Busy Making Other Plans
Tokyo - 1967
The building shook harder as they barreled down the emergency stairs two or three steps at a time.
“That's great,” Kelly was panting. “Isn't that great? Here we are on this easy job, this veritable cake-walk trying to save a nine-year-old girl from the most bloodthirsty gangsters in the world, who would as soon kill her or us as look at their watches – what could be easier? – and along comes this, this big green party crasher to rain all over our good times! Is that right, I ask you?”
There was another impact, and the stairway shifted to an angle, and Kelly and Scott both had to dive to avoid falling concrete from the ceiling.
“No, Kelly,” Scotty panted, brushing plaster dust from himself. “No, it's not right at all.”
There was another concussion, and the stairwell – probably the whole building – canted further over. Below them, through the open space, they heard a horrible scream of tearing metal, and Scotty looked down the central well.
“End of the line, Kel,” he said. “Stairs have collapsed about a floor and a half further on down, man.”
“Then there's at least one floor before the end of the line.” Kelly started to step gingerly, and the floor shifted beneath him with a tearing, crumbling sound. “Or, we could just bail out here, and see if we can make it down the trash chutes from the fifth floor.”
“I like that plan,” said Scotty. “As plans go, I like that one very much. From here and now, I think it's the very best plan we can ask for.”
“Well,” said Kelly, reaching out to open the door onto the fifth floor, “that's because I'm a genius, you see, a veritable strategic prodigy of wisdom and sagacity.” He heaved himself up through the door and around, to lean back against the corridor wall.
The floor began to shift under Scotty, and he crouched and then leapt, grabbing hold of the door-frame, and hauling himself through. The stairs behind him tore loose and hung slanting into the abyss.
One thing was proven: The whole building had settled at an angle, and, from the pops, creaks and groans they heard around them, it was quite clear that it wasn't finished.
Scotty looked over at his partner. “You know this place is on its way down, right?”
“The thought had occurred to me, yeah.”
“Just so we're all on the same page, man.”
The building was settling toward the front, so the journey to the maintenance closet in the back was a climb. It could have been worse, it was hardly mountaineering, but every now and again, the whole thing would shift further, the angle steepening.
“How far can this thing go before it just gives up and poops out?” asked Kelly.
Scotty snorted. “Man, I'm pretty well educated, and I know a lot about a lot, but if you want to know the number of degrees of tilt before the tensile strength of structural members fails and the whole building collapses, you got the wrong cat.”
“You can't just say I don't know? You need to go through all that wonderful, wonderful verbiage to tell me you can't tell me what I want you to tell me, instead of those three little words?”
“I thought it would soften the blow.”
“Well, thanks for trying, Scotty, man,” said Kelly, “It's appreciated.”
Suddenly Kelly stopped. “Hold it, man, hold up a second.” He paused at the nearest door, then leaned back and gave it a mighty kick. The wood splintered around the lock, and the door swung inward.
“Come on!” he said, and dove into the open office.
“What are we doing, man?” asked Scotty, as he followed him.
“Looking for coats,” replied Kelly. His eyes lit on a door that had swung open with the building's movement. “Here we go!” He grabbed two overcoats from hooks inside the closet. “One for me....” He threw one to Scotty. “And one for you.”
As they turned for the door, Scotty muttered, “Man our per diem isn't so low we can't afford to buy coats.”
“True, true,” replied Kelly, “But I thought you'd like some protection while we're sliding down that garbage chute, Jack.”
Scotty nodded. “That's a fair point you bring up there, I must admit.”
“I thought so,” said Kelly.
“And you were right, which makes a nice change of pace.”
They reached the maintenance closet, and Kelly opened the door, gesturing his partner inside. The building gave another groan, and lurched. “I'm really not feeling good about this,” he said, pulling on the heavy overcoat. “Let's cut out,”
“Already gone, Kel.” Scott pulled on his own coat, and opened the garbage chute. “Let's go, man, come on, let's get going!”
Kelly hefted himself, feet-first, into the chute, and Scotty followed.
It was a terrifying, high-speed slide and along with the rush and pings and groans of the aluminum chute they were barreling down, they heard crashing and tearing sounds around them, and the tube shifted hard, battering them back and forth between its walls.
Over even that sound, they heard the hellish bellow of Godzilla's terrible roar, and a series of gigantic, but receding, concussions. The beast moving away?
Then they were, for a moment, flying, tumbling through open air, to crash-land with shattering force on the garbage piled high in the dumpster.
The air was full of smoke and dust, and they lay there for long moments, listening to the roar of flames, the howl of sirens, the distant sounds of the receding monster and futile artillery fire.
“Okay,” Scotty was finally able to breath, “All right, let's get out of the garbage and away from here, man, because if we're not gone when the building lets go, our lives are gonna get a lot more complicated.”
There were bangs and crumps coming from the canted building, thuds of masonry falling to the pavement. Most of this was on the far side, on the front of the building, but they both knew that when the whole structure failed, the debris would tumble in all directions.
They heaved themselves over the side of the dumpster, dropped to the ground, and ran back, around the metal box and away from the building. As they bolted into the alley they'd entered through, they saw beyond it a twisted, flaming mass of metal wreckage, maybe five feet tall. A gun barrel pointed futilely and drunkenly away from it, and they realized it was a flattened tank.
“Baby,” said Kelly Robinson, “I'm telling you, there's something about being stomped on by a twelve-story radioactive lizard, man, that'll just ruin your whole day!”
“Yeah, I heard that,” said Scotty. They trotted around the wreckage and moved off to the north, getting as much distance as they could between themselves and the building they'd escaped.
They'd managed about a block and a half when they heard it, a shriek of protesting metal shearing, the staccato thunder of crumbling masonry, and then a long and persistent crash, louder than cannon-fire, that seemed to go on and on, as the Fujimori disintegrated.
“Beat it, man!” cried Scotty, pelting full-tilt ahead down a boulevard now crowded with emergency and military vehicles and burning wreckage.
Kelly sprinted along behind him, shouting to the people around them, “Move it, people, the Fujimori's gone, the cloud–!”
Scotty was bellowing in Japanese at the same time, and both voices were stilled simultaneously by the roar that followed them.
The wave-front of dust and debris had been channeled down the urban canyon at nearly the speed of sound, and they were snatched up and tumbled down the street in the midst of the choking mass of particulate matter, battered by individual bricks still flying from the original shattering impact.
Kelly didn't know how long he lay stunned. He blinked slowly back to full consciousness, coughing up dust, and struggled up into a seated position on the ground.
“Scotty?” he shouted. “SCOTTY!”
“Here, man!” called Scott. “I feel like I went ten rounds with the Chicken-Heart that ate New York City, but I'm still with you.” He clambered to his feet, staggered over to Kelly. “You gonna live, man?”
“You know, man, I'm starting to be afraid that I am.” Kelly took his offered hand, and let Scotty help him to his feet.
Other walking wounded were struggling to their feet around them. Here and there on the street and sidewalks were twisted forms that would never rise again. The two spies pitched in, helping the injured get to police and military forces that moved into the area, and then moved off to one side.
“Now,” said Scotty, “before we were so rudely interrupted, you were saying our next stop is Takigato, Phelps and Company?”
Kelly stared at him for a moment. “After that!?!?”
Scotty looked back at him. “Did our orders say, 'unless a gigantic lizard destroys the city'?”
Kelly looked at the ground. “Well, no....”
“Do you think the Yakuza's saying, 'We'll kill her if it gets too dicey, unless a gigantic lizard destroys the city'?”
“Well, not as such, but, you know, they might just cut and run, man.”
“So the best possible case, Jack, is there's a nine-year-old girl who's been abducted and then abandoned in the middle of a disaster. And we work our way on down to they're going to kill her.”
Kelly pushed his hand back through his hair. “Well, when you put it that way...” He looked back over at Scotty. “Man, where is this warehouse?”
“On the waterfront, Jack, I told you!”
“Oh, well, okay, that's good, then, man, that's just great, because, you know, every time Godzilla attacks Tokyo, he comes out of the bay, and then when he's done, he goes back into the bay, and that's, you know, the waterfront. Which, by the way, in case you hadn't realized it, Godzilla is thataway–” Kelly pointed west “–and the waterfront is thataway–” Kelly pointed east “–and you and I, you see, we're right in the middle.”
“Well, see, that is great, man, because, you know, we're talking about a really rare animal, man, a sight hardly anybody in the world has ever seen. Now, you wouldn't want to pass up a chance to see that a second time, would you?”
“Of course not, my man, especially when, you know, we could see him right up close! And from street level, too, Jack, what could possibly be better?”
“Exactly, man,” said Scotty. “Let's go.”
They made their way eastward on foot, passing military patrols as they went. The eyes of the soldiers were wide, stunned, and hopeless.
“War of the Worlds, man,” said Scotty.
“What's that?” his partner asked, drawn from his own reverie.
“I said War of the Worlds. It's a book, you know, H. G. Wells.”
“Never read it,” said Kelly. “I saw the George Pal movie when I was a kid.”
“Not the same, man,” said Scott. “The book takes place in Victorian England. Artillery cannons drawn by horses. The Martians wipe them out. One of the survivors says, 'Bows and arrows against the lightning..'” Scotty's head gestured at the passing soldiers. “Look at these kids, man. Bows and arrows against the lightning, but they're following him.”
“Nobody ever said a Japanese soldier wasn't brave, Scotty.”
“Kelly? Alex?” The voice was deep and familiar, and they turned toward the makeshift command post they'd been passing. The heavyset form and dark, piecing eyes were immediately recognizable as Martin moved to meet them.
“Call me Scotty, man, I told you,” said Scott, his tone friendly enough.
Martin clasped his hand, then Kelly's, eagerly and gladly. “Thank God you're all right, gentlemen! When I heard the Fujimori building had fallen, I thought–”
“Yeah,” said Kelly, “So did we, Steve, but, no such luck.”
“And the child?”
“Not there,” said Scotty. “The bar didn't pan out, either.”
“No,” muttered Steve Martin, shaking his head. “I thought about it after you'd left. I'd forgotten the bar had been shifted over from the executive section to the operational.”
“So now we've gotta get to the warehouse,” Kelly told him.
Martin took a step back, looking them up and down. “You know that when Godzilla returns to the sea, that will be ground zero, if it's still standing at all.”
“Yeah, man,” said Scotty, “but what choice do we have? She's nine years old.”
“You're good men,” Martin said. “There may yet be hope. Godzilla seems to watch over children.”
“Watch over...?” Kelly looked closely at the reporter. “Man, isn't that a bit, I dunno, mystical for a hard-boiled reporter like yourself?”
“Look around you, Kelly,” said Martin. “Think about what you've seen tonight. After that, what are you willing to name impossible?”
“I dunno, man, but...” Kelly shook his head. “He's an animal, right? A dinosaur or something that was mutated by radiation.”
“Perhaps,” said Martin. “Or perhaps he's more than that. Perhaps he's a lesson from the Earth itself, reminding mankind that we aren't as omnipotent as we like to pretend.”
“Man, that's a lot to swallow,” said Scotty.
“Is it?” Martin didn't retreat. “Have you heard of a scientist named James Lovelock? The Gaia Hypothesis? Lovelock theorizes that the entire planet Earth, and every living thing on it, are actually one vast organism. If it is, then some human activities, pollution, nuclear tests, surely they're akin to a disease, such as cancer or gangrene, where parts of the body attack the whole. If that's so, Godzilla could, in a way, be a kind of global antibody, attacking the infection.”
Kelly was astounded. “You really believe that, Jack?”
Martin shook his head. “I don't believe anything, Kelly,” he said quietly. “I think Godzilla is too big for my mind to truly know. But I've looked him in the eye, my friend, and seen firsthand the devastation he wreaks, and, in the face of that, I'm too small to dictate terms to the universe. Anything is possible.”
They stood for a moment, the three men just regarding one another.
“Well, I hope you're right, man,” Kelly finally said. “'Cause Yukio sure needs somebody watching over her. If it has to be a twelve-story reptile, well, I'll take it.”
Martin clapped him on the shoulder. “Good luck, Kelly.”
“You, too, Steve.”
They parted again, Kelly and Scott moving quietly toward the waterfront.
The devastation at the waterfront beggared the imagination.
As few as one building in three still stood, many of those heavily damaged. Cargo-loading cranes were reduced to mangled piles of metal struts and torn cables. High-tension towers were likewise felled in tangles of girders and wire, and, a good half-mile inland, a container ship lay on its side, bent at a boomerang angle, cargo containers the size of train cars scattered around it like an angry child's discarded building blocks.
Kelly and Scotty made their way carefully through the hellish scene. In the distance to the west, the terrible sound of Godzilla's roar echoed back to them.
“You don't suppose he's on his way back,” said Kelly.
“That would be about our luck,” Scotty replied.
“Oh, don't you just love this night more and more all the time?”
“You know, Kel, I have to say, I really don't, not right at the moment, no.”
They stopped in front of a standing warehouse. “What's the number for Takigato, Phelps?”
“Seven-Twenty,” answered Scotty.
“Okay, well this one's Five-Eighty-Seven.”
Scott looked over to the nearest standing warehouse in the next row. “Looks like we have Six-oh-Eight over there.”
“Then we have a bearing, my good man, a navigational aid as good as a guiding star.”
They set off again, checking building numbers to see that they were headed in the right direction. Behind them, they heard a distant drumbeat of artillery, followed by the scream of the giant reptile.
“Did that seem closer to you?” asked Scotty.
“You know, it did at that, my man, yes, yes.”
They sped up, trotting among the wrecked and sagging warehouses, until Kelly held up a hand. “Seven-Twenty,” he said pointing across a debris-littered asphalt driveway.
“Could be worse,” replied Scotty. The building was half-standing, the north wall a spreading pile of rubble, the roof sloped at a crazy angle, but the southern end of the building seemed fairly solid.
They felt a tremor in the ground.
“Footstep,” said Scotty.
“Of course it is,” replied Kelly, in disgust. “I don't suppose your education extends to the land speed of the non-domesticated Godzilla.”
“No, I can't say that it does, man, but I can say we'll get to see it up close in a few minutes.”
“You are a veritable fountain of good cheer, Stanley, overflowing with the bright side of life.”
“Yeah, and I'm a pretty good masseur, too,” said Scott, and they crept up to the collapsed north side of the warehouse.
A few minutes of poking found them what they expected: a way in without having to open any doors or windows. They exchanged a glance, then slipped into jagged-edged opening at the edge of the broken wall, and slid sideways past the twisted girders of a fallen catwalk. The inside of the warehouse was a warren of small storage rooms, walled with plywood, and open to the ceiling above. Rectangular doors were cut haphazardly into the plywood partitions, and there were crates, boxes, and large canvas bags within them.
Another tremor rattled the building. The remaining overhead catwalk creaked. Godzilla's roar sounded again, much closer and louder than it had any right to be this soon. There was a crump of further artillery-fire, and Scotty scowled. “Oh, that's good. If the lizard doesn't get us, the Japanese army can blow us to pieces.”
“Yeah,” said Kelly, grimly. “Tell me again why we took this job?”
“I think it was the travel. Definitely the travel. Join the department, see the world, meet interesting gigantic radioactive lizards and be eaten by them.”
“Yeah, that's right. It was right on the recruiting poster.” Kelly sighed. “I just forgot, man.”
They inched further down the makeshift corridor, and Kelly leaned over to look around the next corner. Then he backed slowly away again, eyes wide, the barrel of a Japanese Nambu semi-automatic pistol pressed against his forehead.
“Oh, now, see there?” said Scotty, stepping back a half-step with his hands out at his sides, “I forgot one. If Godzilla and the Japanese army both manage to miss us, we've got the Yakuza to kill us, instead.”
The gunman stepped forward, moving Kelly back, and gestured him over toward Scotty.
As Kelly moved silently back to his side, also displaying empty hands, Scotty uttered a few syllables of Japanese.
“Your Japanese is very good,” said the gunman in English. He was a smallish man, slender and wiry, his hair black, and combed straight back away from his face. His cheekbones were wide and sharp, and there was a small, hooked scar near the left-hand corner of his mouth that made him look like he was smiling. He wasn't. He wore a simple black suit, his narrow tie loosened, the top button of the white linen shirt undone.
“Well, thank you, man,” replied Scotty, “I studied very hard for a long time.”
“Whereas I,” said Kelly, “did not, so I do appreciate you killing us in English, sir, don't think I don't.”
“Why are you here?” asked the gunman.
“You know why, man,” said Scotty. “I can see a bit of the tattoo where the collar of your shirt is open. You're Yakuza. Inagawa-kai family, since you're operating here. You have the little girl. It's time for her to go home, man.”
“We weren't paid to send her home, safe and sound.”
“No,” said Kelly. “You were paid to use her to control her father, so he'd block American bases. I don't understand that, man! I mean, okay, sure, so you're criminals, I get that, but aren't you at least Japanese criminals?”
The Yakuza spat on the floor at Kelly's feet. “And you think it is Japan's honor to be America's lap-dog? To allow your military free run of our country, to whimper and wag our tails at your command?”
“No, man, I don't know. I think we've been good friends to Japan since the war. We've helped you rebuild, we ended the occupation as soon as we were able, but nobody's saying you shouldn't stand up for yourselves, man.” Kelly shrugged. “Maybe you should turn down the bases. But I can tell you this, sir. You're taking money for this from the Red Chinese. I can tell you the U.S. of A. cares about Japan's independence and dignity, and you can believe me or don't, but we both know that Peking doesn't give a wet damn about your country!”
The building shook with a gigantic thud. There was the sound of falling rubble in the direction Kelly and Scott had come from. Godzilla's cry seemed very close.
“Let us have her, man,” said Scotty. “After tonight, Japan's going to need all the help, all the friends, it can get.” The gunman looked consideringly at him, and Scott uttered a few more words of Japanese.
They were silent a moment, listening to the cannon-fire outside, and another thud, and another roar, even closer.
Finally, the Yakuza nodded. “Hai!” he said. “Come, this way.”
He led them back around the corner behind him, and on, through two of the makeshift store-rooms, to an office that was part of the original structure of the building. There was a desk and two straight-backed chairs. The girl was tied to one, ankles tied to the front legs, wrists to the back. She was blindfolded and gagged.
There was a loud blast outside, and another bellowing roar from the Monster, and then a harsh rushing sound of flames. Explosions followed in a quick string, shaking the building.
“Take her,” said the Yakuza.
Scotty was at her side, using a Swiss Army Knife from his pocket to cut her bonds before he gently removed her blindfold and gag.
“Hello, Yukio,” said Scott, his voice soft and calm. “My name is Scotty. My friend is Kelly. I haven't been introduced to the other fellow.”
Her eyes were huge and dark, and she looked from Scotty to the gunman to Kelly, who spared her a quick smile.
“I am Shimada,” said the Yakuza.
“Glad to meet you,” Kelly said, “Now Come on. It's time to go.”
Scott lifted the girl over his shoulder. Kelly looked to Shimada. “Where's the door, man?”
“This way!” the gunman walked swiftly ahead, leading them through more plywood corridors, and then out into an open space. The building shook again as he unlocked the door.
Kelly moved up behind him, opened it a crack to look outside. “Okay, that isn't good.”
In the paved driveway, a half-melted tank lay upside down, gouts of flame spurting from the torn openings. There were dead soldiers and parts of dead soldiers scattered around like thrown dolls. Still, there was nothing for it. That was the way out.
He gestured with his head, and Scotty approached, carrying the girl. “It's probably too bad we took her blindfold off her,” Kelly said. “Pretty ugly out there.”
Shimada shook his head. “It is important to look your destiny in the face.”
“Not when you're nine,” Scotty snapped at him. He murmured to the girl in Japanese, and she squeezed her eyes shut. He nodded at Kelly.
“All right, then,” said Kelly.
He pulled the door further open, and they moved quietly and carefully out, Kelly first, then Scotty and the girl, and Shimada taking up the rear.
The light of the burning tank danced crazily, making it hard to see, hard to get a grip on flickering shapes on the ground. Buildings, standing and fallen, seemed to move and sway, like dancers in a primitive tribal ritual.
The three men moved to the corner of the building, and then bolted for the cover of the next. There was a thunderous crash, and the earth heaved below them, scattering them on the ground like bowling pins. The unholy roar that followed was deafening, unbearable, coming from far above.
Kelly's first instinct was Scotty, and he was at his side in an instant, before even trying to ascertain the situation. The two men rose, lifting the screaming girl between them, and it was only then, with the cry of rage and fear from Shimada, that he took it in.
Where they building had been was a jagged green hill, shining dully in the firelight. It was hard and ridged and built to a vast, irregular column. It was a gigantic reptilian foot.
The four of them, three deadly men and an innocent little girl, stared up into the runnelled green face, the burning eyes that were the sky, twelve stories above them. Godzilla stood before them, staring down, vast, inscrutable, like some god out of legend, deciding their fate.
“Don't. Move.” Kelly bit off the words. “If we move, he'll have us in a heartbeat.”
“How do you know that, man?” asked Scotty.
They continued to stare up into the ageless volcanoes of eyes the size of dump trucks. Those hellish orbs stared down at them.
It was a day, a week, a year, ten years, that they stood and stared, until finally, after eighteen seconds, Shimada looked over at Scotty, uttered a syllable of Japanese, and bolted off to the left.
Kelly started to turn, but Scott grasped his wrist, shook his head.
They were shocked to hear the sound of a gunshot.
Shimada was screaming in Japanese, not fear but defiance, firing his puny eight-millimeter rounds up at the colossus.
Godzilla turned toward the sound of the gunshots – Kelly and Scotty seriously doubted the beast even felt the impact of the lightweight bullets – and growled.
Shimada was racing away from them, screaming his defiance and firing occasionally back up at the monster.
Godzilla turned in his direction and screamed, that terrifying bellow, the sound of Hell, and strode after him.
As soon as the huge creature's attention was focused on the Yakuza, Scotty tugged Kelly's arm, and they ran, ducking mere inches beneath a flailing reptilian tail the size of a B52. They ducked into the shadow of a building to the west, and paused. Shimada's screams changed in tone, defiance replaced by sheer, screaming terror, and then there was the crashing, earth-shaking thud of Godzilla's footstep....
After another moment, the monster's scream rang out again, and the tremors and crashes of his catastrophic march faded toward the water.
Then there were the sounds only of crackling flames and howling sirens, and Kelly and Scotty exchanged another look, and began making their way back toward the devastated city of Tokyo.
Tokyo rebounded with a speed and efficiency that stunned Kelly. A week later, as they sat again in Steve Martin's living room, the streets were mostly cleared, and rebuilding of the waterfront was well under way.
“It is the tragic truth of this great metropolis,” Steve was saying, “that they've had to learn how to recover from Godzilla's attacks. In six months, you'll hardly know he'd been here.”
“We'll know, man,” said Scotty.
“Yes,” said Martin. “You will. You know, there aren't more than a dozen men on the planet who've stood at Godzilla's feet, and lived to tell the tale.”
“Yeah,” said Kelly. “A dozen men, and one truly amazing little girl.”
“She's back with her father, then?” asked Steve.
“Yes, she is,” said Scotty. “Safe and sound and happy as a clam, and you'd hardly believe that she'd looked Godzilla in the eye, man. She's incredible.”
Kelly leaned forward. “Steve, did you find out anything about Shimada?”
“Not much. He was a fairly low-ranking member of the Inagawa-kai family. Word is, though, that his family is being well taken-care of.”
“You know, he was a criminal, and probably a murderer,” said Kelly, “but in the end, he was a good man. He gave up his life to save ours, man. He did have some honor.”
Martin nodded slowly. “I hope it wasn't in vain.”
“Well, we're here, aren't we?” said Scotty.
“Oh, yes,” said Steve Martin. “But I wonder, would you have been here anyway? You were saving a little girl. Godzilla's eyesight is strong. He saw her with you.”
“Oh, come on,” said Kelly, smiling. “Are we back to that again? Godzilla the big green teddy bear? The guardian angel to children everywhere?”
“It is a question,” the reporter replied contemplatively. “Is he nature's punishment? Earth's immune system? Ancient god, timeless guardian of children? Mutated dinosaur, dragon of legend? Godzilla is too much for man's limited wisdom. No-one knows, no-one can know, what Godzilla truly is.”
“I know!” said Scotty, picking up his glass of ginger ale. “I know exactly what Godzilla is!” He lifted his glass to Kelly and Steve, and both men lifted their martinis in salute.
“Godzilla,” said Alexander Scott, “is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans!”