Ruby stared down at Hera who remained bowed in a gesture of ultimate supplication, her nose pressed to the floor.
"Uh, what do I do?"
The big man shrugged. "I don't know. She's never worshipped me."
Ruby held her hand out. "Rise," she said.
As if understanding her, Hera rose back to her knees. She held her hands together and pleaded in her own language, full of sharp syllables and guttural consonants. Ruby watched her rant for twenty seconds. When Hera paused, Ruby stammered to find a response. Nothing seemed appropriate.
"I'll take that shower now," she finally said. "Where's the dryer?"
After weeks of hiking, camping and bathing in cold streams, the hot shower was paradise. She considered that, had she not been so desperate, the state of the bathroom would have appalled her. Despite the mess and grime, she was thrilled to have a toilet that flushed and hot running water.
When she opened the bathroom door, she found Hera standing outside, her eyes wide. She spoke urgently.
Ruby shook her head. "I don't understand you."
The big man was back on the platform, fiddling with a device on the side of the telescope. He glanced up at the two girls.
"What is she saying?" Ruby asked.
"Wish I knew," he said. "Since she showed up here a couple weeks ago, the only thing I've understood from her is her name. I point at myself and say 'Kevin'. She points at herself and says 'Hera.' I think that's the best we've done. Oh," he added. "I'm Kevin, by the way."
"Uh, hi. I'm Ruby."
At the name, Hera's eyes widened, she threw her hands up and cried out a few words of astonished babble.
"Wish my phone wasn't broke," Kevin said. "I have a language translation app. It would come in awfully handy right now."
Ruby's eyes widened. "Phone! Where's my phone?"
"I, uh—I don't know. Didn't see one."
He pointed to a row of hooks by the door. "Hanging there."
Ruby pushed passed Hera, who continued to rant, and fished her phone out of her jacket pocket. "Do you have a charger?"
"Well, yeah, but have you seen what's happened outside? It's not likely there's anyone out there you can call. But then again, there might be. Like I said, my phone doesn't work."
Ruby thought of Skylar. What had happened to the fixie? "I've got a friend who repairs phones."
Kevin descended halfway down from the platform and sat on a step. His huge feet were bare, and he picked at one of his toes. "That's great, but in case you didn't notice, we're cut off from the rest of the world. Which leads to my question: How did you get up here, anyway?"
"Up here? You mean we're still on the mountain peak?"
"You didn't know?"
"I couldn't breathe when I came up here. The air was too thin. How can you survive?"
Kevin stood up and walked to the door. "I don't know," he said. "It doesn't make sense. Nothing makes sense, really." He opened the door. "Take a look outside."
The sun cast a brilliant rhomboid of light on the observatory floor inside the doorway. Ruby approached. "It's freezing out there."
"If you go far enough, yeah, but... well, see for yourself."
Green grass awaited outside. Beyond it was a row of manicured hedges and a path leading out until it ended abruptly, yeilding to open sky. To Ruby's left was a grove of trees. The air was warm and rich, not the suffocating icy hell she'd experienced the night before.
"This can't be," she said.
"I agree," Kevin said, standing beside her in the doorway. "A few weeks back, This observatory sat on Cogsgrove's Peak, a biggish mountain, but nothing like where we are now. I was sleeping when everything changed. I woke up to find the internet was down. I came outside to find my car was missing. It was parked right down that path." Kevin pointed. "It disappeared, along with most of the landscape beyond a hundred foot radius. I'm still studying the two seconds of footage that led up to—"
Hera cut him off. She shoved between the other two, grabbed Ruby by the hand and yanked her onto the path. " Ge tute Ganjka t'al Cavaheim." she cried, drawing Ruby towards the edge.
Ruby stumbled after her. "I'm sorry I don't... wait. Did you say Cavaheim?"
"You understand her?" Kevin asked.
"I understand Cavaheim. A friend of mine warned me about that place. Said it was dangerous. They're kidnapping people for some kind of sacrifice or something."
Hera drew Ruby towards the cliff. For a moment, she thought the girl might shove her over the edge. She was about to resist when Hera released her, stopped at the edge and pointed down. "Cavaheim," she said.
Ruby gazed down. In the daylight, the altitude was dizzying. Wisps of cloud drifted by beneath her. Ruby nearly fell backwards, overwhelmed by the impossible distance to the ground below. The other two Titan Spires stretched up from the edges of a ring of much smaller mountains, surrounding a circular valley of forests, dotted with clouds of steam. At one end of the valley, at the foot of the tallest of the three spires, lay a city. It was difficult to see details at this distance, but streets and towers were discernable. She could just make out what must have been a huge statue on a blue pedestal, but its subject was impossible to make out.
Kevin joined them at the edge. "It's a volcanic caldera," he said. "Those white puffs you see down there are steam vents. These three spires are remnants of what must have once been a freakishly tall volcano."
"And that's Cavaheim down there?"
Hera nodded vigorously. She pointed. "Cavaheim." Then she pointed at Ruby. "Ruby."
"Uh, pleased to meet you, Cavaheim."
Hera pointed again at Ruby, then gestured at the city.
"What do you want? For me to go down there?"
"I think that's where she's from," Kevin said. "Near as I can figure. She sits on the edge most days, staring down at that city."
"And she appeared here when everything changed?"
"No, I was alone for a couple of weeks. Then she showed up out of nowhere. I don't know how she got up here."
"Probably a dragon."
"Maybe." Kevin scratched his temple.
They stared down at the city. Hera gave up trying to convince Ruby of whatever was so urgent and stared down with them. After a minute, she began to sing. It was a beautiful song, a proud anthem with moments of bitter sorrows and pain. Ruby imagined it was part of some epic tale of heroes and loss.
When Hera finished, her head hung low, her shoulders trembled, her eyes glistened.
"That was beautiful," Ruby said.
Hera wiped an eye with the back of her hand. She nodded at Ruby.
"This whole world is crazy," Kevin said.
"Do you know what caused it?"
"No, do you?"
"Well, I've got footage of the change, but I don't—"
Ruby spun to face him. "What?"
Kevin started. "Um, footage. I've got recorded feeds from lots of vantages. It's only two seconds, but..."
"Show me," Ruby said.