By Trynia Merin
Rated PG for some violent content
Part 1, the Recovery:
"Professor Vitreum!" called a student urgently, as he chased the crowd of coeds that clustered behind the geology professor. Like the pied piper, some half dozen students chased the sturdy geologist after the lecture.
"Call me Rayna," she laughed, as the student beat his way past the others.
"I was wondering why I got a c on my paper!" she moaned. "I worked awfully hard..."
"Don't be a dummy," Sharon muttered at Keith. "You gotta work for it..."
"Let me talk to him," Rayna laughed. "Come to my office if you want to discuss the paper..."
"You'd better, like... give me an A!"
"A snowball's chance in hell," muttered another, Lucia, who rolled her eyes at Carlos, who flanked Rayna Vitreum to the left. Lifting her broad-brimmed felt Ecuadorian hat, she glanced back at the small parade.
"Okay, my office is always open... but I really have got to get those papers graded..." she laughed. "See you all tomorrow..."
"Aww," Carlos grumbled, his mocha face screwing into a disappointed stare. "You said we were gonna talk about jamming later..."
"I'll come to the guitar club later this week. Promise," Rayna nodded gravely. She reached the main building on NYU's campus, the science hall where professors plied their trade. The crowd followed her in as she kicked aside the box she left out for graded papers.
"You can see what I have so far," she offered, pulling off her hat. Sharon grabbed Rayna's backpack as it tumbled unceremoniously off the sturdy shoulder.
"Sorry," she laughed.
"Hey, no prob," Sharon nodded. Carlos good-naturedly butted shoulders with Lucia as they extracted their projects from the pile.
"Oh cool, an A!" Carlos said.
"Thank God I got a B plus," Sharon muttered with relief.
"What's up with with this B?" asked Lucia.
"Want to discuss it?" Rayna asked, fumbling with the keys as she pushed open the door. Her office was a musty little room, choked with books on sagging shelves. Her desk was piled high with papers and rock samples. Settling her coat on the rack, she landed neatly into her swivel-backed chair. Her hat she tossed neatly onto the top of the rack. Carlos grunted his goodbye, as he dragged Lucia with him.
"See ya Wednesday," he nodded.
"Sure. Take care... and pop by next morning if you want to talk about plate tectonics," she called. This left Sharon and a disgruntled Keith planting themselves on the two small chairs before her cluttered desk. Rayna reached up, pushing aside venetian blinds as she wrestled with the window. The handle came off in her grasp, and the window flew open.
"You okay?" Keith asked.
"Sure, no problem..." Rayna breathed, pushing her chair back towards the desk.
"Stupid, piece-of-junk school window," Keith snorted, and shared a laugh with Sharon. Rayna shook her head, and raised her hand.
"Okay, so what about your paper do you want to discuss... and Sharon, you don't mind waiting do you?"
"No problem. I'll just go out into the hall..." she offered, and slipped outside to join the stack of papers accumulating outside each professor's door. Rayna rested her feet on the desk, leaning back in the chair. Keith couldn't help but admire the funky clothes, the light blue peasant blouse with the ruffled cuffs and front beneath that brown vest and overalls. Her red vest overtop was that sort of thing hunters would wear, and those boots were Doc Martins, a bit battered but thick and black. She at least was into the hip things as she regarded him from behind those John Lennon frames.
"So, let's look at this logically," she said. "You hated a C plus. So tell me in your own words what you think about plate tectonics, and why you think your arguments were... unjustly presented..."
"Well it's like... you know..."
Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Rayna sighed at Keith's off colored cursing. Sharon swung the door open to a tall blonde man, his narrow spectacles fixing unapprovingly on the state of her office.
"Can I help you?" she asked.
"As a matter of fact, I might be able to help you, Dr. Vitreum," the man replied in a clipped voice.
"I'm rather busy," she said.
"You might find this most interesting. If this time is not convenient, perhaps we can settle on a more appropriate time..."
Keith muttered under his breath, wondering whom this stiff was. That tight suit, with tailored lines, the slicked hair, and polished shoes reeked dweeb. Just when he was about to coax a better grade this yutz had to show up.
"Well, let me look," she muttered, slowly pushing aside a clutter of pumice samples and glancing at her desk calendar. "Sorry Keith... this may take a minute..."
"Could we... arrange a time? My employer, Mr. Xanatos is most anxious to meet you. As you are one of the experts in the field of geology, particularly sideridic ores and petroleum..."
"Oh?" Rayna removed her feet from the desk, and glanced up at him jauntily. "And who told you this sir?"
"The Department Chair highly recommended you... Professor Vitreum..."
"Don't let him hear you call me *professor*," she joked. "I'm still awaiting Tenure... actually I'm on loan from San Francisco University..."
"I had contacted the United States Geological Survey. You were highly recommended from a list of possible candidates. Particularly for your research into the location of oil samples near geological faults... and other related pursuits. Sources of alternate means of procuring raw materials that do not involve deforestation..."
"That's right, I am a bit green," she nodded. "Well, you tell Mr. Xanatos I will see him. But it has to be Friday. I've got a class to teach..."
"Will that be morning or afternoon?"
"Whatever's best... Mister uh..."
"Owen Burnett, Mr. Xanatos' personal assistant. Here is my card, if you have any questions. So sorry to have interrupted your schedule. I shall inform Mr. Xanatos that you are willing to discuss terms of employment..."
"Terms of employment?" Rayna asked, straightening up in her chair.
"He wishes to hire you on a contract basis."
"But I have teaching responsibilities..."
Owen flipped open his phone, stepping into the hall as he held up one hand. Keith couldn't believe this! Xanatos? The David Xanatos, one of the richest men in the city, not to mention among the richest on the planet talking to his geology professor? A quick conversation later and Owen stepped back in.
"Mr. Xanatos will send for you at eight thirty five, sharp. Do try to be in front of the science hall promptly for the limo..."
"Limo," Keith asked, and glanced up. "Omigod!"
"Keith," Rayna raised her voice.
Owen Burnett ignored him. "I thank you for your time. Good day..."
As suddenly as he appeared, he slipped away. Leaving Keith aghast. "Holy…" he repeated.
"Must you use that kind of language?" Rayna asked. "I'm all for expressing oneself, but there's a time and place for it... and this wasn't..."
"Aw come on, Prof!" he whined. "You're cool to it, so what's different now? Like, I mean hell, is it because you might be famous? Good God, I can't believe it!"
"Put a sock in it, Keith!" Sharon shouted from the room as she broke in. "Can you believe it! Xanatos wants you to work for him! Way to go!"
"I'm not sure why he wants me," Rayna fingered her chin, a bit surprised. What Sharon and Keith couldn't comprehend was what amazed them more. The offer itself, or Rayna Vitreum's casual attitude.
"So Keith, what did you want to discuss, regarding your paper?" she asked. Keith sat there in shock, unable to get a word out.
"You have what you wanted, my dear," Harris Stone steepled his fingers before his face, leaning back in his high plush chair. His yellowed eyes fixed on the curvaceous red head, filling out an equally scarlet power suit with high shoulder pads. This vision in red shades paced before his desk, finally resting her hands on his oak desk.
"Yes, but now I desire something else..."
"Be careful, for that wasn't in the original agreement..."
"You have the spell to transcend time, do you not?" she asked. "Or did at one time..."
"What if I did?"
"What if I told you there was a way to transcend time, and knock out one of your largest competitors?" she laughed.
"Really Miss Destine, you do tempt me," Harris Stone smiled. "I always did like that about you."
"Nightstone and Harris Stone industries have entered quite a partnership. But this will put you in the top ten. Who stands in our way?"
"Hmm, a few," he snorted, reaching into his desk drawer as he extracted a box of Havana's. Neatly he pushed one betwixt his lips, cutting the end with a silver cutter.
"David Xanatos stands right before you doesn't he?" she grinned, pushing the lighter in his direction. The cobra spat a flame on its tongue as she depressed its tail.
"Indeed," he huffed, inhaling. "I would be... most grateful if you could assist me. But what can transcend the barriers of time?"
"The Phoenix Gate," she laughed.
"What?" Harris Stone spat his cigar out, dousing his shirt in ash. Dominique Destine rescued the cigar, placing it safely in the ashtray.
"Be best when dealing with fire. It can burn."
"But it was lost forever!" he gasped.
"Not completely," Dominique wrinkled her nose. "If I can but have a way to locate it, I can bring it to us. And with it we can crush David Xanatos... in a timely fashion..."
"And how do you propose to do this?"
"You have breached time and space, to bring a young Prince through," she said. "And have also boasted bringing a certain Pharaoh through... even though you had but a part of the spell..."
"That is dangerous indeed."
"But what if you only sent your mind through the gate?" she asked. "With the right control, of another sorceress, you could well pierce the walls, and find that which I seek. And when I have finished with Xanatos, the Gate will be yours to use..."
"I am most interested my dear..."
"I thought you might," she grinned, as he pushed a snifter of brandy in her direction.
Later that week, Rayna crawled out of a black limousine, nearly tripping over her doc martins as they got caught in the limo exit. Shading her hands, she peered up at the spire of the Eerie Building. "Quite a place your employer has," she whistled through her teeth.
"Step this way, Dr. Vitreum," the Chauffeur indicated. He took her backpack from the trunk, carrying it for her as she shoved hands in her pockets and strode after him. That purple Ecuadorian hat perched on her French braided hair, its brim hiding her glasses. She shifted her coat around her shoulders, glancing at the art deco paneling in the vast lobby.
Her ears popped while she rode in a private elevator. One of two that soared to the top of the quarter mile high building. It rivaled the height of the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center, and Trump Tower. Sheathed in black glass and frame stone, its top was perpetually lost in the clouds. Rayna calmly leaned against the elevator's paneling, the elevator operator punching the buttons.
"Castle Wyvern..." he announced. Rayna strode out, taking her bag from the doorman.
"Thanks," she said, and slipped something into his outstretched hand. He marveled and wondered at the small perfect amethyst geode slice that glittered there. Granted he'd expected a tip, but this might do after all.
"Deflegrated, Muri, Tempi, et Intervalia!" she screamed, and slowly landed in the odd plush carpet. Demona raised her head, glancing up at the odd robed figure.
"Well?" he asked. "do you have it?"
"I do indeed," she gasped, opening her claw. A blue plate was clenched tightly there, a gold phoenix rampant upon its surface.
"Well, do I have my agreement?" Scarab asked.
"Oh Indeed you do. But I will be back shortly I promise. There is so much... that must be done. And so little time..."
"But with that you have all the time in the world do you not?" Scarab asked.
"Yes, but the memories of the future are past fading," she gasped. "And I beg you wait patiently a little longer...
"I suppose I could wait, my dear," he leered, helping the scarlet-tressed female to her feet. Demona leaned against him, then pushed away.
"Scarab, what are you doing?" asked a cutting voice.
"Rathera... my love... nothing," he stammered. A bandaged figure cut him down with her green gaze, and pushed her way between Demona and her lover.
"Don't think I don't see you moving in on him," she snorted. "Time and space at your beck and call? Like I'm soo impressed."
"You should be, bandage girl," Demona laughed throatily. "Especially since I and he share immortality. And you could disintegrate into a pile of rags and bones any day."
"I'm soo scared," Rathera snorted. "Like that's really a threat."
"Whatever," Demona shrugged, and suddenly chanted the incantation.
"Deflegrate... Muri... Tempi... Et Intervalia!"
Rathera gasped as a blaze of fire consumed the female gargoyle, and she vanished.
"Great. You just lost another business partner," she rested her hands on her hips.
"My dear, do shut up," Scarab clicked his tongue. "For I have something she needs. And she'll come back..."
"A certain elixir, the likes of which make Viagra look tame. And another thing... this amulet..." he smirked, twirling something around his finger.
"What is that?"
"Demona's getting on in years. I rather think she's considering settling down... laying a few eggs, finding a gargoyle to make an honest gargoyle out of her..."
"Don't even go there..."
"Moi?" Scarab laughed. "Oh no. She has a mate..."
"For your sake you'd better hope so," Rathera tossed her white hair. "I saw you trying to sneak a peak in the shower when that... that... gargoyle tramp was bathing!"
"Can I help if I was curious about her transformation?" he shrugged.
"That middle East deal is blotto Owen. I'm beginning to get a bit perturbed," Xanatos frowned as he tapped the key on his internet provider.
"I must apologize Mr. Xanatos. Somehow Nightstone Industries beat us out..."
"That's not good enough Owen. I'm running fifty percent of normal..."
"Current streamlining measures are in effect..." Owen reminded him, and reached at his belt when the cell phone whirred.
Xanatos leaned back in his chair, glancing pensively out the castle window. He glanced sidelong at the globe, where the little spots marked his corporation's holdings. Already some had shifted to gray. Who was this Harris Stone? He'd rubbed shoulders with many a millionaire at the parties. But Harris Stone. A man, who had minor holdings, but was rather rich. Halcyon Reynard's class. Not untouchable, but not in the top ten. All of a sudden back from a horrendous slump two years ago, Stone Industries had cornered the market in art designs and distribution when it merged with Nightstone. That Dominique Destine had him hands down! What was she pulling with that octogenarian?
"Dr. Vitreum here to see you, sir..." Owen announced.
"Send her in, Owen..." Xanatos smiled, allowing himself a moment to calm down.
Rayna strode in; glancing appreciatively and wide eyed about the place. Smiling smoothly Xanatos indicated the chair before his desk. Owen swept her hat and coat off in one fluid movement before she could think.
"Ah, nice to have you here," Xanatos grinned, extending a hand. "So glad you consented to a meeting..."
"I'm a bit surprised, Mr. Xanatos," she shook her head.
"Owen can be a bit of an experience. But he is efficient. Make no mistake in believing that I have sought your expertise, and those of other geologists... for my newest ventures..."
"And that would be obtaining raw ores in a green manner?" Rayna asked.
"Environmental protection is a key marketing strategy. And you helped convince Phoenix Oil to drill not in Alaska, but in a line to the south. I want your expertise to locate such holdings for Xanatos Enterprises..."
"And would the emphasis be on low environmental impact?" she asked.
"Nothing but the smallest footprint," Xanatos grinned.
"Very well. But what about my teaching schedule. My students need me. It's mid semester..."
"Owen has found you a substitute. One of the best. When can you start..."
"You'll find the salary more then adequate. And we even assist with housing..."
"If you please sir, I am in a lease..."
"Owen can make the necessary arrangements to find a place suitable..."
"If it's all the same I'd rather just work here, and keep my old address. I tend to be a bit picky about where I work..."
"Ah, you subscribe to Feng Suay," he nodded. "All right. Let me know of what your possible expenses would entail. I'll make the necessary arrangements..."
"Okay," Rayna sighed, glancing about the castle. "I meant to say, that this was most unusual! It must have cost a fortune to schlep this place here from Scotland Stone by stone..."
"Astronomical," Owen nodded.
"But it has paid for itself over time," Xanatos smiled smoothly. "Want a tour? Owen can Escort you..."
"Great. It'll give me some thinking time..."
"I noticed the gargoyles on the parapets. Most unusual set of sculptures," Rayna glanced up. Already the light was dying fast, the sun sending golden radiance through the clouds.
"Yes, Mr. Xanatos prides himself on the collecting of unusual and rare artifacts..."
"He should turn this place into an art gallery. People would probably pay good money..."
"I shall note that as a suggestion," Owen nodded. Rayna shook her head. He actually took her stray comment seriously!
"Now if you come this way you'll notice the entrance to the labs, and a set of offices you might find to your liking for excavation...."
Rayna mentally tuned out the rest into her rell low. A strange tingling set in over her scalp. She winced, feeling the inexorable tug of silvery strands. Invisible to humans, she saw them in an odd gap betwixt this moment and the next. Straining and pulling to the breaking point.
"Ow," she winced, putting a hand to her head.
"Are you all right, Dr. Vitreum?" Owen asked, helping to steady her with one hand. Always he kept the other in his pocket.
"Yes... it's just... sometimes I get headaches..."
"I could send you to the infirmary if you wish..."
"No, it will go away... assuredly," she waved him away. "It's just something..."
"If it is a migraine, it is no laughing matter," Owen said matter-of-factly.
"No it's just probably the change in atmosphere. I'll be fine... soon..."
Demona felt cracked pavement beneath her feet. Was it day or night? It had to be night, for she was in her gargoyle form. Judging from the twilight haze overhead she could almost forget the difference between the two parts of the day. Her lungs filled with a sooty snootful of air, burning her lungs.
"By the Dragon when am I?"
She had asked it to take her forty years. Ten years, twenty, then thirty. Now here, in this undulating mist of swirling fog. Slowly her eyes focussed on the haze of a street lamp. She moved forwards, clenching the gate close.
"What is this?" she wondered. Cracked pavement wound around Times Square, now a feeble flickering shadow of its former glory. A few bulbs winked enticingly in the light, the residuals smashed. Even the big Coke sign showed its bare bulbs.
But another reality hit. The streets were very empty. No humans. A smile curled her lips. At last this world was rid of man, a plague of it. Perhaps they had destroyed themselves. Quickly she glanced, seeing the gaping eyes of glassless windows staring down at her. Faintly came a distant humming, like the purr of a great lion.
Demona strode down the ruined pavements, glancing here and there. Traces of civilization, tires, cans, and broken glass merged into mounds of litter. An upturned shopping cart lay across a manhole. Shards of glass brushed her feet, and her tail probed. The shreds of a picture glanced mournfully up at her, the face of a small baby staring back. Amused, Demona leaned over to peer at the picture, and then shied in horror. For unseen in the shadow of a building, her tail brushed a form. A body! A Human! With distaste she kicked it into the light. A woman's face rolled up, staring at her with dead eyes. Young, and in the prime of her life, though her face was sallow and bloated. By the smell Demona could judge she was dead a good week. Flies rose up in a small cloud around her body. Against her breast she clutched something. A small fragment of the picture. Horrified disgust turned to sick fascination. With the muzzle of her rifle Demona pried away her hand.
It was a scrap of the same picture. A familiar green-eyed face peered up, the arm matching with that of a baby laying on the ground. "Chavez," Demona spat a name to the dead air.
Laughing throatily she left the sorry body behind. "So, your daughter died," she guffawed. Somehow the silence had to be filled, even with her low laugh.
What was that? That hum was replaced by an odd tromping, a tapping. Whipping about, Demona lay a hand on her rifle. Slowly the tapping grew louder, echoing off each ruined building till it grew into a marching sound, very regular.
She slipped into the shelter of a garbage bin, cocking her rifle to full charge. Slowly she peered out as the sound climaxed. A line of armored figures tromped in perfect unison, their wings on their backs. For a horrified moment she could swear they resembled those Mutates...
Glancing back and forth, they stopped. Demona froze, counting her options. If she raked the line... perhaps...
No. There might be other surprises.
Her silent reverie was shattered by a voice that seemed from God himself. Roaring from all sides, a huge light crackled, assaulting her senses. "What?" she snapped, shielding her eyes.
"My people," it boomed. "the time is very near. When this world shall have full order. In a matter of mere days, the Link will be complete... and this world shall share the fruits of my benevolent leadership..."
Demona forced herself to stare upwards at the source. Her eyes widened at a huge spiderweb of steel and windows crouched over the Eerie building. From its top glistened a huge pyramid, flashing like a laser light display at the Liberty Science Center. On each face of the building was that face she had come to hate.
"Xanatos," she spat. "What have you done?"
Horrified fascination watched the image of Xanatos, write large, helping a rag-laden women up a set of stairs. She exploded into pixels as she reformed into a lovely evening gown.
"And the world will be the Xanatopia I have always forecast..." came the echoes.
"This is all wrong," Demona reeled. It was an affront. IF Xanatos was here... now... why was his image the same? It could be an illusion, an avatar...
A blast of laser vaporized the garbage bin. Demona felt the heat, instinctively rolling away. Her laser discharged, zinging against the offender. Screaming she let loose, her laser tearing down the shock troops.
"Surrender rebel!" called the odd voice, so much like Thailogs!
"Never!" she spat, howling as she leapt onto the nearest clone, toppling the line like dominos with the force of her blow. Grabbing a rifle from the nearest fallen one she blazed into the strange pool of reinforcements gathering round.
"This is going to be a long night," she decided.
Night seeped around the highest towers. A fine shower of stone dust pelted Rayna as she was escorted back to Xanatos' office.
"Mr. Xanatos and Mrs. Xanatos wish to have you for dinner..."
"Mr. Burnett, what is this?" she brushed the stone dust off her. More pelted from above, a loud roaring echoing.
"I must insist that you come now," Owen pushed her away. "It's falling masonry. Some of the recent repairs have worked loose..."
"That's indeed odd," she muttered, and gripped something in her hand as Owen nudged her into the living quarters.
"I must apologize, I feared you would be hit by falling stones. The repairs will soon be done."
"Of course," she said, as he ushered her into a sitting room. A shard of stone was tucked into her hand, out of Owen's eyeshot.
The sun slipped down, its dying rays bursting through the high stained glass windows. Sherbert bands streaked with clouds moved across the skylights far above.
"Have a seat. I shall inform you when dinner is ready..."
"The royal treatment," she muttered. "Your boss is sparing no expense..."
"There will be others presently," Owen said, disappearing.
Again Rayna felt that odd twinge in her mind. Reality exploded into a mesh of silver threads. A three dimensional tapestry of light and sound swirled around her. Brilliant flashes tore and stretched the sidereal strings to bursting, then snapped back.
"No," she gasped, her face blanching. "Not again..."
The stone shard fell from her hand, landing on the floor. A loud scream echoed from Rayna's lips, piercing the empty room.
Loud roars sounded all overhead. Fragments of stone lay strewn here and there in small heaps about the feet of the castle's ancient guardians. Slowly they flexed their wings, glancing back and forth. A lavender skinned female glanced sideways at the large blue one, shyly taking his hand.
"What do you want for breakfast?" he asked.
"I don't know... I think I like pancakes," Angela licked her lips, white fangs gleaming in the night.
"You had that last night!" Lexington needled, leaping down from his perch.
"Anything for you, my love," Broadway grinned, kissing Angela's hand. Brooklyn snorted as he moved away.
"What's eating him?" Broadway asked, seeing their rookery brother slink away.
"Three guesses," Lexington rolled his eyes.
From a distance, Hudson rested his hand upon his sword. He watched the younger ones arguing intently. Pity about Brooklyn.
Bronx snuffled at the ancient warrior's knees, pushing his head under Hudson's arm. "Nau boy, steady on," Hudson chuckled as Bronx bathed his hands free of stone dust. "Nae need fer that..."
Something made Bronx tense. He sniffled, loosing interest in his master's hand. "What is it boy?" Hudson wondered, moving to where Bronx leaned over. The sounds of Owen's voice reverberated in the courtyard.
Hudson heard a rather musical laugh, and stopped cold. He moved behind the shelter of a battlement, peering over. Behind Owen strode a figure in a bright purple hat, its coat swirling around a pair of khaki clad legs. She stopped, glancing up around her towards the tower. Bronx sniffled, a bit of stone crust falling from his fan shaped ears.
"Boy," he hissed, pulling Bronx back. A shower of light stone hit the lass's purple hat. Wildly she glanced up, the hat falling. Hudson pulled Bronx out of sight. He glanced at the fudge brown hair pulled into a tight odd pattern on her head, light flashing off what appeared to be two windows on her eyes. Glasses. Humans had invented these little windows to aid in sight.
"Mind ye boy that's no way t' introduce oneself to a lass..." he scolded Bronx.
From above, Goliath watched this with interest. From the highest tower he had quite a vantage point on his clan. Even the Trio and Angela's good natured bickering did not escape his notice.
"Are you all right, Miss Vitreum?" asked Fox, helping Rayna to sit in a chair. The flame haired wife offered her a glass of crystal chilled water.
"I'm sorry to scare you. I had another headache..."
"It's okay. Are you sure you're all right?"
"Yes," she breathed. "I need to focus. Where exactly is your lab? I would rather like to get to work as soon as possible..."
"Okay, if you like," Fox said. "But what about dinner?"
"Maybe in a few minutes. Could I see the lab?"
"Sure, but not till you've gotten your color back! You're as pale as a ghost..."
Suddenly a plaintive wailing split the night, sounding in the distance. Fox's eyes snapped back and forth, Owen grimly standing up as he moved away.
"Excuse me a minute, Mrs. Xanatos. I believe there is a certain matter I must attend to..."
"What was that?" Rayna asked, glancing at Fox.
"Probably just some nut on one of the lower floors," Fox shrugged. "Nothing to worry about..."
"I would worry if I were you," Rayna muttered, glancing up at the sky. "Especially if it involves Gargoyles..."
"Wait, you believe in Gargoyles?" Fox laughed nervously.
"Indeed I do. Stone by day, warriors by night," she said. "And stone in any form interests me..."
"But what makes you think it's gargoyles?" she asked.
Rayna held up a piece of stone that had fallen on the floor. "this. Not silicacious, but an organic analogue to rock. Somehow you have Gargoyles in this castle at one time or another..."
"Really," Fox tensed, a bit nervous.
"Yes. And not to worry. Your secret is safe, Mrs. Xanatos. I know they are here... but this in no way will leave the mention of these walls... if you get my meaning..."
"Really," Fox muttered.
"Really. Cross my hearts and hope to die. I had heard the reports sure enough, and it peaked my interest. How could I not help but be curious, seeing as that I am a scientist..."
"But you're a geologist..."
"Who also knows about other fields," Rayna said, rising from the sofa.
"What's that?" Brooklyn asked, peering over Lex's shoulder. The little gargoyle was rapidly at work over his laptop in the main guest quarters. His rookery brother pointed to a small live picture in one corner of the screen.
"Security camera feed..."
"Won't Xanatos throw a fit seeing you tap into that?"
"Don't see why. I'm protecting the castle, aren't I?"
"Tis not the gargoyle way t' stare at a box when ye shuild be patrolling," Hudson tisked.
"Hey, you stare at that television. And it lets you know what's going on. This is the same thing!" Lex argued.
"All right lad. But remember..."
"We know... we know," Brooklyn automatically chimed in. Then he narrowed his eyes under red brow ridges. "Lex, what is that?"
"I told you..."
"No that! That black shape that just flew over?"
"Pigeons no doubt," Hudson snorted. "Tis far too many of the wee pests..."
"Have Bronx chase em," Lex laughed. Brooklyn's eyes were glued to the screen as the shape circled back.
"It's not a pigeon! Can you get a blow up?"
"Yeah," Lex nodded, moving his hands over the keys. All three male gargoyles stopped cold when they saw the telltale silhouette.
"Demona!" Brooklyn snarled, eyes blazing.
"Wait, we don't know that! It could be Angela!" Lex shouted. Hudson gripped Brooklyn, stopping him from rushing out in a mad frenzy.
"Let me go!"
"Don't go rushing off half cocked lad!" Hudson held him firmly. "We dinna ken who it is. Most likely is Angela out fer a flight..."
"Angie's in the kitchen with Broadway!" he gritted. "Who else could it be?"
"Let's find out," Hudson suggested. "But not in a mad frenzy mind ye!"
Goliath saw the shape passing over, Elisa tensing in his arms. "What was that?" she asked.
"Stay here..." Goliath cautioned her.
"Wait a minute... what if it's Demona? You're not facing her!" Elisa said.
"Please my love. Stay here..." he pressed a kiss to her lips before rushing off in a dive off the main tower. Elisa watched as the shape again circled. From the small trap door Hudson and Brooklyn burst out, full of energy.
"Hi Elisa... can't stop to talk," Brooklyn shot past, leaping off seconds later.
"Hudson, wait... Goliath is..." Elisa protested before Hudson muttered his excuse and followed.
There came the sound of a plaintive howling, and a snarl. Elisa gripped her jacket tightly, silently praying it wasn't whom she thought.
"Jalapena!" shouted Brooklyn.
"Lass!" cried Hudson.
"Please... no hurt me!" came a familiar voice that chilled Elisa to the bone. "I come for help!"
"Take her up," came Goliath's voice. Within seconds they swung into view on the next thermal, Hudson and Brooklyn with a shape between them. Elisa's blood froze for a second. It looked just like Demona!
"What the hell?"
"It's all right Elisa," Goliath moved up to her. "It is a friend."
"We hope," Brooklyn added, disengaging his grasp from the shadowy figure.
"Come into the light lass. There's nae need t' fear..." Hudson's voice coaxed.
"Please... let me stay!" came a plaintive voice. "I see light, I come. I scared. Won't go back!"
"What do ye mean?" Hudson escorted her to stand by Goliath. Soft platinum blonde hair fell over her shoulders, her white wings shining like moonstones.
"Delilah!" Elisa got out.
"You have no reason to fear," Hudson repeated.
"How did you... get out of that stone sleep?" Brooklyn asked, a bit aghast. "You guys were all petrified!"
"Magic wake us," she said, trembling as Hudson steadied her. Brooklyn moved over to her, slipping a claw into hers. She flinched.
"But where are the other clones?" Goliath asked. "Why are they not with you?"
"They hurt Delilah. Scare Delilah..." she shook.
"What did they do, lassie?" Hudson patted her hand. "Ye can tell us..."
"Thailog... he... he..."
"Thailog?" Goliath rumbled, a low growl in his throat. "Where is he?"
"Goliath, chill. She's freaked out enough," said Brooklyn. Just then the others came up, to see what the fuss was about. Lex gasped as he saw Delilah, who appeared as meek and skittish when she lay eyes on Angela.
"Hey it's okay," Lex said, suddenly feeling rather protective of the clone when she shied away from Angela.
"He try mate me. I not wish to..." she gasped, holding a claw to her throat. "He angry. Very angry. Said I must. I say no, he hit... then Delilah see fire, and she appeared in it! I scream and run. Fly away. No want to stay with Clones..."
"Who is she?" Goliath asked.
"One who like me. Thailog's mate. Demona..."
"Demona?" Brooklyn snarled. "Did she hurt you... I swear if she did..."
"You chill," Lex hissed. Goliath shook his head.
"They want me to come. I don't want to stay. I scared. Remember friends. You kind. Labyrinth too far away. Come here... see castle, know you like Delilah..."
"It's all right," Lex said. "you don't have to go back..."
"You are welcome to remain with us as long as you like, Delilah," Goliath said, striding up to her.
"Wait a minute!" Angela protested.
"Angela," Broadway hushed her.
"She's scared and hurt, and needs us," Lex said. "We can't not take her in..."
"All right," Angela sighed.
Just then Owen joined them, concern in his eyes. "Mrs. Xanatos requests that you keep your noise level down during their dinner party..."
"Sorry, Owen, but we've had a little excitement here..." Brooklyn muttered. "I mean it's not like we can just turn it on and off."
"Discretion would be appreciated..." Owen said.
Just then they tensed as they heard unfamiliar voices talking animatedly to Fox. David Xanatos voice came as well.
Rayna burst onto the roof, glancing about. Her eyes fixed on the gargoyles, a smile coming over her face.
"You're here," she smiled. "I can't believe it! What a prime example of silicacious organic forms..."
"Miss Vitreum..." Owen stammered. Xanatos and his wife Fox were close behind.
"So you know my secret," David said nonchalantly.
"This won't affect my job performance," she said, folding her arms. "What do I look like, a Quarryman?"
"WE cannot be too certain," came Goliath's voice as he strode up.
"I've been so wanting to get a good look at you, since I heard the rumors..." Rayna strode up to him. "Incredible!"
"Who... are you?" asked Goliath.
"This is Rayna Vitreum. She's a scientist... a geologist who's working for me," Xanatos said.
"Wait, you're that professor who had the green oil solution, right?" Lexington said suddenly.
"Yes," she said, glancing at Lexington with excitement. Delilah, rather forgotten, felt relief she was not the center of attention. That look of curiosity rivaled that of a child, Hudson reflected as he saw Rayna smiling at them all.
"It's really cool," Lex grinned. "I wish more scientists thought about ecology..."
"David are you sure this is okay?" Fox asked, a bit nervously as she pulled Xanatos aside for a moment. Rayna continued to speak to Lexington while the others looked on. Elisa hid a smile of amusement at Rayna's wonder.
"Quite sure my dear," Xanatos nodded. "After all, she is on my payroll now. I don't think she will be too much trouble. She seems harmless enough... a bit absent minded... and curious as many scientists from the ivory tower are..."
"But she just barged right up here..." Fox whispered.
"She's curious. Cannot fault her for that. But I do think I will have to chat to her about proprietary knowledge."
Demona crawled painfully into the strange room. Just how she had gotten here she could not say. Blind determination, or the immortal blood in her veins. Either one had knit the bloody wing struts and aching feet away in minutes. Still they kept coming, taxing her body's quick healing to its limits and beyond. That answer had to be here, at Castle Wyvern. She knew she could not leave till she unraveled the mystery.
Bloody, battered, clutching the rifles in her claws she scrabbled up the stairs, dragging herself across the courtyard.
"Stop, you are trespassing..."
"Go to hell," Demona snarled, brining her rifle to bear on the next wave of shock troops. They vaporized in the beam of the strange new weapon.
Staggering she surveyed her handiwork, and tottered towards the center of the Castle. Kneeling, she shouldered the large hand cannon, and fired. The force threw her back to the cobblestones. A large smoking hole had grown in the far wall, showing the guts of Wyvern inside. Still the lights burned, the inside unchanging.
Till she had found the computer room. Every inch covered with terminals that blinked. But no one was there.
Save the screen. Xanatos had come, and his smile leered at her.
"So, you got this far. I must admit you and your rebels have been quite a thorn in my side for some time..."
"Rebels?" she taunted.
"Don't insult my intelligence, Demona," laughed Xanatos upon the twenty-foot screen. "I know your mate Brooklyn has been spying on me for quite some time. Crawling with his last band of Gargoyles. But now that you're here, I am sure he'll quite handsomely pay for your release..."
"What are you talking about?" Demona snarled. "Brooklyn, my mate?"
"Come now Demona. Feigning ignorance does not become you. I knew the gargoyles would have the courage to pay me a visit. I didn't figure you'd have the balls to be the next..."
"What have you done to the Gargoyles!" she snapped.
"They are a nuisance. The citizens of Manhattan are quite loyal. But you Gargoyles. Always going on about freedom, protection... so boring."
"We are free!" Demona spat. "And not even you, a worthless human can stop us!"
"Oh please! Hudson had much the same words as you. But unfortunately since our little quarrel, he has been rather mute..."
"Hudson?" she asked.
"We had a bit of a quarrel. I must thank him. For it was he that made me immortal. But I digress. Why do you need a history lesson, save for my amusement..."
"Show your face you craven coward, like the human vermin you are!" Demona aimed her gun. The terminal exploded as she fired. Somehow that face didn't appeal to her, and she was sick of this nightmare.
An alarm blared, and Demona fired into the next wall. Somehow if she could knock out the computer's power source...
"At last..." she said, wandering into the large space. It was the brain of the whole thing, terminals on every wall. Hyperfast devices that rivaled those of even Nightstone or Cyberbiotics. The alarm continued to blare. She heard the distant tromping of shock troops. Limping, she saw the shape of a chair in the silhouette of one terminal.
Leaping, she whirled the chair. "At last Xanatos, I have you now! And I will have answers!"
"Well, well," said a voice, edged with cybernetic twinge. "Demona. It's been a long time..."
"Lexington?" she cried, aiming her gun at the glint of armor on his chest. A cybernetic eye glanced up at her.
"You haven't aged at all. But then again why would you..."
"You... are behind this?" she asked.
"Yeah. What's the matter Demona, not got anything to say. I've succeeded where you've failed..."
"But Xanatos! Ruling?"
"Hah, shows what you know. This whole shebang is under my thumb..."
"You," she laughed. "I must say I'm rather impressed..."
"Spare me," he smirked. "So when are you gonna run crying to Brooklyn, eh?"
"What is this about me and Brooklyn," she seized him, and tore him out of the chair.
"Oh come on, you're only mates... but I could be persuaded to be lenient... if you would consider..."
"Don't make me puke!" Demona snarled. "The only reason I won't kill you now is that there is something I need from you."
"And what would that be?" he laughed. "Even if you would shoot me I'd come back. I'm the new and improved model..."
"I'm not your Demona," she smirked. "I'm not even from this time. In fact... you are the one who is behind the times. And you can even be rid of me, for one small price."
"Give me all your files about Xanatos. How he came to be a success. I can assure you that this future will exist. And you can even have your own image be on to be feared, instead of that of a worthless human..."
"So you know about gargoyles," Goliath peered at Rayna. She was hard at work, typing figures into a computer on her desk.
"I know it was a shock, me bursting in on you like that. But that stone dust gave you away..."
"Why did Xanatos hire you?"
"To help his industry. I'm trying to convince him of less environmentally hazardous ways to help him find raw materials..."
"Lexington has told me," Goliath muttered. "You protect... the environment?"
"In a way," Rayna folded her hands, glancing up disarmingly at him with a smile. "As you protect this island..."
"You know much about Gargoyles," Goliath nodded. "That is good. But forgive my hesitation at Xanatos' motives..."
"I have my hesitation... Goliath," she said. "But I choose to be part of the solution, not the problem. If I can make green mining a viable option..."
"The rape of the earth at the cost of precious land is a dubious pursuit..."
"Which is why I was telling Xanatos he should look higher for sources," Rayna smiled. "Such as asteroids or meteorites as sources for minerals. Not the Earth. If he gets into the space mining industry right now he could make a bundle in the next ten years..."
"Indeed," Goliath nodded. "I have read about such things..."
"Ye mind if I introduce myself to the lass now, Goliath?" came a grizzled voice.
"Hudson, of course. This is Rayna Vitreum..."
"I know her name," Hudson laughed, stepping into the room. "She fair saw the whole clan when she came out."
"I'm sorry to have startled you all," she apologized.
"There is little to apologize for, for your curiosity. But know that Gargoyles do not take their friendships lightly," Goliath nodded, with an ominous hint to his voice as he left her with Hudson.
"What exactly does a geologist do?" Hudson asked. "Apart from walking on mountains that belch fire, and collecting rocks?"
"Many things," she explained, glancing over yet another rock sample she extracted from a plastic box.
"Care to tell me?" he asked.
"Well, geology itself is the pursuit of information. About how rocks were formed, and how they continue to form... for starters. Also, it traces the changes in mountains, canyons, valleys and any other landscape features over time. In this way I can learn more about how a planet changes..."
"For what purpose?" he asked.
"To help those that live near geological formations, to best live with events like eruptions and earthquakes."
"'Would be more comfortable to continue the conversation on the sofa if ye like," he said, and slipped something cold into her hand. She glanced at the condensation beading off a label of Killians.
"Er, I thank you, but I don't ingest ethanol regularly..." but.
"And why not, lass?" he asked.
"Well, too much is poisonous..." she said.
"I did not know... I am indeed sorry..."
"No, I can have a bit once in a while," she relented, seeing the awkwardness in his face.
"And how would ye tell the age of a rock or stone?" he asked, settling down on the sectional.
Rayna fetched a textbook, and sat next to him. About six inches separated the two. Opening up the book she pointed to a cross section of landscape. "Look here. The layers of rock deposit one on top of the other..."
"Aye," Hudson nodded, leaning over her shoulder to get a better look. He had to tilt his head slightly to optimize the view through his remaining healthy eye.
"The further down you go, the more back in time you travel," she said.
"Sound much like the sink when Broadway fergits t' do the washing up," Hudson gruffly quipped. "What does the word... here... stra... stratif... fication... mean?"
He pointed to the word in question by the diagram with one claw. His powerful arm brushed her shoulder, and Rayna lifted her own glasses to peer at the word. "Stratification. The process by which soil deposits on the next successive layer..."
"What is this... plate tectonics?" he pointed to another picture on the other page.
"Plate tectonics... it's a theory that's been proven fact on your world. That the earth's surface has a thin stone skin... floating over a sphere of fire... and there are cracks in the skin. These are faults... and when the plates slip against each other, earthquakes are created. You see these red spots? Each is a volcano. It's the Ring of Fire..."
"Sounds like a fancy story to me," he grunted.
"Yes, but you know about volcanoes, right? I mean you've seen them on TV..."
"That is part of the molten rock seeping to the surface between the cracks... faults," she explained. "When the edges, which are jagged, slip and stick that creates pressure, and the pressure is relieved by the earthquakes... the longer it takes to relieve the pressure, the bigger the quake..."
"Why wuild this world have fire in the middle?" he asked, hands on his hip.
"Because many centuries ago, this planet was forged with the others in the heart of the sun. All the rock and heavy elements were cast off in a ring and each condensed a separate distance away. Ten objects in all..." she said. "That's what they call an accretion disc. Sort of like dust gathering on a windowsill, the rest of the disc was sucked up till all the matter existed in the sun and in the planets... save a few asteroids and comets..."
"This is all a fancy..." he scratched his head. "The words are unfamiliar t' me..."
"Do you want to borrow the book?" she asked. "If you have any questions..."
"Would be a long wait," he shook his head, but slipped the book into his hands anyway.
"You just learned to read... didn't you," she guessed.
"And what if I had?" he said a bit sharply.
"I'd say it was exemplary, for I hardly expected your clan to be literate considering you are all from 10 century Scotland. Most humans could not even write their own name... unless they were a nobleman, mage, or clergy..."
Hudson's eyes widened at this. He had expected she would remark unfavorably, taking it for granted that of course anyone who was worth his or her self could read.
"I think it's wonderful you are learning," she grinned, gripping his hand over the book. "Take it. It's yours..."
"I cannae accept this," he turned to her.
"Please... take it with my sincere hopes that you enjoy..."
"And ye lass... ye love to teach is that it?" he said, a bit shocked at her generosity. For it was a thick book well creased and used.
"Now what gave you that idea?" she teased.
"The light in yer eyes when ye were explaining geology t' me..." he said. "And when ye gave me that book. 'Tis the same I see in that of my Mentor long ago..."
That next night found Rayna again wandering about the library. The online encyclopedia was sufficient, but the geologist missed the feel of pages betwixt her fingers. Virtual information seemed so dissatisfying when she could read the same words on a page.
"Odd," she laughed. "Considering where I come from..."
A distant set of voices caught her ears. Her hearing was rather sensitive, picking out the gentle vibrations as low as crust slips. Someone was heatedly arguing about something that happened last night. From the low growls she could tell it was the Clan.
Sidling out of the library, she moved towards the living quarters the Gargoyles frequented. Out of the corner of her glasses she spotted Brooklyn, the red hunched figure as he argued with Goliath.
"I tell you I think Delilah was describing the Phoenix Gate!" Brooklyn insisted. "Demona appearing in tongues of fire!"
"WE cannot be sure it is not another spell," Goliath rumbled, folding arms across his broad chest.
Hudson stood to one side, glancing at the television thoughtfully. Rayna knew he was listening to every word, but choosing a careful moment to interject.
"But Goliath it fits," Elisa said, hands moving quickly as she stepped between them. "Two robberies in the past forty eight hours. One at a set of docks by South Street Seaport. Witnesses describing balls of fire, and a gargoyle that seemed to be in two places at once!"
"But I destroyed the Gate! Sent it into a blind jump! It cannot be..." Goliath shook his head. A hopeless look crept into those dark eyes, of some unseen horror.
"It is possible," Rayna suddenly stepped into the room.
"Dr. Vitreum, you must excuse us..." Goliath rumbled.
"When Time Travel is involved, I must ask to be involved..."
"This is not your affair," Goliath growled low in his throat.
"It is Goliath. It is," Rayna strode right up, glaring him in the face. He dwarfed her stocky figure, towering head and shoulders over her. "Especially since Demona is tampering with your timeline in a most detrimental manner."
"Excuse me?" Brooklyn asked, doing a double take.
"Are you nuts," Elisa asked.
"I know all about the Phoenix Gate. A portal that is used to transcend time. Why you insist on tampering is beyond me... but little matter..."
"What do you know about this?" Goliath's eyes flashed.
"I know that you yourself used the gate, Goliath," she said. "You used it on two occasions. One centered around the time of Fox and David's wedding, the other more recently.
"You could have heard that from Elisa and Hudson," he answered
"I also know the secret behind Xanatos' wealth, and the rescue of a gargoyle from world war II."
"That also could be overheard," Goliath said, unconvinced.
"I also know that you stopped it from being used by an upstart sorcerer who sought to take over your century," she said. "The Archmage did overestimate himself. It was foolish for the Weird sisters to give him those means to quick power. But in the end his price for tampering in time was paid. Each event that has passed has knitted you into its pattern, Goliath."
"Who are you?" Goliath snarled.
"One who has studied time... in its complexities. I'm more then just a geologist. I am a traveler myself..."
"I cannot believe this garbage," Brooklyn shook his head.
"What are you? A sorceress?"
"I am not of your time or place," she said matter of factly. "In fact I am not even human. I've studied your history as one among you..."
"To help maintain its balance. Considering the damage the Gate could do, can you blame me? Centuries from now, humans invent time travel. And there are those of us that must make certain it's properly used..."
"I don't believe this," Elisa shook her head.
"Nor do I," Goliath said.
"Do you know where to find Demona and the gate next?" Rayna asked.
"She has a point Goliath. We don't know..."
"But Broadway and Lexington have their ways..."
"Still its not enough," Elisa shook her head.
"What if I can prove to you that I am right?" Rayna asked. "What if I told you that the gate would never again be used for evil or self gain?"
"How can I be certain?" Goliath asked. "I hardly know you..."
"I know trust must be earned in good faith. Therefore I must tell you more. What if I was to say that there are powerful beings interested in the affairs of your world..."
"If this is Oberon..."
"No Goliath. Alien beings..."
"Like Nokar of Easter Island..."
"Yes..." Elisa said.
"Alien beings whose powers far outstrip the children of Oberon. Those pledged to uphold the laws of time, and prevent tampering..."
"If so why wait till now to revealed their presence?" Goliath asked.
"Because they are sworn officially never to interfere. Unless they themselves are threatened, or the world might well become destroyed. Demona's constant use of the gate is Swiss-cheesing your reality. Your use of the Gate merely created a paradox, which sorted itself out. But Demona's use is bordering on detrimental. It must be stopped..."
"Who are you to say what is right and wrong?" Goliath asked.
"I am a time traveler myself," Rayna admitted. "I have visited more times then you can imagine. Visited alien worlds, learned many customs."
"You travel through time but how?"
"By the natural rifts. There are places where the walls of space and time thin. The Gate burns its own way. But I find those natural weaknesses and push through."
"What are you?"
"I am no human," She said to Goliath. "But I know of your world well. That is why I was chosen for this mission. Not willingly... but I was the best choice... or so they said..."
"I wish I didn't have to explain so much..." she breathed.
"It would help your credibility," Goliath looked darkly at her.
"This is unbelievable," Elisa breathed, trying to take it all in.
"I don't expect you to believe me..."
"There are stranger things in this world," Hudson muttered. "But what ye say makes sense. Even if it is hard to believe..."
"No less then Gargoyles or Fay are unbelievable to those of the modern world...."
"Okay, if you're right, then prove it. Tell us where Demona's going to strike..."
"I shall," she said.
"Let's go for it," Brooklyn nodded.
"Very well," Goliath sighed.
Rayna glanced out over the battlements. It seemed a very long way down. Even though she was used to scaling vertical walls, this was different. There were no hand holds on this modern building of concrete and glass. No ledge to snare with her fingers if she fell off.
Behind her the Gargoyles gathered.
"Broadway, you must stay here with Lexington. Protect Delilah. The rest of us will investigate," Goliath said, laying a hand on Broadway's shoulder. "You're in charge till we return."
"You can count on us, Goliath," Broadway held up his thumb. Goliath nodded, a smile on his rugged face. Turning to the others, he regarded Rayna. He towered two feet above the geologist, who couldn't help but feel a bit intimidated by that stare of his.
"Rayna Vitreum. You will lead us to where you predict Demona will next strike..."
"All right, fair enough," she said. "I assume you will be flying... er gliding there?"
Taking Elisa into his arms, Goliath stood ready on the battlement. "Yes. Brooklyn... Hudson... help our guest..."
Angela kissed Broadway goodbye, then clasped Lexington's hand before she took her place near her father. Brooklyn and Hudson moved towards Rayna, who glanced nervously over the wall again.
"If ye'll permit me, lass," Hudson offered, standing behind Rayna. "Tis easier fer one t' carry a lady..."
"Knock yourself out Hudson," Brooklyn grinned. The aged gargoyle coughed, gently gathering Rayna into his arms.
"Hold on tight mind ye..." he cautioned, and leapt. Rayna's arms encircled his neck a gasp of what he first thought was fear escaping her lips. The drop was abrupt, dizzying as Hudson hit thin air. Wings caught the air currents, slowly causing them to rise again.
"Incredible!" Rayna cried.
"I've got ye lass," he assured her. "No need t' fear..."
"It's been a while since I've glided without the use of propulsion..." she laughed aloud, loving the feel of the wind in her hair. Some of it slipped free of the French braid, tickling him in the face as it whipped against his nose. As she glanced around she saw Goliath flying with Elisa, trailed by the two younger gargoyles. Not a sound could be heard save the whistling of the wind, and city noises far below.
Angela nudged Brooklyn playfully as she swept near him. "Take a look at that," she whispered into his ear.
"What?" Brooklyn wondered, a bit nervous at her closeness.
"Hudson... and that scientist woman," she giggled.
"I don't want to hear it," he grumbled. "I really don't..."
"You're no fun," she pouted, and soared on ahead.
Brooklyn felt a sinking feeling spread over him. It was probably Angela's overactive imagination, but he couldn't help but notice something there as he glanced to Hudson gliding a few leagues ahead of the formation. Goliath's dark hair streamed out as he bore Elisa along, the model of perfect leadership. He hardly seemed to be phased by the fact he was carrying a lovely, if human, female in his arms. Probably had a hell of a time keeping his self-control, Brooklyn joked to himself.
Lexington and he were the confirmed bachelors. Other then Hudson, who was what humans would call a widower. Nonetheless Lexington had spent more and more time online in the cyberchats, even in his VR simulations. It dawned on Brooklyn that perhaps Lex had created his own online relationship... or perhaps something else. That odd way Lexington's lips watered and his tail twitched whenever he wore those VR goggles made him wonder. A gargoyle VR playmate? "Curse it," Brooklyn gritted. "He'd just go and do it! Why can't I be so blasted smart?"
"It's Gen-U-Tech," Brooklyn muttered, seeing a familiar set of labs. "I thought Xanatos closed this place down..."
"It's still in operation," Elisa corrected him. "Xanatos claims to be making gene therapy research here... for curing leukemia..."
"I don't believe it for a moment," Goliath muttered. "But... for your sake I will believe what you say, my Elisa..."
Brooklyn was in a very foul mood when Hudson finally landed, and glanced warily about. Goliath and Elisa landed next, followed by Brooklyn and Angela, who landed a considerable distance apart.
"Where now," Goliath asked the geologist.
"We wait. In fifteen minutes I sense that she will materialize..."
"If I know Demona she'd not be in the open... we had best enter and surprise her within," Goliath mused. For there were a few access entrances in square stone bricks on the roof of the factory.
"Er, Hudson..." Rayna muttered. "You can... put me down now..."
"Eh?" he grunted, then realized he was still holding her up off her feet even though they landed. "My pardon Lass.. My mind was... elsewhere..."
Gently he set her on her feet, backing away a few paces as he drew his weapon. Angela suppressed a giggle as he pretended to be busy inspecting the sharpness of its blade, running his thumb along the razor edge.
"Down... third floor," Vitreum said, rushing towards a steel door that Goliath wrenched easily off its hinges. Elisa drew her automatic, chambering a round as she followed. Hudson was next, sword at the ready. Then Angela and Brooklyn brought up the rear. All five descended the stairs.
"Here..." Rayna whispered, crooking her finger as they wandered down a hallway. Everyone piled into the elevator, Elisa punching buttons with one hand. Odd music drifted into the car, saccharine and airless against the pounding of each anxious heart.
Warily Elisa leveled her revolver while the doors swung open. Goliath and his clanmates tensed, ready to spring. Rayna's dark eyes flickered back and forth, questioning. Angela noticed the odd look to them, as if they were staring into some imperceptible dimension.
"Which way now, lass?" Hudson asked, moving up beside Rayna. His breath wafted into her ear.
"One of the labs... on the south wing. It's... very strong now. She is almost here..."
"How can you be sure?" Goliath asked, as they exited the elevator and tiptoed down the sterile white hallways. The color scheme of the lab block were green metal doors with small plastic nameplates. Terms like "Recombinant DNA area" and "Immunology Lab" meant little to any save Rayna, and perhaps Goliath to some extent. Hudson peered out of the corner of his good eye to the small windows on each door. Lab benches were piled with glassware, or odd gleaming equipment that chugged automatically.
"Labs, wizard's brews, all of it," he muttered, scratching his head.
"I do not like this place," Goliath rumbled.
"Some of these therapies help people," Elisa explained. "They found a treatment for Diabetes here... so some genetic engineering is helpful... even if a scum like Sevarious mutated my brother with it..."
She spoke this last part as if she were trying to convince herself of the benefits. After all her grandfather's diabetes was being treated with new gene therapy. So far he did not need to take the awful shots of insulin.
"Stop," Goliath whispered. "Did you hear that?"
They were by a large lab, with three doors entering in. The distant sounds of clinking glassware could be heard from within. Rayna gasped, hand to her head.
"She's... here..." she gasped. Glancing through the window, Brooklyn glued his beak to the glass, only seeing a lab technician pulling late hours before a fume hood. The woman was scratching small plates with a wand, which she held in a Bunsen flame for a few seconds. Wafting it off, she dipped it into a rack of test tubes, and proceeded to scratch lines on a small glass plate with brown gel in it.
"Inoculation," Rayna said. "She's making bacteria cultures... and there... that fellow is actually isolating the DNA..."
They saw another white-coated man loading small tubes into a centrifuge. The whirring sound Goliath heard was the spinning of the drumlike unit on the table. "They're working late," Brooklyn muttered.
"So where is Demona?" Goliath folded his wings. Doubt filled his features as he glared at Rayna.
"Look," Angela pointed. The man looked up, not at them, but at something flickering from one corner of the lab. Papers began to fly about, as the woman dropped her plate, and wand. The Man shouted, grabbing a notebook as he pushed her out of the way of a jet of fire. Goliath snarled, wings flaring back as tongues of fire licked around a glowing blaze. The windows exploded simultaneously, Goliath throwing Elisa down as he spread his wings over her. Brooklyn shielded Angela, pressing her under his slender form.
"What the hell..." Brooklyn gritted, feeling Angela squirming under him.
Hudson lifted a wing, Rayna tentatively glancing up at the lab. She tensed beside him, reaching at her hip for something. Brooklyn eased off of Angela, who glanced at him with an unreadable expression. Hudson had shielded Rayna at the last minute, wrapping her close in his wings as the broken glass threatened to shower them with its shards.
"Thank God for safety glass," Elisa muttered, as a small shower of glass particles dropped from Goliath's flexed wings.
Shouts and cries perked his ears. "That was the Gate!" he snarled. "Everyone... ready!"
Brooklyn's eyes flared white, and he leapt towards the door without hesitation. Red claws ripped the lab door off its hinges before Goliath could stop him. The lavender leader was on his heels, glancing in the confusion. A sky blue figure snarled, lifting the human male by his neck. Her fangs gleamed wickedly in the crimson light of her eyes.
"Let him go!" Brooklyn roared, pouncing on her. She hurled the human at him, both colliding with a meaty thud.
"Demona!" Goliath shouted, leaping towards her.
"What are... you!" she snarled, turning on Goliath. Her gun leveled at him. However, Elisa's gun discharged, spoiling her aim.
Snarling, she leapt out of the way, towards the human female who cowered by the hood. Her tail brushed against the centrifuge, upsetting it on the floor. Wildly it sprung towards Goliath, who pulled Elisa out of its way. Brooklyn moaned under the limp form of the lab technician, slowly rubbing his head.
Elisa tensed at what happened next. Demona seized the woman technician, jamming her gun muzzle on the woman's cheek. "I don't know how you found me, but I won't let you stop me! One more step and the human dies..."
"Let her go Demona!" Goliath tried to reason.
"Mother, no!" Angela cried, leaping towards her. She froze in place, a foot from Demona
"Get back! Or I will slay her!" Demona said, backing away with the terrified human held before her.
Suddenly Hudson leapt from behind, sword flashing in the fluorescent lights. Demona whirled, finger squeezing the trigger.
Rayna moved from behind a lab counter, something in her hands smashing the gun away from the lab technician's cheek. It discharged on the floor, a smoking crater on the white lab floor. Demona hurled the human aside, her claws raking against Hudson. Her tail tripped the old soldier.
Angela gripped the lab technician, pulling her free. Rayna landed a solid kick on Demona's back, actually throwing the female gargoyle forwards.
Goliath threw himself on Demona, finally free to act. She squirmed under, him, fangs bared as she snarled. "Get off of me!" she roared.
Goliath's hands gripped hers, pinioning her. Demona's tail slipped around his leg, pulling it out from under him as she levered him off with one taloned foot. Goliath sailed backwards into a lab counter. With a mighty smash equipment clattered to the floor in a colossal mess.
"You fools, you cannot stop me!"
By now Angela had moved to Brooklyn's side, helping him up. Shaking his head he saw Demona grab her gun, covering Rayna who stood between the fallen Hudson and Demona. A shot narrowly missed Hudson, Demona whirling on Goliath. The leader groaned, shaking his head. Elisa blocked Demona's shot, her gun discharging yet again. A hole punched in the membrane of Demona's wing. She whirled on Elisa, gun blazing a shot. Glassware shattered over Elisa, knocking her down beside Goliath. Slowly he stood.
Brooklyn launched himself onto Demona now, claws slashing. She cuffed him aside, a solid crash of her gun butt socking him in the jaw. Angela leapt as well, only to be hit in the stomach with a roundhouse kick. Another shot fired wildly towards Hudson and Rayna, Hudson leaping before the Geologist as he deflected the bolt with his sword.
"Demona, stop this insanity!" Goliath snarled, gripping her arms. Elisa leapt on Demona's back, covering her eyes.
"Let... me go!" she snarled, squirming as Goliath wrestled the gun and tossed it aside. Hudson too leapt on her, grabbing her ankles as they struggled to hold her.
Goliath held her arms behind her back, Hudson gripped her waist. Still she squirmed against them. Elisa flew off her back, landing in a summersault on the floor near Angela and Brooklyn.
"Give me the Phoenix gate!" Rayna called, moving up to them. Goliath's hands reached, probed all over her.
"You fools, you are too late!" she laughed. Her claws gripped for something under her top, letting it drop on the floor. A flare of power blazed, everyone letting go at the bright blinding flash. Demona wormed her way from Goliath and Hudson.
Rayna tackled Demona about the waist, slamming her to the ground. "Des... Legrate... Muri.. Tempi..." Demona panted, clenching something in her hand.
"Don't let her say it!" Goliath roared, hands over his blinded eyes. Hudson shivered, unable to see anything. Brooklyn shook his head, which rang like a gong. Blindly he leapt at Demona, claws pinning her down. Rayna held on for grim death as Demona's taloned feet kicked at her.
Rayna lay on Demona, pinning her solidly under her weight as the wings flared out.
"Et... Intervailia!" Demona finished, seconds before Brooklyn's hands clamped on her mouth. She vanished, taking both with her. A few seconds later she emerged again, elbowing Brooklyn aside with Rayna still clinging to her back. Goliath and Elisa could not see, only hear the screams and snarls.
"You... human... how can you presume to stop me?" came Demona's voice.
"Mother stop this!" came Angela's voice. It sounded so near and yet so far.
"Give me the Gate, before you doom yourself!" came Rayna's voice.
"I... have had... enough... of you, human!" came Demona's snarl. A meaty thump followed, cutting off Rayna's words.
"Daughter... come with me..." came Demona's voice again.
"No... mother... I can't. Not when you're doing this! What has Xanatos done..."
"If you have to ask that...Deflegrate, Muri Tempi, et Intervailia!"
Then there was nothing but silence. Goliath felt Elisa's hands touching his face, shadows coming into view. From somewhere beside him, Hudson let out a low whimpering groan. Angela cradled Hudson's head in her lap. Goliath could see Brooklyn helping a dazed Rayna up from the floor.
"Gone," Brooklyn snarled. "WE were this close... and she got away!"
"At least we know... where she struck," Elisa muttered. Still she rubbed her eyes.
"I'm... blind," Hudson groaned.
"Hudson, look at me. It's only a flare... open your eye..." Angela soothed, stroking his beard gently. Hudson blinked, slowly looking up into Angela's face.
"Lass... I can... see ye..."
"It's okay Hudson. It was only a magnesium flare," she gripped his offered hand.
"You... were... right..." Goliath turned to Rayna, who leaned on Brooklyn for support. She hugged her stomach, face a mask of pain. Brown hair hung in half a French braid, whisps falling about her bruised face. Clawmarks on her overalls and hiking vest bore witness to her scuffle with Demona.
Elisa helped Goliath to stand, groaning herself. "I... apologize..." Goliath limped over to Rayna.
"She escaped," Rayna snapped. "The Gate was right within my reach.."
"Hey, next time," Elisa said. Hudson and Angela shakily stood, the assembly moving over to the two fallen technicians. Slowly the man groaned, the woman moving to one side.
"You guys better get out of here..." Elisa said. "I'm calling an ambulance..."
"I... hope to see you back at Castle Wyvern," Goliath said to Rayna. "You... have proved... your point. And for that... we are grateful..."
Rayna nodded. Hudson looked on her with a satisfied grunt, then followed Goliath and the others out of the ruined lab. Elisa and Rayna bustled about as they tried to tend to the two victims of Demona's latest strike. "How the hell will I explain this to Chavez," the cop wondered.
"We'll think of something," Rayna shook her head. "Something tells me you're used to this by now..."
"Still doesn't make it easy," Elisa shook her head. "What I'm wondering is, how could you fight Demona? You're only a human and..."
"I'm not human Elisa," Rayna shook her head. "Not exactly anyway..."
"What does that mean?"
"Shouldn't we call 988 or 911 or whatever," Rayna broke in. "These two people need our help now..."
Before long, the emergency crews arrived, and Elisa managed to slip away to the roof, with a wink to Matt. Goliath landed behind Elisa, Angela and Brooklyn not far away.
"I have a feeling Demona... will appear again... one last time," Rayna said to Goliath as she left the wailing ambulances behind.
"WE will take the battle to her this time! How long?"
"Thirty minutes... give or take five. Not far from here...."
"Very well then. Let us launch from that place there..." Goliath indicated a twelve story office building, brownstone fronted. Elisa hopped on his back, hooking her legs over his hips as his claws pierced the building.
Rayna leapt up after him. "Wait you can't..." Brooklyn began.
Easily she gripped into the holes Goliath made with her talons, hauling herself up hand over hand. "It's easy," she called down. "Coming?"
Angela grinned at a shocked Brooklyn, leaping up after Hudson. They soon reached the top of the office structure. Gently Hudson gripped Rayna, pushing off from the building. Orange membrane wings unfurled, throwing them backwards.
"Where be she now lass?" Hudson asked.
"Head North... the senses are getting a bit more fuzzy," she shook her head.
For a half hour they circled about the area, covering a five mile radius. "This is stupid," Brooklyn muttered. "She could come out of anywhere..."
"Well have you got any better ideas?" Angela asked. him.
A shot blazed in the midst of the formation, and scattered them to the four points of the compass. Goliath and Elisa veered off northwards, Rayna conveyed by Hudson in the opposite direction. Brooklyn and Angela shot off east and west. Just then, a jetting sound rent the air as four steel Clan robots whipped out from behind the warehouse.
"Shoot! I thought Xanatos wasn't making these things anymore!" Brooklyn shouted.
"Not Xanatos," Demona laughed, aiming a shot at him. "Nightstone! A name I will teach you to respect, with your lives!"
"Not likely!" Brooklyn roared, swinging back to face her.
"Brooklyn!" Angela screamed. A steel clan robot cut her off, and Angela turned tail and whisked herself away on the nearest thermal.
Hudson wove in and out in a complicated pattern. Each shot from their steel clan pursuer sounded closer and closer.
"Got t' head them off," he called to Goliath, whose course was eerily parallel to their own.
"I have you old friend," Goliath nodded. Rayna glanced up at Hudson, wondering what he hand in mind. His grasp on her tightened as he held her closer to his sizable stomach.
Goliath flew headlong at a building, jerking up at the last moment. Unfortunately the trick failed as the steel clan robot tracked his course. "Dammit," Elisa muttered. "They do learn!"
Brooklyn dodged Demona, just managing to glide ahead of her blasts. "Brooklyn lad!" Hudson called. "Zone defense!"
Before Rayna could ponder what this code meant, Brooklyn doubled back, headed straight for their pursuer. Hot on his heels was Demona, screaming, "There is no escaping my wrath!"
Hudson clutched Rayna close, whispering, "Hold on lass! This cuild get a wee bit bumpy!"
Brooklyn shot under the steel clan pursuer. Demona's shots cracked after him, one landing on the robot. In a fiery blaze it exploded. Snarling, she aimed another shot towards Hudson. A small missile hurled their direction. Desperately Rayna squeezed shut her eyes, her perceptions opening to a slow speed. Nanoseconds expanded to minutes. An eternity spread its buffet before her. A gland oozed a chemical within her brain, and strings gently tweaked within her mental grasp. Hudson felt a snatching sensation blink him out of existence one minute, and the next he was dangerously close to crashing into a skyscraper. The updraft blew him back, and Hudson scrambled to get a thermal to rise. Suddenly he felt the wind fail him, sending him plummeting towards the rooftops.
"Hudson!" Brooklyn shouted, seeing the gargoyle fall like a stone. Rayna's scream mingled with Hudson's.
"Noo!" Goliath shouted. Demona smiled in smug triumph.
A bone jarring crunch sounded as Hudson hit the roof. Tucking his body around Rayna he rolled head over tail on the rooftop. Finally he landed, spread eagle under the geologist. His head struck the chimney vent with a sharp crack. Rayna moaned slowly, lifting herself from the gargoyle body under her. He felt so still and cold.
"Hudson!" she gasped, slapping his cheek. No response. Again Rayna seized his shoulders, shaking him. "Hudson! Please respond!"
He lay there so still and cold. Rayna pressed her fingers into his neck to feel for a pulse. One pulse per minute. Lowering her ear to his mouth she felt no breath. Fingers pinched off the nose, her lips pressing to inhale. One or two rapid puffs, till she felt the exhalation in response. She had literally knocked the wind out of him!
Hudson's eyes popped open, his breath rasping. "Ach..." he coughed, and glanced up at her with a glazed view.
"Thank Rassilon you're all right," she rubbed his shoulders.
"Mind ye lass..." he coughed again. "Next time... find a softer place t' land..."
"Hudson!" she laughed, laying her head on his chest. "You're alive!"
Awkwardness set in as she lifted her head, face flushing crimson. She realized she straddled his waist, his breathing chest just under her own hearts, which were pounding double time.
"Er well... I..."
"what did ye do... t' make us vanish like that?" he asked, pushing himself up on one elbow to regard her.
"Time tripping," she shrugged, then made to move off him. "I'm sorry not to have warned you..."
"Next time give me a fair shout," he scolded gently. He struggled to get off the tar roof, groaning as he clutched his back.
"Ach, I'm too auld fer this!"
"Here, let me help," Rayna offered her hand. Hudson chuckled, but marveled seconds later when her firm small hand pulled him easily to his feet. Still he grimaced, nursing his bruised shoulders.
"I am sorry," Rayna apologized, gently rubbing the offending spot. Rayna's fingers kneaded just around his wing joints. Gentle strokes firmly soothed the bruised tissue and tensed muscles as tight as steel cables. A low groan escaped Hudson's mouth, shivering Rayna to the bone. Experimentally she brushed her fingers over it once more. Hudson sighed deeply, eyes shut as he arched his back in complete contentment. Whatever she was doing seemed to be quite effective!
"Och lass, 'tis far too guid..." he got out before she caught site of shapes over the stars. Rayna jerked her hand away from Hudson's back as if she'd been stung.
Goliath circled, landing neatly with Elisa in his arms. Angela and Brooklyn alit shortly behind him. "Are you all right, old friend?" Goliath asked, setting Elisa down.
"Never better," Hudson quickly replied. "Why do ye ask?"
"Oh I don't know," Brooklyn snapped. "Like you only nearly smashed yourself into a building like a jackhammer maybe?"
"Are ye implying I cannae take a fall, lad?" Hudson growled, baring his fangs at Brooklyn.
"No need to bite my head off! Jesus, what the hell were you doing? We were worried sick for all the damn the hell you care!" Brooklyn snarled.
"Brooklyn!" Angela reproached him. "How dare you speak to Hudson like that!"
"ENOUGH!" Goliath roared. "Rayna, when will Demona next strike?"
"A day from now," she glanced up at him, putting herself between Brooklyn and Hudson. "The offices of Xanatos Enterprises..."
"Then we will ready ourselves. But we shall return to the castle, for dawn is not far away..."
Automatically Hudson swept Rayna into his arms, readying himself to jump. Goliath already held Elisa, launching himself into a spectacular dive off the factory building.
Brooklyn shot Hudson an angry glare, only stopped by Angela's own sharp look. Sullenly he muttered, "What crawled under his loincloth?"
"What crawled under yours?" Angela turned his question back on him. He hated when she did that! Both young ones held back a number of leagues from Goliath and Hudson.
"What the hell do you mean?"
"You've been snapping at everyone!" she commented. "What did Hudson ever do to provoke your anger at him?"
"Nothing!" Brooklyn snapped. "Except when he acts like Mr. Macho..."
"Like you and Lexington and Broadway acted when I first came?" Angela suggested, raising a brow ridge. Already she had matched his gliding pace.
"Yeah... I guess. What's up with that? I mean... Hudson actually likes a human?"
"What's wrong with that?" asked Angela. "Are you saying Humans and gargoyles shouldn't be together?"
"No!" he protested.
"Is she unattractive?" Angela continued.
"Well yes, I mean no!" Brooklyn fumbled. "I mean she's nice and all, but Hudson... and a Human? Elisa and Goliath, sure! But Hudson?"
"So Goliath can love Elisa, but Hudson can't have a human girlfriend?"
"Stop putting words into my beak!" Brooklyn growled. "That's not it at all! He's just so... and she's young... and..."
"You're jealous! Admit it!"
"No way! A gargoyle like Hudson, who's older then both of us put together, having a fling... with a human! What have I possibly got to be jealous of?"
"Brooklyn," she sighed, shaking her head.
"Goliath, it's four am," Elisa said, pulling his arm. "I don't think we should go after this much longer..."
"Rayna, any more manifestations?" Goliath asked.
"It's... gone black," Rayna shook her head. "I am sorry Goliath... but its eluded me..."
"Tis late, and best that we rest and recover," Hudson said.
"Hudson, take Rayna home. Then meet us back at the Castle..." Goliath said.
Hudson landed before a five story brownstone. "This is yer home lass?" he asked.
"Yes," she nodded. "Till the end of the semester..."
"Didn't Xanatos offer ye another option?"
"Yes, but I don't think I'd care to take it," she said, as he gently put her down. They walked towards the front door, Hudson's hand on his sword hilt.
"An why not, lass?"
"All that... opulence. Just doesn't suit me," Rayna shook her head. "No, I'd rather have a tent in Central park then an apartment in Central Park west. Luxury is wasted on the likes of me..."
"So ye say," Hudson stroked his beard, keeping pace with her measured stride. Rayna fumbled with the keys, while Hudson stood right behind her.
"Not the best of neighborhoods," he commented. Finally she got the lock to open, and slipped partly inside.
"No, but I'm a big girl," she laughed.
"Ye handled yerself verry well against Demona," Hudson said appreciatively. "I must say I was impressed..."
"At least Goliath believes me that I want to help..."
"He shuild well after that episode," Hudson nodded. "Will ye be all right?"
"Sure! I've done this lots of times. You'd better hurry up, you're running out of night..."
"Take care of yerself lass," he took her hand, and kissed it gently. "Will ye be coming back to the Castle tomorrow then?"
"I've got the pleasure of working for Xanatos," she shrugged with a rueful smile. Hudson moved out into the night, leaping onto the side of the building for a convenient height to catch a wind. That strange instinct to protect flooded over him. It was gargoyle nature, he told himself. But he still remained till he saw her light turn on four floors up. Before he was finally satisfied she was well, and unfurled his wings for the glide home.
Fire blazed over a carpet, tongues of lightening licking around the opening, which expanded in midair. Demona tumbled out, staggering headlong into her office chair. "By the Dragon, why do they always frustrate me?" she gritted.
It felt good to sit down. Rest time weary bones. Just how many times had she jumped in the past two days. Or in the past two weeks. It felt like an eternity.
"My love, at last you return," boomed a deep voice out of the waning night.
"Thailog," she sighed, and placed the Phoenix gate within a drawer. Slowly she rose, stumbling towards the secret room behind her office.
"You are hurt my love," he said, red eyes gleaming in the darkness. Metal gleamed on the contours of his body as he stepped into the light of her desk lamp. He took the gun from her weary hand, and she was glad to be rid of its weight. Red hair leaned on his shoulder, Demona drinking in the embrace of her lover's caress.
"It is nothing," she said. "Even now Xanatos feels the crunch of our assault..."
"Good. And our allies suspect not our true purpose..."
"Only what we choose to let them know," she purred, feeling his hands run through her scarlet tresses. "Poor fool, that Scarab. Having to wait endlessly till we are done with the Gate..."
"You are most indeed clever..."
"AS you are intelligent. Our plan is brilliant... but for one small detail..."
"Being?" Thailog held her out at arm's length.
"A new player has entered the gambit. A human woman, who has united herself with Goliath's clan. When I was at Genutech, we fought. She had the strength of a gargoyle!"
"Really?" Thailog asked, as he escorted Demona to the sectional sofa in the chamber behind the office. A sliding panel gave them access to the place.
"Yes. There is something about her that irks me. She is no ordinary miserable human. The last three times I hit, she was there. It was as if the Gargoyles stayed one step ahead of me!"
"How is that possible... unless she knows about the Phoenix Gate," Thailog mused. Both sat down, Demona leaning against his shoulders. Black talons caressed her sweaty arm.
"How could she?" Demona asked.
"Why not?" Thailog asked. "Not all humans are simpletons. Those that birthed me, my three fathers, were indeed a cut above the usual dimness..."
"But we cannot let them stop us now," Demona said, glancing up into his eyes. "Especially when we are so close... so close to victory..."
"What did you see in the future my love?" he asked.
"A possibility that will not happen," she laughed. "Save the fact that the world was rid of humans..."
"Perhaps... we should find out about one human... that geologist... and discover what her secret advantage is," Thailog suggested.
"She will not stop us. There is yet another reason for us to succeed..."
"You have heard," Thailog asked.
"Yes, my precious one. I have the spell," she laughed, fingering an amulet around her neck. "Did you forget our last time, before you left for San Francisco..."
"Our Clan will continue..." she laughed throatily.
"My little minx," Thailog laughed, rubbing her belly. Demona simpered and smiled up at him.
"Congratulations, Father," she laughed, brushing her knuckles against his brow ridge, even though it was sheathed in steel.
"I am most proud," he leered. "Ever more reason to triumph. But Delilah..."
She wiped away his darkened expression with a gentle kiss. "She is but breeding stock. WE will create another female if you like..."
"I certainly hope so," he chuckled. Demona let herself feel a twinge of jealousy, before settling down into his embrace again.
That next afternoon Rayna dragged herself out of the elevators of Castle Wyvern. Owen Burnett stood there, his suit starched with firm lines. Did that man use the same starch on himself after he showered? Rayna chuckled to herself at that funny mental picture.
"Good to see you again, Dr. Vitreum," Owen nodded. "Mr. Xanatos wants to know of the progress on your surveys..."
"I'll get to them sometime tonight," she nodded. Owen returned the gesture, turning to exit. Rayna could swear he pivoted as if on a turntable.
It was eleven a.m., and Rayna was wondering why she couldn't quite sleep. Granted she didn't require as much as a human, but she would have liked to at least rest for more than three hours. She wended her way up the one flight of spiral stairs, towards the bank of rooms Xanatos called the analytical lab.
There she had access to all sorts of the latest equipment for analyzing rock samples. A computer was her window to the world of the net, where other geologists had pasted their information into cyberspace.
Rayna pushed aside the litter of granola bar wrappers and her favorite geode to look at her desk calendar. It didn't take long to transfer a few personal belongings here from NYU. She lowered herself into the fabric covered ergonomically correct chair, and punched a key on that odd keyboard that was split into two sections. Xanatos' idea, to minimize the risk of employees suing him for causing carpal tunnel syndrome by typing.
"Twelve thirty, check in with my replacement, one thirty, check in with the boys at the Alaska refinery," she mentally crossed off the tasks. Strange that she was a geologist, used to climbing on active volcanoes, but sitting behind a terminal for this particular job.
How long would she play this farce? The Phoenix Gate was just beyond her reach, so near and yet so far.
*That's no excuse," came a clear voice in her head. Rayna scratched her temple, grumbling at the voice popping inside.
*I've been biding my time. Waiting for the right moment to grab it," she telepathed back. Over light years and centuries her thoughts traveled down an invisible corridor.
*You know the essence of time is being stretched to its limits the longer this goes on...
*why doesn't your precious Celestial intervention agency pursue this then? she asked.
*our hands are tied on third rate planets. You know what we expect of you, Raynavitreum. You're the expert...
*Simply because I just happened to spend a few more centuries on earth then your standard agents, she couldn't help but smirk back.
*That was why the decision was made. Now stop playing around. And get that time element.
*Once I have it, what is to be done?
*WE will come when it is destined. The time of least impact.
*Which means I might well have to wait a century, risking my own neck till you decide to pick it up, Rayna quipped.
*just remember your mission.
*I didn't ask for this... Chancellor Thalira!
*You are the only one best suited for this, Vitreum. Do you forget we overlooked certain details, about your past interference. Do you forget that we know your little mistakes on Mantissa, your own world?
*No, Rayna pathed back. *Not for a nanosecond.
*Good. So do be a good girl and get that time element away from that interfering Gargoyle. She has caused quite a fraying in the sidereal strings already.
*Yes, Rayna muttered dully. *whatever you say....
She glanced up from her work, shaking her head. Eternity seemed to have passed before her, and Rayna looked towards the desk clock. Two thirty! How long had she been in that telepathic conference?
"Thalira, why do you have to take so blasted long?" she asked, glancing skywards.
*Transgalatic delay, came the response.
*I thought you'd closed the link! Rayna cursed. "Rassilon's Rod, don't I have any privacy?"
*It depends.... came Thalira's parting shot. Then the buzzing ceased, and her brain eased back into three dimensions. There came a closing of what seemed a cosmic book, and Rayna was her own master again.
"I hate that," she muttered. "Stupid telepathic conferencing. How am I supposed to get that blasted Gate from a Gargoyle hell bent on revenge?"
Suddenly the room blurred, and Rayna felt her mind slipping away to the gap between now and now. Silver threads shot over her vision, flooding her consciousness with their tense vibrations. Images flashed before her mental eyes. "No," she muttered.
Stone dust whirled in the wind. Dry throated people dragged their rag clad bodies behind them, slowly moving in the wasteland of a filthy city. A booming voice echoed from on high, definitely not from the deity that these people in the twentieth century prayed to. Massive metal girders stretched above Castle Wyvern. And that image that predominated was that of a Gargoyle, his impish face half covered in metal. People screamed as they were trod over by the feet of countless clones. Each a facet of Goliath, in ebon black.
"I've got to stop this," she decided. Rayna reached out, throwing her probes beyond to the minutes, seconds before. Each second resounded closer and closer to a nexus, a fulcrum upon which this pseudo might-have-been hung. A blow caught her in mid chest, slamming her breath out. Hearts pounded in double time as she ate brick. Over her rose the blue form, laughing,, cackling. Rayna concentrated beyond the pain. To glance over the astral shoulder to the paint flaked windows beyond. The sounds of traffic on the West River Drive, echoing into those of the harbor. Slowly the harbor receded, and soared over towards the center of Manhattan. Silvery threads exploded into tiny pulses of light.
"I know where you are, Demona," Rayna gritted. Slowly she rose from her chair.
It had been almost three hours. Rayna sat, Indian style on the floor of the basement. The Eerie Building was a hive of activity, executives coming and going. Save this one abandoned place, thick with the dust of decades. It didn't take much to get in here. Merely a quick blow from the shoulder to break the locks. Why would she bother coming here?
Slowly she rose, planting hands on the dusty dungeon floor. Pushing up she rose easily to her feet. Boxes and ruined crates stacked against the wall, the must of centuries overwhelming her sense of smell. Granted she hadn't the olfactory senses of even an ordinary human, but she could not mistake the mildew odor.
"Whoever owned this place doesn't give a rat's tail about their property," she muttered. Strange. That nearest crate in view of the fading sun seemed oddly new compared to the others. Rayna ran her hands over the wood. Rough, and slightly moist. She slipped the magnifier out of her shirt, that hung around her neck on a silver chain. Peering through, she examined the wood. "This is new..." she muttered, still seeing traces of sap in the fibers.
Reaching at her hip, she extracted her geological hammer. Carefully she jammed the thin edge under the crate's crack, and levered up. Wood squalled, nails creaking out of moist wood housing. Just then she shivered. That strange sense came over her, and Rayna left the crate behind. Quickly she raced down the hallways, out of the storage facility and into another remote area of the Castle.
Here was housed the basement computers. Rayna tore at the massive iron door that separated Xanatos’ mainframe from everything else. Had to get there before she did!
Still she couldn’t help but wonder what was in those crates, in a nondescript room in what had once been the castle’s dungeons centuries ago. A mystery for another time.
Rayna grunted, tapping random number sequences into the numeric keypad. No joy. "Come on, come on…" she muttered. "What in the name of Rassilon would he use for a code?"
Again her head swam, the silver threads snapping and straining. A nexus point, a focal point was almost on top of her. Annoyed, she grabbed her geological hammer, and smashed the keypad into little electronic bits. There came a clicking, and the door slid to. "At last," Rayna muttered, thankful of her dumb luck.
Inside the mainframes hummed to their own inner tune. The insulated floor was raised, to permit the access of millions of wires. It was the nerve center to the Castle. Rayna wondered why Xanatos kept the computer mainframe up here, instead of buried floors far into the bedrock of the building’s foundation. Perhaps to prevent earthquake damage. She pressed herself flat against the huge black box of one memory unit. Her skin crawled at the flux of electromagnetic fields here. A thousand calculations a nanosecond hammered through this place, the fields vibrating like crazy. Each minute vibration she could feel. Pulsing ever so closer till the flash exploded. Rayna threw herself into the middle of the room, colliding with a solid body.
"It’s over Demona!" she shouted, grappling her about the waist.
"By all that’s unholy! How did you???" Demona snarled, twisting out of Rayna’s grasp. Her claws slashed wildly, her taloned foot scraping against’ Rayna’s thigh. Still Rayna gripped on like grim death.
"Wouldn’t you like to know?" Rayna gritted. Demona’s fist cracked into her jaw. Wincing in pain, Rayna let go. This gave Demona time to scramble away, her gun lowered on Rayna.
"I’ve come too far to let you interfere, human!"
"Not so," Rayna gritted her teeth. The shot zinged inches from her waist. Leaping up, Rayna shouldered Demona. The force of her blow sent both reeling into a far wall. Equipment sparked under their impact against a terminal. Rayna’s punch landed firmly against Demona’s cheek. A purplish bruise grew into existence. Another punch later and Rayna tossed the laser weapon away.
"You are strong for a puny human," Demona growled. Eyes flared crimson. "But it won’t help you…"
A tail wrapped around Rayna’s leg, and the jarring force rolled them both over till Demona was on top. Rayna planted her foot into Demona’s belly, pushing her off before her claws could rake Rayna’s face.
Groaning, Demona hugged her stomach. She scrambled for the laser rifle, Rayna leaping after her. "Too slow, human," Demona laughed, raising the weapon to bear on the nearest terminal.
"Why are you doing this?" asked Rayna. "What purpose do you have in ruining Xanatos… when you could simply do so… without traversing time?"
"You would not comprehend," Demona laughed. "I think I’ll let you live, to see the completion… and Xanatos will blame you for corporate espionage…"
"Why would that matter to me?" Rayna laughed.
"Come now, I know you work for him," she leered, training her pistol on him. "why else would you be here? A university professor amongst these human suits? You are not in your environment…"
"Nor are you," Rayna laughed, and a wicked spike swung down towards Demona. She blocked the force of Rayna’s ice axe blow.
"So you wish to fight me hand to hand, human?" Demona chuckled. "I tire of this game… Des Legrate, Muri, Tempi Et Intervailia!"
Time and space folded in an instant. She could feel the snatching sensation come, and seize her as she was pushed through. Soon she would be one step ahead of the interfering human once and for all.
Demona gasped as she felt a hand clamping on her shoulder. "How is this possible!" she cried.
"You are not the only one who can traverse time..."
As Demona leapt out of the jump, she and Rayna wrestled with the Gate. Demona gasped at the strength in Rayna's hands. "Give that back, human!"
"No..." Rayna gasped. Both rolled over and over on a flat concrete surface. Where were they now? It appeared to be the huge gallery just beneath the castle, for a huge mass of rock soared overhead, supported by a network of steel and glass.
"You have no use for it!"
"As a matter of fact, I have a far better use for it," she snapped. "And I am not human. Granted I resemble them superficially. But I know you have every right to hate them for what they have done to your kind..."
"You... would mock me?"
"No," Rayna said firmly, pushing back against Demona. "The years you lead the remains of gargoyle clans in Scotland. How you struggled to keep your race alive... to survive..."
"You claim sympathy with me?"
"Perhaps. For I myself am the last of my kind... forever changed into that which I hate... my masters the Time Lords... for I have every right... and this is not the answer..."
"You think you can stop me?"
"Not in your cause no. But you will not tamper with time... for you are creating the very disturbance you seek to destroy... I have seen many centuries, much death as you have..."
"What are you?"
"A alien from another time and place..."
"I..." Demona gasped wrestling with her.
"Go... quickly. Before the Clan comes. Doubtless Xanatos security systems have detected our presence here..."
"Why do you give me the chance to escape?"
"Do you want to face them? Your tampering in time has caught the attention of those whom I serve... the time comes..."
"What are they do me?"
"My masters, the Time Lords. Or what they made me become. I was once the last of my kind... forever transformed into what I most hate... by those I had no control over..."
"Then why do their bidding? You have the power of Time!"
"It is nothing to them..."
"Fool, there is always a choice!" Demona pushed her back, the little blue plate in Rayna's grasp. "If you claim sympathy for my cause... then join it! Stop those that would rule you!"
"Demona... I.. cannot..."
She shoved Rayna down, seeing a shape fluttering against the huge windows. Goliath smashed through, showering them both with glass. Demona raised her rifle, hitting Rayna' in the shoulder with a red beam. She crumpled, clutching her arm. Brooklyn and Hudson dropped through shortly after their leader. Goliath pounced again on Demona, only to miss her by mere inches. Her shot cut him right in the leg. He crumpled, clutching the burn. Hudson moved to his aid, sword drawn.
"No!" came Brooklyn's shout as he leapt on Demona. She cuffed him aside, and threw herself at the opening Goliath had made.
Rayna hugged herself, groaning. Slowly Brooklyn moved to help Goliath, as he shook his head.
"I… am all right…" Goliath groaned. Hudson leaned over Rayna, softly touching her shoulder.
"Lass?" he asked. Rayna rolled over, glancing up into his kindly face.
"I couldn't stop her," she moaned. In her hand she clutched a small blue plate. Brooklyn and Goliath limped over, their eyes fixed firmly on the glint of streetlights on the small object which had caused so much trouble for so many.
"It's all right, lass," Hudson said, holding Rayna close in his arms as he lifted her up. "We’ll get ye mended up soon enau…"
"I let her get away… she slipped through my fingers…"
"You did what you could," Goliath nodded gravely.
"But you’ve got the Phoenix Gate!" Brooklyn shouted. "All right…"
"Come on nau lass…" Hudson said.
A night later, and Rayna’s burn had healed nicely. She had found the small white rose at her desk, resting over her computer as she came to sit down that night. A small scratched handwritten card lay with it. The writing was crude, but heartfelt against the white paper covered in a scene of small yellow flowers.
"To a Lass who is brave as she is bonnie. The view from the high Tower is the best this time of night… come and see for yourself…"
Rayna grinned, lifting the white rose to her face as she felt the petals caress her lips. Its sweetness enveloped her as she walked up those narrow stairs to the highest spire of the Castle. Indeed the night wind was still and a bit cold, the stars overhead clear and bright.
She half expected to see Goliath and Elisa here. But the tower was empty, save the lone figure that stood with his silvery white hair blowing in the whistling wind. Clutching the Rose, Rayna crept up behind him.
"I got your note," she said, reaching out to touch the cloaked shoulder. The feel of his wings was not quite what she expected. Under her finger she felt soft velveteen, almost like velour over a smooth warmth.
Hudson turned to face her. "Tis a bonnie night. A shame t’ miss it in an infirmary…"
"I’ll live," she said. "If it had been any more direct of a shot, I’d probably have the arm in a sling. But I’m a quick healer."
"Where be the Phoenix gate now?"
"In a safe place. Where few can find it."
"I can’t help but wonder, lass, why ye have such sadness in yer eyes. Ye have what ye set out t’ get, do ye not?" Hudson asked. She lowered her face over the rose, slowly inhaling it’s fragrance. Her own brown hair slipped free of the French braid, a few tendrils whipping into her face.
"What ails ye then. Surely ye can tell me."
"I don’t know if you’d understand. Any of you. It’s very complicated. A long story…"
"We are yer friends, are we not?" Hudson asked. Rayna turned away from him, leaning her arms on the battlement. She peered out over towards Midtown, trying to find central park. In the distance the spire of the Empire State building and the Chrysler echoed each other’s radiance. They seemed not too far away. Even the moon seemed as if she could reach out and grab it in her hand.
Two displaced persons, sitting on a medieval castle's ramparts, glanced out over Manhattan. The planetary geologist who had seen the sun rise on a million worlds. The grizzled mentor and former leader of a gargoyle clan in Scotland who had seen many thousand skirmishes. Both from distant times, he from the past, she from a future that never happened.
"I who have seen the passing of many centuries cannot afford... to become... too close... emotionally to any one person..." Rayna glanced down at her hiking boots.
"Tis a shame. Have ye no Clan, no Family?" the grizzled gargoyle glanced back at her.
"My family," she laughed ironically. "Depends upon what you mean."
"Are they, all gone? Killed in battle, or some strange outer space sort of thing?" he asked, struggling to understand. "Goliath had said ye were no from this world. Much like that creature he and Elisa met on Easter Island..."
"I am not the same race as a Human, or Tuatha, if that's your question," she laughed again. "Another time another world..."
"Aye," Hudson sighed. "Somehow those words have a familiar ring t' me."
"I stole the future that could have been, to forge a greater one for my people. I sacrificed family and race for what I felt was best. In that way I suppose... I am much like your leader Goliath. Many blame me for the extermination of my people..."
"Did ye do yer duty, then?"
"What is duty but an interpretation of what one thinks is right, then tells you what to do?"
"Duty to a Gargoyle is serving the Clan, protecting its place with their life blood," Hudson said. "Ye protected yer people by the sound of it, did ye not?"
"I can tell you perhaps, but I fear many of the words would prove meaningless," she said.
"I know many an old story, lass," Hudson glanced down on the city, his good eye staring off into infinity. White hair fluttered in the midnight breeze. "Try me..."
"There was a time, when my world, my people were enslaved by a power calling themselves Time Lords," she said. "They had the powers of of..."
"Children of Oberon?" Hudson supplied.
"Yes, if you like," she nodded. "Their powers were infinitely above ours, or so they presumed. But they educated many of us for their service. For we learned to cross the boundaries of time and space. To tap into the secrets of the universe. They grew fearful of our potential, and wished to keep us in line. WE hated and feared our masters for how they sought to control us. But there was one of them who seemed to be our savior. She convinced us that there was a way to fight back. And she gave us the weapons and the means."
"Aye, go on," Hudson rested his chin on one claw. He listened intently, both eyes fixed into her face. Rayna had the stature and build of a sturdy woman, large framed and well muscled. Her face was lined with middle age, yet the cheeks were healthy and firm despite the lines that had begun to crease it. The eyes glistened with a strange sadness and wisdom that seemed of the ages. Much like a Magus or sorceress of knowing. Or a Clan Elder he'd recalled centuries ago. A few metallic silver streaks traced through brown curls of hair.
"There was one among our people, the Genomyn, who became her disciple. Learning the ancient mysteries of Time Lords. We called her Ranee. And the disciple, was called Fiona."
"All these names," Hudson muttered to himself. He still didn't understand the human preoccupation with names.
"Those are the only two that need to be known for this story," she joked. "For the Ranee taught Fiona many a secret. Till Fiona herself knew the ways of Time travel. But the other studies of the Ranee she turned a blind eye to. The study of other lives, other beings. Often the Ranee if she fancied a life form would abduct it and take it to her lab on Genomyn. There she would perform experiments..."
"She was a powerful sorceress indeed? Like the warlock Sevarious," Hudson growled, low in his throat.
"Yes, exactly," Rayna nodded. "Breeding creatures for a purpose known only to herself. Fiona came across these experiments, and began to question this Ranee's motives. She learned these creatures and beings were intelligent, and had the same potential her people long ago did before the Time Lords came. She began to realize the Ranee was no better then her other fellow Time Lords. But the Ranee had been good to her, and her friends. She resolved to find out for herself the truth..."
"And what was the truth..."
"The Ranee would spare no one in her quest for knowledge. There were several children from Earth, psychics who she had been studying who had the ability to cross space and time. One with her dreams, and another with his body. Magic without magic. She wanted to know more. But Fiona had been speaking with these children. They were very advanced, more so then she had thought. She realized they were little better then pawns in a game. She resolved to return them home. When the Ranee learned of her disobedience, she swore vengeance. Fiona took a machine that could travel through space and time, and returned the children home. Save one boy who had no true family...."
"And did the Ranee ever capture her?" Hudson asked. "And what was her plan?"
"She wanted Fiona to swear to serve her, and never again disobey. Fiona sent the boy to a place where he would be safe. He met another, a Traveler who often righted the wrongs in the Universe. With his help, Fiona stopped the Ranee's plots on Mantissa. But not before the Ranee released a deadly plague that killed her people. She laughed, saying it was Fiona's fault that her people died..."
"A most devious witch," Hudson growled. "To blame the lass for a good deed..."
"But she was haunted with the reality of what she had done. Let happen. She nearly died stopping the Ranee. And thus the Traveler, who cast a magical spell on her to change her and make her anew, helped her. She rose again as a new person, with a new face and her memories of that past life suppressed as a dream..."
"For a time she forgot, going with the traveler to many a place and time. Helping and learning his ways as she sought to raise the boy on her own. But there came a time when she discovered the spell that was used to save her life was a spell used by the Time Lords, Regeneration. A process by which a Time Lord can live thousands of years..."
"Regeneration?" Hudson asked.
"Yes. When a Time lord is near death, he or she has the power to remake their body anew. The result is a new being with the memories and basic personality of the former. In all ways they appear different, but they have the same memories. But sometimes the process is dangerous, and it can cause amnesia..."
"And they can live forever?"
"No. It can only happen twelve times. Even a Time Lord dies. To save her Life the Traveler had transformed her into that which she hated most. A Time Lord. She was forever changed, no longer a Genomyn. She could not forgive this and they parted ways. For a time she and the boy lived in peace, traveling the Universe to learn. She learned the value of family, of friends. But since she could outlive most, she dared not stay long in one place or time. Only the boy was her family..."
"No clan, no home? How could she survive?"
"By doing good. Helping others with her knowledge...."
"She protected them from danger then, as a gargoyle does," Hudson nodded. "But she had no permanent place to protect. That is a lonely fate..."
"Till she discovered a way that she could go back in Time, and stop her race from being destroyed. Go back to the day that Fiona was constructing that first time machine which brought the Time Lords to her planet in the first place...."
"Ye've lost me lass..."
"The reason the Time Lords conquered Mantissa was because of the time experiments. Fiona and her fellow people had done them. She reasoned that if she stopped this experiment, she would stop the Time Lords from Interfering in her people's history. Then the Ranee would never coerce Fiona into helping her. And the virus would never kill her people..."
"But the past cannot be changed," Hudson interrupted her. "Goliath tried with the Phoenix Gate to slip into the Past. I myself saw him when I was Leader. An older, sadder Goliath appeared before me in a blaze of fire. I scarcely believed it was the same lad... but my instinct told me it could be no other. And the future is as it was..."
"To us there are ways," she sighed. "Would that there wouldn't be. I erased a future that meant no life on Mantissa. And there was an explosion from the time machine that destroyed my world. Only later would I come to know that people had survived... by merging with machines and creating a new life form..."
"Ye mean yer people survived, but they were machine creatures... like Jackal and Hyena... no longer living beings?"
"Something between," she shook her head. "Sometimes I wonder if I... she should have left it alone..."
"Yer clan survived Lass. Ye tried t' protect them... and lost everything," Hudson lay a taloned claw on her shoulder.
"I did..." she glanced down, eyes moist with tears. "And that is why I must be very careful, how close I become to others. That I might destroy them... if I become... too involved..."
"Ye said when ye had traveled, ye helped to protect many. Is that not enau that ye tried? Goliath carries the same burden as ye. Fer our clan was all but wiped clean..."
"I am no better then Demona, your rogue member. For I have taken things upon myself out of hate..."
"Nonsense," Hudson growled. "She has let the hatred consume her. You had nothing but the love of your Clan at heart."
"So did she, Hudson. So did she. She lives forever, seeking to save her kind."
"And ye saved yers. And the lives of my Clan by stopping Demona," Hudson patted her shoulder. "I looked into her eyes, and saw the pain and emptiness of immortality," Rayna shook her head. "I saw... myself for a moment..."
"Hudson is right," boomed Goliath's voice. "If not for you, we would cease to exist. And that is something that is worse then being alive now to regret..."
"I did not see ye there lad," Hudson turned, leaping up from his sitting position on the Castle ledge. Goliath crossed over to Rayna, laying his claw on her shoulder as Hudson had done.
"Did he not tell you I have tampered with time, only to fail?" Goliath asked her. "Do not dare to compare yourself to one corrupted as Demona. She has no idea of the true meaning of Clan..."
"You don't understand, Goliath. I sacrificed my race... and even now that I have interfered... is their live any better? As Machines?"
"They live, and survive. And that is all some of us can do," Goliath clasped her hand in his talon. "And you survive. Be thankful. You succeeded in saving something of the past... and for your mistakes you have attempted to atone..."
"Is all this guilt and self blame worth it lass?" Hudson asked her. "It destroys ye. Let it go, and move on..."
"Hear him, Rayna. If I had let the guilt consume me, I would have not gone on living. For I loved Demona once. And I cannot help think that if I had done things differently she would be different. But it was Fate..."
"Fate," she laughed sadly. "Would that I could escape it..."
"Goliath, I hate to interrupt, but Elisa just called..." Brooklyn suddenly broke in, striding with Delilah, Lexington, and Mute on his heels. The albino gargoyle flushed a shade of green when she saw Rayna's sadness. Lexington lay a hand on her shoulders and she glanced up at them with questioning looks.
"You must excuse me," Rayna said. "It's late... and unlike you I can't regenerate in stone..."
"Funny coming from one who speaks of Regeneration," Hudson couldn't help but joke.
Lex and Brooklyn exchanged glances. Was that Hudson making a joke? He hadn't heard their Mentor crack one for the longest time.
"We hope your rest is peaceful this night. And you have the Clan's gratitude," Goliath pressed her hand. "If you should need our help, do not hesitate to ask..."
"I wont. And Hudson, Goliath. Thank you..."
"Be safe Lass. Are ye certain ye dinna want one of us t' see ye home?"
"No thanks. You've had enough troubles. I'll walk back to the apartment complex. It's not far..."
"It's late," Brooklyn said.
"I've walked across live volcanoes on Io," she laughed. "And Rigel seven! I think I can make it twenty city blocks in Manhattan..."
"Rigel... what?" Brooklyn scratched his head as the planetary geologist left. Hudson continued to watch her carefully with his remaining eye.
"Elisa says there's a big Quarryman hit on Fifth Avenue! The benefit..." Lexington said.
"Best get over there right now..." said Goliath. "Call the rest of the Clan!"
"Already done," Lex nodded. For Broadway and his mate Angela were already up the stairs, at the ready in the cluster with the others. Goliath nodded grimly. His clan had grown by two females already, a much needed resource. He was hesitant to send the gentle backwards Mute out yet.
"Brooklyn, you and I will hit this rally. Delilah, Angela, Broadway, Hudson, you're with me. Lexington... go to Elisa and tell us to meet us there..."
Mute spanned her arms wide, questioning. "Not yet. You still have much to learn. Stay here with Bronx on watch... protect the Xanatoses."
"But doesn't Rayna walk past Madison to go home?" asked Brooklyn.
"I had forgotten," said Goliath, as they leapt onto the battlements to leave.
"I'll keep an eye on the lass," said Hudson.
"Thank you my friend. Make sure our friend is safe. The others, let us go..."
Rayna sighed as she climbed the five floors to her apartment that she shared with another professor at NYU. That person was not here this night, so the place was pretty much to herself. Not bad, Rayna reflected, slipping aside the deadbolts and pulling the door to with relative ease. How odd for a time tripping geologist to end up as a professor of geology on Earth. A backwards planet around a third rate star in a minor galaxy. Or that's how the time lords would see it.
"Doctor, if only you could see me now," she laughed, kicking the door shut with her booted foot. Something seemed amiss, her senses registering odd vibrations in the floor. She rushed to the window by the fire escape, seeing a large garbage truck clanging by.
"False alarm," she muttered crossly. In the distance she could hear shouting and police sirens. It was sheer torture sometimes being in a place with so many people. But circumstances of Time anomalies had prompted her to return here, to one of the most populated places on Earth. The smell of buildings and stone was not unlike that of a quarry, but the masses of people and technology was quite noisy and bothersome. She was birthed on a world with massive technology, but that didn't mean she enjoyed it.
"Perhaps I can find more information on the primitive information system," she chuckled, pressing a button o the remote control. Her roommate's TV clicked into life, the blue glow illuminating the one bedroom apartment. Rayna reached for a sleeping bag stored in one corner of the living room, unrolling it before the television as she prepared for sleep. Her roommate had the twin bed in the other room. They shared the kitchen and living area. When it came to the basic needs, all Rayna required was a flat place to lay her sleeping bag, and a place to prepare her meals. Even a fire under the stars before a tent would suffice.
A lazyboy sofa and a chair were across the room. Her roommate Georgina would never understand why Rayna insisted on sleeping on the floor when the sofa was much more comfortable.
"I love the feel of the ground beneath me. I never liked being up off the floor or the earth. I love to listen to the movement of the crustal plates..." she would protest. Indeed Rayna's hearing and sense of vibration was far different from humans. Her eyes could glimpse ultraviolet light, in shorter frequency then human eyes. Added to that, her strength was five times that of a humans due to her native planet being that much greater of a gravity pull. All talents ideal for survival outdoors in harsh environments.
"Give me the stars overhead, and a flat stretch of ground and I'll be happy. But this is diverting..." she laughed, fetching a can of what humans called diet soda from the refrigeration unit. Unlike many beverages on her world, the bubbles made her a bit giddy. She was one of the few people who got drunk on diet coke. But the phenylalanine worked much like alcohol did on humans.
"This is Travis Marshal. Late breaking news, the demonstration on Fifth Avenue was successfully thwarted due to the activities of those winged avengers of the night, the Gargoyles. Detective Bluestone could not be reached for comment. But citizens are advised to stay indoors and keep their doors locked against possible escaping Quarrymen..."
"A demonstration," she sighed, laying on her stomach on the sleeping bag. "When will these humans learn to give up?"
Suddenly the room felt rather confining. The geologist climbed to her feet, moving over to the windows. Slipping the latch, she drew it open to the fire escape. Five floors up the street was still relatively close, but far enough away to get a good look. Rayna leaned out, inhaling the night air. She coughed in the taint of carbon monoxide and other pollutants, sighing. Still the sounds of sirens and car horns echoed into the rumble of cacophony and the television. An ocean of noise she drifted away upon.
It wasn't till she just heard the sound of sizzling ozone that she whirled about. A hammer flashed down, blue ribbons of lightening licking around it as it slammed into the wall near her shoulder. Rayna nimbly leapt as the Quarryman took yet another swing at her.
"What in Matrix," she gasped, as she ducked yet another swing. It crashed into the fire escape, metal sizzling under her boots.
"That'll teach you, you gargoyle lover!" snarled the assailant. Rayna leapt off the sizzling metal, an instant before it melted under the hammer's heat. Fingers gripped the sides of the building, grinding into sheer brick.
Another quarryman leapt out of her widow, as the first slammed his hammer towards her. She inched away, across the brick wall of the brownstone. "Not if you can't get me!" she laughed.
"What the hell? How can she climb that wall?" one asked.
"I don't give a shit how! Get her or Castaway will have our heads!"
Pistol shots crackled near her, as she continued to climb. One of the others below began to shimmy up the fire escape after her.
She kicked at the escape's ladder, the force shaking the whole flimsy structure. "Get away from me you stupid ignorant savages!" she shouted, as she continued to climb. Glancing up she saw black hooded figures climbing down towards her.
"Rassilon curse you!" she snapped. "Can't you leave me in peace? I'm just a scientist... a teacher..."
"We saw you in their company! You will not be allowed to pollute the minds of the young with your sympathy!" called one from above.
Rayna gripped the steel of the fire escape, concentrating. Heat slowly built up, under the hands of the Quarrymen climbing it. Molecules increased in their movement with a single thought. The fellow from below scrambled off, as his partner let go, hurtling towards the pavement.
Just then one of them repelled down, slipping beside her on a rope as he swung near. Rayna gripped the wall with only her fingers, kicking him away. He swung back, cocking his hammer with one hand. Sizzling lightening shot forth, slamming into the wall as she swung on her one arm and gripped the wall with her other hand. The sheer force in her fingers allowed her to grip the mortar filled spaces between bricks as she scrambled up.
Suddenly there came the sound of gunfire, crackling near her. She could not go up or down. Somehow she didn't wish to let go, even if she might survive the fall.
A frantic yelling ensued, and the cluster of Quarrymen on the roof vanished in a flurry of black. What were they plotting next, she wondered. Anxiously she scrambled the rest of the way up, swinging her legs over the ledge to stand on the tar beach that was the roof. Air vents whirled in the midnight breeze.
A sharp kick landed in her back. She tumbled over, rolling back to her feet to face her attacker who had come out of nowhere. A shimmering appeared before her eyes, followed by laughter. She felt the sizzle of bullets, and knew it was near. The movement of the air, the sound of a heartbeat as she ducked, and slammed her shoulder into the invisible shimmering.
A quarryman scrambled up his rope, watching the woman fighting off an invisible enemy. "I'm behind her," he whispered to his partner who scrabbled up behind him from the fire escape
A punch landed in the pit of Rayna's stomach. Gritting her teeth she reached, felt, and tossed something over her shoulder. There came a horrified scream as something shot over her shoulder, shimmering as it flew over the edge. Seconds later there came a bone jarring crump as it landed on the street below.
"She got... Reynolds," the one said to the other.
"Get her!" shouted a flurry of voices. From behind the chimney and air vent came two figures. Rayna raised her hands to defend herself.
"Stop, or you won't get hurt..." she snapped, eyes narrowing.
"That's our line, bitch!" laughed another. "This is the end of the road."
Hammers swung towards her, as she dodged them. Whirling about she saw the two who had just climbed over to join the assault. Rayna leapt up, whirling over their heads with a ten foot leap. She rolled, almost near the ledge...
A hammer sizzled into her back, a scream erupting from her throat. Hands seized her, pinioning her wrists.
"So you like climbing, huh?" the woman laughed from behind her hood. "Try climbing now..."
Rayna dropped, flipping her hands over her head as two quarrymen holding her flew over her shoulders. She leapt over the wall, gripping the ledge with her hands.
A hammer bashed inches from her grip. She swung, fingers scrabbling for a handhold. To find none. Precariously she dangled by her fingers, blackness under her feet.
She levered down with her hand, intending to swing on her arm to the safety of the roof again. But quarrymen blocked. She was at the corner.
Two hammers bashed simultaneously, cracking into masonry on either side of her grasp. The stone gave way under her weight, Rayna gasping as she struggled to swing up. Empty air hit her back as she swung out from the building.
"No!" she cried.
That minute something snared her wrist, latching around it for grim death. A jarring arrested her fall. She gripped the wall after she caught her breath, hugging the stone with a breathing form beside her, steadying her as a claw gripped her waist.
"I have ye lass," came the voice.
"Hudson???" she gasped, scarcely believing who it was who'd saved her. He launched himself, scrambling over the wall with sword drawn. Shouts and cries mingled with the sizzling of hammers. She scrambled up again, peering over the ledge at the melee going on above. Rayna scrambled over the ledge, rolling onto the tar beech, then to her feet again. Her fist landed on the nearest unsuspecting quarrymen's jaw. Beneath her fist she felt the cracking of bone under flesh. Really she didn't hit that hard...
Hudson roared, blade whispering into the night air as it cleaved the base of a Quarryman's hammer. His tail tripped the assailant sneaking up behind. Rayna's hiking booted foot slammed into another quarryman, propelling her nearly fifteen feet across the tar beech. Two down, two to go. Hammerless, the first assailant unholstered his pistol while the other's hammer clanged against Hudson's sword. The current shot through him, stunning him.
Rayna leapt up, pivoting her body as her foot contacted the man in midair. His hammer clattered down to the tar beach. Momentarily stunned, Hudson's clawed foot slashed at the last one's arm. He cried out, stumbling away in shock.
"Are you..." Rayna asked, helping the old gargoyle to stand.
"Look out!" Hudson snapped, pulling her down with him. A final hammer swung over both their heads. A quick lash of the tail around the fellow's legs followed by a punch from Rayna knocked him senseless.
"I abhor violence," she grumbled, elbowing Hudson to his feet. Still he moved in a daze, the electricity shock having stunned him.
"Tis... a few hours... till dawn," he grunted. "So... dizzy..."
"I'd better get you indoors," Rayna said. "My apartment's the best place. I'll call the local authorities to pick up their captives... and you can rest..."
"I thank ye... lass..." Hudson panted, leaning rather heavily on her. "Would not want t' be troubling ye..."
"You saved my life, quite possibly..." she panted, wrestling him down the stairs to the roof. And into the hallway. "I'm glad you did... trouble me..."
"Goliath... when he heard about the riot... thought it would be best... fer ye t' be protected... seeing as ye live not far..."
"Easy, we're almost there..."
"Ye are quite strong... for a lass," he muttered appreciatively.
"I'm no ordinary lass," she laughed. "Now come in, and sit down. Not much of a place by Earth standards, but I don't need much for comfort..."
Holding him with one arm she managed to slam the door with her foot. Lifting up under him she carried Hudson to the sofa, gently laying him down. "There's no need t carry me like some bairn!" he protested. "I am still capable o' walking..."
"Oh hush! Just lay down. I'll get you some liquid refreshment..." she chided. "Now lay still. There was no telling how many amperes that traveled through your nervous system..."
Hudson noticed the television was on. Travis Marshal's features vanished into the background closing credits. Still his muscles ached as if someone had smashed him into a steel plated wall.
"Curse that confounded electricity," he muttered crossly. Then settled into place as she returned with hot chocolate.
"This ought to balance you up a little. We had tea, but I'll start with the sugar first..."
"I'm telling ye there's no need t' fuss..."
"And I'm telling you if you don't relax you're going to rupture something. That electricity could have caused some damage in your nerves...."
He rested there for a time, slowly regaining his strength. Too weak to argue with her, he accepted the steaming mug of hot chocolate. Caping his wings he sat up, and watched the television intently. Rayna settled down next to him, setting a bowl of what appeared to be raw carrots and potato chips before them.
"You'd think I was asking you to jump into a warp field with your wings tied," she laughed. "Instead of drinking a cup of hot chocolate."
Hudson didn't really get what a warp field was, but he guessed the gist of her saying, "Forgive me Lass, but 'tis my duty to protect ye. Goliath ordered it. So when I have ye protecting me... it's a bit awkward..."
"Didn't your females tend your wounds after a battle, so you might fight more effectively next time..."
He opened his mouth to spit out some rejoinder, then realized since he was in her apartment it might be very rude and unbecoming of a warrior. Instead he thought for a moment, letting slip a small laugh, "Ye are right lass. Tis hard for an old warrior such as I am t' let myself be... taken care of fer a change..."
"You haven't had a mate for a while I take it," Rayna guessed.
"Aye! Been many years... centuries even, since a female other then a rookery sister or daughter tended me, lass..."
"I'm hardly a lass," she smiled. "But it's flattering to be called one..."
"Tis not polite to presume a lady's age," he said gruffly.
"Age is subjective," she smiled. "When you encounter as many species as I have, they run the whole spectrum. From those beings who life their span of life in a few years, to those that live upwards of thousands..."
"I have known some gargoyles in my own clan t' live fair near two hundred winters," Hudson scratched his chin beneath his whiskers. "But if the truth be told I am myself a hundred..."
"That is young for a Time Lord," she nodded. "And for my own people before I was... transformed, it is still young... the first fifth of my life."
"Its no polite t' tell yer age, and I shuild not be knowing such a thing," he cautioned, half serious. He took another sizable swig of his hot chocolate, clearly feeling more his old self.
"Well, since we are friends here, I don't mind admitting. Two hundred of those being in this life, and the other five hundred in the previous... two hundred and fifty of that in the servitude of the Ranee..."
"If ye dinnae mind me asking, is that in yer people's years or the years of this world?" Hudson pointed out.
"Hmm... since you asked, one of our years... a Gallifreyan standard year... is about five to every seven of yours... so in reality I'm seven hundred give or take a few decades..."
"And I'd be over one thousand by the count of the stone sleep..." he laughed.
An odd wave passed between the two, and they lapsed into silence. Hudson glanced at the television, watching as a late night movie began. One of those sentimental romance pictures no doubt. Scooping up the remote he punched channels till he came upon a news network. Rayna's own eyes were fixed to the tube, but she didn't appear to notice his grazing. Those dark eyes gazed into a far-off dimension beyond the room, the television itself. For a human she might be considered comely, yet still attractive. How foolish and odd their standards of what was considered handsome or beautiful were, Hudson reflected. A wispy waif unhealthy lass with little meat on her bones was considered the ideal of this time. Whereas in his time a woman if she had a perfect set of teeth, clear skin, sturdy hips and hands for women's work was considered lovely.
And among gargoyles, his clan, there were different standards of beauty. A tapering tail that flared to a fine point, a lovely graceful curve to the brow ridge, and to the wing. High foot arches, ending in lovely sharpened claws. The females admired males with a long wide wingspan for gliding. And sizable brow horns were a definite yes for choosing a mate. Not necessarily the shape of the body or the taper of a female's waist. But how she would carry herself for egg rearing with wide hips and flanks. Or the male how he'd bellow loudly to scare off the competition, gnashing long sharp fangs. A different world altogether.
She had saved his Clan with all the bravery of a gargoyle warrior. A few minutes ago she had saved him, bringing him into the safety of her small modest apartment. Old urges surfaced in him, long dormant. Such bravery reminded him of one long ago. An ache filled him, centuries old. She was alone as he...
"I'm an old fool t' be thinking such thoughts," he muttered.
"What was that?" Rayna asked, snapping back into their dimension again.
"Old thoughts, best left buried," Hudson quickly said, flipping to a channel that had an old western movie playing. Jon Wayne. At that moment she looked so stoic, and so alone.
"It surely must be lonely without a clan... chasing across eternity. Don't ye ever long... to have a family, friends, a Clan again?"
"I cannot afford to get too involved..." she laughed sadly. "People start wanting me to stay... and there is a universe to explore, and so many who need help..."
"Not even for a few years? A lifetime?"
"Hudson, I can't get too involved... for sometimes my presence brings pain... when they find out my true nature..."
"A poor excuse to chose loneliness for a chance at fellowship. Did ye ever think how much ye would gain if ye did stop and settle down fer a while?"
"I do... here and now for Callom's sake. But when he's old enough... he'll no longer need me..."
"Nonsense. A bairn needs guidance even into their adult years. Someone t' ask for advice. You mean to tell me ye've not even had a mate among yer kind?"
"I am the last of my kind... and Time Lord males are not interested in such trivial things as emotional relationships of a romantic nature..."
"And are they wiser fer it?" Hudson asked. "No family?"
"Heh, they do have their urges, even though they deny it. I have had... lovers... time and again when the need has arisen..."
"And have you never stayed wi any?"
"I cannot afford to, Hudson. For I would outlive them... they would grow old and die... those that I have loved...."
"Are you alone... because ye are immortal... long lived... or because ye choose to be?"
"I beg your pardon..."
"E spend so much time pushing those that would get close away, because ye dinna want t' be hurt. That's not living, that's merely existing..."
"I live!" she protested. "I help countless people... beings... as many as I can..."
"That's not the way t' gain friends. Trust and comrades perhaps. But haven't ye ever let others get t' know yer true self... trust is earned, but friendship is nurtured. Haven't ye ever helped yerself to home... to a place you can call home?"
"Canna or will not?" he asked. "When yer alone... do ye have memories t' keep you company, to fill the emptiness? I have lived many a year, a long life. Seen many I call friends and Clan die, including my mate. Yet there are the young in the rookery, hatching fer the next generation. The Clan continues, always there. And when it continues, I know that my days have not been wasted. In the lonely years their goings on fill my days, and I am content... to know I had once loved, and brought about their hatching..."
"What are you saying?"
"Take the risk, Lass. Fill those years however many they may be with love. They are worth the pain of loss, the sorrow. It makes life worth living..."
"My help of others..."
"Let them help you, Rayna. Let them be your friends, your Clan..."
"Your words... are true," she looked down, setting her mug aside. Slowly she hugged herself, shivering.
"And ye are still alone... but no longer. Ye saved my Clan, saved my life. The Clan calls ye friend, and ally..." Hudson continued, clasping her hand in one of his powerful ones. Three fingered and large enough to swallow her small hand twice over.
"Those... that I have loved... once they learned my secret... were either afraid I'd outlive them, or afraid I'd injure them..."
"Injure?" Hudson raised a brow ridge.
"I am stronger then human beings. Even though I am Time Lord I still have five times the strength of a human being. That is another... difficulty..."
"Ye are the same strength as a gargoyle then," he chuckled, taking another swig of his hot chocolate. Was that a twinkle in his good eye. What humans would call a pass?
"I had forgotten that," she laughed. His claw rested on her shoulder, patting it.
"No apologies needed, lass. We had saved each other's lives in battle. And that is a bond of respect between warriors who have fought side by side. For that I am most grateful..." and here he gripped her hand in his gently pressing a kiss to it.
"You are a unique life form, and an endangered species," she blushed. "You did rescue me, and I'm so used to saving others..."
"By the Dragon you are a puzzle," he shook his head. "For all yer knowledge and years ye seem t' miss the most simplest of things. Friends, clan, those that would name you a comrade..."
He folded his arms, drawing one taloned foot to rest on his knee. His tail curled around his bottom, its tip twitching as a cat's would.
"And you are indeed wise yourself," she acknowledged. "Some of the Time Lords that call the life forms on this planet backwards are indeed at a los... oh!"
She shrieked as she felt something brushing lightly against her knee. Hot chocolate landed on the floor, and she and Hudson both dropped to their knees in an effort to dab it up. "Do forgive me lass," he apologized, glancing up at her on her hands and knees. "I canna think what possessed me to..."
"An involuntary muscle spasm?" she grinned wryly, the corners of her lips twitching.
"That sounds like something out of a fancy book Lexington's fond of reading," Hudson grumbled, helping her to her feet as they both sat down again. Luckily the towel had taken most of the offending hot chocolate away. Still she rose and took the mugs back to the kitchen.
"You should still take it easy," she said, returning with a damp towel. She began to work the rest of the stain out.
"Dawn is still hours away," he reflected, reaching down to help. "There is no telling if those Quarrymen are still out there... and Goliath did ask me to protect ye..."
"I'm fine Hudson," she laughed.
"A gargoyle can sooner go without protecting then breathing the air..." he began, taking her hand. "Yer fair as cold as stone..."
"Funny coming from one who turns to sillacacious form during the day..." she quipped. Still his hand clasped around hers, rubbing it lightly. "I... my body temperature is supposed to be lower. I am not human... remember..."
"And what other differences... pray tell be there?" Hudson asked. That hand seemed small and yet so strong in his large ones. Both sets of eyes locked, she seemed not at all shocked to look him straight in the face. Hudson lifted her shaking hand to his lips, not quite sure where this was all going. Why was he saying such fool things before a lass? And why do one who was not a gargoyle?
"Was that what humans call a pass?" she teased.
"No... I mean..." Hudson coughed, letting go of her hand as he shifted uncomfortably. "Och curse it..."
"How sweet, I'm flattered," she beamed, a smile breaking that melancholy. Her hand seized his again, gently stroking it with strong fingers. Hudson saw the gleam of excitement within her own dark eyes, and grunted affirming in reply. A loss for words. He lost further reason when her lips gently caressed his' hand's back, covering its surface with light feather touches of her lips. His tail lightly brushed against the backs of her calves,. She responded by stroking the back of her hand lightly across his brow ridge, as a female gargoyle would. Hudson's throat dried, his breath quickens in his chest. Automatically his tail twined around her leg, refusing to let go despite his impulses. Slowly his other hand traced her cheek, moving lightly over her ear, to the forest of soft thick hair.
She inhaled sharply, continuing to caress his cheek, his brow ridges. "Ye... ken... the ways of a gargoyle..." he stammered out.
"Not too different from dragons, or other species," she raised an eyebrow. Taloned hands gripped her waist, pulling her close to him. Granted he was a bit advanced in age, thicker about the middle then Goliath, but he was still well muscled and strong. Her hands slipped from his face to trace over his battle harness and the texture of his arms, as his own claws lightly ran between her shoulder blades. Rayna drew in her breath in a deep rushing sigh, eyes shutting with pleasure. Fingers traced along his wing, to where they met his shoulder blades in mid back. It was Hudson's turn to gasp, one that turned into a low growl.
"Lass," he managed to get out. "Ye... make it fair impossible to resist..."
"I... had hoped so..." she whispered, pressing her forehead to his. Lightly she caressed his brow with hers.
"Mm," she hummed. Hudson glanced sidelong at the television, desperate for some inspiration as he punched the remote with one hand. A love scene snapped on, two lovers in a similar embrace. Why the humans were so preoccupied with touching lips was beyond him. Yet he was curious enough to try now that the opportunity presented itself. After all, she did *look* human. Hudson's beard brushed against her cheek as he leaned forwards to press a kiss to her lips. She giggled through it, brief and awkward though it was, it was enough for him to taste the surprising softness there present. Quite nice... actually. Arms folded behind his head, her lips finding his behind closed eyes. Softly they worked their way over his, her fingers slipping down his back again. Hot breath surged between them as her mouth opened to his, a shock and delight to feel her tongue working its way over fine sharp teeth with such delicacy. Hudson's muscles lost all control, melting under her touch.
"Perhaps..." he breathed, as their kiss broke again. "We shuild nae continue... tis not proper fer me t’ take on so w’ a lass…"
"I'm no gargoyle, remember," she winked, gripping his tail and working her fingers along it. "But Matrix this is the first time in ages I have felt... so content..."
"Ye wuild no think I'm taking advantage..." he got out before she shushed him. A yawn nearly split her head in two.
"Excuse me," she chuckled.
"Ye need a bit o' sleep then," he grunted. He lifted her into his arms as he got up, gently carrying her towards the back bedroom.
"I don't sleep in beds, they are not near the earth..."
"Nonsense," he chuckled, laying her down on the double bed. "Unless yer roommate..."
"Is away on a trip. And asks no questions. Even if a gargoyle statue appears in the apartment."
Tenderly he stroked her hair, slipping the covers over her. She saw the movement as he buckled his sword at his side. A last brush of his lips on her brow, and a soft whisper of farewell as he vanished into the other room.
end of part 1. Stay tuned for part 2, "Second Metamorphosis"