Author: WarlordFil PM
There's no peace for hapless Vinnie Gregarino when Jackal and Hyena are attacking, the girl he likes is in danger...and Alex Xanatos has just switched Vinnie's body with that of an Illuminati assassin. In three parts.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Humor - Vinnie G. & Alexander X. - Chapters: 3 - Words: 18,475 - Favs: 2 - Updated: 02-03-10 - Published: 12-01-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5550180
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AUTHOR'S NOTE #1: Thanks to Christi "Spike" Smith Hayden, who made me repeat a remark in chat about Wagner and his dear friend, "Mr. Handgun," and Todd Jensen, who compared that to Vinnie's "Mr. Carter" and started this whole thing. To Amy K. "Eddie" Cyrway, for her advice on fine vehicles and speed limits. To Kellie Fay and Mat "Mer" Little for more speed limit advice. To Dylan P. "Whitbourne" Blacquiere, for shoptalk discussions, especially where villains are concerned. To Dave "Wingless" Sampson, for the Gargoyles Series II cards; the Jackal and Hyena ones were a big help here. And to everyone else in the chat room the night this story was born. This is all your fault, guys. Hope you enjoy it.
The Gargoyles characters are the property of Disney; this story is written for fun, not profit. "Dangerous" is sung by Roxette. Wagner, Aashlee and Sophia are my own.
AUTHOR'S NOTE #2: This is a rather old fanfic, dating back at least ten years and likely more. I'm still trying to find Aashlee's origin story, and the full tale of Wagner's first involvement with the Manhattan Clan was never completed. Nevertheless, I think the story remains entertaining, with plenty of canon characters and the ever-hapless Vinnie, and so I present it here.
Chapter the First (of three)
SUNSET THE EYRIE BUILDING NEW YORK CITY
"Truly magnificent," Hudson decreed, as a swirl of magic returned him to his gargoyle form. The assembled gargoyles--Broadway and Angela, Brooklyn and Aashlee, Lexington, Griff and Bronx--watched as the elderly warrior bent over Alexander Fox Xanatos, nestled in Owen's arms, and shook his hand with a gentle talon. "Thank ye, laddie, for letting me see the sunrise once in my long life."
"How was your day as a human?" Broadway asked with a grin, brushing his recently shed stone skin off the parapets of Castle Wyvern.
Hudson straightened his back, stretching. "Bright. Loud. Exhausting. An experience, to be sure, but I don't think it's something I'll be doing again." Bronx sniffed curiously at Hudson, and sneezed. "Aye, you don't like those daytime smells either, I'll warrant."
Alex gurgled and looked up at Owen curiously. "Goo?" he asked, pointing at Angela.
"No," Owen said. "It's not something _you'll_ be doing for a while either." A frown appeared on the toddler's face, and Owen smiled. "But I _will_ promise that we'll do something interesting later on."
"As long as it's not to me," Angela said, waving at Alex. "Broadway, Lex and I are on patrol tonight and tomorrow, and we don't need to be turning into toads in the middle of it."
"Toads are an elementary level spell," Owen replied seriously. "Alex is moving on to more complicated incantations now."
"Great," Brooklyn replied.
"Would you like to be a volunteer?"
"Oh, no. Not me," the red gargoyle said with an "are-you-NUTS??" look on his face.
"It's completely painless, and I give my personal guarantee that if Alex has difficulty, I will assist him in rectifying the situation," Owen offered.
"Thanks, but no thanks." Brooklyn looked over at Aashlee, his latest expression conveying the message "HELP ME!" as clearly as if he'd spoken the words.
Aashlee wrapped her pale white arms around her boyfriend's neck and kissed his beak. "I kind of like him the way he is," Aashlee said. Then she winked mischievously and added, "Maybe tomorrow." She laughed as Brooklyn's eyes widened in fear that was only partially feigned.
"Excuse us, then," Owen said, and he and Alex took their leave.
"Goliath must have spent the day at Elisa's," Angela said, seeing no sign of her father.
"When's Griff getting back from the concert?" Broadway asked.
Brooklyn shrugged. "Beats me."
"I hope it's after my father leaves," Aashlee worried, twisting a strand of bright pink hair in her five-taloned hand.
"Hey, it'll be all right," Brooklyn said, taking her other hand. "Wagner and Griff just need a little time to cool down and work out their differences, that's all."
"Wagner's a gun-happy maniac!" Broadway protested. "He's not going to sit down and work out his differences!"
"What do you expect?" Lexington replied defensively. "The Illuminati made him be an assassin for a hundred years! How's he supposed to act?"
"But those days are over," Angela said. "It doesn't seem like he's changed all that much."
"Your mother!" Aashlee snapped, eyes reddening as she glared at Angela. Angela's eyes flared in response.
"Whoa, whoa!" Brooklyn protested, stepping between the two females. "Let's not get into this again. Wagner and Griff will settle it themselves. They don't need us to interfere, and we can't afford to take sides. We are all one clan!" Hudson nodded agreement, a frown of worry creasing his face.
"Sorry," Aashlee said, looking up at Angela, who nodded in reply.
"I didn't mean that," Broadway said, scuffling a talon on the floor. "His past just kind of bothers me. You know how I feel about guns."
"It bothers him too," the white gargoyle said quietly, staring out over the city. "He doesn't tell me much about it."
"Well, I suppose the muggers aren't going to wait for us. Come on, let's go on patrol," Broadway suggested. He and Angela took off towards the east.
Minutes later, a most unusual gargoyle walked out onto the parapets. Were it not for the long black wings on his back, anyone would mistake him for a human. He was six feet tall with chiselled Aryan features, crystal blue eyes and golden blond hair that fell in long bangs over his right eyebrow. Yes, he had eyebrows, and fingernails on his five-fingered hands. He was not a half-breed; he was a pure-blooded gargoyle who had been carved during daylight hours into the form of a human man. He retained only the wings and fangs as souvenirs of what he had once been before he became the Illuminati's undercover assassin.
"Vati!" Aashlee cried, and Wagner bent down to welcome his adopted daughter with a hug.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," Sophia Lorenz sighed to her co-worker, many stories below the castle. The other security guard just nodded and reached for a donut, looking very bored.
Vinnie Gregarino brushed his unkempt hair underneath his Xanatos Enterprises uniform hat and peered out from the systems control center at Sophia. He'd come back from Japan with credentials good enough to land him a job at the Eyrie Building, and as far as Vinnie was concerned, Sophia was the best part of the job. Gee, she was pretty. She had long black hair, currently brushed back into a bun, and dark Latin eyes. And she never made fun of him, not even on the night when he'd tripped and fallen into the ornamental fountain. ~She's always so nice...I'd sure like to do something for her for a change.~
Vinnie summoned up all his courage and forced himself to walk over to her. "Problem, Sophia?" he choked out.
She turned to him. "My daughter's school has a carnival fundraiser on the weekend, and my ex said he'd help set up a Dunk-the-Teacher booth...only now, he's decided he'd rather go golfing with his buddies. I haven't got the means or the money to get together something big like that." She sighed bitterly. "It's the same story every time. He's never kept a promise in his life, so why did I actually think he'd come through now?"
"Gee, that's really rough, Sophie." Vinnie scratched his head, and suddenly his eyes lit up. "Maybe I got somethin' that'll help you out." Sophia's eyes brightened, and Vinnie shuffled his foot, staring at the floor. "What about hittin' the teacher with a cream pie?"
"Yeah. 'Cause I...well, I...I gotta pie gun. Fires cream pies. If you can bake 'em, I can loan you the pie gun..."
Sophia's face broke into a smile. "A pie gun. That'd be great, Vinnie. I'd really appreciate that." And then, just to make his night complete, she gave him a hug.
"Sure, Sophia," he whispered. "I'll bring it tomorrow."
ONE HOUR BEFORE SUNRISE
Alex woke up an hour before sunrise and toddled off to Owen's quarters. The blond major domo woke up to an insistent tugging on his arm. "Magic! Magic now!"
Owen blinked his eyes, realized what was going on, and changed into something more appropriate. In an instant, the Puck hovered upside-down above Owen's bed.
"What we learn?" Alex asked impatiently.
"We're going to learn about...mind-switching!"
"Done that," Alex said, and Puck shook his head.
"No, it's a little different than soul transference, my boy. Instead of just moving a soul, we pick two people and put each one's mind in the other one's body! It's _lots_ of fun!"
"Me and Lex," Alex suggested.
"Hmmm. You've done a lot of magic with Lexington. Let's pick someone new, all right?" ~Lex is getting _soooo_ boring.~
"Hmmm." Alex tried to twist his face into the same expression as Puck's. "Lisa an' Mona?"
"Lisa an' Mona! Angla wanna talk wif Mona!"
Puck's blood ran a little cold when he realized what Alex was suggesting. "No, Alex, we mustn't cast any spells on Demona." ~Not till your command of magic is better than hers, anyway...~ The Owen part of him filed that in a place in his brain which, if mental files had names, would be labelled "FUN A FEW YEARS DOWN THE ROAD." "Oh, we can pick our lucky guest victims later. First, I'll teach you how to cast this spell." He transformed into Owen.
"Mind switching is best done when both subjects are in a state of rest," Owen lectured. "It takes a while for a mind to become accustomed to another person's body. This is most comfortably accomplished if the subjects are asleep. In this manner, the process of acclimatization can occur without placing undue stress on the subjects."
Alex's attention was drifting, just like a typical student. He sent out a mind-probe, searching for other people in the castle. Mommy, working out in the gym. Hudson, watching television with Bronx at his feet. Brooklyn and Aashlee...yuck, mushy stuff! Daddy, talking on the phone. And...wait, who was this?
The new gargoyle. The one who looked like a man. Alex hadn't seen him around lately.
The toddler gurgled, and decided to show Mr. Wagner one of his new tricks.
Wagner sighed as he watched his adopted daughter and Brooklyn walk back into the castle, holding hands. "Young love. I hope they're luckier than I was. Ah, well." He folded his wings and took the elevator down to the lobby.
It was a nice night. Wagner enjoyed the walk down the street to the place where he'd parked his car. Humans passed him on both sides, never once suspecting that the tall blond man in the crowd was really a gargoyle with a pair of folded wings under his black leather jacket.
Wagner's car certainly stood out in the lot. He had a black 1998 Mercedes that he usually drove around, but tonight he'd taken the new car over to Macbeth's and picked up his pride and joy. He ran his hand lovingly over the hood. He'd owned this car since the Second World War.
It was a black Mercedes staff car, complete with the large white crosses on the doors. The vehicle was not in mint vintage condition--he'd installed an unleaded gas system, leather seats, a stereo with cassette tape and now, CD. He customized it as he pleased. Ah, it was good to drive it around every once in a while and remember the old days. A lot of his history was tied up in this car.
Wagner was about to put his key in the lock when suddenly his surroundings went blurry and vanished.
Alarmed, Wagner drew his Walther PPK handgun from his pocket, and was holding it at the ready when the world fuzzed back in...to Owen's room. Owen was holding Alex and looking at the newcomer with a frown.
"Please, Mr. Wagner, no weapons near the child."
"I didn't realize I was _going_ to be near the child," Wagner retorted, a little shaken. "How ya doin', kid?" He ruffled Alex's hair.
"And as for you, young man," Owen frowned, "you can have visitors after your lessons are over."
Wagner shook his head. ~God, I hate magic.~ The humanlike gargoyle looked down at Alex and couldn't help a smile. Ex-assassin or no, he had a weakness for children.
~What would my son have been like?~ He felt a tear welling up in his eye, and forced it away. ~My son's been dead for over sixty years.~ He would mourn for him again--but not here, and not now.
"Play?" Alex asked.
"Maybe later," Wagner choked out, thoughts of his little Rommel still in his mind, and turned away.
~Yes. Later,~ Alex thought.
While Owen showed Wagner to the door, Alex toddled over to Owen's bedside table and began to run his hands over of Owen's briefcase. The case was hanging out over the edge of the night table, and the second Alex pressed down on that corner a little too hard, the briefcase obeyed the laws of gravity and tumbled to the floor, splitting open with the force of the impact. A sheaf of personnel folders spilled out from inside.
Owen vanished in a puff of smoke. The smoke curled across the room and coalesced into Puck. "Well, now, isn't _he_ a spoil-sport," Puck said. "_I_ think it would serve that trigger-happy sourpuss right if someone pulled a little prank on him." Puck grinned widely. "What do you say, Alexander?"
Alex was staring at a the file folder on the top of the heap. It was labelled GREGARINO, VINCENT. The toddler picked it up and peered with curiosity at the photo of the young man and his records. Of all the files in Owen's briefcase, the odds of this one particular file getting Alexander's attention would seem to be very low.
But then again, that was just Vinnie's luck.
The Puck took the file from Alex and flipped through it. "Ah, yes, Mr. Gregarino. He hardly _needs_ anyone to play pranks on him; he's a laugh as it is!"
"Switch?" Alex asked.
Puck laughed uproariously. This kid was turning out just like his teacher! "Yes, Alex. I think Vinnie will work out nicely with this spell."
"Switch Winny...who with?"
Puck remembered the cold glance he'd earned from the mercenary gargoyle. ~Poor sport.~ "Kid, how would you like to show Mr. Wagner your latest and greatest?"
Owen made Alex clean up the spilled files using a levitation and transport spell. By the time everything was neatly back in Owen's briefcase, the sun had risen and the Manhattan clan were simply a cluster of stone statues on Castle Wyvern's parapets. Wagner had crept into his bed ten minutes before sunrise, indulging himself in the human pleasure of curling up on a soft mattress and wrapping himself in cozy blankets. Vinnie Gregarino had finished his shift and was just heading home to his apartment when Puck began to lecture Alex on the particularities of a mind-switch spell. And last of all, Demona began the painful transformation to Dominique Destine.
When the experience was over (at least the agony--the indignation of being trapped in a human body would remain until sunset), Demona changed out of her halter and loincloth and into a scarlet power suit, ready to begin another day as the CEO of Nightstone Unlimited. Her first appointment of the morning was with two individuals she had never actually met in person. According to Xanatos, they, their two compatriots, and Xanatos' own wife had given Goliath and the clan some incredible fights. How ironic that Xanatos' former mercenaries were now about to be used against him.
A press of a button slid the secret access panel shut again, hiding the room behind Dominique's office where she kept her private things, including her gargoyle clothing. Seconds later, there was a knock at the door, and a very frightened looking aide ushered in the two people she had asked to see.
"Ah, Mr. Jackal and Ms. Hyena," she said.
"Hey, nice place," Hyena said, looking around.
"You said you had a job for us," Jackal said in his smooth, hollow voice, as Hyena began to examine the liquid-filled "stress-reliever" novelty sitting on Dominique Destine's desk.
Indeed she did. She and Thailog had founded Nightstone Unlimited together, but she had allowed Thailog to concentrate on running the business side of things while she devoted her attention to such things as Operation Clean Slate and the cloning of her own clan. Now, with Thailog gone, Demona had to run the practical side of the business as well, and unlike Thailog, she did not have the benefit of having business savvy pre-programmed in her brain. She'd had to learn it herself, and along the way, she'd made a few mistakes. As a result, Nightstone Unlimited had fallen well behind Cyberbiotics and Xanatos Enterprises in the markets. Now, Demona intended to even the odds a little by dealing a damaging blow to Xanatos' corporation.
"Yes," she said. "You are to break into the Eyrie Building and retrieve blueprints and plans for Xanatos Enterprise's latest projects. After you have taken all you can carry, I want you to destroy the entire sub basement area." She'd pirate the stolen designs, and as for the rest, well, Xanatos would just have to start from scratch, wouldn't he? The time delay would give Nightstone Unlimited a real market edge.
"Sounds like fun," Hyena said with a wicked glint in her eyes.
"Sub basement?" Jackal repeated.
"Yes. That is where their secret plans for upcoming projects are stored," Demona explained.
"So much for our rocket boosters, then," Hyena snorted, "but hey, come on, brother. We get to trash the rich man's place..."
"You're forgetting, sister, that the rich man is married to Fox, and they both have connections to those miserable gargoyles."
"What's a few gargoyles?" A set of pointed claws sprang from Hyena's fingertips.
Behind her, Dominique Destine frowned. These two hated her kind, just as all humans did--but unlike most humans, they were living weapons of destruction. She wanted Xanatos Enterprises to suffer a massive setback, but not at the risk of her daughter's life.
Jackal rubbed his chin and began to pace the floor. "Those gargoyles keep their eyes on Xanatos. The second we're in the building, we'll have a whole clan to deal with. I'm sure we can make mincemeat out of a few of them, but even the whole Pack couldn't take them all down, and I'm tired of being a gargoyle's punching bag."
"You won't have anything to worry about," Demona assured him, as a plan came into her mind. "At 10 pm tonight I will arrange for an explosion to occur in the Xanatos Enterprises warehouses down near the docks. The blast is certain to attract the attention of Goliath and his clan. While they are investigating the explosion, you two can strike at the true target--the Eyrie Building. I trust you'll be able to take care of a handful of security guards."
"We eat security guards for dinner," Jackal said smoothly.
"What about the rich man?" Hyena asked. "Davey and Fox are sure to show up."
"What _about_ him?" Dominique Destine replied sweetly. "It's most important that I get the blueprints," she stressed, "but if Xanatos isn't smart enough to stay out of the field of fire, well, that can't be helped, now can it?" Two grinning heads shook no.
In the Eyrie Building's master bedroom, Alex cast a spell he'd learned a few months ago. Fox's mirror shone, gave off swirls of light, and opened itself up as a window on the world. "Show me Vincent Gregarino," the Puck ordered, rubbing his hands together.
The mirror presented him with an image of Vinnie eating takeout Chinese at a fold-out table in a shabby little apartment. Puck sat down on a chair, scooping Alex into his lap. "Now, here's another lesson of magic. Sometimes you have to wait for the right moment. In this case, we have to wait until Vinnie is asleep."
Alex grabbed a storybook off the nearby bookshelf and held it under Puck's nose. "Read!"
Puck morphed into Owen, opened the first page of "The Story of Ferdinand" and settled in to pass the time.
After finishing his Chinese food, Vinnie opened up the storage room closet and carefully retrieved his prize possession. Mr. Carter was nestled in a large grey gym bag, ready to pie more unwary victims. As Vinnie struggled to lift the heavy pie gun, he remembered the first time he'd used it.
He'd followed two gargoyles, the big one and the old one, all night. They'd spent their time fighting some kind of werewolf creature and a floating axe. The werewolf had been really weird, but after a few encounters with gargoyles, a person's definition of "weird" got an awful lot stricter. Besides, Vinnie hadn't had any fight with the werewolf. It wasn't a werewolf that had kidnapped Anton Sevarius on Vinnie's shift. It wasn't a werewolf that had attacked Fortress One. It wasn't a werewolf that had stolen and wrecked Vinnie's motorcycle.
Vinnie sighed. He'd only recently gotten his driver's license back. He'd lost it for a year when he'd tried to defend his "careless driving" charge by telling the court that a little green gargoyle was the one responsible for the accident. The judge had thought he was intoxicated, and suspended his license!
Now, though, that was over. Vinnie brushed the last week's collection of sandwich wrappers and TV dinner trays off the kitchen counter and into the sink before laying the pie gun down in their place. He'd gotten his revenge on the big gargoyle. He remembered the satisfaction of hitting the creature in the face with a pie. He'd chucked the pie gun aside later, turned his back, and walked away, whistling an odd little tune that had come into his head--just like the action heroes in the movies always did.
~What _was_ that song anyway?~ Vinnie couldn't recall having ever heard it before...
Ah, well. He'd seen justice done. He'd been as smooth and as slick as the leading men in the movies--but he'd gone back for the pie gun the next morning, and returned it to the gym bag. It was the concrete proof of his triumph over the gargoyle.
Vinnie carefully pried open an access panel in the side of the pie gun and bypassed the fingerprint-ID lock he'd placed on the handle of the gun. Now anyone could fire it. Ordinarily, he didn't like that idea...Mr. Carter was his pride and joy...but Sophia... Yeah. Sophia was worth it. He grinned, figuring he'd take her down to the Eyrie Building's range after work that night and teach her how to shoot a pie.
To that end, he'd stopped off at the bakery and bought four of the cheapest pies he could find. They were leftovers that were going to be thrown in the garbage--he'd gotten them all for two dollars. There were three coconut creams and a banana custard. Vinnie smiled and loaded them into the pie gun.
He'd better not forget. He'd done stupid things before, been careless, been dumb...his own mother said he'd forget his head if it wasn't attached. He would not forget this. Not for Sophia.
Vinnie got his car keys and decided to put the pie gun in his trunk right now. Just in case, he got a package of Post-It notes out of an odds-and-ends drawer and wrote, in big red letters, DON'T FORGET THE GUN IN THE TRUNK. He'd put it on the dashboard where he couldn't possibly miss it.
Alex was sound asleep on his parents' bed when Owen looked up from his paperwork to steal a glance at the mirror and saw an image of Vinnie sound asleep in his bed. Owen glanced at the time--3:07 pm. Not an unusual sleeping time for someone who worked the night shift.
So, Vinnie was at rest. The sun in the sky guaranteed that Wagner would be sleeping as well, after his own fashion. The timing was right.
Owen spun around rapidly and, when he came to a stop, it was Puck that stood there in the center of the room. He gently shook Alex's shoulder. "Wake up, Alex! It's magic time!"
THREE HOURS, FORTY-SEVEN MINUTES LATER
~That was short.~ Wagner blinked his eyes, wondering how he could feel so exhausted after a day of stone sleep. He grabbed hold of his covers, rolled over on his side, and nuzzled deep into his pillow. Nice, not to be lying on any stone fragments...he hated having to dust them out of his bed each evening...
_No_ stone? No stone at all?
Wagner peered at his nightstand with bleary eyes. A large digital clock with huge red numbers glared back at him. 6:54.
He didn't _have_ an alarm clock. Gargoyles, as a rule, don't need them. Wagner sat bolt upright, his heart racing and his lungs tightening. Something was wrong. His eyes flew open and he got several more nasty shocks.
Not his night table. Not his covers. Not his bed.
The far wall _should_ be creamy white, with a framed painting of a Messerschmitt 109 hanging across from the bed. Instead, it was this terrible hospital green, and on it were several cheesy prints in frames that were falling apart at the corners. Tacky drapes from the 70's, not long black ones, were drawn across the windows.
This wasn't his room.
He bounded out of bed and hit the ground much sooner than he'd expected with the force of the jump he'd used. Wagner stumbled, catching himself just in time to avoid planting his face in the long shag carpet. ~Carpet?~ He looked again, judging that the rug had once been pink, even though it was now closer to field grey. Rather surprised at his sudden clumsiness, he raced through the bedroom door.
It wasn't his apartment, either. This living room was pretty much a dump, with several empty pizza boxes stacked in the corner, mismatched furniture that looked like it had come from yard sales, more drawn 70's drapes, and a cheap stereo system in the corner. Wagner looked around, wondering how he'd gotten here.
~First Avalon and now this...~ He felt a momentary spell of vertigo.
~I hope this isn't going to become a habit.~ He smiled ruefully, then shook off the thought. He scanned the apartment, but there were no signs of life, and furthermore, no signs of danger. Still, he couldn't afford not to be careful.
In the bedroom, the blaring ring of the alarm clock split the air. Wagner spun around, raising his arms defensively, ready to fight, until he realized what the sound was. He sprinted back the way he had come.
It took him a few moments to figure out how to turn the clock off. Seven pm...
Hesitantly, Wagner approached the window and drew back the horrible brown and orange print drapes. The sky was far, far brighter than he'd ever seen it.
It was _daylight_.
Wagner resisted the urge to simply run outside and stare at the sky. He found a jacket in the closet and a sharp knife in a kitchen drawer. He threw on the jacket and slipped the knife into the pocket. ~It's not my gun, but it'll have to do,~ Wagner thought ruefully.
He forced himself to examine the corridors of the building carefully for danger before he stepped out and searched for the stairwell. That, too, was deserted. He frowned as he walked; for some reason he was very stiff and uncoordinated, almost as if he was fighting against his body. ~Probably the result of being awake in...daylight?~ Was it really daylight?
He ran into another person in the downstairs lobby--an elderly woman. Unarmed and not threatening, as far as he could tell. "Hello there, Vinnie," she said as Wagner dashed past.
Wagner was outside in seconds. The neighbourhood was unfamiliar, but from the newspapers in the box outside, he was still in New York and it was the same day he'd gone to sleep. ~Thank God for small favours,~ he snorted.
Wagner trotted down the street, turned the corner, and stopped dead in his tracks. He'd been born in 1891, but in all his life he'd never seen anything like...
He watched the sun for a good half hour. He knew he was wasting time, probably foolishly, time he could better spend in learning what had happened to him, but he couldn't stop staring. Wagner blinked his eyes at last, seeing red and blue spots just like those he saw when he stared at a bright flashlight too long. ~I've got to figure out what's going on.~
"Hey, Vinnie, what'cha lookin' at?" Wagner turned his head and saw a middle-aged man dressed in a grey track suit.
"Me?" Wagner asked.
"Yeah. How many other Vinnies are here?" Wagner simply stared at him, and the jogger shook his head. "Never mind." He sprinted off.
Wagner turned around, making his way back to the apartment where he had awakened. The stiffness was not getting better. He carefully examined the building and its corridors, which seemed to be an apartment building like any other. ~Let's hope it's not the Apartments Cabal,~ he thought. ~If the Illuminati are behind this, they're in for the fight of their lives.~
But why would the Illuminati let him go out to see the sun? That didn't make any sense. _Nothing_ about this made any sense.
Wagner reached the apartment and began to examine it more carefully too. Same messy living room. Same little kitchen. Same tacky bedroom. And behind this door...well, it should be a bathroom, shouldn't it?
Wagner took one look at the face in the mirror, and screamed.
~Like the first time it's just like the first time...~
Once again, the face in the mirror was not his own.
The first time was in the 1930's. The Illuminati had cast some spells and hired a stonemason to carve Wagner's gargoyle features into those of a human man. He had screamed that night, to awaken and see his face with no chin spikes, no little horns, no large curling crest coming out of his forehead, no pointed ears. His hands had sported the nails of a human for the first time that night; his feet had no longer been those of a gargoyle, his wings had developed an extra row of joints to let them fold up behind his back. He remembered the sickening nausea when he had tried to move his tail, only to discover that it was no longer there.
"They've done it again!"
A new face. He'd gotten used to one. He could get used to another. Wagner forced himself to breathe deeply. He'd live. He'd live. ~I always live.~
~What about my wings?~
His wings often chafed and cramped when they were folded up under his clothing, and this track suit he found himself in was very tight across his back... He tried to tear his wings out of the sweater, only to find no response. ~No wings...God, no, not my wings!~
The pain in his heart was incredible. He tried to roar, but only a human cry came from his throat. He was mad with pain, but he could not feel his eyes lighting up. He tried to tear the towel rod out of the wall and failed to budge it.
~Wait a minute...~
Why didn't he have his gargoyle strength? His power was augmented by magic. What could have taken that away from him?
He looked in the mirror again. He always slept with his mouth shut, and yet, the teeth in the mirror were those of a human, not the fangs of a gargoyle.
~I'm in a human body.~ He thought a moment, and spoke.
"I'm, like, in a human body!"
The voice was not his own, and where had that "like" come from? He tried to say it again with his regular German accent. He couldn't.
This was _definitely_ not his body.
Maybe this was reversible. He needed only to find those responsible, and force them to turn him back...yes, that was what he'd do. The first thing was to find those who had done this to him.
His gaze fell, and he noticed something unusual sitting beside the sink. It was a photo identification tag of the sort often worn by security guards. The picture on the tag was identical to the face in the mirror. The name said VINCENT GREGARINO, and the logo on the tag was that of Xanatos Enterprises.
~Is this who I'm supposed to be?~ Wagner cursed, and was surprised when something in Italian came out.
~Or...is this who I've somehow _become_?~
Wagner paced back into the bedroom, tearing the top drawer out of the battered desk. Wallet. Chequebook. Credit cards. Passport. All in the name of Vincent Gregarino.
He'd adopted personas before. He'd been given the documentation to support those pseudonyms. But it had never been anything like this. This time, it was as if Vinnie Gregarino had somehow been picked up out of his life, out of his _body_, and Wagner's mind deposited there instead...
~So if _I'm_ in Vinnie's body, is _Vinnie_ in _mine_?~
~Random human will wake up at sunrise in my apartment with superhuman augmented strength, magically enhanced reflexes, and wings.~ The thought of a stranger in his own private lair disturbed Wagner, but what bothered him more was the arsenal of weapons he had in his home. He tried to assure himself that Vinnie was a security guard, not a criminal. The odds of his body's new owner being some kind of psychotic nut that would wreak havoc on the city now that he had the abilities of a gargoyle were very low...weren't they?
~Serves me right for the havoc I've wreaked in my time.~ That was not a comfort.
~I have to get to my apartment as quickly as I can.~
He was almost to the door when another thought struck him. ~It's stupid for me to rush out of here too quickly. How will I get there?~
His thoughts seemed to be coming slowly, and he finally figured out why. Vinnie's brain was wired to think in English. Wagner thought in his mother tongue, German. It took him a while to mentally translate ideas into English, connect them, and translate them back to German. Furthermore, there was the odd Italian word floating around in there...it was as if a residue of Vinnie's thoughts remained behind in his brain.
Maybe he could access those thoughts. Wagner thought, ~Driver's license. Have I got one?~
Almost of its own accord, his hand..._Vinnie's_ hand...reached into the wallet's top pocket and withdrew one. Wagner frowned. The license was just newly reinstated.
~Car keys?~ It came to him in a flash that they were...jeans? Something about jeans. This thought-access process was not very accurate. For that reason, Wagner decided that it would be best to trust his own instincts and leave picking Vinnie's brain to emergencies.
There were several pairs of jeans strewn around Vinnie's apartment. Wagner searched through three pairs before he found the ones with the keys in the pocket. Next, he checked Vinnie's wallet, finding a hundred dollars cash in addition to the credit cards. Yeah, he was good to go.
Minutes later, Wagner walked out the front door of the apartment building. "Hello, Vinnie," greeted an older gentleman on his way in.
Wagner decided to reply with a casual "Hi."
"Teaching yourself German, now, are you?" the man asked.
Wagner winced and cursed inside his head. What he'd actually said was "Guten abend" in very heavily accented German.
"Yeah," he said, his voice shaken. The old man, however, did not react as if anything unusual had occurred. He continued on his way.
~Hmph...they must expect weirdness from Mr. Vinnie,~ Wagner thought to himself.
Wagner stepped out of the apartment building, and halted in his tracks, perhaps against his better judgement, to watch the sun set.
In an apartment across town, Vinnie Wagner awoke with a crackling of stone.
Vinnie shook his head, blinking sleepily. He'd slept like a rock. There was something hard and pointy in his bed, and he was lying on it. Crumbs, most likely. "No more chow mein in bed for me," he muttered.
Vinnie stumbled out of bed, heading for the bathroom. His feet followed the same pattern as always, across the room, out the door, into the hall, into the...
Vinnie staggered backwards. He shouldn't have hit a wall! The bathroom door was supposed to be right there beside the... He fumbled for the light switch, finally finding one on the opposite side of the hall from where he'd first thought to look.
~Wait a minute.~
That wasn't _his_ wall he had hit.
Vinnie turned around, suddenly more awake than he'd ever been in his life. The bedroom he'd just come out of wasn't his, either. For some reason he didn't really need the light switch to illuminate this strange room. The walls were creamy white. There was a painting of a WWII fighter plane on the far wall. The drapes were black and drawn back to reveal the night sky.
"Night? How long have I slept?" Vinnie muttered, in a thickly-accented voice, which he assumed was distorted by sleep. "Geez, I'm gonna be late for work!"
What he'd actually _said_ was, "Mein Gott, I'm ghoingk to be late fur vurk!"
He tried to say "work" again. "Vurk. Vurk. Vurk." It reminded him of Colonel Klink.
Vinnie looked down at himself and noticed that he was already dressed in a black T-shirt and a pair of jeans. He tore open the bedroom closet, but there was no Xanatos Enterprises uniform. There was, however, a host of other clothes that weren't his own...including a vintage 1940's German uniform and pair of jackboots.
"Whoa, did I wander into someone else's apartment by mistake?" His voice was still accented, and he couldn't quite believe the Nazi uniform in the closet. "No more bad war movies before bed either!"
Vinnie opened the apartment door, checking to see if he'd wandered into his neighbour's room, only to be greeted by a hallway he'd never seen before in his life.
~Facts, Vinnie my man. This is not a time to freak. This is a time for facts. Here's a fact: If you're late for work, you will get fired. Fi-ered. Just get dressed, go to work, and figure this out later, okay?~
Vinnie thought he might as well borrow the guy's bathroom. He still didn't need a light switch--for some reason, even in the dark, his vision was awfully clear. The first thing he noticed was what was on the counter...and what wasn't. No razor. No soap. No shampoo. No toothbrush. Just a very deadly-looking handgun.
"Oh, geez," Vinnie mumbled, and raised his eyes to the mirror.
The face was bad enough. Maybe someone'd played a prank on him, cutting his hair, dying it blond, giving him blue contacts. He could almost convince himself to accept that explanation. There was nothing to explain the black wings, tipped with little clawed hands, that rose above his head and fell in sweeping folds behind his back.
~I'm turnin' into a gargoyle.~
With that thought, Vinnie Gregarino fainted dead away.