"Do you know how dangerous it is?"
The voice was calm, but held a note of slight disdain.
"I'm well aware of the danger, Brice."
"Then why do you want to do it?"
"Because of the danger, my friend." A soft laugh.
"You are crazy. You don't know if we can control it. You don't know if your theory is correct!"
"Have I ever been wrong?"
Silence. "This is bigger than any other of your...projects."
The woman turned, silvery blonde hair falling leisurely over tanned shoulders. The flimsy dress she wore did nothing to hide her beauty. Jewelry adorned her skin and a tattoo of a dragon peeked out from where the dress revealed a lot of her back. Green eyes sparkled with amusement.
"Yes, much bigger," she agreed. "And I want it."
Brice sighed, lips quirking in a smile. "You are insatiable, my dear. One day, it'll break your beautiful neck."
"Maybe, but by then I can say I have lived." She smiled as well.
"So you think you can keep that thing as a pet? You cannot control it forever," Brice argued.
"Just as long as it takes to implant the trial version of the chip." She sipped from the champagne glass she was holding in slender, ringed fingers. "After that, we don't have to worry. And if that fails..." She shrugged. "Then we stuff it and display it in the park."
Brice's frown reappeared, but her smile was bright and uncaring.
"Now," the blonde said lightly, "do we have him already?"
"Team alpha has his location and we are waiting for the moment to strike," he told her.
"Don't wait too long."
"Alpha leader has reported that the subject will be alone tomorrow. We will get him then."
With that the conversation ended. Brice turned and left the blonde woman alone on the wide expanse of the natural balcony, overlooking a large bay of sparkling blue water.
It was a beautiful day. The sun was out, the smog rather light on the city, and the sky laughed in a gentle blue. It wasn't really warm yet, but it was a great day to be outside and just enjoy life. In a forgotten part of the harbor, a small ferry building. Water lapped against the docking ramps and a few seagulls circled lazily overhead. Nothing seemed to be alive here.
Inside the old and rather run-down building sat a single man. He looked young, barely in his mid-thirties, if he even was that old, with brown hair and a sharply cut though rather pale face. He was dressed in jeans, a T-shirt and sneakers, as well as a sweat jacket. Blue eyes attentively read over a list printed on paper. The man's name was Dr. Nico Tatopoulos, biologist, in charge of team H.E.A.T., and the most unusual parent in the world. Not only wasn't he the father of the creature that had adopted him as a such, he also wasn't remotely related to it, either by genes or looks.
The Staten Island ferry building was empty of all other life. Team H.E.A.T. was not present, except for Nick, and he was actually glad for it. This was their day, if not even weekend, off, and he had decided to catch up on some really necessary work. Elsie had teased him mercilessly about his definition of 'weekend off', but Nick had been insistent. It had to be done and he would do it now. Who knew when the next monster would pop up and everyone would be scrambling to fight it? And so it had ended with Randy and Craven driving to Boston for a science convention - Craven arguing and protesting loudly against Randy's decision to tag along. Monique had opted for just being away and not having to deal with civilians, and Elsie had decided to give her apartment a thorough clean-up and maybe visit the flea market.
Nick smiled as he stretched and gazed at the completed works of a whole morning without interruption. Files were in neat order, pictures attached, references marked, samples sorted. It was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg that were their notes and photos, but he was making good progress. He had even managed to cross-reference each report to the 'monster files', as Randy jokingly called them, Elsie had started. They contained a complete work of what mutations they had encountered and studied. Well, killed mostly. Until they somehow regenerated and came back, Nick thought darkly. Or had offspring.
He sighed and shook his head. Sometimes he wished he could have stayed with his earth worms. They, at least, didn't wreak havoc or tried to eat you.
The thought sounded appealing. Very appealing. Nick rose and walked over to the coffee machine someone had long ago carried out of the kitchen. As the black liquid dripped into the waiting pot, Nick went over to the window and looked outside, eyes traveling over the silent waters. The strange feeling, increased. A smile involuntarily creased his lips and for a brief moment, he was somewhere else.
Nick shook himself and blinked.
Okay, that had been strange.
Out of body experience.
The words floated through his mind and he shook them off. Too much work. Most likely. No, definitely. Nick shoved his hands into his pockets, frowning slightly. Then he chased the thoughts away and turned back to the gurgling coffee machine.
Outside the ferry building, beneath the old pier, a small boat docked. It was a speed boat, flat and made only for sprints, without a registration number and colored in a dull gray. Two figures in uniform gray overalls jumped out. A third man stayed behind on the wheel. The engine ran almost silently.
The two men crept up toward the ferry building, then separated, each choosing a different entrance.
Nick sorted through some pictures and wondered why Randy hadn't scanned them. It wasn't as if they didn't have the hard drive power to store them. Hm, maybe he had slacked off a bit. Most of the photos were those from earlier monsters they had encountered and they had many of them already, but you could never have enough. Nick put them into a cardboard box, scribbled 'monster pics' on them, and put them next to the computer. Chewing on a pen he went over a printed list, looking for what to file next.
A creaking made him look up. The ferry building was old and it made odd noises, but they had invested a lot of time in repairing the worst parts. Nick listened, but except for the distant surf, there was nothing more. He shrugged and went back to work.
One of the men had entered the ferry building from the back and was now carefully gazing around the inside. Nothing spectacular met his eyes. The first floor was simply cluttered with stuff. His partner appeared from the front and they exchanged a nod. Then they moved on.
Nick was almost done with his second batch of files when he thought he saw movement. Normally, when the others of his team were here, he didn't pay attention to such things. But he was alone and having the feeling that someone was with him, in the building, was strange. No one ever came here. He rose and turned, looking around.
He was alone.
Nick sighed and rubbed his eyes. Damn, he was getting paranoid now. Great.
He was just about to turn back when he thought he saw a shadow moving. He whirled around.
A figure dressed in gray suddenly loomed up before him. The face was hidden behind goggles and a mask.
"What...?" was all the biologist managed.
Suddenly a hand came from behind and covered Nick's face, shoving a handkerchief under his nose. A wave of noxious gas hit him in the face. Nick held his breath and struggled to get free for as long as he could but it was a losing battle. Whatever the substance was that was on it, its effect was lightning fast. The leaden weight of unconsciousness rushed in. He fell to his knees as the world lost contour. He was aware of strong hands grabbing him by the arms and dragging him somewhere. Then even that sensation was gone.
A large shadow swam through the waters, eyes peeled for anything invading his territory, movements almost lazy. Nothing this large should exist, but it did. Like a fossil from out of a time long gone, the monstrous creature passed by rock formations and sunken trash. It was a lizard, a hundred and eighty feet long, covered in grayish-green scales. It's name was Godzilla, given to it by Japanese sailors who had encountered his parent months upon months ago. His dead parent. Godzilla didn't know anything about those incidents, only that he had been born into this strange world, a world so much smaller in many things than him, and that there was only person in this world he trusted. His parent. The small human called Nick.
Surfacing, blowing steam from his wide nostrils, Godzilla gazed around. The city of New York rose not far from here and the smell of the human settlement was overpowering. The fish factories stood down wind and he rumbled, appetite rising. He had fed on a school of tuna this morning and it would last for a while, but the prospect of some free food was enticing. His parent wouldn't be happy.
Godzilla gave another rumble, sounding a bit dejected. His loyalty was only to his parent and he would do anything for him. Even not eat the delicious snack so easily available.
Suddenly there was a sensation running through him. He knew it, knew it well. The massive head turned and the reptilian gaze fixed on the place his parent lived. The sensation came from him. Godzilla had never know it differently than that. He felt his parent, though not all the time. He was constantly aware of him as a presence and that felt normal. Now and then that presence grew weaker or stronger, but it was always there. Sometimes, the presence grew painfully sharp and that was the time Godzilla knew his parent was in trouble. He would do anything, move the world, to help Nick.
Now the sensation was almost like the distress... and was suddenly cut off again. Godzilla rumbled, confused. He swam slowly toward the boat house, sniffing the air. The smell of his parent was the most prominent here, tinged with other smells, of other humans. He rumbled, then barked. A call. His parent normally responded to his calls, knowing when he wanted him to be here.
This time there was no response.
Godzilla lowered his head and tried to peer through the windows.
No one here.
He rumbled darkly and slipped into the waters again. The confusion was the most prominent emotion now as he sank into deeper waters. He couldn't decipher if Nick was in trouble or not. There had been only this momentary flash, then nothing.
Godzilla swam out of the bay, almost as if homing in on something.
"So that's him."
She walked around the medical bed, an unusual presence in the company of the doctor and the clinical environment. Her bikini-clad body, covered by an almost transparent robe, with its tan skin was the complete opposite to the whiteness everywhere.
She looked at the unconscious man, pushing some rogue locks out of his pale face, smiling more. A finger trailed over one arm.
"Cute. In a nerdy way."
"We are ready," the doctor announced and checked the unconscious man again. "The moment he comes around and has shaken off the effects of the chloroform, we can begin with the procedure."
She never raised her eyes off the lax face. One hand finger-combed the brown hair, playing with the longer strands.
"Too bad he's just bait," she sighed and turned away. "Do what you think best, doctor," she told the man. "I want my prize by the end of the week."
The dark-haired man frowned. Two days. Her green eyes met his brown ones and he simply nodded. He had his orders.
Brice watched the doctors work. It wasn't much of a surgical operation but one of administering the right drugs and keeping a very close eye on the readings and test results. Tatopoulos was connected to a monitor that displayed his brainwaves and he was regularly sent through CT to get a closer look at the changing chemistry in his brain.
"Levels have reached optimum," a nurse reported, her face hidden a behind surgical mask, her hair tightly bound under the hat. She even had a pair of glasses on that protected her eyes.
Each man or woman in the treating room was dressed up like this. Tatopoulos as such had been stripped and dressed up in a uniform grayish-blue coverall. He was unconscious, drugged to his eyebrows, and unresponsive to the outside. Inside, in his mind, he was reacting quite vibrantly to the treatment. IVs stuck in both arms, feeding and drugging him.
No one had expected anything else. Nick Tatopoulos was the perfect subject for this, the perfect specimen. Many people had empathic abilities, but no one had ever bonded to a mutation. At least not to his knowledge and Brice had researched the abnormal creatures quite thoroughly.
"Increase Rush drip," the doctor ordered. "Get ready for phase two."
Brice watched them, kept an eye on the monitors, then turned away and walked down the hall. He knew what would happen next. He didn't need to watch them all the way. A smile crossed over his features and he stepped into his office. It was a spartan room, with just a desk, a filing cabinet and a chair. A potted plant was wilting to the left and a computer terminal sat lost and alone on the heavy oak desk.
Shanee didn't require his presence either right now. She was getting a massage and probably more. He grimaced. The woman was a paradox to him. On one side she was a brilliant mind with an understanding of sciences and math, of politics and finances. She was the head of a world-wide company that gave her access to unlimited funds and she held a majority of funds from several large companies world-wide. But then she could be a complete bubble-head the next second, thinking only about her own pleasure. She would walk around in provocative outfits, change men like others did their underwear, party all night and spend her money on outrageous things.
Godzilla was another one of her outrageous ideas and Brice had just silently sighed and went along with it. With Shanee, you either complied or found yourself unemployed if lucky, worse if not so lucky. Brice himself had a certain amount of freedom where criticism was concerned. Still, he was careful himself.
He looked over the files on his desk and smiled. Godzilla files. All of them. They had spent months on this, researching not only the monster they were trying to lure here now, but also its parent. Brice had gathered data from the site where the government was keeping the corpse and studying it. It had been difficult, but he had finally achieved this impossibility. The government was still taking the creature apart, but they had collected quite some interesting bits. What he had filed away on the offspring was much easier to come by. All you had to do was tag team H.E.A.T. and watch them.
He had what he wanted now. He knew about the speed, weight, agility and powers of the monster. He knew it inside out, had samples from its parent's skin, nervous cells, muscles, fatty tissue, scales and even the brain. All was safely stored in the vault of this base.
Brice closed the files and leaned back, studying the grayish ceiling. He didn't know just what Shanee planned to do with Godzilla, but he let her have her fun. What he received in return was payment enough for the trouble he always got when she didn't have it her way or when her way collided with the law. He chuckled. He was bodyguard, lawyer, scientist and lover in one.
A beep alerted him to the fact that Shanee was calling for him. He acknowledged and rose, shutting the folders. Whatever she wanted now, he probably wouldn't be back for some time.
"Target has been sighted."
The words rang through the room and Nick felt his stomach clench. A large screen, separated into six smaller monitors, each displaying another view, showed the ocean. There was one monitor that had a kind of docking station on it and another that had the camera view from inside. People were bustling there.
"Teams stand by," the tall man called Brice ordered. "Don't interfere until the orders are given."
Far out in the ocean, something came closer. It was visible on a sonar screen left off the monitor display.
"Why?" Nick asked plainly, trying to get his drugged mind to work properly.
"Why?" Shanee asked pleasantly. "Collector's interest."
"Coll... He is not a piece of furniture! He is a living, breathing, thinking being!" Nick snarled.
She smiled. "He is. Nothing more, nothing less." Shanee bent forward, looking at him. "And he's mine. Think of it. Think of the sheer raw beauty...A paradox of evolution, a walking, stalking tribute to limitless power! Sleek, swift, ferocious." Her smile was almost insane. "The fastest animal on land and in the sea. And his defensive powers...
"You are out of your mind!" Nick growled. "He won't follow you! He's a free being!"
He had woken all of a sudden, in a strange environment, shackled and bound to a medical examination table, and this woman had smiled at him. Shanee. He didn't recognize her name, he didn't remember seeing her face before. He had no clue what she wanted from him... until now.
"He will. He better do. Or you suffer the consequences."
"I'm not susceptible to threats!"
"Who said anything about threats?" Shanee held up a syringe. "Do you know what this is? No, I don't think so. It's a very useful drug, designer drug, to be correct. My scientists developed it. Solely for his purpose. We call it 'Rush'. Beautiful name for such a potent substance."
Nick didn't understand.
"I've watched you and your pet monster, Nick. For months. All those little notes and rolls of film. All for one purpose. Possessing Godzilla." She ran a finger along his jawline, smiling seductively.
"You are crazy," he whispered.
"But successful. I have what I want because I take it. I want Godzilla and I will get him. This little orange liquid will help me. You see, it acts directly on the brain, influencing areas most of us never even use. But you do, Nick, even if you are not aware of it. And that's the beauty... Awareness." A dream-like expression flitted over the blonde's face. "You and Godzilla share something. Haven't you felt it before? Haven't you seen it? I did. I watched you for nights on tape. I see it each time. The bond..."
Nick felt his mouth go dry. No! Impossible! It couldn't be! He wasn't so much surprised about hearing of the bond. Somehow he had always felt that there was more than just a parent-child connection. Godzilla was much more than simply a creature imprinted on him. But that someone had watched them, had studied them...
"And I know it's all a matter of the mind. Your mind, his mind." She tapped his forehead, smiling pleasantly again. "Can you sense him, Nick? Can you? I think you can, but you never really thought about it. He is aware of you. So what to do?" Shanee's face took on an angelic expression. "The answer is simple. Increase your empathy, use you to control him. Having you drugged then will reflect on him. He will be mine."
"You can't keep this up forever," Nick told her, his mind numb. It wasn't an effect of the drug. It was numb dread.
"Long enough to savor my possession."
Totally insane, Nick thought, more dread seeping through him as she handed the syringe to a doctor.
"Yes, be afraid. It will lure him closer. An when we are ready... he will be mine!" she whispered into his ear, her warm breath tickling his cheek.
Nick tried to fight the fear, but he wasn't a hero. He wasn't a soldier; he wasn't Monique. She was the tough-guy part of their time, not him.
Don't come here! he thought desperately.
Please, let him hear me!
But he knew Godzilla couldn't read his mind. Only his emotions. And currently, he was terrified. Not for him. For his gigantic charge. Nick knew what the terror would do: lure Godzilla here. The lizard reacted to Nick's negative emotions, believing his parent to be in danger - and nine times out of ten he was right - and he would come charging to wherever Nick was.
And then the needle plunged into his arm.
Godzilla surfaced, water cascading off the square head, and his eyes fixed on the wide expanse of beach and almost untouched nature before him. Only the large complex hewn into stone and reaching into the ocean marred the beauty. The building was human-made and it smelled of humans and their machines. Among that smell was the unmistakable scent of his parent. He rumbled. Swimming closer to the shore, Godzilla tried to pick up more from the other mind, but there was nothing there. No real emissions. Instead, there was a dull dizziness washing through him.
He shook his head, but the feeling stayed.
Godzilla dove beneath the surface again and followed the strange feeling. There was an opening down here, large enough for him to fit through. He stopped, rumbling softly, almost inaudibly, gazing at the jagged cut in the stone. His parent was here. Somewhere. Instinct told him that he was in danger, but the usual distress he felt coming from him was missing.
More dizziness hit him, all coming from only one side, and it was increasing. Godzilla swam hesitantly into the gap, movements sluggish. What was happening to him?
"Target has entered the cave system. Get ready."
She looked expectantly at the waters of the cave. "How is our good doctor?"
"Getting agitated. His brainwaves are all over the scale," the doctor answered.
"Increase the dosage."
The medic met her green eyes. "That will also increase his brain emissions..."
"That's the beauty of it. We open up his channels and let him calm his big friend down."
"He might suffer irreparable damage. Activating dormant areas of the brain is dangerous. These drugs aren't meant to be administered in such high doses."
"Dr. Ridley, I don't care," Shanee told him and turned back to watch the waters, which now started to lap against the cave's basin. "Do it!"
She leaned forward, hands pressed against the screen, eyes riveted on the large shadow coming to the surface. Around the basin, people scrambled to their places.
"Come to me, my beauty!" she whispered.
Behind her, the doctor administered more of the drug into Nick Tatopoulos' body. The young man lay unmoving, but his brain was on overdrive. The monitor attached to his skull, reading the emissions, displayed quite accurately what was going on.
And then the water broke, the gigantic head of Godzilla rising above the smaller men and women. His eyes held a dull, red glow, almost sleepy.
"Yes," Shanee whispered.
The monster pulled himself out of the water and sat down on the stone floor, looking confused. Machines came to life, circling him, strange weapons pointed at the lizard, ready to fire.
"Yes, my beauty." She caressed the glass with one hand, lips almost touching it. "You are mine." She turned to Nick. He was pale and unresponsive on the medical bed. He was pumped full of Rush, probably not even aware of where he was any more. "Thank you, darling."
In the cave, Godzilla sat where he was, somewhat dazed. A gigantic statue. A living, breathing fossil. Her trophy.
"And now, let's begin..."
Dr. Elsie Chapman felt elated as she walked up to the ferry building, red hair blowing in the wind. The day had been better than expected. She had cleaned out a lot of trash from her apartment, had even managed to go to the flea market later on, and had found a few nice, old books for leisurely reading. A smile grew on her lips. Leisurely reading. Right.
As she entered the old building, she noticed one thing immediately. Everything was quiet. No radio, no bickering voices, no clicking of keys on the computer. Just silence. The surf was audible, as well as the seagulls, but there was no human noise. Taking the stairs she looked around the second floor. The table was laden with a wild mass of paper, files, disks, and photos, all piling dangerously high, but there was no sign of Nick.
"Huh, got the weekend bug?" she chuckled to herself, slightly disappointed though. Elsie had hoped to catch him alone and spend some quality time. So much for that.
She decided to see what Nick had been working on and maybe do some of her own cleaning up in her files. When he came back, she had planned to invite him to a movie. Everything to get the young biologist out of the lab.
Switching on the radio, Elsie set to work.
The room was nearly kept in twilight, the only illumination coming from a row of neon tubes running in a thin line around the room. He looked around for anything familiar, but only undefined shadows were visible to his unfocused. He tried to concentrate, but nothing made sense. Where was he? He couldn't remember. He hurt all over. He tried to lift his arm, but his wrists were bound firmly.
His eyes were drawn to the screen just in front of him and his mind jolted slightly, memories coming back.
Nick was weak and dazed, but he was suddenly clear-headed enough to understand what was going on before his eyes. He was still strapped to the examination table but someone had tilted his upper body upright, so he was in a sitting position. A thick glass screen separated him from the room below where people were walking around in controlled disorder, as it seemed. In the middle of the gigantic cave-like room lay Godzilla. The lizard was totally out of it, a reflection of what Nick felt, eyes half-closed, unmoving. He was conscious, but he was unable to do anything. They had tranquilized him as well, pumping tons of the stuff into his system.
Nick wanted to scream, but he didn't have the strength left. All he could do was concentrate on the scene in front of him, and hope. Hope for help. Any help. But he knew there was none. This was a nightmare no one would wake him up from. His mind felt raw, open, vulnerable, and he was bombarded with things he couldn't classify.
"Subject A's brainwaves increasing," a bodiless voice said.
Shanee stepped into his line of view, bending forward. "Don't worry so much, Nicky. It'll be over soon."
He tried to talk, but his muscles didn't obey him.
"Increase drug drip," the blonde woman ordered.
No, Nick thought desperately, but the male nurse at his side retrieved a syringe from somewhere and injected it into the IV attached to Nick's hand. The drug's effect strengthened almost immediately. Nick fought it valiantly, but he was slipping away, his brain shutting down, his mind floating. He was still conscious, still in the room, but he seemed to be in two places at once. Somehow he saw himself strapped to the bed, all helpless, and he watched Godzilla with his own eyes.
Blue human eyes meeting red reptilian ones.
Drawing him in.
Wanting to know.
He had no answer and though there was defiance and aggression in those red eyes, no muscles obeyed the brain's impulses.
He had no clue whether it was his own emotion or another's.
But he couldn't. Nick felt like screaming and beneath him, the giant lizard gave a subsonic cry.
A high, whining noise alerted him and two pairs of eyes sought out the origin of the noise.
A machine. Nick saw it from his elevated position and from the ground. It approached him. It approached Godzilla.
Humans he didn't know but who smelled bad were everywhere.
He blinked, trying to clear his head and failing.
Distant pain. Cries. Inaudible but still cries. Whatever those humans were doing, it hurt him.
Darkness threatened and Nick battled it. He couldn't give in! No!
In the end he had to. The drug, the pain, the confusion... emotions he knew weren't his own crashing in on him... Nick surrendered, his tormented body too weak to resist.
She watched, a smile on her lips. This was going better than expected! Much better.
Godzilla was hers. Hers all alone. Her team was busy setting the implant and if it worked, and she knew it did, she was his mistress.
An incredible feeling of unsurpassed power flooded her.
Godzilla was hers.
Shanee laughed. Oh, what a beautiful feeling!
Reports came in, status reports of the surgery. She walked up to the glass front and placed a hand against the transparent wall. Below, a team of ten men and women were cutting a small but deep wound into the flesh of the lizard's head. A drone stood by, ready to implant the chip. It would act directly on the neural network of the monster. The chip was small as well, barely larger than a thumb's nail, but it was powerful. If implanted near the skull, it would attach itself to the bone and influence the neural network of the monster. An independent power pack would be implanted as well, serving as an amplifier of the signal.
Shanee turned to her 'guest'. Nick Tatopoulos was heavily drugged, eyes drooping shut, but there was a fire in there she found appealing and sad in one. He had spirit, she had to give it to him. He was a fighter, perfectly hidden beneath the shell of a nerdy scientists. She loved men with spirit, but he was dangerous. Not because of who he was, but who he was bonded to. Shanee smiled and played with Nick's hair, running her fingers along the longer strands.
"Too bad we didn't meet under different circumstances," she breathed.
He didn't respond verbally, but his eyes held a dark glint of fury.
"Yes, too bad," she whispered.
Suddenly his body stiffened, straining against the binding shackles, and he moaned slightly.
"You feel it. Good... Feel my power over your giant pet. Feel my strength!"
Shanee felt like screaming it out to the world. She owned Godzilla! The mightiest of them all!
Beneath in the cave, the operation continued, mindless of the blood spilled as the chip was fused to the bone. Mindless of the damage done. Mindless of the suffering of the two parties involved.
The late evening had turned into night. The ferry building was lit up, the only inhabited complex in the neighborhood. Nick had not come home. Elsie stopped herself from pacing the floor - again -, a worried expression in her eyes. Where was he? Nick never stayed out all night. That was Randy. He was the party animal. But Nick...? Nick was a typical scientist and would rather coop up in his lab than enjoy life. They had had to drag him with them again and again. Elsie smiled at the memory. Nick could be a cute date if he wanted to - not that he viewed it as dating -, he just needed to get out more. But taking care of their team, studying Godzilla and all the other monster surfacing everywhere, it took up his whole time.
She stared out of the window, the dark bay reflecting little starlight. It was a rather cloudy night.
Where was he?
Worry wormed itself into her mind and Elsie couldn't stop a sigh. She gazed out onto the dark ocean, wishing she had a clue. Any clue.
The next morning yielded no answer either, but a very worried Elsie had nearly run a ditch into the floor. She had slept little, falling into a fitful sleep on the old couch, and had woken after only four hours of tossing and turning.
Since when was she such a worry-wart? Because it was Nick? Yes, she liked him, even if they had rubbed the wrong way from the start. She had been the head of the original research team that had been called to define what the monster that was threatening New York was. Nick had been nothing but an employee, a helper, a worker. He used to answer to her. All that had changed when the original Godzilla had been killed and the new one had chosen Nick as a surrogate father.
A grin appeared on her face, but it wasn't strong enough to chase away the fear and worry for Nick. Yes, they had been at each other's throat, until both had secured their positions. She had been more than unhappy with the whole role-reversal thing, but now everything had smoothed out. They teased each other - well, she was doing most of it, delighting in seeing the biologist blush and be embarrassed. And they respected each other.
"Where are you, Nicky?" she whispered. "Where are you?"
When she heard a car approach and stop, she threw open the door and ran outside.
"Oh. It's you." Dejection wormed itself into her voice.
Monique Dupres gave her an odd look. "Well, thank you, Dr. Chapman. It's nice to be back."
Elsie shook her head. "Sorry, Monique. It's just... Nick's missing."
The French special agent frowned. "Missing?"
"I came here yesterday and he wasn't home. He didn't come home last night either." Elsie shrugged helplessly. "That's not like Nick, Monique. It just isn't. I tried calling people where he might have been, including Audrey and Animal, but he wasn't there. No one has heard of him or seen him."
Monique's frown deepened. "No note?"
"Nothing. He's just... gone. The car's here, as is the boat. And the old bike. No sign of him."
"Very strange," she agreed.
Frightening, was the word Elsie would have used. Scary.
"I will see if I can find some answers," the Frenchwoman said and walked inside, steps measured and brisk.
Elsie followed after looking at the bay again. It was like an insane wish to see Nick coming in, on a boat, maybe accompanied by Godzilla. A sight that always amazed her.
She shook her head and hurried after Monique. No time for that. Not now.
"The implant works."
Shanee looked over the read-outs, immensely pleased with the work her team had done.
"All reading are within the expected range," the technician went on. "Green lights everywhere."
"Perfect. Let's try it."
With that she left the control room and strode purposefully through the cavern, toward the lizard that was still dazed from the drugs. The blood had been scrubbed off the cavern floor, though it had already seeped deep enough into the stone to leave a permanent mark. The wound was ugly and would need time to heal, but Shanee couldn't care less. For a creature this size, the wound was but a mosquito bite.
"What the..." Brice started, then ran after her. "Are you crazy?" he exclaimed. "We have no idea if it really works as expected!"
"That's what tests are for, Brice-darling," Shanee answered. Her eyes traveled along the long body of her new toy. "Isn't he beautiful?"
Brice cast the reptile a nervous look. Already, Godzilla was coming around, the eyes twitching open. "Shanee..."
"No risk, no fun. No fun..." She left the sentence unanswered.
He frowned. "This is suicide!"
A snort let him flinch and his eyes widened as Godzilla started to move, trying to get up. The ground shook as the giant righted itself, coming around faster than Brice would ever have thought possible. Shanee just watched him, fascination in her eyes. The expression in her face bordered to the ecstatic.
"Hello, tall, dark and gruesome," she whispered.
Godzilla rumbled and his massive head lowered. Brice started to pray that the implant worked.
"Welcome to my world," Shanee breathed and reached out.
Her hand touched the scaly hide of the bulky head.
Godzilla was as docile as a kitten.
She laughed. The laughter rang through the room, bouncing off the natural stone walls.
Nick fought back tears springing into his eyes as he looked down at the mighty lizard. The wound at the head oozed blood, but it had been fused shut by a laser-like tool, leaving an ugly scar. He felt faint stings of pain in his temple and a headache was creeping up on him.
Still, it was there.
He was no longer tied up, but Nick was too weak to walk, so he just sat leaning against the transparent wall, eyes riveted to the silent giant below.
"Get up," he whispered. "Get out of here."
Godzilla couldn't hear him.
"Please," Nick begged, then screwed his eyes shut to stem the flow of tears.
And then the woman, Shanee, and her tall companion, Brice if he remembered correctly, walked into the cavern. Shanee strode confidently, almost leisurely toward Godzilla. The reptile was coming around, moving faintly, eyes opening. Nick watched the scene with an air of detachment, almost like a screen play.
Godzilla got to his feet, towering over the two tiny humans, and then bent down - to be petted.
Nick felt sick inside, sick and desperate. "No," he wheezed. "No!"
Early afternoon. Seagulls circled over the harbor, crying, and in the bay, boat traffic had increased. No boats came close to their site though. They all moved by at a great distance, aiming for the main harbor.
Elsie felt like screaming. There had been nothing, absolutely nothing, so far and Nick was still missing. No clues as to where he was. Monique had spent the morning tracking him down, double-checking every place he might have been. She wanted to inform the police, but then... if Monique was at a loss, what could they do? Elsie felt no shame at confessing that the French secret service agent was a good. She did her job with dedication and precision; she didn't do anything half-heartedly. She wasn't prone to sloppiness.
Randy and Craven had arrived an hour earlier, Randy as bouncy as ever, Mendel his complaining self. Apparently the Boston convention had been a success, but with those two sharing close space for a while, there had bound to have been problems. Nothing serious, but the complaints had been expected. They had died down the moment Elsie had told them about Nick missing.
"How about we use Big G to find him?" Randy now said, startling the paleontologist out of her thoughts.
"He's not exactly a bloodhound," she told the young hacker.
"Yeah, but if anyone can find Nick, it's him."
That much was true.
"And how do you want to control the beast?" Mendel now asked. He looked paler than normal, worry creasing his round face, and he kept fiddling with small gadgets.
Randy shrugged. Everyone knew that even though Godzilla was not a predatory and out of control beast, he was far from being under anyone's whip either. Nick had a certain power over him, but he had to stand back sometimes, watch his 'charge', and pray that no one got hurt. Still, Godzilla would listen to Nick and that was the amazing part. It was what stunned her into awed silence each time, Elsie mused. Watching Nick standing close to the behemoth, touching him without fear of being swallowed or stepped on, and seeing the reactions. For all his size and power, Godzilla would be careful and gentle when it came to his 'parent', though he was not beyond suddenly leaping into action and endangering Nick.
"Has anyone seen him at all?" Monique now asked.
Silence. No, there had been no sightings.
"You think he's with Nick - wherever Nick is at the moment?" Craven asked.
"Maybe he's out cruising the ocean. Hey, a lizard's gotta have fun too," Randy called cheerfully, his smile widening at Monique's dark look.
"It's a lead," Elsie now spoke up. "If we can find Godzilla. Maybe Nick is with him."
Everyone turned to Mendel Craven and the scientist gave them a bewildered look. "What...?"
"Can you track him?" Monique wanted to know.
"Godzilla? Uhm, yeah, but first we have to find the general area he is in. He could be on the other side of the globe..."
"We will move in search patterns," the agent decided. "If we have to, we call in help."
"Hicks?" Elsie wanted to know.
A short nod.
Elsie was not amused. Hicks wasn't either - of any of them, least of all of Godzilla. He had held back so far, mainly because the lizard was actually helping them defend the Earth against whatever mutation or alien creature raised its ugly head, but he had also warned them. There might come a time where Godzilla dropped out of the Hicks Protection Program.
"Dr. Craven, you better get your gadget ready," Monique now ordered. "We'll leave ASAP."
Randy snapped to attention. "Yes, Ma'm!"
Another dark look, then the Frenchwoman went downstairs. Randy grinned broadly.
The rest of team H.E.A.T. began to gather their stuff.
The effect of the drug they had given him was not exactly wearing off, but there were moments of clear-headedness. Nick had fought against the effects for hours as it seemed, and he had managed to untie himself. He had been tossed into this room a while ago. It had to be somewhere on the ground level of the cavern because they had used an elevator, but he couldn't be sure. All was so confusing, the world sometimes passing by like in fast forward, only to come to a screeching stop that made him sick. The room had no windows, but a kind of airvent. It was Nick's goal. The door was out of the question. It was secured with a deadbolt and the hinges were on the other side.
Crawling over to the airvent, which was located on the ground level, Nick tried to pry it open. It was screwed into the wall and he groaned softly. Screws. Damnit! Closing his eyes, Nick tried to find a point in the vertigo that assaulted him that didn't make him want to empty his stomach, and after some time everything seemed to quiet down. Biting his lower lip, he then started to search for something to unscrew the airvent. The room was empty of everything, even a bed or a chair. No help there. Nick finally searched through his pockets and came up with a few coins and some pieces of paper. The coins had to do.
It took a while, but in the end one of the screws was out. Nick attacked the second one. All the time he was afraid that someone might come and look for him, but it was quiet and he was left alone. He had no idea how long it took, but finally the last screw was out and he straightened, breathing hard.
After some deep breaths and fighting off another nausea attack, he pried off the vent cover and squeezed inside the tunnel. His bruised and cut body soon bore testimony to the tight squeeze it had been to force himself through the opening. The tunnel was short and he lost his balance as he suddenly pitched forward, no hold for his hands. Nick gave a gasp of surprise and landed with a splashing sound. He found himself in a large drainage pipe, knee deep in what he hoped was water. It smelled like water. Foul water.
He started walking; well, staggering. Keeping one hand to the wall, he shuffled forward, eyes straining, his head aching. A pounding headache had settled just behind his eyes and he was unable to catch much of a coherent thought. Only one burned in his mind quite clearly: there had to be an exit.
Visibility in the passage had been minimal to begin with and it didn't improve. Nick was forced to cautiously feel his way along. Rough protrusions of stone scraped at his hands and the knee-deep water made walking difficult. More and more often he had to stop, trying to maintain his balance. After what seemed like an eternity, the pipe veered sharply to the left. Rounding the corner, he abruptly came upon a steel mesh, effectively preventing anything non-liquid from continuing down the passageway.
What caught his eye though, was the other pipe that joined with his, just beyond the grate. Faint daylight seemed to be coming from another opening, not too far away. If only he could get there... he would be free. Hopefully.
Nick pushed against the mesh with all his might, which wasn't much. The metal didn't budge. He groaned. There had to be a weak spot... there just had to be.
Suddenly there was a noise from behind him.
Splashing. Someone moving through the water.
Nick redoubled his efforts to push the mesh out of the pipe, but to no success.
"Gotcha," a dark voice suddenly boomed through the tunnel.
Nick froze, his heart skipping a beat, and he discovered two bulky shadows closing in. No...no, no, no!
Large hands grabbed him, effortlessly pulling him away from the steel mesh. He was pulled along, barely able to keep his legs moving with the same speed. He was aware that they didn't go back the same way, that there was a door to one side which he had overlooked, and he was pushed through. Nick fell to his hands and knees, dripping water, feeling sick.
"Welcome back, Dr. Tatopoulos," the hated voice whispered into his ear.
Nick blinked and blurry eyes took in the image of naked feet in probably excessively expensive shoes. Shanee.
"Looks like we have to put you into a more secure room and insure that you don't run away again. You've been a bad boy, Nicky."
He wanted to say something, but he could only glare. Then he was pulled to his feet and dragged away.
"He's useless to me now." Shanee sipped at her champagne, then placed the glass on the crystal table.
"What do you want to do with him?" Brice asked.
She smiled coldly. "Get rid of our good doctor."
"You want to kill him?"
"Brice, you sound so surprised. What else should I do with him? He might have been a cute pet for a time, but I have tired of him already." She shrugged. "I have what I want. I don't need him anymore."
Brice frowned, but he didn't argue. Shanee gestured at the burly man in the gray suit standing at the door. He just nodded and left.
"Relax, darling," she said and took a petite fous off the silver platter on the table.
"I wish," he muttered and turned toward the wide expanse before him, showing him Godzilla curled up on the cavern floor. He wasn't sleeping; simply... immobile.
Nick heard the door open, but he couldn't react more than just opening his eyes a crack. He had been pumped full of tranquilizers and he felt detached from his body. There was a certain indifference in his mind, indifference to everything. It leaked into his brain from the outside. An alien feeling. Two men walked up to him, grabbing him roughly and man-handling him out of the room.
Nick was like far away. Not in this body. His mind alternated between lying motionlessly on the hard stone floor in the cavern and being dragged through tunnels to a place unknown. He bumped into something hard and it jabbed into his side, rousing him a bit more. The pain needed seconds to really register, but it cleared away some of the haze he was under.
"Let's just toss him out into the ocean," a gruff voice rumbled not far away from his ear.
"The boss said to make sure he's dead."
"Drowning is a sure way. Also much more convincing as an accident than a bullet to the brain."
They wanted to kill him. Nick felt panic rise inside him, though the sensation was sluggish and as hazy as everything around him.
"And it saves the bullets."
Now the panic spread more. Nick tried to move. Damn drug! He had to do something!
Blinking his eyes open, he tried to find out where he was exactly.
Tunnel. End of a tunnel. Nothing but the ocean in front of him. The surf; he could hear the surf.
Nick focused all his strength into one move. He felt terribly weak and was disoriented, but he knew what was at stake. His eyes fixed on the man beside him - the enemy - and he exploded into adrenaline-driven movement. His fist drove into the mid-section of the man, doubling him over. The man gave a gasp, but he wasn't downed easily.
Nick tried to run, but it was more of a stumbling and staggering.
A loud bang echoed through the tunnel, followed by a sharp pain in his side. Nick fell forward and suddenly there was nothing to hold him anymore.
The ocean came up to meet him.
The Heatseeker plunged through the waves, unminding of the water slapping against its hull. The sleek, white ship with its unusual paint job on the prow, looked a bit worse for wear, but it was functional. It took its crew all across the globe and had survived more than other boats could say for themselves.
Monique steered their vessel through the waters, keeping half an eye on the sonar. It was a beautiful day outside, the ocean was still, and except for a few fishing boats, nobody was about. Randy was busy with his computer, nose stuck to the screen, while Craven was fiddling with a device he claimed could pick up on Godzilla is he was anywhere close. Elsie just stood next to the window, hugging herself, looking worried. Monique understood her worry, though on a different level. Nick was part of the team for whose security she was responsible. That he had gone missing was sloppiness on her part. It had nothing to do with personal feelings.
Her eyes fixed on the flat sea.
No, nothing personal. None of the H.E.A.T. team concerned her personally. They were civilians. Randy Hernandez, teenage hacker with great skills and an even greater attitude problem. He had a taste for adventure and a decidedly anti-authoritarian bent. His computer skills were par excellance and allowed him to tap into anything, whether securing airline tickets or fixing a parking ticket. In her eyes, he was a totally impulsive adrenaline junkie.
He often clashed with Mendel Craven, a highly intelligent but also neurotic scientist. Two , allergic to everything and anyone, and with less people skills than the monster. His technical skills were amazing. Then there was Elsie Chapman, their resident paleontologist, a woman with a sharp tongue, and quite a temperament. And Nick Tatopoulos. Leader of the rag-tag team and, she had to confess, good at it. While he was young and most definitely too idealistic in her opinion, he was very competent in his field of expertise and the other listened to him eight times out of ten.
Monique had to smile as she adjusted the boat's speed. He was not a leader, no, but he had a skill with people, a way. He somehow channeled all their different personas, a catalyst when it came to disputes. He had a very serious attitude now and then, far away from Randy's over-the-top jokes or Craven's complaints, and Monique had discovered that there was more to the man than she had first thought. To all of them. They all had their place in the team and H.E.A.T. worked as efficiently as it did because of that.
Strange but true. They were a complex braintrust that worked smoothly on the outside and grated on the inside. And vice versa. She shook her head. And Monique Dupres was right in the middle. She was a soldier, trained and skilled, a member of the French secret service, the SDECE.
And she felt like a baby-sitter sometimes.
How could grown people be so childish and immature as those four?
Monique had talked to Philippe many times, first asking, then demanding, then almost pleading to be replaced. But he had just smiled and told her that she was assigned to the team; it was her duty. She cursed him for it. Philippe had chosen her, he had been the one to do this to her, and he had the guts to smile his little smile and tell Monique that all she needed to do was stop fighting.
Not that it was really a curse for her to be here. Sometimes, she was witness to things she cherished, to moments she didn't want to forget, even if it also involved fighting monsters and beating back creatures from other planets. Such a moment was the nigh talk she had had with Nick. It had started out as an innocent conversation over a shared beer. It had ended in a night spent talking, opening up, learning more about the other, and in the end, understanding him a bit better. He had talked about his view of things, about what he saw was a problem, about what he thought of Godzilla. Monique had been surprised to hear about his doubts when it came to the monster, about his guilt.
She snorted. Yes, Nick Tatopoulos had played a key roll in killing the first of this new species. Genocide, as Nick called it. Not only had they killed the grown version, they had also slaughtered the nearly two hundred baby lizards. All but one. Monique thought she understood most of what he had told her, about the guilt, but she couldn't really grasp it. She was a soldier; kill or be killed. Nick had chosen to live and so something else had had to die. Granted, she had not stood on the Brooklyn bridge, gazing at the first Godzilla as the light died in its eyes, as the heart stopped beating. Nick had. And he had confessed that this image haunted him. He was not a violent man by nature. He would use a weapon if threatened, he had fighting skills, but he wasn't a killer.
Monique sighed and changed the course slightly. He was a complex man, full of doubt, hope, fear, guilt, ideals and the sheer will to protect the only offspring of the mutation. Godzilla.
Randy's excited voice catapulted her out of her thoughts and she suppressed an annoyed curse.
"What is it?" she demanded.
Randy lowered the binoculars and gestured to starboard. "Something's in the water over there!"
Monique checked the maps. The were at the US Virgin Islands, currently passing St. Croix and moving toward a small island two miles off St. Croix's northeastern shore. It was uninhabited and called Buck Island. The whole island and the surrounding reef had been declared a nature reserve meaning and only visited by tourists once in a while.
"It's a body..." Randy breathed.
Monique cursed and brought the ship around, then slowed down.
"Nick!" Elsie exclaimed.
The next minutes passed in a rush as the team ran out onto the deck and lowered the dingy. They got Nick out of the cold water and onto the Heatseeker in no time, the scientist completely unresponsive. He was pale and showing signs of abuse.
"Nick..." Elsie whispered again, sinking to her knees.
"I've got a pulse," Monique announced briskly. "But he's not breathing!" Her dark eyes met Elsie's. "Have you ever done CPR?"
Elsie nodded numbly.
"You breathe for him, I'll do the compressions."
Elsie complied. Another time, another life, she would have enjoyed kissing Nick. Now... now it was the kiss of life. She started praying again. She breathed into his mouth, his chest rose, then fell. Monique placed the heel of her hand in the center of his chest, covered it with her other hand and began compressions.
Nick had seen the ocean rush up to meet him, then there was nothing but cold, dark water. As he sank he clamped down on his initial feeling of panic and moved his arms and legs, but it was a sluggish motion at best. His drugged mind just couldn't react any more. The water was cold. It was getting more and more difficult to concentrate, to not relax and take a breath of air?…no, no, water. Not air, water. His lungs were on fire and the bone-chilling cold stabbed at him like a thousand knives. Waves bounced him around and Nick hoped he was being bounced to the surface. Black spots began swimming before his eyes. Involuntarily he gulped in a mouthful of water. The first mouthful was hard, each one that followed got easier and easier. Then there was only darkness.
Godzilla felt himself drift through the dark ocean. Lazy movements, water all around him. Still, he also thought he was sitting in the strange cavern, waiting for something, waiting for the order to move.
He tried to surface, but he couldn't. The water was everywhere and nowhere.
He drifted more.
It was dark, cold and dark. He could hear voices but they were far away, whispers in the wind.
"…not working, Monique! He won't breathe!"
He knew that voice, his mind told him.
Distantly, Nick felt something warm clamp over his mouth and blow air into his lungs. Air. Sweet, sweet air.
"His pulse is slowing down. Oh God, we're losing him!"
Another forced breath.
"Breathe, Nick! Damnit, breathe!"
Suddenly there was light and air. A tremor rocked him as Nick drew in a convulsive breath that promptly filled his mouth with foul tasting water. He choked, gagged and vomited water. Hands quickly rolled him over on the side.
They had been at the CPR for hours, as it seemed to Elsie. She worked like on automatic, unaware of the others around her, just watching for Monique's signs, counting with her as she breathed the vital air into Nick's lungs.
Suddenly Nick's eyes fluttered open. They were glazed but only for a moment. He blinked hard, squeezing them closed and open again, wide, filled with terror. He began vomiting water and she quickly turned him on his side to keep him from choking on it once more. Elsie's hand stayed on his trembling shoulder, relief washing through her, making her dizzy.
"Shhhhh, it's all right!" she said as calmly as he could. The chest ceased rising, Nick wheezing only slightly now, but there were more tremors running through him.
"Blanket!" Monique snapped.
Nick tried to look around, wet hair plastered onto his head, eyes wide. Panic took its place in those expressive blue eyes.
"Nick, can you hear me? It's me, Elsie," she asked softly.
The younger man nodded slowly.
Elsie felt like cheering. "Welcome back," she whispered.
Monique was already on her feet and walking toward the bridge. "Get him warm!" she ordered.
Craven had finally found a blanket and now handed it to Elsie. She thanked him with a nod and wrapped Nick into the gray cloth. Nick was barely conscious, shivering uncontrollably and slightly feverish. Drops of water glistened on the pale skin, the blue eyes the only color in the whiteness. She began to smooth back his hair, rubbing the cold cheeks.
"What happened?" Elsie whispered, wrapping her arms around the slender man.
There was no answer and she hadn't expected one.
"He's still alive?"
The question was voiced calmly, but there was a dangerous nuance to it. Cold green eyes fixed the much taller and burlier man with a stare that was like a death-grip.
The gray-clad man fidgeted. "We dumped him in the ocean, Lady Shanee."
"Without a bullet in his head."
He swallowed, stealing a glance at his partner who simply stared straight ahead. "We figured he'd drown without one as well..."
"Dr. Tatopoulos is a danger to my project! I gave you precise orders and you seem to have given them your own interpretation. I cannot and will not tolerate this!"
The man ducked his head.
"Where is he now?" Shanee asked coldly.
"On the boat that picked him up. They are still off the island, not far away from the base."
Shanee frowned slightly. Her eyes traveled to her latest acquirement, curled up in the cavern. A smile spread over her lips, an evil, dark smile.
"I think we should give my new pet some exercise."
Brice, who had kept back as always, raised his eyebrows.
"Objections?" she asked.
"Only mild ones."
"Good." Shanee proceeded to walk over to the control terminal. "Then let's begin."
Monique's head came around as she heard the mutter. "What is it?" she demanded.
Mendel Craven looked up from his gadget, eyes wide, face pale. "Uh, we have something big out there and it's moving toward us."
"Godzilla," a weak voice whispered.
Both looked around and discovered Nick, leaning heavily against the door's frame of the bridge. He looked like death warmed over - several times. The blanket was drawn around his shivering form. How he could stand upright at all was a mystery. How he could do it without help was another. There was an almost feverish expression in his eyes and Monique felt a shiver race down her spine, though for no apparent reason.
"She controls him," Nick managed.
"Who? Who is 'she'?"
"Don't know. Calls herself...Shanee... Did this to get Godzilla. Implanted something. Controls him," he mumbled. "... head..." His voice faded and his fingers dug into the blanket.
Silence fell over the bridge and Monique felt her stomach clench. Somebody was controlling that monster? Somebody had implanted a control device?
"It's coming closer," Craven announced, voice shaky.
Nick looked out of the window, eyes holding a dark shadow Monique didn't like. He wasn't in a good shape at all. Whatever had happened to him in the last two days, it had left its marks. Elsie was hovering behind him, worry creasing her features.
"He's here," he mumbled.
And the waters broke. The gigantic head of the mutated lizard rose above them, an eardrum-shattering roar splitting the silence that had fallen over the bridge. The waves buoyed the Heatseeker like a toy. Outside the bridge's windows, a mountain of scales and muscles rose, water cascading down into the sea again. Teeth gleamed , the mighty jaw opening to take a bite out of the tiny boat. Monique slammed the engine to maximum thrust and the ship lurched forward, away from the monster. Godzilla bellowed, diving once more and following.
"How do we fight him?" Monique demanded. They had no heavy weaponry aboard.
Nick's eyes held a blurry look. "Can't. Controlled." He swallowed reflexively. "Not his fault... not his..."
The sea churned as they tried to get away from the giant, but Godzilla followed them easily, herding them wherever he wanted them to be. Playing with them. Monique gritted her teeth.
I should have taken that thing out when I had had the chance, she thought darkly. She would have had to fight Nick to do it, maybe even the others, but no one could have stopped her. Godzilla, for all his help, was still a danger to this planet. He was a mutation that had no right to exist, even if humanity was responsible for his birth. She should have neutralized him! Now someone else had control over him...
Another roar and the Heatseeker was pushed forward on a huge wave. Monique heard screams around her as the ship tilted, then slammed into something hard and unyielding. She was pushed into the controls, the breath knocked out of her, and for a moment she saw nothing but stars. Then the headache came. It seemed to split her skull, radiating from her forehead to her back and she groaned softly. Nausea rose inside of her and she swallowed several times. Monique blinked her eyes open and quickly shut them again as a bright flash of sunlight hurt her eyes.
Something burned. She could smell it. It was the acrid smell of fried circuits.
Someone groaned. Not her. Definitely not her.
Monique fought against the haze that covered her mind. Her brain seemed to pulse with every heartbeat, trying to squeeze out of her skull, and the world tilted to all sides at once.
A loud roar jolted her back to wakefulness in a second.
Looking around she saw that the Heatseeker had been hurled onto the beach, half in and half out of the water. Palm trees rose not far away from her that overhung gnarled mangrove roots, like a wall to keep visitors from penetrating the island's center. It was like a paradise, the white beach, the blue ocean, the palm trees...
They were still upright, more or less, and except for a few smoking panels, the bridge seemed to be less worse off than she had thought possible. All the loose stuff had piled in the farthest corner, following the laws of gravity.
Craven was lying next to her feet in a boneless heap, unconscious. Randy was currently trying to get to his feet, holding his head. A trickle of blood seeped through his fingers. Elsie was helping him. She appeared unharmed. Nick... Where was he? He had been at the door when the boat had been hit...
It nearly split her skull and Monique clenched her teeth. A tremor shook the ground. She bent and tried to peer out of the window. A massive foot stomped down left of the boat and shook the ground again, quickly followed by a second foot. Claws glistened wetly in the sun, gouging the sand, flexing. Grayish-green scales were all she could see, muscles moving powerfully beneath a thick hide. It was a terrifying and awe-inspiring sight in one.
"Merde!" she hissed and scrambled back as a red eyes tried to peer into the bridge.
"What now?" Elsie asked, checking on Craven since Randy was on his own two feet again.
"Where is Dr. Tatopoulos?" Monique asked in return, mind feverishly trying to find a way to take the monster out - and coming up empty.
Elsie blinked, then looked frantically around. "Nick?" she called.
A roar from the outside let them duck, then the tremors of the giant lizard walking close by shook every bone in their bodies, rattling teeth. Monique shoved past Elsie and scrambled out of the bridge of the tilted boat. When she was outside, her heart stopped for a beat, then a string of French cursing left her lips.
Godzilla towered over them. They were just under his belly, his long, massive legs left and right of the tiny boat, the balancing tail stretched out behind him. He wasn't really paying them any attention. His eyes were fixed on a small figure that was stumbling away from the boat and toward the near forest of palm trees and other plant life. Godzilla bellowed and went after the single human, his strides easily eating up the distance.
Nick ran. It was more a stumbling than a running. He staggered against the rough bark of a palm tree, lungs heaving painfully, pushing himself to his limits. The sand didn't give him much traction and his muscles quivered. All his body wanted to do was shut down, rest... but he couldn't. Something inside him pushed him on, urged him to run away from the boat, lead Godzilla away. He was the giant's target. Where that knowledge came from, Nick didn't know. He just knew.
Mindless anger rose inside him. Killing instinct, though laced with indecision as to why to kill. Then the numbness again, erasing all individual thought, urging him on, giving orders.
New pain exploded at the edge of his senses. Sharp. Fierce. Angry.
Nick sobbed as he ran, unaware of his surroundings, simply moving. All on automatic.
When the Heatseeker had crashed onto the shore, Nick had been flung out, landing hard on the beach. He didn't care about the new injuries though. It couldn't get any worse. What had gotten worse was the burning in the back of his head which was slowly turning into a migraine of tremendous proportions. All rational thought was fleeing him and instinct had taken over. Adrenaline pumped through his abused body and all Nick could do was follow the instinct.
Draw him away.
Roars of fury.
He smiled dimly, echoes of anger and aggression flickering through him. His body responded with an increased production of adrenaline that spurned him on. His chest hurt like hell and he surely had bruises, if not worse. A sudden, spiking pain raced through his wrist and he groaned softly. He had landed hard on it as he had fallen off the boat. Just one pain among many...
The emotion was scalding hot, pushing him forward. The same second he was nearly drowned in the fiery white rush of predatory heat.
Nick stumbled on, cradling his hurting wrist.
The earth shook around him and he lost his balance again, using another palm tree to keep himself from falling. Pushing free of the palm trees he stopped, eyes wildly darting around. There was a clearing, stretching out for at least two kilometers toward the island center, then meeting the forest again. The few trees at the shore had been nothing but a thin line of foliage.
The ground shook again and the massive form of Godzilla appeared behind him. The large head swept over the clearing, then the reptilian eyes fixed on the single human figure. Nick swallowed, for the first time feeling terror. Pure terror. Godzilla was no longer guided by his intelligence, just a control chip in his head.
"No..." he begged. "Please... Remember me..."
This was worse than the time Godzilla had been controlled by the tachion emissions. Worse than feeling the betrayal at seeing him follow his birth parent. Because Nick felt what was going on inside the giant lizard...
Fate. Maybe even revenge. That was what it had to be, Nick thought dimly. He had killed Godzilla's birth parent, as well as his siblings. He was responsible. His fault. A whole race wiped out. Because of him. Guilt battled the terror. Neither won or lost.
The red eyes dilated, then narrowed, and Nick couldn't do more than just stare, like a hypnotized rabbit. Darkness threatened to overpower him once more and for a second, he seemed to float. Images caved in on him, mainly of furious destruction, but in his state, he could do nothing more than to watch them like a movie.
A deafening roar jolted him out of his semi-conscious state.
Nick winced, then became aware of a large snout moving in on him. Sharp dagger teeth gleamed and he could see every ridge, every tiny scale on the jaw. Huge nostrils flared, then drew in his scent. The jaws were large enough to swallow him whole. No bite, just swallowing.
Don't... he thought desperately. You are so much stronger than this. Defeat the programming...
He was shoved forward by the snout, butted into the clearing by a force that had destroyed buildings. The blow struck his side, and he felt ribs crack under the force. His breath came in short, sharp gasps, and a cry of pain escaped his lips. The lizard snorted, stepping after him, each step a shockwave. Red eyes glowed with savage anger and fury, but none was his own. All programmed, all introduced into his mind by a tiny, mechanical device. Nick felt tears rise inside of him. Tears of pain and desperation. Shanee was controlling his charge. Shanee had done this to him.
"Godzilla, no," he whispered, staggering away. "You don't want to do this!"
A growl, another butt, and Nick gasped as he landed on his already abused wrist. It gave a sick crunch and he yelled with pain. At least he thought he did. He couldn't be sure any more. The pain spiked through him, threatening to black out the last remnants of consciousness, and he instinctively curled up around the injury. As if they had been waiting for it, all the other wounds flared up as well. Nick couldn't even groan anymore as the red haze of agony settled over his mind.
Tremors shook the ground beneath him and suddenly a gust of wind ruffled his hair.
That was it. It was over. He had lost.
Lost Godzilla, lost his chance to redeem himself in his own eyes, lost everything.
Nick's body was shaking with exhaustion and pain, but he was too far away in his mind to be bothered by mere physical pain. Like in a nightmare he was back in the dark, rainy streets of New York, standing at the Brooklyn bridge, watching the first of his kind die, bleeding from multiple wounds. He heard the heartbeat slow, saw the light die in his eyes, felt something inside of him shrivel and die. Human and reptilian eyes met, and for that brief moment Nick understood that what Godzilla had done had not been calculated evil. It had been instinct. Survival. Find a nest, procreate, protect the young, kill all intruders.
They had destroyed something because it had followed its instinct.
I'm so sorry, he cried.
Now he was receiving his punishment. It was simple justice.
Suddenly something brushed over his mind. Nick screamed, trying to bury in the darkness that was all around him.
And still alien in one.
Another butting. This time gentler. Much gentler. Rumbling, then a questioning whine.
The world was slowly turning into a black tunnel with a fading light at the end of it. For a moment he battled valiantly to reach the light, but to no avail. He fell further away from it, drifting in blackness... alone... but not completely.
Nick gave up struggling to remain conscious as pain roared through his skull and darkened his vision.
Blackness overcame him.
Then the world ceased to exist.
Godzilla couldn't shake the feeling of drowsiness. He wanted to break free, wanted to rescue his parent and leave this evil place, but he couldn't get his body to follow his mind. Everything moved sluggishly...
He was given orders and though his mind puzzled over them, he followed. He did what he was told, unable to stop his actions, unable to fight. He attacked a boat, though there was neither the need for it, nor a danger coming from the human machine. It didn't hold any food for him, it didn't threaten his territory, it hadn't attacked him. Still, he did it.
Godzilla shook his head, trying to dislodge the alien voice whispering to him, giving him commands to follow.
Kill the human. Kill him.
Why? a part of him asked. No danger from him. Pain lanced through his head and he snarled in anger.
Kill him! the voice screamed.
Something trickled through the swamp that was his mind. Distress, pain, alien emotions he couldn't pinpoint... but he knew them.
Yes, it came from him.
Rising distress. Fear. Mortal fear.
He tried to act. Desperation surged through him and he felt his muscles tremble with strain.
Help his parent.
He is in danger.
Godzilla blinked and for the first time, the world seemed to fall back into focus again. And then the pain hit. His side, his front leg, his head. The pain was everywhere but still not his. He was confused. There was no wound, no smell of his own blood, but the pain... Someone else's?
He roared. Someone had hurt his parent!
Looking around, Godzilla discovered the frail, small body of the one whose protection went above everything. He rumbled again, this time worrying slightly. His parent wasn't moving and as he sniffed at the prone form, he smelled the sharp tinge of something bad. Combined with the smell of blood. And what he felt was even worse...
A memory rose inside him. The memory of a woman, watching him, them... Pain. She had hurt him. She had hurt his parent. And she was close.
Hissing dangerously the lizard started to move, instinct and memory guiding him, leading him to the place where the pain had started. And where the woman who had hurt his parent was.
She was a threat to him, his territory, his parent. She had to be chased away or killed.
Shanee turned to one of the supervising technicians, gracing him with a cold look. As much as she needed these people, she always felt that they were a lower class. Workers. To be used. There was hardly anyone in the whole complex that equaled her, except maybe Brice, and they all just served one purpose: following her orders. Hers alone.
"Yes?" she now asked.
"The chip is sending in more aggressive readings," the technician reported, bravely daring to meet her eyes.
She gazed at the monitor. The formerly flat, monotonous lines were suddenly fluctuation. Sometimes a spike would hit.
"Godzilla's brainwaves are increasing, as if he is rising out of the stupor he is in."
She frowned, eyes still on the screen. "Increase the signal then!"
"We are at one hundred percent," the man said uncertainly. "We were ready to try decreasing input to test his reactions, but he shouldn't be able to catch a thought at this output rate."
"Where is he?"
A video screen lit up and a blip appeared, showing them Godzilla's position.
"He's on the island," another technician reported. "Uhm, he's coming here!"
"Correction," Brice's calm voice interrupted her thoughts. "He is already here."
Shanee walked over to the viewing window and gazed down into the cavern. Godzilla raised himself out of the basin, the massive head turning, nostrils sniffing, and as he stepped out of the water, he didn't care what or who he stepped on.
"Increase output!" Shanee snapped.
The man flinched but did as she had ordered. The beast winced and shook his head, but showed no sign of falling back into the stupor from before.
"A hundred and twenty percent!" the technician called. "This is too much!"
"Increase it! He's breaking free!" she ordered coldly.
How could this be? She had tested the chip! How could the monster fight what she told his brain to do? And why now?
Shockwaves raced through the base and she stumbled. From below, there was a tremendous roar. Godzilla slammed his tail into the wall, turning his head as if searching something.
Another roar, more vicious this time, and somewhere, something exploded. Godzilla screamed in fury and butted his head against the nearest wall, starting a small avalanche of rocks. Shanee could only watch and anger began to seep through her.
Suddenly the monster raised his head and the red, madly glowing eyes were eyelevel with her.
Shanee felt terror encase her as she met the burning gaze.
She could see it in the depths, she could see recognition, anger, pain and desperation. She could see need. All was suddenly washed away by fury and Godzilla opened his jaws, his scream cracking the glass.
He wanted her. He remembered and he wanted her dead.
Suddenly the monster turned his head and looked down. Shanee felt her heart starting to beat again and she was aware of the sheen of sweat on her face. She looked down as well, then at the monitors displaying the cavern's ground level. Her men had appeared, firing weapons at the intruder. Puny weapons. The bullets didn't so much as chip the outer layer off the heavy scales.
Godzilla hissed and growled, claws flexing, then he went out of control.
Shanee was beyond mere anger now. This was fury. Cold, calculated fury. The flames from the fires, as well as the orange blossoms of the explosions everywhere, reflected off the cracked window. Her eyes seemed to be on fire as well, green pools alight with embers that spoke more than words.
"Ma'm?" a technician asked, voice wavering.
"Bring out the launchers! I want that thing dead! Understood?"
He flinched and then nodded, quickly scurrying to his workplace to follow her orders.
"I'm far from saying 'I told you so'," Brice said, voice still rather calm in the ruckus all around them.
"Shut up, Brice!" she hissed, the hatred she felt for the monster coming to the surface.
Godzilla was trashing the complex. Damage reports were coming in from all over the place and even up here, in the command center, the tremors and explosions could be felt and heard.
The terminal that housed the control mechanism for the chip suddenly sparked and squealed, then went up in smoke. Godzilla screamed, pawing at his head where the chip had died a slow, burning death. The additional pain only drove him on.
"Kill it!" Shanee screamed. "What's taking you so long?"
Down on the cavern floor, two large tank-like machines rolled into the open, missile launchers pointed at the lizard.
Godzilla's tail slammed into the wall, gouging rock from the solid mass. Sirens began wailing in alarm as the massive creature attacked the base. A red haze of fury descended on his mind and he sniffed the air, ignoring the fumes of burning metal, ignoring the shrill ringing of the sirens, ignoring the humans running around him. His tail lashed again, destroying more.
Suddenly he caught sight of someone. It was a human, small and fragile like all of them, but somehow, he knew her. He raised his head to gaze at the offending creature, mind filling with images. She was the one. She had hurt him. Them. His parent. He snarled.
The pain that exploded in his right shoulder from one second to the next purged all thoughts, feeding the fire of the rage inside him, and he roared his challenge.
The Heatseeker had landed on one side, looking a bit worse for wear but there were no signs of structural damage. It would need some help to pull her free, but she was at least in one piece. That wasn't what Elsie could say of them. She had a pounding headache and would probably feature a sizable bruise on the forehead in the morning. Randy had most likely a concussion, but he was clear-headed enough, and Craven was complaining about cuts and bruises. Monique seemed to be all right, though with her, you could never tell. At least they were all alive.
Elsie felt her heart contract. But what about Nick? He had run away from the boat, leading Godzilla away. The monster was hard to miss from their vantage point, and it was also hard to miss how he suddenly bent down, then raised his head, bellowing. Then he walked off down the beach toward an outcropping of rock. He disappeared in the ocean a minute later.
They were all in shock, each frozen into a statue, unable to make a decision. Should they go and see what had happened? Or stay here? Wait for rescue? Elsie didn't want to see what Godzilla had done to Nick, but she simultaneously needed to make sure that what they thought, couldn't be real...
Suddenly something exploded. It was a tremendous booming noise, shaking the ground, making them all fall on their collective butts, and Elsie watched in morbid fascination as the ocean started to boil. More explosions followed and the air was filled with them. Then Godzilla surfaced, his massive body breaking through the cliff as if it was nothing but paper. Smoke of fires obscured the sight and continuous explosions deafened them.
Godzilla snarled, the pain driving him crazy. His shoulder throbbed and blood leaked out of the sizable injury. On top of the physical wound, his mind was like in a haze, bombarded with strange images and emotions. He knew the emotions, had been aware of them ever since his birth, but now they were distorted... painful... painfilled. He roared and lashed out at the offensive machine that had hurt him again. It was already dead, but he needed to vent his anger and frustration.
Something inside him surged and he shook his head. His shoulder injury pulsed and he rumbled. It would heal, but it hurt too much to simply ignore it right now. Turning the massive head, the giant lizard looked around. His parent was outside of this bad place, but the distress he radiated was almost tasteable.
More explosions followed and the cave was growing unstable. Godzilla snarled. He had to flee.
Flee. Had to get out of here. Protect the parent and flee. His parent was outside. He had to go there.
He looked around once more, checking the surroundings, but he found no more hostiles. Only destruction that went on and on, taking the bad place apart. Slowly, the titanic creature moved off toward the basin that led into the ocean, into the safety of the water, away from the fire. Godzilla dove into the basin, the wave he created flooding the cavern floor. He didn't care. With powerful lashes of his tail he pushed away from the bad place, then swam to shore.
Rising out of the sea, water cascading off him, Godzilla walked down the beach, dripping blood from the shoulder wound. His parent was close. Homing in on the distress and pain, on the call for help only the lizard could hear, he made his way toward the place where his parent had last been.
Nick woke slowly. It was like dragging himself out of a swamp.
It came through the haze. First in little stings, then in a burning sensation, then in an agonizing flare in his right shoulder.
Pain. A lightning bolt, bringing the world into sudden, bright focus.
Nick groaned and felt tears spring into his eyes. He curled up, tremors running through him, then the pain ebbed away.
After a moment of complete laxness, his perception widened. The pain was still there, but it was dampened somehow. Then there was the sensation of warmth. Warmth on his skin. He blinked his eyes open, fighting back the darkness that threatened to collapse on him once more.
The single word was all his mind managed and he blinked again, the gritty feeling of sand in his eyes rising to the surface.
He lay on the warm sand, the ocean was not far from here, though not visible. He could still hear the waves against the shore.
There was a rumble.
A warm gust of air. Slightly fishy smell.
A familiar feeling. Poking. Prodding. Quizzical.
Nick tried to turn and his body finally followed the order. The pain throbbed through him again, this time not only the shoulder but also his wrist and his right side. The right side was a spiking pain, combining with a dull throb from the swollen looking wrist, and he bit his lower lip to keep from yelling.
Damn, that really hurt.
Worse than the shoulder.
Somehow the pain in the shoulder was a bit surreal. As if it wasn't his own.
Another rumble. Nick looked around, his prone position limiting his view, but there was no mistaking the mountain of scales not far away. A large eye watched him, nostrils flaring.
"Hey, big guy," he whispered through parched lip.
The reply was a happy rumbling and shifting of the muscles. Nick winced.
He felt like his shoulder was detached... but still hurt terribly.
They flitted into his mind, presented him with a myriad of mosaic stone, and he grasped at them to make a whole picture. He remembered little, but what came through at last, it hurt... The last thought was that of Godzilla attacking him. Nick tensed. Fear flooded through him, but immediately, a feeling of... rightness...?... followed. Everything was how it was supposed to be. Godzilla was laying beside him, no aggression, no intention to harm him.
Get up, his mind ordered.
Easier said than done. The drugs were still in his system and his brain was sluggish at best. He tried to lever himself up into a sitting position without using his right arm, and finally managed to do so on the fifth attempt. The world did a mad little dance around him and he felt nausea rise inside him.
Nick swallowed reflexively, fighting the urge to empty his stomach again, and finally the feeling faded, replaced by the distant pain once more. And something else. The curious questioning sensation... almost worried. He looked up and right into the fiery orange-red reptilian eyes of Godzilla. The lizard was watching him, lying curled up in the warm sand, head hovering not far above him.
The eye drew him in.
Nick felt detached from his body, floating, everything suddenly very far away. Their eyes were locked and in his mind, the sensation grew. He shivered.
Eyes... windows to the soul. Soul?
Godzilla rumbled and blinked.
The spell was broken.
Nick gave a soundless gasp and slumped, all energy sucked out of his body. A gust of warm air brushed over him, ruffling his hair, and a scaly snout lowered into his view. He reached out automatically, hands brushing over the thick hide - and his world seemed to scream back into a surreal existence. Images he couldn't decipher rushed by, emotions that weren't his drowning him, and Nick whimpered in desperation.
Oh god...what was happening to him?
This wasn't the drugs. It couldn't be. Not any longer.
And then it was over.
He sobbed softly, doubled over, arms curled around his middle.
Nick needed minutes to get back to reality, to get his act together, and to try getting up once more. It helped that there was suddenly a massive talon next to him, representing a wall to lean on.
"Thanks," he breathed, leaning heavily against the forefoot.
A rumble answered.
Nick concentrated on breathing normally, trying to get rid of the dizziness, still wondering why the shoulder pain felt so unreal. His fingers, brushing over the scales, encountered something warm and sticky.
Slowly gazing up the large foreleg, the biologist felt his heart stop for a beat.
"Oh, no! You are hurt!" he managed.
Something had torn a gaping, bleeding injury into Godzilla's shoulder. Must have been a missile, he mused. They had the same effect as a bullet had on humans.
Godzilla growled, flexing his claws, and Nick stumbled as the knuckles bumped him forward. The blood had stopped flowing, but some rivulets still trickled down. A spike of shadowy pain lanced through his shoulder and Nick bit his lower lip. He fell heavily against the scaled wall next to him.
"No..." he breathed. "Can't be..."
Another ripple of foreign sensations, a gentle rumbling, his world swirling madly...
Nick couldn't stand it much longer.
"No!" he cried, stumbling away from Godzilla.
He didn't get very far.
His knees gave way under the assault and he collapsed, sobbing, as the attack continued. Godzilla sniffed at him, touching him lightly.
Nick screwed his eyes shut, ignoring the pain, trying to ignore the alien sensations. It couldn't be... couldn't... just couldn't...
- But it's the most logical thing -, his mind argued.
- It is. Accept it. -
Nick inhaled deeply.
Okay, think. Logically.
He turned his head and gazed at the gigantic lizard behind him, eyes automatically fastening on the ugly wound. Godzilla had healing powers, able to take care of such injuries quite quickly, but it was still painful. His own right shoulder throbbed, even though there was no injury.
- You can feel him. -
- How to do you explain it then? -
Nick chewed on his lower lip. He remembered what Shanee had told him; about activating dormant parts of his brain; about the already existing bond... Cradling his injured wrist, an injury he knew was his own, he staggered to his feet.
Can't be! he protested.
- And how to do you explain past events? How he always seems to know when you're in trouble? -
- Try again,- his brain mocked.
Not now. He couldn't think about this now. He had other problems. Like... where the heck was he? How had he gotten here? And what had happened to Shanee?
He felt a sick feeling rise inside of him at the thought of his tormentor. Three days... only three days. Nick swallowed back the bile threatening to rise.
Godzilla had watched his parent wake, had kept a close eye on him as he tried to shake off the drug stupor, and he had felt his confusion and disorientation. Then the distress came again. It was the most acute sensation he always got from him, closely followed by the protective feelings or pain. Sometimes pain was a putrid, evil stench in his mind. Right now, the distress was overpowering. He shook his head, annoyed, growling.
Then the image came.
The female human. The blonde one. The one that had hurt his parent.
Godzilla roared in fury, kicking up sand as he rose. His parent stumbled away, eyes wide, broadcasting randomly. Godzilla snorted angrily, claw flexing. The enemy was gone, destroyed, but the memory irked him. He snarled at nothing, the empty beach revealing no threat. Protect his parent...
He quieted down slightly. His parent sat on the beach, one arm cradled, and Godzilla felt the injured shoulder throbbing. He growled softly again, then settled down, careful not to come too close to the small human. He curled up, one eye on his parent, relaxing as best as possible.
He needed time to heal.
Godzilla sighed softly, his breath disturbing the sand.
Nick was exhausted, too exhausted to think straight any more. He just lay curled up in the sand. Now and then tremors raced through him, shaking his system, but he was too tired to react anymore.
Someone was there. In his mind. Hovering.
He felt nausea rise in his throat at the thought. Godzilla lay on the beach with him, the titanic creature resting and healing, content with just dozing. He was alert, Nick could feel it, keeping a watchful eye on everything on the beach, listening to noises that would speak of an attacker. And he watched Nick.
What had she done to him? To him... to... them?
The presence increased and he felt tendrils wrap around his mind. An inhuman whisper echoed through his thoughts.
Nick screamed, but no sound came out.
He sobbed, hugging himself.
"Man, willya look at this?" Randy muttered, sounding a bit awed.
Monique bit back a sharp comment as she gazed at what had once been a cliffside. Randy saw Godzilla as the biggest, baddest, coolest pet a guy could ever have. Yes, he had respect of the lizard, maybe even awe, but his approach to the behemoth was something Monique classified as unprofessional.
She turned her attention back to the former complex on the island. Nothing much was left of it. One side of the cliff's face had collapsed. Gaping holes showed cavernous rooms behind the cliff, all burning or filled with drifting smoke. No people were milling on the beach. No boat was drifting around. No calls for help.
"Yo, people, heads up," Randy called. "Scaly Face is thattaway!"
She gave him a dark look. Godzilla was hard to miss, even from this distance, and he walked toward them, though not toward the beach itself. The lizard stopped and bent down, looking at something, then he lifted his head, sniffing the air. A guffaw shook them.
"Wow, he doesn't look happy," Craven muttered.
"I wouldn't either," Elsie said quietly and nodded at the plainly visible wound.
"Uh, that musta hurt," Randy remarked, grimacing.
Elsie nodded while Monique carefully checked the situation. Not good, she concluded.
"What now?" she asked.
Monique's face took on a decisive expression and she began walking toward the palm tree line. "We find Dr. Tatopoulos."
"Wha...what?" Craven stammered. "But... but... what about him?" He gestured at the lizard.
"I believe that is where we will find him."
And Monique did. Maybe it was instinct or gut feeling or intuition, but the events of the last minutes somehow combined in a wild possible explanation. There was a faint hope in her as well...
"Oh my god! Nick!" Elsie whispered under her breath as they came close enough to see. Randy was at Monique's side, rather silent for once, and Craven hung back a bit.
Yes, Dr. Tatopoulos was there. He lay on the beach, curled up, unmoving, not far away from Godzilla. She cursed softly in French. Not what they needed. No, definitely not. Godzilla tilted his head, growling softly, watching them in turn.
"What now?" Craven asked, voice shaky. He was absolutely terrified of the monster and Monique thought it was a lot healthier than Randy's enthusiasm or Nick's unconditional trust that Godzilla was not inherently evil.
They had had their discussion about the definition of evil in the past and it had been interesting to hear his arguments. They were sound, they were scientific, but Monique thought in terms of survival and military, not science and ideals. Still, she had enjoyed the verbal challenge.
"He knows us. He will let us help Nick, right?" Randy asked, sounding none too sure about that.
"I'm not so sure about that," Elsie mumbled and Monique could only agree. "I mean, he tried to sink us."
"We have to try! That's Nick over there!" Randy argued. "Something was wrong with the big guy."
Yes, they had to do something. From the looks of it, Nick wasn't in a good shape. Not at all.
Nick woke to the sensation of danger, distant anger flooding through him, closely followed by fierce protection feelings. He mussily opened his eyes, trying to get his brain into gear. A roar shattered the silence and the ground he lay on vibrated. There were shouts and he dimly recognized the voices.
"Godzilla, no," he mumbled, trying to get up. He froze as he became aware of his position.
He lay on the warm sand, two massive, clawed feet next to him, the gigantic lizard towering above him. Nick swallowed, then managed to turn his head. What he saw let relief flood through him and Godzilla suddenly gave a rumble.
"It's okay," he tried to call, but his voice just a weak whisper.
Still, it seemed to be enough. Godzilla growled again, but he didn't snarl at the others. Nick staggered to his feet, swaying badly. Elsie hesitantly walked forward, eyes fixed on the lizard towering above her.
"Nick?" she called.
"Hey," he managed weakly.
Monique was suddenly there as well. She didn't look happy about being between the monster's legs, but she wordlessly put her arm around his waist, then started to drag him toward the boat.
It's okay, big guy, Nick thought, mind fuzzy. Don't worry. I'm okay.
Godzilla's rumbles vibrated through them and he stepped aside, careful of the humans, mainly because they had his parent.
Nick didn't get much of the next minutes. He recalled being dragged to the beach, then there was a moment of nothingness.
A feeling gushed through him, rousing him from the cool nothingness. Nick blinked his eyes open, taking in his position, trying to find out what had woken him. The reptilian presence grew stronger, cleared his mind for a second. He saw the Heatseeker, tilting to the left and partially buried in the beach's sand. He saw his friends trying to come up with a way to get her free. He was aware of a cool hand on his forehead.
Elsie. It was Elsie. He tried to smile, but his muscles, even his facial muscles, refused to follow his commands.
"Shhh... you don't need to talk," Elsie told him softly, smiling. Her eyes displayed a deep worry and fear.
They were stuck, he realized. Because the boat was stuck.
It was a subtle thought, but it roused a rumble from the presence in his mind, a rumble that was audible in the physical world as well. Nick swam with the alien presence, bobbed on the waves, then suddenly dropped into the darkness of the other mind. He gasped for air, trying to stay on top, but he was too weak to fight. The other was too strong, animalistic, powerful...
A yell brought him back to reality. Nick blinked and smiled dimly as he saw how Godzilla easily handled the Heatseeker and pushed it back into the open sea. The others just stood back, mouths open in amazement. Elsie was clutching his arm. Godzilla stepped back, turning his head to look at Nick.
A feeling of pride passed through Nick and the lizard tilted his head, as if he was aware of what that meant, snorting softly. Then he made two steps back.
"Well done," Nick mumbled, tongue heavy. He wasn't even sure that the words came out.
Somehow he was brought aboard the slightly damaged ship. He caught a few snippets from the conversation. No hull damage. Paint scraped off. Probably needed a few dents straightened out. Nothing serious. Then he slipped off again, welcomed by a cool darkness that was far from unconsciousness. He was in the water again, though not drowning. He was riding along the currents, drifting, feeling free.
Then even that feeling was gone.
New York. Manhattan. The Memorial hospital. It was a busy day for the emergency room. Every day was busy, but today things seemed to climax in a road accident which had involved a school bus that had been rented to a group of seniors for a day-trip. People ran around, sat, stood or leaned against walls. Nurses took down names and tried to calm down worried relatives. Doctors tried to wade through the throng of patients and paramedics. And somewhere in here, Nick Tatopoulos was being treated for his injuries.
Elsie rubbed her forehead, feeling a headache creep up on her. Getting Nick aboard the Heatseeker they had steered back to New York at top speed. She couldn't get the image out of her head. Nick, so pale, bruised face, wrists chafed from what must have been shackles, wrist swollen, and a shot wound in his side. He had almost immediately fallen unconscious again. She had sat at his side, had cleaned the cuts and bruises, had stanched the trickle of blood still seeping from the wound, and she had prayed. Self-reliant, stubborn and sharp-tongued Elsie Chapman had prayed that Nick would make it.
Godzilla had followed them, a large shadow in the water, a blob on the sonar. He hadn't just swum away to tend to his wounds. Not until they had reached the harbor. Then he had disappeared. Strange.
Elsie didn't want to think about it though. Her mind was solely fixed on Nick now.
The waiting room had seen many visitors and it showed it. Worn floor, drab walls, seats with the indentions of previous use, and old magazines. Randy was flipping through them at the moment, keeping himself occupied by this simple task. There was nothing really interesting in these papers, but they were a welcome distraction.
The door opened three hours after they had made themselves uncomfortable in here and a tall, curly-haired man entered, clad in a doctor's coat, holding a notepad.
"You are Dr. Tatopoulos' friends?" he asked. Rather superfluous, as Elsie thought. "I see there is no family listed." He raised an eyebrow.
She didn't comment on it. Elsie had little knowledge of Nick's family.
"How is he?" Craven asked, getting to the all-important question first.
"Broken wrist, severely bruised and cracked ribs, cuts and abrasions all over the place, a bullet wound, though the projectile only grazed him, and a concussion." The doctor closed his chart. "He's not in mortal danger, but we'll keep him here overnight for observation."
Everyone sagged with relief, but Elsie could only feel a slight weight off her chest. Relief wouldn't come.
"Thank you," Monique nodded at the doctor.
"Can we see him?" Elsie asked.
"He's asleep. I'd rather you let him. He was beyond the point of exhaustion when you brought him here. You can visit tomorrow."
Elsie wanted to throttle the man, wanted to beat him into giving her permission to see Nick, but she forced herself to stay calm. As the others filed out of the waiting room, she caught Monique's eyes and saw something reflected in them for a moment. Worry and relief.
Night had fallen. Still, the city was as bright as throughout he day, though the light was now artificial. It made New York glow like a giant bulb, a star, a priceless gem. Day or night, life went on.
Nick lay in his single room, glad that there was no one else, glad he could brood on his own. He was tired, his body was exhausted, but he couldn't rest. His mind was active, too active, seemingly slipping out of his body on its own account. In those moments, he was in the cold waters of the bay, swimming powerfully with the currents, enjoying the freedom, flexing muscles.
He shook himself.
No... not again!
Ever since the injection of the drug, he had started slipping in his control. Nick had thought it to be the effect of the substance, but he had soon found out that it had nothing to do with it. The drug had activated parts of his brain that had been dormant before. Mostly dormant. Nick shivered though it wasn't even cold.
Truth. Nothing but the truth. He had been aware of his charge before. He had had a subconscious bond. Now there was nothing subconscious about it anymore. It was always on his mind, it stayed, and there was no hope of it disappearing again. Shanee had opened his mind to something Nick didn't want, had never even thought about wanting, and he had no chance to close it again.
The word alone evoked nausea inside him. The presence approached him, coming to the forefront, overlapping his own emotions. Nick clenched his teeth and suppressed a sob. His body reacted with pain signals from all over the place, reminding him he was too weak and exhausted to fight. Even a mental fight. But Nick didn't give up, couldn't give up. The presence in his mind grew slightly and without his own doing, he was slipping again. The alien emotions took over, permeating his mind, and Nick cried out.
At least he tried.
It was nothing but a weak gurgle and his muscles spasmed, his body trying to fight a fight that was purely in his mind. He was pulled along a hunt, chasing after a school of fish, stirring up an octopus, and delighting in the thrill of the hunt. And then it was over, the presence retreating, leaving Nick drained and shaking.
"Stop it," was all he could whisper, voice raw.
The presence remained, in the back of his skull, docile and calm. Nick turned his head, staring out of the window. The lights of New York glittered out there, but beyond the glass and stone and steel lay the ocean. And deep in the ocean was ...he... Godzilla.
Nick had to smile, a warped version of his usual smile. His curse and his redemption, a gigantic creature that had bonded to him, and him alone, accepting a human who was so much smaller than him as his surrogate parent. It was beautiful and frightening, just like Godzilla himself.
He felt that he was slipping again and sobbed softly.
"Please...no..." Tears slipped through his closed eyes and he let them fall. "Not again... stop it... please..." he begged.
A feeling of cool reptilian disappointment washed through him, over him, and was gone. Nick was alone. The presence was still there, but no longer oppressive. He exhaled, shivering. It had been as if Godzilla had wanted him along for the ride, show him what it was like, but Nick wasn't ready for this. He didn't want it. He had never wanted it, but still... now he was truly bonded to the great lizard. If he liked it or not.
Live with it, his mind whispered.
He had to. No other choice.
Nick fell asleep somewhere throughout the night, but it was not a restful sleep.
"Dr. Tatopoulos needs to take it easy. I'm serious about it. His body has been put through a lot, he lost blood, and the drug is still in him. It will flush out on his own in a day or two, but until then, whatever you do, keep him from exhausting himself." The doctor looked at Elsie and Monique, eyes serious.
Elsie nodded. She had planned nothing else. Monique just looked her usual, unfazed self, but there was a glint of worry in her dark eyes. Elsie remembered the expression of murder in the other woman's eyes when they had found Nick, had brought him back home. If there had been anyone to kill, Elsie had no doubt that Monique would have gladly done that. Godzilla had done it for them, protecting Nick, taking revenge on the people who had kidnapped and tormented him. Them.
Monique had been brought aboard the H.E.A.T. team to ensure that Godzilla didn't step out of line and crush some major urban center in the process. She was deadly at hand-to-hand combat, an expert with all manner of weaponry, and provided some much-needed firepower to the team. She had viewed them with distance and a good portion of distaste. It had changed. Subtly. Elsie wasn't sure if she was even aware of it. Her haughty demeanor was still there and she claimed her mission priorities did not include making friends, but there had been changes.
Elsie shook herself out of her reverie looked at the closed doors behind which Nick was dressing to get home. Something had happened to him in that mansion. Something terrible. It went beyond kidnapping, drugs and mental torment. She had seen it in his eyes, in Godzilla's behavior, and it told her a lot if the lizard let one of their adventures get to him.
With a sigh, the young woman shoved that thought out of her mind and concentrated on more important matters: getting Nick home and to bed. Another time, another place, she might have joked about it; would have wanted to see him blush. He blushed in such a delightful way... Now she felt dead serious. Nick was in a bad shape.
The door opened and a male nurse pushed out a wheelchair with Nick sitting in it.
"Hey, Nicky," she greeted him cheerfully and Nick gave her a smile, but it was devoid of warmth or humor. It was forced. Dark shadows danced through the blue eyes and Elsie felt a stab of pain. The same shadows lay in dark circles under his eyes. His cheeks had a hollow in them that only good feeding would fill. Nick was slender to start with, but now he looked definitely wasted.
Damn this woman for doing this to Nick!
"Hey," he replied, voice too flat.
"We'll get you out of here and home," Elsie went on bravely. "And into bed." She waggled her eyebrows.
Nick reacted with a faint smile. Nothing else. No annoyance, no embarrassment. Nothing at all. Elsie felt another stab of pain.
Checking out was fairly easy and done quickly, and they were on their way home in no time. Monique was driving, Elsie keeping an eye on their silent friend. Nick just stared out of the window as the landscape rushed by, a faraway expression in his eyes. Every attempt to get him talking was deflected. Nick didn't want to talk, he wanted to be left alone.
When they arrived, Randy and Craven were already awaiting them. Nick slowly got out of the car, gaze fastening on the ferry building, then traveling out to the bay. It was rather warm today, though clouded, and the weather report had spoken of fog and rain again. Nothing really new. Elsie watched him, watched him as he slowly pushed the car door shut with his good hand, the cast partially hidden beneath his jacket. It was a stark white against the dark jacket, but it blended with Nick's overall pallid complexion.
"Yo, effe, glad to have you back home!" Randy called jovially. "The worms've been lonely. Been trying to entertain them, but hey, I'm not Dr. Worm Guy!"
Nick managed a smile. So forced, Elsie thought with slight dread. She didn't know why she felt the dread, but it was there. The haunted shadow in Nick's so expressive eyes... that was it. It had been there ever since they had found him and it had nothing to do with the kidnapping. They had gone through so much, so many monster attacks and crazy scientists or wanna-be world rulers, Nick had experience. He also wasn't prone to nightmares or suffering psychologically from encounters. Never had been.
Monique locked the car and placed herself like a bodyguard next to Nick, glowering at Randy to stop it. Randy, never one to be impressed by her, just grinned obnoxiously.
"You'll be proud," he went on. "We cleaned up the mess and finished the files. All pics scanned, all folders sorted alphabetically with cross-references, and I even took out my trash."
"Thanks," was all Nick said, eyes briefly in the bay again.
The dread inside Elsie turned into a distant, sick feeling. Something had happened to Nick. Something...
"It's good to have you back Nick," Mendel now piped up, fidgeting a bit.
Another weak smile.
"C'mon. You should lay down a bit," Elsie just said, gently pulling Nick with her.
He followed without complaint. She exchanged a worried look with Craven, whose round face was filled with questions and worry of his own, but he didn't say a thing. Elsie accompanied Nick to the back of the building where he had his room. He had once speculated about getting an apartment close-by, but then the decision had been to stay here. The room was rather large, not a small rat-hole with only a bed, and Elsie smiled as she discovered that someone had changed the bed and cleaned up a bit.
The bed stood at the left side, shelves hanging above it, all filled with science books, research stuff and some novels. Nick liked to read, even if it was mostly 'business'. Now and then she had caught him relaxing with a mystery novel, but it had been a rare occasion. A world map had been pinned to the opposite wall, small flags pinned to several places. Monster sightings, Elsie knew. Around the map was a mess of Polaroid shots and blurry images of amateur photographers who had managed to ban the monsters on film. On the desk was a load of paper and more pics. Godzilla studies, she knew. Nick was observing him whenever he had the possibility, made notes and slaved for hours over his files.
"Get some rest," she now advised.
Nick looked at her and Elsie wished she could erase the events of the last week out of his mind. So much pain there. So many lines of suffering etched into the young face.
Too much for one man.
"Okay," was all Nick answered.
Elsie hesitated for a moment, then she left him alone. Hugging herself, she walked back to the others.
He was healing. His shoulder still hurt, itching abominably as the torn flesh mended, and he rubbed against the protruding rocks of the ocean floor. It was annoying, even if it was for the best. Healing was always followed by itchy spells. Godzilla rose to the surface, exhaling. Rumbling to himself he let himself drift, then sank underwater again.
The wound at his head was itching as well, though differently. It was an itch of something foreign in his flesh, not the itch of a healing wound. He had already pawed at the offending alien thing, but it was too deep and it hurt to dig it out. Godzilla growled and chased after some fish, though he didn't feel hungry.
His parent might be able to help him, but he was hurt as well. Worse than Godzilla. He knew it was worse. The sensations he usually had were warped, filled with darkness and pain, and whenever he came closer, they turned into a cold, stinging denial. His parent was pushing him away, but he was also calling for him. Godzilla was confused. It wasn't a new state of mind when it came to his parent. His parent was so different from him in many ways and Godzilla had yet to understand him. Every day, he learned more, every day he was puzzled anew.
Letting the fish go, the lizard swam toward the open sea, leisurely letting the water play around him, scanning for changes in his immediate territory, looking for possible intruders. There were none and he felt pleased. Extending his prowling, Godzilla lost himself in his instinctive checking of what he saw as his world, his territory.
"Something's wrong with him."
Monique looked up from where she was busy filing her weekly report. There might not have been a monster fight, but the latest events demanded she write a report. Now she raised an eyebrow.
"Don't tell me you haven't noticed!" Elsie demanded.
Yes, Nick was behaving strangely, but he was a civilian and a scientist. She expected strange behavior from them. She respected him, though, even if she would never confess to it out loud. Nick Tatopoulos was a competent man with a good dose of reality, though he could fall back into his scientist-mode any time. In a way they shared leadership of team H.E.A.T. While Monique was the inofficial head of military operations, Nick was the inofficial official head of the science department. He wasn't as bad as Craven though. That man was a nuisance.
"I noticed," she finally said.
Another eyebrow rose. "Dr. Chapman, he was kidnapped, drugged and seriously injured. Dr. Tatopoulos is bound to suffer from the effects."
Elsie sighed and shook her head. "That's not what I mean and you know it. We both saw what happened on the beach. We both saw Godzilla's reaction. Do you think that's normal? I know Nick can give him orders to a degree, can control him, but not like this. Nick is also not the man to brood for hours all on his own."
Monique had to confess that that was true. And she had noticed the monster's reaction. It had startled her, especially since Nick had been more or less out of it when he had told Godzilla to back down. And he had said it barely loud enough for her to hear it. How could the lizard have heard him?
"I believe we should give him time enough to come to terms with the events," she then told Elsie.
The red-head snorted. "Yeah, and by that time he's totally warped! Someone needs to talk to him."
Monique smiled. "If you think that's necessary."
Elsie sighed, shrugged and then looked over to where the stairs rose to the roof. "Well, I can try." She turned back to Monique. "Anything on the drug?"
Monique had sent in samples, as well as the medical data the hospital had gathered, to her 'employer'. Now she frowned slightly.
"Not much so far. Our experts are still working on it. What we have so far is that the drug is a designer drug and shows resemblance to an experimental substance used in the 70s in Russia."
She nodded. "Illegal experiments. The Russians ran a psi program and the drug was supposed to enhance perception of brain waves of others."
"Telepathy?" Elsie asked, stunned.
Monique smiled humorlessly. "Apparently. The program was canceled and the drug stored for later use. How this woman came into its possession is a mystery. We are still fine-combing through the ruins, but Godzilla destroyed the base quite thoroughly."
Elsie frowned, mind working overtime. "So, what does it mean? They injected Nick with a perception enhancing drug..."
"Yes, but we don't know why and what it did to him. The medical analysis shows no organic damage and I can't say I discovered any serious psychological disorders. At least none that weren't there before." A brief smirk.
Elsie glared half-heartedly at her. So Nick was a bit strange sometimes, had his nerdy moments or was prone to bouts of severe self-doubt, but he was not psychotic.
"His CT scans detailed a slight change of his brain patterns, but that is given after drug use," Monique added. "There's also an increased activity in areas that lay dormant in most humans."
Elsie rubbed her chin. "And that means?"
"We don't know."
"What about the woman who did this? Shanee something...?"
"Shanee Kaplan. Only heir to the money of the late St. John Kaplan. He made his fortune in research and oil, died of cancer ten years ago, leaving a teenage daughter. The girl was soon known for her outrageous life-style, for her hunger for the rare and unattainable, and for her quickly changing partners." Monique frowned in disdain. "She had the money to do whatever she wanted, to buy whatever she wanted, and she did."
"And she's dead." Elsie prayed she was.
"Identifying the bodies is hard work, Dr. Chapman. Many are badly mutilated. We are working on it."
Meaning they couldn't be sure.
"So we have no clue."
"Correct. The only one who knows if something has changed is Nick." She raised an eyebrow once again. "Go ask him if you think he will give you an answer."
Elsie frowned and thought hard. It was the only way, but how to approach it without frightening Nick off.
Tough. Really tough.
Nick stood on the roof, the wind blowing through his hair, hands in the pockets of his jacket. His right wrist was still encased in a cast and it was awkward to work with only his left hand. Eating was a trial and taking a shower... well, that was a catastrophe. Elsie had offered help him soap his back. He had seen the glint in her eyes, but he had been unable to react to the jib. His ribs stung now and then, but they were healing. The cracks were no reason to worry as long as he didn't strain himself and actually broke the injured bones. The drugs were almost completely out of his system as a check had assured him, but it didn't ease his mind.
Nick closed his eyes, leaning forward and resting his arms on the safety rail. The air smelled of salt and fish as it danced around him. The surf was high and a bad weather front was coming in. Weather reports spoke of a storm tonight. He didn't care. Somehow it reflected his condition.
He was aware of what had happened to his mind. Quite aware. Was still aware.
Nick shivered and it had nothing to do with the wind. Whatever Shanee had injected him with, it didn't just stop working after the drug was out of his system. It had stayed. The effects had been permanent.
A feeling of content freedom rippled through him. Power, strength, territorial feelings... All cascading down on him. Nick knew where they came from, knew the source, but he had no way of blocking them. He sometimes suffered from sudden, unexplained aggression feelings. There was a possible intruder into his territory... and he had to force himself to calm down, take a deep breath, and remind himself that he wasn't the one feeling it.
The water lapped against the pier and somewhere out there, in the depths of the ocean, a gigantic shadow prowled and watched.
Nick smiled involuntarily, then sighed. Sometimes the emotions coming in were strange, weird...alien. Not human. Definitely not human. He understood barely half of the sensations and he wished he could control what he received and how strongly. He had to work on finding a solution for it. He had slipped more than once, feeling the reptilian side take over, pulling him along.
"Hey, moody guy."
Nick sighed again. Of all the people he didn't want to talk to. Elsie... He looked at her, then turned back to watching the bay.
"Nick? You okay?"
The red-haired woman stopped next to him, long hair whipping in the wind. There was a genuinely worried expression on her face.
"Yeah," he answered distractedly.
"Something happened, didn't it?" she said after some time.
Nick closed his eyes, wishing he could just disappear. Elsie was way too perceptive when it came to him. And she cared about each and every one of the team.
"What did she do you to, Nick?"
Elsie nodded. "I know the report. I know what you said officially happened. But somehow I think there is more." She gave him a friendly expectant look.
Nick didn't acknowledge it. What should he tell his friends? How could he tell it to them? He had always been bound to Godzilla, one way or the other, and the bond had increased lately, but what Shanee had done... it had gone beyond that. The drug had changed him, had made him receptive for the emotions coming from the monster, and Nick didn't know how to handle it all. If he didn't know, how should he tell the others? They'd see him as a freak. A monster. Linked to Godzilla... He bowed his head and felt a tremor run through him. His rising distress was answered by a wave of those alien emotions, and he tried to calm down. No need to have the lizard rush into the bay, looking for an imaginary attacker.
He just couldn't tell them.
"Nick?" A gentle hand touched his shoulder and he flinched. "If you want to talk...?"
The offer stood. So easy to accept it.
So easy to scare everyone off.
Nick clenched his hands into fists. "No," he managed.
Elsie nodded. "Okay. I can accept it. But if you need an open ear, you know where to find me."
Nick met her compassionate gaze. "Thanks," he mumbled.
She squeezed his shoulder. "Don't wait too long, Nick." With that she disappeared inside the ferry building.
Nick sighed. Yeah. Don't wait too long...
The waves broke not far away from here and a scaled head rose slightly out of the water. Reptilian eyes met human ones over the distance. Nick smiled slightly, relaxing.
"Hey, big guy," he whispered, the words lost in the wind.
Content trickled through him and Godzilla dove back under the surface again. He swam out of the bay, into the open ocean, and Nick inhaled deeply as he was briefly pulled along, his mind riding piggy-back through the dark waters. Then he was back on the roof of the ferry building once more.
Nick turned and walked inside. The presence walked with him, in his mind, alien and familiar in one.
He shivered as he thought about what it might bring in the future. This was so way beyond freaky, he couldn't even feel the dread of it all anymore.
Monique Dupres leafed through the final report, a neutral expression on her face. The drug had been analyzed, the medical data had been checked, and she had filed her report. Now came the conclusions. She frowned slightly and looked through the smudged windows down at the ramps where a lonely figure sat and gazed at the water. It was getting colder now, winter coming closer, and the sky was mottled with dark clouds. Soon it would rain. Sometimes she really missed France where the weather was not so gray and unpredictable. And where the people were less... American.
A month had gone by since the abduction and torture of Nick Tatopoulos. A month of healing and waiting. They had repaired the Heatseeker, had healed their physical wounds, had watched Nick, and had waited. Waited for him to finally tell them what had really happened. Everyone knew the official version, but something must have gone on in those two days. Nick showed the scars of those wounds quite prominently, even though he was trying to hide them. Now Monique was waiting to find out what kind of injury had scarred like this.
For a moment she sat completely still, then she rose. Maybe she shouldn't wait. Maybe she should finally follow her instincts and take the first step.
Nick gazed at the bay, lost in thought. The last month had been hell. Three trips to the hospital within two weeks after he had been there for emergency treatment. His wrist was still in an ace bandage and he had been given instructions for physiotherapy. The bones had almost mended. The shot wound in his side had left a scar. All the bruises and cuts had healed without a trace. He had healed, yes, but inside, the wounds were open and raw.
An alien, reptilian presence suddenly invaded his mind and he tensed. It was cold, inhuman, not remotely like anything he felt himself, though sometimes there was something else there. Intelligence that came close to understanding. Never a real warmth, but the presence as such... it felt strange and alien, but also familiar and welcome.
"Don't!" he whispered hoarsely.
The presence stayed but no longer as pronounced. It never went away completely,
just moved into the background. He knew who it was and he knew there was no denying what they shared.
Lowering his head to rest on his folded arms, Nick closed his eyes, wondering what to do. He hadn't told the others because he just couldn't. Yes, they suspected something was wrong. Yes, they had tried to find out what it was, but Nick shut up whenever it came too close for comfort. Godzilla had shown up now and then, as if checking in on him. Nick had tried to treat those moments normally. It had failed. He was no longer able to detach himself from what was happening. He was pulled in with Godzilla and he was defenseless to stop the events.
Then there had been the team's trip to the Falkland Islands because of a new monster sighting. They had tried to keep Nick out of it as much as possible because of his injuries, but he had insisted on coming along. He might not be able to tangle with the monsters, but he was at least able to help. Everything had been going okay, until Godzilla had taken on the intruder into his territory. Nick had been struck with the full force of the lizard's fury and temper. For almost five minutes he had been unable to do anything but swim with the sheer force of the sensation, then he had grasped a straw of control and managed to climb out of the pit of animalistic force.
None of the others had been witness to it. Thankfully. Nick had been back in shape, at least he thought he had been, when they had finally come back. But the incident had shown him just how badly the whole thing was developing. The bond was not weakening. Just the opposite... He had tried pushing it back, but each attempt had failed. He had tried to shield, but there was no way he could keep the sensations away. All he could do was hope to catch the first tendrils of a temper outbreak and find a place where he wouldn't hurt himself when he was overpowered.
He wondered if Godzilla felt the same. If the human emotions coming through were just as bad for him. Thinking about it, no, probably not. Maybe this was how his kind communicated. Maybe this was normal. Maybe... maybe...
Is it normal for you? he asked the presence in his head, not expecting an answer. Or do you suffer from this as well?
Steps announced a visitor and Nick raised his head, looking over his shoulder. He was surprised to see that it wasn't Elsie this time. He appreciated her efforts to help, but like all she others, she wouldn't understand.
"Coffee?" Monique asked and held out a cup.
Nick took it gingerly. "Thanks," he said softly.
"French," she said with a quirk of her lips that was supposed to be a smile. "Much better than American coffee."
He smiled slightly.
Monique sat down beside him, looking out over the water, then at him.
"I'm not a good conversation partner right now," Nick mumbled.
"You haven't been for the last weeks, Dr. Tatopoulos."
"Yeah, maybe." He took a sip of the coffee and had to confess that it was really good.
"And it won't get any better if you keep spending your time out here and studying the waters. He is not much of a talker either."
Nick froze. What... No... she couldn't mean what he was thinking.
"But I think you know that," Monique added, drinking from the black, hot liquid.
"What are you talking about?" he managed, voice shaky.
Monique's dark eyes met his. "You know what I mean, Doctor. I am not blind. And I can read. I read what the report said and I added one and one. The drug you were given is a direct product of a substance called 'Rush'. A Russian drug used in the 70s. Like Rush, the drug influences the frontal lobes, the areas believed to hold the extra-sensory perception. Telepathy, empathy... things like that. My government, as well as yours, have researched into these extraordinary powers. With some success, I have to say. The 'Rush' substance had astounding, though mostly fatal results. The test subjects developed their dormant areas of the mind like wildfire. And like wildfire, the abilities consumed and killed them."
Nick felt numbness rise inside him. No, please... it couldn't be. Let her draw the wrong conclusions! He could only stare at her, unable to argue.
"Shanee gave you that drug in a quantity that was almost fatal as well. First I believed it had been to question you, to learn our secrets. Then I stumbled over the empathic abilities." Monique's eyes met his and held them. Nick clenched his hands into fists to keep from running away. "I have written countless reports on you and Godzilla, on your studies, your foolish believes that the monster can be controlled to a degree - until I even believed it." Another quirk of her lips. "I think it can be done now, don't you?"
Nick shook his head, desperation rising inside him. "I don't know what you're talking about!"
The presence grew, questioning, searching. He tried to pull away from it, but it followed. Loyalty and protection instinct...
"Really?" Monique asked quietly. "Or are you in denial? I want to help you, Nick."
"Help me?" he blurted. "Help? Maybe dissect, yes! Study me! The freak!" He stumbled to his feet, shaking. "I'm not a freak! I'm not different!"
He threw away the cup and it smashed on the concrete floor, a million pieces spreading widely across the dock. Dark liquid seeped into the cracks. Nick looked at the mess of shards. That was his life. All those years of education and studies. All gone. His life had gone straight to hell. Shaking badly, Nick felt a sob rise, then his mind was touched by the reptilian presence again. He fell to his knees, moaning.
"Go away," he whispered hoarsely.
Monique watched the young scientist break down, face drawn in anger and emotional pain. She placed her cup on the ground and walked over to him, touching one trembling shoulder.
"Nick?" she asked.
She gazed at the brown head, bowed, Nick curling in on himself. Suddenly there was a gurgling sound and the water broke. The massive head of Godzilla rose, streams of water cascading down his scaly hide, breath gusting from his nostrils. Red eyes searched the docks, then came to rest on the two humans. A bellow shook them, then the lizard bent down, sprays of water splattering on Monique. She stood perfectly still, feeling her heart miss a beat and cursing herself for it. She had confronted the beast so often before, but each time she felt the awe and fear collide. So much raw power in one body - now controlled by one man.
The moment Godzilla bent down, Nick looked up, wide blue eyes meeting the single red eye that now looked at him. He swallowed several times, breathing in gasps. A front paw settled down on the boat ramp, then another, and the lizard hunkered down, sniffing at them. Each movement spoke of the muscular power, and how such a large creature could still move lithely. Nick's eyes were fastened to the beast and Monique saw all her theories confirmed.
Nick couldn't draw away from the alien presence and he looked up, right into the other's eyes.
Am I the only one of us to be afraid? Am I the only one who believes this to be freakish? How can you even grasp what this means? How can you even understand that this is not normal?
He couldn't look away.
The other mind touched him, probed, asked... and he had no answers because he didn't understand. They were not alike. Nothing Godzilla felt or sent was remotely human, but Nick understood a few sensations. Loyalty. Protection. Trust. Godzilla was loyal to him, would protect him against whatever threatened Nick, and he trusted him without a second thought.
The lizard sniffed again, rumbled softly, then slid back into the water, convinced that no threat or harm was coming to Nick. He briefly closed his eyes, inhaling deeply. So much for keeping those episodes to himself. Now he had a witness. And of all the people, it had to be Monique. Their personal secret service agent with an attitude. He mentally shook his head.
Nick sat back and shoved a hand through his hair, then looked up. Monique hadn't moved and she looked at him with an unreadable expression.
"So, what are you going to do now?" he asked quietly, aware of Godzilla close by, swimming through the bay.
"The question is, what are you going to do, Dr. Tatopoulos. This kind of control..."
Nick gave a bark of laughter. "Control? Control! You call it control! I call it a never-ending nightmare. You have no idea!"
"The potential is almost limitless."
"For what?" Nick hissed. "I won't let anyone harm him! I won't anyone dissect him! Ever! And I won't let anyone use him as a kind of weapon!"
Monique smiled. A real smile for once. "I know, Doctor. But you cannot hide this forever. Especially from the others. They have a right to know."
Nick shook his head defiantly. "No."
"How long do you think you can hide it from your team?"
"Until you tell them," he snarled.
Monique smiled again. "This is your secret, Nick. You tell them or you try hiding it. It won't work forever, not when it is something this big. Not when your emotional state calls Godzilla or Godzilla's is breaking through in your mind."
He clenched his teeth. "And when will you tell your boss?"
"Philippe? He will need to know. I trust him to decide what is right with that knowledge. Just like you trust him." She raised an eyebrow. "As for anyone else..." She stopped, tilting her head, and there was a tell-tale glint in her eyes.
Nick blinked, wondering if he was interpreting the expression correctly. Monique calmly met his inquiring gaze, then stretched out one hand.
"You once told me that you trust everyone in your team with your life. Even me. I think it is time to put that trust to a test."
Nick hesitantly took the offered hand and she effortlessly pulled him up. "I don't want them to think of me as a freak," he whispered.
She shook her head. "No one will. I sure don't. Slightly erratic, difficult to understand most of the time, a civilian... but not a freak." Monique smirked.
"You're welcome, Dr. Tatopoulos."
Nick inhaled deeply, feeling a tremor pass through him. The presence in his mind had retreated, curled up in the back of his head, lazy and relaxed. It might change from one second to the next. Right now he was as much in control of his mind as he could ever hope.
Now was the time to tell the others. He steeled himself for what was to come.
"Oh, man, awesome!" Randy exclaimed, eyes sparkling. "You're serious, right? You and the Big Guy? Cool!" He was fairly bouncing with excitement.
Nick smiled tiredly. Yeah, cool, he thought. Not. But that was just Randy.
"Are... are you sure, Nick. I mean, it's not just a kind of memory echo from the drug?" Mendel asked carefully, face pale.
"I am sure," Nick answered. "Very. It's not just an echo. It's real, it's there." He rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Dolby surround."
"Oh." Craven looked decidedly sick. Nick couldn't blame him. He felt sick as well.
Elsie was silent, her wide eyes searching Nick's, and all he could do was look at her, letting her read the truth.
"What now?" she finally asked.
"I think that's for you to decide," he answered softly.
Randy frowned, then shook his head. "You think we're gonna squeal? Nah, man, this is something that's our secret. My lips are sealed. And it's way too cool to share anyway." He grinned.
Nick gave him a smile of thanks.
Craven fidgeted. "The whole situation holds a certain degree of scientific interest. I won't say anything," he finally said.
Elsie nodded. "This concerns only us," she agreed. Her eyes met Monique's.
The secret service woman smiled. "Exactement."
Elsie blinked in surprise.
Nick leaned back into the old couch, something akin to relief swamping through him. "Thanks, team," he whispered.
"No problem-o," Randy told him. "But why not tell us about this sooner, effe? You've been moping around for weeks."
Nick grimaced. "It isn't easy, Randy. Nothing about it is. I... was afraid. Afraid of what you might think, of what you might do..." he trailed off.
"You are still the Nick we know and love," Elsie told him sitting down on the arm of the couch, smiling down on him. "We wanted to help you from day one and now I hope we can."
He shrugged. Help? How could they help him with something that was happening purely in his mind? Could they shield him from the reptilian mind that he shared? The answer was simple.
"You need to train your mind," Monique now entered the conversation. "You cannot succumb to what Godzilla sends every time. It is influencing your performance."
Nick snorted. "And you know how that can be done?"
A wry smile. "Like I told you before, Doctor, my government has been researching ESP. I think I can find a few helpful tid-bits."
"Thanks." Nick felt exhaustion swamp him. For the first time in weeks he could really relax and it felt good.
The presence in his mind shifted, but it didn't grow closer. It was as if... it agreed? He had to smile briefly. So much to learn, so much to interpret.
"C'mon, get some rest. You sure need it," Elsie said and gave his arm a little tug. "We'll talk about everything when you are back to normal, Nick."
"Back to normal, huh?" he joked weakly.
She grimaced. "You know what I mean. As normal as a guy who studies earth worms can get." Elsie accompanied him to the private area where his room was. "If you need anything, just call."
Nick nodded. "Thanks." He seemed to do that a lot lately. Thank people. For everything, mostly their understanding.
She smiled. "You should have told us, Nick. Sooner. We would have understood."
He stopped. "Yeah, maybe. I was just freaked. Still am." He found his gaze drawn to the window again. "It's hard to draw a line between what I am and what he is, Elsie. It's so damn hard. I know he's not trying to invade my mind, but when his emotions go haywire, I'm caught in them."
Elsie touched his arm, slender hand curling around it. "Monique said she'll try to help. I know she will make good on her promise. We all will help."
"I know, Elsie, I know." Nick exhaled softly. "But it won't be easy. I don't want to end up as a lab rat, a guinea pig."
"You won't, Nick. I promise. None of us will stand by and let anyone dissect you. That's what friends are for. To help. Listen. Maybe give a piece advise. Even juvenile advice in Randy's case." She chuckled. "But we will help you, never doubt that."
"How do you feel about it, Elsie?" he suddenly asked. "Really. What do you think?"
She studied him for a while, then sighed. "I'm afraid, Nick. For you, for Godzilla, for all of us. This is... it's both good and bad. It can help us, it can destroy us. If the wrong people find out... they will chase you to get Godzilla."
"Like Shanee," he mumbled, nodding.
"Yes, like her. But then I'm also curious. It's something I would never have thought possible. It opens up so many doors, poses so many questions, and the scientist in me wants answers." She stopped and sighed. "And I ... feel sorry. Sorry for you."
"Don't," Nick said softly. "It helps neither of us."
Elsie gazed sadly at him. "Can you always feel him?"
"Already satisfying your scientific interest, Dr. Chapman?" Nick mocked weakly.
She grimaced. "No, asking as a worried friend."
He rubbed his neck, tried eyes gazing through the window. "Yes, he is always there. A presence in the back of my mind that can grow stronger without warning, can pull me with it, or it just sits there, totally relaxed. I can tell a few shifts and changes, can interpret the sensations, but now and then... it overpowers me. It's beautiful and terrifying in one." He looked at her, sighing. "It might sound weird, but that's how it is. I don't want to frighten you, but I think I will."
"Well, Mendel's terrified, I can tell," she agreed. "Randy's... well, he's Randy. You are not frightening me, Nick. I want to help. As for Monique, I think you know best."
Nick closed his eyes and leaned his head against the window glass.
"Get some sleep," Elsie said as she joined him at the window. "You need rest. If Godzilla's emotions can influence you, it must be the other way around. We don't want him cranky as hell."
He smiled and nodded.
"And if you feel the need to talk, you know where to find me."
"Thanks," he whispered, barely audibly.
She closed the door after her and Nick was alone in his bedroom. He walked over to the window and gazed outside, palms pressed against the cold glass. After a while he drew away and lay down on the bed. He was asleep almost immediately.
"An empathic bond, qui? Intriguing." Philippe's face took on a fascinated expression.
Monique nodded. "I have yet to determine how strong it is, but I believe it is very strong. Dr. Tatopoulos shows signs of the mutation's reactions to outside influence, like an intruder in his territory. What we need is a way to shield his mind from it at will."
Philippe nodded. "I will see what I can do, Monique. What is your assessment of the situation?"
"Dr. Tatopoulos is as much a victim as everyone who was administered the drug before. While I believe that in time he might be able to exert a certain control over Godzilla, he is currently unable to guide him any more than he has been before."
"What about the chip?"
"According to Dr. Tatopoulos and from what Dr. Craven's sensory devices have picked up, it was completely destroyed. The metal is still inside the creature's head, but it is useless."
"We will keep this under wraps," Philippe nodded. "I believe that Nick will prove to be the best possible choice for this bond." A smile crossed his lips. "According to your reports, he has always been more than just an imprinted father figure. This might be the development this bond would have taken sooner or later. Just sped up."
Monique looked thoughtful. "Possible, yes, but unlikely, I believe. Still, it has happened due to the drug and it has to be dealt with. I will await your findings, Philippe."
The other agent smiled. "I will see what I can do." With that he terminated the connection.
Monique sat back and gazed at the dark screen. She had trusted Philippe with this secret and she knew it was a trust well-placed. He wouldn't tell anyone else. No one needed to know and for her mission, it wasn't vital to report. Her orders were to eliminate all mutations. Nothing about them dealt with what she had now. Nothing at all...
The room was antiseptic, held in creme and vanilla colors, and except for a picture of a landscape displaying the setting sun, there was no decoration on the walls. A bed stood on one wall, surrounded by medical equipment, and a chair and table were in another corner. A second chair had been pulled up to the bed and a dark-haired, tall man in a suit sat on it. A bandage covered the right side of his face, but it couldn't hid the rather handsome exterior. One arm was in a sling and a cane leaned against the bed.
On the bed lay a woman, her upper body beneath an oxygen tent. She had been beautiful, still was, but burns had destroyed her skin. Angry red skin covered more than two thirds of her face and her formerly long, blonde hair had been cut because of the severe singing and burning. IVs stuck in the back of her hands.
"He is alive?" Shanee asked, voice flat, lifeless.
"Yes. Dr. Tatopoulos was released from the hospital and is recovering at home."
A dry bark of laughter. "Recovering..."
"The moment I get out of here, he is dead," she whispered darkly.
Brice lowered his eyes and sighed. Shanee had nearly not survived the whole mess. The emergency crew had pulled her out from under the rubble, her legs broken in multiple places, first and second degree burns all over her body. It would take more weeks and intense physiotherapy to get her out of the hospital. The doctors were doubtful whether or not she would ever be able to walk again. Brice sighed.
It had been called an accident, a faulty gas line or something like that. No one knew what had really gone on down in the cavern system. Everyone who had survived stuck to the story of an accident. Brice had made sure of that, paying them whatever had been necessary. To the outside, it was a tragedy. The insiders knew what had really happened.
Brice had kept track of Godzilla and his human parent, but only superficially. Nick Tatopoulos had survived, the monster had healed incredibly fast, and team H.E.A.T. was still in business. It was more than anyone could say about Shanee.
"I will keep you updated," he said and rose, smiling at her.
The icy green eyes flickered over his face, then she nodded imperceptibly. Brice took his cane left, wondering what to do. So much beauty and intelligence... destroyed by the need to possess all. Shanee would be out for revenge, but he doubted he would give it to her. He doubted she would ever be what she had been before. Somehow, he couldn't find it in him to blame Godzilla or Tatopoulos for what had happened. She had brought it onto herself, but Shanee would never want to see the truth.
Another sigh left his lips as he limped out of the private wing of the hospital. Time might heal a few wounds, but never all.
Somewhere in the Atlantic, a gigantic lizard swam lazily with the currents. He wasn't hunting, feeling satisfied and filled from his morning meal. Inside his mind, he felt the ever-present sensation of his parent with him. It was a stronger presence now, less distressed, less upheaving. Godzilla briefly rose to the air, snorting and blowing air from his nostrils, then dove again, continuing to patrol his territory.