I never thought I'd be fighting monsters again.

Lieutenant Commander Jim Rice brought up his MM-1 grenade launcher. He stared past the weapon's sights at the giant, winged monster with scaly brown skin and a diamond-shaped head. It opened is jaws, letting out a horrific screech. The beast soared over the tightly packed buildings of Tokyo, heading for the skyscraper where Rice stood.

He ignored the howling wind blowing across the rooftop and fired. The grenade exploded against the Gyaos's shoulder. Rice fired three more high explosive rounds. Orange flames and sparks burst around the monster's head. It roared and banked to the right.

Yellow tracers sliced through the air, tearing into the Gyaos's back. Rice glanced at a solidly built, barrel-chested man near the rampart firing a .50 caliber machine gun. Another SEAL, lean, firm and square-jawed, hefted a tubular SMAW onto his shoulder. A flash of orange burst from the rocket launcher's rear, followed by a sharp thump. The projectile streaked away from the roof and hit the Gyaos's right wing. The monster wailed as fire and smoke rippled from it.

A second rocket struck the Gyaos. Flames and flesh exploded near its neck. The creature let out a strangled cry and rolled. It crashed into the side of a nearby skyscraper. A flurry of glass fragments rained down on the street. The limp Gyaos tumbled a few times and smashed into a row of stalled vehicles. Dread gripped Rice's insides. He prayed the drivers and passengers had abandoned their cars.

Rice watched Senior Chief Hank Warthan lower his SMAW. The stout black man turned to him. "That's one down, and a shitload more to go."

"You're not kidding." Rice scanned the Tokyo skyline, gritting his teeth.

Dozens of Gyaos swarmed over the city. He spotted two carrying buses in their jaws. Another knocked a bullet train from its tracks. Several columns of smoke rose into the orange/gray evening sky. Rice's eyes settled on a burning skyscraper down the street, his chest tightening at the sight of a tail boom sticking out of the structure. The tail boom of the Seahawk helicopter that dropped them off on this roof.

His mind pulled him back to over a year ago, to another battle involving monsters. The North Koreans had used Thulgira to spearhead their invasion of the south, and would have conquered the entire peninsula had it not been for Gamera.

We sure could use you right now, big guy. Rice's hand went to his chest. He felt the hook-shaped pendant under his blue/gray pixilated "blueberry" utility uniform. Not an ounce of warmth radiated from it, as it had when he'd had his psychic link with Gamera.

"Incoming!" hollered the machine gunner, Candaele.

Rice looked up. Another Gyaos dove toward their skyscraper. It unleashed a piercing wail.

The .50 cal chugged, spitting out tracers. Rice raised his grenade launcher and fired four rounds. Warthan and the other SEAL, Bill Lonborg, let loose more rockets. Fireballs sprouted across the monster. Flaming chunks of flesh spiraled away from it. Fifty caliber rounds raked its wings and shoulders. The beast screeched.

A deep punch erupted nearby. Rice glanced at Mongkut as he readjusted the Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle resting on the rampart. The short, muscular Thai man fired again. Blood gushed from the back of the Gyaos's skull. It dropped to the street.

Jet engines roared overhead while Rice reloaded his MM-1. Japanese F-15Js and American F/A-18s from the carrier Reagan rocketed across the darkening sky. He watched a contrail from an F-15J connect with a Gyaos. A cloud of orange and black blotted out half its body. The monster tumbled from the sky in flames.

A yellow beam slashed through the sky. It struck an F/A-18, cutting it in half. The canopy flew off, followed by an ejection seat. Icy needles dug into Rice's stomach when he saw the parachute blossom.

C'mon, c'mon. Get on the ground.

A Gyaos swooped in and snapped its jaws around the falling pilot.

"Dammit," Rice growled, looking down at his grenade launcher. He wished the monster was in range so he could blow the shit out of the ugly bastard.

"Poor guy never had a chance," said the lanky Felix Soto, who gripped a stubby M25 grenade launcher.

A piercing wail sounded behind Rice. He spun around.

The head of a Gyaos poked over the edge of the rampart.

Rice pushed down his rising fear, forgetting about the rows of sharp teeth in that triangular maw. He brought up his grenade launcher and fired. Milky white clouds exploded around the Gyaos. It screeched as white phosphorus burned its skin. Soto hit it with two armor-piercing grenades. Candaele sent a stream of .50 caliber rounds into the Gyaos's neck. It reeled back and vanished from sight.

"Soto with me." Rice sprinted across the rooftop, the other SEAL following. He looked over the rampart. The Gyaos lay on the street below, unmoving.

The shriek of jets filled the sky. Rice snapped his head right. Two twin-tailed F/A-18s dropped behind a Gyaos, spraying it with 20mm rounds. The monster shuddered, then crumpled and dropped from the sky.

Rice spotted something beyond the F/A-18s. Another, larger aircraft. An airliner, maybe a 767, flying low over the city.

What the hell are they doing? All civilian air traffic had been diverted from Tokyo. Didn't the dumbass pilot get the message?

"Soto. Contact Reagan. Tell 'em we have a civilian aircraft over Tokyo. We gotta get that thing out of here."

"Yes, sir."

The two SEALs hustled back to the others. White streaks from Warthan's and Lonborg's SMAW's raced into the sky. Tracers from Candaele's .50 cal followed. Rice watched a Gyaos bank right. The rockets streaked past it. The monster opened its mouth. The air around it vibrated.

Oh shit. Fear slithered through Rice. He knew what was coming. "Down!"

The SEALs threw themselves flat on their stomachs. Rice shut his eyes. The image of a beautiful Hispanic woman with high cheekbones and long black, curly hair formed in his head. His throat tightened. Would he ever see his wife, Rita, again?

A whining, sizzling noise surrounded him. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. Rice tensed. This was it.

A quake rocked the roof. Crashes and thumps pounded his ears. A rush of heat flashed over him.

Then all was still.

Holding his breath, Rice pushed himself up. He scanned in front of him. Warthan, Candaele, Mongkut and Lonborg were all alive.

"Damn. Close call, Sir," said Soto.

Rice nodded, then checked over his shoulder. "Too damn close."

Twenty feet away, the roof had collapsed into a flaming pile of rubble. His jaw stiffened when he noticed the Gyaos's sonic beam also took out the square-shaped roof entrance.

"Sir!" yelled Candaele. "The Gyaos are massing!"

Rice lifted his head toward the sky. His stomach knotted. Ten Gyaos circled overhead, letting out shrill roars.

He looked back at the collapsed portion of the roof. No exit there. They did have ropes, which they could use to rappel down the side of the skyscraper, then break out some windows and retreat inside. But dangling from a tall building would leave them vulnerable to the Gyaos.

Fear boiled up within him. He beat it down. Only one option remained for him and his team.

Rice and Soto rejoined the others. All of them stared at the sky. The Gyaos let out prolonged roars, then dove at the skyscraper.

"New plan guys," said Rice. "Don't stop shooting."

They all raised their weapons. Rice's heart slammed against his chest.

"I love you, Rita," he whispered, his finger tightened around the trigger.

Another roar washed over them like a grinding thunderclap. Rice turned to the left. His eyes widened.

The 767 dove at the Gyaos.

Is that guy crazy? His forehead crinkled. Just behind the airplane's cockpit was a large dome-like projection with a hole in the center. Definitely not standard on a 767.

The Gyaos shrieked. Rice turned back to them, ready to fire.

A blue flash lit up the evening sky in front of him. A conical beam shot from the 767 and enveloped the Gyaos. All ten creatures shimmered and vanished.

Rice's gaze remained fixed on the spot where the Gyaos had been. He blinked a couple of times. Did that just happen?

The 767 roared above them, rattling the building, and Rice's ears and skull. He clenched his teeth and pressed his hands against his ears. So did the other Navy SEALs.

The plane soared over Tokyo Bay, then wheeled to the right. It flew toward another cluster of Gyaos. Rice watched as the 767 fired another blue ray. It swept over seven Gyaos. They, too, disappeared.

The surviving monsters flew toward the ocean, many with buses, train cars, even small boats in the mouths or talons. The fighter jets followed, shooting down a few before creatures they vanished from sight.

Rice scanned the sky, spotting the 767 as it left Tokyo behind. He noticed Soto next to him, also watching the plane, mouth agape. Slowly, he turned to Rice and said, "Um, what the hell was that?"

XXXXX

Night had fallen by the time another Seahawk arrived to collect Rice and his SEALs. The flight back to the USS Ronald Reagan took about thirty minutes. They piled out of the helicopter and made their way across the flight deck, weaving around dozens of men and women in brightly colored vests; purple for fuel handlers, blue for plane handlers, red for ordnance handlers, green for maintenance, white for air wing control personnel. Rice kept his head on a swivel, aware of his surroundings. The deck of an aircraft carrier was not place to zone out. One second on inattention and you could get sucked into a jet engine or run over by an ordnance cart.

None of that happened to him or his SEALS. They made it to the ship's island without incident.

"Man, they did it." Candaele said. "The Japanese actually built a . . . well, a phaser. I mean, like the ones on the old Star Trek that vaporized you."

"That wasn't vaporization," Soto pointed out. "Those Gyaos just ceased to exist. And that should be impossible."

"It's not impossible, Soto," Lonborg said bluntly. "You saw it yourself. That laser hit those birds and they disintegrated. End of story."

"No." Soto shook his head. "They didn't disintegrate. If they did, there'd be dust or something left over. Conservation of mass states that you can't destroy matter."

Lonborg snorted. "You ever seen what a JDAM can do?"

"It doesn't matter how big the bomb is, it'll leave debris behind. Even a nuke can't just annihilate matter, but the particles can be rearranged into something different."

"Damn, Soto," said Warthan. "With a brain like yours, you oughta be workin' for NASA or something."

"I'm not cut out to spend eight hours a day at a desk staring at a computer screen, Senior Chief."

Rice just started down one of the ladders when a whistle piped through the speakers of the Reagan's 1-MC.

"Commander Rice and his SEAL team, report to the admiral's quarters at once."

"Guess the old man wants the rundown on what happened in Tokyo," said Warthan.

Rice nodded. "Well it's gonna be one helluva rundown."

A few minutes later, the six SEALS stood outside a hatch with a sign reading, RADM COLE BREEDEN: CARRIER STRIKE GROUP CMDR. Rice knocked.

"Enter."

The men went inside. A portly man with glasses and short gray hair looked up at them. The SEALs came to attention.

"At ease," said Rear Admiral Breeden. "So I'm assuming you got an up close view of Japan's newest weapon."

"We did, sir." Rice nodded. "Any idea what it was?"

"I put in a call to the head of the Maritime Self-Defense Force. Tonight was the first he'd ever heard of it. The Japanese must have been keeping it under wraps."

"Whatever it was, it looks like it drove those damn monsters away."

Breeden's shoulders sagged. "Don't get too excited, Commander."

Rice tilted his head. "What do you mean, sir?"

"Tokyo wasn't the only place that got hit. We've received reports of Gyaos attacks in Taipei, Hong Kong, Manila and Vladivostok. There are also other Gyaos swarms heading toward Indonesia, Australia, Alaska and Hawaii."

Breeden surveyed Rice and the other SEALS. "This isn't over, gentlemen. Not by a longshot."

TO BE CONTINUED


Author's Note: Jim Rice and his SEAL team first appeared in my fanfic "Gamera the Defender."