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Return of the Queen

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They had found the egg on an island. It was small, grassy, with only a handful of trees and a natural spring that bubbled into a pond. You could stand on the beach at one end and see the beach at the other. A city block’s worth of space, barely. 

And the egg, right in the middle, with weeds poking up from beneath it and, at the time, a bird sitting atop it. The mainland—a mainland—could be spotted on a clear day in the distance. 

It was oddly out in the open, compared to Mothra’s previous egg. But the minds of Titans weren’t comprehendible by any means. If Mothra had a reason for choosing this island out of all the world, that reason was known only to her. 

They built a few shacks, places to keep their equipment. Never let it be said that Monarch couldn’t learn from their mistakes—there would be no containment field this time. 

Rather than construct living quarters for the new team assigned to monitor and—if necessary—protect the egg, they built a dock and anchored a large ship out past the shallows. A repurposed yacht, with more than enough room for a medic, a pair of cooks, a half dozen soldiers, and the eight people who would take shifts on the island to stare at an egg. Supplies were flown out on the first day of each month. 

And so life went, for five years. 

• • •

The first time Godzilla showed up, Ilene was in the middle of nodding off. The readings were all normal, they were expecting fair weather for the next week, and for some reason, she found it easier to sleep here than in a bed. Here, the nightmares never plagued her. 

That ease was only appreciated when she wasn’t alone on her shift. 

She jerked awake with a little noise caught in her throat. One of the machines was beeping quietly, not urgently, but when she examined it, she was quick to shoot to her feet and leave the shack. 

A slight shift in energy—not quite radiation—was occurring within the egg, something that had happened only once before, during the one terrible storm the island had weathered over the past nine months. 

They had believed it was a fear response, she thought frantically as she flicked on her flashlight, but what could there be to fear now? 

Ilene saw the egg before she could turn her flashlight to it, which didn’t make sense at first, since the moon was hidden behind clouds and the only lights on the island were at the shack. But then she realized the egg was glowing, lit from within. 

It pulsed, not yet like a heartbeat, and Ilene stood frozen on the path of matted grass, flashlight angled down. Not a fear response, she suspected. But before she could turn to retreat and check the readouts again, there came sounds of movement from the far side of the island. At the same time, a soft blue light rose into the air.

It took perhaps longer than it should’ve for her to recognize Godzilla, his spines charged lowly. 

She carefully didn’t move as he approached the egg, either without noticing her or deliberately paying her no mind. Ilene thought to click the flashlight off, leaving herself dimly washed in delicate aqua. 

On all fours, Godzilla moved to the center of the island, rumbling faintly. He was low to the ground like that, which made it easy for him to gently press the end of his snout to the egg. 

The scientist in Ilene desperately wished they had cameras set up, but it had seemed pointless this early. A different part of her, the unapologetically human part, was glad the Titans could have their privacy. Only she would bear witness to this night, but to leave now would undoubtably ruin the moment. 

Eyes half-lidded, Godzilla nudged against the egg at different angles, pulling back each time before touching his snout to a new spot. For a creature so large, Ilene wouldn’t have guessed him capable of such tenderness. 

But he treated Mothra’s egg as if the slightest bit of extra pressure would crack its surface, when it was, in fact, near impenetrable. 

Her heart clenched, remembering how brief Mothra’s previous life had lasted. Long enough to guide them to Godzilla, long enough to fight Rodan, long enough to die in defense of her King. 

It hadn’t even been a week. And the first time Godzilla had seen her had been in Boston, where moments later, she had died. 

If they were human, it was the sort of tragedy that would be sung about. Legends would have been woven in their image. Instead, the world called them monsters. 

She would dare anyone who stood in her place that night to call these creatures monsters, to think of them as beings of pure destruction and rage. 

Godzilla’s visit didn’t last long. He rumbled with one last nuzzle before straightening up, as much as he could on his hands. His eyes lifted from the egg and unerringly found Ilene in the darkness. He stared for a moment, and she stared back, remembering his eyes after Serizawa’s sacrifice. 

There had been anger then, she was sure. Whether it was directed at them, though, she was less sure. Given he hadn’t attacked, she believed it wasn’t, but there was only so much emotion Godzilla’s scaly face could convey. 

Tonight, she would swear she saw sadness. 

He retreated into the ocean with only the faintest of trembles shaking the island, and the blue light from his spines quickly vanished beneath the waves. By the time Ilene returned to the shack, the energy levels that had fluctuated only minutes before were back to normal. 

• • •

After that, over the next few years, each of the eight team members saw Godzilla at some point. He made midnight visits more than once, and after most storms, his spines were seen circling the island for hours. 

He never moved to attack the humans who observed him, nor did he interfere with their equipment. Mostly, he ignored them, and after the first few encounters, even the most nervous members of the team stopped fearing his presence. 

By a quiet, unanimous agreement, they all decided never to record Godzilla’s interactions with Mothra’s egg. As sweet as it was, it was all too easy to imagine how humans could use his attachment against Godzilla. 

Between his visits, they kept Mothra updated about Titan-related news. Methuselah went there, Scylla did this. Rodan tried to perch on Behemoth and it nearly turned into an international incident. Even if she couldn’t hear them, it was a simple thing for them to do, and giving Mothra updates was enjoyable. 

Ilene hoped she heard them, hoped she knew that her death hadn’t been in vain. That Titans roamed the world in peace, and that her King missed her dearly. 

Some five years after Boston, two things happened. First, Mothra’s egg began to hatch. 

Second, Godzilla seemed to snap. 

“Do you think she knows?” Ilene asked her sister as they stood, shoulder to shoulder, a few yards from Mothra’s egg. “She hatched right before everything went wrong last time.” 

The words from the report kept repeating in her mind: numerous injured, a few still missing, and at least eight dead. 

“It would be a useful ability,” Ling said thoughtfully. “Thoughts on Godzilla?” 

“We know better than this. We should know better. How many years has he been awake, yet not once has he attacked humanity with the intent to kill.” 

Ling nodded. “There must be something else at play.” Then, softer, and more tired, “We’ll never learn, will we?” 

The egg pulsed. From the shack, one of their teammates called out, “Our readings match the ones Outpost 61 got before she hatched! It should start within the hour!” 

Turning to wave an acknowledgment, Ilene sighed. “I had hoped he’d be here for this.” 

Ling nudged her shoulder, and together they traversed the small, worn path away from the egg. “We all did, I think. Perhaps he’ll make it in time to see her come out of her cocoon.” 

But with Godzilla on some sort of mission, and whispers of moving Kong, Ilene’s greatest wish was that Mothra wouldn’t have to emerge into a world where her King had been killed. 

• • •

Though Ling had been there when Mothra left her cocoon last time, neither were present for her initial hatching. None of their team had been. 

(In all the world, there was only one person who had witnessed that long-ago moment still alive.)

Leaving the machines behind to record their readings, all eight of them stood in a group at a respectful distance to watch Mothra’s return in person. Goosebumps rose up along Ilene’s arms as the egg cracked open and, at long last, the Queen was reborn. 

Even in her larval state, she was incredible. Everything about the Titans defied human expectation and understanding, and Ilene hoped she would never truly lose the wonder she felt when she looked upon them. Their size alone was awe-inspiring. The intelligence in their eyes, though, was humbling. 

The sun, just beginning to lower in the sky, haloed the Queen, casting golden highlights along her sides. Even without her luminescent wings, she was glowing. The vivid blue of her eyes stood out amongst the shadows cutting across her face. 

It was easy to see why the humans of old had seen Mothra—had seen any of the Titans—as deities. Creatures deserving of worship. Ilene sometimes wished she could have seen those times, seen what the world was like when the Titans were gods instead of devils. 

Mothra chittered at them, wiggling slightly, almost hypnotically. She looked down at their small group, peaceful and somehow welcoming. The aggression from her last hatching was understandably absent.

They were there to observe, not to interfere. Ilene suspected even Godzilla had known that, and had left them alone because of it. 

Quite without her mind’s permission, her feet brought her a step forward. To her amusement, Ilene found she and Ling were perfectly mirrored, as her twin had moved at the same moment. They shared a brief, rueful smile and linked their arms as they used to as children. 

Mothra seemed content enough with their team’s presence. One of the questions they’d all been asking themselves for the past five years was where Mothra would form her cocoon. There was no cliff face this time—there wasn’t much of anything at all, in fact. 

But they watched, all equally fascinated, as she merely left the remains of her egg, the edges collapsing in on themselves, and paused beside the small pond. 

Graceful as ever, she lowered her head to the surface, where perhaps she drank, or perhaps she merely let the cool freshwater wash over her face. Straightening up, she went to where the sand of the beach met the grass and, with a trill, got to work. 

“I suppose that answers that question,” someone behind Ilene said humorously. She felt slightly dazed, almost dizzy, and couldn’t quite make out who had spoken. 

Ling leaned harder on their linked arms, pressing their shoulders together. She seemed to be staring into nothing when Ilene glanced at her, though her distraction was broken and the haze over Ilene lifted when their teammates began cheering. 

“The Queen has returned! Time to celebrate, ladies and gentlemen!” 

• • •

Two days passed quickly, and the team waited in poorly concealed curiosity for updates on the Godzilla situation. Each was more ridiculous than the last—beginning with Kong apparently being drugged and chained on a boat heading for Antarctica and ending with a mechanical replica of Godzilla, which both Godzilla and Kong took down together. 

When one of the others asked, “Anyone else feel like this is a fever dream?”, Ilene nodded along with the rest of them. Being so far removed from the incident was bizarre, especially since most of the information was written out, instead of offered as videos. 

Ilene tried to picture Kong holding an axe, and wasn’t quite able to. It was simply described as “glowing with energy akin to Godzilla’s atomic breath.” She couldn’t help that her mind only offered images of a common axe, which, surely couldn’t be what they meant. 

Ling sighed beside her, leaning back in her chair. “Is it possible this is a joke?” 

In answer, one of the reports was picked up and read from: “Godzilla turned his atomic breath to the ground and proceeded to bore directly to the Hollow Earth in under five minutes. It was from this tunnel that Kong emerged, wielding his axe.” 

“Kinda sounds like a joke to me.” 

“Is that even physically possible?” 

Shaking her head, but amused nonetheless, Ilene stood and slipped away, leaving her teammates to their discussion. The evening air was quiet; the sky, clear. Even the ocean was calm. She breathed in deeply, closing her eyes to savor the peace. 

With Mothra due to hatch sometime before dawn, their presence on this island would no longer be required soon, and they would leave. Five years was a long time to monitor an egg, and in such an isolated location, too. 

Their frequent trips to the mainland had helped, but Ilene was looking forward to going home. She wouldn’t have changed her decision to join this assignment, but she missed her friends. 

She heard her sister approach from behind, following in her footsteps along the path to where Mothra’s egg lay. Pausing so they could walk side by side, in perfect sync with each other, Ilene asked, “Are they still trying to decide if the reports are real?” 

“They resorted to using the internet. Godzilla and Kong truly did fight earlier today in Hong Kong.” 

“And the machine?” 

“I left before they could find anything other than extremely blurry photos, but I suspect Monarch is doing damage control,” Ling said. They reached the highest point of the island, a rise that couldn’t truly be called a hill, and stopped. “We’ll be leaving tomorrow.” 

Ilene traced the lines of Mothra’s cocoon with her eyes, not so far away from where they stood, before turning to her twin. “Are you excited?” 

A minute passed before Ling answered, “Yes. I’m looking forward to going home, but I’ll miss this. I’m satisfied, knowing our departure will be because our purpose here has reached its end, not because we failed in our goal.” 

She nodded in agreement. “These five years here,” she said quietly, “they were what I needed. After Serizawa. Vivienne. All of it.” 

Looking back to Mothra’s cocoon, Ilene took Ling’s hand in her own and squeezed. “Besides,” she added, putting effort into sounding cheerful, “Mothra is back. The ideal outcome.” 

Her sister laughed softly, and for a while, they remained silent as the sky continued to darken and the stars bloomed overheard. Just as Ilene began to consider heading back, something in the air changed. Ling shifted as Ilene opened her mouth in a soundless gasp. 

The bright, distinctive aqua of Mothra’s luminescence shown through the cocoon, which began to split open. And Ilene couldn’t have timed it better herself, for even as Mothra began to emerge, the ocean came alive with the blue of Godzilla’s spines. 

They remained quiet and still, reverent witnesses to a reunion that had been a long time coming. 

Godzilla rose out of the water and settled on the beach with a pained huff. New scratches, still an angry red, decorated his face and shoulders, and who knew how much more of him. His scales were burned in places, chipped in others. He had most certainly been through a fight or three. 

He waited patiently in the sand as the cocoon slowly broke open and Mothra gracefully climbed out. Her wings unfurled, glowing brightly in the night, and Ilene remembered Ling’s awed description of when this had last happened. 

The fierce eyespots on the tips raised up as Mothra flared her wings fully, lighting the entirety of the small island. The perfectly mirrored designs were beautiful and whole. 

In person, Ilene had only seen them when they’d been burned by Rodan’s fire, alight with embers all along the ragged bottoms. To see them like this, restored, was a gift.

She and Ling bumped shoulders as Godzilla lifted his head from the ground with a tired rumble. 

Mothra stepped off her cocoon and right up to Godzilla’s snout. They nuzzled, and Ilene squeezed her twin’s hand at the same moment as Ling squeezed hers.

The trilling song Mothra responded with was both comforting and joyful. The King’s eyes slipped shut as he relaxed, allowing Mothra to move to his side to settle against his jaw. One of her wings stretched up and over him, laying across his head and the back of his neck like a blanket. 

Feeling the ground shake with Godzilla’s purr, Ilene tugged at Ling and whispered, “We should let them rest.” 

Ling nodded, and they both backed away several steps, reluctant to turn their backs on the awesome—in the traditional sense of the word—sight before them. But eventually, they did, and followed the path back to their camp, where they had quite a few questions to answer.

Their celebration lasted long into the night, honoring the well-deserved reunion between King and Queen.

• • •

Having lived primarily on the boat that would be taking them to a coastal airstrip, there was very little packing that needed to be done the next morning. This, in fact, turned out to be a good thing, as their team was faced with a not insignificant distraction.

Godzilla had migrated further onto the beach overnight and had curled up around Mothra. They sleepily nuzzled each other as they lazed about in the rising sun, caring little for the humans who couldn’t quite help themselves. 

When else were any of them going to have the chance to take pictures where the backdrop was a snuggling pair of Titans? Even Ilene, as much as she respected their privacy, couldn’t resist. 

If either Godzilla or Mothra disapproved, they didn’t show it. Nor did they leave, which was likely as close to permission as they could give. 

Ilene thought of how happy the scene before her would have made Serizawa—the triumph of the King and the return of the Queen—and made sure she committed it to memory, for him as much as for herself.