Phoenix Gate Anthology Entry
By Christi Smith Hayden
Disclaimers: Brooklyn is a character of the animated series, "Gargoyles," and the property of Disney and Buena Vista Television; Sata, Graeme and Ariana belong to The Gargoyles Saga, a fan-based writing project based on the animated series, "Gargoyles."
Somewhere in the Jurassic era
The giant fern fronds rustled as Brooklyn pushed his way through, one wing tucked protectively around his daughter Ariana, who was riding on his hip and clinging to his armor. The little hatchling was a daddy's girl in more than just her terra cotta skin and beaked face; Ariana absolutely had to be where the action was. She gasped suddenly and pointed. "Dina-soar!"
Brooklyn grinned. "So it is, Ari-chan."
They had come out on the edge of a wide, crater-shaped valley several miles wide where a variety of herbivorous dinosaurs were grazing. Tall brachiosaurs lifted their long necks to eat star-shaped leaves from the streets while three-horned triceratops rooted around in the tall grasses. At the base of a tall waterfall, aquatic-loving parasaurolophus dipped their duckbill-shaped snouts in the marshy weeds while free-wheeling pterodactyls skimmed through the soft mists.
Sata joined them with Graeme in her arms. The little green hatchling was sucking his thumb as he looked about curiously. "Ah, Brooklyn-san," she exclaimed. "How wondrous this great valley is!"
"It's not bad," he agreed. "There's plenty of food, probably good fishing down in that lake. Those pterodactyls are cliff dwellers so there must be caves around here somewhere if we need to take shelter."
The Ishimuran gargoyle nodded. "The children will need to eat soon. Are those fruit trees, do you think?" she said, pointing to a grove not faraway, bright orange globes visible within the foliage.
"It's worth checking out." Brooklyn shifted Ariana in his arms. "What do you say, munchkin? Shall we go explore?"
Ariana grinned and spread her tiny wings. "Yay!"
The fruit turned out to be a tangy citrus type which went well with the fish Brooklyn managed to catch, after he narrowly missed being mistaken for a meal himself by a small plesiosaur. He and Sata found a place where a slab of rock was leaning against a boulder to form a stone shelter. The twins were beneath the slab, sleeping curled up together on a blanket. Brooklyn and Sata were only a few steps away, packing away their gear.
"I should probably take a quick flight up to those cliffs," Brooklyn said as he buried the bones from their meal. "We might be here for a while."
"Agreed," Sata said. "These animals may be mostly plant-eaters but their size! I would not want to be crushed in my sleep by some clumsy beast."
"And where there are grazers," Brooklyn added, "there are predators. The kids are safe enough when they're with us but otherwise we might as well hang 'eat me' signs on them."
"Brooklyn-san!" Sata exclaimed indignantly. "That is not funny!"
He chuckled. "Sorry, dear. Just making a point."
She glared at him and grumbled under her breath, "Baka…"
Glancing around, he leaned forward over the packs and nuzzled her brow ridges. "But you love me anyway, hmm?"
"Stop it, Brooklyn-san," Sata protested futilely as his nuzzles became kisses. "Not in front of the children." Her almond-shaped eyes fluttered as he started in on her ears.
"They're fast asleep," he murmured. "It's just you and me and the starry skies above."
"You are – ah! – incorrigible!"
Their voices dissolved into muted murmurs and hushed laughter as the mated pair of gargoyles slowly sank into the tall grass to enjoy a brief moment together. Brooklyn's wings stretched lazily into view, first one and then the other. The sounds of the prehistoric night grew louder but then suddenly, for no apparent reason, stopped. A swirling corona of fire began to form in the air above Brooklyn and Sata.
"Ow!" Grimacing, Brooklyn sat up, wiggling his little finger in his ear. "You know, Sata, just saying 'No, honey, not tonight' is lot better than shrieking like that."
"No!" Sata pointed as she hastily restored her clothing. "The Phoenix Gate!"
"Jalapeña!" Like a well-oiled machine, Brooklyn and Sata sprang into action, grabbing their belongings and bolting towards their sleeping children. The commotion made Ariana sit up and stare groggily at her parents. Brooklyn stretched out his arms….
An anguished duet rang out in the night as Ariana and Graeme broadcasted their fright and discomfort to anyone that could listen. Ariana had traveled with her time-traveling parents long enough to recognize the Phoenix Gate and she had startled Graeme awake with her terrified shrieks. They clung to each other and sobbed as the strange sounds all around them grew louder. Grass crunched beneath the feet of something walking around their stone shelter. Graeme began to whimper and Ariana picked up a stick.
"Hello, little ones," a kind voice said.
The twins looked up to see a strange gargoyle kneeling in front of them. He was green-skinned like their mother and beaked like their father. A dark blue cloak covered silvery metal not unlike Brooklyn's breastplate. They had never seen him before but yet his scent was familiar somehow. Ariana dried her tears first and pointed at the empty space where their parents used to be. "Mama an' Dada go bye," she explained, punctuating her words with hiccoughing sobs.
"I know, Ari-chan," he said soothingly. "The Phoenix Gate jumped without you and your brother." A knowing smile curved around his beak. "It's all right. I've come to fix that."
"Fix?" Her eyes grew big. "Ari an' Gam go bye? Go Mama an' Dada?"
"Eventually," he agreed. Another roar came from the jungle, this time closer and the stranger frowned warily. "But first, we need to go somewhere safe where I can fix things so you never get separated from your parents ever again." He held out his arms. "Come along, hatchlings. You're safe with me."
Ariana and Graeme exchanged a look with each other, gave a terrified glance over their shoulders at the jungle, and promptly climbed into the stranger's arms as the lesser of two evils. Graeme had been quietly studying their rescuer and had finally worked up the courage to speak. "Who you?" he asked curiously.
The stranger laughed. "It's best that you not know my name for now, Graeme-kun, but for now you may call me Fixer. I know you as well as I know myself."
Graeme raised one chubby brow ridge. "Huh?"
"Yeah, that's what I thought back then too." He reached down and punched a sequence of numbers on a shield-shaped device on his belt. "Do you like cookies?"
"Yep!" Ariana crowed enthusiastically.
"Yum!" Graeme agreed, nodding his head.
"All right then," Fixer said, "It's back to my place for cookies and milk." He tapped a button and they were gone in a flash of light.
Organ Mountains, New Mexico
The stark purple mountains around them were still stained orange by the dying rays of the desert sun as the Phoenix Gate dropped Brooklyn and Sata in a gravel-strewn arroyo. Brooklyn dropped to his knees, arms still outstretched for the sleeping bodies of their children. Sata was a step behind him and her hand fell upon his shoulder as if it were made of lead.
"Ari-chan? Graeme-kun?" Her voice was painfully fragile. "Brooklyn, where are they?" She dropped their belongings and fell to her knees besides him.
"We were too far away," Brooklyn said numbly. "I almost had them." He stared at his empty hands in disbelief.
"My babies!" Sata wailed inconsolably. "Make it take us back, Brooklyn! Make it take us back!" The cool calm demeanor of a samurai was gone and was replaced by the tearful visage of a distraught mother.
"The Phoenix Gate doesn't work that way, Sata! You know that!" Frantically, Brooklyn tried to remember all the things that various magic users had told him about the magic icon that was holding him and his family hostage. "We need to calm down and focus, babe. The Phoenix Gate is fueled by chaos. The more upset we get, the more likely it'll teleport again and we'll be farther away from the kids."
"B-but they're all alone!" Sata collapsed against his shoulder, her talons scrabbling helplessly on his chest plate. "They're just hatchlings, Brooklyn-san. Who will protect them?"
A laboratory, place and time unknown
Ariana and Graeme didn't know where to look first in the marvelous new place that Fixer had brought them. It was bright and shiny with high tables with blinking machines on it and strange bleeping sounds coming from the walls. A corner of the room had blanket-covered cot and a comfortable chair. Fixer carried them over and set them down on the cot.
"This is my special place," he said with a smile. "I do some of my best work here." He opened a panel on the wall to take out a box of cookies and opened another panel to take out two small sipper containers not unlike the ones that Sata gave them to drink from. "Now if I were you two," he said as he set the treats between them, "I'd say that some chocolate chip cookies and milk would be just the thing right now."
The twins dived into the treats eagerly. Fixer sat down in the nearby chair and watched them, smiling at their antics. Ariana gobbled hers down eagerly and looked for more. Her brother, however, was wise to her ways and had his cookies hidden under his wing. Finishing her milk, Ariana yawned, her eyelids growing heavier until she fell over in a heap. By contrast, Graeme leaned back against the pillow and gnawed on the cookie in his hand, never taking his eyes off of Fixer until he dozed off with a chocolaty ring of crumbs around his mouth.
Fixer laughed. "I was a suspicious little bugger, wasn't I?"
An olive-skinned gargoyle with webbed wings shimmered into view besides him. "That's because you had brains leaking out of your ears," the apparition said. "I've got the chips calibrated for you."
Another holographic image appeared by the cot, this one a female gargoyle with wheat-colored hair and spiral horns. "Are you sure this is wise?" she asked.
"I had to sedate them for their own good, Auntie A," Fixer said as he slipped the armband off of Graeme's chubby arm. "I won't have much time to do the upgrades. You'll need to monitor them closely for any signs of chronoton flux."
The female hologram smiled and waved her hand over the twins. A curtain of blue light covered them like a blanket. "Medical field engaged," she said efficiently. Glowing green lines scrolled past on the surface of her brown eyes. "All readings are at age appropriate gargoyle norm, although I'm reading increased hydrostatic pressure." She gave an impish grin. "I don't suppose you have some diapers here in the lab?"
Fixer exchanged a wry look with male hologram. "In that case, Lex," he commented, "we'd better work fast."
Organ Mountains, New Mexico
"Anything?" Sata asked in quiet anxiety as she shredded a yucca leaf into many tiny threads. The moon was now high overhead since they had arrived in the desert mountains. A city twinkled far below them in the valley but neither gargoyle wanted to move from the spot where the Phoenix Gate had deposited them.
Breathing in through his nose and out through his mouth, Brooklyn sat cross-legged on a sandstone slab and attempted to focus his will on the Phoenix Gate. It was sentient – he knew this for a fact but the Gate was as about as reasonable as the average toddler. An image of the way Ariana would turn her head and fight for control of the spoon when he would try to feed her mashed vegetables came unbidden to his mind. A deep pang of remorse broke his concentration and he let out his breath in a ragged sigh.
"Nothing," Brooklyn admitted resignedly. "I've tried everything that I can think of, babe." He went over to Sata and put his hands on her shoulders from behind, careful not to look her in the face because he knew how mortified his mate was at her earlier display of emotion. It betrayed the code of bushido that she lived by. "I don't know what else to do."
Sata kept her eyes fixed on the stars. "I have asked the ancestors of my clan to watch over them," she said in a faintly quavering voice. "Ariana and Graeme are descended from samurai, Brooklyn-san. No matter where they are, no matter what danger they face, our hatchlings will face it with brave hearts."
"I've been selfish," he said softly. "I should have never brought any of you along with me. The Phoenix Gate has always been my curse and I should have never involved anyone else; first it took you away from Ishimura and now it's taken our kids from us." He let go of her and stalked away, looking at the shield-shaped medallion in his hand and gripping it tightly. "I ought to destroy it so that it won't ruin any more lives!"
"Brooklyn, no!!" Sata grasped his arm. "If you do that, Ariana and Graeme may be lost to us forever!!"
Brooklyn turned towards his mate slowly with tears in his eyes. "If anything happens to them, Sata, I –" His eyes widened and Sata turned to see what was the matter.
Bright silver light spiraled out from a point in mid-air to form a body shaped corona. It flared so brightly that Brooklyn and Sata had to shield their eyes. When the dancing purple spots in their vision were gone, they looked up to find a figure standing before them wearing a dark blue hooded cloak and in his arms were the sleeping forms of their children.
"Ariana! Graeme!" Sata lunged towards them. "My babies! Give them to me!"
"Ssssh," the stranger said in a low, soft voice, "easy now, you'll wake them." He met Sata halfway and gently transferred the little green hatchling into her arms. "It took me some time to trace the Phoenix Gate's emanations back here."
"But how did you know?" Brooklyn asked as he took Ariana. He closed his eyes for a second and breathed in his daughter's sweet scent to reassure himself that she was all right. She crooned softly and snuggled against him. "We were going crazy, trying to think of a way to get back to them."
"I remember," the stranger said wryly. "That's why it was important for me to go back and do this."
The meaning of his words hit Brooklyn like a bucket of ice water. He took a step back. "Who are you?"
The stranger lifted his hood. Brooklyn blinked and his beak dropped open. It was like looking into a mirror – the only difference was that their gargoyle Samaritan had green skin and unruly dark hair with a vivid white lock draped rakishly over his left brow ridge. He was dressed in a type of futuristic samurai armor with overlapping plates on his shoulders and shins and a shield-shaped device on his belt. However, it was the stranger's face that Brooklyn's eyes kept returning to. There was only one other gargoyle who could possibly look like that – and he was asleep in Sata's arms. He turned his head to look at his son, first the child and then the adult.
Following Brooklyn's gaze, the stranger laughed. "You could say I was born to be a timedancer," he said as he raised his brow ridges and grinned impishly at Brooklyn and Sata. "It's good to see you again, Dad." He swallowed hard as he gazed at Sata. "Okaa-san."
"Graeme-kun?" Sata looked wonderingly at her adult son and the sleeping toddler that she held in her arms. "But how can this be?"
"It's a bit of a paradox, I know, but this is where I'm meant to be." Graeme took a slim metal case out and opened it, delicately picking up a computer chip between his talons. "This is the time tracker chip. I started developing it when I was working for Xanatech and finished it a few years ago on my own. I've installed one in each of the armbands and I'd like to install one on your gauntlet, Brooklyn."
Numbly, Brooklyn took off his gauntlet and handed it over to his older son. "What does it do?"
"It's a time tracker – no matter where or when you are in time, you will always be in contact with each other. I've designed it to be sensitive to the active chronotons that the Phoenix Gate gives off prior to a time jump." He laughed as he cracked the gauntlet open and tinkered with its inner workings. "It's a little more predictable to that old prickle on the back of the neck feeling that you used to rely on."
"I do not understand," Sata said, her brow creased in confusion. "Why are you doing this? How are you here now? I don't –"
Graeme paused in his work. "Mother, you know that I can't tell you that." He sighed. "The first thing you and Dad taught me about time travel is that you can't reveal the future."
"The Magus once told me that you should avoid encountering yourself," Brooklyn said slowly. He eyed his son. "Aren't you pushing it here?"
"True, I'm bending the rules," Graeme admitted, "but I remembered a time when Ari-chan and I were very young," he smiled over at his sister and his younger self, "that we got lost and someone helped us find our way back to you." He shrugged. "It turned out that someone was me." He closed up the gauntlet and handed it back. "I've converted a corner of your display panel for time tracker functions. You'll always know where we are."
"What about Sata?"
"Got you covered, Dad." Graeme smirked and took a slim polished metal bracelet out of a belt pouch and presented it to Sata. "Consider this a very late Mother's Day present, Mom." When Sata balked on putting it on, he added, "You always wore it under your left wrist guard. You used to fuss about damaging it in a fight."
"Oh, Graeme-kun," she murmured as she let him put the bracelet on her, "this is so very strange. Only this morning, I was concerned that your only words were 'okaa-chan' and 'yum!' and now here you are, all grown up and looking out for us. How can we ever repay you?"
"Hey, it's me that's paying back to you." His eyes grew misty. "You guys were great parents. No matter where we went, no matter when we were, you both always kept me and Ariana safe. As long as we were all together, we were always happy."
"Then," Brooklyn asked slowly, "it all worked out? Did the Phoenix Gate bring us home?"
"Dad, home was wherever the four of us were together," Graeme said, "but I can tell you that all things come full circle."
"And you," Sata asked anxiously, "how are you and Ari-chan?" She bit her lip. "Are you both well?"
"Ari-chan and I are great. She's based in Ishimura now but we stay in touch." He grinned sheepishly. "I'd like to ask a favor, if that's okay? When my younger self starts taking things apart in a couple of years, don't get too mad at him – that's how I got my start in engineering."
"A-ha!" Sata smiled. "You are still my curious little monkey, neh?"
"Truer words were never spoken, okaasan." A loud beeping came from beneath Graeme's hooded cloak and he took out a silver, shield-shaped device. "Ah, our time's about up here. The Gate's coming." He took a moment to nuzzle brow ridges with Sata and clasping wrists with Brooklyn.
"Thanks for everything, son."
"Hey, I always finish what I start." Graeme stepped back and smiled at them sadly. "Bye, Mom…. Bye, Dad."
The fiery signature of the Phoenix Gate swept over the small gargoyle family and Graeme was left standing alone. He drew one loud gasping breath. "Oh, gods – I miss you both so much!" He felt physically and emotionally drained. Punching in a sequence of numbers, he initialized his own temporal transporter and lurched back to his own time. The lab was as he had left it, toys scattered on the floor and two tumbled blankets on the cot in the corner. He unclipped his transporter and hooked it up to the control panel. Wincing, he pulled the dark blue cloak from his shoulders and painfully stretched the scarred and twisted wings that he had hidden beneath it.
"Computer?" Graeme said clearly as he hung up his cloak. "Begin download of mission log with complete temporal analysis. Search timeline for any remaining anomalies."
He slumped in a chair and sighed deeply before picking up a small handheld computer. "Personal log: I've taken the first steps in mending the timeline. When the Phoenix Gate took Dad on his world tour through time and space, it left little bits of itself, speed bumps in the fabric of time. Nokkar claims that at one of those times, the Space Spawn interfered with our timeline, just a small thing but enough that it altered our world so that their invasion was totally unexpected. If I can locate that, counter their interference – there's a chance that it will totally alter the course of this war."
Looking over at the cot, Graeme continued. "It was strange, seeing myself and Ari-chan as hatchlings. I'd forgotten what a bossy little brat she was then." He laughed ruefully. "Some things never change. I'll have to tell her that the next time I get subspace privileges to talk to the fleet." Picking up a picture frame, he slowly frowned at the smiling image of his grown-up sibling. "That is, assuming there's still a future for me to return to."
Graeme scrolled through the digital pictures on the frame, stopping on a family portrait of him, his mate and their three children. The youngest, a tiny white hatchling with his beak and dark hair, was in Lucy's arms and laughing at their middle child, a furry little green female with her mother's leonine features. His eldest son, already an adult, was also laughing indulgently at his younger siblings. "We had such a great time that night," Graeme murmured. "If only I'd known, Lucy --- you and the kids would have been safe at the estate. You wouldn't have been in London —" his face hardened, "—when they came."
A hologram of Lexington flickered into sight. "Analysis complete," he reported, "and I've added the new data to the current map of temporal anomalies."
"Results?" Graeme asked without looking up from his family's picture.
"Fifteen percent of known temporal nodes have been cleared. I've transposed our findings against Nokkar's database. There are several high probability anomalies that are coming up along the time stream."
"Right," Graeme said as he put away his pictures. "I want full mission parameters, Lex. Upload all data to the Phoenix module."
"Are you sure? You've only just returned from your last mission."
"The sooner I get the knots in the time stream untangled, the sooner I'll see my family again." Graeme took the shield-shaped device and replaced it on his belt, punching in a code sequence. "Let's do it."
A silver halo edged his body for a heartbeat and then, like his father before him, Graeme danced away into the slipstream of time.