Author: Matthew Freese | Banner: Landon Soto

From the ground, it would likely just look like a red and blue streak sailing through a bleak night sky. If one were to get a closer look, they’d recoil in shock at supposedly seeing the dead in the realm of the living.

The being soaring through the dark heavens looked exactly like the kaiju Iris, a mutated product of ancient science that terrorized the world in 1999. Fueled by the hatred of a misguided and vengeful girl, it had sought out the guardian Gamera and done battle with the terrapin.

But the being now soaring through the skies couldn’t have been Iris, for Iris had been eviscerated by Gamera’s divine power.

This wasn’t the Iris the world had witnessed before.

Humans had discovered the ruins of Atlantis. And as with all things, humankind plundered it. They had discovered rusted, ruined technology. Found shattered streets and buildings littered with skeletons. Preserved text written in a language no one had spoken in eons. It seemed pointless, but still the humans carried on.

And in one ruined scientific facility, they found an embryo frozen and preserved.

An embryo that they managed to extract and cultivate, until it grew spear-tipped tentacles and had an all-too familiar skull shape.

It was a miraculous discovery. Not only for the scientific ramifications of being able to study a kaiju as complex and strange as Iris, but also for the potential for a new guardian to directly protect humanity.

The new Iris remembered hearing its founders discuss these things amongst themselves. About how most guardians only protected the Earth, with humanity often only being protected because Earth was their home as well.

And when Iris looked to the night sky now, it was reminded of the reason why humankind had wanted a guardian to protect them rather than the Earth.

The reddish-orange sphere in the sky drew the full attention of anything looking up. Just the sight of it was foreboding, as it harshly contrasted with the black backdrop. But the knowledge of what it was only made things worse. It was the end of the Earth in its totality, which not a single life form could stop.

Gorath. It had probably been given a million names throughout its existence. Some civilizations had probably only seen it as a passing light, while others found themselves in much the same situation as Earth. Whatever the case, it was a dwarf star half the size of Earth, but with a far denser mass than any planet. It had entered the solar system humankind called home. It has wreaked havoc upon the orbits of several planets already, but Earth was directly in its path. It wouldn’t even have to touch the blue marble, the sheer gravitational force of Gorath would reduce the planet to nothing.

Humankind was desperate for survival, so some of them were leaving the planet to search the stars for a new place to live. That was where Iris would have come into the equation, joining the escapees as a guard along with humanity’s mechs and whatever guardians could be convinced to come along.

They had already left, but Iris still stayed behind due to a simple mistake the scientists tasked with raising it had made. A single action, which they had never even considered being a problem.

When they selected someone to bond with the new Iris, they had chosen someone with a fearful mind. Someone who, as they gripped the small stone found alongside the mutated Gyaos to join their soul with the creature, couldn’t stop their mind from drifting. Drifting to knowledge of the first Iris, of what it had done and how it had fought Gamera. How this one could follow in those same steps.

Iris, still in its larval state, was overwhelmed. With such a bitter feeling as fear being forced into its heart; with images, brief flashes that steadily grew longer as the scientist tried to avoid the thoughts, of itself slaughtering people en masse; with images of the first of its species battling a colossal, bipedal tortoise who wielded the power of fire.

And with a single movement, Iris had sealed its fate by driving a spear-tipped tentacle forward and puncturing the person’s throat. But it didn’t stop there.

Every scientist in that room were soon nothing but dried carcasses. As were so many other people and animals as Iris quickly grew into its adult stage.

And now it flew toward Gamera, seeking to kill the terrapin, in some desperate attempt to find purpose in its brief life beyond seeking sustenance.

Doubt festered and spread through Iris’ mind. Did it really believe that avenging the previous Iris would give its brief life reason, or that it was truly Gamera’s fault it was stranded on a doomed planet? It had no other option, so it forced the doubt down. It had to do this, for closure’s sake.

This was Earth’s last night.

Far away from the wandering, young soul was an ancient being, contemplating existence.

Gamera stood atop a cliff, eyes locked onto his home’s approaching destroyer. The guardian’s mind and heart raced with conflicting emotions, none of them good.

Doubt. All these years he had spent fighting off threats to this planet, were they meaningless? Every drop of blood spilled from his form, every life form he couldn’t save, and every sacrifice he had to make for the greater good. Did none of it truly matter? All because of an astronomically small probability coming true. Did any actions matter in this fragile existence?

Anger. At those who had fled the planet, humanity’s last remnants. Not for having fled, it was more complex than that. He had considered leaving with humanity, like other guardians such as King Caesar had. But the Earth was always his top priority. And he refused to participate in what he knew would happen.

The last vestiges had brought many sensible and kind minds along. Scientists, rulers who cared about their subjects, and the wealthy who used their power for good. But with them were horrid criminals who avoided rotting in prison thanks to their wealth, politicians that happily stamped upon the downtrodden to line their pockets, and businessmen that had been suffocating the Earth without a hint of guilt.

Humankind would need a new planet to call home, and it wouldn’t fear getting its hands dirty with another civilization’s blood to do so. No matter what the sensible and kind had to say, those with shattered moral compasses always knew how to get what they wanted.

Finally, sorrow. Not for himself, but for everyone else on the planet that could comprehend what was coming. Despite his belief in what humanity’s survivors would do, he couldn’t have brought himself to stop their escape. Despite humanity’s evil, they had too much good in them for him to doom the whole species.

He felt sorry for all the people still on Earth. Those who had accepted their demise and chosen to take this time to be with loved ones. Those who chose to drown their sorrows in debauchery, with lives so hollow that physical pleasure was their only solace. Those who lashed out at everything in sight, hiding bitter agony with wrath until Gorath came to burn it all away.

Then there were the kaiju still stuck on Earth, those that could comprehend their coming doom at least. He hadn’t stayed with any of them long, but he knew their pain. They reacted much like the humans were, divided between those choosing to spend their final moments in tranquility and those who uselessly thrashed against oblivion’s tightening grasp.

Gamera sighed. The star light reflected off of tears flowing from his eyes, as he switched from contemplating the rest of the world to remembering his own life. He began to reflect upon all he had done.

But this bitter tranquility was soon interrupted by the roar of blazing, distant, fire which quickly increased in volume.

Iris held an arm back, ready to drive it forward once it closed the distance. It didn’t want to finish the battle before it started, but the Ryuseicho did want to assure victory from the beginning.

Gamera turned, just in time to react to the incoming attack. The terrapin leaped to the side in a feat of athleticism that seemed shocking based off his appearance, leaving the mutated Gyaos to stab the space where Gamera had been less than a second ago.

Iris landed and turned toward its target, as Gamera recoiled at his assailant’s identity. The Ryuseicho merely let out a droning bellow, tentacles rising.

Had the dead been let loose to walk the Earth? Gamera knew that some human myths of the apocalypse had something along those lines happening, and in the face of this he wondered just how mythical those tales were. He almost couldn’t believe his eyes. He briefly considered if this was nothing more than an illusion born of grief.

When the tips of Iris’ tentacles opened and filled with energy, the guardian’s doubt and confusion were smothered by his fighting instincts.

Four sonic cutters pierced the air, directed toward Gamera. The terrapin shielded his face with his arms, then braced himself as four gashes were carved into him. Green blood spewed from the guardian’s arms and torso. But millennia of fighting had given Gamera a tolerance for pain that was unmatched. So, instead of writhing in agony, he charged forward.

Iris recoiled at the sudden charge, having expected a more severe reaction to its opening attack. This allowed Gamera to close the distance quickly. The guardian raked a claw against Iris’ chest, only succeeding in spraying sparks from the point of impact. Gamera’s other hand went toward the mutant Gyaos’ throat, but was bashed aside as Iris finally started fighting back. The Ryuseicho sliced at Gamera’s stomach, spilling torrents of blood. With its other arm, Iris went to stab the wound it had just created. Gamera used one hand to catch the spear-like protrusion, then swung his free hand as a fist into Iris’ face.

Before Gamera could attack further, he felt two tentacles wrap around his leg. They yanked back, staggering the terrapin forward. Iris lunged forward, striking the guardian’s forehead with the sharp end of its skull. This sharp pain made Gamera’s grip loosen, allowing Iris to free its arm and rear it backward. Gamera looked up, unleashing a fireball from his jaws straight into Iris’ face.

A harsh, droning bellow filled the air as Iris recoiled. Its tentacles flailed blindly as it recovered, aimed vaguely in front of the Ryuseicho. Gamera fired two more fireballs at Iris’ chest, leaving black marks on its metallic armor. He waited for an opportunity to charge in, but Iris’ manic thrashing was a more than adequate defense.

The tentacles stopped, then opened their points. Iris looked straight toward Gamera, then let loose with four sonic rays. Gamera could only shield his face once more, a wise decision he soon realized when all four rays tore into his arms. Iris kept feeding power to these rays, meaning the guardian knew he couldn’t just wait this out. Gamera stepped forward, only for one beam to divert and rake across the outstretched leg.

Iris let out a hateful bellow when Gamera’s head sank into his shell, the terrapin’s arms and legs soon following. The colossal shell clattered to the ground, its rigid back doing a far better job of withstanding the assault than his flesh had. The yellow beams ceased, as their demonic wielder began aiming them toward the holes in the shell.

Blue fire erupted from where Gamera’s limbs and head had been. Kicking up a storm of dust and dirt, the shell began spinning in place. Iris stepped back, unsure of how to proceed. The shell, now a blur of motion, lifted off the ground.

The shell rushed toward the Ryuseicho in a flash, closing the distance in less than a second. Iris was forced back, fighting to stay standing against the assault. The air was filled with a harsh grinding sound, sparks spilling from the point of impact. A cry of surprise left Iris, but was drowned out by the whir of hard keratin on metal.

The mutated Gyaos swung an arm at the shell, bashing it away. The shell, still spinning, flew away from Iris. The Ryuseicho looked down at its chest, seeing a shallow groove where Gamera’s attack had connected. As it processed this, its tentacles split in half down from the tips, forming blue membranes of flesh which resembled wings. Iris looked back toward the blue streak in the sky, before streams of fire erupted from its back to propel it into the air.

Gamera’s mind raced as he tried to come up with a way to win. Whether or not this was the Iris he had fought before, it still had the immense durability and power he had struggled against before. Countless foes had been killed instantly or crippled by his spinning shell. But Iris didn’t even seem pained from having what was, in essence, an eighty thousand ton buzzsaw ram into its chest. But he still overcame the first Iris, as he would tonight!

The retreating guardian’s arms and head came out of his shell. He turned back toward his approaching foe, and shot forth two fireballs in rapid succession. They slammed into Iris’ tentacle membranes, burning the blue flesh black. The mutant Gyaos stumbled through the air, groaning. But still it soared toward the terrapin, left arm-spear held before it.

The mutated Gyaos slammed into the terrapin, its outstretched arm tearing a hole in Gamera’s side. If it hadn’t been destabilized in its flight, it would have pierced Gamera’s chest instead. The two colossi tumbled down through the air, madly striking at each other in a tangled frenzy of limbs. Blood flowing from Gamera’s wounds spilled all over both combatants, leaving splatters of bright green all over both. Iris’ tentacles closed, hiding the blue membranes once more and leaving the appendages ready for combat.

Realizing they were near the ground, Gamera grabbed Iris’ skull and began shifting his weight. Iris was too engrossed in the battle to notice it was being put beneath its foe, nor that the ground was swiftly approaching. Gamera’s jets roared to life once more, propelling him off his foe. Before he could get far, two of Iris’ tentacles whipped into his side, knocking him off balance as the bladed tips tore into his flesh.

The Ryuseicho crashed into the ground, Gamera doing the same a fair distance away. The earth shook at the twin impacts, plumes and walls of dirt forming and then falling just as quickly.

Gamera stood up a moment later, breathing deeply. He was covered in his own blood, the stains now dark and muddy from the soil covering them. Fortunately, his present wounds were quickly healing and gushing less blood, his internal heat acting as a cauterizer. He searched the area, keeping an eye out for Iris.

The momentary silence let Gamera reflect. This foe seemed to fight with more purpose than Iris had in 1999, which confused him as this foe also fought like it barely understood how Gamera fought. Was this truly a new Iris? But if so, why would it attack him like this? He didn’t sense anyone trapped inside its core, suggesting it didn’t have a connection to any humans. Or had something happened to Ayana in the time since that day? Had Iris killed her before seeking him out?

Gamera felt his fists clench tighter at the thought. If Iris had killed Ayana, he would ensure Iris died by his hands this night! He would not let such an injustice go unpunished! Why did he care? The Earth was doomed, Ayana, along with every other human would be dead either way soon enough. But still, why did the thought of Iris killing her incite such anger within him…

This inner turmoil and confusion was interrupted as Iris rose to its feet. Its head tilted to find Gamera, the glowing orb within meeting Gamera’s gaze. The mutant’s tentacles extended, traveling toward the guardian. The terrapin shot fireballs at the appendages, but they were deflected and left to harmlessly strike the ground. Gamera’s legs retracted into his shell, fire replacing them, only for the tentacles to grasp Gamera’s arms. The terrapin’s flight only made it easier for Iris to begin pulling him closer, leaving the guardian to uselessly fight against the grip of the appenadages.

Iris walked forward, arm-blades extended. As the distance between it and its foe closed, Iris raised its arms toward the quickly approaching Gamera. Fireballs crashed against its form, but any damage they could have done was ignored by the Ryuseicho.

Gamera slammed into the outstretched blades, driving them through his torso. Green blood poured from the guardian’s jaws, spilling onto Iris’ body. A look of agony and shock was etched onto his face, eyes and mouth as wide as possible.

A luminous power flowed from the spears, traveling down Iris’ arms and into its body. The various orbs on the mutant’s body glowed brighter than usual as it took in Gamera’s energy.

The thrill of combat had already filled Iris with exciting emotions it had never experienced before. All of the organisms it had slain to achieve this form hadn’t put up a fight, the most impressive specimens only managing a useless struggle. Truly battling an opponent worth time and effort was exhilarating to the young entity. But now, the feeling of such grand power becoming added to its own was a sensation that it could have never imagined. It more than made up for the fact that it now had to put an end to the pleasure of battle.

Pulling Gamera free of its arm-spears, Iris roughly tossed the guardian to the ground. He made no attempt to get up, whether due to lack of hope or of strength Iris did not know. The ends of the mutant’s four tentacles opened, only instead of a yellow glow, they became filled with fire.

Spheres of burning plasma crashed into Gamera’s still form, blasting apart flesh and keratin. Iris kept firing, intent on continuing until its foe was surely dead. Soon, Gamera’s body began glowing, causing Iris to tilt its head. What was happening now?

Gamera smiled. So, this was a new Iris. If it had been the first one reborn, it would have known full well why turning the guardian’s fire against him was a terrible idea.

Iris stopped firing when it saw Gamera’s wounds close, and began backing away when the terrapin got to his feet with an ease like he had just started the fight. With a body still glowing a brilliant gold, Gamera channeled power to his jaws.

A colossal fireball was unleashed, soaring toward Iris. The Ryuseicho lashed a tentacle out to swat it away, only for the end of the appendage to be burnt to ash. Iris bellowed in pain a moment before the projectile crashed into its chest.

The mutated Gyaos was knocked off its feet, crashing back first to the ground. Gamera charged forward, grabbing one of his enemy’s flailing tentacles. With one hand he held it as he raised his other arm high. A spike came from his elbow, which he drove into the restrained tentacle. The crimson flesh split against the strike, spilling ichor. The guardian raised his arm again, and drove it back down, severing the tentacle.

Iris’ other three tentacles wrapped around Gamera’s throat, squeezing down hard.

Fighting through the pain, Gamera pried the tendrils off of his neck, restraining them. Before he could do anything to them, Iris got to its feet. Though the mutant was incapable of facial expressions, the guardian could still sense hatred and anger boiling inside of it.

It was so close! Gamera was at its feet, at death’s door! Had it done any other attack, it would have won. But instead, Iris had shifted the tide of battle considerably against itself. As well, this new power flowing through it was pointless! Using Gamera’s power against the guardian only empowered him.

Iris thrust its right knee up, driving the spike into Gamera’s thigh. The terrapin released the mutant’s tentacles, allowing it to lash them across the guardian’s flesh. At this point, only two of them could do any meaningful damage thanks to their metallic tip. Gamera shoved Iris back, then shot a plasma ball to try and push Iris back further.

The fireball detonated against the Ryuseicho’s chest, but it did nothing to force it back. Instead it lunged forward, slashing its left arm-spear against its foe’s stomach. It carved open a shallow wound, which only made Gamera fight harder. The terrapin swung a punch across Iris’ skull, knocking the head aside and making it stagger back. Both of the guardian’s hands grabbed the mutant’s skull, and began twisting it. Iris bashed its arms against Gamera’s sides, trying to get him to back away, but he would not release his grip. He continued twisting, trying to break his foe’s neck and end this now.

The Ryuseicho’s tentacles scraped against the terrapin’s stomach, until one found the fresh wound Iris had made. The metallic point of the appendage was forced into the wound, then opened, separating the skin. A sonic cutter ray left it soon afterward.

With a haunting shriek, Gamera relinquished his grip. He grabbed the appendage, pulled it free, and tossed it aside. Both combatants backed away, staring daggers at the other. It was like nothing existed except the other, and all that mattered was winning this fight.

That is, until the ground began violently shaking. Both looked around in confusion, until their gazes fell upon the glowing orb in the sky, preparing to pull the planet apart like it was made of clay and scatter the remains through the void.

Gamera’s jaw dropped. He had been so caught up in the battle that for a brief moment, he had forgotten about Gorath. How could he have been so foolish? Had it been affecting the Earth already, and only now grown intense enough to break his battle focus? Suddenly, he perceived a blade being thrust toward his side. Before it could sink in, he caught it. Turning his head, he saw Iris. The being was shaking, and not just from the intensifying quake.

It had to kill him. It had to have a meaning in life, there was no other option.

Iris brought its tentacles forward and shot their beams at Gamera’s neck. The terrapin brought his free hand up just in time to block them. The pain brought him back to his senses, and renewed his resolve.

He would die with the rest of his planet, not by the blade of this foe!

Still gripping one of the mutant’s arms, the guardian slammed his fist into its elbow. The strike failed to dislocate the joint, allowing Iris to pull its arm free. The other arm lunged forward as fast as the muscles behind it could push, leaving Gamera little time to react. His palm came up, stopping the spear from piercing something more vital. He cried out anyway, the spear digging itself in far enough to hit the insides of the wrist.

The spear glowed as it drained blood, leaving the hand to grow pale. Even if Iris could not utilize its foe’s power, it could still strip that power away. The guardian’s other hand gripped the blade, attempting to rip it out. Iris’ other arm went for Gamera’s chest, forcing him to intercept that blade.

The two struggled against each other, neither gaining ground for a time. Until the earth beneath their feet began splitting open, causing both to stagger. Gamera regained his bearings quicker, and freed his hand from its impalement by pulling it back.

The hand was practically useless, unresponsive to any stimuli or commands. Not a drop fell from the gaping wound in the palm. Burning plasma began building in Gamera’s jaws, as he prepared to blast the useless hand off and unleash his second strongest technique.

Iris slammed into him, leaving the prepared fireball to be sent sailing through the air. The mutant slammed its head into Gamera’s forehead several times, eventually causing a stream of blood to start flowing from it. The guardian began retracting his head and limbs into his shell, only for Iris’ remaining tentacles to grasp his arms. They held the limbs firm, keeping them from retreating.

The guardian shot a fireball directly into his foe’s face, trying to get any kind of breathing room. The mutant wouldn’t allow it, choosing to ram one of its knees into Gamera’s thigh to keep itself from backing away unconsciously. Iris continued bashing its arm-spears against its foe, each blow further cracking and breaking Gamera’s shell. Occasionally a blow would land on actual flesh, breaking the skin and causing horrid bruises to surround the impact point.

Gamera had seen this kind of thing before. A creature fighting without any kind of inhibition, without any care for anything except for the death of a singular target. Iris had nothing to lose. And he was quickly running out of options for how to deal with it.

The Ryuseicho backed up slightly, to slice at Gamera’s chest. Ignoring the pain wracking his whole body, the terrapin retracted his legs and fired up his jet propulsion. He flew back, shooting a fireball to try and keep his rabid foe back. Iris opened up its tentacle membranes, what had once been four, now only two and three-quarters of a third. But it was still enough to let the mutant Gyaos fly, and so it did.

Gamera looked down, the momentary break in battle letting him take in his surroundings. The ground was breaking apart beneath the two, shallow grooves in the ground quickly deepening and spreading. He wasn’t sure if life on Earth had even an hour left to live, but right now he didn’t have time to worry. Every second was life-threatening for him right now.

Iris was quickly gaining on him, so he had to act quickly. Bringing up his ruined hand, Gamera severed it with a fireball. The hand had already gone numb, so no pain halted the guardian as his power flowed from his mouth to the stump.

The mutant was not flying stably. It shook back and forth, rose and fell, but it still went forward all the same, and that was its only concern. There was no pause when its foe blasted his own hand off, that only helped it in its goal. No fear welled up when in the hand’s place a raging sphere of fire formed, fire had assailed the mutant so much during this battle. Its bloodlust only grew when Gamera stopped flying away from it, and instead flew straight toward it.

Iris’ shaky flight was beneficial, for instead of driving the burning fist straight into the mutant’s chest as he had intended, Gamera instead sent his attack into the Ryuseicho’s side.

There was a massive explosion as both kaiju collided into each other. Iris’ left arm, left set of tentacles, and massive chunks of its armor fell away from them. Despite the grave loss of body mass, Iris still retained the sense to ram its remaining arm into Gamera’s torso, keeping the two right next to each other as they fell.

The ground beneath them was ripping asunder, as if the landscape was opening a grand pair of jaws. Gamera tried to use his remaining arm to strike Iris, only for the last tentacle it owned to come around and restrain the arm against the terrapin’s side. The guardian struggled against his binding, but he found his strength waning.

Looking down into the pit as they moved past its opening, the guardian only saw darkness. It seemed bottomless, but to the terrapin’s relief, they weren’t falling straight in. The momentum behind the collision had sent them falling at an angle. All he could hope for was that smashing into the wall would let him free himself.

The break in action let questions surface in his mind. Why was he feeling things like hope and despair at this point? Why did he care about winning a battle that had no consequence? Why had he cared about if Iris had killed Ayana?

As a cavern in the rock wall came into view, which they were sailing directly toward, Gamera struggled to find the answer to his questions. He looked at Iris, who looked back at him.

Did this matter? Would killing Gamera give it the meaning it sought out? Gamera hadn’t wronged it, the guardian hadn’t personally driven Iris to kill the scientists who had found it. It had done that itself. It could have done any number of things to try and find some meaning, and it chose murder. Was murder just an inextricable part of its nature?

As they crashed into the cavern, becoming separated as Gamera rolled deeper into the cave than Iris did, they just stayed down for a brief time.

Gamera began getting up, his mind putting together the pieces as he stared at Iris. Remembering the day he had fought the first Iris, which brought back memories of other battles in his life.

He fought to save lives. The fact that those lives would end one day, no matter what he did, never stopped him. If this life had an overarching meaning behind it, the living would never know it. So, the meaning of one’s life had to be made by oneself. Gamera had brought hope to an often bleak world and given countless lives the chance to see another sunrise. He had lived a good life, and it had taken one last battle on his home’s last day to make him truly see this.

So, when Iris got to its feet as well, and the jets in its back fired up, Gamera did not feel fear. When the Ryuseicho lunged forward, remaining arm-spear pulled back, and he found he could barely move, let alone fight back, he did not despair. When the blade tore into his chest, destroying his heart, his final moments were not in agony or sorrow.

If there had been enough strength in his body, he would have smiled as his millennia long struggle against the shadows ended.

Iris pulled its blade free, turned around, and stumbled to the mouth of the cave. Even as deep down as it was, it could still see the bringer of the end suspended in the sky.

They both only existed to cause pain and destruction.

It never broke sight with Gorath. This didn’t change as the ground beneath its feet collapsed, sending the mutant spilling into the darkness below. Iris’ gaze remained on the glowing sphere.

Until all sensation was gone.

Winner: Iris