COMINGS AND GOINGS (PART 1 OF 2)

By Kimberly T. (email: kimbertow at yahoo dot com)

Standard Disclaimer: All the characters appearing in Gargoyles and Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles are copyright Buena Vista Television/The Walt Disney Company. No infringement of these copyrights is intended, and is not authorized by the copyright holder. All original characters are the property of Kimberly T.

Author's note: although this story is posted after "Flesh and Stone," parts of it actually take place before and during the events of that story. Rated R for violence and a few bits of adult language. And speaking of language, any screwups in foreign language translations are mine too. Sentences and phrase in doubled parantheses are ((translated from Japanese)), while sentences and phrases bracketed by pound signs are #translated Spanish#, and finally, sentences and phrases surrounded by slashes are /translated German/.

Previously, on Gargoyles: Life Goes On…

At the edge of the roof perched another man, sitting soaking up the sunlight with his eyes closed. At the squeak of the door hinges he called out without turning around, "Is that you, Maurice?"

"It's me, Adam," the first man said cheerfully. "I'm a little surprised to find you awake and up here, but Yvette said you were waiting for me. Needing a private chat, I assume?"

"You know me too well, brother mine," Adam said wryly as Maurice made his careful way to the edge of the roof and gingerly sat down next to him.

"From the crib, brother mine," Maurice said with fond nostalgia, clapping his hand to Adam's shoulder. His hand, pale and showing the first 'liver-spots' of age, made a stark contrast against Adam's mahogany-dark skin. "So, what's on your mind? Worries about the upcoming trip?"

"What else? The only people we have knowledge of who live in New York are the friends of friends, or relatives of the friends of friends, and not one of them do we dare trust with our secret. We'll have no allies up there, no 'safe-house' to retreat to if we're discovered or things go badly. The smart thing to do would be to delay until after we've established an advance party up there, to make a safe-house for us if need be… And yet, we dare not delay any longer. Not after reading that article from the New York Sun that Alphonse showed to us last night."

Maurice nodded grimly. "I know what you mean. From the looks of that article, we're heading directly into a war zone."

"Which makes our mission all the more important... and potentially all the more hazardous. Which is why only you, Marcel and I will be going now."

"Interlude: New Orleans"

" 'Ey, Stephen, it's Marcel. No, we ain't in New York yet, and we ain't getting dere any time real soon, neither; broke down in Tennessee. Mechanic says de engine block cracked; be at least t'ree days before we get a new engine shipped in, maybe more, an' den dey got to install it… You tell Robert that next time he says he got a 'real sweet deal' on a vehicle for us, we rip his head off and shit down his throat, okay? Adam, he so pissed his eyes like headlights… Yeah, dat's the other t'ing I call to tell you about. Rebecca's wit' us, stowed away before we left. Cherie done anchored herself to de cab overhead, can you believe dat? Only found her when night come…"

"Interlude: Road Trip"

Heinrich snorted in derision. "/I should now be able to order a meal in a restaurant, shop for clothing, ask for directions and buy train and plane tickets anywhere in America.../"

"/Assuming you would be so foolish as to even try any of those things/" Helmut agreed with a wry smile.

"/But still, the words may come in handy to know while I am searching; perhaps I'll overhear some little clue in a conversation between humans/" Heinrich said as he started to put the headphones back on.

Helmut picked up a newspaper clipping from the desk and looked at it again; they'd all looked at that clipping several times in the last few weeks. Worn and faded from so much handling, the headline still read in bold letters, "Menshenartige, fliegende Geschopfe im New York entdeckt/Man-sized flying creatures discovered in New York/" Helmut looked the article over again, studying the blurred photo that accompanied it, and said softly, "/Do you really think this isn't a hoax, that they truly exist? More of our kind, in an American city/"

"Ja," Heinrich said simply. Then, "/I have to believe. For Gregor's sake… I will not let my nephew be the last of his kind./" Then he hit the 'Play' button on the tape player again, and resumed his English lessons.

"Faith, Hope and Love"

Hiroshi nodded grimly, and Kai knew from his eyes that Hiroshi had already guessed what Kai had in mind. He and the American babbled back and forth for a while, and looked over some papers the man carried in his pockets, before Hiroshi reported, "He wishes to return as soon as possible, and his temporary visa will expire in two weeks."

"Then we have only that much time to prepare." Kai looked over at Yama, his expression painfully wry. "Yama-san… You are finally going to get your heart's desire, though now it is your desire no longer."

Yama looked bewildered… and a little afraid, as if he half-suspected and feared what Kai was about to say. "Kai-sama…?"

"For the next two weeks, you are going to spend every hour of every night with Hiroshi-san, learning all the English you can cram between your ears," Kai said bluntly. "Because when this American returns to his homeland, you are going with him."

Gasps of surprise, amazement and scandalized outrage erupted spontaneously from most of the clan, but Kai overrode all their voices with a stern, "Your past desire to learn more of the world outside has made you the best suited for this task: to be our ambassador to the Manhattan clan! And to bring back with you whomever they wish to evacuate, to escape these gargoyle-slaying humans. Not knowing the language and customs over there, without an armed force of native human allies to guard our sleep during the day, any battle force we sent over would be at such a disadvantage that we might as well ask them to commit seppuku upon arrival. But one lone warrior, at least partly familiar with their language and customs, with a guide to help him slip into their country and back out again… One lone warrior might have a chance to reach them, talk to them and bring back as many as wish to come live with us instead of face extinction in their homeland. If you can persuade them all to come live among us, all the better, though I suspect their warriors may wish to fight to the last breath to defend their home. But Goliath said that only a few members of their clan remain after they were betrayed by one of their human allies; these slayers might wipe their clan out entirely, if we do not move quickly!"

Yama had gone a paler shade of gray at his words, but he set Manekineko aside and stood up to bow deeply to Kai. "As you command, Kai-sama."

"Yama's Path"

Robert wordlessly pointed with one hand at where he was aiming his NVB's with the other: off to the southwest, and upwards. Victor hurriedly but quietly opened the door and slipped out of the SUV, to train his binoculars in the direction Robert was pointing. "What am I looking for?"

"I swear to God, I do not know. But there's three of them, two big ones and a little one…"

"Where? I don't… Madre de Dios!"

"You see 'em now, huh?"

"I… I see them, but I don't believe my eyes!" Victor lowered his NVB's for a moment to stare fixedly at that same patch of starry sky with only his eyes, but saw nothing in that fashion; they were too far away to make out against the field of stars. So he lifted his binoculars back into position, and focused them in more sharply. "The… the biggest one is carrying a passenger…"

"And the last one in line is carrying some bundles in its hands. And I swear to God that the little one between them is carrying a teddy bear…"

"Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum…"

"Um… do we report this?"

"…No. Absolutely not. We are going to keep our mouths shut about this to everyone on shift, all right? The only one I'm going to talk about this to is Father Aguilar, after I say about a hundred rosaries… Or maybe I'll just get very, very drunk. Or maybe I'll do both…"

By unspoken agreement, the U.S.-Mexico Border Patrol agents kept their NVB's trained on the bizarre flyers overhead until they had crossed well over the border into the U.S.

"The Times, They Are a-Changin'… Part 1: Best-Laid Plans"

AND NOW…

COMINGS AND GOINGS

PART 1: PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES

Sunday morning, just after dawn; the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Atop a castle in the middle of Manhattan, a clan of gargoyles had gone to their daily rest minus one of their number; their clan leader was still on his honeymoon with his human bride. But Manhattan is not the only borough in the vast city of New York…

North of Manhattan, in the borough of Bronx, an eighteen-wheeled truck slowly and carefully pulled into the parking lot of Our Lady of Mercy Roman Catholic Church. Father William Perry, the pastor of that parish, watched anxiously as the massive truck inched forward, backed up a trifle, and slowly moved forward again; his church's parking lot wasn't all that big, and he was very fond of the rosebushes that were planted along one side, appallingly close to where the truck was supposed to go. But the driver knew his vehicle well, and parked in the space set aside with several inches to spare. The aged priest sighed with relief as the truck's great rumbling engine gave one last sigh and shut down, and stepped up to greet the people climbing down out of the truck's cab. "Good morning, and God bless! Maurice? How was your trip?"

The first person to reach the pavement, a slender gentleman with pale skin and silvered hair who had exited from the passenger side, smiled wryly and held out his hand as he said, "It went quite well, once we were on the road again! Hello, William; it's been far too long…"

"Thirty-eight years since graduation," William agreed with a nod as they cordially shook. "We've a lot of catching up to do… But first, you would be Adam?" as he turned to the middle-aged man with coffee-dark skin who had climbed down from the driver's side of the cab.

"Naw, I'm Marcel LeBeau, pleased to meetcha," the man said with an easy grin as he shook hands. With his free hand, he jerked a thumb back over his shoulder as he added, "Adam, he stuck in the seat behind for this last leg; be out in a bit…"

As Marcel spoke, the passenger side door opened again and another man, wearing a trenchcoat, appeared in the doorway… and jumped out. A split-second later, the man seemed to realize the folly of jumping from a point over seven feet up onto solid concrete, and flailed in midair for a moment, but it was too late; gravity had him in its grip, and it held on with glee until he'd slammed into the unforgiving pavement with a painfully loud thump, landing on his feet but immediately falling to his hands and knees.

Father William exclaimed aloud and rushed over to his side, but the man waved him off got to his feet with a sheepish grin that glistened whitely in his mahogany-brown face. "I'm all right, Father; 'the Good Lord watches over fools and children'… Ah, Adam DuBois, at your service."

"I'm pleased to meet you, Adam," William said with a smile. He made note of the last name, and blinked at the decided contrast in skin tones between this man and his old friend from seminary school; then, making sure the friendly smile was still in place, he asked politely, "If I may ask, in what way are you related to Father Maurice DuBois, if any?"

"By adoption," Father Maurice DuBois said with a smile as he came over. "My parents adopted him as a child… not long before I left for seminary school. My mother said she couldn't handle an empty nest, so she adopted another baby bird… and he's as clumsy flapping about now as he was then," he said to his companion with a teasing smile.

"Always tripping over my big feet," Adam agreed wryly. Father William couldn't help looking down just then, and silently agreeing; Adam had the biggest feet he'd seen since the Turner family's boy had gone off to play professional basketball for the L.A. Lakers. The shoes he wore had clearly been handcrafted for him, and rather poorly at that; the arches were quite high, and there was something odd about the heels. No wonder the poor man was so clumsy.

"Well, let's bring your luggage inside the rectory; I've still an hour before I'll need to prepare for Sunday Mass," William said as he waved them towards his rectory. "And my housekeeper has prepared a fine breakfast for you all; after spending over two weeks either on the road or stranded in Tennessee, I'm sure you're ready to appreciate some proper home cooking…"

Adam yawned hugely as he helped to get the bags out of the truck's cab, and apologized for it as he helped to carry a few suitcases inside… And apologized further, while explaining that his own bags were still in the cab and would remain there, where he'd be sleeping. "I have a back problem, you see, and I require a special mattress for sleeping on, so I had one made that fits right in the back of the cab. It's built in, as a matter of fact, and quite comfy. While I'm delighted to share meals with you and the rest, I hope you're not offended that I'd rather sleep out there."

"A guest's comfort is his host's first concern," William said with a smile. Privately, he thought that Adam just wanted to sleep in the cab to ensure no one broke into it at night, and was mildly insulted; yes, there were sections of the city that had high rates of auto theft and other property crimes, but not his parish! But it could be that he truly had a bad back, and if he really would be more comfortable on his own mattress, well, that was one less set of sheets to need changing.

"Adam drove all night in order for us to get here this early," Father Maurice said with a concerned look at Adam as the man yawned yet again. "After breakfast and perhaps an early Mass, he'll need to get some sleep."

"I'll be happy to say an early Mass for you," William said with a worried frown, "But it's apt to get noisy in the parking lot as the rest of the parishioners arrive for the regular Mass. Perhaps you should sleep in the rectory after all?"

Adam just smiled and shook his head. "I appreciate your concern, but I'll be fine in the truck; once I get to sleep, nothing short of an explosion could wake me. I sleep like the proverbial rock."

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

Sunday events proceeded in the usual manner for Father William until one p.m.; then he received a call that one of his female parishioners, a woman eight months pregnant, had just been hit by a car. She was being rushed to the hospital, and her husband begged Father William to come and administer last rites in case either she or the baby didn't make it. Father William made swift apologies to his guests and rushed to the hospital, and didn't return until after nightfall. "It was touch and go for a while, particularly for the baby even after the emergency cesarean, but the doctor said both mother and daughter are out of danger now," he said with tired relief as he and his guests sat down to dinner. "Maria Consuela Dorotea Gonzalez may have come into this world a bit earlier than planned, but God willing, she'll be a blessing to our parish for many years to come." Then he noticed that one of the seats at the dinner table was empty. "Goodness, where's your brother, Maurice? He's not still sleeping out in the truck!"

"No, Adam woke up a little while ago, and took one of the motorcycles to go visiting some other people," Maurice assured him. "Didn't I tell you? Adam's always been curious about his birth mother, and recently he discovered that she had relatives up here in New York. But the ones he was able to track down keep very late hours, being swing-shift workers, so they're more awake and ready for visitors at night. And he's got a lot of questions to ask them, so I wouldn't expect him back until the wee hours of the morning…"

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

At that very moment, farther south in the borough of Manhattan, the gargoyles of Castle Wyvern were discovering that they were under siege by the Quarrymen. But thanks to Hudson's long memory and shrewd thinking, and with a little help from their human allies, the clan circumvented the siege and continued their patrols with only minor inconvenience.

And the Earth kept turning, New York slowly moving from night to day, from a fairly quiet weekend to the typical hustle-n-bustle of a Monday morning…

Not that Dominique Destine had any idea what day of the week it was. Or even what year it was, for that matter.

She was drunk, and determined to keep it that way for as long as she could, and thanks to an extremely high credit rating and liquor store owners that didn't ask questions, she was succeeding admirably. That is, if there can be anything admirable about a woman currently lying facedown on the floor of a mansion, only semi-conscious as she sprawled bonelessly in a dried-up puddle of her own vomit.

RRRRIIIINNNGGGGG RRRRIIIINNNGGGGG RRRRIIIINNNGGGGG

That sound hurt her head. A lot. And it had been going on for a long time, she was pretty sure of that… She wanted somebody to make it stop, but there was no one else around. After another eternity of that infernal ringing, she blearily lifted her head, then staggered to her hands and knees and looked around for its source. After a while, her eyes focused enough for her to make out her cell phone, lying on the coffee table in the midst of empty bottles of absinthe, bourbon and cognac (she'd tried to do her drinking alphabetically for a while, last Tuesday or Wednesday, but couldn't think of what kind of liquor came after ((Jack)) Daniels.) It took another couple of minutes before she could get her limbs coordinated enough to crawl over there, and once she did, she lifted her hand to smash the cell phone but instead hit it a glancing blow that knocked it off the coffee table and onto the floor next to her. Somehow, as it tumbled, it flipped open and activated, and after it landed she heard a tinny little voice with a Scottish brogue coming out of it. "It's about bloody time, witch! I may be immortal thanks to ye, ye blue sodden bitch, but that doesna mean I have all Christ-damned day!"

She collapsed on the floor next to the open cell phone, and blinked stupidly at it for a few seconds. "Mmmacbeth? What're you (hic) doing in there?" Then she remembered; that was a telephone, and humans had created them so they could talk to other people far away. So Macbeth wasn't inside the little device; he was somewhere else, far away! She half-giggled for a second; humans were really such clever creatures…

After a pause, Macbeth's voice came through the phone again, not as irate as before. "Aye, it's me, Demona or Dominique or whatever ye call yerself during the day now. Now listen carefully… come closer to the phone… are ye listening, Demona?"

She dragged herself closer to the phone, clumsily sweeping some bottles out of the way so she could cuddle right next to it. "I'm list'ning," she said in a whisper, successfully suppressing another hiccup.

"Good. NOW SOBER UP, YE BLUE SODDEN BITCH! Ye've been drunk for nigh onto a week now, and I'm sick an' tired of feelin' the effects of it! I had to cancel me morning classes because o' ye! I dinna know why ye're drinkin' yerself half ta death all this time, an' I dinna care, so long as it stops!"

Sick and tired, the phrase reverberated through her head as she flinched away from the too-loud phone. Macbeth was sick and tired of this. So was Demona, now that she thought about it for even a second. Well there was one way to make it all stop… She slurred, "Y'wanna cumover an kill me now?"

There was a long, long pause. Finally Macbeth responded, sounding irritable, "Even if I tried to come over right now, yuir drinking an' this cursed link would have me falling flat on me face before I could get within fifty feet of ye. So sober up, ye sodden hag, an' then ye can ask me that again…"

The phone clicked as he hung up. Dominique stuck her tongue out at the phone, then rolled away from it and began fumbling around for another bottle. But all the bottles within arm's reach were empty, and finally she sighed, slumped on the floor again and closed her eyes.

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

A few hours later that day, and several miles further north, the afternoon sun shone through the windows of the rectory, onto some sheets of paper that Father Maurice and Marcel were going over. They were computer printouts, most of them listings of religious institutions; not only every Catholic church in the five boroughs of Manhattan, but churches and temples of nearly every known religious persuasion. There was also another sheet of paper, which listed and gave the addresses for every police precinct in the boroughs. Several listings scattered among the pages had stars marked next to them, as if those entries were of particular interest, but many of those entries and several others now had lines drawn through them. Father William drew a line through another entry, shaking his head and muttering, "Such a very large haystack to look through, for these precious needles…"

"Shoulda brought more folk to search," Marcel muttered back.

Father Maurice shook his head to that as well. "Adam had sound reasons for the restriction, even if Rebecca's unasked-for presence has been most helpful. Considering that helicopter they saw last night…"

"Making laps 'round de tallest building in de city," Marcel finished for him. "Which b'longs to dat same rich boy we been hearing 'bout… Seems t'me dat's where dey most apt to be, den."

"Possibly… but for now, that simply can't be verified. And frankly, considering all the publicity, it'd be downright foolish of them to be there; it's far more likely, if their leader has any sort of cunning, that they've made just enough of a show to make it seem like that's their home, while they actually dwell somewhere else." Maurice pensively shook his head, then tapped one of the sheets of paper. "I'm still of the opinion that they'll be found at one of these locations. For better or worse, the Catholic Church is well versed in keeping secrets…"

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

At that very moment, miles to the south in Manhattan, Castle Wyvern was under assault from within; a lone workman under the influence of Castaway's anti-gargoyle crusade was attacking Broadway's statue with a crowbar, breaking one of his wings. But that tale has been told already (see "Flesh and Stone"); now look to the east, to the borough of Queens…

The Queens railyards are always busy; freight trains bring in goods from all over the continental U.S. and Canada, and on their return trips distribute goods brought in from overseas via New York's harbors. A freight train from Cincinnati, Ohio, had pulled in less than ten minutes ago, and already the yard crews were working on it; the assorted boxcars were speedily disconnected, sorted and shunted to side rails for unloading by other crews.

Deep inside one particular boxcar, carrying ready-to-assemble furniture from a factory in Montana, a young man is uncurling from his hiding spot inside a crate, shivering in the cold air despite multiple layers of ragged and dirty clothing. It's evident that he had been sleeping, lulled to that state by the monotonous rumbling and clacking known as the 'song of the rails', but awoken when the train stopped and the boxcar was decoupled. He looks around and listens tensely; though the doors to the boxcar are not open, he can hear men talking just outside. With a worried expression on his Hispanic features, he looks back into the crate from which he had emerged. There is a rumpled bed of blankets in one corner of the crate, surrounded by jugs of water and small bags of non-perishable food. The rest of the crate is occupied by what appear at first glance to be piles of colorful clothing. But if the clothing, layers upon layers of ponchos, were to be removed, one would see three stone statues of nonhuman creatures crouched or sitting in repose…

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

At the same moment that the train was pulling into the railyard, miles away, a Delta Airlines plane was taxiing up to a terminal at JFK International. A flight from Tokyo to New York, with stops in Seattle and Chicago for refueling. A plane packed with hundreds of tourists and businessmen, both Americans returning to their homeland and Japanese coming to visit it, for business or pleasure or both. Seats 27D and 27E on the passenger manifest were listed as being filled by Vincent Gregarino, an American tourist returning home after a few months in Japan, and Hiroshi Fukuda, a Japanese tourist visiting America for the first time. But the plane carried another person not listed on the passenger manifest, though an entry had been made on the cargo manifest.

"I still can't believe they let you claim that big crate as baggage, 'steada putting it on a cargo aircraft," Vinnie muttered quietly after they had debarked from the aircraft, claimed their standard luggage from the baggage terminal and were now being escorted by airline personnel to another area of the airport, to claim the last of Hiroshi's listed belongings.

"The Japanese understand the glory and burden of honor more than most Americans can ever hope to," Hiroshi muttered quietly back, not quite masking his tone of quiet superiority. In truth, it had also cost quite a bit more to have that precious crate loaded onto a passenger aircraft instead of a standard cargo flier, but after Hiroshi had explained to the Delta personnel working in the Tokyo airport that he was personally responsible for that statue's safe transport to the USA, they had agreed to the unusual arrangements.

In the cargo terminal, Hiroshi inspected the crate, verifying that it appeared undamaged and the discreet seals were intact, then waited with the crate and the rest of their luggage while Vinnie went to call one of his many cousins, one who owned a moving van, to pick them up and transport them and their luggage to the Gregarino family home. Though he was outwardly calm and supremely patient, inside Hiroshi was getting impatient and more than a little worried. They had been due to arrive in New York nearly two hours ago, but severe headwinds had slowed their flight and necessitated more stops for refueling. Sunset was less than three hours away now, and that crate had to be secured away from prying eyes and ears before then.

Vinnie came back and confirmed that his cousin Bert was on his way, and would probably be there in less than an hour. "But I gotta pay him fifty bucks for this, and be on standby to take his sister to the homecoming prom if she can't get a date on her own," he grumbled. "And my parents are probably going to want me to help clean out the attic as well as the garage, since we're storing the crate at their place. If this keeps up, I'm gonna end up owing favors to half of Manhattan."

Hiroshi did not quite roll his eyes at the young man's grumblings, but he was unable to keep a dry tone from his voice as he pointed out, "The sooner we find the Manhattan clan of gargoyles and persuade them to come to Ishimura for sanctuary, the sooner you will no longer have to worry about them interfering with your life again."

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

Two-and-a-half hours later, Hiroshi slipped out of the Gregarino family's home and into their garage, sighing with relief. He had talked his way into going out there alone by telling the senior Gregarinos that it was part of his sacred tradition to meditate in private every sunset, with an image of the Buddha and of a few Shinto kami statuettes that he just happened to have in his luggage. But while he had another purpose entirely for going out there now, he thought perhaps some meditation would be in order afterwards, just to relieve the stress of his stay so far in the blessed silence. Vinnie Gregarino's mother was apparently a kindly woman, but by all the kami, she was such a chatterbox! Constantly asking him questions about his life in Japan and about how he and Vinnie had met, and then interrupting before he could finish to rather unfavorably compare life in his village (that is, what aspects of village life that he shared with her, none of which involved gargoyles) with the physical and social amenities found in Manhattan. The Gregarino father had said much less, thankfully (and at one point had even shared a commiserating glance with Hiroshi about Mrs. Gregarino's constant chatter), but some of what he'd said had made plain his own prejudice against Hiroshi's people, apparently based on his father's tales of fighting 'Japs' in World War II. All in all, it was making for a most disharmonious visit, and Hiroshi was sure he would be very glad to go back to his homeland when their mission was over.

He dug the small prybar out of his personal luggage, then hurriedly used it to pry off the top of the large crate, that had been so carefully constructed back in Ishimura; layers of insulation to retain heat and to severely muffle any sound coming from within, but threaded through with dozens of air tubules connected to disguised holes in the exterior, to provide fresh air when it was needed. The gargoyle Kenun had willingly volunteered to test the crate before shipping, and had spent a full day and half a night inside it with minimal discomfort, but due to having flown against the sun's path to arrive in New York, his companion had now spent two days and a complete if abbreviated night inside it. And while there was room for a smallish gargoyle to crouch or sit down inside the crate, there was not much room beyond that; Hiroshi hoped that Yama had endured his confinement without bouts of claustrophobia.

He heard some cracking and rumbling sounds from within as he pried the last nail out, and silently congratulated himself on his timing as he knocked four times on the side of the crate, then heaved and shoved the lid upwards. As he did so, a gray arm adorned with a slim fin along the forearm and a three-fingered hand helped him shove the lid the rest of the way off; then Yama popped up, standing tall and partially unfurling his wings. Yama waggled his wings and stretched out his arms with a wide grin on his homely face, saying in Nihongo, "((Ahhh… may I never take a good-sized room for granted, ever again! Have we arrived, then?))"

"((We are in the garage of the Gregarino family home,))" Hiroshi told him as he stepped back, and gestured for Yama to climb out of the crate and onto the garage floor. "((So far, so good… How was your short night inside?))"

"((It went well enough,))" Yama said as, instead of climbing out immediately, he looked down at his legs, still inside the crate. "((But there has been a complication…))"

"EEEEEEEKKK!" CRASH

Startled, Hiroshi and Yama both turned at the sound of the scream and crash, to find Mrs. Gregarino standing at the top of the stairs that led into the house, with a tray of shattered ceramic teapot and cups at her feet. But before they could say a word, she turned and bolted back into the house, bawling "TONIEEEEE!"

"((She's calling for her husband,))" Hiroshi explained hurriedly as he reached for Yama's arm and began tugging determinedly on it. "And we'd both better be gone from here before he comes out!" He had absolutely no doubt that when Mr. Gregarino came out, he would be armed with a weapon of some sort; probably a gun, since judging by the TV shows he'd seen, nearly every American over the age of twelve had one. "((Come on!))"

"Stand back," Yama ordered tersely, and when Hiroshi did so, Yama braced himself against one side of the box, lifted his legs and kicked hard. One side of the box exploded outwards in a mess of wood and insulating material, leaving Yama free to bound out of his confinement… But immediately after doing so, even as Hiroshi shoved aside boxes to get at a blocked side door, Yama reached back into the ruined crate, cooing, "((Come on out, sweetheart…))"

"((Sweetheart!))" Hiroshi blurted out incredulously as he spun around, but there was no more time for explanations; the door to the house burst open again, and Mr. Gregarino stood at the top of the steps with a baseball bat in his hands and a scared yet determined expression on his face.

(Just a baseball bat, thank Buddha,) Hiroshi thought to himself as he jumped to a position beside Yama and took up a defensive stance. Distance weapons, particularly guns, were a real threat, but a mere baseball bat should be no more difficult to deal with than a standard bokken or club. If it connected, it could do severe damage, but the night a gargoyle and human fighting together couldn't take on one lone man with a bokken, Hiroshi would eat his constable's cap with teriyaki sauce.

Just then a horrible screeching sound came from the depths of the ruined crate, and a bob-tailed calico cat came bounding out, to plant herself right in front of Yama. Manekineko, Yama's cat, braced herself sideways with her fur standing on end, flattened her ears and bared her fangs at Mr. Gregarino, and gave an evil hiss that spiraled into another ear-piercing war-scream. Her attitude was plain to see: If you want to fight, you'll have to take me on first!

Hiroshi's lips trembled with the effort, but he finally couldn't hold back the giggles. Yama groaned, "((Manekineko-chan, for the love of the kami, get back!))" But the cat ignored him and actually danced forward a pace, daring the stranger with the club to come down and take his punishment!

For a few long instants they all stood frozen in place, with everyone, including Mr. Gregarino, staring down at the cat. Then Mr. Gregarino sneezed explosively, causing everyone else to jump (Hiroshi would later swear that Manekineko went three feet straight upwards, and hovered there like a living kami for a full two seconds before returning to earth.) Then he turned partly away and called plaintively back into the house, "Margaret! There's a cat here!"

"Dad, don't hurt 'em!" Vinnie shoved past his father, holding his pants up with one hand; evidently he had been busy attending to nature's call when his mother had decided to come out to the garage. He got past his father and one foot onto the next step down, but backpedaled fast when Manekineko lifted a pawful of lethal claws and gave another screech of warning. "Oh jeez, it's that cat again! I thought we left her in Japan… Better stay back, Dad; that cat bites!" as Vinnie shook his left hand in pained remembrance of previously inflicted wounds.

"A cat!" Mrs. Gregarino poked her head into the gap between her husband and son, her eyes wide with incredulity. "That's no cat, that's a mon—oh, there is a cat! Oh dear, we're scaring it!"

"We're –wahh-choohh!—scaring it!" Mr. Gregarino said incredulously, in between sneezes.

"Oh get inside, Tony, you know you're allergic. Didn't I tell you that you should get those allergy shots?" Mrs. Gregarino said with scolding affection as she pulled her husband back into the house, taking his place on the top step. Then she seemed to remember quite suddenly that the garage held more than just a scared and angry cat… She swallowed hard as she looked slowly up at Yama, with eyes as wide as tea saucers.

"Mom, it's okay, he's not going to hurt anybody," Vinnie said with concern as he laid a hand on her shoulder. "I know he looks freaky, but he's really all right… believe it or not, he's a math teacher!"

"A… math teacher!" Mrs. Gregarino said incredulously. From inside the house, Mr. Gregarino echoed the same words, with the same tone of disbelief.

Yama slowly but formally bowed to her, then said haltingly in his hastily-learned English, "Please excuse bad …frightening; most apologies. Ishimura Yama," as he gestured at himself. Then he gave a sheepish grin and waved towards his cat, who had relaxed her stance somewhat but was still keeping a wary eye on the strangers, as he said "Manekineko, my cat. She protect gargoyles…"

"Y-you're a gargoyle? A… a Japanese gargoyle math teacher!" Mrs. Gregarino shook her head. "I need to sit down…"

"Good idea, Mom," Vinnie said encouragingly. "Let's take this to the living room, huh?" as he tugged gently on her arm, while gesturing for the others to slowly come forward. Yama and Hiroshi both slowly and cautiously came forward, Yama stooping down to scoop up Manekineko in the process. They started to follow the Gregarinos inside, when Vinnie paused and looked apologetically at Yama. "Uh, could you maybe leave the cat out here? Dad really is allergic."

"((How did she end up coming along, anyway?))" Hiroshi murmured to Yama as the gray gargoyle tried to put his cat down and persuade her to remain in the garage… without noticeable success.

"((She must have snuck into the crate after I went to stone sleep, just before the others sealed it for the trip,))" Yama murmured back. "((Manekineko-chan, little brave heart, you must stay here, understand? Stay with the crate…))"

But cats are renowned for not doing what they're told, and Yama and Hiroshi exchanged resigned glances as Manekineko whipped through the door-crack just before it was closed on her. She led the way into the living room, head and stubby tail held high, as Mr. Gregarino, already seated and waiting for them, tried to stifle another sneeze. Hiroshi in his turn tried to stifle a groan; while they had managed to avoid out-and-out combat, this was still a most inauspicious way to start the evening.

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

Many miles away, over in Brooklyn, a Hispanic-American family was just sitting down to dinner in their apartment when the phone rang. The father and head of the household, Lorenzo Velasquez, got up to answer the phone with a frown on his face; he worked a long day at the shipyards in order to put food on the table for his family, and he didn't like having that precious family time disturbed by phone calls, particularly during dinner. But his frown turned to a wide smile shortly after he answered the phone: "Hello? …Carlos¿Como va¿Dónde ahora están usted¿Ser usted en Nueva York todavía?"

The entire family perked up at overhearing their father's words, and the children began babbling excitedly; Rosa Velasquez had to severely hush them in order to hear the rest of her husband's half of the conversation. "#Oh, that's in Queens! You're still a ways away from our home… but not that much! It should be an easy trip for you all, even the little one. Here, I've made a list of landmarks for you to navigate by. Ready? …Bueno! The first landmark is the Unisphere; it's a giant steel globe, right in the middle of Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. Go high enough and you can't miss it…#"

By the time Lorenzo hung up the phone, his four children were all clamoring to go up to the roof right away, and Rosa was wondering aloud how much of their dinner could be saved for when their guests arrived, and how much would be ruined if it went cold and had to be reheated. Lorenzo settled his children down and told them, "They should be here within the hour, and I want this home to be beautiful and ready for them before they arrive! Enrique, Berto, go down to the butcher shop and buy three good steaks, two big and one small one, and hurry back as fast as you can run! Ramona, tidy up the living room and make a bouquet of the best flowers in the window box. Isabel, help your mother put the food aside for reheating and set four more place settings. Only after all this is done, may you come up to the roof to wait with me!"

Forty-five minutes later, with hands and faces all scrubbed and shiny, the children waited next to their parents on the roof of their apartment building. Lorenzo cautioned his children, "Remember, speak Español only while they are here; only Carlos knows enough American to get by, and it would be rude to talk in a language they don't understand!" The children nodded, while holding a homemade banner made from an old bedsheet, emblazoned with the words "¡Bienvenido a Nueva York!" Then they all faced north in high anticipation. And soon, a trio of winged shapes came gliding into view.

The first to alight on the roof in front of them was a gargoyle female of Amazonian proportions, bat-winged and hunter-green in color, with fan-shaped ears and a spiky fin running from front to back of her otherwise bald head. She carried a young human who quickly dropped from her arms as soon as they touched down, a Hispanic man in his early twenties with fairly thin features, and a wide smile blossoming under his scraggly mustache. The next one to touch down was a young female, still in her hatchlinghood, with steel-gray skin, glider wings, and a cresting fin much like the older female's parting a tousled mane of gray-blue hair. She clutched a rag-doll to her chest, one that had cloth wings and a tail painstakingly sewn on. And the third and last to alight on the roof, carrying an assortment of bags and suitcases slung into a net, was a smallish male with glider wings, a bluish-gray mane and a hide that was so pale pink it was almost white; he let out a sigh of relief as he let the bulky and heavy net fall to the roof and shook the tension out of his four-taloned hands.

"Carlos! Malaquita! Cuarzo!" Lorenzo called out their names as he recognized the newcomers, then gave a paternal smile to the little female. "#And you must be little Galena!#" The young female didn't answer him, scurrying shyly behind the adults' wings, but that didn't stop Lorenzo and his family from chorusing, "#Welcome to New York!#"

"#Thank you; we're very glad to be here at last!#" Malaquita, the dark green female, said as she too shook the stress of carrying a passenger for so long out of her arms, then reached behind herself to pluck little Galena up and bring her around to the front again. "#Don't be shy, muchacha; these are more of your human cousins!#"

"Si! #Haven't you been waiting for weeks now for someone else to play with?#" Cuarzo said as he laid a hand encouragingly on her shoulder. But when Galena abruptly wrapped herself in her wings, hiding her face from view, Cuarzo sighed and said ruefully to the Velasquez family, "#Pardon us; our daughter has never actually met a stranger before."

"#It's understandable; I'm sure you always told her to hide every time someone came to the old village,#" Lorenzo said sympathetically, before turning to greet Carlos enthusiastically. "#Carlos, look how you've grown! The last time I saw you, you were barely up to Malaquita's knee!#"

"#At least now I'm up past her elbow,#" Carlos said after he embraced his older cousin, while throwing a wry grin over his shoulder at Malaquita, who towered head and shoulders over them both. Then it was newcomers' turn to be introduced to Rosa and the rest of the Velasquez family. Rosa and three of her children had said nothing since that first chorus of welcome, and had been blatantly staring at the newcomers; though Lorenzo had told them plenty of stories about his childhood friends, none of them had ever actually seen a gargoyle with their own eyes before. But Rosa's face had softened into a sympathetic smile when she saw how Galena had shyly hidden herself away; her littlest one Isabel was a shy child as well.

After introductions were made all around, Lorenzo turned to Galena (who was peeking out of her wings) and said with a smile, "#Well, little Galena, if you can be brave enough to come downstairs with us, we've prepared some special treats for you! We have flan, and empanaditas al horno, and I think we might even have a few biscochitos left in the cookie jar…#"

The promise of such tasty treats finally lured Galena into going downstairs with the strange humans, and soon everyone was crowded into the Velasquez family's apartment. Hours later, after a delightful dinner, Isabel and Ramona talked the new girl into playing dolls with them, while the boys looked on a little enviously and tried to wheedle Galena into playing a board game with them instead. And while the children played, the adults sat with their coffee and talked about the adventures Carlos and the gargoyles had experienced since they had left their little village in the state of Guerrero, in the heart of Mexico. It had been over a month since they had begun their trek north; six weeks since Lorenzo had called the home of the village's mayor (the only one in the village who could afford to have a phone) and told them about what he'd seen on the evening news, flying away from the ruins of a police station. News of another gargoyle clan in existence had been all that was needed to cause Malaquita, Cuarzo and Galena to decide to leave their ancestral home and travel north, with Lorenzo's cousin Carlos Guevara accompanying them as a translator (he spoke the best English in all the village) and daytime protector. Since then, they'd been either gliding by night or sneaking into northbound trains, risking detection thousands of times but somehow, by the grace of the Virgin Mary, arriving safely at last.

"#Has there been any more news of the new clan?#" Cuarzo asked eagerly, after Carlos had finished relating their last close encounter (luckily, the hobo who had discovered them had decided the rotgut he'd been drinking was giving him hallucinations.)

"Si! #I've been saving all the newspaper clippings for you—that is, all the ones I believed!#" Lorenzo said as he opened a side table drawer and pulled out a sheaf of clippings for them. "#You wouldn't believe some of the crackpot things people have been saying about the gargoyles here ever since they were first sighted! Crazy things, like going through walls like ghosts and stealing people's kidneys… but most of these Anglos are so superstitious already, with their four-leaf clovers and the number 13, and they even have this saying about cracks in the sidewalk! Anyway, here are some news accounts I think we can trust. Too bad only one of them is in Español, from El Diario… Carlos, did you want to translate, or shall I?#"

Eventually they decided to all take turns, so Carlos, Lorenzo and Rosa each read aloud from their newspaper clippings while the gargoyles listened in. It was clear from the locations of the sightings given in the articles that the clan was based somewhere in Manhattan, not the borough of Brooklyn, but that island was only a short flight across the East River; the Velasquez family's home would be a fine place for the Mexican gargoyles to rest every day while searching the other borough by night. Malaquita and Cuarzo were also delighted to learn from some of the articles that the gargoyles of this city were involved in stopping criminals from harming the innocent… and decidedly unhappy to learn about the Quarrymen, a group devoted to destroying gargoyles. "#I don't like this at all,#" Malaquita growled softly, glancing over to where Galena, blissfully unaware, was playing with the other children. "#We came here to find new friends and potential mates for Galena, not hunters for her!#"

"#Things may not be that bad after all,#" Rosa pointed out. "#I still have one clipping left to read, this editor's article about the Quarrymen; it condemns them as the worst sort of criminal organization, for their attacking a group of "gargoyle sympathizers". This other group is called "People for Interspecies Tolerance," and their leader is quoted as saying that they would continue to fight for the gargoyles' right to coexist with humanity. So here we have people who've never even met you, but are willing to fight for you!#"

"#And everyone in this family would die to protect you, particularly your daughter,#" Lorenzo said firmly. ""#I swear on my honor, you will be safe here!#" And after a short pause, he added wryly, "#And unlike our homeland, New York has never had an earthquake…#"

Malaquita and Cuarzo shared a long look between them; one that was silent, but filled with strong emotion. Lorenzo could guess what they were thinking about…

The gargoyles that had come to be known as the Guerrero Clan had lived in Mexico for over a thousand years, making their home deep in the mountain ranges that covered most of the state of Guerrero in southern Mexico. Their clan had survived the rise of the bloodthirsty Aztec empire, and the coming of the far more bloodthirsty conquistadors… but gargoyles in their stone sleep are as vulnerable as anyone else to earthquakes. Lorenzo hadn't even been born when the 7.7-magnitude earthquake had hit on July 28, 1957, but he knew that the main cavern that the gargoyles had lived in had collapsed as a result, entombing most of them in their sleep; only the handful of sentries who had posted outside for that day's rest had survived.

Lorenzo had grown up knowing only four gargoyles: Malaquita, Cuarzo,Ópalo and Old Yeso. Old Yeso had simply died of old age and grief for his lost clanmates before Lorenzo had turned five, but Ópalo, Cuarzo and Malaquita had managed to find reason to go on, with the help of the local village that their clan had long been allies with. All the local children, including Lorenzo, were a great help in keeping the gargoyles' spirits up, and after Malaquita went on a mating flight with Cuarzo in autumn of 1972 and produced an egg the following spring, they had more hope for the future.

Lorenzo had immigrated to the U.S. in 1980, but he had continued to exchange letters with his family while sending them money to help as best he could. In one of those letters, he'd learned about how the entire village had celebrated with the gargoyles in the spring of 1983, when little Galena had emerged from her shell. And in later letters, he'd heard about how the entire village had suffered along with the gargoyles, when that 8.1-magnitude earthquake had rocked the entire country on September 19, 1985. Thousands of people were killed in Mexico City and hundreds of thousands more made homeless, drawing most of the media's focus, but the outlying areas had suffered as well.

Four houses in Lorenzo's home village had collapsed, killing five people and injuring twelve others, and in all the uproar no one thought to look in on the gargoyles in their new cave until nearly sunset. Not that they could have done much of anything to help in the tableau that had met their eyes; while Malaquita, Cuarzo and Galena were unharmed, Ópalo's sleeping form had toppled off his high perch, and his outstretched left arm had broken off when he'd hit the floor below. Lorenzo's father had quickly improvised a tourniquet to be applied as soon as stone became flesh, but it had done no good; Ópalo had awoken, screamed and quickly bled to death before everyone's horrified eyes…

"#No more earthquake worries would be a good thing,#" Cuarzo said finally. "#And we must find potential mates for Galena…#"

Further discussion of the matter was set aside for a while, so the human parents could deal with the children's squabbling over what game they and Galena would play next. Rosa sternly put an end to all the play, pointing out that it was now well past bedtime for her two youngest children and nearly bedtime for the rest. "#Into your pajamas and into bed with you all, ahora! You have school tomorrow, and I'll not have any of my children falling asleep in class! You can play with Galena tomorrow; there will be plenty of nights for more games.#"

After the children had reluctantly trooped off to bed, Malaquita decisively stood up (though she had to stoop over a bit to prevent her crest-fin from jamming into the ceiling) and said, "#The night is still young for us, but the hours glide swiftly, and I want to at least make the first attempt to find this new clan before dawn comes.#"

Lorenzo and Rosa were a bit disappointed, but understood their reasoning, and in truth the two of them would have to retire to bed soon as well. They made arrangements for the gargoyles and Carlos to sneak in through the window to the fire escape, which would be left unlatched for them, and Rosa brought out a pile of blankets and a pillow for Carlos to use, to make himself comfortable on the couch once they returned. Lorenzo handed Carlos a foldout map of Manhattan and a penlight, and urged them all to be back before four a.m., to be sure of avoiding detection by other building residents. "#And we've a few children's books written in Spanish, for Galena to enjoy while she waits for you to return,#" Rosa said with a brief smile for the hatchling as she stood up to fetch them. "#I think they're in Isabel's room; I'll be just a few moments…#"

"#You mean, I have to stay here?#" Galena interrupted with dismay.

Everyone looked at her in surprise; they had assumed it was obvious, so obvious that it hadn't needed saying. Malaquita said gently, "#Muchacha, after we find and talk with the clan, you may come along to their home… but tonight you must stay here. Be an obedient daughter…#"

"B-but… Why!#" Galena's dismay was becoming tinged with indignation. "#I'm a good glider now; you said so yourself after I flew the whole testing course eight times in a row and didn't mess up once! I can keep up, I promise!#"

"#Galena!#" Malaquita snarled at her daughter's impudence, not only to her mother but to their remnant clan's leader. But Cuarzo raised a hand to stay further rebuke, and instead kneeled down to look Galena in the eye as he said softly, "#Child, there is a danger that you do not know of… one that we found out ourselves only tonight. There are bad humans in this town, humans who hate gargoyles and try to kill them as soon as they see them! They are called 'Quarrymen,' and they are as bad as the conquistadors were, possibly even worse! These insane killers may be out hunting tonight, and we do not want to expose you to danger.#"

At the news of the killing humans, Galena's eyes went wide and she went silent for a moment. Then she squared her shoulders and said, "#Am I to remain in hiding all my life, then? Mama, you told me how when you were my age you were already exploring the outer limits of our clan territory…#"

"#Yes, and my clan leader had me punished for it as well! In the old clan, you'd still be sleeping in the rookery every day… and sweeping it every night for a week, for your impertinence!#" Malaquita growled.

But shy little Galena refused to back down. "#You told me last night that we had gone over 3,000 miles from our old home… and tonight we are even farther away! And we have stayed together for all this time, all this far… Please don't leave me behind now!#"

Her impassioned plea gave everyone pause to consider. Finally Cuarzo turned to Malaquita and said quietly, "#We can make it a short search tonight, staying high and just getting a general idea of the most likely areas for further investigation later. But she is right, we've come so far together…#"

"#We might as well see if we can finish it together,#" Malaquita sighed. "#All right, Galena, for tonight only you may glide with us as we search. But you will stay between your father and me at all times, and as soon as you start to tire we will turn back. And if we do not find them tonight, on future nights you will stay here and learn English while we explore. Is that clear?#"

It was quite clear, and after that they made swift arrangements for departure. Rosa made up a basket of food for them to eat while searching, that Cuarzo would carry while Malaquita carried Carlos. While going over the map one last time with Carlos, Lorenzo looked out of the corner of his eye and had to stifle a smile at the sight of Galena putting her rag doll Carlotta on the couch, and promising it solemnly that they would be back before dawn. Then there was nothing left but to wish the search party success as they went out through the window, and hope that they found New York's gargoyles… and that New York's gargoyle hunters didn't find them.

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

"((Ten more minutes of this, and I shall forgo all courtesy and discretion, and begin punching and clawing a hole through to the outside,))" Yama whispered grimly, though his voice was somewhat muffled by the heavy drapings of a woolen overcoat. Standing next to him in the closet, Hiroshi heartily agreed with the sentiment. This was absolutely intolerable!

Even with the presence of Manekineko, which seemed to allay most of Mrs. Gregarino's fears (although the presence of the cat had nearly the opposite effect on her husband), it had taken nearly ten minutes for them to convince the elder Greagarinos of Yama's non-hostile intentions. But once they had understood that the intention was to remove the other gargoyles from an environment that was proving hostile, Mr. Gregarino was all for it, and even offered to help them rent a storage facility on the docks for the gargoyles to sleep in until shipment to Japan. "I can do 'live and let live,' so long as they don't live around here," was his rather obnoxious opinion, but at least that was better than attacking them.

Once they'd made sure that Yama could continue to sleep in the garage until he found the new clan, Yama was ready to begin the search, but just as he was getting up to do so the front doorbell had rung. Mrs. Gregarino had instantly gone into a fluster, and rushed Yama, Hiroshi and the cat all into the hall closet before they could make the more sensible suggestion of simply grabbing their equipment and slipping out the back door. They'd been stuck there while she opened the door and greeted the newcomer, who was evidently a neighbor seeking a friendly shoulder to cry on after a fight with her husband… and Mrs. Gregarino had offered to make tea for the neighbor! That was somewhat understandable, but after the tea had been drunk and the neighbor was just about to leave, her husband had come over to publicly apologize and beg forgiveness for his bullheadedness, which had touched Mrs. Gregarino so greatly that she had invited them both to stay for dinner! Great Buddha, had that baka, boke woman actually forgotten she had a gargoyle in her closet! Or was this just her way of punishing them all for her earlier fright? By Hiroshi's watch, they had been crammed into this painfully small space for nearly three hours now…

Abruptly, Yama gave a snort that Hiroshi recognized as suppressed laughter. "((What is it?))" he hissed.

"((Manekineko has just expressed her displeasure and impatience too… by peeing right into a set of fancy shoes,))" Yama whispered back with a wicked grin gleaming in the gloom. "((I think our hostess will find them quite ruined. But I would like to get out of here before the smell gets any stronger…))"

And finally, the kami heard them; the neighbors said goodbye as they went out the door barely a minute later, and Vinnie opened up the closet door for them with an apologetic expression on his face. "Sorry about that, honest; I tried to remind Mom about you guys without actually giving you away, but once she and Mrs. Henderson get to talking, it takes an act of God to make them shut up and listen to anyone else! Listen, Yama, you'd better grab your stuff and slip out the back door before Mrs. Henderson comes back to pick up whatever it was she forgot; she always forgets something, and we're never really sure we've gotten rid of her until at least midnight! Hiroshi, you can hang out with me in my old room, they still have a little TV in there… (sniff) What's that smell? Oh jeez, don't tell me that cat went and--"

Yama ignored the last querying complaint, and hurried out the back door after a quick detour to the garage to pick up his remaining equipment. Once he was in the air and safely away, he pulled out one half of a walkie-talkie radio set and spoke into it. "((Hiroshi, can you hear me?))"

"((Loud and clear,))" Hiroshi assured him from his end of the set. "((Good hunting, Yama…))"

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

At the same time that the Mexican clan, and the somewhat reluctant ambassador from the Japanese clan, were taking to the air, another winged shape was also rising into Manhattan's night sky. Not from Castle Wyvern, still under siege by the Quarrymen and waiting to discover whether Broadway would survive the night, but from farther north on the island of Manhattan; from an old and stately mansion that most of humanity had no idea was owned and inhabited by a gargoyle.

It had been a full ten hours since Macbeth had called Dominique Destine and told her to sober up. Not that she'd done so right away, of course; she'd still had two bottles of rum and a bottle of whiskey to finish off, once she'd been able to stagger upright and into the kitchen. But after drinking all the supplies left in the house, she hadn't ordered any more from the liquor store, and now, thanks to the healing component built into the Weird Sisters' immortality spell, less than three hours after finishing off the last bottle she was almost completely sober.

Sober enough to be staggered once more by shame… Shame over how many years—centuries!—she'd been trying to exterminate humanity, when all along there had been good people among them like the P.I.T. Shame over how she'd been projecting her own self-loathing and all the blame onto humans, instead of admitting that the massacre that had killed her first clan was at least partly her fault. Shame at how stubbornly blind and deaf to the truth she'd been, despite all the times Goliath, Angela and by the Dragon above, even the Weird Sisters had shoved the facts into her face. And shame that, when just a few words overheard from a college student had blindsided her into the realization that she was her own worst enemy, she'd crawled right into the nearest liquor bottle for the comfort of oblivion. And if Macbeth hadn't called her that morning, she'd probably still be there…

There was no way to atone for everything she'd done, all the humans she'd murdered over the centuries; the only honorable thing, if one so despicable as herself could even lay claim to any sort of honor, would be to kill herself immediately. But she was immortal; only Macbeth could kill her… Or she could kill Macbeth, which would have the same effect. But not too long after realizing the truth of what the college students were saying, the voices of the Weird Sisters had surfaced from the recesses of repressed memory, reminding her of how she had betrayed Macbeth; at the time she'd justified it as doing unto him before he could do unto her, but after all these years and encounters with him, she knew he was truly an honorable man. Macbeth would never have betrayed her clan; at worst, he'd have formally severed his alliance with them, but given them plenty of time to leave and find new territory before the English came in. And she would have realized that at the time, if she hadn't persisted on seeing him as just another untrustworthy human… No, she'd already hurt him as badly as he could be hurt, costing him not only his kingdom, but also ultimately his wife and son… and now, she truly didn't want to hurt him any further.

But would it really be hurting him to just end it all in death? After all, he'd been hunting her for centuries, and she'd heard him say more than once that killing her would be his last great pleasure, that he had grown tired of living. But she'd gone through periods like that, too, black periods after the death of yet another clan during which she only wanted to die, to have an end to the pain. And those bouts of utter despair had always passed before she'd found Macbeth (except for that one time in Paris during the Terror, just after Valjean and his clan had been murdered… and after he'd crippled her in battle, but run off with those humans while she was recovering instead of staying to finish her off, she'd decided to live a while longer after all…)

The easiest course of action would be to let Macbeth decide. She was almost sober now, having traversed over half the length of the island in her wandering flight, done solely to clear the last cobwebs from her brain. She'd be completely sober by the time she returned home. When she returned, she would call Macbeth at his home, where he lived under the name of Lennox Macduff, and give him her address. If he was ready to end it all, he'd come, and he'd find her waiting in the foyer, ready for the final blow…

No. That didn't seem right. It… it just wasn't the way! She just couldn't sit there and wait dully for the sword's stroke, or a blast from a laser pistol. Whether warrior or coward, whether fighting or fleeing from a conflict or a painful truth, Demona had never just sat back and waited for someone else to take action. Even after a thousand years of living, she couldn't do so now… it just wasn't what she was!

So what should she do? Perhaps… perhaps a final battle to the death? A deliberately chosen battle, far from possible interference; winner would have the satisfaction of seeing the lifelight dying from the other's eyes, an instant before it faded from his/her own. And she would hold herself back just enough to ensure that Macbeth, who certainly deserved it, received that final satisfaction…

Demona's musings were abruptly cut short as movement caught her peripheral vision; movement at her level of gliding, over two hundred feet up…

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

Some distance away, a Bell 412EP helicopter, painted dark blue and sporting a few modifications that were not normally found on commercial helicopters, circled the Aerie Building for the umpteen thousandth time (a rough estimate given by the youngest member of the crew aboard.)

"C'mon, dammit, do something," the helicopter's copilot muttered under his breath as he looked out his window at the medieval castle that graced the top of the building. The crew they had relieved over an hour ago had reported that the gargoyles had been perched on the battlements at sunset, but had gone inside immediately after waking up, and hadn't poked their heads out since. Their leader Mr. Castaway had assured them that they'd see action tonight, unlike last night, but so far… nothing.

"Remind me again why we can't just flush 'em out with a potshot or two?" their weapons officer grumbled aloud, while lightly patting the controls of his weapons console. The helicopter had been fitted with twin M60C machine guns mounted on the skids, as well as two of Kreuzung Technology's special electrified-net launchers mounted on the underbelly, but none of the weapons had been used yet, despite all the flight hours logged last night as well as tonight.

"One, shooting the castle instead of the gargoyles would be assault and vandalism, and Xanatos would have the goddamn police up here with us before the first gargoyle poked his head out," the pilot said tersely, while eyeing his gas gauge; in another half-hour or so, they'd need to leave for refueling, while the other Quarryman helicopter took over the vigil. "Two, and the main reason we're flying the perimeter this far out instead of a lot closer, is that last time anyone attacked the castle directly, we lost both aircraft and nearly all the personnel aboard. I don't know about you guys, but I'm not in the mood for vanishing without a trace tonight. So we stay out here, right on the legal limit for proximity harassment, and we wait for the gargoyles to come to us. Castaway said he had an agitator on the inside that would almost guarantee us some action tonight, so just sit back, wait for it… and in the meantime, the next asshole that starts singing "99 Bottles of Beer" is going to be pitched outside and used for target practice, okay?"

"Got it," and other grumblings of assent came back, before the helicopter's interior went silent again… But only for a few seconds, before the VHF radio squawked to life. "Quarry HQ, this is Hovercycle One; I've got a target! Repeat, I have a confirmed target! Heading eastbound over 143rd off Broadway; gargoyle at two o'clock low! I am engaging in pursuit!"

The craft's interior resounded with exclamations and curses, of excitement and envy that someone else was getting some action tonight. The general consensus was "Screw this; let's go give him a hand!"

"Negative!" the pilot snarled, his hand firm on the control stick. "We stay at our post until HQ tells us to break off and assist! It wouldn't be the first time one of those hotshot cycle-heads thought he saw a gargoyle, and it turned out to be somebody's laundry flapping in the breeze…"

But a split-second after he said that, The radio sounded again, this time with a different voice raised in excitement. "Quarry HQ, this is Hovercycle Two! I have a target—no, wait, two targets! Repeat, I have visual on two gargoyles! They just crossed FDR Drive and are headed west-northwest, just north of Houston Street! I am engaging in pursuit!"

This time the pilot swore aloud, and reached for the radio control to call in. But just before he touched the button to transmit, they heard "Quarry HQ, Hovercycle Three requests permission to join Two in the hunt!"

"Roger that. HV3 to join HV2 in southeast quadrant," came the swift reply fr5om headquarters. "Helo 3, break off castle detail and join HV1 in northwest quadrant, assist HV1 in pursuit."

"HV1! But they're only chasing one garg!" The weapons officer complained as the helicopter abruptly pulled away from the castle and picked up speed.

"Did you wanna keep playing Ring-Around-the-Rosy instead?" the copilot snarled back at him, while the pilot confirmed their new orders with HQ. "Any action is better than none!" as the helicopter sped farther north.

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"#That had to be FDR Drive we crossed back there, and if that street to our left is Houston Street, then the Aerie Building where that billionaire lives is going to be north-by-northwest of us,#" Carlos said as he briefly examined his map with a penlight, while cradled in Malaquita's strong arms. "#About eight—no, nine kilometers away; call it ten, to be on the safe side.#"

"#We'll stop for a brief rest just short of there, for Galena's sake,#" Malaquita muttered with a glance back over her wings at Galena, who was gliding between her parents, almost in Malaquita's wake. "#And if the clan isn't living in that castle after all, we'll try the--#" But her voice cut off at Cuarzo's cry of pain, at the same time as the unmistakable sound of a pistol shot reached her ears. "Cuarzo!"

"#Shot! Left wing!#" Cuarzo gasped, desperately maneuvering to stay aloft while looking around him for their attacker. "#Who—where--#"

"#There!#" Malaquita snarled, looking almost directly behind them. "#Some sort of flying one-man vehicle!#" She cursed inside her skull in blistering terms; they had been listening for sounds of helicopters, but hadn't even imagined that these Quarrymen would have smaller and quieter vehicles in the air… "#Evasive Action Three! Galena, stay with me!#" as she abruptly folded her wings and dropped like a stone.

Galena was screaming in terror, but folded her wings and followed her mother down instead of fluttering about in a panic. His flight was somewhat shaky due to the hole and the undoubted agony in his left wing, but as they had rehearsed many times before, Cuarzo arced up and away from them; his pale hide made him a much more visible target, to draw fire away from their precious daughter. Malaquita let herself fall nearly forty meters before screaming, "#Now, up!#" as she snapped her wings out and pulled out of the dive while turning towards the north. To her credit, Galena matched her mother perfectly, with scarcely a waver; she really was an exceptional glider for one so young. "#Follow under; listen for my signals!#" Malaquita commanded, pulling up and back just enough for Galena to pass under her, then stay below her in flight. It wasn't what they had practiced, back in Mexico, but back then they had been anticipating gunfire and arrows from below, not from another flyer…

"#Put me down on that roof, so you can fight!#" Carlos urged, pointing at the roof to a warehouse nearby.

"#Prepare for a rough landing,#" Malaquita said grimly as she angled towards the building. Once she was directly over the warehouse, in a low glide scarcely two meters over the roof, she opened her arms and let Carlos drop. He hit the rooftop in a tumbling roll, but scrambled upright quickly as she and Galena arced away.

Malaquita silently cursed again as she looked desperately about for a secluded spot, someplace she could hide Galena in safety while she went back to help her mate. There was nothing but open rooftops in every direction, with no outcroppings big enough to offer safe shadows, and if that hovercraft was as maneuverable as they were, dodging down into the alleys could work against them instead of for them. But she had to— And there was a sudden impact in her right wing and blazing pain, and suddenly she was falling out of the sky, right onto her daughter! But she flipped herself away just before hitting Galena, to tumble down with her right wing flapping uselessly after a bullet had shattered the primary strut, and fell heavily onto the edge of a roof.

"#Mama! Mama, get up!#" was the next thing she heard, and she opened her eyes to find Galena next to her and tugging frantically on her arm, while Carlos was sprinting up to them across the vast rooftop.

"#Galena, get back in the air! You have to run, to—No!#" as she spotted another hovercraft approaching them, from an entirely new direction. Two predators in the air, armed with distance weapons… She cursed aloud that time, then snarled as she reached down and dug into the rooftop, "#Carlos, guard Galena; get over to that low wall there and stay between her and these stinking dogs!#" With a final snarl of pain, she pulled up two handfuls of bitumen and mixed roofing materials, then stood upright, drew back her right arm and let fly. Two more bullets hit her in her left arm and shoulder, but she had the satisfaction of seeing that fist-sized hunk of roof hit the other hovercraft rider, making him drop his weapon with a cry of pain. Without his gun, he'd have to come a lot closer to kill her, she thought grimly as she staggered and fought to stay on her feet despite the agony. And if he came within reach of her talons, she'd rip his throat out before he ever caught a glimpse of her daughter…

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"HV3, this is HV2! I've got one that's wounded, flying slow, but the other one's running away, headed in your direction! Do you see it yet?"

"Not yet—now I do! Looks like it's got—shit, it's carrying somebody! It's got a hostage, repeat, a hostage! Moving to intercept—wait, it's dropping the hostage onto a roof! And pulling up, I'll have a clear shot in—Got it! That winged it for—sunovabitch, there's another one! A lot smaller, possibly juvenile; it was gliding under the bigger one! The smaller one's still up, but—no, it's following its parent down; they're both grounded on a rooftop!"

"HV2 is still in pursuit; my target is still flying—we're headed in your direction now!"

"I'm going to--Aaaggh! …HV2, HV3 has been hit—I've lost my weapon!"

"HV2 and 3, this is Van Team 1! We're on our way down Houston now; ETA five minutes! Save some gargs for us!"

The helicopter crew heard the other team's chatter on the radio, while assisting Hovercycle One in trying to locate his target; forty-five seconds before the helicopter had arrived on scene, the gargoyle he'd been chasing had managed to disappear into a blind alley. But the hovercycle rider was positive he'd wounded it with his third shot, shortly before it had dropped out of sight; now they just had to find it and finish it off…

"Fuck this; it's holed up somewhere out of sight," the copilot snarled after peering fruitlessly through his night-vision goggles one last time. "Just let it die there, while we go join the other teams and bag us a gargoyle!"

"Y'know what? When you're right, you're right," the pilot growled, while pulling up on the control stick to gain altitude. "HV1 and Quarry HQ, this target is a no-go; Helo One is going to southeast quadrant to join the hunt there…"

Quarry HQ squawked that they were supposed to wait for orders, instead of taking the initiative, but the radio operator's voice was abruptly drown out by another cry: "HV3 reports that HV2 is down! Repeat, HV2 is down! Another gargoyle has joined the fight, and it just knocked him right out of the sky! That monster…"

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"Rraaahhh!" Demona snarled with savage joy as she ripped a talon through the hovercycle rider's neck, making sure of her kill before she let him drop to the pavement far below. The riderless hovercycle careened wildly on for a few moments, before crashing into the wall of a building nearby. Turning her face from the resulting explosion, she spotted the wounded gargoyle that the Quarryman had been pursuing; he banked slowly and painfully in her direction, waving as he too spotted her, then angled off towards the north.

Demona followed the stranger, reflecting with a savage smile that it was a damn good thing she'd been out for a glide to clear her thoughts, instead of waiting at home for Macbeth; she'd needed a reminder that there were still some humans worth killing! She caught up to the pale-skinned and wounded stranger, who turned to call out a greeting to her… but instead, his eyes unfocused and fluttered, and he started to fall out of the sky. "No! Hold onI've got you!" as Demona swooped in and caught him. "You're going to be all right now," she assured him breathlessly, almost giddy with relief and joy at having, at long last, truly saved another of her kind!

"M-mi hija, mi esposa," the gargoyle gasped, struggling to stay conscious despite the wounds in his left wing and torso, all bleeding copiously. "Rescátelos…"

Demona stared at him in astonishment, trying to dredge up long-forgotten memories of Spanish that she had spoken while wandering through Spain centuries ago. His… daughter? …and mate? By the Dragon, he wasn't just a lone wanderer; he had a clan here with him, and the Quarrymen were hunting them all! She gained altitude with the stranger in her arms, then looked around frantically. Where were the others! Where were—there! To the north, where the stranger had been heading before succumbing to his wounds! Those shapes clustered on a rooftop had to be his family… And there was another hovercycle nearby!

Demona snarled and put on full speed, working her wings as fast as she could, focused on the scene before her. One enemy on the hovercycle, but another was already on the roof, running up to another gargoyle as she collapsed where she stood. That human was grabbing her, going to finish her off before Demona could get there! …Wait, he was… flashing a knife at the hovercycle? Warning it from approaching closer, while dragging the wounded female farther away—oh Dragon, there was a hatchling! Running out from cover behind a low wall to help drag the wounded female back there… And the hovercycle was just hovering there! He must have lost his gun, and knew that if he tried to close for hand-to-hand combat even the hatchling might be able to kill him. But he was still talking into his headset… Demona couldn't hear what he was saying; the wind was in the wrong direction. But she had a sinking feeling that he was reporting their position and actions. And that awful hunch was confirmed, when she saw a Quarrymen van pulling up in the alley below her.

Why, oh why had she gone for a glide without her favorite laser rifle! Demona cursed herself as she swooped in to land beside the hatchling, human and wounded female. "Any weapons?" she asked the human tersely as she set the wounded male down next to the female, hoping against hope that this human had something besides his knife, and moreover, that he understood her.

Fortunately, he understood her, but there her luck ended. He shook his head and said in heavily accented English, "Just my knife; no better than talons," as he glanced fearfully at the hovercycle rider above them and to the right.

A knife could be thrown, but that was good only against one enemy, and they had many more than that approaching from below. "Then we'll have to improvise," Demona said grimly, and crouched down to grip both hands into the roof they were standing on. She ripped up two handfuls of roofing material, then stood up again, but saw the remaining hovercycle shy away like a startled horse before she could take aim at him. Hah, that must be how he'd lost his weapon before! But she had no more time to think about the rider; there was a whoosh and a thunk! and she turned around to see a grapnel embedded in the edge of the roof. The damned Quarrymen had grapnel guns, and those below were making their way up…

Not while she still had talons to wield! Demona gave a feral grin, tossed one of her handfuls of roof at the hovercraft to make the rider back away further, then went swiftly over to the edge of the roof and the grapnel line. She waited a moment to be sure it was jerking from being tugged on, not just from the wind; waited until she was sure some foolish human had put his weight on it and was trying to climb. Then she simply reached out and cut the line with one swift slash, and had the satisfaction of hearing yells from down below as the climber tumbled back to earth. Pity he probably hadn't climbed up far enough for the fall to have killed him, but with that damnable hovercycle rider reporting their every move, the climber would probably have been warned about her before he'd gone much farther.

Whoosh thunk! Another grapnel! Demona stared in disbelief at the hook that had embedded itself in the roof not ten feet away from the first one. Did those idiot humans think her claws were only good for one blow per night? Or perhaps they were just so fired up with adrenaline that any sense had flown right out of their heads; she mentally shrugged as she slashed through that line too. As well as the one that ended up embedded right next to it, and the grapnel line that came after that…

And only then did it occur to her that this might well be merely a distraction. Occupying her attention, keeping her from looking at other means of access to the roof… she swore aloud and turned around, just in time to witness the roof's main access door being blown off its hinges with a shaped charge. And even as the smoke cleared, a horde of hammer-wielding Quarrymen came charging through.

By that time, the adult gargoyles had both recovered consciousness, and they managed to stagger to their feet in defense of their hatchling, but as wounded as they were, they went down at the first electrified hammer swings. Demona found herself in the incredible position of fighting with a human at her side, both of them trying to protect the hatchling cowering behind them. He screamed threats in Spanish and slashed his knife at anyone who came within range on his side, while Demona was a whirling dervish of fighting fury, lashing out with talons, tail and wings; using every move of grounded unarmed combat that she had learned in over a thousand years of fighting to keep those deadly hammers at a distance. But a single desperately slashing knife and an unarmed gargoyle would last only so long against nearly a dozen armed men, particularly when for every one she took out, another came running up to take his place. Even the hovercycle rider came in to land some distance away, grabbed a hammer from a fallen comrade and waded in to swing it enthusiastically.

Working together, Demona and the human managed to take out five men; and if she'd had time to do so, Demona would have laughed at how two more Quarrymen were taken out by "friendly fire", misaimed or overenthusiastic swings from their fellow slayers. But there were just too many of them… The human defender went down first, screaming and spasming as a hammer blow knocked away his knife, shocked him senseless and probably shattered the bones in his hand. Demona managed to stay up a few seconds longer, but the second electrified slam that got through her defenses knocked her off her feet, exposing the hatchling to view. She tried to get up, but spasming aftershocks prevented her from controlling her limbs, and she could only roll over and stare with horror as the lead Quarryman advanced on the hatchling whimpering "Mama!" He raised his hammer high for the final swing…

But the blow never fell. Because even as the Quarryman wound up for his swing, from above the group and to the left was coming a high-pitched roaring… A sound that became an even higher-pitched screech as it became louder, very quickly, and Demona barely had time to realize that she was hearing how the Doppler Effect transforms a gargoyle's roar before the rooftop scene was bisected by a flash of dark gray coming from high on the left, a figure flying past so fast it was a blur even to Demona's eyes.

The dark gray blur flew right past the Quarryman, who jerked violently in that momentary pause that came at the top of his swing. And then the hammer fell… along with the arms holding it. And the head, and shoulders; the entire upper third of the Quarryman's body fell off to the right side, while the rest of his body crumpled where he had been standing. The hatchling stared dumbly at the bisected corpse as it sprawled at her feet in splashes of crimson staining the roof and the dark blue clothing, too stunned to even scream.

The dark gray blur wheeled and turned, resolving itself into a gray male gargoyle. Dressed in clothing of a very dark gray and vaguely Oriental in style, and wielding a pair of swords. The longer sword (a katana?) flashed silver and red, stained with the blood of the Quarryman that had just been slain, as the male faced the remaining Quarrymen and snarled, "Watashi wa Ishimura ikka no Yama desu! Watashi wa anata ni tatakai wo idomimasu!"

Demona stared at the newcomer, utterly astounded. A gargoyle dressed as a… a ninja? But not acting like one; from her time in Japan centuries ago, Demona knew that ninjas struck from the shadows and retreated just as quickly and silently. They did not stand out in the open and scream defiance at their opponents with a katana in one hand and a wakizashi in the other; that was more the style of a samurai. But the only known samurai gargoyle clan had died out over 150 years ago; those cursed Hunters had slaughtered the entire clan … Hadn't they? Had a few of them escaped the slaughter, much like a handful of the Wyvern clan had? …And why was she wasting time wondering, when this fool was about to get himself killed, challenging a squad of armed Quarrymen with nothing but a pair of swords! She inwardly snarled at her body and the magical spell she'd been under for centuries to work faster, curse it; to heal right now, so she could get back on her feet and fight again!

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"((I am Yama of Ishimura Clan! I challenge you all to combat!))" Yama roared at the Kawarimen facing him, issuing the formal challenge that Bushido demanded of a samurai before engaging in combat… even while a part of him wondered why he was bothering, since he'd already killed one of their number in defense of the hatchling. If that wasn't an adequate declaration of intent to fight to the death if necessary…

Then there was no more time for unnecessary thought, as his opponents overcame their surprise at his sudden arrival and charged him, hammers high and ready to swing. Yama quickly sheathed his wakizashi while coiling his powerful leg muscles, then leaped high into the air, while grabbing for his next weapon from where it had been tucked inside his obi. He flung it out with a hard flick of his wrist at the top of his leap, and the weighted net unfolded as it spun out, over the first two Kawarimen in the charge. And just as he'd designed it to do, the fine copper wires woven into the mesh of the net conducted the charges from their hammers all over its span, dissipating the charges while shocking the wielders. Hah, Vinnie had been right! The Kawarimen's bodysuits might be made of insulated material, but their hoods were ordinary cloth, and a sufficiently large charge would penetrate right through them! He so loved being able to turn an opponent's own weapon against him!

But there had only been enough time to have two such nets made before coming to America, and now he'd lost the element of surprise; while seeing two of their comrades shout and fall in front of them had made the others draw back for a moment, one of their number snarled a command at the rest and they all did something to the shafts of their hammers, turning off the charges. Even depowered, they were still dangerous… But only if they got close enough to use them. Yama gave a savage grin as he reached into his right forearm guard, and flung what had been stashed there into the midst of his foes. Another of them screamed as the shuriken spun out and sank with a meaty thunk right into his wrist, and dropped his hammer—right on his own foot! And one more was taken out of combat.

But that left six more to take down, and quickly, before they realized that Yama was deliberately baiting them away from the poor hatchling, who was now crouching beside a wounded adult instead of taking flight away from danger.

But another one of the gargoyles, the one he'd seen go down just before his arrival, was starting to get up! Yama tossed more throwing stars, keeping the Kawarimen focused on him while inflicting more wounds on them, all the while praying that the blue female still had some fight left in her…

Oh!

The wet thud as a Kawarimen's body hit the rooftop—while his head landed several feet away—and the savage roar as the female leaped at another Kawarimen from behind, left no doubt in anyone's mind that this female did indeed still have some fight left in her.

Faced with Yama's weapons and the blue female's sheer savagery, the rest of the pack wavered, seemingly on the verge of running… but the sound of a helicopter's blades, coming from behind him, thundered closer and closer and suddenly an amplified voice boomed out of the sky, "Let us handle this! Take cover!"

The Kawarimen suddenly scattered like frightened rabbits, bolting for the rooftop door. But forewarned, Yama and the female dodged for cover as well, even as a dark blue helicopter came in low and angled around, trying for a clear shot at them. Machine guns snarled and spat death at them, and a trail of deadly divots in the rooftop followed Yama as he desperately ran for the edge of the roof and open air. But at least the helicopter had chosen him as a target, instead of the female…

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"Get down! Play dead!" Demona snarled at the hatchling, and physically pushed her down to the rooftop when words in English weren't enough. Then she grabbed a Quarryhammer from one of the men she'd killed, ran for the rooftop's edge and sprang into the air. Those Quarrymen in the helicopter were chasing after the Japanese gargoyle instead of focusing on her, either because he had visible weapons or because, like so many foolish humans, they thought a female was naturally less of a threat. She'd be happy to show them the fatal errors of their ways!

The Japanese gargoyle was jinking left and right, up and down, pulling some remarkable aerobatics while dodging the deadly gunfire. Coming up from behind, Demona arced up and over, gaining some altitude over the helicopter, while quickly figuring out how to turn on the Quarryhammer. Then she said with a savage grin, even though no one could hear her, "I think this belongs to you!" And she threw the electrically charged hammer straight into the helicopter's blades.

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Yama was dodging wildly in every direction, keeping his flight path as erratic as possible at top speed, and offering up prayers to anyone he could think of to lend more strength to his wings and keep those deadly machine guns missing their mark. Suddenly he heard from behind him a sudden change in the rhythm of the helicopter's thundering blades. He risked a quick look behind him, to see the helicopter suddenly careening wildly to the left, and pulling up barely in time to avoid smashing into the wall of another warehouse. But as it rose, it continued to tip to the side, until the main rotor smashed into the rooftop with a horrible WHUNCH!

The force and angle of the impact whipped the entire helicopter into a lethal cartwheel. It tumbled sideways across the roof, shedding pieces of fuselage and rotor blades in all directions with terrifying speed; Yama barely dodged one such deadly shard, then watched in shock as another one went zinging right into one of the Quarrymen that had remained on the roof instead of running, to watch the aerial battle. The shard of composite material sliced the man completely in half, even more messily than Yama's blade had done to his comrade earlier. The helicopter finished its wild tumble across the roof by falling off the nearest edge, to crash into the alley below and burst into a fireball upon impact.

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Demona at first grinned at the results of her handiwork, then shrieked in fear as she realized that some of those shards of helicopter rotor blades were ripping up the rooftop where lay the wounded gargoyles and the hatchling! But thank the Dragon, all the shards missed the gargoyles laying flat, and instead killed another of the Quarrymen for her. That left only two Quarrymen still standing on the roof… and now that she was airborne again, they would be easy prey.

The Quarrymen saw her coming for them, and realized her deadly intent; the closer of them turned and began running, bolting for the roof access door. "Oh no you don't, scum!" Demona snarled, and put on an extra burst of speed, to catch up to him and grab him by the back of his insulated jacket. Then she simply continued gliding, hauling him off his feet by sheer momentum and dragging him off the roof. She let go after she passed the edge, and heard his fast-fading scream with satisfaction as she wheeled around to deal with the last one.

The last Quarryman saw the fate of his comrade, and decided to make a last stand instead of running. He held his hammer poised and ready, crackling with electricity, and snarled at her, "You want me, bitch, you come and get me!"

Demona had really had enough of being shocked by those hammers. She landed and circled him warily, and the Quarryman circled as well, staying in one place but always facing her… which was exactly what she wanted. Once she came to it, she reached down to the rooftop and plucked out a shard of rotor blade that had embedded itself in the gravel there. Hissing a bit with the pain—it was still scorching hot from the friction of its wild flight and impact—she quickly stood up again, to give him a last savage grin as she threw the shard at him with all her power. The Quarryman tried to block it with his hammer, but he wasn't fast enough; the shard flew across the space between them and sank into his throat, nearly severing his head from his shoulders. He went over backwards, with blood coming out of his neck in a crimson fountain for a few seconds before slowing to a final trickle.

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Yama had instinctively followed the helicopter's final flight path across the roof and down to the alley floor, drawn by the panicked screams coming from the men inside. They had been trying to kill him mere moments ago, but now they were just people in deadly danger, and his instincts urged him to help them just as he'd help a hatchling that had been caught up in a whirlwind, spinning out of control. But he was forced to pull away from the explosion, as the helicopter hit the ground and its fuel tanks burst into a fireball. He hovered there helplessly, unable to get closer because of the flames, but still hearing the screams of the men inside… Until the screams finally stopped.

Ju ban kami, the hatchling! How could he have forgotten there was a child in danger back on that rooftop! Yama cursed himself for a dozen different kinds of idiot as he wheeled and sped back to the roof, praying that his accursed distraction with the helicopter hadn't left the hatchling and the sole standing adult, that blue female, in danger from the remaining Quarrymen…

But when he got there, he saw that no Quarrymen were left standing. There was just the blue female, shaking out and blowing on her hand as she went over to the crying hatchling, then kneeling beside her to say comfortingly, "There, there… no one will hurt you now, you're safe…"

But the hatchling refused to be comforted. "Mama! Papa!" she cried, pointing to the two wounded adults. Yama landed next to them, then whipped out his walkie-talkie and turned it on. "((Hiroshi, can you hear me?))"

"((I can hear you, Yama,))" Hiroshi's voice issued forth. "((Is all well?))"

"((All is not well. I found some of the clan, but we've been in a fight with those cursed Kawarimen, and two adults and a human ally are down, badly hurt. We need Kado's medical kit as quickly as possible! I think I'm at--))"

"Who are you talking to?" the blue female interrupted him, looking at him oddly.

"((Pardon, just a moment,))" Yama said into his radio, then turned to the blue female and tried to remember the right words in English. The stress of combat, of seeing the wounds that he'd arrived too late to prevent, and of knowing that he had just killed some humans… all that made it hard for him to concentrate on hastily-learned language lessons. "Hiroshi… friend, human… ally. He learn… help… shimatta, ((what's the right word!)) …Medicine?"

"((Yama, let me talk to her,))" the radio squawked again, followed by, "I am Hiroshi Fukuda, an ally of Yama's, and I have been given some knowledge of gargoyle anatomy and medicine. I humbly request permission to help. Will you please give me directions to find you?"

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Even after fighting side-by-side with a human before this fellow—Yama?—had appeared, Demona was reluctant to trust these wounded comrades to a human she'd never met, even one that was supposed to be an ally… but she had no choice. She'd never bothered to learn anything but the most basic first aid, since her own wounds healed by themselves due to the enchantment on her, and basic first aid wasn't going to be enough here. These adults had been shot multiple times, not to mention beaten and shocked unconscious… without urgent medical care, it wasn't too likely that they'd survive till dawn. She grabbed the walkie-talkie and said into it, "You can certainly come and help, but we can't stay where we are; all the commotion we made during this battle will draw more damnable hu—Quarrymen down on us soon." She looked around, and made a quick decision. It was reckless, and might cost her dearly, but the lives of these gargoyles mattered more! "Do you have a map of New York? Then go to this address…"

She held the walkie-talkie with one hand and gave directions, while beckoning Yama over and wordlessly showing him how to apply an improvised pressure bandage to the worst wound on the adult female. Then she did the same with the male, beckoning the hatchling over to help; as she'd hoped, being given something helpful to do calmed the crying child down considerably. And after directions had been given, she hurried over to the hovercycle, still parked on a corner of the roof where the now-deceased rider had left it.

The controls were simple enough, thank the Dragon; it took Demona only two tries to get the thing into the air and control its direction of flight. By that time the human, whose name turned out to be Carlos, had awakened and was cradling his broken hand in pain. He told her the names of the unconscious gargoyles, Malaquita and Cuarzo, then helped to calm the hatchling Galena down further and persuade her to try her wings again. Finally, Demona urged the hovercycle into the air with herself, Carlos and Malaquita aboard, Malaquita being propped up between Demona and Carlos on the thankfully long seat. The hovercycle's engine strained with the heavy load, but rose surely and steadily, and with Galena gliding on one side and Yama, carrying Cuarzo, gliding on the other, Demona headed straight for the Nightstone building, three blocks away.

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

Miles to the north at that same moment, a more conventional motorcycle was speeding along the Henry Hudson Parkway, crossing the bridge between the Bronx and Manhattan. Marcel LeBeau revved the cycle's engine even higher, while muttering worriedly under his breath. "Dam'fool girl gonna be de deat' of me yet… You betta hang on till I get dere, cherie, or I'm gonna…"

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

When Dominique Destine had purchased and refurbished the building that became the headquarters for Nightstone, Inc., she had paid a contractor a significant amount of money to remodel the windows of her office suite. Those few executives and secretaries who dared enter her inner sanctum sometimes wondered why she had a window that could be opened from the outside, and widened an area of the ledge that went all around at that level, but no one dared to ask. And right now, with regular working hours having ended some time ago, no one was around to look out a window and see the reason for all the remodeling.

The ledge was wide enough for a gargoyle to land on, but not wide enough for the hovercycle. Setting the 'cycle to hover in place right next to the ledge, Demona had Galena land first and open the window for them all. Then Yama glided inside with his burden, set Cuarzo down, then assisted Demona in getting first Malaquita, then Carlos through the window. After they were inside, Demona took the hovercycle up to the helicopter landing pad on the roof—waste not, want not, and she had a feeling it might come in handy later—then glided down to the office and inside. Then, after directing Yama to use the private washroom to scavenge whatever he could find to help the others, she picked up the phone and called Security at the front desk. "This is Ms. Destine."

"Ms. Destine! H-how did you— I-I'm sorry, Ma'am, I didn't know you were in your office!" the security guard sputtered worriedly. "When did—ah, if I may ask, when did you--"

"That's not important!" Demona cut him off. "What is important is who's coming… very soon, two visitors will come to the building; one of them is named Hiroshi Fukuda, and the other is--" (as her mind blanked on the name; there had been too much occupying her attention at the time) "–well, that doesn't matter! When they arrive, you are to swiftly and personally escort them up to my floor, then give them directions to my office from the elevator---but you yourself are not to come any closer than the elevator! You will return to your post immediately, and keep me alerted as to any others who might show up. Is that clear?"

The security guard assured her it was crystal clear, and Demona hung up to return to tending the wounded gargoyles. Carlos the human was white-faced with pain from his broken hand, but he helped out where he could, and even Galena helped out in cleaning up, carefully washing blood away with a washcloth… and trying not to whimper when more blood welled forth, until more improvised pressure bandages were applied. Holding a bandage in place on Malaquita one-handed, while resting his broken hand in his lap, Carlos said soothing words to Galena in Spanish; Demona couldn't be certain, as her Spanish was horribly inadequate after centuries of disuse, but she thought he was assuring the child that there was a doctor coming who would help her parents, and they would be as healthy as ever come the following sunset. Then he turned to Demona, his face grim. "We come to this city to find more gargoyles… but if there are more of those… those shit-eating sons of pigs," with a quick glance at Galena to be sure she didn't understand his cursing in English, "Then we not stay long. Do you know how many there are? Were enough killed to…" he groped for words, then finished with, "to make them no danger?"

"I'm very sure there are more of them," Demona said grimly. And the few who ran away and survived tonight's battle would tell their comrades and the newspapers a distorted version of what happened, making themselves martyrs and the gargoyles monsters in the process; Demona could almost see the headlines in the papers. She felt a cold, sick feeling in the pit of her stomach as she realized that all the killing she'd done tonight would wash away all the P.I.T.'s efforts at peace and reconciliation with her kind; that the public wouldn't hear their words of compassion when faced with pictures of Quarryman bodies. The city's people would turn even further against gargoyles… including the clan, including her daughter! In defending one child, she'd put her own kin in danger! But what else could they have done? What else could they…

What else could she still do?

The idea had struck her from out of nowhere, and it was such a crazy idea, and very risky, but if it was to work at all she had to go now. She stood up and announced to a startled group, "I must go, to take care of something important; with luck, it will hurt the Quarrymen badly and make them lose members. I will be back as soon as I can, and in the meantime, the first person who knocks should be your friend, Yama. Wish me luck…" She reflected as she grabbed a set of padlock keys from her desk, then made a quick phone call to the front desk (to let the guard know that she wouldn't be answering the phone for a while, but her visitors were still to be escorted up as soon as they arrived) that she needed luck in great heaping amounts if she was to pull off this crazy scheme. Luck she didn't deserve, but please, oh Dragon, for her daughter's sake…!

She glided out the window and down to street level, then landed next to a battered dumpster in the alley behind her office building, and hesitantly reached for the lid. It had been a full ten nights…

Ten nights since she had killed two complete strangers, for no other reason than that they had dared to wear costumes that mocked gargoyles while Demona was in town. She had been coming back from a glide when she'd seen them, two young men standing in an alley, wearing green and blue gargoyle costumes. They'd had their heads huddled together and were whispering while looking at a storefront across the way, and so hadn't seen Demona gliding overhead… hadn't seen her notice them, and become enraged that more dirty humans dared to mock her noble race by wearing costumes that vaguely resembled them! They hadn't seen her eyes glow red, hadn't heard the low growl rumbling up from her chest, hadn't seen her unhook her mace from her belt… they'd heard and finally looked up as she'd swooped in with weapon ready, but by then it had been too late for them to do anything but scream.

After she'd killed them both, she'd contemptuously tossed the bodies into the nearest dumpster. And only the next morning, as she'd arrived at her office, had it occurred to her that Nightstone used that dumpster. She really didn't need the police attention, let alone clan attention, that would be apt to arise when the bodies were discovered in a dumpster owned by Nightstone. So she'd grabbed a new padlock from Supply, gone out and locked the dumpster up herself, then ordered a new one to be brought in and placed alongside it that very afternoon. She'd thought that would do as a temporary measure; she'd find a more suitable place for dumping the bodies after she acquired that vial of Ebola virus…

But that weekend she'd found herself being saved by humans, saved by the very people she'd been about to take as hostages, and the next Monday the P.I.T. had shocked her into realizing how wrong she'd been, all those centuries… and she'd been dead drunk from then on, until tonight. Dead drunk, insensible to the world in general and her company's affairs in particular… Were the bodies still in there?

Of course they were, her nose told her as a waft of stench drifted her way; several other unsavory scents were mixed into it, but she could still detect the unmistakable odor of decomposing flesh.

She unlocked the padlock and lifted the lid, and looked in on the pair of bodies sprawled in death atop plastic garbage bags; the decaying faces that still bore the marks of shock, agony and terror at their impending doom. "I'm sorry," she whispered to them, though she knew they couldn't hear her. "I'm so sorry… But now, I need you…"

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

A knock sounded on the door to the office Yama and the others were staying in, and they eyed it with some nervousness. If this wasn't who they hoped it was… but Yama dared to raise his voice and call, "Come in," and the door opened to reveal Hiroshi and Vinnie standing there, their arms full of bags and boxes.

Hiroshi bowed a quick greeting to the room in general, then moved swiftly over to where Malaquita and Cuarzo were lying and tore open his box; it was full of medical supplies that had been packed for them by Kado before leaving Ishimura. While Yama had been busy learning English, Hiroshi had been busy learning basic gargoyle anatomy and medicine, everything Kado could teach him in just two weeks; if Yama got into trouble with Quarrymen, they couldn't count on the Manhattan gargoyles being nearby and ready with medical supplies. (Besides, Kado had heard once that those barbarian Western doctors actually used leeches in their work, and he wanted no such foolish practices near any of his clan!)

Vinnie just stood in the doorway and stared at everything for a moment, until Hiroshi pointedly told him that his help would be appreciated. Then he shook himself out of his daze, pitched in and began unpacking bandages, forceps and suture kits. "Sorry I zoned for a moment there," he said apologetically, "but this is really getting unreal… I mean, this is the office of, like, the president of the company, that desk over there probably cost as much as my parents' house, and there are gargoyles bleeding on the carpet…"

"((Where is the one who gave us directions?))" Hiroshi muttered to Yama as he delicately probed the wound in Cuarzo's side, carefully searching for the bullet still lodged there. "((Did she leave for more supplies or food? And which is she, gargoyle or human?))"

"((She's gargoyle,))" Yama said with a small smile on his face despite the tense situation. "((A beautiful blue female, and she didn't say where she was going. I didn't understand all of it, but I think she said that she wanted to do more damage to the Kawarimen, by making them lose members…))" Up until then, Yama had refused to contemplate what she'd had in mind. It was far better to just concentrate on saving the badly wounded, on keeping them alive until the sleep of stone could heal their wounds. But now that he'd mentioned it to Hiroshi, Yama found himself reluctantly wondering what that lovely yet lethal female would do… surely she wouldn't actually track down the ones who had fled the scene of battle and slay them from behind? No, she had to have something different in mind. Even though he'd seen how very deadly she could be in battle, when she'd ripped and torn that one man's head clean from his shoulders…

But Yama had done essentially the same thing, only minutes before that…

Hiroshi must have seen something in his face or manner change with the memories, because he paused in his work and asked him quietly, "((Did they lose members already tonight?))"

"Hai."

"((…You had a hatchling to defend. Any who would threaten a hatchling, deserve to die nameless and be forgotten,))" Hiroshi said firmly, looking Yama straight in the eye before returning to his task.

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

Demona approached the warehouse where the battle had taken place, but landed on a nearby rooftop to survey the scene from afar before approaching further. Those Quarrymen who had been merely knocked or shocked unconscious were now awake and either already gone or leaving; she saw two of them supporting a third one between them as they hobbled towards the door to the roof. But she counted six bodies lying sprawled here and there with their hoods off; presumably their comrades had removed them in order to identify their dead. And there would be one more dead at the base of the warehouse, another dead about five blocks away, and however many were inside the helicopter when it tumbled out of the sky… And Demona was responsible for most of them. She didn't regret killing them—unlike her soft-hearted ex-mate, she'd never have qualms about killing someone who'd been trying to kill another gargoyle, particularly a hatchling—but she dreaded the public outcry that would ensue. Unless her desperate plan worked…

She waited until the last few walking wounded had vanished through the doorway, then glided in and went to work.

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

Vinnie freely admitted that when it came to practicing medicine, he wasn't good for much more than holding improvised bandages in place until Hiroshi could apply a proper one. So while holding a rag down onto Malaquita's shoulder wound, he tried to have a conversation with the guy holding a bandage on her wing. "So, what's your name? I'm Vinnie, Vinnie Gregarino."

"Carlos Guevara," the other man said with a quick, painful smile.

"Jeez, your hand's pretty messed up, ain't it?" Vinnie said with a nod towards the hand cradled in Carlos' lap, which looked more purple than pink from bruising, and had at least three fingers clearly broken. "Did the Quarrymen do that?"

"Yes; I had a knife, until one Quarryman dog knocked it from my hand with his…acotillo eléctrico; I don't know the English."

Vinnie understood the 'electric' part and mused aloud, "Must've been a Quarryhammer… So you're not from around here? What was that, Spanish?"

"Si. I am from Mexico… all four of us from there," as he nodded to the little girl-gargoyle and the two shot-up gargoyles, then gave him their names. "They have no clan left except themselves; all die in earthquakes. My cousin, he lives here in New York, he tells us there are more gargoyles here, so we come. I learn English from SeñorRoberts, an Anglo that visits our village sometimes, so I come with them to translate for them… and to find work for myself, to send money back home."

"You came all this way from Mexico… only to get beat up and shot up when you get here." Vinnie shook his head. "That really sucks, dude."

" 'Suksdude'?"

"Uh, 'sucks' means it's really bad," Vinnie translated, a little embarrassed. "And 'dude' is just, well, a guy…"

Hiroshi had been busy with Cuarzo's wounds, but now that he'd done what he could for the guy-gargoyle he came over to Malaquita's side, looking curiously at Carlos. "Please excuse… Did I hear correctly? You are from Mexico?" And at Carlos' nod, Hiroshi turned around and said something in Japanese to Yama, then turned back to Carlos and said with a wry smile, "Yama and I are from Japan."

"…Japan!"

Vinnie just shook his head. "Jeez, it's like 'Gargoyles Grand Central' around here…"

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

Farther to the north, Marcel LeBeau was on his motorcycle again, this time heading back north on the Hudson Parkway. And he had a passenger now; someone wearing a motorcycle helmet and a long duster coat that completely covered him/her; between the coat and the helmet, any passersby would not be able to make out any features. Though they might notice that in addition to having arms wrapped around Marcel's waist, the passenger was tightly fastened to him with a pair of bungee cords.

"You just hang on, Becky, you hear me!" Marcel shouted, striving to be heard outside his own helmet and above the racing wind. "You hang on, and Father Maurice will take care of you…"

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

Demona took one last look around at what she'd done, picked up one of the Quarryhammers that had been left lying on the rooftop, then quickly and quietly glided away from the warehouse roof, in the opposite direction of the fire that was blazing nearby. It was a stroke of luck for her that the fire from the helicopter had spread to a nearby building; even though the Quarrymen had undoubtedly alerted the authorities by now, the firefighters and policemen were still too busy fighting the fire and keeping onlookers from interfering to investigate another building less than two blocks away. She'd had no interference while working, and now all that was left was to wait and see what the police and news reporters made of what they'd find here, when they were ready to investigate. If she was fantastically lucky, the events of this night would destroy the Quarrymen forever. If not, then at least their trail would be muddied and the gargoyle hunters would be slowed… at least, she hoped so, with all her might.

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

Both the wounded gargs were bandaged and splinted now, but still unconscious. Carlos had his arm in a sling now; he'd have to go to a hospital for X-rays, proper bonesetting and a plaster cast, but he insisted that could wait until later. The gargoyle kid was still pretty upset, and Vinnie couldn't blame her; he'd be freaking out if it had been his parents shot right in front of him. Vinnie found himself wanting to help, but having no idea of what else he could do… except maybe provide something to distract her from her troubles. "Hey, Galena, you like candy? Choc-o-late?" Chocolate must be nearly a universal term, because the kid perked up a little and looked at him hopefully. "Hey, Carlos, tell her I'm going to find the local lunch room and get her something to eat, okay? There isn't an office building in New York that doesn't have a break room with candy vending machines in it. Be right back," as he walked out the door, checking his pockets for quarters. He should have enough for a couple candy bars for the kid, and if he was lucky the machine would stock those bags of microwaveable popcorn; a couple of those for everyone else to share sounded good, too.

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

After a quick detour to the roof of her building to drop off the Quarryhammer, Demona returned to her office. When she landed on the ledge outside the office, a late-middle-aged Japanese gentleman opened the window for her and bowed to her deeply. "I am Hiroshi Fukuda, who spoke with you on the radio. Please excuse my companion, Mr. Gregarino, for not being here at this moment to thank you for your hospitality; he has gone to find sweets for the hatchling."

Demona had to smile at that. "A commendable errand… but far more important is the aid you have given to the wounded." Malaquita and Cuarzo now had proper bandages applied to their assorted wounds and electrical burns, Malaquita's broken wing was splinted in place, and since no blood was seeping through any of the bandages she assumed that their bullet wounds had been properly cleaned and sutured shut as well. Even Carlos had a sling to support his broken hand. "Thank you for coming so quickly, and doing such wonderful work!"

Hiroshi bowed again, saying modestly, "I am merely humble constable… but before leaving Japan, I was taught the basics of medicine by the very finest of gargoyle healers." Then he gestured apologetically towards Carlos' hand and said apologetically, "However, my meager knowledge is not enough to mend Mr. Guevara's broken hand; I fear if the bones are not set perfectly, the hand will heal badly and will not work properly. He needs professional doctors…"

Demona nodded slowly. "And he will have one. I will see that he is treated by a doctor… if you can wait for a short while longer?" she asked Carlos apologetically.

Carlos straightened his spine, practically radiating manly stoicism despite being still pale from the pain. "De nada; I will be fine."

Well, then… they were safe here at least until dawn, and they'd done all they could for the wounded gargoyles… Now what? Demona looked around for a moment, wondering what to do next. Then she blushed, as her stomach loudly informed her (and the rest of the room) that a good full meal would certainly be in order. Now that she thought about it, no wonder her stomach was rumbling; she hadn't had any solid food in over a week. "Well, is anyone else hungry? After Mr. Gregarino returns, I can see if---"

Just then came a knock at the door, and a youthful voice called in, "Just me, dudes; I got the goods!" The door opened and a young man with lean features and shaggy brown hair came sauntering in with his hands full, saying, "Got some M&M's, a Twix and even a couple of bags of microwaved popcorn for us grownups to--" Then he saw Demona, and his eyes bugged out as all the junk food fell to the floor. "You!"

Everyone stopped dead, looking at the man in surprise, then at Demona. Hiroshi said slowly, "You two know of each other?"

Demona shook her head, bewildered, but the youngster backed up until he bumped against the doorjamb as he said, "That was you; I remember that hair and the blue skin! You damn near killed me, back in '94!" When Demona just looked at him in confusion, he said accusingly, "You don't remember? I was working for Cyberbiotics back then, a security guard aboard the Air Fortress… You and the big purple dude came aboard, knocked me out and then you wrecked the whole airship!"

Demona gave a start of guilty remembrance. The assault on the Air Fortress… she and Xanatos together had tricked Goliath and the others into assaulting Cyberbiotics' holdings, to get the vital computer programs that Xanatos needed to finish his Steel Clan robots. She remembered now, when she and Goliath had made their way aboard the Air Fortress, she'd surprised a human and knocked him unconscious. She didn't remember that particular human's face, but it was apparently this young man right here in front of her now… and back then, she would have killed him without a second thought, if Goliath had not stopped her. "I-I'm sorry, I do remember you now… and I truly am sorry for what I did back then. I… back then, I was so filled with thoughts of vengeance, of…"

"Vengeance?" Hiroshi quietly interjected. "Vengeance for your slaughtered clan?"

Yama spoke up then as well, his brow ridges furrowed with concern. "Goliath come—ah, came to our clan, he… told us about terrible killing… all made dead by… betrayer. Betrayer aboard…airship?"

They thought the massacre had happened recently, instead of over a thousand years ago! It was a way out, and Demona was internally ashamed at how eagerly she grasped at it… but she could not stand it, just now, if these people looked at her with the same condemnation that Goliath and the rest of her old clan did. No matter how much she deserved it, right now she just couldn't take it… "Yes, he was! Our betrayer had taken a false name after his actions had led to the murder of our clan, and found a job aboard the Air Fortress. And when we finally tracked him down, the memory of our slaughtered kin made us forget all else except taking vengeance on the traitor, no matter the cost to whoever got in our way! It was only after airship had crashed from all the damage that had been done, that we realized how wrong we were… Young one, I truly am sorry. I do not deserve your forgiveness…"

"Awww, man…" the young man looked away and scratched his head in embarrassment, then looked back at her and said with a lopsided smile, "Hey, I'm Italian; while I ain't Mafia, I kinda understand the whole vengeance gig. Let's just forget about it, okay?"

"All right," Demona said, smiling with relief.

Galena had been watching the adults with bewilderment, but now that the tension seemed to have eased she pointed at the junk food on the floor and made noises of hopeful inquiry. "Oh, sure, kid! Here ya go; Uncle Vinnie got some M&M's for you!" as Vinnie scooped the candy packets off the carpet and offered it to her. "And Twix; you got Twix down in Mexico? And I've got popcorn for the rest of us…"

Right on cue, Demona's stomach rumbled loudly again. All the adults hid smiles at her embarrassment, while Galena eyed her, then solemnly offered her the Twix (while possessively clutching the M&M's to her chest). Demona gave a lopsided smile, then tore open the Twix and took one of the bars inside, while handing the other back to the hatchling. Vinnie handed her one of the bags of popped popcorn, too, saying with a grin, "You can have this one; we'll just share the other one. And if anyone else has some money, they had some beef jerky in the vending machine too."

Demona's hunger made her wolf down the popcorn more rapidly than she would have preferred, while Hiroshi dug in his pockets for some American money, then handed a few dollars over to Vinnie with instructions to spend it all on the jerky. By the time he came back, Cuarzo was starting to stir, much to his daughter's relief. The several packets of beef jerky that Vinnie brought back with him were shared between all the gargoyles, with one set aside for Malaquita when she awoke.

Cuarzo tried to sit up but was still too weak and in too much pain, so he lay back on an improvised pillow of Hiroshi's jacket while sipping from a Dixie cup the solution that Hiroshi had concocted; one of his clan's gargoyle-safe painkillers mixed with water. From the face Cuarzo was making while drinking it, it was truly foul tasting stuff, but he forced it down, and afterwards gratefully accepted the beef jerky. While he ate, Carlos and Galena spoke to him in Spanish, bringing him up to speed on what had happened while he was unconscious. Through Carlos, Cuarzo thanked every one for coming to his clan's aid, then asked a simple question: where was the rest of the Manhattan clan?

Demona had been half-expecting that question, but she still cringed from it. Everyone else turned towards her expectantly, as she briefly considered simply saying that everyone else had been killed, and she was the only one left… No. With Goliath being so committed to being friends with humanity, he'd probably be appearing on television soon, appealing for funds to support the P.I.T.! She didn't dare lie about the clan… but she didn't need to tell them all the truth… "The clan… lives elsewhere. I am alone now."

Yama, Hiroshi and Carlos gasped, and once translation had been provided, so did the Mexican gargoyles. Only Vinnie didn't understand the full impact of her words; he just asked, "You guys had an argument or something?"

Demona chuckled bitterly. Oh, how she and Goliath had argued in the past few years…! But she said aloud, "I am banished from the clan. I… after the massacre, when all I could think of was vengeance… It was I who led the assault on the airship, I who caused it to crash, I who caused so much destruction, I who… killed. The clan banished me for my actions, and the banishment is permanent; I can never return."

Now even Vinnie's eyes were wide. "Jeez… Uh, look, I dunno if it makes any difference, but that one guy who died when the airship crashed, I heard he'd had a bad heart already, and pretty much any serious excitement would have killed him. Everyone else got out okay…" But at Demona' still downcast expression, and the minute shake of Hiroshi's head, Vinnie said with a sigh, "Doesn't make a difference, huh? So… so you live here now, huh?" as he cast about, obviously trying for a change of subject. "Nice digs! Do you just pose as a statue in the corner during the day, while the boss does business?"

It was a reasonable assumption, and Demona had indeed thought of saying just that… but the die had been cast. Whether they all remained here in the Nightstone building, or she ferried everyone to her home further north, in a few hours the truth about what she did during the day would come out. She might as well put the best possible spin on it… She shook her head, then made an expansive gesture as she said with a wry smile, "No… I conduct the business myself. I turn into a human during the day, and I own this company."

There were exclamations of amazement all around as everyone stared at her, most of them clearly trying to decide whether or not she'd lost her mind sometime in the last few minutes. Going slowly and choosing her words with care, Demona explained what had happened to her, sometime after she had been banished from the clan. ("How long after? I… truly, I don't know. Back, then, I tried not to count how many nights had passed, how long I was utterly alone…" Yama shuddered at her words, and did not ask again.) She had encountered a Fey, an immortal and magical being, by standing in front of a magic mirror. She had thought the Fey could help her somehow, and after so long, she was desperate enough to no longer care about the tricks that such creatures usually played on mortals—er, yes, she was desperate for company; really any gargoyle company, but in addition to summoning the Fey, the magical mirror had shown her heart's desire: to be with her mate again. Yes, she'd had a mate, but had been dismated when she was banished. (That earned her more looks of sympathy, particularly from Yama.) Anyway, Puck, the Fey, knew what the mirror had shown, but he first teased her with some other tricks, then gave her a way to have all the company she wanted: during the day, as a human. She would infinitely have preferred the company of gargoyles again, but at least she had people to talk to, and during the day they didn't run screaming at first sight of her. Also, after the spell turned her into a part-time human, she'd found a lover who had made her his business partner, and when he'd… died in a fire, she'd inherited the entire business.

Demona looked everyone in the eyes, but kept her wings wrapped around herself the entire time she was speaking; spinning a fragile web of half-truths that tried to cover the gaping omissions left in hiding the full truth. But really, except for that one lie about the man who'd betrayed her clan still being alive in this modern age, she wasn't saying one word that wasn't true. And even that one lie was merely supporting what Yama and Hiroshi thought they already knew; was that really so wrong? And was it really such a bad thing, that these people were forming a far different impression of her than they'd have if they'd actually witnessed what she'd done? She'd really been a different person back then… And the full truth would only hurt them, for if they thought she was a monster too, they'd leave her safe haven and probably end up under attack by Quarrymen again. So really, what she was doing wasn't wrong at all… It wasn't! It had to be all right…

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

After the blue female finished her amazing tale, she excused herself and went into the washroom for a few minutes. That gave Carlos time enough to finish translating her tale for the Mexican gargoyles, and gave Hiroshi time enough for a private conversation with Yama in their own language. During her speech, Yama had occasionally prodded Hiroshi with his tail when he'd heard English words he hadn't learned yet, and Hiroshi had muttered quick translations for him. Now, Hiroshi asked, "((Did you understand most of that? Moreover, do you believe it? Last year I would not have believed such a bizarre tale, but after meeting Goliath, Angela and Elisa, who traveled the world on a boat that was scarcely fit to leave a koi pond… Besides, she would have no reason to lie to us, when only a few hours will show us the truth.))"

"((Indeed. And this explains her odd name; this Fei-creature must have given it to her in place of her old name, after casting the spell,))" Yama mused. "((As in the tale of Thunder Eater, it must have demanded her old name as price of the spell, but mischievously given her a new one afterwards.))"

"((Her name? What is it?))" Hiroshi whispered, very embarrassed. "((She didn't say it when I introduced myself to her, and before she arrived, I was too busy treating the wounded to think to ask you. And afterwards…))"

Yama gave a wry smile of understanding. "((She surely assumed I had already told you, which I should have; the fault is mine, not yours. Anyway, she introduced herself to me right after the battle, but at the time I did not pause to question the oddness of her name. She calls herself Di-mono…))"

Hiroshi blinked, then had to agree that it would be a very odd name indeed for a regular gargoyle, but it certainly fit their hostess now. In modern Nihongo, di-mono translated into "day-person." "((And if the Fei-creature gave her a name from our language, then it must have come from our country, or been there at one point in its immortal life. Do you suppose 'Fei' is the American word for a tengu?))"

"((I suspect it was a kitsune, actually. She did say that it had pointed ears, didn't she?))"

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

When Malaquita finally stirred and returned to consciousness, a few minutes later, Hiroshi gave her the same painkilling solution that had been administered to Cuarzo, while Carlos and her own little clan brought her up to speed on all that had been done and said while she was unconscious. When they had finished, she stared at Demona in amazement as she tried to digest it all, then whispered to Cuarzo and Carlos, "#While it's amazing and wonderful that she's a human by day… I'm really more concerned with the clan she was banished from. If they went through a massacre recently, how many of them are left? Do they have any hatchlings of Galena's generation?#"

"#I haven't asked yet,#" Cuarzo admitted. "#After all that she's done for us, it would be extremely rude to imply that we're more interested in the clan that cast her out …#"

"#Politeness, versus practicality,#" Malaquita sighed. "#But we'll need to know, sooner or later…#"

"#I will find out for you,#" Carlos said with an understanding nod. "#I think I can be discreet about it…#" And with that, he turned to their host and asked, "These Quarrymen… Malaquita would like more information. Have they attacked you before? And have they ever attacked your former clan?"

"They attacked me once before, just over a week ago," Demona said, looking down at the floor. "I barely escaped them then…" She looked up as she continued, "As for my former clan… while I haven't heard anything about them recently, I believe they have been in battle with the Quarrymen at least once. One of those battles was in a newspaper recently…" She did remember reading something about a squad of Quarrymen battling a gargoyle in a hospital, a week before the P.I.T. showed up in her office. Of course, the article hadn't bothered to name or describe the gargoyle, only the Quarrymen who had dared to do battle in a place of healing… "But I'm fairly certain there have been no fatalities yet."

"So… you do not know whether or not they are always so… warlike, out to destroy even frightened children? There have been no reports of attacks on hatchlings?"

Demona shook her head. "No… but that is because my former clan has no hatchlings, not anymore. They were all killed in the massacre."

There were more gasps at that, from everyone in the room, including Vinnie. "The bastards killed little kids! Jesus, Mary and Joseph…"

Carlos heartily agreed with the sentiment, and just for a moment, wished he'd been on that airship fighting alongside Demona, looking for the one who had betrayed them and let little gargoyle children like Galena be murdered. He would have been happy to cut that traitor's living heart out with his knife, and throw it into a gutter for the dogs to savage.

After a few moments of sorrowful silence for Demona's loss, Malaquita shook her head. "#No playmates or future mates for Galena," she said softly, her tone filled with despair. "#To have come so far, fought so hard, and now…#"

Over to one side, Yama and Hiroshi were having a fast whispered conversation. After a few seconds of Japanese being exchanged back and forth, Yama spoke up to the room at large, saying, "My clan has fifteen hatchling. Eight boy, seven girl. Many friend for Galena, if you come to Ishimura… many friend for you, if you come. If you all come," as he gestured to include the whole room… including Demona.

Demona gave a start, and her eyes went wide, presumably in surprise at being included in the invitation. Hiroshi hissed something at Yama, to which Yama hissed something back with a very determined expression. Then he made himself even clearer: "I come to America to find, and bring back in safety, all gargoyle that want come. My leader told me, as I tell you, all are welcome… even gargoyle who… perhaps be… unwelcome elsewhere."

"#He's inviting all of us back to his home, in Japan—and they have hatchlings aplenty, eight male and seven female!#" Carlos hissed excitedly to the Mexican clan. "#And he's inviting Demona too!#"

"#Wonderful!#" Malaquita said with a wide grin. "#That means there'll be no having to choose between the one who saved us and the clan who cast her out!#" Then her grin turned rueful. "#Of course, that still leaves actually getting to Japan…#"

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

Roughly an hour later…

Matt Bluestone trotted the last two blocks or so to reach his destination, and hence was a little out of breath when he arrived, waving his badge at the uniformed policemen already at the entrance to the Murphy Co.'s warehouse. When the sergeant currently in charge of the scene grumbled about how long they'd been waiting for him, Matt replied, "Give me a break; it's my night off, and I turned my cell phone off while I was at the movies! Even the head of the Gargoyles Task Force needs a night off now and then. But I came here as soon as I got the messages on my answering machine. So, give me a rundown on what's happened so far…"

But even before the policeman could begin his report, a man in a dark blue uniform, full Quarryman regalia except for the hood being removed, grabbed his arm and nearly shouted in his ear, "Those goddamn gargoyles killed nearly a dozen good men, that's what happened!"

Matt turned to eye him with dislike, saying pointedly, "Sir, shouting and grabbing at me is NOT going to help me investigate. …That means let go, pal! …Thank you. Now, are you a witness to what happened?"

He heard the Quarryman witness's story while examining the site where one dead Quarryman lay crumpled at the base of a wall, glanced at the still-smoldering wreckage of a Quarryman helicopter (bodies had been sighted inside, but it was still too hot to investigate), then went with the police up to the roof where more bodies could be found. He heard the Quarryman's tale with at first a strong element of disbelief—he knew damn well where most of Manhattan's gargoyle population had been so far that night, because he'd right there with them, waiting to hear if Broadway would survive having his wing nearly severed in a daytime attack—then an increasing amount of worry. The clan living atop the Aerie Building weren't the only gargoyles in town, after all…

But when he got to the second body still lying sprawled in death on the rooftop, he stopped in his tracks to look incredulously at what was being held in the dead man's grip: a dark green section of vinyl-like fabric. It had plainly been ripped from a larger piece, and what remained in the dead man's grip clearly had a triangular shape. "Sunuvabitch…" After a couple of seconds, he turned to the witness, standing at the ruined doorway to the roof (that was as far as they could get the guy to step back and get out of their way while they investigated) and said in a low, dangerous tone, "Do you want to revise your statement, sir?"

"Whah—I'm telling you the truth! Those goddamn gargoyles attacked us, and killed all these people!"

Matt lifted up the dead man's arm, to clearly show the scrap of fabric still held by the rictus of death. "Gargoyles, real gargoyles, have real wings. They do not, repeat not, wear strap-on wings from gargoyle Halloween costumes…"

There were reporters on the scene by then; the first few had arrived long before Matt had gotten there. While the police had managed to hold most of them back while they investigated, one who had a valid press pass and was known to actually have a scrap or two of common sense, enough that the police trusted him to take pictures without contaminating the crime scene, had accompanied them up to the roof. Now the reporter stopped snapping photos long enough to say incredulously, "They were fighting men in costumes! ..Are you sure that's what the scrap is from?"

"It'll have to be taken to a lab for complete analysis," Matt said as he gently but firmly tugged the scrap from the dead man's grip, and politely held it up for the reporter to get a clear picture of it before sealing it in a plastic evidence bag. "But I can tell you now that it looks very much like the same material that most of those Halloween costumes were made out of; we've caught enough criminals who were wearing them for disguises in the last few weeks that I'm all too familiar with them."

The Quarryman witness sputtered, "But—but—they flew, dammit! The guys on the hovercycles were chasing them in midair before they were grounded here!"

Matt gave him a raised eyebrow. "Oh, really. So now you're saying the men on hovercycles were chasing the gargoyles? Not the other way around? Well, well…"

The witness sputtered again, then clenched his fists and shouted, "They were flying! We've got radio reports!"

"Mm-hmm. And the rocket scientists over at Bell Laboratories are perfecting personal jetpacks; some of them are already in service, for major corporations. Do your radio reports happen to mention whether these gargoyles were making roaring sounds as they flew? You know, the constant roaring sound that a jet makes?" Matt walked over to another body with a bit of royal blue poking out from under it, and rolled it over to reveal a bloodied four-fingered glove. More casual surveying revealed another hunk of blue fabric, this one clearly a toe ripped from a gargoyle costume's boot. "One green costume, one blue costume. Anyone want to place bets on whether I'll find evidence of a couple gray gargoyle costumes as well?"

"They weren't costumes!" the witness howled. "They were real gargoyles! And those monsters killed all these men!"

Matt indicated one of the bodies right at his feet. "This man was quite obviously killed by a fragment of helicopter blade; it's still stuck in his throat. And that man over there was likely ripped in half by the giant shard that's embedded in the wall behind him; that blood covering the shard had to come from somewhere. And I'm willing to lay odds that's what killed that man over there resting in pieces," he said as he indicated a third body, lying with the head and shoulders a few feet away from the rest of his torso. "That's already three who weren't killed directly by gargoyles… and I'm not convinced that gargoyles downed that helicopter, either. These alleyways are narrow, and there's a reason we have city ordnances forbidding helicopter hotdogging inside city limits…"

But while Matt outwardly refuted the witness's claims, inwardly he was very worried indeed. Two of the bodies clearly bore slashes that had been carved three at a time, and cut nearly to the bone. Since Matt knew from past encounters that gargoyle costume talons were made of plastic and deliberately blunted to avoid accidental injuries, those slashes had almost certainly been made by a real gargoyle. There had apparently been costume-wearing humans with them, but at least one gargoyle really had been involved. Demona was certainly a possibility, but everything Elisa and the gargoyles had told him made it clear that she hated humanity with a passion, and she'd rather be caught dead (if she could die) than associate with humans that were dressed like gargoyles. And the tunnels of the Labyrinth were home to gargoyles too, only one of whom, Hollywood, was already accounted for tonight… After his preliminary investigation was done here, he vowed to find an excuse to sneak away and visit the Labyrinth.

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

Back inside the Nightstone building, Demona and the others were just finished nailing down the final details of what was going to happen during the upcoming day and the following evening, and their plan to get all the gargoyles safely out of New York and over to Ishimura. But while Hiroshi and Carlos would be going to Ishimura as well, Vinnie Gregarino would be staying behind in America. Carlos was content to go to Ishimura so long as Hiroshi promised there would be a decent-paying job for him there, but Vinnie explained that he was just happier in New York… and besides, somebody had to stay behind and spread the word about how gargoyles are people too, and expose the Quarrymen as the bigoted bastards they really are. Demona agreed, and assured him that so long as he kept her secret—after all, the business world was just not ready for the revelation that a gargoyle could be a good businesswoman—then she would ensure he had a job with Nightstone. If he was tired of working security jobs, she was sure there would be an opening in the mailroom.

Demona was more than happy to use more of Nightstone's resources, in order to make everything go smoothly and swiftly. Tomorrow morning she'd arrange for them to take the Nightstone company jet out of the country, departing tomorrow night at midnight for Tokyo. That would give the foreign gargoyles plenty of time to wake up, collect their belongings and, in the Guerrero clan's case, say goodbye to their hosts in Brooklyn. Rather than risk anyone's safety by possibly being seen in flight, Vinnie would drive a Nightstone cargo van and act as their chauffeur tomorrow evening, driving everyone to their various stops before bringing them all to the JFK airport. They'd be in Japan in less than 48 hours…

But there was plenty to do in the meantime. First, Demona dug around in her desk until she found that roll of bills she kept handy for administering unexpected bribes and whatnot; then she peeled off two thousand dollars' worth, and instructed a goggle-eyed Vinnie to take the money and Carlos and have his injury treated at the nearest hospital's emergency room. (With that much money waved in their faces, surely no one would balk at treating an illegal immigrant without alerting INS.) With whatever was left after getting Carlos' hand fixed, Vinnie was to stop by the restaurant called Morton's on 5th Avenue, and return with steaks done rare for everybody. After that, he would find nearby hotel accommodations for himself, Hiroshi and Carlos, so they could get a few hours' sleep before returning to the Nightstone building an hour before dawn, to begin tomorrow's busy day.

Demona kept a folding cot and pillow in her office suite's closet, and once Vinnie and Carlos had departed, she pulled it out and set it up, explaining that since she had a full day ahead of her tomorrow, she'd have to get some sleep while in gargoyle form. Galena was fascinated by the idea of a gargoyle sleeping while still flesh, and wanted to watch, but Yama enticed her out to the office suite's anteroom. He promised Demona that he and Hiroshi would keep the child quiet while beginning the Mexican clan's first lessons in Japanese, and when the steaks came, he'd bring one in to Demona personally.

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

"((This should be interesting))" Hiroshi admitted, sitting as he watched Yama gently herd Galena out of the inner office and back over to where her wounded parents were lying. "((With Carlos gone to get his hand treated properly, we have no one to interpret their Spanish for us. I hope this won't end up like the story of the Korean Stork, in which they end up thinking 'sun' is the word for 'lunchtime'.))"

"((We'll just start with a few simple nouns; items to be found right here in the office, that they're apt to encounter in the village as well,))" Yama said with assurance. "((Pencils, pens, paper and such… But this is mostly just to keep the little one here occupied, instead of fussing over her parents' injuries or over our sleeping hostess.))" He started to glance back in the direction of the office, but caught himself, not wanting to draw the hatchling's attention in that direction again. "((Speaking of which, since you know more of American ways than I do… Do you think this American clan has forbidden Di-mono to ever come within sighting distance of any of the clan anywhere, or just within the clan's own territory?))"

Hiroshi spread his hands. "((How would I know that? No American television show has ever shown someone being properly banished; criminals are all either killed, or put in jail. I take it you're worried about their reaction later?))"

"Hai. ((Even if we're leaving right now, in order to get this precious child away from those cursed killers as quickly as possible,))" as Yama briefly rested a gentle hand on her shoulder and smiled at her, "((we must still return here later to see if we can rescue more of the clan. But will they come, if they discover that our clan has accepted one they cast out?))"

Privately, Hiroshi thought Yama just might be putting the cart before the horse; while Yama had extended the invitation, Kai would be the one to ultimately decide if Di-mono would be allowed to join their clan. But she'd just fought valiantly to protect not only other gargoyles, but the human who'd been with them, and she'd obviously been working side-by-side with humans for a long time while running this company; Hiroshi thought that went a long way towards restoring the honor that had been stained by another human's accidental death in the midst of a vengeance-hunt. Besides, she was a female of breeding age, and as Yama had hissed to him earlier, if Kai had fought to keep Yama alive after he'd put the whole clan in danger, he'd surely declare Di-mono fit to join the clan; as Kai himself had said seven months ago, they could scarcely afford to lose anyone.

Aloud, Hiroshi replied, "((If they object, you can make plain to them that after Kai accepts her, she's part of our clan now, and the Ishimuran ruling will take precedence over theirs. And if they're too stubborn to accept that, they can set up territory on the island of Hokkaido, or somewhere else that's well out of the kawarimen's reach.))" After a significant pause, he added, "((But if they don't think to ask about her, you needn't volunteer the information until after they're well clear of this mad city and amidst truly civilized society.))"

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

Demona turned off the lights and settled on the cot, but her mind was too full of whirling thoughts for her to sleep. There would be so much to take care of tomorrow; on top of merely clearing out all the paperwork that had accumulated while she'd spent the past week in a drunken stupor, she had to arrange for the flight to Japan, and accommodations for everyone, both human and gargoyle, once they were in the country but not yet in Ishimura. And she'd have to pick a suitable proxy to run her business for her, while she was in Japan on an indefinite sabbatical… She didn't want to cut all ties to her company and to New York; this city was where her daughter lived. But at the same time, she couldn't pass up the chance to live in and be accepted by a clan again; a real clan, not a batch of flawed clones but true comrades! She'd give up nearly anything for that… including her vendetta against the human race in general, which she'd largely sworn off anyway after the events of last week. She'd have to maintain a fragile tissue of lies, keep secret her immortality and other distasteful facts, but she'd do it all happily, in order to have a true home again! A new clan, a true home, and just in time for next year's breeding season…

Demona tossed and turned, this way and that, until she finally fell asleep caressing her pillow--a pillow she'd subconsciously beaten into an egg shape, and cradled in her arms…

TO BE CONTINUED IN

COMINGS AND GOINGS, PART 2:

SHIPS PASSING IN THE NIGHT

Here are translations for words and phrases that perhaps weren't adequately explained within the story itself…

Translations from Japanese:

Baka -- foolish, idiot, stupid; frequently used as an all-purpose insult

Boke -- a rude slang term sometimes applied to Alzheimer's sufferers and others afflicted with memory loss

Hai -- yes

Kami -- nature spirits, highly respected in the Shinto religion

Ju ban kami – "a hundred thousand spirits"; rough equivalent to "Oh my God!"

Kitsune – fox-spirit; famous for both wisdom and trickery as well as magical powers. They usually appear as giant foxes that walk on two legs like humans (and can have more than one tail), but they've also been known to appear as humans with sharp features and pointed fox-ears.

Koi: Japanese carp, also called Japanese goldfish. Actually, they originated somewhere in China, but when they were introduced to Japan centuries ago, they quickly became so popular that now they're the national fish. A large and well-stocked koi pond can usually be found in any public park or temple garden.

Shimatta -- dammit!

Tengu: Japanese trickster spirit. See "Yama's Path" for full description.

Translations from Spanish:

Acotillo – sledgehammer

Ahora – now

Bienvenido a Nueva York – Welcome to New York

Bueno – good

¿Como va¿Dónde ahora están usted¿Ser usted en Nueva York todavía? – How are you? Where are you now? Are you in New York yet?

Esposa – wife

Hija – daughter

Muchacha – female child

¿Que? – what?

Rescátelos

Si – yes