"I trusted you."

Words Randy had never heard in the past tense from this man.

He remembered how Nick had left him glowing as the scientist set off for Chernobyl for the first time since employing Randy. "Don't worry, jefe," Randy had said to his mentor then. "I'll hold down the fort."

Nick had given him one of his rare smiles and said, "I trust you, Randy."

I trust you.

Something none of his professors, none of his advisors, had ever said.

More like, "Can I trust you not to crash the system just for fun while I'm gone?"

Or, "Can I trust you to finish the assignment on time for once?"

Randy's answer always had the same ring to it. "You bet. You can count on me. No problemo."

But, time and again, he was distracted from his studies by something more interesting. A new code to crack. A rival's project to hack. An offer from a scientist to come study with him as an intern. Mutant monsters to chase.

And, time and again, he would receive the accusing looks from his professors and the blunt words, "I trusted you." "I trusted you to do this right." "I trusted you to be on time." "I trusted you not go over my head, make mistakes, try something new, and be the person I don't want you to be."

That lost trust was what got him kicked out of Empire State Technical College. After that, no one would even try to trust him.

I trusted you.

He could have their trust so easily the first time around; it was a thing that was just assumed. But after losing it once, only once, it was nearly impossible to get it back again. Try as he might, the trust he'd evaded would not be given back, and the sentence remained in the past tense.

His parents were outraged. They'd been thrilled when his computer skills had won him the full scholarship to Empire State Tech; they'd been so proud of him. Without that scholarship, they would never have been able to afford his tuition. And they were so sure that admission into such a glamorous college would seal his fate as a prosperous American.

"We trusted you to do good, get good grades, land yourself a job," they'd said. "We had so much hope for you." After that they cut off contact with him, refusing to answer his calls or send him cash. Randy was angry with them, but part of him understood: they'd moved to America with hopes of a bright future for Randy, and now their hopes were dashed by Randy himself. What kind of way was that to pay off all their hard work?

Randy had to pay his own way now, and though the community college he'd been accepted into was much cheaper than Empire State, it was all he could do to keep his head above the water. And he was still regarded somewhat suspiciously by his professors, and the question continually popped up: "Can I trust you?"

And then, later, when he started skipping classes in favor of saving the world, he heard the familiar rephrase: "I trusted you."

I trusted you.

But it was different with Nick.

Or, at least, it had been.

Randy was interested in nuclear energy, just like Nick—that's how they'd met, in a rally, waving signs of protest. Of course, Nick took it much more seriously than Randy did, but the older man had been impressed with Randy's energy. He'd been shocked, but secretly pleased, when Randy hacked into the police radio to steer them away from the protestors, giving them another solid hour to shout their opposition to the new nuclear power bill before the cops finally found them and hustled them away. It had been by sheer coincidence that he and Nick were in the same area that day; Randy was searching desperately for an extra-credit project to boost his GPA, and Nick had just returned from one of his multiple excursions to Chernobyl while working on a research project for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They'd happened upon the same rally and decided to join. Randy had asked to borrow Nick's computers to perform the hack.

As the old saying goes, it was the start of a beautiful friendship.

A few weeks after the rally, Randy got a call from the worm scientist, asking if he cared to intern for him on Staten Island.

"I need someone good with computers to crunch numbers, load files, and man my research facility while I'm gone," he'd said over the phone. "I can't afford to pay you very well, but I can provide you with housing options. And it might count for some extra credit. Are you interested?"

Randy was more than interested; he was thrilled. Here at last was an opportunity to use his skills for a professional purpose and earn money doing it. He contacted his academic advisor immediately, but was disappointed with the response.

"It's a great opportunity, but I can't give you credit for it," he said. "It will look really good on a resume, though."

Oh well…it was better than nothing. Within a few weeks, Nick had Randy situated in the "research facility"—which turned out to be an abandoned ferry building. But Randy was cool with that. Nick gave him his own computer and his own office; he could crash on the couch at night and watch TV whenever he wasn't working or studying. (The "housing options" he'd mentioned was really just the option to bunk out at the ferry building.) Nick was a total geek when it came to the worms, and Randy could never really understand that, but he had a blast typing away all day. He loved working with numbers and graphics, and in his free time, when he wasn't in class or working for Nick, he learned some more about computer coding, and was even able to access some hard-to-get files on worm mutation that Nick had been searching for.

It took a while for Nick to get over the ethics of such actions, but Randy was proving himself invaluable.

And for Randy, Nick was becoming somewhat of a hero. As weird as the whole worm thing was, Randy had to admire the man's dedication. He worked tirelessly over something hardly anyone else cared about. He spoke passionately for his beliefs, and wasn't afraid to go the extra mile to get what he needed. And he recognized Randy's talent as no one else had. Instead of rebuking him for misbehaving, Nick encouraged Randy to hone his skills and learn all he could about computer codes and programming (after he got over the whole privacy breaching thing). He wasn't one to wantonly drop praise, but he did make a point to let Randy know when he'd done an exceptional job. After a while, he was able to trust Randy alone for weeks at a time, caring for the worms and processing the data while Nick performed field research in Ukraine.

But the best times were when they worked together. Both of them leaning over the computer or the worm tubs, observing, recording, analyzing, retrieving, collecting—all that jazz. The day Nick referred to Randy as "my intern" to a potential grant donor was a landmark for Randy. It was the first time since high school he'd ever felt he truly belonged.

My intern.

And said so casually too, as if it were a well-established fact.

And in return, Randy dubbed Nick jefe—chief.

His chief. His mentor.

Randy had many great professors; he even admired some of the ones who hated him, because they were so good at what they did. But he'd never met a person before who he could consider a mentor, someone who would guide him and teach him and help him improve. Someone who cared about him both on the personal and professional level. Nick wanted Randy to become the best he could possibly be for his own sake. He helped Randy find the confidence he needed in himself. He was the first to tell Randy, subtly and without words, that he was worth investing time and energy in. That he was talented. That he could become something great.

Randy loved him for that. Nick would forever be his idol. And the day those words first came out of his mouth—"I trust you, Randy"—would remain engraved in his memory as one of the single best of his life.

To have gained that trust meant the world to him.

And yet here it lay in broken shards at his feet, lost within the span of an evening.

All it took were three words and suddenly all his praise was gone.

I trusted you.

Every compliment Nick had ever uttered to Randy, obliterated in the two seconds it took him to say those words.

I trusted you.

All those months of working side by side rendered meaningless after one glance at the screen in Randy's hands.

I trusted you.

Two tiny letters added on to those hard-earned words changed everything.

The words smarted like a slap in the face. Worse was the expression of shock and rage on the jefe's face when he said them. The other members of the team stood behind him with similar expressions, but they could have been statues for all Randy cared. He could stand their disapproval. He'd received it often enough before. But coming from Nick was a different story entirely. Looking up to that face for so long, it was unbearable to see it now. The pride and pleasure replaced with anger and hurt and betrayal.

As if Randy had betrayed him.

But he'd only done it to protect him. Randy had never believed Monique or Hicks when they professed that Godzilla was an uncontrollable monster. He'd never had reason to. If the jefe said he could communicate with the G-Man, Randy believed him. If Nick said Godzilla would only attack when provoked, Randy, took him at his word. If he said Godzilla would never hurt the man he thought was his father, Randy knew it must be true.

But then, this had happened.

Godzilla had acted as if he didn't even see Nick. He was completely oblivious—he'd even shot a blast of fire at him! And Nick had just stood there, waving and shouting at him, as if still believing that Godzilla could not and would not ever hurt him. If Monique hadn't shoved him out of the way, Nick would have been fried.

Randy had been shocked and terrified. Cameron Winter was right; it was only a matter of time before Godzilla became too much to handle. Randy had never thought it could happen, but seeing it with his own eyes was a revelation for him. He couldn't believe it; he didn't want to believe it.

And yet it had happened.

Nick refused to think that Godzilla was at fault. He insisted that there must be something else that made Godzilla act the way he did. But no one else could be as sure.

It was the worst for Randy. Nick, the man he admired and trusted more than anyone, was wrong about Godzilla. And his refusal to see this had almost cost him his life. What would happen next time, if none of his friends were there to save him?

Randy was terrified.

The thought of Nick dying because of his own folly was something Randy could not let happen. Even if it meant admitting that Nick was wrong, Randy had to do something. The absolute worst way for his beloved mentor to die would be at the hands of his own mistake, his refusal to admit he was wrong. Randy couldn't let that happen.

He couldn't.

As much as Randy loved and respected Godzilla, his love and respect for Nick ran deeper. It was that and only that that led him to make the deal with Cameron Winter to plant to mind controlling device in Godzilla's ear. It was for the best. And they only had to use it in emergencies. Yes, he admitted to himself, the fact that Winter was cleaning up Randy's academic record was a definite plus. But even if he hadn't been promised that reward, he would have tried to do something to help out his jefe—even if Nick refused to see it as help.

And he did refuse to see it as help. Nick saw Randy's act as the ultimate betrayal. Randy had betrayed his trust that he would never do anything that might harm or endanger Godzilla; betrayed his trust that Randy would never go against his orders, never make a deal with the enemy.

I trusted you.

Couldn't he see that it was the only way? Didn't he understand that Randy was only looking out for him?

No. He thought Randy was a traitor.

When Godzilla had turned against him, Nick insisted it wasn't the big lizard's fault. He insisted that something was wrong with him, and they had to trust him to get back to normal, had to help him get better.

But now that Randy had disobeyed his orders, Nick only saw it as betrayal. He couldn't see that Randy had done what he had to. He could only think that Randy was trying to hurt Godzilla.

I trusted you.

Randy's trust was so easily lost, and yet Nick was willing to bet his life on his trust in Godzilla.

I trusted you.

If that hard-earned trust was so easily lost; if this man, who he'd admired so much for his genius and capability, acted in this way, maybe he wasn't worth Randy's respect, either. If he couldn't see Randy's true intentions, maybe he wasn't so wise after all.

Nick could go chase Godzilla all he wanted. Randy didn't want any part of it anymore. He brushed past Nick and fled off the pier to the garage where he kept his motorcycle. He felt the knock of Nick's shoulder against his, as immobile and unforgiving as a rock. Nick didn't even turn around as Randy ran away, but kept his eyes fixed on the control panel in his hand, staring and staring at the diagram of Godzilla with the mind control device implanted in his ear.

"Randy, wait."

The voice was not Nick's but Monique's. Earlier Randy would have been over the moon to hear her calling his name, asking him to return. But everything was different now. He didn't care anymore. He just kept running.

"Let him go," came Nick's reply. Another three words, this time a stab in the back. Randy cringed. The blunt anger in that voice was the last thing he wanted to hear right now. Nick did not regret a thing. He didn't feel the least bit guilty. He only cared about that mutant iguana of his.

I trusted you.

The same could be said for you, jefe, Randy thought. He smacked on his helmet, leaped onto his bike, and barreled out of there as fast as he could go.


Later

"I don't walk away from my problems. And I don't walk away from my friends."

The look on Winter's face was priceless.

But even better was the look on Nick's.

I trusted you.

I trusted you to pull through, and you did.

Randy had been shocked to see Godzilla running amuck at the military base. And he knew right away what was going on. It was all his fault, and he had to do something about it. Even if Nick didn't trust him or care about him anymore, Randy owed it to both him and the G-Man to stop Cameron Winter.

Utilizing the skills that had gotten him kicked out of his first college, but that had earned him an internship and the best mentor of his life, Randy hacked into Cameron Winter's security system, trying to get control of the Cyber-Flies. It was the most difficult system he'd ever broken in to; the high-tech, nearly impossible-to-crack codes left him soaked in perspiration by the time he was done. But with Godzilla's pained roar ringing in his ears, he was able to crack the code just in time, break into the system, and take control of the Cyber-Flies to free Godzilla.

I trusted you

And you didn't abandon my trust after all.

Randy didn't expect an apology; he didn't dare expect to be re-accepted into the team. But to his surprise, when they watched Godzilla swim to safety through Winter's live feed, Nick turned to him and spoke.

"We owe you one," he said.

Randy shook his head. "I'm the one who messed up," he said. "You don't owe me, jefe."

"Not even my trust?" Nick asked.

That smile.

I trust you, Randy.

I trusted you

And you pulled through

I'm ready to trust you again.

The greatest gift Randy had ever been given was his once again.