“General Kramer! Forward scouts have reported sighting Ultimaxus off the coast! It is approaching the mouth of the Columbia River at twenty knots.”
“Scramble defensive squadrons! Deploy mobile artillery! Is Ultimaxus within range of the Astoria gun emplacements?”
“In three minutes, General!”
“Order the crews to stand by to fire on my command!”
Fort Vancouver, just one of many new command centres hastily established to consolidate the military apparatus in the exposed coastal cities, burst into desperate activity. Sea-raid sirens blared, jet engines roared, and soldiers yelled as the first blurry images appeared on radar monitors and long-range cameras. An immense lumbering form waded between unoccupied islands like a child in a toy-filled bathtub.
“General! Science team confirms identity. It is Ultimaxus!”
“Get Professor Croft and Doctor Ishikara up here immediately!”
The General chewed a thumbnail as he glared at the monitors, willing them to contradict the awful report. Ultimaxus! The news could not be worse. More than two and a half million souls lived in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan region, with hundreds of thousands more along the Columbia River. Those who had not fled inland at the first alarms now huddled in their homes, awaiting their fate.
“This is Squadron Barking Watchdog, Central Command. We are on approach to target. Do we have live strike clearance?”
“Confirmed, Watchdog. You are off the leash.”
“Adopting Formation Blind Kaiju, Central. Engaging in T-minus-ten. Niner. Eight.”
The command team held their collective breath. The gambit was new and untested, the brainchild of the Special Tactics Group. Past attempts to cripple the senses of the Great Beasts of the Pacific had ended in spectacles of fire and death. Would this time be any different? Yet what choice did they have? Ultimaxus – like all the vast, unthinking engines of destruction which sprung from the irradiated remains of Vladivostok – seemed all but invincible.
“Commencing strike! Phosphorous missiles away!”
The battle was taking place nearly ninety miles away. The General knew the morning sky outside was not suddenly more brilliant, as the combat livestream filled with incandescent white bursts, but he experienced fleeting hope expressed as an instant of brightness. The instant passed, the scorching cloudbursts cleared and the gargantuan head reappeared. The plated scales were burnished but intact, the toothsome maw glowed blue with a renewed intensity, and all three eyes, as black as the deepest ocean trenches, glinted with a malevolent sheen.
“Negative on sensory overload, Central! Our missiles had no effect. Coming around for conventional barrage!”
“Ultimaxus has crossed into the Columbia River! It is heading upstream!”
“Gun emplacements firing! Gun emplacements report minimal damage! Gun emplacements destroyed!”
The General scowled as two civilians were led into the command centre. The sad-eyed man held an unlit cigarette in shaking fingers. The stern-looking woman wagged a finger at the soldiers.
“I warned you General! All you have accomplished is to aggravate Ultimaxus!”
“I need solutions, Professor! Not recriminations! Doctor, what do you know of Ultimaxus?”
The hulking behemoth filled the wall display with its heaving corpulence, green as a mountain in spring and sparkling with cascading waterfalls as it rises to its full height. Puffs of orange flame and black smoke peppered its sides as the mobile batteries open up from the riverside. The creature’s impassive slab face turned in their direction. Its jaw dropped open. It disgorged a royal blue wave, as if vomiting viscous ink.
“Displacement field in effect, General!”
“Estimated population in the area of effect – up to twenty thousand!”
Drones fed images from high above the scene of carnage. Where a heavily trafficked commercial zone had been just moments ago, there were now only hills dressed in thick woods, with a gentle stream runnning through. At the oblong border of this sudden rural expanse, the urban bustle resumed.
“The city has been destroyed! Loss of infrastructure is total!”
“Just like Pyongyang and Kagoshima!”
Doctor Ishikara swallowed hard and shook his head. He pushed a tablet at the General, pointing to the readings on display.
“Ultimaxus’ emission creates a field of Utter Temporal Reversal, General! The people there are not dead! They are like the buildings, the roads and everything else within the field. They have simply never existed!
“We will cease to remember them, moments from now!”
Professor Croft hammered the General’s desk with both fists.
“We must lure Ultimaxus away from the population centres before the casualties become a hundredfold worse!”
“Don’t be alarmist, Professor! Ultimaxus has inflicted almost no casualties. It has stuck to rural forest areas so far!”
Ultimaxus paused on its advance upriver, thrashing its claws wildly at the air, beating its dragonfly wings so hard that waves inundated the forests bordering the Columbia River.
“We cannot take that chance. The areas further upstream are densely populated!”
“What do you propose?”
“There is no choice. We must activate the Vladisvostok Protocol!”
Helicopter gunships flung a volley of Hellfire missiles at Ultimaxus. It breathed a stream of blue vapour. The helicopters vanished, replaced by wheeling pteranodons, which circled over the pristine river in search of prey.
“You can’t be serious! It’s a plan of last resort!”
“It is very dangerous, yes, but the theory is sound! We must act before anyone gets hurt!”
“An abandoned atoll just off the coast. We have an aircraft standing by to deploy the Chronos Bomb!”
Ultimaxus proceeded along the river. In its wake, trucks and power lines disappeared, replaced by woods and creeks.
“The explosion will perfectly reproduce the conditions of the Vladisvostok Event!”
“Ultimaxus will be attracted by the temporal radiation!”
“Very well! Dispatch the bomber! And may God have mercy -”
A strange sensation caught Ultimaxus’ attention. It hesitated, breathed a sigh which might have been relief, and turned back toward the ocean and the strange blue cloud rising from the horizon.
Behind it, the forests fell silent.
I felt like doing a story comprised mainly of loud declarative sentences. No idea why.
This story was completed in the departure lounge of Sydney International Airport, where the wifi is not quite as reliable as I’d hoped.