This is the tenth part of a serialized giant monster story published in weekly installments on this site.
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10. Adam Takes Flight
~ July 1966 – Sunset – Minutes Earlier ~
Adam Nixon dashed through the chaos at X-Base, trying to reach the airfield. Most of the base’s planes and copters were off site—either on routine patrol, or checking into the meteor crater mystery. One craft remained, though:
It was a new, advanced attack copter, Bell’s latest design, and on loan to X-Base for trials. Equipped with miniguns, grenade launchers, and rockets, the Cobra really packed a wallop. She was a fast and agile bird, too. Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee. Adam loved that ship, and over the months she’d been on loan to this unit, he’d come to think of her as his baby.
All that firepower and speed wouldn’t do her a damn bit of good, though, if the earth opened up and swallowed her.
Adam skidded to a stop, barely avoiding being crushed as a cinderblock wall in front of him crumbled.
This was one hell of a shake. He’d been through quakes in Japan before, but nothing like this.
In his mind, he saw the ground beneath the copter heaving and cracking and the beautiful machine tumbling into a black abyss—like the hole he’d seen at that meteor crater, earlier today. The idea made him feel sick.
Clouds of dust billowed up all around him. He could hardly breathe, let alone see, but he knew this base like the back of his hand. If the copter was still there, he could find it.
Adam leaped a pile of rubble and found himself on the edge of the airfield. The runway—big enough to accommodate the largest jets—resembled a rug that’d been kicked out of place by a careless giant. Huge cracks split the buckled tarmac. It’d be a hell of a mess to clean up, but that didn’t matter to him at the moment. The Huey Cobra didn’t need a runway.
Wiping the grit out of his eyes, Adam spotted her sitting on the helipad outside her hangar. She was scheduled for a test flight later in the day, and Adam prayed that the support crews had her fueled and ready to go.
Several techs were running around the hangar, trying to secure valuable equipment while staying out of the way of falling debris. It seemed as though the shocks were getting worse, and the rumbling didn’t even stop between the big jolts.
Adam sprinted to the Cobra. “I’m taking her up,” he told one of the techs. “Does she have fuel?”
The corporal—Yoko, Adam thought her name was—nodded. She snapped a crisp salute, despite the shaking ground. “Ready to fly, Captain.”
“Good,” Adam replied. “I’ll bring her back once this place stops falling to pieces.”
Yoko saluted again and backed away as he climbed into the cockpit.
No time for pre-flight checks.
He quickly strapped on his helmet, went through the startup routines, and got the rotors turning.
Moments later, Adam eased the Cobra into the air, as gently as if he were picking up an infant.
He climbed quickly, gaining altitude, trying to get a look at the situation.
His heart sank. He’d seen pictures of the aftermath from the tsunami that devastated Honshu in 1960. This looked worse.
Destroyed buildings lay everywhere, their welded steel frameworks poking up like broken bones through heaps of brick and concrete; only the Administration Building seemed intact. The ground beneath the roadways crumbled as he watched, tracing huge cracks and fissures through every piece of pavement in the installation. Enormous clouds of dust, steam, and smoke clogged the evening sky.
People ran frantically through the ruins, either trying to get out of the way of the destruction or trying to prevent further damage. They’d had quake drills at X-Base, of course—everywhere in Japan was earthquake prone—but no amount of practice could have prepared any of them for this.
Wait… Were those civilians he saw running around down there?
“Dammit!” Sure enough, it was the reporters; being the only people on base not in uniform made them easy to spot amid the chaos.
Hadn’t he told Ken to lock down those three? Heaven only knew what they might be up to.
Dust clouds made it hard to identify the reporters individually, but two of them seemed to be moving together, while the third was headed in an entirely different direction. The smoke and debris made them tricky to keep track of, and, besides, Adam had more important things to do. He hoped that none of the trio got themselves killed—especially not the pretty one, what was her name… Akiko?
“Well, it’s their own lookout now,” he muttered to himself.
He banked the copter and climbed higher, trying to gain enough altitude to take in the scope of the area affected. The Huey Cobra responded like a dream. The engineers at Bell really knew what they were doing when they put this baby together.
As he arced around for a better look, the pavement near the reactor building ruptured into a gaping fissure. Military personnel nearby toppled like toy soldiers as an enormous tendril of molten rock whipped through the air before vanishing once more below the fractured earth.
“God Almighty!” Adam gasped. The whole fiery outburst had lasted only seconds, but nothing moved in its wake. Jeeps lay overturned and melted, and the uniformed figures looked ashen and paralyzed. “What in the name of holy hell was that?”
A burst of smoke, steam, and dust obscured his view for a moment, and when he broke through the cloud, he couldn’t believe what he saw.
The hundred-foot-tall experimental reactor building began to crumble before his eyes. Something huge was heaving up out of it, like a whale breaking through the surf.
This thing was far bigger than any whale, though. It stood three times the size of the broken superstructure, nearly as tall as the plant’s mammoth cooling towers.
How can anything that big be alive?
Massive chunks of the shattered housing rolled off the creature’s back as it moved. The reactor was nothing to it, no more than a sand castle would be to an angry child.
Glowing fissures of red and orange laced the beast’s coal-black hide; its scales reminded Adam of a crusty new lava flow he’d seen while on furlough in Hawaii. The thing stood hunched over, lumbering forward on two immense legs. A ridge of jagged spikes—like a small mountain range—stuck up along its back and wound down its colossal tail.
To Adam, the thing resembled some kind of a titanic stone dinosaur. But this was ten times larger than the biggest prehistoric skeleton Adam had ever seen—and besides, every school kid knew the dinosaurs had died out millions of years ago.
As the helicopter pilot watched in fascinated horror, one of the reactor’s cooling towers, damaged by the monster’s passing, collapsed onto the creature’s enormous back.
The beast turned, annoyed, its red-orange eyes blazing. Its wrathful gaze fell on the reactor’s other cooling tower.
One swipe of the monster’s huge claws smashed the second reinforced concrete tower into rubble.
A gigantic cloud of dust and steam rose up in the monster’s wake. The beast’s gargantuan head swiveled left and right, its baleful gaze seeking more enemies to slay.
The destruction of the tower snapped Adam out of his reverie. This thing—whatever it was—would trample the entire base if he didn’t do something.
Saying a prayer that the maintenance teams had loaded the copter’s armaments for its training run, Adam banked and swooped down toward the monster.
The Cobra usually carried a gunner as well as a pilot, but the weapons and steering systems were cross-linked, allowing one man to run everything if necessary. Adam silently thanked Bell Labs for that innovation now.
He swung the minigun turret onto the target and fired.
White-hot shells ripped through the air and struck the monster’s stony skin.
The beast turned, unhurt, seeming to notice the aircraft for the first time.
Adam suddenly felt like a hornet trying to take on a rhinoceros.
The monster roared, its thunderous voice shaking the air.
“All right,” Adam said, “let’s see how you like these babies.”
He hit the machine gun again, but this time let loose with the Cobra’s grenade launcher as well.
Clouds of dust puffed into the air as shots from the minigun traced across the monster’s crimson and black scales; the grenades burst into yards-wide orange and red blossoms against the thing’s hide.
Adam cursed. He might as well be hitting it with a pea shooter!
The thing roared again and swiped at him with one titanic claw.
Adam laughed and easily banked the Cobra away. “Sorry, King Kong,” he said. “I’m too smart to fly low enough for you to grab.”
He arced around for another attack run. Maybe this monster could laugh off machine guns and grenades, but Adam was willing to bet that rockets would make it sing a different tune.
“C’mon, baby,” he said to the Cobra. “Let’s show him everything you’ve got!”
He pulled the systems trigger and unleashed a barrage of Hydra 70 rockets.
The monster roared as the missiles hit its stony skin, exploding into huge fireballs.
Smoke, dust, and steam burst into the air, obscuring Adam’s target for a moment. When the clouds cleared though, the beast barely looked fazed.
It opened its mouth—a gaping chasm filled with huge teeth, each long enough to spit the Huey like a roast chicken. The inside of the immense maw glowed red, mirroring the thing’s blast-furnace eyes.
Suddenly, a huge gout of orange flame erupted from the monster’s open jaws.
The fire blazed across the sky, straight toward the Cobra.
“Jesus!” Adam cried, wrestling the controls, arcing the Huey away from the creature.
Fire surrounded the experimental copter; the fuselage shook and the windows exploded, spraying Adam with hot glass.
He screamed, trying to see the instruments, trying desperately to land the burning aircraft, flames all around him. The Cobra’s built-in fire suppressant systems kicked in, filling the cockpit with cool white clouds, keeping Adam from being roasted alive and giving him a fighting chance.
He blinked his eyes clear and saw the earth rushing toward him … far too fast.
As he fought for control, he wished to God that copters had ejector seats. Even getting cut to pieces by the Huey’s rotors would be better than winding up like a bug on a windshield.
The last thing he heard as the Cobra hit the ground was the monster’s thundering, triumphant roar.
Thanks to Vicki, David, Edward, and Kiff for beta-reading.
All contents, copyright 2013 Stephen D. Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.