As the Mirror Cracks excerpt

Page

Cover of As the Mirror Cracks“Zenith, can you hear me?” he heard the voice in his head, via his halo’s connection to his Fri.

“Cyrus?”

“Hello, Zenith. Zenith, we’re in Rosetta Mirror to free Tom Calavero. Can you give us an idea of where he is?”

“Security level, sixtieth floor, I think.”

“You think?—”

“Sorry, but I really can’t tell you more,” Zenith replied. “I’m kind of busy at the moment.”

“Busy? Busy doing what?”

“What else? Saving the world.” Zenith paused to apply his heat vision, to incinerate a loose brick that fell past him. “Cyrus, you need to find Red Matsui. He’s the inside programmer I told you about. Dennis Johnson said he was holding him in his office.”

“And where is that?”

“Repeat, kind of busy…”

“Okay, we’ll find him. Then we have to stop this progression—”

“One thing at a time,” Zenith protested. “If I don’t act now, there won’t be a Mirror to save!” He mentally closed the connection, as he had almost moved the building back into place. Once its edges were so flush that the edges could not be seen, Zenith used his heat vision to fuse the outer shell of both halves, working around the circumference of the building, until he had circled it. At one point, he caught sight of the Reversed Man watching him, hovering a safe distance away, but making no move to assist or interfere. How could he? Was he even tangible? If Cyrus was right, and he was the physical manifestation of the Mirror, what could he do to fix himself?

He heard, instead of felt, another tremor at ground level. Zenith watched the buildings carefully, and saw no sign that any of them were about to collapse… but almost directly below him, he saw a building’s ornate façade come loose from its structure, enough rock to pulverize anything under it. Zenith dove.

On the ground, reflections were scrambling here and there, trying to get clear of the raining stonework. Zenith was not surprised at all to see people still in the Mirror, even as it was falling apart… some of them were trying to protect their Mirror property—many of them, just as in the real world, didn’t have the funds or the sense to get that property insured—and the occasional sort was just too frightened to remember that they only had to tap their temples to get out of harm’s way. All the same, Zenith wanted to prevent any of them from losing property, even if no one would actually get hurt… so as always, he simply thought of them as actual people, needing to be saved.

But even as he reached the ground, he was aware that he was not alone. Down the street, a flash and a trick of light seemed to dance from reflection to reflection. As it passed each one, the reflections would revert to their mannequin state, often just before being flattened by a massive chunk of rock. Zenith angled for the other side of the street, physically scooping up pedestrians a dozen at a time and moving them, at the speed of Mirror light, out of harm’s way. In the space of three seconds, he made six trips in and out, clearing the street, while the flash of light reverted reflections at almost the same rate. One second later, and the street was filled with the roar of tons of bricks reaching the street.

Zenith stood between the pedestrians and the brickfall, using a blast of wind from his lungs to keep the dust down. He caught a trick of light in his peripheral vision, and turned to see Mark Two, moving faster than the average eye could see, finally coming to a stop next to him. The black-and-silver mechanical man was a study in elegance, lithe and trim of body, and he stood there like a posing ballet dancer, poised to leap.

“I thought that was you, Mark,” Zenith smiled at the mechanid. “Nice job.”

“And you,” Mark Two replied. “Until I saw you descending, I was afraid I was going to let a lot of people down. Do you know what’s happening to Miropolis?”

“It’s not Miropolis… it’s the entire Mirror,” Zenith told him. “It’s breaking down. And I’m not sure if we’re going to save it, this time.”

Mark Two paused for a moment, staring at Zenith impassively, and Zenith imagined he was having trouble thinking of what to say. “We’ve always saved it before,” Mark Two finally replied. “Probability is on our side.”

“Spoken like a true hero,” Zenith smiled. “Keep up the good work… I’ve gotta go.”

“Good luck, Zenith,” Mark Two called as Zenith flew off. Then he took two steps forward, accelerated beyond the eye’s ability to follow, and disappeared in a flash and a trick of light.

Miropolis had its share of hero-reflections, Zenith knew, so he headed for the nearest neighboring city—Macroville—to see if he could help anyone there. From there, he flew to Demo, Tronton, Getaway, Electra City, and Hologria. In the space of minutes, he saved hundreds of reflections and prevented untold millions of dollars in collateral property damage, caused either by tremors, or by the reality-ripping pieces of the Mirror.

Along the way, he completely lost track of the fact that the Reversed Man was no longer following him.

And suddenly, Zenith caught sight of one of the reality-rippers, careening through the sky. Without hesitation, he angled in its direction, and flew as fast as he could, in an attempt to overtake it. Fortunately, the thing was too far over the ground to do any damage… there was simply nothing for it to cut through.

Zenith slowly closed the gap between them, and flew alongside it. He could clearly see the skies and clouds on the other side of it, as if it was a giant shard of glass… and when its edge was facing him, it disappeared, seemingly having no depth at all. Oh my God, he realized, it even has its own theme… a nasty combination of high-register strings and a bee-like buzzing that grated on the senses. Zenith imagined a blade of perfect glass, which some said could be sharper than any metal, thrown by the Devil himself, and not stopping until it breached reality itself. As the Mirror cracked, its own shards would rip itself to pieces…

Zenith had to know if it could be stopped. He tried concentrating his heat vision on it, but he saw it refracted through like a prism. He wasn’t sure what that meant, but it certainly indicated that it was a solid entity within the Mirror. And according to the program that defined Zenith, he was supposed to be impervious to any solid object that could be directed at him.

That made up his mind. Pouring on his speed, he pulled in front of the shard, positioned himself directly in its path, and kept going until he was miles in front of it. Abruptly he stopped in mid-flight, spun around, and waited as the shard raced towards him.

In the split-second before contact, Zenith remembered being shot by Patricia Herald’s gun, and the impossible way that the ray—which should have simply bounced off his chest—moved through him at a glacial speed. The Mirror had already been changed, he had already been changed, and all he knew was that he really didn’t know what was about to happen. But he had to try it anyway… that was his job. Zenith threw his arms up to cover his face, and waited.

The shard reached Zenith almost exactly vertical to his position, and struck him head-on.

Zenith screamed.

 

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