Chapter 5 - After Me, The Apocalypse
December 30, 1954
At the bottom of the bay that was its most primeval ancestral spawning site, the creature slept. Sleeping, it dreamed.
Sherman T. Potter had told his people that they were setting up shop during the disaster in Tokyo, "to help sick people get better." They and he knew full well that this was a euphemism at best, a comforting lie at worst. Except for the victims of radiation poisoning, who were beyond their help, no one was "sick". But they all also knew that, if they abandoned the people of Japan, here and now, they would face many sleepless nights for the rest of their lives. They were by the bay, in the hall that had served for their miserable reunion. This spared them the fires gutting much of town, but meant that, if Godzilla should emerge near them, a swipe of its tail would reunite them all in a better place. The tension was telling, those 1st 12 hours. Some, it nearly broke.
If Hawkeye Pierce wasn't feeling the fatigue, then Charles Winchester was feeling it for both of them. It wouldn't take much to unravel the last threads of his self-control. Standing in front of him was the selfsame not much, in the form of a little girl.
With absent eyes, she pointed with her left hand to the stump that was her right. As a punishment for making noise, her right hand had been held under cold, running water. But radiation from the creature had infested many aquifiers. The water was poisoned. Charles almost didn't recall saving her life the only way he knew how.
The child then asked him a question. In nearly flawless Japanese, Winchester responded. The girl grew tearful, then left. Though he still had patients, Charles rushed outside to be sick. He had to tell her, "I am sorry, little one, but I don't know where your hand is." It was a lie, but there was no sense sending the precious poppet to look through the rapidly growing charnel - pile. After all, her parents had been drinking from the infected water.
In an especially sickening twist, those fresh-water sources not befouled by Godzilla were in danger of holding cholera, because of their being overloaded and backed up.
At the thought of all this, Doctor Winchester began to hyperventilate. This was noticed by a passing Frank Burns.
Fair surgeon or foul, Frank knew he had to get Charles' breathing back to normal-fast. Thinking especially quickly, a man who had a great deal of experience with his own hyperventilation said exactly seven words to his replacement.
"I'm a better surgeon than you, Winchester!"
Upon hearing this outrageous statement, Charles began to breathe normally. Catching his breath, he began to speak as soon as he could, then realized the favor he had been done.
"HOW DARE YOU EVEN INTIMATE SUCH AN OUTLANDISH CLAIM, YOU QUACK! WHY, I...I...I do believe I owe you quite a bit of thanks....Frank."
"Oh, don't mention it...Charles. I've always found that getting people angry with me helps them to relax!"
As Burns walked off, Winchester shook his head. He was grateful, to be certain, but still got the oddest feeling about the very odd man who was his predecessor at the 4077th. For most people, catching a glimpse of the elusive human Frank Burns always made the difficult being he usually was stand out even more.
Godzilla was capable of many amazing feats. Perhaps none was more amazing than the forging of the common bond that now existed between Trapper John McIntyre and BJ Hunnicutt. It is worth noting, however, that they got along only because they were now angry with someone else-that someone being their one and only mutual friend.
"You know, Hunnicutt?"
"No, what, McIntyre?"
"There is only one thing bigger than Godzilla."
"If you're talking about Hawkeye Pierce's ego, then I couldn't agree more!"
"I mean, bad enough he always has to get the last word!"
"You mean to say, he did that to you, too? I thought he started that when I arrived!"
"And I was hopin' he'da stopped after I left. Besides that, he has to outclass us, even here, when there are more lives at stake than ever."
"Heh. Tell me about it. Dammit, 5000 patients pass through here during that little slice of Dante's Inferno, and he and Margaret are suddenly jet-propelled, handling better than 2/3 personally! Did you see how they were moving?"
"They were...awesome. They..helped a lot of people. We all did. You know, BJ?"
"No, what, Trapper?"
"Are we as petty and snide as we sound?"
"Pettier. I still don't feel bad about what I just said. But what was up with them? I hope to God they weren't using...help."
"I heard tell that your blueblood pal, Winchester, once had some 'help'. But Hawkeye and Hot Lips are too smart for that, aren't they?"
"So was Charles. Do you wanna say it?"
"May as well. Let's talk to Potter. If they are hooked on something, we gotta right to know, and we gotta responsibilty to help them, right?"
"Of course we do. They'll probably thank us for our concern, that's all."
In the meantime, a Max Klinger who was increasingly convinced he would never see his wife and kids again walked up to Sherman Potter, who was surveying some rather grim documents that had been hand-delivered from one of Tokyo's hospitals, now a charred ruin from fires that were burning in Godzilla's wake. To say the older man was in no mood was something of an understatement.
"Colonel, I need to talk to you, sir. I---I want out! I want to hop one of the freighters headed for Formosa. I Can't be here, sir. I'm sorry."
Without even looking up from his document pile, Potter shot off, "So Max Klinger wants out. Heh. What the hell else is new? Permission denied, soldier. We've got a ton of work to do. Back to it."
"With all respect, sir, if I stay here, I might get killed by Godzilla. What are Soon-Lee and our kids gonna do then? This isn't another dodge, Colonel."
"That's a complaint a number of families are gonna face, Klinger, including MINE! Now I am issuing you a direct order to drop your goldbrick and get back to it."
Max Klinger would wonder, for a moment, who spoke so rudely to the Colonel at that moment. He would then realize it was him.
"You take your orders, and you go to hell, you old hypocrite! I'm not army anymore, and I don't need a Section 8, and guess what, I DON'T NEED YOU!"
"Like hell, you don't! You'd be rotting in a jail cell, if it wasn't for me! As for orders, you're the one who said the 4077th doesn't run! Or does that not count for big red birds with fuzzy pink feet, with half of the family dying, the other half pregnant! You can find yourself a new job, stateside. I'll abide your whining, but I will not abide a stinking COWARD who ducks out on his friends when things get rough! Do you know what I'm doing? HUH?! I'm trying to figure out how 20,000 men, women, and children that used to be alive can be disposed of before they start carrying disease! Did you know that 1/5 of the dead were not anywhere near the Bay when Godzilla attacked? They were trampled to death by other people, more than 5 miles away from any danger! I got people actin' like damned cattle, and a snot-nosed ungrateful punk who wants some attention from his wifey! That, MAX is all I'm dealin' with!"
"All right, SHERM, I'll go you one better! My kids are Half-Korean! How would you like to see all those dead kids, with faces so close to your own, you have to work at it not to scream, KINDA LIKE I'M DOIN' RIGHT NOW! oh, god. Colonel, I'm sorry! I don't hate you! And I wouldn't back out on you, for the world! I'm a chump, for yellin' at you like that."
Potter felt two inches tall. He had allowed his unspeakable burden to strike out at a man he regarded as real family.
"There are chumps galore, tonight, Max! As for the kids, Pierce had a little nightmare, he told me. He walked in to the waiting area, and there was Godzilla, munching down live chickens. I think you know what that means for him. I had to talk him down, same as you just talked me. But Max, because of our choice, there are at least 4800 people alive right now who probably would have left us. Because we let up the pressure on the local hospitals, they were able to help even more people. We should be proud, not sniping at each other."
Max nodded. But he wasn't convinced.
"Colonel, there's exactly 1 area hospital left from that monster's attack. If-WHEN-it returns, what will the next wave be like?"
Sherman Potter liked and respected Max Klinger too much to sugar-coat the situation, so he summed it up as best he knew how, in two words : "Pure Hell".
Across the still-crowded hall, Hawkeye and Margaret listened intently to what their dear friends had to say, on the subject of their considerable prowess during the incredible 12-hour session. Having listened, they digested the words and their meaning, and offered forward a considered opinion of their own.
"Are you guys out of your minds? Margaret and I have barely been able to take in each other for the last 24 hours, let alone amphetamines, or what have you! Look, I've just been in good form. That's it. End of story."
Margaret Houlihan's opinion of their friends' opinion was, as they say, somewhat lower.
"If the two of you will recall, Doctor Pierce and myself are just about the ONLY staff members to serve almost the entire 3 years in Korea! We know each other's rhythm, that's all! I hope your concern is genuine, because I have to wonder if you aren't just choking on our dust! It seems to me that Godzilla isn't the only green-eyed monster around here."
There were words that would have diffused Trapper and BJ's suspicions.Tellingly, Hawkeye and Margaret chose not to use those words. BJ was fuming at their arrogance, but Trapper thought back, while Hunnicutt ranted.
"YOUR DUST?! Y'know, two former boozehounds like yourselves have one hell of a nerve lecturing anybody! We, stupid morons that we are, were concerned that two people we care about were putting junk into their systems, trying to keep up with this little monster MASH. We're sorry! Congratulations, Hawk! Trapper and I finally agree on something. You're both hiding something, and you're both NUTS! Now, the two of you are going in for blood tests! You say you're not taking anything, I want proof!"
Suddenly, BJ and Trapper each grabbed one of Hawkeye's arms. The look on his face was not a friendly one.
"Uhh, you fellas seem to have mistaken me for a drumstick! Now, let me go, or I'll suddenly remember that you both found time to deck me back in the Swamp, at your respective ring-times."
"Hawk, listen to yourself! Just let us find out what has you so hopped up! C'mon, pal. I don't like this, but it's for your own good! Now, we are not letting you go, til you agree to the test."
"Listen to him, Hawkeye! You two couldn't see the way you were moving, back in the OR! I think it might be that garbage, finally kicking in!"
BJ looked quizzical, so Trapper told him of some biological warfare agents that Hawkeye and Margaret had been exposed to, by the very same forces that were behind Henry Blake's death. Someday, in the company of two young FBI agents, Hawkeye Pierce would find the truth. For now, though, he just wanted to be let go.
"Okay, guys! Yes, Trapper, that bio-trash HAS kicked in, and, YES, BJ, you are letting me go!"
Before either Hunnicutt or McIntyre could react, Pierce threw them both forward with incredible force. Margaret, reacting at equally stunning speed, caught them.
"HAWKEYE?! Have you lost your senses? You could have killed them! And you two, grabbing him like that! Are we all losing it? I mean, I'm sorry I said things like "eat our dust", but we can't have blood tests that might tell those people what they did to us. Now, I think a round of apologies is in order, and you can consider that an order--sort of."
"Guys-I-I tossed my two best friends around like laundry! But Margaret and I didn't ask for this-any of it. It frightens the hell out of us, maybe even more than Godzilla does. But we should have trusted you, told you. Forgive and forget?"
"Laundry? Hawk, I'll go you one better! Trapper and I wanted to force our best friend, who saved both our careers last month, to roll up his sleeve and PROVE he and his lady, also our friend, weren't junkies. A common enough request, IF you don't want to be friends anymore. What a dope I am. I see all those kids, snuffed out with no warning, but instead of pulling out a picture of Erin, I pull out my search warrant!"
"Don't sweat it, BJ! I heard Potter and Klinger going at it, and Father Mulcahy praying for faith to see him through! Him! The holiest guy I'll ever know! Plus, Frank and Winchester are buddy-buddy now. Add a nearly 200-foot dragon to the mix, and suddenly the whole world seems on edge! I mean, why does a guy named "Trapper" feel so damned trapped?"
Hawkeye looked around, trying to find something to say. He couldn't offer much.
"If we're like this now, then what happens when Godzilla comes out for real? If what Radar says is true, then that little electric fence they're putting up won't mean very much. We can't stay. Supplies are tight enough now."
Margaret re-focused them, and they would need that focus.
"We get through til we can't. Then we leave. But as long as were not at each others' throats, we'll be fine, even if Tokyo is lost. We're here to help save the city we used to run away to. Well, now the war is here, and this Pearl Of The Orient needs us, even if only to bear witness to its death. We all owe this city, and we owe these people. What I did to hurt Frank, or any of you did to each other, all of it is now meaningless. We are all healers. Let's act like it, maybe for the 1st time ever! No militarism, no showers, no pranks, and we check our egos at the door! Any takers?"
Hawkeye raised his hand.
"Margaret, can I marry you?"
Stunned, Margaret merely said, "We'll talk about it."
Hawkeye felt she could have been slightly more enthusiastic, while Margaret felt like his proposal was more of a fishing expedition. She would wait for a real proposal, and he for a real answer. The dance between them would continue.
For now, though, the 4077th was renewed. Shortly before nightfall, Reporter Stephen Martin visited the makeshift site. In his company, surveying the damage, were Doctors Yamane and Serizawa.
"Are you this unit's Chief Surgeon?"
"Yeah, I'm Benjamin Franklin Pierce, also known as Hawkeye. Welcome to hell, Mr. Martin. We're all doing what we can, but as you can see, until they find a way to kill Godzilla, it's all upstream...do I know you? Personally, I mean?"
Stephen Martin's eyes shifted nervously.
"I..don't believe so, Hawkeye. So, you believe that, until Godzilla is destroyed, hospitals like this face still worse casualties?"
"Well, calling this a hospital is bit like calling a slum the Taj Mahal. You see....I do know you! But your name isn't Steve...it's Sam! Sam!? It's me, Hawkeye! How's your invisible pal with the libido? Al was it? Geez, it's good to...What the hell am I talking about? Well, anyway, they have to kill that thing, bottom line!"
Stephen Martin turned white as a sheet, and did appear to be talking to an invisible friend. Before any further talk of "Sam" could emerge, though, Doctor Yamane interrupted, loudly.
"You are a disgrace to your Hippocratic Oath, Doctor Pierce! Godzilla should be captured, and studied, for the betterment of all! Or are you Americans so very fond of bombs, like that which created Godzilla?"
Doctor Yamane's opinion was simultaneously enlightened and ignorant. Hawkeye thought out a measured response, because he had harbored many of those same thoughts.
Doctor Serizawa took note of Father Francis Mulcahy, and approached him.
"Father, may we speak?"
"Of course, my son. Is this is a confession you wish to give? I don't really have a confessional, here."
"Any private area will do, Father."
Besides his scarring and eyepatch, Mulcahy couldn't help but note the burden this man seemed to carry, the haunted tone of his voice. The Priest hoped that he could help Serizawa.
"Father, I am not Catholic. But my sin is great, and you are bound not to tell my dread secret, when we speak like this."
"The sanctity of the Confessional will be a Church Law when people are eating hamburgers on Friday...that's a little joke. What troubles you, Doctor?"
"Father, forgive me, for I have betrayed my country! I alone posess the means to destroy Godzilla! But I dare not allow it to be used. It is a device that renders sea-water oxygen-free. All life dissolves in its grasp, even life as potent as the monster's. But in the hands of evil men, it could destroy the world! Oceans, seas, and lakes stripped clean! The breaking of the Great Food Chain! If I do nothing, all Japan may fall before Godzilla. If I act, billions may suffer. In what way should I err, Father, for I do not care for either path!"
The Padre felt roughly as though King Arthur had risen and confessed Excalibur's whereabouts. If Serizawa spoke true....it still didn't matter. His oath was his oath, never to be taken lightly. He also knew that Serizawa's Oxygen Destroyer would be used as a weapon, and a horrible one at that. He had seen the use men put limited weapons to. He knew what to tell his charge.
"No greater love hath any man, but that he lay his life down and give it up to save the life of another. Keep your weapon secret, Doctor. No matter what the cost."
A great calm descended over Serizawa, at Mulcahy's words. He still had things to think about. But the Padre's words to him would, in their own way, change the course of human history. Still, the Doctor's final decision lay yet ahead. Francis Mulcahy would remember this conversation, later, and then for the rest of his life.
"Thank You, Father."
"Go with God, Doctor."
While they spoke, Yamane huffily awaited Pierce's response. Stephen Martin now stuck to the background, out of sight.
"Well, Doctor? Have you nothing to say for yourself?"
"Nope. No, Doctor Yamane, I don't have a damned thing to say. These people, the living and the dead, the wounded and the maimed, they say something, though. They tell people like you and me that, whatever we can find out from Godzilla comes with way too hefty a pricetag. I'd love a "G-Cell" under my med-school microscope. But these people are real, and their wounds, burns, and pain are even realer. At risk of my scientific curiousity, I'll choose them. No offense, but also no contest. I choose them over Godzilla."
Yamane tried to recover, but his resolve was tested sorely.
"I will concede, Doctor Pierce, that the sight of your makeshift hospital is a sobering one, but...."
"Never mind the buts, Doctor. As to sobering, this place could have W.C. Fields on Spring Water!"
As angry with himself as with Pierce, Yamane left. Pierce and Emiko Yamane each apologized, and then the delegation was gone. Nightfall came soon after.
With electricity out, a large spotlight fixed atop a jeep was set up, to illuminate the stopgap OR, should it become necessary. It did.
This time, the creature was out and about for 4 full hours. Skyscrapers were like water, for the way Godzilla waded through them. Its breath of atomic fire burned whatever it did not crush. Panic took many; disease many more. 47 emergency shelters fell, despite best precautions. Weapons' fire, useless against Godzilla, contributed to the burning of Tokyo.
At the place that called itself the 4077th-A, Colonel Bloodworth's prediction of the Endless O.R. was in full swing. This time, no counts were kept. This time, the blinding speed and strength of its Chief Surgeon and Head Nurse were only a pebble on the beach. Many were lost to horrible injury; Many more survived, because these men and women had long ago placed steel in their spines. Still, the wounded kept coming. For 18 hours, without let, stopping only when the roads were no longer passable. Several times, the spotlight had to be turned off, for fear of attracting Godzilla. The night's only miracle came when the 4077th-A and Tokyo's one remaining hospital were spared. Very little else was. The final toll, both direct and collateral, was 2 million dead, 1 million injured, and 3 million homeless, in a city of 8 million people.
To all concerned, it was beyond belief. Reports emerged of a new secret super-weapon, a last ditch effort to kill Godzilla. To Radar O'Reilly, staring out at Tokyo Bay the next evening, the only thing that mattered were his words, spoken while everyone else lay asleep, from complete exhaustion. Cormen, Nurses, and Doctors had given their all. Nervous hands twitched in their sleep while Radar spoke.
"No one can help you now, pal. But I'm a man of my word. I'll keep my promise, or maybe you'll keep yours. Either way, it's gotta be over, tommorrow."
At midnight, Radar was probably the only person to note 1954 turning into 1955. This day, it would be over.