The Hades Wave 4.0
Title: Ad Astra Per Aspera
Rating: PG (for strong language)
Characters: Goliath, Demona, Demetrius Nightkind, Wren Summers-Nightkind (Moirai), Jean Gray-Summers (Phoenix), Scott Summers (Cyclops), Hank McCoy (Beast)

[Bracketed words indicate thought or psionic communication]

DISCLAIMER: I DON'T OWN GARGOYLES. THEY BELONG TO DISNEY. I DON'T OWN X-MEN. THEY BELONG TO MARVEL. ALL ORIGINAL CHARACTERS BELONG TO THEIR DEITY, DENIGODDESS2001.


[I HATE FLYING! GOD, HOW I HATE FLYING.] The words chanted like a mantra in her head as the X-Men's Jet, the Blackbird, used vertical take-off velocity and became airborne. Buckled in and sitting by her lover, Demetrius, Wren felt ill at ease about the mission at hand. She simply felt ill. [Great, I'm getting airsick...just my bad run of luck.]

Her queasy stomach competed for her attention along with her growing terror. [We're about to break into a government installation, steal several toxins, and try to not get caught...yeah, right. I can't believe we're doing this! I never should have left Caledon Isle. When this is all over, that damned Annulus is going back to Caledon. Hell, I'll take it back to Avalon if I have to! I've gotten myself into another fine mess. I think I was better off when I just thought I was going insane.]

She studied the others around her and studied them carefully. Goliath's face was set in a stern stone grimace. His dark wings were cloaked around not unlike a judge's robe. Demona's gamine features were alive with barely contained excitement. Wren guessed that the Dame was enjoying every minute of the grand adventure. Demetrius' serpentine tail twitched nervously as he grimaced. He seemed rather attuned to Wren's immobilizing fear of flying. Hank seemed the calmest and most serene of the bunch.

He returned her gaze and two arched blue brows rose in a silent question. She shook her head and Wren returned her attention to her costume. The dark leather seemed stiff and rigid to her. It proved good protection, but was quite uncomfortable. She secretly longed for the days of blue and yellow spandex. She wrapped her cloak around her. It was a part of her old costume back in the days when the X-Men the brilliant primary colors for which they were so well known. Even then, she preferred the subtle hues of browns and greens compared to the brighter colors of yellow and blue spandex preferred by her compatriots. The cloak was nothing more than additional protection against attack and the elements. However, Wren thought it gave her a dash of excitement.

"All right, people." Cyclops's voice cut into her reverie. "Listen up. Phoenix, Moirai, Goliath and Demona: I want you to get in, get the mutagens and get out. Demetrius, Beast, and I will provide the distraction. Stay low and stay undercover. We don't need Mavericks here. We need teamwork."

Wren fought the urge to give the overgrown Boy Scout a mock salute and the response of "Ya, mein commandant." Instead, she opted for a brisk nod of confirmation. She let her hand travel to her chest where she found her Comm badge. She knew it functioned properly. Her other hand traveled to the loop on her belt. She made certain that her Annulus was in place. She breathed a bit easier knowing she had some firepower behind her.

"All right, X-Men and Gargoyles, let's move." One by one each made their way from the Blackbird. She stared at the rising moon. She knew her metamorphosis was soon at hand. It never quite hit at the same time as Demetrius.' She thought it odd that it didn't always occur at Sunset. She felt the familiar tingle spread over her skin. She managed to utter the single word, "Wait."

Scott and the others turned. Tonight, it felt different: more intense. She looked high into the dark sky and saw the moon bright and watchful over them. She felt her fingers become slender talons. She felt her temples and brow ache as the delicate horns penetrated her skin. Her bones ached as she felt the tail struggle to make its way from the invulnerable material of her uniform. In one deft swoop, Wren's index talon ripped a suitable hole and she pulled through her tail.

She saw the reaction of the other standing there. Goliath had never seen her go through the change. He and the others seemed stupefied by this latent transformation. Only Demetrius and Demona seemed unaffected. "Okay, I'm sorry. I'm a little slow tonight."

"Great, we've seen the sideshow, let's go." Cyclops barked. Wren threw him a glare at his poor choice of words. [Never mind, I'll deal with that issue later.]

"Demona, can you provide some cover for us?"

"Not a problem." Came the smooth reply. Demona pulled forth a small tome that looked unfamiliar. Its cover was deep red leather with a brass spine. She flipped briefly through the gold-leafed pages and planted one azure talon in the middle of the page. "NEBULOSUS CELO OMNIS PER HIC CATERVA."

[Fog, hide all in this group.] The words translated themselves in Wren's mind. [Since when do Grimorum Arcanorum spells come in the handy travel size?]

She nodded at the cleverness of Demona's choice of spell. Wren watched the summoned fog hide all in the group. How she longed for the ability to do more than alter luck and know archaic languages. [We can't all be dashing, dynamic heroes. Some us have to make the best of what we have.]

Low, thick clouds of haze and mist rolled in from gently increased winds. Visibility quickly decreased to less than twenty feet ahead. [This is all well and good, but how are we supposed to see?]

"Everybody with wings, grab someone and let's move in." Scott's voice cut through the thick miasma. Two strong arms came underneath Wren and scooped her to a powerful chest. She found herself staring into the lavender eyes of her dark warrior. She instinctively wrapped her arms around his neck as he caught an updraft and lifted them above the mist.

"That should foil their cameras for awhile." She whispered to him.

"Aye." He took her hand in his and gave it a lingering squeeze. Wren said nothing but laid her cheek against his warm chest.

She thought she saw the razor wire and the chain link fence below them, but Wren wasn't quite sure. Shortly, Demetrius and the others landed. She noticed that Jean had used her telekinesis to levitate herself over the fence. Demona had hold of Cyclops. Goliath looked unusually happy while holding Hank in his arms. They landed easily on the soft grass on the other side of the fence.

"All right, I see the side door that we need to enter." Scott motioned for the others to follow him. As they moved quickly through the dense mist, a ruby lattice of interweaving beams appeared around and in front of them.

"Laser detection grid. Let's move above it." Scott focused his eyes upwards. "We don't have much time."

She watched the Gargoyles open their wings and catch the gentle air stream. She felt her and Demetrius taken aback a few feet. He and the other winged warriors easily glided on the currents of wind only a few feet above the ground. She dreaded the moment when they'd be forced to part company to complete the mission. Every moment was precious.

Phoenix left the safety of the mist and vanished from sight. Shortly she returned and hovered before the team leader. "Cyclops, there are security cameras on the outer perimeter of the fog. There are too many for us to dodge."

"Phoenix, take out as many as you can with your telekinesis."

"Cyclops, I can take out quite a few with my Annulus." Wren found herself volunteering her services. " I just need a clear line of sight so I can aim and fire."

"Fine, Demetrius and Moirai, move out with Phoenix beyond the fog and take out as many cameras as you can."

"Understood." Wren nodded. She still felt odd being addressed by a codename she hadn't used in almost four years. Demetrius unfurled his wings and tilted midair to catch a higher updraft. She looked back at her mate as they made their way from the mist. "Hold me by the waist and keep me steady. We only get one shot."

"Aye, Milady." He spoke softly in her ear. She bit her lip in trepidation.

Many times, she and Demetrius worked as one fluid entity in combat. Yet, never had they attempted such a complicated maneuver. Along the lines of their empathic link, their sight and senses became of one mind. Their hands and wings became of a synchronized body. She felt the cool breeze against her skin. Carefully, she wrapped her slender tail about her lover's waist for better support. He steadied her with his large hands surrounding her waist. Wren withdrew the gleaming Annulus from her belt. [Okay, let's improve our odds.]

She focused her energy into the Annulus. In her mind's eyes, she envisioned the weapon of Oberon ricocheting off every security camera and knocking each of them to the ground. Her hand holding the bladed circlet blazed brightly with emerald fire. She drew back her arm and eyed her first target. The green glow encircled the Annulus. With silent prayer falling from unmoving lips, Wren resolutely locked her gaze on the first camera and let the circlet fly. She watched in mute satisfaction as it sliced through the night air.

She heard the Annulus hit the base of the first security camera. She saw amber sparks fly from where the blade knocked the camera from its fastenings. It fell over to the side and dangled limply from some cables. Wren clenched her fist and pulled it to her as she whispered an exultant 'yes!' It bounced off the side wall of the building, a tree, and ricocheted off the chain link fence. It danced along the top of the razor wire for several feet and skipped off the edge. It rolled along the ground like a ball until it collided with a broken piece of concrete. That caused the Annulus to sail into the darkness. It began falling and bounced off the edge of the building. It managed to take out one more camera twenty feet away from the original. It rebounded from a third and came back to Wren's waiting hand.

"Nice shot." Hank gave a polite theater clap. "Bravo."

"Thank you, Sir." [Maybe this mission won't go so badly after all.]

Phoenix's eyes glimmered brightly with crimson flame. An aura of the same hue surrounded several of the security cameras throughout the area. One by one, they fell limply to the sides. Other exploded while some crashed to the ground. "The path is clear, Cyclops."

They flew to the end of the building and landed outside the door. Wren replaced the Annulus on her belt and turned to Demetrius. "Cloak me with your wings please."

"But, why, Milady?" He wrapped his dark wings around her. "Are you cold?"

"Uh, no. I'll explain later." Wren stuttered while her fingers fought the leather that had creased uncomfortablely on her backside. [It's crawling up my-]

"Goliath and Demetrius, can you get us in?" Cyclops pointed to the side door.

"Not a problem."

"Wait!" Demona stopped them. She let go of Hank and leaned forward. "I've seen before this particular model of security panel. We might be able to bypass the security system."

"We don't have the time." Cyclops put a hand on hers to stop her.

"Human, take your hand off me if you wish it not to be severed from your arm." Green eyes glowed with crimson radiance. "The minute the Sires rip that door from it's hinges, the alarms will sound. If I can have but an extra moment, I can rewire this panel and improve our element of surprise."

Cyclops reluctantly moved his arm from hers, but never looked away from the Dame. "Do it."

Wren thought she heard Demona mutter, "Stupid Human." For once, Wren agreed.

"Wren, to me." Demona snapped. "Can you work your magick and aid me?"

"Of course." She nodded. "Work away."

Demona pulled out a small silver container that looked like a cigarette case. She opened it and brought out some rather unusual instruments. She carefully used them to unscrew the covering of the security panel. She laid it aside and looked at the wires. "Damn, it's the XA-05 model."

Wren peered around the Gargoyle's wing to watch her work. She examined four different wires carefully; each was blue, green, red or white. Demona's lips pursed in troubled contemplation. She pushed in several sequences on the keypad. "I've disabled the retina scan, the DNA match, and the voice print. But, the final wire will disable the palm print and the motion sensor. I don't know which to pull. One wrong move and all the work will be for naught."

Wren's hands began to glow. A faint halo of verdant light danced between the wires like lightning. It became brightest around the white wire. Wren felt a distinct certainty settle upon her soul. Then, another ring of green light broke away from the first and danced along a series of blue wires connected at the bottom. A knowing grin spread across Demona's face and she nodded to Wren. Wren contemplated the possibility that would be the closest thing to a 'thank-you' she'd ever receive from the Dame.

"Ah, now I see. Your magick, if nothing else, is convenient." Demona cut the white wire and the blue wires. She wrapped the exposed copper and fiber optic ends together and sealed them with some sort of strange substance that exuded from one of her tools. Within seconds, the white ooze coagulated into some crystalline substance. "That should do it."

"What did you do to it?" Scott leaned forward to examine the Gargoyle's handiwork.

"I simply rerouted the wiring so that the security system thinks that all is well. It will look at it's own internal network instead of at external stimuli and thus, we avoid detection."

"Translated, you're saying that you re-wired it so that it's in a loop." He surmised. "It's surveying its inner systems."

"Essentially, yes."

"Can you get the door to open?" Wren thought she heard the subtle hint of challenge in Cyclop's voice.

"Do Gargoyles have wings?' She quipped as her talons flew across the keypad in a long expanse of numbers. The door suddenly came ajar.

"How did you do that?"

"The XA-05 security system is manufactured by CyberBiotics; a subsidiary of Xanatos Enterprises. Nightstone Limited manufactures the components and the microchips for this particular model. However, when this one was created, I wasn't Xanatos' lackey. So, I was unfamiliar with the inner workings." She folded her arms and looked defiantly at Cyclops. "Are you satisfied, or do I need to explain its workings further to you? Would you like me to draw you a picture?"

[Ouch, that was cold.] Wren flinched at Demona's cutting remark.

The group quietly made their way inside the building. They made their way along the edge of the corridor and stopped at the end of the hall. "Goliath, Hank, and Demetrius, this is where we split. We're going to need a distraction and we need you to get caught."

"We can not tarry long, Cyclops." Goliath said gravely. "I shall turn to stone at daylight. The charges of the collar are almost to their limit."

"Don't worry, Wolverine and Professor Xavier will get all three of you out long before sunrise." Scott firmly clasped the warrior's wrist.

"Wolverine?" Goliath's wings flared in surprise. "That's hardly reassuring news."

"He's ...better now." Scott drawled. "You don't have to fear any trouble from him. Just keep the guards occupied until the shuttle launches."

"We will."

"Thank you for your help."

"Good luck to you." Goliath cloaked his wings about him.

Wren turned to Demetrius. A fit of trembling seized her body. Her stomach lurched as she realized that she was going into space. All the training in the Danger Room in years past did nothing to prepare her for this moment. Jean's psychic transference of space shuttle procedures did little to alleviate the growing terror burning Wren's resolve to a crisp. Eyes wild with fear met Demetrius. Before words left her, he brought to ebony talons to her lips. "I have faith in you, Milady."

'Demetrius-"

"Remember, where you go I shall also go. Where you are, I will be. What you are, I will become." Dark talons entwined her with her fingers. "Faith, Milady Songbird. Remember that you have the heart of a Wren, but the spirit of an Eagle. You will make your clan proud. You will make me proud."

She breathed deeply of his musk and vanilla essence. She felt empathic waves of serenity calm her twitching nerves. The foreboding feeling refused to vanish from her mind. Hazel eyes remained firmly locked with the dark warrior's lavender gaze. She rushed to his waiting arms and threw herself into his awaiting embrace. He wrapped arms, wing and tail around her to demonstrate the depths of his abiding conviction in his beloved lifemate. "I promise."

"I love you, Wren Summers." He released her and his voice became much shorter. "You must go."

"See you on the other side." She quipped. "I love you. Good luck."

"Bright blessings of Skylaris' upon you." Demetrius spoke gently in the ancient DeMahri tongue.

Wren turned and joined the Jean, Dominique and Scott. There was an awkward silence hanging over the group. "What's next, fearless leader?"

"It's time to board Venture."



Jean led them through the empty corridors of Cape Canaveral. Wren half-expected alarms to blare a warning at any moment. The silence of the halls and the stillness of the dark caused Wren to wonder if the mission was going far too easily. She forced herself to focus on the objective at hand: recover the five mutagens from Venture and return safely to the Blackbird.

According the space shuttle protocols, the crew of the Venture was currently going through a last minute briefing about the mission. They stopped in front of the briefing room door. Jean put her fingers to her temples and a scarlet halo crowned her brow. With eyes closed and head bowed, she focused her telepathic talents on the life-signs of the crew. "They're not here. They've moved the launch up an hour."

Wren's stomach plunged to the floor as she looked at her watch. The number blinked brightly at her; 9:45PM. "They're launching in an hour and fifteen minutes. That means the crew is already aboard Venture. We're too late."

"No we're not." Demona turned to look at the young woman standing behind her. "Don't give up so easily, Young One. We simply must fall back on our contingency plan."

"You don't mean actually go aboard the Shuttle?" Wren squeaked. "You're nuts, Demona. There is no way that two Gargoyles are going to get past security."

"We can with a little help from our resident telepath." The Dame purred. "Phoenix?"

"I can disguise your appearance telepathically. That isn't difficult." Jean agreed. "We need to suit up."

"Suit up?" Came a gulp from Moirai. [I didn't sign on for this!]

"Courage, my friend." Goliath's deep voice urged her.

"Look, we don't need her on this mission. She's a liability. Leave the half-breed behind and we three can take care of the mutagens." Demona's biting remarks struck Wren's psyche with the force of a battle hammer.

"Shut up, Demona. I'm going and that's final."

"So the little Wren has backbone after all."

"I have more backbone that you can possibly handle." Wren didn't want it to turn into a sparring match at a time so much in crisis. "Let's move."

Jean had memorized the layout of the facility. She knew exactly where the crew was getting suited up for the launch. She led the group through a series of twists and turns along dark corridors. Finally, the quartet made their way to one of the locker rooms. Sounds of closing lockers and conversation made their way through the door.

"Jean, how shall we subdue them?" Goliath asked.

"Leave that to me." Demona pulled out her travel-size spell book. She cleared her throat as if readying herself for a reading of dramatic prose. "All you need to do, Phoenix, is open that door."

"Not a problem." The Human quickly obliged.

Five crew personnel turned around in surprise when they heard the door open. Wren looked over Demona's shoulder and saw their startled expressions when they saw the winged succubus standing proudly in the doorway.

"Who the hell are you?" One of the scientists exclaimed. "You're in a restricted area for authorized personnel. What the hell are you? I'm calling security."

"You're calling no one." The azure dame drawled sweetly. "You're going nowhere except to sleep."

One of the scientists ran over to the communications panel on the side wall. "Security! Security! We have unauthorized personnel here in locker room twelve. We require immediate assistance."

With spell book in hand, Demona pointed one slender talon at the group and recited the ancient incantation. "DORMIO ITAQUE SOMNIO SOMNIUM PRAE DULCIS."

[I really want one of those.] Wren smiled. The words flowed across the room to her ears. "Sleep and dream pleasant dreams."

Wren watched the scientist at the communications panel crumple into a slumbering pile of space suit. Each of the five scientists fell to the floor in a deep sleep. Demona closed the book with a resounding snap and replaced the miniature tome in the pouch hanging from her belt. "They'll be sleeping beauties for awhile."

The group proceeded to strip the crew of their space suits. Against Wren's judgment, the group was tied up and put in the shower room. Goliath couldn't get the suit over his wings and Demona chuckled at his dilemma. He turned to look at his former mate. "I suppose you wouldn't have a spell to take care of this particular problem as well, would you?"

"Goliath, you know me. I never come unprepared." She sauntered over to him and laid a hand on his shoulder. "HOMINUS FIERI NOX SECUNDUM."

A faint cerulean aura surrounded the massive clan leader. Wren watched as the glow enveloped his entire being. Goliath's skin paled until his skin seemed more ashen than lavender. It began to darken subtly in shades akin to tan and bronze. She watched the shells of his ears minimize and become gently rounded at the tips. His gleaming canines became blunt and even. Wings shrank from his back and vanished into nothing ness. Four distinct talons became five fingers. Instead of an intimidating Gargoyle looming over the group, there stood a distressed human mail trying desperately to hold up his loincloth.

"Goliath, such modesty becomes you." Demona purred. She gave an appreciative glance at his rather falling clothing. "However, you should be able to fit rather nicely into the space suit now."

Demona cast the spell upon herself and a similar transformation came over her. Wren worried that the Dame turned human would attempt the spell upon her. Wren found much relief when she realized that by wrapping her slender tail several times around her waist allowed her to fit nicely into the space suit. Just then the door swung open and two armed military police stood ready for action.

"Hey, you're not-" They started. They didn't get a chance to finish as Jean caught the two guards in a telepathic onslaught of mind play. Their expressions of anger melted away as black faces replaced them. Their eyes became glassy as they stared mindlessly at the quartet before them dawning the crew's spacesuits.

"There's no problem." Jean told them slowly. "It was the cleaning staff working after hours."

"It was the cleaning staff." The first guard replied in a monotone that reminded Wren of a zombie from a bad sci-fi flick. She half-expected him to grow bolts in his neck and to call Jean 'master.'

"It was the cleaning staff working after hours. It was a false alarm." She repeated in a tone reminiscent of a parent explaining a complex concept to a small child.

"It was a false alarm." The second guard chimed.

"Go to sleep, gentlemen." Jean gently urged them.

"Sleep...." Both slid to the ground. One snored rather loudly.

"I'm impressed." Demona turned to Jean. "I didn't realize the extent of your talents before now."

"All in a day's work."

The rest of the night remained a vague impression in Wren's memory for the rest of her days. In a few moments, the quartet made it from locker room to the launch pad. They boarded the space shuttle Venture. No one along the way questioned their identities. Wren assumed that Jean projected her telepathic shielding during the entire time.

[No one anticipated actually boarding Venture. It was considered a last resort. I can't believe we're going to commandeer the shuttle and hijack it. What the hell am I doing here?]

The found their way to the cockpit. Wren's heart fluttered at a wild, uneven pace even as she strapped herself into the seat. She never trained for this kind of scenario. She watched Goliath as his grim expression revealed nothing of his thoughts. Demona showed no uncertainty as she took her seat next to Wren. Jean seemed the most confidant of the group as she took her place in the pilot's seat. [She's the best chance we have of getting home.]

The ship began to rattle and hum around them. The engines of the shuttle roared to life. The sound caused Wren to let forth a scream that was deafened by the thunderous rumble of the thrusters. She felt the rough and rapid acceleration force her into her seat as Venture traveled skywards. Wren said a Hail Mary and a prayer to every deity she knew to get her out of the situation alive.

She looked and watched Goliath's face take on a mindless grin at the sheer thrill of entering outer space. Demona looked at her former adversary and nodded silently in agreement. Jean remained focused on the control panel before her. Wren's white hands clenched the arms of her seat. Her blood pounded violently in her veins as the Venture ascended to the stars. The last thing Wren remembered was an intense vertigo overwhelming her. Dizziness caused everything around her to spin out-of-control. Wren breathed a sigh of relief as the welcome blackness of unconsciousness claimed her.




"Wren.... Wren..." A distant voice echoed in the distance. The young woman fought being brought out of the sweet oblivion that surrounded her. "Wren, wake up. You have to wake up."

Wren chose to sink deeper into the blackness that was an old friend to her. The sharp intruding reality was an unwelcome invader. Wren immersed herself in the gratifying fantasies of flying with Demetrius above Castle Ex Cathedra on Caledon Isle. She dreamt of the heather-cover moors and rolling hills of Scotland. She felt the cool surf of the North Sea chill her heated skin. She lost herself in the wonderful roses and golds of a Scottish sunset.

A sharp sting struck her cheek. [WREN, WAKE UP!]

Hazel eyes snapped open as the words abruptly assaulted her peaceful mind. A rush of heat to her skin followed the throbbing in her cheek. She saw Jean hovering over her like a concerned mother. Wren's hands glowed brightly as she reached out to the ravishing Redhead. Her slender talons curved as her eyes blazed brightly with jade and amber fire. The deep snarl was a feral cry of pain and amazement [Hit me, will you?]

"Wren, stop." Goliath's voice brought her out of her hazy fury. Wren looked down at her hands charged and ready with the luckmagick she knew so well.

[What am I doing? I'd never normally attack Jean.] She felt the rage and the primal instincts quell within her. Wren recognized those feelings as those similar to Gargoyles sixth sense when facing an unknown attacker.

"What happened?" She looked at Jean sheepishly and hid her glowing hands behind her back.

"You fainted. Then, once we entered the direct light of the sun, you became comatose." Phoenix brushed back a stray tendril of hair from Wren's face. We were only able to bring you back to consciousness once we enter the shadow between the Earth and the moon.

"What are you saying?" Wren asked warily not quite understanding Jean's explanation.

"Wren, when the sun's direct light hit you once we were in space, your mind plunged into an unnatural coma. Your life signs slowed to almost nothing. It was if you were dead. It was because of Demona's quick thinking that we were able to revive you." Goliath smiled at the Dame next to him. "She surmised that the direct sunlight triggered a condition in you similar to stone sleep."

"It happens to Demetrius and I from time to time." Wren told him. "At first we thought that he was no longer susceptible to stone sleep. We were wrong. It hits at noon and lasts usually until 3:00PM. He and I both go into a deep slumber and neither one of us can be roused."

"Have you told Xanatos?"

"We didn't think anything of it. We thought that it was just our bodies' ways of regenerating in this new form. Neither one of us has the protection of stone in this form. So, we usually take measures to insure our safety."

"This is all wonderful, but save it for the Discovery Channel." Demona cut in on the conversation. "We need to find the mutagens and get this shuttle back to Earth."

They made their way back to the small laboratory found in the middle of the shuttle. There were various toxins and other scientific equipment in the area. Jean piloted the shuttle while the others looked around the lab. [Think logically, Wren. If you were storing dangerous mutagens that could destroy the world, where would you hide them?]

She chuckled at the sheer audacity of the question. She suddenly realized the complete peril of her situation. Quiet research department head, Wren Summers was in Earth's outer atmosphere aboard the space shuttle, Venture. [I'm floating in zero gravity, I have to use the bathroom, and I'm looking for deadly substances that can wipe out humanity and every other living creature on the planet. God, where do they put the bathroom around here?]

The refrigerator. The small voice of intuition whispered in the back of her mind. Hank used to conduct experiments on the Legacy Virus in his laboratory at the Institute. [He kept the samples inactive by keeping them in a cool environment. To keep things like cultures and viruses dormant, they'd store them in a cold area.]

She remembered where they kept the cooler from the schematics provided the team during their briefing by David and Scott. "Guys, find the fridge. It's a series of drawers. Look for vials, canisters, test tubes ... I don't know. It has to be there."

Demona and Goliath began their search on one side. Wren headed directly where her instincts guided her. She opened a silver door at the end of the counter section and a rush of cold air blew on her face. [Bingo.]

She carefully pulled out the top tray and found her worst fears confirmed. There were five canisters roughly four inches around and about the length of her forearm. Each had seals of some metal on each end but the middle of the canister was some kind of clear glass or plastic that revealed the contents held within. Her heart froze as she counted a total of five canisters. Each was a different hue: murky green, dark blue, a dull sanguine, a cloudy mauve and a mustard hue.

Wren covered her mouth as she gasped. The color of the substance that contaminated the waters of the river in her vision was, indeed, mustard. She remembered the remnants of the broken canister floating in the river. Her hands trembled as she ran her fingers along the length of the mustard canister. She felt engraving on the underside. She turned it over and unfamiliar font greeted her wide eyes.

She watched the letters become like tadpoles in water. They swam around in her vision and slowly reformed themselves in more familiar script. She knew her translation powers were working of their own accord. She recognized the letters as Greek but they formulated themselves into her native language. She recognized each labeling on the canister. Phlegethon, Acheron, Styx, Lethe and Cocytus.

"Guys, look for extras just in case." She called out to the others.

[Everyone, have you found what we need?] Jean's voice danced around inside her mind.

"Indeed." Goliath spoke aloud. "Let us return to Earth."

"I agree." Wren nodded with enthusiasm.

[Everyone return to your seats. We're only a few minutes from re-entry.] Jean's instructions did little to calm Wren's fluttering heart.

Wren returned the canisters to their spots in the cooler. She knew they'd be safer there than in her hands. She went to her seat and buckled herself in firmly. She watched Jean tense as they began their descent into Earth's upper atmosphere. [If I were meant for this, I'd be breathing in space.]

The extreme force of the gravity pushed them back against their seats. The possibility passed through her mind that it would be difficult to get the shuttle past NASA's radar. The sharp angle of their descent did nothing for the calmness of Wren's churning stomach. The roar of the engines increased as breaking thrusters applied themselves to slow their descent.

"Wren, do your thing. Focus your attention around the ship." Jean exclaimed.

"My luckmagick doesn't work like that!" Wren thought Jean must be out of her mind. "It does whatever it pleases. I can only control the outcome."

"Look, Cape Canaveral already has us on screen. They're hailing us and if I don't answer soon, they're going to know that something is amiss."

"Then that should have been discussed during the briefing." Wren's panicked mind fought desperately to find a solution. "Demona, dig out that wonderful spell tome of yours."

"I have no spell for such an occasion."

"What's the source of the magick? Is it in the words or within the tome?"

"Both."

"Luckily for you that the book is in your possession. Fortunate for us all that I happen to speak Latin."

"What do you have in mind?" Demona's eyes narrowed.

"Anyone have a pen?"

"Actually, I do." Jean answered.

When Wren saw the book in Demona's hands, she snatched it away. "Fortune favors the prepared mind."

She grabbed the pen from Jean and hastily began writing in the tome.

"What are you doing?" Demona attempted to take hold of the tome. "The Spells of Malkior are over eighteen hundred years old."

"I'm making a few notes." Wren continued to scrawl hurriedly upon one of the blank pages. She tossed the book back to Demona. "Read that aloud and pray that it works."

"I'm the linguist, you're the sorceress; that's your department."

"Pray that this works." Demona growled. She cleared her throat and slowly opened the tome. Her eyes widened at the words on the page but she read them aloud. "MEDIUM NE INCONCESSUS NE MEDIUM HOMINIS AUT APPARATUS ANIMADVERTO NESQUE AUDIO HAEC NAVIS."

"Let eyes neither eyes nor ears see nor hear this vessel." Goliath translated for Jean.

"How will we know if it works?" Jean asked.

"Watch." Demona said quietly. The golden glow from the crimson tone burst forth like a shower of stars. The emerald halo surrounding Wren's hands danced and entwined with the golden beams. Together, they became an aura that outlined everything inside the ship. Goliath switched on the external view screen and watched the halo surround the entire ship. The shuttle gleamed brightly before the camera's eye. The bright aurora around the shuttle dimmed and then the shuttle vanished from view.

"It is done." He said with great satisfaction.


EPILOGUE
Jean piloted the ship into the middle of Earth's atmosphere and they landed without incident. The mutagens were transported successfully to Hank's lab for further study. Wren longed to see Demetrius safely before her. She only wanted to sleep without dreams. Elisa Maza smiled as she watched them return safely home. For now, she was happy to have her feet firmly planted on the ground. They had made it to the stars (and back) through difficulty.

TO BE CONTINUED