Author's Note: Ok, not gonna give too much away here, but there is some stuff that needs some explaining. Right. First of all, just so you know these most of these characters are my own invention. Lots and lots of OCs, but fear not, there will be some guest appearances of the original Nerd Corps characters too. Guess that was my disclaimer. Right, anyways, so my story takes place seventeen years after the downfall of Cyclonia. Yeah, again. The Age of Heroes is over. Now is the time of peace between the Terras, prosperity, security and rebirth. Sky Knight Squadrons have been narrowed down to a select few in charge of the larger Terras.
But that would be just too perfect, right?
Believing that a new age of darkness is brewing somewhere in the forgotten corners of Atmos, a young Sky Knights scrapes together a squadron and sets off to expose this new evil before it can grow too large for anyone to stop. As the plot twists and thickens and expands beyond what anyone would have expected, the motley young squadron gets caught up in a battle that will decide the fate of the entire Atmos, and wrapped in a interweaving destiny that reaches into their very blood.
An original tale of young rejects trying to carve a place for themselves in a crowded and cruel world, and a building a binding friendship that will echo through the ages.
If you're familiar with my work, you'll know by now that I swear a blue streak and I have a bit of a violence fetish. Therefore, this fiction is rated a very high T. Consider yourself warned.
Also, I'm going to be experimenting between different character POVs and flashbacks, as well as third/first person perspectives. It might get a little choppy, bear with me.
Quick dedication, and then I'll shut up and let you read (if you've made it this far already). To Dragonwings144, whom I was inspired by to write this fic, by the meshing of characters, hauntingly and achingly human emotions and perspectives, mastery of suspense and action sequences and the addition of music that is sprinkled into the chapters. If you're reading this without having read any of Dragonwing's gripping tales, turn right back around and read them first.
And to .PhaerynTao., who encouraged me to explore the ugliness and the beauty of the human mind and heart. And who gave me fresh hope and a fresh perspective of love and more importantly, friendship.
And to all you other Storm Hawks fans and fanfiction-ers out there. Ya'll make me feel a lot less lonely in this talent stricken world. I can honestly say I've never, ever read a story on this site that I thought was poorly done, and I've read a lot (probably more then I've actually reviewed for, heh heh).
Ok, I think I've rambled on long enough. This first chapter may be a little generic and dry, but I've got to introduce the characters a little bit or this story won't fly the way I want it to. Please R&R, if you've got the time.
Nothing Gold can Stay
You think I can't fly? Well you just watch me. Watch me."
-Gravity, the Dresden Dolls
"If you ask me, this is just a big waste of time."
Pushing his hair out of his eyes and smearing sweat from his forehead, Falshade let out a sigh of one who had known patience, once upon a time, but had run out a long time ago.
"If you recall, I didn't ask you anything, for exactly that reason."
Varan issued a low, irritated growl and pushed a little closer to him, glancing around with nervous eyes. "I don't care if you don't want to hear it. I think this whole idea is pointless. Why do we need the Council's approval anyways? You already know what they're going to say."
Well, at least he hadn't said it was stupid.
"And of course you had to pick Market Day, of all days." Varan went on, his tail flicking skittishly as crowds of people shoved past them. "Oh for god's sake, where are they?"
Perhaps only Falshade caught the slight reptilian hiss that slithered into the Ss of Varan's words, a sure sign that he was fast losing his composure. Falshade supposed he couldn't blame him; despite the fact the Repton and his cronies were rotting in some jail cell, and had been for years, and the fact that they had been peace with Terra Bogaton for nearly eighteen years, the people still eyed Raptors with unconcealed dislike and hostility. Even here on Atmosia, the home of the Sky Knight council and the pinnacle of acceptance towards all races, Varan was drawing faces from everywhere, and none of them regarded him with approval.
Falshade grabbed a hold of Varan's scaly tail, which was now whipping back and forth dangerously, and tried to calm his uncomfortable friend. "Look, I know you don't like crowds, and I'm sorry for dragging you out here. But this won't take much longer, and then we can get out of here, ok?"
Varan's muscles sagged, more in a sorry attempt to show Falshade he wasn't uncomfortable then in actual relief. "You didn't drag me out here. But I really don't want to stand out here all day. If the others don't show up soon we should probably just go back to the dry docks and wait for them there."
He had a good point. Not only was Market Day probably the worst day to be standing like a couple of brain dead stumps at a street corner, but it had to be forty degrees out here. A fine first impression that would make to the leader of the Sky Knight Council; six scraggly teens all soaked with sweat. If the other four of them decided to show up in the next week.
Just as he finished that prickly thought, Stork suddenly appeared at his elbow, dragging a shamefaced Blizzarian by the front of his shirt behind her. "Got one." she reported, releasing Fraggle and shooting him a withering look. Being smaller then the boys, Falshade had enlisted her to hunt through the crowd several minutes earlier for their missing squad-mates, who had either gotten separated by the mob of driven shoppers or had slipped off on their own accord (unfortunately Falshade had a feeling they'd vanished because of the latter rather then the former).
Fraggle seemed to be taking the worst of the heat; his blue fur was ruffled and spiked as if jelled by sweat, and he was panting like a dog. "Oh, come on, eh! All I wanted was a drink from that vender we passed!"
"I told you to take of the stupid jacket before we left, but did you listen?" Stork shot back.
Fraggle fiddled with the sleeve of his green bomber jacket fondly, looking back at Stork reproachfully. "Watch what you say about my threads, eh."
"Well then stop complaining." Stork said finally before rounding on Falshade. "I didn't see the others. Maybe they're already at the Council Hall." she said, a touchy tone in her voice. The look on her face was not forthcoming. "Send me back into that crowd" it seemed to say "I dare you."
Not opting for immediate castration, Falshade decided that maybe they should just go up to the Council Hall and hope the other two had enough sense to head that way too. "Ok, hang on a second, let Fraggle go and buy his drink and then we'll head up there."
"And that's why you're our Sky Knight, eh!" Fraggle crowed in gratitude, clapping Falshade on the shoulder before melting into the crowd. Stork made an exasperated noise and moved to stand in the shade next to Varan obviously.
Falshade stood on tiptoe to peer over the heads of the bustling mob, searching for a familiar flash of black among the rainbow of hued hair. He perked up when he thought he recognized a nearby figure, then slumped when the guy turned around and turned out to be much too old.
Stork was scuffing her boot back and forth against the dry sidewalk. Falshade pretended to ignore her, even though he knew what was coming:
"It would have taken me five minutes to get what I needed."
Falshade blew out a long, slow sigh and prepared for yet another round. If it wasn't this, it was something else that Stork just couldn't agree with, even if deep down she knew he was right.
"It's not like you're not going to get them. As soon as we're done at the Council Hall we can spend all the time we want picking up supplies, including your tools, I promise." Falshade tried to compromise for the hundredth time.
"But I passed the mechanic shop on the way here. It wouldn't have made any difference, we're already waiting here anyways. And I even saw the tools I need in the display case on sale."
"Shade, you said we could get out of here as soon as we were finished at the Council Hall!" Varan suddenly leapt into the dispute, and Falshade wanted to strangle his friend for his ill timing. As expected, Stork glared at him with mutiny in her sea green eyes.
"Oh, you liar." She growled.
"Stork, hang on, let me-"
"When were you going to tell me about this?"
"Maybe you don't get it. Throttle's Grease Pit is one of the best mechanical equipment retailers in the entire Atmos, and aside from the Great Atmos Race and the Annual Sky Smash Carnival this sale is the most epic event on any mechanic's calendar! Every grease monkey and shop owner for miles is going to want to be there and if I don't get there soon they might not have my parts! And guess whose head is going to roll for that one?"
"Stork, shut up for a second and listen to me. We will go to Throttle's, I promise. And Varan," he added, turning to the Raptor, who had opened his mouth to make a retort. "You can go back to the dry docks and wait for us there if you don't want to come with us after. Deal?"
Varan jerked his head in a brief nod and tucked his tail in tight as several people pushed past them, shooting the immobile teens annoyed looks. They were clogging up the flow of the streets like a clot in an artery and Falshade knew it was only a matter of time before someone made a remark.
"Lookie who I found!" Fraggle trilled then, returning to them at last with a very disgruntled Angel in tow. The slighter boy wrenched his arm out of the Blizzarian's grasp roughly, his nose crinkled in indignation at being pulled along like a five year old.
"Where have you been?" Falshade demanded, his temper still simmering after his little spat with Stork.
"'S'not my fault that Greasy there's so short. I lost sight of her in the crowd and got separated." Angel snapped, spinier then a skyhog.
Stork made a move at him but Varan grabbed her wrist and held her back. Angel wasn't being totally fair, Falshade had to admit; Stork was actually over the average height of girls her age, but compared to her lanky team mates she was dwarfed by comparison.
"Are you fond of having both of your arms?" Stork barked at him, trying to shake Varan off.
"Cool it, girly. Here, have a go at this eh." Fraggle said, offering her the mouth of his bottle of Liquid Frost, a soft drink made with an extra kick of ground frost crystals.
Stork horked as if to spit in it and Fraggle yanked the bottle back.
"Knock it off, all of you. I know it's hot but we have to keep our tempers in check." Falshade said sternly, reminding them all that he was the leader here. "If we're going to go and register as a squadron we might as well act like it, Ok?"
Stork pried Varan's fingers off but kept her hands to herself. Angel blew his hair out of his face and glanced over the rag-taggle group as if only then realizing they weren't all present.
"Where the hell is Wasp?" he asked.
Quite suddenly there was blood curdling shriek from down the street and all in the vicinity whipped around to see what was going on. A man was lying crumpled and heaving on the blistering street, clutching a contorted arm and bawling like a newborn. A figure in a dark brown biker jacket was kneeling next to him. Wordlessly the figure leaned over the writhing man and tugged something from his clenched fist before straightening up and stepping over him without a second glance and then sauntered in their direction.
"Wasp." Stork hissed, yanking the other girl over to them and turning away from the starring faces.
"Cheers. Where the hell have you guys been?"
"Looking for you, idiot. What in hell did you just do?"
"Interbred monkey tried to lift my wallet." Wasp said without a brush of concern. "Where are we going again?"
Fraggle was still starring at the fallen man, who was still howling. "Dudette, I think you broke his arm eh?"
"You bet I did."
Stork grabbed her by the front of her coat. "Listen, you aren't in the underground anymore. You can't just go break people's arms, got it?"
Wasp blinked at her slowly. "O….kay. Right. Didn't we have that thing to go to?"
Stork looked like she'd dearly love to strangle her. Falshade thought about pointing out to her that it was her who insisted that they bring Wasp along in the first place (personally he believed it was more a need for female companionship then anything) but he wisely kept his mouth shut. Instead he tried to push past the whole incident and said "Ok, we're all here. Now let's go before someone winds up in a police office."
"Or a morgue." Angel muttered, falling into line behind him as they began again to weave through the crowded streets. Stork made sure to keep a fist bunched in Wasp's overly large leather jacket to keep her from wreaking more havoc.
It took them about twenty minutes to fight against the living traffic in order to reach the Council Hall. Falshade paused in the square to look at it with admiration. It had survived the assault against the Terra about seventeen years before, still standing now with all of its ancient pride and authority. Thousands of other young Sky Knights before him had stood in this very place and stared at the hall with inspiration and excitement, as if they were young actors starring up at the gleaming letters of Terra Neon. This was where his story began. This was the beginning of his history.
"Come on, Dreamer Boy." Stork said, nudging him with her boot to keep him moving. She was smiling now though as if she knew exactly what he was thinking. Maybe she was thinking it too.
Before heading up the stairs, Falshade paused to look over his squadron. Even Wasp was showing some interest for once. They might have been motley and young and awkward band, but they were all capable and Falshade was determined to prove it to the Council. Feeling like he should say something, he cleared his throat to gather their attention.
"Alright everybody. This is it. If you have a best behaviour, this would be a good time to use it. And if you don't, just act like it." he said, making sure he got a nod from everybody. "And remember; we're in this together now." He stuck out a hand into their little ring as if to seal the pact. Fraggle and Varan immediately piled their furry and scaly palms on top. Angel's delicate hand shot out without hesitation and settled comfortably on top of Varan's. Stork placed her permanently grease stained and calloused hand on top of his, and Wasp plonked hers on top with a grin. It was sort of heart-warming and encouraging and frightening all at once; some of these people Falshade had known for years, some of them only a few short weeks, but he could already feel a bond growing between each and every one of them. And now here they were, about to step onto a dangerous and uncertain path, together and alone at the same time.
They stood there for a moment, perhaps too long because Wasp started to fidget and Angel coughed awkwardly. Falshade didn't want it to get corny, so he dipped his hand down a bit, causing a ripple affect with them all before breaking apart. Ok, so maybe it did get a little corny, but who was really keeping count?
"OK." he announced. "Let's go."
Two surly looking guys in full armour pushed the huge wooden doors open for them and allowed them to filter into the thankfully cooler Hall. They walked across the chamber floor in respectful silence, aside from the clicking of their boots on the floor. Dead ahead of them was the huge alter behind which sat several very old looking men, all with kind yet judgmental looks upon their crooked, aged faces.
"Welcome." The oldest of the bunch called down to them, smiling encouragingly. So far so good. "What business have you brought before us today?"
"Greetings." Falshade said, trying to sound proper. Stork snickered quietly next to him. "We've come to register as a squadron."
"Have you now?" the Head of Council spoke, sounding surprised. "All of you?"
"Well, as I'm sure you know, the Squadrons aren't in high demand of new recruits. However if you'll give us your names and positions we can recommend you and alert you if they decided to take on some new blood…."
"Oh…" This is where it was going to get awkward. "Sir, I'm afraid you've misunderstood me." Falshade said, putting his hands behind his back to twiddle his fingers nervously. The Council straightened slightly, interest piqued. One of them leaned over to whisper something in another's ear and Wasp made a noise in the back of her throat. Angel nudged her to keep her quiet.
"Is that so?"
"Yes sir. You see, um, we…" here Falshade motioned to his friends and himself. "…Would like to form a squadron. Of our own."
The Head of Council's wiry eyebrows raised in composed surprise. The others looked down at them as if expecting them to admit to some sort of joke. Nothing less then Falshade had expected, unfortunately. He'd have to be kidding himself if the Council would accept a new squadron with open arms, especially a gangly band of mixed species and punky looking ones at that.
"I see." the Head of Council said after a moment. Stork shifted, not liking the way they were all looking down upon them. Falshade didn't particularly like it either. He moved to subtly step on the end of Varan's tail, which was twitching back and forth again. "Well this is a strange request. What makes you think we need another squadron in the Atmos?" He didn't ask condescendingly or scornfully, but there was an edge in his tone that suggested he wasn't ready to be forthcoming either. "Do you believe the Atmos to be in danger of some kind?"
Oooooh, this was going to get sticky. "Not exactly, sir. But we believe…" Ugh, this was getting complicated. "… we believe that there is… something. Something coming, something terrible. We don't think that this war is finished yet."
"That's what he believes." Stork threw in faithlessly. "The rest of us are just along for the ride."
Thanks Stork. See if I help you pay for those tools now.
The Council were looking down at them some looking hostile others just plain stunned.
"What makes you believe this?" the Head of Council asked finally, sounding as if he were speaking patiently with a confused child. Or a basket case. "Are you some sort of prophet, my boy?"
"I don't know how to explain it." Falshade said honestly, using all his will power not to break eye contact and crawl away like a slug.
"And you're planning to put matters in your own hands, are you?" one of the other Councillors asked sardonically. "Is that it?"
Before Falshade could speak there was a gut wrenching cracking sound. All eyes turned to Wasp, who had been until recently chewing on her fingernails. With a rip of flesh she tore one half of her right index fingernail right from the digit and spat it onto the gleaming floor, tilting her head and scorching her gaze right into the chairman's eyes. "Well, what were you planning to do about it?" she asked with venom dripping from her every word.
Falshade had to clench his jaw muscles to keep his mouth from dropping open and offering a new home to any residential flies. That and to keep from bursting into a fit of laughter. Stork's mouth was quirking dangerously.
The chairman gaped, speechless. The stuffy old windbag had probably never seen such an unconcealed act of disrespect. However, several of the others looked as they'd been expecting such an act of immaturity, and it frustrated Falshade. They weren't just your average teenage delinquents, and he'd wanted to prove that today. Well, there went that dream.
The Head of Council moved his disgusted gaze from Wasp and back to Falshade. "Despite your beliefs, my boy, I can assure you that Atmos is quite safe."
He should have expected that. Falshade had spoken to many authoritive figures before him and all had reacted in the same fashion: "Atmos is safe now." and "Let the other Sky Knights deal with it. You're too young." Those were same of the tamer comments. Even his new found friends didn't seem to believe him as much as he needed them to. Nobody wanted to admit to a new threat, to consider that maybe there was still evil lurking out there, somewhere. Some had even treated him with hostility. Everybody wanted peace. Everybody wanted to just fool themselves into thinking they were safe now.
Falshade just couldn't accept it. That was why he'd gone through for the Sky Knight Trials. That was why he'd hunted all across the Atmos to scrape together a squadron. That was why he was here, right now.
Nothing gold could stay.
"Look, I know how crazy this sounds. And I know you probably won't believe me, no matter what I say." he said, a wave of fresh determination giving him a voice. "But I went through the Trials. I've put together a squadron. We've got the equipment, we've got the skills and we're not going to let this go. If you just register us, we won't be of bother to you again. We'll go and defend the skies without complaint. Heck, we won't even ask for any sponsorships. We won't even ask to be a part of the Sky Knight legion. We just want to count for something."
The Head of Council stared at him for a very long time before responding. "What Terra has sent you?"
"None." Falshade answered. In truth, they were all from different Terras: himself and Varan were from the refugee Terra of Vatican, which already had a squadron. Stork was originally from Terra Lyn, and Fraggle was from Terra Nord. Angel, they suspected, was from Terra Saharr, due to his darkly tanned skin and suppressed accent, and although they'd met Wasp on Terra Macabre, they were certain she'd descended if not originated from Terra Faerûn.
"Then who are you to represent?" asked another chairman.
"Ourselves." Stork answered drivenly.
"So you are to be rogues?" The Head of Council asked, patience wearing thin.
"Nah. We'll be freelancers. We'll only be rogues if you don't register us." Stork said, crossing her arms. "We're doing this whether you like it or not. We just figured we'd give you a head up, you know, to be polite. That way when you hear there's some new squadron out there kicking ass you won't have to kick yourselves. Or have us arrested for showing you up."
Falshade forgave her a tenfold for her previous betrayal.
The Council leaned in close to one another, whispering among themselves. Finally they must have come to some conclusion, because they broke apart and with a resigned sigh the Head of Council pulled out a roll of parchment and a long, feathery quill.
"Very well. Despite that fact that you're young and inexperienced you seem determined to do what you wish with or without our conformant. You remind me of another squadron from years ago… anyhow, I will still need your names and positions, as well as your certificate of achievement for succeeding the Sky Knight Trials."
Falshade, hardly daring to believe his luck, pulled the certificate from his pocket and tenderly unfolded it before handing it to the Head of Council. He was almost reluctant to let it go, wondering if maybe the Councillor would tear it to pieces before his eyes. He did nothing of the sort, however. Setting a small pair of glasses upon his nose he read over the document carefully as if looking for some flaw before handing it back to Falshade.
"Alright. Please sate your names and positions."
"Falshade. I'm the Sky Knight, obviously." Falshade said, tucking the document safely away. The Head of Council nodded briefly before turning to look at Varan.
"Er… you need our real names, don't you?" he asked hesitantly, drawing out the S slightly. His tail muscles were twitching under Falshade's boot.
"That would be more appropriate, yes."
Varan sighed. "Varanus. Heavy ballistics and explosives specialist."
Another nod and now Stork was in the hot seat. She seemed to be fighting some inward battle.
"Feonix." she relented finally, gnawing on her tongue. "Mechanic, gadget specialist, wingma- er, woman and navigator. It's spelled with an 'F'" she added as the head of Council started to jot down her name. "It's F-E-O-N-I-X."
"Of course." the Chairman scratched something out and began again, and then turned to Fraggle. "And you are….?"
"Fraggle. I'm the carrier pilot, eh."
Another curt nod and then the Head of Council looked down at Angel. "And you?"
"Angel. I'm the other wingman. And the sniper. And the weapon master. And the mission specialist."
"Two wingmen?" the Head of Council asked, sounding as if he didn't think this squadron could get any stranger.
"So your basic purpose is to take over when the other one's MIA?" the same chairman who'd insulted Falshade earlier asked him, scorn thick in his voice.
"Nope. I'm the one they send in when things go bad."
The head of Council turned finally to Wasp, who was chewing on her fingernails again and looking at the ceiling as if there was a movie playing there. "And how abut you?" he asked, sounding wary.
Wasp continued to gnaw ruthlessly on her nails as if she hadn't heard him. Angel elbowed her and she turned her eyes toward him while keeping her head tilted upwards.
Angel motioned to the Council and she looked in their direction instead.
"If it wouldn't be too much trouble." The Head of Council said tightly.
"Wasp. Position? Hmmm…." she looked around for inspiration. "I'm their psycho."
"Can you do anything else?" The Lead Chairman asked exasperatedly.
"She's our crystal specialist." Stork said quickly. This seemed to satisfy the Head of Council. Or maybe he just wanted them to get the hell out of there.
"Now, all I need is your name." he said, seeming to sag with relief at the prospect that he was almost rid of them.
"Er…" Falshade looked at the others. That morning they'd had a huge debate over names, which had been cut short when none of them wanted to agree with each other anymore and everyone was getting outvoted five to one. "We haven't quite decided yet."
The Lead Chairman looked as if he liked to do a face-palm.
"Some creativity would be nice, guys." Falshade turned to his friends desperately.
"The Gargoyles." Stork said, looking up at the Council. Nobody made any sound of disagreement. It was strangely and perfectly…fitting.
"The Gargoyles." Falshade repeated in conformation. The Lead Chairman nodded and scribbled it down on the parchment. It was passed around for all the chairmen to sign, and then lowered for Falshade to sign as well. With a flourish he scrawled his name, cementing their destiny.
"I hereby dub you the Gargoyles. May you uphold your responsibilities as a Sky Knight and Squadron. Keep our skies safe, honour our laws and protect Atmos and all of its peoples. You will oppose evil in any of its forms and will always be there to answer the calls of the weak and the small. Now and forever, you are our Justice. You are our Light."
It was the stereotypically, generic hero-speech, but it gave Falshade shivers anyway.
"Now, before I call security, would you kindly remove yourselves from our Hall?" The Head Councillor asked, smiling but with sincerity in his voice.
Fraggle gave a sarcastic salute and followed the others as they left in what almost could have been a composed and proper manner.
They may have been delinquents, but they weren't your average ones.
Outside stopped in the square again, looking back at the Council Hall. Falshade wasn't exactly sure he knew what had just happened. He could feel tingling between his new, official squadron, as if they were all unsure whether to be ecstatic or serious. Perhaps it was only now that it hit them, but suddenly it did; they were a squadron now, a true blue squadron, ready to fight evil in all its forms. What did that mean? What did they do? Where did they go?
Wasp, who had succeeded in tearing the other half of her nail from her finger, spat the strip of cartilage on the ground unabashedly and turned to look back up at the Council Hall thoughtfully.
"Well," she said, flipping the collar of her jacket down and allowing tilting her ears to cool them. "That went well."
Ok, so that was chapter number one. A bit confusing, probably. More details on characters, e.g. appearances and whatever next chapter, but if you've any questions feel free to ask. See that button down there? Don't be shy and click it! I wants to here what you've got to say!