Kaiju War Chronicles (K.W.C.)
Match 150:
By: Thomas Singleton

How did it come to this?

Dr. Niko “Nick” Tatopoulos was many things. He was a scientist, a leader and a husband. But at that moment in time, he was an insignificant speck caught in the path of a vengeful force of nature. Nick wanted to take his eyes off his forthcoming doom, but he wasn’t brave enough to face his friends in their time of dying.

A great protector, created by an ancient race to safeguard the planet, collapsed in a pool of its own blood.

A mighty creature, ruler of a lost age, had its essence ripped out of it.

An angelic being, a paladin of the forces of light, was consumed by a shadow blacker than death.

A robotic warrior, possessing the mind and body of a fallen friend, couldn’t stop the ensuing carnage.

A noble reptile, the last of its kind, brought low to witness the extermination of its adoptive family.

In the heart of an ancient city, lost in the cradle of time, Nick Tatopoulos sensed the end of his time was drawing nearer.

 

24 hours earlier…

Blue skies favored New York City on a mid-autumn morning. Nick Tatopoulos stared out of the window of his workshop, fixating on the cold waters of the harbor. It’s been years since his organization turned this former salmon hatchery into the Humanitarian Environmental Analysis Team (H.E.A.T.) Headquarters, one of the world’s leading organizations dedicated to researching all manner of giant organisms.

Suddenly, Nick saw a familiar row of jagged fins poke out of the distant blue surf. Then in the blink of an eye they dipped down beneath the surface.

Somewhere in a sea of computers, a phone rang. Nick didn't hear it because his mind was caught in maelstrom of painful, bitter memories. Nick touched his ring finger, caressing the faint tan line where his wedding ring used to be.

The phone rang again. This time Nick heard it.

Like so many times before, Nick forced himself to bury the past. He rummaged through his electronic equipment, in search of that meddling phone. When he zeroed in on the source of the ringing, Nick was taken aback. A yellow robotic head popped out of the computer station, simulating the sound of a phone ringing.

That yellow head belonged to the tread-traveling, multi-armed robot known as NIGEL. Mendel Craven, one of the world’s leading researchers in advanced robotics, saw NIGEL as his greatest invention. His fellow teammates, however, saw it more as HEAT’s mascot.

“What’s your favorite scary movie?” NIGEL’s sonic voice screeched.

Nick sighed. This had to be another Randy Hernandez prank.

 

The Labyrinth…

It was a dark cavern, one that hadn’t seen light or life for eons. Suddenly, a blue light penetrated the darkness, chasing away the writhing shadows. At the center of the light was a glowing moth the size of a bowling ball. Fairy was its name, and it was a living vessel for the Elias. The Elias looked like tiny people, small enough to fit within the palm of a hand.

“This isn’t right, Moll,” said Lora, a fairy ordained in a blue, glittery dress. She spoke softly as one of the Elias.

“We’re here to maintain cosmic balance,” replied Moll, wearing a red, silky dress. She spoke sternly as one of the Elias.

“That’s what we’re here to do, but not…” Lora began to say before her gaze trailed off.

An ancient temple towered over them like a silent overlord. Moll and Lora were hesitant to continue talking, for they didn’t want to disturb the evil lurking within its decrepit walls.

“It’s so nice to finally see my beloved sisters once again, after so many long years,” came a voice. Moll and Lora instantly knew to whom the voice belonged to.

Belvera, Moll and Lora’s eldest sister, hovered down on the back of her cybernetic lizard companion, Garu-Garu. Fairy chirped a warning cry at the reptile. Garu-Garu tilted its head in confusion, slobbering buckets of drool.

“Belvera, lower your voice!” Moll demanded.

“Why? It already knows we’re here, you fools,” Belvera said, her voice like venom. “And soon its chosen one will be joining us.”

There was a foreboding ambience, like the call of a coming storm.

“So it’s true,” Moll whispered, her eyes full of disappointment.

“After all she’s done for us,” Lora said, her voice trembling. “How could you do this to an innocent girl?”

Belvera chuckled, her laughter sounding like cackling crows.

“She’s far from innocent.”

 

HEAT Headquarters…

It took only a few minutes for Nick to locate Randy. As usual, Randy was plopped in front of his computer, either hacking into a secured government channel or writing an algorithm for a new type of search engine. Nick, for all his brilliance, sometimes envied Randy’s ingenuity. If only Randy was a little more ambitious and applied his talents to philanthropy, he could’ve been the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or the next Cameron Winter.

That last name sent a cold chill up Nick’s spine. Cameron Winter was a technological mogul. He was also a madman, who almost single-handedly brought ruin to the planet. Cameron Winter wasn’t behind bars only because he had money, power, and influence.

Unlike Cameron Winter, Randy had neither money nor power. The only influence Randy had was being a thorn in everyone’s side. If Randy was hacking into the Pentagon again, Nick knew he’d soon be getting a phone call from an enraged Major Hicks. Before voicing his condemnation, Nick looked over Randy’s shoulder, and saw what appeared to be a robot-samurai on the computer screen. Randy’s fingers were racing across the keyboard, punching a series of commands in lightning succession.

“Uh, Randy?” said Nick.

Randy didn’t hear him. It was the phone ring all over again. Randy jumped to his feet after Nick tapped his shoulder, scared out of his wits.

“Whoa, jefa! You scared me, bro,” Randy exclaimed.

“What are you working on?” Nick probed.

As soon as Nick saw Randy’s pupils expand, he knew he made a mistake. Randy started answering Nick’s question, but not with actual words. Randy was speaking in a different language, one Nick wasn’t sure if Randy himself knew. The last time Nick saw someone speak like this was when a Star Wars fan was trying to convince him that Han Solo shot first. As Randy continued firing off incoherent word after incoherent word, Nick wished he had a gun in his hand to shoot first.

“So, yeah,” Randy said, with a deep breath. “It’s going to be the next big thing! The doc did help me maybe just a teeny little bit. But the credit for Jet Jaguar really goes to me.”

Nick had a blank stare on his face. “What’s a Jet Jaguar?”

Randy’s face went from expressing joy to apprehension. “Have you even been listening to a single word I’ve been saying?”

“No, he hasn’t,” said Elsie Chapman, HEAT’s fiery redhead expert on monster behaviors. “In fact, none of us ever do.”

“Ouch, that really hurt!” responded Randy.

“Oh yeah, I’m sure it hurt you so much, your soul must be crushed,” said Elsie.

“At least I have a soul to be crushed, unlike Dark Phoenix here,” Randy said, referring to Elsie’s hair color and fiery temper.

Nick saw a subtle smile peek on Elsie’s face. Suddenly, an ear-piercing scream made everyone jump in alarm. Mendel Craven ran into the room, tripping over an undoubtedly expensive machine.

“Randy!” Craven screamed. “What did you do to NIGEL this time?!”

Randy couldn’t contain his mischievous glee. “Why doc, whatever do you mean?”

The phone started ringing.

“NIGEL just came at me like that killer from those Scream movies!” Craven complained. “And I hated those movies!”

Elsie answered the phone.

“How could you say that? Those movies are modern day horror classics!” Randy argued back.

Monique Dupre, former member of the French Secret Service, walked in the room to see what the fuss was all about.

“Do I even want to know?” Monique sighed, while looking to Nick for answers.

“To be honest, I’m still not exactly sure what’s going on right now,” Nick said.

Elsie hung up the phone, shocked by the conversation she just had.

“Elsie, what’s wrong?” Nick asked.

“That was an urgent call from Major Hicks,” Elsie said. “You’re never going to believe whose corpse just washed ashore.”

“A corpse?” Craven said.

“Whose is it?” Randy wondered.

“Godzilla’s,” Elsie whispered.

 

11 hours later…

Within hours of accepting the top-secret assignment, Major Hicks sent his people to escort Nick and his friends to a military air base. While they were being whisked across the northern hemisphere, the HEAT Seeker, HEAT’s naval transport, was brought along for the ride. Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, they were granted permission to ride in the HEAT Seeker so long as they stayed close to the United States Navy Task Force. At the head of the battleship fleet was the USS Saratoga.

It was nothing but blue skies for miles.

“This is so cool,” Randy said, while looking out his binoculars at the towering battleships.

While Randy was standing alone at the bow of the HEAT Seeker, being bombarded by strong winds and splashing seawater, his teammates watched on from inside the comforts of the helm.

“He’s like a child,” Monique quipped, shaking her head.

“That’s an insult to children everywhere,” Elsie said.

“I don’t see what’s so childish about it,” Craven retorted. “What’s wrong with marveling at our technological advancements? Monique gets the same way whenever she gets to try out a new weapon, and Elsie is even worse whenever we discover a new mutation, like that one time when we broke into the laboratory of that mad scientist, and…”

Monique and Elsie’s cold stares made Craven stop talking.

Nick’s mind was elsewhere. “What could’ve happened to Godzilla? Uh, the real one, I mean. Not ours.”

“Careful Nicky,” Elsie said. “We don’t want another visit from those Japanese lawyers.”

Monique felt her skin crawl. Not even she would like to face them again.

“Hicks didn’t really give us too much info,” Craven said. “Maybe Godzilla died of natural causes?”

“Or something killed him,” Nick said, his voice cryptic.

“What could kill Godzilla?” Craven wondered.

“I don’t know, but at least our Zilla is coming with us,” Elsie said, acknowledging the large blip on the HEAT Seeker sonar.

“If Godzilla was slain by a more powerful creature,” Monique said, stating what everyone else was thinking. “I’m afraid Zilla is way out of his league.”

“If that’s true, then so are we,” Nick sighed.

-

A few hours later, a mysterious island appeared on the horizon. It didn’t appear on the map, which made Nick very nervous. If this is another Monster Island, Nick thought to himself, I’ll be having unpleasant words with Major Hicks very soon.

Major Hicks sent aerial photographs of the island to the HEAT Seeker’s database. After looking at them for several minutes, Nick’s stunned silence was snapped by Elsie’s shock and awe.

“Are you kidding me?” she giggled. “Look at the erosion on the surface, just the surface alone. Guys, this island was underwater, like, yesterday. Now it’s above sea level? Oh, my Darwin! Do you see that? Those are ruins! Ruins, guys! This island used to be populated by people.”

“Or aliens,” Randy said, referring to one of their earlier adventures.

Nick’s attention was elsewhere. On the island’s southwest corner, he saw an image of Godzilla’s lifeless body. As if seeing that wasn’t jarring enough, the fallen creature was covered in an unknown substance. What could it be?

 

Tactical Command Center…

Miles from Godzilla’s rancid corpse, the United States Army built a base of operations. Dozens of soldiers and technicians swarmed the headquarters, performing hundreds of tasks. One of Major Hicks’s subordinates guided Nick and his friends through the sea of people, leading them to the command post.

It was there Major Hicks met them with a grizzled look.

“Worm guy,” said Major Hicks, his unique way of greeting Nick.

“Hicks,” Nick responded in kind.

Nick and Major Hicks have always had a rocky friendship. Both respected and relied on the other, probably more than either would ever care to admit. It’s their fundamental differences that have always put them at opposite ends of the spectrum. Nick strongly believed in sharing the truth, even if the truth happened to be classified information. Major Hicks simply believed the general public wasn’t ready for the truth. Major Hicks also believed it was none of their damn business.

“Look, I won’t keep you and your people here for long,” said Major Hicks. “But you won’t be studying Godzilla alone. Sergeant O’Neal and his squad will accompany you.”

“You still don’t trust us, Major?” Nick said.

“Y’know, for a scientist, you sure jump to conclusions awfully fast,” replied Major Hicks. “No, they’ll be there for your protection. Oh, and one more thing.

“This time, please wear the hazardous suits.”

-

Even in death, Godzilla was larger than life. At a distance, the beast looked like its charcoal-grey skin had been consumed by a crimson tide. On closer inspection, that wasn’t far from the truth. Godzilla was no longer the most powerful creature on the planet; the King of Monsters was a pale imitation of his former self.

The smell was putrid. Nick almost threw up his lunch in his hazardous mask. Craven gave up in the first minute, while Randy never tried to begin with. To compensate for this, Craven and Randy left with a detachment of soldiers to explore the mysterious ruins of the island. Elsie and Monique were the only other members of HEAT to join Nick on the autopsy of a lifetime. Sergeant O’Neal and the other soldiers sternly watched the scientists study the gigantic creature, worried it could come to life at any moment.

Elsie’s Geiger counter detected trace amounts of radiation.

“Don’t worry about it,” Elsie said. “There’s not enough radiation here to pose a serious threat to us, which, come to think of it, confounds me.”

“Because Godzilla’s been known to emit high-levels of radiation?” Monique said.

“Elsie, what’s that on Godzilla’s skin?” Nick wondered.

Elsie looked at the red, starfish shaped objects taking up residence on Godzilla’s pale flesh, draining it of its precious bodily fluids. The crimson starfish looked organic, secreting a translucent fluid.

“Uh-oh,” Elsie said, her voice foreboding. “Those are Barem, parasitic agents capable of shooting paralyzing acids. They’re nasty little critters. If enough of them multiplied, they could wipe out the entire oceanic ecosystem. I suspect they’re responsible for many species mysteriously going extinct in these parts over the years. Looks like not even Godzilla could stop them.”

“Look out!” a soldier screamed from behind.

Suddenly, hundreds of Barem detached from Godzilla like suction cups, showing a hungry interest in the newly arrived meat. Bullets went flying from assault rifles, blowing up dozens of leaping Barem.

“We’re leaving now!” Sergeant O’Neal shouted, pulling Nick back.

Nick, Elsie, and Monique retreated behind the shooting line. As they were loaded up on a Humvee, Monique looked back to see a Barem jump on a soldier’s face. The soldier instantly dropped to his knees, paralyzed by the acid secreted by the parasite. Within seconds, it drained the life out of him, reducing him to a shriveled corpse.

As Sergeant O’Neal started up the Humvee, several Barem landed on the hood. Their acids quickly dissolved through the hood, killing the engine. Sergeant O’Neal and Monique blew a few away with their pistols, but there were too many of them to shoot. Elsie watched in sadness as the other soldiers disappeared in a wall of falling Barem. It wouldn’t be long until they too suffered a similar fate.

As if on cue, a giant reptile jumped out of the water. It landed on its powerful hind legs, swishing its mighty tail. Zilla heard the cries of his adopted father, Nick Tatopoulos, and came to his rescue as he had done so many times before. All the Barem abandoned the humans in favor of attacking Zilla, perceiving him to be the bigger meal.

With seawater dripping from his scaly pores, Zilla’s jagged spikes flashed with energy. With one deep breath, Zilla unleashed his thermonuclear fire, disintegrating the Barem. A sea of irradiated fire washed over Godzilla’s corpse, purging it of the insidious parasites once and for all. Zilla raised his head high, roaring in victory.

Nick saw Zilla celebrating on the rearview mirror. The sight of his surrogate son used to fill his heart with pride and admiration. Now he felt an unrelenting bitterness, one he didn’t think he could snuff out.

“Major Hicks, sir, this is O’Neal,” Sergeant O’Neal said over the radio, cringing over the loss of his fellow soldiers. “We have a very big situation, sir.”

An enormous shadow washed over them. Elsie looked up in awe at the floating airship, one that dwarfed the size of an aircraft carrier. At the front of the airship was a gigantic drill. Its black armor plating contrasted with the sunny weather. The Gotengo, the pride of the Earth Defense Force, was the most recognizable monster-fighting airship in the world. It also had a madman for a captain.

Zilla snarled at the airship but was wise not to attack it.

“You don’t know the half of it, Sergeant,” Major Hicks replied back over the radio.

 

Tactical Command Center…

Governments have for decades researched and developed ways to protect their people from the monster scourge. Some organizations sought to study these creatures, believing greater research would help them find a way to control them, and, in doing so, save many lives. This more pacifist approach divided the populace. The EDF, Earth Defense Force, believed a more direct approach was the solution: search and destroy.

James Gordon, captain of the Gotengo, was a detested individual. He spoke his mind, going as far as belittling his superiors even at the cost of being excommunicated. He saw his subordinates as a means to an end, believing the end result always justified the means. He never met an opponent he couldn’t demolish, be it with his bare hands or with strategic tactics. Despite being the most reviled person in the EDF, everyone still respected and feared him. When it was all said and done, Captain James Gordon was the most qualified man for the job. And he loved reminding everyone of it.

When Major Hicks and Captain James Gordon shook hands, Hicks thought his hand was about to break. It wasn’t proper military protocol to shake hands, as protocol called for Captain Gordon to salute Major Hicks, his military superior. But neither rival veteran was interested in formalities at this time.

Throughout his decades long military career, Hicks served on numerous tours of duty, fighting in some of the most dangerous places on the planet, and was even honored with a Purple Heart medal. Hicks felt like he could dominate just about anyone he’s ever come across.

Captain Gordon wasn’t like anyone else. It also didn’t help that Captain Gordon carried a katana everywhere he went.

“Captain Gordon,” Major Hicks said. “I see your reputation precedes you. By that I mean you’ve entered restricted United States airspace, trespassed on a top-secret government site, and violated all of our treaties. They’re going to reprimand you for this, James.”

Captain Gordon looked Hicks dead in the eyes, while chewing a swab of tobacco.

“I doubt that, Major,” Captain Gordon said.

“Doubt all you want, son,” Major Hicks replied, his voice livid. “You will leave this area at once.”

“We’re not leaving,” Captain Gordon said.

-

The island was stunning. Waves rolled up onto the soft sandy beaches. A gust of wind blew in from the sea, enveloping Zilla’s scaly body. The heroic reptile basked in the beautiful weather. The Barem were gone, reduced to smoldering ash. But Godzilla remained an abused, rotting corpse. Zilla, unaware the dead creature was his namesake, stared at him with a hint of remorse.

Battleships of the United States Navy were anchored miles away. On their decks, sailors gathered to witness the monsters.

“Never thought I’d see the day,” one sailor said.

“You mean you never thought you’d see Zilla standing next to Godzilla’s dead body, and not the other way around?” another sailor exclaimed, laughing.

“Pretty much.”

-

Somewhere in the heart of the island, a young Japanese girl jumped on the cold stony platform. She heard echoes of gunshots, cries of combat, and thunderous footsteps. Even in the presence of so much violence, she felt safe, for her master was close.

The girl gripped the black amulet on her necklace, pressing it against her heart. It emitted an eerie green glow.

-

Major Hicks looked like he was about to throw a punch. Captain James Gordon smiled, welcoming the thought of humiliating another Major. That’s when a gentle feeling spontaneously helped Major Hicks come to his senses.

We’re here to help you, Major, said a feminine voice, echoing inside Major Hicks’s head.

“Telepathy,” Major Hicks said, recalling the psychic phenomenon that swept the world around the time of his enlistment. He thought it was all nonsense at first. Later it was proven beyond a shadow of doubt.

“Damn it, Miki,” Captain Gordon howled. “Why do you like to ruin my fun?”

Soldiers made a path for a middle-aged Japanese woman. She walked with a knowing smile, as if she knew everyone in the room. Several other EDF personnel warily followed closely behind her. Soldiers whispered amongst themselves, 

“Major Hicks, I’m Miki Saegusa,” the Japanese woman introduced herself as. “We’re here because very soon you will all be in serious danger.”

“With respect to Ms. Saegusa,” Major Hicks said. “This operation falls under my jurisdiction. You are all trespassing. Leave this area at once. I won’t ask again.”

“If the psychic wasn’t enough to convince you of our importance here, perhaps I can be of some assistance.”

Major Hicks turned to see a young, scrawny Japanese gentleman, carrying a custom-made tablet device.

“My name is Ken Yamane, how do you do?” the Japanese gentleman said, while rubbing his glasses. “Now that we have pleasantries out of the way, here are the facts. We’re standing on an island that didn’t exist until yesterday. Shortly after Godzilla saved Tokyo from that Dogora creature, we’ve been keeping a close watch on him.”

“So why’d he come here, kid?” Major Hicks said.

Ken frowned, not liking Major Hicks’s condescension. “Godzilla’s here for reasons we have yet to determine.”

“Correction,” Major Hicks said. “Godzilla’s dead for reasons that no longer matter. Leave now, or you’ll be joining him.”

Captain Gordon slowly lowered his hand, clenching his sword’s grip. Dozens of soldiers reached for their guns.

“Major, what the hell is going on here?” Nick shouted, entering the command headquarters with Monique, Elsie, and Sergeant O’Neal.

“Doctor Tapawopolus, now’s not the time,” Major Hicks barked. “Sergeant O’Neal, get Captain Gordon and his freaks out of here this instant!”

Sergeant O’Neal, still shaken up by the Barem attack, tried his best to keep his composure. That’s when Miki Saegusa’s hand gently caressed his cheek.

“My condolences for all you’ve been through, Doug,” Miki said, with a soothing voice. “Your men died with valor. I can assure you, they died quickly, and without any pain.”

Sergeant O’Neal turned to Major Hicks, speechless. How’d she know what happened to him?

“Oh, Christ,” Major Hicks cursed, shaking his head. This was too much for him to take in all at once.

-

It took several minutes for cooler heads to prevail. Major Hicks saw fit to bury his attention elsewhere for the time being. Not that he was missing anything.

HEAT and EDF personnel gathered outside for fresh air. Captain Gordon and Monique Dupre exchanged war stories instead of focusing on the important mission at hand, much to Ken Yamane’s disdain.

Meanwhile, Nick Tatopoulos found himself in the presence of the great Miki Saegusa.

“You’re too modest, Doctor,” Miki said. “I’m not really that great.”

Nick’s face blushed.

“It would appear your powers of telepathy haven’t been exaggerated,” Nick said.

Miki changed the topic. “He’s a beautiful creature,” she said, referring to Zilla. Nick turned to see Zilla wandering in the distance, keeping a close eye on him.

“Yes, he’s really someone special,” Nick said, trying to hide his discomfort on the subject of Zilla.

Miki beamed at him.

“What is it? Pardon me, I’m not a psychic,” Nick said, embarrassed.

“You called him someone, and not something,” Miki said. “See? You answered that question you’ve been too afraid to answer. In light of everything, you do still care about him.”

Nick’s smile turned into a look of remorse. Having said enough, Miki walked away. A young Japanese man stepped into her path, leaning in close enough for only her to hear.

“Were you telling the truth this time?” he whispered. “Or did you plant that idea in his head?”

Miki kept walking. Nick tried following her but the Japanese man blocked his path.

“I suggest you leave my Mother alone for now,” the Japanese man said.

“Your Mother?” Nick said. “Who are you?”

“The name’s Ozaki, that’s all you need to know.”

Nick couldn’t believe it. A mutant! It wasn’t a city smashing mutant or a laboratory experiment gone awry mutant. It was a natural born human mutant. He heard about how the EDF recruited mutants into their special forces, teaching them how to harness their superhuman abilities. They’re believed to be the next stage in human evolution.

“Please stop looking at me like that,” Ozaki said.

“Oh, I, uh, I apologize,” Nick stuttered, looking for another place to be. As Nick wandered off, he overheard Elsie’s outburst.

“Oh, my Darwin,” Elsie squealed in excitement, ogling Ozaki with her intense gaze. “You’re a mutant! I’m so happy to finally have the privilege of meeting one of your kind, face-to-very handsome-face.”

After making certain no one else was eavesdropping, Ozaki gave Elsie a nice big wink.

A soldier motioned for Nick to follow her. Back inside the command post, the soldier led Nick to Major Hicks. It’s then Nick heard Randy’s voice over a transmission device. “Hicks, is he there yet?”

“Randy, what’s going on?” Nick said.

“We were ambushed! We’re not alone on this island.”

“How many of them were there?” Major Hicks demanded to know.

“Uh, you’re not going to believe me if I told you,” Randy’s voice crackled.

-

15 minutes earlier…

Randy Hernandez was tired of all the exploring. Mendel Craven, however, was overjoyed. For the past few hours, much to the regret of the small squad of soldiers accompanying them, Craven had been giving nonstop lectures about how robotics and archaeology were very similar. This all somehow justified Craven’s expertise on the ancient ruins they were walking past.

“Doc, you have absolutely no clue what you’re talking about,” Randy said, his voice raspy.

“Oh, and like you do?” Craven fired back. “Does anyone here think they know more about archaeology than me? If so, raise your hand!”

None of the soldiers were paying attention to Craven. One hand did rise, a hand made of thin metal and hydraulic joints.

“NIGEL, I know you don’t know a thing about archaeology, and that’s the truth!” Craven said.

“Archaeology is the search for fact, not truth,” NIGEL squeaked back, while donning a brown fedora. “If it’s truth you’re looking for, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is in the second ruin down this rocky path on your right.”

The soldiers covered their mouths, trying not to laugh. Randy put his arm firmly around Craven’s shoulder, laughing like a lunatic.

“Where’d he get the fedora?” Craven wondered.

“Hey, doesn’t that hat belong to the Major?” one of the soldiers whispered to the other.

“Major’s gonna be pissed, bro,” the other whispered back, grinning.

-

On the bridge of the USS Saratoga, Admiral Stenz, an experienced military leader in his sixties, cautiously observed the island through his binoculars. Captain Russell Hampton, an African American man with a strong build, stood at attention.

“The Zilla creature appears to be a friendly,” Admiral Stenz said. “Major Hicks’s assessment of the creature was correct. Someone please contact the Earth Defense Force ASAP. I want to know who authorized the Gotengo to interfere in our operations.”

“Admiral, sir, we have another situation,” Captain Hampton said, relaying information being given to him by intelligence officers.

“What is it?” Admiral Stenz asked.

“Radar is detecting multiple bogies converging on our location.”

Admiral Stenz quickly assessed the situation.

“Battle stations, weapons hot. I want our birds in the air, and I wanted them in the air yesterday,” Admiral Stenz ordered.

 

The island…

A young Japanese girl peaked her head out around a corner, eyeing the explorers. On the back of Garu-Garu, Belvera floated down behind the girl with the most unimpressed look on her face. At least she still had time to torment the girl.

It’s almost time, Ayana.

“How do you know that name?” the girl said, stepping into the view of one of the soldiers.

You idiot, I’m speaking to you telepathically, Belvera hissed, unable to conceal her detest for the girl’s kind. Don’t make another sound.

It was too late. The squad of soldiers protecting Randy and Craven were moving into position. One of them demanded for the girl to show herself.

Who are you? The girl thought, as she stared into Belvera’s scornful gaze.

Who I am is irrelevant, human. You and I serve the same master. Now run where I tell you!

“Hey, you!” a soldier shouted from behind the girl. “Arms up! Show me your hands!”

The girl did what she was told. Suddenly, she ran towards a wall, which opened up into a secret passage. The soldier cursed but then fell silent when Belvera locked eyes with him. Belvera tapped Garu-Garu once on his side, signaling him to attack. The cybernetic lizard flew at speeds that would make a hummingbird look slow. The solider squeezed the trigger to his assault rifle, but he was too late.

Garu-Garu’s mouth fired an ionized blast of purple plasma, searing a hole through the soldier’s chest. He was dead before he hit the ground. His comrades tried avenging him by opening fire on his killer. Belvera repelled the bullets with a mystical barrier, while Garu-Garu flew circles around the squad, blasting scolding holes through their bodies.

The last soldier alive moved Randy, Craven, and NIGEL into one of the ruins. Thinking quick on his feet, he found what appeared to be a room next to a large pillar. He instructed for them to get inside while he looked for a way to cover their entry. There was only one way. Knowing it would give away his position, the soldier made a difficult choice. He placed a handful of grenades next to the pillar, setting them off.

Garu-Garu’s head snapped into the direction of the blast.

The pillar wobbled but didn’t fall, forcing the soldier to push the pillar down with all his might.

“Thank you for doing this,” Craven said to the brave soldier.

“No thanks required,” the soldier replied.

The pillar fell in front of the entrance, concealing Randy, Craven, and NIGEL’s presence. Unfortunately, the soldier wasn’t fast enough to run inside to join them before the pillar fell. Breathing heavily, he readied his weapon for what was most likely to be his last stand. Garu-Garu levitated in front of him, snarling like a wild beast.

“I take it the others are hiding behind the pillar?” Belvera deduced.

The soldier cocked his gun, taking aim at the evil fairy.

“Humans are so futile,” Belvera said.

Garu-Garu fired a blinding bolt of plasma. At the last second, the Elias swooped down on Fairy, shattering the plasma bolt with a flash of light.

“That’s enough, Belvera!” Lora screamed.

“You tricked us,” Moll said. “You’re not here to help us keep the creature contained, you’re here to free it!”

“I’m here to finish what we started long ago, my sisters,” Belvera declared, tapping Garu-Garu’s hips. Garu-Garu flew away before the Elias could stop them.

“We have to stop her!” Lora said.

“Knowing Belvera, she’s going to drop something big in our way, to distract us,” Moll suspected.

“Kinda like this thing?” Randy’s voice muffled from behind the pillar.

“Uh, yeah, I should try moving that,” the soldier said.

Lora, not wanting to think about Belvera, focused on the brave soldier.

“You’re a true credit to your kind,” Lora said. “We’re so sorry we were too late to save your men.”

“Who are you, soldier?” Moll asked.

“Lieutenant Brody, US Navy,” Ford Brody said.

 

The Labyrinth…

The young Japanese girl’s face was drenched in sweat, her heart beating like an orchestra. He was close to her now. She felt his essence coursing through her veins, giving her the strength to do what needed to be done.

“Hurry up,” Belvera said.

The girl squeezed the amulet, cutting herself on its sharp edges. Her blood oozed over the ancient relic. In order for it to impose its will on the Guardian of the Universe, it needed tainted blood as a toll. The girl’s blood would do nicely.

 

Tactical Command Center…

This was quickly becoming the worst day of Major Hicks’s life.

Over the phone, Admiral Stenz wanted to personally give Major Hicks an update of the situation. According to military intelligence, swarms of Gyaos have been spotted several miles away, converging on their location.

“The Gyaos will be here in less than 5 minutes,” said Admiral Stenz, his voice grave with concern.

Everyone within earshot of the command center was unnerved by the news.

Major Hicks squeezed the phone nice and tight. “That’s very bad news, Admiral. I’ve also received word one of our squads was ambushed by an unknown enemy, with only a few survivors. They’re on their way back to us now.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Major,” Admiral Stenz’s voice responded. “The situation is only going to get worse before it gets better. Best of luck.”

Major Hicks hung up the phone, his restraint slipping. The Admiral neglected to mention how many Gyaos were on their way, but it didn’t matter. A single Gyaos posed a significant threat to the United States Navy. A swarm of Gyaos, however, posed a significant threat to the entire human race.

Even with the Gotengo and Zilla’s help, they didn’t stand much of a chance.

Don’t be so sure, Major Hicks. Help is on the way.

Major Hicks faced Miki Saegusa. He wasn’t too thrilled about her being in his head again.

“That wasn’t me, Major,” Miki softly replied.

Nick had been shaken up for the last half-hour, so when he saw Ozaki escort Randy, Craven, and NIGEL into the command center in one piece, he sighed with relief. Lieutenant Brody followed closely behind, his hand clenching the dog tags of his fallen brothers. When his eyes met Sergeant O’Neal’s tired gaze, both soldiers nodded in mutual understanding.

“You guys are, like, my heroes!” Randy said. “Ozaki here picked up a pillar that must’ve weighed, what, 2-tons? Come on, help me out here, doc.”

“It weighed a lot,” Craven said.

“Yeah, exactly!” Randy said. “And who can forget Lieutenant Brody here, willing to sacrifice himself for us, the beautiful people. I love you guys!”

Monique, as quiet as a cat, jabbed Randy in his side. Randy was about to voice his protest until Monique’s finger fell on his lips. “Randy, quit being disrespectful.”

Randy complied after noticing the nasty glares everyone was giving him.

“If you weren’t in my mind, who was?” Major Hicks demanded, expecting an immediate answer from Miki. But the answer didn’t come from Miki.

It came from above their heads. “We were in your head, Major,” Moll and Lora said in unison, riding atop Fairy. “Time is not with us. We need to act fast.”

Major Hicks looked at Nick, expecting a logical explanation for all this. Nick couldn’t help him.

“Have I gone crazy?” Major Hicks asked, his voice on the verge of hysteria.

“That would be an improvement,” Captain Gordon chuckled.

“No, you haven’t,” Lora said to Major Hicks.

“But a worse fate awaits us if we don’t act now,” Moll warned. “There is an evil lurking within the shore of this island. If it makes landfall, we will meet the same end as Godzilla.”

“We know the Shadow of Evil is looming closer,” Lora said. “Its wings will envelop our souls, leaving nothing left.”

Once more, the Elias spoke as one. “There is a darker evil gestating in the heart of this island, one our enemies are trying to awaken. We need to stop them at all cost, or no force on Earth will be strong enough to resist it.”

“What about the Gyaos?” Major Hicks said. “Thousands of brave men and women are about to lose their lives out there if we don’t do something to help them.”

“Kid, do your thing,” Captain Gordon said to Ken Yamane. “The United States Navy needs our help. Send the Gotengo out at once.”

Ken nodded, his fingers typing instructions on his digital tablet. The command was sent and received. Outside, they heard the rumble of the Gotengo’s engines roar to life. It took off for the sea, its sonic boom making the command center tremble.

“Thank you,” Major Hicks said with sincerity. “But that won’t be enough.”

“Help is on the way, Major,” Lora said.

“Mothra will be here soon,” Moll announced.

Hearing Mothra’s name alone made everyone feel a little better.

“And what of this evil lurking in our shores?” pondered Monique.

“It’s another one of our mistakes,” Lora admitted.

Monique stared at the Elias, suspicious of what she meant.

“Another protector is on his way,” Moll said. “But I fear he isn’t himself.”

Miki walked up to Nick. “At least we have Zilla here to protect us.”

Nick was sincerely touched by her graciousness.

Randy nudged Craven’s shoulder. “I was going to throw Jet Jaguar’s name out there, but that works too.”

“Well that settles it then,” Major Hicks declared. “We’re going to find this evil and destroy it. Everyone, saddle up.”

-

Zilla’s feral eyes squinted at the horizon.

At this distance, he could barely see the Gyaos swarm. Their smell was repulsive, worse than Godzilla’s corpse. Zilla swayed his head toward the large tent containing his father. There was no way Nick would survive the Gyaos onslaught. A low growl rumbled out of the back of Zilla’s throat. He would meet these savage beasts long before they arrived on this forsaken island.

Zilla stepped into the water, preparing to join his human allies in a war unlike any other. Suddenly, the seawater churned thousands of meters ahead. Mounds of Barem, thousands in number, gushed out of the surface. Zilla gritted his teeth. But what he saw next made him squat into a defensive posture.

Dagahra bulged out of the Barem horde, his skin greener than a rainforest. Horns protruded out of his skull, crackling with electricity. Folded wings clung to his side, as his tail splashed in the water. Dagahra looked like a sea dragon, one that could upset the balance of the world.

Zilla roared a thunderous challenge at the sea dweller. Dagahra didn’t respond with a roar of his own. Instead the foul beast shot out of the water like a rocket, slamming Zilla into the earth. Dirt exploded into the air where they landed, concealing their large thrashing forms. Dagahra’s jaws snapped like a crocodile, wanting to crunch Zilla’s skull. Zilla’s muscular arms kept Dagahra at bay for the time being. Red saliva belched out of Dagahra’s ravenous maw, drenching Zilla’s upper body in rivers of Barem. Enraged, Zilla sent Dagahra flying with a swift kick to its ribcage. Zilla jumped to his feet, wiping away the Barem before they could dehydrate him. Dagahra made the shoreline quake when he landed on all fours. Zilla’s jagged spikes whirred with heat and light. Thermonuclear flames burned out of Zilla’s mouth, engulfing Dagahra in a maelstrom of green fire. The sands beneath Dagahra’s feet turned to searing glass. Palm trees were disintegrated down to their roots. But Dagahra wasn’t vaporized nor did he writhe in pain. To him Zilla’s flames tickled.

It was Dagahra’s turn to attack. Ionized plasma blazed out of Dagahra’s mouth, striking Zilla in the chest. Zilla was blasted back into a hillside, crying out in pain. Electricity flickered in Zilla’s seared chest, a brutal reminder of how he was burned. Zilla rose to his feet, his body weary. Those Barem worked faster than expected. Zilla clenched his teeth, waiting for Dagahra to make a mistake.

A loud, rattling sound disrupted Zilla and Dagahra’s fight. When both monsters looked up, a rapidly descending fireball blinded their eyes. It seared an organic crater into Dagahra’s backside, igniting the area around him in a massive conflagration.

Gamera shrieked as he flew down from the heavens. But his wild eyes couldn’t differentiate between friend and foe. Goblets of burning plasma filled his jaws, as Gamera glared at Zilla as an eagle would its prey. Blue flames flashed out of where his legs would normally be, funneling more fuel to his propulsion system. Gamera unleashed a barrage of fireballs, all of which seared into Zilla’s general direction.

Zilla sidestepped past the first fireball, using his amazing reflexes to live long enough to see at least another second. But when the other fireballs started to fall, Zilla knew he wouldn’t be able to dodge the next wave. In only a few seconds, Zilla’s claws helped him burrow hundreds of feet beneath the earth. One of Gamera’s fireballs, however, struck the opening of the hole, sending a wave of fire down Zilla’s tunnel. The hissing flames ensnared Zilla underground, blasting him up out of the surface.

As Gamera rapidly approached the ground, his legs poked out their sockets, shutting off his propulsion jets. Gamera hit the island’s surface so hard, walls of dirt and dust shot up thousands of feet. Shards of rock rained down, bouncing off Gamera’s hulking body. Zilla’s eyes rolled open, peeling back the layers of burnt flesh on his face. He squinted at Gamera, sensing honor and virtue in the creature. But there was something else Zilla sensed in Gamera, something that didn’t belong.

Dagahra roared at his new foe, denouncing him as a worthy opponent. Gamera returned the sentiment with a mocking howl of his own. Dagahra pounced but Gamera’s bone shattering swipe sent him hurtling backwards. In midair, Dagahra flipped around, catching himself with his extended wings. Gamera glared at his flying opponent, confusing him with his mortal enemy, the Gyaos. Flames churned in the back of Gamera’s gaping maw. Dagahra, refusing to wait, fired a torrent of plasma into Gamera’s face, downing the reptilian brute. Dagahra swooped down to bury his teeth in Gamera’s exposed throat. Zilla intervened by jumping up and, ironically, clamping his jaws down on Dagahra’s neck. Not wanting to get a mouthful of Barem, Zilla’s jaws released Dagahra. Dagahra floated momentarily in the air, stunned. Zilla walked up and delivered a rattling tail swipe.

-

When Dagahra regained consciousness, he found himself resting at the bottom of the seafloor.

Gamera lumbered to the beach, feeling the tide rush under his feet. His reptilian orbs stared intently at the dark horizon. Gamera knew it wasn’t the setting Sun or a thunderstorm. It was the Gyaos, his sworn enemy. Gamera wanted very much to seek out and exterminate his ancient nemesis. But he couldn’t, because he was a prisoner in his own body. What dark magic possessed him?

Deep down, Gamera knew someone didn’t want him to leave the island.

 

In the ancient ruins…

Fairy circled the entrance to a secret passageway, carrying Moll and Lora. Her chirps signaled Major Hicks, Lieutenant Brody and Sergeant O’Neal to quietly exit the foliage, assault guns drawn.

Perched on a treetop hundreds of yards away, Monique stared down the scope of a .50 caliber sniper rifle. She had voiced her disapproval on Lieutenant Brody and Sergeant O’Neal coming on this mission, citing their recent traumatic incidents as proof. In her years of experience, guys like Brody and O’Neal, despite being distinguished soldiers, were ticking time bombs. Monique kept her finger on the trigger, hoping she was out of range of Miki Saegusa’s psychic powers, as her thoughts could be taken for treason.

Miki winced at the thought of having to put Brody and O’Neal down. Luckily, she covertly scanned their minds, detecting no signs of madness. Nevertheless, as much as it pained her to admit it, it would be best for Monique to keep a close watch on them.

“We’re clear,” Major Hicks said over the comm-link.

Dozens of heavily armed soldiers emerged, joining Hicks, O’Neal and Brody. Nick and his friends stepped out of the bushes. Randy kept glancing over his shoulder, trying to locate Monique’s hiding spot. He couldn’t. NIGEL’s circuits squeaked as he rode up to a large wall believed to be the entrance to a secret passage.

A green strobe light shined out of one of NIGEL’s sensor optics, scanning the wall. “Searching for hidden passage. Searching… hidden passageway detected.”

“How do we get in?” Nick asked.

“C-4 should do the trick,” Sergeant O’Neal suggested.

“I have a faster method,” Ozaki said. The EDF mutant lifted one of his anti-kaiju guns over his shoulder. The weapon fired a concentrated burst of energy, blasting the wall apart.

All eyes were on the passage, which led into a dark tunnel. No one wanted to be the first to walk into the abyss, no one except Captain Gordon. With his katana in one hand and a giant revolver in the other, the hulking American marched into the darkness.

No one moved a muscle until they heard his echoing voice say, “A little light sure would be nice. I can’t see a damn thing in here.”

“That’s what happens when you go right into it,” Randy joked.

Nick touched the transmitter in his ear. “Monique, come join us.”

Fairy flew in. Moll and Lora illuminated its stonewalls, showing the way. One by one, everyone entered the passage. Not a single soul among them could imagine the evil they would soon face.

-

The Battle at Sea…

In the heart of the USS Saratoga, surrounded by technicians and officers awaiting his command, Admiral Stenz’s expression stiffened. Countless blips appeared on the main radar screen. It was time to fight. To do otherwise wasn’t an option.

“Fire at will,” Admiral Stenz ordered.

The Seventh Fleet of the United States Navy opened fire. Powerful cannons recoiled the waters, belching fiery bursts of light and smoke. Bombs with enough explosive ordinance to level entire city blocks thundered through the air, pulverizing a sea of flapping wings and screeching heads. The conventional weapons didn’t wound the Gyaos, but many lost their aerial stride. But not even a full-frontal assault from several United States battleships could stop the hungry Gyaos horde for long.

Seconds before being torn to ribbons, the United States Navy was saved by the Gotengo. The massive airship fired an immensely hot laser from its drill straight into the heart of the Gyaos swarm, disintegrating several caught in its scorching path. Their smote corpses plummeted. The Gotengo’s engines powered up, propelling the airship towards the Gyaos.

One was ripped apart by the Gotengo’s drill, its foul blood cast into the wind. Laser guns positioned in the upper area of its strata targeted the Gyaos’ heads, killing them in single shots. Dozens of Gyaos eyes fixated on the Gotengo. Their disgusting jaws opened, inhaling particles of light. In one blinding motion, the Gyaos fired their sonic beams. At first the sonic beams reflected off the Gotengo’s armor plating, amputating nearby Gyaos limbs. Then the sonic beams carved past the first layer of armor, threatening to bring the entire airship down. Taking aim, the Gotengo launched a barrage of Full Metal Missiles. A single Full Metal Missile could punch a hole through even Godzilla’s extremely dense skin. The Full Metal Missiles were like knives cutting through butter, piercing the attacking Gyaos before incinerating them in fireballs.

In the midsection of the Gotengo was its hanger bay. The doors opened, dropping the Dogfigher, the most advanced fighter jet in the world. At its helm was Kazama, a Japanese mutant. With his adrenaline slowing down his perception of time, Kazama used his superhuman reflexes to their maximum potential by maneuvering the Dogfighter through the Gyaos swarm. Kazama pushed a button, launching a missile specifically retrofitted to wipe out a monster.

A blinding light sent shockwaves through the Gyaos, forcing them to scatter. Kazama swerved the Dogfighter around, intending to launch a second missile. To his dismay, a stray sonic beam chopped one of his Dogfighter’s wings off. Alarms blared in the cockpit, warning its pilot that it was going down in a nosedive. After grabbing an anti-kaiju mini-gun, Kazama hit the emergency button, bidding farewell to the Dogfighter as he was launched into the sky. Unlike other pilots who needed a parachute, Kazama was comfortable freefalling without one. Numerous Gyaos flew past under him, oblivious to his presence. Kazama grinned as the rushing air blew into his face. He pulled the trigger, unleashing lasers hotter than the surface of the Sun into the hides of unsuspecting Gyaos. Many Gyaos screeched in misery as lasers burned holes through their bodies. One Gyaos in particular refused to fly away. Instead it thrashed its head around, searching for its attacker. When it looked up, it foolishly opened its mouth to swallow Kazama whole.

Kazama laughed as he fell down the Gyaos’s throat, firing his weapon at full power. Organs and bones and flesh were vaporized, forging a path for Kazama to fall through. After exiting out of the Gyaos’s lower body, Kazama fell onto one of the battleships, his landing creating an impact crater. Sailors watched him in stunned silence. There was no way a human being could have survived all that. To Kazama’s relief, he was no ordinary human.

One by one, other mutants launched themselves out of the Gotengo, landing within close proximity of the battleships. Armed with anti-kaiju weapons of their own, the EDF mutants stood side-by-side with the United States Navy. Cannons and gun torrents fired at the Gyaos, while the EDF mutants pumped them full of white-hot energy lasers. Sonic beams skimmed across the ocean surface, cutting one of the battleships in half. Its crew couldn’t withdraw from their vessel fast enough, as a Gyaos crashed into it, sinking its ruptured remains beneath the surface.

Sonic beams lanced into the Gotengo, tearing apart its hull. Sparks exploded outwards, signaling the Gotengo’s descent. None of its crew abandoned their posts, electing to buy more time for the US Navy. The Gotengo’s Full Metal Missiles slew a group of Gyaos that tried to sink their teeth and claws into it.

A Gyaos landed on the deck of one of the battleships, gobbling up sailors. Several EDF mutants rushed over, pumping the Gyaos full of searing lasers. The Gyaos made short work of them with the flap of its wings, sending them flying into the ship they were trying to protect; the impact pulverized their bodies, killing them instantly.

More and more sonic beams were fired, maiming the Seventh Fleet.

Two Gyaos landed on the USS Saratoga, their talons instantly crushing the lifeless fighter jets. Inside the gigantic vessel, terrified sailors watched cracks splinter the ceilings above their heads, a testament to the tremendous size of their winged adversaries. Sonic beams screeched out of the Gyaos’ disgusting throats. With surgical precision, the mighty aircraft carrier split in two.

“Initiate emergency procedures,” Admiral Stenz shouted. Alarm blares rung throughout the ship. Its professional crew snapped into action. Rushing cold seawater poured into the control room, coming up to Admiral Stenz’s ankles. His officers have never seen their Admiral so mortified. Seconds later, they understood why.

The USS Saratoga was compromised. Cold water rushed down its halls, flooding its rooms. Many found refuge, while a few weren’t so lucky. When the flooding water threatened to consume the command center, steel doors were slammed shut. There was another exit, one that led safely to the lifeboats. However, try as they might, nobody could get the steel door to open.

“Step away,” Captain Huddleston ordered, running over with a large wrench. He fidgeted with the steel door for a few minutes.

Admiral Stenz was impressed by the courage of his people. Even in the face of adversity, they didn’t give up. As the water started to rise above their waists, Stenz worried their efforts would all be in vain.

A loud, booming noise reverberated off the steel door. Captain Huddleston froze. What was that? Before he could suspect what could’ve made that sound, a massive dent was punched through the door. Then another, and another! Finally, one last punch ripped it off its hinges. Kazama stepped into the nearly flooded command center, sporting an award-winning grin.

“What, were you guys expecting to be saved by Aquaman? No?” Kazama joked. “I didn’t think so.”

Admiral Stenz was the last one to leave. As his people filed out of the command center, Stenz looked back at his command center one last time. Kazama offered him his hand. Stenz took it.

“Thank you, young man,” Admiral Stenz said.

“The honor is mine, Admiral,” Kazama replied back.

As Kazama escorted Admiral Stenz and his people to the lifeboats, they all froze when an ear-piercing chirp filled their ears.

“What was that?” Captain Huddleston asked.

Kazama smiled. “That, my friends,” he continued, “is the greatest sound in the world.”

More battleships were badly damaged, their steel bodies left to die out at sea. Suddenly, armies of glowing moths, numbering in the millions, zapped their way through the ravenous Gyaos horde. In a flash of light, the glowing moths fused together into a moth larger than a jumbo jet. Its multicolored wings flapped with the grace of a true paladin of light. Energy swirled in its reflective, bulbous eyes.

Mothra Leo was here at last.

-

At long last the caverns of old played tribute to the living.

It’s been over an hour since members of HEAT, the United States Army, and the EDF entered a secret passageway. It led them deeper into the island, where the walls were filled to the brim with ancient runes. Everyone was on high alert.

Monique cast a suspicious look at the glowing Elias, whose light guided them on their path. There was something one of them said earlier that really bugged her. As a former operative of the French Secret Service, Monique spent most of her life keeping her thoughts to herself. This moment would be an exception, for she couldn’t bear the torment of doubt any longer.

“How do you know about this place?” Monique asked, catching the attention of Moll and Lora.

Moll kept her eyes forward, acting as if she didn’t hear Monique’s question. Lora, however, looked back at her with a guilty expression. It didn’t go unnoticed.

“Please answer the lady’s question,” Major Hicks said.

Everyone stopped. Fairy floated further down the hall, stopping only because the Elias psychically told her to. They hovered there for a few minutes, silently debating whether or not they should answer Monique’s question.

“Mother,” Ozaki said to Miki. “Why don’t you read their minds?”

Miki shook her head. “I can’t,” she admitted. “Their minds are stronger than mine.”

“At least it wasn’t for the lack of trying,” Nick said.

“Orders, sir?” Sergeant O’Neal asked Major Hicks.

“They have one minute to start giving us answers,” Major Hicks replied.

“Or what, sir?” asked Lieutenant Ford.

Major Hicks gripped his assault rifle tighter, hoping it wouldn’t come to that.

“We can’t stop, we’re running out of time,” Moll warned, her voice echoing down the hall. Fairy glowed brighter, revealing a bridge over thirty-yards away.

“But we will tell you the truth, if you follow us,” Lora promised.

Monique cocked her sniper rifle. She was the first to take the Elias on their offer. Everyone else followed suit.

“In a time before Man,” Moll said, her voice reverberating off the rocky walls. “There lived an ancient civilization that stretched across what is now called the Pacific Ocean. It has many names. Atlantis, Mu, Avalon, Shambhala. To its inhabitants, it was known as Nilai Kinai.”

“But to my sisters and I, we simply called it home,” Lora revealed.

Moll nodded with her eyes closed, remembering what their home was like long ago. “Nilai Kinai was ahead of its time. It was far more advanced than anything existing today. We could turn the hottest, sandiest deserts into flourishing rivers and jungles. We harnessed the power of the Sun, sharing free energy for all. Disease and famine was all but unheard of back then. Under the watchful protection of our friend and mentor, Mothra, we thrived.”

The Elias floated on. The humans carefully crossed the bridge behind them. All they saw beneath creaking planks of wood was an empty abyss. There was no turning back.

Lora sighed. “The beginning of our end came when we tried taking complete control over the Earth. To say the Earth wasn’t happy with us would be an understatement.”

“The Earth that spawned us is a living thing,” Moll explained. “Like all living things, it has an immune system. The Earth sent Battra, the dark Mothra, to attack us, to remind us of our place. Only after Mothra saved us, were we at last humbled.”

On the walls, Miki saw hieroglyphics depicting a seismic battle. It was a battle the planet would never forget, let alone forgive.

“But our negligence almost destroyed the Earth,” Lora said. “Our war with the planet left entire continents drowning in ruin, choking on pollution and toxic waste. To redeem ourselves, we did what we thought was right. We created life.”

“You created Dagahra and the Gyaos,” Monique gasped.

Lieutenant Brody shook his head. “You played God.”

“Like we’re ones to talk,” Nick shot back, referring to the legions of monsters humankind were responsible for.

“Dagahra and the Gyaos were perfect organisms,” Moll continued, ignoring the criticism. “They could survive anywhere. But then something happened to them, something we should’ve anticipated. They evolved. Dagahra’s body produced the Barem, which turned most of the oceans into underwater graveyards. The Gyaos reproduced at an astonishing rate. And while Dagahra was laying waste to the rest of the world, the Gyaos turned on us.”

“So many lives were lost,” Lora wept.

“To stop this threat, Mothra and Battra put aside their differences,” Moll continued. “Their alliance summoned other protectors of the realm. King Caesar, Golem of Virtue. Utsuno Ikusagami, Lord of Light. Titanosaurus, Ruler of the Deep. Manda, Serpent of the Sky. We all joined forces. But even then it wasn’t enough. We needed the lifeblood of the planet to help us in our time of need.”

“We needed Mana,” the Elias said as one.

There was something different in the air. NIGEL’s sensors detected they were no longer in a narrow passage. Ken Yamane’s instruments confirmed the same. In the distance, they could see an eerie glow, its light revealing the silhouette of a forsaken temple. Ozaki narrowed his superhuman vision, focusing on a person standing at its entryway. It looked to be the shape of a young woman.

Miki’s psychic eye saw what her son saw and telepathically broadcasted it to everyone else. Time was running out.

“For all our misgivings, we never once used Mana for anything, not even to power our technology,” Lora said. “But after exhausting all available resources, we had no other choice.”

“With Mana,” Moll continued, “we breathed life into Gamera, Guardian of the Universe. But he was born too little, too late. Most of our people were lost.”

“It was then the last of us discovered something,” Lora said, her voice pale. “It was the antithesis of Mana. It was what corrupted Dagahra and Gyaos in the first place, turning them loose on us. We traced its presence back to this island. What we found here, we prayed, would never cast its shadow on the Earth again.”

“This place became its prison,” Moll said. “The last of the Gyaos eggs were collected and buried here. Dagahra was imprisoned beneath its shore. But we’re the real prisoners here, for we are the last of our kind, damned to walk the Earth as the pariahs we are, the pariahs we deserve to be.”

-

Zilla chased the flying Gamera across the island, his footsteps being felt for miles. Gamera, changing direction, spun around into Zilla’s ribcage. Zilla, the scorched air knocked out of his lungs, was hurled through the air with the spinning Gamera controlling the direction. Gamera’s limb sockets emitted blue flames, flaying Zilla’s flesh with each passing second. After flying over hundreds of treetops, Gamera rammed Zilla into the unoccupied United States Army Command Center. Plumes of dirt and smoke masked the reptilian titans. Zilla rose to his feet, exhausted. It took Zilla a few seconds to realize the foul scent in the air was coming from his burnt chest. Enraged, Zilla lunged at Gamera, but was instantly batted down by Gamera’s tremendously strong arms.

With a heavy stomp, Gamera’s mouth churned with molten plasma. Zilla stared into the fire, its glowing radiance reflecting off his hazel eyes. A tiny thought popped into Zilla’s head. It was a fleeting thought, one the reptile would have easily forgotten had he not been staring death in the face.

This is how she felt before she died.

The feelings of those words crossed Zilla’s mind. Then something else happened, something that happened so quick it probably never happened at all. Zilla imagined a human woman with curly golden air. Her dying screams echoed for what felt like an eternity, before bringing Zilla back to reality. Gamera’s burning breath faded. The Guardian of the Universe, struggling to control his abnormal fury, sympathized with Zilla’s plight. It would seem both monsters were struggling with their inner demons.

Something massive splashed in the water. Gamera and Zilla looked to the shoreline, spotting Dagahra’s tail dipping underwater. Gamera and Zilla traded glances, silently agreeing to a truce. As Dagahra circled the northern shores of the island, Gamera and Zilla kept a close eye on him from land. The unlikely pair followed the sea dragon until they reached Godzilla’s corpse.

Suddenly, Dagahra emerged out of the water, blasting Gamera off his feet. Zilla, however, was able to avoid Dagahra’s attacks by using his quick reflexes. Dagahra crawled over Godzilla’s body, roaring a thundering challenge. Zilla’s sharp spikes became enriched with thermonuclear light. Zilla answered Dagahra’s challenge by breathing green fire over him. Dagahra wailed in agony as Zilla’s flames scorched his flesh. But then something most unexpected happened. The irradiated flames were redirected into Godzilla’s corpse, as if being summoned. Godzilla’s pale flesh soaked up Zilla’s flames, revitalizing its skin tissue and muscle mass at an accelerated rate.

A powerful hand seized Dagahra’s throat, crushing its windpipe. Blood frothed out of Dagahra’s mouth as a massive shadow loomed over him. Godzilla, King of the Monsters, stood at his full intimidating height. Dagahra looked tiny in comparison as he dangled from Godzilla’s bulky arm. Godzilla’s jagged fins clattered as the atomic reptile squeezed Dagahra’s jaws. Dagahra’s spiky shoulders fired blistering heat rays into Godzilla’s face. Godzilla growled as the smoke steamed off his unscathed skin. In a quick snapping motion, Godzilla forcefully opened Dagahra’s mouth nice and wide, and spat atomic fire down his throat. Godzilla kept the atomic fire burning for a full minute before tossing Dagahra’s smoldering corpse into the water.

Godzilla turned his fearsome attention to Gamera and Zilla. Gamera met Godzilla’s eyes as an equal. Zilla, intimidated by his infamous namesake, took a few steps back. Godzilla could smell the radiation curling off the mutated iguana. At that point it became all too clear that Godzilla saw Zilla not as a rival but as prey.

Gamera, fearing for the life of his new friend, took a preemptive strike. A fireball burned into Godzilla’s face, showering his entire upper body in an explosion. But as soon as Godzilla hit the ground, the King of Monsters was scrambling back to his feet. Zilla set Godzilla ablaze with his thermonuclear fire. Godzilla howled in pain at first. But it didn’t take long for his body to soak up the irradiated flames. Godzilla exhaled radioactive vapor, his eyes wide with an insatiable thirst. Godzilla charged with the intention of crushing Zilla apart with his bare hands. Zilla spun around, whacking Godzilla’s leg with his tail. Even a powerful creature like Godzilla was brought low by such a strike. Most monsters would have fallen; Godzilla fell only to one knee. Godzilla growled at the stubborn iguana mutation. Gamera silenced the King of Monsters with a bone-shattering swipe across the jawline. Godzilla tasted his own blood as his jaws snapped back into position.

Godzilla’s bony spikes flashed with a bluish-silvery pulse. Atomic particles swirled in the back of Godzilla’s maw as the mighty creature prepared to unleash his most formidable weapon.

-

Miki Saegusa gripped her temple, wincing in pain. She quickly severed her psychic connection from the minds of her company, so they wouldn’t partake in her suffering.

“Mother, what’s wrong?” Ozaki asked, looking concern.

 “This must be Belvera’s doing,” Moll and Lora said in unison.

Miki shook her head. “No, it came from something more powerful than Belvera. Something I fear we’ll all witness very shortly.”

“While I find all this talk of ancient civilizations and apocalyptic monsters to be very fascinating,” Monique said, looking down the scope of her sniper rifle. “All I want to know is: who’s the girl?”

Through the scope, Monique saw a young Japanese girl standing at the base of the ancient temple. It was the same girl Randy, Craven and Lieutenant Ford saw earlier. Major Hicks’s hand signals instructed his soldiers to surround the girl and the temple. He was taking no chances, a move Monique supported.

“Her name is Ayana Hirasaka, a former patient of mine,” Miki confessed.

“What do you mean by patient?” Nick said. “With respect, I didn’t know you were in that kind of profession.”

Captain Douglas Gordon nodded, silently granting Miki permission to reveal sensitive information.

“The Earth Defense Force has been made aware of certain individuals who, like myself, share a unique mental connection with kaiju,” Miki said. “Why or how this is possible continues to be a mystery, a mystery our scientists are determined to solve in due time.”

“Color me intrigued,” Elsie quipped.

“Ayana was a special case,” Miki continued. “As far as we could tell, she wasn’t connected to any particular kaiju. But she was receiving contact from something enormous, something that was making her life a nightmare. I tried to help her.”

“It’s not your fault for what happened,” Ozaki said.

“I’m very sorry for what you’ve gone through,” Craven said. “But what did happen?”

Sweat dripped from Miki’s brow. “There was another girl like us, who was recruited by the EDF around the time I joined. Her name was Asagi Kusanagi.”

“The girl who bonded with Gamera,” Nick said.

“Who is, last I checked, giving Zilla hell right now,” Randy complained.

“Asagi, like myself, felt a special bond with Ayana. She, too, tried helping Ayana. But the visions Ayana was receiving finally took a toll on the poor girl,” Miki whispered, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I received a vision of Ayana being consumed by a multi-armed demon. I tried warning Asagi, but I was too late.

“Ayana had already killed her.”

“That might explain why Gamera hasn’t been acting like himself,” Elsie said.

“That’s one reason why we’re here,” Ken said, taking over for Miki. “We suspect Ayana stole Asagi’s amulet, which would, in theory, allow her to connect with Gamera. It looks like we were right about that. Thanks to the Elias, we’re starting to see how this relates to this island and its underground city.”

“So first we hear about how the Elias are responsible for dooming the world, now we hear about this top-secret mission,” Elsie said, trying to inject humor into a morbid discussion. “Anyone else have anything to add?”

“Oh, yes!” Randy said in excitement. “The doc and I made something super sweet! Y’all need to seriously check this out.”

Elsie rolled her eyes. “I was kidding, Randy!”

“Belvera is close, too,” Moll said. “She’s no doubt pulling Ayana’s strings.”

“Making her responsible for Asagi’s death,” Ozaki said. “We’re putting her down.”

“Ozaki--,” Miki started before being interrupted by her son.

“I know Belvera is their sister,” Ozaki said. “But Belvera is a threat to humanity. We’re taking her down. End of story.”

-

Belvera, on the shoulders of Garu-Garu, hovered above her human slave. Dust and rock crumbled off the temple doors, shedding like dead skin. The time was nigh. Belveria rejoiced, feeling euphoria again for the first time in centuries. Suddenly, a wave of warning burning feeling alerted her to an imminent danger. She cursed the Earth Spirit for her clumsiness.

With lightning fast precision, Belvera's enemies attacked. Hundreds of bullets emptied into her mystical bubble. Belvera’s eyes were wide with fright, knowing the humans’ weapons, however primitive, would’ve ripped her body apart had it not been for her barrier. Out of the corner of her eyes, Belvera saw her human slave fall to the ground, succumbing to a flesh wound on her shoulder. Belvera moved to protect the human, not out of sympathy but for necessity. That’s when Ozaki launched an energy cannon, a weapon designed to pierce even the sturdiest of monsters. In the blink of an eye, Belvera was cleansed from the Earth.

The Elias watched in sadness. Moll and Lora chose not to partake in the assault on Belvera, much to the dismay of a select group of humans. Lora cried in anguish, feeling, in a small way, responsible for Belvera’s past misdeeds. Moll stared silently into the dark, wondering if Belvera would emerge from the shadows like she had done so many times before.

Monique surveyed the area behind the scope of her sniper rifle. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw Randy run to the Japanese girl, who was squirming in a puddle of her own blood. Nick, Elsie and Craven shouted at Randy to stay away but he didn’t listen. Monique thought Randy Hernandez was the biggest imbecile on the planet.

A brave imbecile, Monique thought with respect.

Randy reached down to inspect the Japanese girl, trying to reassure her the nightmare was over.

“Ayana,” Randy said to the girl. “Uh, Ayana Hirasawesome? Sorry, all I know is your first name. But you’re safe now!”

Sergeant O’Neal and Lieutenant Ford led a group of soldiers to form a defensive perimeter around Randy and the girl. Nick and Major Hicks exchanged heated words regarding Randy’s reckless action. Captain Douglas Gordon, Ozaki and Miki inspected the girl, seeing no point in lecturing Randy.

“Ayana’s bleeding pretty bad, guys,” Randy shouted, calling for a medic. He didn’t know why he rushed to the girl’s aid. Perhaps later he’d consult Miki for answers. All Randy knew is he felt sympathy for all that had befallen her.

“No,” Miki murmured in astonishment. “That’s not Ayana Hirasaka.”

“What?” Randy said. “Then who is it?”

“That’s Asagi Kusanagi.”

The ancient doors sprung open, bathing everyone in light. An unknown force made the entire island shake. Asagi cried out Gamera’s name, clenching her bloodstained amulet for help. The amulet emitted an eerie green glow, infecting Asagi with the darkness of its true master. Asagi’s eyes and bulging veins turned black. Randy tried calming her down. The Elias flew over to help.

“I thought you said Ayana killed Asagi,” Lieutenant Ford said, fixing his assault rifle on the light.

“That’s what it wanted me to see,” Miki gasped. “It really wanted Asagi all along.”

“For what?” Nick shouted.

“To fuse,” Moll revealed.

“Why does it need Asagi to do that?” Elsie asked.

“Because the human spirit is full of potential,” Lora said. “The darkness wants to tap into that potential. With that power, it can do anything. It can become anything.”

“Okay, I’ve had enough of all this mystical mumbo-jumbo crap!” Elsie declared.

“What she said,” Randy shouted, reaching for Asagi’s hand. Before Randy could move Asagi to safety, a spear-shaped tentacle shot out of the glowing doorway, impaling Randy’s chest.

Everything went silent as Randy fell to the cold earth. He saw soldiers firing into the light, their bodies ripped apart by attacking tentacles. Sergeant O’Neal was one of the soldiers cut down. Nick, Elsie, Craven and NIGEL were there to comfort Randy before he went into shock. As Randy started slipping into the void, he saw Asagi being pulled into the light.

An explosion of light consumed the ancient temple. Its light lit up the underground city, exposing its decadent ruins. The light transformed into a torrent of energy, which blasted through the stony ceiling. A terrible earthquake shook the city loose, plunging everyone into darkness.

-

Amidst forest fires and smoldering craters, Godzilla slammed Gamera into the island foliage. Atomic fire burned in Godzilla’s throat as he choked the life out of Gamera. Gamera, thinking quickly, pulled his head and limbs into his shell. In a flash, Gamera spun rapidly, scraping the sharp edges of his shell against Godzilla’s ankles. Godzilla, with his legs kicked up from under him, shrieked in rage as he fell face first into the dirt. Godzilla started to rise to his feet but Zilla bashed heads with the King of Monsters. Godzilla flattened scores of trees as he tumbled into a riverbank.

Zilla snarled a challenge. Godzilla answered with a bellowing challenge of his own. Dorsal spikes and jagged fins simultaneously lit up. Godzilla’s bluish-silvery atomic fire met Zilla’s emerald thermonuclear flame, reducing all nearby green life to embers. Godzilla and Zilla’s fiery attacks struggled over dominance, evaporating rivers as an afterthought. Godzilla funneled more energy into his most formidable weapon, which was starting to overpower Zilla’s thermonuclear breath. Gamera, powering up his jet propulsions to maximum speed, tackled Godzilla hundreds of meters beneath the soil.

Godzilla’s claws swatted the giant tortoise off. Gamera and Zilla growled at their savage opponent, knowing their battle could go either way. Godzilla’s dorsal fins flashed, signaling his violent intentions. Gamera and Zilla’s respective flames crackled in the backs of their throats. Suddenly, an immensely powerful energy blast exploded from out of the ground. Godzilla, Gamera and Zilla were blown back by the shockwave, powerless to stop it as it stabbed into the heavens.

For a brief second, the heavens trembled. Blue skies were replaced by maladies of blackness. Within moments, the horizon was blotted out. Crimson lightning flashes revealed otherworldly monstrosities lurking in the skies, scratching at the dimensional barriers between them and the Earth.

Godzilla picked himself off the ground, startled by what he was seeing. As Gamera and Zilla regained consciousness, the ground beneath them imploded. Miles of earth and forest were broken up, dragging the monsters into the depraved heart of the island.

-

Out at sea, Admiral Stenz and his crew floated in a lifeboat. With Mothra Leo and the Gotengo finishing off the Gyaos swarm, Stenz thought he could finally renew his focus back on the mysterious island. But now the sky was falling. For the last few minutes they’ve been trying to contact the outside world for help. But it would appear recent events have triggered a miles wide blackout. With only a few battleships left in stable condition, Admiral Stenz was left with a very difficult decision to make.

With a heavy heart, he ordered the battleships to leave for safer waters. The battleships plowed through waters festering with Gyaos corpses, seeking lighter horizons. Admiral Stenz hoped they would make contact with the outside world soon. Stenz hoped the world would send everything they had to help, or, come morning, there wouldn’t be much of a world left to defend.

-

Hours later, Nick Tatopoulos scrambled to his feet, his face badly scratched and bruised.

The temple was gone, reduced to rubble. In its place was a blazing torrent of light. Nick looked up in awe as he realized he was no longer underground. Dark skies shrouded the heavens, looking down on him with contempt. The light stabbing into it seemed to be responsible. Nick felt a hot liquid trickling down his sleeves. He looked down at his hands and saw blood.

“Randy,” Nick said, his voice trembling.

Nick searched for his injured friend. NIGEL, Mendel Craven’s robot, dragged Randy’s bleeding body out of a pile of debris. Craven stumbled over, his face barely recognizable.

“Pulse is low,” NIGEL reported, monitoring Randy’s health. “Loss of blood: extreme. Randy Hernandez will not survive.”

Randy reached up, grasping NIGEL’s arm. “You-you’re wrong there,” he coughed, with his eyes closed. Craven knelt down to apply pressure to his chest wound.

“Randy,” Nick said, his voice soft and soothing. “Hang in there, buddy. We’re gonna get you some help. You’re going to pull through this.”

Craven glanced at Nick, shaking his head.

“Where-where’s ever’one else? Where’s Monique? Elsie?” Randy asked, oblivious to his sapping strength.

Nick looked over his shoulder at the sprawled, ravaged landscape. There was only rubble, dust, and splintered earth. Nick feared the worst. But Nick also knew if anyone could walk away from such a catastrophe, he would bet on his teammates. He would bet on HEAT.

“They’re out there, I know they are,” Nick said.

“Look at me, jefa,” Randy said, his voice numb. “I know things look bleak. But we’ve been through worse.”

“Randy, I don’t think…”

“Yeah, ok, you’re right,” admitted Randy, reading Nick’s mind. “Nothing has ever been this bad.”

Nick said nothing, his true feelings betraying him. Randy realized his mistake and quickly apologized, coughing blood. Craven tried his best to keep Randy conscious.

“We can’t lose you,” Nick cried.

“Promise me something,” Randy asked, using up the last bit of energy he had. “Promise me you won’t let this stop you from living. Promise me you’ll forgive the Big Guy for what happened to Audrey.”

Nick closed his eyes and rubbed his finger, searching in vain for where his wedding ring used to be. He imagined Audrey’s last moments, visualizing a different place entirely. Nick was no longer standing in the ruins of a lost city somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. He was back at home in New York City, riding on a train. Vivid colors of light shined through the gliding windows as many buildings swished by. Then tragedy struck. A giant creature crashed into the train, pulverizing one half with its immense bulk while leaving the other half pinned. Nick blinked in confusion, looking around for help. Many other people were either screaming for help or were as silent as gravestones. Another giant stomped in the distance, crouching in an attacking position, his tail swinging. Nick instantly recognized the creature as Zilla. Then for a brief second, Nick stared at a reflection on the window, a reflection that didn’t belong to him. It belonged to a beautiful young woman, with bushy golden hair and mesmerizing blue eyes. Her name was Audrey Timmonds Tatopoulos. She was Nick’s wife. Nick felt his heart beat for what felt like the first time in months. But then a bright flash stole his happiness. Nick cried out for Zilla to stop but it was too late, as a flash of thermonuclear fire struck the enemy creature, engulfing the train in the process. Nick felt his body become one with the molten train, never to be whole again.

Randy touched Nick’s face, bringing him back to life.

“Promise me.”

Nick wanted to tell Randy what he wanted to hear. He wanted to say the right thing; he wanted to do the right thing. He wanted to save everyone.

“Sorry, I can’t make that promise,” Nick said, sniffling.

Suddenly, the torrent of energy blazing into the dark sky vanished. An organic sphere, dripping with rancid pus and plasma, gestated in the air. Its translucent surface revealed a multi-armed, demonic creature writhing within. Somehow the humans knew if and when it hatched, it would herald Armageddon itself.

“Wait, I know a way to save him,” Craven said. The good doc ordered NIGEL to roll over, initiating a series of commands. NIGEL’s robotic body whirred and clicked open, revealing a canister. Trillions of nanomachines, guided by Mendel Craven’s control, took shape, transforming into what appeared to be a human-sized, grinning robot.

Randy softly chuckled. He always wanted to be a superhero.

-

A few hours earlier…

Monique Dupre didn’t feel much at first. It was the first time in a long time she felt peace. There was a roughness to her current state of mind, one with shades of pain and closure. She imagined reaching out, feeling a cold wall everywhere. As a moment of clarity washed over her, Monique somehow knew this place was her tomb. All her life she excelled in the company of death. In her crypt, Monique felt the eyes of the many lives she had taken. She couldn’t deny the profound sense of irony; Monique lived her entire life as a ghost, now only in death would ghosts haunt her.

A divine radiance enveloped her. Monique’s eyes slowly opened, her pulse rekindled. She was alive. Monique tried to move but her muscles and body ached beyond words. It took a moment for her to identify the predicament she was in. Cold walls of earth pressed against her, keeping her bottlenecked above a crevasse. Monique, moaning in anguish, had been right about one thing: this place was her tomb.

The Elias hovered next to her grimy face, worried.

Ms. Saegusa, we found her.

Ozaki dropped into a deep pit. Using the Elias’ light as guidance, Ozaki lifted Monique out of her rocky prison, careful not to hurt her. Then in a true display of superhuman strength, Ozaki jumped out of the pit, and grabbed the edge of a cliff. He waited there with Monique for a few seconds before several open hands reached down. Ozaki handed them Monique.

Before Monique had time to assess what was happening, Elsie squeezed her tight.

“I’m so glad you’re alive,” Elsie said, with a makeshift crutch at her side.

Monique peered over Elsie’s shoulder, both stunned and relieved by what she saw. Ozaki stood next to Miki, not a scratch on him.  The Elias looked untouched. Everyone else wasn’t as fortunate. Miki’s left eye was bandaged, her swollen faced concealed by shadows. Captain Douglas Gordon nursed one of his sides where a few of his ribs had been cracked. The wheezing in his breath implied he had a punctured lung. Ken Yamane’s broken right arm hung from an arm sling. Major Hicks was decorated in a plethora of cuts and bruises. Lieutenant Brody had a tourniquet around his bloodstained leg.

Miki telepathically brought Monique up to speed. Everyone else was dead. Miki and the Elias found each other with their minds. Together, they did what would’ve taken search parties days to accomplish. But they found many dead brothers and sisters in arms. After collecting their fallen, they gathered supplies and ammunition. They were about to search for a way to the surface when Miki detected Monique six feet under.

“Where’s Randy?” Monique wondered out loud.

Elsie stood up, supporting her body on her crutch. Her look of pain and uncertainty troubled Monique more than it should have.

“We can’t sense him, or the others,” Lora said.

“It’s probably because we’re too far down,” Moll speculated.

“Then we should be moving,” Monique said, strapping her sniper rifle to her back.

Within the next few hours, the survivors covered much ground. They toured through the underworld of the island, finding tunnels that led to hidden treasures and dead ends. Monique never slowed down.

“Nerves of steel, that one,” Major Hicks said to an impressed Captain Gordon.

“And something else, Major,” Miki said, sensing Monique’s hidden motivation. “I don’t think even she knows how she truly feels about Randy Hernandez.”

“She wants to strangle him too, huh?” Captain Gordon mused, groaning in pain as he did.

Elsie and Lieutenant Brody hobbled close together.

“This should be a play,” Lieutenant Brody joked. “I mean, just look at us. This is golden material.”

Elsie uttered a fake laugh, mistaking Brody’s comments as a pickup line. “Uh, sorry young soldier, I’m taken.”

“And I’m married,” Lieutenant Brody said, showing her his ring. “Happily.”

This time Elsie laughed for real. She took the next thirty minutes finding out everything about Brody. She asked him about how he and his wife first met, how old their son is, and when they’re expecting their next child.

“Wait a second, are you related to Joe Brody?” Elsie asked.

Lieutenant Brody was reluctant to answer. “He’s my father.”

“Joe Brody, formerly a brilliant nuclear physicist now the foremost expert in echolocation in the world, is your father?” Elsie was ecstatic. “Darwin, it truly is my lucky day! Y’know, we’ve been in contact with him for weeks now about a possible kaiju related incident happening in the Philippines.”

“Let’s leave that for another time,” Lieutenant Brody replied.

The survivors kept walking. The change in the air made them think they had somehow stumbled upon the surface. But it was nothing more than an unusually large cavern. Red flares were lit, shining light on their surroundings. What they saw in the dark frightened everyone.

There were dozens of elephant-sized eggs.

“Please don’t tell me those are what I think they are,” Major Hicks said.

“Gyaos eggs,” Miki gasped.

“What did I just say?” Major Hicks bemoaned.

“Don’t worry,” Elsie said. “These eggs have been here for thousands of years. They’ve either dried out or they’re in suspended animation. I mean what are the chances that they’d hatch now?”

Elsie stopped, noticing everyone was staring at her.

“Oh, right, that end-of-the-world thing,” Elsie sighed. “I just jinxed us big time, didn’t I?”

One of the eggs wobbled. Its crusted shell cracked open, revealing a pair of hungry yellow eyes. Within a second, the newly hatched Gyaos clawed its way out of its egg, shrieking at its prey. Bullets became its welcoming party. The Gyaos’s skin wasn’t dense enough to repel bullets, so splashes of black blood marked where the bullets struck. The Gyaos couldn’t use its wings to fly yet, so it compensated by using them like swinging arms.

The Gyaos moved to crush Miki to a pulp. Ozaki shielded his mother before getting swiped into the darkness. The Elias flew up, summoning an enchantment that shackled the Gyaos with chains of light. The chains reduced the Gyaos’s movements, but it was still a threat. It lunged down to gobble Elsie up in one disgusting bite. But Captain Gordon stepped in, slitting the Gyaos’s throat open with the swipe of his katana. Lieutenant Brody fired hot lead into the fearsome creature, puncturing dozens of bleeding holes in its foul body. Still the Gyaos continued its relentless attack. It successfully shattered its chains and turned its hungry sights to Miki. She was the last thing it saw before Monique sniped out its eyes. Blind and badly wounded, the Gyaos was more dangerous than ever. Its terrible screech acted as an omen for its sinister weapon. Sonic vibrations and particles of light were sucked into its throat. Before it could unleash its sonic beam, an energy blast blew its body to pieces.

Ozaki marched into the flare light, carrying his anti-kaiju launcher over his shoulder. Elsie whistled at Ozaki, making the mutant blush.

“We need to move before the rest of them…” Major Hicks started to say before the words stopped coming.

All the eggs started to wobble. More Gyaos hatched out, their hungry eyes concentrating on their stubborn prey. The humans moved their backs to each other, forming a protective circle. The Elias hovered above them, not liking their odds one bit.

 “I’d rather be at Madison Square Gardens,” Captain Gordon joked in Major Hicks’s ear. Major Hicks shook his head, finding the inside joke too stupid to refute.

Miki had no mental control over the Gyaos. They already had a master in their heads pulling their strings. Miki knew they only had seconds before the savage creatures attacked. But then she detected an unusual yet familiar mind rapidly closing in on their position.

In the distance, walls of rock were blasted open. A humanoid being coated in silver, red and yellowish armor flew out of the gaping hole, its speed appearing as a blur to normal human eyes. Even Ozaki wasn’t fast enough to stop it from snatching his anti-kaiju launcher out of his hands. It flew above the heads of the survivors, energy barrels blazing. Energy weapons designed to wound even the most durable monsters mowed down the newly hatched Gyaos, reducing them to bloody, mutilated chunks.

It landed in front of the humans, the flare light glinting off its armor. It was a robot. Before anyone could utter a single word, it walked over to Monique, offering her its hand.

“Come with me if you want to live,” it said, in a digitized voice.

Monique stared into the robot’s blank, hollowed eyes. She knew this robot but how? Miki gasped in surprise, knowing who—not what—it is. The Elias deduced the robot’s identity as well. But everyone else, including Monique, was still clueless.

“Who are you?” Monique asked.

The robot tossed the anti-launcher back to Ozaki. Then it levitated off the ground, waving for everyone to follow it.

“Who am I?” it said, before taking off through the hole it recently made.

-

Nick Tatopolous and Mendel Craven watched helplessly as the demonic being in its cocoon started to hatch. Its birth was inevitable. Suddenly, NIGEL rolled up to where the temple once stood, squeaking as it dramatically waved its arms.

“The snow glows white on the mountain tonight,” NIGEL started to sing, “not a footprint to be seen.”

Nick slapped his forehead, while Craven started laughing. For some reason he found this Randy Hernandez prank, unlike all the others, to be particularly funny.

“I love Frozen,” shrugged Craven.

“A kingdom of isolation,” NIGEL continued singing, “and it looks like I’m the--,”

The robot flew out of the tunnel it had dug earlier, flying higher than any skyscraper. Then it warped and distorted the air around it, increasing its size to biblical proportions. When it landed, its foot came crashing down on the screaming NIGEL, flattening it.

“JET JAGUAR!” the robot shouted, striking a pose.

-

Nick looked up at his friend turned protector, marveling at the intricacies of its design. Jet Jaguar was the brainchild of Randy Hernandez and Mendel Craven, the culmination of their brilliance and imagination. Nick, primarily an expert in biology, pondered how such a thing was possible. He knew they developed a microchip hundreds of times smaller than the iris of an eye. This microchip acted as the nucleus of a nanobot, one capable of replicating itself at an astonishing rate. They bonded with Randy’s nervous system, conforming to his brainwaves. Nick witnessed the whole event, taken aback by how quickly the nanobots formed a robotic suit around Randy’s body, never severing their connection to his mind.

There was still something that baffled Nick. “Randy, how in the blue blazes did you grow to be the size of Zilla?”

“That thing is Randy?” Elsie shouted, as Ozaki carried her out of the tunnel. The other survivors followed their lead.

“How-how is this possible?” Monique said, wiping her eyes. “You died! I watched you die!”

Jet Jaguar looked down at her, like a giant would to an ant. Then he knelt down, tapping his metallic chest to the tune of loud clings.

“There’s no way I could ever die with you in my heart, babe,” Jet Jaguar responded, his digitized voice full of feeling.

An incursion brought a swift end to the heartwarming reunion. Jet Jaguar focused on the demonic anomaly levitating in the air, wiggling in its molten cocoon.

It was time.

The entity’s translucent surface hardened into a beating heart. Then parts from behind it broke off, assembling an outer body with its heart at its center. Its exposed flesh was as red as blood. It had an exoskeleton blacker than ash attached to its upper body. Translucent orbs bulged out of chest and midsection, emitting the same eerie green glow of Asagi’s amulet. Cloven feet dangled in the air, spikes protruding out of its knee joints. Organic gauntlets fastened its massive arms, each possessing a scythe blade. It had a large shell on its back with many plated grooves. Long, gaunt blades bulged out of its shoulders like small batlike wings. Four spearheaded tentacles, each longer than any monster alive, sprouted out between its arms and backside. Its most disturbing feature was its head. It looked like a skull, devoid of all life. Between the empty slits of where there should have been eyes was an orb made of molten light. It was the demon’s eye, a doorway to darkness itself.

“Iris,” Nick whispered, naming the abomination.

“Nice name for such an ugly looking squid, bro,” Jet Jaguar said.

“Are you suggesting there are such things as good looking squids?” retorted Craven.

“Psh, you’re just bummed I wrecked NIGEL again,” Jet Jaguar fired back.

“No, I’m bummed because I’M THE ONE WHO WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE GIANT MONSTER-FIGHTING ROBOT!” Craven whined, cradling NIGEL’s scrapped head in his arms.

“That’s attractive,” Elsie said.

“Enough!” grumbled Major Hicks. “Someone kill that thing now.”

Jet Jaguar nodded, saluting the Major. The robot levitated off the ground, creating strong gusts of wind as it flew at Iris like a bullet. In a quick blur of motion, one of Iris’s tentacles swatted Jet Jaguar out of the sky. Jet Jaguar crushed a structure in his fall. Immediately after hitting the ground, Jet Jaguar flew out of the debris with a large boulder in his hands. Jet Jaguar threw it at Iris, using it as a distraction. Iris’s tentacles instantly ripped the boulder apart. Jet Jaguar evaded two of Iris’s tentacles but couldn’t shake the third. The third tentacle whacked him into a cloister of structures.

“Guys, I’m going to need some serious help,” Jet Jaguar said, rising from rubble.

Suddenly, dorsal fins burst out of the soil. Godzilla released a thundering shriek, awakening the other monsters. Gamera spun out of the earth before making his landing. Zilla clawed his way to the surface not far from Jet Jaguar’s location. Jet Jaguar shared a moment with his monster comrades.

“This works,” Jet Jaguar nodded.

Iris silently levitated above the dead city, his tentacles waving like wicked serpents. Iris bellowed a loud, high-pitched moan. It wasn’t a challenge. It was a promise, one that would be sealed by the blood of billions. Godzilla’s dorsal fins pulsated with light. Within an instant, Godzilla doused Iris with atomic fire. Iris resisted the searing ionized gas while making a quick descent. The demon flew at incredible speeds, closing the gap between him and Godzilla in seconds. Godzilla wasn’t fast enough to stop Iris from sending his body hurtling across the ravaged landscape. Gamera unleashed a volley of fireballs, which were deflected by Iris’s swishing tentacles. Explosions blossomed where the fireballs fell, creating impact craters made of glass. Zilla exhaled his thermonuclear fire. Iris, ignoring the fire that superheated his body, wrapped up Zilla’s ankle with one tentacle and flipped him hundreds of feet into the air. Then another tentacle came crushing down on the giant reptile, pinning him to the earth.

There was a series of booming footsteps. Iris turned to investigate just in time to receive Godzilla’s smashing forearm to the neck. Godzilla, one of the strongest monsters on the planet, tried wrenching Iris’s arm from its socket. Iris countered by quickly overpowering the atomic dragon, thrusting one of its scythes through Godzilla’s sternum. Iris’s scythe started to glow. As Godzilla watched the blade siphon his blood, he felt his energy rapidly diminish. Gamera rammed into Iris, prying the demon’s scythe loose. Godzilla fell to one knee, breathing heavily. Gamera bombarded Iris with his fireballs, engulfing the demon in a sea of fire. Jet Jaguar, flying thousands of feet skyward, signaled for his monster allies to retreat. Jet Jaguar shot down towards Iris like a supersized bullet. For every second that passed, Jet Jaguar increased his already immense size. By the time Jet Jaguar slammed his feet into Iris, the robot was three times bigger than the demon. Mountains of dirt kicked up, blanketing the area in smoke.

At the center of an impact crater, Jet Jaguar felt Iris twitching beneath his feet. Jet Jaguar walked away, suspecting Iris’s body was broken. But it was far from it. Jet Jaguar slowly shrunk back down to his previous size. When Zilla cried out for Jet Jaguar, one of Iris’s tentacles swatted Jet Jaguar across the ancient city. Gamera ignited his rockets, blasting off at speeds faster than sound. He flew into Iris, drilling the demon in a hillside. Gamera glared into Iris’s lone spherical eye, roaring for Asagi Kusanagi’s freedom. Iris answered by showing him a vision of Asagi lost in a void, screaming for Gamera to save her. Gamera, so enraged by what he saw, released a blood-curdling shriek. The Guardian of the Universe sunk in his shell, spinning rapidly in fiery circles, slicing and burning into Iris’s armored chest. Iris’s four tentacles took position, aiming their arrowhead points at Gamera. A sphere of light manifested in each tentacle head, becoming an extension of Iris’s sight and power. Particles of energy were sucked into the tentacle heads. Gamera was so close to piercing Iris’s armor. If he had only a few more seconds, Gamera would have chopped Iris in half. Unfortunately, Gamera was out of time. Iris’s tentacles fired energy-cutting beams, ones that made Gyaos’s sonic beam pale in comparison. The beams instantly punctured Gamera, showering the hillside with his blood. Gamera spun wildly out of control, crashing hundreds of meters away.

Zilla’s jagged spikes flashed, his hot breath distorting the air. Iris swung at Zilla with his tentacles. Zilla evaded Iris’s attacks, unleashing his thermonuclear breath. Iris, exposed to flames hotter than lava, quickly shot up into the air. Zilla clawed into the ground, sensing what was coming. Iris’s energy cutters disemboweled the earth, narrowly avoiding Zilla’s burrowing body. Godzilla’s atomic blast blindsided Iris, scorching its skeletal head and fleshy neck. Iris, without hesitation, closed the gap between him and his adversary, plunging his scythe through Godzilla’s gut. Godzilla’s suffering was far from over. Iris not only stabbed Godzilla, he hoisted the mighty creature off the ground, and flew him to the outer rock walls of the city, where he crucified the mighty reptile. The force of prehistoric flesh colliding into ancient rock created a massive impact crater, with Godzilla at its center. Godzilla struggled against the embodiment of darkness, his strength sapped.

Gamera’s fireballs and Zilla’s thermonuclear fire bombarded Iris’s plated back. Iris’s tentacles shifted around, focusing on his attackers. Jet Jaguar floated down between Gamera and Zilla, waiting for an opening to attack. Suddenly, Iris did something most unexpected. He removed his blade from Godzilla’s chest. As Godzilla collapsed to the ground, Iris turned to face Gamera, Zilla, and Jet Jaguar. Iris floated towards his enemies, swatting Gamera’s fireballs. Then in a display of power and precision, Iris’s energy cutters sliced into the outer rock walls of the city, causing an avalanche of biblical proportions. Godzilla was the first to be buried. Zilla burrowed underground, while Jet Jaguar flew into the air. The rushing earth engulfed Gamera, who was too weak to fly. One of Iris’s tentacles wrapped Jet Jaguar’s knees together, swinging the robot around in circles before casting him down into the devastated terrain. Iris levitated higher, his tentacles detaching into more tentacles. A translucent web connecting the tentacles together reflected the crimson glow of the sky, casting a gloomy aurora on the hapless humans below.

“Is there anything we can do to stop it?” Elsie said.

“That thing made short work of Godzilla, Gamera, Zilla, and, uh, that other guy,” Captain Gordon said, failing to remember Jet Jaguar’s name. “I hate to admit it but there’s not much else we can do to stop it.”

“That’s not true, sir,” Ken said.

All eyes turned to Moll and Lora. Golden fractals of energy curled off their tiny bodies. To the humans, the Elias looked like they were in deep prayer. They were not too far off from the truth.

Iris intended to turn this dimension into a nexus for all other dimensions bleed through. Dark red skies tarnished the heavens, spurting like a festered wound. Behind the blood red curtains of a dark dimension, Iris saw the silhouetted faces of his familiars thirsting for new meat. Iris prepared to carve a new doorway between dimensions, to reunite with his greater self once and for all.

Suddenly, holy rays of light lanced into Iris, blasting the multi-armed demon out of the sky. Iris hit the earth, his body steaming. He didn’t have to wait long for his new attacker to reveal himself. Mothra Leo flew above the lost city, shooting energy rays out of his forehead. Iris ignored the rapid-fire energies that burned his body. Instead, Iris elected to take a more direct approach. The demon, his four tentacles whole once more, exceeded the sound barrier as he flew at his new opponent. Mothra Leo answered by endowing his body with divine power, augmenting his strength while accelerating his speed. Mothra Leo bounced off Iris’s shoulder, saturating the demon in a cloud of green pollen. Iris thought nothing of it at first until his body started going numb. Mothra Leo’s pollen had a paralysis effect on Iris’s muscles, shutting down his movements. Iris, while falling, watched helplessly as Mothra Leo funneled his crackling power to his abdomen. It’s there a blazing energy ray roared to life, blasting Iris hundreds of feet underground. Mothra Leo flapped his wings above the fissure, waiting for signs of life. It’s what Iris was hoping for. Four tentacles popped out, unleashing sonic cutters. Mothra Leo swiftly maneuvered around the cutting beams, evading as much as he could. But it only took one cutting deep in his head to bring his movements to a screaming halt.

Iris rose out of the dirt, pounding the smaller Mothra Leo with a flurry of tentacle strikes. Iris, after battering Mothra Leo into submission, wrapped the virtuous creature up in his coils, and took him to the other side of the city. Iris dropped Mothra Leo in a chasm, one that wasn’t very deep. Iris hovered above the young Mothra, waiting for the blue light of life to return to his bulbous eyes. Mothra Leo chirped wearily. What was Iris doing? His insidious plan soon unearthed itself.

Dozens of shrieking Gyaos emerged out of the dead earth, surrounding the wounded Mothra Leo. Iris’s birth had awakened them from their slumber. With insatiable appetites, the Gyaos turned their hungry eyes towards Mothra.

Jet Jaguar, hoping to blindside Iris, flew at him like a bullet. One of Iris’s tentacles snatched Jet Jaguar out of the sky and flung him into a building not far from his human friends. Godzilla and Zilla’s legendary dorsal fins cut a swath through the earth, heralding their return to the battle. Gamera’s blue exhaust vanished above their heads, signaling his landing. Sonic cutters scourged the landscape, slicing into the world’s mightiest monsters. Godzilla suffered minor wounds, ones that were healed in seconds. Gamera, with one of his arteries ruptured, shrieked in alarm while bleeding profusely down his leg. Jet Jaguar’s chest was punctured, with blood gushing out the tears in his armor.

“I-I didn’t even know I could still bleed,” Jet Jaguar said, coughing up blood. “I didn’t even know I was still human.”

Monique looked on, worried. Having enough, she looked down the sights of her sniper rifle, and shot off several rounds at Iris. She knew they wouldn’t do anything, but doing it made her feel a little better.

Elsie turned to Craven. “Did you know he would still be a person under there? How’s that even possible?”

“The suit was designed to greatly enhance the human body,” Craven said. “It can’t, however, maintain its human host if it’s been compromised. In order to survive, Randy will have to shrink back down to human size to compensate.”

Jet Jaguar weakly struck a pose, vanishing in a distorted implosion. Jet Jaguar floated back to his friends, a giant no longer. Craven and Monique rushed over to help him patch up his wounds.

There was a brief flash of light, as if the Sun had broken through the clouds. Nick shielded his eyes as Iris’s energy cutters closed in on him and his party. Zilla courageously dove in front of his surrogate father, shielding him with his body. The energy cutters carved apart Zilla’s face, permanently blinding him in one eye. During the onslaught, Zilla’s right arm was sliced off, spraying boatloads of blood. Zilla cried out in agony, unable to cope with his tragedy. Gamera pulled the writhing creature closer, closing his tusked mouth over Zilla’s bleeding stump of an arm socket. As Zilla lost consciousness, Gamera cauterized the wound with his hissing flames. Gamera quickly dropped Zilla in an effort to defend himself from Iris’s slashing tentacles. Gamera howled in despair as the spearheaded ends of Iris’s tentacles pierced his face, snapping one of his tusks off. Gamera was out cold before he hit the ground.

Nick screamed for Zilla to wake up. Zilla’s raspy breathing was the only consolation Nick had that his friend was still alive. Nick stared at Zilla’s bleeding face, hesitating to touch it.

“You need to wake up,” Nick said in a distraught voice. Zilla couldn’t hear him. Iris, like a silent grim reaper, marched to personally introduce the humans to their maker, causing an unexplainable phenomenon.

It started raining blood.

Godzilla, King of the Monsters, was the only one left standing in Iris’s path. Iris’s tentacles lashed out, stabbing bleeding holes in the atomic dragon. With blood raining from the sky, covering Godzilla head-to-toe, Godzilla’s ghastly wounds couldn’t be seen. But they sure were felt. Godzilla roared a blazing atomic blast into the multi-armed demon. Iris retaliated by flying into the giant reptile, plunging its scythe through Godzilla’s heart. Godzilla thrashed to escape but he was quickly rendered helpless by Iris’s coiling tentacles. Like a vampire, Iris’s scythe siphoned Godzilla’s blood, robbing the powerful creature of its life.

Moll and Lora prayed Mothra Leo would come to the rescue. But their Paladin of Light was being eaten alive by Gyaos, the Shadow of Evil. There was a moment of hope when streams of absolute zero washed over the foul, winged creatures, transforming them into frozen statues. Mothra Leo couldn’t tell how much blood he had lost, not with oceans of scarlet rain pelting the landscape. The guardian creature chirped its gratitude as the Gotengo entered the fray. Iris found such levels of hope fleeting. A single energy cutter was all it took to send the Gotengo crashing down next to the wounded Mothra.

Godzilla was beginning to turn into the pale, shriveled corpse he was only a day prior.

-

How did it come to this? Nick thought to himself, desperate for answers.

Portals to darker dimensions were opening. Blood rained down, defiling the ground. Iris was on the verge of killing Godzilla. Gamera, Mothra Leo and the Gotengo were indisposed. Jet Jaguar was still trying to recuperate. Then there was Zilla, Nick’s pride and joy.

Finally, Nick touched Zilla’s scaly, blood-drenched face. The world was ending at that moment for everyone else but him. After all, how could his world end twice? It had already ended when he lost the love of his life.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t see her face,” Nick said, his voice thin. “I miss her so much. I know you didn’t mean to take her from me, my friend. Still it hurts. But it hurts me even more seeing you like this.”

Godzilla shrieked his last breath. Jet Jaguar tenderly pushed Monique away from him, knowing he was needed now more than ever. Miki, Moll and Lora telepathically linked up with all minds present. Not a soul among them could find a way to defeat the darkness.

“Wake up!” Nick shouted. “You’ve been fighting your entire life to prove your worth. Now is the time to show them, to show everyone how much you truly matter! You’re more than just a friend to me. You’re a hero. You’re my hero!”

In Nick’s time of dying, he made Audrey’s memory proud.

Zilla’s lone eye opened, hearing Nick’s words of affirmation. It was what the noble reptile needled to return to the land of the living. Zilla rose weakly to his feet, his legs shaking. Steam curled off where his arm used to be, replaced by a flayed stump of flesh. Most of Zilla’s face was badly mangled, he could only see out of one eye. But there was life in his heart. And where there’s life, there’s hope.

The sky stopped raining blood. It was time to sound off.

Zilla took a mighty stomp forward, glaring at Iris. There was only one way to defeat him. Miki and the Elias, sensing Zilla’s strategy, shared it with everyone who was awake. With a bellowing roar that made even the deepest of hells tremble, Zilla unleashed his most powerful thermonuclear blast yet. The atomic flames, once green in color, now a silvery-blue, consumed their target. Iris watched the glowing spectacle unfold, confused as to why Zilla would choose to attack Godzilla instead of him. It then occurred to the embodiment of darkness that Zilla wasn’t attacking Godzilla at all.

He was feeding him.

Godzilla’s dorsal fins pulsated with atomic life. Before Iris could deliver the killing blow, Godzilla released an earthshaking pulse of energy, one that shredded Iris’s tentacles and scythe. Iris was sent hurtling back, seriously wounded by Godzilla’s explosive power. Zilla, as fast as his legs could carry him, sprinted at Iris with his jaws agape. Zilla snapped his teeth into Iris’s gut, tearing a huge chunk of it open.

Jet Jaguar stared into Monique’s eyes. “See you on the other side, babe!”

The human-turned-robot flew at Iris like a speeding jet, disappearing in the deepest chambers of its exposed stomach. Jet Jaguar used all manner of detection to find who he was looking for. At first there was rivers of blood and muscle Jet Jaguar traversed through. Then there was a void, one that curled light and life itself. This evil place would have made just about anyone go insane. But Jet Jaguar had only one mission. When he detected a faint heartbeat, Jet Jaguar knew he had found who he was looking for.

All eyes fell on the writhing Iris. Godzilla and Zilla kept their distance, psychically prodded not to tear the foul creature apart. Not yet, anyway. Monique’s eyes were glued to Iris. It felt like an entire lifetime had passed since she last saw Randy Hernandez fly into the heart of the demon. Suddenly, she felt her heart beat once more. Jet Jaguar flew out of Iris, rejoining his friends with a barely alive Asagi Kusanagi in his arms.

Iris, deprived of his human sacrifice, started losing his tether on this plane of existence. Asagi’s faint breaths stirred Gamera to action. Blue fire and smoke erupted down Gamera’s legs, propelling the Guardian of the Universe forward. While bleeding rivers of blood, Gamera flew into Iris at his top speed, burying his claws into its rotting body. Gamera, with Iris in tow, flew upward to the crimson heavens above. All eyes watched as Gamera tossed Iris up, letting the demon dangle in the air for a brief moment before crunching its festered gut with his broken tusks. Gamera fired several fireballs straight into the core of Iris’s body. Iris bemoaned one last time before disintegrating in a blinding rapture.

The monsters roared triumphantly as Nick and his friends celebrated. Nick caressed the tan line on his finger. With a warm smile, Nick felt alive once more.

-

Iris’s demise purged the heavens of its malice. As crimson skies faded back to blue, the silhouettes of the demented creatures that tried invading the Earth scurried back to whatever hell would take them.

Major Hicks made contact with Admiral Stenz. With reassurance that help was on the way, Hicks was very pleased to know most of his people would be making it out alive. Hicks was so happy to hear this, he didn’t even hear the news that his good deeds and service had promoted him to the rank of General.

Lieutenant Ford Brody was fortunate to be returning home to his wife and son. But he had one last mission before seeing his family again. Ford stopped at Sergeant O’Neal’s doorstep, to pay his respects to his next of kin.

Captain Douglas Gordon, Miki and Ozaki Saegusa, and Ken Yamane reunited with their Gotengo crew. Ken was happy to see that his crewmate and girlfriend, Miyuki Otonashi, was safe and sound. Ozaki greeted his fellow mutant cousin, Kazama, with a fist bump, bragging about a certain redheaded lady he had flirted with. Miki turned in time to see Godzilla leaving the ancient city, no doubt seeking solace in the ocean. She psychically thanked him for saving their lives, a kind gesture Godzilla returned with a valiant roar. Captain Gordon contacted his EDF superiors, and demanded to be promoted like Hicks was. When the EDF denied his request, Gordon severed their transmission by shooting the communicational device with his gun. He sat grumbling in his chair about how lucky his crew was to still have him as their captain.

Gamera refused to leave until after Asagi Kusanagi had been properly cared for. The young woman had been through so much torment. Her doctors feared she would not recover from such a traumatic experience. But she showed signs of improvement, especially after bonding with Gamera once more. Gamera was very pleased to be with his special girl again, watching over her like a nurturing guardian would.

Mothra Leo and the Elias sought to transform the island into a paradise. Mothra Leo transformed its once dead fields into forests of green and vegetation. Moll and Lora watched happily as what was once a monument to their sins became a symbol of hope.

Godzilla returned to the peaceful sanctuary of the ocean depths.

Randy Hernandez made a full recovery, and had battle scars to prove it. Despite never wanting to be apart from the Jet Jaguar suit, Randy was happy to see his face in a mirror once more. Even after saving the world, Randy was still hesitant to ask his fellow HEAT teammate, Monique Dupre, out on a date. After receiving words of encouragement from Asagi Kusanagi, who had become a very close friend, he finally developed the courage to ask Monique out; Monique, however, had beaten him to the punch by asking him out first. To impress her on their first date, Randy showed up on her doorstep dressed as Jet Jaguar.

General Hicks, Mendel Craven and Elsie Chapman pooled their expertise and resources together to modify Zilla’s ravaged body. They couldn’t restore what had been lost but they most certainly could increase Zilla’s lifespan. After receiving his cybernetic enhancements, Randy gave Zilla the aptly title ‘Cyber-Godzilla,’ which is a name that quickly spread.

-

Nick Tatopoulos watched his reptilian friend vanish beneath the waves. Zilla glided through the cold depths of New York harbor, feeling the many changes his body had endured. The humans gave him new life but at a heavy cost. Zilla felt a bitter numbness in his veins as he tried moving his arm. A robotic-prosthetic, complying with his thoughts, hissed as it reached up in front of his face. Zilla saw in his reflection the many changes made to his face and chest. Parts of his face had been retrofitted with a sleek metallic alloy, loaded with advanced gadgets. His chest was mechanical, acting as both a breathing apparatus and a self-defense mechanism. Layers of a new techno-organic substance ran down the edges of his body, enhancing his nervous system in ways he never thought possible. His eye, badly wounded in the fight with the demonic creature known as Iris, had been successfully restored. That didn’t change the fact Zilla felt like a different creature. Looking in his reflection, Zilla didn’t feel like he was sharing eye contact with himself. Instead he felt like he was staring into the eyes of a monster reborn.

Nick rubbed his arms as a chilly breeze passed over him. There used to be a time when everyone hated Zilla. Nick remembered how he was the first one to lay eyes on him, all those years ago. Back then Nick saw him as nothing more than a unique specimen. Nick sighed with relief, knowing better now. Zilla may no longer be made of just flesh and bone, but he was still the hero Nick always believed him to be, in his hearts of heart.

As snowflakes started to fall, Nick contemplated Zilla’s recent changes. Nick didn’t quite know what to make of it at first. He didn’t see it until well after Zilla had momentarily resurfaced only to dive back down beneath the waves, presumably to chase after a school of fish. While caressing the faded tanned lines of where his wedding finger used to be, Nick finally understood the truth about his surrogate son.

Zilla was more than just an oversized creature. He was a noble protector, a godlike being with a moral compass. The first of his kind.

Winner
Gamera (Heisei) Godzilla® (Heisei) Jet Jaguar Mothra Leo Zilla