TITLE: "Monsters vs. Escargantua."
SUMMARY: See title.
WARNINGS: Much like the film, there is more character goofiness than story.
AUTHOR: David Hines / hradzka
Susan had always wanted to go to Paris.
It had been a little girl's dream, and then a teenager's dream, so it wasn't surprising that somehow along the way Paris had gotten tied up with an adolescent, idealized view of romance. She'd decided she would go to see it with the man she loved; of course, she'd had to find him first. And then she'd been hit by a meteor, and a lot of other things had happened; but now, now, finally, the moment she'd imagined countless times had come, and she could finally see --
"Paris!" cried the Missing Link. "The city of love! History, art, romance -- oh, all those lovely French girls on the Champs-Élysées, just waiting to be terrified by a handsome monster -- "
"Escargantua," said Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D, a disapproving look in his abnormally large eyes.
"Well, yeah. That too. But -- Paris!"
All right, Susan thought, she was a shade under fifty feet tall and she was seeing Paris for the first time in the company of three monsters on the back of a fourth monster, which was really the fifth if you counted Susan, which, to be fair, people did.
But -- Paris.
Even if it had been evacuated in the face of a very slow assault by a sixth monster, which was a giant snail.
"Escargantua, huh?" said the Missing Link. He scratched his chin with one webbed hand. "Wonder how smart it is?"
"I wouldn't expect it to be smart at all," said Dr. Cockroach. "Unlikely, with what it had to begin with."
Susan blinked. "What about Insectosaurus? He was just a grub, before the nuclear tests made him big enough to eat Tokyo. He's..." she groped for the kindest way to put it. "Smarter than a grub."
"Yes, his intelligence was certainly boosted. All the way to the level of a golden retriever. Substituting a fixation for bright lights for that for tennis balls, of course."
"Still smarter than Bob, though, right?" said Link.
Bob blinked his single eye. The gelatinous lump that was his body popped up in surprise, rendering him instantly several inches taller. "Hey!" he said. "I'm Bob!"
"Oh, yes," said Dr. Cockroach. "Most certainly."
Insectosaurus descended in a long, lazy spiral. As he passed over the huge snail, his nose twitched, and he sneezed a long tendril of -- whatever-it-was -- onto the shell of Escargantua.
"Hah-hah!" cried the Missing Link. "Great shot! Now just pick him up, and -- " Insectosaurus made an uncomfortable sound. "Okay, okay. Now we just shimmy down and pummel him. Got it."
"Do you really understand that?" said Susan.
"Hey, it's common sense," said Link. "You try picking something up by your nose hairs, see how you like it."
"Last one to the ground is a rotten egg!" yelled Bob. He leapt off Insectosaurus and plummeted to the ground. From far below, Susan heard a faint squelch.
"...yes," said Dr. Cockroach. "Let's take things a bit slower than --"
Susan scooped up Dr. Cockroach and the Missing Link, hooked her elbow over Insectosaurus's line, and slid down toward Escargantua. "You were saying?"
"All right, Susie!" yelled the Missing Link. He paused. Sniffed. "Hey, we aren't near the sea, are we?"
"There's no time for beachgoing!" said Dr. Cockroach.
"No, I was just -- WHOA!"
Susan let go of Insectosaurus's line and dropped to the ground in front of Escargantua. She put Link and Dr. Cockroach on the ground. "Ground floor! Women's clothes, household furnishings, giant snails."
"Thanks, Susie," said Link. "I didn't want to keep my lunch down, anyway." He glanced over his shoulder. "Hey, Bob."
"Guys!" said Bob. "Is that a snail?"
Dr. Cockroach, Link, and Bob stared up at the vast bulk of Escargantua. "I have an idea, guys," said Link. "How about we let Susan take the first crack at this one?"
"Way ahead of you," said Susan. She stepped forward and struck her best Ginormica pose. And waited.
"Y'know," said Link, "at the speed he's moving, this'd go faster if you just --"
Susan rolled her eyes. "All right, FINE."
As she began to walk toward Escargantua, the great snail seemed to notice her. Its eyestalks trembled, then bobbled slightly in her direction. The snail moved its long neck over to the side, and a dart emerged from its skin and fired at Susan. The dart missed her, but it was attached to a cord that went back to the snail, and the cord wound around her wrists. The cord was sticky, whatever it was, and surprisingly strong; as she blinked in surprise, the dart started reeling in, pulling her toward the snail. She set her feet against the pull. "Typical mating behavior," said Dr. Cockroach dismissively. "Snails aren't very bright. You're probably just the first living thing it's seen that's large enough."
Bob gasped. "Doc -- Susan's cheating on Derek?!"
"No, Bob," said Dr. Cockroach. "We're past Derek, remember? Also, the anatomy isn't even remotely compatible; it'd be like getting jostled on a crowded bus at rush hour." He turned reassuringly to Susan. "Even odds it's pulling you toward the wrong set of genitals."
Susan yelled, "The wrong set of what?!"
"Wow!" said Link. "Hermaphrodites! Oh, man, Susan, you're gonna be able to write such a letter to Penthouse Forum! 'I never believed it could happen to me, but --' "
"I. Am. Not. Writing. Penthouse. Forum!"
"Why not?" said Link, sounding disappointed. "I would!"
He opened his mouth as if to go on, then stopped and sniffed the air. "There it is again. This is crazy. Where the heck is that sea air smell coming from?"
"Link," said Dr. Cockroach, "we have to -- " He froze. "Wait, what?"
"I'm telling you, I smell salt water."
"Oh!" said Bob, brightening. Literally, by at least two shades. "Is there taffy?"
"Salt?" said Susan. "As in, melts snails, salt?" Dr. Cockroach beamed. Link and Bob looked puzzled. She added, "We could use it. As a weapon?"
"Ohhh!" said Link. "Sorry, you gotta understand, to me that's like hitting him with my apartment."
Bob said, "You have an apartment?"
"Not now, Bob."
Dr. Cockroach scanned the nearby buildings. "A desalination plant," he said, sounding surprised. "...what it's doing this far inland, I'll never know."
"My bet?" said Link. "Some French Congressman probably got a lot of union donations." He hopped the fence and clambered up onto a large tank, which he rapped on with his knuckles. "Hey, it's full! Yeah, we can use this." He wrenched on the valve. Nothing happened. He hammered it with his fist, then set his feet and tugged. It didn't move. "Hey, Susie!" he yelled. "Punch it open, willya?"
"Little busy here!"
Link redoubled his efforts to no avail. Susan glanced over. Doctor Cockroach had vanished, and Bob appeared to have been distracted by a fire hydrant. "Bob!" yelled Susan. "The tank! Eat through it!"
"Oh!" said Bob. "Okay!"
He drifted over to the chainlink fence and slid through, immediately reforming on the other side. His eye, the one solid part of him, was pushed out of his gelatinous body and fell onto the sidewalk. Bob hesitated, rolled backward, collected his eye and tried again twice, each time meeting the same result. He slid back outside the fence, braced for his equivalent of a running start, and dashed toward the fence. At the last moment, he formed a hand from the top of his body and tossed his eye up and over the fence. Bob slid through the fence as his eye came down and landed on him with a little plop. He shoved it back into place and slid toward the tank with an air of determination.
Escargantua yanked on Susan's arms. "No way," she said. She angled back and braced herself, and stopped moving. Hah! she thought. Stronger than a snail. But while Susan didn't move, Escargantua did. It reeled in its lines, and because Susan was stationary the great snail slid toward her on a coating of slime. Great. With her hands wrapped up, she couldn't readily deliver a good punch.
Bob looked at the tank, considered, and then found a small valve at the bottom. He formed lips around it and began to digest. Two things happened in short order: the valve fell free, and a high-pressure spray of water sent Bob flying. The water didn't go anywhere near Escargantua, but Susan heard a sudden burst of maniacal laughter. Dr. Cockroach, driving a forklift at extremely unsafe speeds, moved in front of the valve and used the tines to partially block the opening. That took care of distance; the Missing Link climbed down and used his powerful hands to direct the flow, and that took care of aim. The spray of salt water flew past Susan and splattered Escargantua.
The giant snail shuddered in pain. Its dartline fell free as it twitched. Susan's arms were free, with Escargantua in punching range.
Susan grinned. She drew back an arm, savored the moment, then swung --
The blow was well on its way before she heard Doctor Cockroach cry, "Stooooooppp!!"
"Well," said Doctor Cockroach cheerfully. "It's rather amazing what hydrostatic shock will do to a being that's essentially a big bag of goo, isn't it?"
Susan, slime dripping from her face, glared at him. She reached up with her clean hand and wiped her face off, then flicked her hand down, to where splattered remnants of Escargantua were scattered across the ground. And trees. And buildings. And... yeccch.
"I guess I still don't know my own strength," she said.
"I have no idea of your strength," Dr. Cockroach said. "And I've been trying to build a decent estimate. What would you say Gallaxhar's robot was, about the mass of two or three spans of the Golden Gate Bridge? You couldn't pick it up, but you kept it from crushing you. That's really rather remarkable." He smiled up at her, his nonexistent lips curling under his pencil-thin moustache. "That's got to be the quantonium at work. You're not just a human being scaled to enormous size, you know -- square-cube law plays havoc with giant creatures. They collapse, can't breathe, and then you have to -- "
Susan stared at him.
"Oh, please," Dr. Cockroach said. "Show me a mad scientist worth his salt who hasn't tried to create giant ants."
"They were tasty!" said Bob as he drifted by.
"Yes, yes, they were. Still -- "
Bob parked himself over a piece of Escargantua. The bubbles inside him fizzed briefly as the flesh dissolved. "Oooh, yeah," he said. "That hits the spot."
"The French would love to get this mess cleaned up," said Susan. "Knock yourself out."
Bob manifested an arm, punched himself in the face, and knocked his eye onto the ground.
"You'll learn," said Dr. Cockroach, as Bob groped around for his eye, "that there's no such thing as too literal where Bob is concerned."
"Here ya go, Bob," said the Missing Link, pushing Bob's eye back into place. "Susan means, eat your heart out -- I mean," he added as Bob prepared to scoop a hunk of himself into his mouth, "eat every bit of Escargantua if you want."
"Really?" said Bob hopefully. He glanced up at Susan, who nodded. With a gasp of delight, Bob oozed off down the street.
Susan looked after him. Then glanced at Link. "Link," she said, "do you want to -- "
"Yeah," said Link, "I think somebody had better go with him, or -- no! NO! BOB, DON'T EAT THAT!"
"Ah," said Dr. Cockroach as the Missing Link, waving his arms frantically, ran after Bob. "Paris is in the very best of hands."
"It is, isn't it?" said Susan. A wonderful realization was slowly dawning on her. "Dr. Cockroach! The city's been evacuated. Do you know what this means?"
"We can steal fissionable material from the nuclear plants? Oh, Susan, how delightful!"
"No. It means I can walk down the streets without stepping on anybody! I am going to be such a tourist. I wonder if I can crawl through the Louvre?" She grinned down at Dr. Cockroach. "Want to come? We can find some choice French garbage on the way."
Dr. Cockroach glanced curiously at her. "You're not hungry?"
"No, not yet, thanks." Susan had been worried about that -- what could she possibly eat in enough quantities to keep her alive? Cooking would be nearly impossible. The good news, it turned out, was that she didn't need to eat or drink very much at all -- not nearly as much as she'd thought she might. That was probably the quantonium at work. The bad news was that she did eat and drink, and the scientists were still working on her toilet.
"Well," said Dr. Cockroach, his disturbingly inhuman grin spreading beneath his pencil-thin moustache, "don't worry. I'll eat enough garbage for both of us."
Fifty feet -- forty-nine feet, eleven and three-quarters inches, to be precise -- wasn't that far off the ground, really, when you thought about it. Only five stories. There were plenty of buildings taller than Susan. The Eiffel Tower was twenty times her height now. She'd looked it up, before she was forty-nine-eleven. And three-quarters.
"It's beautiful," Susan said. The sun had set, and she could see the lights of Paris -- the ones that were on automatic timers, anyway -- coming up around them. "I wish I could see it from the top."
"Why can't you?" said Dr. Cockroach.
"Well, I'm too big for the elevator, and -- oh. Right."
Dr. Cockroach yelped as Susan reached down and grabbed him. "You know," he said, "you should really give a little warning before you -- oh, my, it is rather lovely going up, isn't it? I wish all the journalists hadn't run away, so I could steal a camera."
"Probably a good thing they did," said Susan, as she climbed. "The paparazzi would think we're on a hot date."
Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D., shuddered before looking up at her with evident embarrassment. "I'm sorry, my dear," he said. "I don't mean to offend you, but I'm afraid the truth is that ever since my... incident, my attractions have been of an entirely different nature."
Susan's brow furrowed. "I don't understand."
"Let's just say that you don't have the right pheromones and leave it at that, hm? Of course, before my transformation I wasn't the sort of fellow you'd go for, either. You wouldn't have cared for my sordid interests. Mmhmhmhm, yes."
"What, you liked wearing women's underwear or something?"
"WHO TOLD YOU -- ahem. Please, let's stick to the situation on the ground, shall we? ...or forty-odd feet off it, as it were."
Susan said, "Little higher now."
Dr. Cockroach glanced down. "Yes. I *could* climb on my own, you know."
"C'mon, I'm having fun." Susan shook her head. "Hot date. Not too likely, is it? I guess I'll never be able to have children; getting a boyfriend would be hard enough."
Dr. Cockroach nodded. "Yes, a normal man would have considerable difficulties with intimacy. Oh, I'm sure he could probably provide some stimulation, but the strength of your involuntary muscle contractions alone would -- "
"Please stop talking now."
Doctor Cockroach cleared his throat, and did.
"There," said Susan. She gripped the top of the Eiffel tower and eased Dr. Cockroach onto the observation platform.
"Thank you," he said. "I must say, it was a fine choice to come here. I admit it: your tenure as our leader has made one thing clear -- you do tend to make excellent decisions. Except for Derek, of course, but you realized your mistake there."
"I did kind of take charge," Susan said apologetically. Dr. Cockroach had run things before she came along; she'd never thought about him possibly feeling displaced. "I didn't really mean to. It's just --"
"In all fairness," said Dr. Cockroach, "you are by far the easiest to follow."
"Wouldn't that be Insectosaurus?"
"Not since the wings, no."
"Thanks, Doc." Susan paused. "You know," she said, "I have some Victoria's Secret gift certificates I won't be able to use any more. I can get my mom to go through my stuff and get them for you, if you want."
"Really? Why, Susan, how -- not that I have any interest whatsoever in such things, of course, but -- really?!"
"Sure. Why not?"
"Thank you," said Dr. Cockroach, sincerity in his voice.
"No problem." Susan glanced over her shoulder. "I always thought I'd see Paris with the man I loved. Instead I'm seeing it with the monsters I work with." She shrugged, looking over the view she'd seen in pictures and her dreams. "You know what? It's not half bad. I just hope I'm doing this right. Still new at this monster stuff."
Dr. Cockroach vaulted the railing of the observation platform and leapt onto her hand, then scuttled up to her shoulder. "Well," he said, "now that you've climbed an enormous structure with a helpless victim in your hand, I think the customary action is to roar. Though you might consult Insectosaurus."
"Roar," said Susan obligingly.
"Oh, louder than that. We monsters have some dignity to uphold."
When they returned home, Area 51 was much the same as ever. So was General W.R. Monger, who flew around Susan's head using his jetpack during their walking debriefing. Susan didn't mind; it was nice not having to look down to talk to someone.
"...and the good news is that Bob really did clean everything up," Monger was saying. "He did eat that big glass pyramid in front of the Louvre, but I never much cared for the designs of I.M. Pei, so the official response to the French was 'stuff it.'"
"Good," said Susan. "Any new threats on the horizon?"
"Nothin' that I know of."
"Good," said Susan. "While things are quiet, I'd like dossiers on all known monsters. I want to know everything about them. If we're going to fight them, I'd like to know ahead of time what we're getting into."
General Monger blinked. "Who put you in charge?" he said.
Susan met his eyes. "I did," she said.
He laughed. "You gonna use Dr. Cockroach as your aide-de-camp?"
"Good, it's what I'd do. Also, face it, he's the best you've got in a shallow talent pool."
"And I need a staff. We'll be receiving lots of inquiries. Not just for fighting things. I know marine biologists and undersea treasure hunters are going to want to hire the Missing Link as a consultant. Insectosaurus's nasal... whatevers... are probably making chemists very curious. Bob seems to be able to break down anything -- he's a one-blob hazmat unit. We'll be able to bring in revenue, no question."
"You're going private?"
"We've got our freedom, don't we? Can't get out all the way, of course. I can't imagine we're going to be able to get liability insurance."
"You get outta line, I'll have to wrangle you again. Done it before."
"You caught me when I was new," said Susan, grinning. "When I didn't know what I was doing. I've learned a lot since then."
General Monger grinned back at her. "All right, then," he said. "Go on back to your place. Still no furniture yet, but I got a corporal helping you with your mail."
Susan blinked. "My what?"
By the time Susan and the corporal had worked partway through her correspondence, Susan had decided that she needed a more efficient means of reading her mail, and a list of answers to frequently asked questions, and some way of autographing pictures, and a way to set fire to men from orbit. It was all worth it for the letters from little girls who wanted to be her when they grew up.
And it had never been a dream she'd had, but coming home to that, Susan thought, was better than Paris.