When the black hat fabbers came we weren't prepared. I don't just mean that I was in a slinky dress and high heels, though that was certainly an issue; I mean that we had never fabbed anything to defend ourselves. That spider-blimp came crawling over the Piles, tearing huge chunks of housing up and eating them only to regurgitate acid behind it - you could hear the screaming getting closer like the bastard child of thunder and feedback. Everyone at the party was in a panic, pushing and shoving for the door - I saw my friend Melanie fall under the crowd and I don't think she got back up. Even if she did she wouldn't have made it.
There was a small fabber in the kitchen hooked up to a feed, and Zane was scrolling through the directory searching for a rocket launcher but he couldn't find anything. I looked out the floor-to-ceiling window at that floating monstrosity crawling closer by the second, and at the frothing, useless wall of terrified people, and just when I should have lost all hope something inside me clicked and I yelled in Zane's ear: "Parachutes!" He stared at me and I pointed at the window, which seemed to get it across. While he worked with the fabber I grabbed a heavy teak chair and hurled it as hard as I could. It bounced. Someone had been mailing around the formula for clear aluminum not long ago, perfect for keeping kids from shooting your windows out. I guess the owner of the house had used it.
Zane rushed over to me and helped me get the parachute on, and I tried to tune out the screams and the deep rumble of collapsing Piles and think only about how much I had wanted to be close like this to him, how nervous I had been as I got ready for the party. He finished and pulled away and I yelled to him, told him the window wouldn't break. He nodded, and started feeling around the edges of the massive pane. I tore my eyes away from the approaching airship and saw that the tangled throng of partygoers had barely moved. There was no escape. Zane ran past me to the crowd and my stomach dropped, knowing that he had given up and we were both going to die, ripped apart for material or dissolved by acid. Then he came back, at full speed.
He rebounded off of the window like it was rubber and rolled across the floor clutching his shoulder, but something had happened. There was plaster drifting from around the glass and as I watched it pitched outwards, slowly and gracefully like a diver. The thin cold air of the upper piles whipped around us and froze me to the bone, but I helped Zane up and we did the only thing we could - we jumped. There was a gap there by mutual agreement, a hole that led down a few levels into the disused city below to provide the houses around it with a view that wasn't the neighbor's living room. We dropped down so fast; I wanted to wait to pull the ripcord but the bottom was coming up at me and I couldn't do it. I opened my 'chute almost immediately and watched Zane flash past as I jerked to a stop - or what seemed like one by comparison. That illusion was ruined as I clipped a balcony and my knee shot up into my jaw.
I landed hard on the roof of some old building that looked like it might have been pre-fabber and started crawling towards Zane, reaching him just as the sunlight vanished - the black hats were directly above us, blotting out the sky. I was frozen in terror, watching the arms reach out and tear the top floors of the building off and consume them. Something fell, a tiny speck that arced down to finally slam against a wall a hundred feet above us - a bowl of bean dip from the party. That snapped me out of my stupor somehow and I grabbed Zane. He was unconscious, he hadn't opened his 'chute in time and had hit way too fast. I would find out later he'd broken both his legs.
I got him under cover just as the sunlight returned - just before the acid. I held him like a baby and covered his mouth with his shirt to help keep some of the fumes out of his lungs. The piles groaned around us and I could hear some collapsing, but our little cave stayed up as the toxic rain trickled past in little streams. It was over, just like that, and we fell asleep. We weren't prepared, and everyone I knew died because of that. Now I can't even remember that life, a life where I partied all day and wore skimpy clothes and stacked houses one on top of another to keep up with the Joneses.
My life now is flying above a trail of destruction with Zane and a cargo hold full of explosives. We're catching up to them one pile at a time.