An expectant breeze blew across the rooftop of the library, and the moon shone brightly, three-quarters full and waxing, beside a front of rolling clouds whose edges shimmered in the moonlight. The air felt like rain, and the leaves decorating the landscape began to dance and twirl as the wind picked up.
What do you see? asked Camberley.
Black on black, said Kim-na.
A ghostly finger hovered over her huge goggles, pressing buttons and adjusting dials. Suddenly the goggles made a little whirring noise, and a picture skittered and jumped into view, green-on-black, brilliantly detailed in the searing brightness of the moonlight.
Now what do you see?
I see the stadium, she said. Theres a trench or sumpin on its edge now, maybe six feet wide, four feet deep, n I think those things are people standin or sittin in it.
This can increase your magnification, he said, and she felt something gently brush against her hand, leading it up to a dial on the top of the goggles.
Yo! I see! Thosere people alright. Damn, well-armed too. Grenades, AKs, M4s, I dont even know what some o that stuff is they diggin in.
Now look a little more to your right. What do you see?
Open field in front of em, with a tree or two, then them crazy-ass tennis courts, then looks like forest grew up over what useta be a neighborhood. Othern that, ont see mucha nothin else no, wait, theres a road comin outta the forest, and some big trucks just drove out the road. All spotted n military. Somethins comin out of em, too theys people... er... what are they? Theys half-n-half like me, but it aint horse. I cant see what its all movin too fast.
Theyre driders, said Camberley calmly. Half-spider, and Marines. Some of the militarys best. Just keep watching.
Okay. Theys disappeared into the trees n holy hell, what the dayumn. One of em suddenly went flyin outta the trees like a hundred miles an hour toward the stadium. Disappeared around the back side. There was somethin behind him, too.
Her, said Camberley as the wind started to pick up. All of the driders are women. Im not really sure why; I didnt have time to research the localized probabilities behind
Now theres another comin outta the trees! An another! The Human Shits are shootin at em, but theres no way theyll hit somethin movin that fast. Yo, what the frick is goin on?
Theyre doing what spiders do best, said Camberley calmly. Spinning a web.
Theyre wrapping the entire stadium in a gigantic web that will stretch all the way over it to the ground. That web ensures that no-one can escape, and provides them steady, even ground to move on, and gives them the high ground all at once. Theyre using special catapults trebuchets, actually to launch themselves from the trees, over the stadium, and down the other side, and they use their own webbing to slow their fall. Very clever, really. By the time the Human Society realizes whats happening, itll be too late to stop it.
Damn, said Kim-na, lowering the goggles. The moon was covered now by the edge of the clouds, and the wind had picked up a little more.
Dont stop watching, said Camberley, his face barely a sliver of light beside her. You need to see what were up against.
Alright, alright, she said, and held up the heavy goggles again. The driders had stopped flying over the stadium; there was a maypole of webbing covering the entire thing, and the driders were now swinging and leaping from line to line around the stadium in a giant circle, and she shuddered to imagine herself down in those trenches, trying to fire at something moving that erratically, growing more and more frustrated as they got closer and closer to you, knowing the whole time that youd have better luck hitting a pigeon with a
Oh, shit, they got one, she said. One of the driders had suddenly gone from dancing and leaping across the webbing to tangled in it, hanging upside-down. Two of her fellow soldiers stopped their task and raced back to her. They grabbed her and bounced back down the web and into the trees.
She gonna be okay? Kim-na looked up at Camberley.
I dont know, said Camberley. This is war. Not everyone you see in those goggles will be alive tomorrow morning. I can only tell you general trends about whats probably going to happen.
Kim-na nodded and turned back to the goggles. The giant web looked almost done now, with its shimmering white rings covering most of the battlefield, right over the protective trenches the Human Society had built. It wobbled and wavered in the wind, but it still looked deadly and ominous. Then suddenly the driders were gone, disappeared back into the forest, leaving only their web behind them.
Wait, whered they dude, whats goin on?
Just watch, said Camberley.
Out of the shadows, the driders began to run now in pairs up the lines of the web, bouncing and zigzagging to avoid enemy fire. One was firing down through the web with her rifle, while the other
Whats she doing? said Kim-na, as the two of them disappeared up and over the lip of the stadium.
Suddenly in the trench, there was a massive explosion, too bright in the goggles, and Kim-na recoiled.
Yo! What the fu She paused. In the distance, she could see with her own eyes the fireball rising from the trench.
High-powered grenades, said Camberley. Dropped right into the trench from above. That probably wouldnt work so well if the targets knew it was coming, but its deadly-accurate against people like these.
Kim-nas heart was racing. The fireball settled down, and in the goggles, she could see the Human Society people racing around it, trying to put it out and recover the survivors, but theyd easily lost a quarter of their people
Goddamn! Another searingly bright blast soared from the trench. Warn me when youre gonna do that!
She lowered the goggles. Another blast. And another. They were coming in steady volleys now, one Marine laying down fire while the other planted grenades in the enemy trench with expert precision.
That... that aint right, she said, feeling a little sick. Theyre killin em all. Its a massacre.
No, said Camberley. This is just the beginning. Keep watching.
She turned back to the goggles, and continued watching. The trench was a smoldering heap of rubble filled with nothing but weapons and dead bodies. The driders had retreated to the safety of the trees again. The battlefield looked vacant, and Kim-na felt glad that she was upwind. The battlefield darkened as the moon slipped behind the rolling clouds.
And then a door opened in the side of the stadium, and creatures on all fours darted out from it one, two, three... ten... twenty of them.
Wolfmen! she cried.
They ran along the edge of the stadium at an impossibly fast clip and then climbed up its sides, scaling the cement columns, until they reached the top. They squeezed their way through the webbing and onto its surface, and then down they ran, spread in a wide circular pattern, leaping from one cross-thread to another. The driders spread out in the trees, opening fire on them, and she saw human men now behind the trucks, and they too had opened fire on the wolfmen. One fell... and another... and she was glad to see those wretched monsters fall, but for every one that fell, there were so many more.
They reached the driders, who themselves began to leap through the trees to avoid the onslaught. With a clawed swipe, one Marine fell, and then another, and then another dead wolfman fell partway through the webbing, hanging by a single tangled leg.
Its its a slaughter, said Kim-na, her voice just above a whisper.
Camberleys ghostly hand touched her shoulder. Come on: Its time. We have to leave.
Were going down there.
Aw, hell no, said Kim-na. I aint that stupid.
That battle will be a stalemate. None of the wolfmen will survive, but the Marines will be too badly injured to proceed until reinforcements arrive. We will be safe by the time we reach them, for the moment.
But the war is far from over, and this building will be destroyed by morning. Marcia has probably already evacuated by now. She said shes going across the way to haunt the bookstore in the train station. You can stay here if you like, but youll be the only one here, and I wouldnt recommend it.
Kim-na sighed. Alright, where we goin then?
The last of the moon disappeared behind the thickening clouds as the first droplets began to fall. The air was thick but blowing, and smelled of rain with hints of gunpowder. The trees swung in the wind, their leaves falling like tears over the blood on the battlefield.
We need to begin to play our parts in this drama, he said. I mine, and you yours, if we are to see humanity safely through this night. Come, though: Time is wasting.
And with that, he floated over to the stairwell door, leaving her little choice but to scurry along behind him.