Flash Fiction Challenge: What Rough Beast

I was excited as hell when I rolled Kaiju and Bio-Punk as my mashup for this week’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The SubGenre Blender over at terribleminds. Only problem was, I spent the next half a day completely stonewalled because there were too many directions for me to take! Then, on the way home, I happened to see a young girl walking her Doberman Pinscher. Her entire posture screamed “just try to fuck with me.” I loved that moment, that image, and I knew I had my hook.

Next hurdle was trying to contain this world to 2,000 words. But then I realized that’s why there are novellas and novels, to flesh out these little scenarios we come up with. This is just a taste.

You’ll be seeing more of Sophie, for sure.

What Rough Beast

“Damn it, Sophie. Stop playing with that lizard!” Walker’s voice was like a buzzsaw through the humid jungle air.

Sophie sat, long blond hair dusting the ground, her legs in a pretzel. She looked intensely present and supremely bored in the way that only teenagers seemed to accomplish. Across from her, the lizard’s knobby hide was so dark green it was nearly black. At first glance, it could almost be an alligator, except for the fact it stood on two legs and its head was more reminiscent of a carnivorous dinosaur.

Sophie sighed “Isn’t this why you dragged me out here? To be this thing’s mommy?” She picked up a slobber-covered stick and tossed it into the brush that surrounded their camp. The creature made a guttural yelp and bounded after it.

Walker scowled and poked at the fire. “First, I didn’t ‘bring you here.’ You lied to my assistant and got picked for this assignment without me knowing.”

“Because you were going to bring some other 17-year-old girl into the jungle with you? That’s not creepy at all.”

He ignored her and plowed forward. “Second. You’re here because juvenile kaiju bond with young females and I needed this one docile. You’re not its ‘Mommy.’ You’re the handler that’s keeping it quiet so we don’t get killed before I’ve prepped the trap.”

Sophie unwrapped her legs and stood. “And what about that? You’re using Rex as bait so that you can kill his real mom? That’s sick.” Rex came back and dropped the stick at her feet, nudging her hand when she didn’t immediately pick it back up.


She rolled her eyes. “Well, duh. I’m not going to name him Fluffy.”

Walker closed his eyes for a three-count. “You don’t name the bait. And, yes, when Japanese investors will pay 100 million for his ‘real mom’s’ rendered corpse, you’re damn right I’m using him as bait.” Sophie stood stock-still, a scowl on her face. Walker sighed. “This is the job, Soph. This is what got you the house you live in, the clothes you wear, your first car.”

Sophie broke in, the fight drained from her voice. “It’s why mom left.”

Walker pursed his lips. “That too.”

A distant bellow made them both look East. Booming, deep, it made the ground under them tremble.

“Dammit, she’s early!” Walker started running around camp, manipulating touchscreens and frantically typing in commands. “Sophie, get in the pod.”

“No! I didn’t come all the way out here just so I could miss everything!”

He stormed towards Sophie, his eyes on a blinking monitor at the far edge of the camp. Walker grabbed her arm and pulled her along, never breaking stride. He let go of the struggling girl next to a silver sphere, its open door revealing a cushioned cockpit. “You were here for one thing and one thing only. You are a tool and your usefulness to me in this operation is over.”

Sophie blinked rapidly like she’d been slapped. “That’s all I am to you?”

The ground shook constantly now with the footsteps of the approaching kaiju. “I never waste good tools. Get in the pod.”

A retort died on Sophie’s lips as the air around them shattered with the roar of the beast. She looked up, her mind trying to make sense of the input it was receiving. It was like an immense bank of dark clouds had settled next to to their camp. Rows of teeth, each as large as her father, framed a gaping maw that rapidly descended towards them.

“Pod! Go!” Walker yelled as he slammed his palm down on the nearest screen. The air above the camp crackled with blue energy. The creature pulled its head back and made a frustrated growl, arcs of electricity shooting across its snout.

The night sky lit up as the fins on the kaiju’s back started to glow a nuclear orange.

Walker’s eyes widened. “Shit. It’s not that things’ mom at all. It’s a male.” He grabbed Sophie by the shoulders and shoved her back until her calves bumped against the open pod door. Sophie didn’t resist, her eyes locked on the mountain of fire that was forming above them.

Walker shook her. “Sophie! I need you to look at me!” He grabbed her chin and pulled her face towards his. “Inside the pod, there is a green button. Once that door is closed. Once I’m free of the blast zone, you’re going to press it and you’re going to get the hell out of here.”

Sophie’s voice was barely a whisper. “But you…”

“Have survived worse.” Tears at the corners of his eyes betrayed the lie. “There’s no time left. Go.” With one last shove, Sophie fell inside, the door slamming shut, cutting off the cacophonous din of the camp. Walker took a few steps back, his lips moving in an unfamiliar, but still unmistakable way.

“I love you too, Dad.” Sophie said, tears clouding her vision. She pressed the green button and the world was on fire.

Ten Years Later

The ornithopter flew in low towards the rocky shore of the island, darting back and forth much like the dragonfly it resembled.

It landed and the iris to the passenger cavity cycled open. A man stumbled out and promptly fell to his hands and knees, disgorging the contents of his stomach. He stood shakily and adjusted the black frames of his glasses. He looked down at the mess at his feet and moved gingerly away, not wanting to soil the new work boots he bought just for this excursion.

“Well aren’t you a lost little lamb.” He looked up to see a woman leering at him from a rocky outcropping above the beach. She was dressed in cargo shorts and a tank top. Her bald head caught the light of the rising sun. Her right arm was covered in thick green scales like armor and clutched what had to be a weapon, but the shifting organic nature of it defied identification.

“Ms. Walker!” He held up his hands and took a step back involuntarily! “They sent me to find you!”

She shifted her aviator sunglasses on top of her head and squinted at him. “Too many pronouns.”

“Right! Sorry. It’s been a while since I’ve…” His words stumbled over each other “The honorable Prime Minister of New Japan requests your immediate assistance in the elimination of an approaching Aberration.” He added, almost apologetically, “I’m Paul?”

“Aberration?” The sunglasses were replaced, shutting away her blue eyes.

“It’s…um…it’s a big creature. Hostile. Has unknown powers and configuration.”

“It’s a kaiju.”

Paul wrinkled his nose at the word. “No offense Ms. Walker, but we don’t say that anymore. With UTO farming methods what they are today, it would be like calling cattle Plains Beasts.”

“You still call ‘em ‘Unidentified Terrestrial Objects,’ if you go hang your fancy acronyms. Monster is a monster, no matter how tame you think it is.” She straightened and turned to go, lowering her weapon. “You people know so much, you go take care of your ‘Aberration’ yourself. I’m retired.”

“Wait!” Paul raised a hand towards her “We think it’s the…kaiju that destroyed Tokyo. The one that killed-“

“I know who it killed.” Sophie didn’t turn around. “…You’re sure?”

“With 99% certainty. This is one UTO that we had the opportunity to study quite well.”

She took a deep breath and let it go slowly. “I don’t work for free, Paul. If your ‘honorable Prime Minister’ thinks that he can get me for nothing because of my history with this thing.”

“Nothing of the sort. The province of New Japan is prepared to pay you double your usual fee.”

She smiled in a way that was neither comforting or friendly. “That’s not the most they told you they’d pay, Paul. We both know that.”

He opened his mouth to protest and shut it quickly. “Four times.”

Sophie didn’t move and said nothing. Her mouth a straight line.

Paul exhaled with a sigh and mumbled, “Ten times.”

“There you go, Paul! I knew you’d get it eventually!” She frowned at him “You really made a mess of my beach.”

He was back to stammering “I’m sorry, Ms. Walker, the dragonfly really didn’t want to land here. It made the approach rougher than I’m used to.”

“Well then it’s smarter than you.” Sophie jumped the seven feet down to the beach, landing in a deep crouch. “And stop with the Ms. Walker crap. You make me feel like a goddamn soccer mom. It’s just Walker.”

She strode past Paul and hauled herself up into the waiting transport, it’s rainbow wings shimmering in the early sunlight. “Now hurry the hell up. If you idiots can see it, it’s probably already too late to save your asses.”

The ornithopter lifted off as Paul scuttled inside, leaving behind nothing but waves and rocks. As soon as they were a dot on the horizon, the island sunk beneath the ocean surface.

– – –

Sunlight played through the chitinous spires of Tokyo as they made their approach. No “New” or “Neo” designation here. City planners wanted to downplay their displacement as much as possible. Still, the vat-grown towers that went up overnight fooled no one. Locals called it “Bug City.”

Paul leaned back from the window and tried hard not to sigh with relief as the city filled their view. He spared a glance at his companion. Even in the cramped space, Walker had managed to get her feet up on the wall. She scowled at the view, the armor on her right arm creaking loudly as she clenched and unclenched her fist.

Before he could register what had happen, Walker had uncoiled and was leaning across his lap, pointing. Up close, she smelt like body odor and old leather.

“What is that?”

Paul followed her gaze. Beyond downtown, beyond the suburbs even, rose a pustulant dome, rising like an infected boil, nearly as tall as the towers it was set apart from.

“That’s the UTO rendering plant.” He hoped the defensiveness didn’t creep into his voice. This was the beginning of a very familiar fight.

“You mentioned cows before; but you really are treating them like cattle? You people are stupider than I thought.” She retreated to her side of the passenger cavity, back up against the wall.

“New Japan is carved out of a very tiny part of China. A part they were glad to give up because fallout radiation from the destruction of Japan had ruined the soil.”

“And that means you can carve up unique animals for food? That you can put groups of walking nuclear bombs together in everyones’ backyard?”

“Not just for food. How do you think we can even survive here without regular supplements to combat radiation sickness?” His gaze strayed to Walker’s bald head. He was sure it wasn’t a fashion choice. “And they’re hardly unique. Breeding techniques have-“

“Breeding techniques.” The way Walker said it, it was practically an insult.

“Look, your Dad paved the way for this.”

“He was a hunter, not a farmer.”

“He was a harvester. We’re just doing what he did, but with more efficiency than he could dream of.”

Walker scowled. “Then what does that make me?”

Paul shook his head. The proximity to the city had given him back his courage. How could this woman, this self-exile, come back and criticize all they had done to survive, to thrive? “You’re an exterminator.”

Walker was silent for a minute. When she spoke, he wasn’t sure if she was talking about the Aberration or him. “I suppose I am.”

She made a guttural sound in the back of her throat. Wind rushed in as the passenger cavity irised open.

Paul clutched at his safety harness, hastily pulling it over his shoulders. “How did you do that? What are you doing?”

Walker steadied herself with her armored arm, leaning into the open air. “Thanks for finding my quarry; but I can take it from here.”

Paul yelled over the wind. “No, wait! There are procedures! There are components unique to this Aberration. You can’t just kill him!”

“I know all about how unique this bastard is. We’ve got a score to settle.”

“We?” Was all Paul managed as the ornithopter started to tack back and forth rapidly.

Walker flashed that unsettling smile at him and let go of the transport. Paul craned his neck to follow her descent, only to find that she was still even with him, the giant monster having risen up to catch her as she fell.

“What the hell!” Paul screamed, futilely trying to scramble back against his harness.

“I’m not the only one with daddy issues.” She rubbed the scaly ridge that protruded above an eye as big as the dragonfly. “Me and Rex, we’ll take care of your problem; but don’t come looking for us again.” She flopped back against a protruding cranial ridge and smacked it hard with her open palm, stuck her chin forward and said, “C’mon, boy. Let’s go.”

Rex let out a piercing roar that displaced the air in Paul’s lungs. When he could remember to breath again, the creature was striding determinedly towards the horizon, Walker riding on top, hastily assembling something large and wicked-looking. What looked like a small island was coming to meet them.

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