The news of the attack came as a complete surprise. Being almost three years after Boston, humanity had a pretty good handle on things with the Titans. Monarch was making leaps and bounds toward the technological advancements to allow for true understanding between species—and they’d been open about such.
They were slightly less open about exactly how much progress was being made in certain areas. No matter how far people had come, the idea of implants essentially translating Titan-speech directly into your head would probably cause some panic.
Only the most dedicated, open-minded, and necessarily brave members of Monarch served as the test subjects for the implants—and that number was low. Many claimed they wanted to wait until the technology was more refined and required less tweaking and experiments, but by then, the translation software would probably be accessible through other, non-invasive means.
Either way, Maddie didn’t let the lingering looks, focused on the relatively small devices tucked behind her ears, bother her. If being able to talk to the Titans wasn’t a top priority for them, fine. But it was for her. Had been for a long time.
Being one of the lab rats had its ups and downs. Pros: she could understand the Titans (Godzilla was actually incredibly insightful and gave pretty good advice, and sitting and chatting with Mothra brought her stress levels down like nothing else); she was able to remain on Monarch sites with or without her dad’s permission; she got to travel around the world to help sort out Titan-related issues; she could understand the Titans; her knowledge and opinions carried more weight; she had top security clearance; and she could understand the Titans.
Frankly, if understanding the Titans was all she got out of it, the whole thing would still be worth it.
Cons: of the relatively limited sphere of people who knew about the implants and how far along they were, there were plenty willing to go to great lengths to get their hands on the technology. Maddie and the few others in the program—like Dr. Chen and Sam Coleman, who, as the Director of Technology, was not only one of the heads of the project, but also one of the first to volunteer to test the device he’d worked so hard on—had to be considered as valuable assets in case of emergency.
So, while footage of the attack played on one of the large screens in front of her, she sighed over what she knew would come eventually. Worst part of being an asset.
“Are we sure it’s Jonah?” someone off to her left asked.
On the tablet screen in Maddie’s hands, Dr. Chen echoed her sigh. Though she was on a Monarch base in Peru, her exasperation came through clearly as she muttered, “Yes, because the common criminal would want anything to do with this.”
Maddie snickered in agreement. No matter how friendly the relationship between humans and Titans had become, she couldn’t imagine many people would both be gutsy enough and have the right connections to pull this off. This would be extreme even for the naysayers who continued to advocate for the death of all Titans.
A much smaller but still wildly dangerous version of Ghidorah continued his on-screen rampage through Florida. He appeared to only have two heads, but the lack of one didn’t hinder his ability to vaporize things. The camera streaming the devastation was too far away to show the people at the heart of the destruction, but they watched as buildings crumbled and Maddie could only guess at the number of those injured or dead.
“What’s Jonah playing at?” Dr. Stanton, seated at one of the stations in the room, asked. “He can’t possibly think he can finish what he started with this guy.”
Despite the shakiness and occasional static-blur, Maddie could plainly see that this discount Ghidorah was slower and not quite as violent as the original. And with the Titans united in the protection of Earth and its inhabitants, it would only be so long before someone came along and stomped him into the ground.
“Revenge?” Barnes suggested. “Maybe he’s throwing a tantrum because he knows forcing an apocalypse event is off the table.”
Less than ten minutes after the attack began, one of Monarch’s strike teams arrived. Their efforts were enough to drive the half-baked Ghidorah off.
“Too easy,” Maddie said. “He barely put up a fight.”
A number of heads around the room nodded in agreement. Dr. Chen was distracted by something off-screen, but she added, “There weren’t any Titans close enough to pose a threat, either. His retreat was entirely manufactured.”
Maddie made a concerted effort not to clench her jaw. “So Jonah’s got a way to control him.”
Dr. Stanton was typing away at his computer. “I need to know if there was anything being transmitted in the area, something meant to replace the ORCA.”
“And if there wasn’t?” Colonel Foster asked.
“Then it might be internal.” Dr. Stanton made a face. “It’ll be a hell of a lot harder to track if that’s the case.”
“But why bother with a Titan at all?” a young woman on the other side of the table asked.
“To keep us focused on it,” Maddie answered, drawing attention to herself. “And because he wants us to waste time trying to pick his motives apart until we end up missing his real intentions. Ten bucks says this was nothing more than a distraction. Twenty says it happens again soon somewhere else.”
“I’m not taking either of those bets,” Dr. Stanton said with a grin. “So mini-Ghidorah’s just to keep us busy. What’s he trying to sneak past us?”
Dr. Chen spoke up from the tablet, raising her voice to be heard by more than only Maddie. “What is everyone who tries to fool Monarch these days after? He doubtlessly wants the translation technology.”
And that was what Maddie wasn’t looking forward to. With Jonah’s reappearance and the return of Ghidorah—or, at least, part of him—as an asset, she’d be put under protection until the threat was taken care of.
Usually, that meant being relocated to a safehouse or an especially secure outpost. Castle Bravo and the other big-name bases were too exposed and well-known, no matter how good their security was.
After passing the tablet with Dr. Chen off to someone who would coordinate with her on the upcoming protective measures, Maddie wandered into the room next-door. It was one of the lounges with a massive underwater viewport, and since she’d probably end up far away from the ocean, she sat down before the glass and leaned her forehead against it. Maddie closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
Her dad wouldn’t be happy about this. He was busy in DC and definitely wouldn’t be able to get here in time to say goodbye, and non-emergency communication was a big no-no when her safety was on the line.
A deep rumble interrupted her thoughts. Opening her eyes, she leaned back. On the other side of the window, Godzilla watched her.
“Hey,” she said.
“Pup,” he greeted her. “You’re in danger.”
She nodded. “Yeah, they’ll be sending me to a safehouse soon because Jonah’s probably after the implants.”
“Not implants,” he told her. “You. Two-Heads—” and he couldn’t quite contain his version of a snicker at the implied insult of Ghidorah being demoted a head— “was going on about his master wanting child. Little brat. Has to be you.”
Maddie pinched herself hopefully, because this was an actual nightmare she’d had before and she had to double check. No luck.
“A safehouse might not be enough, then,” she thought out loud, remembering the lengths he’d gone to to have his way before. If he was specifically after her… she laughed shakily. Armed guards and a few locks wouldn’t stop him—especially not if he decided to bring his two-thirds of Ghidorah.
Godzilla shook himself from his head down to his tail, snorting the way he always did when she was distressed. “Wish I could stay,” he told her regretfully. “No one would get past me. Have to help with Two-Heads, though.”
Maddie nodded. “I’ll let them know. Maybe they’ll put aside their pride in assuming normal precautions will be enough and actually listen when I say Jonah’s probably already got eyes or ears on us.”
• • •
Me and my big mouth, she thought to herself a few hours later.
No matter what she’d said, they’d promised her they could handle it—and then went about everything as if it were any run-of-the-mill criminal after the implants. Either they didn’t believe her, or their hubris was just too strong to overcome.
She sat quietly in the main room of the safehouse they’d taken her to, a book in her hands. It distracted her enough to keep her legs from bouncing, but not enough to make her ignore every little sound.
The guards went about their routine, checking locks and scouting the perimeter, stuff like that. Maddie didn’t think she’d feel any better once they confirmed everything was safe and secure. People liked to think Jonah had only been as successful with his infiltrations as he was because he had someone on the inside.
Maddie knew such thinking to be false. Whether or not her mom had cooperated, he would’ve found a way. And besides, it was stupid to assume he didn’t have an inside man this time.
With a sigh, she stood and headed to the kitchen for a snack.
It was probably what saved her, in the end. The basement door was in the hall across from the living room, and the kitchen on the opposite side of the house. When the door banged open, she wasn’t in immediate sight.
She did hear an unfamiliar voice swear a moment after the commotion, followed by an angry, “You said she was right there!”
There was a back door in the kitchen, and Maddie didn’t hesitate to quietly duck through it before they could start searching for her. She slid behind some bushes and tried to spot a guard in the growing evening darkness.
Where were they? There was a spot just down the path from the back door that offered a solid view of the land surrounding the house, and there was always supposed to be someone in the shed-like lookout point. It was empty now.
A crash from inside and a series of loud, stomping footsteps kept her from voicing her frustration. There was no telling how many of them were in there, and worse, how many were outside with her.
Using dusk and her dark-colored clothing to her advantage, Maddie maneuvered along the side of the house to where she knew a window jutted out beside the chimney. After double-checking for anyone watching, she quickly scaled the wood and bricks to settle lightly on the roof. From past experience there, she knew there was a particular dip in the construction where she could sit and go unnoticed from the ground.
It was her best chance. They’d hopefully expect her to make a run for it, or try to find a way to call for help—not get comfortable right below their noses (or above them, as it were). Besides, if she personally didn’t check in soon, help would be sent anyway.
Time passed in a blur as the stars came out overhead, as the people looking for her grew more and more frustrated, and as she tried to guess how much longer she had before either being discovered or being saved. She kept her breathing slow and steady even as she began shivering, consciously avoiding sending a visible cloud of breath up. It was cold here, tucked toward the top of a mountain as they were.
Headlights heralded the arrival of more of Jonah’s men, and from what she could hear, they’d brought drones with night vision. Maddie’s time was up. Monarch wouldn’t arrive in time to help her after all.
Scooting to the farthest edge of the roof from the growing group of mercenaries, Maddie readied herself to descend and run—and hope for the best. The safehouse was in a relatively isolated location, the rugged mountain terrain and sheer cliffs acting as a natural deterrent. Her chances of making it down the road to the nearest little town were slim.
She’d have to make for the thickly forested area a short distance away, then. The drones would probably have a harder time navigating there.
A strange light overhead drew her eyes upward as her heart skipped a beat—only, it wasn’t a drone. It was far too large and high up to be something like that. And the color and pattern of the light was all wrong. The shape passed beneath a cloud, showing its silhouette, and what a familiar silhouette it was.
Maddie’s mind worked quickly. The chances of him just happening to be all the way out here were slim, not when he preferred warmer temperatures. Godzilla had expressed his doubt over the humans’ ability to protect her right up until he had to leave, and she absolutely wouldn’t put it past him to ask another Titan to come and get her.
Jonah’s men probably didn’t have much more than guns to work with, which wouldn’t pose much of a threat to Rodan. He’d have no trouble getting close, but he would probably find maneuvering around the comparatively small space troublesome.
She nodded once at her conclusion: it’d be best if Rodan didn’t even have to touch down.
Trying to track his dark skin against the night sky was only possible because of the faint trails of fiery-red light scattered across the bottoms of his wings. Maddie strained to follow his path, and perked up when he twisted and began to return much lower down.
The men hunting her would only hear the piercing, screeching cry he released. Maddie, with the implants, heard, “Gotta jump, Hatchling!”
They had the same idea, then. Maddie scrambled off the roof and took off at a sprint in the direction of the cliff’s edge. Her legs tingled with pins and needles from how long she’d been tucked up on the freezing roof, but she managed to keep her footing.
Shouts echoed behind her, accompanied by the distant whirring and buzzing of drones. She hadn’t exactly been quiet. Stealth was no longer the name of this game; her escape relied on good—no, perfect—timing.
By some miracle, she didn’t trip. Branches whipped across her arms and face, thwaping against her leather jacket and leaving stinging marks on her cheeks. Maddie broke through the remainder of the tree line, footsteps pounding against the ground behind her.
She mentally tracked the sound of Rodan cutting through the air, aware of him as he slowed drastically as he began to follow the edge of the cliff in her direction.
Without daring to look back, Maddie vaulted over the fence with its warning signs and took the last few running steps to leap straight into empty air.
Their timing couldn’t have been better had they rehearsed it beforehand. Rodan surged up from beneath her before she could even fall all that much, catching her on his forehead right between the bases of his horns.
A single flap of his wings pushed them out of range—and bent a number of the trees backward while knocking the closest men completely off their feet.
The sheer force held Maddie in place. It felt a bit like one of those rides from the fair, the one were you stood against a padded board as the whole thing spun until you were held up off the ground against the wall.
Half-sprawled against his almost uncomfortably hot skin, she couldn’t have moved an inch even if she’d wanted to. She tried to focus on her heavy breathing as Rodan adjusted his height and direction.
His vocalizations most often fell somewhere between Mothra’s more high-pitched chirps and Godzilla’s deeper rumbles. Now, he offered wordless comfort in a jittery sort of trill as he finally slowed enough for Maddie to move again.
She slid further back from his face—not quite trusting her shaking legs at the moment—until she could settle behind one of the scaled plates of his neck, out of the worst of the tearing wind. Maddie sighed in relief and slumped back against his warmth.
“Thanks for the save, Rodan!” she hollered against the air current.
He offered up laughter that started like crackling fire and ended like erupting volcanoes. “King was worried about his Pup!” he screeched back. “Told me: humans are stupid, go find the little Hatchling!”
Maddie grinned, because that sounded exactly like what Godzilla would say. She didn’t bother responding though, as keeping up a conversation while traveling at such speeds in open air would be an exercise in futility—and probably a sore throat.
She let her thoughts drift as the land beneath them whizzed by. Any chill from the high altitude was canceled out and overpowered by the fact that she was perched on a Titan nicknamed the Fire Demon.
Meeting Rodan for the first time after everything had been exciting. The implants were new and mostly untested, the event happening a little less than a year post-Boston. With Mothra temporarily out of commission, Monarch had guessed Rodan was helping Godzilla by serving as his eyes in the sky.
The earliest phases of trying to develop technology capable of translating Titan-speech—for lack of a better term—had involved a lot of recording Godzilla’s bioacoustics and trying to put them into context. The research from ORCA had served as a good foundation, but everyone who’d been part of the project knew it never would’ve worked if Godzilla hadn’t been so accommodating.
At the time, they hadn’t known whether he understood what they were trying to accomplish. Regardless, he frequently showed up at Castle Bravo and by all appearances, had one-sided conversations at anyone standing on the other side of the massive viewport.
Maddie had taken to sitting in front of the glass, sometimes with a tablet to keep busy, whenever he was there. Even now, she wasn’t sure when she’d started talking to him in her own one-sided exchange. Eventually, their back-and-forths had moved above water, until finally, they had their first real conversation on a beach—which was also when she’d first come face-to-face with Rodan.
• • •
Waking up from the surgery to install the implants hadn’t been fun. Being confined to her bed? Even worse. But all the doctors agreed that wandering around after having your brain messed with was a bad idea.
Still being a little dazed from the drugs, Maddie had vocally disagreed. Which was why she was shuffling along the hallway between nurse rotations. The little makeshift clinic Monarch had put together in a remote coastal area in South Carolina was small and easy to navigate—and since she was the only patient, she had little concern over being caught.
Hers were the third set of implants to be activated in this building, made especially for Sam’s project. And she wanted to test her new tech out.
The sand was warm beneath her feet and the fresh air did wonders to clear her head. Maddie could now admit that this wasn’t her smartest idea, escaping supervision so soon after surgery, but she’d committed.
Wearing only a pair of soft cotton pants and matching t-shirt—which looked and felt somewhere between hospital scrubs and pajamas—she waded into the ocean up to her ankles in the very early morning. Barely-even-sunrise type of early.
Maddie only had to wait a minute or two before the water broke in front of her, waves rippling away from Godzilla as he carefully drifted closer. With a great huff, he rested his chin in the shallows just a few feet in front of her. It was the closest she’d ever been to him without glass in the way.
She took a deep breath, very aware of the bandages wrapped around her head and held in place by a little cap. Beneath it all were the first iteration of implants. She, Sam Coleman, and Ilene Chen were the only ones in the world who could potentially understand the Titans, and neither of the others had had the chance to try yet.
“I’m crossing my fingers, Godzilla,” Maddie said as she did just that. “Here’s hoping they work.”
He didn’t make a sound for a long moment. She held her breath.
“Pup,” the Titan rumbled. “Hear me, Pup?”
It had the same feel as putting something through Google Translate and getting the gist of it but not the proper structure. But it didn’t matter, not to her, that the tech wasn’t perfect. It was only their first real go at it, too.
Maddie laughed and sloshed deeper, closer, to press her palms against his snout. “Yeah,” she said through her joy, “I can hear you.”
He moved beneath her hands to say, “Pup smells wrong. Sick?” His voice in her head was deep and rumbly like his normal vocalizations.
She leaned in until her forehead met his scales. “Not sick,” she mumbled. “It’s probably just leftover from the surgery. Chemicals and stuff.”
“Surgery?” There was clear confusion in the way his bioacoustics translated into her head.
“Yeah, it’s—they had to cut open my head, y’know? To put the implants in. S’what implant means, to be in a person’s body.”
“Cut?” he repeated. There was no confusion this time, only anger. “Hurt Pup?” Maddie felt the tension ripple through his body, as if he was preparing to pull back and blast the clinic to smithereens.
“I didn’t feel it!” And then she held her tongue, rather than try to explain how being knocked out for medical procedures was different from being just plain knocked out. “I didn’t feel it, Godzilla! I’m not in pain, I promise!”
He huffed, flattening her clothes against her body and blowing what little of her hair stuck out from beneath the cap back.
The reality that she could understand Godzilla caught back up to her, sending her into delighted giggles.
“I’m happy,” she explained. “I’m so happy I can talk with you now, have a real actual conversation.”
Godzilla rumbled without it translating into anything. “Yes, happy. Good. Pup happy, good.”
Maddie pulled back so she could look into his eyes again. “My name’s Maddie, by the way. I don’t think I ever introduced myself.”
He closed his eyes briefly and made a sound closer to a human’s hum of thought or acknowledgement than a typical rumble. “Pup,” he finally said.
“Maddie,” she repeated, in case he just needed to hear it again.
Shaking his head slightly—though even that was enough to cause decently-sized waves—Godzilla snorted. “Pup.”
“Pup.” And now she was sure she could detect a hint of laughter-teasing-playfulness in his tone.
Before she could respond, a screech tore through the early morning calm. Jerking away from the noise, Maddie looked up and watched with wide eyes as Rodan streaked closer. Beside her, Godzilla rose up, also focused on his fellow Titan. The displacement of water nearly knocked Maddie over, but she managed to hold her ground.
Amazingly, Rodan’s approach didn’t completely decimate the land as it had Isla de Mara. With something close to gracefulness, he touched down with only a slight thump and a much more significant splash beside Godzilla. Water apparently didn’t scare the so-called Fire Demon.
Rodan’s voice, when he spoke, translated into something more scratchy and less deep than Godzilla’s. The first bit garbled into nonsense, but the rest became, “—hunt deep. Fight soon.”
Godzilla growled and turned his head out towards the ocean. While he focused on something else, Maddie found herself the subject of Rodan’s focus. He didn’t look particularly angry, so much as his overall appearance was rather sharp and pointy. He certainly deserved his moniker.
Figuring that being polite never hurt, Maddie called out to him, “Good morning!”
He studied her for a moment longer. “Hatchling,” he trilled. “Hatchling challenged False King.”
“Yeah,” she said, picking at the hem of her shirt. “That was me.”
Rodan reared back, clearly surprised. He cocked his head to look closer at her, like a bird, before his wings stretched out to prop him up, allowing him to lean down. Taking comfort in Godzilla’s presence at her side, Maddie refused to flinch away as Rodan’s wicked beak came to a stop only a few feet away from her.
“Hear me? Hatchling hear me?” he chittered lowly, unknowingly echoing Godzilla’s first words to her.
Godzilla had had months to understand and witness the progression of the implant technology. It’d do no good to offer a confusing explanation to Rodan, who didn’t seem to have been aware such a thing could exist.
She nodded and tried to keep it simple. “I can hear you. We wanted to be able to understand you guys, so some people created these devices to help us.” Maddie gestured at her head, to the obscured boxes set behind her ears. “I just got them today.”
He blinked a few times before making a haunting screech noise which turned into something more like thunder. Laughter, she realized. He was laughing.
“Clever humans,” Rodan chirped. He leaned closer, until Maddie could feel the heat rolling off him. “Hatchling listen. Hatchling friend?”
“Pup,” Godzilla interjected, though he didn’t turn to face them. “Pup good.”
Rodan snorted and made another garbled sound in Godzilla’s direction. Apparently, not everything could be translated. He turned back to Maddie and lowered his head, this time curling his beak towards his chest. Like a nod, or a bow. “King’s Pup,” he said, with a weight behind the words that Maddie didn’t understand. “Sorry, Hatchling. Sorry, sorry.”
There were only so many things Rodan could be apologizing for, and Maddie had long forgiven him for them all. She took a few steps through the water, until she was close enough to reach out and pat the closest part of his forehead. “It’s okay. I don’t blame you.”
He lifted his head, and if he had opened his mouth right then, he would’ve needed to only twitch downwards to devour her.
With that same reverence, he repeated what Godzilla had said. “Pup good.” Only, the way he said it was more like a revelation than a statement.
Maddie was really going to pester the project team on refining the translation technology. She felt like there was a lot she was missing in this conversation. Before she could try and seek clarification, Godzilla nearly knocked her over with another wave as he dropped down to her level again.
“Must go, Pup,” he rumbled, sounding genuinely remorseful. “Must be King.”
Past her knees in the water by then, Maddie fearlessly flattened herself against his snout in an approximation of a hug. “I’ll see you soon, big guy. Good luck with whatever you need to do.”
Godzilla breathed gently against her before nudging her to the side a bit, blocking Rodan’s massive shockwave as his wings pushed him up into the air.
“Goodbye, Hatchling,” he screeched. “Well met!”
“Bye, Rodan!” she called, waving enthusiastically as he took off. Godzilla pressed deliberately against her for a moment before pulling away to retreat to deeper water.
“See Pup later!” he roared. “Happy to meet, happy to speak!”
And with that, he ducked beneath the surface, leaving Maddie standing thigh-deep in the ocean alone. She sighed with a content smile on her face, overwhelmingly pleased with how the whole encounter had turned out, and turned to wade back to the beach.
Standing just outside the clinic was the entire staff, all of whom were members of the implant project. Maddie could see at least four phones raised, undoubtedly filming.
Well. At least she wouldn’t have any problems getting people to believe her about this experience. They all looked like they could be blown over by a gentle breeze, too, so hopefully their excitement and shock would keep her from getting a lecture about resting for the appropriate amount of time after surgery.
• • •
Maddie dozed as Rodan flew steadily. Only when she began to feel him slowing down did she start to pay attention. Without prompting, she climbed back onto the top of his head as Rodan straightened up to land on his feet. The ground shook beneath him, and she could feel the tremor shoot up through his body.
Once he was steady, Rodan lowered his head so Maddie could slide down his beak. She contemplated their surroundings as he began to settle in, curling up against the ground in a way that sure looked uncomfortable to her.
There was no telling where they were. It was definitely south of the safehouse, considering how much warmer it was despite it still being the middle of the night. The ground was grassy and there were trees nearby. Dark looming shapes in the distance cut across the stars—mountains, probably. She couldn’t hear or see anything that might indicate civilization, and Maddie wasn’t surprised to find she didn’t really mind.
Satisfied that she wouldn’t freeze to death or be discovered before morning, Maddie turned back to her Titan guardian. He lifted a wing in invitation. She went and lay back against the soft part in the hollow of Rodan’s throat, much like she’d done with Godzilla and Mothra before.
Maddie was no stranger to sleeping against creatures most people once considered true, evil monsters.
“Did Godzilla pull you from the fight?” Maddie asked. Rodan seemed like he would be the perfect ally against an airborne Titan.
Rodan’s throat vibrated at her back as he hummed. “Didn’t want to fight,” he corrected her. “King sent me here instead. Be useful, but not face False King again.” He shuddered.
Maddie nodded. When it came to bad memories and nightmares of those few days back then, she understood better than most. Of the humans who had gotten as close to Ghidorah as she had, there weren’t many survivors.
“King and Queen take care of it,” he trilled. “Queen so very angry. Wants revenge for burning her.”
Mothra didn’t seem like the type to be all vengeance is mine!, but then, Rodan still bore the scars from her final attack against him. For how she almost always seemed calm and peaceful and kind, it was easy to forget her status as Queen was earned, and not empty.
“Ghidorah’s screwed, then,” Maddie said, imagining just what a furious Mothra would look like. Just look at the damage she’d caused immediately after hatching, before she was full grown and had all the powers she did now.
“Foolish humans, thinking smaller False King stands a chance.” Rodan snickered. “Control no good if weak. Threaten home, threaten King’s Pup—ha! Death sentence.”
Maddie frowned. “You think Godzilla would kill Jonah if he found them?”
“Yes, yes. False King earn death, foolish human earn death. Same crime.”
“I guess…” It did make sense, she supposed. “He is putting a lot of people in danger for a really stupid reason. For the second time. Jonah’s got a lot of deaths on his hands.”
“No,” Rodan chittered, shaking his head slightly, though not enough to knock her away. The glowing magma lines on his wings flared brighter, lighting the ground up red. “If foolish human only commit human crimes, King leave punishment to humans. Foolish human break law of Titans.”
“By endangering the world?”
“No, no. Threaten home—King protect home, his duty. Titan, human, doesn’t matter. Have to kill Titans, no way to lock up. Humans can be locked up.” Rodan pushed himself up on his belly so he could look down at her. His eyes blazed in the darkness. “If False King only hurt Queen, and leave home alone, King kill him. Law of Titans. Foolish human threaten King’s Pup, King kill him. Law of Titans.”
King’s Pup was something she’d heard before, from Rodan, Mothra, and even some of the others who she didn’t interact with as much. She’d always figured it was because she’d befriended Godzilla first, and much like they each called her something different, King’s Pup had seemed like the Titan equivalent to introducing someone and mentioning who they are to you. This is my cousin; meet my best friend, we’ve known each other since kindergarten; you’re the human Godzilla mentioned.
This—the way Rodan said it there, explained it—didn’t sound like that. Didn’t sound like just a way to introduce her.
The way he put it, it kind of sounded like a title. All Titans called Godzilla King and Mothra Queen. And those she’d met all, at some point, called her King’s Pup.
“Oh,” she said. “Oh.”
Rodan laughed quietly and nudged her with his beak. “Didn’t know? Hatchling didn’t know she’s not just Pup, but King’s Pup?”
“Shut up,” she said faintly. “I—it’s not like I had anything to compare to. I’m—I’m just Maddie, y’know?”
He snorted and tossed his head back. “Just Mad-dee,” he repeated, sounding out her name oddly. Maybe that was why they never used her actual name. After all, their true names never translated well either, no matter what improvements were made to the implants. “Are you just human too? Ha!”
“Hey! That one’s true, you jerk! I am just human.”
“Little human with a Titan’s roar. No, no, not just human.” Rodan suddenly lunged at her, his beak snapping shut just in front of her. If Maddie had held her arm out, she’d be missing everything from her elbow, down. She didn’t move but for a slight narrowing of her eyes. Retreating again, Rodan continued, “Just human would scream or cry. Just human would flinch or faint. King’s Pup, little human with a Titan’s roar, not afraid.”
Several things from the past two years suddenly made more sense. But a question rose up in her mind and squeezed her heart. Trying not to sound upset, Maddie asked, “Is… is that why you’re all willing to talk to me? Because you think Godzilla will be pissed off if you don’t or something?”
Rodan was shaking his head before she could even finish the question. “No, Hatchling. Queen by merit, King’s Pup by merit. You listen. You understand. Earned our respect.”
The tightness in her chest vanished as Rodan lay back down behind her. After wishing each other good night, Maddie slipped off into a dreamless sleep.
• • •
She wasn’t sure what woke her, if anything. The sun had risen by the time Maddie opened her eyes, and her body vaguely ached from staying in the same position all night. She rolled her head to crack her neck as she straightened up.
Rodan, who’d probably been awake for a while, if he’d even slept at all, moved his wing aside as she stood.
“It’s over, Hatchling,” he chittered quietly. “King’s waiting for you, past trees.”
“Thanks, Rodan.” She leaned against his beak for a moment before walking off. The sounds of him shifting around, perhaps getting ready to take off, followed her into the sparse wooded area. Just beyond and over a little rise, was the ocean. Lying belly down on the beach was Godzilla, his eyes half-lidded in rest but not sleep.
He returned to full awareness as she approached. Bloody slashes and blackened burns littered his scales, but his injuries weren’t nearly as numerous as after Boston.
“Pup safe,” he rumbled. “Queen ripped wings off Two-Heads, dragged him down. Slower than Three-Heads, not as strong. Killed him quickly.”
Maddie nodded, not having expected any less, as she waded into the water without care for her shoes and jeans. “And Jonah?”
Godzilla was quiet for a long time, long enough for her to reach him and press against his snout. “Found him,” he finally said. “No mercy.”
“Because he threatened me?”
A low growl echoed up his throat. “Rodan,” he hissed.
From where he was looking at them from over the trees, Rodan squawked. “Hatchling deserved to know!” he protested.
Godzilla sighed. “My Pup,” he grumbled, as if that was enough of an answer to her question. Maybe it was. Either way, Maddie let it go for now.
“If it’s safe now, I should go back before my dad has to be hospitalized again for his blood pressure. I can only imagine what they think if they know how everything went wrong at the safehouse.”
He nodded and tilted his head, telling her to climb up, even as he called Rodan over. “Faster to fly,” he admitted as she jumped from one Titan to the other. “See Pup soon.”
“Thanks for having my back, big guy!” she called as Rodan spread his wings. “I’ll make sure to be at the base by tonight at least!”
Better braced for the force of liftoff, Maddie leaned against one of Rodan’s horns, plenty content with her situation. Jonah and his mercenaries wouldn’t be coming after her again, and with Ghidorah 2.0 gone, hopefully there wouldn’t be another. She didn’t mind missing out on that battle. One close encounter was enough for her.
The only real good thing to come out of the whole mess was getting to spend time with Rodan. It didn’t happen often, mostly because Monarch seldom had need to get involved with him. After being forced into obeying Ghidorah, he’d been pretty well-behaved. Casual visits up until now had mostly been out of the question—her dad, and many others, all too well remembered Rodan’s attack on them outside Isla de Mara.
With any luck, she’d be able to use his rescue of her last night to counter those arguments, maybe give them better memories to overpower the old nightmares. She relaxed atop Rodan and allowed the faint vibrations from his absently-made deeper vocalizations to lull her into a light doze. She’d deal with the whole King’s Pup thing some other time.
Later, Maddie would be shown footage of Mothra’s vicious takedown of Ghidorah, and how she and Godzilla worked together to keep him from gaining the upper hand right up until they finished him off. Jonah’s fate would also briefly be explained to her.
She would be told how, by listening carefully, Godzilla had managed to track the signal from the short-range device controlling Ghidorah. He took them out quickly, with his atomic breath.
What they wouldn’t tell her was that, in a disturbing parody of her mother’s death, Jonah and company had been chased down by Godzilla as they attempted to escape the city in a van.
As soon as he’d been close enough to end them without risking too much damage to their surroundings, Godzilla had blasted them, leaving nothing but a smoking, jagged crater behind. For those who knew what happened, it was a sobering reminder of what the Titans could do, and that they operated differently from humans. It seemed like an execution to Monarch, who couldn’t know how right they were.
Though no one would miss Jonah and his machinations, his was a fate they wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Those details would be kept from Maddie, which would suit Godzilla just fine. The last thing he could ever want was to make her frightened of him. Let her only feel the relief his ultimate removal from the face of the earth would bring.
After all, who wouldn’t go to such measures for their Pup?