Watching the Titans by Chris Dickinson July 2th.
1999—night Today I flew so close to Old Finback's face I could feel his hot breath in the downdraft of the rotor blade. I've been slowly flying closer to him each day for a fortnight now. and he seems to be quite accustomed to my presence. My little 'gyro doesn't seem to bother him at all. It's proven to be the perfect observing tool. Of course, to Finback. I'm about the size of a mosquito, so I'm hardly a threat. But the most exciting thing about the fly-by was that I saw his eyes following me. He was aware of my presence! A gaze both serenely unconcerned and yet terrifying. But his attention was brief. As soon as I moved away he turned back to the meal in front of him. I am writing this in my shack on Peak S. It is dark, and I have closed the shutters on the window to write by the light of a kerosene lamp. There is little danger that my small light would excite the Titans, but it's best to be careful. These camouflaged shacks are my lifeline here on the Island. With them dotted across the landscape, each well stocked with supplies, I can rest and relax no matter where I end up after the day's observations. If I do nothing to attract attention to myself, I should be able to keep the shacks intact indefinitely. My sponsors at the Leakey Institute emailed me today. The National Geographic Society have purchased exclusive rights to my pictures, which will meet the cost of the project. After their coverage of the expeditions of Jane Goodall to study wild chimpanzees and Diane Fossey to learn about the mountain gorillas, they felt my project was a natural for them. Goodall stopped by to wish me luck before I left. If I can be as successful as her, I will be well-pleased with myself. But my subjects are more of a challenge than hers. My family thought I was mad, volunteering for this. But the Titans have fascinated me from the first time I saw Old Finback towering over the buildings of Tokyo. I was just a little girl then, watching the news reports on TV and barely comprehending what I was seeing. It was before the migration channels had been cut into the city, and the mighty creature was smashing its way through the buildings like a child stomping a sand castle. I remember asking mother if it was enjoying itself, and being told to stop being silly, this was a national disaster. Well of course it was a disaster. Over a thousand people lost their lives! I knew that. But that didn't make the Titan less interesting. In later years, when the migration channels had been completed, I would rush to the viewing platforms to see the giants pass on their migration to the peak of Ml Fuji. The channels ran like huge concrete culverts through the city, enabling the Titans to go about their business without disrupting the daily lives of the populace. As a clerk in the Bank of Japan, I would see their great heads passing by my building every day, only a few hundred metres away. People began to take them for granted, but I never tired of the sight of their marching silhouettes in the Tokyo smog, surreal against the angular architecture. No two forms were alike, and insects, reptiles, even the occasional mammalian shape marched between the skyscrapers, like a May Day parade by Hieronymus Bosch.
The great Titanologist. Ishiro Tsuburaya, was the first to realise that the creatures always used the same paths to Fuji, and ordered the building of the channels, thus saving countless lives. He also engineered Kaiju Island, luring them here with tempting shipments of radioactive waste, so that they do not roam destructively between migrations. He was doubtful about my project at first, but I think he's getting used to the idea of a slightly built girl on an autogyro buzzing around his precious island. In fact, I suspect he may be getting infatuated, the dirty old man! He's not my only fan either. Since the tabloid press published my photo under the headline "Ekio Shimura, Monster Girl". IVe been deluged with mail. After the first few, I stopped reading them. July 26" Over the Iwo months I've been on the project so far, I have built up a sizable body of observations. Goodall and Fossey gave names to the animals they studied to help get to know them as individuals. I don't need to do that; mine have already been given names by the press. Old Finback was the first of the Titans to climb out of the sea and menace Japan's cities. The Shell, which resembles a giant turtle with long horns on its carapace, was the second. Over the years, more have arrived: The Bat. Spikey, and Mister Fluffy were soon named by the populace. The insect-like member of the herd took a little longer to get a nickname, until the press settled on Tombo. "dragonfly*. Despite having such varied anatomy, the creatures seem to recognise each other as members of one species, and exhibit herd behaviour. Finback is clearly the dominant male, although The Shell tries to usurp him every now and then. Tombo often seems to step in to calm things down when there is a confrontation. I'm not sure why. All the Titans eat the same thine, enriched uranium or plutonium. They might be a useful way of disposing of nuclear waste, but before that can happen governments and insurance companies need more data on their behaviour. That's where researchers like me come in. I'm not doing it for financial gain, so it's weird to think that my notes may someday make some multinational corporation huge amounts of money. August 2nd Damn that Heinz! His blasted "internal probe" got launched today, and promptly caused some trouble, just as I had expected. Heinz is the other PhD student here on the island, but his research is into what makes the Titans tick. Their insides, that is. He has designed a probe that he says will be able to survive the heat, acid and radiation in the stomachs of the beasts. It's like a metre-long lozenge, with sensors and cameras in a transparent bubble on one end. The idea is to launch it by air cannon into Old Finback's mouth and hope he swallows it. The crazy thing is supposed to take pictures and measurements of Finback's insides as it wends through his digestive system, then be expelled with the rest of the waste when he takes a dump. Sounds simple, but then Finback notices these humans pointing the cannon in his direction. He's seen artillery before, and he just goes wild when they shoot the probe into his mouth. Soon there's people running for their lives and the cannon is a flat pretzel of metal at the bottom of a footprint. Thing is. Old Finback decides to go on a rampage, wrecking anything that looks artificial. The ultrasonic sirens were supposed to keep the Fin and his friends at a distance, but he was so mad he just ignored them. They stopped irritating his ears when he stomped on them. Heinz's little experiment has cost the Kaiju Island authorities about two million dollars in wrecked buildings, including two of my shacks. Ill kill Heinz when I see him next! To top it all off. Finback was too agitated for me to make my usual fly-by today. I'm trying to study his social interaction with the other Titans, their herd behaviour, not how he
stomps things. We know all about that. August 3rd I think my ankle Is broken. Moving it is agony, and I've bound it tightly with my scarf. But I can't do more for it at the moment. I'm trapped! The island authorities had delivered a fresh container of tasty plutonium and The Shell tried to make off with it, directly challenging Old Finback's dominance. There was going to be a battle. The two Titans were circling one another warily, their warning cries deafening even over the noise of my engine. It was time I got lo a safe distance. But before I could go far, The Shell charged and Old Fin dodged to the side. I flew right into him. I was lucky to survive the crash, but now how am I to get away? No one in their right mind would land a rescue chopper here! I'm sitting high up on his back, about level with his shoulders. On either side of me, I can see the huge radiator fins that run in four rows down his spine, like giant cacti. He was exerting his whole strength in the battle with The Shell, and the radiators glowed with heat from his internal fires. I had to hide in a cleft in his rough hide or I'd have been baked alive! Not to mention irradiated. My radiation badge says the dose isn't dangerous yet, but I can't stay up here long, that's for sure. My 'gyro is not too badly damaged, but with the control rod of the main rotor snapped, there's no way to fly it. My only hope is that Old Finback will decide to rest for long enough to let me climb off. But that is a slim hope. It will take all day to climb down his back, injured as I am, and he never rests that long. And when he is in motion, he's moving too fast to climb down safely. I have to remain up here, where I can maintain a firm grip. There is no way off! August 4th I don't know if anyone will ever find my notebook and camera, but I may as well keep up my observations. I have been exploring as far as I dare. No one has ever examined the skin of a Titan this close before. The pics will be impressive, if anyone ever gets to see them. Close up, Old Finback's skin is like a landscape of jagged rocks. There are large knobbly boulders, and deep clefts. Water runs down the clefts, forming streams and pools. Here and there, some hardy lichen or algae manages to flourish in this strange environment. Old Finback's skin is not really organic, seen up close. It's more like some kind of mineral. I spot a small piece that seems to have been worn loose, and put it in my knapsack. You never know, I may yet get to take it back to the lab and examine it. The most interesting and disturbing thing I found came when I looked into the deep clefts in the skin. There are objects trapped down there, some pushed far down into the epidermal folds, others apparently forced beneath the surface at some distant time and only now coming to light as the outer layers slowly weather away. There are stones, of course, but also pieces of metal, some recognisable as parts of cars or appliances, things he has picked up when crashing through buildings or stomping along freeways. Most disturbing are the human remains—bleached bones now, shattered and crushed. How long have some of them been here, I wonder? I found what looked like a crumpled Samurai helmet near one. Had Old Finback walked abroad in ancient times?
Perhaps I have a new discipline here, Kaijuarchaeology: the study of detritus caught in the skin of the Titans. Despite the seriousness of my predicament, I have to smile at that. August 6th Perhaps all is not lost! I've found a long length of metal wedged deep in one of the clefts of skin. A part of a bicycle, I think. I had to fight off an archaeonid to get it. These are small crustacean-like animals that thrive on Old Finback's skin, eating organic matter that accumulates there. They seem to need his background radiation to survive. They have often been found scattered on the ground in his wake, shaken off his hide like fleas, but they never live long away from him. If they clean his skin, they may have a symbiotic relationship with their large host. Anyhow, I reached down into the cleft to retrieve the metal bar, and this bug shot out and tried to bite my arm. I was only saved from serious injury by my thick leather flying jacket. After a brief battle, I managed to shake it off and seized my prize. August 6'th—later. There! I have fitted the bar to the autogyro. I take a few moments to write in my journal and savor my small victory. It took a bit of bending, and I hope the rusty wire I fastened it with will hold, but it should do the job. I have a new control lever for the prop. Now, all I need is the right chance to take off. That won't be easy. I usually need a few feet to build up speed. But how am I going to get that here? I realise now that there is only one way. I have to chance it. I'm going to jump, and hope to hell I get up to flight speed before I hit something hard. August 7th My ankle hurts so much I can hardly move. It was broken in my crash five days ago, and now IVe had to climb up the mountain to get to this shack. I am resting on the bunk as I write this, with my foot raised on a pile of pillows. It dulls the pain to a throbbing ache. That's good. I need a clear head to take in what happened today. I launched myself off Old Finback as soon as the sun rose this morning. From that point on. it's all a bit of a blur. I remember bouncing down the rough skin on his back, then the 'gyro falling through the air. The rotor was spinning, but I couldn't build enough speed to get any lift. I remember seeing the ground rushing up at me, then an impact—and coming to to find myself on one of Finback's outstretched paws. He was looking down at me, perhaps wondering what this tiny, fragile thing was that had leaped from his back. Did he recognise me as that little creature that had been buzzing around his head for the last few weeks? As he stared right into my eyes, I think he did. Not very scientific of me, but it's what I believe. Because then he put me down, as gently as a 300-metre-tall lizard can. I tumbled off his paw onto the dirt. The 'gyro was trashed, but I was all right. I just stood there as Old Finback walked away, his tail dragging behind him like a freight train, cutting a deep trench through the soil. I wished there was some way I could thank him. I made my way back to this cabin, hobbling all the way on my injured ankle. The climb up the sloping mountainside was agony, and 111 have to radio the Island Rangers to come pick me up as soon as it's dark. At least I still have my photographs and journals. National Geographic will be glad to get them, I'm sure. Postscript— August 9"'
God, lying around in hospital while doctors check you for radiation effects is boring! The tests are all coming back negative, thank heaven. The exposure wasn't long enough to be a problem. Meanwhile. I'm reading in the papers that Heinz's internal probe has been recovered intact, and the press is making him into a hero! The photos are blurry, but there seem to be lifeforms inside there, things that live within the Titan's stomach. Now Heinz is talking of a second probe—a manned one this time. The press thinks I'm a natural for the crew. I don't know—the method of exit is so undignified. Not exactly the triumphant return of the brave explorer! Still, 1 wanted to get an intimate knowledge of the Titans, and it can't get more intimate than that...