Author's Note - March 26th, 2004.
"What did you just do?"
Well, it's been a long time since I got this much feedback, and a long time since I got yelled at. Seems I've confused/upset a lot of people in just what my intentions were with 92 - "Sempiternity".
The story in itself served a few purposes, but the most significant was the breaking away from the TGS universe in which I've dwelled since my fanfiction writing 'career' started. For the last few months, perhaps the last year or so, I've been feeling trapped, bound by rules I never came up with and I felt I had to get out or risk losing my motivation.
Thus, as of 92, my universe has been altered.
Slightly? Drastically? Somewhere in between actually.
"How will this impact your universe?"
I've read a few comparisons to DC comics' massive universe-altering event "Crisis On Infinite Earths" and well, it's not the same. COIE served to fix sixty years of continuity gone awry, aging characters and their subsequent origins and pretty much rebooted the DCU, but Sempiternity served to simply alter a few events enough to separate my universe from TGS.
As a comic reader for ten years, I know of the ramifications of 'retconning' universes and individual characters or introducing a new 'artistic vision' to a series, and though I am not a fan of that (unless, like DC's Hawkman, it works out for the best), I felt I had to do this.
And just for the record, my universe has not been 'obliterated' or 'eliminated' and 'replaced' with another, just altered. This isn't a massive upheaval. My artistic vision hasn't changed; if anything, it's become stronger.
Any of the major TGS characters I've used will no longer appear, at the very least not by name or their familiar appearance. Brooklyn's family, (made famous in TGS and Timedancer) has been replaced with another, but really, it's somewhat only cosmetic (and symbolic to me at least) in terms of change. I've decided to use the names Katana, Nashville, Tachi and, ugh, Fu-Dog from Greg Weisman's "Master Plan" as I thought it best to use names the fandom was already familiar with. They family unit itself is basically the same, Katana the samurai matriarch (I actually like the name Sata better but sacrifices must be made), Nashville and Tachi the pre-teen twins (Nashville's the son, Tachi's the daughter and they're both the same age, born at the same time), and their little, hyper mini-gargbeast.
As for Nicole St. John, again, it's mostly a name change and a few cosmetic touch-ups. The intrepid, pesky reporter working for WVRN and currently 'residing' within the castle is now Savannah St. Nicks. Blond hair having turned to dark brown and a new set of eyes are perhaps the most glaring physical change. As for characterization, well, she's still a bitch, struggling with her conscience in trying to expose the gargoyles for the ultimate story.
As for Sara Jasper, Matt Bluestone's girlfriend, she doesn't exist. In her place is Sirena Anastisakis, a woman born from a Grecian background and that sexy little hint of a Greek accent. She was never a cop, but did indeed get involved with the Quarrymen and was helped to see their true intentions by a familiar trench-coat wearing detective. She died while saving's Matt's life when the Guild mole attacked him in Maria Chavez's office. I will elaborate on her more as she will be featured in an upcoming story (yes, I know she's dead, but, hey, you'll see...).
As for the other minor TGS characters I have used, Andrea Calhoun, Sharon Nomura, Dr. Goldblum, Judge Roblyn, they probably won't be around ever again. I've already got enough characters to worry about anyways and no one, at least from my feedback, seems to miss them.
Oh, and if anyone noticed, the Canadian clan, of which Lexington's girlfriend Rain belongs, has ballooned to fifteen instead of the original six. This was something I waffled on long ago and regretted as it was worked into continuity.
Shadow, Todd and Annika Hawkins, Dr. Alan Pierce, Dr. Trishia Weathers, Ares, Aurora, Rain, Thrash, Magellan, Iliana Starr, Trinity Hope Maza, Infiniti, Rose Hawkins, Joseph Hawkins/Mr. Black, Sarah Hawkins, FBI agents Abel Sykes and Dominic Ford, psychiatrist Anne-Marie Blackwell, Kokuei, Sobek, agent White, the Guild, and all my other characters haven't been changed at all (except a few altered memories here and there). Everything that has been revealed about them remains exactly the same.
More modifications may be introduced, but frankly, there's not a whole hell of a lot, and I'll be sure to show them. The changes I have made to my universe aren't massive anyways (and considering I've moved away from any TGS plotlines a long time ago, it won't be hard to get back into my stories). Like I've previously said, they're small, a few changes here and there and you will be noticing them as I continue my season 4. If you have any questions, you know my e-mail.
"What about your past stories?"
They'll stay the way they are. I'm not taking them down.
I suppose I'm asking for whatever consists of my reading audience to accept the changes as they are. If I were so inclined to go back and change nearly a hundred stories I would, but I'd end up clogging the GFW and FF.Net archives and causing a few webmasters who host my stories a massive headache. So, the previous stories will stand as they are (unless I get my own website, as I'm currently in the process of shopping around).
"But what's the point? Why do this so far into your established universe to obtain only a sight change?"
For 92 stories, for four long years, I've been playing in a universe that wasn't really mine in any sense of ownership. Not only was I forced to write in a world owned by a larger commercial company (which fanfiction is based on and which I really had no problems with), it was owned by a group of fans themselves.
Therein lied the problem as I continued to write.
Though it was somewhat convenient to have an entire timeline ranging from ten thousand years into the past to three thousand years into the future, it served as a double-edged sword and I was bound by an incredibly stringent set of rules I couldn't break without contradicting a lot of what came before. I felt as if by using their characters, using characters a fellow writer came up with and not a larger corporation that's moved on (yes, not a large difference, but to me there is), I didn't have any right to do with them what my imagination could come up with; killing characters off, involving them in relationships, changing them beyond the vision and spirit in which they were created, etc, etc.
By using their established events and history, I wasn't able to create my own.
Now I feel I do. Now it seems I have a blank slate once more. Now the only rules to limit my writing are my own and it feels good. After so much work, after four years of filling my free time with writing and releasing story after story with barely a break, I was beginning to feel the drag of it. But now, it's like a have a fire going and an open road with no end.
Ellen Stolfa, Kimberly Towle, Carolynn Marie, Puaena, Christine Morgan, Allaine, Dylan Blacquire, all of those authors have started their universes from scratch, but I chose not to. I chose to follow an already established fan-created project and I feel as if, at this point in my writing, where I feel I'm doing the best work I've ever done, I'm suffering. I was jealous of the freedom they had and I need it as well. I'm a control freak, and I want total rule.
I have incredible respect for TGS, for the creators, for the writers, for everyone involved, but it was time to create my own legacy as best I could and not simply an offshoot.
And if some may have noticed, I've already renamed my saga, took the TGS out of the title and reset the seasons (whereas I was in season 6, I'm now in season 4).
My series took place after two seasons of the cartoon, and a similar timeline to the first two seasons of TGS. There was a Seelie/Unseelie war, and most of the events did happen, but I won't elaborate unless a future story calls for it. I've rarely dwelled in the past anyways.
Then, 01 - "Beginning Anew", my first official story, took place in the summer of 1999.
"I'm still confused by the story itself."
Yeah, well, that was the risk I took in such an ambitious story. But I think for the most part, it worked. Story 93 will be a shorter explanation type tale where the characters sit down to talk about just what the hell happened. Then 94 will get right back into the saga with the Manhattan clan.
Well, here I am, hoping that I haven't completely and totally FUBARed or lost any precious readers.
93 - "Filling In The Blanks"
"The simplest explanation is that it doesn't make sense."
- Professor William BuechnerMay 6th, 3547
"Okay, let's get this straight. You're saying one of Kessik's blasts hit the phoenix gate, broke it open and released an immeasurable amount of energy in the form of a wave that, one, traveled backward through time and two, had the power to alter any and every event in the whole of history it came into contact with."
A nod. "Yes."
"And because this wave was in part caused by Trinity and Liberty, only they could stop it by throwing themselves into it before it continued to the beginning of time."
"And we don't know the extent of the damage it could have caused."
A sigh of resignation, followed by the inevitable, "Yes."
Back and forth, Elisa and Goliath had talked their way through the gamut of phenomena both proven and theoretical, from simple physics to temporal mechanics. It all seemed a mélange of minimalism hopelessly cluttered by several convoluted and wild presumptions impacting into another.
And by the end, through a few detailed retellings, Elisa reeling, Goliath rubbing talons over his brow, each had a headache worse than they'd care to admit.
"We have no way of knowing if it was even stopped in the first place." a new voice jumped into the conversation with the couple's lull, an observer who'd let them volley back and forth until some kind of understanding was reached. "Everything could be different from what we remember."
"But we have no way of remembering anything any differently." Elisa sighed through the pall of her hair.
Isis shot a snap of her fingers towards Elisa and fangs glistened against her dark skin. "Now you're beginning to understand."
"Oh good lord..."
Contrary to the human's irritation, she was all too relaxed in the cream-hued embrace of the sofa, cross-legged, two fingers on her chin and a smile of the self-righteous doing up cold, black features. There was a squeak on leather as Isis shifted and found a more comfortable place in the hollow formed in the material. Her tail lashed, worked out the kinks and wrapped contentedly around a slim hock. "There were two major temporal events that had the power to alter events and history. One," a talon rose into the air for emphasis, "the wave. We can never know whether or not it was actually stopped. Our entire timeline could be drastically altered depending on if Trinity and Liberty's sacrifice indeed halted it at two-thousand-two and didn't allow it to go any farther back into the timeline."
Goliath's brows rose. "And if it did?"
"Our history could be drastically changed without our knowledge. And you can imagine the damage done with every important decision ever made in history being altered no matter how slight."
He held up a hand. "I get the point. And the second major temporal event would be, I assume, the battle with Kessik."
"We have to assume Zion will stop Kessik in thirty-five-sixty-seven from ever getting his hands on the ashes of the original phoenix gate from the Eyrie building, thus negating everything that was spurred by that one event. His sending it back in time to his younger self, the blackmail of your future self to help him in thirty-five-ninety-seven, your daughters stealing the other phoenix gate to find you in the future, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera." She flicked her eyes to Elisa, who appeared visibly unnerved under an unintentional scrutiny; she didn't like being sized up by that hungry, gold-flecked gaze. "Our greatest evidence is Elisa's lack of memory about every event she experienced from our point of view."
"But why do we still remember?" Goliath asked determinedly. "Why did the wave alter our memories and the universe around us and not the battle with Kessik?"
"It must have been the shield I cast, and it only protected us from two-thousand-two on." Isis explained. "If the wave, or part of the wave, hit any point in time earlier than that, the shield was useless. Our memories were already altered before any of this even happened, before you even arrived in this time period. Therein lays the mystery, the impossibility and the annoyance of the paradox."
"Effect before cause." he muttered quietly. "It all sounds so..."
"Far-fetched? Implausible? Improbable?" Isis offered.
"One of those will do." Goliath leaned back into his seat. It moaned against the weight, but the gargoyle seemed oblivious to the subtle whine underneath him, his thoughts scattered and unable to effectively coalesce. "You're versed."
"For lack of a better description."
Isis shrugged her reply. "It's not so hard to understand once you play the entire scenario out in a practical line. But, to be safe, I've been using New Cairo's wonderfully extensive archives. Let's just say, if I decide to imbue any more of your future daughters with the total sum of my knowledge, I want them to be prepared for anything."
She got a twofold grunt in return.
"My advice, Goliath," Isis managed between muffled bouts of laughter and stood up, intent for the door, "is to put this out of your head. There's nothing we can do about it, your wife and child are still here and healthy, and you never know, our world could be drastically improved."
"Or worsened." he contradicted, playing the pessimist with good reason. "You don't seem particularly concerned."
She'd stopped by the doorway, and the poker face she'd worn as armor had waned just slightly enough to see a pensive sting of pain pass through. "My life as it was," Isis whispered, "the life I escaped from...could not become any worse."
The door opened and she slipped out, leaving the Mazas to stare in the wake of an unexpected revelation.
Elisa's gaze still on the doorway, Goliath turned to his wife. It was if she was trying to look through and beyond the wall. "Are you all right?"
The spell was broken and she jerked at his voice. "F-Fine." Elisa sputtered. "Just fine." She licked her lips, and opened her hands in a progressively widening gesture. "Just...soaking everything in as best as possible."
"Do you have a headache as well?"
Appreciating the traces of humor, Elisa rubbed her forehead. "Yes. It's just hard to believe. Everything could be different and we wouldn't have a clue what. To us, it's history, continuity."
A breath was released, "I know," and his large hand found hers, and swallowed it. "But we are still here, married, Trinity is alive and well, we have another child coming..."
"But what if we had more? What if Trinity had a sister or brother that was suddenly erased?"
It was already happening, the suspicion. Goliath shook his head. "No."
"Goliath–" Elisa pleaded, but was cut off as her husband stood to his full, impressive height and growled down at her.
"Don't do this! We cannot second-guess our own history, or question our own existence for the rest of our lives! We must live as we did before even if our world has changed around us."
Small hands clenched and eventually opened, Elisa staring at her palms and the slowly fading red marks left by the tips of her fingers. Reality at the very least had been a constant, and to have it damaged as easily as flesh... "It's frustrating, frightening to know your entire life could have been rewritten right out from under you."
"It could have been much worse."
"Maybe," she said, under her breath, "maybe it was a world where I decided not to vote against you..."
Goliath raised his chin. As either intentionally or inadvertently muted as her statement was, his hearing easily plucked it from the dead quiet of their quarters (apart from an omnipresent hum of the complex's power relays) and as much as he'd like to feel remorse, it didn't come as easily as he would've liked. "You shouldn't dwell on it." he said at length.
"We haven't really dwelled on it at all, just...slapped a band-aid on most of our problems and tried to go on."
He stirred for a moment, deliberated, then sat back down on the loveseat. "For this marriage to survive, for us to survive, we had to."
Elisa scooted over the cushioned surface and leaned over, first testing her presence in his body language and then gingerly, lying across his lap. "I don't know if I've mentioned lately," she whispered, pillowing on his thigh, "that I'm sorry."
Goliath's response was neutral, "I know."
Time passed, and the couple passed it in silence.
Elisa was face up on her husband's lap, the gentle cadence of his breathing reminiscent of an ocean current and the days riding Avalon's skiff. If she closed her eyes she could almost hear the waves lapping against the old wood of a rickety craft that, belying its appearance, held together under even the greatest swells; as she further reminisced, she guessed some kind of native spell had held it together all those months.
Goliath raked his talons through her hair, slowly, methodically, spooling the threads through his fingers. Every so often his tail would twitch, and rustle against Elisa's leg. She'd grab the tip and rub her fingers along its base, hitting a cluster of nerves and making it dance against her light grasp.
"I hope..." she started, and felt Goliath reposition slightly underneath her. He looked down and ghostly, sourceless light glistened in the depths of his eyes. "I hope they lived long and happy lives."
Goliath knew she was referring to their clan. "As do I." he agreed softly. "As extensive as New Cairo's archives may be, there are still holes in their information. All I can find are thin references to an American clan several hundred years ago."
"I'd like to believe they survived. I'd like to believe their descendants survived and created a legacy for themselves."
"They did," he promised her, "a good legacy, a great one, of that we can be sure."
"I wonder how long that gate will keep us here..." she mused in casual manner. "I wonder if we're on our own timedancing trip."
His eyes slowly roamed towards where a suspended panel of satin-like material, pulled taught at both ends, hid the wall safe and the dangerous contents inside. "We could be at its mercy. The gate has already proven itself as erratic as Brooklyn's."
"He came through okay."
Goliath's talons tightened just a little, but the power could be felt through every tendon pulling in tandem. "He wears scars that are not so prominent to the eye, Elisa."
"Got himself a mate."
"Yes, Katana was a blessing."
"I like the kids." she mentioned next.
"Nashville and Tachi? Elisa..." It suddenly dawned on him, his wife's skills as an interrogator impressive if not surreptitious (and damnably sly). "Are you testing me?"
"Maybe." She rolled her head over on his legs and looked up at him. "Are you still wondering as I am if everyone we know could be different?"
"But they are the same to us if our memories are altered." he reasoned, and their earlier argument had quickly come full circle.
A sound filtered through Elisa's throat, and Goliath had recognized it as annoyance whenever this particular subject was breached. "Maybe we should start making a list." she said dryly.
"Perhaps..." he offhandedly consented.
"You know who I never really got a chance to get to know better? Othello and Desdemona. When we get back, I'm going to make it a point to get to really become acquainted with them. I mean, we're technically in-laws, they've babysat for us on more than one occasion..."
The hard, thin line of his mouth curved at the edges. "My sister actually became fond of you."
Elisa's head lifted from his thigh, casting an inquisitive glance. "Really?"
"Yes." he tipped his head slowly in a gesture of affirmation. "Of all the humans I could have mated with, she declared that you were the most loyal, honest and caring she'd ever met."
Thunder rolled into the lamp-lit room; from the vibration running through his frame, Elisa knew it'd come from Goliath. "Why couldn't he have been erased?"
"Goliath." she admonished. "You be nice to the young, annoying man who lived down the hall from us."
In penitence, Goliath offered a playful smirk.
"Married to Annika."
"At least one half of that couple is sensible. That boy would have probably gotten himself killed if not for her."
"Remember that one night they played cowboy? I can't get the image of Todd in his boxer briefs, a giant Styrofoam cowboy hat and a pair of cap guns."
Goliath stared straight ahead, and his lips curled into a sneer. He was as bemused now, as he was when he and Todd had linked their eyes at the ends of the castle hallway they shared (the young man had saluted them, shot off a couple of caps and slammed his door behind him, and Goliath was left to wonder at, discern and finally recognize the sounds coming from their room). "I wish I could forget...that image has been burned into my mind."
"'C'mon, little filly,'" Elisa mimicked, putting all her effort to get the full throaty twang just right, "'you an' I are gonna rock this fancy stone flagpole 'til it snaps in twain like a rattler standin' up against th' wind! Yeeee-haaaa!!'"
She burst into laughter, and turned to muffle each humor-choked breath into his stomach. Like stone breaking to reform itself to something new, his dour mug resisted the urge to join his wife in her amusement or even, unbelievably, smile.
But it crept up on him, and he shook his head at the memory.
"I never said I didn't like him, Big Guy, just that he didn't let me know him at all. Or anyone else for that matter."
"Shadow does have that...enormously reticent manner about him."
"And the guy's like a damned chick-magnet because of it."
"He's an honorable creature," Goliath admired, "a warrior, a ninja, he lives with as much pain as the rest of us but does not complain and is not afraid to reveal the starkness of any situation or his opinion." There were times a gravel-pitched voice had spoken earnestly from the corner, from where the light didn't quite reach; there, a contour at best and a pair of hauntingly russet eyes, Shadow would reduce a situation to its most fundamental concept. Silently, Goliath almost appreciated the candor; it served to heighten their prudence. "And I believe most women are attracted to the pain-filled, rugged, rebellious loner," he added, "are they not?"
"The quintessential 'bad boy'?" Elisa replied, lifting a brow. "Tell that to Brooklyn. Shot down twice in his prime..."
"I suppose there is a difference in attracting women and actually keeping them."
She was playfully intrigued. "And just how do you keep them?"
He didn't look down, only allow a hint of playfulness along the sharp edge of his jaw as he could feel Elisa's searching gaze. "Catch them when they're falling."
"Metaphorically," she mused, "or literally?"
"Either will do," he answered, "but doing both may just guarantee their heart."
"Are you still angry?"
"I don't know." Elisa sighed, drawing imaginary lines in the knolls of his stomach. "Right now, everything seems so disconnected it's like I'm numb to it. But, if we were to come face to face again, it'd probably all come roaring back."
Goliath was about to speak when, noticing the subtle shift of her form across his lap, the tensing of her shoulders and the pain that seemed ripe on her lips, waited out the inevitability of release.
"They lied." she blurted out, and Goliath was rewarded for his patience. "All those months, years, they never accepted us, this, her."
"You must understand them."
"Understand them?" her voice hit a higher octave and her hand, once making feathery swirls, clenched against his skin and fingernails nearly pierced the flesh. There was a wince behind Goliath's eyes and his brow barely fluttered. "Are you actually consenting to what they've done to us?"
"You know I'm not, but we must try to see every argument from both sides, see what substantiates an opposing view." he said softly. "I have learned, Elisa, the hard way, it is not always black and white. My own obstinacy has proved that fact."
"It is when it comes to Trinity. There is no halfway with my daughter. There's no halfway with us."
Silence followed, Elisa's bitter statement curbing any further conversation until, amazingly, "Your father and I are very alike."
She perked up, and ran her eyes along the column of her husband's ample torso to an expression that was infuriatingly impassive. "That's something I'd never thought I'd hear, especially from you."
"We are both leaders of our respective clans, and sometimes, we must make hard decisions to ensure our family's survival."
"Favoring one grandchild over another just because of her species? That's damned bigoted, not to mention cruel. We've been fighting that kind of xenophobia since we've known each other, the Quarrymen, the Guild, but to get it from my own family? My own dad?"
"I know," his hand found her own, squeezed it, "but could you cut yourself off from your family–"
"–all of your life?"
Elisa didn't have an answer; she'd bit her bottom lip to keep anything from escaping, tears, a scream, any sort of emotion that would serve to weaken her position in the right. She thought on it, and first formed the words in her head to better articulate the tumult of anger and misery. "He was my first hero, Goliath," she whispered, "he was supposed to be infallible. He was supposed to be above prejudice, dishonesty and hatred..."
"And then he turns out to be human." Goliath finished. "A simple, good, frightened human."
"You're defending him."
"You sound surprised."
"I am." she shrugged. "I thought you were angry."
"I am. I was...I...I remember the haze of anger, I remember charging through their patio doors and accusing them both and of course, I remember ending the evening with a smoldering patch of blistered skin on my chest." The disturbing lack of weight on his shoulders had been a reminder, had been a mechanism for change in his outlook and forced him to re-examine the already tenuous relationships he had with a small amount of allies. "My own anger cost me my wings." he cautioned her, reaching to massage one of the scars on his upper back. "My own fear may have cost innocents their very lives. And because of that, I cannot completely discount the man Peter Maza is, or at least, used to be. Everyone succumbs to fear in their life, Elisa, everyone."
Her eyes went up, stilled, and if there was a moment of volte-face it was quickly expunged as fast as it had shot through her mind. Elisa shook it off, curled in and went back to drawing her lines on a purple-pigmented canvas.
"I guess Maggie's had her baby already..." Elisa tailed off as soon as the words hit the air, and let out a hint of a self-deprecating laugh. She kept forgetting the chasm of fifteen centuries between her and everything she knew. "About fifteen hundred years ago..."
"You're an aunt." Goliath mentioned, trying if anything to lift her spirits.
"I could be a grandmother if Delilah's baby was born." Her eyes widened further. "We could be grandparents..."
The realization had hit Goliath nearly as hard as it'd hit his wife. His face went limp like a melting candle. "And we are barely over thirty."
Elisa turned over, burrowed into the glossy falls of sable running over a bulging trapezius, and groaned, "That is so depressing."
"I wonder how Broadway's taking it...Angela, I mean."
Almost immediately, a change in Goliath's position relayed his discomfort in the subject. "Hard, I imagine." he rasped. "He is...he was so good for her, and they seemed well-matched...I don't think she could have chosen any wiser."
Elisa pushed herself up to get a better vantage. "Goliath, I know you've purposely avoided talking about her, but...it helps, and frankly, I need to."
"She was one of my best friends."
He was immersed in the perfect camouflage, the room thick with graphite-hued shadow and polished steel, but eyes that incandescent betrayed the shell he wore even now. "It's...it's hard." Goliath ground out, the tone weedy, and eventually faltering.
She tilted her head to the side, and watched the defensive facade weaken. "I know. But you can't bottle your feelings, no matter how much practice you've had."
"H-How do you go on after losing a child...?" His jaw clenched shut, and, without the glint of light on a liquid surface, the thin runnel that quickly made the trail from cheek to chin would've gone unnoticed.
Elisa jumped up from his lap, wrapped her arms around his neck and allowed him that one moment of fragility.
He'd cried into her shoulder for a while, and she'd remained clamped around him whispering into the steel lengths of his hair (little nothings of a sort, as she didn't quite know what to say besides "I'm here." and "It's okay."). And as the sobs diminished, they had stayed in their embrace until Elisa's arms went numb, and she let go only because she couldn't feel her fingers.
Goliath had quickly, fully reclined onto the sofa, taking his wife with a squeal of sudden movement as the land gave way beneath her. And Elisa, she'd climbed and claimed a lavender mountain and now, draped lazily across part of his chest, found the perfect place to rest her head in the crook between his neck and shoulder. His arm had curled over her waist and his tail around her ankles.
Just how well they fit together in both the literal and figurative sense didn't seem to register; it was, of course, a pervasive, background fact of their relationship they'd sometimes forget.
A semi-coherent moan emanated from his form; he'd nearly fallen asleep. There was a delicate, singsong rhythm against the stillness of the room, heartbeats, breaths, it was soothing and Goliath was both physically and emotionally exhausted.
"Goliath?" Elisa's voice permeated the tranquil ambiance.
"Tell me about our daughters."
His eyes fluttered opened halfway. "I have."
"No," she reiterated, "tell me about them."
"Trinity..." he began, his own voice strengthening against a raw throat. "Trinity was so much like you it was frightening."
"So I can pretty much imagine the other future version that visited us."
"The second most obstinate woman I've ever met, she was as a clone of you at the age when we met."
Elisa stiffened. "You mean I've aged?"
Goliath held his tongue as he saw her eyes through parted shrouds, glinting; he'd only seen such an angry, luminescent glow on vagrant cats in the alleys his clan would frequent back in New York. This was the in-between of marriage, a no man's land and he knew better than to stray too far into dangerous territory. "You've changed–"
Claws came out, Elisa's fingernails whetting against each other. "Goliath, I swear to god..."
"For the better." he finished quickly, and pushed a palm against her sharp-tipped hands, smothering them. "The changes are subtle, delicate, but there."
Deciding not to pursue what Goliath could see and she couldn't (entering into her thirties had been traumatic at best), she decided on a more pleasant route in the conversation. "And...Liberty?"
"Spirited." he smirked.
"As if your wild side had freed itself from the shackles of responsibility. She was strong, opinionated, tenacious...concerned, afraid, vulnerable."
Elisa couldn't resist the smile she felt spreading as she massaged her stomach; nine months couldn't pass fast enough. "I can't wait to watch them both grow up, first steps, first flight, first date..."
"Date, yes, as much as you fear them flying, I fear for them against the male species." Goliath had cemented on Elisa's midsection and wore, though relentlessly grim, guilt on his features. "I fear for them..."
Elisa could see the remorse working itself through the lines in his face, churning in his eyes. She knew by his and Isis' narrative that he tried to stop their daughters from surrendering themselves, even if it meant throwing himself to the mercy of either the wave or gravity and a two thousand foot plunge. "You had to let them go." she whispered, lips near his lantern jaw.
"I was selfish." he admitted.
"In not wanting your daughters to die?"
"I tried to prevent them from saving all of us, from saving everything."
"Yes, you were selfish and rightly so. I can't even imagine what you were forced to witness. It would be like letting Trinity step in front of a car and not doing a damned thing to save her."
Brows furrowed, pressing against each other so fiercely Goliath's horns almost touched; he wasn't about to forgive himself even with Elisa's affirmation.
Suddenly, Elisa's head angled up. "Goliath?"
She was straining to look past where his chest and the two matching slabs of pectoral muscle blocked her view into most of the room. There was, if her eyes and the surrounding shadows weren't playing with her, a line in the air, maybe six feet long and a foot off the ground. A skulking breeze suddenly shot out of nowhere, and a scent like ozone strummed the air, similar to when she and Goliath would test fate and climb as high as his old wings and stamina would allow. "Did the air just unzip?"
Goliath was aware of it as well, his gaze darting wildly to search out the source. "Where?"
She reached across his chest. "Over there."
The line expanded into a window, light swept through and stabbed at eyes comfortably adjusted to the muted light, and something stepped through. Man-sized, bipedal, glowing, it scanned the room and found the couple on the sofa. The black-haired creature bristled at them, "Stupid twenty-first century hooligans!!"
He was a gargoyle, Elisa was sure of that, but he, it maybe, appeared wrapped in white spandex with accompanying cross-sections of quilted diamond. The near skin-tight uniform, going from neck to cuff to ankle and tailored for wings, bone spurs and tail, glowed against the light and shimmered at every angle. "What," she stressed, "the hell are you?"
An old pair of aviator's goggles was lifted from his eyes, snapped against a two-horned brow and the intruder stared back. "A guy who's trying to do his job while the infamous Wyvern clan craps everything up around me."
Goliath gently rolled Elisa off of him and stood, and the smaller male's wings stirred in defense; instinct had mistaken the simple gesture for a challenge. "Who are you?" he demanded unflinchingly. "And please, be succinct. My patience has grown dangerously thin."
The intruder shot the wingless gargoyle a look from head to toe, and noted especially, that face having haunted him, the livid sneer. "You sure you're not the evil Goliath?"
"My name is Albion." He held out his palm, face up, and a little ball of light wept from the pores in his hand and formed a three-dimensional, holographic symbol; a badge, rotating, and slightly garish if not official. "I work for the Agency."
Goliath could barely get a look at the emblem before it vanished. "What is the Agen–"
"Have you any idea what you've done to your timeline?!"
"We were trying to figure that out."
Albion sniffed at the re-circulated air, made an explorative pass at his surroundings and pulled back his features into a grimace as he continued, "That wave reworked an already overtaxed reality strand."
"So it wasn't stopped." Goliath presumed.
"Not completely. As impressed as I am with your daughters' sacrifice, it wasn't quite enough. They were already in a state of flux between flesh and nothingness and their effectiveness was a little dulled. Ribbons of temporally-charged energy leaked past them and, well, into the past."
Eager, Elisa asked, "So, you know what's been changed?"
"Yes," Albion answered, "I like the rest of my fellow agents exist outside of time. We have sixty-three archivists still collecting the data."
"Can you tell us?"
"No!" he snarled and his eyes held a gleam of unfamiliar color. "You caused this, you suffer with it."
"Unfair? How many people's lives were transformed because of your damned clan?"
"Two young girls risked their lives to save their father–"
"And flarked everything up in the process!" Albion fired back.
Elisa advanced a step; red flushed at her cheeks. "They were trying to save lives, and ensure a future for this world that didn't include the formulaic evil despot from taking over!"
"Kessik," Albion snorted, jerked his head back and pretty much waved off everything the serpent gargoyle was, "he's formulaic all right, blue-collar malevolent at best. Fires off a couple of shots, orchestrates a plan through forty years that ultimately fails because he obviously didn't plan well enough...now Sobek," he chuckled, smoothing his brows in admiration, "that's evil."
Muscle, when contracting, had a peculiar sound on a high, human-inaudible tone and Albion's ears picked up on it. He watched as slim ribbons folded atop each other under the skin of Goliath's arms and his amethyst features, already tense (and dark), had knotted into something more befitting his evil alternate.
Albion swallowed, his Adam's apple swelling against the tight collar of his uniform, and shrunk back against the glare.
Keenly aware of the small hand on his arm to keep him grounded, Goliath composed himself. "You can't tell us anything?"
"The changes weren't massive," Albion sighed, "but substantial. While most were subtle, a few reach as far back as twelve thousand years."
"Jesus..." Elisa muttered and started pacing.
Goliath remained statue still, even as his wife resembled a pinball bouncing around their adopted home. "Are you able to repair the timeline?" he asked Albion.
"I'm not touching it. We're lucky reality hasn't imploded."
"Can't you just go back in time and stop everything from happening." Elisa posed. "Hell, if we get the gate working, we could–"
"No!" Albion quickly barked. "Uh-uh, no way. Even if we could reverse what that wave did, we could end up making things worse. Besides, I don't have the jurisdiction to implement such changes. And..." he shrugged. "I wouldn't know where to start."
"Like pulling a thread and hoping the entire sweater doesn't unravel."
He nodded at Elisa, almost impressed at how someone so primeval could grasp temporal theory. "Right. Trying to change one decision could invariably affect another. I believe some of you primitives refer to it as the Butterfly effect. It's better just to leave everything as it is."
"Then..." Eyes smoldered. "Why the hell are you here?"
"It's my lunch hour and I'm here to vent! Stop screwing around with time!" The worn edges were beginning to show. "The director's threatening to put me in charge of all of your dark-aged, barbarian clan and frankly, I have enough to deal with trying to find your alternate."
"My alternate?" Goliath picked out the last word.
"Shazbot," a palm slapped against the base of his right horn, "you're about as sharp as the new leader of Wyvern."
Goliath fumed, baring his teeth at the comparison. "You know Brooklyn?"
"I sure do, he nearly screwed up and let your evil twin kidnap Demona."
"Goliath's evil what?!" Elisa echoed, and tossed out a hand. "Okay, maybe you should start from the beginning."
Albion was dead set against it. "I can't."
"Against the rules."
"You're already breaking the rules." she huffed.
"Bending them," he appended, and further elaborated, "and they're my rules to bend, thus I get to choose which rules to bend."
Incensed, Elisa tapped her husband's shoulder and rubbed a hand sweetly across the muscle. "Honey?" she purred. "Squeeze his neck until his head pops like a zit."
Bared to the light, incisors gritted against each other and forewent the need for any vocal threat. As eloquent and polished as Goliath was, good animalistic coercion could do wonders.
Albion watched as large, lavender hands flexed with power, enough to break bone and easily remove his head from his shoulders. He knew the strength from reading the files on the alternate Goliath, and the trail of bodies left in his wake. "Okay, okay," he ceded, and then muttered in addition, "physical threats, indicative of a primitive culture." Albion raised his hands, shook them, molded them to his story. "After you left, reality was ripping itself apart with Demona's little jaunt into the past. That little quarterling of Xanatos' tried to fix the threads of time splitting at the seams. He did, but like a retarded kid doing long division, he left a little remainder in the form of a sub-dimensional tear floating a few feet over the courtyard floor. With Demona's death a thousand years ago at the hands of her future self, a new timeline was created in which Goliath, you, your counterpart, spent the last millennium plotting revenge and gaining immeasurable power."
Goliath closed his eyes, rubbing the bridge of a broad, broken-styled nose. "Thus my evil twin."
"And here I thought the universe changing around us was bad enough..." Elisa groused off to the side.
"He slaughtered his way through ten centuries of history and several hundred alternate realities, all searching for the one Demona that killed his 'angel of the night'." Albion started wandering the room, upturning decorations and giving an appreciative chuckle at some of the so-called "future" technology. "And let me tell you, he's become a little unhinged in doing so."
"But, even with Brooklyn's incompetence, I was able to save Demona. Of course, Brooklyn's aforementioned incompetence meant Goliath was sent hurtling through the wastes of time and he got away. I've been on his trail ever since, but navigating thirteen point seven billion years of history and an infinite amount of alternate futures is not an easy task for a rook–ah, even for a seasoned veteran such as myself."
"So you know what's been going on with our clan," Elisa said, "or, what went on." and corrected, unused to working vocally in the past tense. "Care to share any more?"
"I can't tell you any more, I've already broken several directives, including temporal disclosure."
"Then what's one more?"
"My promotion." Albion shot back, and started rooting through one of several pouches on his uniform. It was on his chest, the left one; he pinched something between his thumb and foretalon and pulled it out. Long, cylindrical, about eight inches, Albion grasped the handle and it extended from one end, a thin shaft eventually increasing in length and ending in a tapered tip. He looked to Goliath and gestured with a few of his fingers. "C'mere."
As if he'd just been asked to have a prostate exam, Goliath retreated from the long, syringe-like device. "Why?" he demanded.
Albion waved the apparatus back and forth, as it lengthened another few inches and the tip split into two distinct claws, one longer than the other. "I need to stab you with this."
"I beg your pardon?!"
"It'll implant a sub-dermal tracking device." he explained, casually. In whatever time and dimension he existed, this was probably an everyday thing. "If your evil twin is intent on finding your reality just as you are, I'll need to know which one reaches it first."
"Give me one good reason why I should allow you."
"Well, if you want a Goliath that's partially psychotic, hell-bent on revenge and looking to massacre your clan if they get in his way of killing your Demona, then that's fine with me."
Reminded of an old adage, Goliath felt himself between that rock and that hard place and lowered his brow. "How do we know you're actually who you say you are?"
Albion's face fell flat. "I knew you'd ask that...okay, remember the night you two first made the beast with two backs? I believe Elisa's exact words were 'Goliath...it's...too much...Goliath...oh god...oh god, yes,'" he paused for dramatic effect, enjoying the look on his captive audience's faces, "'oh god.'"
"Oh god..." Elisa almost went into lockjaw. "You watched us?!"
"Research plus late, lonely night equals curiosity." He didn't seemed at all ashamed; it was business after all. "You're a very tender lover, Goliath. In fact, there's an office pool going on between the Agency's female agents on the best lovers through time and you're up to ninth place–"
"All right, ALL RIGHT!!!" Goliath roared, thoroughly convinced. "But I'm still a little wary of you jabbing me with some piece of bizarre technology!"
Goliath did a double take. "Why?! I'll tell you why!"
"Fine, you prehistorics want an extra incentive?" Albion started tapping his talons on a flat-surfaced section of the device's handle. "I can't believe I'm doing this..." he whispered, and held extended wand up for the couple to see. "It has the coordinates to your unique universe, and will tell you if you've strayed."
"What does that mean?" Elisa cut in.
"I overheard a conversation you had with the future Trinity in the infirmary." Goliath threw to his left, where his wife was cross-armed and fuming.
"A conversation I don't remember having."
"Right." he nodded, switching back to the wand's flat-panel surface and the near-unintelligible lighted symbols. "She mentioned that the phoenix gate has the power to travel through alternate realities as well as time."
"You've got to be kidding me. So even if we get the gate working, even if we make it back to the twenty-first century, we could end up in a timeline that's not our own?"
"Sucks, huh?" Albion offered.
Goliath shivered; he'd never experienced a feeling of déjà vu as powerful as this. He and Elisa turned to each other. "I suppose we have no choice."
"No we don't." Elisa sighed. "And Goliath? We're going to go over everything you know of the events I've apparently forgotten."
"So, you're all agreed here?" Albion cautiously intruded between the couple, his entire frame knotted and at the ready considering he was dealing with two of the most famous tempers in the entire timestream. "I'm not going to have my lungs handed to me?"
"Good, because I've already had one Goliath threaten me with bodily harm." Without tact or care to the owly creature attached to the appendage, he grabbed the gargoyle's forearm and speared his device cleanly into the underside of his wrist. Goliath flinched. The longer claw held the gadget steady and the shorter one adjusted its angle with a mechanical whir, then struck.
It jabbed, Goliath flinched again, and the process was over in less than one and a half seconds.
Albion stowed the device and rubbed the small, nearly indiscernible bulge under Goliath's skin. "Press here."
Goliath did so, and an eerily diffused scarlet glowed from underneath lavender flesh.
"It's a red light." Elisa accused. "You're able to travel from one end of time to the other, and you've given us technological equivalent of a remote control?"
Albion, visibly offended, argued his gift, "The red light means this isn't your universe, because of course, for you, it's just an alternative future." He was speaking clearly albeit slowly and somewhat insultingly (like ridding a child of a bad habit or training a dog). "Once the light turns green, it's your reality."
"God...I think we've officially jumped the shark..." she muttered into the palm of her hand. "Your little gadget seems kind of simple."
"Well, you are from an incredibly primitive culture. I mean basically you're one step up from an unshaven ape, so I thought to keep it as uncomplicated as possible."
Something sparked deep within Elisa's steady, dark-rimmed glare. "I don't believe this," she said to her husband, "he calls me an ape and gives us a fucking traffic light."
"Uh oh, mood swing." Albion had noticed the blunt human gaze turn hostile, and of course, the subtle, pantherine hum in her throat. "That's right, you're pregnant. Again. That interspecies hormonal imbalance is a bitch, isn't it? Of course, it's not too far from your normal personality..."
The spark quickly erupted into full-blown rage and Elisa went for his throat. "You sonuvab–"
Before she could lunge at Albion and sink her claws into something substantial and at the same time gratifying, Goliath grabbed her and clenched his arms around her flailing form. "Elisa!" he yelled as he restrained her, and noticed the heather-skinned gargoyle had already moved to safety. "Your gift, such as it is, is appreciated, Albion. Thank you for your help, and your information."
"You do realize she's only going to get worse as she balloons," Albion made the rounded gesture over his stomach, "right?"
Elisa growled louder, braced only by Goliath's arms.
The air split behind him, and Albion backpedaled through, keeping his eyes on the human as she snorted each breath. "Behave yourselves," he called through the portal, "I'll be watching."
Certain Albion had departed, Goliath released his wife and she immediately stormed towards where the slate-skinned gargoyle had once stood. Like an animal on an elusive scent Elisa seemed to wander in tiny circles and, without a proper release, she eventually grabbed a small carving from an adjacent shelf, suspended in a magnetic beam, and threw it against the wall. "What a little shit." she seethed. "I can't believe all of our reality is watched over by someone like that!"
Goliath, thumbing the bulge under his wrist, walked closer. He eyed the sculpture upside down on the floor and hoped it served its purpose. "Hopefully this 'Agency' employs a staff of higher quality."
Elisa rubbed her brow, her stomach and then her brow again. "Goddamned hormones..."
"You do seem...agitated."
She turned, caught her husband and the fleeting smirk from the corner of her eye; her shoulders slumped. "I've ridden the estrogen highway before and it isn't pretty. But now I have to deal with everything that's happened recently plus the fact we're stuck fifteen hundred years in the future."
"And now I have this thing under my skin."
"Well it might just prove useful."
"You stressed might." he noticed.
A moment of silence, a few calming breaths on Elisa's side and then, "We'll go home soon."
Elisa spun on her heel to better see, or, explain if possible, the singularly resolved expression in which Goliath's face had molded. "Hope?"
"Perhaps the only thing I have left...besides..." He jerked, towards the door and a familiar, quick paced beat outside of the room. The pitter-patter of feet on the corridor's steel plating grew louder, and resonant, until Elisa too could hear the approaching figure. "Speaking of our daughter..."
Elisa glanced at the clock. She and Goliath had talked half the night. "Jesus, it's been hours...she must be bouncing off the walls."
"Mommy!" Something small and twilight-haired exploded into the room towards her parents. "I wan' fly!"
"I wan' fly!"
"Yes, yes, Trinity." Goliath calmed her, nearly hanging off his arm in her haste to get outside.
"But I wan' fly."
Goliath merely smiled, and something akin to a laugh rumbled through him. "Be patient, my daughter, we have to get outside first."
"We could always let her jump off the dresser onto her bed." Elisa mentioned alongside.
"Yeah, I know, she's already done that." she finished, and leaned down towards her daughter. "Haven't you?"
Trinity shrugged, "I wanted fly," and ran off in front of them, laughing madly.
"Trinity! Trinity, wait!" Elisa took off in pursuit, leaving Goliath behind.
Passing by an adjacent corridor, something flickered in the corner of his obsidian eyes, something as dark, something fluidic. He had to look twice; a living shadow, the overhead light as bright as it was deflected from black skin and as he wandered deeper into the corridor, he confirmed his presumptions on the identity.
Goliath was nearly forced into a sprint to reach the sorceress before she turned a corner and vanished into the labyrinth of passages. "Isis."
The shadow stopped, twitched.
It wasn't hard to guess who and what had made the walls tremble as it bore down on her. She turned and allowed Goliath to catch up. "Yes?"
"I haven't had the opportunity to thank you."
"For helping us." he replied. "For giving yourself and your knowledge so freely."
She wasn't used to such candid sincerity, or simple appreciation of her talents where any sort of proverbial fine print didn't require a task in return. If anything, Isis was somewhat touched. "It...has been a long time since I could help anyone without a price to pay."
"We were heading outside to teach Trinity to glide." Goliath continued, optimism in his voice. "Will you aid my daughter?"
Eyes neatly thinned. "What?"
"No," she repeated succinctly, "I told you I have neither the patience nor the tolerance for an excitable–"
"Impulsive child, yes," Goliath finished, his hopeful expression completely collapsing, "I remember clearly."
"Well then, now that we've gotten that straight, wish your child luck." Isis turned and resumed her pace, fading into the distant dark. "She'll need it."
Goliath clenched his brows as he watched Isis saunter away down the hall and snorted in disbelief, but, as he dwelled on it, didn't find her answer at all surprising.
The wind was perfect.
It'd traveled thousands of miles across moon-dappled desert gaining momentum, but slowed near New Cairo's outskirts with the natural windbreak of surrounding dunes. It was deflected, slightly domesticated, and had that warm, languid measure much like the Bermuda surf.
The gargoyle population had often sung the praise of the natural landscape in giving such fine gliding conditions (in what they called a soarable envelope), especially under an orange moon and a horizon that didn't seem to end.
As the hatch slid away, starlight filtered down the elevator shaft and bathed the ascending platform and its passengers. Elisa raised her chin and caught a glimpse of open, pinpricked sky, serving to increase her anxiety. The elevator slowed to a stop and leveled with the complex's rooftop, and Goliath stepped off first with Trinity in hand.
He led her (or, matter-of-factly, she led him) towards the edge of the rooftop several stories off the ground at its highest peak above the main hangar door and, safely guiding her, allowed his daughter to climb up and onto the ledge.
Trinity hopped up, stared out into the sky and then, inching a bit of reality into her fantasies, looked down. There, between the flailing strands of hair, the ground loomed about seventy-five feet below. If her expression transforming into sheer terror wasn't an indication of fear quickly overcoming anticipation, it would've been the (screaming) retreat into her father's legs. "No wan' fly! No wan' fly!"
"Ooof!" Goliath grunted as the weight hit him just below the waist. "Trinity...urgh...it's all right..."
"Is'too high, daddy!"
"I could have told her that..." Elisa mumbled.
Goliath leaned down and knelt, closing the five-foot gap between them. "It's all right, Trinity, you must be high enough to catch the wind."
He held out his hand and gestured for her to do the same. A tiny hand mimicked the larger one, feeling the streams. "Touch the wind, my daughter," he whispered, "feel the warmth, the currents as they flow all around you."
She seemed immersed in a sensation never quite dwelled on before today, smiling at the ghostly wisps of the breeze entangling through her chubby fingers. Egypt wind carried granules of sand plucked from the desert, and they played gently and teasingly along the skin. She giggled.
"Open your wings."
Trinity fanned her wings, and they billowed.
"Can you feel it? Feel the wind?"
She bobbed her chin, and answered, "Yah."
"Let your wings find the warmer currents, and they'll lift you and help keep you in the air."
Trinity turned inwards, but not before taking one last look at the sky; from her vantage, she couldn't see the ground. They were adrift in a sea of stars and not-quite-black and to a young girl, it was if the world just dropped off a few feet away. "I scared."
They nudged ridges. "Jacosta and Esme will be with you all the time." Goliath said, pointing to the two statuesque gargoyle females standing behind them. Jacosta had freely volunteered and the other svelte, pastel female, one of the city's several educators, had offered her skills and patience as well. "They will not let you fall."
"But," she protested, "I wan' you t' go."
Elisa could almost see the twinge of pain ripple through her husband; it'd been hard enough to come to terms with having appendages torn from his back, but being denied the pleasure of bequeathing her a skill in which he once outrivaled most of his kind was something he'd clenched his teeth at to keep from screaming more than a few times.
"So do I." he saved grace, in that rich tone. "But I'll be here, right here, watching you."
He made a line across her chest with his talon. "Cross my heart."
The gargoyle with the pneumatic physique prowled into conversational range, and a tuft of her robe brushed Trinity's forearm. A hand was offered to the small girl as she looked up. "Are you ready, young one?"
She gulped, "Y-Yah."
Esme, smiling reassuringly under sharp cheekbones, escorted her back towards the edge.
Elisa swallowed her next breath, felt her heart knock on her ribcage and strained to hear a few hushed words passed between the three. She thought it last minute encouragement, gargoyle to half-gargoyle, and something a human would probably be hard-pressed to find any sort of practical logic in.
But her baby girl nodded, hopped up on the edge and nervously extended her wings. Whatever it was seemed to buoy her spirits.
Goliath's claws scraped against the steel as he moved up alongside his wife; his gait was heavy. As calm as he was on the outside, he wasn't at all thrilled in watching his daughter glide while stuck on the ground.
Jacosta took the left side, and grabbed Trinity's other hand.
She looked back over her shoulder and passed a glance to her parents before her teachers leaned into a particularly strong ridge lift, rising up the side of the bunker.
They hit the air with Trinity between them. She was being supported as they sought out the warmest tides along the swirls of wind that had hit the dunes, the bunker and then aimlessly messed about until rejoining another current in an opposite direction.
Elisa's eyes didn't blink as the trio grew farther away and slightly higher in altitude, and her concentration, as stanch as it was, was only broken when talons faintly pressed into her shoulder.
"She'll be fine." Goliath promised, but knew his assurance had fallen on deaf ears.
They'd circled around a few times to allow Trinity to get used to riding shotgun on the thermals, test the rising currents and feel comfortable enough to trust her guides on either hand.
Jacosta could feel her charge shivering through their joined hands. "Open your wings, Trinity," she called over the wind, and watched as fear and determination threw themselves into battle using Trinity's face as the front line.
"It's all right. Open your wings."
Trinity did so, and was nearly torn from between them. The angle on her membranes was too severe, and she panicked. Only the firm grip on each side kept her from parachuting from their reach.
A frightened mewl leaked out.
But Jacosta only smiled, made a quick pass through her own reminiscences of the 'first glide' and allowed Trinity's inherent stubbornness to kick in. It was a defense mechanism, something beyond simple genetic memory that allowed Trinity, barely two years old, to correct her incline and smooth out a rough ride.
"Goliath," Elisa whimpered, "she's having trouble."
"She's fine." he said again.
Elisa buried her face in her hands only to quickly stow them on the roof's ledge; she didn't want to take her eyes off her daughter and yet, ironically, didn't want to look.
Goliath quickly slid up behind her. "Look," he reached a hand past her field of vision, "she's adjusting."
Even at their altitude Elisa could see Trinity level out, stop struggling and coax herself into a more comfortable position. Though shored up, she was as close to actually flying as she'd ever been.
"Oh my god, Goliath," Elisa beamed, "she's gliding!" She tore off along the side of the rooftop's edge, following the airborne trio as best she could. "You're doing great, baby!!"
On Jacosta's nod and signal Esme released and dropped off, staying a comfortable distance behind. Trinity wobbled a bit, raised one wing higher than the other and fine-tuned her path with the drag on her left side.
Five minutes into their flight they started to turn, making a wide arc back towards the complex.
"I'm going to let go, Trinity." Jacosta warned, assured she'd allowed the small girl a perfectly straight course back to her expectant parents. "When you reach the roof, flare your wings like I taught you."
They separated; the olive-toned gargoyle set herself into a pattern just above and Trinity was on her own for the last twenty-five meters between her and the safe haven of New Cairo's gleaming titanium crown.
Elisa's smile gradually lessened as she noticed her daughter's speed and, more importantly, her trajectory. Her ballistics training, in which Elisa had excelled, quickly shot into forefront and drew a perfect and dangerous line between them. "Trini, you're going a little fast..."
Goliath straightened. "Oh no."
"Goliath, she's not stopping...!"
He went to move towards her, but he was still several meters away. "Elisa, I suggest you–"
Trinity swooped in hands first and collided with her mother, and they both struck solid steel as Elisa was knocked over onto her back.
"–move." Goliath rushed towards them and stood over a clutter of limbs, wings, long, raven hair and bronze skin. It was nearly impossible to tell them apart. Elisa was sprawled and dazed and Trinity was on her chest, shaking off the blow. "Are you all right?"
The only near-coherent response was a moan from somewhere underneath.
"Do you remember?" he asked. "You once told me your father taught you how to skate, and you mentioned that skating itself was easy..."
"It was stopping that was hard." Elisa replied, or at best, slurred. "Yes, I remember. The memory has come...ungh...screaming back."
"I FLYED!!!" Trinity screamed elatedly. The bruise forming on her arm and the fact her mother had been used as a crash pad didn't register.
"I'm proud of you, baby," Elisa groaned, "all three of you."
"She's finally asleep."
Goliath was behind her, all shadow and stoicism and a pair of luminous eyes somewhere near the seven and a half foot peak. "Big day." he answered softly, bringing life to the silhouette.
Standing at the door to Trinity's adjoining room, Elisa saw the small lump under the covers shift position. A wing lifted into view just above the comforter and seemed the shimmy and flex; it'd tasted wind and freedom and with the memory so fresh, wanted more. "I thought she'd never wind down."
Goliath padded up behind her. "You realize, she'll never get enough."
"And I have you and your potent genes to thank." Claws crept around her midsection, and she leaned back into Goliath's embrace. She traced the lines of his wedding ring, a fingertip along the silver band embedded within the gold. "You know, the universe changing all around us doesn't seem that bad anymore..."
"Speak for yourself."
Gentle laughter met the rising sun.