by Christine Morgan
Author's Note: the characters of Gargoyles are the property of Disney and
are used here without their creators' knowledge or consent. Violent content.
#6 in an ongoing Gargoyles fanfic saga
Los Angeles Times --
TERMINALLY ILL YOUTH VANISHES FROM THEME PARK
Tragic trip was sponsored by Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Samuel Blake, age 18, disappeared along with his mother from
Disneyland yesterday. The youth, who is suffering from a rare form of bone
disease, had been sent on the trip by Make-A-Wish Foundation, an
organization dedicated to making the dreams of terminally ill children come
Samuel and his mother, Ivana Blake, boarded the Pirates of the
Carribean ride shortly after 7:00 P.M. Their boat returned on schedule, with
Mrs. Blake's purse and a bag of souveniers as its only passengers. The ride
was immediately shut down.
A search revealed signs of a struggle and a service door which had
been broken open, leading to speculations of kidnaping. Several park guests
report seeing a hovercraft and a group of oddly-dressed men, but most
considered it some sort of show or publicity stunt. Park security and local
law enforcement are following up on this and various other leads.
Samuel Blake made headlines twelve years ago, during a fierce
custody battle which began shortly after he was diagnosed. The youth's
stepfather, Harold Blake, said in his statement to the press, "If Sammy's
father [noted scientist Anton Sevarius] hadn't died a while back, I'd consider
him the suspect."
Anyone with information on this matter is strongly encouraged to
contact the police. Samuel Blake is in vital need of medications and medical
"Bastard," was Anton Sevarius' only opinion as he crumpled the
paper and dropped it in the waste basket.
His ex-wife glared at him over the cloth which covered the lower
half of her face. Her shoulders shifted as she struggled with her bonds.
Gagged, she could only utter low grunts.
"Ivana, darling, you sound like a sow," he commented. "Perhaps I
should have left you in the sty with that boar you married. But I couldn't
very well have you telling anyone that I was alive, now could I? Not when
I'm sure you toasted my obituary with champagne. The cheap stuff,
probably, since you had to beg the charity of strangers just to take my son to
Disneyland. You could have asked me. You could have let me send child
support. But, oh yes, I forgot, that would have meant letting me see Samuel.
And you'd sooner die, wouldn't you?"
She strained against the ropes. The chair squeaked a half-inch
toward him. Her forehead was knotted, her hair limp with sweat. She
sagged, head slumping.
"Oh, very good," he said. "At that rate, you ought to be across the
room by sometime next month. And what had you planned to do then? Tip
over on my foot?"
She closed her eyes and turned her face away. He chuckled cruelly.
"Now, my dear, you may be wondering what I'm up to. You may
think I've captured you for some sort of twisted revenge. Quite wrong, I'm
afraid. I am going to save our son's life, and then you are going to apologize
to me. Yes, Ivana, apologize. For every unkind word you ever sneered about
my work. For every time you compared me to Frankenstein, or Moreau, or
that fellow up in Moonlight Cove a few years ago ... what was his name?
Her head came back up, and now her eyes were wide with fear.
"Still don't trust me, I see. Still think I'm a madman and a monster.
Well, you'll be laughing out of the other side of your face when Samuel is
whole and well again." He pressed a button on his desk. It flashed briefly. A
moment later, the door slid open with a hiss of air and three men in grey and
black bodysuits with red insignia came in.
"Take the lady to her cell," Sevarius commanded. "Make sure she's
comfortable; she'll be with us for quite some time. But don't untie her until
you get there. She can be something of a hellcat."
The men nodded and two of them hefted the chair. Ivana Blake
jerked her body from side to side but barely moved. She was well-tied. The
third man, the letters on his chest spelling out HALVERSON, stayed
"This is dangerous," he said. "It puts the entire project at risk."
"Nonsense," Sevarius said, waving a hand dismissingly. "The
project will proceed unimpeded, and this will give me something to do while
I wait for your men to bring in a female specimen."
"We shouldn't have brought them here," Halverson insisted.
"Where else would you have me keep them? I have my lab here,
everything I need. If by some chance we are traced to this spot, I trust you to
"And you'll take full responsibility for anything that goes wrong?"
"Not if it's your fault. Now, leave me. I have much work to do."
Sevarius thumbed the button that raised the window shades, letting
in misty daylight and a view of redwoods. The redwoods of the Pacific
Northwest, home to one of the world's most enduring myths.
"Myth no longer," Sevarius said as he opened the door that
connected his office with his workroom beyond. He grinned at the creature
which crouched within a cylindrical iron cage. It stared back at him with
yellow inhuman eyes set deep in a face that was almost manlike but covered
with a thick dark pelt.
He turned his back on the creature, listening for its lunge, for the
swipe of its hand through the air. He wasn't disappointed, and had judged
the distance perfectly. The short, thick nails that couldn't quite be called
claws missed the back of his coat by less than two inches.
He snorted mirthfully. "Higher intelligence," he said, dripping
scorn. "That's the difference between men and beasts."
A low groan caught his attention and he hurried to the hospital bed
which had just been installed in the workroom. The bed was surrounded by
monitors and I.V. bottles.
The boy was opening his eyes. Dark eyes shadowed with long-
suffering pain, surrounded by skin so pale the veins could be clearly seen.
He was thin and wasted, almost literally just skin and bones. His growth had
been stunted by the disease, his legs twisted and unable to support even his
scant weight. His head looked overlarge for his body.
The primitive treatments he'd been subjected to had left him nearly
bald, with just patches of hair so colorless and fine it almost wasn't there at
all. He bruised easily, the marks of his abduction angry shouts of purple and
black. A rash of needle tracks covered his arms, the backs of his hands, even
the tops of his feet where sometimes a vein could be reached.
He looked up at Sevarius without a hint of recognition.
"Samuel," Sevarius said soothingly, "Do you know where you
Now those dark, haunted eyes moved across the machines and
monitors. "Hospital," he whispered weakly. His gaze then fixed on the cage
with its single monstrous occupant. For a moment, the eyes of boy and beast
met, then Sevarius moved between them.
"Not a hospital. A lab. My lab. I'm going to help you, Samuel. I'm
going to make it so that you can walk, and run, and live. Do you know who I
Back and forth, slowly, that oversized head rolled on the pillow.
Bitter fury rose like bile in Sevarius' throat. The boy didn't even
know his own father, thanks to the she-dog that had raised him. "My name is
Anton Sevarius. I am your father."
Comprehension, and wounded anger. "Where's Mom?"
"She's nearby. She'll see you soon, I promise. As soon as you're
"It was you. In the dark."
"Samuel, let me explain. Your mother took you away from me. She
wouldn't let me see you, wouldn't let me help you, when I knew I could. I
tried, countless times I tried to get her to listen to reason. I had no way of
finding you, not until I heard of your trip here to California. Your mother
couldn't hide you there. So I ... yes, tell the truth and shame the devil ... I
kidnapped you both. But you must believe me when I tell you it is for your
own good. It is your only chance to survive. I will not let you die, Samuel,
not when the power to save you is within these hands!" He thrust them
dramatically aloft, as if they should burn with divine fire.
"Said you were dead," the boy gasped. His thin chest hitched and
heaved. His face began to turn an alarming shade of plum.
Sevarius clapped an oxygen mask to Samuel's mouth. "It doesn't
matter what they said. I am alive. I am young and strong and healthy. Like
you will be. Only you will be greater! I cannot clone your tissue; your DNA
is fragile, corrupted by your illness. And I doubt you would survive the
braintaping process. But fear not, my son. We have other options, options
that will lift you beyond mere health. You will have the strength and vitality
of a god!"
Samuel cringed away from him. "Want to go home."
"Your home is here now. Here with me."
"No. Home. Mom ... Dad ..."
"I am your father!" Sevarius roared. With his lifegiving hands, he
grabbed his frail son by the shoulders and slammed him up and down on the
bed. "Do you hear me? I am your father!"
The *blip* of the cardiac monitor changed to a drilling
*breeeeeeeeeeeeee.* Samuel's eyes rolled up in his head. His body went
"No!" Sevarius scrambled for the paddles, spun the dial to full
charge, and rammed electricity through his son's seizing heart.
The monitor went *bree-blip* and resumed a more normal rhythm.
Cursing under his breath, Sevarius checked all the machines and readouts.
His little outburst had caused something of a setback. He adjusted the I.V.
drips, tucked the sheet around Samuel's chest, and wiped the boy's brow.
Samuel's eyes fluttered open. He looked senselessly at his father
and then away, where his gaze once more met that of the caged beast.
"Samuel?" Sevarius asked. "Son?"
"What ... that?" he breathed hoarsely.
"Homo gigantipithicus," he announced.
Genuine interest lit Samuel's face. In that moment, he was all
young boy, fascinated by legend come to life. "Bigfoot," he said delightedly.
"I am so very glad you approve." Sevarius slid open a drawer in the
rolling cabinet next to the bed. From it he took a large syringe, filled with a
cloudy yellowish fluid. "Now, shall we begin?"
Samuel tore his attention away from the captive creature.
Apprehensively, he whispered, "A shot? What for?"
"To help you, my son." He poked the needle into the I.V. tube and
depressed the plunger of the syringe. Cloudy yellow mixed with clear saline
and crept toward Samuel's defenseless arm.
"Noooo ..." Samuel sighed.
The first treatment was underway.
"Rrraaaarrrgh!" Talon roared. He grabbed a table and hurled it
across the room. Glass flew in a shattering spray. "We missed him!"
"Someone miss him not," Delilah said. "Or not miss these."
With one clawed foot, she nudged the nearest corpse. It rolled onto
its back and she wrinkled her nose at the stink. Whatever had killed the man
had apparently reached right into his chest and pulled ribs apart like those of
a well-cooked turkey. She started to say as much to Talon but fell silent,
knowing her skill with language still wasn't the best, knowing she would not
express herself properly.
While Talon fumed and paced, petulantly knocking over what little
furniture was still standing, she examined the other corpses. All were similar
in that they were human males in good physical condition, all dressed in
what looked like uniforms with names neatly spelled out on their chests, and
all as dead as a bologna sandwich.
Not all were laid open from sternum to spine, though. Some stared
backward in silent horror, their heads wrenched around. From the creased
and torn neck tissue, she guessed that a couple of heads had been twisted
two or three times. Others were torn nearly limb from limb.
"What here happen?" she asked.
Talon pushed through a door that was hanging by one hinge. He
stopped in front of a cylindrical iron cage. The bars had not so much been
bent as pulled apart like string cheese. Coarse dark fur was stuck to one. He
fingered it, found it unfamiliar.
"My guess is Sevarius made something that got away from him," he
said after studying the array of medical and scientific apparatus. "Whatever
did all this had to be incredibly strong. We're talking stronger than Goliath.
What in the heck was Sevarius messing with?"
"He dead, maybe?" Delilah ventured. She had dutifully followed
Talon all the way across the country hunting this man. Talon would be
bitterly disappointed if someone had beaten him to the kill, if killing was
what Talon had in mind. She wasn't sure.
"Maybe." Talon scowled. "But I've thought him dead plenty of
times before and he keeps coming back. More lives than a cat, and I oughta
know. We'll keep looking. Maybe we can figure out what he was working
She nodded. "I go look more?"
"Yeah, go ahead. But be careful. And if you see Sevarius, don't kill
him. He's mine. You remember what he looks like?"
She nodded again. He had shown her photographs, all but engraved
the image in her head. Leaving Talon to start sifting through the wreckage in
the lab, she crept quietly along the trail of destruction. She found a shattered
window, the jagged edges tinted red, and leaned through, expecting to see a
mangled human corpse.
Instead, she saw large tracks pressed deep in the soft soil and led
away in long strides. She guessed something had jumped through and fled.
She breathed deep, drinking in the cool night air and the mist smell
that was both salty and green. She wanted to slip into the sky and glide on
the currents blowing in off the sea. She wanted a thousand things that she
did not understand, that no one could explain to her.
She supposed it was gargoyle instinct, something better defined in
her than in her clanmates back home. They, poor makeshift creatures that
they were, could barely think and function. Rough drafts, Master Thailog
had called them. She was the revised edition.
Even so, what gargoyle instinct she had was vague and unformed.
Talon and his clan were not her kind. They were human by birth, with a
life's worth of experience and culture to draw upon. She, and the other
clones, had been artifically grown to adult size, and programmed by
Thailog's subliminal teaching. Not true gargoyles. Mockeries.
Abominations. And so Goliath and his clan spurned them.
Better this way, she thought. Goliath terrified her in his
resemblance to Thailog. She had been Thailog's slave, utterly obedient,
unable even to know how in thrall she was. Now she knew, and never
wanted to be in such helpless bondage again.
She turned reluctantly away from the window and its promise of
freedom, meaning to go back and tell Talon what she'd found.
A single sound disturbed the night. She spun in that direction, alert,
keen eyes, wings flexing in anticipation of either combat or escape. But the
sound when it came again was not a threatening one. It was low, helpless,
hopeless, the pathetic cry of some trapped and dying thing.
She darted toward the source and peered through the smashed
remnants of a door. Beyond was a short hallway, and beyond that was a
door standing open to the forest. A white and green sign spelled out EXIT in
letters of light.
Something was huddled on the floor, a dark, curled shape that
smelled of blood and the death-smell. One pale hand reached out, clutching
Delilah stepped forward, carefully, cautiously. Her eyes took in
more details. This figure was different from the others. It was female. It was
alive. And it had not been mauled. It had been shot.
The woman was trying to move, trying to crawl. Her face turned
up, a pale oval in the darkness. Tears were running down it.
Unexpected pity filled Delilah. She knelt beside the woman and
hesitantly touched her on the arm. She wanted to say something comforting
but was afriad it would come out all jumbled.
The woman looked at Delilah, whose face and features were clearly
revealed in the glow of the EXIT sign. She gasped in horror.
"No hurt," Delilah said. "Please, I no hurt."
"Are you one of them?" the woman whispered. "One of the
"Yes," Delilah said. "I monster."
"My son ..."
"Him do?" She looked at the wound and grimaced. It was a miracle
the woman had survived this long. She lay at the end of a wide trail of blood
that extended out the door.
"No. Not Sam. Anton made him into a monster ... how could he do
that to his own son? Shot me when Sam wouldn't give up. Ran, he ran into
the woods. Sam went after him." She began to cough and shake. More
blood, more than Delilah would have thought her body held, gushed from
"We come Sevarius," she said urgently. "Come find. Where he,
"The woods. Sam chasing him." In her dying, the woman and
Delilah were conversational equals, understanding each other perfectly.
"Poor Sam. My poor son. Help him? Find him?"
"I do. I find."
The woman squeezed her hand. "Thank you ..." her voice trailed
It was the first time she had been touched by a human in anything
other than anger, and it was the last time this human would reach out to
another living thing.
Just as earlier pity had been unexpected, so now was grief. Grief
for this poor nameless woman who had lost her son. She held that limp hand
while the warmth faded from it, head bowed, long white hair hanging in her
"Delilah?" Talon's voice behind her startled her and she jumped to
"I here," she said, wiping her eyes and finding moisture.
Talon glanced from her to the woman, seemingly puzzled at
finding the one weeping over the other. "I was able to make some sense out
of Sevarius' stuff. He was experimenting on a Bigfoot, looks like. Something
must have gone wrong."
"Son. Her mother of son," Delilah said. "Man shoot her, Anton
"So he is alive! Which way did he go?"
"She say woods. Made monster, Sam son, go chase."
Talon snapped his claws. "That's it! He was working on a human
too, injecting him with bone marrow and other crap from the Bigfoot! That's
what must have done all this. A new mutate, like me. We've got to find him
quick. If he kills Sevarius, there won't ever be a cure! And Maggie --"
He ran outside. Delilah paused long enough to close the woman's
blank, staring eyes. "I find," she promised, then followed Talon.
He was one with the forest. One with the night.
He ran slightly hunched over, toes seeking the earth, head turning
from side to side to catch the elusive and hypnotic scents. Every detail of the
path stood out in sharp relief.
Anger wanted to wash over him. Anger at the man who claimed to
be his father. The man who had kept him prisoner for weeks, injecting liquid
fire into his veins. The man who had threatened his mother if he didn't
cooperate. The man who had turned him into something so inhuman that his
mother had shrieked at the sight. The man who had ultimately shot her and
left her to die.
Her blood was still on his hands. He had gone to her while the
father-man fled, as the father-man must have known he would.
He hadn't wanted revenge. Just escape. They had tried to stop him
and paid with their lives. His fellow prisoner was free now, having long
since slipped away unseen. He could have joined the other but went in
search of his mother, wanting to take her with him.
Now she was dead, the father-man was gone, and he was alone.
He let go of his grief and anger. They were emotions that would
not help him survive. He had to focus on the inner voice of instinct and find
shelter, water, food. Then, when he was safe, he could try to begin dealing
with what he'd become.
The other was gone, and he supposed he could have tracked it, but
it was not his kind either. He was no longer human, but not and never the
other. If he approached, he would be driven off. They would not welcome
him in his strangeness.
He feasted on succulent leaves and drank from a clear rocky creek.
The land on the other side sloped up so he followed the stream looking for
an undercut. Soon enough, he found a redwood whose roots formed the roof
of an overhang. He splashed across and examined the space. It was not quite
high enough for him to stand upright, although before he would have been
only barely able to graze the ceiling standing on tiptoe. The floor was
reasonably level and smooth except for a few stones. The only other
occupants were spiders and a few fat worms.
It would do for now. He hunkered down with his back to the rear
wall and wrapped his long arms around his knees.
He had been prepared for death. He'd begun that preperation when
he was less than eight years old and realized that the doctors couldn't help
him. Death held no fear.
But life, this strange alien freakish life, scared him plenty. No way
he could have ever prepared for this.
He was used to being an outcast, used to repulsed or skittish looks.
Other people assumed that because the diesease had warped his body, it had
also warped his mind. When they spoke to him, it was in the tones used
when speaking to a cataclysmically stupid person. Or, worse, they would
talk to his mother about him, as if he wasn't even there.
Being an outcast by virtue of his illness was one thing. This was
something else. Nobody was going to look at him and be horrifiedly pitying
for the dying sick boy. They would look at him and scream blue murder. Try
to kill him or capture him. Put him in a zoo or a lab like the one that had
made him what he now was.
All he'd wanted was to go to Disneyland. The Foundation had
agreed three years ago, but his condition had worsened and they'd had to
wait until he was healthy enough. Bad publicity for the Foundation to have
him drop dead.
But he had gotten better, and they'd gone, and it was wonderful.
For once he hadn't seen the expressions on other people, except to note that
they were actually envying him as his wheelchair was trundled past the long
lines and he was let onto the rides first.
They had worked their way through the entire park. Lunch at a
restaurant in Bear Country, overlooking the river, watching the Davey
Crockett canoes and the huge white paddle-wheel boat go by. Ice cream
later, in the plaza in Tomorrowland. His mother was worn out, and his
stepfather too, but he himself had pleaded for just one more ride, a second
trip through the coolest of all, the Pirates of the Carribean.
And men had exploded out of the darkness, grabbed them, gagged
them, and bundled them through the scenery of flaming rubble while distant
voices tried to coax an animatronic dog with a ring of keys in its mouth.
All he'd wanted was to go to Disneyland. And all it had cost him
was his mother's life and his own essential humanity.
He held his hands before his eyes and studied them, seeing every
detail though it was nearly pitch dark. The fingers, long and limber and
strong, the nails grown thick enough to peel bark from a tree. The palms
pale brown skin, the rest covered with a fine dark pelt that continued up his
He made a fist and flexed his arm, feeling muscles bunch and
move. There was power in those arms and hands, as promised by the father-
man, strength and vitality. His chest and shoulders and legs were as bulky as
any he'd ever seen on weightlifting shows, but also covered with the pelt.
The bottoms of his feet had thickened into pads, so that he hadn't felt any
discomfort running over stones and rough earth.
A thin line of pain was drawn across his left side, where a bullet
had grazed him. His pelt was coated with dust and oilsmoke kicked up by
the motorcycle-like craft that had provided the father-man's escape.
He explored his face with his fingers, fearful at what he might find.
His forehead had sloped slightly back, his jaw protruding. His nose had
widened and flattened. His ears had all but vanished, just holes in the sides
of his head partly covered by flaps of cartilage. His new face was leathery
skin but the pelt began just below his chin. And then there was the manelike
growth of long black hair.
Bigfoot was real. He could accept that; he'd seen it with his own
He had somehow been partially turned into a Bigfoot. Okay, that
one went down tougher, but he couldn't really deny it when the proof was
here in his remade flesh and bone. He had no choice but to accept that too.
What he didn't want to accept was the bleak future stretching out in
front of him. Eking out an existence here in the redwoods, trying to find
more remote territory before some hiker spotted him. Being alone forever.
The thing that had been Samuel Blake lowered his face into his
strange new hands and tried to cry, but his new form could not produce
tears. His wracking sobs were even more agonized because of it.
Talon's talons ripped long furrows in the earth. His wings furiously
beat at the air, as if to punish it for permitting Sevarius to evade him yet
again. He slammed the door to the corrugated-steel building so hard it rang
like a churchbell.
"Hovercraft!" he spat. "He could be miles away, and no way to find
him!" He drove his fist into his palm again and again, punctuating each blow
with a, "Damn it!"
Delilah gave him a wide berth and studied the marks on the ground.
Here was the still-warm smolder left from the hovercraft's ignition. Here, an
expended shell casing, glinting brassily in the moss. And there, large tracks
loping off into the woods.
"See?" she said, pointing.
Talon looked. "The creature. Maybe he knows where Sevarius
"Think no," Delilah said. "Run away, maybe."
"He might still know something. And I bet you a million bucks,
Sevarius will come back looking for him. He doesn't like to give up on his
experiments, not when he might still get some use out of them. If we can
find the creature, sooner or later we'll find Sevarius. He'll come to us."
Frowning, heart filled with misgivings, Delilah followed the tracks.
Talon was right behind her, his fur crackling with faint static electricity as
he readied himself for the possibility of a fight.
She found a place where a tree had been stripped of many leaves.
Some partly chewed fragments lay on the ground near a clear impression of
footprints. A tuft of fur was caught in the bark. She plucked it out, rolled it
between thumb and forefinger.
"Come on," Talon whispered urgently. "Before he gets too far."
"You hurt him?"
"You saw what he did back there. Those guys were seriously
messed up. I'm not taking any chances. Besides, Sevarius could have set this
all up. It could be a trap. We can't know until we get there."
She continued, finding more deep impressions on the bank of a
creek. The creature had stopped her, drank from the water, and moved on.
Without even being aware of it, Delilah bent and scooped water into her
hand, sipped it.
Less than a mile further, she motioned Talon to halt. His ears were
up, catlike, and she knew he heard the same thing she did. A horrible
moaning, a dirge of desolate ache and loneliness.
"In there," Talon breathed. "Under that tree, in the cave. Stay
She wanted to protest, but he had given her a direct command and
she had not yet overcome her conditioned response to obey the words of the
Talon stalked stealthily close, then leapt the creek in one agile,
feline bound. "Don't even move!" he roared.
The mournful wail broke off. The next thing Delilah knew, Talon
was flying backwards, propelled by a rock the size of a soccer ball. He
struck a tree and fell to the ground, grunting in pain.
The creature charged out of the shadowed undercut, bellowing in
fear and fury. His eyes were a vivid, brilliant gold. Huge fans of water
sprayed from under his feet as he plowed through the creek toward Talon.
Talon pistoned one foot out, catching the creature in the chest and
sending it sprawling. It rolled to its knees even as Talon did the same, and
for a moment they were crouched nose to nose. Then Talon swung, his fist
taking the creature high on the cheekbone.
The impact barely budged that large maned head. He hefted and
swung a branch as thick as a strong man's leg, hitting Talon in the knee.
"No!" Delilah clutched at Talon. "No fight!"
"Delilah, stay down!" Talon commanded. His hands glowed with
blue-white energy. A bolt seared the air, catching his foe high on the chest.
"Stop!" she screamed at the top of her lungs.
The creature jerked and jittered with electricity, howling in pain.
Despite it, he lurched to his feet and charged. Talon saw him coming too
late, his hurt knee betraying him. They collided like headon bulldozers.
Delilah sprang at them, trying to drag them apart, trying to insert
her smaller form between them, yelling at them to quit.
They ignored her. Talon's hands sparked again but his foe caught
his wrists and the bolts shot harmlessly skyward. Talon fell backward,
pulling the other with him, driving his feet up and out and flipping him. The
creature came to earth with a resounding crash but was back up even as
Talon rose. They glared at each other for a moment, muscles tensing and
flexing, each waiting to see who was going to make the next move.
Delilah did. She whipped her tail across Talon's face. "Stupid!" she
shrieked at him.
Talon, cheek laid open and bleeding, shoved her. She stepped on a
stick, which rolled beneath her feet and spilled her to the grass.
The creature grabbed Talon and lifted him overhead as easily as it
might have hefted a broomstick. Beneath the pelt, muscles rippled and
bulged. He made ready to bring Talon down over his knee, which would
instantly crack Talon's spine and probably kill him.
"No!" Delilah leapt up.
Talon's hands crackled and snapped with energy. He whipped them
down, one smacking the creature's upraised arm, the other square between
the shoulderblades. At once, brilliant bursts of electricity seized the creature,
arching his back. He convulsed, sending Talon flying.
This time, Talon crashed into a tree just above Delilah, sending a
shower of splinters and broken boughs over her. He rebounded, right onto
her, and they both went down in a tangle of wings.
The creature, screaming and howling, sparks still popping all
around, turned and crashed through the woods.
Delilah rolled Talon to one side. He was out cold, and already a
swelling knot was rising on the side of his head.
She could hear the sounds of the creature's panicked flight. He
would have been easy enough to follow. But she could not leave Talon
alone and injured. Her first duty was to the clan and the leader of the clan.
She slowly got to her feet, shaking woodchips out of her hair.
Once more, he ran.
This time, he was not the hunter but the prey, fleeing the winged
thing which had attacked him in his den.
His pelt was burnt away in places from the bursts of lightning that
had shot from the winged thing's hands. The skin beneath was not blistered
but felt very tight, shiny and heat-baked. His muscles jumped and quivered
in sudden twitches and spasms.
He tried to listen for sounds of pursuit, but could hear nothing over
his own blundering progress. It could be flying at him even now, swooping
down like a hawk about to snatch a rabbit from the ground.
He flung himself down, bracing himself for the bite of claws.
It was only an owl, concerned with prey of a far more manageable
He stumbled on, gradually losing the tingling aftershocks of
Why was he running for his life? Why hadn't he welcomed the
violent death the winged thing offered? What did he have to live for, aside
for a hopeless existence in the wild? And wasn't the clean death by claw and
fang preferable to the slow horror of study and dissection?
He could turn back, seek out the winged thing and welcome its gift
of blood and rending. In death, he would be reunited with his mother. Surely
there would be Disneyland in Heaven, a Disneyland where nobody had to
wait in line and all the souveniers were free.
The image was appealing, but weak illusion compared to the
overpowering drive of the survival instinct. He continued on.
Later, exhausted and sore, he saw a length of chain stretched
between two trees. It was rusty and old, the bark having bulged up around it
as the trees kept growing. Beyond the chain was a road, or the remains of
one. Two overgrown ruts, really. It wasn't until then that he realized he'd
been following a crude trail of sorts, which intersected with this larger road.
He skirted the chain and looked both ways, not for traffic, because
it was pretty obvious nothing motorized had moved along here in decades,
but for buildings. He was human enough to want a roof over his head and
four walls around him, a reminder that he had been born to a civilized, tool-
No sign of any buildings. He went left on impulse.
His impulse was rewarded with the sight of a square structure. He
paused to listen, hearing nothing but the normal animal sounds. Animals
which, for some reason, accepted him as part of their world. No human
voices, no engines, no radios.
Closer, he saw rusting hulks of trucks and machines he could not
identify. A wide clearing had once been covered in gravel but was now
choked with weeds. Two parallel silver lines reached from the sagging
building to a hole in the hillside.
It was just like Big Thunder Mountain! The hole, squared off with
beams, made sense of it all. A mine entrance! The silver lines were tracks,
and some of those machines were ore carts. An old mine, long since
He smiled for the first time in weeks.
"Hoverbike!" the man on sentry duty called.
Judge Halverson looked up from his half-finished supper. The
hoverbike was coming in fast and pluming smoke from its engine. "Get
clear!" he yelled, taking his own advice very much to heart.
Men scattered. The hoverbike careened right toward the much
larger craft. Halverson saw Sevarius aboard, wrestling with the controls.
"Oh, we're gonna die!" Burke yelled, throwing himself flat and
covering his head. "The tanks, Judge, the tanks!"
Their captive lay on her side, chained, watching the cometlike
approach of the machine with dull, glazed eyes.
At the last possible moment, Sevarius managed to yank the bike out
of its dive. It soared up, giving Halverson a good view of the crumpled
wreck of the engine compartment. Flames licked hungrily.
Sevarius jumped just as it blew. The force batted him out of the air
like a swatted fly. A fireball bloomed then burst, raining blackened metal
and burning fuel over the campsite.
Half deafened, Halverson ran toward Sevarius while his men
started stomping out the flames. With the ground as damp as it was, they
didn't have much trouble.
"Is he dead?" Adams asked.
"Hell if I know," Halverson snapped. "I got here right when you
did." He bent down and rolled Sevarius over.
The noted scientist looked like he'd been dragged across twenty
miles of asphalt. He was scraped and bleeding from dozens of spots. His lab
coat hung in tatters, the back of it shredded by the explosion. Amazingly, no
bones appeared to be broken.
"I think he'll be o.k.," Halverson said. "How about Koko over
there?" Edwards had nicknamed the she-Bigfoot after that sign-language ape
and it had swiftly stuck.
"Not a mark on her," Edwards called. "Lucky."
"Could've been worse," Adams said, fetching the first aid kit. "A
"Tell me about it," Halverson muttered.
Sevarius regained consciousness as Halverson was washing his
wounds. "Ah. Captain. Good. The hoverbike?"
"Smashed to crap," Halverson said. He soaked a cloth with
astringent antiseptic and pressed it against a particularly vivid scrape, taking
dour pleasure in the way the sadistic little creep hissed and writhed. "Damn
near killed us. Good going."
"The engine was damaged."
"We had a security breach back at the lab," Sevarius said, yelping
as Halverson proceeded to a gash that split his eyebrow. "The male
gigantipithicus escaped. So did the other project."
Dislike bubbled up like rancid bile. "Your son, you mean?"
Halverson said pointedly.
Sevarius glared at him. "He hurled a stone after me and struck the
bike. I followed your craft's signal, but my engine deteriorated. By the time I
found you, the bike was beyond control."
"Edwards!" Halverson called. "Let Koko go."
"Wait!" Sevarius said. "You got a female?"
"No point keeping her now, if the lab's out of commission. Project's
"The project isn't over until I say it is over! Belay that order," he
yelled to Edwards.
"Damn it, Sevarius," Halverson began warningly.
"They're both tagged. We can find them with the computer in your
"Don't make this mistake, Captain," Sevarius said. "Our employer
expects results. We're already on thin ice after that fiasco in Scotland. We're
not slinking back empty-handed with our tails between our legs. Not over a
minor setback like this."
"How many dead at the lab?"
Sevarius' gaze shifted. "Well --"
"How many?" Halverson gave him a brisk shake.
"Everyone," Sevarius mumbled.
Halverson closed his eyes. "Everyone. So it's you, me and these
three men. You've got to be crazy."
"I didn't ask you for an assessment of either our chances or my
sanity." Sevarius pulled away. "And I'll have no more of your hamfisted
attempts at first aid."
"Fine. Bleed to death. Do us all a favor."
"Watch your mouth, Captain. Remarks like that have a way of
coming back to haunt a man."
"A black mark on my record. Whoopee."
"Have your men ready to go in ten minutes," Sevarius said coldly.
"Or you'll be looking for another job ... in a circus sideshow!"
"We go now?" she asked, cocking her head. "Find Sam son?"
Talon groaned. "Samson? Samson and Delilah? Great. Just great."
She blinked at him, puzzled, and then it came to her. She almost
"Bible Tag," Talon muttered, rubbing his sore head. "Samson.
Well, I've got to admit, it fits him. Strong enough, anyway, and he's got the
hair for it."
"We find? Help, maybe?"
"Help?" Talon repeated incredulously. "He just about beat the
stuffing out of me!"
"Scared him, you," Delilah shot back. "Jump in and yell, scare
"What do you want to do, talk to him?" He mulled it over. "That
might not be a bad idea. You can find out what he knows about Sevarius.
Probably nothing, just chasing our tails, but right now it's the only lead
we've got. But be careful."
She looked at her tail quizzically. Talon himself had none. She
didn't know what he was talking about, but understood that he was willing to
hold back from fighting Samson. For a while, at least.
"How find?" she asked.
"He left a trail of flattened brush about a mile wide," Talon said,
pointing. "Don't have to be Davey Crockett to follow that. We can even get
"Well, well," Sevarius chortled, sounding exceedingly well-pleased
with himself. "Take a look at this, Captain."
Halverson leaned over and looked at the screen. His eyes widened.
"What the hell? Gargoyles! Not again! It's not those same ones, is it?"
"No." Sevarius leaned closer. "Not Goliath -- wait! That one isn't a
gargoyle at all! A mutate. Talon, unless I miss my guess. Now, this is
Halverson barked commands to cut their speed. "No sense letting
them see us."
"They'll know we're here as soon as we open fire," Sevarius said.
"You mean, shoot them down?"
"Oh, yes. That's exactly what I mean."
A distant, buzzing hum. Like a hive of angry wasps.
Delilah glanced back over her shoulder to see what the sound was,
and that was when a beam of red light stabbed through the night. It missed
her by less that three feet.
"It's Sevarius!" Talon cried, taking evasive action.
The belly of the hovercraft opened and disgorged four smaller
vehicles, like the ones they'd seen in the metal garage earlier. All five
opened fire, filling the air with the color of death.
Delilah caught an updraft and looped back over the hoverbikes,
then folded her wings flat and plunged down. She landed behind a rider,
clubbing him in the back of the neck. He collapsed forward, sending the
craft into a diving spiral.
Talon glided high, twisting and turning in midair to avoid a barrage
of laser fire. He snared a rider by the head, hauling the man from his seat,
legs and arms waving wildly. That man's craft veered right into the path of
the one Delilah clung to.
She let go, spreading her wings.
The two hoverbikes slammed together and exploded. The blast sent
Delilah spinning, falling, disoriented. She crashed through the treetops, and
the last thing she was was the remaining vehicles converging on Talon.
"Delilah!" he roared.
Something fell out of the sky like a dying angel.
He had been staring up at the aerial display, as gapemouthed as
he'd been when, as a child, his family had gone to a huge fireworks show.
He had only been able to make out glimpses of the winged forms, but
remembered well enough the thing that had attacked him earlier.
He shrank back into the building.
The falling object landed in the clearing, bounced, then rolled
loose and boneless like a rag doll.
Overhead, the battle raged on, diminished in number but not in
The object did not move. He dared to step out, to creep closer. It
wasn't the one he'd fought but the other, smaller, different, female. The one
that had tried to stop the panther-faced monster.
He inched up to her and saw that she really did look like a fallen
angel. Or maybe a demon. Her face was relaxed and peaceful, white hair
streaming around it like a pillow of clouds. Her wings were not feathered
and angelic but leathery. Her feet were clawed. A long tail lay in an S-shape
in the gravel.
He knelt beside her, struck by how pretty she was. Inhuman, alien,
She moaned and opened her eyes, and looked upon him with
neither fear nor loathing. "Samson?"
He stared at her. It wasn't his name, not quite, but in a way it felt
right to him. A new name to go with his new existence. Slowly, he nodded.
"I Delilah," she said.
"So far, so good," Sevarius said, rubbing his hands together.
Halverson barely restrained an urge to slug the creep. "Good? We
lost two more men!"
"Ah, but we've captured the mutate. Haven't we, Talon?"
Talon, wrapped in so many chains he looked like a modern art
depiction of a mummy, snarled furiously.
"Sir!" Adams called. "We think the other creatures went that way,
into the mine."
Sevarius rummaged through the bag he'd taken from a compartment
in the hovercraft. Vials clinked and instruments rattled. He produced a small
pistol with a wide barrel and handed it to Halverson.
"Tranquilizer darts," he explained. "Enough to knock out a bull
elephant. Let's go."
"What about him?" Burke asked, jerking a thumb at Talon.
"Bring him. He'll do nicely if we need some incentive to gain the
cooperation of his companion. What was her name? Delilah?" Sevarius
chuckled. "Thailog never did neglect his studies."
"Is o.k.," Delilah whispered. "They no find. Too dark, too many
"Lost," Samson said. His voice was rusty from disuse, his mouth
not really meant for speech anymore.
"Not for always," she replied. "Safe here. Hide, safe." She urged
him to a nook behind an overturned ore cart.
He sat against the wall, knees to his chest, forearms crossed on his
knees, head resting on his forearms. Agonized sobs, the worse for being
tearless, shook his massive frame.
Delilah stroked his lush black mane. Like her, he was still mostly a
child. A child artifically given powerful adult form. Like her, he was alone.
He because he was the only one of his kind, she because she was no true
gargoyle and never would be.
"Is o.k.," she repeated. She put her arms around him and they
rocked. She had never been in a position to give comfort before, and it filled
her with a sense of rightness and purpose.
She felt him relax against her, clinging to her.
And then the floodlight burst over them.
"Well done, Delilah," Sevarius said. "You've lived nicely up to
The thing that had been Samuel jerked away from her and shot her
such a smoking look of rage and pain that the she-gargoyle physically
recoiled. Sevarius was momentarily startled by her resemblance to the
human, Elisa Maza.
"I trusted you!" Samuel bellowed. "You tricked me!"
"No!" Delilah cried.
He sprang to his full impressive height, hurling Delilah across the
Halverson fired. The dart hissed through the air and buried itself in
Samuel's thigh. He shrieked and clutched at it, breaking off the end. Then he
Delilah screeched and leapt at Halverson, driving her hands up
under his chin. In the same movement, she whipped her tail behind his legs
and yanked. His head flew back, his feet flew forward, he executed a
backflip and landed on his head.
Sevarius grinned as the rest of his men waded in, surrounding the
feisty female. He picked up Halverson's pistol, which had landed nearly at
his feet. He slid a different dart into the chamber and pursued his wayward
son into the bowels of the earth.
One guy got too close, and Talon bit off his ear. The man screamed
and began to hop around, one hand clapped to his bleeding head. Talon spat
out the ear.
Delilah kicked another in the groin so hard his kids would be born
with her footprints on them. Talon winced in sympathetic pain at the sound that
one made and threw his chained body at the one with no ear. A few hundred
pounds of mutate and metal flattened him against the tunnel floor. To add injury
to injury, Talon rolled back and forth, grinding the guy into the dirt.
Claws reached down. Delilah's. She tore at the chains but only
"Get Sevarius!" Talon said.
"Wait! Key!" She hooked it from someone's belt on the end of her
tail, flipped it into her waiting hand, and unlocked him.
He shrugged out of the chains. "Come on, this way!"
Neither of them saw Judge Halverson open his eyes.
Samson slammed his fists against the far wall, bellowing in
disbelief and anger.
He could feel the drug working through his system, weakening him.
His limbs were beginning to feel sluggish, unresponsive.
He put his short blunt claws to work, gouging at the earthen wall
between two huge wooden beams.
"Going to dig out?"
Sevarius' voice, a bit winded but as smug as ever.
He turned to face the man who had created him twice over, once by
nature and once by science.
"It didn't have to be this way, Samuel," Sevarius said.
"You killed my mother!"
"You killed her!" Sevarius shot back. "If you hadn't resisted, she
would still be alive! Well, my boy, we'll have no more of that!" He raised
the gun. "Do you see this? Do you know what is in here? Not a tranquilizer
this time. No, a very sophisticated mind control serum. You are mine, and
you will be mine."
Samson saw Talon and Delilah appear in the tunnel opening and
knew it was over.
He was surrounded. Trapped. Nowhere left to run, even if he'd
been capable of it. His legs were numb now, and the feeling was spreading
upward, branching treelike over his torso.
Samson looked right and left, looked at the two thick beams on
either side. He braced a hand against each and pushed. His arms bulged. His
chest shook from the effort.
The beams shifted. Clods of earth rained down from above.
Sevarius' eyes widened. "No --"
The beams toppled. Huge cracks raced across the earthen ceiling
Delilah threw herself forward, reaching desperately for Samson.
She spread her wings in a useless effort to shield him as an avalance of dirt
and stone came down.
Talon coughed and spit out a mouthful of grit. He tried to move.
His lower body was buried. The air was full of swirling dust and smaller
stones which fell, struck, and ricocheted. One of them whizzed past his ear.
He ached from head to toe. Battered, bruised, one wing badly
sprained. He slowly and carefully extricated himself from his half-filled
grave, mindful that a wrong move could bring on another cave-in.
"Delilah!" he called, then cringed and covered his head as runnels
of dirt cascaded down the walls.
He saw a hand, pale and bloody, protruding from beneath a pile of
rocks. A human hand.
Talon heaved rocks aside and looked upon the face of his enemy
Sevarius was dead. No mistake this time. His chest was caved in,
one side of his skull sheared away. The brain which had conceived monsters
was pulped and oozing over his shoulder. Most of his scalp was torn off.
A metal ring glinted in the ruin of flesh and bone and Talon leaned
forward, heart turning to ice, suddenly sure that it had been a robot all along.
But no. There was too much blood, too many exposed organs. Just a metal
ring, like a washer, that had for some reason been implanted in Sevarius'
"Damn it," Talon whispered. His hopes died with Sevarius. Hopes
for a cure, hopes for a child born healthy and normal.
He kicked the corpse, taking no pleasure in it. He stood downcast
in a ray of light which slanted through the sundered ceiling, dust motes
twinkling around him.
He heard a groan, low and muffled. It came from beneath a huge
mound of earth. Talon started digging, throwing dirt in frantic handfuls. His
claws grated against stone. Dirt parted and the leading edge of a wing
appeared, cast perfectly in stone.
He looked up at the ray of light and understood. Sunlight.
He uncovered Delilah. Beneath her, in a hollow formed by the arch
of her wings, something large stirred and groaned again.
Samson raised his head. His eyes were like molten gold. He looked
at Talon, then at Delilah.
"She tried to help me," Samson said. "I was wrong."
"She'll be o.k.," Talon assured him. "We're on the same side.
Sevarius was my enemy too."
"Monsters." Samson tried to get up, then fell weakly back. "He
made us monsters."
"And monsters we'll stay," Talon said. "But we don't have to be
alone. You'll always have a place in the Labyrinth."
Judge Halverson, covered with dirt and grime, feeling like he just
went a few rounds with Rocky Balboa, emerged into the daylight.
He limped toward the hovercraft, which was parked squarely in the
middle of the clearing. In one hand, he gripped a small metal disk. Its outer
shell was a titanium alloy. Inside, he knew, would be a smaller disk covered
with intricate traceries of microcircuitry.
Halverson knew his instructions. The disk had been expelled and
responded to its homing program. All he had to do now was take it back to
the lab. Not the lab here, but the lab back East, the one Sevarius had
sometimes referred to as "the nursery."
The projects would continue.
The hovercraft rose smoothly into the clear blue sky which was so
rare in this coastal region. It hung for a moment, improbably futuristic
among the ancient redwoods, then accelerated away.