This is the fourth part of a serialized giant monster story published in weekly installments on this site.
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4. The Test Reactor
~ July, 1966 – Near Midnight ~
Captain Kenji “Ken” Koizume hurried toward the base’s eastern gate, fuming. He knew what the problem he’d been called to deal with was, and what was more, he knew exactly who’d caused it. He checked his watch: nearly midnight. Wouldn’t that girl ever learn? Didn’t she have anyplace better to be?
Kenji had known this joint American-Japanese experimental base would prove a difficult post when he accepted it. He expected that X-Base—as the papers called it—would be controversial, especially because of the reactor’s proximity to Hiroshima. Surprisingly, though, the local people had accepted the installation with open arms, perhaps because of the boost the it gave to the village economy.
Ken had almost concluded that his fears had been unfounded. Then, without warning, just a few weeks ago, the protests had begun.
He just hoped that he could keep things under control before the media got wind of the situation. If they did, then things might really get out of hand.
She’s only one girl, he told himself. How much trouble can she be?
The man stationed at the gate bowed as Ken approached. “I’m sorry, Captain,” the guard said. “I just stepped into the guard box to get a drink of water for a moment, and when I got back … There she was!”
“At ease, Sergeant,” Ken told the guard. “I’ll handle this.”
The soldier looked greatly relieved. He slung his Howa Type 64 rifle over his shoulder, and stepped back, though he remained next to the lowered gate and within easy reach of their “unauthorized visitor.”
Just on the other side of the barrier lay a slender slip of a girl, no more than twenty years of age, completely blocking the road into the base with her body. She wore a plain blouse and skirt, had shoulder-length hair and not much of a figure, but Ken might have thought her pretty if she wasn’t such a pain in his backside.
“Miss Murakami,” he said, addressing the girl. “You cannot keep doing this.”
“I can, and I will,” the pest replied, “until this base shuts down its experimental reactor. It’s dangerous, and you know it, Captain.”
Ken sighed. “The government approved the location of this base, and both our government and our American partners have done everything possible to ensure that the work we do here is safe.”
“But it’s not right,” she shot back, “especially so close to Hiroshima.”
“It’s closer to Okayama than Hiroshima, and in any case, it’s perfectly safe.”
“But what if something should go wrong with the fusion reactor? It could be worse than … worse than what happened during the war! I’m a scientist. I know these things.”
“Just because you’re working for Doctor Shimura doesn’t make you a genius yourself,” Ken reminded her. “We have scientists, too, you know—the best from both America and Japan. I think they might know a little bit more than an intern who’s still in college.”
The girl folded her arms across her chest and pouted; Ken tried not to crack a smile.
“I’m not leaving,” she said, still lying stubbornly across the road.
“It won’t do you any good,” Ken told her. “It’s after curfew. No one else will be coming back to the base tonight. And it’s going to get awfully cold lying on that road all night long.”
“Maybe some reporters will come in the morning,” she said defiantly.
“Maybe you’ll be frozen by then.”
She stuck her tongue out at him. “They’ll come. You’ll see.”
“I doubt it,” he replied. “They’re all busy covering the chaos caused by the meteor shower, and—”
“What?” the girl interrupted, looking genuinely confused. “Meteors?”
Could she really not have seen or heard about it on the news? “Yes,” he said, “the storm that dropped burning rocks all across Japan and Southeast Asia—and even up into China. The one that started forest fires in Aokigahara, smashed a post office in Sekigani, and created a stadium-sized crater less than forty miles from here.”
“I–I…” she stammered.
Ken knew he had been right; head always in the clouds, this one. The base had sent out a task force to investigate because the sky was literally falling, but Emiko Murakami hadn’t even noticed. He scowled at her. “I suppose you missed all that while you were plotting your sabotage.”
In an instant, her confusion vanished, and she scowled right back at him. “You wish I was a saboteur,” she hissed. “Then you could lock me in a cell somewhere and throw away the key.”
“I could lock you up for what you’re doing right now.”
“Then why don’t you?”
Ken laughed; he couldn’t help himself. “Because that would give you just what you want—attention. Look, Miss Mur—Emiko, listen please. Why don’t you go home and help your mother with her horoscopes. She’s done pretty well with her forecasts, got a lot of attention in the papers, even if none of what she predicts ever comes true.”
That riled her up. She scrambled to her feet, face flushing. “Captain Koizume,” she said, “I am a scientist. You know I don’t believe in any of that fortune-telling nonsense.”
“But she’s your mother. You should respect her.”
“I do respect her—as a mother, not as a prophet. I don’t believe in prophecy.”
“Well, I prophesize that if you don’t leave, your boss may hear about your little escapade tonight.”
“Ha!” Emiko replied. “You can’t tell him. Dr. Shimura is away at a conference.”
Ken frowned. “All right then,” he said. “Lie back down. Stay here all night, if you like. Freeze to death, if you want. But it still won’t do you any good. All personnel are back on base for the night, and no one will be leaving tomorrow until at least noon.” The last wasn’t strictly true, but he hoped the fib might frustrate the girl.
The ploy seemed to work. Emiko Murakami stood in the middle of the road, her fists clenched tightly at her sides.
“You haven’t heard the last of this, Captain Kenji Koizume!” she vowed. Then she turned and ran off into the night.
A short time later, Ken and the guard heard the sputter of a small engine and watched the red taillight of Emiko’s motorcycle recede into the distance.
The guard chuckled. “Quite a girl, eh, Captain?”
“She’s something,” Ken said. “That’s for sure.”
As the two of them laughed, the ground suddenly trembled beneath their feet.
“Oh!” the guard cried, looking nervously toward the center of the base. “Is that the reactor? Is something wrong?”
Ken shook his head. He’d been worried for a moment, but already the ground had stopped shaking. “No,” he replied calmly. “The reactor’s not online, and they’re not even running any test tonight. It’s just an earthquake.”
The guard looked dubious.
Ken punched him playfully in the shoulder. “What’s the matter?” the captain asked. “Worried about a little earthquake? This is Japan, after all!”
Thanks to Christine, David, Edward, Steve, Doug, and Kiff for beta-reading!
All contents, copyright 2013 Stephen D. Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.