Dan Hayata paced outside the classroom. Captain Takao Shimata had told him to report and talk to the students. Dan had wanted to refuse, but Shimata had told him go to either the school or to the stockade for the theft of the Star Patrol jet last week. Dan had chosen the lecture.
Now he waited to be introduced, give his prepared speech, and leave. Now middle-aged, he was a confirmed bachelor, and he thought of children as something to be tolerated. So being with thirty of them in a closed room was on his list of things to avoid at all costs.
He went over his notes one more time. He hoped he could be done in an hour and escape to his rock garden with some saki and sushi, and maybe dream of a day when he was no longer needed.
“I dream of that day, too, Dan,” said the voice of M-78, the alien intelligence within him.
Sorry, thought Dan. Guess I have been in the fight too long.
“Don’t worry about it. Sometimes I think we’re the same man myself.”
Dan stepped into the classroom. He forgot his lecture when he saw their faces staring at him in his dark orange uniform.
“Go on. Tell them the whole story.”
“My name is Dan Hayata,” said Dan. “I am a sergeant in the Star Patrol. Any questions?” The room came alive with questions from the kids, and Dan was stuck for what to answer first. He looked across the room.
“I tell you what,” he said, trying to smile. “We’ll start at that boy in the corner, and everyone can ask a question. How’s that sound?” A cheer met his proposal.
“Have you met Captain Marvel?” asked the boy.
“No,” said Dan. “We haven’t met.”
“How many monsters have you seen?” said the next boy in line.
Captain Marvel and monsters, thought Dan, sighing as he realized that this would what most of the kids’ questions would be focused on. “A few,” said Dan.
“Six-hundred and forty-four, depending on how you count,” said M-78 in his mind.
The day before Dan’s lecture, the children had been given colored chalk and asked to draw and color their favorite monster on the sidewalk. Dan had smiled outwardly when he saw it. He hadn’t wanted to tell the principal and teachers that the drawings gave him a case of nerves. This was their day. Ruining it would get him some other unpleasant duty from the captain. So he held his tongue.
Now one of the pictures pulsed, bubbling up out of the concrete. It gathered substance as it shifted from a flat plane to the reality of three dimensions. The painted eyes glared out menacingly at the world.
Answering questions took Dan Hayata down memory lane. The Star Patrol had been formed in 1952 after a monster island had been found south of Japan. Some of the monsters from that island had been able to swim or fly to other parts of the world and cause damage to life and limb. The Patrol’s main mission after that had been to seek ways to defend against these monster attacks at first. No country wanted Gojira to roam through their cities in a rampage.
Then most of the heroes on Earth disappeared. As they later learned, the Marvel Family, along with their friends, their greatest allies, and their worst enemies, were sent into outer space by Dr. Thaddeus Bodog Sivana in an attempt to get rid of the Marvel Family once and for all. Dan Hayata and Takao Shimata had been flying for the Patrol for about a year when that happened. Now Shimata led the Japanese branch of the Patrol, and Dan was still just a lowly sergeant.
With the Marvel Family and Shazam’s Squadron of Justice gone, the Patrol’s duties expanded to defending the entire planet from any threat, both internal and external. Even with the arrival of several other new heroes over the next twenty years, the Patrol had its hands full.
The absence of the Marvels, the Squadron, and most of their major foes created a partial vacuum. Naturally, minor players tried to step up in the big leagues now that no one was in their way. It became the Patrol’s job to stop them, along with anyone else who decided that Earth was now defenseless. Dan and his partner, M-78, were at the forefront of these efforts, and as the giant Ultraman they routinely fought the worst monsters to plague the world.
M-78 and his culture protected planets all over the universe, allowing them to mature into spacefaring civilizations that could be counted on to help others in need. By the time Captain Marvel and his friends and enemies returned in 1973, the Star Patrol had become a worldwide organization that found itself suddenly clashing with a new crop of evil. Dr. Sivana himself had rapidly climbed to the top of Dan’s list of guys who needed a fist in the face, for all the menaces he unleashed upon the world.
“You are just bitter over that bubblegum crisis.”
You are not the one who had to soak for a month, thought Dan. That stuff was hard to get off.
“I was there. That goo didn’t agree with me, either.”
Dan returned his attention to the next question he had to answer. His time was flying along, and his punishment would be over before he knew it.
He was describing a move he had done ten years before in his jet versus the Mionites, when he heard a slow hiss of air. He looked up from his class, glancing across the room at the closed windows.
“Problem, Dan. A big problem.”
“Fire drill, everybody!” said Dan, walking over to the window. “Miss Yoshikawa, please line the class up and take them out any door away from this side of the building. Let’s go.”
Dan began to empty the school, sending the classes out of the back of the building. He didn’t know how much time he had, but he didn’t think it was long. Someone had alerted the principal, who relayed the false alarm and direction of the evacuation over the public announcement system.
You attract monsters, Dan thought as he made sure everyone had fled the building.
“Everyone needs to have a talent.”
Did you recognize it? Dan asked, tapping his communications pendant.
“It looks like the dream worm.”
“Patrol headquarters,” said the new guy, Hiro. Communications had been handed over to him when the former officer had retired.
“Hayata,” said the pilot, rushing for the roof and wishing he had not started smoking like he had. “Rush everything you’ve got my location now.”
“What did you say?” said Hiro. “I must have misheard you.”
“Get backup down here now, rookie,” said Hayata, finding a trap to the roof. “Or I’ll rip you to shreds when this is over.”
“I don’t have to take this,” said Hiro, cutting the connection.
Dan tapped his communicator twice. That idiot cut me off, Dan thought, looking for a way to the trap door. A ladder was folded in a nearby alcove.
“What did you expect? You did threaten him.”
That wasn’t a threat, thought Dan, slamming the ladder in place. That was a promise.
Dan hurried up the ladder, slamming the trap door open with an arm. Seizing the edges of the opening, he pulled himself on the gravel-covered roof, then pulled out the cylinder he kept in his jacket. Ready to switch?
“Let’s do it. Hiro might wait too long before remembering to pass on the call.”
Dan pressed the button on the side of the cylinder, letting the glow wrap around him. When the glow vanished, a silver alien with large glowing eyes and a fin on the top of his bullet head stared down at his enemy. The hero known as Ultraman leaped into the air.
Ultraman landed in front of the yellow creature, which was still expanding from the drawing on the concrete. He was at his full height of forty feet, and he knew the Dream Worm would grow to match him.
“Preemptive strike,” thought Dan.
That won’t work, Dan, thought M-78. It is invulnerable to our beam. The only thing we can do is eliminate the picture it sprang from.
“Let’s draw it off and see if we can get rid of that picture.”
I don’t think this is going to be as easy as the last time, Dan.
“Nothing is ever easy.”
Standing protectively in front of the school, Ultraman squared off with the Dream Worm. The students had been led out of the other side of the building but were far from safe. It was his job to protect them from the nearly impervious creature that regarded him with baleful eyes over a leech-like mouth.
The Dream Worm leaped to attack, trying to attach its sucker mouth against the silver Ultraman. Once it had secured its grip, it would suck all of his inner organs out through the hole. Then it would seek out more prey.
Bringing his arm up, Ultraman slammed it against the neck of the beast to hold it at bay. He braced himself as well as he could as the Dream Worm continued to grow. He brought his other hand around in a gut blow. Yellow gas escaped the vampiric mouth, driving the star policeman to his knee. The Dream Worm tried to bear down on the faltering hero.
Ultraman heard the clacking of internal suckers as the giant beast tried to bear him down to the ground and feed off of the organs his metallic outer body protected.
“Throw it to one side.”
Ultraman immediately saw the plan Dan had concocted from the back of his mind. He viciously twisted to his left, rolling the monster on its back with him on top. He had a steely grip on its elongated neck, holding its mouth away from him. He had a small amount of control, like a man handling a large, dangerous snake. Time for phase two.
Grabbing a nearby flagpole, Ultraman controlled the Dream Worm with his other hand as best as he was able, then pressed the pole against the neck of the creature, generating a small amount of heat. As soon as he bent the pole in the proper shape, he cooled off. One power blow drove the ends of the pole into the ground on either side of the thing’s neck, pinning the Worm in place for a few precious moments.
Not out of the woods yet, thought M-78, grabbing the thing’s tail and moving it out of the way. He pointed his fingers at the outline that remained of the drawing. A small blast of energy obliterated the drawing.
The Dream Worm vanished in an upswell of color and a cry of agony.
When the Star Patrol arrived on the scene moments later, they found Dan Hayata showing hundreds of students how the alien hero designated Ultraman by the public had saved the day by pinning the giant Dream Worm to the ground. He left out that the chalk picture had summoned the beast to life. Why risk a repeat appearance if he didn’t have to?
Dan took Captain Shimata aside and explained the events of the day as the newly arrived Patrol showed the children the necessary equipment of fighting the gigantic plagues that had decided to make their home in Tokyo.
He waited until the rest of the Patrol was engrossed in answering questions, and then he walked away, whistling cheerfully to himself.