Author: Robert Beech
There was a monster loose in the city. I, like everyone else in the city who could spare a moment to look at the news screens, had been tracking events as they unfolded all day. There were at least two hundred dead, including a score of peace keepers, and several buildings demolished.
I knew that monster. I had raised him from an egg, then trained him in the circus to spar with the gladiators. He’d learned quickly. Too quickly for his own good. After his last win in the arena, the legions had commandeered him for the special forces and that had been the last I had seen of him. He’d been smaller then, only a couple of tons.
And now they wanted me to bring him in. Me, a retired animal trainer, when the entire legion couldn’t manage to kill him. I wondered what had happened to his handlers from the legions. Dead, I supposed, or they wouldn’t be calling me in.
I hung, suspended from the helipack strapped on my back, about two hundred feet up, and watched as the special-ops boys flew circles around him, darting in to fire missiles that exploded harmlessly on his shield plates, then zipping away before he could swat them from the air. Most of them made it.
“Captain,” I said over my com-unit. “Can you call your boys off? If I’m going to get close to him, he’s got to see that it’s just me and not somebody trying to shoot him.”
“But shooting him is the whole point of bringing you in.”
“I know, but I’ve got to get close enough to do it.”
“OK, I’ll call them off.”
I couldn’t hear the orders, but the special-ops flyers pulled back a couple of thousand feet. I dropped down to where the monster stood crouched on his hind limbs, ready to spring, and hovered about fifty feet away.
“Billy?” I called over the loudspeaker. “It’s Ren from the circus. You remember me, Billy, Ren from the circus. We’re going to go home now, Billy. Time to go home.”
He watched me, uncertainly, glazed eyes peering out from under his armored brows. Very slowly, I turned my back on him and started flying back down the street. Amazingly, he followed me. I tried not to look at the bodies littering the street or the special-ops flyers I could hear faintly hovering in the background.
We wound our way back to the grounds of the circus where I had worked with him years before. I flew carefully over the entrance to the arena, but Billy just smashed through the gates. I didn’t scold him. He was coming home.
In the center of the arena was a great tree stump, the remains of the sacred tree that had stood here before humans came and built the city. I flew over to it and hovered.
“Stump, Billy, stump,” I called, recalling the first command he had learned.
Like the tiny winged creature he had been, he followed me and stood on the stump, which was now buried beneath his enormous bulk.
“Show claws, Billy, show claws,” I called.
He spread his wings and wiggled the comparatively tiny claws at the fold of his wings.
He peered at me confusedly from under the armored brows of his lizard-like skull.
“Billy, good boy?” he asked, his tiny bird-like voice sounding incongruous in such a giant frame.
“Yes, Billy good boy,” I agreed, tears running down my face.
He opened his beak to accept the expected treat and I raised the missile launcher and pulled the trigger.
Bitterseet tale. Nicely done!
As a republican and a believer in Utilitarian ethics, I didn’t mind the ending.
Poor Billy! I was hoping for a happy ending, but ‘twasn’t to be. A well-told flash.