Dan Hayata followed his suspect across Tokyo, allowing traffic to stay between him and the other car as much as possible. Patience was the first thing he had learned from the Star Patrol. The only problem was that you had to stay alive long enough to acquire that particular gift. Each case held its own threat.
As his quarry pulled into an underground garage to an apartment complex, he pulled his Patrol car into a space opposite the building. He waited until he saw a light go on in one of the apartments. He quickly got out of the car and crossed the street.
“What’s our probable cause?” asked M-78 from inside his mind.
We’re just looking at a suspicious vehicle, thought Dan. He slipped under the arm that blocked the entry driveway from the street. One hand stayed close to his service pistol as he moved.
“And why is the vehicle suspicious?”
A back light appeared to be broken, thought Dan.
He crept across the garage, looking for the car in question. He peered inside the windows, hand shading the glass. Nothing struck him as being unusual. The car was as neat as the woman herself. He wondered if he should pick the lock on the trunk.
“There are limits,” warned M-78.
Scanning the empty garage once more before he left, he thought, Time to get Hiro on the case.
Dan Hayata sat behind the wheel of his car the next morning, sipping coffee as he waited. Hiro had dug up tons of information, some of which was useful enough to provide for a search warrant under the limited powers the Star Patrol enjoyed in Japan.
So he had driven up in his own car and parked, the warrant in his jacket pocket. Another member of the Patrol would follow the lady to her job at the university while he broke in and looked around.
Some questions were in his mind, but he was sure that Professor Yamamoto’s secretary had also owned the first gallery where Izama Kana had displayed his chalk art years ago on the first investigation of the Dream Worm killings.
Now she was working where he had gotten his training, for the very same man who helped shape his style. Yet she knew nothing of the man she had praised when the police were looking for a vicious monster? That wasn’t likely.
Dan waited until the woman left the apartment building, then got out of his car, buckling on his utility belt disguise. He donned a jacket with Tokyo Phone Services on the back and, with a glance in his car mirror, decided he looked enough like a telephone repairmen.
He hurried across the street to the main visitor door, hoping the super would believe the deception and let him pass. If the woman realized they were sniffing around her place, she might flee and go into hiding.
“She might also summon another forty-foot monster to rip up the city,” said M-78.
Don’t remind me, Dan thought as he pushed his way into the lobby of the apartment building.
He immediately went to the elevator like he was on an urgent call, checking his watch. The desk man raised a hand as if to object. Dan waved the folded warrant at him, pointing to the logo on his coat. The man subsided.
Dan pushed the correct floor number in the elevator and headed up to the apartment. He only had a few minutes before the desk man became suspicious enough to check on him. He had to be done with his task before then. Otherwise the warrant would be for nothing, because the secretary would know they were watching her.
He got off the elevator and found that Hiro had given him the correct number of the apartment. He applied a quick pick to the lock and let himself inside, then pulled two microphones from his belt. One went into the earpiece of the phone, while the other was hidden under the plain bed at the back of the apartment.
A casual inspection of the premises didn’t turn up anything out of the ordinary, so he went over the place more carefully. The place didn’t look lived-in to him. It looked like a rest stop or hotel. He wondered if he was looking at the wrong place.
He checked one last time to make sure the place looked like he had not touched anything, then carefully locked the door behind himself and left.
Dan took the elevator down, pulling out his communicator. He put Hiro on to the job of finding any other places under the woman’s name. Then he could apply for another warrant and bug that place, too.
He waved at the concierge as he crossed the lobby. Hiro’s typing filled his ear over the open line. He crossed the street, smiling at Hiro’s answer to his query. There was another place listed as property for the woman.
Dan switched vehicles, changing into his uniform before driving out of the city. The secondary residence was hours away in Osaka. The Star Patrolman had grimaced when he had heard the address, but he hadn’t been surprised. He drove there almost automatically while thinking about what he had to accomplish at his destination.
Somewhere, a snake waited for him to cross its path so that it could bite him. He needed to see the handler clearly before he could let the snake run loose, destroying whomever it pleased.
“Captain Shimata should be told about this,” said M-78.
He knows we’re looking into things, Dan thought. Don’t want to worry him unduly. I’ll let him know if we need to get a warrant.
Dan followed the signs, wishing Rei was at his side as he drove. He pulled into a parking lot, listening to the engine cool as he got some basic camping gear from the trunk of the car. That would allow him to sleep outdoors if he had to. He hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
Pulling the gear on his back, Dan walked toward the nearby forest. His goal rested in the past. Soon, the Patrolman silently vanished among the leafy trees.
Dan set up a camp within sight of the address Hiro had got him. He should have known the broken house would be the home of the secretary. That was where the battle with Kana’s original chalk monster had taken place. He should have known that would be where the artist’s admirer would take refuge from the world.
I wonder how she found out how to recreate that thing after all these years, he thought, sipping bottled water.
You think he told her how to do it?
“He started by practicing on small animals. Maybe she did the same and kept her ability a better secret than Kana.”
Dan nodded, sipping the last of the water. He waited for some hours without incident. Finally, a car pulled into the dilapidated lane. The Star Patrolman watched as the secretary got out of the car. Her appearance changed in front of his eyes as she walked toward the house.
“Maybe Kana wasn’t the original menace after all.”
Dan walked toward the house. His hand went to his service pistol and then the capsule under his jacket. He focused on the facts as he paced forward.
Had he misjudged what exactly happened when he had arrived to arrest Izama Kana? It was becoming slowly possible in his mind that he had misjudged the situation when the original Dream Worm had burst through the floor boards.
Dan crossed the open lane quietly, moving forward to the ruined porch. He was amazed there were no signs of life except the pinging of the Mitsubishi’s cooling engine. Let’s ask the lady, he thought as he knocked on the house’s door.
He waited quietly on the ruined porch, but no one came to answer his knock. We did see a woman go inside, didn’t we? he asked his alter ego.
“Yes. I think we are in for trouble.”
Dan nodded in agreement. Drawing his service pistol, he knocked again harder. The door fell in at his touch, and a dust cloud jumped from the floor at the impact.
He stepped inside slowly, his eyes adjusting to the darkness as he slid his feet along the wooden floor. He gently shoved debris from his path as he moved forward.
“This is a bad idea, Dan,” said M-78, concern in his telepathic voice.
I can’t think of anything better, he thought.
“Miss Takara?” Dan called. “It’s Hayata. Could you come out where I can see you?”
“This is a really bad idea.”
Quiet, worrywart, Dan thought. “Miss Takara?” he called in a louder tone. “I know you are here somewhere. I saw you come in.”
“Dan Hayata of the vaunted Star Patrol,” said an echo in the dark interior of the ruined house. “I see that we finally meet after all these years. It’s been so long since you killed my Izama.”
“You were behind the original Dream Worm,” said Dan, trying to draw a bead on his invisible enemy. “You were here in the house when we came to talk to Kana. You caused the house to collapse.”
“Very good guesses,” said Miss Takara, clapping. “Still, that’s obvious in the wake of events.”
“Why the attack at the school?” asked Dan. “No one has thought about that for years. No one was looking for you.”
“Recently I have learned that I am dying,” said Miss Takara, sounding closer to the Star Patrolman. “I have decided to do something to those I feel have hurt me over the years. You are simply the first to feel my wrath.”
“Lucky me,” said Dan and M-78 at the same time.
“I had heard you were fearless,” said Miss Takara, coldly. “I see the reports were true.”
“Miss Takara,” said Dan, trying to sound gentle. “We can have the Patrol medics look at you. There might be a cure.”
“Don’t beg, Hayata,” spat the woman, light from the window suddenly reflecting from the side of her face. “You won’t walk away from this like you have so many other things.”
“Last chance to pack it in,” said Dan, one hand reaching under his jacket.
“That’s better,” said Miss Takara. “More like the Hayata I have observed over the years.”
Yellow tentacles erupted from Miss Takara’s shadowy form. Dan fired his service pistol, adapted from a mad scientist’s weapon, as he tried to drop under the flailing limbs, but one seized his arm as he fired silvery beams at his foe. He was whipped around in the air and then slammed into the floor, hard. Pain made him lose his grip on his pistol as he crashed through the rotten wood.
“Where’s your bravado now, Hayata?” said Miss Takara gleefully.
“Miss Takara,” Dan gasped out, still holding the capsule in his hand as he hung over the basement. “I am sorry that Kana was killed through your stupidity, that you have contracted some disease, and especially for what you just did, but there’s one thing I am not sorry for.”
“What’s that, scum?” said Miss Takara, tentacles wrapping around Dan’s other limbs like constricting snakes.
“This,” said Dan, pressing the button on the side of the capsule.
The cylinder lit up, energy cascading down Dan’s battered form. The yellow appendages came apart under the transforming shower. The light faded, revealing the silvery form of Dan’s alter ego.
“Ultraman?” Miss Takara said, taken by surprise for a second.
The alien hero hovered to stop his fall to the basement floor, then flew upward to seize the woman. A quick takedown would settle this once and for all.
A giant yellow maw erupted from Miss Takara’s body. It tried to close on Ultraman and chop him in half. He braced himself against its gums, holding the mouth open with his tremendous strength.
“Die!” ordered the furious Miss Takara.
“Get smaller,” said Dan from within the hero’s mind.
What? thought M-78.
“Take the woman, no more monster.”
Ultraman shrank instantly, letting the giant mouth snap shut behind him. He flew down the partial throat, shrinking further as he went. He hovered long enough to aim, then blasted his way out of the yellow form. Miss Takara staggered back in surprise as the silvery gnat flew up toward her face.
“Hai!” shouted the diminutive hero, growing and swinging a punch at the same time. He sank into her body, spraying yellow chalk in a cloud.
What? thought the dual crusader.
Laughter erupted from the secretary as the yellow cloud coalesced around the silver hero, holding him in a squeezing hand. He braced himself against its confines as it began to crush him.
“New plan,” said Dan. “Energy beams at full strength.”
Ultraman brought both hands forward, blades of light cutting across the yellow prison. The transforming chalk scattered from the cutting instruments. When both of his hands crossed over his chest, a beam of pure light sprayed through the villainess with deadly heat. She screamed once as her body turned to a muddy pile.
“At least she didn’t have to go slow.”
Very funny, thought M-78, relinquishing control of their body.
Dan Hayata sat at the desk in his apartment a day later. A cup of coffee was in one hand, the original drawing of the Dream Worm in the other. I wonder if this is really the end this time, he thought.
“It is, unless she had an ability to resurrect herself.”
Quiet, thought Dan. I am trying to enjoy this moment of peace.
“Just a possibility, Dan. It is more likely she taught someone else her techniques.”
Sometimes, I really hate you, thought Dan, sighing deeply.