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31. The Final Decoy
~ Tottori Beach – July, 1966 – 2 PM ~
“FIRE!” the officer on the deck of the destroyer commanded. The ship’s guns began shelling the shoreline where Taishen writhed, burning, denied its intended prey by a wall of flame.
Emiko clutched the rail, knuckles white. She’d watched in horror as the monster raced up the beach after a single flatbed truck—a truck that surely had to contain her twin sister.
“Don’t worry,” Rika Tadaka, standing beside Emi, said. “I’m sure Rin is okay.”
In some situations, the singer’s faith might have been inspiring. In this instance, though, the naiveté of it made Emi even more worried.
“Start moving the decoys into position!” the officer—Nagano, Emi thought his name was—barked.
The soldiers operating the decoys’ remote controls replied in unison: “Hai, Captain!”
Slowly but surely, the other ships in the small flotilla—all unmanned and heavily mined—moved into position.
It amazed Emi how rapidly this crew had brought the destroyer into service after the helicopter ferried them all here.
If they’d been aboard the ship when Taishen arrived, the monster would have sensed them as prey and attacked.
But, as Dr. Shimura had predicted, the monster had ignored the unmanned ships, destroyer and decoys alike. About that, at least, the great scientist had been right.
“Your turn now, Miss Tadaka,” the captain told the singer. “Are you ready?”
The starlet nodded, but she looked as pale and nervous as Emiko felt.
Rika stepped to the microphone they’d set up for her, and her voice boomed out of the destroyer’s loudspeakers and across the water toward shore. “Stop! In the name of love…” Rika began, her voice trembling.
How did it all come to this? Emi wondered. The plan should never have needed to go so far. The electrified netting and onshore batteries should have killed Taishen.
Would the next phase of Dr. Shimura’s plan fare any better? What if he was wrong about how to destroy these monsters?
No. She couldn’t let herself think like that. She had to concentrate on the job at hand, had to keep taking notes—in case the doctor needed them.
But where was her employer? Shouldn’t he have been here by now?
Emi unclipped the field phone from her belt and switched it on.
“Emiko to Dr. Shimura, come in, please. Over.”
“Shimura here. Over.”
“Sensei, where are you? Report your position, please. Over.”
“We’re above the hills, heading toward the Tottori shoreline. We’re nearly there. We ran into a little delay.”
A shiver ran up Emiko’s spine. Had their plan failed already?
“Did … did…?” she began, not sure whether she wanted to know the worst.
“No need to worry. The plan is back on track now. We’ll see you soon. Stay safe, Miss Murakami. Shimura, over and out.”
How could anyone be safe in this kind of situation? Certainly, Rin wasn’t safe. Her sister could be dead now, for all Emi knew. And none of the people on this ship were any safer.
It was madness to try to lure Taishen toward their position. Yet, what other choice did they have? The beachfront offensive had failed.
Please, gods… Please…!
Rika’s singing had drifted away from pop standards and begun something Emiko had never heard before. The song’s lyrics were neither Japanese nor English … nor any other language Emi recognized.
The song was alluring, though … hypnotic.
And it seemed to be having the desired effect, because Taishen had left the beach now and was surging through the waves, right toward them.
Did you kill my sister, you bastard? Emi wondered.
The daikaiju didn’t reply, at least not so that Emi could hear—could her sister really read the monster’s thoughts?—but its eyes blazed a hellish blue.
A terrible thought shot through Emiko’s mind, chilling her all the way to the bone:
It’s coming for me!
She backed away from the railing, looking for someplace—anyplace—to hide.
Then something else caught her attention: a cloud of dust and smoke in the mountains beyond the city of Tottori.
Emi pulled out her field glasses and focused on the commotion. It looked as though a wildfire was sweeping through the foothills.
And then she spotted it: a huge hulking shape rising up over the treeline, smashing the old-growth forest like matchsticks.
She dropped the binoculars, mouth agape.
“What’s that?” Captain Nagano demanded. “What’s that you said?”
“I said, Goragon is coming!’”
He scowled. “We can’t worry about that now. One monster at a time, please.”
His reply, so straightforward and sincere—as if he fought daikaiju every day of his life—made Emi want to laugh. She feared that if she did, though, she’d laugh herself all the way to the madhouse.
Taishen barreled toward them, pushing huge waves in front of its scaly body as it swam.
Rika, still standing on the small platform the military had set up for her, looked as though she might turn and run at any moment, though none of them had anywhere to flee.
We’re all caught in the same trap!
“Keep singing, Miss Tadaka,” Nagano said. “We’ve got everything under control.”
Did he actually believe that? Could the military really be that naive? Both daikaiju had shrugged off everything they’d thrown at them so far. If this final plan failed…
Rika nodded to the soldier and kept singing her weird song.
Emiko stepped onto the platform beside the starlet and took her hand. They squeezed each other’s fingers tight, drawing what little comfort they could from this meager togetherness.
Someone laughed—not a nervous laugh, but a real belly laugh.
Emi looked around, angry, and spotted Sergeant Ito, the helicopter pilot, standing nearby.
“Don’t you girls worry,” he said, stepping in close to them. “I’ll protect you.”
And who will protect you? Emi thought, though she didn’t voice her anxiety.
The decoy ships lay directly in the monster’s path, now—three deep—blocking it from reaching the destroyer.
Emi prayed that the serpent wouldn’t dive beneath the decoys or swim around them. She prayed that Shimura was right, that the daikaiju preferred striking directly, using their titanic strength to overwhelm everything in their path. She prayed that the creature’s urge to destroy would prove more powerful than its ability to reason.
Taishen met the decoy ships head on, bulling straight ahead, fixated on the destroyer’s siren song and its tasty human crew.
The JSDF controllers maneuvered the mine-laden vessels in around the monster, forming a wall of steel separating the sea serpent from its prey.
Angered, Taishen looped its gigantic coils around the nearest ship, while the other vessels pressed in tight.
Do it! Emi thought. Do it now, before it figures out the trap or escapes!
“NOW!” cried Captain Nagano.
The roar of a dozen thunderstorms shook the heavens as the explosives and gasoline hidden aboard all six decoy ships ignited into a giant ball of flame. For an instant, the blast outshone the sun.
Please! Emiko prayed, squeezing her eyes shut. Please let this work!
Thanks to Kiff for beta-reading.
All contents TM & © 2014 Stephen D. Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.