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18. A Deadly Distraction
~ Tottori Beach Party – July, 1966 – One Thirty PM ~
“Do you hear that?” Rika asked, her voice cracking with fear.
“Shut up!” Rin hissed.
“It sounds like a helicopter!”
Could the starlet be this stupid? Couldn’t she feel the vibrations of the daikaiju sliding across the sand on the far side of the truck where they were hiding? “Shut up!” Rin whispered even more urgently. “Do you want the thing to find us?”
Rika froze, terror painted across her movie-star face, and clamped her mouth shut.
An image spiked into Rin’s brain: the monster, the overturned truck they were hiding under… It had heard them. It knew!
Rin grabbed Rika’s trembling hand, but before she could propel the two of them out of the cargo doors, the catering truck suddenly jerked into the air.
With a terrible rending sound, needle-sharp teeth the size of stadium support pillars pierced the truck’s cabin. One missed Rika by less than a foot.
The starlet screamed as the top of the truck became the bottom, and food service containers plunged through the translucent Plexiglas roof, smashing it into tiny shards. Rin tried to grab hold of something solid, but missed her grip, and both women fell, following the big carts out.
They tumbled a dozen feet, giving Rin just enough time to angle their bodies so the two of them hit sand rather than the metal food-storage boxes. She landed solidly on both feet, but then Rika crashed down on top of her.
Rin yelped as her left ankle twisted, and she landed hard on her right wrist. She felt something pop, and pain shot through her.
She and the starlet sprawled on the sand, stunned, as above them, the colossal serpent shook the catering truck like a dog shakes a captured rabbit.
“Move!” Rin managed to gasp through clenched teeth.
“Move or we’re dead!”
Rika scrambled to her feet and began running.
Rin tried to stand, but her ankle buckled under her. She crumpled, landing on her injured wrist again. “Unh!”
The sea serpent bit down, crushing the truck into scrap metal, splashing gobs of catering food everywhere.
Rin gripped her ankle, trying to press whatever had gone wrong back into place. The beast towered over her, each blue-green scale of its sinuous body as large as the hood of a car. In every one of those scales, Rin saw a face, a terrified face—like the image on the back of a Heike crab. In her mind, she heard screaming and the crash of waves.
Get up, dammit! she told herself. But she knew that, whether she did or not, she was dead—the abomination’s next victim.
Then soft arms wrapped around her chest and pulled her to her feet.
“Baka! Get out of here!” Rin cursed. “Save yourself!”
But the starlet kept pulling Rin along, supporting the guitarist as they staggered away from certain doom.
It won’t be enough!
A sound like thunder split the air as the fiendish thing roared with rage.
Rin and Rika tripped and fell to their knees. They froze there, huddled close together, expecting the end.
But it didn’t come. No titan jaws snapped shut around them; no terrible scaly body crushed them into the sand.
After a moment, both young women opened their eyes.
The sea serpent shrieked again, angry now. A twin-rotor military helicopter was circling it, strafing the monster with a big machine gun.
“Look out!” Rin cried a split-second before the creature spouted a deadly spray of water at the aircraft.
The helicopter darted out of the way just in time, almost as if the pilot had heard the guitarist’s warning.
“Come on!” Rika urged, pulling Rin to her feet.
But now it was Rin who stood frozen, her eyes fixed on the military aircraft. “My sister’s on that helicopter,” she said, knowing for a certainty that it was true.
“We can’t help her, and she can’t help us if we’re dead,” Rika countered.
Rin regarded the starlet through narrowed eyes. “When did you start making sense?”
“When I thought you were going to be killed. Let’s go!”
Chuckling at the irony, Rin hobbled along as fast as she could, stabs of pain shooting up her leg, her wrist throbbing. Each time she nearly fell, Rika supported her.
The wheel of karma turns, Rin thought, though the nearly naked starlet looked even more absurd while being heroic than she had when cowering.
The battle between the helicopter and the sea serpent continued as the young women struggled up the side of a big dune. The beast lunged and roared, every snap of its jaws sounding like a thunderclap. Each time, the helicopter darted out of the monster’s way, only to unleash another barrage of deadly machine gun fire.
With every successive attack, the copter was luring the creature back toward the Sea of Japan and away from Rin, Rika, and the other surviving concertgoers.
“C’mon, Emi,” Rin muttered under her breath as she watched the copter. “Stay safe!” Her twin sister could be a real pain sometimes—most of the time actually—but Rin didn’t want anything bad to happen to her.
The copter was drawing away from the monster now, flying out over the waves. The abomination kept chasing the machine, having seemingly forgotten all about the frightened prey on shore.
We’ve made it! Rin thought.
Then, a bolt of pain shot through her head.
In her mind, she saw through the eyes of the daikaiju, saw its focus turn from the helicopter to something else … boats approaching the shore—fireboats. Rin’s heart pounded as she felt the serpent’s rage … and its hunger.
“Rin! Rin! Are you all right?” Rika’s voice seemed to come to Rin from down a very long tunnel.
“Fine,” Surfer Go Go’s lead guitarist managed to mumble, though she felt as if she was going to vomit. Apparently, she’d fallen to her knees again when the headache struck. Rika was trying to pull her to her feet once more.
“We have to go!” the starlet insisted.
Rin shook her head. “Monster’s not after us anymore. It wants the boats now.”
Rika frowned at her, uncomprehending. “The helicopter’s returned to rescue us,” she said. “We have to go!”
Rin blinked and forced the world back into focus.
Sure enough, the helicopter had landed on a nearby dune, and a contingent of well-armed soldiers was hurrying toward them.
When did that happen?
Rika helped Rin stagger toward the rescuers.
Another man, dressed in a suit, got out of the copter and started taking pictures. Behind him came a young woman.
“Emi!” Rin gasped as her sister ran forward and took Rin out of Rika’s arms.
“Oh, Rin,” Emiko said, tears streaming down her face. “I’m so glad you’re alive!”
“Me, too,” Rin mumbled.
Her sister turned toward Rika. “Thank you so much, Miss…”
But the starlet had already gone, sprinting full speed toward the photographer, who seemed very surprised to see her—and not, Rin thought, because the actress was wearing only sheer underpants.
The man stopped taking pictures just in time for Rika to crash into his arms.
“Oh, Shin!” she cried. “You came to rescue me!” She kissed him full on the lips.
When she broke the kiss, the man smiled at her. “Of course I did.”
A pang of jealously shot through Rin. Had this whole troop really come to rescue the baka starlet and not her?
But no. Rin could see the truth in her twin’s tear-stained eyes.
“I hoped … I prayed that you would be all right,” Emiko said.
“No problem,” Rin replied, though her mouth felt like it was filled with sand. “I can take care of myself.”
“Well, take care of yourself aboard the Chinook, then,” said a soldier dressed in a captain’s uniform. “See to it, men.”
And with that, the rest of the soldiers hustled them all into the helicopter.
Almost before Rin realized it, she was strapped into a seat, and the copter had lifted into the air. Out the window, she could see the serpent throwing its huge coils around one of the fire-fighting boats that had come to help save the concertgoers.
They’re all doomed.
But then, hadn’t she and Rika been doomed just minutes ago?
“Go help that ship!” the captain commanded. “Ready the guns again.”
“Hai, Captain!” the crew replied.
The helicopter banked and headed out to sea.
“That’s quite a necklace,” the man called Shin said to Rika. He’d given the topless actress his coat, but he was still staring at her chest.
“It ought to be,” Rin put in. “She nearly got us killed saving it.” Her head, ankle, and wrist were throbbing to beat the band, and she felt tired to the bone.
“I had to rescue it,” Rika explained, clutching the serpentine pendant. “It-it brings me luck. And it’s my family symbol … an heirloom. It’s been with my people for a long time.” She looked at Rin, her eyes filled with disappointment. “Its luck saved us both.”
Rin felt almost bad for needling her, but said, “Only after I saved you—and it—first.”
Rika frowned and snuggled closer to Shindo, who sat strapped in beside her.
“What does it matter who saved whom and when?” Emi asked, exasperated. “You’re both safe. That’s what matters.”
Rin winced, another stab of pain shooting through her skull. “Yeah,” she said through gritted teeth. “Too bad a lot of other people can’t say the same—like the guys on those boats.”
Even as she said it, the daikaiju’s coils snapped the last of the fireboats in half and began to drag it beneath the waves.
“Dammit!” the captain cursed. He turned to his gunners. “Isn’t there anything you can do?”
“Another minute until we’re in range, sir,” one told him.
“Captain!” the co-pilot called. “Jets inbound. They’ve got the creature in their sights.”
“Pull back, then,” the Captain ordered. “We’ll give them some room, and then pick up survivors after the jets blast that demon back to whatever hell it came from.”
Rin’s stomach lurched as the helicopter swung around, providing a bird’s-eye-view, as a squadron of Japanese Self-Defense Force jets bore in on their target.
They strafed the sea serpent, firing their cannons and rockets into its scaly hide.
The beast roared as bursts of orange fire blossomed along the length of its sinuous coils. It blasted its deadly water spray, but the planes streaked out of the way, unharmed.
More explosions burst against the thing, and still more. The barrage sounded like the world’s largest fireworks display, with the screaming engines of the fighter jets and the howls of the abomination playing counterpoint.
And in her mind, Rin heard the cries of the damned.
“Kill it!” she pleaded, her whisper almost a prayer. “Kill it!”
Another explosion—the largest yet—rocked the daikaiju, and suddenly it turned, diving beneath the waves and leaving the floating wreckage of the fire-fighting boats behind.
The crew of the copter cheered, as did Emi, Rika, and Shin. Even Rin managed a weak hurrah.
The jets and the helicopter circled the area where the monster had vanished for a few long minutes, but the titanic sea serpent did not resurface.
“Well,” the captain said, pleased, “the jets drove it off.”
The helicopter’s crew cheered again, but Rin’s sister looked skeptical.
“I’m not so sure,” Emi said. “The planes didn’t seem to be having any effect on it. I think perhaps something else made the monster retreat beneath the waves.”
The helicopter crew laughed.
“The jets did it all right,” one of the gunners said. “What else could it be?”
Rin rubbed her aching head. “Maybe,” she mumbled, “it ran out of food.”
Then, before she could gauge whether anyone believed her or not, she passed out.
Thanks to Steve, Doris, Chris, David, Edward, and Kiff for beta-reading.
All contents, copyright 2013 Stephen D. Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.