The Princess Gargoyle
by Acyn
All the characters appearing in Gargoyles and Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles are copyright Buena Vista Television/The Walt Disney Company. No infringement of these copyrights is intended, and is not authorized by the copyright holder. All original characters are the property of Acyn

"The Princess Gargoyle" - By Acyn (


"Oh, I'm so happy to be here. I'm so happy to see you... HEY, MELVIN! COME PLAY WITH ME!"

"NYAH! Not again!" Graeme frantically reached for the remote and turned off the bizarre singing cartoon before yet another child got yanked through the screen.

Hudson wandered into the TV room just then and eyed the panting youth. "Problems, lad?"

Graeme started at the sound of the elder's voice, but then threw himself back into the corner of the sofa with a "Hmph!" He lifted his bandaged leg with great annoyance. "Everyone is out on patrol having fun right now, except you and the gimp. That problem springs to mind.... stupid Nudnik."

Hudson chucked and sat down next to him. "Oh, it's just for tonight. Tomorrow that ankle will be as good as new. Until then, there's nothing wrong with a little peace and quiet."

"Oh, yeah, sure," Brooklyn's son mumbled almost as well as his dad. "That's great for you, in the autumn of your warrior days. I need a little more excitement to...I mean..." Realizing he was speaking aloud, the young male looked up, abashed. "I'm sorry. I meant - "

"Bollocks! I know exactly what you meant. So you think you can't get your heart racing, your tail twitching, with just the ol' fossil to keep you company, eh?"

"Well, nothing good's on tonight until later..."

"Lad, I have tales to keep ye on the edge of that couch, yuir eyes drying out for fear o' blinkin' and missin' one word."

"Stories of the old days, huh?" Graeme began eyeing the remote again, weighing the options.

Hudson grinned wickedly. "Ach, no lad! Yuir not strong enough for tales that excitin' yet. Something a little softer for tonight, I think..."

"Not strong enough? Hey! What, then? Sports or something?"

"Are you kidding? How about fencing. Fighting. Torture. Revenge. Monsters. Chases. Escapes. True Love... Miracles."

"It doesn't sound too bad." Graeme settled in and grabbed at the bowl of popcorn Hudson produced. "I'll try to stay awake."

"Oh will ye now? Well isn't that nice. Thank you very much. Yuir vote o' confidence is overwhelming."

Owen walked by the doorway at that instant and leaned his head in. "By the way," he deadpanned.

The story about to be told is a work of fiction based - tenuously - on the Disney Gargoyles' Universe, and all characters from there are copyright the Mouse, and not me. Sata, Ariana, and Graeme are borrowed from the TGS series and copyrighted to their creators. Other characters and/or plot devices from other copyright holders are legal property of them what made them - William Goldman and Rob Reiner in particular. No money is being made and no disrespect is intended by telling the tale that follows. This story contains scenes of violence, and occasional mild profanity."

He then retreated on down the hall, leaving the two gargoyles scratching their heads before Hudson started his tale.

His tale of........

The Princess Gargoyle


Elisa Maza was a detective in a small precinct on the isle of Manhattan. Her favorite pastimes were patrolling through the streets in her Ford convertible, and tormenting the local gargoyle. His name was Goliath, but she never called him that.

"Isn't that a great beginning to a story?"

"Oh....nifty." Graeme began fingering the remote.

Hudson finally did roll his eyes, before continuing.

In dangerous situations, time after time, Elisa would always announce her intention to face the trouble, knowing that Goliath would always be behind her. 'I'll protect you,' was all he ever said. When she saw a bad guy on the street doing something crooked, she'd look over her shoulder to Goliath and say, "Oh gargoyle, I'm off to stop this crime!" knowing that when she did, he would have to reply, 'I'll protect you.' When a pack of mercenaries came up on the beach, one day, she sprinted out onto the sand with glee, because she knew Goliath would have to glide above saying, 'I'll protect you.'

But then one day, something amazing happened. She realized that all the time Goliath was saying 'I'll protect you,' what he really was saying was 'I Love You.' They were standing on the top of the castle, when, just to tease, she looked back and said "Oh gargoyle, I wish to cross the street now." She smiled, thinking this was very funny, until Goliath approached right up to her. He was inches away, and she had to look way up to see his piercing eyes staring straight down at her. She whispered, "Please?" He didn't hesitate. He scooped her up in his arms and whispered right back - "I will protect you."

And then she realized that not only did he love her, but she truly loved him too. And as they glided off into the night, she wrapped her arms around his neck, and stared into his eyes, their lips coming closer and cl-"

"Right! I'm outa here. Maybe Lex has a Gameboy or something...."

Hudson stopped his narrative and held the boy down on the couch. "What's the problem?"

"Problem? I mean, eeewww! Kissing??" He crossed his arms and tried to scowl. "Is this an Ariana story? Where's the good stuff?"

"Fine! Yuir injured, so I'll humor ye. No kissing. Hmm... Now where was I? ...Oh yes."

Goliath and Elisa wanted to get married, but Goliath wanted his daughter Angela at the wedding also, and she lived on the mystical isle of Avalon, so he hopped in the skiff to go tell her the good news. Elisa was very worried about him leaving by himself, but he assured her. "We have true love," he said. "Love the likes of which has not been seen since Anthony and Cleopatra. The kind of love upon which a lifetime of joy can be built, for two people who love each other as much as -"

"Gary Indiana Gary Indiana Gary Indiana.... "

Hudson looked over at his audience in consternation.

"Oh! Sorry. Was I singing? The mind..." The youth tapped his forehead in bewilderment. "Just wanders!"

Hudson let out a sigh of exasperation. "FINE! True love. Then he left for Avalon. BUT! He never made it. On the way, his tiny boat was captured by the dread Pirate Claw - "

"Captured by pirates is good!" Graeme smiled and leaned forward.

-And everybody knows that the Pirate Claw never left anybody alive; and that if you ever heard the sound of his voice, you knew it was your last minutes on earth! Elisa's grief consumed her. The happiest time in her life turned into the saddest. Just as she thought she was going to be with her love for the rest of her life, she found herself completely alone.

The years went by and Elisa continued protecting the city streets, but the joy she used to feel doing this was gone. Her efforts were not unnoticed, however, and as she continued busting bigger and bigger crime bosses, her heroics came to the attention of the city's richest man, David Xanatos. There followed a brief courtship, and many promises by Xanatos to help the poor and oppressed, when finally Elisa agreed to marry him, for the sake of the happiness of the city. Their announcement came at the end of the biggest party of the year, with Xanatos promising 1 billion dollars to be donated to the Manhattan police force, to make them the most advanced, capable, and happy force in the world - all because of his love for one woman - Elisa Maza.

The audience went wild over this, of course, and the announcement - broadcast live - made the young detective the most famous, admired, and envied woman in the city. But of course Elisa didn't love him. And since she was now a national celebrity, she was not even able to be a detective anymore, since anyone who saw her face would know she was with the police. And as the weeks went on, her only remaining peace came from her long drives through the country streets and highways.

 But then one blustery day, several months later, while Xanatos was testifying before yet another senate subcommittee, Elisa was sitting on the Chesapeake shore, when she heard a roar in the distance. It wasn't an animal roar, or the ocean. It took her a few moments, but she recognized it at last - the sound of a motorcycle! Just then, a young red gargoyle zoomed over a nearby dune riding the biggest bike she had ever seen. The wind was whipping his long white hair, and as he reached the peak of the dune, his wings unfurled, giving him even more airtime. He slammed to the ground and braked next to the former detective's car, sending out a shower of sand. He revved the bike a few times, and gave a huge grin. "You look like you need a little wind in your sails. Once around the island, miss?"

She didn't recognize the gargoyle, but the thought of flying, even if only on two wheels, was too tempting. She smiled back and climbed on in front of him, (his tail would have made sitting behind him uncomfortable.) "Can't say that I've ever been off-roading before!" she laughed.

"Roads?" the ruddy gargoyle replied with a smirk, and straightened his sunglasses. "Where we're going, we don't need roads!" And with that, he red-lined it, popped the clutch, and they exploded back up the hill, scattering sand in a huge plume behind them. The ride was unfortunately all too short, however, and Elisa saw they were fast approaching the top of a very VERY open drawbridge. Elisa lost her smile, and then began to shout, looking for the brakes, but by then it was too late. They burst past the last blockade and shot up the bridge and over the edge, going over 90! Elisa screamed, but the gargoyle merely grinned again and wrapped his arms around her, spreading his wings with a whoosh, and catching the currents out to sea. Beneath them, the motorcycle fell in an ever steepening arc, until it hit the surf 200 yards below, and sank without a trace. A moan from above caught the detective's attention then, and she looked up to see the gargoyle shaking his head in sorrow. "Oh, that was one of my favorites, too. This better be worth it."

They began to dip sharply down at that point, so her questions were put on hold. She thought for a moment they were going into the ocean too, but they leveled out at about ten feet, and skimmed the water for a bit, before she saw a small boat off in the mists. They came upon it quickly and set down on its deck with a thump. Two other gargoyles were waiting there, and the smaller, green one spoke up as soon as everyone had regained their balance. "Welcome, detective," he bowed low. "Well! All your police friends will be impressed now that they've seen that, eh?"

"But, no one saw it. I was..." Elisa saw the trap too late. "...alone."

The short green gargoyle cackled gleefully, then pointed to the huge blue companion standing behind him. "Fang? Bring me... the COMFY CHAIR! Mwahahaha!"

Nobody moved. The green one turned to stare hard at his compatriots. "Well?"

The Blue looked startled. "Me? But... my name's not..."

"Arrr! Never mind. Just tie her up below. You!" He pointed now to the first, red gargoyle. "You made sure to leave a trail?"

"Can't miss it.... Or the spot where my new bike is practicing to be a reef!" he grumbled.

"It was never your bike. It was always just a prop. Stolen from the FBI. Just a clue to point the way for Xanatos. That way he can follow our trail and catch up to his fiancee just the instant after she has been slain at the hands of some 'rogue government agents': a desperate act to keep her from him forever and delay his plan to connect himself so closely with the police."

"WHAT!?!" everyone else chorused.

The small Green looked momentarily taken aback. "Well, duh! War between Xanatos and the government? I just told you this plan before we left, guys!"

The red gargoyle became very agitated and started pacing back and forth, mumbling. "That's it, man. Game over, man!" The Blue ran his hand down his face in exasperation. "But you're not supposed to tell her! The bad guys NEVER tell the good guys what their plan is! It's the surest way to lose! I thought everybody knew that!"

"Am I going mad..." the Green snarled, "or did you just claim a THOUGHT in that cavernous cranium of yours? You were not hired for your brain, you big buoyant blue blob of butter!"

"Whoa, ease up on the alliteration, there, Dr. Smith. Besides, Broadway's bright... I mean... right!"

"AH! And now we hear from the Rebel Without a Clue! Well, first of all, what I tell the detective is really no longer important. I will kill her myself long before she can do anything about it. And remember this. Don't EVER forget this - " the smaller gargoyle got right up into the face the red one. "When I found you, you were so deep in your own angst, even the X-men wouldn't hang with you!"

"Ooo, burn!" the Red winced.

"Aaaaand you!" A whirl and a hop back down to Broadway. "Guileless, luckless, loveless, lodgeless! Perhaps you've forgotten the last solo act by an overweight cartoon character who liked movies..."

"Lexington, no..." Broadway looked almost to tears.

"Oh, yes. A little gem on Fox called.... THE CRITIC!!??!!"

Lexington stalked off leaving a stunned Broadway staring out into nothingness. The Red gargoyle saw, and came slowly down to put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Heeeyyyy... " he looked up slyly. "Don't think nuttin of it, porcupine. Lexington, he's just to smaaarrt for his own good, he is."

Broadway's face slowly lit up, and he finally replied, his voice raising up an octave. "Ooooooh. A wise guy, eh? Nyuk nyuk."

"Hey, watch your tongue, you numbskull, Lex there is just put out by our being here."

"Ooooh. That makes him a very extinguished gentleman!"

The two traded finger jabs and fancy hand movements for a few moments until Lex's voice came threateningly from the front of the boat. "You two BETTER be ready to cast off now!"

This got a duet of "Nyuh-uuhn-uh!", which lead to a sterner reprimand. "No more Stooges while we're on the boat, got it?"

The two looked at each other, grinned, and chorused "SOYTANLY!!"

**  **  **

The wind howled around them, muffling even the engine as it droned on, sending them northward past Delaware, into New Jersey waters. In the cabin, Lexington stood smugly at the wheel while Broadway watched over Elisa, cuffed and sitting sulking in the back corner. The red gargoyle was more restless, staring first at the radar screen, and then wandering above decks, and then back down to the screen.

"We'll reach the Big Apple soon!" Lexington announced. Then, noticing the Red, "Will you quit pacing in and out? You're letting out all the AC."

"I'm just checking to see if anyone is following us."

"Inconceivable," Lex boasted.

Elisa spoke up for the first time. "All your talk of clever schemes, and you're headed right back to New York. David owns that town." She looked away haughtily. "You'll be caught before noon, and then hung from the top of the Eyrie."

"Of all the necks on this boat, detective, I should think you would worry about your own will you quit DOING that??!?"

The Red had leaned across Lexington again to check the sonar, and now looked at the leader questioningly. "Are you sure nobody can be following us?"

"Like I said before, that would be totally, completely, and certified down to 10 decimal places inconceivable. No one from the government knows about this plan, and Xanatos can't send out rescue planes into this storm! Now go sit down! But.... out of curiosity, why do you ask?"

"Oh no reason." The Red sat next to Broadway, and started flipping a coin. "It's just that I looked behind us a bit ago, and someone was there."

Everyone digested this for a moment, then all three gargoyles raced topside and stared over the stern railing. Sure enough, a lightning flash revealed a second boat on the clouded horizon behind them - black hulled against the ocean foam, and with a huge black sail, in the shape of giant bat wings.

"Oh, well obviously," Lexington stammered. "It's just a midnight Windjammer cruise... off of New Jersey... in shark infested waters, during a... a..."

"A hurricane watch," Broadway finished, nodding his head. "Yeah, that's the ticket."

Lexington opened his mouth to retort, but a huge splash caught them all by surprise, and they turned to see Elisa struggling in the water, trying to swim away from the boat, and keep her head above the huge swells.

"Ahh! The detective! Quick! Go in after her!"

The Red looked dubious. He spread his wings and shook them a bit. "Uh - hello! Drag coefficient?"

"I do a good cannonball..." Broadway offered.

"ARG!" Lexington ran down and cut off the engines, while the other two started throwing lines and life vests out. Elisa grabbed a vest, but with her hands shackled, it wasn't helping much. Then suddenly, a huge fin sliced out of the water between her and the boat..

Broadway pointed and jumped up and down. "Great White! Great White!"

"That's not a Great White," the Red countered. "Probably a tiger shark."

Without the engine, the boat was finally drifting towards Elisa, but she was still a ways off, and now she was simply treading water, trying to figure out her options. There weren't many. Lexington came back on deck. "It doesn't matter what kind it is, you fools!" He turned to the detective. "All that matters is that sharks can smell one drop of blood from miles away. One drop! How soon do you think it will take a whole school of them to appear? If you swim back now, I promise you, no reprisals. I doubt you will get such an offer from your friends down there!"

"Never a Great White," the Red mumbled.

"Shut up! Throw her the line!"

The life preserver landed next to Elisa, and she didn't hesitate this time, but grabbed it firmly. Just as they started to pull her in, though, the shark made a second pass, right under her. Her feet dragged along its back for an instant before she yelped and tried to pull them up; the tail fin brushed her shoulder. It was easily 15 feet long. She watched hypnotized as the fin wandered out about 50 feet, made a sharp turn, and then headed straight for her, gaining incredible speed. She looked behind her. The boat was still 10-15 feet away, and despite the outstretched arms, she didn't see how she was going to make it. She looked back to see the fin streaking towards her. Thirty feet. 20. 10! A huge wide flat mouth roared open, the seawater foaming against rows and rows of sharp white teeth....

"Hi, Hudson, Hi Gr- Oh my goodness, Graeme, what's wrong? Are you cold? You're shivering!"

"Welcome back, Angela," Hudson crooned warmly. Graeme, caught curled into a ball against one of the armrests, looked startled at the interruption, and then blushed a deep blue at having been found swept up so thoroughly in the tale.

"Oh, look at that, how thoughtless of me," Hudson winked at Angela. "I've kept you stuck here listening ta me long enough, lad. If everyone's back from patrol now, ye probably have other things you'd rather do."

Graeme gulped and tried to think fast. "No, that's OK, Hudson. It's not that bad a story. Angela's right. I was just a little cold. But you can keep on going. You know, if you want to."

"Hot chocolate for everybody!" Broadway entered just then, carrying a tray full of mugs.

"Hudson is treating Graeme to a story, Broadway."

The large blue gargoyle grinned and sat next to his mate. "Oh, wow. Marvelous. Your stories are always the best, Hudson. Mind if we listen too?"

"Well, of course, it was originally for Graeme, but if he doesn't mind..."

Graeme looked up with a bit of marshmallow on his lip. "No that's fine with me."

"Very well then." The elder harrumphed a few times, straightened his wings, and set out.

The Princess Gargoyle

"Elisa Maza was a detective in a small precinct on the isle of Manhattan. Her favorite pastimes were-"

"NOO!!" Graeme shrieked.

Everyone looked to the boy. "Yes, I'm pretty sure that was the story, lad," Hudson admonished.

"No! The shark attack. You were at the shark attack!"

"But Broadway and Angela missed the first part. Ye can't have them come in without knowing what's gone on before, now can ye?"

"Arg!" Graeme's tail whipped about for a bit, he pulled his hands down his face, then turned to the newcomers. "OK! Look! GoliathandElisaloveeachotherandwanttogetmarriedbutGoliathiskilledbypiratesandthenXanatosisgonnamarryher- butshedoesn'tlovehimandthenshe'skidnappedbyBrooklynLexandBroadwayandthey'rebeingchasedbyamysterious- boatandshejumpsinthewaterandisbeingattackedbyasharkand THEN....!!" He turned, pointing triumphantly to Hudson.

Broadway and Angela tried to conceal their laughter. "Ah!" "Well, then." "I guess we're all caught up then!" They rolled their eyes, giggling.

 Hudson grumbled a bit, but was still secretly impressed with the boy's determination. "OK. Let's see. The shark turned and made its run, she was too far from the boat for them to grab her. The shark closed in, reared its head..."

Elisa closed her eyes and waited for the strike, when instead an enormous splash and thud sounded. She opened her eyes just in time for a great wave to cover her. When it passed, between her sputtering and coughs, she saw Broadway astride a giant - unconscious - shark. They all bumped up against the boat at that time, and were quickly pulled in. Broadway and his friend stared over the side for a bit. "Huh." The blue gargoyle mused. "Hammerhead."

"Ah well. Live and learn. Nice cannonball, by the way."


Lexington, meanwhile, was securing Elisa to the mast with a few additional ropes. They just glared at each other sourly.

"I think he's gaining on us."

Lex looked up to see the distant mast now a little closer. "That's no concern of ours! Start the engines again. We have to be ashore by dawn."

**  **  **

By the time they reached the Statue of Liberty, it was pouring. Somehow, though, it had not slowed down the ship following them, and it was only a few hundred yards off. Broadway was watching above deck, while Lexington piloted furiously through the growing swells. The Red just paced between the two of them. He finally called out. "He's right on top of us! We'll never make it to the UN building at this rate!"

Lexington just growled, but then perked up and stared at the lights outside the window. "We don't have to. I have another plan. Quick, untie the detective, and get ready to go ashore. Have Broadway put on his harness, and those gloves and boots I gave him! Hurry!"

He spun the wheel, and they jerked to the left a bit, heading straight for the southern tip of Manhattan. "There they are!" Lexington cried with glee. "The Spires of Insanity!"

The other two gargoyles stopped what they were doing to look ahead, and then down questioningly to their leader. There was a tense pause, then the Red asked, "You mean the World Trade Center?"

"Yes! Yes! The 'Trade Center'! Geez, you two, you'd think you could maybe find just a hint of the dramatic every now and then? The Trade Center. One hundred and ten stories of vertical glass. Plus with the rain keeping them ultra slick, and preventing all gliding, no one on earth can climb it. Except Broadway. From the top, we should have enough room to glide and roof-hop to the UN before dawn. Then we'll be on international soil, not American, and no police force or private army can do a thing to touch us!"

"There he goes again with the explaining!" Broadway moaned.

Lex gunned the engine to full, and the boat crashed onto the docks with a loud crunch. The three gargoyles and detective hopped off and sprinted the short distance to the World Trade Center. They climbed quickly to the roof of the large plaza area, and then prepared to scale Tower 1. Broadway hooked Elisa to the back of his harness, while the other two strapped themselves to his sides. Behind them, at the shoreline, they saw the other boat pull along side the shore, and a single large figure jump out, before the boat slowly drifted back into the harbor.

"We're waiting!" Lex's impatient rebuke brought all their attentions back to the task at hand, and Broadway put on two huge mitts, to match the ones already on his feet, and then clicked on a small device attached to his belt. He steadied himself, and began to climb the tower.

"What - what are those?" Elisa asked, staring with amazement at Broadway's hands and feet - all encased in huge mitten like things, effortlessly padding up the glass. "Some kind of suction cups?"

"Hah!" the small green gargoyle laughed. "Nothing so risky. These are of my own design, and use electro-magnets to bond to the steel frames behind the glass! See? Our foe is too late!"

And truly it seemed that way. The figure tried several times to climb after them, but could find no hold. He stood pacing back and forth, then stopped for a bit, and ran back to a huge air vent sticking out of the lower roof. He gave a mighty heave, and ripped a ten foot section off and began carrying it back to the tower.

"Haha! If he thinks he can build a pile of junk high enough to reach us, he's madder than I thought."

"Aaugh! Not us!" the Red wailed. "He only has to make it up to the second story where that WINDOW CLEANING CART IS!!"

"What!?!? Inconceivable!"

"Oh, jalepeno!" Broadway murmured, stopping to see that, yes, their hunter had seen what they did not - a suspended platform at the other end of the side they were on.

"Hey," Lexington growled. "You don't stop now. Not in the middle of a climb. You'll just have to go faster. And how was I supposed to know that cart was there?"

"You were supposed to be this wonder," the Red shot back. "This colossal intellect. And yet he gains the upper hand."

"Well, I have the three of you distracting me. He has only himself."

"Pfft. Even your excuses are going downhill. If he reaches the top first, maybe we'll let him do our strategizing from now on."

Lexington bit back his reply, and tried to concentrate on how they would proceed if they reached the observation deck first. Their one lucky break came in that the washer cart's pulley engines were off, and so their pursuer had to operate both ropes manually. Nevertheless, he was still slowly gaining, and by the time they neared the top, he was only four stories below them off to their left.

They finally reached the top, and dragged themselves over the guard rail. "Cut the ropes. Cut the ropes!" Lexington cried, unhooking himself and Elisa. The red gargoyle ran over to where the cart seemed anchored but called back quickly. "They're steel!" The platform was now only 3 stories down. Lightning lit up the sky, and Lex looked around, but then called out excitedly - "Come back! Quick! Get hooked back up. Broadway: Jump to the other tower. Quick!"

"What!?" the others chorused. "Are you nuts? Jump to the other roof? There's not nearly enough updraft. We'd never make it!"

"We don't have to make it to the roof. Just the side. My magnets should be strong enough to hold us there, if they can stay connected to the surface for .5 seconds."

The Red looked to his friend, then out into the black chasm they were about to cross. He tried to smile. "You can do it, buddy. Not a problem. Just hit with all four mags at once, and take the impact. Don't brace for it or you will be too rigid and bounce off too fast. Watch your head, and you're in the clear."

The platform was now only 1 story below them. "Did I make it clear," Lexington warned, "that your JOB is on the line?"

Broadway grimaced, lowered his head and started to trot, and then jog, and then jumped and pushed off the instant a huge gloved hand came over the side from the cart. Lightning tore through the sky once again, freezing the raindrops in midair, so that time itself seemed to hold its breath; waiting to see the outcome.

Broadway's wings were stretched out as tight and stiff as he could make them. They flew out from the first tower, and made it almost halfway before losing much altitude. But then the weight of 3 gargoyles and one human trying to stay up on one set of wings began taking a quick and heavy toll. They all slammed into tower 2 almost 15 stories down from the top, but the magnets held! The large blue gargoyle had the wind completely knocked out of him, however, and could only hang there panting for a full minute. When he finally shook himself out of his stupor, he gave a huge sigh and very slowly started climbing again. "Oooohhhhh. I need a vacation!"

It took a little more effort for the foursome to pull themselves onto the observation deck this time. They slowly trudged away from the edge and turned back to look for their pursuer. He stood on the very edge of the other roof, apparently watching their progress. One word, "Wings," from Broadway, made everyone look harder. Sure enough - large bat-like wings could be seen just barely folding and unfolding behind their mystery hunter.

"A gargoyle!? Hah. Well, no matter. With these winds and the rain, he must know he could never reach us in time. Look. He's giving up already!"

Indeed, it seemed so, as the large dark figure turned and walked off towards the center of the roof.

"He could be getting a running start."

"With these cross winds? And downdrafts?"

"He's climbing," the Red observed.

"I don't think so," Broadway countered. "Looks more like.... pushing?"

The sudden sound of twisting metal hit their ears, just then, and the massive 200 foot antenna jutting from the middle of the roof suddenly shifted. They heard a distant roar, another groan from the spire, and the top was another 20 feet closer.

"He's making a bridge?" Lexington cried. "Inconceivable!"

"What's not to conceive!" The Red began to grow wild-eyed. "That thing back there - it can't be reasoned with, or bargained with. It doesn't feel fear, or remorse, or pity, and it absolutely will not stop! Ever! Now, factoring that into your little calculations, how can anything it does to get to us be inconceivable?"

"You will terminate this line of thinking right now," Lex yelled back. "Our course is clear. He knows we have the detective, and therefore must die. We shall continue to the UN. If he falls on his little highwire act, fine. If not, you will stay to see he does not leave this rooftop alive. Now do you think that task is conceivable?"

"Yeah." He turned and his eyes lit up at seeing the antenna fall almost the rest of the way over, until it was nearly horizontal. "Yeah, I can handle that. Heck, I can handle that one handed."

"Don't get cute on us. You don't have time for a long drawn out battle. If you're caught here at sunrise, you won't be able to defend yourself at all!"

But the Red already wasn't listening, concentrating instead on assembling a complex bladed weapon. "Gotcha. Battle sunrise."

"You weren't listening at all!" Lexington began to lecture, but then looked up to see the gargoyle in black already beginning to shinny his way across the pole. "Ah, whatever! Broadway, quick. To the east!"

And with Lexington and Elisa both strapped securely to him again, the large blue gargoyle brought his wings in tight and dove off the far side. They quickly disappeared into the storm's darkness. The Red barely noticed them leave, but instead completed his weapon with a loud 'klik', and watched the progress of his opponent. The antenna looked like it was almost made to double as such a bridge; if all went well, the other gargoyle could slide right to the end, and drop off on this roof with 10 feet to spare. But amazingly, things did not go at all well. Three-fourths of the way across, the entire structure groaned again, and bent down another few degrees, slamming the end of the pole to the roof. This jolted its passenger enough to make him lose his footing, and nearly fall off, leaving him now hanging under the pole, with just his hands clasped on top of it. He slid quickly the rest of the way over, but just before he hit the edge, the pole bent again, and he was slammed into the glass side of the building 10 feet below the top.

The Red rushed to the side to see, and gasped at how precariously the other gargoyle was perched. The pole this close to the end wasn't strong enough to support the gargoyle's full weight, so he was trying to push against the glass of the building for additional support. He certainly didn't appear happy about his position.

"Ahoy there!" the Red called out. "That looked like quite a ride! E-ticket, would you say?"

He got a grunt in response, so he went back to some warm up exercises with his blade. After a bit he returned to the side to see his target in somewhat better position, but still not yet 'safe.' "Slow going?" he ventured.

This earned him a growl.

"Yeah, traction on windows can be a pane, sometimes!"

A short roar made him smile. Zing! But then a retort. "If you wouldn't mind helping me up, we could discuss my frame of mind!"

The Red grinned, impressed. "I could probably do that. Or I could do nothing, and when dawn comes, you'll turn to stone and fall, and nothing personal, but you must know I'm just waiting around to kill you."

A sigh from below answered that. "I assumed as much. But on the other hand you can't afford to leave and just hope I fall.... can you?"

That earned an uncomfortable pause from the Red.

"You'd have to stay here until dawn also, to make sure I didn't catch up. And that would leave you out here unprotected during the day... right?"

It was quiet above the dark gargoyle for a full 2 minutes. Then there was a large metal jingling sound, and a 20 foot section of chain link fence was lowered down to him. He smiled and grabbed hold, and was quickly pulled up. He staggered to his feet and reached for his weapon, but the Red signalled 'no.' "We can afford a quick wait, until you are ready," he offered. "You've earned it."

"That's very honorable of you. My thanks."

Up close for the first time, the Red could now study his opponent more carefully. He was a larger gargoyle than himself, with a long black ponytail and an apparently more human shaped face than the Red's own beak and horns. What little skin he saw was a lavender hue, but his arms, hands, legs, and chest were covered in a black leather outfit. His face, also, was masked in leather, and he wore huge, modified black boots. It was disconcerting for the Red to see a gargoyle who needed to cover so much of himself. And then a cold thought raced through his head. "You - don't by any chance - have two left hands, do you?"

The masked gargoyle paused from un-kinking one of his wing spurs to gaze back with astonishment. "Isn't two left feet the thing to normally worry about?" he smirked.

"My father was betrayed by a man with two left hands," the Red responded with a dangerously calm voice.

The masked gargoyle straightened to his full height and held up both hands. One left, and... one right.

The Red grimaced his approval, and then paused to explain. "My father was a famous sword maker. One day, I am told, someone with two left hands came and asked them to create a weapon for him - the sharpest, strongest sword ever made, and that could only be wielded by him.. My father worked a year on this weapon, only to learn through another source that the buyer intended to use it against us! Against all gargoyles. As you see, I was his first test." The Red walked right up to his opponent and turned both profiles, showing large nicks in each of his elongated ears. "Two chips while I was asleep to prove to himself that the sword would actually cut stone. I was three!" he growled.

"When my father learned of this, he went into a rage, and attacked this man. They fought for a long time, but the weapon was made too well. Just as the sun was to rise, my father's last sword broke, and he was.... impaled. But you don't work on something for a year and not feel some sense of ownership over it, I guess, for when he turned to stone, this blade within him did the same, so it was lost to the two-lefted man after all. But that also meant that when my da awoke the next evening, there was no chance to save him."

"So I grew up with this blade as my father. I couldn't use it at first, because of its design, but it nonetheless went everywhere I did. I learned to walk, to fly, and ... and to fight, always with it in my hands. And when I was old enough, I modified it back to fit my grip, and I set out to find this double lefted man. And when I do, I will come up and say to him: Hello. My name is Brooklyn Montoya. You killed my father... Prepare to die."

The gargoyle in black was studying the blade carefully during the tale - noticing its various arcs and points, its abnormally long handle, running parallel to much of the blade, and having several (from his point of view) oddly angled side handles coming from it. He looked up now and questioned, "So you've done nothing but search for this man, and hone your skills with this blade? For all this time?"

A nod and a shrug. "Thirty years. So you'll have to forgive me if I've lost some of my optimism over time, but vengeance digs a pretty deep rut in a life. Now I'm only hanging with Lex hoping maybe some of his contacts or jobs will give me a trail I wouldn't have found on my own."

"Well, I hope someday you can settle your demons. But speaking of your current assignment..." He drew a sword out left-handed.

"You're ready then?" Brooklyn hopped back and gave a hard shake of his wings and head, throwing off the collected water layer.

"Ready or not, the sunrise won't wait forever."

"I think you would have made a powerful ally. I'm sorry I have to kill you."

"You would have made a trusted protector. I'm sorry I have to die."

The two nodded curtly to each other and assumed a ready stance. The fight had begun.

Brooklyn faded quickly into battle mode. His entire concentration went to his own blade-as-an-extension of his left arm, and his opponent's weapon and weapon arm. Nothing else, he had learned over and over, really mattered. He feinted once and made a test swipe. His opponent copied this act, and Brooklyn dodged easily, but also noted the general reach of the sword, and how it was held. They parried twice more, testing, and then launched themselves into each other full tilt.

His opponent was good. Very good. He took advantage of his superior height and weight, and Brooklyn was defending mostly against overhead shots, but he could concentrate then on slicing low, forcing his opponent to keep his sword lower. Nevertheless, they were a match in speed, and slowly, his opponent's unending strength began to drive Brooklyn back. Soon he saw himself being crowded against the elevator complex in the middle of the roof. He smiled. "You are amazing. Strength and skill the likes of which I have never fought before."

"Thank you," the stranger replied. "But even now I am learning from you."

"False - unh - modesty! It's clear if things go on like this you've won the fight!" Brooklyn stumbled back into the wall and staved off a furious succession of overhead blows that brought him to his knees.

"Ah! And what do you plan to do to change things?" The larger gargoyle leaned into Brooklyn, pinning his blade tip against the wall over his head.

Brooklyn brought his right hand up to the hilt and smiled. "I won't fight one-handed!"

There was another loud 'KLIK' and he swung a second blade out from within the suddenly extended hilt, creating what now looked like a 6 foot bo-staff with scimitars welded at each end. He swung the lower blade out and his opponent had to jump back quickly to avoid being slashed. Brooklyn regained his feet, twirled the newly extended staff around once like a baton, and then resumed his ready stance. "Ta da!"

"Indeed," the masked gargoyle murmured. He resumed his attack, but this time it was painfully clear how much his crimson opponent had had to hold back, using just half his weapon. Like flying with a splinted wing; while possible to a limited scale, it was nothing like the balance, the maneuverability you had when both sides were equally balanced and agile. Brooklyn's stance and movements, which before had seemed capable, but forced, were now fully unleashed; nothing was held back. He became a solid wall of movement. He could now block every swing and arc the other end of his blade across to attack in the same movement. Now the masked gargoyle was finding himself quickly retreating towards the edge of the roof. He looked around and found a few obstacles to keep in between him and Brooklyn - a stone bench, or locked up hotdog cart - but these were only delays. At the edge of the chain link fence, he tried to rally, but a roar from Brooklyn and one mighty swing cleaved straight through one of the poles, and the pair continued on. He saw the drop-off approaching rapidly, and knew he would have to quickly change his own strategy, or end up losing all he had gained this night.

"You are amazing," the masked gargoyle gasped.

"I better be, after 30 years," Brooklyn replied. He crouched and spun low, forcing his opponent to jump, and then thrust twice, forcing another stumble backwards. It was almost over. The next step back would be air.

"But I should probably tell you something."

"What's that?"

"I don't fight one-handed either!"

Then from between his wings, the masked giant pulled a second, longer sword, this one with two fork-like tines at the very end, instead of a single point. His eyes gave a brief glow, and he swung both arms straight across in opposing arcs, forcing Brooklyn back one step with a look of surprise.

The battle resumed a second time, ranging all over, this time with both combatants gaining and losing ground equally. For now, the masked gargoyle could attack and block simultaneously, just like Brooklyn, and the prongs at the end of his right hand sword proved quite useful in catching and holding the staff, if even for only a few seconds. That, and his superior strength, in the end pulled the advantage away from Brooklyn, who was becoming fatigued, and making more and more wild swings and lunges. Finally, Brooklyn began a frantic whirling attack, striking twice with each rotation. A growl started in his throat, turned into a rumble, and finally a sustained roar, as he gave the last of his energy into this offense. It almost worked. His last spin finally struck the hilt of the masked gargoyle's left sword, sending it flying, but a tail flashed out just then, and Brooklyn was too dizzy to jump out of its path. He fell heavily onto his stomach, his own weapon clattering to the ground nearby.

He lay there panting for a bit before rising to his knees, his eyes cast down. "Kill me quickly, please."

The masked gargoyle stood over him ready to strike, but then paused. "You ask me to destroy a Picasso? A Van Gogh? Nay, how could I, when there is such beauty and perfection in your 'otherness'? For while your skills may not at first glance seem beneficial, they were won through honest emotion. And who among us can truly say we would not have taken such a path ourselves? Can any path that has lead where yours lead you truly produce only that fit for disposal at our whim? Who is to say the price of experience, or what fruits its tree may produce if given even the smallest wholesome nourishment. I think it was the great philosopher Lucretius who once pontificated that...."

Brooklyn, whose wait for the end was suddenly becoming too unnerving, stood quickly to beg again for a quick death, but in so doing cracked his head against the hilt of the sword being held above him while its owner had paused to reflect. It knocked him out cold, and the masked gargoyle, torn from his musings by these events, could only stare for a moment in astonishment, before shrugging, and then taking off in pursuit of his quarry.

**  **  **

Lexington sat perfectly still, scanning the skies with his night vision binoculars. Elisa was crouched nearby on the rooftop, huddled under Broadway's wing, that he had extended to help keep the rain off of her. Suddenly a form appeared silhouetted against the lights of a distant skyscraper. Lex zoomed in and had his worst fears confirmed. The wing shape was all wrong. It wasn't Brooklyn.

"Inconc-" He paused, awkwardly, for a moment, and then finished defiantly. "-eivable!" He turned to Broadway. "Give the detective to me. We'll keep moving towards the UN. But it's going to take almost the whole remaining hour until dawn. So I want you to finish him - your way!"

"My way?" Broadway mused, but then when he got a scowl from Lexington, added "Oh, right! My way. My way will show him. He won't stand a chance now that he's facing my way. Not the highway. I'll do it... um... my..."

"You have no idea how to stop him do you?" Lex said quietly. Broadway shook his head. Lex rolled his eyes, looked around for a bit, and then roughly pulled Elisa's leather jacket off and handed it to his partner. "Take this coat. Open that roof door over there and hang the coat over the knob. Then hide. In a few minutes, the gargoyle in black will show up, see the coat, and head inside for the detective. Except that this building - " Lex gestured triumphantly, "-is the Hotel Cabal! The most mind twisting, psyche shattering, hope crushing building ever constructed. Every room is a unique death trap designed to drive someone insane. You simply guard the roof door. With your special ability to never be knocked down once you're balanced, his only other choice will be to face the horrors within, trying to get down to the only other exit, through the lobby. And even if he somehow survives all the rooms, he will have wasted so much time, that we will win by default. That is 'your way'! Just make sure you're set in the doorway as soon as he goes through!"

"I lure him in, guard the way out, and let the building take care of him?"

"Bingo!" Lexington smiled and grabbed Elisa. "I'll meet you tomorrow at our rendezvous point. Just remember to stay and guard the door." Lex's smiled faded for a moment, he took one more look around, and then scaled down the building, holding on to the detective.

Broadway looked at the jacket, and then the roof door. "This sounds more like the hotel's way, than 'my' way," he mumbled to no one in particular. He carefully pulled the door from its hinges and set it askew over the exit, the coat resting nearby. He then climbed down the nearest wall so that he could peek over the edge to watch.

Several minutes later, the masked gargoyle skidded onto the roof. Broadway ducked down and listened for him to go inside. When he heard the door being moved, he counted to ten, and looked. The other's shadow was just disappearing down the stairwell. He vaulted onto the roof and raced for the door. Reaching it, he saw the masked gargoyle whirl and start running back up the steps, but it was too late for him. Broadway slammed the door back in place and braced himself.

A tremendous slam echoed in his ears, but he held fast, and the door was solid steel, so it wasn't in any danger of buckling soon. The blue gargoyle gave a sad smile and called out. "You lose. Mr. Irresistible Force, you've just met the immovable object."

There were 3 or 4 more violent shudders against the door, and then a calm voice. "There can never be both things at once, you know. An irresistible force means that no object can be immovable against it, and vice versa."

"Vice versa seems to be the case here."

A short pause. "Yes, it does."

"So as unpleasant as it is for me, you had better head off to take your punishment in this hotel. But then that's what you get for killing my partner."

"Brooklyn? He's not dead. He's .... resting. He fought honorably. With great skill and courage. A true and noble gargoyle."

Broadway winced at each adjective, feeling none of those things at the moment for the way he was having to handle his own battle. He decided. "We can have a rematch then, and I'll take up the fight in his place. No tricks. No weapons. Skill against skill alone, as nature intended."

There was another pause from inside. "You mean, I put down my swords, and you open the door, and we try to tear each other apart with our bare claws?"

"All the nearby buildings are deserted. I have no problems falling asleep holding this door closed, and you'll lose for sure that way."

There was a resigned "Agreed," and two small klinks. Broadway breathed deeply, and stepped back. The door fell out on its own now, and the masked gargoyle stepped carefully back out onto the roof, his hands held out and empty. "Although if I can't knock you down, this could be a long fight."

"Oh," Broadway smiled finally, "they never take as long as my opponents think they will. People always think my size and shape make me an easy victim, until that weight is on top of them and cannot be moved."

"Uh-huh!" The larger gargoyle smirked and bull rushed. He put all his weight behind his right shoulder and rammed it into the blue gargoyle's chest. There was a loud crack, and the masked gargoyle let out a long small moan and sank to his knees. He quickly recovered, though, and jumped back, holding his dislocated shoulder in great pain. He hopped around for a minute in agony, and then staggered back to the roof doorway, slamming his joint back in place with a huge roar of pain. He rested against the brick wall for a moment, his eyes closed, and then slowly turned back. Broadway was still standing in the exact same spot. He narrowed his eyes and rushed again. This time, he grabbed Broadway around the stomach in a bear hug and tried to both lift and squeeze. After five to ten seconds, he gave up again and backed off. Broadway still hadn't moved.

"What, aren't you going to fight back at all?"

A big smile. "Oh, definitely." But he still didn't move.

The masked gargoyle swung a hard kidney punch, but he might as well have tried to punch back the ocean floor. A trio of rabbit punches also had no affect, and the blue gargoyle was only staring down at him curiously. Then a sly idea came to him and he scowled, pulling back for a huge swing. A huge roar, and he made his move. When his right arm was furthest back in its arc, he threw his left around Broadway's neck, jumped up and kissed him square on the lips.

"Bleah! Oh! Phhft! Phhft! Oh, man! Bleah!" Broadway staggered back sputtering and wiping his mouth off. The masked gargoyle took advantage and tackled him from behind, throwing him to the ground and getting him in a very tight chokehold.

Since he had still been spitting, Broadway hadn't had time to tighten his neck muscles against such a move, and now found his air supply almost completely blocked off. However, he had all his limbs on the ground, so he wasn't beaten yet. Keeping careful balance, he pulled his legs under him, and slowly stood up. His opponent couldn't stop him. He then staggered forward. "I can't believe it!" he gasped. "You didn't... use... claws."

"Was I supposed to?"

"Most gargoyles have a... set... order... of attack." He reached the stairwell and backed into it hard, trying to aim so the corner would cut across his choker's shoulder. He succeeded.

"And what is that?...ughn... that you've found?"

Broadway stepped to the side, so that they both were clenched together in the open doorway, and began jerking back and forth, slamming the masked gargoyle's already hurt shoulder into the frame from both directions. But he was getting woozy by now, and his vision started to blur. "Well, we usually try pushing first, and then slashing. Only then come leg and tail strikes."

"And why should that...nnng ...make such a ...yyyaah!...difference..." The masked gargoyle was fast losing train of thought, now only knowing his left shoulder, growing numb from the continuous clench he had been holding, and his right, which may have been the farthest thing from numb he had ever felt.

Broadway stopped moving now, and just sort of stood, swaying, both his hands trying to pry loose even the tiniest air passage. "Well... I've learned to control my blood flow as... easily... as center... of... gravity. So cuts wouldn't have... slowed... me... down." He sank to one knee, and then both, teetering precariously one the edge of the top step. "But who would have... thought... I'd be laid... low by... kiss... of.... death!" His legs slipped out from under him suddenly and both combatants fell noisily to the bottom of the first flight.

Neither moved for a bit, but in the end, the masked gargoyle slowly untangled himself and sat up in the corner, panting and shaking from the exertion. Broadway lay still at his feet. He leaned over to listen and heard - very faintly - shallow ragged breaths, and patted him twice on the shoulder. "You are a force of nature, my friend." He rose to his feet and wiped his own mouth off finally. "But if you ever want to be kissed again, I suggest a lot less garlic!" He slowly ascended the stairs and retrieved his swords, and then found where Lexington and Elisa's trail continued and jumped off to follow.

**  **  **

Black boots nudged the chain link fence lying on the ground, and a gloved finger lightly circled the cleaved post.

David Xanatos looked at the metal shavings left on his fingers before the rain washed even these away. He turned to face his men, who were spread out studying the whole Trade Tower roof. "A great battle, obviously," he announced. "Between master swordsmen. And it seems to have ranged over both buildings. But why here?"

"Sir!" A large stocky blond man came up to him. "We have reports of two gargoyles fighting, east of here."

"Which matches the direction these tracks seem to lead..." David mused. "Whoever it is, who kidnapped the detective, they shall soon see there is no place they can hide from my wrath!"

"But it doesn't make any sense!" One of the guards came up to him then. "Why would the kidnappers be fighting amongst themselves?"

Xanatos and his aid exchanged looks. "Maybe it's a government job!" Some of the men laughed at this. "Who else would be so unorganized?" His men rallied around, and they left the roof to the regular police, then, each group wishing the other luck, and promising support.

**  **  **

The lights of the UN shone just to the north from where the masked gargoyle landed. All around him, huge girders and cranes stretched their limbs, creating a forest of metal out of the half finished hotel. The makeshift plywood flooring scuffed under his feet, and random cement mixers and tool chests added even darker shapes and shadows. He regarded his surroundings, and, satisfied he was alone, he found the stairs and descended to the next level. Halfway down he was stopped by an alto voice.

"If you've come this far only to watch the detective die, then by all means, keep approaching."

He looked around and saw two slightly glowing eyes at the far edge of the building. He slowly stepped to the bottom of the steps, listening carefully to hear if anyone else was around, but kept his gaze always on the speaker. As his eyes adjusted, he saw a small web-winged gargoyle holding a knife to the detective's throat. He held out his hands. "There is no need for us to resort to violence, here."

"You yourself create the need for violence, since you are only here to steal what I have rightfully kidnapped."

The masked gargoyle began a slow, circuitous route towards the pair. "But there are so many other ways we both can benefit. We shall do a deal..."

"No deals. She's mine until I'm done with her, period. And see that police tape you've come to? That's the point of no return. One step past that and this becomes a crime scene!" Lexington jabbed the knife just enough to break the skin on Elisa's neck, eliciting a growl from both Maza and the other gargoyle.

He stopped inches from the tape and folded his arms across his chest. "I find stalemates as unsatisfying in life as I do in chess."

"As do I. It shows a lack of initiative. But what other options are there? I can't compete on your level of physical prowess, and you are no match for my brains."

"You are that smart?"

"Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Steven Hawking? Bill Gates? Bobby Fischer?



"In that case, I challenge you to a battle of wits."

Lexington lowered the knife, intrigued. "For the detective?"

A small nod.

"To the death!?"

A second nod.

"Agreed!" Lexington sheathed the knife and stepped forward, rubbing his hands.

"Excellent." The masked gargoyle also stepped forward, pulling a small vial from his shirt pocket. "Then pour the wine and let's begin!"

"Wine?" the smaller gargoyle paused.

"Yes. Well, wine, water, juice. Whatever. It doesn't matter."

Lex gestured, annoyed. "Look around, Einstein. We've paused in a kidnapping chase in the middle of a half-built high-rise. Now while most people might carry a nice Chablis with them in similar circumstances...."

The masked gargoyle seemed genuinely perplexed. "No? No wine?"

"Nnnnnope. That Iocane powder?"

"Huh? Oh... yeah, I guess it is."

"Gonna poison both glasses? You have an immunity, I suppose?"

"I.... I...."

"Yeah, me too. Any other bright ideas?"

The two started walking slowly around the floor together.

"Chess would take too long."

"Yeah, and I don't have any cards for poker. You?"

"Not with me. Riddle of the sphinx?"

"Man. 'What have I got in my pocket?'"

"Not a true riddle. You know I was always partial to the lady and the tiger series."

"You have a tiger?"

"...No." But then the masked gargoyle snapped his fingers. "Aha! I've got it! It's the perfect - "

A new voice growled behind the two, "How about Know Your Lumber?"

The pair whirled just in time for Elisa to crack Lexington over the head with a large board. "That, for example, is a 2x4!" She threw the board down on top of her now prone kidnapper. "And by the way, Mr. Genius: never cuff a prisoner's hands in front of them!"

The masked gargoyle stood there stunned. "What did you do that for? I had just figured out how to outwit him!"

"I didn't become a detective by standing around meekly waiting for caped avengers to come rescue me every time it got rough, pal. But if your fragile male ego needs reassurance, you can say you outwitted him by distracting him long enough for me to render him harmless. Now how about getting me out of these cuffs?"

The masked gargoyle looked at the fallen Lexington for a bit, and then at Elisa. He reached out and grabbed the chain on the handcuffs, and led Elisa to the outer edge of the floor.

He looked out at the city for a minute while she stood fuming next to him. "Well!?"

Without turning his head, he wrapped one arm around her and pull her close to his side. "Enhhhhhh.... no."

He jumped.

**  **  **

"Miss Maza's jacket." The guard handed the discarded item over to Xanatos, and continued. "And there are very uneven claw marks going down the side of this building. As if someone were encumbered, perhaps, or otherwise occupied."

"But still no bodies?" David looked around at the destruction on this roof - granted, not nearly as extensive as the Trade Tower mess, but the reinforced steel door laying on its side, the battered stairway frame, and deep gouges in the roof tar showed that some type of altercation had gone on here.

"Sir - " the large blonde aide-de-camp came up to the entrepreneur again.

"Yes, Mr. Canmore?"

"It may interest you to know that if we continue moving in a straight line coming from the WTC, we would end up in the exact center of the United Nations Complex."

Everyone on the roof stopped what they were doing to stare at Xanatos, remembering his earlier crack about government forces, and now considering it in a new light.

"Then, gentlemen..." David paused and folded the coat over his arm. "That is where we are headed. Jon, phone in some suitable transport, please."

**  **  **

The rain had lessened to a mere drizzle, making gliding difficult and uncomfortable, but at least feasible. The masked gargoyle landed about two blocks from where they took off to catch his breath and take new bearings. He deposited his passenger roughly on the roof of an old warehouse, and slowly walked the perimeter, thinking. Elisa wasted no time in expressing her displeasure at this second kidnapping.

"If you're expecting a reward for saving me from that trio back there, then you better show me a little more respect. Xanatos can tell the difference between helping out, and taking advantage. He practically wrote the book on it. But I won't promise anything if you keep acting like this."

The gargoyle turned with a snarl. "A promise? From the detective? Well that and a buck will buy me a donut, won't it?"

"I was giving you your one chance. David owns a piece of half the businesses on this island, and he has spies in the rest. There's not one building you can hide on where he can't gain access. He can spot a tail from half a mile up; he can find you!"

"So your dearest love Xanatos is coming to your rescue, eh?"

"Love has nothing to do with our relationship, but, yes. He will save me. You can bank on that!"

"And does Xanatos know of your lack of affection?"

Quietly. "He knows I don't love him."

"'Cannot' love, you mean! Don't understand the nature of love, you mean!" the gargoyle's eyes flashed, and he stomped up to the detective. But she held her ground and growled right back.

"The ocean of the love I have felt spread further than could ever be known by a killer like yourself!"

A mighty roar echoed through the nearby streets and alleys, and the masked gargoyle picked up Elisa in both hands and held her high over the roof edge. Then he brought her face to his and whispered very crisply, "nothing angers me faster than lies, detective. And I don't give second chances." With that, he threw her over his shoulder and took off again.

This time he flew further, and landed in a tiny park near the east shore of the island. By now, the sky was beginning to lighten. He grabbed Elisa's arm and started pulling her to the stairs down to the subway, nearby. But she continued to harangue him.

"The pointlessness of your cruelty makes you all too easy to identify, but abducting me seems petty, even for the Dread Pirate Claw!"

The gargoyle turned and regarded her amusedly. "Is that who you think I am?"

"Do you dare deny it?"

"Not at all." He bowed mockingly. "How may I be of service?"

"You will go to sleep at sunrise, with the last sight your eyes see being an army of Quarrymen coming to greet you."

"Tut tut, detective. Hardly the attitude I would expect from someone sworn to protect and serve. What have you got against me anyway? Surely my exploits are out of your jurisdiction?"

She shook her hands violently free of his grip. "You killed my love."

"I kill a lot of people. And? Pirates kill, pollution kills, cars kill, cholesterol kills. So, what, the world is free of yet another playboy tycoon?"

"No! Another gargoyle. Dignified, and noble." She paused, reflecting back. "With an innocent smile, that could bring a peace..." Her tone then hardened. "And on a mission of love, he was attacked by your ship, and The Dread Pirate Claw never takes prisoners."

"No, just gold and money, usually. The banks can clear those a little faster."

"You mock my pain!"

"Welcome to real life, detective! You want sympathy? $3.50 plus postage, at Hallmark."

Elisa turned her back and grit her teeth, so the masked gargoyle slowly circled. "Yes, the gargoyle death. That one certainly made it into my journal. Not many gargoyles over the ocean, you know. What was this, 5 years ago? Yeah, he died more nobly than most, I'll give him that. No bribes or hysterics. He just said, 'Please. Please I need to live.' I asked what he would possibly have to live for, in a world that wants his whole race dead? 'True Love,' he said. Then he spoke of a woman of beauty, and courage, and faithfulness... I can only assume he meant you."

Elisa turned back to glare at him now, and he continued. "-And how with her... you... at his side, he could face anything. Phaw! In my opinion, you should be thanking me for sparing him finding out your dirty little secret!"

"And what would that be?" Elisa demanded.

"Faithfulness, he talked of. Lasting through eternity! So tell me, detective, when you learned he had died, did you sign the pre-nup that very night, or play hard to get until Mr. Moneybags threw in the summer house?"

"You mocked me once. NEVER AGAIN!" Elisa screamed. "I crossed HELL starting that day!"

The sound of helicopter blades suddenly filled the air and 3 different spotlights started converging on their location.

"You can go there too, for all I care!" And with that Elisa shoved as hard as she could, sending the gargoyle tumbling down the subway steps.

She listened to him clatter down deep into the darkness, until she heard a call float back up. "I'lllllllllll prooooteeeect yoooouuuuuu!"

 The words shook her to her core, and she forgot all else, except being near to her love, lost all these years. She ran down the steps herself, heedless of the dark unfamiliar passageway, until she too finally tripped and tumbled down the last flight, only to land in Goliath's outstretched hands.

**  **  **

From the air, Xanatos and Canmore saw the pair disappear into the inky depths. The billionaire scowled at the further delay this would cause. "They've seen us closing in," he barked over the headset. "It's made the kidnappers reckless. Call the transit authority and have them stop all trains to and from this tunnel, and block the exits. There is nowhere left for them to go now but back up to us, or down to the Labyrinths of Fire!"

**  **  **

Elisa's eyes fluttered open to see the impossible. Her true love was staring down at her again. His mask removed, she saw his smile again, and for the first time in five in five years, her heart smiled back.

His lips moved, and he spoke. "I gave a promise to return to you," he gently chided. "Why did you not wait?"

His voice. His voice. She wanted to laugh. "Well, there was that whole death thing..."

He finally removed her restraints. "Death cannot keep true love from being fulfilled. It is destiny itself."

"I shall never doubt again!"

He brushed the hair from her face. "There will never be a need." He leaned down and --"

"BZZZZ! Flag on the play!"

"What's wrong?" Sata asked. She and Brooklyn were snuggling on the floor next to the couch.

"They're kissing again. Do we have to have the kissing parts?" Graeme rolled his eyes.

"Kissin's nice!" Ariana thumped her brother next to her.

Elisa spoke up from behind where she and Goliath had been standing listening. "It was working for me!"

"The Labyrinth of Fire sounded cool. Can't we just pick it up from there?"

Hudson gave a huge yawn and stretched. "Well, lad, it's yuir story. We'll take it to the places you'd like it ta be."

Goliath and Elisa walked hand in hand down the darkened tracks to a spot about 50 feet from the platform. There he pried loose a grating on the ground, and held his hand out. This time, Elisa gladly took it and he held her tight as they descended into the underground depths.

"They say no one who descends to the Labyrinths ever comes back up," she warned.

"Then I guess we shall blaze the trail together."

"Together is the only word I shall ever need with you."


"Oh be quiet and let Hudson set the mood already!" Ariana growled.

They reached the lower steam tunnels and paused, just outside of the last light from above. They hugged tightly once more, and then Goliath stepped back and crouched, ready to spring. Dawn found him in that pose, and Elisa, after assuring herself that all exits to their "room" were secured, sat and leaned happily against him and soon fell into a contented sleep.

That evening, when Goliath awoke, he found his true love waiting for him with a smile. They clasped hands in the near darkness, and headed north together. After a short hallway slanting down again, they entered a massive underground room. A subway car passed by somewhere overhead, then, creating a huge echoing rumble that they felt as well as heard. Even glowing their brightest, Goliath's eyes were unable to see more than a dozen feet or so in front of them. And what they did see was daunting. A thick maze of pipes extended - apparently - forever into the distance, from floor to ceiling. Occasional bits of luminescent moss hung in clumps on the walls. The skittering of rats and hissing of pipes was omnipresent, and the floor was covered with 3-4 inches of standing water, and probably 100 years of garbage that had washed down from higher levels. And the smell. Always they would remember that smell.

"Piece of pie."

Elisa stopped and stared at Goliath for a moment, not believing he had just said that.

He paused, suddenly a bit self conscious. "Well, I mean I've seen worse."

That unblinking stare.

"Well, perhaps I have imagined worse..."

That stare.

"Well at least we are together?"

Elisa snorted and shook her head, starting forward again.

They began working their way through the maze, when suddenly one of the pipes near their feet began to rattle loudly. They stared at it, curiously for about a second, when a small valve opened on it and a 6 foot spurt of flame erupted! It came inches from Elisa's face, and she fell back with a cry, to land with a bump in the oozy water. The flame spurt ended as quickly as it started, and Goliath rushed to lift Elisa out of the muck.

"Are you OK? Singed?" He handed her a cloth from his shirt.

She shook her head, grateful for anything dry to wipe off her hands. Her jeans, she noticed regretfully, were soaked. "Bleah! No. Just slimed."

From behind them, then another pipe began to clatter, and they quickly moved off to a safe distance just before it too emitted its own burst of fire.

"I believe," Goliath decided, "those who named this labyrinth had a flair for understatement."

Elisa nodded grimly and followed.

"Nevertheless, this will all soon be just another distant tale to tell our grandkids. For eventually these passages will empty into the Hudson, where Claw's pirate ship, the Talon, is docked. And I, as you know, am Claw!"

"But how can that be?" Maza asked. "Since I've heard stories of him since I was a kid, and yet you left me only 5 years ago?"

"I also am constantly amazed at the tapestry fate can manage to weave with our lives. In my case, what I told you was true. It was the word 'please,' and my description of your beauty that saved my life that first night on Claw's ship. It made him think. And finally he decided. 'All right,' he told me. 'I guess it can't hurt to have a gargoyle protecting me for a night. I'll keep you for a bit, and then probably kill you tomorrow morning.' Three years he said that to me. 'Good work, Goliath. But I don't like the extra weight you add in the day, so I'll probably push you overboard by morning.' But other than that, no one rejected me for being a gargoyle. At night, we were all equal. The crew taught me to fight, shoot, strategize, whatever I asked. And eventually even Claw admitted his friendship for me. And that's when it -ungh - happened."

He paused in his story to help Elisa climb over a particularly dense wall of pipes and cords before continuing. "Claw had finally grown so rich he wanted to retire. So one night he took me into his cabin and told me his secret. 'I am not the real Pirate Claw!' he said. 'My name is Reynard. I just inherited the ship from the previous owner. He wasn't the real Claw either. His name was MacDuff. The real Claw had been retired for 20 years and now lounges around his Aspen estate running free fanfic servers for the hell of it. Then he told me it was the name that was the important thing. A new pirate every five years is ignored as background clutter amid so much other news. But a twenty year spree of chaos? That will wind its way into the realm of legend. Which ironically makes it easier to get away with our deeds. After all, when an average person commits a crime, society is outraged. When a celebrity commits a crime, it's exciting!"

The pipes above them started to rattle at this point, so they started climbing back down to the floor, which was by now mostly just grating supported by more pipes. "So we sailed into Orlando," Goliath finished, "took on a whole new crew, and Reynard stayed on for a few months as first mate, all the time calling me Claw. Then once the crew believed, he left, and I have been pirating ever since. However, since we're back together, I'll hand --"

"Hold it, hold, it!" Elisa suddenly stopped, grasping the reality of the situation. "You really have been Claw? You really have killed people?"

Goliath stuttered for a bit, but then nodded. "Yeah, but they were all bad!" he hastened to add. "Drug lord yachts, tobacco company execs, people like that. There is a lot of 'unaccounted-for cash' floating around out there. And the governments know this too. You'd be surprised at how many coast guard cruisers have let us be. They wanted these villains off the water as much as we did."

"Still," Elisa agonized. "All those deaths."

"How about the over 400 boat people and refugees from far east countries that we rescued, but just not under our pirate flag. Or the whaling ship we sank last year. Nature isn't always pretty, my love, but it does strive for balance. But my pirating days are over now. With you, I have no other dreams than your happiness. But first we have to get away from this city. OK?"

Elisa gave a small smile and nodded, stepping down off the grates onto a 'floor' of what looked like orange and black Styrofoam blocks - which immediately collapsed under her weight plunging her into a deep black oily pool!

Goliath stared, stunned, as the viscous surface quickly smoothed over where the detective had fallen just seconds ago. His eyes blazed and he spun around quickly, searching. Seeing a moldy telephone cable draped over a nearby pipe, he quickly hacked it loose with his sword, wrapped it tight around his other hand, and dove in to the pool head first after her.

There was a distant rumble overhead as yet another train passed, jarring loose a light coat of dust down through the tunnels. A low scraping sound came from one of the deeper shadows, and briefly a long scaly tail was silhouetted over a large moss clump. Two more heartbeats passed, then a huge clawed fist emerged from the pool! Another followed, climbing the makeshift rope, and then two heads arose, and two mouths gasped as one for air.

The pair pulled themselves weakly back to the edge of the grating - two living blankets of oil and sludge, shiny black and dripping. In an act that probably would have disgusted her 48 hours ago, Elisa grabbed desperately for the moss growing under the pipes - anything to absorb some of the slime coating her face and hands. After a minute or so, so pulled herself the rest of the way out of the pool and sat against one of the pipes and let out a shriek of despair. "Trapped! There's no way across! Our deaths will be hollow and pointless."

Goliath crawled up to her and took her hands. His wings dragged behind him, weighted down with gunk, but he gave a huge grin. "No! Not true. We have already won. Look at these wires! We can swing across. And then our journey is all but done!" A growl ahead of him made him glance up, and he saw two pairs of eyes staring back at him from a few yards away. Eyes much to big to be rats. Glancing to each side, and above, he noticed additional large pairs of eyes, some inching closer. He hastened to stand and gently helped Elisa up also.

"Think about it," he encouraged. "What in the labyrinth has done more than get us dirty? The flame spurts? No problem! The pipes rattle before each one. Easy to avoid. Then the cesspools - well you were clever enough to discover what they look like - "

Elisa gave him a baleful glare, but still had to smile. He handed her the cord. "-so in the future we can avoid them too."

"But Goliath - what about the A.O.U.S's?" Elisa asked uncertainly.

"Alligators Of Unusual Size?" Goliath flipped his matted hair back out of his face and shrugged. "Urban legend. I doubt they even exist."

BAM! The instant the words came out of Goliath's mouth a huge 10 foot flying scaly mass tackled him from above, and sent him rolling under an ancient water main. Another shape - not quite as large - dove towards the other side of the pipe and the two very real albino alligators began trying to chomp down on any exposed skin they could find. The larger one tore into Goliath's right hand, causing him to drop his sword. The other one nearly snapped down on his wingspur, but a desperate tail lash backed it off for a moment. Goliath roared his pain, and somehow managed to pry the teeth off his right hand, but he rolled away straight into the path of its fellow.

Without even time to stand, the gargoyle and alligator rolled on the ground for a bit, wrestling for the upper hand. Goliath soon got it into a bear hug, and was able to stand and throw it off. It slunk back into the shadows and turned, waiting.

A scream gave him no time to rest, however, and he vaulted back over the pipes to see the larger gator closing in quickly on Elisa. She had swung out over the pit, but it went straight in after her, swimming under her position and snapping at her feet. Too tired to climb, Elisa could only hang on tight and kick lightly at the creature below her.

Goliath climbed up about 5 feet and launched himself at the cord, just above where Elisa was. He grabbed on and they swung jerkily out another five feet, and then back to the first edge. Elisa caught the grate with the heel of her boot and shakily lurched back onto drier land. Goliath waited half a second too long, though, and fell in the pool again, only catching the edge with his arms. He was pulling himself out when the second gator again charged Elisa and he had to roll himself into its path; it happily took the new bait and bit down hard on his shoulder. With the gator pinning one arm and wing to his side, Goliath could do nothing to break this grip. And now he saw the larger one starting to crawl back out of the pool again. He was quickly running out of options.

A huge clanging began behind his ears, and then he realized it wasn't him, it was the pipes. Using his tail as a lever, he managed to roll back over so the gator was facing the lowest one; he reached behind his back for his second sword, drew it and stabbed the beast in the eye. It howled its rage, but let go of his shoulder, and Goliath spun back as quick as he could. In the next instant, the flame spurt erupted, showering the monster and the oil-soaked tiles around it in fire.

Goliath stood shakily in front of Elisa, who handed him his first sword as well. The larger gator stared carefully at the erect gargoyle, and at its own wounded brethren, and decided for the easier meal.

They didn't stick around to watch the finish of this grisly play.

An hour later, they paused to stare impassively at tiny sparkles that suddenly shone in a small puddle, when they realized these were reflected lights. They looked up, almost in disbelief, but it was true. Less than 10 feet above them were the streets of New York! They climbed out of the manhole next to a green belt on the far northern point of the island. The distant sounds of honking and music filled the air, and from behind the trees they could hear the water lapping at the shore. They laughed and embraced each other wearily, and set out to find the Talon.

Yet they hadn't taken two steps when an entire fleet of squad cars screeched to a stop in front of them, Xanatos and Canmore stepping out of the closest. The four sized each other up as they were surrounded by an army of police. Then Xanatos turned to his fiancee and held out his arms. "You're alive! My love!"

Goliath quickly stepped in front of her and spread his arms out in return. "Yes, sweetheart! It was pretty rough for a while and we appreciate your concern, but we've got to be off now. We'll call, we promise!"

Every cop drew his weapon and dropped to defensive positions, but Xanatos and Jon merely scowled. "Do not think your skill at survival and protection has gone unnoticed, gargoyle. It is in fact the only reason you are still alive right now. But we've reached endgame, and this is checkmate." Then, louder, "Elisa, come with me, you're free now!"

The detective didn't move, and Goliath slowly began backing up. "That's right. She's free. From you. And now that we know the secrets of the Labyrinth, we'll just leave now to find another route to our life together. Even you can't find and guard every exit forever."

News vans were just pulling up now and Canmore quickly took advantage. "IT'S DRAGGING HER BACK TO ITS LAIR!" he shouted. A dozen flood lights suddenly focused on the ragged pair, who froze at the sound of 20 guns being cocked. Elisa grabbed Goliath's arm to stop him from retreating any further. "Now he's trying to strangle her!" Jon shouted again, whipping the crowd into a frenzy of fear and hate. A shot was fired right at Goliath's feet.

"STOP!" Elisa shouted and bolted two paces away. "Hold your fire! I'm free! He's let me go! I'm safe, and he's unarmed. Don't fire!"

Goliath started to run to her to protest, but she held her hand out for him to freeze. "Stay back!" she yelled, and then, softer, "They'll kill you where you stand! Surrender here and you'll live, and we can be together later." And then louder again for the surrounding mob, "This gargoyle did not kidnap me. He is the one who rescued me from my abductors. My ordeal is over thanks to him." She turned finally to Xanatos. "He is an explorer who came across me in my time of need. Promise me he will not be harmed, and I'll come with you."

A satisfied smirk crossed the billionaire's face. "May I live a thousand years and never make another cent."

"He has a ship not far from here. Promise to release him to his ship."

"I swear it will be done."

Goliath's world seemed to be falling apart. "But - ELISA!"

She turned to him a last time. "I thought you were dead once, and it nearly destroyed me. I cannot let you be destroyed now - not while I can prevent it..."

He watched in stunned silence as a crew of paramedics surrounded her, laid her on a gurney, and rushed off.

As soon as she was in the ambulance, Xanatos turned to Jon and whispered, "When the police are finished 'releasing' him, have them bring him to my... special office, for his 'reward.'

"I swear it will be done," Jon whispered back. Xanatos nodded and climbed into the ambulance, closing the door behind him. It took off, followed by a swarm of cameramen, trying to get one last shot inside.

The ring of police had now formed a tight circle around Goliath. He wordlessly let them disarm him and lead him up to Canmore. The large man gave an easy smile. "Come, sir," he oozed. "If what Miss Maza says is true, the police will be happy to release you before morning."

The gargoyle gave a small sigh. "I have no doubt that - the police - are indeed not my enemy here. Wouldn't you say?"

Canmore's smile grew wider. "Well spoken, gargoyle... what's so funny?"

Goliath chuckled once more. "It seems the thumb on your right hand is on backwards. Someone was looking for you."

The smile vanished instantly, and Canmore took out a cigarette, and lit a match, using a broad stroke to slowly swing the open flame very near the gargoyle's oil-soaked face. He puffed once, then turned sharply and marched off, throwing the match over his shoulder to land on Goliath's feet. It went out only the instant before it hit.

**  **  **

His eyes glanced up just in time to catch the awakening on the monitor. A silent yawn/roar and then a series of more urgent bellows played out on the 12" black and white screen. An eager smile lit the man's face and he grabbed his clipboard and a few random instruments and headed down to the main floor of his lab.

He looked up again, descending the final steps to see his specimen staring at him and apparently yelling something. He started whistling a random tune, and then to humm, and finally burst out in an enthusiastic (if off-key) chorus of "La-de-dadaa's" while almost prancing around the lab setting the final tools in place. He puffed himself up and approached the huge transparent, soundproof container at last. The specimen inside began yelling at him again, and he theatrically cupped his ear and mouthed "What?" The specimen didn't seem to want to play anymore, though, because it gave up speaking to him and merely studied its surroundings.

Anton Sevarius pulled a remote control pad out of his coat pocket and pressed a button. A quick jolt of electricity zapped the specimen, who turned a burning glare at the man. He pushed a second button. "Ah! There's that intercom button. Good evening, gargoyle."

"Who are you? What is the meaning of this?" He rattled the extremely thick manacles around his hands and feet.

Sevarius's smile turned from bemusement to overwhelming delight. "You're bound in chains above a 30 foot pit inside a bullet-proof Plexiglas cage, and ask 'What is the meaning'! I love it! The 'subtlety' of the situation is completely lost on you, isn't it!"

Goliath stifled another roar, and then slumped a bit. "How about, just, 'where am I'?"


Goliath stared dubiously. After a bit, he arched one eyebrow.

Sevarius saw the look and pouted. "Oh, fine. You are in Suspended Isolation Container 2. You can't escape. The chains are tempered and the Plexiglas 6 inches thick. You also can't be rescued. This entire lab complex is known only to David Xanatos, Jon Canmore, and myself."

Goliath looked above him at a huge fan blade, and below, to see he was "perched" on a single 2 inch steel bar, below which seemed to be a 3 story drop. The cylindrical barrier around him only extended halfway down; below that, the pit seemed to widen, but it was hard to tell from his angle. He looked back to the doctor. "So I am here until I die?"

"Until they kill you, yes."

Goliath's eyes narrowed. "Torture?"

"Certainly not! How pointless. This facility is dedicated to the pursuit of scientific knowledge." Sevarius began punching more buttons on the remote, and several wires and needles began extending into Goliath's cage from tiny holes drilled in the sides. They poked into the gargoyle, some draining tiny amounts of blood, others taking readings. "The pain will merely be an additional side effect of... The Machine...!"

**  **  **

"-And then there was the time our car stalled on the way home from dinner, and we saw two more gargoyles! They - "

Xanatos gave a huge smile and pumped her hand once more, leading her off. "Thank you again for coming and sharing this wonderful evening with us, then, Mrs. Yale!"

Margot turned to wave once more at Elisa. "Bye, dear! I'm so glad you were saved from those wretched creatures. Let's do lunch some time, shall we?"

Elisa stood up from her place at the head table and looked around. The party Xanatos had thrown to celebrate her homecoming was in full swing, with over 400 of New York's wealthiest schmoozing it up. Forty to 50 police brass were also present, she noticed. But it was all just hollow pointless noise to her, and she watched it go on, frowning, for only one more minute before turning and walking sadly out of the banquet room without another word. Her exit did not go unnoticed, and several questioned Xanatos about this, but he assured them. "She's still a little unnerved by her whole ordeal. Once she sees the wedding plans I've set up, she'll get her enthusiasm back!"

And indeed the wedding plans were so extravagant and beautiful that all unhappiness was forgotten. So, the very next week, Elisa and David Xanatos were married live on national TV, with an audience including royalty and dignitaries from around the world. Later at the reception - "


"Hudson, have you gone nuts!?!"

The protests poured in from the entire room. "You said that wrong!" "Elisa can't marry Xanatos!" "She Marries Goliath!" "They went through too much together!" "This is hardly fair!"

Hudson held up his hands for silence. "When did I ever say that this was a happy story? Or that life be always fair?"

Graeme got awkwardly to his feet. "Listen, Hudson, you've obviously mixed up your stories. This is about Elisa and Goliath! Just them!"

Hudson sat silently until the whole room quieted. "Does this story get finished," he asked quietly, "Or am I going ta be shouted down again?"

Graeme slowly sank back down onto the couch. "No, sir," he mumbled, staring down at his feet.

"OK, then. At the reception after their wedding, Xanatos stood and addressed his guests."

"If I could ask only one thing of the world, it would be that they find love, like my wife and I have found love, and there would be eternal joy! May I present the woman of my heart, and my life - Elisa Xanatos!"

Elisa stepped onto the stage and held up her champagne glass, when a ragged voice broke out from the back of the room.

"Boo! Boooo! BOOOO!"

The lights in the room dimmed until there was only one spotlight on Elisa, and one on an elderly old woman in rags, leaning against a shopping cart full of cans and old clothes. "Booooo!"

"What are you doing here?" Maza asked, confused.

"I come after everyone who throws something away, and I keep it. But you went with Xanatos and threw away Goliath's love! And how'm I supposed to grab that?"

"They - they would have killed him if I hadn't gone..."

The old lady wheeled her cart right up to Elisa. "Then your true love is still alive? And you go an' marry another? True love saved you in the Labyrinths of Fire, and you treated it like garbage! And that's what you are - the queen of garbage!" The hag started throwing her rags onto Elisa. "So let's all celebrate the new Mrs. Garbage. Mrs. Filth! Refuse! Muck! Mrs. Puuuutresence!" Elisa now looked down at herself to see her wedding gown completely covered in oil and slime-soaked rags; her flute replaced mysteriously with a greasy paper bag with flies buzzing around it.

"Booo! BOOOOOO!"

"NO!" Maza shot bolt upright in her bed. It was still 10 days to the wedding, she hadn't married anyone, but her nightmares were getting steadily worse.

"Thank goodness," Elisa sighed. Then looked abashedly over at David and Fox. "Well, I mean... well, you know..."

"See," Graeme smiled. "I told you she would never marry Xanatos!"

"Yes, you're extremely wise," Hudson rolled his eyes. "Now shut up."

The young detective burst into Xanatos' office and slammed her hands on his desk. "Here's the deal: I love Goliath. I always have. I know now I always will. I cannot go through with this marriage knowing he is out there waiting for me, and if you try to make me, one of us will be dead or in jail by the next morning!"

Xanatos looked shocked and sad for a moment, and then spoke. "I could never lead you to have to make such a choice. Consider our merger off, then. But..."

"There can be no 'but's.' Goliath's and my love will last forever."

"Actually - " David stood and walked up to Elisa, "your love probably lasted until last week when you left him alone and dripping slime, surrounded by a hostile mob."

The detective squirmed at that and looked at her feet.

"Not to mention, this boyfriend of yours has been pirating for how many months now, on his own? Never coming back?" He smirked at Elisa's shocked expression. "Yes, of course I knew. Most people as high up the ladder as I am know."

He turned now to Canmore, standing in the corner. "The police released him after questioning?"

"After 7 hours of questioning. Yes, sir."

"And after that?

"No one has seen him since he left the precinct house, Mr. Xanatos."

David walked slowly to his office windows to stare out at the city for a moment, before coming back to Elisa. "I propose a new deal. In fact - " he grinned again, "-A new proposal! I will send my four best ships out, each with a letter hand-written by you. The Talon patrols these waters anyway this time of year, and he probably hasn't been able to go too far away. When we come across his vessel, we will run up the white flag, and deliver your plea for him to return. If he does come back: bless you both. If not... please consider our union as preferable to prison. If not for our own sake, then for the two billion dollars the police will get out of it?"

Elisa was stunned. Xanatos was willing to double his contribution to New York's finest? If there was the tiniest chance that something would go wrong, shouldn't she at least endure this in order to ensure such a gift? She nodded her head slowly, and turned to go.

**  **  **

Xanatos and Canmore walked quietly together somewhere near the docks on the Hudson. Dozens of identical warehouses loomed up around them.

"That detective of yours has a truly formidable personality," Jon offered. "For a woman, of course."

"Indeed," Xanatos nodded. "All of New York is quite taken with her... spunk. You know, it's ironic. When I hired Lexington to kill her on the announcement of our engagement, I thought that was clever. But it will have such a higher impact when she is poisoned on our wedding night. Once the government is blamed, the people will be truly outraged. There will be riots in the streets, and when I seize city hall, every citizen in a fifty mile radius will call me a hero. Manhattan will be mine, except for the shouting."

Jon nodded and paused in front of a rusted out fork lift crumbled next to a welded storm door. "Yes, sir. The shock troops are slowly being brought in now... Hmmm... now where was that secret lever? Ah, yes." He reached his hand inside a rusted hole and there was a 'klik.' The steel foundation below the door slanted downwards to reveal a secret passageway under the floor of the abandoned structure. "Would you like to join me? Sevarius is finished with his little experiments, and I'm starting the creature on The Machine tonight!"

David looked wistful. "You know I'd love to, Jon, but I have my company's tenth merger to head, my wedding to plan, my wife to kill, and the government to frame for it... I'm swamped."

"Understood, sir. But remember: sometimes it's the little things that make ruling the world so worth while."

Xanatos smiled thoughtfully and headed back to the limo.

**  **  **

Canmore walked down into the lab to stand right in front of Goliath's Suspended Isolation Chamber. Behind him, Sevarius was wheeling in the last of a huge collection of glass blocks that were stacked up surrounding the cage. Some were only a foot or so in diameter, some as large as 15 feet across; cubes, disks, eggs - all shapes were represented, and each one was positioned to the millimeter, and tilted to a precise degree. When all was complete, the mad scientist handed Jon the remote control, saluted zealously, and stepped back.

Jon pushed a combination on the pad, and 24 massive laser cannons descended to form a circle around them all. When the last gun clicked into place, Jon smiled up at the gargoyle. "Beautiful, isn't she? The design has been in my family for 150 years, but I am the first one to see it realized. The Machine.

"Perhaps you're aware of my deep and abiding interest in the extinction of your race. At present, I am writing the definitive work on the subject. I hope this to be the first page of the very last chapter. So I want you to be totally honest on how she makes you feel."

He paused for a moment, and he and Savarius both put on very dark - almost black - goggles and strolled behind what looked like a large sound console. Exactly two dozen levers all stood at [00], but could go up to [100]; on the far right side were three large buttons: green, yellow, and red. The green was lit. "Seeing as how this is our first test, we will start it out at the lowest setting." Jon pushed the yellow.

Inside his cage, Goliath stopped staring at the lasers and looked up. The large fan was suddenly turning for the first time, sending a powerful current straight down on him. Its speed increased, until he guessed the resulting wind was somewhere over 50mph.

Back at the console, Jon Canmore was carefully moving every lever up to the [01] mark. When he was satisfied everything was where it need to be, he pushed the red button.

The lasers powered, and then they all simultaneously shot a single strobe flash into the prisms. And then another, and another. Once per second, they charged and fired in unison. The beams hit the outer layer of crystals, redirected themselves in half a million different angles, spread out, re-focused, and all converged  in Goliath's chamber. The effect was instant and total. As soon as each flash hit him, he turned to stone, and then burst out of it again a split second later.

They had left the intercom open, so the entire lab was filled with the sounds of his shattering and roars. Over and over. Shatter-roar. Shatter-roar. 7...8...9.... The fan blew the stone fragments instantly to the bottom of the pit. 21... 22... 23...

At 24 seconds, Jon hit the green button again. The fan engine stopped, and the lasers powered down. He meticulously reset all the levers to [00] and then walked back to his prisoner, now hanging completely limp from his wrist shackles. A last stone chip or two fell from his hair, as he hung there panting heavily. He didn't look up as Canmore spoke again.

"As you probably know, the concept of the lens goes back over 500 years. The bending and intensifying of light. And perhaps in the end, that's all this is. Only light, for gargoyles, controls your very rate of life. Through the sun, you get 5,000-10,000 watts of power per square meter per day, to heal, rest... and age. Now these lasers don't have nearly that long to work - only a few milliseconds. So we have to pack them with as much energy as possible. In this case, each flash approaches the GIGAwatt range. One billion watts. A hundred thousand days worth. Now of course I can't keep even close to 100% efficiency... yet... plus adding in the diffusion necessary to affect your entire surface area... Nevertheless, every strobe has the equivalent of a month of sunlight in power... and time. And we just had 24 of them."

Goliath looked up, finally, horrified, and Canmore grinned wickedly. "At one strobe per second, I've just taken 2 years of your life, gargoyle. Oh, someday I might go up to 5 per second, but I really don't know what that would do to you, so lets just start with what we have. Tell me: what was the experience like? And remember, this is for posterity, so be honest!" He pulled out a small tape recorder and held it up to the speaker. "How do you feel?"

Goliath's head slowly sank back down to his chest, his hair falling over his face. A single tear dropped. And then a second. Jon's smile grew colder, and he nodded, satisfied.

**  **  **

David Xanatos shuffled furiously through a large stack of maps on his desk before finding the right one and taking it to a nearby conference table even more cluttered with schedules and computer printouts. There was a small cough at the door, and he looked up. The building's security chief stood solemnly, waiting. David motioned him in and headed back to his desk. A large 'flumph' turned him back, though, to see the man had bumped against the table, knocking a stack of papers onto the floor.

"Ah, Jeez, I'm sorry! Here, let me..." His nervous efforts to pick them up only seemed to be making matters worse, and he looked ready to knock even more over with his scurrying.

"Leave it! Come here."

The man scurried over, handing David as much as he had picked up. Xanatos dumped it on the relatively clean part of his desk and sat down in his chair. The security chief leaned against the desk and almost spilled yet another pile, only barely catching it in time. David groaned and the man smile sheepishly. "Oh, that's twice, now. Can ya believe it?"

Xanatos winced and spoke quickly. "Listen! I have just received some shocking news. Government plants have been infiltrating my business during the last month with the intent of using their employee access to disrupt my wedding, and perhaps even harm me and my fiancee!"

The security chief looked shocked. "But the background checks, even on our temps... the surveillance cameras. None of it shows any evidence of covert activities."

"Any word from Goliath?" Elisa's voice from the doorway startled them both.

They rose together, and this time the stack of papers did fall. The security chief dropped to all fours to pick it up and Xanatos called back. "Too soon, my sweetest. Patience." He looked down at the mess on his floor and repeated through gritted teeth. "Patience."

"He will come for me." Elisa turned and left back down the hall. Xanatos put his foot down on the stack on the floor, regaining his subordinate's attention. "Miss Maza will not be harmed! 24 hours before the wedding, every Xanatos Corp building and business in the city will be completely evacuated. No non-essential personnel will be allowed back in, and all company grounds will be kept cleared."

The chief stammered. "Ah jeez, ya know? I don't think security can handle that in such a short time. All that area to cover?"

"Hire an outside force then! Or... better yet... use them!" Xanatos handed a card over, listing the number of his Gen-U-Tech squads. "Give them the operation code printed on the back of this card, and you should have no trouble. That should effectively double your forces. Will that do?"

"I - I think so, Mr. Xanatos. Thanks a lot!" The man wandered out, babbling. "Still an ocean of details to work through though..."

David slumped back in his chair for just a moment, shaking his head. "Try ruling the world!" he said quietly. He allowed his mind to wander for only a few seconds before snapping back. "Now where was that map!"

**  **  **

5:01 pm the day before the wedding arrived, and the combined security forces of Xanacorp and Gen-U-Tech had their hands full clearing every single Xanatos employee in Manhattan away from their desk. Securing the company grounds afterwards proved even harder. Every parking garage, green strip and rooftop had to be absolutely empty. By nightfall, it was nearly completed.

Vinnie Gregarino stood proudly in the center of his RV "Mobile Command Unit" watching reports come in to the men around him. "All stations report clear?" he asked.

"A through F forces report all clear, SIR!" barked a lieutenant. "G-force reports are a bit garbled, but they apparently have an unusually reluctant protester on one rooftop giving them trouble."

"One protester?" Vinnie paused, annoyed. "Well you tell them to give him some trouble. Or me and Mr. Carter may have to pay them all a personal visit." He placed his hand fondly against a large overhead locker.


**  **  **

"Oh, who shall hinder me to wail and weep, To chide my fortune, and torment myself?..."

Brooklyn stood at the edge of the roof staring at the mid-town lights. He held his blade in one hand, and a half empty bottle of vodka in the other. "I'll join with black despair against my soul. And to myself become an enemy."

Suddenly a large guard dressed in riot gear stormed out onto the roof behind the gargoyle. "Hey! You! Off our property. Go find some other pigeon rest!"

Brooklyn threw the back of his hand against his forehead. "For me, and for my tragedy, here stooping for your clemency, I beg your hearing patiently."

"I'm not here to hear you talk, gargoyle!"

Brooklyn raised his eyeridge for a moment in surprise, then took another long swig from his bottle and wandered back to the edge. "Then by all means," he groused. "Sod off!"

The guard drew his gun and shouted. "I said OFF! This is your last warning."

Brooklyn turned slowly, his eyes glowing. "As thou art a man, give me the cup! LET GO! By Heaven I'll have it!"

His accoster paused, confused, and then someone tapped him on the shoulder. He whirled, only to be felled by a great uppercut.

Brooklyn stared at the prone guard, and then at the newcomer. A tear rode his cheek. "Broadway!"

"Hello, Brooklyn."

The two met and hugged for a bit, but Broadway broke off quickly, waving his hand in front of his nose. "Sheesh, Brook, it is WAY too early for you to be this soused!"

The Red shrugged expansively. "Sometimes I tell the day by the bottle that I drink. Sometimes when I'm alone, I do all as... um... I think..."

"Oh, for crying out...!" Broadway grabbed the bottle and threw it as far as he could. "It was bad enough hearing you scramble the Bard! Come on. I know what you need."

"I need nothing! I'm just fine. Alone, worthless, defeated, and washed up... but fine." He plodded behind Broadway, and then took off behind him to the north. They glided for a while, until Central Park appeared below them, Broadway filling in his friend along the way about the gargoyle in black's capture, the wedding, and the disappearance of Lexington; Brooklyn just moaned the whole way.

They found the zoo, and landed just outside the polar bear exhibit. "This should do the trick," Broadway exclaimed.

"-in a nihilistic universe where entropy grips us in a never-ending dance of decay... What? What did you say? What trick?"

The large gargoyle then grabbed his friend by the belt, hoisted him up over his head, and tossed him kicking and screaming into the frigid pond in the middle of the enclosure.

Brooklyn sputtered to the surface and gave a yowl, splashing frantically to the side. He hoisted himself out and gave a hard shake before stomping back over to Broadway, who stood smiling smugly at him on the other side of the fence. "What was that for!?!"

"It seemed SOMEBODY needed their head dunked in a bucket of ice water. I thought I would just help out."

"But that was freezing!" He hopped back over the fence and glared some more.

"Exactly! Kind of puts your whole little pity party in perspective, doesn't it?"

Brooklyn sat with a "Humph! What's the point anyway? We failed at our mission, as unsavory as it was. Lex is gone or dead, so we can't be paid or get a new one. The gargoyle in black is 'missing'," he made the little quote marks in the air, "and I'm no closer to finding the two-lefted man than ever before!"

"Oh, really?" Broadway threw a paper down at his feet. Brooklyn picked it up.

"The Star Tattler. Flying tiger kidnaps Seigfried and Roy." He looked up at his friend and arched a brow.

"The next page, Sherlock!" Broadway grinned.

"Beauty and the Billionaire Beat Beast. A 48 hour roller coaster ride of terror through Manhattan's blah blah blah... SO? Last month's news."

"So notice anything in the pictures of the 'capture'?"

A Sigh. "Rescuers blocked... Face of evil?... Into her lover's arms... Gargoyle and Xanatos' Left hand man face off.... I didn't read that right.... Left? THERE!" Brooklyn leaped to his feet and shoved the picture in his friend's face. HE HAS TWO LEFT HANDS!"

He let the paper drop and pulled out his blade and began assembling it. He spoke quietly. "Where is this Jon Canmore now? Enjoying his last supper, perhaps?"

"They've all retreated to the castle on top of the Xanacorp building, I think, until the wedding tomorrow. And no one gets in except the guests between now and then. They say the front entrance will be guarded by 30 men, and the upper courtyard by the entire Steel Clan."

Brooklyn paused and looked up. "How many... men... could you take?"

"Unarmed? Maybe all of them. But it only takes one bullet."

"And we know the Steel clan will have lasers and more... We'll need... We'll need... That's IT!"

"What is?"

"We'll need a plan!"

Broadway thumped him on the head. "Hello! Shift up to second!"

"I need a strategist. Someone who can scheme..."

"But Lexington is gone."

"NO! Not Lexington! The gargoyle in black!"

"What? Why?"

"Think about it. He's faster than me. He's stronger than you. And since he ended up with the detective, he must have out-thought Lex. And a man who can do that can plan my siege any day. Let's go!"

"Where are we going?"

"To find our gargoyle."

"We don't know where he is. Even supposing he is still in the city."

"Technicalities. That doesn't matter. After 30 years, the hunt is almost over! Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!"

"Ah, man!" Broadway slowly followed his newly energized friend. "We gotta switch you over to Dickens or Thurber or someone..."

**  **  **


David stared at the screen with wonder. This was it. 24 hours from now, every gear and cog he had planted, every bought politician and master key created would fall into place. And it was one keystroke away. He watched the blinking cursor for a bit, transfixed by the power it would soon release.

A small knock at the door tore him away. "Come!"

Vinnie Gregarino entered. "All facilities have been evacuated and locked down, Mr. Xanatos."

"How many men guard the lobby?"

"Thirty, sir."

"Double it. Is the steel clan online?"

"Yes, sir, and the energy barrier is charged and waiting."

Xanatos smiled and hit the [N] on the keyboard. Twenty four hours!

He looked up again to see Elisa standing in the doorway. "Ah! My precious! Come in."

Vinnie passed her on his way out. "Congratulations, detective. Can ya believe it? A honeymoon aboard the most expensive yacht in the world? Boy, when the big guy here finally decided to get a boat, he really went all out, eh?" He left humming Major General.

Elisa turned to see Xanatos smiling warmly, but she just cocked her head. "A boat?"

David's smile froze on his face. "Dear?"

"The 'biggest yacht in the world' is your only boat?"

He waved the whole idea away. "The man obviously is misinformed."

"Your chief of security doesn't know how many boats you have?" she stormed up to him. "I supposed you forgot to tell him of your imaginary fleet you sent out to appease the little woman!"

Xanatos fiddled with something in his desk drawer. "You don't really believe I'd deceive you, do you?"

"You better believe I do! But your game is over, now! The wedding is off, Goliath will come for me, and I'll see you exposed! You're about to lose!"

David slammed his fist down. His voice got deadly quiet. "You have not been paying attention for the last 15 years, I see. I do not lose. I cannot. And I will not."

"Your house of cards empire is on the brink of collapse, from what I hear! Labs exploding, robots running amuck, and advanced weaponry with your name stamped on them ending up in the hands of master criminals. This wedding has been your only positive publicity in the last 6 months, and now you've flushed that down the tubes too! When the press and your competitors learn of your latest fiasco, you won't get a job selling hotdogs in this town!"

"WRONG!" Xanatos flung his monitor and stacks of paper off his desk in a broad sweep, and then held up a tiny tape deck. "I happen to KNOW your final words at MY wedding!" He pushed the play button, and Elisa's voice came back clear and urgent. "You better believe I do!" She looked in shock from the recorder, to Xanatos, who was once again smiling evilly.

"I DO. NOT. LOSE. I cannot!" He pulled a tranquilizing gun out of the drawer, then, and fired. The detective went immediately down in a heap. "And I will not!"

**  **  **

Canmore was finishing recalibrating the last laser when Xanatos bounded into the lab and headed straight to the console. He pushed the intercom button and the yellow buttons at the same time. Goliath, upon hearing the fan start, looked up in shock.

"You broke every rule in the book by loving her!" David snarled. "And somehow you were rewarded with her love in return. Real Love. True Love. I don't think anyone else alive in the world today could have hoped for the joy you two would have found, free from all external biases and needs. So I think - " His breathing grew more ragged, "that no souls will suffer as greatly as yours, knowing it will NEVER BE!"

And with that he slammed every lever up as high as they would go and pounded the red button.

Canmore screamed, terrified. "NOT TO 100!"

The lasers fired.

Xanatos turned his back on his captive and crossed his arms, listening.

24 lasers, firing almost 1 billion watts each, one hundred times a second, all aimed at one gargoyle.

The roar began.

His body facing 100 sunrises a second; Goliath's cage was completely black with the bursting fragments, which were barely blown down fast enough by the fan, now sending an almost 160 mile per hour gale down on its victim. The equivalent of 3000 days of solar energy pulsed in every heartbeat; and the waking roar began building on itself - forming almost a feedback loop of sound and energy. Coupled with five score explosions of stone skin for the same amount of time, the noise instantly blew out every speaker in the lab, and still continued to grow!

The sound carried outside of the lab, and then the warehouse over it, and then the entire western waterfront. It would be reported as far north as the Bronx, and past Staten Island to the south.

**  **  **

Atop the Empire State Building, Brooklyn heard it and grabbed his friend's arm. "Listen! The wind itself carries my sorrow for my da."

"Actually," Broadway paused. "I think it's coming from the pier district."

Brooklyn's eyes narrowed. He drew his weapon and prepared to leap. "Is that so? Well in 30 years, friend, I am the only one I know who has carried that sound with him, and now it comes from another. Whoever caused it this time is going to pay. I swear it!"

Broadway put a hand on Brooklyn's shoulder to steady him. "The gargoyle we seek - his true love is about to marry another. Would that be cause enough for such a cry?"

Brooklyn's eyes burned. A single whispered word: "Canmore!" and he launched himself like a shot towards the river.

**  **  **

Inside the lab, Xanatos held his hands over his ears and watched his shadow flicker almost imperceptibly in the strobe of 24 lights, all brighter than the sun, all aimed at his mortal enemy.

After 17.21 seconds, the breaker finally tripped and the lab went completely dark. A few moments later, the emergency lights switched on, and bathed everything in a soft red hue. Without glancing back, David Xanatos calmly brushed at an invisible piece of lint on his jacket, smiled at Canmore, and strolled up the stairs and out of the lab without another word.

**  **  **

The truck pulled up to the side of the warehouse and a lone driver got out. He seemed an ordinary-looking middle-aged man, except for the white lab coat and sunglasses on his head. He wandered around to the back of the truck and slid open the door, muttering. When he turned back, he froze and slowly lifted a finger to his face. "Just a... little... itch... Nothing to get all medieval about." He finished scratching his nose and ran his finger along the edge of Brooklyn's blade, held tensely a few inches away.

"Not a problem," Brooklyn offered. "Say, we were looking to flesh out our barbershop trio, a bit. You wouldn't happen to know of any baritone gargoyles hanging around these parts would you? About yay high," he tilted one end of the blade up, so that it caught the light of an overhead streetlamp, then brought it back down. "Lavender colored. Likes to dress in black?"

"Wings like mine?" Broadway offered from behind. Sevarius turned his head for a moment, then came back to smile at Brooklyn.

"A-ha. Two of you. Let's see then. This would be good cop bad co - ooo - o -o?"

Brooklyn's blade jerked just slightly during Anton's wisecrack, and now a small spur of it was settled in nicely behind his upper incisors.

"More like 'desperate gargoyle with nothing to lose and his partner along for the ride.' Does that new scenario jog your memory any?"

"Anh-hanh! Ess. Ess ih oes!"

The blade moved back and out 2 inches.

"Thank you. In answer to your question: he's not OUT side... he's IN cyanide!"

Brooklyn creased his brow, trying to understand this, when Anton bit down hard. A bit of foam came out from between his lips, and then he smiled and collapsed.

"What the-?" Broadway bent down and check for a pulse. "Nothing!"

Brooklyn ignored the body and rushed to the warehouse door. He punched through the boarded up window and looked inside. Empty. Dust, and a few tires in the corner and nothing else.

He knelt, holding out his blade, and cried out to the night. "Father! Open my eyes, that I may see! Fill my wings that I may reach! Guide my hand that we may finally know peace! I call to you!"

The wind stilled, and waited. After a moment, he whispered again. "I call to you."

He stayed kneeling for almost a minute - frozen. Opening all his senses. Then he gave a heavy sigh and started to rise, but the tip of the blade caught in an old forklift next to him. This was the last straw. He instantly flew into a rage and began hacking at the rusted heap with all his might, slicing off chunks and sending them flying down the alley, or just hacking at the frame. It took four shouts from Broadway to get him to pause, and he turned angrily to his rookery brother. "WHAT!?"

"Open your eyes, that you may see what your sword has uncovered."

Brooklyn whirled to see a tiny red LED light shining from inside a rusted gearbox he had cleaved in two. He licked his lips and thought a moment. "Alarm or doorknob?" he asked.

"Is there a switch... left?" his friend offered.

Brooklyn reached down and pulled on a small handle, and the ground beneath him began to tilt.

"Yah!" He jumped back, and then ran down the passageway, Broadway cautiously following.

At the base of the stairs, they both stopped and bowed their heads. Above them, his arms draped over the tines of a forklift, his head back in a scream of agony, was the gargoyle in black. Only this time...

"Stone. At night."

A glass shattered on the tile floor, and there was a collective gasp. Graeme grabbed Hudson's knee. "Wait a minute, wait a minute! What did they mean, stone at night?" The young gargoyle started looking desperately around the room for someone to explain. "Father! What did Hudson mean, 'Stone at Night'? He didn't mean 'dead' did he? You didn't mean 'dead' did you? Dead? As in DEAD dead?"

Brooklyn and Sata simply held each other a little closer and stared back without saying anything. Hudson patted Graeme's hand. "You remember when you promised 'no more interruptions'?"

The youth shook off the rebuke and pointed an accusing finger at the elder. "Who offs Xanatos?" He looked behind him. "The fake one. The fake Xanatos in your story. Who offs him?"

"Offs?" Hudson scratched his head.

"Kills him!" the lad shouted, jumping off the sofa to pace. "At the end? Who gets his head? Brooklyn?.... Elisa? Who?"

"Sorry to disappoint your bloodlust there, but Xanatos ends the story as alive and whole as he started it."

"You mean he WINS? By the dragon, Hudson, what was the point of all this, then? You get caught spitting upwind and have to tell us this to make sure he keeps quiet?"

Hudson stood now too, and gathered his things. "I am sorry. I see I really have kept you cooped up too long. You should be out exercising your ankle, or something. We'll finish this some other time so it won't seem so intense."

A chorus of protests assailed the elder and he paused, looking uncertain. Graeme resignedly sat back down and swished his tail a few times. "No, that's OK, Hudson. You can finish it now. I promise I have no more complaints."

"OK, OK..." Hudson slowly took his seat again and patted Bronx on the head. "Where were we? Ah yes. The pit of despair."

Brooklyn continued to stare at Goliath's form. He stood there motionless for so long, Broadway started to get restless, and began exploring the rest of the lab, but there was little the gargoyle saw of value. Finally a voice in the stillness. "Can you drive that?"

Broadway looked at his friend, and then the forklift. He shrugged. "Sure, why not?"

"Then let's get the statue up to the truck."

"Once more, please, I thought I heard you say we're taking it with us?"

"Montoya's curse." Brooklyn knocked on his skull. "We're too stubborn to know that defeat means you got to quit. You got money?"

"Nuh-uh. Why?"

"I suddenly find myself in the market for a miracle."

**  **  **

6 hours later, Broadway was thoroughly bored. "Tell me again why we came out here?"

"To buy a miracle."

"In Yonkers..."

"Trust me. I've heard about this guy. If he had to pick somewhere in New York to live, this would be it. There! Turn on that street!"

The truck made a sudden lurch and turned left from the right hand lane.

"We're going to see a miracle man who lives in this dive part of the city, in the middle of the night - "

"Wee hours of the morning, it looks like, by now. And he's not... exactly a 'miracle' man."

"In the wee hours. And why are you navigating our path by only looking in the rearview mirror?"

"It's the only way I know how to STOP! We're here!" Brooklyn hopped out of the cab and ran up to the door. He pressed the buzzer. A high pitched scream pierced the darkness. Broadway ran up to his friend.

"Did you hear that?" He asked, excitedly.

"Hear what?"

"A lady's scream!"

"No." Brooklyn buzzed again, longer. And the screaming came again.

"THERE! She screamed again! Come on, we gotta help her!"

"Nobody screamed."

Broadway was flabbergasted. "You didn't JUST hear somebody-"

Brooklyn pressed a series of 5 or six quick bursts on the buzzer. Each time a quick sharp yelp sounded. Broadway looked amazed, and then disgusted. "That's sick!"

"Check the house number."

"22 Twain Street. So?"

"It'll come to you..."

Suddenly a voice over the intercom. "WHO RANG THAT BELL?"

Brooklyn suddenly grew annoyed. "And her little dog, too! Look, can we skip to the end, here? Are you Owen who used to work for Xanatos?"

"Slaved under, you mean," the voice wailed. "Until he decided 'clever' wasn't as useful as 'ruthless' and fired me! And don't think this little walk back down memory lane hasn't been delightful, but - as it turns out - we're closed!"

Brooklyn held the buzzer down viciously with his thumb. The lady's scream blared out for almost twenty seconds; a gasp, and then with a second wind tried to scream some more, the voice eventually dying to a gurgle. The front door flew open and a very annoyed, thin blond man in a three piece stood there scowling.

"You will cease your torture of that poor woman at once, or I will call the police. Begone!"

But before he could slam the door, Broadway had his foot in it.

"Away I tell you!"

"We desperately need a miracle," Brooklyn pleaded. "Just hear us out."

"Miracles are performed by the employed. Why would you want one by a miracle man who can't even keep his own job?! I might kill whoever it is you want this for!"

"Whomever," Broadway offered, and then bowed his head meekly at the glares. "Sorry."

"He's already dead!" Brooklyn added.

"Do you have any idea how late it is?"

"Never too late for a second childhood," Brooklyn growled.

Owen nodded approvingly. "Quite the smartass, you are. This might be good for a chuckle after all. Bring him on in."

The two gargoyles struggled to carry the statue up the steps, and placed him in the center of a crowded den. Owen slowly circled the stone figure, tapping it here and there, and occasionally rubbing the beginnings of his goatee in thought.

Brooklyn fidgeted for a bit, and then finally blurted, "Really important deadline we're facing here, you know."

Owen waved him off. "Miracles come when they come. Not before."

"We've got money. That's not a problem."

Owen looked up in surprise. "Oh, well why didn't you say so! Hold on a sec!" He crossed quickly to a huge armoire and pulled open the doors. Hundreds of baseball sized diamonds and rubies spilled onto the floor, exposing several dozen laundry bags stacked inside. Stamped on various bags were 'Gold', '$', 'Yen', or 'Furbies'. Owen turned back to the pair and raised an eyebrow.

"OK! So money isn't the issue! Just as well since we really didn't have any."

Owen nodded sagely. "So what do you require here, anyway? Pigeon repellent?"

"We need our friend back!" Brooklyn growled. "Back alive."


"Because!?! Because... he's dead!"

"Everything born, dies." Owen crossed his arms.

"But not like this! He was wrongly taken before his time. His destiny cruelly torn from his grasp right at the moment he was to claim it all!"

"You will excuse me while I go find a shovel."

"I need him to help me avenge my father, murdered 30 years ago by the same man who did this to him!"

"You couldn't sell that one to the WB!" Owen removed his glasses. "Clearly I won't learn anything more like this." He began twirling in place, and a wind came up out of nowhere, creating a storm of dust and light. When it cleared, in Owen's place floated a lithe grinning man in brightly colored medieval-styled clothes. He raised his arms in triumph. "Puck has entered the building!"

He ignored the gaping mouths of the two gargoyles and floated over to the statue. "Well, if we're going to get anywhere, I guess we'll have to ask Mr. Igneous here!"

"But - But he's stone! He can't talk." Broadway stuttered.

"Ooo! La-tee-da! Suddenly we're all geology majors! Well as it turns out, your friend here isn't even all dead! He's just... resting!"


"Suuuure!" the fey sang. "He's probably just shagged out after a prolonged squawk! You there! The Beak-a-saurus! Yes you! Go fetch me the tuning fork out of that drawer there. ... Well hurry up!"

Brooklyn trotted uncertainly to a big yellow drawer set in the middle of the wall and pulled it open. There were three metal rods sticking out of a wad of dark velvet. He pulled out the left one. When he held it up and turned to the sprite, four tongs sprouted from the end, made of an ear of corn, a carrot, a zucchini, and a celery stick, respectively. Puck looked up, and waved it away. "That's the Salad fork. Get me the Tuning fork."

Brooklyn shoved the first fork back in the drawer, and pulled out the next rod. This one had a large, rather smelly fish stuck on the end.

"No no no!" the fey yelled. "I can't Tuna fish! Tuning FORK! Tuning! Fork!"

Brooklyn threw the fish on the ground and yanked the last rod out of the drawer. It was a large, but otherwise normal looking two pronged tuning fork. He stomped over to Puck and held it out.

"Thank you. Now let's see what the rest of the story is." He leaned in close and yelled in Goliath's ear. "Hey! Lawn gnome boy! What's the deal? What's so important that you need to ever wake up again?" He took the fork and smacked it on the floor, and then held the end of it in the stone mouth. The vibrating prongs began to hum, and a tiny voice could be heard behind the tone.

"Truuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuueeeeeeeeeeeee oooooooooooooooovvvvvvvvvvvve"

The fey immediately dropped the fork on the carpet and jumped back, but Brooklyn was ecstatic. "He said True Love! That's a fantastic cause! Heck, that's worthy of a Rob Reiner pic!"

"True love would be a pretty good cause, but..." There was a puff of smoke, and suddenly Puck was wearing a neon plaid suit with huge lapels, a plastic toupee, and holding a microphone. A loud buzzer sounded through the room. Puck spoke up in an overly-animated voice. "I'm sorry, that's the wrong answer. You lose both the dining room suite, and your oldest daughter!" Another puff of smoke, and he was dressed in professor's robes with a floor length powdered wig. "CLEARrrrrrrrly innnnn the verisimilitude of pan-geographical innnnnntonations we might obfuscate such said rareficationnnnnns to connnnngress as the post-Gauliannnn subdialectical equivelannnnncy of -"

"ENGLISH, please!" Brooklyn barked.

"He said Rue du Oof. French for "Street of the Egg."

Silence descended over the room. Broadway and Brooklyn looked at each other in confusion, and then turned back to their host. "And that means...?" they chorused.

One more *poof* and Puck leaned against Goliath wearing a skin-tight red and white striped shirt, black pants, and a beret. He took a drag on a cigarette and then flicked it at the duo. "Eet meanz, yoo snuuty Amereekanz, zat 'e was a nutball, and I du knot 'elp zee nutballz!"

Before they could even respond to this, a screech was heard from the stairway, and a new gargoyle burst into the room. "LIAR! You LIE! You lying mythological dog!" The new arrival, her red hair flying out behind her, stormed up to Puck and grabbed him by the throat. He held up two sticks in the shape of a cross and squeaked, "Get back, witch!"

"I'm not a witch, you cheese eatin' surrender-monkey! I'm your apprentice! But after what you just said, I don't know if I have the stomach for it anymore!"

"Yoo never 'ad eet zo guut!"

"He said true love! True love!" She turned to the duo. "He's afraid. Thinks he's washed up! Ever since Xanatos fired him he's been too scared to get back in the game."

A last *poof* and Puck was back to his old form. "My ears must be going, too, because I thought you said a certain name. You said you'd never say that name again!"

The new gargoyle grinned evilly. "You mean Xanatos?"

"Nyah! I'm not listening!" A huge pair of earmuffs appeared over his head, but the blue gargoyle ripped them off.

"Xanatos Xanatos bo-Banatos Banana-fanna fo Xanatos! -"

A large kettle next popped over Puck's head and he started banging it with a wooded spoon.

"I hear Nuth-ink! NUTH-INK!"

Broadway stood, overwhelmed, watching the spectacle, but then Brooklyn thought of something. "This is Elisa's True Love! Elisa Maza who is supposed to marry Xanatos tomorrow, but won't -!"

Puck stopped banging his pot and peeked out from under the rim. "...Won't?"

Brooklyn looked up to Goliath's face. "Not if she has a better offer. Poor Xanatos, though, eh? Left standing at the alter on live TV? Public humiliation on that kind of level... tsk tsk..." He gave a dramatic sigh. "Ah, but if you can't help us: come on, Broadway, let's go plant this thing in a park somewhere."

"Hold it!" There was a flash of light, and Puck was wearing tuxedo tails, huge bushy eyebrows, and holding a big cigar. "You said the magic word, you win a $100!" A rubber chicken wearing a Xanatos mask descended on a string with a $100 bill taped to one side, and the word 'humiliation' to the other. Puck scurried to a table covered in tiny vials, and started rummaging. "Nurtz to charity and honor! You wanna motivate the third race? Mention revenge! I'll figure out how you'll pay me back later. Right now, we've got a wedding to break up!"

Brooklyn pumped his fist. "Yes!"

**  **  **

It took almost an hour, and the sky was brightening quickly before Puck finally looked up from his workbench. "A-la peanut butter sandwiches! I've done it!" He held up a beaker full of dark brown liquid.

"A potion?" Brooklyn asked. "How's he gonna swallow it if he's stone?" He noticed the scowl from the fey and quickly added, "He asks, not grasping the wonderful subtleties of your genius."

"Better," Puck smiled again. He poured the mixture into a watering can and began to pour it all over Goliath's form, making sure to coat every surface. "OK, now you can take him outside to the garden. I am certainly not planning to clean up his, or anyone else's stone shards, tomorrow."

The duo eagerly nodded, and began to drag the statue out back. By the time they had set it back upright in the middle of the yard, they noticed tiny green sprouts poking out all over its form. "Hey!" They turned skeptically back to a giddy Puck.

"Yes! Yes! The world's largest Chia pet! I've done it!" He turned to his blue gargoyle apprentice, standing next to him. "And you said I had no taste. HA!"

Brooklyn walked up to the two. "And tomorrow night?"

"He'll wake."

"Good as new?"

"Ah... uh... not at first. But eventually."

Brooklyn bowed. "You did it, Owen... Puck... How can we ever thank you?"

"Funny you should ask. As a matter of fact, I was looking for someone to do a little courier work. Interested?"


"Great then. So you wouldn't minnnnd... holdingontothisforawhile?" Puck shoved an object into the young gargoyle's hands. Brooklyn looked down. It seemed to be some kind of miniature blue shield with a gold bird painted on it.

"Uh... I guess so... What - ?" He turned to stone before he could say anything else.

**  **  **

Sunset. Brooklyn and Broadway burst awake with twin roars and looked around. Between them stood the Goliath statue - now looking much more like the Goliath topiary hedge.

"What's the deal here?" Brooklyn groused. "Puck said he was going to revive him!"

"Well, he did say it wouldn't happen all at once. Maybe this is normal?"

"How long are we supposed to wait until he's better, then? The wedding is in just over 90 minutes."

As they watched, the figure slowly began to tip over, until it fell with a muffled crunch onto the garden path. A moan escaped from underneath the leaves, and the duo rushed forward to pull the moss and branches away. Goliath's flesh and blood form lay underneath, bringing shouts of triumph from the two, until they saw he was barely moving. They grabbed his arms and pulled him to a sitting position, but had to hold him firmly, lest he fall back over again. Not all of his stone skin was coming off, either, they noticed. Large chunks still covered almost a third of his body.

"Rule... book... dilutes... suffering... bees..."

There was a long pause, while the duo thought about this. Brooklyn leaned in close to the injured Goliath. "The dog with the umbrella barks at midnight!" he whispered back. Broadway whacked him on the back of the head for that and he jerked back. "What!?"

"Quit fooling around and lets get him to the truck. We can deal with his... state... on the way back to Manhattan."

Brooklyn tucked away the blue crest the fey had given him and helped drag his newly revived "savior" to the back of the truck. They noticed quite a few stares as they shoved his limp form inside and slammed the rear gate. Brooklyn stayed in back, and Broadway got in the cab and took off for the highway. From the front door of the brownstone, Owen stood next to his apprentice and nodded dourly. She looked at him, and the receding truck, and asked, "And you really think this will work?"

"It worked the last time," he deadpanned.

"Last time?"

Owen gave the tiniest of smiles, but said nothing else, and retreated inside.

The blue gargoyle followed, her voice rising just a little with interest. "Last time?"

**  **  **

They were almost out of the Bronx before Goliath's eyes finally focused on his travel mate. Several more minutes passed, and then he clumsily reached for his sword, but of course it wasn't there. Brooklyn looked up from his own brooding to see Goliath suddenly swivel and fall on his side. He kept grabbing at the side of his belt, so the red gargoyle reached out and stayed his hand.

"Your swords are gone. We didn't see them in the lab." He banged on the small window to the cab. "Hey! I think he's almost coherent!"

Goliath studied his surroundings, but made no move to sit back up. "You better kill me now. I not go back to lab."

"Relax. We're the ones who rescued you from the lab." Brooklyn leaned his head back and shut his eyes.

"Why? Why'm I here? Why truck? Why can't move? Why still part stone? Why can't right talk?"

Brooklyn gave a grim smile. "All right. Here's the story..."

"We just crossed onto the island!" Broadway called from up front. "We'll be at the castle inside of 20 minutes.

"Gotcha." Brooklyn smiled wider. "Better yet, here's the Cliff Notes version... Xanatos marries Elisa in just under an hour. The ceremony is to be on the castle at the top of his world headquarters. The street entrance is guarded by every rent-a-cop in the city, and the roof is guarded by an army of flying Daleks. But now that you're back from that quarry in the sky, you will lead our attack on this little soiree, stop the wedding, rescue your love, I kill Canmore, and we all fly off towards the sunrise. Simple, no?"

"I lead the attack?"


"And you kill Canmore?"


"And our driver?"

"Broadway. He's in for the whole nine yards, too."

"And... anyone else?"

"Nope! Just us three amigos."

"Then turn truck around and head to Miami. It's hopeless."

"Nonsense. You're brilliant, Broadway's strong, and I'm quick and deadly. Easy as cake."

"I can't move. Are you aware of fact I can't even sit up?"

"You're getting better. Look, your tail twitched."

"I can't sit up, Broadway is unarmed, you can't see past killing your own nemesis, and we all have to storm the equivalent of Fort Knox and fight an army of cyborgs. In an hour. A TAIL TWITCH is not the one piece of good news I was needing to hear right now!"

"So our projections aren't that good. 30 minutes ago you were a bush. Compare our odds now to then."

"What did you say?" Goliath's right wing flexed slightly and another small hunk of rock fell off.

"You were a bush?"

"Before that."

"The dog with the umbrella barks at midnight?"

"Our projections. Projections! We need to go back to the lab! I just thought of one more 'amigo' we have who might turn the tide!"

**  **  **


"Lighting! Remember, keep spot #3 as back lighting."

"Sound check! ... Dear, say something into the mike. You're about to be wed on live TV!"

Elisa looked around impassively at the production crew fawning over her. She spoke slowly and distinctly. "I do not marry tonight. Goliath will save me."

From his office, Xanatos watched his bride to be on the in-house monitors and smiled. He pulled out his laptop and typed in the command line one more time. The message came up.


T-minus 20 minutes, he thought.

**  **  **

On a neighboring rooftop, 3 lone gargoyles stared up at the castle - lit up like a Christmas tree - and then down at their own array of equipment. Brooklyn and Broadway grasped forearms, and then, after several attempts, Goliath, too, reached his arm out, and they formed a triangle.

It was time.

**  **  **

The piped-in organ music swelled, and New York's 100 richest movers and shakers stood as one to watch their most famous police officer be led down the great hall of a thousand year old castle to stand next to the world's richest man. The last chord was pounded out, and the echo faded off the tapestried walls. A stunning redhead in an all-white jumpsuit and sash climbed to the podium. She had a striking patch tattoo over one eye, and bright red 4 inch high heels. She nodded to the couple in front of her, and then to the audience, and finally the TV cameras.

A hush fell, and the world held its breath. She began.

"Marriage!" She paused and smiled. "Getting Hitched. Tying the Knot. Cash and Carried. The Bonds of Matrimony. Wedlock. The Parson's Mousetrap. Getting Riveted. Longspliced. Yoked. Bid the Banns. Jumping the Broom, and Betrothal!"

The smiles of the guests turned to ill-concealed snickers as the list was given out, and then to frowns of confusion as high-pitched engine sounds and muffled crashes began filtering in from the courtyard.

**  **  **

On the battlements, Vinnie Gregarino stared in bewilderment at a behemoth gargoyle clothed all in black, that was flitting back and forth among the towers. All of the steel clan robots were surrounding it and firing at point blank range, but the 20 foot high intruder seemed impossibly to be dodging every blast. The courtyard and towers, and even some of the drones were not so lucky in avoiding the crossfire.

**  **  **

Four hundred yards away, Brooklyn was feeling stupid. He shuffled self-consciously back and forth between the lenses they had set up and a modified laser/projector. Broadway was keeping the beam aimed just above the castle, and Goliath - most of the remaining pieces of his stone skin now gone - was propped up nearby, lending support.

"Come on, Brooklyn! No time to be sheepish. You are the dread pirate Claw, remember? You are the terror of the high seas!"

"I am the dread pirate Claw," Brooklyn rambled, and waved his arms in front of him, as if he were trying to hypnotize someone.

"That's - well that's pathetic! Roar! Swing your fists. You're 'attacking' the robots, remember? Flap your wings a bit. Swoop! That's better."

"I AM the dread pirate Claw!" he growled a little louder. "I'm your worst nightmare!"

"Better! Broadway, swing his image in wider and wider arcs. Those robots need to start building up speed."

**  **  **

 "-party of the second part, in pursuance of Section XXVI, paragraph 5, Section XXXIV, paragrpahs 11-12, Section..." The clergywoman threw the papers on the podium and glared at Xanatos. "You know," she drawled, "I think you've missed the point of writing your own vows..."

David was only half listening to her, however. He was too busy at the moment signaling Canmore to check out the disturbance, now growing louder.

**  **  **

The laser shot went straight through the giant gargoyle's chest and destroyed one of the radio antennae on the edge of the tower. On top of this, Vinnie suddenly noticed the gargoyle had no feet. His legs just suddenly stopped at the ankles. "Aw, wouldn'tcha know it? A hologram! This is just a diversion!" He started fiddling with his walkie talkie. "Hello, control? Get ready to activate the energy shield. And ya gotta turn those robots off, or reset them or something. They're just chasing an illusion."

**  **  **

"The dread pirate Claw is here for your souls!"

"Easy there, Tex. Save the presence attacks for when they can actually hear you. Now, Broadway! The five-way splitter. Zoom out and back. Brooklyn, swoop low and then slowly come back up!"

**  **  **

The giant (fake) gargoyle gave a mighty, silent roar, and then split into five identical images of itself, each zooming off and out in a different direction. The ten remaining Steel Clan robots tore after them, two per image.

"Oh, this can't be good," Vinnie mumbled.

Sure enough, 200 yards out, the images reversed direction, actually gliding backwards - passing through their pursuers, and converging at the focal point again. And true to form, all ten robots jetted straight after them and also converged in the center. The explosion was incredible.

Vinnie emerged from his cover to see the castle courtyard littered with rubble and smoking scraps of metal. Looking over the edge, he also saw several shapes gliding quickly towards him. It didn't take him long to make another call. "Control! Where's the barrier? We need the barrier now! Activate it!"

The voice on the other end sounded just as stressed. "One of the corner points was damaged in the battle! We can't get any readings from it!"

"Well you better get something up in 10 seconds, or all your jobs will become unnecessary!"

"Y-yes sir! Going to contingency 'B'!"

Vinnie heard the generators power to life behind him and smiled. Let's see them get through this! he thought.

**  **  **

"So treasure your love... and love your treasure..."

"Skip to the end, please," Xanatos growled under his breath.

The clergywoman smiled. "Ah! Better things to do! Nudge nudge wink wink - "

"Say no more!" the billionaire snapped.

"Sounds like pirates crashing the party," Elisa remarked off-handedly.

**  **  **

The energy shield crackled to life, and Mr. Gregarino folded his arms with a triumphant smirk. Until he realized he didn't see the barrier. He turned around and blanched. The three remaining generators had been recalibrated to form a triangular shield, cutting a perfect diagonal across the castle top. The entrances and main hall were now protected within the field, but he - standing near the far corner - was not. The invaders were close now, and he pulled out his gun, but one of the gargoyles - a spitting image for the tall black one in the hologram, only one third the size - threw a vicious looking sword at him. It clipped his hand, flinging his gun away, and pounded his wrist nerve, causing his whole right arm to go numb.

**  **  **

Inside, Xanatos held his head up. "Your pirate is being fitted as my boat anchor even as we speak. I made sure of it myself."

"Then why does fear weigh so heavily in your eyes?"

Xanatos found he couldn't answer that.

**  **  **

The three gargoyles landed, and the heavyset blue one dropped his partner to the stones and walked up to the chief of security. He smiled. "Turn off the shield, please," he asked softly.

"I - I can't," Vinnie stammered. "Sorry."

The blue gargoyle picked him up and glided 20 yards out from the battlements. The lights of the New York City streets twinkled almost half a mile below. "Turn off the shield please," he asked again, in the same easygoing voice.

"I... can't? Really! I don't have any way TOOOOOOO!!!!!"

The gargoyle let go. Vinnie started to free fall. He tumbled end over end, screaming. On one tumble, he saw the blue gargoyle spiraling down with him, his wings tucked in tight. It smiled and shouted. "Halfway point!"

Vinnie never shouted the cancel code so fast in his life.

**  **  **

Xanatos brought his booted foot down loudly, momentarily stilling the swelling mutterings of fear and confusion from the crowd. He pointed to the video coordinator in the corner. "Cameras off!" he ordered.

"Cameras off," the coordinator echoed.

"You - you really want them shut d-" a timid voice asked in the director's earpiece.

"You darken one camera," the coordinator hissed softly, "and you will NEVER work in this town again!"

Xanatos turned to the clergywoman. "Man and wife! Say 'Man and Wife'!"

She smiled demurely back at him. "Sweetheart, I'll say 'em all! Husband and wife, bride and groom, the pants-wearer and the ol' ball and chain! I now pronounce you whatever you want to be!"

Xanatos let out a huge sigh, then stood up straight. He glanced slyly at Elisa. "There now," he soothed. "That wasn't so painful, was it? Now off to the honeymoon suite!" He grabbed the detective by the wrists and strode quickly to the private elevators in the back of the room, nearly dragging his shaken bride behind him.

As the lift doors shut and they began descending, Elisa slumped against the wall and sniffed. "He didn't come for me," she lamented. Standing behind her, Xanatos allowed himself the luxury of a smirk.

As soon as the elevator closed, the doors to the great hall were smashed open, revealing the three disheveled gargoyles. The shouts of disdain and annoyance immediately then turned to those of terror and pandemonium. Brooklyn tried to punch his way through the mob, but was instead being pushed aside by the panicking upper crust. He turned in exasperation to Broadway, who nodded, and then filled his lungs to capacity.


The whole room grew immediately silent, and every patron backed quickly up to the walls. Brooklyn nodded thanks to his friend, and then addressed the room. "Where are Xanatos and Maza?"

Everyone pointed to the far elevators. He quickly jogged over and hit the button, but the indicator continued to point downwards. He roared in frustration and jammed his blade into the doors and heaved. They parted with a groan, revealing a darkened shaft and whirring cables. Broadway scooted up to him just then, dragging Goliath with him. The three gave a last look around the room and jumped down the hole.

They landed on top of the car, which had stopped ten stories down. They listened for a bit, but not hearing anything, Brooklyn tore open the top hatch. No one was there. They jumped into the lift and hit the DOOR OPEN button, bracing for attack. The T-shaped hallway was empty too.

Goliath nodded to continue, but as soon as they were out, and the doors shut behind them, 2 men came running down each passage, surrounding the trio. Canmore walked up the middle hall and gave his orders. "Kill the large one and the cripple, but leave the one in black for questioning." Brooklyn slumped, his weapon hanging limp from one hand, and the guards advanced.

The instant the first man lay a hand on his shoulder, though, the blade flew to life, slicing down three of the guards at once. Brooklyn butted one more between the eyes with the hilt, tripped the fifth man with his tail and jabbed the blade down, and then body-slammed the last against the wall and boxed his ears hard enough to hear something crack, sending him whimpering into a ball on the floor.

Jon Canmore looked down at his six best lieutenants, laying bleeding and moaning on the floor, and then at the creature who had put them all there in under 5 seconds. It was a full grown crimson gargoyle, with a pronounced beak, and non-segmented wings. It looked straight at him, unblinking, twirled its blade once, and then spoke.

"Hello," it rasped. "My name is Brooklyn Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Jon Canmore looked at his foe, and then down at his own belt. No gun. He had removed it for the ceremony, and it lay on his office desk three floors down and two halls over. He only needed a minute to reach it, but how to buy that minute? He took a step backwards and the gargoyle advanced two. He took a deep breath.


Four inch thick iron bars descended like a shot, at both ends of all 3 hallways, caging everyone where they stood, and cutting off access between Brooklyn and Canmore.

Brooklyn dropped his sword and began tugging at the bars. They began bending, but slowly. Jon Canmore smiled at the three, then trotted to the other end of his hall, punched a few keys on a wall panel, and his far gate opened and then shut behind him, and he turned a corner out of sight.

Brooklyn became hysterical, screaming and yanking at the bars. Broadway took pity on his friend and helped out, and between the two of them, they opened a passageway big enough to squeeze through, in about ten seconds. Brooklyn grabbed his blade and tore through the bars, running full tilt to the next gate, and screaming for Broadway to follow.

"But I can't leave him here!" Broadway gestured to Goliath, who was now kneeling against the wall panting. The lavender gargoyle just waved him on, and Broadway squeezed through the gate and ran after his friend. "I'll be right back, I promise."

They were able to bend the second gate the same as the first, and they rounded the corner to find an empty hallway.

The tiniest 'clang' pricked Brooklyn's ears and he stared ahead and down. "The stairwell!" He slammed into the door and looked down. There weren't any more gates visible, and so he launched himself down with a war cry.

Broadway looked back and did a double take, and then jogged back to where he had left Goliath. But there was now no sign of the gargoyle. He studied all the passageways, but none of the other gates appeared tampered with. He turned around in one more circle, and then spotted a directory next to the elevator. He wandered up to it and looked it over.

**  **  **

 Brooklyn wasn't even bothering with the steps. He leapt from landing to landing, letting the firewalls stop him, before turning and making the next jump. He exploded out of the stairwell exit 6 flights - 3 floors - down, and took stock. He caught some movement in his peripheral vision, and turned to see an office door click shut. He roared again and charged.

**  **  **

Elisa had broken out of her stupor and was struggling to get out of Xanatos' grip, but he soon was able to pin one arm behind her back. "You will walk," he hissed, "to our chambers with dignity, or I will sedate you again, and you can meet your destiny drugged and drooling."

She growled at this, but stopped fighting, and they continued down the passage.

"It doesn't matter," she spat. "After the nation sees the fiasco of your wedding, anything else I could do would be small change."

"The nation will see what I want them to see. I have more than enough footage of you and everyone else to digitize the fairy-tale-perfect nuptials of the century. Wonderful things, computers! From one keyboard, I can send out enough of my will to take over the city, and then the seaboard, and then the continent. It's really going to be the ultimate lifelong thrill-ride ... too bad you won't be around for it. Matching wits with you over the years has been quite stimulating, but all good things, right detective?" He shoved open the doors to his private quarters and pushed Elisa inside. He paused at the threshold, grinned broadly, and then strode in after her.

**  **  **

Jon Canmore heard the double glass doors leading to his private office suite shatter, and various office furniture being thrown around. He finished unlocking the door to his 'inner sanctum' and rushed inside, not even bothering with the lights. Once at his desk, he tore out the center drawer, flinging it aside. Then he crouched and waited. It took no time at all. The gargoyle's blade - his blade - chopped through his door with a single stroke, and it stepped inside, its eyes two miniature fireballs of fury. It saw him and bellowed.


Canmore flipped the switch. Lightening struck.

25,000 volts of electricity jumped from the metal plate in the ceiling to the one in the floor, drawn and guided by the six foot blade and the gargoyle's metal plated armor. The current held for 15 seconds, matched by the piercing howl of agony torn from the creature's throat. The room glowed with the arc of blue electric flame, and then went dark again.

Canmore released the switch and stood tall, as the gargoyle crumpled to its knees in a smoking heap. It spoke again - this time barely more than a whisper. "I'm sorry, father... I... tried!"

It was breathing raggedly, leaning on the blade now, and its eyes unfocused. Jon walked up and savagely kicked the blade away. It bounced across the room and the creature fell onto its side with a grunt.

"You're the little pebble I used as a test dummy all those years ago, aren't you?" Jon walked over to the blade and picked it up, then walked back and circled the prone gargoyle. "I recognize my handiwork." He scraped the creature's right ear with the blade. Its eyes fluttered open for a moment, but then it clenched them shut again as another spasm racked its body.

Canmore smiled and walked back to his desk, laying the blade out across it to study. "Can't say that I like how you've mangled the grip, but since you were kind enough to return my weapon back to me in my hour of triumph, I can overlook such slights. Yesssss... This should more than adequately finish off the rest of your stinking race...."

**  **  **

"Be with you in a moment, dear!" Xanatos shoved Elisa into the bedroom and slammed and locked the door behind her. He himself stayed in the antechamber and pulled out his cell phone. He pushed a few function keys and waited. No answer. He hit another key. "Hello, security?.... HELLO!?" And again. "Canmore?" and again. "TV control?" No page was answered. No line was picked up.

This kind of lack of attention on the job was not going to be tolerated in his country, he thought.

OK, fine. The first phase of Xanatopia doesn't need human input anyway. I'll just --

David froze. Then slowly turned, surveying the entire room.

The laptop was gone.

**  **  **

A groan caught Jon's attention and he looked up from the blade to see the gargoyle standing slumped against the door. He scowled and hefted the blade.

"You've forgotten the rules again, it seems. When you play at this level, there's no loser's bracket. You fail, you fall down and you die!" He stalked up to the beast and jabbed the end of the blade towards its heart, but it slapped it away at the last second, sending the point instead into its shoulder. Jon pulled back and jabbed again, but it lurched to the other side of the door, and he only caught its wing.

Jon yanked the sword back viciously and gripped it with both hands, screaming and slashing down towards its neck. But his victim - without ever taking its eyes off of his own - reached up and grabbed the blade in his fist! Blood flowed from between the fingers, and down the wrist, but it held on and pulled itself upright. Then it spoke again!

"Hello!" it said, very uncertainly. "My name is Brooklyn Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Canmore yelled again and arced the other end of the sword down to slice open the beast's gut, but it grabbed that end also! It then stepped forward and nearly fell to its knees, and Jon tried to twist the blade out of its grip, but this only energized him and he stood again, pulling back.

"Hello!" it called out, more insistent. ""My name is Brooklyn Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Jon tried sliding the blade back and forth in the demon's already slick claws, and pulling back and forth to try to throw it off balance, but nothing was working, and it only tightened its grip, its eyes beginning to glow ominously again. It suddenly lunged to the right, sending one spur of the blade into Canmore's own shoulder.

"Hello! My name is Brooklyn Montoya! You killed my father. Prepare to die!"

"Stop saying that!" It came out as more of a plea than a command.

The gargoyle's tail shot out between his legs and snapped up, hard. Jon sucked in his breath, and Brooklyn's hands suddenly jumped from the blade to the handle, covering Canmore's own, and rotating the weapon back to face the now desperate man. One more twist, and a 6-inch slice appeared in the ex-Hunter's bicep.

"HELLO!" The word had become a battle call. Brooklyn fully extended his wings and flapped once, hard, and with one mighty heave, wrenched the sword entirely away. "My name is Brooklyn Montoya! You killed my father! PREPARE to DIE!" He twirled once and swung, bringing the blade down on Canmore's right ear, chopping off the top half. The man staggered back and fell against his desk.

Brooklyn held the sword at the man's throat. "Offer me money and power," the gargoyle growled.

Canmore clenched the side of his head. "The world is at your feet!"

"Atonement, too! You could dedicate your life to saving what you almost destroyed, right?" Brooklyn spun again with more force and sliced off the top half of the other ear, this time digging into the skull as well. Canmore was knocked, sprawled over the desk by the force of the blow.

"I live to serve you and only you!" he sobbed, but his hands slowly closed over the gun laying under him.

"Offer me any! Thing! I! Want!"

"Everything -" Canmore growled, "you have coming, and MORE!" His fingers closed around the trigger and he swung around and aimed, gripping the pistol with both hands.

There was a blur as Brooklyn's arms jutted down then up again and Canmore gave a small hack. He stared down in horror at the gun, lying at his feet, still being firmly gripped... Then he felt the sword-point under his chin, forcing his head back up. Brooklyn was standing sideways, now, the sword held in his fully outstretched right arm. The light was momentarily gone from his eyes.

"Well, I want my real father back, you son of a bitch!"

He spun once more.

There were two thumps.

The sword clattered to the floor, useless now and unwanted, and Brooklyn brought in his wings and hugged himself tight. "Oh, da!" he whispered, and then gasped once. "It's over."

"It's over."

After 30 years, the tears finally came.

**  **  **

Elisa stumbled into the room and heard the door slam and lock behind her. She stood and glared, kicking off her shoes. Reaching down, she grabbed the bow off the back of her dress and unraveled it, wrapping both ends around her wrists and leaving about 3 feet of fabric in between. She yanked it taut a couple of times, testing the strength. Satisfied, she then reached down and grabbed one of her shoes and held it up, ready to strike whatever next came through the door with the 3-inch heel. She stood waiting there for a few moments, trying to slow her breathing, when a voice behind here made her start in fright.

"You need not stop disrobing on my account!"

Elisa spun around and saw. Lying casually on the bed was her Goliath. She dropped the shoe and ran to him, jumping up beside him and kissing his cheeks and forehead. "Oh my sweet gargoyle," she panted between caresses. "You've come back to me! You really came back. I was so afraid you would never want to see me again after all that I've done."

"And what ethical lapses do you feel yourself guilty of these days?"

"The way I left you at the end of the Labyrinths, for one."

"The right thing to do. It was hard to bear at first, but you acted in the noblest gargoyle fashion. You protected me. Nothing else either of us could have done, then, would have let us leave that hill alive."

"And tonight." Elisa's voice dropped to a whisper. "I'm married. I didn't want to, but ended up that way despite that!"

Goliath shook his head. "You're no one's wife."

"But I am!" Elisa protested. "This lady preacher said so. She said husband and... and... She called me a Ball and Chain?!? That two bit tramp!"

"Uh-huh. Did you say 'I do'?" Goliath soothed.

"That has nothing to do with it! All you need to be married is a - a - " she looked at Goliath with amazement and joy. "A signed marriage certificate! Oh, Goliath! I'm not married!"

"Kind of a kick in the ol' pants, is it not... Xanatos?"

 Elisa turned to see the billionaire standing in the doorway holding a pistol on them.

"If you're asking whether I am worried about forging a signature of a dead woman? Not really. And I see even 'stone at night' isn't enough to finish off some gargoyles. But no matter, that will be dealt with at sunrise as well."

"Tsk tsk." Goliath shook his head and gave a small smile. "Always keep a cool head in business, and so forth, right? Besides, that isn't what you really came in here for, is it?"

David's eyes narrowed. "Why don't you get off that bed, now, nice and slowly, and hand over that laptop. Stealing the computer itself is too petty for you, and I know for a fact you could not have changed the program it's set up to run. Come on! Get up!"

The gargoyle shook his head again. "I'm afraid I can't do that. Literally. Your Machine did quite a number on me last night, and I'm finding it difficult just keeping my eyes focused."

Elisa looked at her love in horror. "He crippled you?"

"Hardly. Just wore me out. I'll be fine eventually, but right now, I can't move..."

Xanatos started towards them, then, keeping the gun pointed at the detective, but Goliath spoke up again before he made it halfway across the room.

"...Or can I?"

Xanatos froze and watched in suspicion, then wonder, and Goliath slowly, carefully, rose to a sitting position on the bed and pulled the laptop out from under the covers. He carefully opened the lid and displayed the screen.

"You are quite right on one count. I can do nothing to change your program. But then I don't really want to. You will notice instead that I have been able to resave it as a text file and have prepared to e-mail it to every major news service in America and Europe. Wouldn't they just love to know every detail of your plan, before it was carried out? Ah-ah-ah! There is no need to come closer, or to use the gun anymore. My finger is poised very nicely on the send key. It would take only the tiniest jolt or twitch to press it. Besides, I've already sent it to a law firm with instructions to release it if either I or Elisa ever mysteriously vanish or die, so even if I couldn't send it now, it would only delay the inevitable by a day or so."

Xanatos stood for a full minute, pondering this, his face growing more and more contorted with pain. He lowered the gun and clutched his stomach. "What-? What is this? My chest... tightening... shortness of breath... weighing me down... What have you done to me?"

Elisa stood and threw her head back in triumph. "We've beaten you! That is what it feels like to lose! To be the victim, instead of the victor. That is exactly how everyone you've ever taken unfair advantage of, or whose dreams you've crushed in your mad grab for power, feels at the moment they truly know they've lost! You - " She walked straight up to him and spat at his feet. "-Lose!"

Xanatos stumbled backwards and fell into a chair against the wall. He gasped for breath a few times before calming himself, and then glared up at the couple. "What do you want?"

**  **  **

Brooklyn dragged himself down the empty hallway and back to the T-intersection where they all had exited the lift in the first place. But there was no sign of either of his companions, or even of the gates they had broken through. Not knowing where they would go, he paused again to check his bandages. The gauze around the left hand seemed to be holding up OK, but the right hand was already bleeding through the second layer. He decided he didn't want to turn and look at his wing wound.

He sighed loudly, and having nothing better to do, punched the elevator UP button.

The instant it dinged, all three halls were instantly filled with marching feet, and guards began pouring out from around every far corner. Not six guards, like last time. Now the number was closer to 60. Twenty approaching from each direction.

He let out a groan, turning into a roar, and pulled out his sword again. He had compacted it back to a one handed blade, but even two-handed, and at his peak, he knew he could never defeat so many men. But then a strange thing happened. All the guards backed up against the walls and saluted. Then from the center hall, a familiar figure approached.


Brooklyn lowered his weapon, confused, as his large blue friend strolled happily by the ranks of soldiers, smiling and patting a few on the back.

"You're still alive!" they both said.

Broadway reached his friend and gave him a huge bear hug that brought him nearly to his knees. "Everyone left me," he explained, pulling Brooklyn back to his feet carefully. "And so I wandered down to OPS and told them the whole story. That, plus the wedding footage that's being shown coast to coast convinced them to help us out. They were nice enough to arrange a helicopter waiting for us on the castle courtyard. It's big enough for 4 of us, when we find the detective, and it will take us anywhere we want to go! So what do you think?"

Brooklyn blinked a few times, and then let out a huge laugh. "I think!" he patted his friend on the shoulder. "I think you just saved the day again!"

Broadway put his arm around Brooklyn to help support him and led him back down the hall. "Huh!" he laughed as well. "Don't worry. I don't plan on making a habit of it!"

A few minutes later they arrived - with their full 60 guard escort - in Xanatos' personal suite. When they barged in, they saw the billionaire slumped, seething in a chair, and Goliath and Elisa standing over him pointing excitedly at a map. The couple looked up with surprise and elation at seeing their friends again.

"I've arranged us a 4-star escort out of here," Broadway beamed. "Anywhere you want to go?"

Elisa and Goliath just smiled at each other knowingly. "As a matter of fact...."

**  **  **

Broadway stood tall, his chest thrust out, enjoying the breeze against his face. "Now this beats those motorcycles of your any day, eh Captain Brooklyn?"

"Not a chance, Admiral Broadway!" There was a pause as the crimson gargoyle turned the wheel slowly to starboard. "But it's not bad! In fact, it inspired me to find a new author."

"Really? Who?"

"Melville. Now there was a human who understood revenge!"

"All right, that's it!" Broadway grabbed his friend's ear and started pulling him out of the cabin. "Someone needs another bath in the ice water again!"

"No! No! No! I'll be good! I promise!"

"Too late," he teased. "First mate?"

"Yes sir! I mean... Aye, sir!"

"Think you can steer the world's largest yacht for a while?"

"Oh, YES SIR AYE SIR, aye! The ocean was always my first love! Can ya believe it?"

"Well, just keep clear of the icebergs, OK?"

"The Caribbean it is, sirs!"

"Then Mr. Gregarino, by all means, carry on!"

"Oh! Actually, sirs? You might wanna go out the back way, wouldn'tcha know it?"

The two gargoyles looked out over the bridge railing to see two more figures standing at the very tip of the bow. They smiled and saluted the day watch, just arriving, and then wandered off to find a last minute snack.

**  **  **

Elisa stood, perched on the railing, her arms out wide and the wind and spray blowing against her face. She shut her eyes and let the moment unfold. Smelling the salt air. Hearing the rush of wind, and the splash of the boat cutting through the tropical surf. The feel of her true love's hands around her waist. She sighed, infinitely happy, and at peace.

"Are you flying?" the deep, beautiful voice behind her asked.

"Always, when I'm in your arms."

Goliath smiled and lifted her up, and then back into his embrace. They stood together for a while, just gazing into each other's eyes, and then out to the brightening horizon. They were away from all of Xanatos' influence, and they felt freer than they ever had in their lives. A great wave of love washed over them, and they....

Hudson clapped his hands and stood. "Well that's it, I hope you liked it."

The room erupted in protests again, but Hudson waved them away. "That's the end of their adventure. The rest is just kissing."

"I-" Graeme started, and then swallowed, noticing the stares. "I wouldn't mind hearing the kissing... in this case. I mean, they've earned it, I guess."

"Well, OK." Hudson scratched at his beard and thought.

In the last moments of the night, they knew they had found themselves in the center of the greatest happiness that could ever be. Their love swelled and washed over them, and their mouths met and they kissed. And all the warmth of the sunrise was in that kiss, and the infinite depth of the night sky, and they knew each other's soul and rejoiced for the lifetime they would have to share with each other.

The End

Hudson stood in the center of the room, waiting. There was silence for about 3 seconds, and then everybody got up to leave at the same instant.

"Hardly a complimentary picture of you," Fox complained to her husband. "and not very characteristic, either, having your plans ruined so easily."

"But of course they were, dear," Xanatos replied smoothly. "Any plan I make without you by my side is doomed to fail!"

"Oooo! Nice recovery!" Fox slid her arm around her husband as they left.

"Well, I certainly didn't like it!" groused Lexington. "I was dead before the second act! I didn't even get the chance to show off any skills, like you guys!"

"And what about the holes in the plot?" Broadway joined him. "The World Trade Center isn't all glass! We've all climbed it lots of times!"

"And what about at the Hotel Cabal?" Brooklyn joined in, as they wandered out to the courtyard. "How did Lex get Elisa's jacket off if she was cuffed? And flame pipes in the sewers? Not likely!"

Angela, Sata and Ariana smiled sheepishly at Hudson. "That was a nice story. A little violent, perhaps, but I guess that's what the boys like."

Goliath and Elisa left the room slowly, the leader shaking his head. "I do not understand why my character wouldn't return to you as soon as he had an opportunity. Why did he have to wait all those months... and I DON'T BORE my opponents unconscious with long-winded speeches!" Elisa rolled her eyes and patted him on the shoulder. "There, there. At least you got the girl in the end..."

The room quickly emptied, leaving only Hudson and Graeme, who was silent in thought. The older gargoyle looked around, nodding resignedly, and then strolled out to his perch to await the dawn. Graeme followed after a bit, deciding this time to find a spot next to the elder. As he climbed and posed for the approaching sun, he turned his head and stared up. "Hudson?"

"Yes, lad?" the veteran answered, drawing his sword.

"Would it be OK if you told me that story again tomorrow?"

Hudson stayed staring straight ahead, but a smile caught the corners of his mouth.

"As you wish!"

Quick Random Thoughts

Thank you, first of all, for reading my story. I had a great deal of fun writing it, and hope it was enjoyable. BTW - in case you were wondering: yes! It is scene for scene of the movie. But not... quite... action for action.

I would like to say it came easily, but it didn't. Well... some of it did, and some took more effort. Originally, it was going to be a story that Owen/Puck told to Alexander. But I couldn't really rationalize Owen making Xanatos the "bad guy" - at least not to his son! So Oberon was going to play the role of Humperdink. Wow. You want to talk about pulling every-single-sentence out kicking and screaming. I got about ten pages into it and just had to quit. None of the characters seemed right in their roles. I think this one worked out much better. At least it came out faster!

And did I cop out a couple of times during the chase? Probably, but at least I... kinda... addressed those plot holes at the end.

And then there was the wedding scene... HOW do you compete with the movie on that one? I still don't know. Week's worth of writers block, there, and then 3 more days trying to find enough synonyms.... You all had BETTER appreciate it, that's all I have to say!

Ahem. Sorry. And sorry if the end was a little bloody, but going over (and over and over and over) the movie scene by scene, I started to realize that it's not quite as wholesome as you might think at first, either! There's a lot of killing, there. These people are survivors, doing whatever they have to, to keep going. Sometimes I think we must forget that behind all the silly accents and one-liners.

Bleah. Enough lecturing and moralizing and over-analyzing. Again: thanks for sharing time, and may all your fairy tales find their own happy endings.



Eet meanz, yoo snuuty Amereekanz, zat 'e was a nutball, and I du knot 'elp zee nutballz!