Kaiju War Chronicles (K.W.C.)
Match 130:
By: Thomas Singleton

The United States National Institute Station 4
Somewhere in Antarctica…

Dead eyes stared into the light, belonging to a pale man having frozen to death. He died in agony, the look of fear etched on his face.

In front of him was a computer. It was a dated model, one past its prime. It was showing the dead man a simulation. Over and over, it showed the same thing in an endless loop; first it showed him the double helix, then a bunch of human cells grouped next to each other, and then an unknown gray substance attacking and changing everything down to the cellular level.

Doctor Blair ran down the corridor, panting. The cold air was unbearable, he could hardly breathe. Even with a younger, healthier body he wouldn't have gotten far. Outside he could hear the howling winds warning him of the coming storm. How long did he have now? Three minutes? That still wasn’t enough time.

He ran passed the dead man. Doctor Blair remembered insisting on giving him a proper burial. His colleagues, however, wanted to burn the body. None of them got what they wanted. So much happened in the last ten minutes. Doctor Blair didn't know if he was the only one still alive. He didn’t even know if he was infected or not.

There was only one thing Doctor Blair did know: he had to warn everybody.

Locating a radio device, Doctor Blair frantically turned its gears to the right frequency. When a red light turned on, signaling for him to speak, he couldn’t find the right words. He couldn’t even talk without rasping for air.

“P-please,” Doctor Blair coughed. “This-this is a distress call from Station 4. We’re under attack. This facility is no longer safe. We found something. I don’t know what. But it’s killed most of us. Please, send help!”

There was a loud tremor. Doctor Blair fell to the icy floors but was quick to look in all directions. He couldn't see or hear anyone. But he did hear something. It was looming outside the walls. Doctor Blair stared out the window, catching a tiny glimpse of it. It was quiet, not unlike a predator stalking its prey. It was almost as if it had stopped just to listen in on his cries for help.

Doctor Blair gripped the radio transmitter. Closing his eyes, he spoke his last words.

“My name is Doctor Blair. In the event of my death, I’d like my colleague and friend, Doctor Nick Tatopoulos, to investigate my findings here. He is the only one qualified to understand my work. Nick, if you’re listening to this… Trust no one.”

The ceiling crumbled. Doctor Blair looked up not as a scientist, but as a man broken by forces beyond his understanding. A monstrous claw dropped from the heavens, blotting out the howling winds of snow, and scooped him into its gigantic palm.

Sandy Point Military Base
New Jersey

It's one of the youngest military bases in the country. Shortly after the first Zilla attack on New York City, the higher brass in the United States Army chose a restricted area in New Jersey as its location to monitor kaiju activity on the Eastern Seaboard. So far it’s yielded favorable results. Under the command of Major Hicks, it’s kept American borders safe.

A blue minivan stopped at the checkpoint. One guard stepped out to check the driver. Two heavily armed guards circled the vehicle, ready to use deadly force if necessary.

Rolling down the window, the driver introduced himself.

“I’m Nick Tatopoulos,” Nick smiled. “This is my research team, HEAT, and we’re here to see Major Hicks.”

“Major Hicks is expecting you, sir,” the guard responded.

Nick saluted the soldier and drove into the heart of the military base. The guards watched the minivan leave before facing one another.

“Goddamn tree-hugging hippies,” one of them complained. “They love monsters more than their own people!”

The members of HEAT were escorted into Sandy Point's headquarters.

Walking through the halls, Nick thought about his teammates and their specialties. There was his longtime friend Randy Hernandez, one of the best computer hackers in the world; Monique Dupre, an operative of the French Secret Service; Elsie Chapman, a biologist without equal; Mendel Craven, a specialist in electronics and robotics; and NIGEL, an advanced robot designed specifically to go where the other members could not.

In the study of mutations and giant organisms, they were the first research team everyone turned to for help. Nick fought hard to keep them together. He's had to turn down many offers from other reputable organizations like G-FORCE, Science Patrol, G-Graspers, Godzilla Prediction Network, Earth Defense Force, Crisis Control Intelligence, and many more. HEAT is where he belonged and it's where he'll stay. He only hoped the others felt the same way.

“Good to see ya again, worm-guy,” said Major Hicks. “How’re the worms doing?”

“Oh, y’know how it is Major,” Nick replied. “They keep getting bigger and bigger. Same old, same old.”

“Tell me about it,” Major Hicks laughed, his smirk fading into a straight face. “Nick, I contacted you because we have a serious problem.”

“Tell it to me straight,” Nick asked.

“One of our bases in Antarctica was attacked not too long ago,” Major Hicks revealed. “There are no survivors. All signs point to a giant monster being responsible.”

“So you called us,” Elsie butted in with an arrogant grin. “Good choice, Major!”

“That's not entirely true,” Major Hicks said. “We called you because someone else recommended the worm-guy to us. Nick, you’re familiar with a Doctor Blair, right?”

“Yes,” Nick answered. “He was one of my college professors.”

That’s all Nick had to say. Major Hicks waited for more information. Unable to keep her mouth quiet, Elsie once again butted in.

“Doctor Blair is one of the foremost biologists in the world,” Elsie explained. “He’s revolutionized our understanding of the origins of our species. He’s our modern day Charles Darwin. But he dropped out of the spotlight a few years ago after he openly suggested we’re all descended from aliens. Last I heard he went to Antarctica to continue his research.”

There was a long pause. Elsie thought about the last thing she said before showing concern.

“Doctor Blair died in the attack,” Major Hicks confirmed. “The Navy picked up a distress call from the late doctor himself.”

They listened to a recording of the transmission. Nick closed his eyes, picturing what it must’ve been like. When he heard the line go dead, Nick’s eyes opened. Major Hicks explained how they sent in a rescue team a few days ago. They found signs of a giant monster attack. Since Doctor Blair suggested Nick by name, they thought they’d honor his last words.

“But that’s not all,” Major Hicks quickly elaborated. “There’s something else, something I’m not permitted to tell you. All you need to know is you will be accompanying a team sent in to investigate. I suggest you don’t invite your giant reptile friend to the party. Not with these people joining you.”

USS Harry S. Truman
Ross Sea, Antarctica

Dark waters stretched out in all directions. Battleships waded through the sea, guarding the aircraft carrier at their center.

In his winter coat, Nick watched them glide through the water. Snowflakes fell from the gray clouds above, sticking to his skin. Nick sighed as he leaned over the rail, wiping it off his face. He knew he shouldn’t be outside, knowing he’d likely catch a cold. Knowing his actions were irrational, Nick remained in the company of the cold waters of the Southern Oceans. They helped him find solitude.

But he wasn’t alone.

“Monique,” Nick sighed. “You’re losing your touch, y’know? This time I knew you were there.”

“Maybe because I wanted you to know,” replied Monique Dupre. She was being honest and straightforward. That’s what got his attention.

“I take it you’re not out here just to have a little chat,” Nick deduced.

“On the contrary,” Monique smirked. “I think a little chat is precisely what you need.”

Nick smiled before staring down at the cold waters. Monique walked over to his side, providing moral support. Somehow, she knew he was depressed. She knew he was still grieving. In her many years in the French Secret Service, Monique must have mastered the art of mind reading.

“I wouldn’t call it mind reading, Doctor,” Monique said. “More like face reading.”

Unbelievable. Nick knew he better get all his problems off his chest now or else Monique might start becoming his therapist.

“It’s Doctor Blair,” Nick explained. “He was my best college professor. He opened my eyes; he helped me see just how incredible everything is. Together, we helped shed light on mysteries no other scientist would’ve ever solved. He was like a father to me.”

“I take it things weren’t perfect?”

“No, far from it,” Nick admitted. “As a scientist, I pursue nothing but the truth. So does, uh, I should say, so did he. But we had a falling out after I confessed I don’t think we’ll ever know everything. He took this a different way. He thought I meant we shouldn’t know everything.”

“Should we?” Monique inquired.

Nick's voice deepened. “I believe we're byproducts of our environment. If that's all there is, that's all we'll ever know.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“Because it can’t be answered,” Nick replied. “That’s the honest truth. And if the truth isn’t enough, nothing ever will be.”

“Well, it looks like you two lovebirds are having a good time,” Elsie joked as she walked over to join them. “Why wasn’t I invited?”

Nick looked over at Monique, waiting for her to give a witty answer.

“Don’t look at me,” Monique smiled. “I didn’t hear her coming.”

Elsie didn’t need an answer, she could see what was really troubling Nick. Many people think scientists aren’t capable of expressing emotion. They forget scientists are people too. Contrary to what her sense of humor would lead most to believe, Elsie is the most empathic member of HEAT.

In earnest, Elsie helped Nick the best way she knew how. “I’m sorry about Doctor Blair, Nick. I know you two were close. But you shouldn’t feel guilty about his death. He made the choice to stop being your friend. Not you.”

Nick was silent. Is that what’s troubling him? Did he felt guilt for Doctor Blair’s untimely demise? If he had sided with his friend and mentor, would he have been resigned to this place, and met a similar fate?

Alarms sounded across the fleet. Nick, Monique, and Elsie were instructed to report back to the main deck. Before walking inside, Nick looked overboard, and saw his reflection in the water. If Doctor Blair’s endeavors got him killed, how long did he have to survive?

Antarctica

It took hours for HEAT to make landfall. Perfect coordination, timing, and luck made sure their arrival was a safe one. Nick made a mental note to personally thank the company of soldiers sent to protect them with their lives. He was also thankful Major Hicks elected to join them.

“Why didn’t we take a helicopter again?” Randy asked furiously. Being stuck on a boat for a few weeks was starting to get the better of him.

“Uh, Randy,” Craven lectured. “They told us in the briefing the winds were too dangerous to fly a helicopter through. So we have to rely on a boat. Judging by how we got here safe and sound, I’d say they knew what they were talking about.”

Nick knew Randy wouldn’t let Craven get the last word. But Major Hicks motioned for them to clamp down. With the storm dispersing, they had a shot at getting to where they needed to be. Time wasn’t on their side, so they would need to move quickly.

They all hopped on their snowmobiles and took off as one big group.

Leaning over his shoulder, Elsie asked Nick an important question. “So where are the folks who, y’know, wouldn’t have liked our pet iguana to crash the party?”

“Let’s hope we find out soon,” Nick replied.

Elsie wasn’t as optimistic. “Or not at all.”

Station 4 was in ruins. Save for the mass destruction, there was no sign of a giant monster rampage. If Doctor Blair intended for Nick to carry on his research, there had to be another level beneath the surface. There had to be something he could use to determine what did this and how to stop it.

According to their blueprints, Nick and the other members of HEAT found themselves entering the room Doctor Blair was last in. This is where he died, Nick realized. Where there should have been a ceiling, gray clouds filled Nick’s line of sight. Where there should have been walls, fields of snow and ice filled the backdrop. There was nothing left for them here. There was nothing left to salvage.

While her teammates wasted time sulking, Monique snuck away from her guards, and located Major Hicks. He was entering a strange passageway leading to an underground facility. Security was too tight; she wouldn’t be able to enter without being seen.

A pistol pressed against the back of her head. Monique almost gasped in surprise. She didn’t think anyone could sneak up on her.

“These Americans have made you soft, Monique,” a voice from her past warned.

With lightning precision, Monique spun around, kicked the gun out of her assailant’s hand, and moved in to severe his jugular. Shocked by his identity, she stopped in her tracks.

Philippe Roaché glared at his former pupil, disappointed by how her skills have declined. The Frenchman once worked closely with Nick Tatopoulos during the first Zilla's attack on New York City. After that crisis ended, Philippe ordered Monique to keep a very close watch on Nick and Zilla’s offspring. He disappeared shortly thereafter. Monique wasn’t privy to the reasons why.

“Philippe,” Monique gasped. “I see you’re working with the Americans now.”

“You shouldn’t be here, Monique,” he grumbled. “You’ve already seen too much.”

“So are you going to kill me? You’re welcome to try.”

Philippe said nothing. For a moment, Monique thought her bluff worked. Suddenly her legs were kicked out from under her, and she found herself pinned to the icy floor. Philippe pressed a knife against her carotid artery.

“You insisted I try,” he whispered.

Monique smiled. She motioned for Philippe to look down, where she was holding a knife up to his crotch. It was a very unpleasant situation for both. Philippe favored her this time with a grin.

“Philippe,” Nick shouted. “Let her go. Now!”

Philippe looked over, seeing Nick and the members of HEAT frowning at him. In honor of they’re past friendship, Philippe obeyed. He offered his hand to pull Monique to her feet. She refused his request, choosing to stand on her own.

“It is good to see you again, old friend,” Philippe said to Nick. “Your company has been sorely missed.”

“I wish I could say the same,” Nick retorted. “Not when you’re abusing a member of my team.”

“Is that what she is?” Philippe said. “My apologies.”

“Who the hell is this guy?” Randy asked.

“Look what we have here,” Elsie chimed in. “Looks like the old gang is back together again.”

Dozens of soldiers surrounded them, guns raised. Philippe wasn't afraid. Like a commander, he walked over, and ordered them to put HEAT into protective custody. An enraged Nick demanded answers.

“What the hell is going on, Agent Roaché?” Major Hicks hollered. “Soldiers, stand down! Those people are on our side!”

“Apologies, Major,” replied Philippe. “I only wanted to make a point.”

“Looks like you made it,” Major Hicks responded. “Nick, you have no right seeing any of this.”

“Are you serious?” Nick roared. “Did you really think we wouldn’t have found out about your hidden passages sooner or later? We saw it. It’s done. So you will either tell us what we need to know or we’ll find out on our own. Decide.”

Major Hicks locked eyes with the young scientist. Philippe nodded in approval, impressed by Nick’s bravery. Realizing there was nothing else they could do, Major Hicks relented.

“What you’re about to see is top secret. But since you’re here to carry on Doctor Blair’s work, I can give you access without losing my job,” Major Hicks sighed. “I hope.”

Guiding them into the entrance to an underground complex, Elsie moved to walk side-by-side with Monique. Monique was reluctant to accept her company.

“So first we learned a bit about Nick’s former mentor, now we meet yours,” Elsie pointed out. “Who’s next? Are we going to find out Craven was raised by goats?”

“Philippe was more than just a mentor to me,” Monique lowered her voice. “He and I, we, were once engaged.”

“Wow,” was all Elsie could say. “I-I never thought you two were so…”

“Close?” Monique finished. “I thought we were. But he didn’t see it that way. He had other ideas.”

In the back of her mind, Monique hoped nobody overheard them talking.

Returning her focus to their surroundings, Monique saw a very large room unfold around them. It had to be larger than three football fields. There was a gaping hole in the ceiling. Snow fell from the sky, falling on a strange vessel at the center. Its silvery surface was so clear it would've looked invisible amidst its surroundings were it not for its hull being ripped open from the inside. Tubes and machines attached to it continued to monitor its molecular structure.

Nick recognized the craft instantly.

“That’s the Millennian UFO,” he gasped. Nick recalled how an alien craft attacked Japan in 1999. It spawned a horrible monster, one that was destroyed by Godzilla. According to Yuji Shinoda, founder of the Godzilla Prediction Network, the Millennian UFO crashed on Earth long before the dinosaurs. It waited at the bottom of the ocean before sunlight revived it.

Major Hicks couldn’t hide his guilt. This did not go unnoticed.

“Care to explain your involvement in all of this, Major?” Elsie asked.

“Major,” Nick stuttered, unable hide the tension in his voice. Major Hicks was his friend. First Doctor Blair was killed, and now Major Hicks is experimenting on alien crafts, again?!

“Dude, tell me you’re not being mind-controlled again,” Randy said.

“My thoughts exactly,” Elsie agreed.

“You’re one to talk,” Craven mumbled, knowing Elsie would glare at him. Oh well, at least Elsie was looking at him.

“Look,” Major Hicks explained. "Shortly after being demoted for going soft on your pet reptile, I received this assignment. American, Japanese, and French stations picked up a signal emanating from this exact location. Working together, we uncovered this UFO. It's unlike anything we've ever seen before. The fact another one exactly like it attacked Tokyo months later made this a top priority to the pencil pushers back at the Pentagon. So they replaced me with an expert."

“You know him as Doctor Blair.”

Nick scoffed at the idea. Doctor Blair was working for the government? Then why as his last wish would he want Nick to be brought here? When they last met, Nick was anti-government. He was part of every major protest in the country. This helped him get recognition. It also helped him get recruited by the government on his first giant monster assignment. Perhaps Doctor Blair had done his homework and knew all about Nick’s new profession?

Monique leaned close enough for just Philippe to hear. “So how are you part of all this? Dealing with aliens is my expertise, not yours.”

“This was a joint operation between three countries. Our government needed someone they could trust to oversee the project,” Philippe smirked. “So they sent me.”

Monique looked away from him, concealing her true feelings. Try as she might, Philippe could see she was nursing more than just her wounded ego.

“So what did the late doctor really want?” Elsie wondered. “We all know about his fall from grace. I’m assuming y’all did as well. So why recruit someone who was, sorry to say, unstable?”

Major Hicks shrugged. “Look, despite his shortcomings, Doctor Blair was the best at what he did. He did a lot of work down here, good work.”

“Buuut,” Elsie countered.

“It looks like he was right,” Major Hicks revealed.

Nobody knew what that meant. Before the truth could be given, gunfire erupted from the surface. Major Hicks motioned for Philippe and his soldiers to move up to provide support. One of his soldiers tried establishing radio contact. They only heard screams, gunfire, and then static.

Nick and the others members of HEAT rushed to the surface. When they got there, no structure was left standing. Dozens of soldiers were taking cover in the rubble and ice, firing at a 180-foot giant obscured by a blizzard. Two soldiers ran by with a bazooka. Within seconds, they were loaded up, ready, and fired. The rocket left a trail of smoke as it pierced the haze, finding its hidden target. It made a loud, distinct boom. All it did was agitate the monster.

Orga emerged out of the blizzard, shrieking like an enraged god. It had the demented body structure of a gorilla. Its putrid, gray flesh steamed the cold air. Its yellow eyes glowed ominously. Orga’s needlelike teeth dripped with hissing spit. There was a large divot in its left shoulder, resembling the mouth of a volcano. Orga’s most distinguished feature was its large, serrated claws. They could ravage a mountain if given the chance.

In a motion of speed that bellied its size, Orga swiped at a group of huddled soldiers, and sent their mangled remains sailing into the snowstorm. Philippe sprinted in range and shot at Orga’s eyes. It was an unusual thing to see: a lone operative firing a pistol at a godlike creature. Philippe was either crazy or the bravest man on the planet.

A shadow fell over him. Orga moved to crush the human with its claws. But Monique pushed Philippe out of the way with only seconds to spare. Orga’s claws fractured the icy soil, tossing the tiny humans up in its wake. Philippe caught Monique in midair and used his own body as a cushion for her to fall on. It knocked the wind out of him. Orga bent down, drooling at the sight of his next meal. Nick ran over, flailing his arms to distract the alien menace. It worked. Nick quickly thought about his chances of survival. Thirty, maybe forty yards separated him from the beast. That was plenty of time for him to reflect on his life, right?

There was a loud rumble. Nick felt the ice beneath him rip and tear. That’s when a large, reptilian head burst out of ground between him and Orga. Its dorsal spines, swishing tail, and distinct roar made Nick smile. Like many other so-called monsters, Zilla was the offspring of Mankind’s nuclear ambitions. Nick used to march against the testing of radiation. But now there is a new field of science. Many critics believe giant monsters are living proof the theories of evolution and natural selection are a farce. If anything, it’s the opposite. Evolution personifies change. Instead of going extinct, creatures like Zilla adapted, and sparked a new race. They’re living proof life will always find a way.

Zilla dug his claws into Orga’s armored hide, pushing the gray goliath back. Orga stopped Zilla in his tracks, smashing Zilla’s abdomen with his claws. The giant reptile slid across the icy tundra, clawing to his feet. He wasn’t fast enough. Orga jumped high into the air, stomping his bulk into Zilla. Both monsters broke through the ice, consumed by geysers of cold water.

Nick wanted to stay and provide moral support. Elsie and Randy’s arms grabbed him from behind, pulling him into the underground base.

“Nick, we can’t stay here,” Elsie explained.

“She’s right, jefe!” Randy assured him. “Time to go down and spend some quality time with a UFO.”

Swirling lights glowed through the surface. Zilla was blasted through the ice by Orga’s energy blast and fell thousands of feet before landing on a snow-covered hill. An explosion of ice and cold air enveloped the fallen reptile. Orga pulled itself out of the water, smoke sizzling out of its cannon shaped shoulder. The deformed alien could hear the giant reptile’s heartbeat. Zilla was still alive. Orga would have to change that.

Using his powerful hind legs, Orga jumped like a giant frog, and pounced on Zilla’s weakened body. Orga’s bloodlust made the alien go berserk; it clobbered Zilla with its claws, rending flesh and bone. Zilla recuperated fast enough to charge up his power breath. Thermonuclear fire seared out of his jaws, throwing Orga off of him. Smoke sizzled off Orga’s burnt, dangling flesh. Within seconds, Orga’s healing factor erased the burns that would have proven fatal. Zilla was more fearful of his opponent than ever now. How could he inflict permanent damage? Blowing steam out of his nostrils, Zilla was determined to find a way.

The survivors of Orga’s attack retreated back down near the Millennian UFO. Major Hicks was shouting orders left and right, trying to contact a group Nick wasn’t privy to. Distant tremors shook the icy walls, threatening to bury them with the alien craft.

Randy rushed over to Monique, offering his support. “You doing okay?”

“I’m…” she looked over at Philippe. He felt her eyes on him but didn’t look back. “Fine, I’m fine.”

“Whoa, this is different!” Elsie shouted. Everyone ran over to Elsie. She was standing in front of the Millennian UFO, hands outstretched.

“I don’t understand,” Major Hicks said.

“Can’t you feel the heat?” Nick replied.

Randy couldn’t resist. “No pun intended!”

Nick frowned at his friend. “It’s the UFO, it’s emitting heat. Why? It’s all too much to be a coincidence.”

“Not that we believe in coincidences,” Elsie clarified.

“Stop beating around the bush,” Major Hicks ordered. “If you think you know something, spill it!”

“Okay, okay,” mumbled Elsie. Clearing her throat, she explained her theory. “Well, the Millennian UFO is solar powered. It needed sunlight to operate. Whatever hatched from it made a nice sunroof. Of course, this is Antarctica we’re talking about. Sunlight is very scarce this time of year. So it must’ve taken time for it to reboot. When it did, it sent a signal to little Cloverfield up there, and you all know the rest.”

“Brilliant deduction, Doctor Chapman,” Philippe said. “But it’s still emitting heat, which means it’s still communicating with the Orga creature.”

“How do we stop it from transmitting?” Major Hicks wanted to know.

Mendel Craven had an idea. “The UFO must be using an electromagnetic frequency. I’ll have NIGEL hack into its frequency and disable it.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Randy muttered. “Did you just say my calling card, ‘hack’? That’s my specialty, doc.”

“Nonsense,” Craven replied to hide his ego. “Sit back and watch a real master at work.” With his controller stick, Craven ordered NIGEL to hack into the Millennian UFO’s mainframe. On its tractors, the robot moved to fulfill its programming.

Craven’s triumphant expression was shattered, however, when the robot started singing.

“And the Jay-Z song was on, and the Jay-Z song was on, and the Jay-Z song was on!” NIGEL screamed at full volume. “So I put my hands up, they’re playin’ my song! The butterflies fly away! Nodding my head like yeah, moving my hips like yeah! It’s a party in the USA!”

Craven’s cheeks burned red. To avoid all the awkward glances, he desperately tried reprogramming NIGEL.

“Seriously, Randy?” Elsie criticized. “I know how you like hacking into that dingy robot, but having it sing a Miley Cyrus song? That’s really shallow.”

“Hey, I didn’t do it this time! Don’t get me wrong, I’m flattered,” Randy admitted. “But I’m not the one to blame here. Which means…”

Craven avoided eye contact like his life depended on it. “Stupid iTunes transferring my favorite songs to NIGEL without my consent,” he screamed. “Stupid, stupid, stupid!”

Nick rolled his eyes. “Okay, Craven and Randy will work on trying to disrupt the UFO’s connection with Orga. Which means the rest of us will have to help Zilla.”

“And how are we supposed to do that?” Philippe asked.

Nick concentrated for a moment. “Major, you once ran this operation. Is there anything you’re not telling us?”

“I was replaced, remember?” Major Hicks replied defensively. “So whatever information I had to offer is moot.”

“Not entirely true, Major,” Philippe revealed.

Major Hicks frowned at Philippe, discouraging him from talking. Nick confronted him by getting in his face. Major Hicks thought about having him detained but decided friendship was more important. 

“Backup is on its way,” Major Hicks said. “That’s the good news.”

“What’s the bad news?” Nick asked.

Zilla hopped onto Orga’s back, biting its head. Orga thrashed to get the giant iguana off. Zilla made sure to bite deep; however, there was no blood to taste. Orga took advantage of Zilla’s confusion by tossing him off. Zilla bounced off the icy terrain, dorsal spines flashing.

Looking to distract its prey, Orga’s jawbones snapped out of alignment. Taken aback, Zilla delayed burning the fearsome beast. Orga used its time wisely by stretching its mouth so wide, it could swallow Zilla whole. That was certainly Orga’s intent. With its supersized maw slobbering in anticipation, Orga waited for Zilla to come to him. Zilla was a cognitive creature, capable of exhibiting and understanding emotion. He also could see a trap when it was staring him in the face.

Thermonuclear fire scorched Orga’s entire body. Somewhere amidst the emerald inferno, Orga screamed for the pain to stop. Zilla’s flames faded into smoke, steaming the cold air. Orga’s charred carcass was writhing in a pool of churning water, the ice underneath him melting. Zilla moved closer, wary of the wounded alien. Even with its eyes burnt out, Orga tilted its head as if it could still see Zilla. Finally, the ice melted, and Orga disappeared beneath the churning waves.

Zilla kept his distance. He crouched close enough to see Orga’s bubbling mass reconstituting. That’s when the mighty reptile heard footprints racing through the ice. Zilla spotted Nick Tatopoulos, his surrogate father, running to meet him, looking worried.

“Back away, back away,” Nick screamed. “Zilla, leave! Get out of here, now!”

Understanding Nick’s plight, Zilla stepped back to leave. Suddenly, Orga’s twisted bulk burst forth out of the water, his maw several times larger than it was before. There was no time for Zilla to brace himself. Nick watched in horror as Orga swallowed Zilla’s entire upper body, restraining the reptile in place with its needlelike teeth. Zilla couldn’t break free, not even with his tremendous strength. Zilla’s spines lit up as he prepared to unleash his fiery breath. But Orga’s jaws were biting down too hard, cutting off the circulation of Zilla’s atomic power.

All Nick could do was watch helplessly. Squeezing his fists, Nick tried figuring out a solution. He’s a brilliant scientist, one with years of experience fighting giant creatures; surely he had some backup plan to save Zilla. But he had none.

There was a distant booming sound. Nick spun around to face the source, shocked to see a missile streaking through the air. It struck Orga in the face, engulfing it in a ball of fire. Orga snapped its teeth out of Zilla’s flesh, surprised by this unexpected attack. More and more missiles shot into his gray hide, exploding in great balls of fire and smoke. In order to assimilate Zilla’s flesh, Orga needed to concentrate. He couldn’t with these missiles hitting him. And so his jaws and neck muscles relented in their attempts to swallow Zilla whole, freeing him just enough for the giant reptile to retaliate.

Thermonuclear fire burned Orga’s insides. Zilla backed out of Orga’s maw, torching the insidious alien with his green flames. With its form shrouded in crackling flames, Orga cried out. Its ear piercing screams made Nick resentful. No animal, be it terrestrial or extraterrestrial, deserved to die in so much pain. With its powerful legs, Orga hopped thousands of feet away, obscured by the coming storm. Zilla thought about chasing the wounded alien, knowing it was still a threat to the entire world. But he sensed the presence of another giant. And with his father here, Zilla chose to stay behind to protect him.

Nick squinted through the howling winds. He could see something standing in the fog. It was about the size of Zilla, maybe a little larger. Its yellow-hued eyes pierced the veil of the fog. Remembering how it fired missiles, Nick suspected it was a giant robot. And he was right.

Kiryu marched out of the fog, intimidating Zilla with its fearlessness. Beneath layers of armored-metal, grinding hydraulics, whirling machines, and electrical currents, Zilla sensed life somewhere in Kiryu. It was not completely artificial. It was, however, his enemy. Kiryu took another step, threatening Zilla with its digital shriek. Zilla gritted his teeth, ready to defend himself.

“Zilla, get out of here!” Nick shouted, knowing it would be a death sentence for Zilla if he attacked a military unit of any kind.

Zilla listened to his human father. Clawing at the icy surface, Zilla burrowed away to safety. Kiryu continued its march, stopping right in front of Nick. It was an imposing sight. Nick prayed Kiryu’s controllers knew he was there or he’d be squashed. Kiryu looked down at the tiny human, its eyes glowing like two miniature suns.

“A wise decision, Doctor Tatopoulos,” Kiryu’s pilot spoke out a hidden speaker. It was a feminine voice, belonging to one of the world’s greatest pilots. A door opened in one of Kiryu’s ankles. Leaving Kiryu on lockdown, its pilot ventured out into the freezing cold to greet Nick.

“Who are you?” Nick asked.

“My name is Akane Yashiro,” she introduced herself formally. “I’m the pilot of the kaiju fighting machine, Kiryu.”

-

Nick wanted to punch Major Hicks in the face. But deep down, he knew the Major wasn’t to blame. He risked everything by telling Nick the truth. That didn’t mean Nick had to like it.

“So let me get this straight,” Randy said. “You’re telling me the pencil pushers at the Pentagon wanted Zilla and Orga to fight? They knew it would’ve absorbed Zilla’s DNA and transformed into an unstoppable monster? And they knew it had to turn its mouth into a giant vagin—“

“Uh, Randy!” Elsie shouted.

 “—to do it?” he finished.

“My orders were clear,” Major Hicks grumbled. “I don’t like it as much as you do.”

“That’s bullshit, Major,” Nick retorted.

“Watch your tone, worm-guy,” Major Hicks fired back. “I respect you. But if you ever talk to me like that again, you and your people will be detained.”

“Why, Major?” Nick asked. “Why would they want to make Orga stronger? Why would they want to endanger the entire world?”

“That’s why we negotiated for Kiryu to come and assist us,” Major Hicks replied. “We had Kiryu hidden in one of the ships that brought us here.”

Nick sighed. “This is all ridiculous.”

While Nick and Major Hicks were too busy arguing, Monique greeted Akane warmly. “It is good to see you again.”

Not long after saving Japan from Godzilla, Akane was transferred to America to improve her skills. She met HEAT and even joined them on a few of their assignments. On these assignments she met Monique Dupre. After forming a bond with the French Operative, Akane kept close ties with her new friend, even after returning to Japan to protect it as Kiryu’s pilot.

“Likewise, Monique,” Akane bowed. “I’m sorry for all the secrecy. I didn’t know you and your team were here. My government wanted both a diplomat and a soldier to represent our people. So they sent me.”

“I understand. Today has been full of surprises. In fact,” Monique glanced at Philippe, “it’s been more like a reunion.”

Akane nodded in understanding. She was easily one of the most empathic people Monique ever met. Monique was certain Akane and Elsie Chapman would’ve liked each other. But she wasn’t the type to introduce people. Her former job was to do the opposite in ways that would make people sick.

Regardless, Akane saw her as a good friend, and treated her as such. Monique, likewise, was happy to see her.

Craven went up to Elsie, typing in his handheld computer pad. “I’ve reprogrammed NIGEL to try and interface with the UFO’s system,” he bragged. “It’s a long shot but I’m positive we can severe all communication it has to Orga.”

“Since when did you become so useful?” Elsie smiled.

Oblivious to the insult, Craven blushed. All he would remember from all this was how Elsie smiled at him. Squeaking to life, NIGEL rolled over to the UFO to try and establish contact.

Meanwhile, Nick was piecing the puzzle together.

“We’re here to bring closure to Doctor Blair’s work,” Nick clarified. “Instead we’ve found ourselves trapped in a conspiracy. Make no mistake, there’s a connection between this conspiracy and Doctor Blair’s work. Now I want to know the real reason why we’re here.”

“That’s a lot to swallow, worm-guy,” Major Hicks responded honestly. “And here I thought you were a scientist. You sound more like a conspiracy theorist.”

“What if I’m right?”

“Then for all our sakes, we better find an answer, and fast.”

“Uh, Nick?” Elsie waved for him to come over. “We found something.”

Nick walked over to them. Needing to reach his commanding officers, Major Hicks motioned for Philippe to keep an eye on him. As a seasoned veteran for the French Secret Service, Philippe still wasn’t keen on showing loyalty to the American government. But Major Hicks earned his respect and, like Philippe, was a professional.

“What is it, Elsie?” Nick inquired.

Craven answered for her. “NIGEL just made contact with the Millennian UFO.”

“Have you disabled its link with Orga?”

“Well, yes and no,” Craven coughed. “I know that’s not a real answer. But let me explain. We, uh, got more than we expected. The UFO uploaded information about itself onto NIGEL. It almost looked like it was trying to hack into us, too.”

“Why would it hack into NIGEL and give us information about it?”

“It makes sense, I guess,” Elsie theorized. “We’re talking about an alien life form that assimilates other life forms. That involves an exchange of information in some form or another. So it follows a similar pattern when it bonds with electronics.”

“Does it have any useful information?” Philippe asked.

“So far, it’s shown us diagrams of familiar genetic codes,” Elsie answered. “It has information on our DNA. I even saw Godzilla’s DNA in there once or twice. It seems to be giving us a list of every known creature it’s bonded with. It then gives us data on multi-celled and single-celled organisms. Now here’s what I find very fascinating,” she grinned. “If I’m looking at these diagrams correctly, it’s showing us what our ancient ancestors looked like down to the genetic level. It’s showing us the very first single-celled organisms.

When people think about their ancestors, they usually think about their great grandparents or George Washington or a medieval knight. When scientists talk about human ancestry, they’re not talking about the Romans or the Greeks; they’re talking about ancient fish. But even some scientists forget how all life on the planet is connected. Ancient single-celled organisms, ones that existed billions of years ago, were the principle ancestors of humankind and every other life form on Earth existing today. But the single-celled organisms existing today are not the same ones that existed eons ago. Evolution, natural selection, and time changed all that. So it’s very difficult for scientists to study organisms that no longer exist. There are, however, clues of their existence. But it’s not enough to answer the most important question experts have not been able to answer:

What caused life on Earth to exist?"

“And it also shows us what spawned the first life forms,” Elsie revealed in excitement. “It’s the race this Millennian being belongs to.” She wasn’t worried about the outcry news like this would generate. She didn’t care how many people would deny the truth in exchange of superstition. Elsie Chapman searched for the truth all her life and, at long last, she’s found it.

“So we’re all related to Orga?” Randy stopped laughing when he realized no one else was.

Nick accepted this information. “This is what Hicks meant when he told us Doctor Blair was right. Blair believed aliens were the predecessors of all Earth life. This Millennian race may not be responsible for spawning all life on Earth. But it does appear to be our main ancestor.”

“Not so fast, guys,” Craven interjected. “This is just data it has on all of us. There’s a reason why it’s tried bonding with Zilla, right? Its genetic model is outdated.”

Elsie added to Craven’s observation. “It’s trying to catch up with its descendants. What better way to do that than take their greatest strengths and eliminate the competition?”

“Do you think the government knows this?” Nick asked quietly. “If so, why send us? Why make this thing stronger? Why put your entire race in jeopardy?”

“Hey worm-guy!” Major Hicks shouted. “Check this out.”

Nick and the others ran over. To help shed light on the situation, Akane showed them her previous encounter with Orga.

Major Hick’s soldiers finished assembling a computer station. They inserted a disc Akane brought with her. Accessing its video files, Nick and the others found out what it was like to be staring through the eyes of Kiryu.

Descending through the fog, Kiryu couldn’t see where he was going. Nick could hear Akane’s voice over a com-link, telling her compatriots she was switching to night vision. But that only made things harder to see. She switched to infrared. Again, it didn’t make things easier. Finally, Akane settled with a combination of all the previous visions.

“This would make a really neat ride,” Randy joked. His teammates shushed into silence.

He was right though. Seeing the world through Kiryu’s perspective was exciting. Kiryu broke through the fog coverage and found a clearing to land. Computer sensors scanned the terrain, pinpointing the best place to land, and whether or not it could support the robot’s weight. Kiryu found a nice spot, touching down on Antarctica. Nick heard its rocket thrusters die down as it scanned the perimeter.

There were no signs of life. Cold winds froze its eyes, forcing Kiryu to heat up its optics to make it easier for him to see. Kiryu turned to its left just in time to see a massive claw strike it in the face. Kiryu’s world spun round and round before he crashed into a hill. Kiryu rose out of the ice, quick to look for its attacker. Glancing down at his arm, Kiryu’s electric saber slit out of its arm, and pulsated with energy. Kiryu’s sensors detected an abnormal life sign in its vicinity. Kiryu located it. It was crouching in the ice not too far away. It was Orga.

Kiryu wasted no time. He fired its missiles, enveloping Orga and the area around him in a sea of fire. Orga screamed as it waded through the missile salvo. Kiryu guarded himself by holding Orga’s head back with one hand while thrusting its electric saber into its vile neck with the other. Kiryu pumped hundreds of millions of volts of electricity into Orga. Screaming like a wounded beast, Orga hit Kiryu so hard, he flipped straight up into the air. With his rocket boosters rumbling to life, Kiryu hovered hundreds of meters above the alien. Its maser, an electrical beam emitted from its mouth, lanced into its gray hide. Kiryu’s missiles and laser cannons followed suit, blasting and bombarding Orga where he stood. But this tremendous display of firepower succeeded in concealing Orga’s whereabouts. Kiryu ceased fire just in time to see Orga leap up, swatting Kiryu out of the sky like a fly. Kiryu saw the ground and the sky spin as he fell.

“This totally just went Blair Witch on us,” Randy complained, searching for a barf bag.

Kiryu hit the ground with a loud thud. For a full second, Kiryu was staring up at the sky. That’s when the ice broke from under him, sending him falling into a dark crevasse. Kiryu embedded his sharp claws into the icy walls, fighting to slow his dangerous descent. But his metallic claws were so sharp, the icy walls shattered, and it looked like Kiryu would be lost in the abyss. Fire erupted out of its rocket boosters, brightening the underground chasm Kiryu was floating in. Burning at maximum power, Kiryu ascended back to the surface. His scanners quickly detected Orga’s presence in the vicinity. Morphing one of his hands into a spinning drill, Kiryu prepared for his rematch.

An energy wave slammed into Kiryu’s hull, blasting the robot into the ground. But it didn’t stop there, the energy wave had so much momentum, it sent Kiryu hurtling through the icy terrain, leaving a massive trench in its wake. Orga jumped high into the sky, looking to pounce on Kiryu. Kiryu jumped up in time to activate its rocket boosters and collided with the alien in midair. Kiryu stabbed Orga in the throat with his electric saber, electrocuting the alien. With his other arm, Kiryu buried his drill into Orga’s gut, and ripped it wide open. Orga shrieked in front of Kiryu’s face, fogging up his eyes. When the fog was removed, Kiryu took his drill, and cut a bloody swath of Orga’s upper body, spilling out its organs.

When the two giants landed, Kiryu pulled back. Orga was on its knees, gasping for its life. Kiryu showed no remorse, no mercy. Its right missile shoulder pack snapped out of its restraints. Orga looked up in time to have Kiryu’s missile pack shoved down his throat. Its worried eyes widened in shock. With the click of a button, the missile pack decimated everything above Orga’s torso in a blinding flash of light. The burning shockwaves slammed into Kiryu, replacing its vision with nothing but static.

Randy whistled. “That was epic! The way you took the fight to him reminded me of my Mortal Kombat days.”

“I assume you didn’t kill the creature, since it attacked us,” Monique said.

“By the time we reestablished visual,” answered Akane, “Orga was gone. I didn’t find any tracks. Given the environment, I shouldn’t be surprised.” There was a loud beeping noise. It was coming from a communications device located in Akane’s watch. There was trouble brewing on the surface outside.

“What is it?” Monique asked.

“Orga has been spotted a few kilometers from here,” Akane declared. “Kiryu’s scanners just picked up his body temperature.”

“Then you should be up there, now,” Major Hicks instructed. Akane nodded. Major Hicks ordered a few soldiers to accompany her as she made haste to the surface. “While she’s saving our lives, I’d like your people to severe Orga’s connection with the UFO once and for all. I don’t give a damn if Orga’s the one in control or if it’s the UFO. Our primary objective here is to divide and conquer.”

“Waitwaitwait,” Randy muttered at lightning speed. He was overlooking the film footage from earlier. Typing in a series of codes, Randy made a grave discovery. “I just noticed something about Asian Cutie’s scuffle. According to the time logs on the computer, her fight with Orga happened at exactly the same time he clashed with Zilla.”

“There’s two of them,” Philippe said. “We’re dealing with more than one Orga.”

Nick walked over to Mendel Craven and NIGEL.

“Call Zilla.”

-

The wind was below freezing. It washed over Kiryu’s imposing figure, covering its metallic skin in layers of ice. Kiryu’s manufacturers, having foreseen a possible event, took extra precautions. An advanced heating system installed in his armor evaporated the ice. But the wind was persistent and the air was getting colder; ice quickly returned to fight for dominance.

Somewhere inside Kiryu’s spine, there was a cockpit larger than a motorhome. Akane Yashiro controlled the robotic leviathan from within with levers and advanced computers. It hadn’t always been this easy. Akane remembered the first time she entered this cockpit. It was an emergency and she couldn’t control the robot from a nearby aircraft like normal. She had to pull and twist levers just to keep Kiryu mobile, hurting her hands and wrists in the process. There’s a reason why this method was considered a last resort. It was a necessary risk, one many believed would fail, but it was better than laying your arms down to die. Akane’s willpower awakened something deep inside Kiryu, awakening his own desire to live.

Now Akane preferred piloting this way. She’d never tell her superiors how Kiryu liked it better this way too.

Alarms blared in the cockpit. Kiryu detected Orga’s bio-signature in the vicinity. Up ahead, there were two mountains separated by a clearing. Crouched in the clearing was a colossal beast. It took Akane a few seconds to realize it wasn’t moving, let alone breathing. Cautiously, Kiryu moved in closer, his massive feet leaving footprints in the ice and snow. The wind picked up, making it extremely difficult for Kiryu to see him. Kiryu stopped where he last saw Orga. Extending his hand, Kiryu’s razor sharp claws poked into the quiet monster.

Orga wasn’t moving because it had no life signs.

Seeing an opportunity, Kiryu unleashed his oral maser cannon. The electrical energies lanced into Orga’s chest, punching a gaping hole through its body. There was no retaliation. Deciding it’d be best to decapitate first and ask questions later, Kiryu’s claws separated Orga’s head from its neck in a sickening slash. Orga’s head exploded into pale dust, which was swept up in the wind. The rest of Orga’s body crumbled into ash.

Still there were no life signs. It was as if Orga had never been alive to begin with.

“That’s strange,” whispered Akane. She felt a faint rumble. That was Kiryu’s way of warning her. Something was amiss, and she was going to get to the bottom of it. Pieces of ice fell off the mountain. Kiryu raised his head, searching for the source. At the top of the mountain it saw the silhouette of a demented looking giant staring down at him. Before Kiryu could react it vanished. Whatever it was, it’s faster than Kiryu in this environment.

Could it be Zilla? If so, she better alert HEAT immediately, and have them call the creature off. She deeply respected the creature for all the good he’s done. Like Mothra, Gamera, and the other champions of Earth, Zilla had proven himself to be one of Mankind’s greatest protectors.

Kiryu stomped around the mountain, locating claw marks on its side. There was a subtle vibration in the ground. In the span of a few seconds, it became more violent. The creature causing it was real close. Kiryu spun around in time to see a huge tail smack against his face.

Time passed almost as slow as the clouds. Kiryu could see thousands of stars gleaming in the dark sky. Most of those stars burned out when the Earth was young. And somewhere, Akane wondered, there had to be someone like her on the opposite ends of the universe, staring back. If they had a powerful telescope, one calibrated to be thousands of times more efficient than a human one, what would they see? Akane remembered reading about how they wouldn’t see people. What they’d be seeing is a window into Earth’s past. They’d sooner see a Godzillasaurus than the first Man. And if they did see such a magnificent animal, would they try to emulate its power? Would they try to assimilate everything that made it beautiful?

Akane and Kiryu returned to the fight.

Rising out of an imprint it made in a hillside, Kiryu screamed a challenge to its attacker. It roared a challenge back at him. Akane couldn’t see it. She knew it was out there, staring at them, waiting for the perfect moment to attack. Sure enough, it lunged at Kiryu from the dark, scratching his armor with its claws. This time Akane caught a glimpse of its savage appearance.

Gray-brownish scales covered its body like soil covered the dead in cemeteries. It had a long, muscular tail swishing the air. Its claws, much larger than Orga’s, flailed wildly. It looked like Orga in so many ways. But it sported a frill on its neck, its snout was longer, and jagged spines protruded out of its back. Orga wanted Zilla’s genetic strengths. It sought the giant reptile out and succeeded. After acquiring enough of Zilla’s DNA, it found the other Orga, its injured twin, and assimilated its life force.

Orga, the progenitor of all Earth life, was more dangerous than ever.

Kiryu’s electric sabers burned to life. No doubt about it, Kiryu was fighting for all life on Earth. Suddenly, an electromagnetic wave burned across the frozen tundra, shutting down Kiryu’s systems. The cockpit went dark. Trying not to panic, Akane struggled to activate Kiryu’s backup power. There was no response. She couldn’t even warn HEAT of Orga’s transformation and his inevitable attack.

-

Nick was lost somewhere in his subconscious. It was like swimming in an ocean without shores, left to drown in madness. Images of his past occasionally popped up; sometimes they were mental photographs, other times it felt like he was reliving those moments a second time.

He remembered meeting Audrey Timmonds for the first time. It was outside his dorm. For a few weeks, she had been dating one of Nick’s roommates, until the young man started spreading unfounded rumors about her. She wanted to hear his side of the story first before passing judgment. Later, she wrote an article about it in their college’s newspaper. In the very same article, Audrey denounced the males of their species, comparing them to worms. Nick Tatopoulos saw this as an opportunity to ask her out, since worms fascinated him, and he would very much like to help her understand them better. Nick vowed he’d ask her to marry him if he ever lived through this.

Then there was the time HEAT was called to investigate Godzilla’s whereabouts. They found him a few miles off the coast of the Bikini Atoll. Unfortunately, their presence stirred the atomic god from his slumber. Nick recalled fondly how they’re lives were saved at the last minute by his surrogate son and friend, Zilla. It was like witnessing a real life adaptation of the David versus Goliath tale. Godzilla would’ve made mincemeat of HEAT’s protector had Zilla not used his speed and intellect to his advantage. It also helped that Zilla wasn’t trying to fight his namesake. On the contrary, Zilla was distracting the King of the Monsters so HEAT could find safer waters. After they were safe, something incredible happened. Zilla pleaded with Godzilla to spare his human friends and to be on his way. Nick Tatopoulos and his teammates are alive today because of Zilla’s ability to make moral decisions.

Time and space collapsed. The building blocks of what Nick perceived to be matter shaped one of his biggest regrets. Nick found himself sitting in a chair a few rows back from the front. He was in a college classroom, watching Doctor Blair, then a Professor, lecturing his class about mitochondria. Blair approached Nick after class, pleading with him to reconsider his decision.

“You’re not some schmuck like the rest of these kids,” Blair told Nick. “I know your background. You worked hard to get here, unlike that Cameron Winter guy. So please, I’m begging you, join me on my expedition. Together we’ll make history.”

Nick sighed. “Professor Blair, you’re one of the most brilliant scientist I’ve ever met. I’ve learned so much from you. Before you say anything, I do thank you for helping me out with my financial problems, and for inspiring me to pursue a career in this field. But my answer is still no.”

Blair’s once beaming face molded into shame. Unable to hide his disappointment, he waved for Nick to leave. Nick anticipated this reaction, thinking it wouldn’t faze him. It did. Honoring Blair’s request, Nick walked away. The last thing he saw was Blair turning his back on him.

In a flash, Nick’s memories dissipated, and the young scientist sprung to life. The air was warm, which was strange given the frigid location. Nick squinted to adjust his vision, surprised to see the Millennian UFO hovering above him. It was operational! That explained the unnatural heat in the air. Rising slowly to his feet, Nick heard gunshots rattling from the surface. With no sign of Major Hicks, Philippe, or his HEAT teammates, Nick assumed a fight broke out, and they were all forced to retreat without him.

Feeling uncomfortable next to an active alien spacecraft, Nick hurried to the surface.

But two soldiers were blocking his path, oblivious to his presence. At first Nick wanted to ask them for help. He instinctively kept himself silent. Something about the way they were waiting didn’t feel right. Nick wasn’t a superstitious person; he didn’t believe something was wrong because something from beyond was telling him so. There was a rational explanation behind his suspicions.

There was no other way out. Did he really need to reach the surface? It sounded like a warzone was going on up there. Maybe that’s why he was left behind in the first place. Nick collected his thoughts and sighed. As the leader of HEAT, he felt responsible for the wellbeing of his teammates. Nick made a decision.

“Excuse me,” Nick said loud enough for the guards to hear.

They whirled around in alarm, taking aim at Nick. Nick raised his arms, showing no signs of aggression. They were very wary to drop their weapons. Finally, one of them instructed the other to stand down.

“He’s not one of them,” one of the guards said to the other. “He’s the one we’re supposed to look after, remember?”

Nick walked over to them, rattled by the sounds of gunshots and explosions going off nearby. “You’re here to protect me? Under whose authority?”

The guards exchanged nervous glances. Something was fishy about all this. Nick stepped out a little bit, catching a quick glimpse of the battle. There were distant figures in the icy backdrop, shooting at them. That’s when he saw the bodies in the snow. There were dozens of soldiers lying in puddles of blood. One of them looked very familiar to Nick. Why did it suddenly feel like déjà vu?

“You’re an imposter!” Nick yelled at the guards.

Before his very eyes, their hands morphed into huge, monstrous claws. Dropping the firearms they didn’t need anymore, the imposters grinned menacingly at Nick. Thinking fast, Nick dropped to the ground, picked up one of the guns, and squeezed the trigger. He got a few shots off on one, killing it. The other was too close and too fast. Nick knew he was done for.

A loud gunshot rattled the area. With a hole in its chest, the imposter slumped to the ground. Nick turned to face his savior. With smoke steaming out of the barrel of her rifle, Monique fancied Nick with a smile.

“You have really good timing, Monique,” Nick praised. “Care explaining to me just what the hell is going on here?”

Monique motioned for his immediate silence. It didn’t take long for Nick to discover why. Several silhouettes were converging on their locations. Nick couldn’t tell if they were real people or not. Not wanting to find out, Monique convinced Nick to leave, and made their escape.

Nick was freezing. Of course, he’d been crawling in the ice at a snail’s pace for the last half-hour. Every fiber of his being wanted to just stand up and shout for help. Ignoring the irony in how his cooler head prevailed, Nick knew he’d attract the wrong kind of help. Even Monique.

“After waking up,” Nick whispered loud enough for Monique to hear. “Those creatures you saved me from mentioned they were guarding me. Why would they do that?”

She replied, “It’s easier to exploit someone when they trust you.”

Nick stopped moving. As cold winds washed over him, he realized he’d been tricked. There was still a chance for escape. Monique was several yards out in front of him. If he ran now, he might get away. Nick’s arms trembled as he tried standing, but his legs were too numb. Not giving up, Nick decided to crawl in the direction of whomever the alien imposters were fighting. It could’ve been Major Hicks leading a resistance. It was a risk, one that might get him killed. It was also a risk he had to take.

That’s when he heard someone slushing through the snow. Nick looked over his shoulder and saw Monique chasing after him. The ice and snow was the only reason why she didn’t have him already. Nick turned to run, but he was quickly thrown into a trench. Nick lifted his face out of the freezing snow, wiped it out of his eyes, and saw Philippe Roaché standing over him. That’s when things took a sudden turn for the worse.

Nick opened his mouth to say something. Philippe didn’t even look at him when he told him to be quiet. Instead, Philippe whipped out a pistol, and fired at Monique. Her best hope at evading Philippe’s fire wasn’t dodging his bullets but dodging his aim. So she quickly dove into the snow for cover. Philippe raced after her, blasting holes in the snow where she was last seen.

“What the hell is going on?” Nick shouted over the gunshots, but Philippe couldn’t hear him.

There was a brief moment of silence. Philippe inspected the snow much like how an interrogator would look at a convicted felon. He had a sinking suspicion Monique was alive and well. That’s when she sprung out of the snow and kicked his legs out from under him. As he fell, Monique was quick to kick the pistol out of his hand. After falling, Philippe jumped to his feet immediately, and glared at his former pupil. Both were exceptionally trained killers, with many years of experience. Neither was going to let this hostile terrain slow them down anymore.

Monique’s arms exploded into a flurry of quick jabs. Philippe blocked her hits with great precision and concentration. A glint caught his eye, making it the only warning he had. Monique swiped at his jugular with a knife, but Philippe stopped her. Again she tried and came very close to succeeding. On her third attempt, she grazed his cheek, spilling blood. Drops of black blood dripped off the side of Philippe’s face and onto the ice.

Nick gasped. Philippe Roaché wasn’t human. Had he always been an alien in disguise? Nick felt like everything he knew was a lie.

Monique braced herself as Philippe, the alien imposter, lunged at her. He blocked her knife thrust, but couldn’t stop her from kicking one of his knee joints. Falling to one leg, Philippe caught Monique’s knife and shoved it into her chest.

Nick fell to his knees, stunned by what he was seeing.

Monique trembled as she clenched the handle of the knife. Philippe’s imposter backed away with a twisted grin. In her time of dying, Monique thought about pulling it out, but she knew she’d bleed to death if she did. Monique tried standing but fell down into the ice. With the last ounce of strength she had left, Monique crawled to Nick. Nick reached out to touch his friend. Monique’s eyes rolled back as she breathed her last. She dropped into his arms, as cold and lifeless as the frozen land around them.

“If it’s any consolation,” whispered the alien posing as Philippe, “she died a warrior’s death.”

Nick glared into his inhuman eyes. If looks could kill, Nick’s would’ve burned him to a cinder. The alien was not terribly worried about Nick. It knew he wasn’t a threat. Gently, Nick laid Monique down in the snow, and stood up to confront her killer. Even his bravado couldn’t mask the fear that made him tremble.

“Tell the truth,” Nick demanded. “How long have you been Philippe Roaché? Was his life just one big act like our friendship?”

“Everything is an act,” the alien sneered.

Nick felt something warm trickle off his hands. He couldn’t bring himself to look at Monique’s blood or her corpse. Clenching his fists and gritting his teeth, Nick made his last stand. He knew he had little chance against Philippe, let alone his alien clone, but he’d die trying. The alien took a step closer. Nick closed his eyes, shaking uncontrollably. That’s when a loud bang rattled his ears. A hole the size of a dime appeared on the alien Philippe’s forehead. Seconds passed before the alien fell, its dark blood washing over the ice. Nick, shocked by what had happened, watched the Philippe alien transform into its true, demented form. Seconds later, the deceased Monique twisted and bubbled into a malign shape.

She was never the real Monique.

-

Perched on an icy cliff miles away, Monique Dupre looked out of the scope of her sniper rifle. Even from this distance she could see Nick trying to make sense of all this insanity. Philippe Roaché walked up from behind with a smirk on his face.

“You took pleasure in taking that last shot,” he observed.

Monique smiled. “What can I say? That wasn’t the first time he stabbed me in the heart. I had to get back at him somehow. Although it would seem they’re disguises are so good, they didn’t know they were allies.”

“Agents Roaché and Dupre,” Major Hicks barked from below. “Take a squad down there and rescue Nick! Do it before I finish this sentence.”

Monique and Philippe obeyed his command. Within seconds, Monique had the sniper rifle disassembled and locked away in a combat bag. Philippe approached a group of soldiers, briefing them on their assignments. They were all ready to roll out in less than a minute. Elsie and Craven were trying to formulate the next plan with Major Hicks. That’s when NIGEL’s alarm systems blared.

“Uh-oh, that couldn’t mean anything good,” Elsie said.

“Warning, giant life form approaching our position!” the robot shrieked.

A shadow blotted out the sunlight. They all looked up to see Orga’s claw swiping down. Monique flipped over the ledge, landing next to her teammates. Where she had been standing seconds before was now a crevasse.

Elsie looked up at Orga, amazed by his physical changes. “He’s evolved,” she gasped. “Orga has acquired Zilla’s best attributes. We’re in so much trouble.”

Fate agreed. A few miles away, Kiryu’s glinting shape marched out of the frozen mountains. He wasn’t interested in resuming his fight with Orga; the MechaGodzilla of the new Millennium had its weapons targeting the humans. Over the radio, Major Hicks barked orders at Kiryu’s pilot, Akane Yashiro, ordering her to stop. Kiryu’s cold silence was more ominous than the static that responded back.

Monique felt a tug on her arm. It was Philippe.

“We need a plan, now,” he whispered.

A shadow fell over them. The Millennian UFO hovered above the humans, emitting a humming sound. Light materialized in the core of its energy cannon.

Monique carefully analyzed her enemies and her chances of survival. Orga. Kiryu. The Millennian UFO. Three powerful entities bent on exterminating them. Maybe with the combination of perfect timing and luck, she could evade one. But hell would freeze over long before she could overcome all three. Miracles like that don’t exist, not in this world.

Averting her eyes, Monique saw Nick’s distant figure standing alone. Unbeknownst to him, the alien army, still posing as United States infantry, closed in on him. Even if he tried escaping, where’d he go?

“We could really use a miracle right about now,” gasped Randy, confirming Monique’s worst suspicions.

-

Nick wasn’t sure if he’d been driven crazy yet. He was so numb the cold no longer bothered him. But every time he took a step forward, he’d fall to one knee, and fight like hell to stand right back up. Of course, Nick didn’t know why he was moving. It would seem his cerebellum, the part of his brain responsible for movements, didn’t get the memo. There was nowhere safe for him to go. Orga, Kiryu, and the Millennium UFO were seconds away from atomizing the mountain his friends were on. Were they really friends or were they aliens in disguise? Nick didn’t know.

“Why do you persist, Nick?” asked a voice from his past.

It took all of Nick’s strength to face his former friend and mentor, Doctor Blair. He was no illusion; Doctor Blair really was standing there in the snow, favoring Nick with a demented look of fulfillment. Nick lost the strength to stand, but right before resigning himself to an icy tomb, Doctor Blair caught him. Nick trembled when Blair’s cold, pale fingers caressed his forehead.

“It’s because you are a survivor, Nick,” Doctor Blair said, answering his own question. “You always have been. And now, thanks to us, you are eternal. Whatever happens to the body you inhabit, your code, your magnificent mind, will live on forever in our collective consciousness.”

“W-what are y-you talking a-about?” a feeble Nick whispered.

“Oh, my boy,” Doctor Blair laughed, embracing Nick like a father would to a son. “You haven’t fully awoken yet. You’re letting those human memories shackle you. I can relate. But they’re nothing more than windows to a previous life.”

Nick closed his eyes, wanting to die. “You’re not real.”

Doctor Blair’s hand morphed into a gray-skinned claw. Microscopic receptors on its fingertips fed him Nick’s genetic information. Blair’s face, once beaming with pride, twisted into a look of hatred and contempt.

“And you think you are?” Doctor Blair hissed. “We were exploring the cosmos long before your little planet stitched itself together. You couldn’t even imagine what we know, where we’ve been. While your pitiful race is too busy squabbling over the most primitive of desires, we not only harnessed life, we guided it."

Would you like to know how you fell from grace?”

Nick couldn’t move. All he could do was watch helplessly as Blair’s pale face turned into shades of gray. Needlelike teeth protruded out of his bleeding gums. Nick stared in stunned silence as Blair uttered a sickening gurgle.

Finally, Nick answered. “Go to hell.”

“Long ago, one of our first prototype cruisers found this planet,” Blair revealed, ignoring Nick. “But they crashed. With their bodies compromised, they seeded the environment with their essence, giving life to life. Billions of years later, another one of our cruisers homed in on its signal. It lost control and, like the crew before it, crashed. Your scientists know this cruiser as the Millennian UFO. However, unlike the first cruiser, this one chose hibernation over new genesis. When it resurfaced, it found an entire world full of life.”

Suddenly, Blair’s facial features changed. Nick heard the bones under Blair’s skin snap and twist, the blood in his bulging veins boiling. How long did it take for Nick to realize he was no longer looking at a creature posing as Doctor Blair, but at a creature posing as himself? It was like back when he was peering into the sea, staring into his watery reflection. That felt like a lifetime ago.

“So you see, Nick?” Nick’s alien doppelganger said. “We’re family. And we’ve come now to collect what is rightfully ours.”

Nick heard the sound of footsteps crunching in the snow. The silhouettes of many soldiers, all aliens in disguise, were creeping up on them. Nick felt a fire rise from within. He didn’t know why or how this was possible. Maybe it was adrenaline, but he had no energy left to summon. It didn’t matter anymore because even if he had no strength to stand, he wasn’t going to let these alien bastards walk all over him without a fight.

“We’re not yours,” Nick said in defiance. “Even if what you say is true, we will not go down without a fight.”

Nick glared into the eyes of his alien clone. It glared back, looking like it might just peel the skin from off his face to prove its point. There was a sudden vibration in the ground. At first it was subtle, but it soon matured into a full-blown earthquake. The cause didn’t remain a mystery for long.

A gigantic tail burst out of the ground, tossing chunks of ice and snow up into the air, before smashing the alien army into oblivion. Rows of spikes broke the splintered surface, rising on the back of one of Earth’s greatest champions, Zilla. The giant reptile bellowed a mighty roar, challenging the alien threat. His feral eyes looked down at Nick and his alien clone. Grunting, Zilla tilted his head in confusion. He knew this was unusual; Zilla didn’t have two fathers.

“What a wonderful specimen you are,” said the alien Nick. “I’ve always been fond of them, of mutations. I’m well acquainted with this one’s genetics. It’s a sea of untapped potential. Nick,” he said, facing his human counterpart, “you should be ashamed of yourself, for letting this animal’s usefulness go to waste.”

Zilla bent down, sniffing the alien posing as his adoptive father. Nick had never seen himself look so confident. Zilla didn’t seem to realize he was in the presence of an extraterrestrial.

“Zilla,” Nick moaned. “Don’t trust him.”

Nick’s alien clone laughed. “So you don’t even trust yourself? That’s right, Nick, I’m you. Down to the last cell, I’m you, and so much more. As far as this reptile’s concerned, I’m his father. But I won’t just be his father. No, I’ll be his mentor. I’ll transform him into a god.”

Zilla watched the two Nick’s squabble. The reptile wasn’t completely ignorant of their words. Human language was initially difficult for him to comprehend, but now he knew enough to understand and obey. Zilla stared at his two fathers, knowing something was awry.

“So that’s your endgame, huh?” Nick said to his alien counterpart. “You want to become a god. Even with all your power and knowledge, you’re as imperfect as the rest of us.”

“Yes, we’re imperfect,” replied the alien. “Had we been like you from the start, our imperfections would’ve sentenced us to an early extinction. But we’re more than what you are. We’ve evolved and we’ll continue to evolve, with or without your consent.”

Nick took a deep breath. Pushing off the ice, Nick stood up. Every fiber of his being wanted to give up. He wanted to lie down and stay down. But he also wanted to save the world. With burning determination and clenched fists, Nick glared at his alien clone, and did not blink.

“No, your evolution ends now.”

Zilla roared, recognizing which one of them was his real father. To the surprise of Nick’s alien clone, the giant reptile picked the alien up by his two fingers, and dangled him in front of his massive jaws. Nick looked up, smiling. His alien clone was screaming for his life. Zilla passed judgment before he could plead his case.

Zilla flicked the alien, hurtling his mangled remains into Orga’s direction. Nick shielded his eyes, knowing what was coming next. Atomic light enriched Zilla’s spikes, heralding his thermonuclear breath. Emerald flames vaporized the clone of Nick Tatopoulos and burned into Orga’s backside. Orga’s screeching pain attracted Kiryu and the Millennian UFO’s attention. Zilla sprinted across the ice, pouncing on the wounded Orga while simultaneously knocking Kiryu down with his tail. It all happened lightning fast.

“That’s my boy,” Nick whispered.

The Millennian UFO descended, firing its energy cannon into Zilla's chest. Zilla went flying into the hanger where the UFO had been kept. Shaking crumbled ice off of his scaly face, Zilla braced himself for the UFO’s second strike. Its energy cannon enveloped the giant reptile, casting a bright light throughout the land. When the UFO powered its energy weapon down, all that remained was a sizzling impact crater. As it hovered closer, its sensors realized it was more than just a crater. It was a hole.

Zilla burst out from under the UFO, blasting a burning hole through its undercarriage. The UFO left a trail of burning smoke before crashing into a hillside, dying in a great explosion. Orga blindsided Zilla by tackling him into the ground. There he ripped Zilla’s chest open with his serrated claws. Fighting the pain, Zilla answered by giving Orga a mouthful of thermonuclear fire. Disorientated, Orga stumbled away. Zilla moved to take advantage of Orga’s condition, until Kiryu’s wrists-lasers seared into his flesh. Snorting flames out of his nostrils, Zilla’s eyes glowed as his spikes powered up. But before he could blast Kiryu, Zilla was forced to face Orga as the alien fired a thermonuclear blast of its own. Zilla’s jaws parted, scorching the frigid winds with his fire.

The two thermonuclear blasts burned into one another. With neither giving ground, the flames exploded into all directions, melting the ice while evaporating the snow. The torrent of atomic fire burning out of Zilla’s mouth faded. Zilla looked away and shielded himself, expecting Orga’s atomic fire to envelop him. When that didn’t happen, Zilla stared into the maelstrom of fire burning in the heart of Antarctica. Zilla was cautious of his surroundings, but he couldn’t help it; the fire was beautiful. When did life become so enthralled by fire? Fire was both beautiful and deadly. Whenever a forest fire raged, all forms of life would make themselves scarce. But every once in a while, a soul would become so captivated by its light and warmth, it’d do nothing but watch it. On some level, life felt a kindred spirit in fire. So, too, did Zilla. Atomic fire burned in his heart. It’s what gave him life and it’s what would give him the strength to end Orga’s.

Suddenly, Orga’s claw shot out of the fire, grabbing Zilla by the snout. With tremendous strength, it pulled Zilla into the inferno.

-

Monique and her HEAT teammates watched the battle unfold. They’ve seen their fair share of monster battles. But this one was different. The stakes were higher. If Zilla perished, all life would follow him into oblivion. Subduing her personal doubts, Monique moved into action. She walked over the edge where Kiryu towered above them. It had its weapons drawn on Zilla, ready to fire.

“Akane!” Monique shouted, while waving her arms. “Akane, if you can hear me, you must take back control!”

“That’s your plan?” Philippe said, with the look of defeat in his hardened face.

“If there’s the chance she’s still alive and can hear me,” Monique responded back, “I’m going to do everything I can to help.”

Randy, Craven and Elsie joined them.

“We can help,” Elsie said. “Although I’ve never seen our dear French operative show so much emotion. It must be Christmas.”

“Randy and I can get NIGEL to hack into Kiryu’s network,” Craven bragged, before looking nervous. “Maybe we can free it of Orga’s control.”

-

Akane opened her eyes to familiar surroundings. A network of machines and blinking lights greeted her beaten and bruised complexion. The last thing she remembered before losing consciousness was Kiryu malfunction and Orga’s ambush. Somehow, the alien hacked into Kiryu’s systems. When she looked to see what was happening outside, she saw only static.

“Kiryu,” Akane whispered. “We’ve been compromised. I know you can hear me. You must help us.”

A perpetual silence filled the room. It was unusual, given how all the machines and hydraulics were humming a few seconds earlier. Was she too late? Had the alien presence erased Kiryu’s spirit? As Akane moved to find another way to regain control, she heard a distant rumble. It was coming from within her Mechagodzilla.

-

Craven touched a control rod, motioning for NIGEL to move into position. When NIGEL didn’t move, Craven’s confidence plummeted. He reached to restart NIGEL’s mainframe, but the robot batted his arm away. It tilted its head, staring at Craven with its glowing green eyes. In a flash, NIGEL’s green eyes turned red.

“Randy, please tell me this is your doing,” Elsie whispered. “Which would be really bad timing, by the way.”

“Uh, no,” Randy admitted, with apprehension in his voice. “My work is far more original than this.”

NIGEL raised its arms in a threatening gesture. In an instant, the robot released a disturbing, sonic scream. It charged at the humans, waving its sharp arms around as if they were knives. Monique and Philippe jumped in front of the members of HEAT, pistols raised. They emptied their bullets into the wild robot, punching holes through its golden exterior. NIGEL didn’t slow down. Elsie screamed for Major Hicks and his men to help them.

“I refuse to be killed by NIGEL of all things!” she shouted. Craven looked offended.

“That UFO must’ve hacked into it when NIGEL connected with it earlier!” Randy theorized. “The doc’s little toy has been one big ticking time bomb this whole time.”

NIGEL was seconds away from tearing into its creators before Kiryu’s hand scooped him up, crushing it into thousands of pieces. Randy laughed after hearing NIGEL scream, much to Craven’s dismay.

Kiryu looked down at the humans, his eyes glowing red. Philippe was distrustful, believing the red eyes represented Kiryu’s descent into madness. But Monique knew better. She waved at the robotic behemoth, nodding her head in approval.

“So this is what Kiryu looks like when it goes berserk,” Monique quipped.

Philippe felt nervous again. "Berserk? How does Kiryu going berserk help them?

Akane voice answered through a hidden speaker. “Kiryu is in control, but he’s agreed to help us. He knows what’s at stake. But before we intervene, we need to go help someone.”

Kiryu’s rocket boosters burned to life. In a great burst of energy, Kiryu jumped thousands of feet into the air, and landed in a controlled descent not far from Nick Tatopoulos. Kiryu lowered his hand, waiting for Nick to step into the center of its palm.

“Get in,” Akane’s digitized voice said.

Nick moved as fast as his tired body could. Kiryu picked him up slowly, motioning for him to enter through a door at the base of his neck. Nick did exactly that.

Cool, was all Nick could say to himself. He was about to enter the cockpit of the new Mechagodzilla, Kiryu.

When Nick entered, a wall of warm air greeted him. It was one of the greatest feelings he had ever felt. It reminded him of being in the arms of his girlfriend, Audrey Timmonds. Akane rushed over to help him. She checked his vitals, making sure he wasn’t about to die on her.

“You’ll live, Doctor Tatopoulos,” she said. “But we need to get you medical attention as soon as possible.”

“No,” Nick responded. “What we need to do is to give Zilla our help as soon as possible.”

Akane nodded.

-

Orga slammed Zilla repeatedly into the ice. Zilla gasped for air, but he couldn’t breathe. Orga’s blows must’ve punctured one of his lungs. It’d take a few moments for Zilla’s regeneration to heal the damage. Orga choked him with one claw and showed him the other. It was Orga’s way of saying Zilla didn’t have moments. Orga raised his claw, looking to decapitate the giant reptile that troubled him so.

Kiryu’s oral maser cannon and laser blasts zapped into Orga’s elbow joint, blasting it off with its destructive power. Orga screamed like the wounded animal it was. Not even Orga could regenerate a lost limb. Kiryu’s rockets burned at maximum power, propelling the metal dragon in the direction of its alien adversary. Kiryu’s metallic skin pulsated with light, charging up enormous amounts of kinetic energy. When Kiryu rammed into Orga, it directed all that energy into the alien. The end result was anything but pleasant for Orga.

As Orga was sent flying into a mountain, Kiryu inspected the condition of his comrade, Zilla. Zilla stared at the steel giant, unsure of its motives. When Nick’s voice spoke through Kiryu’s speakers, confirming him as a friendly, Zilla accepted the Mechagodzilla as his ally.

When Orga awoke, it found itself in the heart of a ravaged mountain. Slowly, Orga rose to its full height. It was hard to imagine something was powerful enough to deliver such a mighty blow. It was even harder to imagine something being strong enough to survive such a catastrophe. Orga felt its bones snap back into place. Its body could heal the damage, but not the pain. Grumbling, Orga continued its stride. Kiryu rapidly descended from the sky, blocking Orga’s path. Orga roared at the robot, ready for a rematch. Orga’s shriek was drowned out by an even louder roar. Zilla stood behind the alien monstrosity, swinging his tail back and forth like a tiger ready to pounce. Orga was surrounded and outnumbered. Not that it mattered.

Orga leaped at Kiryu, claws outstretched. Kiryu’s wrists-mounted lasers fired, bouncing off its grey-greenish hide. Orga’s assimilation of Zilla’s DNA enhanced its resistance to harm. Kiryu would have to go with a different strategy. Kiryu jumped back, using his rocket boosters to create an even larger gap between him and Orga. Swirls of ethereal light sucked into the divot in Orga’s shoulder, unleashing a powerful kinetic blast. It caught Kiryu by surprise, drilling it into the frozen earth, pushing the robot back for miles.

Inside Kiryu’s cockpit, Nick didn’t know where he was. His entire world had just been shaken up. Akane was holding on to a lever at the control pad. Blood dripped out a newly made cut on her forehead. Nick cleared his throat to speak only to swallow the taste of his own blood. On the monitor, Nick saw Orga approaching. Behind the hulking abomination, Zilla tore into him.

Zilla’s teeth and claws couldn’t pierce Orga’s thick hide. Orga’s claws, however, would have no trouble piercing Zilla’s. Zilla’s agility saved him from being eviscerated. He still wasn’t fast enough to evade Orga’s thermonuclear fire. Zilla felt the blistering heat eat away at his skin. Now he knew what it felt like to taste his own medicine. So many have been slain by his atomic fire. He wouldn’t be one of them. Zilla clawed at the ground, disappearing beneath its white surface. Hundreds of feet beneath the ice, Zilla tunneled. He clawed through a patch of ice before coming face-to-face with Orga. Orga had burrowed down to meet him in his own element.

Kiryu surveyed the desolate landscape. There were no signs of Orga or Zilla. Then the land shook, splitting the icy earth asunder. Orga jumped out in a hail of ice, with Zilla trapped in his clutches. Orga slammed Zilla down, creating a gigantic crater. Kiryu’s optic sensors couldn’t see through the haze caused by the impact. When it cleared, Orga stood over Zilla, its jaws snapped open. Orga’s mouth was now several times wider. It wanted to swallow Zilla whole. Kiryu burned his rockets and flew up into the sky. Then he shut them off, allowing his body to fall right on Orga’s back.

Orga tried shaking Kiryu off. Zilla recovered fast enough to fire his thermonuclear blast into the back of Orga’s maw, burning the alien’s insides. Orga didn’t squirm or cry. All it did was focus its livid, demented eyes on the radioactive iguana. There was a spark in the back of Orga’s throat. Zilla and Kiryu knew what was coming next. As Orga prepared to fire his thermonuclear breath, Kiryu wrapped his arms around the alien’s throat, and squeezed as hard as he could. Orga panicked, knowing he couldn’t stop the irradiated energy from building up. The first sign that his energy was overloading happened when the spikes on his back blew up into thousands of glowing shards. Orga’s eyes melted in their sockets, erased by the green flames burning from within. Orga’s skin bubbled and popped. Before long, Orga’s body increased in size, becoming several times larger than Kiryu and Zilla. At the right time, Kiryu released his grip, and jumped off as Orga disappeared in a fiery blast.

What remained of Orga writhed in an ocean of smoldering flesh and screaming heads. Everything Orga’s alien race had assimilated, every single living being it had ever taken into itself, screamed for a merciful death. It was the most gruesome, sickening thing anyone had ever seen. There were so many of them. Somewhere in the center of all this madness, Orga’s mangled head gasped for air.

Kiryu and Zilla watched Orga suffer. It was inhumane to leave him like this.

“Kiryu,” Akane said. “Finish him.”

Kiryu’s chest opened, revealing the Absolute Zero Cannon. Particles of light encircled the mouth of the cannon, fusing together into a glowing sphere. Kiryu would be ready to fire its most powerful weapon in under a minute.

Nick closed his eyes and thought about what Doctor Blair said earlier. He told Nick not to trust anyone. That advice turned out to be true. He couldn’t even trust himself. Today, Nick caught a glimpse of what he’d be like if he had the knowledge of a demigod. He’d be as cold and merciless as the Antarctic. But he also knew these forerunners of life lacked humanity and humility. Somewhere in the distant past, these beings exchanged honor for power. Admittedly, Nick felt tiny in comparison. But that was to be expected. If there’s anything he could gain from all this, it’s pride. Despite all their power and knowledge, the Millennian race want what humankind has.

Someday, perhaps centuries from now, humankind will ascend beyond the stars, and achieve greatness without forsaking its soul.

Kiryu fired. Orga’s writhing, multi-limbed form transformed into a frozen statue. Zilla walked over and stomped on Orga’s frozen head, causing a massive ripple, shattering Orga’s body into millions of pieces. Zilla’s spikes flashed, as he unleashed his thermonuclear fire on Orga’s shattered remains. Green flames engulfed Orga, leaving no trace of the alien.

It was a good day to be an earthling.

-

Colors of blue painted the skies. The weather was nice, no howling winds or snowstorms. Antarctica looked stunning as the sunlight sparkled off its white skin. The scenery was so relaxed, so peaceful; Nick couldn’t even hear the helicopters whirring behind him. Elsie walked up, comforting him with a touch on his shoulder.

“We need to get you back to the boats or you’re going to die of hypothermia.”

“What if I’m already dead?” Nick coughed. Elsie couldn’t tell if he was kidding or not. Randy walked up, patting Nick on the back. Craven joined them, still depressed over the lost of NIGEL.

“Chill, doc,” Randy said, reading Craven like a book. “We can rebuild him. We have the technology.”

Monique and Akane joined them. Elsie looked for Philippe, but he was nowhere to be found. Monique nodded slightly, her way of saying she was fine. Akane walked over to shake Nick’s hand. He trembled as he shook hers.

“Thank you,” Nick said. “Thank you for saving my life.”

“Thank you for showing us why human life is worth living,” Akane replied, meaning every word.

“Soooooo,” Randy chipped in, putting his arms around Monique and Akane. “How do you sexy ladies know each other?”

He had the biggest grin on his face.

Akane smiled, signaling Monique to answer for her. Monique escaped Randy’s touch and stepped close, nearly touching his face with her own. She now had Randy’s full, undivided attention. “We were once, how would you say, intimate?” she whispered into his ear.

Randy was speechless.

At a helicopter, Major Hicks was talking on a secured line.

“Yes, sir,” he said, his voice low. “I’m afraid our worst fears have been confirmed. Our government has been compromised. We now know who’s responsible. They sent us here to suffer a fate worse than death. So let’s take ‘em down now while we still have the element of surprise.”

Hanging up, Major Hicks called for Akane and the members of HEAT to board the helicopters. It was time to go. Akane and the other members of HEAT walked away, tugging Randy with them. Nick and Monique stayed behind, not yet ready to leave.

Monique looked up, marveling at Zilla. He’d been standing there this whole time, making sure Nick was safe. She could only imagine how uncomfortable the giant reptile felt this far south. Then again, Zilla was a radioactive mutant, and didn’t seem to be fazed by the cold. Like them, he might’ve found it relaxing.

Nick spoke quietly. “You asked me earlier if I think we should know everything.”

“Qui,” said Monique.

“My answer is still the same,” Nick confessed. “I don’t know. But I’m not going to stop trying. As long as we keep asking questions and keep seeking answers, we’ll find greater meanings in life.”

Monique nodded, admiring him for his sincerity and enthusiasm. Despite his renewed interest in science, Nick looked like something else was troubling him.

“I know when you and Doctor Blair last saw each other, you left on bad terms,” Monique said. “But do you remember his last words? He referred to you as both a colleague and a friend.”

Nick thought about what that meant. A light wind blew over him, encouraging him to move forward.

“Thanks, Monique.”

Together, Nick and Monique trotted off towards the helicopters. Zilla watched them leave, their words echoing in his mind. Little by little, he was learning human tongue, and what it meant to be one of them. Maybe if he lived long enough, Zilla might someday teach them something new, something they never would’ve imagined on their own.

The helicopters lifted off, departing for the shoreline. Zilla and Kiryu exchanged their goodbyes before leaving through different methods. Zilla burrowed underground into a hidden sea; Kiryu flew into the sky to follow the helicopters.

Orga’s grave festered. It would be quarantined and sealed off for decades. The events of today would be shared only by a select few. Those who survived the close encounter would be briefed and given whatever they desired in exchange for mutual silence. While the scientific community would’ve had a field day with all these new findings, it was generally understood why the public wasn’t ready to learn the truth. If word got out that all life on Earth originated from the Millennian race, Orga’s alien ancestors, there’d be chaos. It’s human nature to fear what they don’t understand; however, humans have the capacity to believe and disbelieve whatever they want, even if it’s the truth they’re choosing to ignore in favor of an ignorant state of bliss.

Somewhere in the ice, an alien squirmed. It looked like a bipedal squid, one with humanlike arms and tentacles. Since it was not of this world, it would soon die because oxygen was poison to its lungs.

Before crossing the threshold of life and death, it uttered a silent warning. The void was coming. In the darkest depths of space, it remembered how its assimilator, Orga, was fleeing for its life. It remembered how the Millennian race was on the verge of extinction because of this looming threat. They had returned to Earth, to their progeny, to start over.

A cosmic horror from beyond was coming. It was worse than King Ghidorah, worse than SpaceGodzilla. Upon its arrival, it would poison the Earth and eradicate all life.

With its last breath, the alien wished the earthlings luck and hoped they would soon break the shackles of their self-imposed exile. If they united amongst themselves, perhaps they’d find a way to cure the void that was here all along.

The greatest threat to life wasn’t some monstrous entity or an alien armada or a cataclysmic event; the greatest threat to life was losing the will to live.

Winner
Kiryu Zilla