96 - "The Hole: Part 3"
This all had a familiar feel.
A Manhattan neighborhood being torn apart by something that, by all rights, shouldn't really exist.
But it was a little hard to argue suppositional rumor when the streets were being peeled back from their gravel base. A few uprooted pipes shot water fifty feet into the air, and the remnants of both Lei's and Barnes' gangs scattered for safe ground only to find every horizontal surface was being ripped up from under their feet.
The windows blew out on every floor of the brownstone and the little ball of fire floating just above the building seemed to be drawing every molecule, no matter what it was attached to, towards her. Thus, streetlights ripped from their concrete bases (snapping ten-inch bolts), the trees and rod-iron fencing and entire cars were lifted into the air only to collide, shred and feed shrapnel to the increasingly erratic winds.
A streetlight turned javelin pierced the side of a neighboring building three floors up.
Bricks were sucked out from fascias whose loose mortar were seen as rustic, and would be later confirmed as treacherous and in desperate need of repair.
And an '84 Honda fell from the sky, turned into a gas-fueled, flaming pinwheel rolling down the street and tried to neatly bisect Desdemona before she jumped from its path. "Dragon!" she screamed, and threw up a wing to protect her face. "We cannot stay here!"
"We noticed..." Broadway answered.
As his mate ran to his side for safety, Othello seemed intent on the little, green, human-shaped sun above even as a few rod-iron spears hit the sidewalk beside them. "She is obviously not human."
"Fay?" a voice surmised. It could've been Delilah, or even Hudson's thick, distinguishable brogue, the clan's voices drowned by the carnage. They were regrouping under what shelter hadn't yet torn from the ground and pulled an Oz into the air.
"Why would a faerie have a grudge against two mob kingpin wannabes?"
"She looked young..." Angela mentioned, thumb-talon on her lower lip.
And all the while, Lexington had grounded his gaze, watching the streets unravel. The sensors in his eyes were measuring electricity from snapped power-lines at a few thousand amps. "Before the world exploded." he argued. "Alex is young, but he could also snap the Eyrie in half with a sneeze."
All the while Brooklyn had remained silent, watching Ambrosine throw a fit five stories up in a display of power reminiscent of Alexander Xanatos. Things were never simple, at least not any more. He didn't blink in his low-ridged scrutiny, until something hit the ground beside them: a body. One of Lei's. The reality of the storm came roaring back. "We've got to get inside." he said. "There's no fucking way that thing up there is here by coincidence."
There was a moment of hesitation before someone cracked the whip.
"Ye heard th' man, hatchlings," Hudson roared, pointing the tip of his sword towards the brownstone's front steps, "move!!"
"Lex, you lead," ordered Broadway, "sniff out the safest route!"
As entire chunks of street broke off and flew upwards like attacked to some giant string, Lexington scrambled in between the jigsaw pieces using a thermograph to see what portions of the road were still firmly attached and left a trail for the others to follow towards Barnes' brownstone.
"What about Shadow?" Katana asked of her mate before they reached the doors.
Brooklyn had taken up the end, and as he hit the first step, looked behind into the wasteland of what used to be a rather peaceful neighborhood. "I'm pretty sure he can take care of himself..."
Dodging bullets wasn't as easy as it was made out to be.
Especially when one had already shredded through part of your pancreas, and a breeze was working itself through the holes leftover.
Shadow had found himself left with a bleeding gut and the last annoying human remaining from the miniature army Barnes' and Lei had set against each other for pride and territory, and this particular one wasn't going to lie down without a fight. He could barely get close without feeling the spiraled rush of air burn past him and was forced on the defensive, especially with a sharp pain in his side that dulled his reflexes.
Looking like a pincushion (Shadow had landed a few good hits with his shuriken and throwing knives) Ice was shooting at every shadow and moving piece of debris out of sheer desperation, seeing the creature weave in and out of objects on the street.
Something hard skittered on the asphalt and he turned to catch the barbed tail disappear behind a parked van. A thin, spattered trail of blood was the only evidence that thing was ever there.
He fired, layered the entire length of sheet metal with holes, then breathed.
And breathed again.
A war was going on in the background, but Ice pushed everything out of his mind, centered on his immediate surroundings and somehow didn't notice the car being lifted up behind him.
Grabbing the sub-compact by its axles, Shadow's muscles were clearly defined against the exertion that was ready to pop them from his skin. But the prolonged creak of shocks and springs relaxing without the weight of compression made a peculiar if not telltale sound and Ice turned around to nearly eat the molded plastic of a bumper.
He could've sworn it grazed him as it passed over his shoulder, impacting just behind. Ice had dodged just in time, but having a car nearly take off your head would rattle even the most war-hardened veteran if only for a few seconds.
An opening Shadow was hoping for if not for the wild spray of bullets.
Ice didn't know how many times he'd fired but by the time he recovered, the thing was gone.
Shadow had effectively vanished into the night. But somewhere, a riled growl rang out. This was getting annoying; he'd taken out the Pack in less time. But this man was a fighter, a smart, patient fighter, and knew well enough to stay safely out of range and cover his ass when need be. He wasn't as proud as the Pack had been in Egypt, rushing at him to desperately prove a point in superiority. Shadow ducked around, and hoped to relieve the human of more of that ammo that somehow he'd been able to replenish ad infinitum.
He made noise on one car and drew fire in the direction, even though he was long gone.
Knuckles rapped on another and paint was scraped from the metal surface.
"Where are you, bastard?!" Ice screamed, realizing the creature was now playing with him. "Where are you?!"
Shadow was patient as well, and knew how to use fear and anger just as well as any physical weapon.
"I'm sick of your games!"
"If I have to shoot up this entire goddamned neighborhood I will!"
Click, click, click...click.
Ice looked down the barrel. "Damn..." He had a few more clips, on the back of his belt. Time seemed to slow as if to allow him enough time to measure in his head and debate just how fast he could top off his ammunition.
But the trigger hitting an empty cartridge was all the ninja needed to hear. Shadow's eyes led a streak of cobalt blue as he leapt from the darkness with all the intent to sever something from the human's body before he could reload.
But before he even reached him, light preceded an explosion and bathed the entire street so intensely that, for a moment, the world around them both turned Kelly green. Gravity suddenly reversed and they were both pulled into the air and into the maw of a storm.
Their gaze lasted less than a split second.
Barnes and Zhu shot to their feet, scrambled over dead bodies and hands clutching from the wounded and each dove for their respective weapons. Lei got to his first and knowing the long-range capabilities coupled with Lucian's pretty decent aim, plucked the sword by its hilt and raced towards any piece of solid upended furniture before he caught a bullet through the spine.
The desk, African dark-wood, a couple hundred pounds; it'd do.
He flipped over and took cover just as splinters exploded from the edge. Barnes had found his gun.
"Fucking Chink!" he roared, taking chunks from the varnished surface of his own prized desk. As long as he hit the wiry little shit, pierced the heart, exploded brain, he didn't care. Even as a small tornado started to pick up debris just through the hole in the roof and throw it around the brownstone's most spacious suite like knives he didn't care, he wanted Lei dead and as quickly as possible. "Goddamned fucking Triads!" Barnes' voice was barely heard over the unremitting fire of his gun and the storm raging above. "I hate their elitism, their arrogance, their mysticism..."
Lei wiped the blade across his sleeve, baring steel from beneath the drying blood. The desk shuddered as another bullet imbedded in the thickest part of the wood.
"I hate the entire Asian culture and most of all, I hate young, ballsy, snot-nosed PUNKS!!!"
Lei let him talk, waste words. In between the bullets, his voice eventually growing louder was telling him just how close he was getting.
Three more tremors, three more bullets.
"End of the line, Zhu!" Barnes growled. "I'm taking this city and I'm taking it all! I've worked too damned long to lose everything now!"
Five meters away. Near point-blank range. Lei needed him closer.
Barnes continued towards the upended desk, firing, until he'd reached about arms' length. Then, something soundlessly tore through the air.
All Lucian saw was a distorted mirror image flash past him. The sword, the little bastard had swung his sword faster than his eyes could follow. For a moment he wondered if his hands had been taken off, before gathering the courage to look down and see the damage done; his gun was a few inches shorter. "Hn...!"
Lei was up and on the offensive in an instant, but he'd underestimated Barnes' strength, the supercharge of adrenaline and, of course, the dread of nearly having one's hands sheared off at the wrist. Like nitrous in the blood, Barnes kicked the desk and knocked some distance between him and that blade.
It was all Lei could do to dig in, screech to a halt and brace himself against three hundred pounds on a blind rampage. Barnes grabbed the edge and hefted the equally heavy slab into the air without so much as breaking a sweat, intending to crush his opponent beneath it, but Lei stood his ground and locked his elbows, intending to let a blade that could split a human hair do all the work.
Two halves fell on either side of him, and the sword tipped forward slightly, the weight having disappeared quickly enough to shift his balance. Barnes was ready with a fist the size of his head and swung. Lei rolled to the side, dodged the massive, clenched paw and kicked his opponent's legs from underneath him.
The floorboards groaned at such weight coming down.
He scurried atop the pinstriped mountain, thrust an elbow into Barnes' neck and angled his sword. The blade dropped with intent to sever jugular, voicebox, esophagus, anything in the slim path of steel aged six centuries, but as the tip met flesh, it stopped. At what could have been the last moment of Lucian Barnes' life, Lei hesitated.
They were taking the stairs three, four steps at a time.
Bodies were strewn everywhere and the steps were a little slick, the remnants of a small war that seemed inconsequential at the moment. Especially when the building felt like it was rocking back and forth.
As the clan continued upwards, Delilah slowed when noticing a screw slowly spiraling out from the paint on its own. A low vibration led her eyes around and down and into the darkness of what they'd left behind on the mad dash for the top floor. "Brooklyn!" she yelled out. "The building...!"
He stopped and hung himself over the banister, looking down the staircase shaft, only to see wood and plaster, metal railings, drywall and crown molding dislodging from the underpinning, and warping. The entire structure at the first floor blew its nails, and the interior walls violently imploded.
Ambrosine was intent to swallow the building, or at the least, learn origami on a city-sized scale.
"I suggest everyone move faster." Brooklyn warned. "We won't have a building for long."
Barnes was as stiff as a plank; he could feel the sword parked on his skin and the warm bead of blood curling around his throat. He didn't dare go for his gun.
Lei's eyes had hardened into anthracite, unable to reflect or read. He simply kept his hand clenched on the grip, his free arm braced against the meaty trunk of Barnes' neck and his foot on the larger man's leading leg.
"Whu's th' matter?" Barnes managed, every word (and every subsequent tremor through his vocal cords) scraping against the blade. "No...balls?"
Lei leaned in, and grazed teeth over chestnut skin. "I'm thinking of my father." he revealed in a rasp that came from just below his throat. He hadn't yet spoken since bursting through the doors. "A sudden, inexplicable thought I know, even with what's going on all around us and even as I can finally have the pleasure of pulling your intestines up through your neck, but I can't help it. As much as I want you dead right now, something is whispering at the back of my soul."
"...what th' fuck'r y'talkin' 'bout...?"
"You're myopic, Barnes." he hissed. "No forest for the trees. You feign intelligence, but shoot what you don't or can't understand."
Barnes struggled helplessly at the grip Lei held on his body's pressure points; he went to Yale damnit. But he was effectively trapped, and all he could see from his vantage was the carpet, distant bodies and every small piece of furniture beginning to (oddly) lift from the floor.
"You are a close-minded, racist fool. And my father would sometimes accuse me of the exact same thing. I called his introspectiveness a flaw, and I was proved right when the back of his head was blown out when negotiating rather than ridding himself of his enemies. I refused to show any weakness, any mercy, I refused to make the same mistake as my father did and right now, removing your head from your shoulders would rid me of my biggest obstacle."
The blade shifted and Barnes tensed up, only to put more pressure where Lei had him pinned.
"I've tried to honor my father's dying wheeze, but I can't keep wondering...if there's a better way..." The jackal smile reached ear to ear. "Give me your territory, and I'll spare you."
The ripple sent up the big man's spine was proof of his surprise. He didn't think Lei was even remotely serious.
He was. "Hand over everything you have, unequivocally, and you won't die by my hand. I don't need a war on two fronts wasting valuable people, resources and money or run the risk of turning you into a martyr that your people would die for. You'll relinquish control and disappear from U.S. soil."
Barnes' response, unsurprisingly, was a bit of drool-laced growling. "Fuck...you."
"You don't seem to realize your position." Lei reinforced, jabbing his elbow even further into dark skin. "Give me everything, or breathe through your neck."
His thought process was clouding with excruciating pain. His nervous system on fire, all he could manage was, "FUCK YOU!!!"
The smile vanished. "It seems you've just proven my father wrong."
"Fifth floor." Katana announced quietly and threw a cautious gaze on either side of the corridor. Nothing but bodies. "Clear."
Brooklyn tapped Othello's shoulder. "Move."
The archer took point and kicked the doors from their hinges just as Lei was about to make a hole through Barnes' neck.
If he aimed, it was hair-trigger; the only sound above the wind was the bowstring slapping into place against the reels, and a low whistle that wasn't able to keep up with the arrow.
Howling in pain, Lei rolled off and let go of the sword when his entire arm went briefly numb. Katana grabbed for it and when at a safe distance, inspected the blade between her talons, comparing Chinese expertise at weaponry to her own.
Brooklyn walked past the man clutching at the growing red stain on his shirt and grumbled, "Oh quit your bitching, it's not fatal." He made a circle around the other one, who was busy coughing up something into his hand.
Barnes was a little disoriented, and thought it was his own men who'd made the miraculous rescue, until he looked up. And froze. Swallowed his tongue. Hands shot towards him, and he flinched when the claws caught light and yanked him by the collar. "Jesus–"
"Who is she?"
"W-What?" Lucian was barely able to tear his eyes from the slightly Mephistophelian creature with claws far too uncomfortably close to his neck. Horns, incandescent eyes, brow and hooked beak and crimson skin, it was all he could do to slowly slide his gaze upwards from one horrifying sight to another.
Brooklyn saw the hint of recognition flash through the coffee brown of Barnes' irises, then quickly fade as soon as he realized just how much he was giving away, like a steel trap snapping shut. "I said," three-fingered hands knotted at the pressure applied, and the big man winced, "who is she?!"
It took a moment for the proper synapses to fire. "Juno's...Juno's little brat, I think."
"I've only seen her a few times!"
By the glow of his eyes, Brooklyn's features were faintly outlined. And they clearly, chillingly hardened. "And who the hell is Juno?"
Somehow, Lucian would quickly re-grow his backbone, "Who the hell do you think has been attacking our shipments?!"
The grip relaxed on the Barnes' lapels. "She's the third..." Brooklyn presumed.
"Yes," Lei answered from afar, voice remarkably level, "she has been...an annoyance lately."
"And her daughter does this often?!"
"No, this is...new."
The winds suddenly shored up, funneled through the hole in the roof and every gargoyle felt the change in direction on their wings. Ambrosine floated back down into the suite with a gaze that seemed to wash over everyone like a shot of pepper-spray, until it centered on the two mobsters. She touched down, and a perfectly concentric ring of debris was quickly blown away with a snort. "Mother wants you dead."
Broadway swallowed, "Now that was creepy."
"Anyone have an idea?" Brooklyn whispered.
Othello quickly nocked another arrow despite the worried glance from his mate, drew the bowstring to about a hundred pounds (more than enough to pierce and actually pass through human skin) and felt the feathers spin against his talons as he let go. The graphite shaft whistled, sought flesh with accomplished aim and struck.
It sunk into Ambrosine's neck; the force behind it jerked her head at a morbid angle. She barely blinked.
"Iron." he explained, watching intently for any kind of reaction.
Fay had the tendency to either scream, convulse or watch their own veins bulge at the skin when exposed to the simple metal. It was poison reaped from the earth for creatures used to recreating their own atomic structure to suit every twisted fancy, but the little girl didn't show any such consequence. She merely grabbed the shaft and yanked it from her flesh, then, with a glance, obliterated the arrow with a stray thought.
Brooklyn felt himself pale. "She's not fay..."
"Jesus fucking Christ!" Barnes screamed on instinct, considering the average human mind would have trouble functioning at this point. Lei was equally dumbstruck, the pain of the arrow buried in his shoulder briefly forgotten. "What the hell is she?!"
"Not fay." Brooklyn repeated darkly.
With Broadway having subtly nudged her behind him, Angela asked over his shoulder, "Then what do we do?"
He saw her hand rise; he felt the air clench, as if every molecule had just been compressed and collectively changed direction. "Run." Brooklyn whispered, noticing how Ambrosine's eyes took on a tantrum glint.
The gale threw daggers; the wind was picking up, and a faint electrical charge could be felt on the skin.
"Broadway, grab Barnes," Brooklyn shot out, shoving the human towards his brother and thumbing a talon towards the nearest window, "Othello, Lei. We're getting the hell out of here and we're taking them with us!"
Lei went to stand. "We are not going anywhere with you damned freaaaAAAUGHHH!!!"
Othello had grabbed the butt-end of the arrow, neatly cleaved between the ligaments and a conveniently located bundle of nerves that shut him up far quicker then knuckles off bone. He had the little gangster on the end of a stick and steered him, gently, towards the exit.
But sweet, murderous Ambrosine wasn't about to let them leave. "I said," she hissed, "Mother wants the bad men dead!!"
The top floor was almost sheared off and half the wall exploded outwards, catching a few of the clan unawares as they were knocked off their feet and barely able to right themselves before the five-story drop came to an abrupt end.
"Damnit!" Herding the rest outside through the gaping hole still hemorrhaging furniture and other debris, Brooklyn looked to Hudson, who'd remained behind as the last to leave. "Come on!"
His features had deepened under flailing white tendrils. "Nay."
"Ye get to th' woman behind all this," he grumbled, "an' I'll deal with th' wee lassie."
"In case you didn't happen to notice, she's about as powerful as a few fay we know."
"But undisciplined. I dinna plan on stoppin' her, just slowin' her down t' let ye escape."
His mouth was suddenly jammed full of hand as Hudson smothered his beak and shoved him out. Brooklyn was just able to untangle, spread his wings and fight the storm to get any kind of altitude.
As his clan escaped with the two junior mafias hanging from the ends of their talons, Hudson turned and found himself reflected by soulless eyes. "Come now, little one."
But she merely looked him over and centered on his chest; all the bravado the gargoyle could rally was nothing to hide the flaws of mortal being and flesh. "You have a bad heart."
His brows rose, "What?" and his arms began to tingle. Someone was stepping on his chest. "Damn..."
"I can make it worse."
Hudson dropped to his knees, and as he struggled to breathe through a quickly constricting chest, the irony of actually wanting those damnable pills was lost on him. From his vantage all he could see were tiny feet taking tiny steps past him and towards the hole, presumably to chase after his clan.
He couldn't allow that. Even as his capillaries tightened and the myocardium was starved of blood, he'd managed to keep a firm grip on his sword and prayed he had enough strength left to...
Ambrosine screamed when the wide, slightly curved blade shot out her chest a good foot (the old solider had uncanny accuracy for such a heavy, lumbering weapon).
That slowed her down. She could probably restructure matter if she concentrated hard enough, but still a small girl the sight of a sword protruding through the chest was enough to unnerve her, and successfully divert her attention to the 2x4.
Hudson nearly took her head off and ended breaking the plank in half over the human-sized billiard ball that rolled several feet away, sword clanking as she tumbled. The gargoyle trembled, collapsed face first and hit the floor, just conscious long enough to watch as Ambrosine stirred and appeared on the verge of tears. "...ssstay..." his speech was hideously slurred, "...away from them..."
"Mother..." she squeaked. "Wants the bad men dead."
Everything around him was blurring, liquefying. "...ye dinna have to..."
Ambrosine stood up, still a little shish kabob. "But I want to. I like death."
"...then kill me...an' be done with it!"
"I will." She floated a few inches off the ground and out into the night.
Hudson felt a tremor run the length of the flooring through his cheek (though slightly anesthetized). And it was a few seconds more before the floor itself cracked, buckled and eventually gave out, sending him plummeting into an abyss of broken floors.
The brownstone crumbled up, then down, imploding neatly into its own foundation with a plume of gossamer white smoke.
He managed to grab at a slab of concrete about ten feet square and anchor himself to something heavy, to keep him from either being lost in the tornado or floating into the atmosphere with the rest of the debris.
Pieces of road were colliding in mid-air and the scent of human (the air thick with bodies) was permeating his senses to the point where finding Ice would prove problematic.
Shadow struggled to maintain his hold in winds that were threatening to tear off his skin, but something didn't feel right. Was it the alien energies, or...?
No, a presence through the airborne junk. And then, a sharp stabbing pain in his side before he could react.
In the midst of his own cry of pain and the blackout in his vision, he struggled to look over his shoulder and see Ice hanging from a jagged piece of rod-iron railing that'd run him through near the kidney.
A lucky shot.
Ice clung to his weapon, twisting the makeshift spear into the creature's guts. "Why don't you hide now?!"
Shadow was too busy trying to hang on than listen.
"You were so confident when you could conceal yourself in the dark!" He got a better grip and kept twisting, feeling organs rearrange against the steel rod. "How confident do you feel now?!"
Nearly biting through his lip, Shadow kept his talons embedded into the small piece of street as it was tossed between airstreams like being thrown between ocean waves. This was getting annoying, and thus, he intended to end it. Using his wings to moderately steer the heavy, unresponsive 'raft' into another piece, they collided and Ice nearly lost his grip.The collision sent them spinning, with Ice dangling at the end of the rod. With no gravity, there wasn't any sense of 'down'.
Seeing a clear path, Shadow grit through the pain, ignored the foreign object stabbed halfway through his torso and flipped around, catching his human passenger by the throat. But in the process he'd let go, sending them both into the mercy of the storm. "I have bested better creatures than you!" he screamed.
"Then do it!"
He pulled out the lance from his side and grabbing him by the shoulder, showed the mobster the sharp end coated in his blood. Whether he intended to visit the same fate on Ice or something equally heinous, only his thin gaze and slight, toothy, bloody grin would reveal the truth.
Until, before he got the chance, everything shuddered around them and something shot out of the brownstone's top floor. And if the building suddenly collapsing underneath them weren't enough to end the fight, then perhaps it'd be the familiar, downward pull.
Gravity had just kicked back in, and everything in the air that didn't quite belong dropped like a stone. Chunks of asphalt, cars, debris and bodies rained down on the street and anyone still alive were either killed in the impact or had to get up and run (limp) for cover.
While Shadow was able to right himself and slow his descent, Ice was at the mercy of an evolution coming up two wings short of a gargoyle. He fell, doing about eighty klicks, and struck with so much speed he made a perfect human-sized dent in the pavement.
He would've survived, maybe, if the Lexus that just happened to be above him hadn't completely and totally crushed almost every bone in his body when it landed.
Shadow came to ground, and grunted, looking over what was left of his opponent. "Hmph."
He'd never been much into compassion, thus, he didn't give the dead mobster a second thought as he waited for everything else to crash down, hobbled past and stepped on a single, writhing hand jutting from underneath the wreckage, hearing a few metacarpals splinter and snap.
The first warning they were about to make the corner of ninth avenue and West 54th were sixty squealing tires.
The sirens and blaring horns were useless, considering they were blending into the city's already jumbled background noise. People on the crosswalk only had that distinctive sound of rubber shredding against asphalt and the vague instinct of an approaching object to warn them of the police cars that had suddenly appeared from around the corner.
By the time the pedestrians reached the safe haven of the sidewalk, caught their breath and looked down the road to see what had almost killed them, it was all a white, black and flashing red blur.
Number 59 out of the twenty-third precinct was in the lead, with Maria Chavez behind the wheel. Her reluctant passenger (who'd insisted she drive but was quickly shot down by rank) was white-knuckled and hanging on for dear life. All in all, Iliana was impressed by her captain's skills behind the wheel and if she actually felt comfortable with anyone else driving besides her, Elisa or Matt, she might not feel the urge to lose her lunch on the windshield.
But Maria had been silent for the entire drive and seemed grimly determined to get to the site of the shooting as quickly as possible, if only to stem the loss of more life.
It was getting a little unsettling until the under-dash receiver crackled to life, filling the stillness. "...Uh...captain?..."
She could barely hear him over the siren and the engine pushing seven thousand RPMs. "What is it, Frenelli?"
"...We're getting a few reports of something weird happening on the Upper East side, the very neighborhood we're heading to actually..."
"...A localized stormfront and half a street floating fifty feet in the air..."
Iliana shrugged and leaned back into her seat. "Ask a stupid question..." But with the change in position and a lucky upwards glance, she caught several familiar forms against the violet-colored sky. "Is that–?"
Suddenly, the second, hidden microphone under Maria's left blouse lapel, wired to a single source outside of the NYPD, erupted. "...Maria, get the hell out of there!!..."
Good thing she'd decided to wear it after all.
"What...?" Her eyes returned to the road, and down the yellow line that bled into the distance. It almost looked like fire, ghostly, and sea green. "Good god..." Maria stomped the brake pedal and her passenger nearly ate the dashboard as she took the seatbelt to its limits before it locked into place.
The entire caravan of squad cars skidded up behind them.
"Ungh!" Iliana groaned, before being jerked back into her seat. "What the hell...?"
Over the hood something loomed down the street, slightly luminescent and gaining with every second that the two women sat wide-eyed trying to figure out just what the hell it was.
Maria opened her door and got out, Iliana followed, as did everyone else.
Before the tremors hit them, before the imminent danger pricked the hairs on the back of her neck, someone behind asked, "Captain, what is that–"
"EVERYBODY MOVE!!!" Maria screamed suddenly, and she nearly dislodged a few windows in the throaty snarl.
Cops scattered in every direction. The vehicles that were wedged in were unreservedly abandoned as every man and woman ran for the sides of the street and anything solid enough to absorb the brunt of whatever was tearing up the street.
Maria and Iliana found the entrance nook of a bistro and huddled against the doors, only to feel the entire building dance on its foundation. The road in front of them rippled like loose carpet, sent a few cars into the air and rolled out underneath the ball of energy surrounding Ambrosine.
They squinted to get a better look at just what was inside.
A girl of all things.
Maria kicked herself; she knew better not to look for monsters when sixteen-year-old kids could shoot up a convenience store. But the fact she wasn't surprised never registered due largely to the fact that, since meeting the clan, she thought she'd seen it all.
And that of course was becoming a well-worn expression.
Maria grabbed for the receiver. "Brooklyn?! Brooklyn!!"
"...Are you all right?..." the Wyvern leader's voice broke through. The rush of wind could be heard; he was somewhere still overhead but fading fast.
"What the hell was that?! It looked like a little girl..."
"...It was. And she's dangerous..."
She didn't like the implicative tone. "How dangerous?"
"...Alexander Xanatos dangerous..."
Iliana turned towards her superior with her brows tucked high into her hair. "Oh shit."
"And just where is she going?" Maria asked, with a nascent sense of dread.
"...Wherever we're going, and that's towards Saturn Tech. Seems the owner is the elusive third piece to your puzzle, and this kid's mother..."
"You've got proof of this?"
"...So say Lucian Barnes and Lei Zhu. They're safely tucked under our arms..."
Maria tried to digest the news with two fingers on her forehead. Looking over the smoking pile of cars left in the wake of whatever just floated past, it seemed she didn't have any choice in the matter. "And what do you plan to do?"
"...Get officially involved..."
His head shot up, throwing fire-red strands on end before they re-settled along his brow.
There was that feeling again, stronger than the previous nights. As if someone had lodged a tuning fork in the middle of Manhattan and flicked it with their finger.
In the muted pastels and denim-darks of the Eyrie infirmary, Alexander had spent another night by the bedside of his mother (no chair, he floated alongside) and for the last few half moons, had touched something he figured no one else was aware of. A feeling was lapping at his fingertips, as similar to the gentle waves he'd create in the courtyard's fountain as anything else.
His stare had lengthened, turned into a fixation, turned into an obsession and caught the interest of someone drifting in and out of a light slumber.
Fox noticed. Though her body had long betrayed her, her eyes were still sharp, and their jade-backed glow narrowed in her son's direction. "...what is it...?"
He was looking through the wall and all its layers, seeing stars beyond. "I dunno...somethin' bad."
"...the same bad thing...you felt before...in the castle...?"
Alexander shook his head. "Uh unh."
Fox drew another throaty wheeze through her oxygen mask, and ran her knuckles through the strands of hair so red she thought her hand would burn at the touch. It was a double-edged sword the little h-bomb of his genetic profile, assuring to know her son could sense everything around him but terrifying in the fact he was either unable or unwilling to explain. He was becoming just as cryptic as the Puck. "Then what...?"
Alex touched down on his untied sneakers and started wandering to the closest window. The shutter was locked in place, but a wrinkle through his brow and it unbolted and shot up, revealing the Manhattan skyline all done up from ground floor to ceiling in spiraled light. "There's somethin' out there..." he said. "Someone's doing bad things."
"...it's New York, honey...somebody's always doing bad things..."
"Nope," he gave off a spark, "not this bad."
It was a vain hope but, "...are you sure...you don't have any wires crossed...?"
"...I'm sorry..." Fox readjusted her position as best she could, to better see Alexander over the hump of her own skeletal form. He was shivering in anticipation of something, and she'd seen that look before. "...you're going to go...aren't you...?"
"No." a voice resounded in the darkness, and echoed, to make one sound like many. "You will not."
Alexander already knew who it was before he turned around. "I hafta go." he told the silhouette at the doorway.
"Alexander Xanatos, you will not leave this building."
Everything metal in the room rattled, including the wheeled tray near Fox's bed and a few of the surrounding machines helping to stay her illness. Alex glared at his father, and in the clash of powerful stares so equally fierce, one was bound to lose.
It was Alexander who'd make the first step. He decided to leave.
The small boy had also decided the window was too small and consequently tore a chunk through several layers of steel, carbon composites and advanced building materials that a Sherman tank would have trouble penetrating.
"ALEX!!!" Xanatos' scream was lost to the vacuum created by Alexander as he took to flight, hitting a hundred miles per hour in several seconds. He was forced to watch as his son made a green streak on the sky, vanishing.
A cold gale crossed the billionaire's neck from outside, and something cracked the sky. Seems Alexander had hit such a speed so fast that he'd left a sonic boom in his wake.
"...you...can't stop him...David..." a gasp came from behind. "...he's too powerful for even you to control..."
He turned around and into the fine-edged gaze of his wife, either glowing or reflecting from what little ambient light was available. "And you believe I wish to control him?"
Fox smiled underneath the plastic mask. "...you seek to control...everything..." she answered. "...even fate...even death..."
David didn't answer; he had none to give, at least none that wouldn't be seen as entirely transparent to his wife. It seemed, in all the universe's grand schemes, it would be his son who'd best him, and maybe unravel all the secrets he'd comfortably wrapped himself in.
The sudden rumble that rolled from one horizon to the other was like thunder, and the Eyrie building shook, shimmied and eventually calmed.
But Wyvern's leftover residents weren't about to dismiss the simple sound as any kind of natural.
"Jesus," Todd stood up, seeing ripples in his glass of Jolt, "did the castle just rock back and forth?"
"It was Alexander." Mother reported, her disembodied voice coming through one of several speakers in the room.
"And where the hell's he headed so goddamned fast?"
Saturn Tech was an unassuming building barely twenty stories high, choking under the business district and the island's entire southern tip that seemed more metal than actual earth. It was perfect for someone who didn't want to stand out.
The clan angled in between skyscrapers, getting so close as to actually graze the windows with the tips of their wings. They thought and hoped, maybe vainly, to lose what they knew was chasing them.
The National Loan across the street provided a perfect roost, a perfect view and was perfectly, dangerously out in the open. Barnes and Lei were unceremoniously dropped on the tarpaper roof, but the downward thrust from so many pairs of wings drowned out the pained grunts.
Brooklyn sent his eyes across and towards the top floor of Saturn Tech (the most logical place to start as most CEOs, evil or not, enjoyed being above their employees). "I hope somebody's home."
"Shall we knock?" Othello grinned, which in itself was unsettling.
Her bright eyes keen, Delilah leaned up against the ledge and searched for any trace of life behind the darkened glass across the street. "We're not just going to storm the building, are we? We have no idea what we're dealing with, and what if the mother is more powerful?"
"You have a better idea?" Brooklyn huffed. "Because we may be a little short on time."
"We are." Katana said ingenuously.
She stiffened and slowly withdrew her blade from her sash. There wasn't much that rattled the samurai. "Beloved," she whispered, "do you feel that?"
Brooklyn did, he felt it along the backs of his wings. An unnatural warmth. "Oh damn."
Somewhere far between the towers and light pollution that seemed to rise up as a tiffany haze, a little sparkle of something that didn't belong this far off the ground appeared from behind one of the buildings. She appeared to blink in and out of existence and every time she grew closer until she was floating just above them.
Angela wasn't the only one to notice the handle protruding from Ambrosine's back, and of course the swordtip jutting from her chest; she hadn't yet bothered to pull it out. "Is that...?"
"Hudson's sword." Broadway answered, his tone stung by the faraway thought that Hudson had made his last stand. His gaze wandered to Brooklyn. "We shouldn't have left him."
"I didn't really have much of a choice, and he knew that."
"He could be dead!"
Brooklyn turned and faced his brother with haunted eyes. "Yeah," he answered morosely, the weight of the world on his voice, "he could."
Any argument spawned by the difference in opinion was quickly shelved when the little girl hovering above suddenly ripped half the building's roof from right underneath them. They staggered back before being caught without a solid support beneath their feet and quickly worked their way towards the other side of the roof, dodging heating vents and air-conditioners until they simply ran out of space to run.
Ambrosine appeared on the opposite side and chewed up part of the ledge. It was going to be a rough ride getting into the air to safety if she hadn't unexpectedly halted the rampage and looked away from the clan.
Broadway took up position near his brother. "She stopped..."
"Why?" he whispered back.
It was Lexington who spotted him first and darted out a hand. "There!"
Someone had perched overhead, standing on air.
Alit in his characteristic emerald glow, Alexander hovered over the group in a protective stance and already, the ceiling they stood on was knitting together nail by nail, weld by weld. His eyes were dead-set on the girl in the midst of shearing winds. "Go."
Brooklyn didn't argue. "Let's move, people."
"Are we just going to leave him?" Angela protested.
His response was a hard hand against her shoulder, urging her towards the ledge as the others took flight. "Yes."
By the faint green flashes of light outside her window, she thought at first her daughter had returned home from successfully completing her task. But when the decanter on her desk had trembled, sending rings through the water, she knew not all had gone to plan.
Then the thought came of just what could actually stop her.
A dark shape at the window yanked her from her reflection, quick enough to think a bird had shot past the tinted pane until it coalesced into something bigger and much more frighteningly defined.
The red one was the first through (the leader, she mused) followed by seven more with two familiar humans in tow. Her front window reduced to shards that were now being worked into the carpet, inhuman creatures dispersing into her office, Juno's only response was to cross her legs and whisper with intrigue, "Ah."
Brooklyn expected a scream, a gasp, or at the very least a wide-eyed gape in his general direction. But the woman relaxed in leather the color of dark golden brandy was as unmoved as a cadaver, and if her eyes weren't open and her lazy, half-lidded gaze pierced through the relative darkness, he'd think her as such. "Are you Katherine Juno?" he approached cautiously.
Ignoring the question, Juno looked the creature over with more than a simple interest. "It's been a very long time since I've seen a gargoyle."
The lavender one cocked her head, and let curiosity trickle from the fearsome pretense. "You know of us?"
"I've bedded more than a few in my time." she said, almost gluttonously. "If my ex-husband can seduce and breed weak-willed mortals, then I will, and have invited many to my own."
If he hadn't already noticed the cavalier attitude, the comatose-like serenity and the odd scent surrounding her, like an aura, Brooklyn was getting the vibe this woman wasn't quite normal. "We're here to speak to you about your daughter."
The CEO smiled. "Is that who's making all the noise?"
"Cut the bullshit, Juno, you deliberately sent her after Barnes and Lei."
Katana stepped up beside her mate, and Juno followed the exposed blade from hilt to tip. "You used her as an assassin!"
"Because she's just so good at it."
"And just what the hell is she?" Brooklyn snarled.
"And why, pray tell," the ocean placid demeanor finally showed a crack when shifting back towards the leader, "besides the snarling mask of contempt, should I tell you?"
Near the fireplace's marble mantle, he carefully threaded his gaze through the expensive bobbles and grabbed a small statue that looked as if it was already going to break apart with a strong breeze. He knew it was old, rather valuable (it was a four thousand year old, incalculably priceless remnant of a vanished culture) and thought it broke quite easily when crushed between his fingers and palm. "I'm asking politely."
Juno leaned back, feigned defeat and sighed, "She's the pride of her father's powerful loins. If he was sober enough to realize just how special she is."
"Special? As in 'faerie' special?"
"Oh my dear creature, no, we are far more than fay."
"We?" Brooklyn noticed. "And just who or what the hell are you?"
What followed was a smile that seemed ageless, and that sent chills down a few of the gargoyles' spines. "I've had many names, but mortals used to refer to me as Hera, queen of the gods."
It was a standoff in the air, five hundred meters up.
Alexander and Ambrosine were looking each other over, getting a feel for their respective opponent through what discriminating senses they owned above the normals down below. The heir to the Xanatos fortune was sure he'd found the source of the disturbances in this black-haired girl that had a few similarities to a certain friend he'd recently lost, despite her eyes being cold. "What are you?" he asked.
She sneered. Apparently he wasn't of enough pedigree to speak with her. "What are you?" Ambrosine returned.
"You stink of something else."
"You stink!" Alex shot back. "Like death and blood!"
"Are you...?" Her features widened, then clenched. "One of them?"
The sky exploded with color and waves of compressed air that could've easily shattered a few windows. Ambrosine was quick on the offensive and rushed her counterpart, but her hands (aimed for around his throat) found faerie glitter. His image broke apart and blew away on the winds she herself was creating.
Alexander had disappeared.
And as the girl swung her head around, hungry to find him, he was far above observing her every frantic, rabid move from the largest WVRN communications dish. He'd learned just like his father to seek out any kind of weakness, and her impatience was first and foremost in the flaws he'd already noticed.
She was arrogant.
Far down on the already crippled National Loan building, a flagpole wiggled itself loose, tore away from its mortar and bolts and shot up. It would've been a second mortal wound for Ambrosine if she hadn't seen the glint of light off the pole's pitted chrome surface and blinked from its path, the fearful yelp cut off halfway through.
Alexander peeked out a little further from his hiding place when Ambrosine's presence completely vanished. He figured he was safe until the antenna tower creaked and started shivering under his hand.
"You've got to be fucking kidding me."
Juno didn't have an answer save a simple shrug of her shoulders. For someone of her suddenly revealed stature, it didn't quite suit.
"Hera." Brooklyn repeated, as if trying to roll it over in his own brain. "You're claiming to be Hera."
"In the earthly flesh."
"Wife of Zeus."
"The very same."
"Well, I must say I've met a lot of psychotic wanna-be villains in my lifetime but I think you've just taken first prize."
The chair creaked as Juno leaned forward; she seemed almost insulted. "You don't believe me?"
Brooklyn crossed his arms, while a few looks of dark skepticism ran through the clan. On the periphery of the conversation, Barnes and Lei traded glances.
"You don't believe I turned Io into a cow as punishment for her affair? You don't believe I drove Heracles mad and caused him to murder his own wife as well as his children?" She stood up, and the flicker of something like anger and a little more like a bomb going off washed through her now livid features. "You don't believe the first time I met my husband he was disguised as a cuckoo and raped me?"
Brooklyn was resolute. "No."
"The ego on you mortals..." Juno hissed under her breath, while fire danced in the lightless crux of her eyes so much as to erupt like her temper, and give credence to her claim. "I am a god, little creature! I am more than your primitive thought processes and electrical synapses could ever comprehend. If you even could conceive of my true form, your tiny skull would burst!"
"I don't give a goddamn about what you think you are, only that I'm not going to allow you to wage a war on these streets."
"Will you report me? Arrest me, kill me?" She gestured fluidly in the general direction of the Hole. "Manhattan is teetering on the brink of that rather large crater in the pavement. If you cut off the head, the body dies, and several thousand people lose their jobs and their livelihood, which New York can ill afford at the moment."
"You don't think creating a buffer of employees around yourself would protect you," he responded glibly, "would it?"
"And you don't think I wouldn't have a little more protection," she licked her teeth, enjoying how the gargoyle's bluster seemed to melt away under her overly-confident, unremitting stare, "would you?"
It was then a resounding creak went through the floor underneath the carpet; to a gargoyle's finely honed sense of hearing, it was the precursor to someone, and someone big, entering the room. From the other side of the office, two hulking forms easily rivaling Goliath's size swaggered their way into the faint lamplight and what appeared under the rosy tangerine glow was skin the color of cement, black eyes and no discernible scent.
They looked human, but also decidedly different from anything else the clan had ever seen. One ground his knuckles into the opposite palm, and the other cricked its neck.
Juno preened at her jacket, adjusting the cuffs and moving on to her nails. "Please, gentlemen," she bid them, "do what you do best, break bones, rend flesh, but do watch the entrails on my carpeting."
Every bolt, nut, weld and connection that held the dish to its tower snapped, tore and ripped away until it was free to the mercy of gravity and its own weight. It plummeted at break-neck speed, scraping against the building's exterior with Alexander riding shotgun inside a parabolic seat.
Ambrosine chased after him, and hoped to see the boy splatter all over the pavement.
But a few meters from impact and derailing the A train currently running underneath, Alexander pulled up and leveled out his angle to skim across the street, using the dish like a toboggan as he headed towards the island's southern tip and open sea. If anyone had heard him as he rocketed past, they would have turned, found nothing and wondered at the wind and ghostly laughter fading into the discord.
Seeing the faerie actually enjoying himself as she tried her best to kill him, Ambrosine dogged him all the way to Battery Park, the docks and eventually into the harbor. Traffic at this hour was sparse on the East river and Alexander gently lowered his makeshift craft into the water, skipping like a stone on moon-dappled swells.
The surface so placid, so mirrorlike, Alexander could see the girl above him closing in for the kill and leapt out. The dish went up like a Frisbee and with Ambrosine so close behind she didn't have time to dodge as it collided (CLANG!!!) and slapped her into the ocean. The blow had some mustard on it, enough to send her five hundred feet down before she was able to right herself.
The water boiled, trembled and a murky black shadow appeared underneath the waves before she burst out leading with a snarl.
"They are Kratus and Bia, or, in your primitive and quite limited English, Force and Violence."
The clan scattered into the spacious confines of Juno's office as her dead-skinned gorillas each split up and went for the closest target they could reach, throwing furniture from their way.
"They were my former husband's former lapdogs, proudly doing the bidding of Zeus."
Othello reared back and got enough room to sink two arrows into Force's forehead before he realized he could probably exhaust his entire quiver without doing enough damage, considering the demigod shrugged off the graphite shafts buried in his brain and attempted to put his fist through the gargoyle's head.
"Maiming, killing, tying defiant gods to rocks all because he supposedly gave the gift of fire to the mortals."
Dodging a four-knuckled freight train, Othello felt the clenched hand graze his hair as it passed over his shoulder and shattered a supporting timber that made up one of the office's wooden arches. He was barely able to get both himself and Desdemona out of the way as Force threw his fist around on a wicked backhand.
"But of course, we all know that the humans developed fire on their own. They aren't that stupid, despite the sloping brow."
With Lexington and Delilah running interference, Katana was swift enough to land her sword across Violence's forearm, cleanly severing the appendage. It hit the floor with a weighty thud, but the creature merely picked it up and held it to the stump (that strangely wasn't bleeding); tendons and blood vessels reached out, grabbed their mated ends and the entire arm sewed itself back together.
"I've lived among them for a thousand years at the very least, and they are a seditious, impatient, cunning species."
Brooklyn tried a fist against the distracted henchman's head, but ended up pulling back with a nearly broken hand; their bones were like steel. "Damnit," he grunted through the pain of swelling knuckles, "how do you kill these things?!"
"You don't." Juno offered from across the room. "They're not really alive, or dead, they exist somewhere in between. Limbo."
He turned a dark look that could've peeled paint. "Then tell me how I can kill you."
"You can't kill a god."
As the remnants of the clan dog-piled on the two demigods, Brooklyn stalked his way towards Juno who'd yet to bat a lash at the chaos in the midst of her office. "I can smell the traces of perspiration, hear a heartbeat, watch as your eyes dilate, you seem pretty damned human to me, and I'm forced to wonder just how far this disguise of yours goes."
She raised a hand and marveled at the flesh. "An incredible facsimile, isn't it?"
He'd made this particular section of the room with a quick sweep of his eyes and found a spear the closest weapon in his reach. The scent was iron, the tip was still sharp and this woman's relentless conceit was overriding every rational warning his brain could fire at him.
Juno noticed the direction the creature's eyes had turned and eventually centered. The spear was one of Achilles', and it had seen its share of blood. "Will your gamble pay off?" she asked. "Am I fay? Will my skin shrivel, dry and crack at the mere touch of it?"
The decision played itself across the deep lines of his face.
"Better think fast, gargoyle, your clan is getting the shit kicked out of them."
His hand flitted out, snatched the spear from its resting place and held it with the intent to use it as it was originally constructed for. The wooden shaft creaked at the exertion, and Brooklyn would have stabbed it through her throat if it weren't for her expression.
Juno was the epitome of fearlessness; her heartbeat didn't change tempo, her eyes didn't betray any sliver of apprehension. "Do it."
"Will it work?" he growled.
"Only one way to find out."
A million thoughts collided before the red haze of instinct was slowly overruled, and Brooklyn eventually lowered the spear. Ambrosine hadn't been affected by iron poisoning but, then again, Alexander had never shown any signs of that particular frailty either. But something wasn't adding up and against his better judgment he decided not to kill her. "What are you?"
She leaned back into her chair. "I believe most well-versed mortals refer to us as the Lost Race."
The revelation sent a shockwave through the clan, at least those intimate with the term and the history behind it, those listening and those who weren't currently eluding fists to the head.
Brooklyn's ridges sank. "You're the Lost Race...?"
"Lost, weak, dead, yes. But a few thousand years ago, oh my how we lived! We were worshipped, and the fay were all but a nuisance who'd deceived the Egyptians, the Norse, the Chinese, the Mayans and countless other civilizations for several millennia." In the bedlam of noise in the background, shattering glass, crumbling drywall, the grunts and groans of the clan as they were knocked about, her voice was remarkably clear. "And then, euphoric from overthrowing his mother for control of the Court, Oberon turned his attention towards us, and a few skirmishes gave way to a campaign that would mark the end of an epoch."
"To end all wars. For dominance. That which shattered societies, nations and eradicated entire species. He thought our influence over the Romans and Greeks was...troublesome."
Brooklyn snarled, becoming impatient, "Maybe it was the fact the Roman Empire had conquered a quarter of the planet at its peak."
"Until it collapsed." Juno amended, and her tone hardened. "When the Lost race at last lost the war. Our successors killed almost all of us–"
"I thought gods couldn't die."
A few of the memorable deaths flashed through her mind; injuries horrific beyond human comprehension, bodies transformed, mutilated and atomized, the Earth permanently scarred as mountains were sheared off and bodies of coastal land were broken off into islands. A rare ally to her had been transported back to the Big Bang, and his body had completely disintegrated and spread throughout the universe, drowning in the primordial soup. The ultimate irony was, as she'd laugh to herself to console the pain of his loss, that a few of his atoms were perhaps the building blocks for new worlds several billion years later. "Gods can kill gods," she spit, "not mortals, and you'd be surprised the imaginations the fay possessed. And the impudence. They replaced us, played our parts to exactness, and the survivors simply faded away or took human form to live out the rest of their days, mortal or immortal. But for all their power, even they could not stop human evolution." Juno stood up and languidly sauntered around the edge of her desk. "I suppose it was poetic justice that the fay were also forgotten as humanity simply stopped worshipping. In this day and age, gods are obsolete. They're better as symbols, as commercial or religious manifestations of their former glory that can be cut up and sold for a profit or used to blindly control the masses."
In a desperate move Brooklyn grabbed her and pulled her close, sending a hot breath through the honey strands.
Juno indeed enjoyed the proximity to a creature that was close to running on pure instinct, and absolutely seeping compulsions that would sate an ancient and primal birthright if only he'd give in. "Are you going to kill me, gargoyle?" Her finger found the underside of his beak, tucked into a crook just inside his chin. "You don't think I would leave myself so vulnerable? You don't think if my mortal form was destroyed in any way, I'd reset to normal, do you?"
Off the end of a tiny hand that had the approximate power of several sticks of TNT, Alexander was thrown into a docked barge, ripping a hole through the vessel and tearing up part of the wharf it was attached to. He skidded up the seabank, stirring up a cloud of dust that hid him from the hunter lurking just above the water's surface.
Absorbing the water's oxygen molecules through his skin, Alexander slowed himself just before he slid right out of the river and rocketed underneath to a safe distance before popping up.
But Ambrosine was waiting for him and before he even took a fresh breath she decked him.
All the power and sound from the blow was sucked into a single funneled explosion that sent Alexander back towards the island. He hit a warehouse and like the barge before it the entire structure was decimated, collapsing in on itself with the young boy being used as the bullet and bulldozing half the support beams.
If he hadn't sheathed himself in an unstable energy field to cushion the blow, he could've been liquefied. But instead, he'd left a trail fifty feet long, ending up on a street outside the partially collapsed warehouse with a hole in his chest (probably impaled by one of the broken beams). As he struggled to breathe through his remaining lung, it all felt disturbingly familiar.
Ambrosine slowly descended and touched down in the middle of the wreckage, standing over a wheezing Alexander. She was intent to watch as he drew his last breath, but it was taking more time than it should have and she was rather impatient. "Aren't you dead yet?"
He spit blood, mewled, writhed and tried to muster, if anything, a spark. A few chunks of debris rose, wobbled and crashed back down in the failed attempt.
"No?" Her gaze went up to the tattered remains of the warehouse roof, found a large piece hanging from a few twisted I-beams that didn't quite seem capable of holding the weight and she tore it off with a wiggle of her hand.
It came down on top of the young quarter-faerie, crushing him.
Then, more pieces, one on top of the other, until she was satisfied that whoever and whatever that was underneath sure as hell wasn't getting up anytime soon.
Ambrosine brushed away a few errant, jet hairs, and they melted back into place against an almost liquid sheen. "That was...easy."
Angela would've been killed if it weren't for her mate and the fact he'd gotten himself between her and Force's hand just in time to absorb the blow. Blood dribbled from between his clenched teeth and he staggered back. Upon opening his eyes he saw the demigod winding up for another shot and blocked it, but the sheer power nearly knocked him through the wall.
"Have you ever seen a god?" Juno whispered to Brooklyn. Her eyes had taken on the luster of the cosmos, just as deep and just as easy to get lost in. "Only a few have been in the presence of our true forms and survived without either exploding or being driven completely insane."
It was still. And quite eerie in the fact the city seemed to fade in the euphoria that slowly washed over her, raising her pores. It felt good to kill again, especially someone so potent.
But time was being wasted and she needed to find the bad men for mother, kill them and, while she was at it, rend a few of the gargoyles that stole them into particles of random matter. She started to walk away before she heard a hollow shudder move through the remaining aluminum walls; metal against metal had that distinctive chime no matter how subtle.
She didn't even make a full turn back towards the pile of wreckage before it burst, scattering the chunks of roof into the air. Like the reactor of a nuclear power plant suddenly uncorked, Alexander appeared within a torrent of energy that spilled out hot and acrid, half of his torso torn away to reveal his insides.
Ambrosine narrowed her eyes, and centered on the injury a little left of center on his chest.
The hole (affording a morbidly fascinating view right through him) started closing. His lungs, part of his stomach and liver, his intestinal tract, tissues rebuilt themselves and filled out his small body to the proper shape and just as the wound sealed itself, Alexander's newly healed lungs emptied themselves of all available oxygen.
His scream raised the hairs on Ambrosine's neck and she backed off, shielding herself from the explosion of light.
He expended more energy than Manhattan uses in a month, a pillar reaching into the thinnest wastes of atmosphere and staining the loose cloud cover a pale emerald. Alexander breathed a refill and turned a smoldering gaze towards the little girl that had killed him. "DON'T!!!" the voice didn't seem to come from him. "EVER!!! DO THAT AGAIN!!!"
"We were at the top of the food chain, and nothing was beyond our grasp."
Desdemona ripped another timber from the wall and started swinging the nine-foot beam at any target that presented itself. It seemed to rattle Violence when being snapped in two over his backside, but he shook it off and turned on her quicker than she could recover from the shock.
A fist filled her vision before everything went dark.
"We could have wiped your species from the planet if we wished to, but we took pity."
Othello saw her go down with a ribbon of blood, howled, charged and tore two strips from either side of the henchman's spine. He ducked low and decided on an experiment, seeing what these things had between their legs. Something solid glanced off his bloody knuckles.
Violence shrugged off the cheap shot with a muffled squeal and put his foot through the floor, just a second too late from crushing the gargoyle's skull.
"And now, the pinnacle of millions of years of evolution can't even lay harm to two underlings with an infinitesimal fraction of our power."
"Stop this..." Brooklyn half demanded, half pleaded, watching as his clan dropped one by one.
Juno smiled, and tipped her chin up. "No."
He tried a little more forcefully, "Stop this!" and tried to manhandle her, but Juno grabbed his wrist and nearly pulverized the bones attaching arm to hand.
She flipped him effortlessly over her shoulder, into the air and down onto the surface of her desk. It practically blew apart at the grain; nails popped and the wood splintered as Brooklyn went right through and hit floor, nearly finding himself a level down. Apparently Juno had kept herself a little godly strength in the slender, well-proportioned form.
Stunned, the gargoyle moaned in pain nestled in the kindling of a five thousand dollar piece of furniture.
Juno looked back at her henchmen, still struggling with the clan. "Haven't you killed them yet?!" she screamed. "I didn't go to all the trouble of stealing you idiots just so you could slack off!"
"You're supposed to be dead."
Alexander's skin was fading through the waves of energy, flickering in and out of substantiality as if he was made of it.
"You're immortal..." Ambrosine muttered. She shouldn't have been surprised.
But surprise was a relative term especially when she found herself on the receiving end of a semi-omnipotent being not in the mood to listen. The blow didn't register on any part of her nervous system until she found herself a hundred feet from the warehouse and fifty feet in the air trailing a thin umbilical of blood.
Before all her senses returned from the numbness centered on her left cheek (and the four-knuckle dent), Alexander was on her, hemorrhaging power. He hit her again, she was knocked away until he caught up, took another swing and nearly split open her skull.
She went down as hard as her opponent had and plowed through a few more warehouses before breaking through the last wall and tumbling onto the street. Despite the skinned knees and a nagging pain in her side, Ambrosine lurched her way to her feet in time to look up and see Alexander bearing down on her, a screaming, three foot high comet about to wipe Manhattan from the map. Her first instinct was to grab as much debris as possible and throw it like gunfire at him, including some iron pieces that twisted and lengthened en route to form very sharp and very deadly spears.
He deflected all but one small piece that caught him in the cheek.
She didn't see any reaction. A hybrid. It was the only explanation and the similarity to this thing made her stomach turn. But her train of thought didn't get any farther before the pavement she was standing on dissolved and everything lit up in bottle green. Barely able to throw her hands up, Ambrosine took the blow that nearly tore the skin from her forearms and knocked her into and through an adjoining brick wall.
Coughing a mixture of fluid and mortar dust from her lungs, she swiveled towards the hole she'd made and readied for an attack. But he wasn't there. Her head jerked around, throwing an anxious glare around the parking garage she'd found herself in. Beyond the few cars and sparse lighting, it seemed to go on forever, fading into obscurity behind the corners and numbered pillars and that creature could be hiding anywhere inside.
But she couldn't feel him; since they'd met, he'd always given off some kind of signature, a sort of impression that danced like flame along her skin. "Where are you, little faerie?" she whispered, running her tongue along her incisors.
"Everywhere." an answer was given. The voice, as distorted as it was, didn't have a sense of direction.
Ambrosine sunk into her shoulders, and her eyes burned through falling bangs.
"I wanta play a game." he continued. "Can you find me?"
The building started creaking from the foundation up, the light fixtures swayed and a mild earthquake passed through the cement.
A Navigator slowly rolled from its spot, lifted from the tires and suddenly shot towards her. If it weren't for the sheer size of the vehicle and the resistance against the still air, Ambrosine might have missed it. She spun, caught the SUV with the tips of her knuckles and knocked it away towards the wall; it spiraled, shed a few parts and, after leaving a crack on the south wall, landed on the luggage rack.
Another car crept out, flew towards her and if she hadn't completely torn the frame apart she could've been crushed beneath it. "I don't like your games!!" she screamed, sending a violent wind through the garage that was building into something similar to her display over Lucian Barnes' penthouse.
"You don't play fair. Now face me!"
"Nuh-uh." Alexander was enjoying this. "I'm hiding."
"I'm going to kill everyone you love!! Splay them open, eat their insides!"
"No." The voice had swiftly dropped the playful tone; seems the game was over as quickly as it had started. "You won't."
Her feet left the floor, and in the midst of her cyclonic tantrum she was pulled upwards towards the ceiling. Her momentum never stopped even when hitting the cement, steel, wood and insulation of the building's first floor, and in fact continued to increase as she was yanked through each floor above despite her best efforts. One after another, through offices, stairwells and bathroom stalls until she hit the last and exploded into the sky.
The last thing Ambrosine saw was Alexander standing on the roof before she was thrown into orbit.
Blood was flying, spattering on walls and drapes, the broken furniture and holes in the drywall, three of the clan had already fallen and those still left on their feet were barely able to stand let alone successfully dodge a seemingly inexhaustible Force and Violence.
With Othello tiring, Broadway was the last of the muscle while Lexington and Katana weaved in between the fists being thrown around.
Juno was holding Brooklyn down with a hand around his throat, crushing the life from his body. The Wyvern leader couldn't get her to release even with a few deep clawmarks across her forearm, but he kept desperately trying, considering he could see his mate fighting a losing battle on the other side of the office. Force had cornered her, she caught him with a few stabs until he'd knocked away her sword as fatigue was quickly robbing her of her skills.
The creature looked mean and hungry and wanted his first kill of the night.
Brooklyn struggled, using every last ounce of strength; he wouldn't watch her die from the floor. "Ungh...!"
"Ah, ah, ah..." Juno tutted. "I'm not letting go until I hear a crack."
His eyes went nova white, bleeding the color from the surrounding skin. "...get...off..."
But Juno simply put more pressure on the gargoyle's larynx.
The last thing he saw was a fist being raised towards his wife, before a dim haze started to swallow the world around him. "...no..."
It'd gone off like a gunshot and gargoyle, god and demigod alike froze at the voice. Everything went deathly silent, all but a few quick pants.
Juno seemed particularly incensed at the latest intruder as she turned to peer at the doorway leading into the hall. Her eyes lit up, turning a peculiar shade of carmine across the pupil as astonishment quickly gave way to pure, unadulterated, bone-deep fury. "You...!!"
As unbelievable as it seemed, Titania stood at the threshold and her very presence halted the battle in its tracks. "This ends." she decreed. "Now."