The sky was flaring with vibrant hues, but that wasn’t what drew Kora’s gaze. Her psyche felt tugged, like it had been hooked by an invisible lure and was being pulled upward with increasing intensity.
Holly’s coming, she realized, eyes widening. I’m going back in my original body.
A whip-like crack sounded from the east. Kora swiveled toward it and saw a glimmering point of light streaking through the sky, approaching her and her troop. As it drew closer, she saw it resolve into the Bite Mobile, which had apparently turned into some kind of mushroom mecha.
“There she is!” Peter yelled, pointing at Holly’s tiny outline.
She’d emerged in a wisp of light, several miles above ANOS’s parking lot, blinking in and out of view as she fell through layer after layer of moonlit cloud. “Bites, can you zoom in on her?”
A holographic pane formed on the upper-right quadrant of the Bite Mobile’s windshield, displaying a crystal-clear picture of an unconscious barbarian descending at the speed of terminal velocity. Eun and Peter, due to their Slideways sight; saw an ethereal tangle of braided light emerge from her forehead and shoot down to the ground below.
“The fuck is that?” Peter muttered.
“AN ASTRAL UMBILICAL CONNECTING HOLLY AND KOR’THANK.” There was a brief pause, then: “CORPOREAL TRANSFER IS NOW COMPLETE.”
At that moment, having fulfilled its purpose, the ethereal weave brightened and vanished. Kor’Thank wasn’t the one falling through the air, now it was Holly in her original body. The cheerleader was still unconscious, her hair flying up from the cold, crisp slipstream.
“Peter!” Eun shouted. Holographic reticles expanded and shrunk around her panicked eyes. “We have less than a minute before she hits!”
Peter, still on his feet, gripped a pair of ceiling-mounted handles. “Bitefighter, give me some options!”
“I AM EQUIPPED WITH AN EMERGENCY HARNESS, WHICH HAS BEEN FITTED WITH A DECELERANT TETHER. IF I AM MANEUVERED CORRECTLY AND SLOWED TO THE APPROPRIATE DEGREE, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO CATCH HOLLY, PROVIDED YOU WEAR THE HARNESS.”
“Get it out!” Peter yelled. “Now!”
The ceiling opened up. A mechanic whirring filled the cockpit as the decelerant harness lowered down, affixed to a smooth-sectioned column. Peter glanced over his shoulder, making sure his torso was aligned with the shiny-fibered vest, then leaned back into it. Servos whirred and latches snapped, strapping him in and lifting him up.
Eun blurted, “Peter, be caref—” just before he screamed, “Launch me!” The back of the craft clanked open, filling the cabin with gale-force wind.
And then he was flying through space, enveloped in a cold wash of moonlit sky.
Holly’s memory was a fragmented jumble. Her mind registered the frigid chill of rushing air and dazzling bursts of interdimensional light. They were popping up around her for dozens of yards in every direction: gorgeous curls of graduated brilliance that painted the night with a soft, warm halo before wisping away and leaving behind a faint, muted glow.
How had she gotten here? What the hell was that…thing speeding toward her? It looked like a mushroom-shaped spacecraft …
Then she saw a man-shaped was dangling behind it, backlit by the glowing white moon.
Her eyes widened. Peter.
Eun had taken them into a steep dive, causing Peter to fly high above the Bite Mobile, tugged downward by its breakneck descent. Holly’s model-perfect eyes locked onto his, silently begging him to come and save her. Uncertainty and fear wracked his mind; his palms were lathered in clammy sweat.
Then he remembered Kora’s advice from before, when they’d been preparing to face off against Dissona. How every hero forgot to enjoy the moment and revel in their journey. Certainty flowed through him, and his shaking hands became steady and sure. All he saw was Holly.
He reached out with both arms and grabbed her tightly around the waist. The decelerant line did its job, slowing him down as the Bite Mobile pulled them both into a steep climb. He experienced a moment of jarring panic before his rate of ascent synced with Holly’s, then they were both soaring, surrounded by bursts of extradimensional light, the scented spring wind whipping their hair into a wild frenzy.
And then Peter Lee, rocketing through the night at three hundred miles per hour, acted on pure instinct. He leaned forward and kissed Holly on the lips.
Holly Dent placed both palms onto his cheeks, drew him in close, and gave as good as she got.