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17. Surveying the Damage
~ Near X-Base – July, 1966 – One PM ~
Akiko wished Nick Burr would just shut up. The American newsman was sitting beside her in the back of the Cessna U206, droning endlessly into a portable tape recorder, shouting loud enough to be heard over the six-passenger airplane’s engine.
“The base below looks like it’s been hit by a typhoon,” Burr informed the machine. “The only building left intact seems to be the specially built command headquarters. All the rest lie in ruins, the result of an attack by what witnesses have said is a monster called Goragon. Yet, strangely, despite the devastation evident at X-Base, there is very little damage to the surrounding countryside…”
Aki supposed it could have been worse. She could have been stuck in this tiny plane next to Shindo. But, instead, she and Burr and the rest had been left behind while Shin and Miss Murakami flew over the mountains to try and catch the monster attacking Tottori. Aki’s former lover had even had the audacity to requisition her camera, so he could take pictures during the voyage.
“It’s for the Tribune, after all,” he’d told her.
Despite his demand, she’d only given him her spare—the Zeis Ikon Contessa she’d bought for herself years ago—but surrendering even that galled her. If the Tribune wanted good pictures, why didn’t they just send her rather than him? After all, she could certainly string together enough words to accompany the photos. Hadn’t she done that with the meteor strike? It was photographs of the monster that would sell papers, not words, and there was no way Shin’s pictures would turn out as good as hers, not even if she’d given him the Tribune’s Pentax.
It was frustrating. Though separated from her ex—both personally and professionally—she remained under Shindo’s thumb.
On the other hand, if she’d gone to Tottori, who knows when she might have seen Professor Yujiro Benten again.
The handsome astronomer sat at the controls of the Cessna, next to Doctor Shimura. Aki would have had a better view for her camera from the front of the plane, but she understood why the elderly scientist had claimed the co-pilot’s seat. This flight wasn’t about her pictures, after all, it was about surveying the destruction caused by Goragon.
Captain Adam Nixon had situated himself between the two men in the front and the reporters in the back, sometimes sitting in one of the middle seats, but more often leaning forward to talk to one or the other of the scientists. Aki couldn’t quite make up her mind whether she liked the brash American officer or not, but without him along, the JSDF would never have agreed to this flight.
“Any radiation readings, Doc?” Nixon asked Shimura.
The Great Man checked the instruments in his lap and shook his head. “Not even a trace,” he replied. “At least not at this altitude.”
“That’s weird,” Nixon said. “’Cause there was enough juice in that experimental reactor to light up this whole area. But that finding jibes with what our people on the ground reported.”
“If the reactor was destroyed,” Benten mused, “there should be some fallout.” It was his department’s airplane that Shimura—and Nixon—had requisitioned for this trip. All of X-Base’s aircraft were either destroyed or otherwise occupied.
Good thing that Captain Nixon wanted to do more than just stay in bed and recuperate, Aki thought. Otherwise, we’d all be stuck in an office somewhere, waiting for reports to trickle in. She clicked off a few carefully framed shots of the devastation below.
“Probably all of us on the ground should have been cooked,” Nixon replied. “But we weren’t.”
“A lucky thing, too,” Burr commented, taking a break from his monologue. “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I intend to live to a ripe old age.”
“An age I may have already reached,” Shimura said with a grin.
“What do you make of it, Doctor?” Aki asked. “The lack of radiation, I mean.”
“It is difficult to say,” Shimura replied. “Certainly it is beyond the expectations of normal science.”
“But then, so are giant monsters,” Nixon put in.
“Do you think the two could be connected?” Aki asked. “The monster and the lack of radiation?”
“You mean that brute is somehow absorbing the radiation or something?” Nixon said. “Maybe he didn’t destroy the reactor; maybe he just swallowed it whole.” He chuckled.
Shimura stroked his chin, pondering. “Hmm…”
“And why does the crater where the reactor used to be go down a few hundred feet and just stop?” Burr asked. “I was expecting a hole straight to the center of the earth.”
They were circling the site now, and while the crater the monster had caused was huge, it certainly wasn’t bottomless. Aki took a few more shots.
“This looks very similar to the meteor crash site Akiko found,” Benten noted.
The mention of her name by the younger scientist sent an unexpected thrill up Aki’s spine. Was she really interested in him, or were these feelings merely those of a woman on the rebound? With her last few days being such an emotional jumble, Aki couldn’t quite sort it out.
“Yeah,” Nixon said, agreeing with the professor. “Our people went down into that hole, too, but the crater just ended—like the monster had vanished into thin air.”
“Or into solid rock,” Burr added.
“Perhaps that is the solution then,” Shimura said. “This creature, this Goragon, has the ability to move through solid rock leaving very little trace behind.”
“Like a mole burrowing through the ground,” Benten offered.
“More like a fish through the water, I think.”
“And that’s where it is now?” Burr said. “Back below the ground?”
“It seems likely,” Shimura told him.
“Then how do we get at it, Doc?” Nixon asked. “How do we destroy it?”
Shimura shook his head. “I do not know. Yet.”
“Doctor,” Aki said, “is it possible that the monster’s ability to move through solid rock has something to do with those petrified soldiers?”
The elderly scientist’s eyes lit up. “Excellent idea, Akiko,” he said. “Perhaps it does. And if we can figure out how the monster is able to move so freely beneath the surface, perhaps we can also cure those unfortunate people.”
“But first we have to find the damn thing,” Nixon said.
“We could use seismographs,” Benten suggested. “Even if Goragon can literally swim through the rock, its passage has to leave some ripples. We should be able to detect them and then triangulate to find the creature.”
“We may not have to,” Burr said. “Look!”
The rest of them peered out the Cessna’s windows toward where Burr was pointing. To the southwest of their position, a huge spray of dust fountained into the air. It looked like the spout from a whale, but far larger.
As the plume hung over the thick forestland, the nearby hills suddenly erupted into a shower of boulders and earth as the monster surfaced.
“Goragon!” Aki blurted.
“It’s headed straight toward Mihara,” Benten observed.
“Set course for Mihara, then, Jiro,” Shimura said. “We must warn the authorities, before it’s too late!”
Thanks to Steve, Doris, Chris, David, Edward, and Kiff for beta-reading.
All contents, copyright 2013 Stephen D. Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.