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29. Pursued by a Nightmare
~ The Chugoku Mountains – July, 1966 – Noon ~
“I can’t believe this crazy plan is working,” Adam Nixon said, shaking his head as he kept the controls of the Sikorsky Skycrane straight and level.
Twenty yards below the helicopter, the package containing numerous monster-attracting devices—including the experimental reactor Dr. Shimura had “borrowed” from the United States—swayed precariously as the Sikorsky flew over the Chugoku Mountains.
Two thousand feet below that, Goragon thundered across the rocky spine of Japan’s big island, Honshu, trampling trees and flattening anything that got in its way. Adam hoped that the local authorities had done a good job evacuating the copter’s flight path. Because of its enormous stride, the monster traversed wide swaths of terrain very quickly; any human beings caught unaware would have a hard time getting out of the daikaiju’s way. Goragon wanted that reactor.
“I’m glad the plan is working,” Lieutenant Kobayashi, Adam’s co-pilot, said. “I hope it continues to work.” He grinned, ever the optimist.
“It’ll continue working so long as we can prevent that line from swinging around too much and snapping,” Adam replied. “Keep an eye on that monster for me, would you, Hiraku? I can’t concentrate on both Goragon and the payload at the same time.”
Kobayashi nodded. “Hai, Captain!”
“Don’t worry, Captain,” Nick Burr, seated behind the pilots, told Adam. “If that monster does anything unexpected, you’ll hear me squawk long before Lieutenant Kobayashi can give you the time of day.”
Adam chuckled. His fellow American had looked pretty green around the gills since this trek across the mountains began. Adam couldn’t blame the reporter. When Burr had taken a reporting job in Japan, he probably hadn’t expected to be acting as bait for a fire-breathing reptile as tall as a skyscraper.
Of course, fighting monsters wasn’t what Adam had signed up for, either, but when you worked for the armed forces, you had to expect a few surprises along the way.
“The monster’s about to breathe fire again,” Kobayashi warned.
Dr. Shimura had noted that the spines along the monster’s back and tail glowed red before it attacked, or when it was preparing to burrow into the earth. He’d also told them that the fiery blast’s maximum range was about fifteen-hundred feet—which, even given Goragon’s towering height, put them in the “safe zone,” a comfortable distance away.
I hope, Adam thought.
“Just let me know if that overgrown alligator gets close,” he said.
“Will do, Captain,” Kobayashi replied.
Burr mopped his forehead with his already sopping handkerchief. “I don’t know how you can take this all so calmly, Captain Nixon.”
“What’s the matter, Mr. Burr?” Adam asked. “Don’t you trust science? Dr. Shimura gave us the lowdown on this baby. If we do our jobs, we’ve got this gig in the bag.”
“Sure I trust Dr. Shimura,” Burr replied, “but what I don’t trust is monsters. And speaking of the good doctor, any word from him or Professor Benten?”
Adam had kept Burr’s com out of touch with the JSDF command radio frequency; no sense letting the reporter tumble to any military secrets. Besides, the American civilian was edgy enough about this assignment without a blow-by-blow of what had happened in Hiroshima … or was happening right now in Tottori.
“Kobayashi just got a call from the Doc a couple of minutes ago,” Adam said. “They touched down back in Hiroshima to help with some firefighting after those gas tanks blew.”
“I gathered as much when we lost sight of them just after the conflagration,” Burr observed.
“After that, they hung around to pick up a survivor, but they’re back on course now. That Cessna’s pretty fast. They might even be ahead of us by the time we reach Tottori.”
“Were there a lot of casualties back there? In Hiroshima, I mean?”
“We lost a couple of people on the ground,” Adam admitted grimly.
Kobayashi lowered his head. “Major Ifukube and one of his men have been turned to stone by the monster. And Corporal Hamada sacrificed herself to buy time for our arrival. Several others were killed, too.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Burr remarked.
“Yoko Hamada was a hell of a ’copter mechanic,” Adam said. “And a nice girl, too. The service needs more people like her. Damn shame she bought it.” He remembered the day of Goragon’s first appearance, how she’d helped him get the Cobra into the air—for all the good it had done them. He worried his lower lip between his teeth as he thought about the dead girl.
“What about my friends?” Burr asked. “Shindo? Miss Natsuke?”
“Your pal’s in the hospital,” Adam said. “Don’t know how bad he’s hurt. Guess we better keep our fingers crossed. Akiko came through it okay, though. She’s one tough cookie.”
Burr grinned. “She’d have to be to put up with Shin for so long.”
“So, those two are an item?”
“They were,” Burr said. “But not any more.”
“Interesting,” Adam replied.
Burr laughed. “Being chased by a monster over the spine of Japan, and you’re still thinking about girls.”
“Hey,” Adam countered, “when your life could get snuffed out at any minute, what else should you be thinking about?”
“Goragon’s breathing again,” Kobayashi announced.
A gout of orange-red flame, aimed—as usual—at the helicopter blazed across the sky.
Adam cracked a smile. “Missed again, lava-breath.”
The jets escorting the copter didn’t miss, though. As soon as Goragon breathed, they swooped down out of the clouds, pelted the daikaiju with machine-gun- and rocket-fire, and then vanished back into the clouds before he could burn them out of the sky.
Another formation of attack fighters followed, blasting at the monster’s hindquarters before peeling off to either side.
They regrouped in front of Goragon, and the beast thundered forward, moving faster now, trying to catch the tiny aircraft, belching fire at them. The jets—who had also been briefed on the monster’s capabilities by Dr. Shimura—remained just out of range.
Adam pushed the Sikorsky to stay ahead of their foe, keeping the package tantalizingly out of reach, making sure the titanic reptile headed in the direction they wanted.
“Guess the kaiju wasn’t moving fast enough for the military, eh, Captain?” Kobayashi said.
“Guess not,” Adam replied. “Fine by me. I’d gotten tired of this leisurely stroll anyway.”
“Don’t they know that barrage isn’t doing anything?” Burr asked. “It’s just making Goragon angry.”
“That’s the idea,” Adam said. “Get the big guy steaming. Keep him moving. Make him too busy to use whatever brains are inside that rocky skull of his. We ain’t got all day to get him to the other side of the mountains, you know.”
He opened up the Skycrane’s throttle. “Now that we’ve got the son-of-a-gun running, let’s see if we can keep him that way.” He switched on the Defense Force band on his com system. “Nixon to flyboys, Nixon to flyboys … Red Leader, can you read me? Over.”
“Red Leader, here,” said the wing’s commander. “We read you, Captain. Over.”
“Keep those Roman candles coming, Red Leader. We’ve got a party to get to and not a lot of time to do it in. Let’s keep the Guest of Honor motivated. You get me? Over.”
“I ‘get you,’ Captain. Though your vernacular is hardly JSDF protocol. Over.”
“Roger on that, Red Leader. But you better get used to the way I talk. Once we Americans get involved in something, we’re in all the way—and we don’t quit until the job is done.”
“I think we may have some firsthand experience with that, Captain,” Kobayashi whispered.
Adam felt chagrinned at the cultural faux pas. With barely two decades passed since World War II, most Japanese were aware just how far Americans were willing to go.
“Hey, look, sorry about the crack, Red Leader,” he said. “I didn’t mean anything by it. I just meant that we’re all in this together, and we’ll do whatever it takes to get these sons-of-guns out of Japan. You read me? Over.”
“Read you loud and clear, Captain. You keep flying; we’ll … ‘keep the candle lit’ under this ‘son-of-a-gun’s’ tail. Over.”
“Great. And stay the heck out of his way. That guy’s got one bad case of morning breath, and I wouldn’t want to see any of you flyboys toasted. Nixon, over and out.”
“Roger. Over and out.”
The fighters kept up their bombardment after that, streaking in whenever Goragon’s speed flagged. The planes darted around like angry bees, stung the monster, and then flitted away before the daikaiju could swat them.
Though every moment of the barrage and the pursuit remained tense, soon enough Adam and his crew cleared the mountains and gazed out over the blue waters of the Sea of Japan.
“Holy smokes!” Kobayashi blurted at the scene unfolding before them.
Dead ahead, peeking out of the early afternoon haze, lay Tottori beach, and across it slithered an abomination that the helicopter’s crew had seen only in pictures.
Adam, Burr, and Kobayashi all picked up their field glasses and focused in on the shoreline to get a better look.
The photos didn’t do Taishen justice. Even from miles away, it looked enormous—maybe even bigger than Goragon. Army mobile artillery and a small fleet of trucks were fleeing across the sand, trying to stay out of the sea serpent’s way. The soldiers looked like ants in comparison.
A half dozen helicopters hovered overhead, the largest four of them dragging the tatters of a huge steel net. Just offshore lay the wreckage of a mammoth barge, floundering in the breakers. Beyond it, seven big ships floated placidly in the calm waters, waiting. A JSDF Chinook was flying toward the rearmost vessel—a destroyer Dr. Shimura had dubbed the “observation ship.”
“I guess part one of the operation didn’t work out so well,” Kobayashi noted.
“That’s why this plan had more than one backup,” Adam told him. “Something this big, you need to have plenty of options.”
Burr’s mouth hung open. “That’s one hell of a big sea snake.”
“The bigger they come, the more sushi they make. Right, Kobayashi?
A grim smile creased Adam’s mouth. “Looks like we got here just in time for the party. Hang on to your seats, boys! This is it! All … or nothing!”
Thanks to David, Christine, Vicki, Steve, Doris, and Kiff for beta-reading.
All contents TM & © 2014 Stephen D. Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.