Coping on the Home Front
By Kimberly T. (email: kimbertow at yahoo dot com)
Author's Note: This takes place soon after the episode "Golem." The episode "Kingdom" was aired right before that, but I figure "Kingdom" took place in the timeline while Goliath, Elisa and Bronx were still fighting the Archmage on Avalon, since "Kingdom" seemed to take place about a week after their disappearance and Avalon has that 24-to-1 time differential. This takes place about two months after "Kingdom."January 1996
Brooklyn looked out over the city and sighed heavily. Leading a clan of gargoyles, even a small clan, could be hard on a guy.
Not all the problems they'd had were hard to solve; he'd sorted out the clan's food shortage problem without any real trouble at all. Matt Bluestone had willingly agreed to help out by providing groceries for the gargoyles, just as Elisa had done before she'd left. Matt's budget didn't cover buying nearly as much food as Elisa had been able to provide for them. But since at the moment they had two less gargoyle mouths to feed, and Cagney ate only a fraction of what a gargoyle ate, it was just about enough… and they just scavenged or hunted for the rest. At least Central Park never failed to provide a bounty of pigeons for them to grab on their way home from patrol.
Following Elisa's mandate of keeping away from the media when at all possible, he'd managed to track down that one man who'd caught Broadway on film, sneaked into the guy's apartment and confiscated the film before it could be developed. But he was worried about Dracon's gang; after what the clan had done to bust open their protection racket and put Dracon himself in jail, the gang members all knew gargoyles existed… and knew they weren't bulletproof, too. (Not that he blamed Broadway a bit for blatantly using that dumpster for cover from the bullets of Dracon's thug, but it had kind-of ruined that 'supernatural' mystique they'd had going for them for the first few encounters.)
The last Dracon thug that Brooklyn had brought down had said a few words of defiance before being knocked out, tied up and left for the cops to deal with; he'd told them that Dracon was still in charge of the organization, and that he'd told his men he wanted a gargoyle's head for a trophy… preferably without a body attached. And of course word of the bounty was spreading onto the streets; the gargoyles had all overheard thugs and assorted lowlifes talking about it in warehouses or alleys where they forgot to keep looking up. From what they were hearing, apparently over half the city's criminal element thought that Dracon had gone nuts, but the rest were wondering if there really were gargoyles… and how to bag one of them.
This was definitely bad news for the clan. Back in Old Scotland, when the only distance weapons they'd faced had been arrows and thrown axes or spears, their clan of gargoyles had had little problem beating back a band of raiders or Vikings. But bullets flew faster and farther and could be fired more frequently than arrows, and don't even get him started on those laser-rifles and other modern weapons. Against modern foes, two of the gargoyles' best weapons had been the element of surprise, and humans' superstitious fear of them when they came in roaring. Plenty of foes had dropped everything—loot, guns, victims—and run screaming away without ever having to land a blow on them. If that changed, their self-assigned mission of protecting Manhattan's citizens from its criminal element was going to get a lot harder.
Dammit, he wished he could just go back to being second-in-command, or even just an unranked warrior, and leave all this mess in Goliath's hands. Why hadn't Goliath taken up Mr. Renard on his offer and come back to Manhattan? For that matter, WHY had Goliath, Elisa and Bronx left in the first place?
Brooklyn had questioned Hudson twice on the matter, gleaning every last detail from the elder, but Hudson could only tell him what he'd been told, in his encounter with Halcyon Renard three nights ago.
Three nights ago, Hudson had been on patrol when he'd encountered "a flying metal beastie"—a cybot—circling the city, and repeating over and over that it had a message for "any gargoyle of Goliath's clan." After Hudson had approached it and questioned it without response, he'd warily taken the tube it had been holding out in a metallic claw, and opened it to find a message rolled up inside.
The message had been from Halcyon Renard, owner of that giant airship Air Fortress II, whom Goliath had met and befriended two months before he'd disappeared. The message said that Halcyon had recently seen Goliath in some place called "Prague", and if the message reader would simply tell the cybot "Take me to your maker", the cybot would lead him to meet Halcyon Renard, who would be happy to answer any questions he could for the clan. Hudson had been wary, but had given the order and followed the cybot across the city to where Halcyon Renard had been waiting.
Halcyon Renard had expressed pleasure at meeting another gargoyle (particularly one that seemed to be nearer his own age), then told Hudson of his encounter with Goliath and Elisa in Prague, where their missing clan members had effectively saved Renard from himself.
That had answered at least a few questions that had been haunting the clan for the last few months; namely, what had happened to Goliath, Bronx and Elisa? Were they still alive? Now the clan knew they were alive, but not much more. Why had they left Manhattan? How had they gotten all the way across the Atlantic Ocean? What was the deal with this 'quest' that Goliath had told Renard they were on? And when, when were they going to come back home?
Tonight was a slow night, crime-wise; second patrol had already come back and Broadway reported that they'd found only one mugger/rapist in action, who had thankfully been one of the 'scream and run away' crowd rather than ready and willing to put up a fight. (The victim had screamed and run away too, but at least she'd been unhurt and still in possession of her purse and all her clothes; the clan had learned to accept that small satisfaction instead of actual gratitude.)
Now that patrols were finished for the night, Lexington had gone over to Matt Bluestone's apartment to play 'Myst' on his computer and do some Internet-surfing, and Hudson had gone out to see his friend Jeffrey Robbins. (It was odd to realize that both gargoyles had friends who just assumed they were human, because they'd never actually been seen by those friends; Robbins because he was blind, and Lexington because the 'chat room buddies' all communicated via computers, instead of face-to-face.)
That left Brooklyn and Broadway alone in the tower, free to watch TV, any channel they wanted… but there was nothing on worth watching this late at night, just infomercials about stuff they had no use for. Broadway was tinkering with some casserole recipe, looking for another palatable way to serve rat, so Brooklyn was left alone with time on his hands; time to think about the sort of things leaders had to think about. Bleh. He'd rather go beat up a crook; some nice physical action would probably do wonders for his mood. But even New York City didn't have that many criminals out on the streets at 3:30 a.m.
"Here, taste this and tell me what you think." Broadway was at his side, holding up a spoonful of something that smelled all right.
Brooklyn obligingly opened his beak, and let Broadway dribble the spoon's contents onto his tongue. "Mmm… not bad! Yeah, that recipe's a keeper."
"You don't think there's not enough salt?" Broadway asked anxiously.
"Well, you could probably add a smidgen more salt, but not a lot; it really does taste pretty good! Tastiest rat recipe yet."
"Thanks!" Broadway looked mighty pleased with himself. "You want a bowlful? I made enough for two."
"Well… I'm still pretty full from the pigeons I ate while I was out, but ask me again in an hour and I'll say 'yes', okay?"
"Okay." Then Broadway looked at him closely. "You all right? You're looking pretty down."
"Eh, just too much thinking. Slow nights do that to me. I could really use some physical activity to distract me from all this thinking."
Broadway smiled even wider. "Funny you should mention that… I found something while I was out on patrol that might be fun to try out!"
And with that, Broadway went over to the television, and pulled out something that had been stashed behind it… a basketball. "Found it sitting on top of a trash can, but it still bounces just fine!" he explained as he bounced it on the floor just once in demonstration.
"Cool!" Brooklyn said with a grin. "That game always looks like fun on TV."
"Want to go to the basketball courts in Central Park and try it out?" Broadway said with a grin.
"You bet! Just gimme a minute to leave a note for the others," as Brooklyn looked around for pencil and paper. One of the first rules that he'd instituted as temporary leader for the clan was that last person out of the clocktower always, always left a note for the others, saying where he was going and when he expected to be back.
By the time he'd found some paper and scribbled a note, Broadway had set the food to keeping warm and was ready to leave as well. With basketball in hand, they glided out to the public basketball courts that were located just north of the Great Lawn in Central Park.
Basketball turned out to be harder than it looked at first; dribbling the ball while running and dodging took a lot of practice, and several indignant squawks of "Hey, get back here!" from both Brooklyn and Broadway when the dribbler found the ball heading a different direction than he was going. But after an hour or so, they'd figured the basic moves out enough to play a game of "one on one".
Brooklyn had the ball, having tail-snagged it away from Broadway in mid-bounce, and now was trying to score a basket with it, but Broadway was blocking him. With his wings out and held up at just the right angle, Broadway made for a pretty effective ten-foot-high wall; Brooklyn could barely see the basketball hoop past him. Brooklyn thought of protesting about it being against the rules to use wings… but considering how he'd used his tail to get the ball, he figured he didn't have a talon to stand on.
"C'mon, let's see you get past this!" Broadway said with a triumphant grin as he moved back and forth, continually blocking Brooklyn's path.
"I will, I will!" Brooklyn snapped as he dodged and dribbled back and forth. Then he spotted something behind Broadway… and grinned. After dodging back and forth for a few more seconds, he suddenly stopped dribbling, took the ball in both hands, and tossed it in a high arc over Broadway's head.
It was aimed at completely the wrong angle to go neatly into the basket… but then, Brooklyn hadn't been aiming for the basket. With a hearty laugh, Hudson caught the ball as he swooped in, then made a narrow banking turn to drop the ball neatly through the hoop. "Two points, lads!"
"Two against one is completely unfair!" Broadway said as he turned around, but even he was smiling.
"Aye, maybe so, but I call it making good use of reinforcements," Hudson said with a chuckle as he gently backwinged to land atop the hoop's backboard, grinning at them both.
"Sound strategy," Brooklyn agreed as he retrieved the ball, then held it up in invitation. "Wanna play, Hudson? You'll probably need to practice dribbling first, but it's sure fun!"
"Aye, I do! But not tonight; ye lads were likely having too much fun to notice that it's getting on towards dawn…"
"He's right!" Brooklyn said as he looked to the east, where the sky was now perceptibly lighter. "We'd better get our tails out of here, before the early joggers start showing up." He silently scolded himself for losing track of time like that… but he really did feel better now than he had before. (Though he'd still be glad when Goliath and the others returned home!)