As Holly beheld a golden pyramid, Peter danced with Eun, Kora, and a score of others. For the first time in his tumultuous life, he was cutting loose; popping, locking, and b-boying with complete abandon. A loose circle had formed around him. DJ Wreckage was working her turntables like a woman possessed.
He picked up the pace, windmilling and twisting into eye-catching air flares. A spontaneous cheer arose from the crowd.
Blake and his goons nodded along, trying to look casual as Peter stole the show. They looked like insecure kids marooned at a house party—too afraid to dance, but still wanting to be included. Typically, Peter would have gloated or said something snide, but he was totally focused on having a blast.
Prior to the dance, the three teen-heroes had taken some double O negative, so Eun saw patterns and equations cavorting around Peter. His limbs hazed into beams of light; they left sparkling contrails as he contorted and flipped. Glowing swoops followed his lips as his smile widened to epic proportions.
DJ Wreckage jumped off her podium and started breakdancing with Peter. She leapt high in the air and threw some power moves, eliciting a chorus of whoas and damns. The lines around Peter turned luminous gold, while technicolor skeins formed around Wreckage. Their mutual elation merged and clashed, painting a glittering portrait of hope and capacity.
They’re editing reality, Eun realized in a burst of wonderment. They’re being edited…but they’re also editing existence as we know it. They’re…they’re…
Her thoughts fell away. Some things were best left wordless.
Their influence was spreading to the other students. Possibility bloomed and shifted, taking form as tangled mandalas and rotating math. It moved through the crowd like an otherworldly fog—a fog made of pure potential and untapped data. As the mist alit on each prom-goer, it integrated smoothly into their individual auras. Symbols and characters locked and merged, brightening their fields and expanding the reach of their personal energies. Peter and Wreckage were the locus of power, but through their joy and utter abandon, they were affecting everyone in their immediate vicinity. They were boosting the promise of reality itself. For this immortal, enduring moment, there was no prom, there was no Dissona, there was no time. All that remained was this ageless play, embodied in a whirl of legs and arms.
And then it was over. Peter and Wreckage hit a freeze, standing on their hands and crooking their legs. The entire room erupted with applause.
The two dancers kicked to their feet, looking around in surprise and delight. They’d both been taken by the spirit of the moment, and hadn’t been conscious (not fully, anyway) of their physical actions. Only now, after the music had ended and given way to time and space, could they recognize how much fun they’d been having.
“Yo!” someone called. “Cue up the next one!”
DJ Wreckage yelled a command (her setup was keyed to her vocal signature) and the speakers pulsed with a follow-on song. She and Peter locked eyes, then dove back into the rhythm and flow.
Holly was caught in a hellish continuance—step after step after goddamned step, toward the shining pyramid on the horizon. It never seemed to near, no matter how far she walked or how much she suffered.
She’d spent a lifetime crossing this purgatory (forty years at this point) even though it should have taken six months to complete her journey. But her objective remained the exact same distance, making a joke of her endless trudge.
That fucking pyramid. Would it take her back to…
Earth, she reminded herself. Get back to Earth.
Earth. Right. She shook her head, clinging piteously to her battered memories. They were eroding steadily, like loose soil off a cliffside embankment.
Finally, after another decade, she reached the pyramid.