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Here There Be Monsters...

FICTION - by George Thomas





Prologue

In the jungles of Infant Island there stands an ancient temple. Those who once worshiped there are gone now, lost in a cataclysm of their own making. Even their few surviving descendants have fled, faced with yet another looming peril. That horror had been wrought by other hands; A horror called the Atomic bomb.

Still, there is some life left upon that distant shore, and still there are those who would make pilgrimage there. They come to pray to the temple's living master, to the monstrous Godbeast called Mothra.

Now, three tiny sisters face an enormous alter, upon which lay an enormous egg. The twins singing sweetly, the elder standing cooly by. Now the planets converge, aligning in near perfect syzygy for the first time in decades. Now there will be a hatching.

A deafening CRACK cuts the air, shocking all into silence. The eggshell breaks, leaking thick crimson yolk. The sisters cringe as the stench of it hits them, and the beast begins to emerge...

The head is smooth, ovoid and featureless save for the cluster of mandibles set at its narrow chin. The body, segmented and lined with knobs and hairs. Huge blue eyespots run in warning pattern down its golden sides, set above each pair of black, clasping claws. The creature drools, and screams.

Whatever the nightmare now birthing might be, it is NOT a Mothra...







The Infinity Web

CHAPTER ONE



Osaka, Japan.
Journalist Michiko Matsumia sits at her computer, striking the last few keys with a flourish. "The End," she sighs. "Can it truly be the end?"

The work had been cathartic until now, a series of biographies on a select group of scientists, philosophers and madmen. Among them, a man who would fit easily into any of those categories; Doctor Toshiro Matsumia, her own father. His story had not been easy to tell, or to relive in the telling.

Her memories were of a man who was not there, of a brilliant archeologist, more adventurer than scholar, who somehow managed to start a family between his wild expeditions. She remembers him waving goodbye to her, and the look on her mother's face that told her he was never coming home.

'That is not how the story ends, Michiko chan.'

The aging woman sprang from her seat, startled by a thought that was not her own. Telepathy! It had been many years since she had felt such a contact, since she had met anyone else born on Infant Island. 'Where are you?' She replied in kind. 'What are you doing in my home?'

"Do not be afraid, Michiko Matsumia," the intruders spoke as one. "We are very small."

Michiko turned toward the voices, trembling. Then she saw them; A pair of tiny women robed in red and white. They stood upon her mantle and bowed. "You! You are the Alias," she exclaimed. "Lora and Moll, the shobijin who accompany...sweet Buddha. The legends are true!"

"Legends like you've never dared believe," the third sister spoke, stepping into view.

Michiko gasped. "Belvera, the Imp! What is SHE doing here?"

"Don't call me that!" The Dark Alias screamed, power sparking from her stamping heels.

'We have trouble enough, sister,' Moll's gentle telepathy touched them all. "She is one of us, Michiko. I am sorry to have frightened you so."

"Frightened me? She was the stuff of nightmares for the children of Infant Island. The Imp's gonna get you, their mothers would say. It looks like they were right, you little creep!"

Belvera cackled. "You give me far too much credit, human. I chastised only the very naughtiest of you," her smile was a white slash on shadow. "And I am not an Imp!"

"Try to understand, Michiko," Moll spoke. "Though we have been known by many names, 'Imp' is more than just an insult. To us, Imp means male."

"Male?" Michiko repeated the simple word.

"Imps are males," Lora began. "Of our kind. Alias males. They are technologically advanced and violent. They are the reason we now stand together. We are here to ask you to stand with us."

"A monster has come to Infant Island," Moll continued. "Born from Mothra's egg. The larva's DNA was altered, a process the Imps know well. Only, they could not have done it without a human's help. We cannot stop them without yours."

"Why is that," asked Michiko. "What can I do?"

"We believe you are of the same bloodline as the one who now aids the Imps, and like him can open the Paraportal to their realm," Belvera smiled. "We believe that man to be your father."





Open ocean.

The hornworm swims, slipping from Infant Island into the sea. Beyond the horizon waits another land, a place called Nihon. The creature could smell the stinking detritus marking it Human territory, marking it a target.

But it is not intelligence which drives the enormous beast, it is genetic programming. Compelling the monster to alter this strange environment to its own advantage, by eliminating the dominant species. Its territorial imperative stimulated to override all other behavioral impulses.
Now the savage abomination would secure its beachhead upon this world. Now it would invade Japan.





"Wait a minute," Michiko spoke angrily. "My father disappeared nearly forty years ago, and you come to me now when I have finally made peace with that, when I have lain his spirit to rest?"

"Michiko, time moves differently for us, and we try not to interfere with Human lives," stated Moll. " Even so, we knew your father was about to stumble upon something incredibly dangerous. The threshold of another dimension, an ordeal he would likely not survive. We tried to stop him, to warn him. He would not listen."

"This attack has proved our worst fears true," continued Lora. "Dr. Toshiro Matsumia is still alive, and still linked to this world through you. The Imps will use that link to crush Mankind if we let them."

"No matter how tempting that may sound," Belvera commented, "There's no gain in replacing one race of brutes with another."

"So," Michiko began. "We go back to Infant Island, find my father and seal the portal?"

The Three tiny women agreed.

"Then I'm in." Her monitor still displayed the manuscript. She tapped at her keyboard, deleting the last two words. "Now, can we do this before that monster reaches Japan?"

"No, but Mothra will fight it," said Moll. "That will buy us some time. We must, however, make our journey in the fastest manner possible."

"Which is how, exactly?"

The twins link hands, their sister taps a hidden switch, summoning their winged mounts. A flash of light, and a small Mothra Drone glides into view, landing on the mantle's edge. A blast of heat, and it is joined by the devilish biomechanical reptile called Garugaru.

Michiko gasped in awe. "They are wonderful animals, but they are far too small to..." she hesitated, trying to judge the tiny beings' intentions. "There's no way that I could..."

Then Belvera smiled, and raised a glowing, gauntleted hand...





Offshore.

A shadow creeps upon the beast, cast from high above. The winds turn chill against its exoskeletal hide, blocked from the warmth of the sun. A warning. The monster turns skyward, its long quill-like hairs stiffening in alarm as the shadow attacks!

The shadow strikes the hornworm hard, some half-visible enemy silhouetted by the sun. The winged attacker grips the larva with taloned feet and screams. It is the cry of Mothra, its rainbow hued wings beating at the air, wrenching the larva from the waves! Energy sparks from Mothra's claws, burning into its adversary. The larva writhes in pain, twisting frantically in his enemy's cruel grip.

Suddenly, the hornworm's smooth monocular head seems to pivot on its collar, sending the curving mandibles from front to back. Streams of thick, mucousy silk jet from its mouth, striking Mothra full in the face. Blinded by the cloying matter, Mothra shrieks and releases the struggling beast back into the sea. The larva turns, its senses now locked upon this new target. The giant Mothra defends this world, and has made its challenge clear. A challenge the larva was born to meet.





Infant Island.

The Alias land the drone in a stony clearing surrounded by towering, flowering plants. Behind them, Belvera and Michiko arrive, Garugaru gliding smothly from the sky. They dismount, Michiko keeping far from the reptile's toothy jaws. At this size, the beast could easily behead her if it wished. "I can't believe this," the journalist said. "I'm really back, the island where I was born. Not to mention the fact that I am less than a foot tall!"

"A necessary alteration for now," said Moll. "Belvera will, of course, return you to your human proportions."

"Assuming we come out of this alive," Belvera smiled. "Garugaru," she called. "Fly back to the mainland. Keep an eye on those daikaiju, and take the cockroach with you," the Dark Alias laughed. "It's a long trip. You might get hungry."

The drone looked at her twin companions, squeaking. The Alias reassured her and nodded their assent. Then the tiny beasts rose skyward, disappearing into the distance.

"Your jaw is slack again, human," Belvera teased Michiko.

The woman quickly closed her mouth, then approached her black clad companion. "I would like to see YOUR face, were our perspectives reversed. I do not like you, Imp. You antagonize me, you hate me. You hate all mankind. But what is worse, is that is how you get your kicks. Now get me to the portal, then stay out of my way."

"You sound just like your father," Belvera replied. "The day he and I walked this same path."

"Belvera, you are being cruel," Moll admonished her sister.

"I am being generous! Do you think it is a story I wish repeated? That crafty human worked with more than just science. He was armed with arcane knowledge gleaned from many cultures. What he learned here gave him the key to force me to reveal the Paraportal. The old bastard had me at his bidding, if that is any consolation to you. I never anticipated I'd be leading his fraggin' rescue mission."

"Hai," Michiko agreed. "I suppose I should thank you for that. And I'm sorry for what he did to you."

Belvera flashed a wicked grin. "You're not, really! Hiaku, we are nearly there."

Ahead, the rocky ground sloped sharply downward, revealing a small valley. The air was cool here, caught in the shade of the encroaching canopy. A mist hung close to the flat, featureless stone of the valley's floor. A deeper kind of chill ran through Michiko, then they began to make their way down...



CHAPTER TWO





The Immense Mothra soars, writhing fiercely to shake off its foe's offensive spew. The webbing was constricting, growing tighter as it dried. Mothra's scream echoed across the waves as the fibrous strands began to cut into its flesh. Below, the larva drooled.

Bolts of Cosmic force erupt from Mothra's wings, arcing out to strike the hornworm! The mutant larva cringes, then strikes back with another salvo of webbing, trapping the lepidopteran's legs. Blood began to seep from the webs slowly slicing wounds, signalling the hornworm it was time to finish this fight.


Elsewhere.

The laboratory was huge, more like a warehouse, really. Strange assortments of equipment and supplies lay strewn in random piles upon the smooth stone floor. Few lights shone save for a bright amber glow beaming down onto a workstation from somewhere high above. A figure labored there, hunched over a tiny, wriggling thing. The man removed the creature from its shallow tray, and pinned it to the table.

"There now, little one. It's almost over," the figure spoke, injecting the creature with a long syringe. The worm-like beast shuddered, then began to divide, separating itself into two individual animals. Immediately, the creatures began to fight. "Look at you," the man mused aloud. "Such elegant simplicity. Born only to destroy."

"Destruction with a purpose, Doctor. You know that." A soft green light beamed downward at the voice, illuminating the speaker's diminutive form.

"Kiron. How nice of you to drop by," said Doctor Toshiro Matsumia, moving closer to the light. The man was ancient, skeletal. Strange devices twined about him in a robotic harness meant to augment his emaciated body. His eyes shone the color of madness as he gazed upon the brutish Imp.

"We never could filter out your flair for sarcasm, Doctor. Pity, you'd be almost tolerable without it," the Imp remarked. "Still, our association has not been without its advantages." The being drew closer to peer at the twin combatants. "You are making progress, I see."

"Hai, the most primitive strain yet, and the most aggressive," the doctor removed the beasts from his table, placing them into seperate receptacles. The creatures writhed in frustration, posturing through the glass. "Loathesome little devils."

"A condition not unlike that of my own people, or what is left of them. A fate your work may help us to avoid."

"One way or another," the doctor replied.

"Our time grows short, Doctor, and your experiments have yet to isolate the Devogenic genome that plagues us. Do not mistake our cooperation for trust. Our races' hatred of each other is as mutual as it is instinctive. The time to strike has come."

"A move I thought you would wish to avoid. Do you see the irony, I wonder? A race of misogynists, whose last hopes lay in the hands of their females?"

"The attack will draw the psychics here, Doctor. That is all that matters."

"No, Kiron," the Doctor glared. "That is all that matters to YOU."

A buzzing sounded from the darkness, signaling an arrival. Another of the tiny, manlike Imps approached, bathed by a pale blue glow. The messenger bowed before them. "Lord Kiron," he spoke. "The Paraportal has been activated. We believe they are about to arrive."

"Excellent, soldier. You see, Doctor? My machinations are moving apace. Soon, I will not only have the means to cure my people, but an end to our long exile as well," the Imp gave a slight bow toward the old man. "For your own part, Human, I thank you." The being turned, joining its companion to leave.

"Your'e welcome." Doctor Toshiro Matsumia sat alone in the darkened lab, his gaze drifting deeper into the gloom. Within that dim and smoky nimbus he would sometimes find visions, glimpses of loved ones and of his life long ago. These memories, he knew, were all that was left of his lost humanity, and he clung to them fiercely, as if somehow they could make him whole.





The hornworm reared upon the waves, firing a ropy line to snare its foe. It hissed with satisfaction, and began drawing the Mothra closer. The immense insect screamed and struck back!

Triple beams of prismatic force shoot from between Mothra's eyes! The bolts strike the larva across the mandibles, severing the capture-line. They strike again, burning into the creature's hide. The hornworm retreats, and the embattled Mothra soars higher in escape.

The Moth Monster flies, struggling against its shrinking bonds. It concentrates, focusing its power into a metamorphic effect, splitting itself into a swarm of tiny duplicates! The MultiMothra move clear of the web, and turn to face their foe. As one they strike, surrounding the larva in a living, stinging shroud! The giant worm writhes, unable to escape the fierce assault. It dives beneath the waves, dragging its tiny attackers with it.

High above the battle the drone called Fairy squeals, linked to its master's pain. Beside her, Garugaru growls, relishing his companion's discomfort. The giants, it seemed, might well slay each other, providing a neat solution to their plight. The reptile's cyborganic eyes focused, tracking the fight. The drone flew ahead, chasing the churning waves now racing shoreward.

The surface of Osaka Bay flashed and boiled as the creatures fought, then the hornworm burst from the waves! The monster bled from many wounds, great cracks now marring its exoskeletal armor. It turned, and plunged once more into the surf, to drag its fallen enemy from the sea. The creature slammed the unmoving Mothra roughly upon the sand and screamed! Energy sparked across the tips of its spines as it reared above its foe, then lunged, plunging its curving mandibles deep into Mothra's flesh.

Sated, the giant larva rose from its grisly task to survey its surroundings. The place was infested with strange inorganic structures, as well as the tiny lifeforms that built them. The hives of humanity lay sprawled before the beast, teeming with numberless prey. The creature drooled as it began advancing inland, its segmented length flowing over the alien structures, carried upon its many legs.

The drone flits groundward, hovering about the form of its fallen progenitor. A dim green glow flares from the giant's multifaceted eyes, echoed by a pulse from its tiny counterpart. Garugaru glides closer, gloating, then shrieks as a brilliant flash bursts from the monster's antennae, arcing outward to envelope its drone...

Slowly, the reptile blinks the nictitating membranes that shield its eyes. Fairy floated there, transformed! The Mothra must have given her the last of its power, changing her from a delicate, pasteled insect to a furred and bulky beast! The reptile cringed as the drone faced it down, growling.







Michiko steps into the swirling mists. She could see nothing through the fog that hung around her. Even the ground had become invisible, leaving her unsure if her next step would find Earth or air. Then, somebody hit the lights!

"Take them!" A rough voice called, cutting through the blinding glare. Michiko caught a glimpse as Belvera grabbed her and flung her from the light. Still near sightless, the woman stumbled into a growing darkness, distancing herself from the brilliant aurora. Behind her, the Alias screamed.

"Oh, Buddha," she thought. "The Imps must have lain in wait for this. The Alias have been captured!" Michiko ran, her eyes adjusting as the light shifted, tracking her. Ahead, she spied what appeared to be a collection of towering mounds rising from an otherwise featureless landscape. Closer now, the mounds resolved into piles of strange mechanical debris. The light raced closer, and Michiko stepped into the shadow of the nearest mound.

"You," another voice boomed beside her, and she turned. "You are human...!" There in the darkness was a man, a giant, a sheathe of alien devices twining into and around him. The being made a few quick adjustments, working at its complex controls. Michiko's eyes grew wide as the light shifted, revealing the old man's form.

"Father?" She gasped as the giant's hand drew closer to spray her with a jet of noxious gas. The darkness closed around her, obscuring the huge, looming face that was both frightening, and familiar.





Osaka. The Defense Force had mobilized, rallying against the advancing monstrosity. An armored convoy arrived, deployed from what was left of Japan's Vanguard Command. The current wave of kaiju attacks had left their ranks dangerously thin. These remaining troops were the survivors, the lucky ones. Yeah, right!

"Holy donuts," Captain Kazuki Kato cursed. "That thing took down Mothra! How are we supposed to stop that?""

"Shooting usually slows them down," Commander Fujiko Yasuda grinned. "Why don't we start with that?"

"Uh, right! All units fire!" The soldier relayed the order. "Fire!" At once, a pair of tread mounted plasma cannons began to flare, sending blue-white beams of force arcing out to blast the beast. The soldiers too advanced, Markalites firing, pelting the monster with concussive streams of unstable molecules. The hornworm shrieked, recoiling from the attack. Then its quills stiffened into spikes, their tips flashing, bristling with power of its own!

The monster struck! Lances of energy shoot lightning-like from its quills, burning through the surrounding structures and coursing through the ground! The shockbolts moved, ripping up great branching cracks, tearing through the streets. The blast was racing toward the soldiers.

"Fall back," Kazuki screamed. "Fall back!" The troops ran as bolts of burning force leapt from the earth, striking the plasma cannons and shattering them to bits! The remaining men and vehicles scattered, tossed about by the explosions. The shockbolts at least, semmed to have used up their charge.

"We need air support," said Fujiko. "We can't withstand its energy attacks on the ground."

"Yeah, and without those plasma cannons we can barely strike back," Kazuki agreed. "Look at that thing! We just got our butts kicked by Homunculus, then the Ranagon, now this giant electric caterpillar."

"It's called Centilos," said Fujiko.

"Centilos? Has Command got these code-names stockpiled or something?"

"Kazuki, look. Something is happening..." The soldiers peered through a smoky haze, watching as the larva began to sway, firing silky streams of webbing into the sky. The gossamer strands drifted slowly down, settling around the beast in thickening layers. Forming a barrier, forming a cocoon. "We've seen this sort of thing before."

"Hai," Kazuki agreed. "Its metamorphosis has begun."





Michiko blinks awake. Her dim surroundings resolving into a sort of short walled enclosure. A tray set upon the giant's desk. Rows of containers lined the space behind her, filled with strange beasts. Among them were the Alias. A harsh taste stuck in her throat. She coughed, choking on her own breath. She puked.

"You'll be fine now," the man-machine spoke, reaching down to collect the vomit. "The gas has purged itself, as it was designed to." The giant scraped the matter into a thin tube and inserted it into a slot in his console. "This will provide a blueprint of your genetic code. A substance highly prized here."

"Where," Michiko gasped. "Where is here?"

The mad giant paused, scanning the vast unlit space. "That's a good question. I believe we are in a dimension composed of Dark Matter, a compressed sub-molecular plane. A pocket Universe completely unlike our own, for here there are no stars. The Alias stumbled upon it Millennia ago, a discovery they've regretted ever since."

"And you?" Michiko asked, unwilling to accept the shriveled cybernetic husk could be her own lost father.

"Me? I am the fool who followed them," the once-man spoke. "Did you know what they were getting you into? Did they trick you?"

"No," the woman replied. "I was not tricked."

"Still, I pity you. They hate humans, you know. You may face treatment like my own. Kept alive against your will, forced to work toward their ends. If you wish," the giant held forth an enormous scalpel. "I will kill you now."

Just then, there was shouting in the darkness, joined by the flash of laserplay. The lights intensify at the sound of an alarm, and then all Hell breaks loose!

Bolts of force burst overhead as Garugaru appears, shattering jars and striking the scalpel from the cyborg's hand. The old man curses as the creature dives, snatching its mistress from the broken glass. "Garugaru!" The Dark Alias grabs the reigns and hauls herself aboard. "You rescued me. A move made from necessity, not nobility, I'm sure."

Laser fire cuts the air around them, joined by a rising glow. The vast blackness of the place was beginning to fade, replaced by a bright, localized luminance. An even brighter glow moved off in the distance, the drone in battle with a horde of Imp warriors. "My word," Belvera hissed as the fight drew closer. "What happened to her?"

Below, the Alias moved together as the giant reached closer. Joining hands, they called out Mothra's name, channeling a shield of cosmic force to hold the cyborg back! "Do not fight us, doctor," Moll pleaded. "Escape with us! Help us protect the Earth!"

"It is too late," the old man screamed. "They have what they need from you, and your Mothra has already lost!"

Nearby, the battledrone screeched, calling out to Belvera's beast. The reptile cringed at the sound. "Garugaru, what are you doing?" Fairy screeched again then broke from the fight, winging off to find its own companions. Garugaru howled, deployed an array of modular weaponry, and dove for the Imps! "No, Garugaru! No!"

Moll and Lora struggled, fighting to maintain the shield against the giant's increasing efforts. Michiko sobbed, caught between the combatants, then screamed as Fairy appeared, firing beams of sonic force at the man! The giant backed away cursing. Stray blasts of weapons fire began to fill the air, along with Belvera's distant scream. Then Fairy lighted close to Michiko, calling for the Alias to escape.
"Michiko, we must get away," cried Moll, now astride her mount. "No good can come of staying!"

The tiny human hesitated, gazing upon the encroaching battle, then the grotesque robotic zombie that was her father. She reached for the Alias' hands, and they scooped her up between them.

"Get to the portal," Belvera's thoughts rang above the din. "Something has gone wrong with Garugaru, he is determined to fight! We will cover your escape."

"Sister, you cannot stay here . . . " Lora cast a warning thought.

"Tell that to my dragon! The beast has gone mad, I cannot stop him. Now go . . . " the Dark Alias called, hanging on as her wild mount dodged enemy fire. "Before they recapture us all."

Reluctantly, the sisters agreed, and the battledrone rose, winging swiftly away from the now illumined lab and off toward the Paraportal.

"No!" The old man cried, his steel-clad fist slamming down upon the empty tray. The Alias and the human slipped away into the distance, into the darkness.

Closer, Belvera howled as the Imps fought back, trapping her with a pair of well-aimed Gravnets. The cloying mesh stuck and sparked to action, thickening around its target, growing in mass and density and dragging its victims to the ground!

The old man watched as the female fell, surrounded by a horde of cheering Imps. Then another sound caught his ear, a signal from his console. A steady beeping that indicated the analysis of the human's bio-matter was complete. The giant activated the tiny readout, calling up the new results. Something like a barcode filled the screen, revealing the woman's unique, yet familiar genetic signature. A pattern he was sure he had seen before.

Impulsively, he keyed in a new command and another barcode appeared beside the first. "No," he gasped, recognizing the genetic markers of his personal DNA sequence mirrored in the woman's own. They were the markers that would indicate paternity. "Michiko? My Michiko?"

The mists part as the battledrone wings past the last of the Imp sentries, and into the Paraportal. Last time, the passage through the transitional plane had been brief, marked only by a few footsteps, and a subtle shifting of perception. Now, they seemed to fly against a current of strange forces, the feeling of motion fading as reality continued to warp itself around them.

Nausea seized Michiko, gripped by a sinking feeling in her gut like a roller coaster dropping groundward, only her eyes told her she was not moving. "Where are we," she called above a silent wind. "Why haven't we returned to Infant Island? To Earth?"

"We are not going to Earth, Michiko," Moll explained. "Fairy has confirmed that Mothra has fallen, and the rest of Earth's daikaiju are far more likely to kill us than be of aid to us in any way. We must seek help elsewhere now, among the countless intersecting dimensions that form the Infinity Web . . . "





CHAPTER THREE



Osaka.

Sirens wailed throughout the city as the Metropolitan Police arrived, converging on the harbor district. Vessels of every size and description filled the Bay, racing to escape the embattled zone. The streets clogged into a chaotic mass of panic as the numberless droves of humanity streamed from their homes and businesses in a frantic, spontaneous evacuation.

Amid the chaos, the Vanguard regrouped, surrounding the giant chrysalis now rising from the rubble-strewn streets. The object pulsed and shone with a shifting glow, thickening around the insectivorid horror within. Its outer surface quickly dried into an opaque, iridescent membrane. The soldiers watched as the structure settled, then finally grew still.

"This is incredible," Fujiko exclaimed. "The cocoon is already complete! This creature seems to be operating at an accelerated level, driving its metamorphosis at a hypermetabolic rate."

"Whatever," Kazuki replied. "General Shinzo just confirmed the air strike has been launched. A JSDF jet is rendezvousing with the American aircraft carrier Constitution to escort their fighters here."

"Hmm, the Western military presence throughout Asia is not so unwelcome under the circumstances. I think however, it may be just a little too late . . . "

In the distance, the cocoon began to change. The vibrant pigmentation was fading, as if being drawn inward, replaced by a shimmering translucent sac. The membrane moved, elongating itself, expanding and contracting in a convulsive dance of rebirth. Then the membrane broke, and the creature once called Centilos emerged transformed!



Elsewhere.

"There now, little one," Dr. Matsumia spoke. "It is almost over."

Garugaru shuddered as the scientist withdrew the syringe. Whatever strange elements it held were within him now, wreaking havoc upon his technorganic physiology. The creature screamed, then began to divide.

Belvera watched from her specimen jar as the dragon writhed. It twisted and split, fissioning off a living twin of itself. A perfect clone. The doctor quickly scooped up the beasts to add to the collection, then stood back to survey his work. "There are ten of you now. My, I've made a lot of monsters today!"

"You've become quite adept with our technology, Doctor," Belvera called to the man. "Incredible how madness brings such clarity to the human mind."

"Yes," the doctor smiled. "Almost as incredible as seeing your sweet face again. You haven't aged a day. Tell me now . . . " the giant reached for her jar and pressed it close to his withered countenance. "Have I changed?"
Belvera reeled as the cyborg slammed the container back down upon the desk! "Do you see what they've done to me, Alias? The things they've made me do?"

"Tried . . . " the Dark Alias grunted, fighting the pounding in her skull. "Tried to warn you . . . "

"That's true," the doctor replied. "But now you've dragged my daughter into it. Why?"

"Only way . . . it was the only way to unlock the portal. Your own genetic code became the key, the day you first passed through."

"Liar!" The doctor screamed. "Your little beasts made it through by themselves."

"That was Mothra's doing," Belvera gasped, regaining her feet. "My sisters' drone seemed to carry it's power. Perhaps that thing you sent to Earth actually managed to defeat it."

"The Mothra are the product of the same technology, I just incorporated a few refinements. Now what was it you thought you'd accomplish by coming here? You must have foreseen a trap."

"My sisters tend to act in haste when the Earth is in danger. They had hoped to appeal to you, though I warned them you wouldn't listen. You're still a fool after all, Matsumia."

"You think?" The giant raised an eyebrow. "Because I did not take your lead and turn upon my captors? Sorry to disappoint you but my programming won't allow it, no matter how much I might will it otherwise."

Understanding flashed across Belvera's face. "I could fix that easily. I've had plenty of practice working on Garugaru," Belvera eyed the man, deciding he had already paid the price for his foolishness. He had suffered enough. "Would you like to save the world you've threatened, doctor? Would you like revenge? I could give you both," the Dark Alias smiled. "Are you fool enough to let me out, Matsumia? Fool enough to let me try?"

A look of lucidity crossed the ancient cyborg's tortured face as he gazed upon the Alias. "You are asking me to trust you?" He pondered the thought, then grabbed for the jar and shook it. "I should kill you! Lucky thing then, that I have already gone quite mad."





Osaka. The enormous chrysalis splits, shred by the long, barbed spikes protruding from the creature's back. It shrugs, and the head thrusts through. A featureless, alien visage marked only by the curve of antennae at its crest, mandibles on its chin. It grows, swelling with the pulse of breath and blood, its scarlet wings expanding into rigid membranes stretched tight in the heat of the sun. It screams.

"Hornet One to wingmen," the lead pilot called, guiding the squadron of F-18A fighter jets in low over the bay. "I have visual confirmation. Business district, west of the park."

"Escort to Hornets," the Japanese pilot replied. "Vanguard reports all clear. You are authorized to strike."

"Roger, Escort. Domo arigato." The fighters dive, locked in tight formation as the JSDF escort breaks away. "Arm 'em and aim 'em, boys."

"We're gonna scrape this baby off our boots!" The rearguard called.

"All Hornets fire." A salvo of Stinger missiles streaks toward the monstrous beast. Each warhead armed with enough explosives to level a ten-story building. They strike, slamming into the creature's carapace, bursting into force and flame! Together, the jets pull up hard, gaining altitude to avoid the deadly blast radius.

"Direct hits," the leader called. "Circle back and confirm the kill. Prepare to fire on my mark." The jets turned, reducing their airspeed to survey the scene. The chrysalis was burning now, filling the air with smoke and soot, covering the area in a cloud of billowing ash.
Suddenly, an enormous red wingtip appeared, breaking through the cloud. It thrust downward, beating at the smoky nimbus, sending it fanning out in a thick black wave.
"Break off! Break off," the leader screamed, climbing clear of the cloud. "All Hornets break off now!"

A sound like thunder broke the sky as a pair of jets hit the cloud and exploded, their engines ripped to shreds by the dense particulate wall. The enormous insect screamed, struck by the blasts.
"No," the leader gasped, arcing his plane to come back around. "Give me your status, boys."

"Hornet Two is go. All systems go," the wingman replied.

"I'm still with you, " called Hornet Three. "But I took a few dents."

"Take your last shots then head for home," the leader spoke. "No more heroes."

Together the Hornets turned, banking back to confront the beast. The monster moved to face its attackers, fixing them with its eyeless gaze. "Lock on it," the leader called. "And fire!"

Again the missiles fly, detonating against the creature's exoskeletal armor. The enormous insect shrugs, retreating a step, then launches itself into the sky! The pilots marvel at the sight of the gargantuan butterfly rising, then the windsheer of its beating wings catches them and slams them straight into the ground.

"They're down, damn it," Kazuki hissed at the scene. "They're down." The ground forces had pulled out of the strike zone, retreating until their backs hit the bay. Nearby lay the giant Mothra, or rather its unmoving, macerated remains. Above, the monster soared screaming into the sky . . .









CHAPTER FOUR





Michiko screwed her eyes shut tight, daring only to peek at the strange, shifting panorama. An enormous lattice surrounded them, spinning as they flew. The structure pulsed with an inner light that shimmered through it's strands, setting it aglow. Like matter and energy dancing as one, on the edge of the Soul of the Universe.

The drone screeches out a piercing note, searching. The sound strikes the lattice, resonating across infinite realities, transcending time and space. The call is heard. The call is answered.

The sigil appears, burning in the air around them. It is the ancient symbol of the power of the Mothra, a power known throughout the Cosmos. The Alias chant to the shimmering glyph, sharing its strange spiritual glow.
Michiko feels it too, opening her telepathic channels, flowing through her mind. "Michiko, my child," a strange voice called. "At last you have come."

The woman gasped, astonished and afraid. "This cannot be," she cried. "Father, is it truly you?"

"Hai. At least, the part of me still in commune with the Web."

"I, I don't understand . . . "

"There are many Toshiro Matsumias, living upon many worlds. I am the one that's been searching for you."

"Then, you must have been cloned as well," the woman conjectured.

"True, to further my captors plans. Ours is not the only world they've threatened, daughter. Nor the only one to fall before the madness which has claimed them. Do you remember the legends, Michiko?"

"Hai, though I never imagined them more than that until now. I remember mother tucking me in, the stories of the Alias she would tell. I always suspected there was much she chose not to reveal."

"Yes, daughter. Too much. Now the day has come for you to learn . . . "
Michiko shuddered as her father's living spirit shifted closer. Her mind flooded with visions, glimpses from the past, Images of the man's many lives mixing with her own. The Alias' song grew distant as the Racial Memory of her people revealed itself to her, as if her telepathy were reaching out to touch her ancestors long ago.

"The beings we call the Alias built a great culture upon the Earth. The Psychics reaching out in commune with Nature, the Scientists exploring the boundaries of technology. Together, their people prospered in an age of great achievement that would come before the fall.

"Confronted by the changes of an evolving world and its Human race, the balance of power shifted. In a coupe facilitated by the one called Belvera, the Scientists took control, subjugating their telepathic brethren and exploiting their psionic powers. Soon they built a machine that could manipulate Cosmic energy, tapping into the primordial forces of Creation. They learned too late the delicate balance they had disturbed, causing a chain reaction of mystic power that would rip our reality apart.
"Calling upon their most ancient instincts, Lora and Moll led the Psychics to forge a commune with the Mothra; Beasts of burden that had been mutated into all manner of forms, including the gigantic battledrones that protected their cities.
It was said those monsters were created unintentionally. A lab animal struck by a random bolt of Cosmic force, an accidental exposure. Whatever the cause, those creatures could manipulate that same power naturally. They linked with the Psychics, forming an alliance and rising up against their oppressors. The revolution came too late.

"The universe began to warp, folding in upon itself. A tesseract ripped through the earth and the sky, swallowing the Alias and all the wonders they had wrought. In the heart of that Cosmic maelstrom, the Mothra fused their very essence with the Psychics, sharing the spark of mystic energy that sustained them. A multitude of Fairy Mothra were formed, escaping the dimensional implosion and trailing lines of Spiritual energy to create the lattice that now surrounds you. The lattice that anchors the divergent realities caused by the Alias' folly. The Infinity Web."

"It has restored the balance. I see," Michiko acknowledged.

"Balance the Imps would like to shatter. Their realm is all that remains of that dimensional warp, it is the anomaly's compressed, immortal core. Were the Web to collapse, that core would be released, expanding once more to consume all realities. Something I have only hastened, I'm afraid."

"Do not blame yourself, father. How were you to foresee . . . "

"The consequences of my actions? Like the Alias, I too was ignorant of the forces I disturbed. That is why they hate us so, Michiko. We are far too much alike. It was I who disrupted the Web, the day I stepped through the Paraportal and into the Imps' dark realm. I who opened the door for them to strike, and I who supplied them the weapon. My ambition has already cost me my family, now it threatens my world. I cannot ask you to forgive me, daughter, but I must ask you to help me now. Please help me to put things right."

Michiko considered the Spirit's words, summoning a vision of the man from somewhere deep within her memory. Her father reached out to her, and she took his hand. "What do you want me to do?"



Elsewhere. "Doctor," Lord Kiron entered the lab, his eyes fixed upon the female. "Leave me alone with her."

"As you wish," the doctor grinned and trundled off among the mounds.

The Imp regarded the Alias, smiling. "Belvera, my sweet. It has been a long, long time."

A dark passion burned behind Belvera's glare. She pressed her body against the glass and whispered; "You want me, Kiron? Then let me out of here."

"Look around you. You are already mine." The Imp backed off a pace, trailed by the spotlight that marked his presence. He leered admiringly at the woman. "When I conspired to draw the Psychics here, I did not anticipate you would join them. That they would accept you, after you betrayed them."

"I had no choice, thanks to you," the Dark Alias seethed.

"You chose to master Science when your sisters' psionic powers began to outstrip your own. You so resented being unable to resonate with the Mothra that we built the Garugaru for you instead. We did that together, you and I. I may even have loved you once," The Imp considered the memory. "You are still alive thanks to me. Remember that."

"I remember many things, Kiron. But like our love, those days are long gone. All that I can offer you now is one chance. To surrender."

"What?" The Imp exclaimed. "Given your imprisonment, you'll forgive my not taking you seriously."

"You will," Belvera grinned. "Look at the other containers."

"The other . . .?" The Imp scanned the workstation, taking in the view. The rows of specimen jars were everywhere as usual. Then he realized that they were empty. They were all empty. He looked around, and found the darkness filled with luminous, predatory eyes.

Belvera laughed as the Imp began to shudder, surrounded by a hoard of vengeful beasts . . .


Osaka. The monster flaps lazily overhead, surveying the near abandoned city. It hovers, then flits away, shifting position in the erratic flight pattern indicative of its species. Its wing beats drive the air, pummeling the structures and sending vehicles flying through the streets. Fires begin to spread throughout the city, marking the creature's sporadic wake. "It is going to destroy Osaka," Fujiko hissed. He turned to his partner, and spoke the monster's name; "Monarch-X!"

Kazuki scowled in acknowledgment. He primed his weapon, drawing the Mark A5 Lightning gun from the holster on his back. Around him, the remaining troops did the same. Their meaning was clear; they would go down fighting. Japan's Vanguard may not be invincible, but they were tenacious.
"Weapons ready," Fujiko announced, drawing his own from its sling. "Fireshields up," he commanded, and the squad complied. "Now let's . . . "

The Commander clipped the statement short, taking note of something strange. A glow was rising from the unmoving Mothra. A shimmering aura that began to build, then flash, pulsing outward to engulf the fallen monster in a fiery nimbus of light! That light focused, refracting into a pattern, a symbol. The symbol that harnesses the energy of the universe.

Fujiko flashed an open hand, signaling his troops to hold their ground. The sigil burned brighter, drawing the attention of the daikaiju called Monarch-X. The monster closed upon the mark, screaming, and from within that shining pattern came an answer!

A bolt of cosmic force leapt from the symbol's core, striking Monarch-X and slamming it into the ground! A row of buildings collapsed at the impact, burying the giant monster beneath a cascade of rubble and debris. The creature kicked and thrashed against the crumbling ruins, its wings flapping frantically to force itself free! It rose and turned toward the glowing glyph, its rage turning to shock at what it found . . .

In the sky above the sigil a burning Mothra flew. It wheeled and turned, circling its glowing mark. Another rose to join it, and another. The nimbus of light diminished as more of the monsters appeared, as if they were using its energy to take form. The flaring sigil dimmed, fading to reveal a deeper mystery . . .

The Rainbow Mothra was gone, consumed by the symbol's mystic fire. In its place stood a woman surrounded by an army of tiny drones. The drones pulsed and flashed as the female began to chant, gesturing in the ritualized movements of some ancient tribal dance. The drones strobed to match the song, echoed by the flaming auras of their giant counterparts. Then the final note sounded, the final gesture made as the woman pointed toward the enormous butterfly and commanded her forces to attack!

The burning Mothra moved, their own glows fading as they struck, revealing their individual forms. Monarch-X screamed, launching itself skyward as the swarm attacked! It screamed again, caught by a salvo of force bolts loosed by a strangely armored version of its enemy. A Rock Mothra followed up the strike, ramming Monarch-X and sending it plummeting from the sky. The monster shrieked as it slammed into the ground, surrounded by an army of maddened foes!

"Who the hell is that," cried Fujiko, stunned by the events. "Where did she come from?"

"She is with us," the twins appeared astride their drone and faced the soldiers.

"Ah so," Kazuki smiled. "I was wondering when the legendary Alias would appear."

"We are here now to help you," spoke Lora.

"Please hold your troops back while the Mothra do their work," concluded Moll.

"Domo arigato, Alias," Fujiko bowed. "It is good to know you are on our side."

The twins bowed in return then sped off to rejoin the woman, fusing once more with their drone and taking their place among the host of other Fairy Mothra.

The enormous butterfly cringed, retreating before the advancing swarm. A Crystal Mothra winged closer, launching laser-like beams from its eyes. Monarch-X struck back, catching the attacker with a shock-web fired from its maw. The silken net clung to the Mothra, trapping it in a burning lattice of electrical force! The Armor Mothra reappeared, loosing beams of magnetic fire from its wing mounted cannons. Monarch-X turned from the fight, seeking to escape the savage assault. Then the earth began to burn around him as a pair of Lava Mothra erupted from underground, grabbing him with their bony mandibles!

Monarch-X screamed, trapped by the larvae's burning grip! It twisted and shook violently, unable to throw the attackers off. In a final desperate move, the monster struck back, stabbing its gleaming stinger deep into the ground and loosing a devastating pulse of electricity! The surge caught the larvae, sending them writhing in convulsive shock. Freed, Monarch-X rose as the shockcharge tore through the ruined streets, burning a path toward the sigil's glowing remains and the beings that had used its power against him.

The soldiers watched in horror as the energy closed upon the woman and detonated, vaporizing everything within the circumference of the mark! The swarm of otherworldly Mothra also flared, vanishing into the blast. The intense glare flashed then faded, revealing a final startling secret . . .

A tesseract hung pulsing in the air before them, a dimensional warp cutting through the earth and the sky. Energy danced along the phenomenon's shimmering edge, while within could be glimpsed the majestic starscape of space. The men and the monster backed away from that shifting rip, fearing the lure of the void. Then, from the heart of that nameless universe there came a strange screeching cry.

Monarch-X froze at the sound, shrieking in fear as the call sounded again, and the rainbow-hued Mothra emerged ready to do battle!

The enormous insects faced off, hissing and circling in a challenge-dance of death! Mothra struck first, launching a shimmering web against its foe. The cloying strands shone with a prismatic glow as they settled upon the monster, covering Monarch-X in a sheath of photonic fire! The creature howled, calling upon the last of its strength and launching a salvo of lightning strikes against its enemy. Mothra deflected the assault, generating a sonic shield precisely modulated to counter the blasts.

With a cry born of madness, Monarch-X flew at Mothra, latching onto its enemy with spiky claws! The Moth monster grappled with the beast, digging its own talons deep into the butterfly's hide. Monarch-X kicked and lunged, frenzied by the very concept of its own defeat. Mothra kept hold of the berserker, forcing the fight groundward, back toward the warp from which it came. A final cry of rage echoed through the sky as Mothra dragged Monarch-X screaming into the tesseract, still battling as they fell. Instantly, the warp began to close.

"The warp is shrinking, sealing itself," Fujiko observed. "You men stay here. Kazuki, let's move in."
The warp diminished, growing smaller, fading out until only a shallow gash remained. Then, at the event horizon's lingering edge, they saw it. "Kazuki, look there . . . "

A man stepped from the tesseract, holding a little girl. The soldiers could not help noting his odd garments, outfitted like some jungle explorer. They watched as he placed the sleeping child upon the ground. He kissed her sweetly, then slowly backed away, disappearing into the rift.
With a final blinding surge, the tesseract vanished. The soldiers blinked fiercely, shaking off the glare to find the child was gone as well. A different figure lay there now; the woman who had appeared within the sigil. The twin Alias were by her side.

"It is the Alias and their friend," Kazuki commented as they drew closer. "They are alive!"





CHAPTER FIVE



Vanguard Provisional Command, the Infirmary. "Father!" Michiko bolts awake with a scream. "Don't leave me again! Don't . . . " she looks around her, realizing it's already too late. "Don't."

"Michiko san," thought Moll. "It's all right now, we are home. We have won."

Michiko stared for a moment at the tiny twins, reorienting herself with her normal proportions. "Hai," she spoke through a veil of tears. "We have won."

"Miss Matsumia desu ka?" A lab-coated old man entered the room. "Doctor Noribu Noto desu." He bowed, then took her hands to check her pulse. Michiko complied as he dilated her pupils with a tiny light, then peered into her ears, nose and throat. She felt him squeeze her hands and looked up to find him grinning. "There now, my business is done. You look pretty good to me," the physician half-flirted. "Uh, how do you feel?"

Michiko gazed expressionlessly at the man. "Give me a minute," she replied. She closed her eyes then, and let herself just breathe, let herself just BE. Her consciousness expanded, opening like a lotus, reaching out to touch the infinite. There, she found only emptiness. "He's gone," she sighed as her psyche slipped back within her. "He's gone."

"But not forgotten, eh, human?" The voice rang through their minds as Belvera appeared astride her dragon, accompanied by the drone called Fairy. Doctor Noto gasped at the sight of the tiny intruders, and fell into a chair.

"Belvera," cried Moll. "You escaped, and returned our sweet Fairy to us as well!"

"Try the other way around. Your drone came back for us, and used the last of her power to get us out, reverting to her normal state in the process."

"In any case, sister, we are glad to have you home. Not even you deserve to share the fate the Imps brought upon themselves," the twins bowed to their elder.

"I'm touched," the dark Alias scowled. "Here, human," she called to Michiko. "This is for you." A small, shiny object flew from Belvera's grasp, and Michiko snatched it from the air. A pair of World War Two era dog tags. Her father's. "The Toshiro Matsumia, you met in the dark realm is gone. I managed to alter his behavioral programming, to release him from his servitude. He died shortly afterwards."

Michiko shuddered, then composed herself. "I owe you my thanks."

"No, Michiko," Lora began. "It is we who must thank you, for opening the paraportals to those alternate realities, allowing the other surviving Alias and their Mothra to come through and defeat the monster the Imps unleashed."

"Something only a telepath sharing your family's genetic code could accomplish," Moll confirmed. "I am sure your father would be proud."

"Hai, but now the ordeal Is over, as are my dealings with you ridiculous humans, and you psychics as well," Belvera scowled. "But just to show there are no hard feelings, I've left a surprise for you back on Infant Island." The Dark Alias spurred her mount higher, drifting toward an open window. She paused for a moment, then bowed slightly to her former companions. "Sayonara," she said with an evil smile, then quickly flew away.

"A surprise?" Lora looked questioningly at Moll.

"Yes, we had better check this out. We must leave you now, Michiko, but we may return one day," said Moll, hopping aboard the drone. "Will you be alright, my friend?"

Michiko clutched her father's dog tags and smiled. "Hai. I think I finally have an ending for that story I was writing. A good ending."



EPILOGUE



In the jungles of Infant Island there stands an ancient temple, a temple filled once more with the acolytes of the Godbeast called Mothra. The Alias guide their drone to land before the alter, and take their place among the throng of strange lifeforms now milling about upon the rough stone floor.

A flock of multi-colored Garugaru flit lazily overhead, framed by the shine of the huge bioluminescent Glow-worms that once gave light to the Dark Realm. A multitude of mutant larvae scuttle all around. Released from their genetic programming, their once-savage natures are gone, replaced by a non-aggressive curiosity that may one day give rise to their own unique telepathic influence.

And there, upon that enormous alter, lay an enormous egg. A perfect ovoid of powder blue, streaked with orange and spotted white. The Alias sing as the eggshell breaks, and a pair of perfect larval Mothra emerge into the starlit night.

The stellar alignment has passed, the cycle is unbroken, and the Infinity Web spins on.