Sister could see a stream of tracers from Caleb’s automatic rifle streaming upward like avenging fireflies, but the colossus shrugged them off as if the impacts were meaningless. It continued advancing toward Caleb, arms out, a bantam skyscraper closing in on the wings of tremblors.

Trace’s tree was one of the casualties of the titan’s advance; the ground was pulverized, roots were snapped, and the trunk began to topple as the rain-sodden ground beneath liquefied and bubbled away. Trace was blubbering in helpless fear when Sister reached him; despite every inch of both arms screaming in pain, she still was able to hook her one leg over a branch and grab Trace by the shoulders.

What was it that Caleb had said? It didn’t matter if you felt like an adult, or even acted like one all the time. So long as you could do what you had to when the time came. “Trace. We’re going to jump to the next tree. It’s going to hurt, and we’re gonna get scraped up, but we’ll make it. You with me?”

“I…I…I…” Trace stammered.

“BROTHER. I NEED YOU WITH ME.” Sister said, in her most Caleb-like affect. She didn’t feel the confidence; it was a total lie. But her brother, scared and about to die, needed someone with confidence, and there was no one else handy.

Sister’s feigned assurance seemed to calm Trace. “All right,” he said. “All right. Just tell me when and where.”

The tree was toppling now; both Sister and Trace felt the cool spring wind rushing by their faces even as the bottom fell out of their stomachs. Plummeting to the forest floor after a hundred years, the old pine would pass within a few feet of another, briefly entangling branches. Sister waited for that moment, when branches that looked like they could support the weight of a pair of partly-metal children were at hand, before calling for the jump.

“NOW! NOWWWW!”

Trace, with both his legs working, kicked off the falling trunk and launched himself into the branches of its twin. He landed roughly but not painfully, with a few minor scratches. Sister, with only a single leg, belly-flopped astride a branch, winding her and leaving her hanging like a rag doll, oozing blood from a dozen cuts and scrapes.

Trace, his fear broken, spidered himself over to Sister and dragged her, gasping, to a nook in the branches where she could lean against the main trunk. “Are you okay?” he said, alarmed at the blood on his hands.

“I am…oaky dokey…” Sister said with a weak smile. She pointed to her shin, where several pieces of bark were embedded into a nasty scrape. “See…?”

Trace laughed despite himself, despite the colossus and the rife fire. “It’s a pine, you huge dork,” he said.

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