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21. Doctor Shimura’s Press Conference
~ July, 1966 – Okayama University – The Following Day ~
Rain poured down the outside of the floor-to-ceiling windows in the conference room at Okayama University. Thunder had crashed all night long, and Akiko hadn’t gotten much sleep even during the few quiet moments between the previous day’s events and getting ready for today’s conference. Dozing on a university lounge couch had given her a stiff neck that far outweighed any benefits she’d obtained from closing her eyes for a few minutes.
Dr. Shimura and the rest seemed to be in better shape, though perhaps they were still running on adrenaline. Aki, who had been going flat out since the night of the party and the meteor swarm, had long ago exhausted her reserves of energy.
Reporters, government officials, and military men packed the conference room, along with as many scientists as Dr. Shimura and Miss Murakami could round up on short notice. Most of the delegates were from Japan, of course, but a few—like Professor Barry, of CalTech in the U.S.—had been visiting Japan after the recent scientific conference in Hong Kong. As head of the World Science Authority, Dr. Shimura had little trouble locating his colleagues and obtaining their cooperation.
Many of the attendees looked as sleep deprived as Aki and her reporter colleagues. Shindo and Nick Burr were sitting beside her, in a place at the conference-room table reserved for non-military witnesses to the attacks.
Annoyingly, Shindo had brought that hussy Rika with him. The starlet had hopped off the military helicopter half-dressed and wrapped in Shindo’s suit coat—which was more than she’d been wearing the last time Aki had seen her the evening this whole nightmare began.
Shindo seemed slightly embarrassed to be caught with the half-naked girl—again—but he still cordially introduced her to Burr and the rest. Aki had tried to burn the starlet to ashes by staring at her. Sadly, the death-gaze hadn’t worked.
But maybe appearing undressed in public would bring down the tramp where a jealous glance had not. The other press at the landing site had gotten plenty of pictures of Shin and Rika together. With luck, a career-ending scandal would spring up on its own.
Aki certainly hoped so. Try to keep that out of the papers! she had thought.
After the copter landed, the military had “processed” all of them, and hustled them off to prepare for Dr. Shimura’s hastily called conference. Only Miss Murakami’s sister, Rin, had been given dispensation to leave. She’d been injured in the Tottori disaster, patched up, and sent home to recover.
The exhausted part of Aki wished that she’d been sent home as well—but the photo-journalist in her refused to leave the press coverage of the event to Burr and Shin Shindo.
Dr. Shimura rose from behind the long, microphone-covered table, indicating that the pre-conference press briefing was about to begin.
“Incredible as it may seem,” he said, “our nation is now under attack by daikaiju—giant monsters. One is a fire-breathing dragon that burrows through the earth; this monster has been dubbed Goragon by the press. The other is a gigantic aquatic beast that the local fishermen are calling Taishen—a combination of the Chinese words for typhoon and sea serpent.”
Someone in the back of the press corps, a European from the look of him, chuckled incredulously.
“This is no laughing matter,” Shimura warned. “These creatures are real, I assure you, and they represent a threat not only to Japan, but to civilization itself.” He nodded to an officer stationed by the door, who dimmed the lights.
A slide projector blazed to life, and a tall, solid man in an X-Base uniform stepped to the front of the room.
“I am Major Tarou Ifukube,” the man announced, “sub-commander of X-Base. General Tsuburaya regrets that he could not be here on such short notice, but he is currently meeting with the heads of Japan’s Self-Defense Force to work on strategies to combat this new menace. Without further ado, I now turn this conference over to Captain Kenji Koizume, who has had direct contact with these monsters.”
He stepped aside, and Koizume—looking very handsome, despite all he’d been through—strode up to the microphone. “Reports of these monsters are not exaggerated,” he said. “They are the greatest threat to Japan in our lifetimes. First slide please.”
The picture on the screen changed to a series of shots of Goragon that Aki had taken. She felt a slight thrill at seeing her work in such a public arena, then silently chided herself for it: What good is it if your pictures are famous, but all of Japan is destroyed?
“This is Goragon, the fire monster,” Koizume said. “Late yesterday, it destroyed the power plant at Mihara. The previous day, it nearly leveled X-Base. Next, please.”
Pictures of Taishen this time, taken by Shindo using Aki’s backup camera. The photos weren’t as good, of course, but Aki found herself wishing she’d had the opportunity to take those shots as well.
Stop being so selfish!
“This is Taishen,” Koizume continued, “the sea serpent that attacked the Tottori Beach Festival. Previously, we believe it sank the fishing fleet in the Sea of Japan, and likely the rescue ship sent to investigate that incident as well. Sadly, we have no survivors from either oceanic disaster to verify the monster’s involvement. Under guidance from X-Base, JSDF airplanes attacked both monsters and drove them off. At this time, it is not known whether these menaces will attack again—but we must assume that they will, and we must be ready for them.
“The appearance of these types of animals is unprecedented in Japanese history. They are larger and more powerful than the kaiju of myth, whether dragon, demon, or spirit. As suggested by Dr. Shimura, the military will refer to them as daikaiju—the most feared creatures of ancient folklore. These beasts are not mere legend, though. They are—as you can see from the slides—scientific fact. And the combined forces of X-Base and the JSDF will do everything in our power to track them down and destroy them.”
He bowed and turned the presentation back over to Major Ifukube. The major looked across the sea of faces and said: “Questions?”
“Why didn’t you destroy the monsters when you attacked them?” a reporter in the back of the room shouted.
“The creatures were hitherto unknown to science, and they proved resistant to our initial attacks,” Ifukube said. “They then fled before we could ramp up our counterattack. Don’t worry, though, we’ll be ready for them next time.”
“When will that be?” Burr asked. “How soon is ‘next time?’”
“We don’t know,” Ifukube replied grimly. “That is one of the reasons why we’ve brought together the best scientific minds in the country.”
Another voice from the gallery: “But, with beasts this large, surely you must be able to track them.” Akiko recognized the speaker as Watanabe from the Chronicle, a rival paper.
“The mountains and the ocean are very big places, Mr. Watanabe,” Ifukube told the reporter. “Locating a single fish in a lake is not so easy, nor rooting out a mole in the hills. But find them we will.”
Dr. Shimura cleared his throat, and all eyes turned toward him. “We are working on methods to track both monsters,” he said, “Goragon with seismographs and Taishen with sonar. The system is still in its early stages, though. We will do the best we can. Hopefully, we can perfect the tracking and detection protocols before either monster strikes again.”
“Where did these … daikaiju come from?” Shindo asked.
Ifukube looked to Shimura for an answer.
“We do not know,” the elderly scientist replied.
Professor Barry from CalTech leaned forward to his microphone. “Because the first attack occurred after the spectacular display of the Hydra meteor swarm,” he said, “it’s possible that the two are connected.”
“Connected how?” Shindo again.
“We don’t know,” Barry said.
“Or their appearance after the meteors may just be coincidence,” Professor Benten put in.
Captain Nixon chuckled. “Pretty big coincidence.”
“These are the types of theories we will be discussing during the private phase of this conference,” Shimura told everyone.
“Why private?” Burr asked.
“Because, Mr. Burr,” Shimura said, “if we were to allow reporters to join the discussion, we would generate far more questions than answers.” He chuckled, and most of the others in the conference room did as well.
Aki wondered if she (and the other witness reporters) would also be asked to leave before the scientists started trading theories.
“What’s Rika doing here?” someone shouted.
Ifukube took that question. “Miss Tadaka is a witness to the Tottori attack. She will be giving testimony before the panel. Now, if there are no more questions, I urge you all to return to your homes and businesses. Tell your readers, viewers, and listeners to remain vigilant. We must all work together to fight these monsters if we are to save Japan.”
He bowed, and that ended the press conference.
MPs quickly cleared the room of everyone who wasn’t part of the military or scientific teams. Soon, the only civilians remaining were Aki and the other witnesses including—annoyingly—Rika.
Miss Murakami handed Dr. Shimura a stack of papers and sat down beside her boss.
“Well,” said the respected scientist, “shall we begin?”
Just then, the doors to the conference room burst open, and a frantic slip of a girl pushed her way past the guards.
It took a moment for Aki to recognize the woman as Rin, Miss Murakami’s twin sister.
Rin looked sweaty and pale, and bandages covered her right wrist and left ankle.
“They’re coming back!” she gasped. “The monsters… They’re coming back!”
Thanks to David and Kiff for beta-reading.
All contents, copyright 2013 Stephen D. Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.