30 - "Second Strike"
Originally Written: April 25th, 2000

December 30th, 2000
Trinity Hope Maza stirred restlessly in her slumber. The tiny half gargoyle child turned
onto her back, allowing her wings to open to their full span and stretching the newly
forming muscles contained within her instruments of flight. Dark chocolate eyes
fluttered open, catching a blurred figure hovering above. With a yawn that matched her
father's waking cry, she clenched her fists and spread her small arms, taking in a large
breath. Her eyes eventually adjusted to the bright light of her surroundings and the figure
came into sharp focus. Newborn eyes trailed upon two slender arms reaching forward
and gingerly grasping her small form, and she felt herself being pulled from the bassinet
towards the lean body of her mother.

Elisa instantly wrapped her arms around her daughter, lifting her ever increasing weight
onto the breadth of her shoulder. Trinity squealed with enjoyment of being released from
her prison of wooden spirals and smiled, raising her arms in an attempt to grasp at
anything suspended within her curious grasp, including Elisa's ebony locks. "Uh uh,
kiddo. The last time I let you grab my hair, you almost took a sizable chunk with you."

Almost as if she understood her mother's words, Trinity began to laugh, bringing a warm
smile to Elisa's face.

Pressing the laughing baby close to her chest, Elisa visually explored her daughter's
nursery, lit up by the dying light of the setting sun. The broken rays filtered through the
venetian blinds, casting it's warming splendor upon the plentiful pile of gifts near the
chest of drawers, centered within her gaze. Six days ago, the smallest member of the
clan was certainly the luckiest, being lavished with toys and clothes and other amazing
gifts. She was the center of attention on her first Christmas, and was fussed over the
entire holiday season by human and gargoyle alike. "You are one spoiled little girl,
Trini," Elisa said to herself as she hoisted the small half gargoyle higher, "especially by
your grandparents and...hmmm, 'uncle' Xanatos."

Leaving the small room behind her, Elisa moved into her own living quarters, a silent
journey with sock covered feet to her own bed. Pulling back the thick quilt, she slowly
laid herself into the inviting folds of cottony weave, sitting up against the pillows and
being mindful to the fragile cargo she carried. With one arm holding Trinity, she used
the other to pull the sheets around her. She cradled her daughter close to the oversized
shirt she often used to sleep in during the cold winter months and with a light touch, ran
her slender fingers through Trinity's soft, raven hair.

Beyond the castle, and the city, where the sun would vanish beneath the skyline, and
where darkness was birthed to extend it's grasp as if a curtain continually drawn far past
the horizon's boundaries. It was the domain of early evening, where all colors swelled
into the sky and were consumed by nature's shroud. Elisa's spacious room would grow
ever darker, shadows of insidious black growing upon the walls, and yet she would not
fear them, for the new mother took comfort in the fact her husband would soon tear
himself from his daytime curse and rush vigilantly to her side.

****************************************

Lavender skin blended flawlessly with the darkened interior of the huge bedroom, as
watchful eyes opened to a family born of his love and of his very blood. Slowly, surely,
steadily, a large form approached the bed, stopping near the edge. Only the sound of
tremendous lungs releasing a steady breath, would make known his presence to her.

She slowly drew her eyes to where her husband had poised near a canopy post, and the
translucent orbs of chocolate fused with an onyx of the ocean's deepest depths. A
glistening pool, where his most secret desires and longing lay openly bared to her, and
her alone. "It's about time you woke up, Big Guy." she scorned him playfully, throwing
an exuberant grin his way.

Goliath traveled the length of the bed and placed his massive bulk beside his chosen
mate. "You should talk, my Elisa," he started, in the low, grating tone that nearly kept
hidden his teasing banter, "you have been oversleeping more and more since you have
been off work."

"Did you push a winged baby through your loins? I don't think so. And I'm going to use
this little six month holiday to catch up on six years worth of gargoyle induced
insomnia."

Goliath responded with nothing but a raised, jutted chin, and silently held out his arms to
take possession of the small bundle of tawny squirming gargoyle from his wife. Goliath
cradled Trinity in his taloned hands, leaning over to bring her tiny face near his own, and
she gurgled, in her best attempt to greet her father. "And how is my little angel tonight?"

"Well, she slept throughout the entire day," Elisa answered, "I think she's worn out from
her first Christmas." She pulled back the sheets and curled up to Goliath's body, finding
the enticing warmth in his being that did never exist beneath the warmest of covers and
thickest of quilts. "And did you enjoy our first Christmas as husband and wife?"

"Very much so. I cherish the holiday season, more now that we have mated. It's a
chance for the entire clan to come together. I only wish that...Demona was able to
attend...if only for Angela's sake."

"One day she will. I guess she didn't feel comfortable enough yet." Elisa grasped tighter
to her husband's powerful arm, and diddling her finger in the sensitive cavity of his
elbow spur. "Maybe next year. Give her time."

Goliath sighed and nodded slowly, all the while watching his daughter stare back at him
with wide eyes.

Elisa noticed his wistful expression, the conflicting emotions playing a mock battle on
his features, and recognizing the fact he was unused to his former mate's continued
presence in his castle, in his home, after all they had been through in the past years. Yet
Elisa knew he truly missed Demona's company and her friendship. He missed the
gargoyle he fell in love with a thousand years ago.

She was broken from her reverie when her husband leaned back, forcefully bringing her
to the comforter. They ended up on their backsides with Goliath holding their daughter
over their heads. She laughed, kicked her feet and flapped her tiny wings, reveling in the
escape of gravity and the freedom offered in the strong arms of her father. Elisa
peacefully nestled against Goliath's warm body, and closed her eyes, curling deeper into
the smoothed membrane of his right wing. She was safe in his arms, her family and
friends safe in their home, and no one could take that away from her.

Or so she thought.

****************************************

A millennia of natural evolution had transformed the whole of Manhattan into a
swallowing void, with gleaming towers of steel and glass, brick and mortar. They strived
to reach the clouds, rising hundreds of feet above the ground and perhaps an eternal
beholder of what man has achieved in his time on this land.

But no one would ever imagine what dangers could lie within their walls, beyond
blackened, tinted windows, barely allowing the dim light of the interior to escape into
nightfall. A twenty story office building perhaps passed by a thousand times, by those
unsuspecting of what small syndicate had made it's home inside and almost flawlessly
assimilating into the inner workings of Manhattan's 'ever loving' family of enterprises.
A small dummy corporation, built overtime to hide what perversions he had wrought,
becoming the proverbial puller of the strings of his several employees, who the entire
time they had worked there, had never seen the face of their own employer.

A trio of lamps did their best to light the vacuous office of the top floor, and the occupant
inside, a tall figure deeply submerged in his chair and facing an intricate network of
computer screens and hard-drives. Picture after picture flashed by rapidly, the figure's
eyes transfixed on the schematics and blueprints spattered upon the screen. The figure
leaned back, his hands slowly coming together in front of his face, matching talon to
talon and his thin lips curled back, revealing clenched, fanged teeth. A low growl hissed
through, and eventually grew into a shrill, caustic laughter. "Tomorrow night, comes the
triad convergence, and the test will begin. Then we shall see just how powerful your clan
really is and just how far you're willing to go to protect the humans. Yes, Goliath, we
shall see indeed."

****************************************

December 31st, 2000
"New Years, baby!!" Todd and Brooklyn chorused together in a refreshing hurrah, as the
rest of the clan moved past them, heading for the castle's interior after being awakened
upon the advent of twilight. The young human had arrived at Wyvern just before dusk to
greet his steady girlfriend, and found her statue bathed in blood red of the sun's final
dying vestige. A sculpted form on display for only the most sovereign of onlookers, did
Annika appear to him as she cast off the last of her skin and breathed life into her wings,
an angel of beauty set free into this world, and the remaining hours of the year.

For in less than seven hours, a new year will make its presence known throughout the
island, memorializing the dawn of the third millennium with a multitude of citywide
parties, preparing to last well into the morning hours. And the gargoyles were gearing up
for their own celebration. A celebration to cap off a truly wonderful Christmas season.

As the clan retreated from the turrets and cornices, heading for the interior archway,
Todd stopped and waited for Annika, who had taken up the rear of the line. She was
strangely silent, granting herself a last parting look to her city. He cleared his throat to
catch her attention, and she whirled around. He reached out with an open hand and she
accepted, quickly moving towards him with a featherweight tread and flashing a large
grin. "Ready for your first New Years, gorgeous?" he asked.

"Yeah," she started softly, allowing herself to be led by her boyfriend with her hand
clenched firmly onto his, "I've never had the chance to celebrate this holiday. I hope it's
as eventful as my first Christmas."

"Oh trust me, it will be." Todd replied, without any idea of just how very right he was.

****************************************

Five and a half hours to midnight...
Higher and higher, the currents twisted and curled in the command of an invisible force,
lifting the cloud-swathed figure towards his intended destination. An imposing spread of
wings opened to their greatest reach, snaring enough air to bring him level with the
world's tallest building, a symbol of man's attempt to best mother nature and push
himself beyond his utmost potential. Passionless, saffron eyes pierced through the cloud
cluster and when emerging into the moon's crown of light, he focused in on the ancient
castle brought into full view. The figure grew closer, with a large canister on his back
and an even larger smile on his thin face, and his black heart increased it's rate with a
chilling glee.

As he drew closer, he noticed the battlements had emptied. He circled a few times, and,
though he had memorized his stolen copies of the castle's plans, they didn't do the grand
fortress justice. He found his opening and quickly set down near the front entrance,
landing with nothing but a quiet clack. Immediately caping his wings, he slipped past the
newly installed security cameras in a blur, and ducked into a shadowed corner.

With a sound between a growl and a snicker, he pulled the silver canister from his back
and pressed a single recessed button on it's gleaming surface. It split in half and released
a puff of steam. The figure reached in, through the mist, and pulled out a long barrel
shaped weapon. He demonically scratched his talons down the entire length and held it
up to his shoulder, aiming with the small scope towards the East wall, and his hand
grasping the forward handle and the trigger. "Time to start the fireworks a little early this
evening."

****************************************

Four hours to midnight...
"So, after we countdown to midnight, then what?" Annika asked innocently.

"Then," Todd replied, as he leaned closer to Annika's beautiful face, "we suck tongue."

"God damn..." Annika joked as Todd moved in on his girlfriend, with the others
watching in amusement.

The entire clan had gathered in the massive media room and were preparing to ring in the
new year. Goliath and Elisa were perched in the embrace of the largest couch, holding
baby Trinity in their arms, with Angela alongside and playing cheerfully with her baby
sister. Across from them sat Brooklyn, with Sata and the twins, enjoying the display of
closeness from the new family. The others mulled about the room, helping themselves to
the spectacular spread of food on the table and the fruit punch in the large crystal bowl.
The Xanatos family had been invited to a grand gala elsewhere and had apologized in
advance for their absence.

It was less than four hours until midnight and the festivities had barely begun. With even
the resonation of the deep voices of the gargoyles ringing off the stone walls, the festivals
of Manhattan displayed on the massive television screen and the soft holiday music from
the stereo beyond, it was peaceful and serene. A gathering of friends, an assemblage of
family; during this joyous time, no one would ever expect hostilities to reach into their
very home. None of them would ever imagine the terror could come so very close.

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!!

The very foundation of the castle shook violently as a deafening blast erupted into the
room. The shockwave knocked most of the standing gargoyles over and the others
instinctively ducked for cover, as pieces of stone broke from the walls.

"What the hell was that?!!" Brooklyn yelled at the top of his lungs, as he looked back at
his mate and children.

"Obviously, we're under attack." Shadow said calmly, flipping back to his feet.

Goliath wrapped himself around Elisa and Trinity, making sure his human family had
fared well through the blast. "Elisa, are you?..." Before the lavender giant could finish,
Elisa nodded and held tighter to the small child, who seemed unfazed by the explosion.
The couple scanned the room around them, watching the others gather themselves from
the floor.

Yet, before they could even ascertain what had happened, the outside wall of the media
room imploded, erupting inwards with a spray of stone and steel framework, and creating
from the rubble a suffocating field of thick, gray smoke. The Wyvern clan uncovered
themselves, brushed off the dust and crushed stone now clinging to their bodies, and were
forced to gaze upon a tall figure emerging from the gaping hole. He stood over them, his
eyes burning through the clearing smoke with a golden glow.

He stood well over seven feet tall, his dull yellow skin marked with black patches, striped
similar to a wild tiger. His untamed spikes rose from his brow, rising up and almost
resembling a twisted crown. He wore a black loincloth rimmed with gold, and his other
armored implements around his neck, arms and shins were of the same trim, clearly of
Egyptian design. A thick, black belt wrapped securely around his waist, holding a
massive curved, double-edged sword on his left side. His long black hair was pulled
tightly back into a long tail, falling between his wings and just past his waist. His eyes,
surrounded by black skin, gleamed with a vengeful ire, two scalding cauldrons of hatred
that seemed to hold with cold hands, the hearts of every clan member.

"And who might you be, laddie?" Hudson asked in his usual gruff Scottish inflection.

The yellow and black gargoyle stood firm, his only movement consisting of a slight raise
of his chin. "I am your death, old one, if you choose to rise up against me." The figure
stepped forward from the rubble, threw his discharged weapon to the ground and
approached the gargoyles. "We have met before, though we were never properly
introduced. My name is Sobek. I was named after the ancient Egyptian god of the
crocodiles. Fitting, don't you think?"

Goliath stepped in front of Elisa and flared his wings, intentionally obscuring her from
view. "How so?" he responded with an abrasive snarl.

"Sobek was the god, the king of all reptiles on the planet. And soon, I shall take my
namesake's place. I will rule all gargoyles on this worthless mudball, and the humans,
who believe themselves the top of the foodchain, will soon be destroyed."

Broadway moved forward, eyes blazing. "I don't think so, pal."

"You should be honored. I am giving your clan one chance, to either swear fealty to
me," Sobek's eyes flared burning platinum, "or you will die by my hands."

"What gives you the right to be our judge, jury and executioner?" Angela asked, as she
came up by her mate's side.

"Unlike you, my dear, I have not been tainted by humankind. I do not feel the need to
protect those pathetic genetic deadends you would dare call friend," Sobek turned to face
Goliath, his eyes penetrating through him, towards the slender woman standing behind,
"or lover."

Shadow lurched forward, only to be restrained by Hudson. The old soldier did his best to
keep the dark warrior from leaping at the intruder.

Sobek found this amusing. "You want to attack me, don't you?" the Egyptian gargoyle
urged him on. "Obviously, you all care for the humans. Maybe allowing you to live was
a mistake. Especially you, dark one." He centered on Shadow, barely being contained
by Hudson's steel grip. "You may strike me if you wish, but if you lose the battle, there
will be no one to protect a certain young clone. I believe her name is...Delilah?"

"RRRRRAAAAAAUUUUUGGGHH!!!!!" Shadow exploded from Hudson's grasp and
charged the Egyptian, with his talons prepared to rip flesh from bone.

But the intruder's only response was to hold his ground and raise his hands in front of
him. He eyed Shadow, steadily closing in and ready to attack, but Sobek was more
prepared than anyone could ever conceive of. His eyes glowed forth, and his hands did
the same. Shadow lept into the air, only mere inches from his neck and was met with a
bolt of electric-blue energy, bursting from Sobek's very fingertips. The others watched
with horror as Shadow was thrown across the room, and landed against the wall, falling
into a heap with a smoldering burn on his chest.

That was enough to ignite the clan's tempers. They rushed forward, all but Goliath, who
turned to Elisa and practically screamed to her, "Get out of here! Take Trinity and go!
Now!!"

"I'm not leaving you." she replied, her eyes sick with dread.

"Please, Elisa," Goliath pleaded, "you must protect our daughter!"

The human detective cringed inwardly, knowing her husband was right. She gently
brushed his cheek with her hand. "Come back to me. To us."

"I promise." Goliath replied.

Elisa took off towards the exit with Trinity in hand, and with a parting glance of the clan
practically dogpiling on the intruder, she disappeared from the room.

Sata watched her go and motioned to her children. "My children, please, go with Elisa.
Protect her, and your sister." The twins hesitated, but soon nodded and followed behind.
leaving the jade gargoyle to join the ensuing battle.

****************************************

Othello connected with a right fist on Sobek and Desdemona with a left. They sent the
Egyptian reeling back into the wall, but he shook off the blows with a simple shrug and
crossed his hands in a mystifying gesture.

"Walls of Osiris!" Sobek bellowed and instantly he was surrounded by a barricade of
pure energy. He uncrossed his arms, and the spherical shield exploded outwards,
catching the former cyborgs before they could react. The expanding energy knocked
them against the stone, sucking the very strength from their bodies and they fell
unconscious to the floor. Before he had a chance to gloat, Brooklyn and Lexington were
on him, a brick red fist and mustard yellow foot entering his field of view. They sent him
flying backwards and only by digging his claws into the stone floor, was he barely able to
maintain his balance.

"Annoying gnats. Try to hit something that cannot be touched. Winds of Shu!" A
powerful gust of wind hit the two gargoyles as if a battering ram, and they were blown
back at break neck speed. Lexington's webbed wings acted like a parachute, hoisting the
smaller gargoyle through a vast window. Shards of colored glass erupted into the air as
the smaller gargoyle landed in a snow drift on the outer cornice, barely a foot away from
plummeting to his death. Brooklyn was knocked in another direction, and had the
unfortunate luck to meet Broadway and Angela head on, causing all three to collapse
onto the floor. "That should calm you down." Sobek looked to his side, watching the
rest of the clan who were still conscious, and advancing on his position.

He smiled.

****************************************

Three hours to midnight...
Elisa gently laid Trinity back into her crib and pulled the blankets over the tiny girl. She
had retreated to her bedroom in the attempt to get her daughter to safety, and found
Graeme and Arianna had followed. She protested, but the twins remained firm on their
resolve to protect her. She relented and flopped down on her bed, straining to hear
sounds of the battle on the other end of the castle.

She felt the mattress shift slightly as the twins hopped up on either side. Elisa managed a
small grin as she watched the young gargoyles make themselves comfortable on the bed
beside her. She noticed the fearful expressions on their youthful faces, knowing they too
were thinking of their family, and placed a hand on each shoulder. "Don't worry.
They'll be fine. All of them." she whispered, all the while trying to believe her own
words.

Arianna lifted her head. "You think so?"

"Yeah."

Graeme turned to face Elisa. "Elisa," his soft voice caught the detective's attention, "are
you scared?"

Elisa's gaze immediately moved to the nursery, where she could see the large wooden
crib, and the tiny baby sleeping peacefully within the carved spirals of mahogany.
"Yeah." Her grip tightened around the twin's shoulders. "But not as much with you two
here."

****************************************

Two hours to midnight...
Sobek easily managed to block every blow Broadway threw at him, and the burly,
aquamarine gargoyle overflowed with a consuming frustration. With a speed that almost
matched Shadow, the Egyptian thwarted every fist, every elbow, and every kick, until he
was able to catch Broadway off guard and drive his hand into the expanse of the Scottish
gargoyle's mid-section, and dug his claws into the ample flesh. Using his other hand, he
grabbed the back of Broadway's neck and brought them face to face. Yellow met
charcoal as Broadway was forced to stare into soulless eyes. "Time to fry, pig. Storms
of Tefnut..." His hand erupted with an electrical charge and over a thousand volts
coursed through Broadway's body. An anguished cry filled the room as the brawny
gargoyle screamed, causing Angela to shriek in absolute horror. Sobek's grin became
even bigger and he unloaded a final charge, throwing Broadway back over forty feet and
impacting with the table holding the party food.

Angela rushed over and held her mate's head in her hands, looking for any sign of life.
Thankfully, he was still breathing and she sighed in relief. Her tear stained eyes flashed
to her father, not far away, and he growled.

Goliath pulled himself to his full height and faced the yellow and black intruder. "You
have destroyed the sanctity of my home and injured my clan. I will not allow you to do
anymore harm."

"Oh really." Sobek raised his hand and pointed a single finger directly at Angela.
Goliath tensed, knowing exactly Sobek's loathsome intent. Sobek smirked. "Storms of
Tefnut." The very air surrounding the Egyptian crackled with a cobalt haze, and
concentrated near his hand.

The young lavender female was hit point blank with a bolt of lightning directly in the
chest, flowing painfully through her flesh and searing her very clothes. She lost
consciousness and fell lifeless over Broadway's still form.

Sheer madness roared through Goliath upon seeing his daughter so brutally attacked,
without any conscious thought, he rushed forward and rammed the Egyptian with all his
might. Sobek was thrown clear of the lavender giant and staggered to the ground. He
looked up, only to see Goliath on him with a massive fist to the face. More followed,
every punch filled with a father's relentless anger.

Between the crushing impacts to his frame, Sobek managed to reach to his belt and grab
the black handle. Goliath was caught up the side of the head by Sobek's new equalizer,
his curved sword, reflecting the light of the room's chandeliers, and he went down. With
one swipe, a large red gash appeared on Goliath's right shoulder. If he hadn't pulled
back in time, he would have been breathing through his neck. "I thought my magic
would be enough. You are stronger than I ever imagined, Goliath."

The lavender giant glared at Sobek's statement, a hand clamped tightly over his wound,
attempting to stop the flow of blood, still seeping through his fingers.

"But sheer strength won't help you tonight. Surrender now, and I won't kill you." Sobek
chuffed, trying to evoke a response from Goliath, but he held his place, almost forming a
smile.

Suddenly, a pair of black shadows passed overhead and Goliath barely flicked his eyes
above, only to see Annika and Sata leaping towards Sobek. Halting the fight to provoke
the lavender leader proved to be a grave mistake, he had allowed the others to prepare an
aggressive strike, only to gratify his inflated ego. Sobek was caught unawares. The two
gargoyles each grabbed an arm as they landed alongside the Egyptian. They held on with
all their might as Sobek struggled relentlessly. A rush of wind was all he felt before a
dark silhouette appeared in front of him.

It was Shadow. With nunchuku in each hand, he charged Sobek and knocked him from
the gargess' grip. A backhand to the head, and another to the gut, as Shadow unleashed
with his martial arts skills, his fists becoming blurred as he ripped into the Egyptian like
the punching bag in the castle's gym. The tow-linked fighting sticks whirled into perfect
circles, colliding with every exposed part of Sobek's body. Shadow then vaulted from a
standing stead, and flipped a perfect three hundred sixty degree circle in mid-air,
delivering a kick to Sobek's face, driving the gate-crasher into the wall with enough force
to crack the ancient stone.

Sobek shook his head and noticed the remaining clan surrounding him. "I...don't think
so. Waves of Naunet..." A blue mist appeared in front of the striped gargoyle and the
Wyvern clan came to a halt, without any realization of what to expect next from the
skilled magic user. The room shook slightly and the clan gasped at the sight before them.
An immense wave of water formed from the molecules suspended in the air and surged
forth, capturing the gargoyles with tremendous force, pushing them, and the rest of the
loose furniture, towards the South wall. Sata hit first, and hardest, and instantly sank
beneath the receding water. Annika scrambled to get her head above the wave and
thrashed about, desperately trying to find her Japanese friend. Hudson, Goliath and
Shadow slowly rose up to face Sobek. The Egyptian used the wall for support and
tenuously rose up. "Even a tidal wave cannot stop you. Interesting."

"Stop this now," Shadow hissed, "and we will allow you to leave with the use of your
legs."

"Ah, a threat. How primitive." Sobek goaded the dark warrior and watched with
amusement as Goliath restrained him. "Why don't you unleash your pet and let him
play? We've been having such a marvelous time."

Goliath stepped in front of Shadow, with an attempt to talk his way through this battle
and reduce the amount of damage brought into his home by this adversary. "Is this what
this is to you? A game?!"

"No. This little 'demonstration' tonight is merely a test."

Annika, holding Sata's limp form in her lap, lifted her eyes. "What kind of a test?"

"To see if you are worthy of becoming part of my new world. But from this battle
tonight, I see you will to great lengths to protect the human scum." Sobek turned his
gaze towards Todd, who during the fight, had done his best to help the fallen warriors.
"You would even fight against your own kind...for them!"

Annika growled ferociously, belying her beautiful exterior. "You're not our own kind!!
You're not one of us!!" she screamed, defending her boyfriend. "Gargoyles are noble
creatures. We protect. We don't launch sneak attacks on the innocent...and we don't kill
helpless humans." she said angrily, reminding the intruder of the guard he killed months
back.

"You are not innocent. None of you! You have defiled yourself with the humans."
Sobek concentrated on Goliath again. "You would even mate with them."

"You can't even imagine the love I share with my wife," Goliath began, "she has risked
her life on countless occasions to keep our clan...her clan, safe from people like you.
And I would do the same. I would die for her."

"And so you shall, Goliath. Your failure to see humans for what they really are will get
you killed." Sobek's lips curled back, forming an evil smile. "Now, there are only five
of you left. Care to continue? Care to see how futile your struggle really is?"

It was Hudson's turn to step forward. He slowly reached to his belt and pulled his own
sword from it's sheath. "Th' battle is not o'er yet, laddie. Not until I nay be breathin'."

"Ah, the old one wants to try his luck. Are you that eager to die?"

"Aye."

****************************************

One hour to midnight...
Graeme and Arianna had watched Elisa pace back and forth on her bedroom carpet for
almost twenty minutes now. Arianna cast a knowing look to her brother and he nodded
back. They knew she was growing impatient, and had, on more than one occasion, tried
to leave the room, determined to see how the battle was faring. But the twins heeded
their mother's wishes and stopped her, forcing her to stay within the safety of her room.

Elisa continually eyed her phone, and swallowed the devouring urge to call for help. The
mutates had split themselves over the island; Derek, Maggie and Delilah had gone to
Peter and Diane's and Sharon had practically dragged Claw to her own parent's home,
and now were too far away to be of any immediate help. All Xanatos' security guards
and employees had been excused for the evening. But a greater peril loomed, as even to
call to anyone would only expose her and her family to the outside. A danger most likely
more hazardous than Sobek himself.

Abruptly, she lurched to a stop and quickly snapped her head towards the young
hatchlings, causing her long ebony hair to flip over her shoulders. "How long do I have
to wait?! It's been hours!"

"We wait until mom and dad and the others come to get us." Arianna answered bravely,
but pulled back when he noticed Elisa scowl.

The detective continued her pacing and huffed, "I should be in there. I should be doing
something. Something other than hiding in my room."

"You have to keep Trini safe." Graeme chimed in. "Right now she needs you, more than
the others do."

Elisa sighed and wrapped her arms around herself. "You're right, but it's
still...frustrating. My husband, my friends, my family are fighting for their lives and I'm
stuck here." She moved towards the door separating the bedroom from the nursery, and
leaned in the archway, watching Trinity shift slightly within the mounds of blankets and
stuffed animals.

Graeme and Arianna, with barely a sound, slowly came to Elisa's side and eventually
moved past her, stopping near the crib and watching the baby take tiny breaths, as she
slept peacefully in her wooden cradle.

"But I will protect you, Trini," Elisa promised her daughter, "with my life."

****************************************

Thirty minutes to midnight...
Steel clashed with steel as Hudson and Sobek bitterly fought against one another, each
with sword in hand. The old soldier had done extremely well against the Egyptian, being
able to hold his own though his opponent was half his age. A perilous waltz had
developed as the two gargoyles gracefully weaved around each, blocking every slash with
tempered iron.

Shadow and Goliath stared intently with an eerie and horrifying fascination, waiting for
an opening to attack, but a wrong move could possibly result in fatal injury to Hudson.
The sword wielders continued on, until Sobek pulled back suddenly and glared at the
Scottish gargoyle.

"You are...skilled," he gasped between tired breaths, "but not skilled enough." He
lunged forward, sword in hand, but was easily blocked by Hudson.

"Ye look tired...laddie." Hudson puffed, as he too was growing weak. "All yuir spells
be...takin' their toll?"

"I have enough power to defeat you, old one."

"Defeat me, aye. Defeat them?..." Hudson's eyes shifted slightly and Sobek followed his
gaze towards the last two standing Wyvern members. "Never." Hudson looked back and
noticed the slight trepidation spread across the Egyptian's face. Using his last reserves of
strength, the elder gargoyle pushed Sobek away from him and into the open, into the
exact spot where Goliath and Shadow wanted him.

Without time to react, Sobek was violently struck in the upper torso as the warriors used
their shoulders to drive into him, gathering enough force to nearly collapse a lung. He
faltered back and looked up, only to see the leather covered, wooden handle of Shadow's
nunchuku screaming towards his head. His face twisted and wrenched to the side. He
could feel his bottom lip split open and tasted the blood as it gushed forth. Shadow
ducked away, letting Goliath pass and finish the fight. With Sobek reeling, Goliath
attacked with savage fury, connecting again and again with powerful blows. Sobek was
knocked to his knees and Goliath caught him with a large clawed foot directly in the
mid-section.

The Egyptian rolled with the blow and quickly raised his head, only to find the warriors
standing above him. "You think you've won, don't you?" Sobek wheezed, coughing up
dark sanguineous blood. "I will not be defeated this easily." The intruder slowly rose to
his feet. "I will beat you yet. I will destroy humankind." Sobek outstretched his arms,
flared his wings and continued his ranting. "I will rule...I will be king. I am Sobek!! I..."

"...am toasted."

A voice rang in, interrupting the Egyptian's tiring rant. He finally took notice of a small
red dot hovering on his chest. He followed the laser beam to it's source, a large silver
rifle, held in Todd's arms.

"Amazing what toys Mr. X leaves around his house."

ZZZZZZZRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAKKKK!!!!! The rifle erupted with a stream of
energy as Todd pulled the trigger. The room lit up with a red haze and the beam hit it's
target, directly on Sobek's chest. The gargoyle went down, a diagonal streak of
incinerated flesh running from the neck to the stomach.

"Oh wow, now that had to hurt." Todd quipped as he lowered the smoking weapon.

Annika, still tending to Sata and the others, smiled craftfully. Even she appreciated the
well timed joke.

Sobek stirred and groggily opened his yellow eyes. Blurred images flowed around them,
and as his vision cleared, he found himself surrounded. "It seems...the game...is over.
Just as well...I grow weary of this. Besides," Sobek looked with dead eyes to Goliath,
"my real target is elsewhere. ETERNAL LIGHT OF RA!!!" The room became awash in
an ivory effulgence as a blinding flare exploded from Sobek's hands. The clan was
rendered sightless and Sobek slipped away, favoring his chest wound and navigating the
winding halls of Wyvern.

Todd dropped the rifle and covered his eyes with his hands. "Jesus!! I can't see!!"

"Nor can I," Shadow rasped, "where did he go?"

Goliath shook his head and rubbed his eyes. Suddenly it dawned on him. He
remembered the look Sobek gave him, and his wife, when they first met. He recalled
vividly the contempt in his voice when he spoke of her, and now he had slipped away
into the bowels of Wyvern, free to wreak what havoc he wished. "Elisa..."

****************************************

Fifteen minutes to midnight...
"Come on, Goliath," Elisa whispered as she stood in the middle of her room, "what's
happening?" Her gaze continually focused on her baby girl, still sleeping soundly. The
room was achingly quiet. All she could hear now was the gentle breathing of Trinity and
the hushed mumbling of the twins. She perked up when the familiar sound of the tall
doors opening caught her attention. Elisa whirled around. "Goliath?"

A shadow drifted through the door and into the pale light. "Not quite."

"Oh god...Sobek."

"Very astute, detective." Sobek answered as he drew close, only to be halted by Graeme
and Arianna. "Eh? Ah, the younger generation is trying to play protector. How...cute.
Begone. Storms of Tefnut." With a wave of his hand, the twins were struck with a high
voltage charge that knocked them back across the room.

Elisa watched with a horrific fear as the two hatchlings landed on the floor with a
sickening thud. "You son of a bitch!!" she screamed. "They're just children!"

"They were the enemy, detective Maza." Sobek turned his vicious stare towards her.
"And so are you."

"Why me?" Elisa asked, aspiring to stall him and searching her mind for anyway to get
her daughter to safety.

"It's very simple. You are human, and therefore must die."

Ten minutes to midnight...
Elisa began to slowly move towards the massive fireplace, making sure Sobek's back
was towards Trinity's nursery. "Why?" she asked again, hoping his overblown arrogance
would eat up sufficient time.

"Humans are a disease, a virus to be eradicated. Overpopulation, pollution, crime,
murder...humankind is raping their own planet and destroying my kind every chance they
get."

Eight minutes to midnight...
"I am trying to preserve your race." Elisa argued her point.

"Yes, well. I'll let you in on a secret, detective. I don't want you around. You could
single-handedly ruin my plans. You are of the select few, and perhaps the only one, who
could help bring human and gargoyle together."

"What's so bad about that?"

"Everything!!" Sobek's eyes flashed, even unnerving the human before him. "I don't
want our races to be united. I want the gargoyle species to hate the humans as much as I
do." He slowly edged closer, noticing Elisa taking a defensive stance. "The humans will
die, and you shall be next, my dear."

Five minutes to midnight...
"I don't think so." Elisa spun around and delivered a spin kick to the gargoyle's chest
wound, causing him to doubleover in pain. Using all the power she could harvest in her
slender form, she brought her clenched fists down on the back of his neck. Sobek was
taken down to one knee and Elisa made a mad dash for the night table, and the gun
contained inside.

Four minutes to midnight...
But Sobek recovered quick enough to send a weak blast her way, hitting her in the ribs
and knocking her down. She moaned in agony and rubbed her side. Sobek rose up and
kicked her fiercely in the stomach, sending her lean form into the endtable. She looked
up just as a deep yellow fist slapped her across the face with such tremendous force, that
she rolled into the center of the room. On her hands and knees, Elisa spit out blood and
rubbed her jaw.

Three minutes to midnight...
Sobek reached down and grabbed her by the neck. He lifted her limp body, and her head
fell beside his. "A noble effort, but ultimately futile." He moved closer, his lips almost
touching her ear and his torrid breath guiding it's way over her copper skin. "I have
another secret, detective..." Elisa felt his rough, lizard-like tongue lick the side of her
face. "Mmmmm, you will taste divine, Mrs. Maza. Perhaps with a light dressing and
some chilled white wine..."

Two minutes to midnight...
"Oh my god," Elisa winced in utter horror, "you sick bastard."

"I'm just doing what I can to help the population problem. Thinning the herd, as it were.
The fattest humans always taste the best. Very filling." Sobek unsheathed his sword and
brought it to her neck, inches away from her copper skin. "Time to die."

"Whhhaaaahhhh!!"

One minute to midnight...
A clamorous cry rang forth from the room behind the gargoyle and he turned quickly to
identify the source. He released his hold on Elisa and she fell flaccid to the floor. Sobek
slowly moved into the smaller room, forcefully shoving the door out of the way, and
peered into the crib. He gasped at the sight. He reached in and pulled out the squalling
baby, by the neck of her jumper. "Is it possible?" he asked himself as he examined the
crying child. "A human, and a gargoyle were able to produce...a child?"

Thirty seconds to midnight...
Elisa looked up to see her daughter held in the clutches of the clan's newest enemy.
"...no...please..." she wheezed.

Twenty seconds to midnight...
Sobek re-entered the bedroom and stood at Elisa's side. "I was aware of your 'private
life', detective. I knew of your friendship with this clan and your having mated with
Goliath, but...this is most surprising, I assumed the father was a human donor. She does
have your eyes, though..."

Ten seconds to midnight...
He eyed the small child once more. "You pose a greater threat than I imagined. Both of
you."

Three...
Sobek's sword edged closer to the baby and Elisa shuddered, knowing that if she didn't
do anything, her firstborn child would be dead.

Two...
"...trinity..."

One...
"TRINITY!!!!" A furious cry echoed through the room as Goliath arrived at the stroke of
midnight, and not a second too late. Elisa used this opportunity to gather her remaining
strength and unleashed a sweep kick to the Egyptian's shins. He toppled slightly and lost
the chance to block the oncoming blow as Goliath barreled into him. Goliath and Sobek
went down at each other's throats and Trinity was thrown clear.

Elisa could only watch as her daughter sailed several meters away from her. But the
mother's fear of the fragile child impacting with the ground were instantly washed away,
as a streak of grayish-purple bolted past her field of vision.

Shadow grabbed the small child in his gentle hands and cradled her close, while
breathing a sigh of relief.

"I will make you sorry for ever attacking my clan!!" Goliath roared as he clamped his
hands around Sobek's throat.

The Egyptian struggled against the lavender giant's grip and the two gargoyles rolled
around on the floor, each trying to gain the upper hand. But Sobek's injuries were too
severe to mount a suitable offense and he began to accede to Goliath's powerful arms.
Knowing he had lost, Sobek squeezed his right fist, causing a small needle to appear
from his armored glove. With a quick jab, he sank the needle into Goliath's thick neck.
The lavender giant's entire body spasmed, as his nerves inflamed at the rush of a stinging
fluid being released into his bloodstream. He released Sobek, allowing him to move
away, as fast as his injuries could allow, and stagger to the window.

Shadow, who had just handed the baby to a grateful Elisa, moved to intercept, but was
held back by Goliath.

"L-Let him go."

"What?!" Shadow let his contempt for his leader's decision be known through his
enraged cry. "I will not allow him to hurt anymore..."

"I said let him go. We will not become what he is, a remorseless murderer. The battle is
won."

"The battle perhaps, but not the war." Sobek gasped, as he made his way to the window
ledge. "It took your entire clan to defeat me, Goliath. Next time you won't be so lucky.
I will be back, and humanity will pay. I will soon release the toxin I stole, and every
living thing in the city will be either dead or dying. The third millennium has come, and
the gargoyles will become the rulers of this planet. And those who oppose me shall
perish within the flames of Anubis!!" Sobek howled his malignance to the night sky and
flew off into the darkness, leaving Shadow and Goliath to give each other apprehensive
looks.

But a new sound captured the lavender giant's sensitive ears and he turned to see his wife
curled on the floor, clutching Trinity to her chest and sobbing uncontrollably. Goliath
kneeled down and gathered both of them into his arms.

Elisa pressed her face to the wide expanse of his chest, covering his lavender skin with
her tears. "When?" she sobbed, "when will it end? We had finally found some
semblance of peace...I was finally over what had happened to me. When can we live our
lives free of pain? Free of death?"

Goliath didn't answer. He couldn't answer. His only response was to hold his family
closer and stare out the large bay window, listening to the faint sound of the city's many
celebrations having embarked upon the first chime of the clocks. He looked to Shadow,
joined by Brooklyn and Sata, having just arrived in the room and checking on the twins.
They were awake and moving about. Goliath sighed painfully. His home had been
violated, his clan attacked, his wife and daughter almost killed, all because he had
dedicated his life to protecting the humans, and Elisa had dared to love someone not of
her kind. She had become a target and so had his daughter. A target of a gargoyle
willing to go to any length to ensure her death, and the death of her very race, at his
hands. He felt Elisa shiver in his embrace and he wrapped his violet wings around her
and Trinity, creating a warm cocoon.

"When?" she whispered again. "When will it be over?"