Heat Seeker

Part 1

By Leah Wood

Note to Readers: (Italics) signify telepathic speaking of some characters!

Prelude: This takes place at least a year after the massacre on Avalon. After spending a day or so on the magical island Clan Wyvern is returned to Manhattan to pick up life as usual.

Castle Wyvern at sunset...

The shadows lengthened across New York as the life-giving sun melted into the horizon. Shadows of all dark nesses and shapes grew and moved silently. Slowly, it overtook the city with its inescapable presence. The umbra gently swept over the gargoyles' stone bodies, chasing away the cursed sunlight that trapped them beneath their stone shells. As the sunlight fled, fissures formed amongst the shadows, awakening the Defenders of the Night in a massive blast of roars and flying stone shrapnel!

Brooklyn flexed his freed frame. It felt so good to shed that stone skin and awaken from the past day's dreams with a defiant roar! He felt like...a HOT million bucks. Using his wings as cooling fans the crimson gargoyle panted as the scorching summer heat radiated from the city below. All that concrete and glass releasing the day's heat sure made the nights miserable as far as Brooklyn was concerned!

"Must've been a scorcher t'day eh lad?" Hudson commented sheathing his sword.

"Gonna be a scorcher even without the sun! Phew! I'm sure glad we can't feel that heat all day when we sleep!"

"Aye!" the elder agreed as he retreated into the castle with the others.

Brooklyn was about ready to do the same when, suddenly, he heard Venus yell loudly and a gun-like BANG! sounded from across the courtyard! Reacting instantly Brooklyn glided down to the ground and landed on the grass. Dropping down on all fours he bounded through the trees and shouted, "VENUS! WHERE ARE YOU?"

It was silent for a moment then Venus's little voice responded, "Over here Uncle Brooklyn!"

Her voice seemed terse, like she was angry about something. Curious and relieved at the same time, Brooklyn tromped through the trees until he found Venus sitting on the fountain base with an odd assortment of junk laying on the ground in front of her. There were old chipped plates and cups from the kitchen, a beat up two-by four, an menagerie of empty glass bottles and soda cans, and even a pair of worn out bowling pins from Xanatos's personal bowling alley below the castle.

Brooklyn eyed the junk with a raised brow tine, "Having a yard sale?"

Venus slowly turned to him with eyes that glinted a hint of humor at his remark, but still flickered with some unknown anger.

"No." she stated quietly. "Uncle Brooklyn, can you do something for me?"

He shrugged amiably, "Sure Venus."

"Can you pick up one of those glass bottles and throw it as hard as you can into the air?"

"Uh...yeah. What for?"

"Please." she begged.

Shrugging, Brooklyn snagged an empty root beer bottle and heaved it several hundred feet into the air. Suddenly, Venus's eyes burned and she floated from the fountain. Before Brooklyn could react the little alien curled her wings in and snapped them aggressively sending a single flaming orb of blue energy blazing into the sky after the bottle! With a firework like BOOM! the orb vaporized the bottle in blindening flash of light!

Brooklyn warily eyed Venus as she sat forcefully back on the fountain. SOMETHING had definitely twisted her wing!

Slowly, he sat next to her, "Wanna talk about it?"

The alien child's eyes misted slightly and didn't say anything for a minute. Brooklyn waited patiently until she finally whimpered, "It's just...I saw something on the TV today."

"What did you see?"

A spark jumped in front of Venus's ebony eyes and they glowed slightly, "The Quarrymen! They're blaming...you...for stuff you never did! They called you vermin and said you needed to be killed... it... it made me so mad...I...I just had to vent it somehow without hurting someone."

Brooklyn nodded knowingly and said with a tinge of anger, "I was wondering when those bozos would start up a new 'Destroy the Gargoyles Campaign'. They just don't have anything better to do than to point the finger at us the moment something goes wrong!"

"But...all you've ever done is helped people! Why would they hate you for that?" Venus inquired.

Brooklyn sighed. He'd often wondered that same thing. "Well...humans tend to fear what they don't understand. We try to help humans understand us by protecting and helping them even if we get nothing but resentment in return. It's hard as hell to do...but someday it'll all pay off. We just can't give up! If we quit protecting THEN they'd really have a reason to hate us! All we can do is protect as we were born to do."

Venus squinted in a smile, "You'll make a great leader for the clan someday Uncle Brooklyn. You're already pretty wise."

The red gargoyle sighed. "Thanks Venus. That means a lot to me."

Blinking her large alien eyes, Venus reached over with her delicate three-fingered hand and took hold of one of Brooklyn's talons and persuaded him to turn his hand palm up.

He glanced at her quizzically until she inquired, "You wanna vent too?"

He smiled, "Sure...but..."

He never got to ask anything when Venus lifted her other hand just above his palm. The crimson gargoyle almost jumped with surprise when a fiery blue plasma ball swirled like smoke from Venus's thin fingers and formed just above his hand. He stared at the burning orb floating above his skin but didn't feel pain or extreme heat; just a mild vibration. Experimentally he moved his hand back and forth and the fiery orb followed with his hand.

Venus giggled a little at his amazement. "K! Now I'll throw something and you just focus with your eyes and mind..."

"Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Hold up Venus! You're saying this...thing...will go where ever I want it too and not...blow something else up?" he asked incredulously.

The little alien nodded, "Yeah. I made it that way. It'll hit whatever you want it to."

Brooklyn continued to admire the way cool orb floating above his hand, "And...When did you learn to do this?"

"Well...when you have all day and there's nothing to do...Oh! It's ok! Mr. Xanatos tried it a couple days ago and he seemed to really enjoy it."

Brooklyn eyed the blue fireball some more, "O...K. Ok. Go ahead and throw one of those bowling pins up for me."

Blinking her eyes Venus made one of the beat up bowling pins leap from the grass and soar straight up into the air. Taking a deep breath Brooklyn focused on the bowling pin and before he knew it the burning sphere shot like a bullet from his hand and chased after it! He gasped in awe and exhilaration when the pin was vaporized by the orb in a blast of sound!

Looking to Venus he shouted, "WHOO! HOO! That was SO COOL!"

"Feels kinda good to vent every now and again."

Across Manhattan on the roof of a warehouse...

He watched and waited. Patience was an essential key when hunting Flatheads. Though their strength and instinct was severely limited, the Flatheads' great intelligence and use of projectile weaponry made them formidable prey. Unlike the other species he hunted on other worlds, the Flatheads were actually very easy to kill, but their sense of sight was quite good. His camouflage was essential when hunting the Flatheads because their sight was so acute. Even WITH the camouflage some lucky targets could see him...but it was always too late. Hunting such beings tested his patience, stealth, and stalking abilities; pitting his skill and cunning against theirs. They were, as a rule, rather violent creatures despite their obvious weakness; killing one another as brutally as he hunted and killed them! But, it was from this violent behavior that he could select the best prizes to take down.

Flathead skulls and spinal columns were well sought after by his clan as well as their skins; not nearly as sought after as Hive Drones (Aliens) or Hive Queen skulls, but still a fine kind of trophy. The male of the species was a primary target. Taking females was considered dishonorable since they were generally weaker than and typically not as violent as the males. However...exceptions could be made. The very young, pregnant females and the very old were not hunted. There was no honor in killing them for trophies. Only the strongest and most violent would do. After only arriving a sunset before, he had obtained three Flathead skulls and he planned on acquiring more. He wouldn't leave until he was satisfied with his hunt.

Below inside a large structure he could see the heat silhouettes of the Flatheads. Their low distorted voices jabbered back and forth. Learning Flathead communication was quite a feat in itself. If one listened long enough the right sound would come up that he could use to attract or distract potential prey. Flatheads were pretty easy to fool with such sounds and being able to mimic them correctly was a sure sign of a great hunter. These particular Flatheads would present a suitable challenge since they possessed many "high tech" projectile weapons...at least to THEIR kind it was "high tech". Compared to his weaponry they were quite primitive...yet effective enough. Yes...a suitable challenge.

He listened. He waited. Any moment the Flatheads would move into a desirable formation and then...he'd strike.

Inside the warehouse...

"So...Mr. 'Smith' you wanna purchase a few...heaters from our little organization eh?" the gun-runner boss asked coyly.

The potential buyer nodded, "I understand you don't ask any questions as long as we provide the dough?"

The smuggler nodded, "Of course. And we expect the same courtesy from our buyers as well. Unfortunate things can happen to...squealers. Get my drift?"

"Clear as glass." The buyer placed a briefcase on the desk and flipped it open to reveal rows of hundred dollar bundles.

The gun runner seemed pleased, "Yes...Yes...very good. Shall we pick out your merchandise now?"

"With pleasure." Casual as a car dealer and his customer the two men walked over to a long table covered in a tarp. Briskly one of the other gun smugglers flipped the cover off and revealed the merchandise: laser rifles, laser cannons, high-tech grenade launchers, laser pistols, fully automatic guns of all designs and vice versa. Experimentally the buyer selected a black laser cannon and propped it onto his shoulder to get a feel for the weapon. He stared into the red-dot sight and smiled. "Yes...very nice."

"Those little babies pack a serious punch...they are considerably more than the others, but they're worth it." the boss encouraged.

Still enamored with the powerful weapon, the buyer moved the sight around and pointed it up toward the ceiling and all at once spotted what looked like an odd shadow in the rafters. He squinted slightly. "What the..." Suddenly, before he could utter another word his sight was filled with a fast moving metal object! The gun smuggler cringed as he was hit full in the face by a splash of hot blood. Shocked he gasped and touched his gory face, unsure of what just happened! He glanced over and his buyer lay stone dead on the floor with some kind of metal prong embedded in his eye and gaping forehead with the laser cannon's sight cleanly sheared in two!

"SHIT!" he cursed trying to rid his face of the buyer's sprayed blood! His dozen or so cronies all over the huge warehouse were scared beyond all reckoning; grabbing any weapon they could get their hands on and pointing them in all directions to find the assassin! Not a sound or movement from anywhere. The gun boss unholstered his own weapon and shakily pointed it around, hoping to catch a glimpse of the killer. Not that he cared that the buyer was dead...he already had the money...but he knew any witnesses to their little operation had to be done away with and besides...dead customers were bad for business!

Silence reigned until the muffled choking death gasps of someone on the high walkway broke the quiet. All guns pointed in the same direction as a pair of bodies flew down from the walkway and splatted sickly to the concrete below. Then, panicked by the sight of the two dead bodies all the gun runners opened fire on the walkway above in hopes of nailing the unseen killer! Wood splinters flew everywhere as bullet and laser ate up the high walkway. The cronies yelled and whooped as the deafening fire filled the warehouse.

After a few intense rounds of shooting the men stopped and let the gun smoke clear. Surely they'd gotten the bastard up there! There was virtually nothing left of the walkway from wall to wall...but no body could be found!

That's when all hell broke loose! Suddenly before any man could react the sound of something metal and electronic whizzed through the air with a whirring buzz! In a split second and a huge wave of gushing blood, four men standing in a row were hacked in half from the mid chest downward by some flying metal disk! Flailing and twitching the halved corpses collapsed and the disk disappeared into the shadows! Violent cursing and wild gunfire ensued at the sudden occurrence of the horrific slaughter! None of the six remaining men knew where to look next! They couldn't SEE anyone!

Sweat was pouring down the gun boss's face. Already half of his men were dead and still no sign of the assassin! He turned when he heard the SHHIINKKK of what sounded like a blade and another man crashed to the floor with a huge double gash across his throat and chest! Firing at air he hoped to somehow hit the unseen murderer! Turning again he briefly caught a glimpse of what looked like a moving shadow and a blur of shiny metal; two more of his men fell dead! Shooting hysterically the gun boss suddenly saw his last man fly clear across the room, slam into a far wall, and sink limp as rag doll to the floor; ghastly lacerations disfiguring his face! He was alone...the only one left alive! He couldn't see anyone! He couldn't hear anything but his own pounding heartbeat.

"DAMMIT! DAMN YOU! SHOW YOURSELF! SHOW...YOURSELF!" he shrieked in panic. Then a sound entered his ears: clicking...rattling...a soft growl. A shadow flashed on his side and then...all sense ended.

A few hours later at the same warehouse...

Cameras flashed. Evidence was taken. Ownerless, illegal weapons were confiscated. Cops and forensic workers mingled about the warehouse turned slaughterhouse. The tall redheaded cop Matt Bluestone observed the corpses above and below. Eight skinless corpses hung like slaughterhouse meat, silently bleeding onto the concrete floor with twisted horrific expressions and white bugged out eyes. The other five bodies were headless with huge gaping trenches along their backs where their spines used to be.

Matt let forth a heavy sigh. Ever since the Space Spawn invaded he'd never seen such a gruesome sight. Some dock worker had called the precinct about some shooting he'd heard in this warehouse and THIS is what they found. The warehouse floor was littered with god awful amounts of blood, bullets, and debris. Most of the crates and every wall, rittled with bullet holes and laser burns. What the hell happened in here? Were the Space Spawn back?

The cop jumped suddenly when a gentle hand tapped his shoulder. He sighed, "Evening Maza. Sigh Not something you'd like to see in your lifetime." he stated indicating the mangled bodies.

The raven haired woman shivered, "I know. Looks like a bunch of gun smugglers to me. I just wonder WHO or WHAT the hell we're dealing with here: Space Spawn or some of the usual suspects?"

Matt shrugged and said in a quiet voice, "You call in our friends?"

Elisa nodded in understanding, "Yeah. They're on a nearby roof. Once everyone leaves they can help us out."

A few more hours later...

After all the other cops, coroners, and forensic workers left and the bodies were cleared out the gargoyles and Venus landed behind the warehouse to meet Elisa and Matt who'd stayed behind to 'keep inspecting the crime scene.'

Goliath caped his wings, "What has happened?"

"Thirteen dead bodies. Eight of them...skinned and the rest...decapitated." Matt explained slowly. He retracted some pictures he'd taken from his pocket and showed them to Goliath who actually cringed at the images.

"Who were they?" the gargoyle asked.

"Gun smugglers. Real scum. But...no one deserves to die like this." Elisa admitted

The other gargoyles peered over Goliath's shoulder at the pictures and cringed as well. "Who could've done this?" Angela asked in horror.

"Space Spawn?" Matt offered. "That looks like something those monsters would do!"

Goliath looked at Venus who stared at the pictures in horror, "Can you sense any Space Spawn Venus?"

The little alien shook her head, "No...if they were here I'd be able to sense them before they even entered Earth's atmosphere. It wasn't them." She handed the picture back to Matt.

"How high were those bodies hung?" Lexington asked staring at a skinned man's picture.

"Maybe 50 to 75 feet. What was weird was they were up near the ceiling and tied to the rafters instead of a spot down below!" Matt explained.

Lexington thought a moment, "That would be too hard for any ordinary human to do. Each of these guys might weigh a little over 200 lbs and to be carried all the way up there...whoever did this had to be really strong and agile!"

Brooklyn growled, "My guess is Demona! She's strong enough AND she could carry them all up there!"

Angela gave him an angry look, "Why do you always assume it's Demona?"

The red gargoyle seemed a little embarrassed for offending Angela again about her mother but he continued, "Because...she's a likely suspect! She already hates humans and has no convictions about killing them! She COULD'VE pulled this off!"

Goliath sighed, "Yes...she could have done this...my question is WOULD she? If she kills humans she does it quick and leaves them there. I don't think she'd actually take the TIME or the EFFORT to do THIS to them!"

Elisa nodded, "Maybe we should investigate inside and see if there's something we missed."

Soon everyone was inside observing the crime scene carefully. Goliath turned to Venus, "Go up there and see if you can find anything."

She nodded. After the Space Spawn incident Venus had been cautious about going on patrols again but after awhile her desire to help won out. Gazing around while floating through the rafters Venus came to where the bodies had hung before they were cut down. Her large eyes scanned the area for some kind of clue until she spotted one partially hidden by the shadows.

"I found something!" she called below.

"What?" Matt asked staring up with everyone else.

"It's a bloody hand print...a real big one! I can tell you something else, it wasn't Demona...or any other gargoyle!" she stated definitely.

"What makes you think that?" Brooklyn asked.

Venus looked down at them, "Gargoyles only have four fingers. This one has five! But it also has claws!"

Out of habit the gargoyles looked at their own hands. No gargoyle they knew of had five fingers. All gargoyles had only four.

"Well, that rules out Demona and Thailog." Broadway surmised. "Who's left?"

"Well I'd guess Wolf but he's dead." Elisa said.

"Jackal and Hyena?" Lexington guessed.

"Well...they have the criminal mentality and they do have the hardware for such a job...but...this seems too precise for them. I mean...look how careful those skins were removed! I'd say whoever did this knew exactly what they were doing." Angela thought aloud.

Goliath nodded, "I agree. It seems too precise for them."

As the group thought Matt held up his camera, "Here Venus! Take some pictures of that handprint so we can all look at it! Just push the silver button on the top!"

The alien nodded and the camera floated up to her. Using her mind she positioned the camera and took a few pictures. As they slid out she took them in her hands and floated down to the others. They all looked at the hand prints in confusion. None of them knew of anyone who had handprints like these...five fingers...claws...and large. What could've done this?

"I think we're dealing with something we've never seen before." Venus said.

"Whoever...whatever has done this must be stopped." Goliath stated firmly. "Come! We will search around the area and see if we can't find this...killer."

Striding out of the warehouse the gargoyles, Venus, and the two detectives left the building.

He watched from the roof of a nearby building. Those...winged beings whose heat shone even more brightly that Flatheads... could those be the famed Stone Warriors of old? Long ago before his time his clan had hunted creatures of these sort...winged, large, spiked, tails, claws, and, according to the history, they turned to stone during the day! He'd never seen such beings in his life! What luck! To hunt such creatures and get THEIR heads and wings for trophies would be quite a catch indeed! Certainly a major challenge...and lots of honor to go with it! Intently he watched them leave his previous hunting ground with two Flatheads and a...what... was... THAT!

His heat vision adjusted and focused on the small pure white heat emission that crackled and sparked just above the Stone Warriors' heads. Only one creature he knew of put off that kind of signature! But...those creatures were all extinct! There were NONE left! But...there it was.

Instantly he knew that creature would present a problem. The name his kind gave for such beings was unpronounceable to other races, but his kind knew hunting those creatures was suicide! It was just NOT done! Those little beings had the destructive capability to wipe out entire worlds and besides... killing them only made them vaporize so there was no trophy to claim. Yes...that creature would be a major hindrance if he was to hunt those Stone Warriors...but he knew just what to do. Tapping a few buttons on his wrist weapon made a small D-Wave emitter rise up. Normally it was used for communication with his ship but it had...other uses. Lifting his emitter he pointed it at the creature...

Just as Goliath was about ready to start assigning search parties Venus let loose a blood curdling scream and grabbed her head in agony! Dropping like a stone she flopped around on the ground lashing her tail and rolling around like a dying cat. Angela screamed in horror and no one could move as Venus flailed wildly on the ground. Then...she stopped.

He retracted his D-Wave emitter. No...he wouldn't kill that creature. It probably WAS the last of its kind. The white heat now was down to a low silver color. He'd hurt it enough that it wouldn't wake for a few days...but that's all he'd need to hunt the Stone Warriors.