The sky was aflare with vibrant hues, but that wasn’t what drew Kora’s attention. Her psyche felt tugged, as if something had hooked her innermost self with an invisible lure and was pulling it upward with increasing intensity.
Holly’s coming, she realized. I’m going back in my original body.
A whip-like crack sounded from the east. A glimmering point of light was streaking through the heavens, rapidly closing with her and her troop. She saw it resolve into the Bite Mobile, which now resembled a mushroom-shaped mecha.
“There she is!” Peter pointed at a distant outline.
A muscular body had appeared in a wisp of light, several miles above ANOS’s parking lot. It fell through a layer of cloud.
“Bites, can you give us a close-up?”
A holographic pane formed on the upper-right quadrant of the Bite Mobile’s windshield, displaying a crystal-clear image of the unconscious barbarian. Eun and Peter, due to their Slideways sight; observed 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 TO KOR’THANK.” There was a brief pause, then: “CORPOREAL TRANSFER IS NOW COMPLETE.”
The ethereal weave brightened and vanished. It was no longer “Kor’Thank” falling through the air, now it was Holly in her original body, beautiful as the day she’d vanished from Earth. She was still unconscious, her hair flying up from the violent slipstream.
“Peter!” Eun shouted. Holo-reticles expanded and shrunk around her eyes. “We have less than a minute before she hits!”
Peter, still on his feet, gripped a pair of ceiling-mounted handles. “Bites, I need an option!”
“I AM EQUIPPED WITH AN EMERGENCY HARNESS, WHICH HAS BEEN FITTED WITH A CUSTOM-ENGINEERED, DECELERANT TETHER. IF I AM MANEUVERED CORRECTLY, YOU CAN CATCH HOLLY AND PROTECT BOTH OF YOU FROM BODILY HARM. MAKE SURE YOU’RE BUCKLED AND STRAPPED SECURELY TO THE—”
“Get it out!” Peter yelled. “Now!”
The ceiling opened. Mechanical whirring filled the cockpit as the decelerant harness—affixed to a smooth, chrome-sectioned column—lowered down into the cabin. Peter glanced over his shoulder, making sure he was aligned with the shiny-fibered vest, then leaned back into it. Servos hummed and latches snapped, strapping him in and lifting him up.
Eun blurted, “Peter, be caref—” before he screamed, “Launch me!” The back of the craft clanked open. Gale-force wind whipped and howled.
And then he was flying, enveloped in a wash of moonlit sky.
Holly’s mind was a fragmented jumble. She felt the rush of chilly air, saw random dazzles of otherworldly light. Where was she? Why was she falling? What the hell was that…that thing speeding toward her? It looked like a mushroom-shaped spacecraft …
She saw a figure dangling behind it, lit by the glare of the full white moon.
Her eyes widened. Peter.
Eun took them into a dive. Peter flew high above the Bite Mobile, pulled downward by its rapid descent. Holly’s model-perfect eyes locked onto his, silently begging him to come and save her. He was wracked by a wave of fear and doubt; his palms were coated in clammy sweat. Then he remembered Kora’s advice, back when they’d been preparing to fight Dissona. About how every hero forgot to enjoy the moment and revel in the journey.
His shaking hands became steady and sure. All he saw was Holly Dent.
Just a few more seconds…almost there…
He reached out and grabbed her waist. The decelerant line did its job, slowing him down as the Bite Mobile pulled them into a steep climb. He experienced a brief jag of heady panic as his rate of ascent synced with hers. A second later they were both soaring. The sweet spring wind whipped their hair into a delirious frenzy.
Peter Lee, rocketing through the night at breakneck speed, acted purely on instinct. He leaned in and kissed Holly on the lips. Delirious warmth poured through him; it was the sweetest thing he’d ever felt.
And Holly Dent, to her everlasting credit, drew him close and gave as good as she got.