13 pm
 
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The sky splits, violent red streaking through the paling pink, dawn’s fingers smashed as the curtain of night is ripped open yet again. Through the burning gap in reality come great limbs, shining lights too blinding to see, and a howling shriek that thunders through the air like a hurricane.

“Cynthia! Here’s ours, coming in straight overhead!” The voice is staticky, barely comprehensible through the atmospheric disturbance.

Cynthia nods grimly and picks up the radio, holding down the talk button with one finger. “I see it, Jackson. Taking aim.”

She scampers across the rooftop of the apartment building, heading for the massive clamps that hold her cannon in place. One look along the barrel tells her that it’s not lined up right yet. She drops to her knees and looks at her laptop, turning it away from the glare. The IMs are pouring in from across the city, as the kids assemble the data they need. She grabs the dangling USB cable and plugs it into the bottom of the cannon, connecting her laptop to the arduino-based computer she assembled from components acquired online.

The cannon and the computer talk, trying to calculate exactly how far away the thing in the sky is. After a moment an alert chimes, telling her how best to aim the thing. Cynthia’s thin arms flex, and she pushes hard against the huge wheels of her weapon. She spent months designing and building the thing, on the instructions of someone half a world away, and she knows how it works better than anyone. Not that she’s ever had time to test it, of course.

Cynthia bites her lip, staring along the barrel of the cannon. It can’t quite tilt back far enough. The old hollowed-out telescope only moves so far along its cobbled-together tracks. She needs a few more degrees of height.

Overhead, the thing lets out another impossible sound. Red lightning flashes, arcing from the edges of the rip in reality to the metal and flesh of the creature. For a brief moment Cynthia is distracted, staring at the thing, but she blinks and focuses. She has seen this kind of thing a thousand times before. The fact that it’s in the sky instead of on her computer screen doesn’t change a thing.

She brings her attention back to the rooftop. She pulls off first one shoe, then the other, tucking them under the front struts of the cannon. She checks the computer again. The program, put together by some coder kid in Houston, gives her a little green thumbs-up. Target locked on.
Just in time, too. The red countdown is at five minutes until the thing fully breaks through into this reality, giving her and Jackson less than two minutes to finish it off.

“Jackson,” she says into the radio. “You set?”

There’s a tense pause before he replies.

“Good to go.” His voice is shaky, but full of resolve. Cynthia has never met him in person, even though they live on opposite sides of the same city.

“Alright.” She grabs the bullet, an old soup can filled with various chemicals and compounds she stole from the science lab of a local high school, and drops it down the barrel of the cannon. It clicks into place with a satisfying sound, just like it should. She rests a hand on the firing mechanism, a hodgepodge of k’nex and LEGOs hooked into old wiring. “On my mark, Jackson.”

She swallows one last time, hoping against all hope that this will work.

“Three.”

The storm overhead is worsening, and she can feel her hairs stand on end as the air fills with the electricity of another world.

“Two.”

Her voice sounds thin in her ears, whipped away by the screaming wind.

“One.”

If her cannon doesn’t fire, if she misses, if the forums were wrong about this, if she lets everyone down, if tomorrow never—

She closes her eyes.

“Mark!”

She squeezes the trigger, and the cannon bucks, the blast of compressed air knocking her off her feet. The radio tumbles out of her hand, clattering across the rooftop.

Cynthia watches the canister sail through the air, trailing pale smoke. After what feels like an eternity, it impacts against the thing in the sky, and sticks. A moment later there’s a flash of white as the store-bought rocket motor inside ignites, and then the green chemical fire begins. Seconds later it’s joined by a mirroring green glow on the other side of the creature—Jackson’s shot.

At first it doesn’t seem like the fires are doing anything, just two green points of light against the writhing biomechanical mass.

Then the shriek fills the air, clearly one of pain this time, and bits of the thing begin falling off. Just as predicted, the thing’s limbs crackle with the red lightning from the rift, no longer immune to that interdimensional energy.

Cynthia grins despite herself. It worked. It really worked. She did that. She stopped that thing.

Her satisfied reverie is broken by the distant sound of her name being called. It takes her a moment to place the source of the sound—the radio.

She runs barefoot to where it fell, and scoops it up. “—thia, Cynthia, do you copy? Respond! You gotta go!”

“I’m here, Jackson! We hit it!”

“I know, but the others are tracking its internal signals. It’s getting out its slicers, Cyn!”

Cynthia swallows. “Where’s it aiming?”

“That’s what I’m saying! It’s targeting your building! You gotta get out of there!”

She stands in shocked silence for a long moment, her eyes staring up at the thing. Now she can see it, see the telltale blue light building in the beast’s belly.

“Cynthia!” Jackson calls again through the radio. “Come on, you gotta MOVE!”

She blinks and breaks into motion, tucking the radio into her pocket as she runs. Her mouth flaps, a string of expletives flowing freely. Her laptop she flips shut and slips into her backpack as she pulls it on. She considers trying to disassemble the cannon and bring it with her, but by now there’s no point. The thing in the sky will be dead in less than three minutes, but she’ll be dead in two if she doesn’t get out of the building. She leaves it behind.

The stairs she takes in two great leaps, the cement landing stinging her still-bare feet. She skids through the front door of her seventh-floor apartment, yelling as she does. “Mom! Dad! We gotta go!”

Her mother is sitting on the couch, staring out the window. “Cynthia! Where have you been?”

Cynthia shakes her head. “We gotta go right now!”

Her father, standing in the kitchen, frowns. “The television said we should stay inside.”

“Dad, fuck the television, that thing is going to blow up this whole building in a few seconds!”

“Young lady, you are far too young to be using that kind of language, and you cannot order me around!” As he says this, he’s walking towards her, as is Cynthia’s mother.

“Dad, I’m twelve years old, I’m old enough to save the world, now let’s MOVE!”

“Dear—”

“You can punish me later, come on!”

Her parents glance at each other, then decide to follow her.

Not a moment too soon, as all the windows shatter. The acid whine that follows is almost too high-pitched to hear, but Cynthia recognizes it as a sure sign that the slicers are are online and charged.

Mr. and Mrs. Fong clatter down the stairs, hurriedly following their daughter. They don’t believe a word she’s said, of course—

—until the top half of the building over their heads simply ceases to exist, vanishing in a howling red storm of dust, sliced cleanly out of reality. The smoking edge of what remains is barely a half-dozen feet above their heads.

Cynthia’s mother reaches out a hand up towards the broken building, but Cynthia grabs her. “Come on, mom, we gotta keep going! It’s going to take another shot once it realizes I’m not dead!”

“You?” Her father asks, as he runs down the stairs alongside her. “It’s targeting you?”

She nods. “Me and the other kids, yeah.”

“Why?” He asks between breaths.

“Because it knows we brought it here,” she answers as they finally shove their way out the front door, and out onto the chaotic streets. All the cars have stopped, and people are standing in the street staring at the sky.

Overhead, green fire burns hot against the black and scarlet of the abomination. Then the red lightning finally swallows the beast. There’s a final shrieking thunderous howl, then the sky bleeds crimson for a moment as the breach in reality knits itself shut.

The people on the street break into cheers and applause, entirely unaware that this was the sixth incursion today, and that there are at least two dozen more coming, to cities all over the world.

“And because,” Cynthia says quietly, hand gripping the radio in her pocket tightly, “it knows we’re the only ones that can kill it.”
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