Aftermath

Author's Note: I understand that I am playing with fire by broaching this topic in the first place. I am a born and bred New Yorker and I still carry a lot of demons from that day. Maybe this is me trying to excise some of those demons by telling a story about it set in a universe I love with characters I love. As such, I am presenting these characters and their individual responses as honestly as I possibly can.

If you want to click 'back', I understand. If you want to leave me a negative review or send me a negative message, then trust me, I get it. I am choosing to put this out there and open myself up to any criticism that I get. But I hope you know that this story is coming from a heartfelt place.

I value every one of my readers and I hope you enjoy this story and continue to stick with me as well as Algernon84, GryphinWyrm7, and Masterdramon. I think we have some great material in the works and we wouldn't want you to miss out.

September 11th, 2001.

The Metropolitan Museum. 12:01 am EST.

Goliath cried out as he was flung from the second story balcony towards the concrete floor of the Great Hall below. He groaned and slowly got to his feet as Demona leaped down from above, took aim with her particle beam and fired.

The leader of the Manhattan Clan rolled to the left and was on his feet again, as his former mate began raking the chamber with her laser.

"You won't stop me this time, Goliath!" Demona cried as she held up her prize in her left hand, a miniature casket decorated with Norse runes.

"And what about me, mother?" Angela growled as she landed in front of her biological father and held out her arms. "If you want to kill Goliath, you'll have to go through me first!"

Demona snarled as her eyes burned red. "I underestimated your cowardice, Goliath," she said, quickly adjusted the setting on her weapon. "To hide behind our daughter. That's a new low for you."

"He's not hiding behind me, Demona." Angela's eyes glowed red, matching her biological mother's. "I'm following his example and protecting the ones I care for. Will you kill me, too?"

"I don't have to make that choice." Demona smiled and pulled the trigger. Goliath pulled Angela down to the floor as the tranquilizer dart bounced off one of the Grecian columns.

Angela stood back up, her eyes widening in shock. "You added a tranquilizer setting to a weapon of murder?!"

Goliath was back up, shortly afterwards, and flared his wings. He did not notice Demona's beast, Hellhound pouncing down from the balcony above. Like a miniature battering ram, the flame-maned pet slammed him back into the floor.

"My pet, kill!" Demona commanded.

But before Hellhound could chomp down, Bronx darted out of the hallway, growling and rammed, into the other beast. Goliath got back to his feet and observed with interest as the two gargoyle beasts circled one another, sizing each other up. Curiously, though, Hellhound would not attack. Bronx, however, seemed to have no trouble advancing on Demona's pet, causing him to slowly step backwards.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Up above, Coldsteel wrapped Coldfire and Coldstone in his coils, restraining his two soul mates. He grinned, and caressed the golden robot's chin with his tentacle. "Sister was hoping for a quiet night," he said. "But you know that I am always grateful for your attention."

"We've been down this road before, brother," Coldfire said, flexing her steel appendages enough to fire a blast hot enough to cut through the tentacles like a high knife through butter. "And this time, we will not hesitate to make you one with the whole."

Coldstone broke free of his bonds and fired a particle beam square into Coldsteel's chest. "Enough of the sermons, my love," he said. "Now let's finish this once and for all."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

As Goliath and Demona grappled over her weapon, Angela dug her talons into the column and began to scale it. Once she was confident she had the height she needed, she swooped down and collided, feet first, with the red-headed gargoyle. The very impact allowed Goliath to pull her weapon away and knocked Demona headfirst through the double doors of the museum to the concrete stairs outside.

Angela got to her feet, ran through the now-open doors and quickly collected the miniature casket that Demona had just dropped. "I've got this," she said.

Goliath rushed out and joined his daughter. "And we finally have her."

As Demona slowly started getting back on her feet, Goliath and Angela stalked forward, closing in.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Coldsteel caught sight of the scene out of the corner of his eyes. "Well, looks like I'm going to have to cut this short," he said as he activated his rockets. Coldstone growled and pursued his evil brother.

The evil one landed in the Great Hall, and quickly wrapped Hellhound in his remaining tentacles. "Now behave yourself, you dumb beast!" he said before activating his jets again, barreling through the broken doors.

He landed with a violent thud, cracking the stone stairs beneath his feet. He quickly picked Demona up under his arm, then activated his jets once more and took off.

Coldstone and Coldfire rushed out to their clanmates, quickly followed by Bronx. "I grow weary of their last minute escapes!" Coldstone growled.

"At least they didn't escape with..." Goliath paused for a moment. "Angela, what is it?"

Angela examined the sealed box and the Norse runes. "The Magus taught us all how to read Old Norse," she said.

"He did?" Coldfire was surprised.

"If only he was so enlightened when we were alive," Coldstone growled, not even bothering to hide his contempt for the former court sorcerer.

Angela glared at the re-animated statue before returning her attention to the box. "My Old Norse isn't as strong as Gabriel's. But I can make out the words 'Casket' and 'Ymir.'"

"Whatever it is, we cannot leave it," Goliath declared. "If Demona was after it, then it's a vessel of great power. And our other enemies, such as the Illuminati, might also take an interest."

"And I wouldn't trust it in the castle." Coldfire added. "Not with Xanatos."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The Eyrie Building. 6:30 am EST

Goliath and Angela landed on the castle parapets, shortly followed by Coldstone and Coldfire, who released Bronx.

"Cutting it close," Brooklyn said as he approached them. "Sunrise is in just a couple of minutes."

"Elisa told us about your run in with Demona and the MET," said Broadway. He quickly ran towards Angela and hugged her. "Did she hurt you?"

"No," said Angela. "You know she wouldn't."

"Curiously, her beast… that Hellhound would not attack Bronx," said Goliath.

"Bronx held no such compunctions," said Coldfire.

"I'm not surprised," said Brooklyn. "Demona's beast could only have come from Xanadu. Fu-Dogs are trained to never fight one another." He leaned down and petted Fu-Dog's brown mane. "They take raising and protecting beasts very seriously."

"So what did she try to take?" Staghart asked.

"An artifact called the Casket of Ymir," Goliath replied. "We took it to the Labyrinth after the battle."

"Smart move," said Brooklyn. "I'm sure Cyberbiotics installed all kinds of impenetrable safes down there. So we can mark Fimbulwinter as one less thing we need to worry about."

"That means a great winter which will freeze the Earth," Nashville interjected. "Sounds like Moany's style."

"That will not happen. Nor will we allow anyone else to endanger this island." Goliath's voice boomed before he gazed out over his vast protectorate. "After all, a gargoyle can no more stop protecting the castle than breathing the air."

"And a gargoyle also needs his sleep, lad," Hudson said as he pointed towards the rising sun.

The gargoyles each assumed their places and struck a fearsome pose to scare any that would dare threaten the land they swore to watch over and protect as the sun rose and they turned to stone.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

SoHo. 6:40 am EST

Elisa Maza pulled her red car up to the curb in front of her apartment building and got out of her car. It had been a long night, and she wasn't sure if she was hungrier than she was tired. Famishment won out over fatigue and she crossed the street to the falafel stand that was just in the process of opening.

"Morning Adeel, Sadia," Elisa said as she greeted the married couple that was still in the process of setting up.

"Good morning, Elisa," Sadia said as she shook her hand.

"Chickpea?" asked Adeel.

"Not today," Elisa said. "How about the Vegetarian Falafel Sandwich?" She quickly paid the couple and took her wrapped package.

"Same time tomorrow?" Sadia asked.

"If this sandwich tastes as good as it smells." Elisa smiled before waving and crossing back towards her building. She then made her way up the stairs to her loft.

Before sitting down to eat, she put down a bowl of cat food for Cagney before partaking of her own dinner. "This sandwich is way tastier than any sandwich that doesn't have meat has any right to be."

When she was satisfied, the detective washed up, undressed, donned her over-sized Knicks jersey and sank into her bed.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Gramercy Park. 7:07 am EST

Dominique Destine stood in her bathroom, gazing into the mirror. The only illumination was the candle sitting atop a human skull next to the sink. She removed her tiara and laid it alongside her armband before inspecting her forehead. She had already completely healed up from the head wound delivered to her by her daughter.

At times like this, she did not know whether she should be proud of Angela, or furious with her. Pride won out, but with it came despair that her daughter continued to spend her nights protecting the very beings that would harm her.

Dominique yawned, exhausted. She gazed out of her bathroom door. Hellhound had turned to stone guarding her four-poster king-sized bed. But the very sight of that bed filled her with anxiety. Not a day had passed when nightmares wouldn't plague her while she slept. Not since the Whip of Mab had been taken from her.

She did not go to bed. Instead she wandered up the stairs to her fifth floor study, and sat back, slouching, in her throne-like chair. But it wasn't long before fatigue finally overtook her.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The Eyrie Building. 7:45 am EST

Fox and David Xanatos squared off in the gym. They circled one another not as husband and wife, but opponents sizing the other up, searching for an opening. Before too long, the tattooed woman seized upon her advantage, and threw a judo kick. But Xanatos anticipated the attack, quickly stepped aside, grabbed her leg, and then slammed her down on the matted floor.

After taking a moment to catch her breath, David helped her back to her feet. "You almost had me that time," he said.

"I've had you before, and I'll have you again," she said. She sauntered over to a water cooler and helped herself to a drink.

"Would you rather I take a dive next time?" Xanatos asked with a smirk.

"I'd divorce you if you did." Fox flashed a grin back at him. "But right now, I have a full day's work ahead of me."

"Expanding PackMedia Studios to the silver screen?" he asked.

"You know it," she replied. "And I also want to sit in on Alex's homeschooling before I head out."

"Miss Sanchez came highly recommended," David replied.

Arm in arm, David and Fox got off the mat, and headed towards the unisex locker room.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

8:05 am EST

Alexander Fox Xanatos sat at an antique wooden desk in a recently assembled classroom. He was thumbing through a copy of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' when the door opened, and Owen Burnett escorted in a twenty-three-year-old, Hispanic woman.

"Master Alexander," he said after he had cleared his throat. "This is Miss Rosaria Sanchez. She will be your teacher for the time being."

"Good morning, Alexander," said Rosaria, her Scottish accent catching the child's attention. She then gazed in surprise at the book on the five-year-old's desk. "Your parents tell me that you are very bright for your age."

"I've read it before," Alex said. "It's one of my favorites."

"Well, that might influence what we discuss today," she said. "What else have you read?"

"'Dante's Inferno' in the original Italian," Alex replied. He clearly took delight in surprising her. "But it read like bad wish-fulfillment fanfiction. A guy getting a guided tour of Hell from his favorite author so he can watch politicians he doesn't like get tortured."

"Now you sound like my Aunt Fi," Rosaria said with a laugh. "You know that she owns WVRN?"

"Yeah, Mom and Pop had her over for lunch last week," Alex replied.

"I heard," Rosaria replied. "Aunt Fi told me quite a bit about you. So I'm thinking that we're going to start with 'One Thousand andOne Nights'. Have you ever read it?"

"Not yet," Alex replied. "But it was on my list."

"Oh, I think you're going to be delighted," Rosaria said as she pulled two hardcover copies out of her bag.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Upper Manhattan. 8:12 am EST

Maria Chavez pulled up to the side of the elementary school and kissed her five-year-old daughter on the cheek. "My little girl's first day of kindergarten," she said, wistfully.

"Mommy, I'm scared," the toddler said. "What if the other kids don't like me?"

"Most of the kids will, Gabrielle," Chavez said. "And if any of them are mean to you, tell them that your mom is a cop."

"Are you going to be catching bad guys tonight?" Gabrielle asked. "I want to tell you about my day for a change."

"Mommy has the night off today," Chavez said. "I'm going home, going to get some sleep, and then make you a special dinner to celebrate your big day. The bad guys can wait."

Gabrielle unbuckled her seat belt and threw her arms around her mom. Chavez hugged the child back, before Gabby got out of the car and ran up the steps of the school. She paused to look back, and Maria just waved.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Elisa's Loft. 8:49 am EST

Elisa's slumber was disturbed by the incessant ringing of her LexPhone. Her desire to get at least eight hours of sleep was overcome by her police instincts to answer in case of an emergency.

She groaned and slowly reached for her phone. The caller ID illuminated with the name "MATT". Without separating her head from her pillow, she answered.

"Matt, someone had better be dead," she said, in barely coherent words. But if they were barely coherent, so was her partner's distressed cry to turn on her television.

She reached for the remote control and slowly sat up in bed. What she saw on the screen was an adrenaline-rushed punch to the gut.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Lower Manhattan. 9:03 am EST

The crowds gathered in the middle of the streets, gazing up in horror as the North Tower continued to be engulfed in smoke and flames.

A young woman in heavy mascara, dressed like a goth, slowly made her way through the crowds. The sight before her was horrific, but she had to get to the same manhole she entered most mornings to get to her destination.

But she was pulled away from her task as a sound that could only have emanated from the depths of the underworld stole her attention. She looked up at the horrifying sight of flames now bursting forth from the South Tower.

As if she was in a daze, Shari slowly gripped her right hand around the Crescent Moon pendant that she wore, among three necklaces and her collar. As she stared at the inferno in the sky, she found herself reciting a prayer in her head. How long had it been since she had last done this. Decades? Centuries?

Her left hand found its way into her pocket, and gripped a fourth necklace, or rather a second pendant. She was brought back to Earth and reminded of her duty.

Nobody was standing on top of the manhole cover. Nobody would notice her lifting it up, and slipping inside. And, she hoped, nobody would notice how distressed she was.

How could this have happened?

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Manhattan District Attorney's Office. 9:40 am EST

"And the mayor has been evacuated?" Assistant District Attorney Margot Yale cried into her phone, as office assistants and staffers ran in and out of her office like headless chickens being chased by a wolf. One of them quickly approached her with another phone.

"I'm busy, Brendan!" Margot shouted into the phone. "Haven't you been paying attention to…." but she quickly caught herself and listened. "I'm glad you're safe, too." Margot sat back down in her seat. "I love you too, Brendan," she said before ending the call.

Reaching back for her previous phone, Margot shut her eyes. "I'm sorry, it was my husband, and..." Her eyes widened in shock as she listened to the voice on the other end. "The Pentagon, too…?"

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The 23rd Precinct. 10:28 am EST

The police officers sat around the conference table in petrified silence as their world seemed to shatter while they watched WVRN on the television screen.

"We can see a billowing smoke rising," Travis Marshall said. The television journalist appeared to be visibly struggling to maintain any semblance of his cool. "There was a cascade of sparks and fire. And now it looks almost like a mushroom cloud. I cannot see behind that smoke. Just look at that, it is as frightening a scene as you will ever see."

Elisa looked up, as she sat forward in her chair. Captain Chavez was struggling to maintain her composure. Matt Bluestone looked angry. Morgan buried his face in his hands. Travanti was openly weeping. Cedric Harris was staring into his full mug of coffee but made no move to touch it. Tri Chung grabbed his cell phone and ran out of the room, most likely to call family.

Leaving the room felt like a good idea to Elisa. As if in a trance, she slowly got to her feet and walked out of the door and into the hallway. She didn't know or realize what her destination was, but she found herself heading towards the broom closet.

Once inside, she pulled down the ceiling ladder and made her way up into the clock tower. She did not recall the last time she had been up there. Since the Quarrymen tried to kill her and Goliath, perhaps. Although none of the gargoyles' belongings were present anymore, she still felt that sense of comfort as she walked up the brick steps into the heart of the tower.

But comfort wasn't an appropriate feeling. She made her way up another set of steps and out the door of the southern clock face, and stared out into the horizon. And watching all that smoke drape itself through downtown Manhattan was more terrifying than anything she had witnessed already in her unconventional life.

Her eyes began to feel dry as she realized that she had not blinked. But once she had, the tears started to well up. How many people were now dead? How many civilians? How many of her brothers and sisters on the force who bravely ran into those towers to save as many lives as they could? Why had she not been down there? How could she have done any less? What kind of cop was she?

She came out of it when she felt the comforting hand of Matt on her shoulder. "I thought I'd find you here," he said.

"We're supposed to protect and serve," she said. "How could we have let this happen?"

"We all want answers," said Matt. "I wish I could assure you that this was all over, but..." Elisa couldn't find the words, she simply braced herself for what her partner was about to say. "After you left, Travis Marshall reported that a plane had just gone down in Pennsylvania."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The Eyrie Building. 10:30 am EST

Xanatos sat in his chair, turned away from his desk, and stared out the window at the carnage downtown. He steepled his fingers in deep thought, ignoring Travis Marshall as the reporter continued to address his television audience. At his side stood Fox, her hand on his left shoulder, her grip tightening with each passing moment.

The office doors opened and Owen Burnett entered. "I have sent Miss Sanchez home," he said. "Alexander is out in the courtyard."

"Good," Xanatos replied.

"Now what?" asked Fox as they continued to gaze out the window. A large portion of lower Manhattan was no longer visible through the fog of smoke. Her shock was soon replaced by anger. "David, we need to do something!"

"I agree," Xanatos replied as he finally stood up. "Owen, I want a ten million dollar donation made to the Red Cross."

"At once, sir," the majordomo replied.

"Also, have our nurse meet us in the infirmary," Xanatos said. "Fox and I are going to donate blood."

"Of course," Owen nodded. "Will there be anything else, sir? Madame?"

"I want the building evacuated of all non-essential personnel," said Xanatos. "We don't know what's going to happen next."

"And then I want that force field turned on," ordered Fox.

"Very good," Owen replied with a nod.

Xanatos turned his attention back out the window towards the devastation inflicted on his city.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Nightstone Unlimited. 10:57 am EST

The elevator doors opened and Dominique Destine stepped out into the hallway. She so rarely visited this building and, so far, she had been able to ignore most of Nightstone Unlimited's employees. The last thing she needed or wanted was to look in their fearful, crying eyes. Normally, such a sight would bring her pleasure, but even she was shocked by the day's events. But not surprised. Nothing the humans did surprised her.

She made her way down the hall and approached her office. Tricia, her secretary, sat at her desk, and gazed up at her in surprise. "Ms. Destine," she said. She had been crying. "I'm sorry, but you're so rarely here..."

"Never mind," Dominique replied. "You said I had a visitor?"

"Yes," Tricia replied. "Miss Saffron, the VP of the coffee division, is in your office." Dominique nodded and approached her double doors before Tricia spoke again. "Ms. Destine? I have kids… can I please go home?"

"No," Dominique replied, without looking at the woman. "We don't pay you to raise your children."

Tricia just stared at her boss in shock. "We are under attack. God knows how many thousands are dead. And you won't let me check on my family?" The woman stood up in defiance. "Have you no soul?"

"You're fired," Dominique snapped. She then smiled as her now former secretary gasped in shock. "There, that should provide you with all the time you need to spend with your family." She tried to recall the woman's name but couldn't and, honestly, had no true desire to.

As Tricia stormed out, Dominique entered her office and found Victoria Saffron sitting across from her desk. "Good morning, Ms. Destine."

"Miss Saffron," Dominique said as she took in the bespectacled Eurasian woman dressed in a sharp, black skirt-suit, and a blonde-streak running down her long, black hair. She remembered this woman who had previously done what she was told without question. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Shortly after the attacks, I received an e-mail from Mr. Thailog's office," Victoria explained as she handed her boss a manila envelope. "It was a prepared speech for you to deliver to the employees in case of a terrorist attack.

Dominique looked over the speech and did nothing to hide her lack of interest. "He knows I hate speaking to the h…. help," she said, correcting herself before a different word came out of her mouth.

"The speech didn't anticipate the magnitude of the attack," Victoria said, her tone very matter-of-fact. "So I took the liberty of editing it."

Dominique scowled as she read the contents of the envelope. This was the last thing she had any desire to do. But the last thing she would do was give Thailog a reason to deny her access to a single one of Nightstone Unlimited's resources.

"If you have any issue with the speech, I can change it for you." Victoria offered.

"That won't be necessary," Dominique said. "Have the staff gathered in the auditorium in one hour. I will deliver the speech."

"Yes, Ms. Destine," Victoria said as she stood up. "I will also begin a search for a new secretary."

After the human left the office, Dominique swiveled her chair around and stared at the hidden entrance to the command center. As usual, she was tempted to go in and shatter her sleeping business partner. But she was in no mood to run afoul of his mutate bodyguards, or that goth girl assistant of his.

Instead, Dominique stood up and made her way to the south window of her office and stared at the mountain of smoke being carried by the wind.

Nothing the humans did surprised her anymore.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The Eyrie Building. 11:59 am EST

"And I want all of our hourly employees to receive twenty-four hours of overtime," Xanatos spoke into his cellphone. "Our yearly employees should also receive a bonus. We take care of our people here."

Fox walked into her husband's office and leaned against the door frame. Once he had hung up, she approached his desk. "And while we're taking care of our people, I think we should call the Pentagon and pledge our full support to the military."

"I have already assured my contacts in the Joint Chiefs that we are at their disposal," Xanatos said as he circled around his desk and took her hand in his.

"We need to hunt down whoever did this and kill them," Fox said. If she were any angrier, she'd be growling like a werefox. "But even that might be too good for them."

"I've offered what assistance that I can," said Xanatos. "But I always believed that revenge was a sucker's game. I believed it yesterday, I believe it today."

"And what's your alternative, David?" Fox asked.

"I wish I could say I had one," he replied. "As always, I'd prefer a solution over vengeance."

"So, what are we going to do?" Fox asked.

Xanatos merely took his wife into his arms and held her tight.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Nightstone Unlimited. 12:03pm EST

Dominique stepped into the auditorium and mentally took a note that only three hundred seats were filled. The chamber had a capacity of about a thousand. She scowled and then strode through the aisle, her high heels echoing with every step she took.

She climbed the steps up onto the stage and made her way towards the podium. Setting the manila envelope down, she looked out at those present and then down at her prepared remarks.

"I would like to thank all of you for being here," she read. "For those of you don't know me, I am Dominique Destine, one of the partners. Mr. Thailog regrets that he cannot be here, but he asked me to send you his best wishes."

She looked down at the script and managed not to roll her eyes. "Today is a day of mourning. We've suffered a terrible atrocity. Many innocent people have perished today." She gazed back down at the script and her eyes widened when she read the note suggesting she cry. Not wanting to give Thailog any excuses, she managed to force a few tears. "Not just members of the Nightstone Team in our World Trade Center offices, but family, friends, business associates."

Dominique stared out over the auditorium. Her audience was hanging on her every word. "Mr. Thailog and I want you to know that Nightstone Unlimited values and celebrates family and friends. Without you there is no Nightstone. You are the company every bit as much as we. Despite the circumstances," she said as the tears she forced ran down her face, "you are acquitting yourselves impeccably. That said, if any of you need to seek counseling due to lingering trauma, speak with me privately and it will be arranged."

She received a light applause from her employees. "For now," she read, "you are dismissed. Go home and value your time with your loved ones." One by one, her employees stood up and left the auditorium while Dominique crumpled up her script and dropped it into a waste paper basket.

"That looked painful," Victoria Saffron said as she approached Dominique. "Personally, if Mr. Thailog wanted that speech delivered, I think he should have had the decency to do it himself."

"Alexander Thailog is many things," Dominique said. The tears had vanished. "But decent isn't one of them."

"Personally, it makes me sick," Victoria said. "Everyone is coming together in their grief now. But this happens every day in certain parts of the world." Dominique raised an eyebrow as her employee spoke.

"I was watching the news before you came in," Victoria said. "Everyone talking about unity, community, love, and goodwill. It's a farce. Tomorrow everyone will hate each other again. The day after we'll have forgotten. It's human nature."

"That isn't the most politically… expedient thing to say," Dominique said before changing the subject. "Have you put out a search for a new secretary?"

"I intend to, but I had to deal with Tricia first," Victoria said as she produced a short document from a folder. "This will require your signature. It was her severance package."

Dominique took the pages and began to skim them. "Ten thousand dollars and six months of health insurance?"

"In exchange for not being able to sue Nightstone, speak with the press about her time here or her termination and," Victoria grinned, "she is unable to take a job with one of Nightstone's competitors for three years."

"Victoria, what did you say your position here was?" Dominique asked, as she nodded approvingly.

"Vice President in charge of the coffee division," Victoria replied. "Why?"

"Because Nightstone Unlimited needs a Director of Corporate Security and I would like to offer you the position." Dominique held out her hand.

Victoria pondered things for a moment before taking her employer's hand. "I am honored, Ms. Destine."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The Labyrinth. 1:49 pm EST

"All right," Al cried as the doors to the Labyrinth were opened. Long lines of people, some still covered in dust and soot from the collapse of the Twin Towers, had gathered. "One at a time, single file! You'll all be taken care of."

Talon stood off to the side and watched as everyone marched inside in an orderly fashion. Maggie the Cat placed a hand on her husband's shoulder. "He's really good at this," she said.

"Al used to be in the army. Drill sergeant," said Talon. "One of many reasons I made him my right-hand man down here."

Claw had set up tables, and food was being laid out. Thug, Erin and Benny were passing out first aid kits and, for once, few were looking at them with fear and revulsion.

Shari leaned against a brick wall, a young Dominican man holding her right hand in his. "I'm going to go help with the soup kitchen," he said. "Maybe it'll help distract me from what happened up top."

"You're all right, Carlos," Shari said as she kissed the man on the cheek. After he had left her side, Shari wandered towards the entrance and started greeting people as they entered.

"Hi, I'm Shari," she said, as she shook hands with people. "Welcome to… well, a safe haven." She repeated this to several people, some in business suits that had been completely covered in ash.

Shari then found herself gravitating to a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman wearing military camo pants, dog tags, and a white tank top. She had an American flag tattooed on her right bicep and a livid look on her face. "Welcome to a safe haven," Shari said. "I'm Shari."

"Sandi," the newcomer said. "And no place is a safe haven. Not while the animals who did this are at large."

"So, you'll be re-enlisting soon, I gather?" Shari said as she glanced at Sandi's dog tags.

"Can't," Sandi replied. "Dishonorable discharge. And I don't want to talk about it."

"I understand," Shari said with a nod. She pointed towards the table. "Food, first aid kits, and they're opening up the showers so everyone can clean up."

Shari then sauntered away towards a group of children. "I know things seem scary," she said. "So how about we begin story time early?" The older kids just sighed while the younger ones clapped. "The story is told - though who can say if it be true - ..."

Out of the corner of her eye, Shari spotted two of the parents glaring at her. She followed their eyes down to her pendants, specifically the Crescent Moon she was wearing. She briefly closed her eyes, and continued the story as two of the children were ushered away.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

23rd Precinct. 4:17 pm EST

Matt Bluestone sat at his desk in the otherwise empty Gargoyle Taskforce office, watching Travis Marshall on the television and fuming at every other word and image being shown. He gripped the wooden arms of his chair so tightly, he was moments away from getting splinters when he heard the door squeak open.

"Hello, Matthew," Martin Hacker said as he closed the door behind him.

"Did you guys know about this?" Matt didn't so much as ask as demand.

"Now, now, Matt, formalities..."

"Don't give me that 'formalities' crap, Hacker!" Matt yelled as he emerged from behind his desk and shoved Hacker against the wall, holding him by the collar of his shirt. "Did you guys know about this?"

"No," Hacker replied, keeping his cool. "We didn't."

"Then what's the point of belonging to a society that secretly rules the world if you allow shit like this to happen!" Matt cried. "Thousands of people, Hacker! Thousands!"

"Matthew, I know you've got this idea in your head that the Society controls every little thing that goes on in the world. That everyone from the Pope to the President of the United States is our puppet." Hacker said. Matt still wouldn't loosen his grip. "But the truth is...we're just that. A Society. A group of individuals. I won't deny we keep our fingers in a lot of pies. That we strive to know as much of what's going on in the world as possible. And I like to think we succeed a lot more than we fail.

"But at the end of the day...we're all people. A gathering of some of the smartest, most cunning, most resourceful people in history... but still just people. People who can make mistakes. People who can miss things."

"You missed something of this magnitude?!" Matt cried.

"I won't pretend there weren't signs." Hacker said, the smug tone fading. "Trails we could've followed better, breadcrumbs we didn't pay enough attention to. Talk to anyone at my level in the intelligence community and they'd tell you the same thing… if they could. But the sheer scale..."

"And why should I believe a single word that comes out of your mouth?!" Matt shouted.

"Look, Matthew," Hacker replied. "You can take it out on me if it makes you feel any better. Knock me flat on my back, pummel me within an inch of my life. Right now, I don't care. And it's not like I don't have it coming." As he spoke, Matt slowly loosened his grip. "Still, whatever you might think of us… deep down, you know the Society would never want something like… this. I won't pretend we don't spill blood. Sometimes, a little more than even I'm comfortable with. But never for no reason. Never this… senselessly."

Matt let go of his former partner before stepping backwards and collapsing into a nearby chair. "Right now, I wish I thought you were lying. Boy do I wish that..."

"You know what you're learning today, Matthew? A lesson some of our enlightened colleagues have had to take on for literal centuries." Hacker turned towards the TV and watched the re-running footage of the Twin Towers collapsing. "That when you sign on to save the world… it makes it all the harder to watch whenever it falls apart a little more."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The Eyrie Building. 7:03 pm EST

"Excellent," Xanatos spoke into his cell phone as he continued to stare out of his office window. "We'll meet at Scarab in two weeks. One o' clock."

Fox sauntered towards her husband, holding Alexander's hand in hers, as he ended his call. "So, what did the general say?" Fox asked.

"We have an appointment," the CEO replied. "He's going to listen to a few of my proposals, sample a few of our cutting edge products, and we'll take it from there."

"Are we going to be safe, Pop?" Alex asked.

"Of course," Xanatos replied. He dialed a contact on his number and then spoke into his phone. "Owen, lower the force field."

"David, are you sure?" Fox asked, she was trying to keep her nerves in check.

"Please don't," Alex said, terrified at the possibility of what might happen.

"We're safe, Alex," Xanatos said as he kneeled down and placed a comforting hand on his son's shoulder. "We're not a target. The Twin Towers were hit because they were a symbol of America's economic power and the Pentagon was… is the seat of our military's strength. Do you know what the Eyrie Building is, son?"

"Our home?" Alex said.

"Besides that?" Xanatos asked. But his son just shook his head. "The Eyrie Building is a monument to my ego," he said with a grin. "Trust me, we're not a target."

Fox smiled before laughing. "Thanks, David, I needed that."

Of course," Xanatos said. He then checked his watch. "The sun will be down soon, and someone needs to be there to fill the gargoyles in on… what happened."

As he departed his office, Xanatos made another phone call. He waited a few moments before he got an answer. "Fi? David Xanatos. I know we both agreed that you'd never plant or influence a story for me, but we're opening the Eyrie Building's lobby for people that can't go home now that all mass transit has been shut down. A roof, a hot meal, please let the public know. Nobody should have to sleep on the streets tonight."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

7:11 pm EST

The final rays of sunlight faded into the west. As the sun set, the stone skin of the gargoyles began to crack, then exploded off of them as they stretched and released their yawn-like roars. Goliath flared his wings and stretched out his muscles before opening his eyes, taking in the southern view. All he could do was gasp at the sight in the distance.

Lexington was the second to look out and gasp. Staghart quickly ran over and embraced his mate as they couldn't take their eyes off of the horrific sight before them.

"What's this?!" Hudson cried out. "What happened?"

Brooklyn took a few deep breaths, and was calmed as Katana took his right hand between hers. Nashville's jaw slowly dropped and he began leaning against Fu-Dog for comfort.

Angela covered her mouth with her partially closed hand before placing an arm around Broadway's shoulders. The young mates just held on to each other for support, both physical and emotional as Angela held young Tachi in her left arm. Bronx gazed out at the southern skyline before him and growled.

Goliath leaped down from his perch and landed behind his clan. As he did so, Coldstone and Coldfire came to a landing beside him.

"We have spent all day observing this horror," Coldstone said.

"Not since the massacre of our clan could I have imagined an evil of this magnitude," Coldfire added.

"But what happened?" Goliath cried out.

"It was a terrorist attack, Goliath," Xanatos said as he stepped out of the tower. "The Twin Towers were destroyed by two hijacked airplanes. The Pentagon was attacked in Washington D.C. and another plane was lost in Pennsylvania. The death toll is in the thousands."

"Who did this?" Angela asked.

"That is still being investigated," Xanatos said. "But I'm afraid that isn't your fight."

"I can't believe it," Brooklyn muttered. Then his muttering became a rant. "I mean, I noticed that the Twin Towers weren't part of the 2198 skyline… but a lot of other buildings were gone, too!"

"You… we couldn't have known," Katana said as she cupped her mate's beak.

"I should have done some research!" Brooklyn cried. "Maybe, if I had read the history logs, maybe… I know time is like a river, but maybe I could have prevented this."

"You know, even better than I, that history is impossible to change," said Goliath. "Had you looked, you would have been unable to prevent anything and simply spent the last several years in pain, waiting for the inevitable."

"But..." Brooklyn began, but Goliath quickly cut him off.

"I had once attempted to spare Demona a similar pain, but it wasn't meant to be."

"We cannae stay up here and do nothing, lad!" Hudson cried.

"The attack is hours over," said Xanatos. "There's nothing left for you to do."

"There is something we can do," Goliath declared. "We will head south and see this carnage first hand."

"I wouldn't go, Goliath," Xanatos said as he stepped towards the clan leader. "Anything flying through the air will be met with suspicion. You might be fired upon."

"That is a risk we take every other night, Xanatos," Goliath said, his briefly glowed. "This city is our home, our castle, our protectorate. We will not cower behind these walls as those we have sworn to protect lay injured and dying."

"If we glide down in short spurts, landing on rooftops every few blocks, waiting a few minutes before heading further south, we might minimize our risks," Brooklyn suggested.

"Then that is what we will do," Goliath said. "Come!"

Xanatos stood back and watched as one by one, each of the gargoyles leaped from the tower, spread their wings to catch an air current and took off southward.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

WVRN. 7:28 pm EST

"Candle light vigils are being held all over the country as lower Manhattan burns tonight," Travis Marshall said, holding on to his composure while live footage of the smoke and flames from Ground Zero played. "We will continue to broadcast throughout the night, but for now we're cutting to our colleagues at the Dalriada Broadcasting Corporation, reporting from London: Kate Reed."

Travis looked up from his script as the producer gave him the signal that he was off the air. His notice was then captured by the president and owner of WVRN, a beautiful middle-aged blonde woman in a navy blue business skirt-suit and baby-blue blouse.

"Ms. MacLeod?" he said with a hint of a smile.

"Travis," she said with her thick Scottish accent. "You've been on the air for almost twelve hours. Beatrix can fill in."

"Are you asking me to go home?" Travis said. "I'd rather not."

"You're no good to us exhausted," Ms. MacLeod said.

"I didn't abandon my job tired when I was a war correspondent, and I am not starting now," Travis said, staring his employer in the eye. Suddenly his mask began to crack, and he looked scared and haggard. "Finella, please."

Finella MacLeod checked her watch and sighed. "All right," she said. "Two more hours. But you need to do me a favor."

"Name it," he said.

"David Xanatos opened the lobby of the Eyrie Building for people stranded in the city," she said. "Just let the people know there is food and a roof. And if you could do it without mentioning his prison record..."

"All right, Finella," Travis said, as the make-up girl ran over and began to do him up. "This one time."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Finella MacLeod strode down the hallway and entered her office. Inside, a portly older woman was waiting, alongside an eleven-year-old Eurasian boy.

"I never dreamed of a horror like this when we arrived in this new world," the older woman said.

"Things don't change, Mary," Finella said as she took a seat behind her desk, and poured herself a glass of Scotch. "Our problems will follow us no matter how much the world seems to change."

"I don't believe that," Mary Sanchez said. "This is just one horrible day, and maybe horrible years are to come, but you cannae deny that things have changed for the better."

"Are you talking about the old country again?" the boy asked, as he slowly reached for his mother's bottle of Scotch.

Mary spotted him and lightly slapped his hand aside. "Ollie Yamashita, you could at least try to be sneakier."

"Come on, Aunt Mary," he said, then turned to Finella. "Dad lets me try sake."

"And that's why you live with me and not with him," Finella said as she nursed her drink.

"I should get home," Mary said as she checked her watch. "Rosaria had her first day tutoring young Xanatos, and I want to hear some good news in the face of all this tragedy."

As Mary closed the door behind her, Ollie scooted behind his mother's desk and took her hand. "You don't really think the world is a bad place, do you?"

"It can be," Finella said. "But my sister is right. It's up to you and your generation to succeed where previous generations have failed."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Greenwich Village. 8:05 pm EST

Goliath led his clan through the skies of the island metropolis beneath them. But as they approached the site of the destruction, the smoke and fog that enveloped the southern end of the island grew more massive.

"If we glide any closer, we'll be blind!" Brooklyn called out.

Goliath sighed and pointed towards a familiar building below them. The Old York Opera House. "There," he cried. As he began his descent, the rest of the clan followed his command as they landed, one by one atop the decades-old structure.

After he was back on his feet, Goliath cloaked his wings and gazed at the heinous carnage before them. The smoke glowed yellow as the lights of emergency vehicles and the flames that still burned reflected off of it, illuminating the skies above them. A tear streamed down his face as he took in the massacre of thousands.

Goliath was not alone in his tears, nearby, Angela buried her face into Broadway's shoulder. Her sobbing was the only sound coming from any of them as most of them struggled to find the proper words.

"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," Coldfire said, breaking the silence. "All is one with the wind."

"What is that?" Angela asked, as she pulled away from Broadway's shoulder. Her eyes were red as the tears still fell.

"It is the invocation of the Wind Ceremony," Goliath said as he placed a comforting hand on his biological daughter's shoulder. "When one of our kind dies, we come together and pay our respects. We mourn with those words before we glide out amidst the wind-borne ashes so that the deceased may remain with us forever."

"That sounds beautiful," Angela replied, realizing how much of her kind's culture she still lacked knowledge of.

"Those that died may not have been gargoyles, but they were of our protectorate, our home," Coldfire said.

"Do you object, old friend?" Goliath said as he turned towards Hudson.

"There's nothing to object to," Hudson replied as he stroked Bronx's ear. "None of our kind died this day, but perhaps some day all three of the races will be one people."

Goliath turned his attention back towards the site of the attack, and bowed his head. The rest of the gargoyles cloaked their wings and also bowed their heads.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Upper Manhattan. 8:22 pm EST

Maria Chavez pulled her car up to the curb outside of the small brownstone. She had been working for over twenty-four hours. The Chief of the 23rd Precinct had to personally relieve her of command for the evening before sending her home. He had said she was no good to the force if she was in danger of collapsing due to fatigue. Chavez protested, but was overruled.

As she walked up the steps to her home, the front door opened and little Gabrielle ran out. "Mommy! Mommy!" she cried. "You're safe."

Maria took her daughter into her arms and lifted her up off the ground. "I'm sorry, Gabby," she said. "I know I promised you a special dinner, but..."

"It's okay," Gabrielle said. "Daddy's cooking a special dinner inside, for you. And I'm helping!"

Maria smiled for the first time since early in the morning as she set her daughter back down. Gabrielle then took her hand and pulled her into the house.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Greenwich Village. 8:48 pm EST

Like the statues that bore their likeness, the gargoyles continued to stand vigil, in silent solitude. Each of them was alone in their thoughts, but not alone with each other. The only sounds were those from emergency vehicles as they sped to and from the site of the attack, doing what little they could to help even in the face of overwhelming death.

The sounds of wings on wind, and rocket jets broke the silence. Goliath's heart sank, before his eyes glowed and he flared out his wings. He turned towards the east end of the rooftop, and the rest of the clan followed suit as their personal demon arrived.

Demona came to a graceful landing near the ledge. She set down her pet beast, Hellhound, and reared up, particle beam cannon in her hands, but she did not take aim. Coldsteel came to a rough landing at her right, and his robotic mouth curved into a grin.

The Manhattan Clan flexed their talons. Hudson, Katana, Brooklyn, and Nashville drew their weapons, while Coldstone and Coldfire raised theirs. Bronx and Fu-Dog growled at Hellhound, who returned the favor.

The situation was tense, as everybody waited for somebody to make a move. Finally, Angela stepped out, arms raised in disbelief. "You're doing this tonight, Demona?!" she cried. "Tonight?!"

"We did not come here for a battle, Demona!" Goliath growled. "But if battle is what you want..."

Demona smirked, but still did not take aim. "Tonight, I come in peace," she said.

"Oh, that's a load of bull crap," Nashville cried.

"I'm here to talk," she said. "Nothing more."

"Okay, we'll talk," Brooklyn said, though he did not take his blaster off of her. "But put your weapon down."

"I'll lower my weapon if you, your mate, the hatchling and the Old Soldier do the same," she said. Her smirk widened to a grin as they did anything but. "All right, I'll be the only adult here." She slowly laid her particle beam on the ground, cloaked her wings and approached them.

"Why are you here?" Goliath growled.

"You look well," she said as she walked towards Goliath. Then she walked past him and looked each member of the Manhattan Clan in the eyes. "Each of you look well, and I am grateful that none of you were hurt in another one of the humans' petty attacks."

"If you're trying to make us laugh, it's not working." Lexington's eyes glowed as he growled.

"Congratulations on the new company, Lexington," Demona said as she brushed his shoulder with her left hand, before looking Staghart in the eyes. "I understand you'll be providing Thailog and myself with spirited competition."

She came to a stop near Katana, who held her blade in one hand, and the young Tachi in her other arm. "I see this little one looks happy and healthy," Demona smiled. "So innocent, not a single thought comprehending what just happened here this day."

Demona then approached Angela, and placed both hands on her shoulders. Angela bristled a little at this, but accepted the affectionate gesture. "These humans aren't worth your tears, my daughter" she said before running a hand through Angela's hair. Another move that Angela allowed herself to accept. "You are the most precious thing in the world to me, never forget that."

"All right, Demona, make your point and then get out of here," Brooklyn said.

Demona sauntered her way towards the center of the roof where she could be seen and heard by each and every one of them. "You've stared at what happened for long enough, you don't need me to tell you how horrible it is. I see the shock on all of your faces." The smile on her face dropped. "Like you, I too was shocked. But I was never surprised."

Her wings flared out as she gestured towards Ground Zero. "This is the ultimate truth of humanity, everything you see before you," she said. "How many do you think died? A small fraction compared to the amount of humans that murdered one another throughout their history."

"Oh shut up!" Nashville growled.

"Let her talk," Broadway said. To which Angela gaped at her mate in shock.

"Khmer Rouge, the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the Second World War, the Great War, Manifest Destiny, civil wars, human bondage, slavery, the Inquisition, the Hundred Years' War, the Crusades, I have seen them all," she declared. "And there were many more. This day doesn't even come close to the horrors of those atrocities. And this attack may not have happened had this country not been killing others in their own lands."

"Since when do you care about geo-politics!" Lexington cried.

"Humanity is the common problem," she said. "They will keep on killing each other and killing each other without a care as to who started it. It is their nature, it is their way! And one day, we will all die either directly, or indirectly. A species that hates itself this much will destroy themselves and everything around it."

"Sort of like how you try to kill gargoyles who disagree with you," Staghart suggested. Demona glared daggers at the young gargoyle from London. "Personally, I see little difference between you and those who did this."

"Regardless," Demona said as her glare became a smile. "I think it's time for us to let bygones be bygones and stand together as one clan." As she spoke, Coldfire's gaze met Coldsteel's; were the golden android still capable of shuddering she would have.

"You're willing to let bygones be bygones," Brooklyn said. "Well, that's quite the change."

"Goliath," Demona said, taking a tone of imploring. "I know that too much has passed between us to go back to what we were. But if we stand together, our kind will not only survive, we will prevail. The humans of this city aren't worth your protection. Join me, and help your own kind."

Goliath just stared at her, stunned by this turn of events. As he gathered his own thoughts to form a response, Broadway broke the silence.

"Maybe she has a point," the big gargoyle said. Angela gasped and once again gaped at him. "I mean, we shouldn't be trying to kill anyone, and maybe we can be more selective about who we help… but, if humans can do this..."

"Broadway, you are in shock!" Angela cried.

"Or maybe his eyes are finally opening, daughter," Demona said. "Perhaps he's more intelligent than I gave him credit for."

Brooklyn and Lexington rushed to their rookery brother's side and gently took a hold of him "We're all shocked, buddy," Brooklyn said. "But calm down, and think this through."

"While Broadway does that, I would have words with you," Goliath said as he stepped forward and extended a hand towards Demona. "Just this once, will you walk with me again?"

Demona hesitated before she took her former mate's hand. Goliath then gently led her towards the edge. "Look at them," he said. "They are all trying to help one another. Law enforcement, first responders, and civilians of different backgrounds, and creeds."

He looked Demona in the eye, but she appeared unmoved. "You say that you've seen horrors throughout the centuries that this pales to in comparison, but you must have seen their inherent goodness as well."

"Of course Detective Maza has her claws in you, Goliath," the red-head said as she took in everything he pointed out. "Some of the humans may have come together today, but tomorrow they will be at each others' throats again."

"But it doesn't necessarily need to be this way," the leader of the Manhattan Clan said. "Perhaps you are right about one thing, we should come together. Demona," this time his tone became imploring, "you are a gargoyle with talent and power of which I have never seen before. With your knowledge of science, your command of sorcery, and your control of Nightstone Unlimited, you could be a tremendous force for good in this world."

"Are you implying that I am not already such a thing?" she smirked, still unmoved.

"We can all work together to better our kind, help the humans better themselves, and better this world." He knew what he was about to say next would fall on deaf ears, but he decided that he would say it anyway. "Demona, rejoin your clan."

Demona stepped back, her eyes wide in shock. "What?" She looked around her. Most of the rest of the Manhattan Clan appeared to be trying to stop themselves from protesting. Brooklyn merely sighed in sadness.

"Please, mother," Angela said. "Isn't this what you want? To be a family again? To no longer be alone?"

"We were sisters in the past," Coldfire said as she stood at Angela's side. "I would very much like for us to be sisters again."

"Yes, let's all be a clan once more," Coldsteel grinned. "I like this idea."

"If Moany joins us, I'm out!" Nashville said before Katana lightly slapped the back of his head with her tail.

"No," Demona said, her tone turned deadly. "I will not enable your foolishness, Goliath!"

She stormed her way through the clan back to the southern ledge. "Look at the destruction again!" she cried. "Look! What do you think is going to come next? This country will send its armies to hunt down those that did this and those who didn't participate in this will be killed! Look!"

"He did look, Demona," Brooklyn said as he finally put his weapons away. "We've all looked."

"Of course you did, TimeDancer," Demona smirked. "You may think you know everything, but you've only lived snippets. I've lived for a millennium!"

"Mother, I love you," Angela said for the first time, and realized that she did mean it. "But I've heard enough. Please just go."

"All right," she said with a nod. She approached Angela, and extended her arms. Her daughter did the same and accepted her hug. After a moment, they both pulled back. "Be careful, Angela. The humans will be more fearful than ever."

Demona then turned her attention to Broadway. "Should you truly become enlightened to the simplest truth about humanity, know that I will accept you at my side."

"I am sure we will meet again, Demona," Goliath said. "And I will hope for your own enlightenment."

Demona rolled her eyes and muttered "Fools" under her breath, before bending over and picking up her particle beam cannon. For a moment, she considered whirling around and firing on Goliath. This was her opening; she could take it. But no, let him and his clan of fools truly absorb this.

"Know that this was my final offer of peace between us, Goliath." Her eyes burned like red embers. "Now this will only end when one of us lies dead," she growled. She then ran to the north ledge and took to the air. Coldsteel picked up a growling and struggling Hellhound and followed her.

The Manhattan Clan watched as the silhouettes faded into the distance, Demona's banshee-like battle cry briefly drowning out the sounds of cars, trucks, and sirens as it echoed into the night. Once they were out of sight, the clan breathed a collective sigh of relief. "So now what, lad?" Hudson asked.

Angela grabbed Broadway by the wrist and began to drag him away. "You and I are going to have a long talk." She pulled him over to a neighboring rooftop, and the rest of the clan turned away to give them a modicum of privacy.

"I just got a text from Elisa," Lexington said as he held up his LexPhone. "She'll meet us here in a couple of hours."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

11:03 pm EST

Elisa climbed the final flight of stairs and emerged on the rooftop of the Old York Opera House. For the first time in what felt like forever, she smiled at the sight of her clan. Her family. Goliath turned towards her and his mood brightened slightly as she made her way over to him, hugging each gargoyle one by one, save for Coldstone and Coldfire whom she shook hands with.

Goliath pulled Elisa into his arms and cloaked his wings around her. After several moments of silence, he released her. "Are you all right?"

"No," she said. "I finally managed to get through to Mom, but I haven't been able to get in touch with Dad. Like all of us, he was called in."

Goliath nodded, then noticed that she was openly wearing her badge, only a black band was wrapped around it. "What is that?" he asked.

"It's a mourning band," she said, clearly trying to keep her composure. "We lost a lot of good cops today. Bravely running into those buildings to save as many as they could."

"They were true warriors," Katana said, as she bowed her head once more. "Giving their lives to protect those under their care."

"You're going to make me cry again," Elisa said, placing a hand on Katana's arm. "I should have been there."

Goliath stepped backwards, taken aback at her statement. "But you would have perished."

"Maybe. Maybe I'd have died saving one more life," she said. "It's why I put on the badge in the first place. Why am I still here when so many of my brothers and sisters on the force aren't?"

As she spoke, Angela and Broadway returned from the nearby rooftop and both of them embraced the detective. "Hi, guys," she said.

"Elisa, we overheard," Broadway said. "You can't really wish you'd been there."

"It's survivor's guilt," Elisa said sadly. "I studied psychology at Columbia. Don't worry about me, I'm a rock. But I'm probably going to be feeling this for a while."

"Are you still on duty?" Lexington asked.

"No, Captain Chavez relieved me shortly before the chief sent her home," she replied. "But I just didn't feel like going home. I didn't want to feel more useless than I already do."

"Elisa, you are not useless," Goliath said as he took her right hand between his talons. "You have given so much of yourself to your protectorate. We need you. I need you."

"I'll be fine," she said. "But you guys need to get out of here, before anyone looks up into the sky and panics."

Goliath nodded and turned to face the rest of his clan. "We have paid our respects, and tomorrow we will continue to protect this island and all who dwell within it." He turned back towards Elisa. "Will you come with us?"

"If we stop off at my apartment so I can feed Cagney first," she said.

Goliath took her into his arms and soared off into the Manhattan skies. The rest of his clan followed closely behind him.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The Labyrinth. 11:55 pm EST

"And with Excalibur in his hand, and Merlin at his side, the young Dragon King set to work building a kingdom that would bring justice and peace," Shari said. The gathered children applauded, as did Malibu and Delilah.

"And what happened to this young boy king?" Delilah asked.

"Many things," Shari said with a smile. "Many stories left to tell."

Not too far away, the voice of an adult male echoed "I don't want you going near her. Didn't you see what happened on the surface? She's one of those towel head terrorists!" The fact that they had heard this was clearly not an accident.

Shari closed her eyes and sighed. She opened them again and her audience was still there. She even noticed some new additions such as that discharged soldier with the American flag tattooed on her bicep.

"Do you want another story about the Dragon King?" she asked.

"Actually, Shari," Benny said as the mutate woodlouse raised all of his right hands, "why don't you tell us a story about you? We don't think you're a monster."

"Oh, I'm not that interesting," she said. "Nobody wants a story about a storyteller."

"I like this idea," Erin chimed in. Shari was taken aback at the turtle mutate's support of the idea. "Let the storyteller tell us her story for a change."

Shari pulled a cellphone out of her back pocket and checked it. Five missed calls from Thailog. Well, he would have to fend for himself tonight. Three missed calls from Tamora; she felt guilty about blowing off her best friend, but she just wasn't in the mood. One from Hassan-i Sabbah. One from Duval. Her eyebrow raised when she noticed one from Peredur fab Ragnal himself. She smiled and then placed the phone back into her pocket.

"All right," she said. She allowed herself a slight smile as she considered her wording, then began. "The story is told - though who can say if it be true...

"Of Shahryar, who ruled a Persian empire extending to India, as far as China. This king of kings was betrayed by his wife, and every night for three years he would take a new wife and every day he would send yesterday's wife to be beheaded.

"Then came the beautiful and clever Scheherazade, daughter of the Grand Vizier. Scheherazade volunteered to spend the night with the king and regaled him with a tale of utmost splendor. Shahryar listened in awe and as the sun rose, Scheherazade stopped as dawn broke. In his desire to hear the end of her story, the king spared her life for the day.

"Tales of Scheherazade spread to the local clan of gargoyles," Shari said as she winked at Delilah and Malibu. "The gargoyles' second visited at night and was enchanted by the tales that were woven night after night.

"And so it continued, for one-thousand and one nights, Scheherazade captivated the king and the gargoyle with stories of forty thieves; younger siblings and jealous elders. As the tales continued, they grew more captivated by the story teller.

"When Scheherazade weaved her final tale on the one-thousand and first night, the gargoyle had bonded with her in a friendship that would last beyond their natural lifetime, and Shahryar had fallen in love with her, and took her as his queen of the Persian Empire."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

SoHo. 11:55 pm EST

Goliath stood on the rooftop balcony of Elisa's loft, taking in the night air. They had all arrived well over a half hour ago, but as Elisa fed Cagney, they all seemed to settle down. Truthfully, they were too emotionally exhausted to return to the castle this night. So, instead, Broadway took to the kitchen to cook them all a meal while the rest just sat down and relaxed.

The gargoyle's relaxation was broken as the sounds of a struggle emanated from the street. He peered over the edge and gasped as an older couple were backed against the wall of the building across the street by about four thugs.

Elisa emerged from her loft, ran over to Goliath's side, and stared down. "That's Sadia and Adeel," she said.

"Your kind just murdered thousands of Americans!" the ring leader of the thugs said, as he whipped out a butterfly knife from his jacket pocket. "Well, I say the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim!"

Goliath flared his wings, his eyes glowing. The rest of the clan noticed the commotion and also ran over to the edge of the loft, even Broadway, the dinner he had been preparing briefly forgotten.

"We have to help them!" Angela cried.

"Wait!" Goliath called. He pointed towards the street as a crowd of over twenty humans came running.

Half of the crowd surrounded the thugs while the other half planted themselves between the ring leader's blade and Sadia and Adeel. A man in a black suit and a white clerical collar marched right up to the ring leader, ignoring his blade.

"We are all children of God," the reverend declared. "Whatever the ways we choose to worship Him."

"Out of my way, priest," the ring leader shouted. "Let me get some payback for all the Americans we lost today."

"No," said the reverend. "I am a man of God, but I am not afraid to fight for all of His children. These people are innocent. They did not do this. But if you hurt them, you are no better than the terrorists that attacked us."

"Whatever," the ring leader said. He put his knife away and nodded towards his colleagues. The crowd backed off slightly, and allowed them to peacefully leave.

"Thank you," Sadia said as Adeel shook the reverend's hand.

From up above, the gargoyles watched the scene unfold as total strangers embraced the Muslim couple as friends and neighbors. "And that is humanity at its best," Brooklyn said.

"Yeah," Broadway said as tears streamed down his face. "I can't believe I almost let Demona get to me."

"You were in shock," Angela said as she embraced her mate. "But I knew you didn't have it in you."

"Do you know what else I saw down there?" Elisa asked.

"Hope?" Goliath asked.

"Yeah," she replied. "Something I was almost fresh out of."

"It is the dichotomy of not just humanity, but all of us," said Goliath. "We are all capable of beauty and evil. I have no doubt that dark days will continue to descend upon us. But as long as we stand together, as long as a few follow the better angels of their nature, then hope is truly immortal. And a better tomorrow is always on the horizon."

Elisa smiled and glanced at her watch. 11:59. Only a few more seconds until this terrible day came to an end and tomorrow the world, for good and ill, the world would begin anew.

Never the End...

Featuring the Voice Talents of…

Ed Asner – Hudson
Shohreh Aghdashloo – Sadia
Erick Avari – Adeel
Brigitte Bako – Angela
Michael Bell – Martin Hacker
Jeff Bennett – Brooklyn, Owen Burnett
Xander Berkeley – Coldsteel
Rocky Caroll – Talon
Keith David – Goliath
Michael Dorn – Coldstone
Sheena Easton – Finella
Zehra Fazal – Shari
Jonathan Frakes – David Xanatos
Charles Hallahan – Travis Marshall
Yuri Lowenthal – Nashville/Gnash
Kelly Macdonald – Rosaria Sanchez
Mary Elizabeth McGlynn – Victoria Saffron
Robret Ochoa – Ollie Yamashita
Ron Perlman – Al
CCH Pounder – Coldfire
Salli Richardson – Elisa Maza
Laura San Giacomo – Fox
Rhea Seehorn – Sandi
Marina Sirtis – Demona/Dominique Destine, Margot Yale
Kath Soucie – Maggie the Cat, Mary
Rachel Ticotin – Maria Chavez
Benny Weisman – Benny
Erin Weisman – Erin
Frank Welker – Bronx, Hellhound
Tom Wilson – Matt Bluestone

Acknowledgements: As always, thank you to Todd Jensen for being my editor. Thank you to GryphinWyrm7, Masterdramon, and Algernon84 for their input, especially Masterdramon for Martin Hacker's dialogue (if you liked that scene, send him your compliments). I won't lie, this was a tough one to write. I had to re-visit that day, cast myself back to when I was a twenty-year-old college student. As a New Yorker, I saw most of this first hand. The fear, the helplessness, the anger. I think all of us remember. I tried to keep this story tasteful, and respectful. If I failed, you are more than welcome to let me know. I promise that the next story will be a return to weaving out the saga my colleagues and I are developing. I'll be back as soon as possible with "War Stories". In the mean time, check out the works of Algernon84, Masterdramon's "Hawaiki" as well as his upcoming "Assassins". And, of course, keep an eye out for GryphinWyrm7's "Prey" which is a sequel to his "Madness of Merlin" and my "Fusion". And thank to all of you for continuing to read and support us.