by Dan Swanson
“One thing I don’t understand, Hank…” Dollface and Faust both looked a little dismayed at John Garrick’s easy use of the Dolly’s nickname for Henrietta King; nothing good could come out of a romance between their leader and one of the good guys.
“Only one thing, Johnny-Boy?” said Henrietta, a hard edge in her voice; he had called her by her brother’s name for the first time. “You really are a genius, aren’t you?”
Whiz Kid ignored her teasing. “Why would you put a deadly monster into your bottle city? I thought you cared about the people there?” He was clearly puzzled and concerned.
“Oh, Godzilla, there, isn’t really dangerous. He’s a strict vegetarian, and he’d never actually threaten anyone. He’s just there to provide the Candorians with a scare and a challenge every now and then.”
“Um, Savant, if Godzilla’s a herbivore, why did he just eat that dog?” asked Stretch O’Brien, concern in his voice as his wife Maggie turned away and retched. “And his tail just wiped out that whole building — I hope nobody was inside!”
“Oh, no! Something’s wrong!” Something very like horror played across Henrietta’s face, and John realized that she wasn’t just pretending.
“Can you use your powers to control it?” he asked, thinking fast.
“The temporal-distortion grid interferes with my powers. There’s nothing I can do!”
“Look! Here come the heroes!” Dolly yelled. “Boo-ooo!”
On the screen, a brightly colored flying vessel flashed past the monster’s head, distracting it.
The city wasn’t Tokyo or New York, and the countryside didn’t look familiar at all. Somewhere deep in Godzilla’s mind, the monster knew it was lost. But it was hungry, and from previous adventures with these bipedal animals, it knew they made a tasty snack. The dog had been good but far too small to do anything more than whet its appetite. It also remembered that in the past, the bipeds always initially ran away, but they always returned later and attacked. They weren’t dangerous, never anything more than annoyances, but their flying allies had nasty stingers. Deciding to eat and run before they could set up their attack, it exhaled a cloud of poisonous vapor at the fleeing figures on the ground in front of it, and strode forward to gather up its meal.
Never before in its memory had bipeds reacted as these did. They leaped into the air, prodigious leaps carrying them far out of reach of the monster’s breath weapon. It roared in anger and then began pursuit. It could move much faster than the jumpers, and it would catch them and pluck them out of the air like ripe fruit from a tree — although here in the bottle, the trees weren’t quite real trees, and this seeming reincarnation of a famous movie monster had never eaten fruit.
A brightly colored flying thing flashed in front of the monster’s face, distracting it, and it turned to follow the vessel’s flight path. It was a stubby cylinder that appeared to be about forty feet long, ten feet in diameter, with wings that appeared much too small to support it, tapering to a point in front, with a very large jet in the back. It was colored a wild mixture of red, orange, yellow, blue, and black.
Godzilla began pursuing it — this flying thing was just the right size to make a good meal. The flier pulled ahead, then stopped, hovering in place, and spun in the air to face the monster. A panel in the front opened, exposing a cannon, which immediately fired a package of some sort. The packaging sloughed away, revealing a net, spinning and expanding as it flew toward the monster’s face.
Inside the car, Henrietta’s alter ego Nightbird had just fired the multi-blaster. The largest net package they carried would wrap up about four Candorians, but it wasn’t nearly large enough to entangle the monster. She was puzzled. “With all the years of preparation we’ve done, why haven’t we developed gear for fighting a monster? Everything we have is designed for use against other Candorians! That net might slow it down a little, is all…”
Indeed, the net flew rather slowly. It was designed to capture a leaping Candorian, trapped by gravity and the laws of physics into moving along a ballistic flight path. The monster saw it coming and slashed at it with its left paw. The electrical charge on the net discharged, and the monster’s entire foreleg went numb. It was a much better result than Nightbird had expected.
With a roar, the monster turned back toward the hovering plane, and the pilot — John’s alter ego, Flamewing — sent it roaring away. He had to perform some fancy acrobatic maneuvers to keep away from the clouds of acid the monster breathed out, and at the top of one loop, Nightbird fired her ejection seat.
“Jungar, I’ll keep his attention on me while you get the last of the spectators out of harm’s way!” she radioed as she flew to the ground. Landing in front of the beast, she stood with legs spread, arms outstretched, leaning slightly backward, and then she seemed to grow until she was even larger than the monster. The monster charged this new danger, not intimidated in the least at facing a larger foe.
Godzilla rushed toward the athletically built woman in the gray and green armor, the colors of the nocturnal nightbird. It breathed acid at her, but she was unaffected, so it switched to a physical attack. Almost faster than a normal human could see, the beast’s tail whipped around and slashed at Nightbird’s head.
The giant heroine seemingly vanished completely, and the monster spun partway around and stumbled, off-balance when the tail didn’t meet any resistance. She reappeared, now behind the monster, and quickly lifted its tail high off the ground. Off-balance as it was, it fell sideways and crashed heavily to the ground. Before it could recover, she delivered a quick kick to the side of its head.
Meanwhile, Flamewing had piloted the Nightflame — their flying vessel — toward the few Candorians who had not yet fled and warned them away using the external loudspeaker. Putting the plane on autopilot, he used his jetpack to blast into the air, roaring toward the battle. In flight, he really did resemble the flame-colored flying reptile from which he took his code-name.
The monster was just getting to its feet when he flashed by. From a handheld weapon, he fired a dart at the monster’s snout. The dart trailed a line that unreeled from the gun. It impacted the monster’s jaw and stuck, and Flamewing quickly began wrapping the snout shut with the line by speeding in tight loops.
Godzilla stumbled again, its tail flailing wildly. The giant Nightbird, an illusion created by the heroine’s mental powers, disappeared as the tail accidentally struck her, and she was sent flying. Regaining its balance, the monster used the claws on the non-numb paw to shred the line on its snout — a line that had been designed to restrain Candorians, not an angry monster. Flamewing tumbled through the air and barely regained control before he smashed into the ground. He realized he was right on the edge of panic. Nothing in their lives of training had prepared them to fight a monster like this. And she thought Reeki might be seriously injured or even dead. Then, with a great deal of relief, he heard her voice.
“Jungar! We’ve got to come up with new tactics! We aren’t prepared to fight monsters — but we don’t have time for anything fancy!” She flashed into the air, flying close enough to the monster that it started following her. “As long as we can keep it following us, the city is safe, and we’ll have time to figure it out.”
Suddenly, his panic was eased. Wasn’t that just like his partner — always alert, always thinking. Together they’d figure out something.
Back in Gotham City, Savant’s friends were peppering her with questions while she banged away at her keyboard, trying to figure out what had gone wrong.
“Wow, Hank, the way Nightbird flipped that monster was neat!” said Dollface. “How did you give her super-strength? Do you have powers like that, too?” Dolly was ecstatic at the display from her friend’s alter-ego.
“It’s called tactile telekinesis, Dolly. I’ve got it, too, but it isn’t nearly as useful for me. It works so much better for her because they are all so much smaller. Even Godzilla is hardly the size of a flea’s egg.”
“Speaking of Godzilla,” Whiz Kid said, “what’s up with him?”
“I think I know what happened, but it should have been impossible. Look!” She typed a command, and the view on the monitor switched to one of the Godzilla movies, showing the monster walking out of the harbor and attacking a major city. “Bluestreak is a monster movie buff, and he left his videotapes here, since I told him it was possible to digitize them and store them on one of my advanced computers. Somehow, my genesis computer — the one that created Candor and everything in it — used the Godzilla movies as the basis for this giant monster instead of building it the way I programmed it.
“But that means that someone other than me was messing around with my computer. Whoever it is must know my password. But how could anybody know that? I’ve never told anyone, and never written it down anywhere!”
“Gee, Hank! And who’s smart enough to use your computers, anyway?” Dollface asked.
Faust interrupted, a little annoyed, “Can we figure this out later? We were just getting to the part where the monster eats the heroes, and I want to find out what happens!”
“None of our regular routines will work on a monster this size, Jungar!” The roaring of the monster forced Nightbird to use her helmet radio, which allowed the Gotham City audience to listen in. “You make sure he keeps following us while I try to figure out some way to beat it!”
Nightbird cut off her partner’s response. “Jun, I’m trying to think. Do your job!”
Flamewing slowed and aimed his rocket-pack at the monster. The flames didn’t seem to hurt it, but they did draw its attention, and it increased its pace. Jungar nudged his partner into a slightly new direction. Pacing them through the air was what seemed to be a crystal ball, and within it a miniature monster battled with even smaller versions of the Candorian crusaders. Nightbird was using Savant’s mental powers to try to work out a winning plan of attack.
Back in Gotham City, Dollface smirked at John Garrick. “He’s pretty whipped, ain’t he? She likes ’em like that!” It wasn’t clear to Whiz Kid if Dollface was referring to Nightbird or Savant. Henrietta King was not happy with her friend.
“Shut up, Dolly! You know that Jungar and Reeki are not John and I. They are artificial beings with computer-generated personalities.”
John thought she was protesting too much. “You did say you chose them because their personalities were similar to ours…”
“She did — muph-thumph-thamp!” Dollface’s mouth was suddenly muffled as Stretch O’Brien elongated his arm and covered her mouth with his hand, but Faust managed to stick his two cents in.
“She didn’t tell you she made those two personally?” he asked, seemingly only mildly interested but always playing the manipulation game. “Hey, look what’s happening now!”
Once again, Flamewing was trying to get his partner to listen to him, and once again she was blowing him off.
“Look, Jun, this is important. If we can’t beat this monster, it might devastate the city!” said Nightbird. Whoa! Watch it!” A massive blast of flame obliterated her crystal ball, stunning her into silence.
Flamewing quickly took advantage. “Damn it, Ree, listen to me! When you come up with some way to defeat this monster, what are we going to do with it? Tie it up with the bird-arangs and bird-ropes and leave it for the police?” She looked stunned at his suggestion, since she obviously hadn’t thought that far ahead. “Why do we have to beat it, anyway?” he continued. “Why don’t you just use your powers to convince it to go home — and stay home, eating fish from now on?”
Nightbird had obviously been about to explode in anger, and then she paused and thought for a second. Then, still without speaking, she stopped her flight and turned to face the beast. She glared at the monster for a couple of seconds, and it stopped roaring, turned, and headed straight for the sea.
Flamewing summoned the Nightflame, and as it flew toward them, the two heroes were clearly involved in a highly animated discussion.
But in Savant’s Gotham City apartment, the broadcast was shut down, and Henrietta King turned to her friends. “Once again, the Candorian crusaders save the world!” she announced brightly. “Anyone for pizza?”
Without the distraction of the video battle, John Garrick was suddenly struck with the incongruity of his situation. What was he, Whiz Kid — a member of the Junior JSA — doing sitting down with some of his team’s worst enemies? And was he really about to break bread with them? Their presence here might be legal right now, but he was sure they’d be on the wrong side of the law again soon.
“I really have to be getting back,” he said. “We’ve got another political rally scheduled tonight!” He turned directly to Henrietta. “Thanks for a really… interesting time! I’ll call you later!”
“Don’t forget me!” Whiz Kid heard Dollface call after him as he vibrated through the door and went on his way.