102 - "Dissension"
Every choice you make has an end result.
- Zig Ziglar
June 11th, 2002
If only he knew exactly where they were, he'd storm the place with nothing but balls of brass and an aluminum baseball bat (but logic didn't quite filter into the simple equation). Cracking skulls with varnished ash didn't quite have the same ring.
Maybe he should take a sledgehammer too. Even with the Epsilon's added firepower, he might need something with a bit of raw leverage and that carnal satisfaction to go with the dual gatling guns.
And this was what Brooklyn found in front of him, relentlessly pacing back and forth in front of the small group of gargoyles which he'd barged in on and mumbling something about starting a small war. "Uh, Hawkins?"
Todd turned and snarled, "What!"
"May we help you?"
About ten minutes earlier...
"...Sarah..." the voice answered. "...Your little sister..."
"Oh." Todd finally managed. There wasn't much to answer with in this sort of situation, and the neurons had just started to fire. "Uhm...hello."
"...I bet this is a shock..."
"You have no idea." he whispered. "Considering you died twenty years ago."
The first taste of his humor was just as fulfilling as the first sound of his voice. And, of course, she was surprised he was still coherent enough to carry on a decent conversation. "...I thought the same of you up until a couple of months ago. The same for my mother..."
Todd veered his wide, gray eyes around to Rose as quickly as possible without popping a vertebra or two out of place (and a thought shot through his head; should he tell her?). "Yeah, well...I just found out you actually existed, let alone were still alive..."
That was an understatement. "So...uh, what have you been up to lately?"
He winced, and she smothered something akin to a smile on the other end. Todd Hawkins often wove magic with his words but he'd been stripped of most of his coherency.
"...I needed to get in touch with you. Looking at pictures and listening to stories from when you were younger isn't enough..."
His features darkened; the surprise had quickly ebbed, turning to resentment. "Stories? From my father? Our father?"
"You're with him? Now?"
"And you realize exactly what he does? What he is?"
"...Yes, unfortunately. But if you only knew the pain he suffered..."
"And that's supposed to make it right!"
There was a pause long enough and still enough to think she'd hung up. "...no..." she said at length, just before her brother was inclined to ask if she was still there.
Todd held back a bit, clenching his teeth together. He turned away from prying eyes, not yet wanting to announce his sister having miraculously come back to life (especially with a few of his own doubts). "He's a murderer." he hissed into the phone.
"...I know. But I also know he's cared for me my entire life. And he still loves you, and our mother..."
"Fine way to fucking show it!"
"...He's...he's angry, and hurting..."
"...I don't believe that!..."
"Oh yeah? And what exactly does he plan to do with me?"
It killed her to reveal this, as it practically destroyed every waning scrap of hope she'd had for her father. "...If you and Rose don't break every tie with those gargoyles, kill you..."
"What...?" Todd echoed near-inaudibly. There was a finality there he couldn't deny.
"...oh god, I have to go..."
As abruptly as she'd phoned him and announced her presence in his life, she killed the connection. It was as if she was interrupted and couldn't stay on the line anymore, leaving an aching silence and her big brother hanging on the other end screaming for her to come back.
His wife and mother watched as he simply replaced the receiver to its cradle, turned slightly and looked about ready to puke.
"Who was that?" Annika asked, hoping if he'd talk it would both shed some light on the conversation and push the impending vomit back down.
"Uhm," Todd couldn't feel his jaw, "apparently my sister."
All hell broke loose. Annika paled and Rose went white, and each broke into a string of breathless questions and protests as Todd tasted his dinner at the back of his throat. If this was a prank, it was a good one; it'd left a bullet-sized hole through his chest and it felt like he was breathing through maple syrup.
"Your sister..." Rose croaked. "Sarah...?"
Eleven minutes later...
And it all ended with Todd busting in on Brooklyn and several other clan members, screaming something about his sister, his father, the Guild, weapons of mass destruction and wanting the 1812 Overture playing in the background as he himself pressed the big red button and left a crater in place of Guild headquarters.
"Damnit, Hawkins, what...?" was Brooklyn's flustered response.
"You heard me!"
"Yes, but I'm also slightly confused. Did you just say something about your sister?"
He stopped dead center in the room and with a stare that put a few of the gargoyles back with the sheer intensity, answered, "I just got a call from her tonight."
Brooklyn hung for a moment with his mouth wide open. Word had got around the castle about his long-lost sister, but he never imagined the story would continue after a twenty year long pause. "I thought she was–"
"Dead? So did I! Until she called me up no less than ten minutes ago." Todd slapped a fist into an open palm. "Now let's get to nuking!"
"No, no, NO! This is my sister we're talking about!"
"Hawkins..." Brooklyn deepened, watching as his friend went off the deep-end.
"Fuck you, pal," Todd shot back, nearly stepping up on the table separating the two, "this is family! Now let's get the goddamned nukes and politely knock on their front door!"
Broadway raised a brow at the only other human in the room. "We have nukes?"
There to discuss something only marginally associated with the current topic, Xanatos didn't react save for a sly and eerily evasive look.
Brooklyn stood up and, despite his best efforts to remain collected, nearly hollered his next order. "Will someone please put him into a chair before he hurts himself?"
With a grip worse than the Vulcan nerve pinch, Othello slapped a hand on his shoulder and slowly, but forcefully, pushed him down into his seat despite any verbal objection. He'd slipped around unnoticed in the middle of the rant. Todd struggled against the grip but couldn't move, and eventually gave up, letting the steam off through his ears.
"Thank you. Now, as much as I sympathize, Mr. Hawkins, we can't storm the gates of Guild central especially when we have no idea where they're actually based."
That calmed the fires a little, and put a slight crimp in his plans. "Yeah...I guess..."
"And you have irrefutable proof this was your younger and supposedly dead sister?"
Todd stared at the floor, and all the little lines in between the stones. "...no."
Brooklyn and the others looked at each other, passing around the same skeptical glance. "Then how do you know?"
"I don't know, it just...felt like her."
"The Guild and your father could be luring you, and the rest of us, into a very elaborate trap, using information gleaned from Savannah."
The knee-jerk reaction was slipping away into the rarity of common sense and as Todd calmed down, he started to think on it. He often led by his heart more than his brains and it got him into trouble more often than he'd ever own up to.
"In fact," Brooklyn continued, waving a hand across those gathered, "this was the topic of our little meeting here. Wondering where they are and if Savannah's still alive, and the timing all seems a little too coincidental."
"Far too coincidental." Othello thought to correct.
"I guess...my father may have decided on something new."
"Maybe. Listen, Hawkins, we all sympathize, but...until we have some kind of proof, or some kind of lead as to the whereabouts–"
"You can't do a damned thing." he said dejectedly, and ground his fingertips into the palm of his hand.
It went off like a shotgun just before the doors swung closed and muffled most of the sound into the hall. Todd had just sat there, fuming for a few minutes before jumping out of the chair and silently storming towards the doors.
He tore them open and then, just as he got outside, the F-bomb.
Angela jumped at the profanity and set a hand to her chest, settling her heart. "Do you think it's true?"
"That his sister's alive?" Brooklyn sighed, slumping onto one elbow and kneading his brows. "Dragon, I don't know. That family's incredibly screwed up, and an entire soap opera all in one."
"Plus several movies I've seen." Broadway added.
"I'd like to believe it, for Todd's sake, but it's too damned..."
Othello grumbled something that one only had to guess at with the expression his equine features had twisted into. "His dead sister calls him less than a week after that reporter was taken?"
"Coincidental, yeah I know." Brooklyn snapped back. He was well aware of all the new strategies the Guild were using to flush them out and into the proverbial open (he still couldn't figure out what Xanatos had done with the bodies of those left behind). "But...with the track record the Hawkins have, it could be true. His father is their leader."
"Are you willing to risk the lives of this clan to find out?"
"Risk how! This still doesn't change the fact we don't know where the hell they are!"
"But they have expertly exploited a weak spot in one of our own." Katana whispered from behind, acting as her mate's personal voice of conscience. "And knowing Todd, they can easily goad him into doing something stupid."
Brooklyn leaned back into his chair and did an uncanny impression of David Xanatos (despite the fact the billionaire was witness to the impersonation), complete with the greasy smirk. "Then we'll put a leash on him."
"Oh god, I have to go..."
"I'm sorry." Sarah hit the power button on her laptop, slapped it shut and ripped a few of the peripherals (including the microphone) from its side. Replacing it to the desk, she picked up a worn copy of One Man's Justice as camouflage and started across the room just as the inner door to her chamber opened with her father at the threshold.
He slowed his breathing to get used to the rich oxygen mix. "Sarah...?"
"Do you ever knock?"
"I'm sorry." He haunted her with those dark iron eyes again, coolly watching every move. "You're up late."
She was idly flipping through random pages, feigning interest in a book she'd read several times over. "I've been unable to sleep lately..."
"Understandably. I suppose discovering both your brother and mother survived the accident would be enough for a few sleepless nights."
Sarah flashed a dirty look his way. "That's not why I can't sleep." she said.
Black walked past her, eying the computer and slowly, discreetly searching the room. She'd seemed a little flushed when he entered, almost jittery. "Oh?"
"Perhaps it's the fact I heard my own father say he was going to kill his own son."
He stopped. "Ah. I forget you have a penchant for eavesdropping, despite your dependence on your room."
"Are you going to kill him? Kill her?" she demanded.
"I don't know."
"I can't believe you're even considering it!"
"If you could only understand with whom and what they're collaborating...creatures..."
She slid her book onto one of the many shelves lining the walls and slipped back into bed, neatly folding the sheets and blanket up to her stomach. "I keep hearing only one skewed side of the story."
But her father never heard her; he seemed, for lack of a better description, in some kind of a trance. "Monsters..."
In a bit of typical teenage rebellion, Sarah crossed her arms over her chest. "Says you."
And in an uncharacteristic bout of viciousness, especially towards his daughter, Black rushed to the side of her bed, pulled down his sleeve and showed her (shoved in her face, really) the scars on his left arm. "Says this!"
Sarah reacted by pulling away.
But her father grabbed her, around the scruff of the neck like he would a stray cat, and pulled her forward, forcing the young woman to see the deep grooves carved into his skin by talons. Twenty years and a few reconstructive surgeries later, they still wound about the length of his forearm as a wine-colored, serpentine reminder of the attack. "They did this! They attacked us, tore at our vehicle and tried to pull all of us through the windows before running us off the road and leaving us to die!"
"Please...let go..." she managed.
"You're in this room because of them! Fed a constant supply of oxygen and medicine and locked away from anything that could attack your weakened immune system because of them!"
"But we're all alive...we're all okay..."
"We're not okay!" Black growled. Rage brimmed as a darkly lit gold at the back of his gaze. "And the fact we were lucky enough to survive doesn't change what they are! And I will not let them destroy any more lives."
Tears welled in her eyes and threatened to spill; her father had never raised his voice to her, never treated her as anything less than the most important thing in his life and this was the second time in her life she feared for his sanity, and the first time she feared for her own life.
Whether he knew his behavior was frightening her or not, Black hugged her close and despite the fact she struggled slightly against him, he kept his arms tightly around her. "I've given your brother one last chance." he whispered, rocking her slightly and feeling her resistance to his touch wane. "One last chance to save both his life and that of your mother's. We'll soon see how deeply their loyalty runs for the demons, and if they're truly worth saving at all."
He closed and sealed the outermost door, hand lingering on the handle for a moment.
He wondered just how long he could walk that fine line and keep his daughter from hating his guts. But he supposed he wasn't in this to play the hero; there wouldn't be much chance of glory or adulation in this dirty of a war and Sarah was far too intelligent to believe there wasn't a muddy gray between the black and white.
And with that last, unappreciatively ironic thought he turned, only to find his second in command leaning against the wall, presumably waiting for him. Black and White shared a cold glare.
Compulsively, and most likely unawares, Black straightened his ensemble hoping to better put on the airs of a man that wasn't presently embroiled in an internal struggle between his vocation and his family.
The thin man continued staring him down with icy eyes, and for the first time since they'd met, it made him nervous without exactly knowing why.
"Agent White, is there any particular reason you're loitering around the door to my daughter's private suite?"
"Just looking for my leader." he answered, and straightened, getting a few more inches from his spine. "He seems to be lost at times."
Black immediately took the corridor with a brisk pace. "I don't like the tone." he threw over his shoulder.
White started behind him, almost chasing him. "We need to talk."
"About?" he posed and stopped short, nearly taking a hit from behind as White skidded on his heels. "Or, wait, why do I need bother ask?"
"It's been months."
"Since our monumental failure at Wyvern, yes."
"It was only a failure because you pulled us out. And now we sit on our asses, despite our healed wounds, despite our training and replenishment, and despite our most successful recruitment to date."
"And how many more will you lead to the slaughter? And how many innocents might suffer with another all-out attack?"
White was about to say something; he even had his mouth open and a warm breath readied on his tongue, but Black intervened before it could meet the air.
"And please, don't say it'll be worth it. Because it won't. If even one innocent is harmed, then our very purpose becomes moot." He stopped and breathed, wrung the gray around his goatee with a finger and thumb. "I know exactly what you want, agent White. To destroy the creatures by obliterating that castle and tearing it from its moorings, but such destruction would be catastrophic, especially to the morale of the men and women swayed to our side."
"And those same men and women are sitting on one of the most substantial arsenals in the country without a gargoyle to kill."
"Restless are they? Run more drills." Black ordered.
"They can run them in their sleep." agent White protested, his voice raising slightly above a level his employer would rarely tolerate.
"Good." Black nodded. "The time will come."
"If I didn't know better, agent White, I'd swear you're becoming impatient, and impatience can get you into a heap of trouble."
White forced himself to breathe, to pause and think on his next response before this grew from a simple difference of opinion into a war. "The longer we wait, the better the chance we give the creatures to heal, refortify and strike back. We've spotted them skulking about the city and by the time we can mount a suitable defense they're gone, having broken up another gun smuggling ring and moved on to another. We've heard of their vigilante efforts to find us and clean out the island's far and seediest corners and it's working."
Black turned and offered nothing but a determined expression, coldly cut and stern like stone. "They can do whatever they want to ease their fear, but it will not affect our mission. Only delay it."
"I hope so."
"It might help to trust me, agent White." Black waved to his general forehead area, then turned and started off. "Or you may not come away with a simple scar."
White rubbed the forehead scar from Scottish steel as it itched, tingling on his brain. In a little dark corner of his mind, he'd considered shooting the leader in the back as he walked down the empty corridor but disregarded the wicked thought. His sheer respect, and needless to say fear of reprisal from Black or his higher-ups, had kept him obedient and a good little soldier, but he was getting tired of the reluctance to attack the Eyrie again, the reluctance to do anything, especially when they were so close.
He swiveled on his heel and stalked off in a huff, heading for the closest exit.
He was so intent to put as much distance between him and this hidden base, he nearly plowed through the two sentries assigned to guard one of a few well-defended exits.
One of them actually had the guts to get only slightly in his way. "Agent White?"
He stared straight into the door, not dignifying the subordinate with even a glance his way. "I'm leaving."
"I know, but..." The guard handed him an electronic pad and, for his trouble and duty, received a glare that dried his throat. "I-It's procedure, sir."
White grudgingly signed out, shoved the pad back into the guard's hands and snapped his fingers. The other guard quickly punched in the code for the heavy steel gate and was glad he didn't falter on the keypad before his superior either tore the door off its hinges or a strip out of him.
The agent stormed outside with barely enough room between the door and its frame to squeeze himself through. He was gone into the night like a shadow under the sun, melting into nothingness. Even the guards were surprised in how his footsteps suddenly silenced.
The faintest breath of sea air breezed in before the gate clanged shut and locked. From top to bottom, several electronic deadbolts slid into place.
Guard A let out a lungful he'd been holding since he'd seen White round the hall, wheezing through his mask's breathing slits. "Man that guy is creepy."
And his friend, Guard B, leaned on the computer desk for support and pondered quietly, "I wonder where the hell someone like that goes every night..."
Each stair creaked beneath his foot and each step he thought might just be the one that gave out underneath him due to fatigue and age.
Whoever was walking the halls this late at night seemed to consciously hug the wall as they passed, avoiding eye contact as the bleach blond-haired man hogged the center.
White reached the top floor of this decrepit little building and roamed his eyes down the corridors on either side. The paint was peeling, the carpet needed replacing but the rent was low and no one asked questions of their neighbors. He approached the last door on the right, pulled out a ring of keys, fiddled through the collection until coming to the right one and, with a furtive glance over his shoulder, unlocked the door.
The apartment itself was tiny, a bedroom and bath and a kitchenette and another room through an old Victorian arch that needed repairs just to keep it from collapsing. His boots were the only thing keeping the linoleum down, and his eyes had to adjust to the dim light. Walking through, he found his cousin in what passed for the living room, sitting and leaning on the back end of a chair and set in shades of flickering, acrid blue by the television screen.
The man in the jeans and white wife-beater didn't even acknowledge his presence. He seemed to be intent on a news program concerning reconstruction efforts in the Hole.
White stood there for a moment, before the silence started to get to him. "Hello, cousin."
"If it isn't the indomitable agent White." the man at last responded. There were hints of a Scottish brogue surfacing only just under an American accent that'd worn itself out. "Kill any gargoyles lately?"
"You know I haven't."
"Damned poor showing for a Canmore."
"A distant Canmore, Jon."
Jon Canmore leaned back and turned his eyes to White, eyes that appeared a few lifetimes old beyond his relatively young age. After being dethroned, hunted, jailed, and then managing to escape and effectively vanish, he'd ended up a tenant in a building one cockroach away from being a slum, spending his days the same as every other slightly-deranged and obsessed sociopath in New York, lifting weights, watching the news relentlessly and tutoring one of the last lines of his heritage in bloodshed and backstabbery. "Close enough." the former hunter said. "Blood is blood."
"We're second cousins." White pointed out, and walked out of the room towards the kitchenette and a refrigerator that sung and rattled at a low octave. He reached in, grabbed a couple cans of beer and, while keeping one for himself, threw the other to Canmore.
"Why do ye constantly renounce yuir own heritage?" Jon quickly attacked, swiping the can out of the air.
"Because of what it demands of me." White answered. "I'd rather take pleasure in destroying what deviates from nature through sheer hatred and not because it's my obligation."
"Fine then. And what of yuir little militia? Still stuck twiddling yuir thumbs while the demons multiply?"
His hand almost crushed the can; the crinkle of aluminum between his fingers was a sure sign. "I'd like to believe our leader is being cautious..."
Jon felt the indecision behind the pause. "But..." he egged him on.
"I think he's being influenced."
"By his family."
Canmore stood up and threw away the chair. In the murkiness of the lamplight, his gaze was nearly phosphorescent. "Damnit, not only is his family still alive but yuir revered leader's own son is in league with those things! I think that counts as being influenced!"
"A son he hasn't seen for twenty years. And we all cannot be held responsible for the actions of our families, can we, Mr. Canmore? Or is the recent employment of your brother Jason by Xanatos Enterprises merely a coincidence?"
"Touché." Jon swallowed hard, rubbing the stubble. "But that fact only makes our situation more desperate. We're losing allies, and time."
"I'm well aware."
"Then why aren't ye doing something about it?"
White looked beyond Canmore, beyond the weight set and the couch covered by an old blanket and out the window towards the skyline. "Because I might get a bullet between the eyes."
"That couldn't have been her..."
Todd looked up; that was officially the first thing his mother had said in hours. She'd spent most of her time staring at the floor, wringing scarred hands together in some kind of uneasy tic. "If my dad survived, she could've survived." Todd said, countering.
"And you are so sure it's her?"
"Call it a hunch."
"And you're absolutely certain it's not a deception?" Rose asked again, this time with all the confidence of someone investigating a crime.
He felt like he was being interrogated, and Todd got a little defensive, "Why are you so eager not to believe me?"
"Because I would've known," Rose stood up, "I should have known!"
"You were half-dead, and she would have been found by the cops if she wasn't taken from the accident site."
"That doesn't matter! Mothers would walk through hell and back for their children and I would have done the same!" Fire roared around her, blood and shrapnel, wreckage and the scent of gasoline; her memories were as clear as the room before her, threatening to drown the poor woman. "To know my baby girl was out there, lying in that ravine, bleeding, freezing, dying..."
"I can understand–" Todd tried, but got cut off mid-condolences.
"You understand nothing!" she snarled at him. "Only until you've lost your own children can you ever understand! And I would never wish that anguish upon you."
The last time Todd had seen her this angry was the peanut butter incident fourteen years ago. "Listen," he held his hands out, "I know the last few months have been a little insane, and this isn't helping any, but I can't explain why I believe it's her."
"You have no proof, only the fact your father and my husband has become a killer obsessed with revenge!"
"You know," he was eerily calm, "you're gonna pop a stitch."
The red receded, lifting from her gaze. And her stomach did ache; she might have strained her sutures in the tirade unfairly directed towards her son. Rose slowly placed a hand over her mouth and squeezed her eyes shut against the tears. "I'm sorry..."
For all the animosity towards her, only some of which had faded with time and begrudging appreciation, he sympathized; it was hard to imagine losing a child let alone two. Todd simply got up, and hugged her. "I'm sorry."
She clutched at his shirt.
"I'm sorry all of this had to happen to you."
"Todd..." Rose whispered into his shoulder.
"I want my baby girl back."
And if a woman sobbing into his favorite Pac-Man tee-shirt wasn't enough to elicit something incredibly stupid, there was the fact he'd already decided to do said something a while ago. But he needed the right kind of help.
"The Canmore line is dying. The genepool has withered and there are only a few of us left. And with my dear brother serving those creatures like some twisted concierge and my sister having completely vanished, yuir perhaps the best chance for the Hunter to continue."
White raised his pointed chin and glared. His cousin had the flare for making his case, even as pitiful as it may have seemed, to the point where he was almost swayed. Almost. "I am not the Hunter." he disputed. "I will be so much more than a millennial failure."
"Then do so." Canmore challenged him.
"I am trying! But the man who leads us seems to be wavering from his quest, from our quest."
"You don't need him."
"He's the driving force behind the Guild just as you were behind the Quarrymen. They won't accept a mutiny."
Canmore raised a single brow. His cousin, it appeared, was still a little green in leading the lambs under his care with nothing but well-dressed words and promises. He had to learn these were often more powerful weapons compared to the impressive arsenal he and his militia had amassed. "Are ye sure? Feed the masses enough propaganda and they'll accept anything."
"I'm quite sure, besides, he's the only one our benefactors trust. They wouldn't accept anyone else in charge nor would they allow me to usurp his place without a suitable reprimand. I'd be dead within a day." The can in his right hand empty, he crushed it as he balled a fist. "They can be very...stern."
"It would be worth it." Canmore pressed. "Besides, ye need do nothing but expose the awful truth about their leader. I'm sure that would be enough t' weaken his support."
White scoffed, "And risk casting this entire organization into chaos? He's more useful alive."
"For how long!"
"As long as I deem fit." the taller cousin hissed, stepping up and flexing the wiry frame.
Jon raised his hands and smiled that oily smile that'd won him reverence in some eyes, feigning defeat. He could've further argued the point, but there wasn't a need to alienate his family. "My apologies, cousin, I didna mean t' raise my voice."
White retreated a few steps, looking at his hand and the impression the crushed beer can had left in the skin. "Don't try to mend your past failures through me."
He took a seat back on the chair, throwing back another swig. "Yuir right, I'm sorry. But ye must realize there'll be a point where yui'll ultimately decide the Guild's future, even if yuir leader can't." Then, as White caught the not-so-subtle gesture, Jon rubbed a spot on his forehead where his cousin had nearly been carved like a Christmas turkey.
White immediately flew a hand to his scar, running right through his eye hairline to cheek, and rubbed it self-consciously.
"Remember that feeling, cousin, that hatred that'll keep yuir mind clear of any doubts."
His fingers clasped the rim of his glass, swirling the remnants of his drink near the bottom and seeing his past and future within the little golden whirlpool.
A king without a castle, stuck in a dungeon of steel and restless, wanting for nothing but a good drink to put him to sleep. But Macbeth was insomniac, watching the numbers tick by on the digital clock and already on his third scotch of the night.
He'd tried a workout, using the heavy blade in a regiment that would kill a lesser man, classical music, reading, television and blast it all, an insult to his pedigree, a glass of warm milk. But nothing worked and here he was, condemned to spend the night staring at the bunker's reinforced wall.
He almost thought to go back out and continue his search, but he'd wanted to keep his profile low.
If it weren't for the liquor that'd numbed his nerves, the scream that echoed through the basement would've sent him shooting from his chair. The phone was ringing, and he had to double-check the time to make sure he hadn't just passed out until dawn. Leaning forward, he found the call display had been blocked but, after a moment, decided to pick up (only a few select people knew his number and, of course, thinking on it, knew he was still alive). "It's past three in the morning." he drawled. "I hope this is important."
Old lines pleated about the smile. Macbeth was impressed, and almost thankful for the intrusion despite what the boy may want with him now. "Ah, Mr. Hawkins. I'm surprised to find you on the other end of my phone."
"...Yeah, yeah, so am I. Listen, I need your help..."
He polished off the rest of his drink. "Concerning?" he asked on the gulp.
"...I'm going to do something that the clan wouldn't quite approve of..." Todd answered.
"And yuir calling me because...?"
"...Because I'm pretty sure after being dumped by my mother that you have a lot of free time on your hands..."
Macbeth grimaced, but decided to sidestep that particular insinuation (considering they weren't even officially dating). "And ye think I'm filling my time with ways to get even with the gentlemen who turned my home to rubble."
"...Actually, I would've thought you'd be rubbing one out, but the whole revenge thing is even better..."
"...I need to know where the Guild is..."
His gaze darkened against the far wall and a painting a century old, left on the floor and gathering dust. "Again, why?"
"...My sister's there..."
"I beg yuir pardon?"
Todd sighed, and decided to make a frustrating, impossibly long story a little shorter for the purpose of this particular phone call, "...I have a little sister, mom thought she died in the accident, mom lied to me to spare me the pain, turns out she survived with dad, sister called me up just tonight and I won't let her spend one more fucking second with that psychopath..."
The pause presumably meant Macbeth was soaking all the information in. "Interesting."
"...Not the word I'd use to describe it, but it works. Now, do you know where the Guild is?..."
It was short, and sweet, and to the point, "No."
But to give up wasn't quite in the Hawkins blood. "...I'm going to ask again. Do. You. Know. Where. The. Guild. Is?..." Todd reiterated, albeit a little slower and more deliberate on the syllables.
"No, laddie, I don't." Macbeth revealed, but hearing the wheeze of frustration on the other end softened his own stubbornness. "But...I have a few sources."
"...What a surprise. Didn't want to inform the clan?..."
"This is personal. And I don't want anyone hurt."
"...We've already been hurt..." Todd corrected.
"All th' more reason. If I need the clan, I'll call them. And frankly, yuir the last person I'd want with me."
Macbeth hung up, and right now he had the feeling the young Hawkins boy was delving deep into a vocabulary wealth of foul language that only a trucker would know. But better to have him angry and alive than another casualty of revenge gone wrong.
Vengeance was best reserved for those with the stomach. Perhaps he did feel the need to get out of this stuffy basement.
Brooklyn poked his head into the recreation room. He was looking for a certain human but found only his mother instead, lost in thought in the far corner and pretty much oblivious to the rest of the world. "Rose?"
Rose took her chin from her folded fingers, surprised by the intrusion. "Oh...yes?"
She had her suspicions (frightening as they were) of where her son had suddenly taken off to, but didn't want Brooklyn to know. "I don't know."
He looked up, which was getting to be a habit with most of the clan. "Mother?"
"...Mr. Hawkins is currently leaving the castle via the private parking garage..."
"Lock it down! Stop him!"
"...Too late..." Mother responded. By now, the car had jumped off the end of the garage ramp and hit asphalt, speeding away from the Eyrie through oncoming traffic. "...My apologies..."
Brooklyn pursed his beak, white-eyed, (he should have used her earlier) and ran out of the room. "Shit."
Todd sighed in relief. At least something was working in his favor. But there wasn't much point in guarding a pile of rubble owned by a dead man; any valuables had been practically obliterated and the body of Lennox Macduff had never been found.
He was standing on the edge of what used to be Macbeth's manor, roped off by yellow police tape. And to Todd, it might as well have been a mountain rising up out of one of Manhattan's most affluent if not sparsely populated neighborhoods.
But, having been left hanging on the phone for the second time tonight, frustration proved to be a great motivator.
He ducked under the tape and started in, climbing over concrete and wood, steel beams and debris that almost resembled the guts from someone's home, completely destroyed by the Guild's explosives, and looking for a giant steel hatch.
He'd heard where it just might be and what it just might look like. In his effort to stay as close to his mother and the Scotsman as possible whenever they were together, he listened in to small bits of their conversations, interest waning when he'd put the charm into high gear but like the faces of the moon, his curiosity piqued when Macbeth had described it (in rather extraneous detail) to Rose.
It was blended with the ground, to better conceal it from anyone who might have managed to get past the security system and into the mansion. And if the cops couldn't yet find it, Todd knew it would be a little more than difficult for him with no more than the muted light from a half-clouded sky and streetlights from the adjacent lane.
With every piece of debris he moved out of the way, he felt more and more like he was sifting through the old salvage yards he frequented, looking for those rare pieces to the Superbird. And if finding a tachometer with a straight needle and the chrome bezel yet unpitted was hard, trying to distinguish a hidden door from the remains of a small castle just might be near impossible.
"Damnit," Todd breathed, "where are you? And why the hell am I doing this?"
I know why, a voice trickled through the base of his skull, you need to know the truth.
"Shut up, brain."
Why? You know I'm right and you know exactly what you have to do.
He grumbled, thought to kill a few brain cells later on with a few beers to get even, grabbed an iron rod and started lifting off a few of the heavier pieces.
A half hour later, hands dirty, two knuckles scraped, he'd found a whole lot of nothing.
He'd barely scraped ground in a few places, considering the amount of rubble left over. Todd leaned on what was left of a stone archway, once having connecting two great rooms together.
It was then, looking at the trickle of blood slowly trailing its way down his hand, that the thought occurred, which took him upright, of how he was actually supposed to open this door even if he did manage to find it. Todd took another look around him; he'd only just searched a tenth of the wreckage. Without anything with some horsepower to help him left the heavy beams and chunks of brick and cement, he might be at this for a week. But the Epsilon armor was under guard and the best security system ever devised, and Mother would know as soon as he stepped inside the hangar bay, who'd report to Xanatos, and he'd then tell the clan, his wife and finally his mother. "Fuck..."
Something shifted behind him, rubble resettling, but he didn't notice it.
"Where the hell are you!" he yelled, obviously unafraid of anyone discovering he was busily trawling through an old yet still active crime scene. "Why are the Scottish so damned paranoid?"
A tremor went through the ground, and more debris lifted up from a spot halfway across the foundation.
"It's just a door. A simple steel door."
And it opened. Behind him, two steel doors broke through the pile of wreckage and opened a chasm in the ground. Todd turned around just as a great wind funneled up and out a shaft three times the size of his car; he nearly choked on the dust shoved down his throat.
A ship lifted up into the air, hovering on three turbines at an almost perfect parallel with the ground. Sleek, loaded for bear and looking like something out of a videogame, this was the paramount of the former king's fleet with chrome lines and open gun ports.
Todd dropped the bar. "Hey!" he hollered, trying to rise over the low thrum. "HEY!"
Behind the controls of his hovercraft, Macbeth was about to push the throttle to full and leave a few scorch marks on what remained of his home until seeing something on the monitors. He had a few facing forwards, one aimed low and the automatic targeting system locked on to a moving shape.
His eyes went down. Someone was on his grounds, jumping up and down like a madman and near liable to get sucked up into his engines. He zoomed in, and found the young Hawkins boy. "Oh bloody hell."
He should have taken off sooner. It was only an hour's drive from the Eyrie to his home, and knowing the way the boy drove behind the wheel of his four-wheeled rocket, he could have easily cut the time in half.
"I know where you're going, pal!"
Todd stomped his way towards the ship, in no mind to consider the engine down-thrust. He got as close as he could to the hovercraft floating about five feet above the ground and started screaming at it. The ship, of course, didn't answer, and as it hovered there it seemed to turn slightly in his direction, but it could've just been the wind being stirred up by the turbines. "Come on, let me on!"
He reared back. The voice had come through a pair of speakers somehow hidden on the fuselage. "Why not!"
"...This doesn't involve you..."
"Doesn't concern me! Hello!"
"...Go home and be with yuir mother and yuir pregnant mate..."
Todd chewed on Macbeth's logic the same way he would a good taffy, by clenching his jaw and stiffing his upper lip. If his glare could have melted steel, there would have been a pair of holes in the front of the craft. "If my sister is alive and out there somewhere, I have to find her! For my mother! Now do I have to go back to the castle and tell Rose that you refused to help me, or are you going to let me on!"
Todd couldn't see anything through the cockpit windows (well tinted probably), and if anything the reaction he was going to get might just mow him over considering his was directly in the middle of the hovercraft's path.
Suddenly, from the port side a door opened, hinged at the bottom, and swung down towards the ground, forming a stairway.
There was a part of the complex that no one ever dared to enter, wholly guarded by a sophisticated security system that only one man could bypass. His word was enough to keep anyone out with a proclivity for curiosity, but just for good measure, a fingerprint and retinal scanner and voice identification were needed to get the steel door to even budge.
The room itself was high-ceilinged and Spartan, a little austere, but it basically provided only one purpose. Black stepped up to the center podium and using the lone keyboard sitting flush with the charcoal-stained oak surface, initiated the uplink. He'd never been able to track where exactly the signal went to; it had been routed and bounced off every conceivable communication device in every civilized region as to disguise the origin, a different path every time.
Large monitors eight feet above the floor started powering up in an unordered sequence, and soon he found himself surrounded by men and women whose faces he couldn't see.
It seemed they enjoyed that kind of power, to bring a man as fearsome as the enigmatic Mr. Black to a simple anxious twitch, wringing and straightening his collar in their presence.
"You summoned me?" he said, tone dripping with sarcasm.
It didn't go unnoticed. "...Mr. Hawkins..." one said, grimly.
Quickly taking a dislike to the name, physically, through every tiny feature, Black ground out. "Please don't call me that. We all know that man died a long time ago."
"...But his son lives, his son carries on the family name. As does his sister and mother, and if recent intelligence is correct, his unborn child..."
"If you're worried about any emotional attachment–"
"...You are correct. We are very worried..."
"...We did not provide you the means to wage your war only to have you suddenly switching sides out of loyalty to your bloodline..."
He crossed his arms, gaze fanned out to most of the monitors before him, but really, he wasn't seeing much. "I assure you, my purpose has not been swayed in the slightest."
"...From your lack of progress, we're inclined to believe differently..."
As if this city hadn't suffered enough, if a group with this much influence, power and most importantly wealth had no compunction in reducing New York to rubble then he feared for everyone he was fighting for. "You want even more devastation in New York? More innocent deaths?"
"...No, but there are more ways to destroy the clan than an all-out attack..."
"I'm well aware of that, even if no one else is."
"...Your ingenuity has always been a factor in our choice to appoint you leader. Use it. Use every weapon at your disposal, or we may be forced to reconsider the command structure of this particular organization..."
Black's outrage resounded through his response, "You'd consider replacing me?"
"...If you don't live up to our expectations, yes..."
"No one here has put more sweat and blood into this group, and no one has suffered as I have."
"I am the Guild!" he roared, and in that moment when he felt the blister of fire at the back of his throat, didn't particularly care how powerful his benefactors were. "I am its very essence! I built it from the ground up!"
"...With our continuing support. You would be just another failed man with unrealized dreams of revenge, perhaps dead by now if it weren't for our very generous aid..."
"...We want results, Mr. Hawkins, or we'll perhaps find someone in your ranks to better fill the role. Someone who doesn't have intimate ties to the very creatures he's sworn to destroy..."
"You won't find anyone better to lead the Guild." he acquiesced. "I'll carry out my part, despite my family."
"...Then do so, and quickly..."
The screens went blank, the room silent, save every hardened breath dragged through his lungs and snorted through his nostrils.
Black was understandably fuming; everything he'd worked for threatened by a bunch of faceless ghosts despite their impressive and never-ending bankroll. He'd suffered, he'd bled, he'd lost almost everything, which would've pushed any lesser, sane man to his limits.
But, he loathed to admit, they may have been right. He had such a singular purpose the last twenty years, only to have it derailed when he was so close.
With a head full of anger and a serious case of myopic vision, Black could only see one thing in front of him: the door to his private chamber. He barely left his hand on the fingerprint pad long enough for the security system to scan his hand and the door to actually open, and the sight before him brought him to a halt on the tips of his boots.
Sarah Hawkins had her hand in the cookie jar, nice and deep.
He'd found his daughter with the weakened immune system on the portable oxygen tank and his private computer. She'd quickly shut off the monitor, but, not before he'd caught a glance of the screen and the command prompt to an outside line. One he'd set with strict security measures (that apparently needed to be updated). "What the hell are you doing?"
Sarah stood, nervous and not sure what to do with herself, having been discovered. "Nothing, it's nothing...I needed to use your computer..."
She stumbled on the answer, not quite quick enough to think her way out when under the gaze of her father.
With a swift step, faster than she could escape into her own room, he rushed forward and snatched her around the wrist from across the desk, a quarter of an inch from snapping bone. Turning the monitor back on, he found she'd tried to reach outside of the bunker's firewall and into public domain. Surprised by his intrusion, Sarah didn't have the chance to wipe the memory clean and hide every step as she was so careful to do before. "I had my suspicions, and blocked your internet access." he explained, and Sarah bit her lip. "I knew you'd eventually discover a way to reach beyond the limits I set."
"That was unfair." she whispered, avoiding eye contact.
He leaned in, and hissed, "Unfair?"
"You've contacted him, haven't you?" Black stated quietly.
She cringed, shivered a little, but didn't respond.
He could feel the proverbial knife in his back and clenched against the sting of treachery. And chewing on the thought, he wasn't too surprised, but he still needed to hear it from her own mouth. "Why?"
"To warn him." she justified impassively. "To warn my mother."
"Your brother is a traitor, and your mother–"
"Is your wife." Sarah shot back, looking him straight in the eyes and meeting any challenge he had to give. With the cold, stark truth as her best weapon, she didn't quite fear his retribution so much.
His grip slackened only just. "That was a lifetime ago."
"Bull!" She didn't believe him, obviously. There was the slightest hint of hesitation in that declaration he kept making ad nauseam. "If you're so intent to destroy anyone associated with the gargoyles, they would've been dead a long time ago just like all the others you've killed!"
"I don't want any more innocent people harmed or dead."
"Your son is innocent. My mother is innocent."
"With the gargoyles, yes, so I've heard all my life!" she cut him off, and watched his jaw clench. "It's a doctrine you've tried to imprint on my brain since I was just learning to walk."
"You have no right to judge me or the people who've been scarred on the inside and out by those creatures! They hunt, they destroy and they kill!"
"So do you." she shot back. "I wonder if you're even aware of the irony."
Black leaned off and nearly dropped her hand. She wasn't quite sure if it was shock, outrage or something worse in the stunted emotional range he'd exhibited for all the years she'd known him, but nonetheless he remained silent.
"I have a right to make up my own mind."
"You've seen nothing, nothing." he said through his teeth. "But I suppose in some aspects you're right. I can't expect you to know my pain." Still attached to her, ensuring she couldn't escape, he circled around the desk, opened the left drawer and pulled out a small case.
There was a syringe inside, already full. He plucked it from the case, tested it, a bit of whatever was inside falling on the fabric of his uniform.
Sarah pulled at him, instinctively trying to put some distance between her and the needle. "W-What are you doing?"
He pulled her close despite the resistance and whether it was intentional or not, waved the syringe past her wide gaze. "Something I should have done a long time ago."
She was like a rag doll in his arms, compared to his greater strength, and nothing Sarah could have done would've prevented her father from jabbing the hypodermic directly into her jugular and mercilessly emptying the entire syringe into her bloodstream.
Ice went through her arteries, and then a warmth that blurred her vision and made her head feel like cement. Every subsequent thought was dulled, every flailing movement slowed and she slowly lost consciousness. Her last desperate act was to grab at her father's uniform and clench the fabric in between her fingers, staring at him before her eyelids drooped and fell dead like the rest of her extremities.
Black held her close; barely a hundred pounds and light enough to prop on his shoulder. "I'm sorry." he whispered into the wisps of her dark autumn hair. "I'm sorry your life had to be like this, and I'm sorry I ever told you your brother and mother were alive, but hard choices will have to be made."
He threw the syringe to his desk, let it skitter across the varnished surface and grabbed another bundle from his drawer. More needles, more medicine, a booster shot in the crudest terms, for her to better survive the trip.
At least the view was good, despite the poor results. He must have seen the city from fifty different angles, both from the air and ground, saw corners he didn't think existed and watched as a man almost a thousand years old cleaned out seedy pubs with nothing but his fists and a hard-edged stare.
But nothing had turned up. Only the dregs were left, the small-time cartels suffering with every would-be burglar and gangbanger too afraid to buy with the police on the momentum of the Triad evidence practically gift-wrapped for them (and arrests numbering now in the hundreds) and the rumor of creatures breaking up every criminal operation on the island.
Todd was impressed though, at how the former king was able to squeeze as much information out of that last guy remaining when the dust had settled, and all the rest had either kissed floor or went through the front window. "I swear to god, man, gargoyles! They came through the windows and started busting everything up! I don't know anything about guys in black masks!" It was the same story everywhere, of those who actually had the stones to spill their guts no one knew a damned thing.
And now, hours later, he sat sulking in the back of the hovercraft, relegated to the backseat for his tendency to keep pressing buttons that either controlled the landing gear or the weaponry. "What a waste of time..." Todd muttered.
Macbeth picked up on the resentment. "I'm sorry, but it seems yuir father and his zealots have completely disappeared."
"What about your so-called sources?"
"All dried up." he responded. "There's nothing much here, lad, those friends of yuirs have basically picked the city clean. And with the recent Triad and related arrests numbering in the hundreds, most smuggling rings have been broken up. If the Guild's even in the city, they've hidden themselves well and good."
He snorted, and finally said, "At least something good has come out of this..."
"Well," Todd threw up his hands, "want to get some drive-thru?"
Macbeth threw him an odd look over his shoulder.
"What? Imagine the look on the faces of the minimum wage when we pull up to the window in this thing!"
Macbeth continued with the odd look, hoping the boy would either retract the offer out of sheer idiocy or...
Incredibly, he was just about to reconsider when the targeting systems started screaming at him. Something had locked on to the hovercraft and as Macbeth tried to use his instruments to home in on what it was, Todd had his eyes fixed on the windshield and the ballistic missile cruising towards them.
Macbeth quickly lifted his gaze; it was close enough to make out the serial number on the painted case. A split second reaction pitched the craft to the left, with Todd being thrown against the side raft considering he wasn't strapped in.
The missile tore into the fuselage, hitting the starboard engine and tearing it to shreds. Fire and tendrils of electricity crawled over the side, hemorrhaging shrapnel as it exploded and nearly engulfed the entire hovercraft in a big ball of flame. It would've, if it had hit dead on but the king's reflexes coupled with his impeccable driving skills had avoided the near-inevitable head-on collision.
Todd struggled to his feet as Macbeth fought with the controls. It was like driving a brick five hundred feet above the ground, and their altitude was dropping fast. "Stirred up a hornet's nest, I suppose..."
"Jesus fucking Christ!" Todd yelled, grabbing onto the passenger seat for support. "Someone tried to blow us out of the sky!"
"And succeeded." Macbeth responded through grit teeth. "We're going down, laddie. I suggest you strap yuirself in."
Todd did so, with fervor, seeing the buildings below that had once looked so small quickly, horrifyingly get larger as they dropped like a stone. His stomach was in his throat, making it hard for the trademark witty remark, but he somehow managed. "Uhm...ground, getting closer..."
"I am!" Macbeth hollered back, steering the unresponsive vessel just right of the Chrysler building to avoid sheering the antenna from its base. "But that something includes hitting the ground."
Todd braced himself. "Oh damnit..."
Anyone watching from below would've sworn a meteor was about to level Manhattan before the hovercraft got close enough to dispel the fear of annihilation. Leaving behind a trail of think, choking smoke and small bursts of flame, Macbeth maneuvered the damaged ship towards the southern shore. He'd hoped to ditch in the ocean but the hovercraft didn't quite have the power left to make it, thus he was forced to use an empty street as a makeshift runway.
It hit (without landing gear, damaged from the initial strike), skidding down the center line with some sort of eerie precision until coming to a stop just meters from a seaside warehouse.
With a diagonal red welt forming across his chest from the seatbelt, Todd stared headlong into the warehouse doors, his life having flashed before his eyes. "I'm not dead."
"No," Macbeth was already out of the driver's seat and into his cache of weaponry, "but if we don't get out of here, we will be."
He pointed past Todd's head, through the windshield and towards a massive black helicopter coming in for the kill. It looked hungry, mean and game to finish what it had started. "That's what shot us down."
He started fumbling with the seatbelt, gaze dissecting what details he could manage off of the sleek black exterior, blending with the rest of the night sky. Missile racks, gun turrets, its sheer size told him nothing more than its singular purpose for combat and the cold reality he should get himself the hell out of a big and stationary target.
Macbeth was out first, guns in hand, and covered the boy as he jumped down the stairway and onto the cement, but a quick scan provided no immediate place to hide from either a hail of bullets or another missile besides the downed hovercraft itself. Pinned down and nowhere to go, they stood in the vivid wash of a spotlight while the helicopter simply hovered in place, staring down the two men through the barrel of a .50 caliber machine gun.
"Why aren't we dead yet?" Todd asked, up against the side of the hovercraft's steel skin.
Macbeth thinned his gaze. "It's waiting."
"What the fuck for?"
He nearly knocked himself out swinging his head around so hard, staring at the Scotsman. "Me?"
"If they're Guild, then it wouldn't bode well to shoot the boss' son."
Todd couldn't help but agree with the logic, even if it was tragically distorted.
The hulking machine started descending and belying its weight, touched down with barely a tremor through the ground. The engines were cut and quickly died, and chillingly, all that was left were the blades revolving near-silently. The side hatch opened, lowering to the ground and Todd felt Macbeth tense through his duster, his index finger caressing the triggers.
But nothing came.
And as they waited, clinging to the fuselage of the hovercraft, every second that ticked by turned to an hour and a lethal mix of paranoia and curiosity started to set in. They leaned out ever so slightly, trying to get a better look inside the helicopter's innards.
A red beam of light shot out from the helicopter, promptly aimed and sent a bullet along the thread. Macbeth jerked, tried to grunt but found he had no breath and Todd watched helplessly as he collapsed in a boneless heap, for all appearances dead. "Fuck..."
"I'm sorry, son," a voice echoed from the helicopter interior, reaching above the whirring blades and the small tempest stirred to life, "but it's business, nothing personal!"
He knew that voice, intimately, even as distorted as it was through the mask. Todd ripped his eyes from Macbeth's lifeless body and towards that void inside the open hatch, where shadows danced and flitted under the glow of a dim red light. "Dad..."
"I warned you," it continued, "I told you to leave! But you're too damned stubborn for your own good!"
"I guess I am!" Todd yelled back. "But I'm not going to be forced from my fucking home by a psychotic, fanatical bas...tard..."
He trailed off, in the face of a figure strutting down the ramp, with another thin form resting limply in his arms.
Todd didn't know on which to center his attention, his father in full Guild regalia or the young girl against his chest who looked suspiciously (he must have had her on the brain) like his mother. Nestled in distinctly military-issue clothing to keep her warm, and between the small oxygen canister and portable vitals monitor in the pockets of the over-sized jacket, the passing resemblance was growing increasingly glaring the closer his father got.
Black never broke stride, despite a few of his private, most trusted guards disembarking to each side and training their weapons on his son. They met face to face at arm's length and Todd swallowed the urge to take a swing at him, either risking a bullet between the hemispheres of his brain or causing his father to drop the girl. "Look familiar?"
He couldn't help but stare, reality half a world away. Dark brown tendrils that had escaped the fur-lined hood whipped around her features, pale and delicate. "Who is she?"
"I think you know."
"...sarah...?" His voice had never sounded so small; he was still in a state of mild-shock. "Is it Sarah?"
"Open your arms."
Todd did so perfunctorily, and was surprised at the sheer lack of weight of the young woman carefully placed in his arms. She was asleep, or unconscious, murmuring something through the transparent oxygen mask, and resettled slightly in her big brother's arms.
"I'm giving her to you, son." Black said grimly.
"Wha...?" Todd stammered, looking up and nearly forgetting the mask and the situation he was in. "Why?"
There was no emotion behind the mask's eye-slits, just white eyes and the molded material turning human features eerily amorphous, almost skeletal if one stared long enough. "Her fate is in your hands. You don't break every tie with those gargoyles, you kill your sister." Black swiveled on his heel and, before turning completely, stole a last glance at his daughter, then made his way back towards the helicopter. "We're enemies now. Nothing else."
Todd was left holding the body of his sister and didn't quite know what to do next. He'd basically done what he'd set out to do, rescue his sister, even if she was hand-delivered under the threat of death and basically forced to decide between his family and the clan. He swept languidly over Macbeth's body, and again to Sarah and felt his knees about to buckle.
Thinking it was finished, Black was just a few feet from boarding when he noticed one of his guards stop dead, attention thrown elsewhere. He followed his subordinate's gaze into the sky, hearing the sharp snap of wings taming ocean air.
"Sir, it's them."
Black was speechless, watching a small pack of gargoyles descend and alight near his son.
Todd didn't hear the voice above him, nor the distinctive sound of talons digging into the road. Half the clan took to ground, sacrificing safety for speed, and setting themselves between Todd and the Guild.
"Hawkins!" Brooklyn tried again. "Hawkins, you'd better have one goddamned good reason why you're out here! Especially with them!"
Black recoiled, getting a good firsthand look at the creatures he'd gone toe-to-toe with several months ago, and hearing his guards rush forwards with intent to kill, spun around and quickly motioned for them not to shoot. Despite all his bluster otherwise, his son and daughter were in the crossfire. "Not yet..."
"But sir...!" one protested, locking eyes with the larger aquamarine creature.
Todd slowly turned towards the clan, revealing the woman in his arms.
"By the dragon..." Desdemona gasped.
Old brick skin wrinkled through Brooklyn's temples as he grimaced. "Is that...?"
"Sarah." he responded distractedly. "H-How'd you find me?"
"Tracking device in your car. But," he motioned with a simple twist of the neck to the downed hovercraft, especially its scorched surface, "it wasn't hard to miss the fireworks. Now what the hell is going on!"
"You shouldn't be here..."
Brooklyn looked back at Mr. Black and his cronies, each side taking a defensive position and readying for the inevitable fight. "I was just about to say that to you."
"No," Todd corrected him, "you shouldn't be here."
A wind picked up, coming in low and gruff from the opposite direction of the large helicopter's rotors. From the source it should've had the hint on sea on its breath, but it was too hot, too aggressive and a precursor to the sub-octave shudder the gargoyles could hear through the aluminum siding.
More helicopters skidded out from between the snarl of warehouses. Two smaller Apaches started circling the area, having joined their bigger brother in what they presumed to be a successful hunt. Half the clan was just underneath them and if it weren't for their leader in the direct path, they would've unloaded every missile in their arsenal, reshaping Manhattan Island's southern shoreline.
"Oh shit..." Todd whispered. "Oh shit! You have to get out of here, NOW!"
"Not without you!" Brooklyn yelled back.
Black took a particular interest in what circled overhead, considering they were Guild and, more importantly, this was supposed to be a clandestine meeting. He knew perfectly well just who ordered the aircraft out here and who was probably on board at least one of the attack helicopters. "Agent White," he spoke very clearly into his commlink, "I'll address the fact of your unmitigated gall to follow me on a private errand later, but whatever you do, do not fire!"
"...I repeat, do not fire!..."
Eyes thinned behind the mask. That black speck on the ground was roaring into the intercom and from where he was sitting in the cockpit, agent White offered a simple and rather cool ultimatum. "Then I suggest you get yourself clear."
"...My son and daughter are in the way, let them move before you open fire!..."
"We may not get another shot at this!" he matched his employer's level of voice, just that much below a full-blown scream. "They're finally out of that damned fortress, in a position where they can't readily escape and there's no danger of any civilians getting hurt."
No answer, and surprisingly, no further argument. Perhaps he was finally getting through.
"By your own words," White continued hammering down his point, "your son has made his choice!"
"...It's time to make yours!..."
It all came down to this, he supposed. Black knew the choice would eventually have to be made after deliberating for so long, and seeing the creatures form a protective circle around his son, he knew already what must be done.
Father and son shared a last look before Black gave the order, "You're right. Kill them." and walked away, hearing bullets hit the pavement behind him.